By Maria Paez Victor
The leaders of the violent protests -that for 3 months have violated the peace of Venezuelans- are the very same who in 2002 supported the coup d’etat against President Chávez. During those tense 48 hours, one of the very first things they did was to abolish the Constitution of 1999: the one they now purport to defend.
During 18 years, the opposition has denigrated the Constitution. So intense has been this revolt against it that even after winning the majority at the National Assembly they insisted the government was illegitimate, ignored the rule of law, disregarded sentences of the Supreme Court, refused to legislate, and declared the main purpose of the Assembly was to “get rid of Maduro”.
These paragons are now pretending to be arbiters of democracy and opposing any constitutional amendment by an elected Constitutional Assembly. They are now opposing, not the government, but the people themselves.
The day of reckoning has come.
The opposition orchestrated economic sabotage, corporate smuggling, black market currency manipulations, full scale hoarding of food and essential products. They closed highways, burned public buildings including a packed maternity hospital, from a helicopter dropped grenades on to the Supreme Court offices, have assaulted, lynched and even burned alive young men of dark skin “who looked Chavista”. This is a violent opposition steeped in racism and classism against their own people and in the service of foreign powers and Big Oil.
After demanding the government negotiate with them, a Peace and Dialogue Table was set up facilitated by 2 former presidents of Latin America and one of Spain. They then refused to negotiate demanding the presence of the Vatican. When the Nuncio arrived, they still refused to dialogue. Pope Francis himself stated the dialogue failed because the opposition would not participate. President Maduro then concluded that if the opposition would not negotiate with the government, they would have to negotiate directly with the people – and called for a Constitutional Assembly to amend the constitution.
They are now terrified to face the people.
Constitutional articles 347, 348, 349 and 350 clearly indicate that the president has the right to call a Constitutional Assembly to amend the constitution. It is undisputedly a legitimate process. President Chávez himself spoke of the need to see the constitution as a living work, to be able to be amended in order to face whatever new circumstances may come in future. President Maduro has called for an amendment now, at this time because it is the very last resort towards a peaceful solution to the violence in the streets that to this day the opposition continues to promote.
Amendments are needed because in 1999, Venezuela was not facing the series of dangers it is facing now with a seditionist National Assembly that refuses to legislate to counter these challenges. In 1999, paramilitary forces were not rampant on its western borders, there was no terrorism on the streets causing horrific killings of innocent people, there was no economic and financial war against the economy, a post-oil economy was not seriously contemplated, government employees were not being targeted and assassinated, opposition mayors and governors were not harboring street violence, the Attorney General was not actively supporting impunity of crimes, there was no blatant abuse of parliamentary immunity, with officials openly asking foreign powers for their intervention to overthrow the government, there was scant attention to the environmental and climate dangers of the country and the Planet. These have now become serious issues pertaining to the security of the State.
The representatives to the Constitutional Assembly will be elected on July 30 by a direct and secret vote that has electronic, paper and digital safeguards against fraud. Former US president and Nobel Prize winner, Jimmy Carter declared this electoral process as: “the best in the world.” The opposition propaganda machine is spreading absurd rumors that the amendments will “make Maduro president for life” and “eliminate elections forever”. These are blatant lies. It will deliberate nine specific areas:
* Mechanisms for peace: to counter those who carry out violence, reaffirm mechanisms for justice
* Promote a new post-petroleum economy that is productive, diversified, a safeguard against economic war
* Enshrine anti-poverty programs (“misiones”) securing the state’s social investment
* Revise the justice, security and protection system, promote a preventative and investigative police system and penitential system, a stronger penal code against rape, kidnapping and homicide, strengthen the fight against terrorism, paramilitaries, narco-traffic and impunity
* Promote further participatory democracy by strengthening communal councils and communes
* Promote a sovereign foreign policy to defend the integrity of Venezuela
* Promote the new Venezuelan identity and spirituality based on pluri-cultural and diversity of the people, art and culture
* Guarantee the future for youth, their social rights: cultural, educational, and labour
* Counter climate change and protect the environmental conditions of life in the Planet.
The biggest challenge to Venezuela is that powerful international forces could back the opposition with paramilitary groups to overthrow the government. Big Oil lobbys the USA and its allies because they want to solely control the largest oil reserve in the planet that lies in Venezuela. THAT IS THE CORE OF THE VICIOUS INTERNATIONAL ANTAGONISM AGAINST VENEZUELA: THEY WANT ITS OIL. With a former CEO of Exxon Mobil at the head of the US State Department, the danger to Venezuela became greatly magnified. The wealthy upper classes of Venezuela are playing the role they have always historically played since Independence: being the lackeys of whatever world power is dominant. Their country is money and they want to control the oil revenue that flows to the state. When they ruled Venezuela during 40 years, the equivalent of 15 Marshal Plans disappeared into their pockets.
The Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela has three key strengths:
* As long as the government is defending the people, their human rights, sovereignty, participation in democracy and promoting equality and social justice, it will have their support.
* President Chávez transformed the armed forces – no longer is their main function a repressive one but as defender of the people and Constitution with their identity set as heirs of Bolívar’s liberation army.
* Venezuela has amply proven to be a real Good Neighbour with ALBA, Petrocaribe, Telesur, UNASUR and CELAC. It is organically linked to its region and its fate has a powerful impact on Latin America and the Caribbean. It has developed close relations with Russia, China, India, Africa and parts of Europe: it is no longer a backwater country. The USA may have undisputable military might, but any direct attack on Venezuela would create significant international and internal domestic strife for the USA.
The opposition itself cannot overthrow the government without strong support of the majority, without backing of the Armed Forces and without international help. That is the sane, rational view. However, the USA Empire has a dangerously ignorant and erratic president at its helm who could take the insane path of arming the opposition to provoke a full scale civil war, possibly with Colombian troops. My prediction is that such an evil adventure, while painful, will ultimately fail. The Spanish Empire also consistently underestimated the resiliency and resolve of the Venezuelan people – not for nothing they are called “el bravo pueblo”.
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More articles by:Maria Paez Victor
María Páez Victor, Ph.D. is a Venezuelan born sociologist living in Canada. She is the Chair CAL&C Board of Directors.