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Issue #1591      May 1, 2013

US turns the screw

The ongoing struggle of Venezuela to determine freely its own destiny stepped up again last week. Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said that the country would not accept threats from anybody “much less the threats of the decadent empire such as the United States.”

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Elias Jaua.

President Nicolas Maduro added: “The US intervention in Venezuelan internal affairs in recent months, and particularly during the election campaign, has been brutal.” He said: “The Pentagon, the US State Department and the CIA govern the US. Here, in Venezuela, it is the people who govern.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, referred to Latin America as “our backyard” – revealing the Obama administration’s prevailing imperial attitudes that have led to widespread intervention throughout the last two centuries.

The reason Jaua spoke out was the need to publicly reject statements by Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America Roberta Jackson, who has joined Venezuela’s right-wing opposition in insisting on a full recount of the April 14 elections which Maduro won. In post-election remarks Kerry questioned “the viability of that government” if there were “irregularities.”

When looking at this issue of a “recount” it is important to know that under Venezuela’s electoral rules, before releasing any results, the independent National Electoral Council automatically audits 54 percent of all votes cast by checking the electronic vote tally against the paper receipt each voter receives.

This process is known as the Citizens Audit and involves verification from witnesses of all the parties as well as members of the public at every polling station. A sample of over half the votes is many times higher than statistically necessary to ensure the accuracy of the vote count.

It has been calculated that the probability that extending the audit to the remaining 46 percent could change the result of the election is infinitesimal.

In total 15 audits took place and all were witnessed by representatives of all parties including those of the opposition.

In addition, the election was also monitored by 150 international witnesses including a delegation from the prestigious Carter Centre.

By calling for a “full recount,” when the National Electoral Commission has decided to audit the remaining 46 percent of ballot papers, the US government is emboldening the ongoing campaign by Venezuela’s right-wing opposition to destabilise the country and overturn the will of the majority.

This is similar to the support US gave to Pedro Carmona’s illegal presidency during the 2002 coup attempt against Chavez. Carmona who at the time abolished all constitutional bodies was – like the defeated candidate Henrique Capriles – a member of the Primero Justicia (Justice First) party that today dominates the right-wing opposition alliance.

The US’s attitude is not only in contrast to that of the whole of Latin America but also France, Britain, Portugal and Spain who have recognised Maduro’s victory.

The Spanish government said that “as all constitutional and legal procedures have been carried out, the government of Spain respects the proclamation by the National Electoral Council of Nicolas Maduro as the elected president of Venezuela.”

So what lies behind Washington’s attitude? US expert Mark Weisbrot has seen these “efforts to de-legitimise the election” as “a significant escalation of US efforts at regime change.”

He notes that “not since its involvement in the 2002 military coup has the US government done this much to promote open conflict in Venezuela.”

Weisbrot persuasively argues that the call for a total recount in reality “amounted to telling the government of Venezuela what was necessary to make their elections legitimate.”

As if the failure to recognise the election results was not bad enough, when asked if the US is considering applying sanctions if a recount does not occur, Jackson said: “We cannot say if we are going to implement sanctions.”

Like Capriles, Jackson had tried to call the legitimacy of the election into question in advance, in order to legitimise destabilisation after the poll.

Jackson specifically said it would be “difficult” to have “open, fair and transparent elections” in Venezuela.

This was despite all the evidence to the contrary, including former US president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter calling the Venezuelan election process the best in the world.

And what of the right wing within Venezuela itself, seemingly emboldened by the US stance? The day after the results were announced Capriles called on his supporters to go to the streets and “discharge your anger”.

This was accompanied by doctored pictures on newspaper front pages and deliberately misleading media claims about improper storage of ballot boxes.

The result of this was a wave of violence which saw eight deaths and attacks on the houses of the families of prominent politicians and the head of the electoral council.

Local headquarters of the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), health clinics and other social services buildings built by the government were attacked.

The response in Venezuela and Latin America has been to rally in support of Maduro’s democratic government and condemn US intervention.

“Americans should take care of their own business a little and let us decide our own destiny,” said former Brazilian president Lula, while Bolivian president Evo Morales said: “So you think that we’re your backyard? I condemn, repudiate that. We will never again be your backyard.”

Within Venezuela, meanwhile, a cabinet reshuffle has been announced as the Maduro-led government seeks to continue the social progress of recent years and address the problems that contributed to reducing the electoral majority.

The importance of international support was highlighted in a recent message to the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign from Juana Garcia of Venezuela’s National Women’s Institute who wrote: “Thanks, comrades, for the solidarity you have shown with our people and their revolution.

“Today, more than ever, your solidarity plays an important role in our defence and the dissemination of what is happening in our country,” she wrote.

“Thanks on behalf of the revolutionary people of Venezuela to all those who support your work.”

She could not be more right – progressive forces in Venezuela are in need of our solidarity and support.

Matt Willgress is National Co-ordinator of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign. Details at venezuelasolidarity.co.uk   

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