Developments in Venezuela

President Maduro Takes Action to
Safeguard Bolivarian Revolution


Demonstration of supporters of the Bolivarian revolution outside the opening of the National Assembly, January 5, 2016.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on January 15 issued an Emergency Economic Decree and later made his annual State of the Union address to the National Assembly to elaborate on the threats facing the Bolivarian nation-building project that make the Emergency Economic Decree necessary.[1] The decree was presented at Miraflores Presidential Palace by Vice President for the Economy Luis Salas.

The Economic Emergency Decree is aimed at protecting the right of all Venezuelans to health care, housing, education and food, thereby ensuring social progress despite the slump in oil prices. The loss in revenue from oil production has been aggravated by the wave of speculative inflation led by business sectors linked to right-wing opposition parties, the Venezuelan News Agency reports.

The preamble to the decree states that the measures “must be of a high magnitude and impact on the national economy, without affecting the rights to health, food, education, work, and all that has been gained for Venezuelans by the Bolivarian Revolution through class struggle that imposed the will of the people over the interests of the bourgeoisie.”

Practically speaking, the decree involves making resources from the 2015 financial year available, assigning extra funds to health, education, food, and housing; designing and implementing measures to prevent tax evasion; and giving the executive the “authorization to address the causes of the current situation.”

The measure also allows the administration special temporary powers to boost production and ensure access to key goods, including taking over private companies’ resources, imposing currency controls and “other social, economic or political measures deemed fitting.”

In its first article, the decree provides that the government, acting in accordance with the powers granted by the Bolivarian Constitution, can take “appropriate measures to effectively address the unique and extraordinary economic situation the Venezuelan state is currently facing.”

It also establishes that the Venezuelan people must be able to enjoy “their rights and free access to basic goods and services” and that the decree will also mitigate “the effects of induced inflation, speculation, fictitious value of currency, [and] sabotage to distribution systems for goods and services.”

Furthermore, the decree seeks to “counteract the consequences of the war on oil prices, which has […] created a serious economic crisis.”

President Maduro’s Speech to National Assembly

In his State of the Union speech, President Maduro outlined a series of important reforms to strengthen Venezuela’s economy, while criticizing the neo-liberal model the opposition intends to impose on the country. “There are two models, the neo-liberal model which destroys everything and the Chavista model which is centred around people,” he said.

“What we want for the year 2016 is that our country proceeds along a path of development and economic growth that generates wealth and employment,” Maduro stated, adding that the Economic Emergency Decree is necessary to achieve this.

Maduro stated that the government is formulating an alternative to the current model of economic growth that will not contradict the ideals of the country’s social revolution. Social investment will be maintained and is not negotiable, he said.

The President criticized those from the private sector involved in production who have joined in economic speculation as part of the economic warfare against Venezuela. He pointed out that the Bolivarian government has always created mechanisms for communication and dialogue with the private sector on economic matters, adding that the socialist model is the only one that can overcome the economic difficulties. He also pointed out that attacks promoted from abroad have conditioned the current economic situation.

Despite the complex economic situation, Maduro duly recognized the opposition majority in the National Assembly, while reaffirming that the Bolivarian Revolution will continue to build on its values and that Venezuela is a country of peace. Notably, the opposition forces have sought to foment social unrest and violence as a means to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution.

President Maduro also pointedly criticized the President of Parliament, Henry Ramos Allup, for the “abuse that was given to the symbols of the commander Hugo Chávez and Simon Bolivar,” referring to the provocative order by Ramos Allup that all portraits of Chávez and Bolivar in the National Assembly be taken down. He added that Bolivar’s ideas are a constant source of inspiration and that no Venezuelan would reject honouring his legacy at the National Assembly. Maduro underscored this point by presenting Ramos Allup with a figurine of Bolivar.

The President of Venezuela denounced the opposition’s proposed amnesty law to free those responsible for the guarimbas, the deadly social unrest incited by the opposition in 2014. He called on the deputies to remember the murder of “43 people, 900 injured, and 300 people left disabled.” He called for a Joint Commission for Justice and Peace to establish a legal basis for a peace process.

Maduro also called for the parliament’s support in opposing the March 2015 decree of U.S. President Barack Obama in which he declared Venezuela a threat to the U.S.

Outlining the government’s major goals for 2016, President Maduro stated that the social investments that ensure the well-being of the Venezuelan people will be continued. In this context, the government will work for a recovery in the oil market, diversifying production to break the country’s dependence on oil revenues. He affirmed that the government will continue to provide more socialized housing, calling this program “a spiritual engine of the revolution,” and that it will continue to protect seniors.

