About this blog

Venezuela: translating the revolution aims to promote solidarity with Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution by providing translations of interesting and important Venezuelan news articles and opinion pieces. It welcomes genuine discussion and debate on the posted articles.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Chavez set for win as campaign pushes socialist transformation

The following is an article I wrote for Australian socialist publication Green Left Weekly:

Venezuela: Chavez set for win as campaign pushes socialist transformation

Saturday, August 18, 2012
By Owen Richards

It is just six weeks until Venezuela’s October 7 presidential election pits incumbent Chavez and his pro-revolution Great Patriotic Pole (GPP) electoral alliance against his main rival Henrique Capriles.“It would be easier for 100 camels to pass through the eye of a needle than for [the capitalist class] to win the election”, said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaking at the Caracas Municipal Theatre on August 15.

Capriles heads the right-wing opposition bloc, the Democratic Unity Forum (MUD).

Chavez’s campaign has reached fever pitch in recent weeks with the president touring the country and holding huge election rallies nearly every day. Both candidates officially launched their campaigns in early July.

Chavez’s energetic oratory has boosted the hopes of his supporters his statement in the first week of his campaign, that he was “totally free” of cancer, is true.

Polls over the past year have consistently shown that Chavez is set to overwhelmingly win the election. The most recent poll, for example, conducted by the Century 21 Social Investigations Group (GIS XXI), has Chavez at 56% of the vote against Capriles’s 30%. This is an even bigger margin than the vote Chavez received in the 2006 presidential poll.

Behind the raw figures lies an even greater strengthening of the revolutionary socialist project headed by Chavez. The opposition is riddled with political contradictions and is united simply by a virulent hatred of Chavez, but support for Chavez has increased qualitatively with a growing support for the deepening of the socialist project.

The GIS XXI survey found that, of Chavez 56% support base, 40% is “hard” support with 16% “soft”. Of Capriles’s 29%, 20% is considered “hard” and 9% “soft”.

Jesse Chacon, GIS XXI president, said: “If you ask Venezuelans today if they believe in socialism, more than 50% say yes.”

This sustained and “hardening” support for Chavez and the revolution he leads is driven by social and political gains for the poor majority. The continued broadening of people's power and growing socialisation of the productive apparatus at the behest of the poor has earned this support.

As a result, a recent UN-commissioned study found Venezuela to be the happiest nation in South America.

The presidential elections in Venezuela have the appearance of capitalist elections everywhere — a contest of two personalities for the spoils of power. But the context makes these elections something different.

Chavez's campaign — of which the largest force int he GPP is the millions-strong United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) — has turned the election campaign into a full-scale revolutionary mobilidation.

At every one of the many cities and towns where Chavez has held rallies, he has used the opportunity to do more than solicit votes. He has conducted hours-long speeches and discussions, addressing local issues and unveiled new infrastructure works.

But most importantly, he has explained and argued for his his 40-page platform, the “Proposal of the Homeland’s Candidate Comandante Hugo Chavez for Bolivarian Socialist Management”. It is a program for socialist political and economic transition.

Capriles’ campaign has, in marked contrast to that of Chavez, focused on petty personality politics, juvenile stunts and even criminal fraud.

Perhaps most infamously, Capriles posted on his Twitter page a document supposedly issued by the Chavez government to prohibit the military barracks from watching a Capriles’ speech on private television. The document was quickly revealed to be a clumsy forgery.

Another recent rallying point for the opposition has been Capriles’s refusal to remove his Venezuelan flag baseball cap. He was asked to remove by the National Electoral Commission (CNE) as it is a violation of electoral campaigning regulations to use national symbols in electoral campaigning.

Chavez was also issued with warnings over similar breaches, with which he has complied.

Capriless campaign has followed a contradictory line in relation to the CNE. Some of his campaign staff have labelled the electoral body a “tool” of the Chavez government that is not to be trusted. Others have affirmed its independence and fairness.

Capriles’ dire electoral outlook has compelled him to mimic several aspects of Chavez’s campaign.

Not only has he been ridiculed for copying some of Chavez’s signature mannerisms and style, he has also been forced by popular will to support some key sections of Chavez’s program.

These include features of the revolution such as it social “missions” — the government-funded organisations that supply free education, medical care and a whole host of other services to the Venezuelan population.

