Venezuela: the imperialist coup loses momentum and the government goes on the offensive, but where does that leave the people?

This article was originally published on the Venezuelan website of the IMT, Lucha de Clases, on 5 April, before the abortive coup attempt on 30 April. The article’s general analysis of the waning coup is still valid, and was indeed confirmed by the complete failure of Guaidó’s ‘military uprising’ last month.

The coup in Venezuela is stagnating. The opposition is losing momentum and internal divisions are resurfacing. The imperialist powers have not yet achieved their objective of placing Guaidó in power, but that does not prevent them from intensifying the imposed sanctions and continuing to promote more blockades. While all of this is happening, the Venezuelan government has begun a tentative offensive, taking shy baby steps, waiting on a response from US imperialism. In the midst of all this chaos and a fierce economic crisis, the people refuse to surrender, despite not even having electricity or water.

A summary of the imperialist coup

There is no longer any doubt that the coup d'état in Venezuela was organised by U.S. imperialism. Even its partners already publicly recognise it, as stated by Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, who said in an interview: "I have no doubt, and I suppose nobody else does either, that the US has been the impulse behind what has happened since 10 January.” Imperialism has been ‘promoting’ the self-proclamation on 23 January of Guaidó as interim president, the attempts to break the border on 23 February under the pretext of humanitarian aid (aid that was set on fire by the imperialists themselves, as later confirmed by a New York Times investigation), the continuous calls to the armed forces to defect and cross over the border to Colombia – to then be abandoned to their fate – and the major blackout that left more than half the country without electricity. These are consecutive and planned actions of a deliberate attack.

We can see the fronts through which the opposition's plan was intended to advance: an internal front, which would seek to promote a split between the armed forces and the bureaucracy, while on the external front, greater sanctions and blockades would be encouraged against the country, in addition to attempts to violate its sovereignty behind the humanitarian pretext. For the opposition’s plan to be successful, it was indispensable to have the support of a section of high-ranking officers of the armed forces to back the puppet Guaidó. However, this long-awaited "split" did not arrive, and the officers continued to back President Maduro.

Guaido coup botched Image fair useThe coup in Venezuela is stagnating. The opposition is losing momentum amid internal divisions / Image: fair use

This was not a simple miscalculation, but has to do with the very psychology of those who, for years, have avoided recognising Chavismo as a legitimate political force in the country. Thus, their discourse of "we are the 90 percent of the country", would later lead them to assume that they had the support of 90 percent of the armed forces, due to being trapped in a web of their own lies. Now, instead of facing reality as it is, they argue that the split has not occurred "because of the thousands of Cuban advisors placed in the chain of command.” But that reaction was to be expected, if things don't go well, then it's Cuba's fault.

On the international front, once it had been demonstrated that neither offers of amnesty nor imperialist threats could break the armed forces, Trump tried to get out of his own trap by imposing sanctions on Cuba to justify the opposition’s discourse. He also applied pressure on the countries of the Lima Group (set up in 2017 to apply multi-government pressure on Venezuela) to build a coalition that would intervene militarily in Venezuela. Unfortunately for him, his Brazilian counterpart and admirer, Jair Bolsonaro, was one of the first to relinquish his support, and not because he did not want to, but because both his own defence minister and his vice-president refused.

Faced with the frustration that must have resulted from the Latin American rulers not obeying his orders, an attack was orchestrated against the already weak and vulnerable national electrical system. Certainly, just as when we pointed out that the supposed humanitarian aid had been burned by Guaidó's followers, everything seems to indicate that the major blackout in March was caused by imperialist forces. However, it must be pointed out that, though unexpected for the citizens of Caracas, in the interior of the country the blackouts had been going on for over a year. This is due to the lack of maintenance and investment, a result of the corrosive effect of corruption, which has been denounced several times by the workers. Regardless, although the attack did take place, an investigation must also be opened so that those responsible for the maintenance of the electrical system can be held accountable.

On top of it all, Senator Marco Rubio, a staunch enemy of the Bolivarian Revolution, has repeatedly sent Maduro death threats, even pointing to Gaddafi as an example. This shows once again that the so-called defence of democracy is, to the U.S. imperialists, a mere excuse to kill with impunity.

