The South African Federation of Trade Unions strongly condemns the attempt by the forces of international capitalism to instigate a regime change in Venezuela and urges all workers to join the international protests now being organised.
US president Trump, Brazilian president Bolsonaro and Argentinian president Macri, along with other right-wing governments, have backed and recognized the self-appointed ‘interim’ president, the right-wing opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
This was clearly part of a pre-planned, coordinated intervention, led by Trump and US imperialism to carry through a coup and remove incumbent elected president Nicolás Maduro from power.
This brazen intervention by Trump was followed by European governments, arrogantly demanding that Maduro call fresh elections within eight days.
Trump has “ruled nothing out” and hinted at military intervention if Maduro refuses to step down. The bloody nature of Trump’s intervention is made clear by appointing Elliot Abrams as special envoy to Venezuela. Abrams was convicted for his involvement in arming the ‘Contras’ – paramilitary forces in Nicaragua – in the 1980s.
These western imperialists condemn the Maduro government but have collaborated and supported brutal regimes in Asia, Africa and Latin America, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
It is possible that the attempted coup will not succeed in forcing Maduro out, because it is reported that Trump has failed to secure the first elementary requirement for a successful coup: ensuring the military is on your side!
The military high command are said to be remaining with Maduro, though this could change, or divisions could rapidly open up, if it appears that the regime faces the prospect of being overthrown or imploding.
Should these forces succeed in Venezuela, the repression and attacks that workers and socialists are currently suffering will dramatically worsen. Any right-wing regime coming to power to replace Maduro will enact revenge on the working class and socialists. It will mean privatisation, austerity and frontal attacks on the workers and the poor.
If Trump does carry out his threat to intervene militarily it would mean even greater repression of workers.
An economic and social catastrophe is engulfing Venezuela. GDP collapsed by 35% between 2013 and 2017, a greater collapse than in the US depression between 1929 and 1933, when it fell by 28%. IMF predictions indicate that hyper-inflation will soar to up to 10,000,000% this year, making wages worthless.
This economic collapse that has wiped out the gains in healthcare, education and other areas introduced by the Hugo Chávez-led government.
An estimated 90% of Venezuelans live in poverty. Hunger and starvation have returned, and the crime rate is soaring in the major cities. An estimated three million people have fled the country – about 10% of the population – in the largest refugee crisis in Latin American history!
This catastrophe has enabled Guaidó to mobilise not only the middle class but also sections of the working class and poor who had previously supported Chávez and, until recently, were prepared to ‘give Maduro a chance’. Now, out of despair and desperation, some workers from former Chávez strongholds have joined pro-Guaidó protests.
This extremely explosive and unstable situation, against the background of a social collapse and disintegration, has provided the ruling class with a weapon to try and discredit socialism.
But it is not socialism that has failed but the attempt to introduce reforms in a top-down bureaucratic manner, while remaining within a ‘mixed’ capitalist economy, in which economic power remained in the hands of the capitalist class who are now plotting to reimpose their dictatorship.
This has important lessons for South African, where workers are faced with an economic and social catastrophe because of the failure of the ANC government to transform the ownership of the economy but to leave economic power in the hands of the white, monopoly capitalist exploiters.
SAFTU fully agrees with NUMSA’s view, that:
“It is our duty to do all we can to defend the gains of the working class majority and the poor of Venezuela. We call on all our comrades locally and abroad to give their full support and to do all they can to defend democracy.”
Zwelinzima Vavi, SAFTU Gen