Venezuela wins just by carrying out this election. The legislative process, stalled for years, will return to normal under a plural assembly that truly resembles the country’s current political landscape and positions itself in favour of self-determination and national sovereignty, writes Carlos Ron, Venezuela’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for North America and President of the Simon Bolivar Institute for Peace and Solidarity Among Peoples.
Latin America has caught the world’s attention as it has become the electoral battleground between progressive movements and the neo-colonial aspirations of the Washington Consensus. In Bolivia, Luis Arce, the candidate from Evo Morales’s Movement Towards Socialism, won the presidential election, reverting the bloody coup that, to the convenience of transnational lithium interests, had forced the indigenous leader out of office only a year before. A week later, neoliberalism’s birthplace became its next burial ground, as Chileans approved a historic referendum to change the Constitution left in place by Augusto Pinochet’s military regime. On December 6, it will be Venezuelan’s turn to challenge US hegemony by simply holding elections that the White House has been attempting to block for months. The Government and even the moderate opposition are set on defying the US policy which in recent years has mainly promoted failed unconstitutional attempts at regime change.
According to the Constitution, on January 5, 2021, a new National Assembly must take office, ending the mandate of the prior members who did not successfully bid for re-election. Juan Guaidó, who the US has supported as “Interim President”, will no longer be an elected official and can no longer claim Venezuela’s government or, more importantly, its assets. That is why the US refuses to recognize the legitimacy of this election, pressures allies into doing the same, and effectively prevents part of Venezuela’s opposition from participating.
Nonetheless, Venezuelans will carry out the parliamentary elections as an exercise of national sovereignty in the hopes that a new National Assembly can engage in concrete actions to circumvent the blockade and end the dismantling of Venezuela’s productivity.
A Return to Politics
This will be Venezuela’s 25th electoral process in 21 years. The new National Assembly will have an increased number of seats to reflect population growth, from 165 to 277 members. Over 14,000 candidates of all political tendencies will be competing. Out of the 107 political organizations contending the elections, 98 define themselves as opposition, yet they have split with the more extremist sector led by Guaidó by participating in the election, refusing to support unconstitutional attempts to change the government, and by rejecting the illegal US “sanctions” aimed at coercing the Venezuelan President into resigning or propelling the military to overthrow him.
Since winning control of the National Assembly in 2015, the Venezuelan opposition embarked on an extremist plan to oust President Nicolas Maduro. The first item on the Assembly’s agenda was an attempt to initiate legal procedures to remove him from office — a version of lawfare like the one applied to overthrow independent leaders such as Paraguay’s Lugo in 2012 or Brazil’s Rousseff in 2017.
The failure of this strategy led to more extreme tactics that also failed: violent street demonstrations in 2017, an assassination attempt using drones in 2018, a failed military uprising in 2019 led by the self-proclaimed Guaidó, and even an incursion of mercenaries in 2020. As a result, an ample sector of the opposition distance itself from Guaidó. Some parties even rebelled against their leadership and sued them in order to guarantee their electoral participation.
Maximum Pressure Against Democracy
Despite the pandemic, the Trump Administration has applied its “maximum pressure” campaign against Venezuela. State Department officials spoke of a “Monroe Doctrine 2.0” in reference to the 1823 position against the presence of foreign powers in the American continent. As the US embarks on a new Cold War with China, continues to accuse Russia of interference, and escalates its aggression towards Iran, Venezuela seems like a logical target for a regime change operation. President Maduro’s Venezuela is perceived as an open door for US rivals in the region.
For years now, Venezuela sought to break its dependency on the US and engage with other strategic partners. These alliances helped Venezuela avoid a severe Covid-19 crisis. US “sanctions” and overcompliance in the financial sector prevented companies from selling supplies to Venezuela in fear of retaliation. China, Russia, and Iran, however, are among the countries that provided Venezuela with medicine and protective equipment while also helping to design Venezuela’s response: For example, a March delegation of Chinese experts helped design Venezuela’s Covid-19 response and Russia has included Venezuela in the Sputnik V tests.
In contrast, the US increased its interference in Venezuela’s politics by indicting President Maduro under dubious charges and launching a threatening military operation in the Caribbean. In September, the US Treasury sanctioned Indira Alfonzo, head of the National Electoral Council as well as an opposition leaning rector. Later that month it also issued sanctions to five opposition leaders who agreed to participate in the elections. Many others considering participating were also threatened with visa restrictions. The US actively worked to undermine the election process and prevent other countries from recognizing it. Rather, it demands pre-conditions that include President Maduro stepping down before any elections can take place.
The US questions the same electoral process that in the past elected their allies to the current National Assembly, as well as to other municipal, state and national offices. Furthermore, the long-time opposition leader, Timoteo Zambrano, claims that the current electoral process has even more guarantees for the opposition than ever before. This will be verified by international observers who will accompany the process include experts from organizations such as the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America (CEELA), now led by a former minister in Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe’s cabinet as well as jurists, religious leaders, and political activists from around the world.
Venezuela wins just by carrying out this election. The legislative process, stalled for years, will return to normal under a plural assembly that truly resembles the country’s current political landscape and positions itself in favour of self-determination and national sovereignty. The case against blocking Venezuelan assets in US and European banks -$6 billion — will also fall apart with Guaidó out. The new US Administration will have to decide if it will continue to recognize a non-existent government with no clear or constitutional path to legitimacy or if it will return to real politics and engage the Venezuelan Government.
The new National Assembly will no longer be a platform for politicians to plead for US intervention, rather it can push legislation to overcome the blockade and it can turn into a new space for political dialogue between government and opposition. Challenges will continue, but the US will need to reassess its Monroe Doctrine once again. For Venezuela, and the Latin American progressive movement, however, these elections will be another victory of resistance and resilience.