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Reportage. The “end of the progressive cycle” mantra is running up against popular support for the Latin American left.

Attack on Venezuela

The free fall has started, the socialist Venezuela must bite the dust and kneel to the “end of the progressive cycle,” the new mantra of those who think the return of the reactionary forces in Latin America is unavoidable.

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, announced he will seek the application of the Democratic Charter to Venezuela, allowing for a penalty in case of an “alteration of the constitutional order that seriously threatens the democratic order.” If the vote to apply it passes, the measure will lead to the suspension of the country by the regional body, and it will include a series of economic sanctions.

The paradox is that the measure was applied to Honduras, after the coup against Zelaya in 2009, and Paraguay, and then against Lugo in 2012. The same kind of “parliamentary coup” that is marching now against Rousseff in Brazil and Maduro in Venezuela: presidents elected by the majority of the population and not presidents de facto.

And actually, the Venezuelan right had focused a massive international campaign over Honduras and Paraguay in recent months. The Uruguayan Almagro, whose election was supported by the whole of progressive Latin America, quickly turned his back to his own political party (Frente Amplio) and the south-south solidarity alliances: to openly side with the worst and pro-U.S. Latin American right, to Voluntad Popular and the base that supports it (even in Europe).

“For some time, Almagro seems very disoriented. His behavior is inappropriate. He is taking decisions on his own,” said Ecuador President Rafael Correa. “Obviously we do not agree. To resolve the serious situation in Venezuela, we need to support the dialogue that Unasur is deploying with the mediation of former presidents: the Panamanian Martin Torrijos, the Dominican Leonel Fernandez and the Spanish Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.”

Bergoglio’s support

The first meeting between Chavistas and opposition leaders was recently set in motion in the Dominican Republic and the Unasur also won the backing of Pope Bergoglio. After Almagro’s announcement, the MUD opposition coalition, however, has announced plans to retire from it.

Maduro said during his broadcast on Tuesday that “we will continue to seek dialogue, although the distance between the two models of society are radically different.” But the one leading the dances within the fractious MUD coalition is a party that’s “called Permanent Violence instead of Voluntad Popular (Popular Will).”

The speech was attended by many intellectuals, artists, poets and filmmakers. In a few days there will be an International Festival of Theatre, in late June the World Poetry Festival, and major film events are ongoing. Guests pointed out that in Brazil, Temer has abolished the Ministry of Culture, calling it “a den of useless leftists” but those “leftists” conducted an immediate demonstration that forced him to go back on his decision.

More funding for culture

Despite the drastic fall in oil prices and the furious economic sabotage of large private enterprises, the Maduro government has maintained and even increased funding for culture and social projects.

Caracas recently welcomed the international meeting of the working youth. A delegation was present during Maduro’s broadcast, and Wednesday the young internationalists have organized a large demonstration, directed as usual to Miraflores, the presidential palace. Throughout June, they’ll hold marches, speeches and demonstrations. On June 7, there will be one in Rome.

These days, all the popular sectors are demonstrating in support of the government. Maduro’s broadcast opened with an official government statement to pay tribute to the leader of the Polisario Front, Mohamed Abdelaziz, who died Wednesday, “the African-Sahrawi fighter who, driven by his indomitable spirit of independence, fought tirelessly for the fundamental rights, sovereignty and self-determination of the Saharawi people.”

A news piece doesn’t find space in the mainstream media is in headlines of a Venezuelan daily, and it serves to clarify the terms of the question: the Ovomar company, based in Santa Cruz (town of Lamas, in Aragua state) threw it in the trash 3 million chicken eggs, stockpiled since October 2015, rather than selling them at regulated prices.

And there is a lot of controversy about a report censored in Spain by the newspaper ABC, at the forefront of the media battle against Maduro. To get information about the economic crisis in Venezuela, the reporter had interviewed Agustin Otxorena, a Basque businessman who lives in Caracas. The entrepreneur had shown that in the supermarkets of the East of Caracas (rich zones), the shelves are as full as the purses of the neighbors, while the products are in short supply in the popular districts. He took the reporter to Supermercado Plaza’s, in the Prados del Este Shopping Mall, the Excelsior Gama La Trinidad, the Fresh Fish Gourmet Market shop in Altamira and a wine and liquor store in La Castellana.

As il manifesto reported long ago, large retail chains such as Makro, Excelsior Gama and Plaza’s have their own organizations to import, sell their products at dollarized prices and in the meantime, they keep the shelves empty.

The news piece immediately disappeared from the web portal. “The Spanish right, throwing hysterical screams on freedom of expression in Venezuela, has censored me. And I guess they are applying electric shocks to the poor journalist who told things objectively,” said the Basque entrepreneur. “A part of the private sector,” he added, “plays with the supply, it does not care to sell less or not to sell, because there is a high concentration of supply, and it knows that it will recover the market share when the conditions are favorable. A strong industry, which wants to impose itself on the government.”

The ‘saviors’ of the economy

The stuff the “saviors” of the economy are made of and the methods they are willing to use to get the whole cake can be seen in Argentina and Brazil. But to disguise the true interests at stake (just enough so that the large print runs to ensnare the critical sense of the “voter-consumer”), they must be fed with rhetoric about “human rights”: first of all, concealing the steamroller that will flatten rights (to eat, to have a roof over your head, to heal and to study) the Pasdaran of neoliberal “growth.”

Wednesday, the Spanish European Representative of the Movimiento Izquierda Unida, Javier Couso, was here: “The consequences of the dramatic economic situation are being kept from the Spanish people, there are children who eat only once a day, but the media representing the interests of the market boost Venezuela’s problems to divert attention,” he said.

“Do not tell me about Venezuela, I haven’t worked in ages,” yelled a Spanish woman in front of the cameras. She was not “Chavista” but only exasperated. Just like the rest of the people in Venezuela, forced to wait in line for hours to buy products subsidized by the government that do not arrive at the supermarket. For the rest, all can be found or nearly, because the “trick” is to make some articles scarce for a day, so that prices will rise again.

The speculations of marketers are shameful. Offering regulated products is not convenient for them. The other products can be bought only by the rich or can be obtained on the black market. People get organized and denounce, but the ratio between penalties and business favors the latter. In neighborhoods that are not Chavistas, but where “people just want to stay quiet and maintain their standard of living,” we found these days.

“Shame on you, it is the people of this district who made you rich and now you treated us like this,” shouted a man in the queue to the only large supermarket in a middle class neighborhood. And the owner of a bakery that hides the bread and changes prices from one day to the next was insulted. The citizens talk among themselves about boycotting speculating supermarkets.

The powers are pushing to “balkanize” Latin America by destabilizing Venezuela (custodian of the world’s largest oil reserves, the raw gold, large reserves of coltan, etc.), which leads the south-south solidarity alliance. “But unfortunately for them, they do not know who we are, do not know our culture and the strength of our people,” Maduro said Wednesday, and denounced the right-wing strategy that hides the destabilizing plots behind the legal facade of the recall referendum. “Almagro,” he said apologizing for “cursing,” “I’ll tell you where you can put the Democratic Charter.”