Note

1. The decree was initially supposed to be presented to the National Assembly on January 5. However, provocative actions by the opposition forces, including defying a Supreme Court order not to swear-in three suspended deputies due to allegations of vote-buying, disrupted the Assembly’s functioning for several days.

(avn.info.ve, TeleSUR. Photos: TeleSUR)

 

New Measures to Develop and Strengthen
the National Economy

Demonstrations outside opening of National Assembly, January 5, 2016.

The Venezuelan government is taking important measures to strengthen the country’s economy to overcome the economic war being waged by the country’s reactionary oligarchs and provide stability for the Venezuelan people.

In an interview with state media, Minister for Industry and Trade Miguel Perez Abad emphasized that the country requires the efforts of government as well as workers, entrepreneurs, universities and research centres to transform Venezuela into a powerful country and achieve economic diversification.

Perez Abad said that the government will enhance and support the productive initiatives of communal councils, socially-owned enterprises, artisan, and small, medium and large industries. All of these, he noted, have been proposed to replace imports, increase food production and create new technology to further develop the country’s capabilities and distribution systems.

He indicated that a new financial system will be implemented to support these initiatives and gradually reduce any obstacles for entrepreneurs, subject to control by the State.

Perez Abad stressed that the basic industries in the Guyana region of Venezuela — iron, steel and aluminum production — are important for the industrial development of Venezuela and non-traditional exports beyond oil. In that regard, he announced a meeting January 13 in Bolivar state with the management board and employees of these companies to collect proposals, plans and projects in order to devise a joint plan to improve the performance of this economic group in this important region.

He said the purpose is to use the basic industries for the development of domestic added-value and that includes generating more jobs.

Concerning the development of the oil industry, the Minister noted that there are many factories producing goods in the country that are replacing imports “and creating well-paid jobs, achieving technological and productive sovereignty.” He referred to the Orinoco Oil Belt, where he said there are 22 joint ventures being put in place to replace imports.

He added that state oil company PDVSA “remains one of the largest buyers in the country, and we are developing production chains around the oil sector” and thus adding value to the country.

New Plan to Recover Oil Prices

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced in a January 12 television and radio broadcast that he had charged Oil and Mining Minister Eulogio Del Pino with coming up with a new plan of action to recover crude oil prices, along with member and non-member countries of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Oil prices have reached their lowest point in 12 years with an average of $24 per barrel.

The President criticized efforts by the U.S. in the oil market to undermine the economies of those states with which it does not agree through increased oil production from fracking. He stated that these countries “are determined to be free, independent and sovereign and we’re not going to kneel to transnational interests.”

The President stressed that even with oil prices at $24 a barrel, Venezuela’s social rights — he specifically mentioning the right to work, housing and pensions — will remain. He compared this to the situation with other countries and oil companies which — facing a 70 per cent oil price slump — have engaged in mass layoffs, as is the case with UK-based BP that on January 12 announced the termination of 4,000 jobs.

He stressed that the sharp drop in oil prices opens opportunities to start a new phase of the country’s economic revolution.

Addressing the country’s oil workers from Miraflores Palace on January 12, Maduro stated that efforts must be made to create new sources of currency in dollars, which is already being done, and the pace must be increased. He made these remarks in the context of signing a new collective agreement with PDVSA oil workers for 2015-2017. The contract followed more than 35,000 proposals raised in meetings of the regional trade unions and includes a wage increase of 143 per cent, with back pay from October 2015. It covers more than 83,000 men and women working in the oil industry.

Strengthening Fisheries

Boosting agriculture and fisheries during 2016 will also be a fundamental objective of the Venezuelan government.

At the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas on January 9, President Nicolas Maduro announced the creation of the Ministry of Agricultural Production and Lands to be led by Wilmar Castro Soteldo which, with the support of the people, will work to consolidate the production of 19,551 tons of food, cultivated across 2,458,925 hectares.

The inauguration of this ministry later took place in the Florentino Socialist Productive Technical Center, in the state of Barinas, and was attended by farmers from the states of Miranda, Bolivar, Barinas and Monagas, who organized workshops and discussed strategies to boost food production.

“As a result of capitalism and the imposition of the oil model from the north, the culture, knowledge and work in the fields and the land was abandoned for about 100 years. But in the Bolivarian Revolution, fundamental, basic conditions have prepared the ground to take the leap and move in a progressive and timely way in food production,” said the President,

Maduro also spoke of the need to revolutionize the country’s fishing and aquaculture industry.

