Venezuela: Abstention crushed the constituent assembly fraud

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Constituyente es hambreBy Simon Rodriguez Porras

The proof of Maduro's failure could be seen at the empty polling stations. The population turned its back on the National Constituent Assembly (Asamblea Nacional Constituyente - ANC) in the midst of demonstrations and a surge of the repression, proving that the popular rebellion lives on.

The Democratic Union Roundtable (Mesa de Unión Democrática - MUD) continues to aim for a negotiated way out of the crisis, while Maduro advances on the route towards dictatorship. The result of the election was known beforehand, with the 545 members of the ANC being of the governing party. Neither the MUD nor the leftist opposition participated in this hoax of an election. Nevertheless, Maduro's self-inflicted coup has been weakened by the persistence of the popular struggle in the poorest barrios (slums) of the country. Desperate to hide the abstention during the vote, the National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral - CNE) unified several polling stations at the premises of the Poliedro de Caracas, a covered stadium, so as to be able to show images with long lines of voters; the popular response was "the Poliedro is not Venezuela". Once the voting was over, the government fabricated the figure of 8 million voters, which represents 41.4% of the 19.5 million registered voters. This unlikely figure is only 100 thousand votes less than those obtained by Chavez in the 2012 presidential election and 2.4 million more than those obtained by the government in 2015. The independent firm Torino Capital, lead by a former Chavista official, estimated abstention at 82% based on polls conducted at more than 100 polling stations. Moreover, the company Smartmatic, hired by the CNE to carry out the electronic voting, publicly denounced that the official figures do not match their records.

This is a ruinous and major failure, especially given that many people went to vote under terrible pressure. Maduro had publicly instructed all directors and CEO's of state-owned companies and senior officials of all ministries to carry out attendance checks at the polling stations with payroll lists of employees on hand. The ridiculous incident in which Maduro, in front of live television, tries unsuccessfully to scan his "motherland card" in order to register the fact he had voted, had a sinister backdrop: it was a message to the millions of people who have this card, telling them that if they did not vote they would be the object of retaliation. The "motherland card" is required to be able to access the distribution network of subsidized food, and as such, is a tool for extortion.

The ANC is imposed no matter what the cost

Thousands of people coming from the areas most severely punished by Maduro's economic measures defied the repression and the MUD's call to not obstruct the election. The military were expelled from several polling stations and the voting materials were burned by the population. The oppressive forces and paramilitaries assassinated 16 people between Saturday night and Sunday, leaving the figure of dead at 121 since the protests started, with more than 2000 wounded. The official figures of the General Attorney's office attribute the responsibility for 25% of the fatal victims to the police and the military, and 40% to Chavista paramilitary groups. The rest corresponds to accidental victims, such as the 8 people electrocuted during a looting spree in Caracas in April, and a small percentage to paramilitaries, police and military killed in street clashes.

Opposition to Maduro comes from the whole political spectrum. The General Attorney, Luisa Ortega, a Chavista, has denounced the illegality of the ANC and declared that she will not recognize it, as it has been imposed by force against the legal order. The General Secretary of the Oil Industry Workers' Federation, the revolutionary union leader José Bodas, has denounced the electoral fraud and the pressures workers have received from the government to force them to vote; he has urged people to abstain from voting. The same was done by other labour unions such as Sirtrasalud and SinatraUCV. Chavismo factions, such as Marea Socialista, also called for abstention. The Socialism and Liberty Party (Partido Socialismo y Libertad – PSL), from the left opposition, condemned the election and urged people to maintain independent mobilization until Maduro leaves. They have also called for an alternative economic program whose starting point is the non-payment of foreign debt, nationalization of the oil industry, and the reactivation of imports of food and medicine. The pro-bosses opposition gathered in the MUD continued to pursue negotiations with the government with the mediation of the Vatican and the Spanish ex-president Rodríguez Zapatero. This favoured Maduro's dictatorial push as he imposed the ANC and a few hours later sent back to the military jail of Ramo Verde the Mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, and the leader of MUD Leopoldo López, who were both under house-arrest.

This week the government will install the ANC, with plenipotentiary powers and undetermined duration, and without opposition. One of its first stated tasks is the dissolution of the Parliament and the removal of the General Attorney. Still, the government has failed to defeat the protests and it is clear that it has earned the hatred of more than 80% of the population.

A way out of Maduro's barbarism for the working class

It is obvious that a government that imposes the payment of foreign debt at the expense of its people's hunger, that makes deals with multinationals enabling the looting of natural resources, and whose backbone is the military, cannot be considered a leftist government, let alone socialist. It must be rejected by all honest activists from Latin America and beyond. The MUD does not have anything to offer to the Venezuelan people either, being a political leadership which has not opposed Maduro's suffocating economic measures, which has already governed with disastrous results, and whose program for confronting the payment of the debt is based on more privatizations. The MUD does not question the looting of the oil industry carried out by the Chevron, nor the presence of Barrick Gold in the country. It puts its bets on taking advantage of the protests to pressure the government into negotiating, but at the same time it tries to stop the spontaneous struggle carried out by in the main barrios of the country because of worries for the post-Maduro "governability". Despite this, the tide of popular protests continues with great force.

Imperialist attempts at negotiation

The Spanish ex-president Rodríguez Zapatero is the mediator between the government and the MUD since last year. He is backed by the Unasur and the OAS. The U.S. has stated its support for his actions on several occasions. We, revolutionary socialists, reject all forms of Yankee interference and are the first to demand the expelling of Chevron and the non-recognition of the illegitimate debt with Wall Street creditors. We denounce the intention of carrying out "negotiations" from the top in order to prevent popular mobilization from ousting Maduro from power, thus guaranteeing a way out of the crisis through a deal between the MUD and the government leadership. On July 29th, Rodríguez Zapatero published an open letter in which he admits having carried out negotiations between the government and the MUD in the past weeks. "I am reassured that only negotiation, consensus and agreement can provide a way out of the grave crisis that Venezuela is living...", he states, assuring that the points that still need agreement upon are the establishment of an election calendar, the liberation of the political prisoners, the rehabilitation of the Parliament, a functioning the ANC in accordance to the law, and an end to "violent" protests, that millions continue to carry out spontaneously. Negotiations are useful for Maduro as he continues with his dictatorial measures, as they were last year when the recall referendum was blocked.

August 2, 2017


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