In an editorial article, Put country first, Maduro (6 Aug 2018), Nation News makes several thoroughly false and tendentious assertions including that president Maduro is the key problem Venezuela faces; that Venezuela’s economic model is “dismal” and; that since he cannot ‘be easily removed at the polls, some opponents are resorting to violence’. Since the editorial was prompted by the August 4 frustrated terrorist attack against the president perhaps, unwittingly, this article is likely to lead readers to infer that although there “needs to be a peaceful resolution to the problems in Venezuela,” it is somehow understandable that opponents try to remove president Maduro by violent means.
Firstly, there is no denial that there are serious economic problems in Venezuela. However, the editorial fails to mention that such problems are mainly the result of a US-led economic warfare, a financial blockade, as well as economic sanctions against Venezuela, reminiscent of what was done to Salvador Allende in Chile in the 1970s. There is irrefutable evidence of hoarding, sabotage, contraband and hard currency speculation and they are the main causes of our current economic woes.
In addition, it is totally false that Venezuelan opponents are ostracized. There have been 24 free and fair elections in the past 20 years in Venezuela, where opposition candidates and political parties have won mayoralties, governorships and even the parliamentary elections of 2015. Venezuela’s opposition recognizes only the elections that it wins but rejects them when it loses. Both their defeats and victories take place under exactly the same conditions and with the same electoral authorities. Furthermore, president Maduro has called the opposition to a dialogue over 400 times, so as to jointly address the nation’s problems. The latest of these were brokered by former Spanish prime minister Rodriguez Zapatero and the Vatican in the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, every time dialogue is established, sections of the opposition, following their cue from the US, have preferred insurrections, violence and “regime change.”
Furthermore, it is public knowledge that high-level officials in the US government, as well as members of the US congress and the Pentagon’s Southern Command have called for a military coup, a ‘humanitarian’ US intervention and even president Donald Trump himself has reportedly been lobbying in August last year for a US military invasion against Venezuela.
It is not true that the “Maduro model has been a dismal failure”, quite the opposite. In spite of the aggressive US financial asphyxiation of our economy, the Venezuelan government has built 2.2 million social houses in the past four years. Furthermore, no school or hospital has been closed down, and unlike many other countries with economic difficulties, there have been no layoffs of public sector workers. In fact, there have been 40 wage increases to alleviate the inflationary pressure on the majority of the population and extraordinary measures have been taken to protect people from the scourge of inflation and to combat hoarding, such as the CLAP heavily subsidized food distribution system, which benefits six million families (of a total population of 30 million people). Additionally, the proportion of the budget devoted to social expenditure has continued to expand from 61 per cent, several years ago, to 74 per cent in the current budget. There is more, but these examples will suffice.
It is also worth mentioning that parallel to social investment, the Venezuelan government has fulfilled all of its international financial obligations, to the tune of US$75 billion in the short period of five years.
There is no doubt that the current economic situation in Venezuela is affecting everyone. However, president Maduro’s achievements in the social sphere to further protect Venezuelans cannot be labelled as dismal. There is a clear intention by president Maduro to get rid of the negative effects of the economic warfare, while maintaining peace, democracy and social stability. In other words, and contrary to the assertion in your editorial, president Maduro is putting Venezuela first.
Finally, what is disturbing about the editorial is that it could be read somehow as though it condones violence and legitimizes terrorism in Venezuela by stating that “it is unlikely that the economic, social and political situation there will be turned around while he [Maduro] stays in office, even if legitimately elected.”
It is important to condemn these threats because the legitimization of aggression, economic warfare, sanctions and terrorism would mean that nations in the Latin American and Caribbean region will be much less safe than they have been from US violent interventionism (of which there have been nearly 200 in the continent).
By condemning terrorism and aggression against Venezuela, you would be upholding not only our national sovereignty but the national sovereignty of the nations in the region. There can be no equivocation. Terrorism must be squarely condemned.
On behalf on my government, my people and my nation, I think readers are entitled to know the full context of Venezuela’s current difficulties and not be, perhaps unwittingly, misled into believing that president Nicolas Maduro and the democratically elected government he leads are the problem. They are both the most important factors that protect the population from the worst ravages of externally led economic warfare against our economy and an unbreakable wall to defend our sovereignty from external aggression.
(Alvaro Sanchez Cordero is the Venezuelan Chargé d’affaires to Barbados.)