The opposition loses momentum

If it is true that, at the beginning of the coup, the opposition managed to mobilise a large number of people to its rallies, this was largely due to its old tactic of promising the "departure" of the government in the near future. However, following the successive failures of trying to generate a "split" in the armed forces or trying to bring in the supposed humanitarian aid, the mobilisations have also diminished.

The most radical wing of the opposition led by María Corina Machado (MCM), who pressured Guaidó to be sworn in as president and, having seen that the self-proclamation did not produce his much-bragged-about "split", is now insisting that the National Assembly appeal for foreign intervention through a misinterpretation of Article 187 of the National Constitution.

This position demonstrates the opposition’s lack of connection to the country. The leaders, whose families live abroad, would certainly shield themselves from any kind of imperialist aggression while the people are murdered. In the same vein, these calls for foreign intervention demonstrate the opposition's lack of capacity to mobilise its own forces.

They argue that the regime has no support, neither popular nor military, but rather blame the Cubans for why it has stayed in power so long, and therefore argue they are in need of intervention. If all this were true, if Maduro did not have popular and military support, then his downfall would be imminent. The opposition’s discourse goes against any and all historical precedents, not to mention the fall of Marcos Pérez Jiménez in January 1958. This shows that history is written by the masses who, waking up to the direct political struggle, and repudiating a regime, cannot be stopped by a small handful of police and bureaucrats.

Yesterday, however, MCM received bad news from her North American masters, as Elliot Abrams announced that he felt that the request for an intervention by the National Assembly was “premature”. This would be, in the words of PanAmPost journalist Orlando Avendaño, a "torpedo" against Guaidó and the opposition leader.

However, Machado is far from accepting no as an answer. In response to Abrams' statements, she replied that it demonstrates that "the timescale of our allies may differ from our own [...] Today, with all the more reason, we must press for international aid to Venezuela to be accelerated. That is why I enacted Article 187."

She went so far as to declare in another tweet that "Venezuelans" should impose their own timescale – that is, her own.

The bewilderment has spread to her fiercest followers. Erik del Búfalo, for example, who is one of her closest advisors, answering Abrams' refusal to invade Venezuela (for now), openly wonders if Bolsonaro would be willing to step in. His behaviour is just like a child: when he is denied permission by one of his parents, he turns to the other.

However, as we have pointed, both the Brazilian vice-president and the Minister of Defence have repeated on several occasions that the possibility of an intervention is not on the table. The words of the vice-president, verbatim, are: “Vamos manter a linha não intervenção, acreditando na pressão diplomática e econômica para buscar uma solução. Sem aventuras.” (We are going to maintain the line of non-intervention, trusting diplomatic and economic pressures while looking for a solution. No adventures.)

The government’s response

The government's position on the coup has been defensive. From the beginning, Maduro made continuous calls to Trump to try to establish dialogue, even showing proof that, before Guaidó's self-proclamation, high-ranking leaders of the PSUV were already meeting with him.

This line of negotiation could only lead to escalated aggression, as we later saw. However, the government knows that time is on their side, because for every day that they remain in power, the internal opposition becomes more demoralised. Furthermore, it makes it more difficult for “western” countries that maintain relations with Venezuela not to recognise Maduro’s government, at least factually.

In addition, a tactic of the government has been to call for marches to demonstrate its capacity for mobilisation, marches that, in the face of the imperialist onslaught, were developed by grassroots militants. But as the opposition deflates and the imminent threat disappears, the marches return to their form of institutionalised mobilisations once again.

Maduro Putin PoRThe government's position on the coup has been defensive, calling for dialogue and relying on aid from China and Russia rather than leaning on the revolutionary masses to take the initiative against the coup-plotters / Image: PoR

Recently, the government has taken the initiative. In the first place, the Comptroller of the Republic has disqualified Guaidó from holding public office for 15 years, for not declaring the origin of the money with which he made his South American tour. Then, the Supreme Court of Justice requested that the National Constituent Assembly abolish parliamentary immunity, which was agreed upon during the session of Tuesday 2 April, and which opens the door for Gauidó to be judged by the Supreme Court.

This does not fall from the sky, but is the product of the pressure of the masses, and above all of the vanguard of Chavismo, for whom Guaidó's freedom continues to represent an insult. However, the government acts cautiously, waiting for the reaction of US imperialism at each step of the way.

