In the following interview with teleSUR, the Canadian-Venezuelan Sociologist, Dr. Maria Paez Victor explains in detail the National Constituent Assembly in the context of the Bolivarian Revolution, the U.S. boycott through the economic and media war.
The National Constituent Assembly has decided to assume partial congressional duties. What are your thoughts on this?
Dr. Maria Paez Victor: What would happen in the United States, or any in other democracy, if its congress or parliament refused to obey a decision of the supreme court, and decided not to concern themselves in passing laws but instead to overthrow the legitimate elected president, all this while the country faced serious economic and security problems? You would, without a doubt have a political gridlock, a major institutional crisis.
The National Assembly of Venezuela – in which the opposition has the majority having won those seats in the last congressional elections – took all of these undemocratic decisions.
When the opposition won the majority in the national assembly in January 2016, its president, Ramos Allup declared that they were not there to pass laws, but “to get rid of Maduro and his government,” declaring itself in rebellion against the executive power.
The national assembly refused to obey this order, and so, the supreme court had to declare all the acts of the assembly null and void until such time that it disallows these three people (whose election was called into question after allegations of vote-buying). Later on, the second president of the national assembly, Julio Borges declared publicly that the assembly was “in open rebellion” and that it will not recognize the supreme court. In other words, the legislative power was in rebellion against the judicial and executive power.
At the same time, there was an economic crisis promoted by the opposition and foreign powers, paramilitary attacks on the frontier, and violent street insurrections in certain city sections.
President Maduro could have taken the anti-democratic measure of suspending guarantees of civil rights, but instead opted for the most democratic of all decisions calling for a National Constitutional Assembly that would amend the constitution to deal with these serious problems and cut off the legal loopholes that sustained those problems.
The opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, immediately realized the checkmate that this would mean. Therefore it used all its arsenal of weapons including its considerable foreign media connections to prevent the election of an ANC.
Firstly, it alleged that an elected ANC was anti-democratic. It was akin to accusing the pope of not being a catholic. There is no higher democratic power than the will of the people represented in an assembly, and there is a cornerstone of international law that states that countries have the inalienable right to make their own laws, particularly if done through properly elected representatives.
Secondly, the opposition told the international press that the ANC was simply a ploy so that Maduro could make himself president for life and would eliminate elections forever in the country. They completely failed to acknowledge the nine specific areas of the mandate of the ANC that do not include the terms of office for the president. It is quite absurd that having had 20 clean election in 18 years the Bolivarian government was about to give up on elections, especially as (former U.S. president) Jimmy Carter has stated that Venezuela’s electoral process is the best in the world.
The representatives to the ANC were chosen not as members of parties, but among citizens who put their name forward as individuals. There were two categories of representatives: those who wished to represent the area where they lived, and those that wished to represent one of the special sectors: workers, business people, youth, women, disabled people, communal counsels, and Indigenous communities.
The MUD decided that they would not support the election of representatives to the new ANC, and tried to cast a pall over the elections alleging that it was fraudulent yet failed to present a shred of evidence. All the international election witnesses confirmed that the process occurred without any distortion or bias.
What did happen that was not reported was that in many sections of the country this anti-democratic and violent opposition tried its best to prevent people from voting, even with the use of firearms. The international press did not once criticize the opposition for these appalling anti-democratic actions.
When the ANC then met, it did not dissolve the national assembly, which theoretically it had it in its power to do. The ANC declared that it would work with the assembly and asked it to meet in joint session, but the assembly refused to meet with the ANC. Instead, it declared that it did not recognize the ANC at all. It is utterly astonishing that it would disregard 8,089,320 million voters, who elected the ANC.
Faced with this blatant insurrection, the ANC passed a decree allowing it to pass the laws that are needed to meet the most pressing, vital problems that are threatening the state itself.
The ANC got up and running. One of the first things it did was to fire Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz based on a mountain of evidence that linked her and her husband, a National Assembly Deputy German Ferrer's office with a vast network of blackmail and dereliction of duty.
The people could not understand why the violent protesters that during four long months created havoc and terror on the streets were not arrested, or if arrested, let off on flimsy excuses. Crimes against public safety and peace that would never have been tolerated in any other nation, in Venezuela went unpunished and unchecked.
It was the foreign companies of the petroleum belt that blew the whistle on Ortega Diaz, as she was blackmailing them for millions of dollars. In the end, it was recently discovered she was working with the U.S. Justice Department to maintain the street insurrections go unchecked.
Another of the measures taken by the ANC to maintain peace was the creation of the Commission of Truth, Justice and Public Peace which is in charge of determining the political and moral responsibilities of those found guilty of the violent actions that have plagued the nation since 1999.
The Law Against Hate, Intolerance and Peaceful Conviviality is now under consideration. These are a direct result of the urban terrorism unleashed from April to July that left over 100 people dead and the overt racist and classist tone that accompanied these vile acts.
Washington has been pressuring the Venezuelan revolutionary government for so long, so what has maintained Maduro in the presidency, as we see all over the world, the U.S. overthrowing democratic governments through color revolutions, or by the military force?
Dr. Maria Paez Victor: In 1999 Venezuela was a country although rich in oil, steeped in misery, high rates of malnutrition, maternal and infant mortality, high rates of school dropouts and illiteracy, high rate of poverty.
From the discovery of oil at the beginning of the last century, oil revenues were used in a corrupt manner by an unpatriotic elite and sold to the highest foreign bidder with little advantage to the country’s population. Under Chavez and now Maduro, oil revenues are used to satisfy the social needs of the Venezuelans.
Poverty in Venezuela has been halved and the country, by mid-2014, boasted the highest average standard of living in Latin America. In 1999, half of the country was living under the poverty line, with 23 percent in “extreme poverty”.
By 2011, there were 23 percent poor and eight percent in extreme poverty. No other country in modern history has accomplished that in just a decade. This triumph was accompanied by a huge increase in consumption and a drop in malnutrition from 13.5 percent in 1990 to five percent in 2010.
These dramatic domestic changes are mirrored by the changes in Venezuela’s foreign policy and activities. A genuinely independent foreign policy boosted Venezuela to a position of leadership in Latin America and made its oil reserves a source of political clout and a tool of international solidarity — as demonstrated by the vital petroleum contributions to several countries, including Cuba, made by its nationalized oil company, PDVSA.
The government also founded the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America whose 11 members — Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela — coordinate mutual economic support and serve as an alternative to the U.S. controlled Organization of American States.
But the achievements of the Bolivarian government of Venezuela “will not be televised" by the international media because they show the failure of the neo-liberal ideas of development.
While in Europe and North America the people have had to bear the brunt of the worldwide financial crisis with “adjustments” and “austerity” policies that have increased the total of people in poverty, in Venezuela, despite the economic crisis, the government of President Maduro has done everything in its power to shield the people by not cutting social benefits and distributing food and basic goods directly to the people at very subsidized prices.