“Venezuela has a very important fishing [industry …],” Maduro said. He appointed Executive Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz to create new comprehensive models of productive fishing communities to include fishermen in the process of economic transformation.

“I give this task to Aristobulo Isturiz, to design new communities of fishermen. Let’s see how much we impact in the first half of this year, giving them all the services and support,” he said.

The government will include fishermen in its major social missions — Housing Venezuela, Barrio Nuevo and Barrio Tricolor — and in the social security system, to ensure them a retirement pension, full care and social benefits.

He also announced that in the coming days, working and negotiation sessions will be held with public and private companies to create strategies to boost the fishing sector and thus the goals set by the Venezuelan state in 2016, when “the Bolivarian Revolution will face a great economic storm.”

These meetings, he said, will seek suitable methods to export fish to bring in foreign currency. He stated that it is a major goal to turn Venezuela into a fishing power for domestic consumption and for export. To that end, the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture has been created “as a great tool for solving all issues and to double the fishing production capacity of Venezuela,” he said.

The new Ministry for Fisheries and Aquaculture, which will be led by Angel Belisario, was inaugurated on January 9 in Sucre state, close to the fishermen to give them the attention and training necessary for the exercise of their duties with respect to the goals set by the nation.

Agriculture

Venezuela’s new Agriculture and Lands Minister Soteldo launched a series of measures on January 9 aimed at getting the country’s national food production back on track.

At least 19 different points of action were put forward by Soteldo, including providing increased technical and financial assistance to campesinos, increasing urban agriculture and planting 50,000 hectares of soy.

He also took the unprecedented move of decentralizing some of the country’s most important agrarian institutes such as the National Land Institute (INTI) and the National Institute of Rural Development (INDER).

Both bodies will be transferred from the capital to the rural states of Cojedes and Portuguesa respectively. Four Agropatria regional support offices will also be opened in Merida, Portuguesa, Guarico and Zulia to promote and finance small-scale agricultural production amongst citizens.

Minister Soteldo said the measures were aimed at eliminating the country’s longstanding reliance on imports and ensuring the availability of “fair priced food” for the most vulnerable. He added that the government hoped to eventually begin exporting Venezuelan produce abroad.

According to Soteldo, the ministry’s goal for 2016 is to cultivate nearly 2.5 million hectares of the nation’s countryside and produce 19.5 million tonnes of food. This will involve a 7 billion Bolivar investment and the creation of the mission “My Well Equipped Farm” to provide financing to farmers in a number of areas. State-level authorities will also be created to ensure that these goals are being met, alongside state governors.

“Let the people decide what to do with those who fail to fulfil our harvest goals,” stated Soteldo, who invited grassroots Campesino Councils and the national Presidential Campesino Council to help with the supervision of the measures and the 2016 harvest.

In other comments Soteldo revealed that an immediate ministry-led investigation into the costs of national meat, milk and sugar production would begin the week of January 10. He said his ministry will also intervene to lower production costs in a bid to incentivize producers.

“Producers have been teaching me, because at times we have to be humble in these issues, to be able to learn about the reality of our people,” commented the Minister, who explained that he had been in the field with producers since he took office.

Venezuelanalysis.com reports that the Bolivarian government has repeatedly attempted to build a national state-run food production and distribution network. But the importation, production and distribution of food is still largely controlled by private monopolies and particularly by the Polar conglomerate.

(avn.info.ve, Venezuelanalysis.com. Photos: TeleSUR.)

 

Opposition Attacks the Functioning of the State and People’s Rights


Supporters of the Bolivarian revolution gather outside opening of the National Assembly,
January 5, 2016.

The coalition of Venezuelan opposition parties known as the MUD has made serious attacks on the normal functioning of the Venezuelan state and the rights of the people since its victory in the December 6, 2015 legislative election.

Defiance of Supreme Court and Disruption of National Assembly

The National Assembly, which opened on January 5, has been severely disrupted by the self-serving antics of the opposition forces, including the new President of the National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup.

The MUD was initially considered to have won 112 seats, a two-thirds super majority, in the December 6, 2015 legislative election. This would have given it the ability to pass motions and legislation virtually unopposed and increased the threat to the Bolivarian Revolution. However, allegations of vote-buying resulted in the Supreme Court temporarily barring all four elected legislators in Amazonas state — including a government affiliated Great Patriotic Pole (GPP) candidate — pending a full investigation.

