Venezuela Campaign — 10 fallacies about the situation in Venezuela

1 — The Americans have wanted to topple the Chavista Regime for Years

The 2002 coup against Chavez collapsed because of a lack of American support. Americans have been the main customer for the Venezuela’s only significant export, oil, paying the Chavista regime over US$1 billion a month in hard cash. It was only earlier last week that sanctions were applied to the oil industry as a whole.

2 — The problems of Venezuela are all down to western sanctions

It is ludicrous to suggest that these minor restrictions had anything to do with an economic crisis that was well underway a decade earlier. The first sanctions in 2015 only targeted corrupt regime officials. In 2017 some minor sanctions were introduced preventing Americans from buying oil company debt, which almost no-one wanted to buy anyway.  By then, the borrowing capacity of the country had long since been exhausted. Domestic policy, not foreign intervention, has led to this crisis.

3 — The collapse of the economy has caused by speculators and hoarders

When businesses can’t operate because price controls have made them uneconomic and investors fear nationalisation without compensation, an economy will collapse very quickly. Shortages have occurred since 2005. Imaginary nonsense about the hoarding of items is no more than regime propaganda designed to distract from policy failure.

4 — Chavez and Maduro are on the side of the poor

The poverty rate is now 93%. Top Chavistas, on the other hand, are now extraordinarily rich. Chavez’s Minister of Finance has admitted to stealing US$1 billion. Chavez’s family now owns 17 country estates covering more than 100,000 acres and have liquid assets of $550 million. That’s not counting his daughter Maria, whose net worth is said to be over $4.2 billion.

5 — Corruption happens in every country

In Venezuela corruption has been elevated to an art form, with a rigged currency exchange system enabling the regime to bestow millions on regime cronies at will.  State enterprises are run to create corruption opportunities for their Chavista managers through rigged contracts and sale of price controlled goods in the black market.

6 — The fall in oil prices in late 2014 caused Venezuela’s economic problems

Other major oil exporting countries were not forced into similar difficulties as a result of a price decline.  High oil prices before 2014 merely helped to disguise the disastrous path the country was taking. Venezuela had used the high prices to borrow huge amounts, which it then was stretched to repay.  It was also giving away over 200,000 barrels of oil per day – half of which to Cuba. The regime had destroyed the rest of the productive economy, so its dependence on oil was much enhanced. The main problem with its oil sector is not so much prices – which naturally go up and down – but the reduction in capacity through mismanagement. Venezuela now produces only a third as much oil as it did when Chavez came to power, the same level as in the 1940s.

7 — The Maduro government has survived because the people have been prepared to defend it — with their lives if necessary

The regime, its security forces and hired militias have been terrorising the people. This is particularly true in the poorest slums where ‘Operation to Liberate the People’ has claimed around 10,000 lives. The Organisation of American States has referred the Venezuelan Government to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, citing 8,000 extrajudicial killings, 12,000 arbitrary arrests and the detention of 13,000 political prisoners. It is doubtful that many of the regime’s forces will be prepared to risk their lives defending it.  After all, the top military scattered when a malfunctioning drone appeared above a military parade. They’re in it for money, not their lives.

8 — Wasn’t Maduro democratically elected?

No he wasn’t.  The election itself was called by an illegitimate body, the “Constituent National Assembly” (created by Maduro to supplant the legitimate National Assembly) which barred many opposition political parties from taking part.  Many popular opposition candidates were jailed by the government, blocked from taking part in the election or forced into exile. The international community and the National Assembly rejected the results and have called for free and fair elections.

9 — National Assembly President Juan Guaido has just appointed himself President. Is this a coup?

The Venezuelan constitution provides for the National Assembly President to become interim President when there isn’t a President appointed according to the constitution.  It is the job of the interim President to organise free and fair elections to choose a new President. Juan Guaido is just following constitutional requirements.

10 — If the opposition takes power, it would mean the end of the social programmes that have provided free healthcare and education, not to mention eradicating malnutrition

What social programmes? The health system has now collapsed and few children go to school.  As for malnutrition, 7 million people suffer from malnutrition children are now dying of it, and the hunger rate has tripled since 2010. The opposition have pledged to introduce rational economic policies so that social spending can be restarted.

More information on the Venezuela Campaign can be found on their website