Capriles claims he will maintain the missions. However, his own past practice as former governor of Miranda state belie this position, as he tried to shut down the healthcare mission in the state and drive out the Cuban doctors stationed there to offer free medical attention to poor Venezuelan citizens.

Capriles also pledged to reverse the Chavez government’s socialisation of Venezuela’s giant oil company PDVSA — the company that funds the social missions.

Where he has diverged from Chavez’s program, Capriles has attacked the revolution from a national-chauvinist point of view. He has condemned Chavez’s solidarity aid and preferential supply of oil to other countries, especially Cuba, and pledged to overturn the policy.

Faced with the prospect of yet another crushing defeat at the ballot box, the frustrated Venezuelan right wing has little room to move. Venezuela Analysis journalist Tamara Pearson said the MUD camp has fractured three ways regarding strategy.

Pearson said: “Some of the MUD support base has given up on the presidential elections and are turning their focus to the regional elections in December, some want to play democratic and by the rules, and others see more hope in creating disturbances and engaging in low tactics.”

[Owen Richards maintains the blog Venezuela: Translating the Revolution.]

Monday 30 July 2012

Full inclusion of women in Armed Forces

Revolution achieves full inclusion of women in the FANB 

Translation by Owen Richards

July 29, 2012

Carmen Melendez, first Admiral of Venezuela, said on Sunday that the full inclusion of Venezuelan women in the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) was achieved during Hugo Chavez’s presidential rule.

She made the comments during the Jose Vicente Hoy program, hosted by journalist Jose Vicente Rangel and transmitted by the private channel Televen.

Melendez recalled that during the Fourth Republic period, the FANB was clearly an environment only open to men. “We weren’t allowed into operational units”.

Starting in 2000, women were allowed to join all components of the FANB, “without any kind of discrimination. We have officers on ships, chief pilots, submarine crew, and tank crew. Life has changed”.

Melendez also pointed out that 26% of new graduates were women, and that the number of women currently enrolled in various [military] academies is “incredible”.

“Within ten years, we’ll have a women’s participation rate of 50% or more in the FANB”. Melendez also pointed out that “we have an National Armed Forces, that is better equipped, trained and ready to combat any aggression”.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Cabezas: The proposal for a Fifth International "is still valid"

Unfortunately I let this article sit for too long, so it's a bit dated now. Nevertheless, I'll post it anyway since Cabezas' comments on the proposal for a Fifth International are interesting, as well as his projections for the July 24 international day of solidarity with the revolution.

Taken from the PSUV's monthly publication, En Vanguardia.
Translated by Owen Richards 

“The need for a space of coordination of the world socialist left continues to be relevant”

Rodrigo Cabezas, coordinator of International Issues for the PSUV, asserts that our internationalism needs strengthening. Venezuelan parties propose a global day of solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution for the 24th of July.

Cabezas is the coordinator of International Affairs of the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV). An economist and university professor, he says that the XVIII edition of the Sao Paolo Forum, that will take place in our country between the 4th and 6th of July, “could open the debate of an international [organisation] of revolutionary parties that defend forms of organisation distinct from capitalism”.

Comandante Hugo Chavez proposed at the close of the International Meeting of Left Parties in Caracas on 19 and 20 November 2009 the need to convoke a Fifth International. The proposal didn't forsee the turmoil a proposal of this magnitude would cause. But perhaps it continues to be relevant in the context of capitalism's systemic crisis, with the 'indignados' in the streets, and with the progressive governments of Latin America.

Acording to Cabezas, “The Sao Paulo Forum is a space for debate among the progressive parties and movements in Latin America. The proposal of the Comandante is still valid, insofar as it pointed to the need for coordination, a meeting space for the world socialist left. So visionary was it that today, for example, there is the lack of a certain level of left organisation to complement the European workers' struggles. There's a relative disconnect in that sense”.

Why was Venezuela chosen to host the Sao Paolo Forum?

“All the organisations that met in Managua for the XVII meeting unanimously agreed to have the meeting in Caracas. The Sao Paolo Forum parties, from the Mexicans to the Argentinians, along with the special invitees, agreed to have the XVIII edition as an endorsement of the Bolivarian Revolution and president Chavez. The Sao Paolo Forum does not hide from that purpose. We [i.e. Venezuela] are a kind of beacon of the social movements that struggle against imperialism and that propose socialism. It’s the conviction that it's been possible to carry out a process of popular transformation here with high marks for independence.”

