The results of four elections are being challenged, so the seating of four legislators has been delayed. As a result, 163 deputies were installed on January 5, 2016. Depending on the outcome of the court review of the disputed elections, the opposition could attain 111 seats and a two-thirds majority, which could empower it to take measures that would reverse the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution. But on the other hand, the revolutionary forces will have the support of the Constitution of 1998, which was a creation of the revolution. And the executive and judicial branches of the government as well as the armed forces remain under the control or influence of the popular revolution of the Left that has transformed the political reality of the country since 1998. Moreover, the revolutionary project likely will continue to have the support of the majority of the people, for the voting in the December legislative elections reflect dissatisfaction with economic conditions during the last eighteen months, and they do not necessarily imply popular rejection of the Bolivarian Revolution. Without doubt, the PSUV remains the largest single political party, and its members are among the most committed and most politically active sector of the people.
The December 6 elections have created a situation of political polarization, as the opposition and the parliamentary majority, on the one hand, and President Nicolás Maduro and the PSUV, on the other, are aggressively pursuing their political agendas. It is a question not only of different political parties, but of the radically opposed models of neoliberal capitalism and popular revolutionary socialism. The former represents the interests of national and international corporations, and the latter seeks to protect to the sovereignty of the nation and the social needs of the people.
Maduro and PSUV have in no sense retreated since the electoral setback. Maduro maintains that the setback was due to incidental circumstances and that the Bolivarian Revolution will recover and continue to advance. He called on December 9 for a self-critical dialogue in popular assemblies in order to reconstruct a revolutionary majority, which led to the mobilization of popular assemblies by Chavist forces in the entire country. At the same time, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela is undertaking an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the Presidential Councils of Popular Power, with the intention of re-launching this popular organization.
Meanwhile, the Chavist-controlled National Assembly, in its last days in December, passed protective measures in response to the threatening declarations of some of the opposition representatives. It approved the granting of control of the television and radio stations to the workers themselves, and it emitted a decree against the dismissal of public employees for the next three years.
In addition, an Economic Congress of Socialist Thought was announced on December 11, with the goal of redesigning the guidelines for the development of a productive economy, in order to effectively respond to the withholding of supplies and the financial speculation launched by the Right (see “Economic war in Venezuela” 1/7/2016). On January 6, the president announced new cabinet members, including the creation of five new ministries that are dedicated to various areas of economic productivity.
At the same time, by a vote of 62 to 49 in the opposition quorum, the opposition has chosen the ultra-rightist Henry Ramos Allup as President of the National Assembly. Ramos Allup is recognized as one of the most recalcitrant representatives of the oligarchy and bitter enemy of the Bolivarian Revolution. He was among the architects of the neoliberal policies of the 1980s, and he was involved in destabilizing maneuvers after the 1998 triumph of the revolution, such as the failed coup d’état against President Hugo Chávez in 2002 and the petroleum stop of the same year. He has been known over the years for his hostile verbal attacks critical of the public media (developed by the Chavist government), the National Assembly (under Chavist control), community doctors (a program developed with Cuban cooperation), artists and other public figures. And he sought to discredit the National Electoral Council for its certification of electoral victories by the Chavist forces, in spite of the fact that it recognized his own election to the legislature on three previous occasions, and in spite of the confirmation of the legitimacy of the electoral process by international observers.
Since the December 6 elections, Ramos Allup has announced possible measures that would dismantle the gains and social reforms of the Chavist government. And he declared that the opposition legislators will seek to bring down the Executive Branch in the first three months of the year. He also has confirmed the opposition’s promotion of an Amnesty Law, which would free Leopoldo López and others who were found guilty of corruption or of inciting violence during the vandalism of 2014, which resulted in the deaths of forty-three people.
In the installation of the deputies of the National Assembly on January 5, the oppositionist majority ignored the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice to review four disputed elections, and it attempted to present three deputies whose elections are under review. Following the swearing in of 163 deputies, when member of the revolutionary bloc took the floor, they were greeted with violent gestures by the oppositionist deputies. And there were various procedural irregularities on the part of Ramos Allup as presider. As a result of these factors, the revolutionary deputies withdrew from the legislative hall and joined in popular mobilizations in the city. Later in the day, Ramos Allup ordered the removal of the portraits of Simon Bolívar and Hugo Chávez from the legislative hall, provoking popular protest.
Continued polarization and conflict is expected. Some commentators maintain that the Right does not have sufficient political support to govern legitimately and carry out its neoliberal agenda, so it is seeking to create civil conflict and political instability, thus creating conditions for US intervention, which would remove the Bolivarian revolutionary forces from all positions of political authority. Meanwhile, the Bolivarian Revolution, confident that it will have the support of the majority, particularly in light of the conflictive and destabilizing conduct of the parliamentary majority, proclaims that “a parliamentary majority is not a social majority.” It intends to use the political authority that it possesses in the executive and judicial branches and the armed forces, sanctioned by the Constitution of 1998. And it is further developing the popular assemblies as a popular voice that is an alternative to the parliament.
Key words: Venezuela, United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Bolivarian Revolution, Maduro, Ramos Allup