SSP International Secretary Bill Bonnar reports back from his visit to Caracas in Venezuela
· In April, the Scottish Socialist Party released a statement in support of the Venezuelan Revolution and government. It was condemned by sections of the media and some leading political figures.
Our stance was based on the principals of international solidarity while our critics simply reflect the lies and distortions put out by right wing forces in Venezuela and their American backers.
In August, we went further, sending me in my capacity as International Secretary to visit the Venezuelan capital, Caracas to demonstrate in person our support and solidarity and to see with our own eyes the reality of the struggle there.
Before I left I noted the kinds of stories which were circulating in the British media.
Caracas was a political battle ground between supporters and opponents of the government, fighting in the streets, the Maduro ‘dictatorship’ clinging on to power by its finger tips and army controlled death squads rampaging through the capital hunting down opponents.
My first day in the capital revealed all this to be a work of fiction. What I witnessed was a city and its people going about its normal business. I saw no conflicts or clashes and the main activity of the National Guard seemed to be in trying to sort out the horrendous traffic congestion.
When I related some of the horror stories circulating in the British media in a meeting in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they laughed explaining that the opposition had an entire industry devoted to spreading anti-government propaganda which is then sent round the world via American news agencies.
Instead they invited me to explore the capital and see for myself the reality. These were my impressions.
Describing Nicolas Maduro as a dictator is a nonsense. He is the elected President of an elected government. In fact, it was pointed out that in the last 20 years there has been 25 elections at regional, national and presidential level and the PSUV have won 23 of them; most by huge margins and under international supervision.
The so-called democratic opposition have not recognised any of these results and on August 23 announced that they would never recognise any future election victory by the PSUV. As for Maduro being a dictator, my sense was that there exists in the government a strong collective leadership.
The right wing opposition appear to have little or no presence within the capital; they are overwhelming located in the wealthy white suburbs stretching along the Caribbean coast. Its where the wealthy live and have always lived; not in Caracas itself.
Support for the government remains strong. You see it in the numbers of people wearing PSUV emblems, in the political activity in the city and in the large numbers of Venezuelan flags been flown; a strident symbol of Venezuelan resistance closely associated with the government.
The army, in the form of the National Guard has a strong presence and is strongly linked to the government. All the military commanders appear to be leading political figures in their own right and project a very definite image as defenders of Venezuelan sovereignty and the Bolivarian Revolution.
One obvious example of government support was the launch of a National Petition against American Aggression: ‘NO MAS TRUMP.’
Launched on the first day I arrived, I proudly signed it on behalf of the SSP. In the main squares and streets large numbers of stalls had been set up for people to sign, queues quickly gathering and within a week it had totalled 7 million signatures and counting.
Any visitor to Caracas will be immediately struck by the extent of the current economic crisis. It is obvious from the crumbling infrastructure, the half empty shops and the queues outside banks to get money.
While the origins of this crisis are in the collapse of world oil prices and before that the international banking crisis; what is driving it now are draconian American sanctions and domestic economic sabotage and speculation from the country’s still predominant private sector.
There is a war being waged against the Venezuelan people. It is not a war fought by guns and marauding American troops, It s an economic war and remains the principle weapon of the opposition and their American backers. The aim is to make the Venezuelan people so desperate that the will support any kind of change just to get back to some normality.
Students of Latin American history will instantly recognise a strategy of de-stabilisation.
It was applied to Chile in the seventies and Nicaragua in the eighties. It is being applied to Venezuela today.
Despite everything that has been thrown at them my impression was of a government which remain strong, resolute and confident about the future.
With the opposition apparently in complete disarray and the American Government scratching its head with what to do next the Venezuelan Government are now taking action to deal with the economic crisis and rebuild the economy.
They have powerful international support from Russia and China and the solidarity of socialists throughout the world. None more so than from the SSP. Venceremos!