Interview with Paul Dobson in Venezuela
Above: Opposition protest in Caracus
30 January 2019
One week after the attempted right-wing coup in Venezuela, Paul Dobson, a member of the Internal Department of the Venezuela Communist Party, described the situation across Venezuela as ‘entirely normal’. All services were functioning. Buses continued to run. People went to work. Water supply continued. Electricity was as before – including, as before, interruptions in supply of perhaps half an hour a week.
Nor was there any shortage of essential goods or medicines in the shops although a few categories of specialist cancer drugs were off the shelves as a result of the US blockade. The main problem was inflation – though wages were being increased in step.
The coup attempt the previous week, involving a small contingent of the military, had been contained to two or three neighbourhoods of Caracas with less than forty fatalities.
The coordinated anti-government rallies, mainly in the usual white upper middle class areas, had seen some very unpleasant violence. In one case a disabled Chavista supporter, German Cohen, had been shot and then doused in petrol and burnt to death. But everywhere the pro-government rallies and demonstrations were bigger.
However, there should be no complacency. New demonstrations were being planned for this weekend, the propaganda war by the largely monopoly-owned media was being stepped up and the widening of the economic blockade to countries allied with the US would create increasing problems.
This was why external solidarity was so important and why, in particular, it was necessary to dispel some of the myths peddled by the right-wing and by the Trump administration.
First, it was quite untrue that the ‘international community’ supported Juan Guaido. Only 20 countries out of 200 had fallen in behind Trump. The UN Security Council had refused to do so. So even had the Organisation of American States. The Lima Group, dominated by generally pro-US governments, had issued a statement opposing military intervention. No country in Africa or Asia – with the exception of Israel – had recognised Guaido. The US-allied Australian government has recognised Gaido. New Zealand has not.
It is indeed shameful that Britain has backed Trump and that some, but not all, of the countries in the EU had also done so. Greece and Italy have refused.
Second, it is untrue that there was a consensus of support from the opposition in Venezuela itself. The fact that the attempted coup is so clearly being engineered from the US meant that a number of mainstream opposition parties do not want to be identified with ‘unpatriotic’ action.
It was no less than US Vice President Mike Pence who made the call for an uprising twelve hours before it happened. The US Ambassador had previously visited all the opposition parties to garner support.
The ‘young, fresh-faced’ Juan Guaido is in fact a politician of the right, a US-educated representative of the Popular Will Party, a party in the past associated with street violence. Immediately before the attempted coup, according to Associated Press, Guaido had secretly visited Washington, Colombia and Brazil.
Third, there is no constitutional basis for the US claims that Guaido is somehow the legitimate president despite his temporary position as president of the national assembly – arising from the presidency’s annual rotation among component parties.
The EU has claimed that last year’s Venezuelan presidential elections were somehow illegitimate. In fact the turn-out was higher than that in the last three EU elections.
Maduro won 68 per cent of it against two right-wing candidates. Sixteen right-wing parties participated. The boycott was by the ultra-right.
Jimmy Carter, previous US president, has congratulated Venezuela on having one of the fairest and most transparent electoral systems in the world. Two hundred international observers testified to this last year.
Article 232 of the Venezuelan constitution sets out the following circumstances in which a present can be removed from office and new presidential elections can be held. They are death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote. None of these conditions apply.
Nonetheless, despite the fact that the coup is being engineered from outside and is a clear violation of Venezuelan democracy, there can be no complacency.
The economic boycott is being intensified. Every attempt is being made to block any source of external income from Venezuela’s main export, oil, and thereby deny Venezuela the revenue needed to import food and other necessities.
There is also great danger that there will be external military intervention. The US has bases all along the Colombian border, an extreme right president holds power in Brazil – and Britain has announced plans to establish a military base across the eastern border in Guyana.
In Britain particularly, the foremost international supporter of the policies of President Trump, it is essential that solidarity action be stepped and that the lies peddled by the right-wing and ‘liberal’ media are countered.
US intervention, direct or indirect, could precipitate a situation in Venezuela far worse than that engineered by the US in Chile in 1973. Supporters of democracy in Venezuela appeal for your support.
Transport, and there were no shortages in the shops – though prices were very high