Venezuela: Socialist trade unionist on the Constituent Assembly, terror attack on military base

Anti-government protesters at a burning barricade at Fort Paramacay in Valencia on August 6.
Friday, August 11, 2017

Stalin Perez Borges is an activist with LUCHAS (United League of Chavista Socialists) and a member of the Consultative Council of the Bolivarian Socialist Workers’ Central (CBST).

He spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Federico Fuentes about the July 30 elections for the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) and its subsequent inauguration, as well as the August 6 armed assault on a military base by right-wing opponents of Venezuela’s socialist government.

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President Nicolas Maduro called to elect an constituent assembly to try to resolve Venezuela’s political crisis. What is the situation like following the July 30 vote? What did the 8 million votes cast during the election represent?

Following the vote, we saw a week of relative calm in terms of street violence – though not in terms of the [right-wing business owners’] economic war – as the opposition tried to come to terms with Chavismo’s massive presence on July 30.

But this sentiment began to change once the ANC was sworn in on August 4 and began adopting its first measures on August 5. Since then they have swung back to a position of wanting to unleash a storm.

First, by causing great damage to the purchasing power of workers’ wages through speculation and a rise in the rate of the parallel dollar.  

And now with a commando-style attack on the 41st Armoured Brigade at Fort Paramacay, located in the city of Valencia, from which they escaped with a cache of weapons. They are once again hoping to stir up violence on the streets.

The 8 million-plus people that participated in the elections represented a response by the popular masses to those that want to drown the country in violence; to those who aspire and even call for a foreign military intervention.  

July 30 was also a tsunami within the ranks of Chavismo [supporters of the pro-poor Bolivarian Revolution and late president Hugo Chavez] that propelled even those who are unhappy with the government to participate and send a message to the domestic and international right that we have not yet surrendered to imperialism. Nor are we willing to kneel before the neoliberal plans that the politicians and economists of the so-called Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD, the main opposition coalition) have prepared for us.  

The result has led to a recuperation of confidence as a social force, and provided a glimpse of the possibility of Chavismo once again being able to call itself the majority.

At a minimum, July 30 means it possible to regain hegemony within the grassroots - if we are able to overcome this economic chaos and correct other errors quickly.

This is a problem and challenge for the political leadership of Chavismo, which is very sectarian and whose handling of government has been clumsy, inefficient and corrupt when it comes to dealing with basic problems. This is what the ANC has to overcome.

What is your opinion of the ANC, its composition and first steps, given it has begun meeting and taken its first decisions?

Of the 20 constituent assemblies that have occurred in our republican history, this one has the broadest popular representation of them all.

This can be seen in the 79 representatives from the working class, 28 pensioners, 24 from the Communes and Communal Councils, eight from the campesino and fishers sector, eight from indigenous communities and five from people with disabilities.

Combined with the five business owner representatives and the 364 territorial representatives, this means that there is no question as to the high level of popular representation.

However, in and of itself, this is no guarantee that the revolutionary objectives of resolving the existing political and economic crisis and transcending this statist and bureaucratic capitalism will be achieved.  

If the workers’ representatives and those from other popular sectors do not express their own personality and political independence; if they are not irreverent in the face of the current leaders and end up simply being controlled by the bureaucracy – the same bureaucracy responsible for getting us into this political, economic, social crisis – then it won’t matter one iota where they come from or how long they have been active on the left.

That is why the challenge for the ANC is to give that “strike at the helm” to the left [that Chavez referred to the need to do in one of his last speeches]. Its challenge is the same one we have faced until now – and which since October 2012, Maduro has been unable to navigate through: strike at the helm and advance towards a communal state [based on grassroots communal councils and communes].

I have no doubts that the team proposed in the first plenary by [governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) leader] Diosdado Cabello to preside over the ANC is suitable. But I don’t agree that the first decision the ANC took, again a proposal by Diosdado, should have been to sack the attorney general [Luisa Ortega] when there are other urgent problems.

I believe that the first and most urgent task is dealing with the economic crisis, which worsened exponentially in the days leading up to the first sitting of the ANC, and the scandalous rise in the parallel dollar rate.

And the second task is the naming of a Truth Commission, which did occur, but not in the way it deserved to be done. Given the importance of its task, the commission should have been named in an event that had a real impact and broad media coverage, to show the world its real intentions, which beyond demonstrating who is responsible for the violence, is fundamentally about ending the violence.

From the outset it should have involved individuals from outside the ANC and not identified with Chavismo, to give it the necessary weight and send the kind of message of dialogue required to achieve its aims. But instead it was put forward as just one more commission.

The removal of the attorney general only merited an exhortation to the Supreme Court Tribunal (TSJ) – where there is already a pending case against Ortega – that it make an immediate decision on the issue. This was the ideal mechanism for putting Ortega on trial and allowing her the right to a defence, a right that is guaranteed to her and all citizens in the current Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.  

The attorney general should have stood trial and been removed from her post. But we need to prove and demonstrate her failures, as evident as they are, for example, when it comes to exceeding the limits of her functions and, above all, accusations of crimes of omission.

It’s true that we have to put an end to impunity, but it’s also true that we have to put an end to the abuse and excesses of power. The ANC, from its first sitting until its mandate ends, has to guarantee due process, independent of the fact that it has plenipotentiary powers.  

The two-year duration of functions that the ANC gave itself, more than an abuse, is another example of disregarding appearances and another imprudence.

They could have proposed a duration of eight or nine months, while anticipating in the resolution that its mandate could be extended to up to two years if the existing crisis and sabotage promoted by the fascist opposition impeded the free functioning of the ANC.

This would have been a different and justifiable way to do it, rather than simply declaring a two-year mandate in one stroke.

I don’t think we need two years to adopt the measures needed to deepen the revolution. These measures have to be adopted now, even if we don’t have to implement them all at the same time.  

What can you tell us about the attack on a military base in Valencia, the city where you live.  

This was a calculated action that was planned from the US. The official that led the action had been hiding out in Miami. He has been trained by the intelligence services of the empire.

And of course, it was carried out in coordination with the more right-wing political organisations within the MUD, possibly with Popular Will (VP), Leopoldo Lopez’s political party.

They sought to use this commando attack to give the appearance of a military insurrection or being part of a coup or conspiracy involving various components of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) and other state security forces.

First and above all, they hoped to boost the morale of those accompanying them through the insurrectional guarimbas [street protests], trancazos [road blocks] and other forms of violent protests. The July 30 results created a feeling of resentment that their “heroic” days of “resistance” had not had the desired effect of turning people against the ANC. As soon as they heard about the attack on Fort Paramacay, these sectors called for new trancazos, but the few that occurred had very poor turnout.

A second thing we have to take into account is that July 30 has strengthened those sectors within the opposition that would prefer to try and reach some kind of agreement with the government, rather than continuing generating violence and creating discontent within their own base.

Even in the empire, there are now sectors that have resigned themselves to having to enter into negotiations with the government rather than pursue further radicalisation and an economic blockade, as some high-level US government figures, including President Donald Trump, have talked about.

The radical sectors that want nothing to do with Chavismo, and instead want to exterminate it through violence, were the first to praise the commando assault, including US Senator Marco Rubio. This military assault was a signal to the promoters and financiers of the “Resistance” that this strategy is still a viable option.

And third, the military assault was an attempt to create an event that could generate, or raise the possibility of, future insurrectional actions within the FANB, better organised and prepared across various brigades and barracks, with the intention of provoking a coup or fracturing the institution that until now the opposition has had the most difficulty penetrating.

[This is an abridged and edited version of the interview. The full version can be found on Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.]

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