Venezuelan President Goes All Out to Safeguard
the Well-Being of the People
Extraordinary Measures in the Face of Counterrevolutionary Offensive
President Maduro speaks at international press conference, May 17
The President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro Moros held an unprecedented international press conference on May 17 to address the ideological and political campaign against Venezuela and its military dimensions. He addressed international media gathered in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, as well as media gathered in Venezuelan embassies and consulates worldwide via a live broadcast. President Maduro called for a worldwide counter-offensive to defend peace and progress in Latin America and for everybody to join in this important work. A journalist from the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) participated in the press conference and provides the following report.
President Maduro emphasized that the threats facing Venezuela are the worst in recent years, and highlighted that ongoing media attacks and distortions worldwide are being used to prepare the ground for military intervention. He described the attacks as systematic and identified their purpose as to provoke internal conflict of the kind seen in Libya and Ukraine which was then used as a pretext for U.S. military intervention. This is also the purpose of U.S. government decrees and statements, he said. President Maduro pointed out, however, that these attacks have not had the desired effect. The plan of U.S. imperialism and forces of the oligarchy in Venezuela was for his overthrow to take place by March, he said, but this has not been accomplished. Venezuela is working to counter all of these efforts through diplomatic means internationally, President Maduro said.
Speaking on the situation in the country, President Maduro noted that the National Assembly controlled by the Venezuelan oligarchy has lost legitimacy, and it is only a matter of time before it disappears. Nevertheless, the oligarchy is on the offensive through its control of the National Assembly and other means and President Maduro emphasized that he has extended and renewed constitutional emergency decrees to ensure that the people do not come under attack. Every constitutional action will be taken against foreign interference, he affirmed, and said that Venezuela will fight. Giving the example of the coup d’etat carried out in Brazil on May 11, President Maduro said that this offensive is taking place throughout Latin America, and the role of the monopoly-owned media has been to justify injustices.
He drew a parallel between the current ideological offensive against the people’s forces in Latin America and the U.S. lies about weapons of mass destruction before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Today the U.S. imperialists use terrorists to destabilize and in doing so have caused the greatest humanitarian crisis, he said. Just as the countries of the Middle East came under attack for their resources, independence and social progress, now Latin America is being targeted for the same, he said.
During the press conference President Maduro announced that according to the Bolivarian National Air Force of Venezuela, a U.S. military surveillance plane made illegal entries into Venezuelan airspace on May 11 and 13. President Maduro informed that two incursions were detected of a U.S. E-3 Sentry plane, described as a modified Boeing 707 with a radar unit on its back.
President Maduro concluded by pointing out that the orchestrated campaign against Venezuela at this time has parallels to what took place in April 2002 before the coup against President Hugo Chavez. He noted that the Venezuelan people and government are using the experience gained in defeating the 2002 coup to counter the attacks today. President Maduro emphasized that they will do everything to ensure that the old system of the oligarchy is not restored. Due to the way the situation is developing, it is not just a question of waging the resistance but also recognizing the need to carry forward the revolution, develop Venezuela’s popular Constitution further and support measures to guarantee the rule of law and the rights of the people, he concluded.
Extension of Emergency Decree in Defence of the People
President Maduro speaks at May 14 demonstration in support of Venezuela’s communal economy
President Maduro announced on May 13 a renewal of the Constitutional State of Exception and Economic Emergency Decree aimed at defending the well-being of the people against the counterrevolutionary offensive of the oligarchy and U.S. imperialism in that country. The constitutional decree safeguards the “right to life, prohibition of torture or solitary confinement, the right to due process, the right to information, and all other intangible human rights” while permitting the President to take emergency measures against accelerated economic sabotage, coup preparations and threats of foreign intervention.
President Maduro affirmed that the decree was extended to defend Venezuela’s sovereignty, help restore national productive capacity, strengthen food and basic goods distribution to the population and protect social programs.
A particular concern is the concerted shutdown of factories and economic enterprises by their owners among the Venezuelan oligarchy in an attempt to sabotage the economy and undermine the Bolivarian government. “We must take all measures to recover productive capacity, which is being paralyzed by the capitalists,” he told the crowd. In this regard, on May 14 President Maduro announced at a demonstration that all factories closed down by their owners will be handed over to the workers so they can continue production. “A stopped factory [is] a factory turned over to the people, the moment to do it has come,” said Maduro.
The May 14 demonstration was organized by workers in support of the communal economy, production projects organized and directed by community councils and communes. “I’m ready to hand over to the Communal Power any factory stopped by any rich person in this country. Whoever doesn’t want to work should leave and those who do are welcome, we will go united. This country needs all of its economic structure to be functioning,” stated President Maduro. Maduro also announced the funding of seven large-scale communal enterprises in food production and distribution.
Renewed Threats of Foreign Intervention and Coup d’Etat
Speaking to the Venezuelan people in a televised broadcast the day the decree was signed, President Maduro warned against increasing threats of a counterrevolutionary coup d’etat and foreign military intervention. “Washington is activating measures at the request of Venezuela’s fascist right, who are emboldened by the coup in Brazil,” he said. Maduro warned of a “coup virus” returning to Latin America. Venezuela and El Salvador have withdrawn their ambassadors from Brazil since the coup and leaders across the region have denounced the removal of President Dilma Rousseff.
