by Joe Lombardo, published December 13, 2020
In the recent Venezuelan election, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the party of Nicolas Maduro won a stunning victory. However, there has been a lot of discussion on why the turnout was low, around 31% of the eligible voters. We should be clear that the election process would have been attacked by the US whether the turnout was low or high. But was it really that much different than what we see in the US? The election in Venezuela was for the National Assembly, similar to the mid-term elections in the US. The Last midterm elections in 2018 saw around 50% of the eligible voters vote. However, that was an exception probably due to the reaction to Trump who had a majority in both houses. The 2018 election was the largest turnout for a midterm election in decades. In 2014 it was 36% and that has been the norm. That is not much different than what they say turned out in Venezuela. But there are other factors in Venezuela today including COVID-19 that limited voting. There are also a large number of refugees who have left Venezuela for neighboring countries due to the harsh situation caused by US imposed sanctions. Many of these people are registered In Venezuela but could not vote. Most believe that the US/Guido boycott did not have much of an effect and that Guido has very little influence in the country at this time. Other opposition parties did participate.
There is another important factor about the Venezuelan elections; they make sure that as many people as possible are eligible to vote. So, Venezuela has about a 95% of voting age people registered while the US has about 57% registered. That means the percentage of eligible voters in Venezuela is a much higher percentage of the population than in the US.
The US imposed sanctions have been very harsh in Venezuela. Most of the country’s wealth in international banks has been stolen or frozen. This is also true of CITGO, their US Oil company, and their funds in US banks. But recently, even during the COVID crisis the US has tightened the sanctions. Ships that transport Venezuelan oil are sanctioned, denying them the ability to port in other countries that support the sanctions. Therefore, they have mostly stopped transporting Venezuelan oil for sale or refining. Oil is Venezuelans main resource and now cannot be used to support their economy. This has caused great hardship. When I was in Venezuela in 2019, gas for a car was free. You could fill up at a gas station and drive away. Today, there is little gas for driving, cooking or other needs. There is great hardship for people in Venezuela and they are exhausted. So, many may have stayed home from the elections, especially if they thought the US puppet Guido could not be elected.
The political attacks in the US media on the Venezuelan elections are part of the propaganda campaign against the country which goes hand in hand with the economic attacks. We need to end these attacks and let Venezuela live, then we can see if the country prospers or not.
The US shows the height of hypocrisy by criticizing the Venezuelan elections. Twice in recent US history the people voted for one presidential candidate but the loser got in. That is Bush and Trump. Yet there has been no movement on the part of congress to get rid of the electoral college which enabled this. Voter suppression of minority voters is the norm in the US. Candidates need vast amounts of money for any national election in the US, so the candidates are either rich themselves like Bloomberg or are supported by the rich. Our two-party system ensures that there is really only one perspective to vote for, that of the ruling elite. Third parties are effectively denied a hearing. They are ignored by the corporate media and are not allowed on the ballot. In New York State for example, third parties had to get 50,000 signatures to be on the ballot or 50,000 votes in that past election. When the Green party met those requirements, the Democratic Party controlled government of New York just upped the requirement to 130,000 signatures. These rules allow the two capitalist parties to remain unchallenged in the US. This means voters in the US can only vote for the lesser of two evils, but still we are forced to vote for an evil. In Venezuela, they had 107 parties, many grouped into coalitions for the sake of voting. These represented opposition views from both the right and the left so you can vote for who you want the most not who you don’t want the least.
The political and economic attacks on Venezuela and other countries that will not bow to the will of Washington and Wall Street, along with military interventions, are the face of US Imperialism. Countries that are under the thumb of US Imperialism are not allowed to develop. Sanction do not give them space to breathe. So, we in the US have a special role to push back against these political, economic, and military attacks. We are in a unique position to do that. We must not fall for their propaganda traps that “explain” the lack of democracy in these countries. What they really mean is the US ruling class is not allowed to fully exploit the people and resources of these countries. We must remain vigilant. This is the position of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC). We put our fire on US imperialism understanding that this is the main evil in the world today and to paraphrase Che Guevara, we are in the belly of the that beast.
Joe Lombardo is a life long peace activist and union organizer. He is a co-founder of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and a member of the Administrative Committee. Joe also maintains the primary UNAC Website, UNACPeace.org