Monday, December 7, 2015

Don't Count Your Libres Before They're Hatched

Venezuela had elections yesterday, and the right-wing Democratic Unity Roundtable won 99 out of 167 seats in the National Assembly according to Democracy Now.  The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela won only 46 seats.  I'm not going to have much to say about this until some informed commentators whose opinions I trust weigh in.  As I've said before, it's very difficult to sort out truth from lies in US media where Venezuela is concerned.  (Not only Venezuela, of course.)  I will probably wait until the dust settles and we see how the new coalition conducts itself, because people are too damned eager to jump to conclusions about elections and their consequences.  (P.S. December 8: Greg Grandin's piece at the Nation is very helpful.)

I've seen a lot of raving where I have looked online.  One commenter on a Mother Jones pre-election post claimed that President Nicolás Maduro would refuse to accept the results of the election, stage a coup, and declare himself president-for-life or something.  (P.P.S. According to Grandin, DUC had been pushing this line throughout the campaign, so if it lost it could cry foul.)  Again, according to Democracy Now's brief post, Maduro has accepted the results.  Something could change there, but clearly a lot of people want Maduro to overturn the election so they can preen themselves on being right about him.  Not because they care about the welfare of most Venezuelans; they don't.  Accusations fly about Maduro's alleged corruption, his disregard for democracy, his attempts to suppress the opposition.  But again, I see no reason to suppose that the accusers really care.  One commenter pointed out, with devastating acuity, that Maduro was formerly a bus driver, and declared that he should have remained one.  Why?  It couldn't be because he really believes the wealthy are naturally immune to the temptations of corruption and abuse of power; it's presumably because he believes that proles should remain proles and let the Real People run society.  Just because.  Despite this commenter's protestation that he's not a right-winger -- he admits and condemns the many atrocities the US has supported and carried out in Latin America -- he shows no sign of being a believer in democracy or political equality.

A Venezuelan (but resident here in my city in Indiana) friend is spamming his Facebook feed with memes celebrating the change.  He seems to think that this vote turned current president Nicolás Maduro out of office, which of course isn't true. Another theme is that Venezuela is now "free"; again, he's jumping the gun, but also I think revealing his political assumptions and views.  I admit I don't know him that well, so it's entirely possible that he'd like a return to the US-backed dictatorships that ruled Venezuela for most of the twentieth century.  But more likely he's just not thinking, much like the people who celebrated the election of Barack Obama, or that of Justin Trudeau.  I've been criticizing his posts, so it's entirely possible we won't still be friends by next week or so; but it's too early to tell.

Here's what I think I can say.  First, in principle I think it's a good thing that the USPV lost an election.  One-party rule isn't good for democracy.  In the real world, though, it's obvious to me that the DUC (MUD is the Spanish acronym) won because of worsening conditions in Venezuela and Maduro's inability to improve them.  Venezuelan voters may or may not have had any illusions about the character of the opposition leaders; most likely they thought they were simply Voting the Rascals Out, as we do in the USA, and we know how well that works.  I doubt the DUC will be able to do anything about unemployment, inflation, food supplies, or other problems that affect most Venezuelans.  I also doubt they care.  They've been on the US payroll for years, getting millions from the Obama administration.  Imagine the frenzy that would ensue if it were revealed that Maduro had been funneling millions of dollars into either US political party's coffers, to "protect democratic space and seek to serve the interests and needs of the [American] people."  And the US, not excluding the Obama administration, has no interest in democracy or the welfare of most Venezuelans, or of most citizens of any country in the world including this one.  Obama, like his predecessors, has reliably sided with dictators and wealthy elites, and against democratic reforms and the majority of human beings.  I see no reason to suppose that he has suddenly gotten religion with respect to Venezuela, uniquely in the world.

Suppose that all the accusations against Maduro are true.  It would't follow that the DUC is going to be good, or even any better at all -- or that they intend to.  From the reports I've seen over the years, it's a coalition made up of a range of groups to compensate for the fact that no one opposition group had much popular appeal, but many of them are straight-out fascists.  Because it's a coalition, though, I'm not going to be too pessimistic yet.  If the DUC wants to keep its majority in the Assembly, it will have to make good on its rather extravagant promises to improve the lot of the poor majority at the same time it collaborates with US corporate elites and their servants.  If (or should I say "when"?) it fails to do so, it can expect to be voted out in its turn -- if it doesn't install a new dictator first.  Given its role in the 2002 coup -- supported by the US if not instigated by us -- against Chavez, and in political violence since then, that possibility can't be lightly dismissed.  I'm not Venezuelan, so I can really only be a spectator, wait to see how things will play out.  I think that speculation from here is a First World Luxury.  Venezuelans will have to decide what they'll do, and I mean all Venezuelans.