Published on 13 December 2015 by Washington Post
The big news out of Venezuela’s Dec. 6 legislative elections is the victory of the opposition United Democratic Roundtable (MUD) over the incumbent United Socialist Party (PSUV) of President Nicolás Maduro. Shockingly, the MUD achieved a two-thirds supermajority in the National Assembly, which, according to the constitution, could allow it to remove Supreme Court judges (Art.265), appoint key officials such as an independent attorney general and a national comptroller (Art.279), and approve amendments to the constitution itself, subject to ratification by referendum (Art.348).
That supermajority is razor-thin. The MUD claims 112 seats out of 167 — exactly two-thirds. Anything less than perfect unity and the list of powers available to the MUD diminishes considerably. But how did the MUD achieve this landslide win in an electoral environment widely regarded as stacked in favor of the PSUV? A variety of factors were at play, and the MUD caught some remarkable breaks.
First, the most important element of the Venezuelan electoral system was not stacked toward the PSUV, per se, but toward whichever alliance is the largest. That is, the system is set to deliver to the largest party or coalition a greater share of seats than its votes might suggest. At the time the electoral law was crafted, no one imagined that the largest party could be any other than the PSUV. That bit of hubris came back to bite the incumbents.
Sixty-eight percent of the Assembly seats are allocated in winner-take-all contests, in districts with one, two, or three seats available. Voters in these districts can cast as many votes as there are seats. As long as voters cast all their votes for candidates of the same party or alliance, the team with the most supporters in a given district can take all its seats. Venezuelan voters did just that, and every district produced a sweep for either the MUD or the PSUV. Most of these, of course, went to the MUD, which captured 81 of these seats to the PSUV’s 32.
The second tier of the electoral system, accounting for 30 percent of the Assembly’s seats, provides party-list competition in Venezuela’s 23 states plus the Capital District. There, the MUD’s win — 28 seats to the PSUV’s 23 — was more in keeping with its overall vote share of 55 percent to 40 percent (with 5 percent going to other lists). So far, then, the seat tally is 109 to 55, three short of the 112 needed for the MUD to transform Venezuelan politics. So where did those last three seats come from?
By Mark Weisbrot. Published on 3 December by Huffington Post
The campaign for Venezuela's Dec. 6 National Assembly election is only three weeks long, but in the United States it started about six months ago with leaks by anonymous U.S. officials making unsubstantiated allegations that Venezuelan officials were running a "cartel." More recently, relatives of Venezuela's first lady Cilia Flores were arrested and taken (not extradited) to the U.S. after being lured by DEA agents to Haiti. Then last week, when an opposition politician was shot and killed, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, immediately joined Washington in trying to make it look like a political murder. Within a day, evidence from investigations appeared to show that the victim was likely a gang member killed by a rival gang.
To understand the strategy of the U.S. government and its allies -- including Almagro and now the president-elect of Argentina -- we have to look at what happened in the 2013 Venezuelan presidential election. In 2013, President Maduro won by 1.5 percentage points, but there was absolutely no doubt about the result. Because of the extensive safeguards in the voting process -- including an immediate audit, with witnesses, of a random sample of 54 percent of voting stations -- former U.S. president and election expert Jimmy Carter called Venezuela's election system "the best in the world."
Published on 9 December 2015 by Venezuela Analysis
The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) suffered a crushing defeat in Sunday’s National Assembly elections, winning just 55 of 167 seats. Formerly in opposition, the Venezuelan right took a two-thirds majority with 112 seats, gaining control of the South American country’s legislature for the first time in 17 years.
The outcome affords the Venezuelan right an unprecedented opportunity to roll back the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution by legal means, without having to resort to coups or other forms of extra-institutional violence. But will they succeed?
Counter-Revolution without Counter-Hegemony?
Under Venezuela’s democratic system, the single-house National Assembly holds enormous power: a two-thirds super-majority can pass or revoke organic constitutional laws, replace Supreme Court magistrates, appoint the heads of crucial public institutions such as the Public Prosecutor’s office and the National Electoral Council, and even convene a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution.
In short, a two-thirds majority gives the opposition all of the institutional weapons necessary to reverse many of the key transformations of the Venezuelan state achieved by the Bolivarian Revolution over the last seventeen years.
They will now be empowered to revoke critical revolutionary legislation such as the Organic Law of Communes, the Organic Work and Workers’ Law (LOTTT), among numerous others, repeal international treaties such as the ALBA-TP and PetroCaribe, as well as pack the Supreme Court with an eye towards impeaching President Nicolas Maduro.