If it's a meeting in support of comandante Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, will the delegations have to carry out a specific task in solidarity with our country, above all when it has been shown that the opposition, in coordination with the United States, seeks destabilisation in the context of the presidential elections?

“On the initiative of the Venezuelan parties in the Sao Paolo Forum (PSUV, PPT, MEP, and PCV), we will request that the 24th of July - the birthday of our Liberator - be made a day of solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution. The idea is to have actions in all the planet's capital cities in solidarity with the revolution, at a time when the right demonstrates no commitment to democracy, when it deigns to respect the electoral adjudicator.”

What are the PSUV's proposals for the seminars and debates?

“We're projecting a seminar on the decolonisation of Latin America. We who have a Liberator of Simon Bolivar's stature cannot neglect to show solidarity with Puerto Rican independence. We're going to evaluate the recolonisation of Aruba, Curazao and Bonaire by the Netherlands. Another theme is Argentina's Malvines [the Falkland Islands]. It's very important to us.”

What will make this forum unique from the previous ones?

“We will set a participation record. We're estimating the arrival of some 600 international delegates from the five continents of the planet. Delegates will receive a gift handmade by Venezuelan women. We will present books about the Liberator, Venezuelan chocolate, and in the evenings we will host cultural events in the vicinity of the Teresa Carreno theatre.”

What will hosting an event of global import mean for the PSUV, for our short history as a left-wing political organisation?

“The PSUV is the main left-wing political force on the American continent. That's because it has been consistently, along with the government, transferring power to the People. After the meeting, the PSUV's prestige will be even greater. We wish to contribute to make the Forum a a meeting of the global anti-imperialist, anti-war grass roots movement.”

Can we speak of a new hegemony of the left in Latin America?

“By deepening our internationalism, we will be able to have a kind of barrier to defend ourselves from imperialism's claws and to be able to propose peace. It's a strategic thing. It means strengthening our internationalism, since we're in imperialism's cross-hairs. The challenge is to maintain the gains already won by the Latin American left.”

Friday 15 June 2012

SYRIZA looks to Chavez

Leader of Greek left says Latin America is a shining example
Aporrea.org, Caracas, June 13

Translation by Owen Richards

During an interview with Telesur on Tuesday night, Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Greek left wing coalition SYRIZA, emphasised Venezuela as an example, as a model to follow to leave behind the capitalist, consumerist model that is presently dominant in Europe.

“The example of Venezuela is characteristic. Hugo Chavez was able to achieve important things for his country through a peaceful process. He carried out the nationalisation of the natural sources of production. And he did so while under the constant attacks of the big end of town”, he said, pointing out that for many years, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela all followed the same recipe of neo-liberal shock measures that they’re applying today in Greece.

Tsipras insisted that the Greek debt “is an old story, nothing new”, and has been accumulating for a long time, “forming at the base of a model that was based on borrowing” and extreme consumerism.

“No one expected that in 2012 Greece would be at the threshold of a humanitarian crisis … left with debts we couldn’t pay … Greece wasn’t ready to enter the Eurozone. We’re still paying off debt from the Olympic games and corruption … all those years of development, those years, a bit before and a bit after entering the Euro we were left without a social reserve”.
Tsipras said that the social, economic and political development of Latin America is a “shining example” that he will consider if elected Greek prime minister in Sunday’s general election. “Venezuela’s president Chavez would not be in power today if his people had not supported him when those dark forces carried out their coup de etat to overthrow him. We too know that here a dark past confronts a hopeful future (…) our greatest opponents aren’t (Giorgios) Samaras and (Elefterios) Venizelos*; our opponents are the forces of the financial power of bank capital”, he said.

[* The article is in error here. It should say Antonis Samaras and Evangelos Venizelos. Thanks to Stuart Munckton for alerting me to this.]

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Ten years after coup, Venezuela vigilant despite gains

An abridged version of this article was published in Green Left Weekly:

Ten years after coup, Venezuela vigilant despite gains

Sunday, April 22, 2012

“April 13, the great day of victory ten years ago, opened the way to the independence and unity of our Latin America and the Caribbean … We showed that a people united will never be defeated”, said Venezuela’s socialist president Hugo Chavez from the “People’s Balcony” of Miraflores Palace, during a commemoration of the April 13 revolution that toppled a short-lived business-military coup that aimed to crush the Chavez presidency.

