The US Secretary of State toured Brazil, Suriname, Guyana and Colombia last week in his last attempt to build an anti-Chávez alliance. The goal is neither to organize an invasion in the short term nor new adventures with mercenaries like the one in May. Although Maduro’s regime -which encourages to denounce anyone with a foreign accent– asserts that an invasion is coming, in order to organize an umpteenth reinforcement of repression. The US government seeks first to stop China – and to a lesser extent Turkey, Iran and Russia – in South America and second to win points in the hard-fought electoral battle in Miami. But for this second goal, it needs to give some credibility back to a politically non-existent Guaidó whose only strategy seems to be trying to seize the gold reserves in Britain and reminding everyone of his own impotence with his more or less frank calls for foreign military intervention.
But in the meantime, the calling of elections in December and the pardoning of 110 opposition leaders led to the definitive implosion of the opposition front. Henrique Capriles dragged behind his candidacy a good part of the heavyweights of the old alliance, pushing Guaidó aside and ridiculing his pretensions of being president on the Internet. Capriles has declared himself against international sanctions… which is not only of interest to the leaders who suffered reprisals from the regime, but above all to European companies such as Repsol or Navantia.
The rupture of the opposition front represents an opportunity for the EU, which, entangled by its official recognition of Guaidó as president, and even knowing that Capriles will not be able to evict Maduro, had lost all possibility of playing its own game though not its eagerness to find opportunities to displace US capital, as was seen with Spain and the Delcy case. But the new situation is not comfortable either. Everything depends on the more or less explicit recognition of a regime that UN investigators accuse of crimes against humanity, and on a part of the opposition that has advanced through the mediation of Turkey, a long-time ally of Maduro. So the EU is elbowing its way between US pressure and the Russian-Chinese game, and sending a mission to Caracas to negotiate the terms of the December elections with a government it officially does not recognize in defense of an opposition it distrusts. Does anyone believe that the EU would swallow such a toad in the name of its so-called democratic values?
The reality of Venezuela and its national capital
This year the Venezuelan GDP will fall almost 22%. If this figure would be terrible after a long period of growth, it is even more so when production has been declining since 2013. Although the government has made a lot of noise about the return of 110,000 refugees, the truth is that the country has already lost 21.9% of its population in less than a decade. Agricultural production has collapsed.
The capacity to attract foreign capital in the same period has not only been reduced, but the foreign capital stock as a whole has come to nothing. In fact, the same national capital bleeds out in a permanent flight, even the one that supports itself on the regime. Between the capital flight and the drop in sales of its only export product, currency cannot but devalue indefinitely. So much so that it has already desisted even from printing paper money because inflation means that in a short time paper will cost more than the value it supposedly represents.
But… what would they invest their accumulated capital into within the country? Venezuela is one of the more developed cases of the general and inevitable crisis of the semicolonial countries. The only capitalizable sector, the only one with profitability in the global market, is the exporting sector. But oil prices have been falling for years. OPEC speaks of an era of decreasing demand in which the bet on the green deal will leave oil as the dirty energy of the poor. This is in terms of the global perspective. But in the domestic one it is even more crude.
Venezuelan oil production fell by 79.2% in the last 60 years, and is already below that of 1934, when it began its massive exploitation under US guidance. The inability to maintain even essential services, perform maintenance of productive facilities and repair accidents or errors, has led PDVSA to lose its refining capacity in less than seven years. Today, not only is gasoline rationed, but the minimum supply depends on Iranian ships that arrive in a race with the U.S. Navy. A recent spill in the Mocorroy National Park made it clear how the spiral of devaluation of national capital translates into a spiral of disasters of all kinds that ultimately lead to the destruction of more and more productive capacities and an even greater entrenchment of the pro-Chávez bourgeoisie in power.
A destruction of productive forces starting with the main one: the workers. Today in Venezuela there is hunger. Hunger further aggravated by the acceleration of the recession and the pandemic. But like every bourgeoisie in the world, the Venezuelan Chavista bourgeoisie prioritizes its investments and the viability of its state. This year, it intends to reduce the deficit from 11 to 7.9%. If hospitals and primary care services were already practically inoperative a few years ago, now whoever held on to them must lose all hope. For Maduro and the sectors it represents, it is much more important now to resurrect the state’s debt with a restructuring offer.
Venezuelan economist Jesús Casique told the EFE agency that the South American country has cancelled its commitments, not because of sanctions, although they affect it to some extent, but “because of (the decrease in) cash flow, affected by the fall in (oil) production”. We are producing barely 367,000 barrels per day (of oil), that is, that vertiginous fall, that slide effect, has affected the cash flow of the country’s public finances” and affected the interest payments, he added. According to Casique, in practice, Venezuela has been in suspension of payments since 2017, when it last complied with the obligations of the bonds (for more than US$ 1,121 million) hoping to access new financing and restructure the payments of obligations expiring in 2020. “Venezuela’s default is in the order of 22-23 billion dollars,” explained the expert, before pointing out that the country’s “consolidated debt” amounts to 175 billion Dollars, an amount that is equivalent to 178% of the Venezuelan GDP, if one takes into account the figure reported by the IMF for this indicator in the South American country: 62,921 Million Dollars.
What lies ahead for Venezuela
Over two and a half years later, the perspective we expected has, unfortunately, been more than fulfilled.
Venezuela is the sad demonstration of the impossibility of an independent development of national capitalism in the imperialist era; the material refutation of the whole argument for “national liberation” on the periphery of the world market and the factual denial of the developmentalist illusions of state capitalism that were sold to us for decades as “socialism”.
No struggle under a national flag will lead to anything but misery and decay. The nation and nationalism are the first prison from which we must break out. Today, capitalism in Venezuela has no other path ahead but social breakdown, mass migrations, and an authoritarian development of the state. Capitalism’s perspective in the country is that of a new failed state dependent on one or another imperialism.
“Does Venezuela have a future? (in Spanish)“, 1 January 2018
The problem in Venezuela has not been, is not and will not be just one of the factions of the national bourgeoisie, but all of them, that is, the nation. If now these factions break into three, just as before they split into two, it is not because there are so many alternative forms of development of national capital. But because, in reality, there are none, only two or three groups of rival imperialisms disputing how to seize the ruins. Neither will they bring any alternative or development. The crisis of capitalism as a whole is not going to ease for a long time, the perspective throughout the world is nothing but more misery and more and more violent conflicts between states and factions. The way out for the workers is not to choose sides, but to raise their own in order to change the logic of production, to stop producing in order to satisfy profits and to organize society to satisfy human needs.