Last week, the governing party of Venezuela, the United Socialist Party (PSUV), suffered a large defeat in legislative elections -- the first such defeat since Hugo Chavez first was elected in 1998. Of course, given the fact that the opposition was able to win such an election, and that President Maduro and the PSUV are going to honor that election, is a true testament to what many of us have been saying for years -- that, despite the claims of the U.S. government and its compliant media (collectively, the U.S.), Venezuela under Chavez/Maduro governance is authentically democratic. Indeed, one of the great achievements of the Chavista revolution has been democratic reforms.
Of course, the U.S., for all of its self-congratulatory statements about allegedly spreading democracy, doesn't really care whether other countries are democratic or not; it only cares whether those in power are amenable to the U.S.'s economic and military interests. That is why, for example, the U.S. has no problems aligning closely with a country like Saudi Arabia -- a country with some of the worst human rights in the world and which is now massacring Yemini civilians in contravention of humanitarian law with continuing U.S. help.
One not even look that far away to see such alliances. Thus, in all the talk about the Venezuelan government's alleged "repressiveness," there has been little to no discussion of its neighbor, and close U.S. ally, Colombia, whose military admittedly killed over 5,000 of its own civilians and claimed they were guerillas in order to justify the continued massive military support from the U.S.
In the end, though, it is the amenability to U.S. interests which defines a country as "democratic" or not in the eyes of the U.S. And so, when the PSUV wins an election in Venezuela, as it has done invariably for the last 17 years, the U.S. accuses Venezuela of being undemocratic -- this despite the claims of experts like Jimmy Carter who found Venezuela's election process to be "the best in the world." But then, when there is a victory by the Venezuelan opposition -- that is, the political group (aptly abbreviated "MUD") representing the Venezuelan elite who have historically run Venezuela in the interest of Venezuela's wealthy and the U.S.'s geo-political interests -- Venezuela is all the sudden "democratic" and consequently welcome back into the community of nations.
Also belying its alleged concern for "democracy," the U.S. has, in direct contravention of Venezuelan law, been giving millions of dollars each year to fund the Venezuelan political opposition. Again, such meddling -- which is also unlawful in the U.S. which itself has outlawed foreign interference in our own elections -- demonstrates that the U.S. is result-oriented when it comes to elections, caring only about who wins rather than whether the process which resulted in the win was fair.
Ultimately, it is the impoverished people of Venezuela who suffered the biggest loss in the recent elections, for the Chavista revolution has been focused on improving the once-neglected poor of Venezuela. As one of the few honest commentators, Sylvia Brodzinsky, wrote the day before the election in a Guardian story, entitled, "Venezuela's high-life elite hope hard-hit poor will abandon Chavez's legacy":
since the late Hugo Chávez began what he called his "Bolivarian revolution" in 1998, that elite has been derisively termed los escualidos, the squalid ones, and they have been the object of government scorn.
Fed up with corrupt politics and neoliberal economic policies that the poor felt left them unprotected, Venezuelans swept Chávez into power hoping for change. With an economy buoyed by sky-high oil prices, Chávez set up social welfare programmes to benefit the poor in education, health and housing, winning him the gratitude and loyalty of millions.
And indeed, the Chavista government has done a laudable job in greatly reducing poverty and in reducing economic inequality. Thus, even the World Bank recognized last year that
Among the most important programs that oil resources have helped to finance are the broad-based social programs called Misiones. Economic growth and the redistribution of resources associated with these missions have led to an important decline in moderate poverty, from 50% in 1998 to approximately 30% in 2012. Likewise, inequality has decreased, reducing the Gini Index from 0.49 in 1998 to 0.39 in 2012, which is among the lowest in the region.
Of course, these accomplishments have become more and more difficult with Venezuela's oil revenues being decimated (through no fault of its own) by the precipitous decline in oil prices in 2015.
It should be troubling that it is the "high-flying elite" that the U.S. has aligned itself with in Venezuela, and that the U.S. media speaks with one voice with the U.S. government in gloating about the "revolutionary" victory of the elite opposition in the elections. If media pundits were honest, they would at least name this victory what it is -- a victory for the rich counter-revolutionaries aided by millions of dollars of U.S. largesse. That the U.S., once founded on revolution, has been a consistent backer of counter-revolutions in Latin America, and indeed throughout the Third World, is a travesty, and an equally big travesty is the near absence of opposition to such reactionary policies, even amongst those claiming to be progressive. Indeed, even former CIA agents can somehow be taken seriously as "progressives" and permitted to use alternative media to spout their support for the victory of the rich in Venezuela.
Call me an old-time leftist, but I still support governments of Third World countries who, in the face of aggressive opposition from the U.S. and their own oligarchy, do their best, no matter how imperfectly, to help the poor and downtrodden. The Chavista/Maduro government of Venezuela has been just such a government, and I am saddened to see it suffer such a huge set-back. I comfort myself with the thought, however, that history takes many twists and turns, and that, as in the case of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, revolutionaries once defeated can win again.