However, while the opposition has indeed won a super-majority and the concomitant legal power to pursue these changes, this does not necessarily mean that they have a popular mandate to carry out such a reactionary agenda.
Published on 3 December by Venezuela Analysis
Last Tuesday several European newspapers published an open-letter written by high ranking rightwing political figures in the European Union (EU) and Latin America, criticising the Venezuelan government and its institutions for violating democratic norms just a few days before the country heads to parliamentary elections this December 6th.
Signed by: Mariano Rajoy (President of Spain), David Cameron (Prime Minister of Great Britain), Manuel Valls (Prime Minister France), Thorbjørn Jagland (Secretary General of the Council of Europe), Felipe González (former President of Spain), Henrique Cardoso (former President of Brasil) and Ricardo Lagos (former President of Chile),the letter accuses the Maduro administration of an “abuse of power,” breaching “democratic” ideals associated with “Western political culture” and using foul play to turn the upcoming election results in its favour.
Entitled “Venezuela can have free and fair elections”, the letter was widely republished amongst the LENA group (Leading European Newspaper Alliance) and in newspapers such as El País (Spain), Die Welt (Germany) and the Miami Herald.
In particular, the political figures take up the defence of jailed political opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison by Venezuelan institutions earlier this year for crimes related to the 2014 “barricades”, including incitement to public violence, association to commit crimes, and promoting damage and arson. His wife Lilian Tintori is currently at the forefront of an international campaign to release him. She met with Mariano Rajoy, the European Parliament and other European politicians in October.
Published on 26 November 2015 by TeleSUR English
On Wednesday a regional opposition leader, Luis Manuel Diaz, was shot during an election campaign event. Just over a week out from Venezuela’s decisive National Assembly elections, the country’s opposition and certain key national and international media were quick to blame the government.
The head of AD, Henry Ramos wrote on Twitter just minutes after the murder that Diaz had been killed by a shotgun. He claimed he was shot "by armed PSUV gangs from a vehicle." The BBC, and Reuters were quick to cover the story, though they have rarely covered the hundreds of rural workers, indigenous, union, and pro-government activists who have been murdered over the last decade. The Guardian was quick to cover the U.S. condemnation of the murder, with the U.S. quick to label the murder government sponsored “intimidation” of the opposition.
However, the government and government supporters would have little to gain, politically, from such an incident, and it’s convenient for the opposition to be able to claim to know who the shooter was and what his political intentions were within minutes of the event. An examination of who Luis Diaz was and the circumstances show that other scenarios are likely:
Published on 22 November 2015 by TeleSur English
Argentina’s president-elect, Mauricio Macri, vowed to make drastic changes Monday to open up the economy to investors and rearrange foreign ties after his electoral victory over government-backed Peronist candidate Daniel Scioli on Sunday. “You made the impossible possible,” Macri of the Let’s Change coalition said to supporters Sunday night. Indeed, Macri’s victory marks the first time the corporate elite-aligned, right-wing has come to power in Argentina through democratic means.
Macri, a businessman and former mayor of Buenos Aires, has promised to cut capital controls and trade restrictions in the name of boosting the ailing economy. He is also expected to cut subsidies to energy and transportation sectors. "The is the beginning of a new era that has to carry us toward the opportunities we need to grow and progress," Macri said to supporters Sunday night.
Critics say Macri’s proposals will turn the country back to 1990s neoliberalism, rolling back the social welfare programs of President Cristina Fernandez and her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner, which have benefited poor and working class Argentines.
By Eva Gollinger. Published on 18 November 2015 by Telesur English
Edward Snowden revealed to the world the 21st century spycraft in use against millions of innocent, unknowing people who now think twice about sending a text or an email. Amongst the documents obtained by Snowden were reports and details on surveillance of current and former heads of state, many of them from Latin America. Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff was outraged over revelations of NSA espionage against her government, including wiretaps of her own phone and email. Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was another major target of NSA operations. And now, Snowden has revealed the extensive espionage and penetration of the NSA in Venezuela's state-owned oil company, PDVSA, the lifeblood of the South American nation and fuel of Chavez's Bolivarian revolution.