Nonetheless, the opposition used its majority to impose the illegal swearing-in of its three deputies and negated the legitimacy of the National Assembly.

This forced a further intervention by the Supreme Court which ruled on January 11 that the country’s National Assembly is void because the opposition coalition violated the previous court ruling. “Decisions taken or to be taken by the National Assembly while these citizens are incorporated will be absolutely null,” read a statement from the court. It also ordered the National Assembly to “proceed to the immediate divestiture of [the three MUD candidates] Nirma Guarulla, Julio Ygarza and Romel Guzamana, which must be verified and recorded in regular session.” The entire National Assembly was subsequently suspended.

The decisions by the MUD invalidated by the ruling include the unilateral decision by opposition leader and speaker of the House Henry Ramos Allup to remove the portraits of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and national liberation hero Simon Bolivar from the congressional chambers.

On January 12, the opposition agreed that its three suspended deputies would resign and the National Assembly was permitted to reopen. However, this was only a manoeuvre to launch further attacks on the functioning of the legislative body.

The resignation of the suspended deputies should have meant the MUD’s two-thirds super majority was also pre-empted. Ramos Allup now claims that the resignations are equivalent to reducing the total number of seats in the National Assembly and has proclaimed that on this basis, the MUD has a two-thirds majority.

Meanwhile, the MUD-affiliated governor of Amazonas State, Liborio Guarulla, filed a motion against the Supreme Court decision to suspend the deputies, which he claims, “has practically eliminated a federal state that represents 20 per cent of the country’s territory.”

The machinations of Ramos Allup and Governor Guarulla are in denial of the serious matter facing the Supreme Court. Regarding the court’s initial response to the challenge of the results in Amazonas state that led to the suspension of the four deputies, TeleSUR writes:

“In the decisions posted online, the court did not specify the reasons for upholding the challenge, however the candidates who submitted the challenge cite a number of electoral irregularities, including possible fraud, a high number of blank votes, and, most importantly, vote buying.

“The allegation that candidates and politicians were engaged in vote buying in the state of Amazonas emerged shortly after the elections and well before the court ruled to suspend the four candidates.

“On Dec. 16, Jorge Rodriguez, a leading figure inside Venezuela’s socialist party and the head of that party’s campaign, released a recording that allegedly provides evidence of vote buying and implicates Victoria Franchi, an associate of the opposition governor of Amazonas.

“In the recording Franchi can be heard speaking to an unidentified person, described as an undercover agent, concerning a plot to pay people to accompany seniors and people with low literacy on voting day in order to ensure that these people vote for candidates from the opposition coalition.

“Franchi is also heard offering to pay for people to pose and vote on behalf of the deceased.

“‘We want to win by any means necessary,’ says Franchi toward the end of the recording.

“Should the allegations of vote buying be proven to be true, it would constitute a crime under Venezuela’s electoral law. Authorities would then need to determine if the crime was severe or significant enough to warrant new elections in the affected state.”

Opposition Attack on the Right to Housing

With the National Assembly once again operational, deputy leader of the MUD Julio Borges took the opportunity on January 12 to introduce a law that would hand over the property deeds of homes constructed by the Great Venezuelan Housing Mission (GMVV) to the residents, who the opposition says at present only retain a permanent lease that cannot be transferred or sold. This bill will be debated the week of January 18-22.

Borges claims that turning the massive social investment into a scheme for private ownership would generate jobs and speed up construction, ensuring the “democratization of property.” Opposition lawmaker Delsa Solorzano chimed in to say, “We believe in a Venezuela of property owners.”

Ricardo Molina, former Minister for Housing and Habitat, pointed out the dubious nature of the proposed law, stating that it “is founded on ignorance or manipulation.” He clarified that Articles 9 and 13 of the current Property Law allow the families, if they have the need or the wish, to sell their house. “That means the house is property of the family,” he explained.

Molina further explained that the existing Property Law prevents houses built by the GMVV from entering the speculative private market, and removing this block is the actual aim of the opposition bill to be debated next week.

The GMVV is considered one of the main initiatives of President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez. It has built more than one million houses for Venezuelan families since it was founded in 2011, with priority given to poor families.

Opposition Tables Self-Serving Law to Release Convicted Criminals

While the MUD’s election platform claimed the coalition would undertake economic reforms to assist the people, their actions in the National Assembly indicate that their only priority is to seize political power to further their narrow aim of overthrowing the Maduro government and the Bolivarian Revolution.