March commemorating April 13 revolution.
The coup attempt was in response to Chavez’ pro-poor policies. Specifically, the capitalists were desperate to stop Chavez getting hold of the state oil company – and the largest corporation in Latin America – Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), and putting its revenues at the service of the poor. They kidnapped Chavez and held him hostage. However, mass uprising of the poor and working class, along with the bulk of the military defeated the coup attempt within 48 hours and restored Chavez to the presidency.

Since 2002, the revolution has been able to advance thanks largely to the new balance of forces the revolution brought about. However, the process still faces a number of serious threats. Coming up to the presidential elections of October 7, the next few months will be especially dangerous. During Chavez’s speech, he called for the revolutionary forces to “be alert in all these days and months to come”, and announced the creation of a “special anti-coup plan” that involves the formation of a “special civic-military command” to defend against any threat.

The threat of the opposition carrying out extra-parliamentary violence, sabotage or subterfuge continues to rise as the election date approaches and polls continue to show the extreme unlikelihood of the opposition presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, defeating Chavez at the ballot box.

Carlos Sanchez of North American Opinion Research (NAOR) said “we see the victory of Hugo Chavez on October 7 as an irreversible tendency”. Sanchez was referring to the findings of recent NAOR research that found Chavez has 60% backing, while his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has 56% support of the electorate. Meanwhile, Chavez’s opponent Capriles Radonski has a rejection level of 57%.

On the electoral front, battle lines are beginning to be drawn, with the revolution’s social missions taking center stage. An election strategy document drawn up by the opposition reveals the opposition’s bind: “What is the dilemma we confront? In accord with surveys of popular opinion, if the people think we’re going to abandon the missions, we run the risk of losing a very important number of votes, but at the same time, if we try to remedy the former problem by championing the missions without an original, critical position toward them, many people will conclude that it’s best to stick with the missions’ original father (Chavez)”.

The massive popularity of the missions owes itself to their immense achievements. To date, for example, 1,482,543 people have achieved literacy via Mission Robinson; 1,400,000 people have had vision restored through Mission Miracle; and more than 745,000,000 people have accessed public health through the Within the Barrio mission.

Capriles Radonski’s opposition has begun labeling the missions as organizations of “political blackmail”, while on the other hand proposing to introduce a law that will “give a legal status to the missions”. This contradictory position is not likely to gain much traction with Venezuelan voters, as it is common knowledge that the opposition has long attacked the missions, and vehemently opposed president Chavez’s 2007 attempt to institutionalize them - just as they are now calling for five years later.

In the heightened political atmosphere of the looming elections, the revolutionary forces have continued to mobilize. The PSUV has continued its nation-wide door knocking campaign, meeting face to face with 1,750,120 Venezuelans. President Chavez tweeted on Thursday, “Let’s go, everyone united under the direction of the Command of the National Carabobo Campaign … Everyone together! To the streets!

[Owen Richards maintains the blog Venezuela: translating the revolution.]

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Opposition’s little man 'the candidate of imperialism'

I wrote the following article for the current issue of Green Left Weekly newspaper:

Venezuela: Opposition’s little man 'the candidate of imperialism' 

The International Consulting Services poll revealed that if the presidential elections were held tomorrow in Venezuela, 58.2% would vote for Hugo Chavez. Image from VTV. 
“The confrontation here isn’t between Chavez and this little man, it’s the bourgeoisie against the people, the empire against the country”, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on February 16.

Chavez was referring to his newly-nominated presidential opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski. He was pointing to the class battle that lies behind the looming presidential elections scheduled for October 7.

Radonski, a 39-year-old lawyer and governor of Miranda state, won the endorsement of the right-wing Democratic Unity Forum (MUD) bloc on February 12. He won with 62% of 1.8 million votes in a primary process marked by allegations of irregularities. 

Henrique Capriles Radonski
The MUD used the National Electoral Commission (CNE) to run its primaries despite for years claiming the CNE is a fraudulent, corrupt tool of the Chavez government. The MUD's publicised participation figures were revealed to be mathematically improbable.