Now that Guaidó no longer has any parliamentary immunity and the Americans have taken the military intervention off the table (for now), now more than ever is the moment to apprehend Guaidó and make him pay for his crimes. However, we do not rule out that these measures were put in place to have him flee the country rather than detain him. If arrested, it would be more a consequence of pressure from the bases of Chavismo and Guaidó's refusal to leave the country, rather than the government's own initiative.

Manoeuvring through its international alliances, the government has allowed the entry of two Russian planes with soldiers and supplies, in addition to receiving a first shipment of aid from China, to be distributed by the Red Cross. The first action is presented as a demonstration by Maduro of his foreign support, thus hitting the internal opposition, demoralising it even more (since, instead of the gringos, those who really came to his aid were the Russians). Meanwhile, the entry of Chinese aid serves to reinforce Maduro’s argument that the shortage of medicine is a product of the US blockade.

Where does that leave the people?

In the face of all this, the situation of the people is still getting worse. If before the coup d'état the economic situation was the main concern of Venezuelans, with hyperinflation reaching over one million per cent, now it is compounded by the electricity crisis and the lack of water.

In the first place, we must point out that the measures to stop hyperinflation were totally liberal, not revolutionary. The stabilisation of the exchange rate was achieved by liberalising it, and the stabilisation of prices was achieved by strangling the purchasing power.

All these measures made within the framework of capitalism end up placing the weight of the crisis on the shoulders of the workers instead of advancing definitively towards the expropriation and the setting in motion of an economy under workers' democratic control.

Regarding the services crisis, the government has recently dismissed the former Minister of Electric Energy, Major General Motta Domínguez. However, so far, no investigation has been announced to determine his responsibility for the deterioration of the system. On the contrary, the government's solution has been the application of a rationing plan (called "load management"), in which the capital is excluded, but the interior of the country is condemned to endless blackouts to maintain the electricity supply in Caracas.

States like Zulia (which has one of the highest levels of consumption), have been suffering constant blackouts for more than a year. With the major blackout in March, their situation has become critical. According to the rationing plan, the state would get between four and six hours of electricity, that is, between a sixth or quarter of the day: an unbearable situation!

With regard to water, the electricity crisis has affected the already compromised service, as the inability to turn on the hydraulic pumps also cuts off the supply (which was already rationed). Again, an investigation is required, but has not been announced, to find the cause of the water shortage. Even during the blackouts, cistern water service was being charged in dollars, so only those who could afford it had access.

telesur blackoutThe situation of the people is still getting worse. Water and electricity are being rationed, and inflation is still sky-high. Revolutionary measures must be taken to turn the situation around / Image: teleSUR

Faced with this situation, the government has done little. The mayors, governors, deputies, constituents and councilmen elected by the PSUV have not been seen supporting, or at least accompanying, those who in the neighbourhoods of the big cities are organising to collectively resist the debacle.

As we can see, the government is not considering using the revolutionary potential of the people to solve the electricity and water debacle through self-organisation, nor to face the coup d'état.

From our perspective, completely defeating the coup d'état is only possible by adopting firm revolutionary measures and relying on the revolutionary mobilisation of the working class and poor. First, resolving the economic crisis in socialist terms, that is, expropriating the bourgeoisie, would reduce opposition support internally. Secondly, workers' control of institutions and ministries, as a first step to demolish the bourgeois state apparatus and build a new power, would prevent the corruption that has led public services to the deplorable state they are in. Finally, a call to the people to participate actively in the fight against the coup d'état, arming popular militias and organising the population to take over the businesses and workplaces of those who conspire against the republic, should be a priority instead of hidden negotiations and pacts with the right.

A true solution to the crisis will only be achieved by the people. It will not be the Russians or the Chinese who maintain stability in the country for the benefit of Venezuela's sovereign interests. It will be by the stoicism of a people that continue to fight day by day, and refuse to surrender, despite having a hesitant – and in many cases counterrevolutionary – leadership.

Our call is for an organisation with autonomy and class independence, for the defence of the interests of the great majority of workers and youth. For the struggle to promote the building of a revolutionary alternative that will confront imperialism, the bourgeoisie, its right-wing puppets, and also the fifth column that is betraying the Bolivarian Revolution from within. All of this is needed in order to fight for power, for the establishment of a workers’ government and to complete the revolution.