Just three years before Edward Snowden became a household name, whistleblower organization WikiLeaks had already released a massive trove of classified and secret documents from the Pentagon and State Department that exposed U.S. government involvement in coups, destabilization campaigns, mass espionage and war crimes. The dirty tactics, strong-arming and back-stabbing revealed in internal State Department cables shed glaring light on the lengths Washington will go to impose its agenda. Allies are treated as enemies, and adversaries as partners, so long as it advances the self-serving objectives of U.S. power.
None of what Snowden or WikiLeaks revealed, as incredulous as it seemed to many, was surprising in Latin America. The region has been subjected to every tactic in the CIA book to ensure U.S. domination and control of its “backyard”. Throughout most of the 20th century, U.S. backed coup d’etats and interventions placed and removed heads of government, imposing School of the Americas-trained dictators that tortured, assassinated, disappeared, persecuted and incarcerated tens of thousands of civilians, disrupting and destabilizing their democratic, progressive movements and spiraling their nations into decades of darkness and brutality. When the dictators no longer served U.S. goals, they were switched out through coups or electoral processes heavily funded by U.S. agencies, ensuring an equally subservient leader would fill their shoes.
It wasn’t until the beginning of the 21st century, with the election in Venezuela of President Hugo Chavez, that the region began to liberate itself from Washington’s iron grip. Chavez opened the door to a sweeping tide that brought progressive, leftist leaders to power, elected by widespread majorities in Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, Honduras and El Salvador. Of course the resilience of Cuba for nearly half a century subjected to a crippling U.S. economic blockade and endless CIA attempts to destroy and destabilize their system, was the bedrock of the leftist rise that transformed and liberated the region.
After Chavez was elected in 1998 and began to implement changes affecting powerful interests, changes that would redistribute wealth and nationalize control over strategic resources such as oil and gas, the U.S. backed a coup against him in 2002 that briefly removed him from power and installed a U.S. selected dictador, businessman Pedro Carmona. When Venezuelans took to the streets to reclaim their democracy, bringing Chavez back to power, Washington continued funding and overseeing efforts to destabilize his government, undermine his policies and debilitate Venezuela’s economy and international trade.
Published on 4 November 2015 by Telesur English
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has bet his iconic mustache that the government will meet its target of completing the construction of a million new homes by 2016.
“I'll make a bet: if by December 31 we do not reach one million new homes I will shave off my mustache,” said the president during his weekly Tuesday speech broadcast on local media.
The plan to build a million new homes by the end of 2015 is part of the Great Housing Mission Venezuela, which was an initiative started by late President Hugo Chavez in 2011. The plan was to build thousands of homes that would be 80 percent subsidized by the government for families living in poverty.
As of Oct. 14, Venezuela had created 742,510 homes, said Minister of Habitat and Housing Manuel Quevedo. That same month, the minister announced it would prioritize the housing mission and double the number of workers dedicated to building new homes for the homeless. The official also said that in the first 10 months of the year, 100,000 homes had been built. In January the ministry put the number of completed housing units at just under 676,000, suggesting the government is building an average of more than 200 units each day
The mission has now constructed a total of 752,585 housing units, Housing Minister Manuel Quevedo said. In January the ministry put the number of completed housing units at just under 676,000, suggesting the government is building an average of more than 200 units each day. This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address:
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Maduro then called on construction workers to help him win the bet, saying he did not want to lose his ‘stache.
“I tell my brothers and sisters, the men and women construction workers and engineers: Work so that I do not have to cut my mustache! No it's a lie. I'm kidding. Work because our people need to have their homes,” he said.
Published on 2 November 2015 by Telesur English
The 33 member countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) are set to agree on a joint position that for the first time ever the bloc will present at a COP climate change summit. The CELAC is meeting this week in Ecuador to discuss their position to be presented in the upcoming COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris U.N. Climate Conference, officials said Monday.
The foreign and environment ministries of the regional organization will meet on Thursday and Friday in the Ecuadorean capital Quito, to elaborate the draft that will be presented in December in Paris, which has been billed as the most important climate summit in history. The meeting will take place at Union of South American Countries (UNASUR) headquarters.
Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to play a very important role at the COP21, since the region has over the past years shown a strong commitment in forging very important global agreements to address climate change.
The Bolivian city of Cochabamba last month held the Second World People’s Conference on Climate Change, during which President Evo Morales along with his colleagues from Ecuador, Rafael Correa, and Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, agreed to speak for the “Pachamama,” or Mother Earth, and civil society during the COP21 summit in Paris.