By Daniel Edgar
The following is a translation of a recent article by a Mexican journalist who travelled to Venezuela to investigate the atmosphere in the country during the presidential elections.
For those who are interested, at the end of the article are some links to a couple of other articles in English on economic and political developments in Venezuela by academics and journalists with many years’ experience in the country and the Latin American region. They are older but remain as relevant now as when they were written.
(For those who prefer to receive all their information from the New York Times, CNN, Fox ‘News’, etc, (or shills?) and find other points of view disturbing, you may as well go straight to the comments section and note your complaints and insults…)
“Venezuela: Chronicle of a Triumph and an Announced Attack”
By Gerardo Szalkowicz (28 May 2018)
“Mrs Carmen arrives slowly, hobbling, to Manuel Fajardo College in the crowded and mythical neighbourhood of barrio 23 de enero (in Caracas). She bears her 81 years nobly, supporting herself on a cane with one hand and holding an umbrella in the other to protect herself from the scorching sun. She has embarked on the pilgrimage of four blocks and some sixty precipitous stairs to cast her vote. When she first approaches she displays a coy Caribbean smile and replies: “My vote is direct, universal, secret… and ‘maduro’ (maduro, the surname of the incumbent president, also means mature in Spanish)”. Before going we meet again and, now with more confidence, she confides: “This is the thing, lad. We are going through a difficult time, surviving however we can, but we are clear that the gringos (US) are responsible (for the economic crisis and severe shortage of essential goods and services) as they want to starve us into submission. They are not going to succeed, here the people are committed to the revolution, we don’t want to lose our sovereignty. Never again will we be their slaves.”
In our trip to numerous voting centres in Caracas there are many Mrs Carmens. Their age, faces and histories vary, but their messages are very similar. And above all their social origin. It is certain that the participation is much less than in previous elections, that one can perceive the discontent and apathy that have become entrenched over the last few years, but the polarization between social classes is evident; the majority of the voters are from the popular sectors, the voting centres in the middle and upper classes are almost empty.
First conclusion: there is a solid core of ‘Chavistas’ who remain firm, even in the ever more complicated and onerous living conditions. This time there were 6,100,000 people that voted for Maduro’s continuation in the presidential office with nothing less than 67.7% of the votes, over 4 million more than Henri Falcon (21.1%). There is memory, of the innumerable conquests over the last 20 years. There is political consciousness, acquired in the turbulent times of the revolution. It is certain that ‘Chavism’ is going through a period of regression, of weakness; it obtained one and a half million votes less than in the previous presidential election, but in this context of international siege and economic crisis its proponents knew how to maintain their unity and they ratified themselves as the principal political and electoral force in the country.
As counterpart, the elections deepened the consternation and atomization of an opposition without ‘potable’ leadership and personalities and which has lost its capacity to mobilize people (less than 300 people last Wednesday was the largest protest they have managed to convoke in recent times). Their inability to connect with the popular sectors, their underestimation of Chavismo – which they reduce to ignorant masses duped by illusory promises, their subordination to foreign actors and dictates, lead them to one failure after another. Falcon and Bertucci (the main opposition candidates that didn’t boycott the election) didn’t succeed in capturing this social foundation of Venezuela society, but they emerged as new fractions of the local right wing political groupings.
A second impression that the voters we consulted repeated is the sensation of having recovered conditions of relative peace. One year ago, the streets of Venezuela (more precisely, some zones of the middle and upper classes) were the scenario of a sort of insurrection with paramilitary overtones that left a toll of deaths, destruction of hospitals and other public buildings, people burned alive and a country on the verge of civil war. The mass media succeeded in installing the image of ‘the Dictatorship’ and ‘the oppressive government’ and they were counting down the hours Maduro had left. Nobody would have imagined the current panorama: Chavism achieving its fourth victory in 10 months in an electoral contest that proceeded without incident (with the exception of some bottles that were thrown at the former president of Spain, Rodriguez Zapatero, for having given his support to the Venezuelan democratic process).
The other (and primary) concern that the Venezuelan people transmitted during the electoral period, and which is also perceived constantly in the streets, in the Metro, in all ambits of everyday life, is the economic noose that tightens with every day that passes. Uncontrolled hyperinflation that renders an average wage insignificant, a shortage of cash and constant shortages in public services are elements of an induced multidimensional crisis that have their operational centre in Washington but that, after four years, don’t find an effective response from the Venezuelan Executive.
The matrix of abstention
The grand media consortiums have installed the idea of an election rendered illegitimate by the low level of participation (around 46%), following the script of ‘non-recognition’ deployed by the US, the OAS, the European Union, the Lima Group, and the Venezuelan opposition groups that obeyed the order to not present themselves given the certainty that they faced an emphatic defeat. The level of participation in the vote, which has been similar or less in other countries in the region (40.6% in the last presidential elections in Colombia and 46% in Chile) reveal the manipulation and double standards of the mainstream media companies and the ‘international community’, which never questioned the legitimacy provided by the votes for Santos or Piñera.
With respect to the Venezuelan voting system – described several years ago by Jimmy Carter as ‘the most secure in the world’ – the approximately 2000 international observers ratified its reliability and transparency. The automated voting process starts by scanning the voters’ fingerprint, which activates the electronic voting procedure that ends with a receipt for the voter and a duplicate which is placed in the ballot box. Furthermore, after the voting centres close citizen verification groups conduct an audit of the ballots.
Nicanor Moscoso, president of the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts, which monitored the election, stated unequivocally: ‘We can emphasize that the election must be recognized because it represents the will of the Venezuelan people.’ The representative of the mission of the African Union, Arikana Chihombori Quao, stated: ‘I don’t know an electoral process in the world that is more transparent and rigorous than the Venezuelan system.’
Venezuela faces a prolongation and intensification of the international siege, a media onslaught and economic strangulation. That was made clear by the new sanctions announced by Trump hours after the election and the ‘Masterstroke plan’ of admiral Kurt Tidd, commander of US Southern Command, in which they state their intention to ‘feed popular dissatisfaction by increasing scarcity and price increases for food, medicines and other goods, with the objective of provoking the desertion of citizens across all borders’. The threat of foreign military intervention remains latent.
With the victory of the 20th of May, Chavism showed strength and managed to retain political power. It won some additional time and breathing space. But the urgency is still there: detain and reverse the economic spiral of deterioration. And unburden itself of the high levels of corruption and inefficient bureaucracy that make the task much more difficult. The path that is followed will depend on the contest between the distinct visions and strategies of the various factions within the government. It is still possible for the government to dare to deepen the revolutionary process and reinstate the communal strategy as the path to Bolivarian socialism.”
Gerardo Szalkowicz, “Venezuela: crónica de un triunfo y un ataque anunciado”, 28 May 2018:
Other articles on political and economic developments in Venezuela
Steve Ellner, 2017, “The Economic War against Venezuela”, Third World Resurgence:
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, “Revolutionise or Compromise”, 20 December 2016:
Stansfield Smith, “Venezuela’s Communal Movement”, 30 December 2016:
James Petras, “Venezuelan Elections: A choice and not an echo”, 2012: