These follow almost three weeks of protests involving tens of thousands, organized by the pro-imperialist parties of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). Initially called to protest the March 29 decision of the Supreme Court to dissolve the National Assembly, demonstrations continued even when that was reversed following the intervention of Maduro. More protests took place after opposition leader Henrique Capriles, governor of Miranda state, was banned from holding office for 15 years on charges of “administrative irregularities.”
Six people have been killed at the demonstrations, hundreds injured and many arrested in clashes with government forces. On April 8 scores of protesters attacked a Supreme Court building in the wealthy eastern Caracas municipality of Chacao. A few days later a medical clinic and a food distribution center run by the government were bombed in Miranda state.
The pro-imperialist parties that make up MUD have a long record in defense of the capitalist class in Venezuela. Since the election of late President Hugo Chavez in 1998, they have backed attempts to bring down the governments of Chavez, and now Maduro, including a failed coup in 2002 that was defeated by a massive mobilization of working people. The protests called for April 11-13 coincided with the anniversary of the coup.
Tens of thousands of pro-government militia members held a rally in downtown Caracas April 17 to mark the anniversary of the creation of the Bolivarian Militia, a mainly working-class volunteer force formed by Chávez. The mobilization was a response to opposition appeals to the military high command to move against the Maduro government and restore “constitutional order.” Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez spoke at the rally, confirming the army’s “unconditional loyalty to the president.”
The April 19 countermobilization by supporters of the Maduro government against the opposition’s “mother of all protests” is the first mass response to the latest round of actions by the opposition. Up to now, the opposition has based its actions in middle- and upper-class neighborhoods where they have a base.
The U.S.-dominated Organization of American States issued a statement by 11 member governments April 17 calling on Venezuela’s government to “guarantee the right to peaceful protest” and to quickly set dates for elections. The signatories were the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.
Venezuelan government officials denounced the move as “rude meddling” in their country’s internal affairs.
President Maduro has in fact already called for the date to be set for municipal and regional elections this year. But the opposition and its imperialist backers want to force the government to move up the presidential election that’s set for next year.
The aim of Washington and its capitalist allies is to replace the Maduro government with one more compliant to their interests. They would prefer to let the deepening economic crisis in Venezuela — for which they bear primary responsibility — continue to work to bring down the government.
They are increasing pressure against the Maduro government as the world capitalist economic crisis is having a devastating impact on working people there, eating away at the government’s ability to continue financing social programs at home and to extend assistance to Cuba and other countries abroad.
There is widespread unemployment, sky-high inflation and scarcity of food, medicines and other basic goods. Meanwhile, the bondholders of the U.S. and other imperialist countries who own Venezuela’s foreign debt — the same governments who are calling for foreign intervention to deal with the “humanitarian crisis” in Venezuela — are lining up to bleed the country dry.
On April 12 the Venezuela government made payment of some $2.2 billion toward its foreign debt. The central bank reported in March that Venezuela has $10.5 billion in foreign reserves with some $3.5 billion in outstanding debt payments due later this year. The total debt is some $120 billion.
“Let us defend the sovereignty, independence and peace of Venezuela,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said in Havana, reading from a statement by Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) members meeting there April 10. ALBA is one of a number of anti-imperialist initiatives set up to counter the OAS and other U.S.-dominated blocs. It includes Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Grenada.
PetroCaribe, an energy cooperation agreement initiated by the Venezuelan government in 2005, has been a lifeline to Cuba and other countries in the Caribbean and Central America. Supplying oil at preferential prices, it has weakened the stranglehold of the imperialist dominated oil conglomerates and earned the hatred of Washington.
“Venezuela is not alone, we accompany the country in its struggle,” said the message from the Federation of Cuban Women, one of a number from Cuban mass organizations, to the Venezuelan government in the face of the OAS threats. There are over 40,000 Cuban volunteers in Venezuela today, working in health clinics, literacy classes and sports programs.
The Federation of Cuban Workers (CTC) has said that solidarity with Venezuela will be a key demand in this year’s May Day mobilizations: Unconditional support in defense of Venezuela’s sovereignty! No to imperialist intervention!
Socialist Workers Party: ‘US hands off Venezuela!’
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