This article, original published at pagina12.com (tinyurl.com/y75d5k2d/), was translated by Workers World Managing Editor John Catalinotto.
Jan. 27 — Convincing yourself of your own lie can be a fatal mistake. It wouldn’t be the first time the Venezuelan right wing made it.
Since the attempt to form a parallel government began this January, they have repeated that Chavism is nothing more than Nicolás Maduro locked up in the Miraflores Palace surrounded by the top military leaders tied to him by corruption. All that needs to be done, they say, is push over this dead, no, extinct tree.
In 2017 they said the same thing: They overestimated their strength; they underestimated Chavism, the Bolivarian Revolution. That reading led them to carry out violent assaults and was followed by a succession of political defeats. These brought them to today’s scenario in which they claim they will overthrow Maduro, again by force.
The reality of Chavism is different. First, it is still mobilized. The pro-government forces expressed themselves not only in the Jan. 23 march — which the right wing and the big media tried to make invisible — but also in the mobilizations that followed the next two days, such as Friday’s (Jan. 25) in Vargas, a town near Caracas.
It’s useful here to smash two right-wing myths. First, that the support for Maduro is due to a clientele network, and second, that those who mobilize do so because they have to. Between 37 and 41 percent of the Venezuelan people define themselves as Chavistas, according to the pollster Hinterlaces, and their relationships within the current political process are complex.
The people’s relation to the current political process vary, with a complex combination of alienation and exhaustion due to the depths of the economic difficulties pushing one way, and the desire to close ranks another, when it is evident that Venezuelans are facing a coup d’état directed from the United States.
This Chavismo also has another characteristic: its levels of organization and politicization. There is an organizational fabric in the popular neighborhoods and rural areas. These consist of communal councils, communes, local supply and production committees, communal markets, peasant councils, productive enterprises, Bolivarian militias, among other initiatives.
Chavismo has an associative and territorial dimension. The right does not have an organized presence in these areas, which is why it resorts to armed and paid groups to create focal points that might gain the backing of the local people.
Add to this network the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the main political instrument of Chavismo. It’s the largest party in the country, which has not shown splits. The reflection of unity in the face of aggression is powerful. The right seeks to split it, to provoke defections, defectors who are later presented as heroes.
This political strength is combined with the lack of response to the [right-wing] call for a coup d’état by the Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB) and the different state bodies. In 2017, the right had managed to get the Attorney General to turn around in relation to the government. Not this time, however, as only one Supreme Court justice left his post and requested asylum in the United States. It is not enough for a forceful action like the one on the table.
The situation of absolute weakness of Chavismo presented by the right is therefore an invention having no basis in what is happening — neither in popular neighborhoods nor in high state bodies. Does the right believe what it claims?
Of course the government also has weaknesses, products of the attacks, its own errors and unstable internal balance. The prolonged economic downturn is the most corroding factor. That is why one of the strategies announced by the United States resides in deepening the fronts of the blockade on the economy to dry up an economy dependent on oil and imports. From this it is also clear that the strength of the parallel government’s plan depends not on its support at home but from international actors.
The international arena
The mismatch between the two variables is crystal clear as seen from within Venezuela. Saturday (Jan. 26) made it obvious: While the day passed peacefully in Caracas and the countryside, the extraordinary meeting of the United Nations Security Council was an arena of confrontations between the bloc led by the United States on one side and the countries opposed to the advance of the intervention on the other. That is where the main movements are at play today.
The right wing in Venezuela seems to be waiting to receive instructions from abroad — depending on how the different actions undertaken develop. International positions have sharpened. There is clear support for Maduro from Russia and others. There is also the consolidation of the alliance self-named the “international community.” The latter includes the United States, France and Germany, the real leaders of the European Union; and Spain, which sets the agenda toward Latin America for neocolonial tasks, Great Britain, Canada, and the Lima Group without Mexico.
It is too risky to predict how these variables will evolve, although so far it seems that the United States is advancing step-by-step within an established plan. The question that circulates at this hour is: What is the U.S. time frame for carrying out the overthrow of Maduro? Is the plan to accelerate at the Venezuelan level once the international framework is established according to U.S. need? With which actors? Or is the plan to enter a medium-term framework?
There is one element that so far has not entered into action with the force that was expected: the government of Colombia.
Politics does not work like chess, particularly when the world is no longer unipolar as it was in the 1990s when the United States could make and unmake at will. The way in which the war in Syria has mutated is a clear example.
Nor is Venezuela an arena where the calculations so far have given the U.S. the results Washington expected; and the Venezuelan right has turned out to be a lousy and costly investment. The current coup attempt is the fourth assault on the government in six years.
One of the explanations for understanding why the U.S. has failed in this coup objective, time and again, is its evaluation of Chavism — its complexities, powers, architectures and its response capacities when Chavism finds itself against the ropes.
Underestimating the adversary, in this case the enemy — because of how the opponents of Chavism have posed the conflict — is a central error. The right wing is still committing it. Will the United States do the same?