This article was published in pagina12.com.ar on May 21. Translation by Michael Otto.
May 20, 2018, is the date used as the focus of the narrative justifying the current attempted coup. On that day, Nicolás Maduro won the election for president. A large grouping of rightists had announced months before the election that they would refuse to recognize his win and that is what they did. Two days later, on May 22, the National Assembly declared its contempt for the Supreme Court’s ruling: “The farce carried out on May 20 does not exist.”
Almost eight months later, in January, the political translation of the National Assembly’s refusal to recognize Maduro’s win took shape: Juan Guaidó proclaimed himself interim president.
Maduro’s re-election, however, was nothing like the false story manufactured by the right wing. On election day, four candidates participated. Maduro won with 6,190,612 votes, followed by Henri Falcón with 1,917,036 and Javier Bertucci with 988,761 votes, with participation of 46.02 percent of the electoral registry. [The fourth candidate, Reinaldo Quijada, received some 36,000 votes – WW]
International observers from several continents were present, and [former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis] Rodríguez Zapatero, a key player in the mediation process, said the same conditions existed as in December 2015, when the opposition won the National Assembly.
“Before the election takes place they said that there are no conditions for free and fair elections … it is very serious from a democratic point of view to declare elections invalid before they are held when four political leaders are contesting them,” said Rodriguez Zapatero before the elections. The right wing accused him of being a Chavista accomplice for having continued to support what he said in the Dominican Republic when the opposition withdrew from the dialogue table in January 2018: that there was a decision to seek Maduro’s removal through nonelectoral means.
The argument for trying to form a parallel government centered on that date. By refusing to recognize the May 20 election, they also didn’t recognize the beginning of Maduro’s new term on Jan. 10, 2019. Articles of the Constitution were adapted to justify Guaidó’s appearance [in January], blessed by Donald Trump’s tweet which anointed him interim president of Venezuela.
If the right-wing’s narrative takes that date as a point of reference, the analysis of Chavismo places the beginning of the current strategy of assault on state power on the rightists’ decision to withdraw from the dialogues taking place in the Dominican Republic in January 2018.
It was there that the United States, with a section of the Venezuelan right wing as its pawns — mainly the Popular Will and Justice First parties — once again made the decision to attempt an overthrow by force, as they did in 2017, 2014 and the initial cycle of Chavismo in the 2001-04 government. What followed was a succession of steps leading to an attempt at regime change, one that they calculated would be a quick overthrow.
One year after the election, and just short of the fourth month since Guaidó’s self-proclamation, this is the situation: On the international level the two sides are even, stalemated, while Chavismo is much stronger on the national level. The opposition is in a sustained retreat from being able to mobilize and sustain the expectations promised in front of the world’s cameras in January. The headlines that presented Guaidó as a powerful challenger have been replaced by events showing what he really is: The visible face of a strategy that won’t hold water, due once again to a miscalculation.
Chavismo, for its part, is fighting on two major fronts. On the one hand, the Chavistas are resisting assaults such as those of Feb. 23 [at the border] and April 30 [near the air base, when Guaidó and Leopoldo Lopez announced a coup]. This means simultaneously seeking dialogue, like the one begun in Norway last week, for which there are still no public results. On the other hand, it must govern and, in particular, build responses to a complicated economic challenge, violently battered by what is now an openly declared U.S. blockade.
The policy of economic aggression, as part of the strategy of wearing down Chavismo, has grown from 2014 to the present, on the basis of the United States imposing one law and seven executive decrees, which form the framework for Washington’s unilateral attempt to strangle the Venezuelan economy.
These actions translated into the confiscation of Venezuela’s financial assets, the prohibition of the renegotiation of Venezuela’s foreign debt, as well as the debt of the state-owned PDVSA oil company, the intensified attack on Venezuelan sovereignty, sanctions on oil trade and the Central Bank of Venezuela, and freezing $5.74 billion in assets held by international banks, among other things.
There are no clear responses on either the economic front or the political front at the moment. Regarding economics, it is because the attacks from the United States continuously escalate, with multiple repercussions, and because there still exist internal problems, such as Venezuela’s dependency on funds earned from exporting oil and the difficulty in increasing levels of internal productivity, etc. As for the political dimension, the electoral scenario would involve moving toward early legislative elections. Nicolás Maduro affirmed this at the public meeting celebrating the one-year anniversary of his electoral victory:
“We are going to hold elections to legitimize the only institution that has not been legitimate for the last five years, we are going to call early elections of the National Assembly to see who has the votes, who wins … we are moving toward a democratic, electoral solution,” he said, speaking before the Chavista mobilization where the decision for the National Constituent Assembly to remain in office until December 2020 was also announced.
For its part, the right wing contends that each and every resolution requires the departure of Nicolás Maduro, which is synthesized in the slogan, “End the usurpation.” Yesterday [Guaidó spokesperson Carlos Vecchio] reported having met in the U.S. with the State Department and members of the Pentagon’s Defense Secretariat, where they discussed “all the aspects that have to do with the Venezuelan crisis.”
How will this meeting translate into action? It is within the U.S. state apparatus where the central decisions are made to carry out the strategy with Juan Guaidó as its figurehead.