The article highlights the fact that the policy pursued by Nicolas Maduro remains well in line with that initiated by Hugo Chavez, favourable to the population and the public services, continuing the resistance against the grinding conditions of blockade and economic war. (Note that the CLAPs are food distribution committees supported by the Venezuelan government, through which the communities themselves supply and distribute the priority foods through house-to-house delivery).
HAS NICOLAS MADURO BECOME A NEO-LIBERAL?
In various sectors of the Venezuelan opposition, in the mainstream media or in the usual “science-po-Trotskyist” circles of the middle class, a new ritornelle (refrain) is circulating. Sluggish exit from the Western blockade would be due to Nicolas Maduro finally having “embraced capitalism” or “having taken a neoliberal turn”. For Alberto Barrera Tyszka of the New York Times (1), neoliberalism would even be the economic facet of Maduro’s “dictatorship”.
The “evidence” varies: from images of upscale neighborhoods in Caracas with ostentatious boutiques, to fancy restaurants and casinos, to job postings on digital platforms and the circulation of dollars in the economy. For the ‘Communist Party of Venezuela’, (today in opposition and allied here and there with the right), “the low salaries, the reduction of public expenditure” and the alleged attempts at privatisation behind the anti-blockade law, “are expressions of this neoliberalism, confirming the distancing of Maduro from Chavismo”.
But for an economic policy to be neoliberal, certain conditions must be met. One of them is the deregulation of all possible economic activity. Or the elimination of all the factors of control, surveillance, social protection or management by the State in the strategic sectors, the financial ones, the essential public services. In the [neo-liberal] galleries of inequality, social despair and repression, only the richest can still afford healthcare, education, housing or quality food. As a recent example of neoliberal shock therapy, we had the government of Mauricio Macri in Argentina (2015-2019) or, of course, the “Chilean miracle” of the Pinochet era. Politically, the “neoliberal laboratory” led by Macri in Argentina involved the hoisting of bankers and technocrats up into high positions of power, thus shaping a corporate government studded with CEOs. Tied to such neoliberal “adjustments”, the Maduro’s administration would have incurred extraordinary debt from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and from private creditors (fondos buitres) to a total of more than $250 billion.
For the Venezuelan analyst William Serafino (2) however, if Maduro were a neoliberal, the public company Petróleos de Venezuela and SA (PDVSA) would already be in the hands of the private sector. Same for the many public companies such as the Caracas metro, the electricity companies, telecommunications and water supply – to name but a few examples. The absurdity of the assertion shows in the current policies driven against corruption in the strategic spheres of the economy. It shows in the steady restoration of the productive apparatus, which leads to the better financing of the State via taxes on large companies. It shows in the reconstruction of the public services deteriorated by the blockade, and in the transfers of non-US technology to thwart the blockade. These policies are reinforced by a rebound in oil prices and the multipolar alliances. The same shows in the Maduro government’s recent handover of 4,500,000 public housing units to the popular sectors, as well as in the 13 million hectares handed over to small and medium-sized farmers in the framework of the Agrarian Reform (program initiated by Hugo Chávez). The same goes for the transfer of state powers and economic and technical aid, to popular self-governments (municipalities, communal councils, etc.). There is also the maintenance of free higher education, the reconstruction of free public health, the massive anti-blockade food program supported by the Local Committees for Supply and Production (CLAPs). The price of subsidized food, distributed monthly to the population, 95% produced in Venezuela, has been crashed: the citizen pays only 5% of the market price.
In reality, the economic policies of the Bolivarian government proceed in the context of a pitiless economic war. For the State, this war has led to a 99% reduction in foreign exchange earnings, a drop in oil production, the ceasing of foreign trade, the weakening for the currency and capital flight. Add to this the hyperinflation, the scarcity of goods and services, the closure of industries, the lowering wages, the deterioration of the quality of life and well-being for the Venezuelans, and finally the exodus of tens of thousands of them. About this unprecedented economic and social devastation imposed by the United States, Nicolas Maduro explains, “we must respond with flexible strategic action, with defence and counterattack, to prevent the blockade continuing to harm our homeland (…) we must react with audacity and creativity, adapt ourselves, put more flexibility in our legal and administrative framework, adapt to the permanent threat of sanctions, to the complex and changing circumstances”.
Joe Biden has recently renewed Obama’s executive order making Venezuela “an extraordinary and unusual threat to the security of the United States” (sic). He reiterated that he would not ease the blockade in any way, and even added an additional sanction to the 768 existing ones. Had Nicolas Maduro become a neoliberal, how to understand this continuing imperial harassment against him?
To the opposite indeed, the main characteristic of the Maduro government’s policy in the teeth of such an economic war, is to have on resisted and rejected the formulas of privatisation and of abandonment of the population. Sign of the times: many Venezuelan families are choosing to return to Venezuela from abroad. Now they flee the social effects of neoliberalism, the real one, which becomes more crushing by the day, in Europe and in other countries of [our] continent (Argentina, Chile, Peru ..). The Bolivarian government is the only one to have set up free flights for these [returning] citizens on board of its public company Conviasa (3). But the Bloomberg Agency has found the real reason: “If migrants are returning home, it is because Maduro has become capitalist“…
(1) “La hora cero de Venezuela“, https://www.nytimes.com/es/2017/07/21/espanol/opinion/la-hora-cero-de-venezuela.html
(2) “Maduro neoliberal?”, by Venezuelan political scientist William Serafino https://misionverdad.com/venezuela/maduro-neoliberal
(3) “Venezuela, alone in South America to create a repatriation progrm in the midst of a pandemic” https://venezuelainfos.wordpress.com/2020/10/05/le-venezuela-seul-en-amerique-latine- to-create-a-repatriation-programme-in-the-full-of-the-pandemic/
“Has Nicolas Maduro become neo-liberal?” was published by Venezuelainfos on April 23, 2023:
Feature image: 20.4.2023: Meeting in Caracas between the President of Bolivia Luis Arce, and the President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro, where they discussed the idea of making of their two nations “a public industrial pole” to produce and guarantee all the fertilizers needed by the farmers of Latin America and the Caribbean