The same day, Colombian Senator and former President Alvaro Uribe spoke at an event in Miami, Florida and called for a foreign military intervention to overthrow the Venezuelan government. Uribe, who is notorious for his ties to Colombian paramilitary death squads and drug cartels, was joined in Miami by a dozen U.S.-backed former presidents of Latin American countries as well as Spain to promote interference in Venezuela.
The meeting was also attended by Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro and Lilian Tintori the wife of Leopoldo Lopez, a convicted criminal serving a sentence in Venezuela for his leadership role in the attempted coup in 2014 which led to the deaths of 43 people. Colombian paramilitary groups have previously launched attacks inside Venezuela, and have been linked to the killings of peasant and Indigenous leaders, leaders of Venezuela’s United Socialist Party as well as members of the armed forces.
Citing these threats, President Maduro anounced that he has ordered military exercises so the Venezuelan armed forces are prepared for external intervention. “I have called for military exercises … to prepare for the defense of our land, our children, our rights to peace,” he said. Venezuela’s Armed Forces issued a statement reaffirming their allegiance to the Bolivarian Revolution, saying they categorically condemn “the systematic campaign orchestrated abroad to discredit and provoke Venezuela.”
Armed forces march in support of national defence exercises, March 14, 2015
Venezuela Defends Its Food Sovereignty
Among the economic problems facing Venezuelans none has received as much international attention as food shortages. The issue is raised detached from the context of the longstanding efforts of Venezuela’s privately-controlled food wholesalers and distributors to gouge consumers, hoard food and export food necessities for the purposes of bigger scores. The government has taken measures to ensure that no Venezuelan goes hungry and is now taking further steps to protect food sovereignty and ensure that production and distribution are in the hands of the people, not the oligarchy.
An in-depth series for TeleSUR, “Is There Hunger in Venezuela” explains how the issue poses itself and what steps are being taken. In the private supermarket chains, arrangements exist between managers and owners to divert stocks directly to black market “resellers” who take the goods at the low prices set for Venezuelans and resell them often at prices multiplied in the dozens after clearing out the stores. In the state sector as well 50 managers were arrested in February for diverting and reselling stock.
Venezuela has launched a new system of Local Production and Distribution Committees (CLAPs) to boost production and create food distribution networks through communal councils across the country without the interference of private resellers and the possibility of speculation. The emergency decree issued by President Maduro on May 13 granted additional oversight and organizational powers to the CLAPs to carry out this function.
The TeleSUR reports also explained the origins of Venezuela’s insufficient domestic food production. At the time of the election of President Hugo Chavez in 1999, only 9 per cent of the population lived on the land and most arable land lay idle. Efforts have been made to boost local production but there is still an overreliance on imports, particularly with poverty in Venezuela being significantly reduced under Presidents Chavez and Maduro and the Venezuelan people consuming more and better food. TeleSUR explained how the private interests controlling Venezuela’s food imports and wholesale developed “one of the greatest scams of all time” leading to losses of tens of billions each year from the state treasury and causing distortions in the food supply.
“This is how it worked. Private importer Mr. A applies for US$ 1,000 to import 100 cases of groceries. This costs him 6,300 bolivars (at the government’s main preferential rate of US$ 1.00 = Bs. 6.30, in place until earlier this year). Mr. A then has several options. He could decide actually to import all 100 cases. But instead of selling them to his wholesalers at a price based on what he paid, US$ 10 or Bs. 63 per case, he sells them at a price based on the illegal, parallel exchange rate (US$ 1.00 = Bs. 500.00, early last year), that is Bs. 5,000 per case. In other words, he makes a killing in bolivars. But it is much more likely that Mr. A imports only 50 cases, or less, which he sells in the same way and still makes a handsome profit. With the rest of the dollars he was given, 500 or more, he can do several things. He can change them back into bolivars at the parallel rate, but he’d probably rather keep them for a while offshore until the rate goes up even further. Or invest them in something else abroad. Or keep them in his own private dollar account for a rainy day. In other cases, Mr A didn’t import anything at all. He basically stole all of the dollars.
“Big private companies in Venezuela did the same thing on a much larger scale. In 2013, the then head of the Venezuelan Central Bank, Edmee Betancourt, said that the country had lost between $15 and $20 billion dollars the previous year through such fraudulent import deals. The Central Bank’s own figures show that between 2003 and 2013, the Venezuelan private sector increased its holdings in foreign bank accounts by over US$ 122 billion, or almost 230 percent. In 2014, Chavistas campaigning for an audit of the public debt estimated the total amount lost over the same period through fake imports and similar mechanisms amounted to an incredible US$ 259 billion.
“It is likely that many of the 750 offshore companies linked to Venezuela in the database released from the Panama Papers have been used to recycle this money.
“Venezuela’s largest food manufacturer, Polar, has interrupted production several times in recent weeks because, it says, the government hasn’t given it the dollars it needs to import its raw materials. But over the years, Polar has been one of the very biggest recipients of preferential dollars for imports. And from somewhere it has found enough dollars to develop new production facilities in the United States and Colombia,” the TeleSUR report said.