Above Photo: Voting station in Venezuela, adorned by logo of the National Electoral Council (AP photo)
News reports in Western media about the municipal elections which took place in Venezuela on December 10, 2017 are hard to come by. No wonder: the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) of President Nicolas Maduro scored a huge victory, winning 300 of 335 mayoral contests, according to Associated Press and a report in Venezuela Analysis translated from the Venezuelan journal Supuesto Negado.
Such an election outcome casts a searing and condemning light on the outlandish claims by Western media and governments—accompanied by sanctions that hurt the Venezuelan people and echoed by some in the Western left–that Venezuela is descending into hunger, chaos and dictatorship.
A right-wing opposition in disarray and a worn-refrain Western media
Venezuela’s right-wing political opposition boycotted the vote. But the boycott decision was not part of a coherent political strategy. Rather, it reflected the increasing political disarray and decline of the country’s right-wing opposition–divided by outlook, competing ambitions and by the increasing turn to violence on the part of significant sections.
Fueling the disarray of the opposition was the earlier, landslide victory of the PSUV in regional (state) elections on October 15. The party won 54 per cent of the vote and 17 of 23 state governments. Voter turnout was 61 per cent.
Western media has turned to two, time-worn tactics as its agitation for the overthrow of Venezuela’s government and president continues. One is to self-censor the reporting of bad news, in this case the PSUV’s positive election results in October and now in December. The other is to lie.
A recent example of the latter is Western media reporting that the Venezuela government intends to ‘ban’ opposition political parties and movements from the 2018 presidential election. BBC and Reuters, among many others, are reporting such a banning as fact. CNN tempered its reporting of the claim by noting that President Maduro says may favour a ban of certain opposition parties. Maduro is referring to those parties consistently boycotting elections, saying such boycotts are intended to smear and discredit Venezuela’s election processes. But nothing is decided, contrary to the headlines implying the matter is decided. (See below Dec 22 article from Venezuela Analaysis: Has Venezuela really banned opposition parties from elections? Short answer: no.)
International observers of the October 2017 regional elections reported the process as “peaceful and without problems”.
Another example of lies is the distorted reporting of food shortages in Venezuela. The Guardian headlined in August 2017, ‘Hunger eats away at Venezuela’s soul as its people struggle to survive’. A dramatic photo essay appears in the New York Times on December 17 headlined, ‘As Venezuela collapses, children are dying of hunger’. Such reports permeate Western media.
Telesur examined claims of widespread hunger in a series of articles in May 2016. The series examined acknowledged real problems in food production and distribution but concluded they did not amount to starvation in the streets. Telesur returned to the subject in February 2017, writing, “The facts are clear — Venezuela does have a food crisis. Mainstream U.S. media, however, blames the socialist government that has radically improved the country’s standard of living instead of right-wing U.S.-backed opposition forces intentionally sabotaging the economy.”
The Center for Economic Policy Research in Washington DC published this study by Jacob Wilson on October 31: The media, Venezuela, and hunger statistics: A case study in careless reporting.
Outlandish claims in Western media are confounded by a stubborn question: If conditions are so bad in Venezuela, why would people continue to elect the socialist party led by President Maduro? The answer seems clear: whatever the perceived failures of economic policy by the Venezuela government—and there is much valid criticism to be made according to, among others, the analysts writing on Venezuela Analysis–a majority of the people consider that the political opposition in power—allied closely to governments in the U.S., Canada and Europe—would only worsen matters.
Canada and the United States have increased sanctions against Venezuela this year. The U.S., at least, is tacitly threatening more of the same. The aim is straight out of the imperialist, ‘regime-change’ playbook: to heighten discontent among the government’s base of support in the popular classes who clearly support the government’s Bolivarian and socialist goals.
Notwithstanding Western media propaganda and Western government threats, important progress is being reported in ongoing talks between the Venezuela government and certain of the political opposition aimed at stabilizing the political situation in the country.
Where is international solidarity?