On January 14, the opposition tabled a bill to grant amnesty to Leopoldo López, convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison for his role in inciting violent social unrest in 2014 in which 43 people were killed and many hundreds more injured, some permanently.

The head of the GPP parliamentary bloc Hector Rodriguez denounced the proposed Amnesty Law as an affront to all those killed or injured, and their families.

Rodriguez also rejected the interference from the U.S. instrument of hegemony in the region, the Organization of American States (OAS), which is attempting to portray López as a political prisoner. “There are no political prisoners in Venezuela, there is no-one in prison for thinking differently. Those imprisoned are people who have committed crimes,” he said.

GPP legislator Tania Diaz pointed out that a motion approved January 14 by the opposition majority that exhorts Venezuela to be in compliance with international resolutions, preceded the tabling of the Amnesty Law as well as one on “National Reconciliation.” All of these are part of a strategy to sanitize the crimes of those who incited the deadly violence against the people, she said.

Renewed Attack by Organization of American States

The OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, on January 11 threatened to expel Venezuela from OAS using the Inter-American Democratic Charter because of the just stand taken by the Supreme Court. In a letter to President Maduro, Almagro called the suspension of the three opposition deputies a “direct blow to the will of the people.” He also warned Maduro not to “distort” the electoral results. Notably, Almagro had nothing to say about the serious allegations of vote-buying that may have distorted the outcome of the election. His letter makes clear the connivance between the opposition MUD and foreign interests to betray the national interest and their violation of the Venezuelan people’s right to sovereignty.

The OAS is notorious for its ongoing interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and other countries. In the leadup to the December 6, 2015 elections, Almagro called into question the fairness of Venezuela’s internationally renowned electoral system, fueling unfounded rumors of fraud circulated in the international press which were later silenced by President Maduro’s immediate recognition of the landslide opposition victory, Venezuelanalysis.com points out. The fact that allegations of fraud and vote-buying have led to a suspension of four deputies should instead be an indication that the Venezuelan electoral system takes such matters seriously.

The declarations by the OAS general-secretary were roundly dismissed by the GPP parliamentary bloc. “The OAS has no place meddling in Venezuela […] it’s an organization totally lacking in legitimacy,” asserted Socialist Party of Venezuela legislator and former National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello.

(avn.info.ve, Venezuelanalysis.com, TeleSUR)

Government Denounces Media War

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez on January 15 denounced the campaign of private media monopolies being waged against that country.

In a statement published on the website of Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry, Rodríguez said the real aim of this crusade in support of the opposition forces is a foreign intervention.

She said that Venezuela also faces other pressure being orchestrated from abroad through diplomatic missions in Venezuela. She added that the recent actions of opposition deputies confirms that they are following a script directed from abroad, as previously stated by President Nicolas Maduro.

Rodriguez condemned the incessant interference and aggression of the U.S. in recent months, pointing out how it uses coercive methods against those countries that seek their own path. She noted that a similar script is being followed of permanent aggression in the financial and economic spheres.

She warned that all invasions and military attacks by the U.S. and its allies against countries such as Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and others, have been preceded by strong media campaigns.

New Initiatives to Communicate the Revolution to the Masses

As part of combatting this media war, President Maduro has called for the deepening of the Bolivarian Revolution’s communication work to report its achievements.

On January 9, Maduro announced the formation of the Communication General Staff, as part of the new communication policy that the government will undertake during 2016.

“The Communication General Staff was installed today, with a group of guests, intellectuals, experts to build the new communications policy for the truth of our country, the new communication policy of the Revolution. We were just receiving the report, and commenting, guiding and making decisions of key elements to have our people well-informed, well-prepared,” he said.

He reiterated that the Bolivarian Revolution faces a right-wing majority in the National Assembly, which has threatened to repeal laws won by popular power over 16 years of continuous work.

“The Parliamentary right want to impose the old neo-liberal model, to privatize everything, to regularize labour rights of global disinvestment, de-industrialization and economic disaster that other countries are suffering again, such as Argentina,” he said.

However, the right faces a major obstacle: organized people willing to defend the Bolivarian project introduced by Commander Hugo Chávez in 1999, and led today by President Nicolas Maduro.

“People’s power is the government, we are instruments of the revolution for people to have direct access to power and be sure that, trusting our people, we will not fail,” said the President.

(Prensa Latina, avn.info.ve)

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