Last January 4, the Lima Group, sponsored by the United States, published a declaration in which it rejects the new government of Nicolás Maduro and recognizes the president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó as the country´s authority. The signing members threaten Venezuela with sanctions and even military intervention, unleashing a political crisis in the Caribbean nation. We interviewed Gonzalo Gómez, leader of Marea Socialista of Venezuela and member of the Anticapitalist Network.
What is you opinion of the Lima Group?
GG: The declaration of the Lima Group is part of an intervention whose agenda is the forceful overthrow of Maduro´s government by unilateral decision of foreign factors, in combination with the most extreme sectors of the Venezuelan opposition, a right-wing opposition that reflects the interests of the traditional bourgeoisie.
The Lima Group is not an international organism convened by the nations as a space for discussion and conflict resolution, it is a group of governments that have agreed to serve as an instrument for applying pressure against Maduro´s government, with Washington calling all the shots.
The National Assembly´s plan is to declare the usurpation of the presidency by Maduro and to appoint a transitional government with Guaidó as provisional president of the country. Although this hasn´t formally played out yet, what the Lima Group is doing laying the foundations. In an interventionist manner, they are pointing out the road that should be taken in Venezuela.
That is what does not correspond to them, it corresponds to the nation and the people of Venezuela.
Maduro has said that a coup id underway and has called on people to defend the government.
GG: What is happening in Venezuela is that all powers have become illegitimate. This is true of Maduro´s government and of the National Assembly as well. Maduro´s government, because is has acted as a repressive government against workers and the people, undoing all the achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution. I think that it is a counter-revolutionary government, even if it uses the anti-imperialist rhetoric of the revolution. It is a government that has ceded sovereignty and national resources, and attacked the environment and native peoples. I´m referring to the mining arc of Orinoco, which is an extractivist, predatory project of submission to transnational corporations and private interests, which is wrecking havoc on the environment.
Those who defend Maduro point out that the Venezuela´s crisis is caused by the imperialist blockade.
GG: Trump´s worst sanctions have not affected the oil commerce itself yet, though they started in 2017, as well as those related to the blocking of financial operations of the new debt. The main problems of shortages that Venezuela is facing were not caused by the U.S. sanctions. We have a corrupt bureaucracy that is involved in the disasters of the state owned companies. Because, instead of promoting workers´ control, instead of promoting forms of social property, what the members of the bureaucratic cast did was to act as owners of the state companies to benefit themselves. They dismantled them, took the resources, stole them. There is a colossal embezzlement in Venezuela. They have ruined the country´s productive capacity.
The IMF itself has estimated that there are 350 billion dollars of the Venezuelan state deposited in private overseas accounts. Our own investigations, including embezzlement, illegal capital flight and missing PDVSA funds, estimate about 500 billion dollars.
Is there popular resistance?
GG: There is a tendency towards the recomposition of unitary class organizations. We are participating in the Intersectorial de Trabajadores de Venezuela (Inter-sector committee of Venezuelan workers) which aims to coordinate the struggles. This space is plural in respect to the political affiliation of the union leaders, but in the terrain of the working class. The communities are also fighting for public services, for water, because there is no gas, because people are having to cook with firewood.
These struggles turn into struggles for democratic and human rights. The government represses, jails union leaders, we have various union leaders in prison. The government applies martial law on some of them.
What happened with the uprising of the National Guard detachment?
GG: Yesterday´s (Monday, January 21) action was taken by a local commando of the National Guard, by sectors of its rank-and-file, led by a sergeant major in the Cotiza region, who called on the population to join them, saying that they were acting against the government like the people wanted.
It didn´t find much of an echo from a military point of view, and they finally surrendered, but the people of the region began to protest, taking the streets. Although the government tried to disperse the mobilization, it extended to nearby regions. Since then, there have been many protests in different neighborhoods. They´re not the typical protests of East Caracas, they´re popular sectors, poor and lower-middle class.
All day, in the popular neighborhoods of Caracas, fundamentally Mecedores, San José, Av. Fuerzas Armadas, Av. Catia, El Valle, Carretera Vieja, La Guaira, there have been at least a dozen important points of protest, significantly at night, when neighbors have come out and blocked streets with obstacles and burning trash.
Independently of the involvement of some activists from political organizations, I think these are expressions of anger, of people being fed up with what Maduro´s government has been doing.
The opposition is calling for a march on the 23
GG: It will be an important event. There will be significant mobilizations, not only in Caracas; there is a a national call to protest and expressions of different sector´s disposition to participate. There have been preceding “cabildos” (town halls) led by the opposition to Maduro. It will count with massive participation, not only from the regions where the opposition is strong, but also with an important reach in popular sectors.
We are in favor of an independent agenda of the Venezuelan working class, which should not subordinate itself to the agenda imposed by the National Assembly, that has the Lima group and the United States behind it.
But there is no doubt that the Venezuelan population has reached its limit, that it is fed up with the policies, the abuse and repression, of the Maduro government, the destruction of its wages, its working conditions.
This is why we demand general elections of all powers. One way of doing this is using Art. 71 of the Constitution, that allows for matters of special national interest to be consulted in a binding referendum.
The people must decide if it wants the renovation of all powers, if it wants Maduro out, and Guaidó as well, and if it wants to reshuffle the entire deck.
Interviewed: Gustavo Giménez