The MUD’s electoral council also burned all the cast ballots almost immediately after the conclusion of the day’s voting, despite the fact that several candidates wished to appeal vote counts.

However irregular the process, the selection of Radonski to go head-to-head with Chavez for the presidential sash opens the election campaign proper. The selection of a candidate must come as some relief to the perennially-divided right-wing bloc. 

But who is Radonski, and what does he stand for? 

In the MUD he is considered a moderate with a view to turn Venezuela down the road to a Brazil-style social-democratic capitalism. He calls himself a “progressive” of neither the left nor the right. 

In deference to the overwhelming popular enthusiasm for the revolution’s social missions that have benefited millions of Venezuela's poor, he feigns support. But Radonski opposes their being funded through oil revenues.

His campaign slogan, “there is a way” mimics vacuous political slogans from capitalist elections everywhere -- it provides little indication of his actual political stance.

Contrary his moderate credentials, Radonski is infamous for his role in leading a violent siege of the Cuban embassy during the April 2002 US-backed military coup. During the coup, Chavez -- the elected president -- was kidnapped before being returned to the presidency by a mass uprising of workers and soldiers.

Radonski is from one of Venezuela’s wealthiest families.

In response to Radonski’s nomination as the opposition’s candidate, Chavez welcomed him to the electoral race. But Chavez challenged him to come up with more than a slogan, and to “confront me with ideas”. 

Chavez characterised Radonski as “the candidate of imperialism, of the bourgeoisie's pro-coup sector”. 

He also attacked Radonski’s claimed support for the social missions while opposing their state funding through the state-owned oil company, PDVSA. He said Radonski would return the company to “the capitalists, the transnationals”.

The National Assembly's first vice-president Aristobulo Isturiz said Radonski “is toying with a retrogression. This candidate is the past, because he wants to take us back to neoliberalism”.
Isturiz said such moves would put Venezuela in the same situation as the European nations of today. He said Venezuela’s “indignados” (the name for members of the Spanish anti-neoliberal mass movement) fought and defeated neoliberalism.

Early indications are that the pro-revolution forces organised under the Chavez-led Great Patriotic Pole electoral alliance will comfortably return Chavez to the presidency. 

A study carried out by the International Consulting Services (ICS) indicated that if a poll were held now, 58.2% of Venezuela’s population would vote for Hugo Chavez against 35.4% for Radonski. 

The ICS also found in a January study that 53% of Venezuelans support Chavez’s socialist vision for the nation, with only 21% saying they believed capitalism was the best system to develop Venezuela. 

The Group of Social Investigation XXI (GIS XXI) found Chavez to have a popularity rating of 61.2%.

As the presidential battle continues to heat up, Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the biggest force in the electoral alliance, stepped up its activity. 

Chavez has dubbed the campaign the Carabobo campaign. This refers to the 1821 Battle of Carabobo that was decisive in winning Venezuelan independence from Spain. 

A huge rally of PSUV grassroots “patrollers” was held on February 17 to bring together and organise PSUV members for the political battle ahead. 

A mass campaign of door-knocking has already begun. By February 16, PSUV patrollers had visited a total of 417,000 homes in a first phase of house-to-house deployment. More than just soliciting support for Chavez, the patrollers discuss socialism and encourage participation in the revolution’s programs.

[Owen Richards maintains the blog Venezuela: Translating the Revolution.]

Tuesday 20 December 2011

New call to voluntary labour

Translated by Owen Richards 

Comandante Chavez, in a meeting with the promotions committee of the Great Patriotic Pole [pro-revolution electoral alliance], held on Thursday at the Alba Hotel Caracas, reflected on the construction of socialism and its pillars. He referred to the importance of volunteer work for the creation of the spiritual and material bases of Socialism, and gave the example of one of its most genuine adherents – Che Guevara.

“There’s something that really contributes to the spiritual basis, the material basis of Socialism: voluntary labour.

“I encourage you to undertake volunteer work in the countryside, in the cities, that we may all - the Great Patriotic Pole, the collectives – get working.

“Have you seen Che Guevara, the photos and films of Che cutting cane, brick making, working…? What else… Carrying bags… Voluntary labour, let’s do it, help our people do various things, and it needs to be planned, it must be planned. The workers, the communities, the collectives.”