"Chavismo represents the entry of the ordinary people of Venezuela onto the political stage," former Caracas-based journalist Federico Fuentes told a forum in Sydney on March 4.
The forum, “Venezuela: Revolution under attack: The people fight back”, was part of a month of activities to commemorate the death of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez on March 5 last year.
The Socialist Alliance organised the forum, supported by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN). Fuentes, who recently returned from leading an AVSN solidarity brigade to Venezuela, described the origins and development of the right-wing opposition campaign of violence against the Bolivarian revolution and the government of president Nicolas Maduro.
Under the slogan, "La Salida," meaning either "the way out" or "the exit" in Spanish, extreme right-wing protests escalated in January this year. They followed the sweeping victory of the candidates of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in the municipal election held in December.
Heavily defeated in these elections, a wing of the opposition has turned to violence, including attacks on government and popular facilities, Fuentes said.
This has been distorted in the mass media inside Venezuela and internationally to represent a "spontaneous uprising of the people against the government". Fuentes said the latest death toll of the violence, including a majority of government supporters, stood at 18.
The latest stage of the opposition attack on the Bolivarian revolution, backed to the hilt by the US, is a threat to the gains of more than 10 years of social progress, first under Chavez and now under Maduro. Fuentes said the nation's oil wealth has been fully nationalised and redistributed to the poor, through free health, education and welfare programs.
"Chavismo remains the most popular and organised force in Venezuela," he said. After Maduro’s close win in April last year, the right-wing opposition tried to regain the political initiative. They sponsored an economic war against the government and the people, resulting in shortages of some goods because of hoarding, huge price rises and other problems.
Maduro took the counter-offensive in November last year. Before a recent national referendum, which the opposition dubbed a "referendum on Maduro's presidency", he launched a coordinated effort against price gouging and hoarding by private companies.
The strong victory of Chavista candidates in the December municipal elections "put the Maduro government back into the political driver's seat", Fuentes said. Since then, violent protests broke out, which were largely centred in pro-opposition middle-class suburbs of the major cities.
These protests "are starting to peter out now," he said. A recent broad-based "peace conference" called by Maduro has further isolated the violent sectors of the right wing.
Fuentes said the task before the international progressive movement is to "increase our solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution which is "under attack from within the country and internationally from the capitalist media and governments.
The Venezuelan process and the popular upsurge in Latin America are "vitally important to the world movement for social change. It shows that a real alternative to neo-liberal capitalism is possible."