Peace at Stake in Venezuela's Upcoming Assembly Elections

Venezuelan legislator Blanca Eekhout tells TeleSUR English's Tamara Pearson why the Venezuelan National Assembly is vital to guaranteeing the power of the people.

By Tamara Pearson- TeleSUR English

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Legislator Blanca Eekhout talks to teleSUR’s Tamara Pearson. (Photo: teleSUR / Pablo Serrano)
Legislator Blanca Eekhout talks to teleSUR’s Tamara Pearson. (Photo: teleSUR / Pablo Serrano)
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Venezuela's National Assembly or parliament isn't like most others. "It has a very important place in Venezuelan society," Blanca Eekhout told teleSUR English in an interview.

The assembly came out of a nationwide process, involving all sectors of society – including those that had for so long been excluded from decision making, such as workers, women, the poor, Afro-descendants and so on – to create a new constitution. Most Venezuelans know the 1999 constitution in detail, quoting it in daily conversation and situations to defend their rights, and keeping a personal copy in a special place.

"Before that, the parliament wasn't a real thing, it was a place of elites, it didn't care about the needs of the people ... but now, Indigenous people are recognized and have a place, and women are playing a determining role," Eekhout said.

Eekhout, who before being elected to the National Assembly, was a community television activist, and eventually became head of some of the country's national television stations. "With the new National Assembly and constitution, it was the first time communication was considered a human right. We had struggled for so long to not be considered illegal. It’s the right of the people to participate in, and create their own media."

"During the (2002) coup, people had the constitution in their hands ... our parliament is a new tool, it is important for guaranteeing the missions: health, housing ... and that's why we want the revolution to continue to have a majority there, because if the right-wing wins, it will want to prevent the people from having access to all the revolution's achievements, and to block their participation, to make the revolution fail," Eekhout said.

"The National Assembly is vital to guaranteeing the power of the people."

PSUV strategy, strengths, and challenges    

"For the first time, we (the United Socialist Party of Venezuela – PSUV – and supporting parties) are going into these elections with gender equality. In our primaries, half of our candidates were also young people under 30," she said.

Venezuela's new electoral regulation states that political parties have to have an equal number of male and female candidates, and must alternate them on their lists.

"On the side of the Bolivarian revolution, we want to change 80 percent of our legislators, because there's a huge amount of women and youth running."

"Also, for the first time we are going into these elections with a perfect alliance, absolute unity." Eekhout explained that all registered political parties, including many that have previously run separately to the PSUV are this time running on a single ticket. That includes the Communist Party, the Tupamaros, Podemos, Redes, and others.

"The premise in these elections is the strengthening of people power, that is our strategy," she said.

She believes the PSUV's strengths heading into the elections are its capacity for debate, which she argued was the main reason behind the huge participation in its primaries in June. Three million people turned out, a very high rate for an internal party election, and in the context of two years of economic war that has plagued the country.

"We have the strength of debate and the participation of women and youth. The challenge we face, is this economic war. We have fought it so hard, guaranteeing food (through government missions) and closing the border (to crack down on smuggling). But despite everything that we have done, the opposition has been able to generate big difficulties, sabotaging our currency," the legislator said.

"We are in a stage of developing our productive forces, through the communal councils and planning, in order to achieve socialism in the economy. It’s a huge challenge and it means cultural and pragmatic changes, so it’s our main task. It may be a weakness now, but it will become a gigantic strength. The right wing want to demotivate us – paramilitary violence attacks on the popular sectors and three of our comrades were killed. That's part of the terrorist actions to generate demobilization, but we are accustomed to struggle and we'll do this, we'll fight the demotivation," she said.

Opposition aims and strategy    

Eekhout described how Venezuela is suffering "a very intense siege." She talked about the economic war, where access to some goods is difficult or very expensive, but also the paramilitary presence in the country, the violent opposition barricades or guarimbas, "the provocation by Exxon Mobile" in a disagreement between Venezuela and neighboring Guyana, attacks and distortions by the international private media, and the decree issued by U.S. President Barack Obama declaring Venezuela a "threat."

"But the opposition doesn't have a proposal for government or a project, they have minimum mobilizing capacity, but that only makes it more dangerous, because their weakness indicates that their agenda is one of violence.” Eekhout argued that the opposition strategy, rather than winning the elections, would be to discredit the national electoral council, to not recognize the results, and from there, generate violent actions and activate Obama's decree against Venezuela. "We can't know exactly, but we can know how to prevent that, and that is through a victory of the people," she concluded.

"In the parliament, they can't remove the president unless there's a coup like in Honduras (in 2009) – it would be a violent act, it wouldn't be constitutional. But the Venezuelan people know their constitution," she said.

"The Venezuelan people are democratic and peaceful and have fought for our project, the Bolivarian revolution, for a long time. It won't be disrupted by the violence," she argued, adding that the best way to beat the violence and the attacks "is with a huge victory" in December.

"That's what's at stake in these elections – it’s a situation where we have to keep the peace and unity. Peace will win."