UNITED NATIONS human rights high commissioner spokeswoman Liz Throssell’s words of caution regarding tomorrow’s election to Venezuela’s constituent assembly appear evenly balanced, but should they be?
Throssell declares that “the wishes of the Venezuelan people to participate or not in this election need to be respected,” but who threatens this right? Only the opposition. Her insistence that the government manage protests “in line with international human rights norms and standards” doesn’t acknowledge that the government has banned “all public meetings and demonstrations, gatherings, and other similar acts that might disturb the electoral process.”
This is in response to recent provocative battle cries emanating from the right-wing Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mud) opposition and also its record in recent months.
Throssell’s request that those opposing the election do so peacefully ignores that record and opposition politicians’ comments in the run-up to tomorrow’s election.
Over a hundred people have been killed during a rolling programme of violent protests, blockades and targeted attacks on public buildings and suspected government supporters. Some have been shot by police, troops or motorbike “colectivos,” but most have been victims of the opposition campaign of destabilisation.
Violence runs through the oligarchic opposition like Blackpool through a stick of rock, stretching back at least to the 1989 Caracazo when the ruling class deployed state forces to slaughter thousands of working people protesting against their impoverishment through government neoliberal policies.
This experience, enriched by a failed uprising led by Hugo Chavez in 1992, helped pave the way for his election as president in 1998 and his advocacy of a revolutionary Bolivarian alternative to neoliberalism.
The oligarchy has never reconciled itself to losing its grip on political power and, crucially, control of the armed forces.
Barely four years into office, Chavez was briefly overthrown in a coup, accompanied by opposition-instigated street violence, but was reinstated after mass popular protests encouraged the military to isolate the coup plotters and force their surrender.
Washington welcomed the coup, putting aside public pretensions of commitment to democracy and the rule of law. Many of those who planned, carried out and supported the coup against Chavez are linked today to Mud, posing as born-again democrats and peaceful campaigners. Their masquerade is backed by Washington — no surprise there — but also by self-styled liberal advocates of human rights and democracy in Britain such as our national broadcaster and the Guardian newspaper.
Just as in previous international crises such as the invasion of Iraq or the bombing of Libya, they identify a problem and argue that “something” must be done, which, curiously, always turns out to be imperialist intervention.
Latin America is no stranger to interference from its powerful northern neighbour, whether political, economic or military.
The US, under so-called political “outsider” Donald Trump, takes a similar approach today to what his predecessors did to Cuba, Nicaragua, Chile, Grenada, the Dominican Republic and other countries in what Washington insultingly calls its “backyard.”
It issues demands on internal matters, winds up regional catspaws to crank up criticism, imposes “strong and swift economic actions” and refuses to rule out military intervention. Its agents and allies in Venezuela aim to overthrow the government, so they have tried to build a situation of dual power and convince the military, with outside encouragement, to back their coup.
Friends of Venezuela must speak out in support of the revolutionary process and the right of Venezuelans to elect their constituent assembly in peace and without outside interference.