A recent poll conducted by Hinterlaces, a well-known and usually reliable Venezuelan pollster, showed that Venezuelans, by a substantial majority, oppose neoliberal solutions to their country’s crisis. The poll was based on 1,200 interviews in the country as a whole between January 11-17.
The poll has a 95 per cent level of accuracy and a 2.7 per cent margin of error.
Hinterlaces focused its poll on key (and difficult) economic issues, in order to know the state of mind of Venezuelans regarding the domestic political situation. This is especially relevant after the overwhelming electoral victory by the right-wing opposition at the elections to the National Assembly on December 6.
The poll suggests that it was primarily people’s genuine discontent with the economy, much of it brought about by the ravages of the right-wing opposition’s “economic war” aimed at reducing Nicolas Maduro’s support, that was the crucial factor in the government’s December defeat, not support for neoliberal policies.
The poll shows that the overwhelming majority of the population (79 per cent) are in favour of the government’s aim — economic planning and some enterprise working together within an overarching socialist framework. They do not object to government working with multinational corporations as long as those corporations do not set the rules of the game.
Furthermore, a majority of Venezuelans would also support hard economic decisions such as increases in the prices of agricultural goods medicine, petrol and even currency devaluation.
Venezuelans also overwhelmingly oppose (by nearly three-quarters) the privatisation of the state oil company PVDSA, the state electricity company Corpoelect and state telecommunications company CanTV. It should be inferred that an overwhelming proportion of Venezuela’s population oppose the privatisation of health, education and other key state services.
This is significant because immediately following the opposition’s electoral victory to the National Assembly, key leaders from both the business world and right-wing parties announced their intention to extend privatisations.
Fedecamaras, Venezuela’s equivalent of the CBI even demanded the abolition of the Labour Law. This is the tip of the iceberg of the Venezuelan right’s full neoliberal programme.
The poll however does not fully measure views on the overall economic policies of Venezuela’s right wing because its economic programme is its best-kept secret. During the electoral campaign leading to the December 6 elections, the right instead sought to capitalise politically on the huge difficulties the government faced with the damaging consequences of the economic war. Henry Ramos Allup, now President of the National Assembly, even promised to eliminate the queues, but never said how he would achieve this.
Since December Allup has also promised to get rid of Maduro’s government in six months. He has been trying to oust the government for 17 years and feels it has never been more within his grasp.
It is, therefore, in the interest of the right, including the US, that Maduro’s plans to move towards a productive economy fail. Thus Maduro’s decree declaring the country in a state of economic emergency was opposed by the right-wing majority in the National Assembly.
So while the right wing seeks to create a constitutional crisis that leads to paralysis, the government and people throughout the nation are mobilising in order to move from Venezuela’s oil revenue-based economy to a productive one.
To this end, Maduro is seeking to reorient economic policy towards developing nine areas: oil, petrochemicals, agriculture and food production, mining, telecommunications and IT, inputs for construction and public works, manufacturing of consumption and capital goods by the military, tourism, and manufacturing industry. The declared intention is to drastically reduce the country’s dependency on oil and reduce as much as possible the importation of both manufactured and agricultural goods by endeavouring to produce them domestically.
Maduro wants Venezuela to be able to obtain hard currency from creating new and diverse exports. This is a tall order indeed but it may be possible since Venezuela has the potential to develop all nine industries. It is also urgent due to the almost total collapse of oil prices.