Political developments in Venezuela have turned out as predicted. According to reports, 8,089,320 or 41 per cent of registered voters turned out to vote yes to the establishment of the 537 member National Constituent Assembly. An additional 8 members will be drawn from the Venezuelan indigenous community. The Latin America Council of Electoral Experts (CEELA) pronounced the elections free and fair. The opposition however, as well as the company providing the voting machines held that the numbers of voters suggested by the Maduro administration were bloated and did not correspond with the actual voter turnout.
The political opposition comprising the United Democratic Roundtable had mobilized fully to boycott the referendum; however, they failed to derail the electoral process from going forward mainly because of strategic and tactical differences within their ranks. Anti-Maduro, anti-chavismo and anti-dictatorship sloganeering and street protests continue to be the main platforms uniting the political opposition.
Experience has shown that boycotting elections is fraught with a host of challenges. It is a dicey political tactic that can be of strategic advantage or disadvantage depending on the correlation of forces nationally and internationally. The political opposition in Venezuela, by virtue of the tactics it has employed to oppose and depose the Maduro government, boxed itself into a corner and had no other option but to boycott the plebiscite. They handed to Maduro a victory.
Moreover, by seeking to establish two poles of power or in effect, dual power in Venezuela, the opposition forces played right into the hands of pro-Maduro forces. Whether in a democracy or a dictatorship ‒ the opposition holds the latter exists in Venezuela ‒ it is tactically incorrect and could prove more harmful to those who claim they are fighting for democracy, to establish a state of dual power under the conditions of a dictatorship.
No government whether in a dictatorship or a democracy will tolerate or encourage a threat to the security of the state or a state of anarchy within its national borders. The coercive apparatus of the state and the judiciary will look askance at such social deviations. They will view such threats as overt attempts to overthrow the established order.
The fact that the Venezuelan political opposition opted to take their fight to the streets to confront the security forces and not to engage in dialogue with the civilian administration with a view to finding the areas of convergence rather than the areas of divergence was another manifestation of poor political judgement as regards the correlation of forces both nationally and internationally.
In the meanwhile, the question has been asked: since there are leftist governments in Ecuador and Bolivia, why is there is no social and political upheaval in those two countries as there is in Venezuela? But that is an issue for another time. However, what we do know is that big business, the private media, the large landowners, the middle class, workers, farmers and intellectuals in Ecuador and Bolivia are united on the need for political, economic and financial stability in their respective countries. And neither of the two governments has ratcheted up the ideological struggle with a view to advancing to socialism as is the case in Venezuela.
The political history of Venezuela has demonstrated that struggle for political power in that country is won either through the ballot box or through the barrel of a gun. The latter temporarily, the former more sustainably. And even though from their actions, it appears that the opposition has been penetrated by anarchists, terrorists and arsonists, some of whom are illegally armed, the reality is that the National Police and the National Guard of Venezuela are better trained and equipped numerically to deal with any threat to national security and public order. More importantly, they have exhibited their unwavering support for and commitment to ‘chavismo’ under the government of President Maduro.
At the hemispheric level, South American governments are divided on how to deal with the situation in Venezuela. This was reflected during the recent meeting of the OAS in Mexico where Caricom member states carried the day by blocking attempts at interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela. More recently, the President of the United Nations Security Council declared that what is happening in Venezuela is an internal matter and that the situation in that country does not pose a threat to international peace and security.
Venezuela will continue to be a highly polarized and politically divided society for quite some time into the future. The political opposition will no doubt continue with their actions to destabilize the political situation in the country.
Throughout its political history, Venezuela has always been a turbulent society. With the restoration of democracy in1958, two political parties ‒ Accion Democratica and Copei dominated the political landscape. Hugo Chávez’s Fifth Republic Movement demolished the traditional political parties at elections and gradually established its political dominance throughout the country. It later joined up with other left organizations and brought about a tremendous amount of unity and coherence among various social strata in the country while strengthening the grass roots organizations in Venezuela.
Cheddi Jagan for his part, always maintained good relations with the leaders of all the traditional political parties in Venezuela: AD, the Copei, the Communist Party (CPV) and The Movement Towards Socialism (El Mas). When Chávez’s party was established, efforts were made to establish relations with that party, however owing to its strong focus on government’s internal economic and social programmes, no significant progress was made in that direction.
The referendum held last Sunday was the second of its type in Venezuela. In 2009, 69 of the 350 Articles of the 1999 Constitution were amended in a referendum held in that same year.
In the run up to the campaign for the National Constituent Assembly, the decision by Caricom Heads of Government not to interfere in the internal affairs of Venezuela and to send a fact finding mission to the country was a wise decision. The complexities of the prevailing situation in Venezuela continue to demand a high degree of diplomatic prowess and the promotion of a better understanding and appreciation of the socio-politico and economic realities obtaining in
the neighboring country.
The exasperating situation in Venezuela has given rise to intense debates among intellectuals in Latin America and the Caribbean. These debates have also divided into camps the international community. And while this debate is necessary, it is also important that a stand be taken on one side of the divide or the other.
Clement J Rohee