Venezuela: The opposition’s destructive tactics

Opposition supporters build a barricade while clashing with riot security forces during a rally against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 10.
Saturday, May 13, 2017

Opposition groups in Venezuela have been waging an economic war similar to that perpetrated against former Chilean president Salvador Allende. Hoarding, smuggling and currency speculation have caused shortages of food and basic necessities and hardship, particularly for poorer people.

The resulting dissatisfaction led to the opposition’s victory in the December 2015 National Assembly elections. However, instead of using their parliamentary majority to offer solutions, right-wing groups have devoted most of their efforts to a US-supported agenda of “regime change” while the economic war has continued to destabilise the country.

Henry Ramos Allup, the new president of the National Assembly, announced on his inauguration that they would oust the government of President Nicolas Maduro within six months. Their efforts, including a call to set up a Constituent Assembly (later abandoned), have all failed, partly because of their uncertainty about the level of support and partly because of disagreements among themselves. 

Following the opposition’s failures within Venezuela, their “regime change” agenda has been internationalised, with the Organization of American States (OAS) becoming the mechanism seeking to isolate Venezuela by applying the Democratic Charter, and OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro actively promoting the ousting of the government.

Despite his vigorous efforts and the right-wing shift in the region – with “constitutional” coups that have overthrown progressive governments in Honduras, Paraguay and Brazil and the election of right-wing governments in Argentina and Peru – Almagro and the US never received sufficient support to achieve their aims.

The right wing have now resorted to violence once again, including a three-hour siege of the Hugo Chavez Maternity Hospital, which gravely endangered the lives of 54 newborn babies, women in labour, patients, nurses and doctors. The objective appears to have been to cause deaths that could be attributed to “government repression” and bolster the failing efforts of Luis Almagro in the OAS.

However, this tactic has also failed and eight OAS countries issued a statement supporting Pope Francis’ call for dialogue and rejecting violence in Venezuela.

Maduro has continued to offer dialogue to the opposition, a position that has received international support from various quarters, including the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Pope Francis and former presidents of Spain, Dominican Republic and Panama. 

Venezuela’s right wing, including Henrique Capriles – sometimes described as a moderate – has publicly rejected Pope Francis’s call for dialogue.

Furthermore, the opposition has rejected Maduro’s initiative for a Constituent Assembly, a democratic mechanism contemplated in the Constitution, despite having favoured it in the past.

Venezuela’s opposition has clearly painted itself into a very small corner. It is unclear where they can go from here if they continue to reject dialogue.

Intensification of violence out of despair is a possibility, but polls suggest 80% of Venezuelans reject violent protest and support for this is dwindling rapidly. There is also the possibility that their intense internal divisions will emerge out into the open.

Let us hope the opposition ceases the violence and embraces dialogue. A peaceful solution must be found for all of Venezuela.

[Francisco Dominguez is secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign UK. Abridged from Venezuela Solidarity Campaign UK.]

Issue