Incredibly, Canada’s soft-left party in Parliament, the NDP, voted in favour of the Venezuela sanctions in a new law passed by the House of Commons on October 10, 2017 (and see here). The law was also directed against Russia, which shows how the NDP’s acquiescing to the anti-Russia drive of Canada, the U.S. and the rest of NATO (not to speak of the acquiescing of the more radical left) corrupts and disarms the left-wing body politic.
The NDP’s stance has not sparked visible protest from within the moribund party, while alternative media has kept silent on the whole matter.
U.S. writer and Venezuela solidarity activist Stansfield Smith has reported recently on the troubling example of a political dispute in Bolivia between the government and some Indigenous people and environmental activists over the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory. He says the dispute has seen liberal-left media internationally “become a conveyor belt for U.S. regime change propaganda”. He explains:
… This NACLA article is a recent excellent example of many. Bolivia’s TIPNIS (Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Secure) dispute arose over the Evo Morales government’s project to complete a road through the park, opposed by some indigenous and environmental groups.
As is NACLA modus operandi, the article says not one word about U.S. and rightwing funding and coordination with the indigenous and environmental groups behind the TIPNIS anti-highway protests. (This does not delegitimize the protests, but it does deliberately mislead people about the issues involved). In doing so, these kinds of articles cover up U.S. interventionist regime change plans, be that their intention or not.
NACLA is not alone in what is in fact apologetics for U.S. interventionism. Include the Guardian, UpsideDownWorld, Amazon Watch, so-called ‘Marxist’ Jeffery Webber (and here), Jacobin, ROAR, Intercontinenta Cry, Avaaz and In These Times in a short list of examples. We can add to this simply by picking up any articles about the protests in Bolivia’s TIPNIS (or oil drilling in Ecuador’s Yasuni during Rafael Correa’s presidency) and see what they say about U.S. funding of protests, if they even mention it.
This is not simply an oversight, it is a cover-up…
Venezuela Analysis reports the disturbing case of the awarding by the European Union on December 13 of its ‘Sakharov’ human rights prize to Venezuela’s violent opposition. The report goes on to explain:
The move has, however, sparked a backlash from parliamentarians on the left-wing of the EU legislature.
“The decision of the presidency of the European Parliament to grant the prize to extremists of the Venezuelan opposition – despite criticisms from various Eurodeputies – is cynical and scandalous,” said German Left Party (Die Linke) Vice President Heinke Haensel, referring to [Julio] Borges’ and other opposition leaders’ support for four months of violent anti-government protests that left over 125 dead earlier this year.
Spain’s United Left (IU), for its part, led a boycott of the ceremony, accusing the EU Parliament of “putting itself on the side of violence in Venezuela instead of facilitating dialogue”.
“The people receiving the prize today embody a violent opposition that since 2002 has sought to overthrow with coups governments democratically elected by the Venezuelan people,” the party said in a statement.
Additionally, IU slammed the parliament for passing over finalist Lolita Chavez – a Guatemalan indigenous Ki’che leader whose organization has been targeted by paramilitary groups – in order to give the award to Venezuelan opposition figures like Lorent Saleh, who “was jailed in relation to paramilitarism in Colombia”.
“This year there are people who have not received the prize and fight precisely against what the people who are going to receive it represent,” the leftist party concluded.
Has Venezuela really banned opposition parties from elections? Short answer: no, by Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, Venezuela Analysis, Dec 22, 2017
Americans must hear the other, hopeful side of the Venezuelan story, by Dan Kovalik, HuffPost, Dec 20, 2017 (Dan Kovalik is a labor and human right lawyer in the United States.)
Canada sanctions Venezuela’s President Maduro and other Venezuela officials, by Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, Venezuela Analysis, Nov 3rd 2017
The media, Venezuela, and hunger statistics: A case study in careless reporting, by Jacob Wilson, originally published by Center for Economic Policy Research, Oct 31, 2017 (Washington DC), also appearing in Venezuela Analysis, Nov 1, 2017
Venezuela’s governing Socialist Party scores big victory in Oct 15 elections to regional states, news compilation on New Cold War.org, Oct 24, 2017