"Unfortunately, for now, the objectives we established in the capital were not achieved … now is the time to reflect; new situations will come and the country must definitively get on the path to a better destiny,” were Comandante Hugo Chavez’s words as he addressed the Venezuelan nation and publicly accepted one of the revolution’s first losses on February 4, 1992 after an unsuccessful military and civil takeover of Carlos Andres Perez’s neoliberal government. However, then as now, this loss does not equate to absolute defeat.
Today, Venezuelans face an undeniably new era on their path to creating and defending 21st Century socialism. Since Sunday, Venezuelans across the country have endured sleepless nights: assessing, reflecting and planning next steps to defend their revolution and the integrationist project that they have leadered in Latin America and the Caribbean over the last 16 years. These moments teach us that truth and power ultimately lie with the people. These moments test the revolution to see how far it is willing to fight for liberation.
Venezuelans and freedom fighters across the region have been assigned an incredible task: to defeat the counterrevolutionary right wing as it continues to build a series of electoral wins off the exploitation and manipulation of the working class and historically oppressed people.
There are many reasons behind these elections results. The counterrevolutionary opposition’s electoral win played to the poor’s unmet material needs and manipulated the people through a series of effective corporate media campaigns. The same opposition created these conditions carefully with a U.S.-backed economic war. Venezuelans, economically strapped and psychologically exhausted, exercised their universal right to vote under incredible duress.
While the majority did not vote in favor of the revolution, the grassroots will not easily accept the consequences or conditions that come with this electoral loss. The elections this Sunday in Venezuela are not an isolated incident but part of a longer political history. For some, Sunday’s elections are reminiscent of Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandistas and their electoral loss after overwhelming triumph and what seemed to be an unstoppable force. While arguably there have been significant changes to the Sandinismo that existed in the 1980s and what stands today, it’s clear that the Nicaraguan people and their militant base did not accept defeat and did not stop their struggle.
“For the first time in 17 years we lost a battle, it’s hard, one of the hardest, it’s serious, just like (President) Maduro said … but I remember the 40 years we lived and I throw my sadness behind me. We must move forward, there isn’t any other option, but we should march, demand, be precise and do so without corruption. Chavismo is not about corruption. We need Chavistas to build a Revolution,” said Coromoto Marquez from Catia, Caracas—a resident of one of Venezuela’s most popular barrios, where the memory of Venezuela’s 4th Republic is unforgettable. Neoliberal reform reigned and U.S. intervention in Venezuela’s economic and political affairs caused destabilizing poverty. As Venezuelans chant time and time again, “They will not return!” Grassroots media outlets and national television channels have since Sunday played archival footage speaking to these histories, preparing the people for what’s to come: a full counterrevolutionary assault against the Venezuelan people and the entire region.
After the initial shock wears and the days become fewer until the January 5th’s counterrevolutionary takeover, the people will prove as they have time and time again that there is still hope and there is still a revolutionary fire that drives Venezuelan society to build an alternative to capitalism’s destructive tendencies. As we bare witness to the mobilizations in Paris, the fight for humanity and the fight for Mother Earth is relentless to defend our collective survival.
Over the last several days since Sunday’s results I have been privileged to participate in and witness some of the greatest conversations with the Venezuelan revolutionary bases. “With more than 500 years of resistance, these 17 years are the beginning of centuries of freedom,” said Ambar Garcia, member of the grassroots Latin American media collective Alba TV based in Caracas.
With the opposition’s forthcoming control of the National Assembly, the economic war is bound to reach new heights and the U.S.’s easier access to Venezuela’s resources will become a constant reminder of the battle lost. The new counterrevolutoinary assembly has already voiced plans to revoke laws such as the Just Prices Law, Worker’s Rights and Labor Law as well as shut down the publicly owned National Assembly News Channel—censuring the socialist assembly minority. Venezuela’s communal power movement will face legislative challenges and Venezuela’s missions providing a wide range of social services to the poor will inevitably be threatened with a reduction in resources, if not their entire elimination. The counterrevolution will try to replace the the National Electoral Council and the Supreme Justice Tribunal and even call for a constitutional referendum and impeachment of President Nicolas Maduro. Integrationist projects such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the People’s of Our America, Petrocaribe, and others will certainly face risks of co-optation or closure.
Now is the moment for each and every Venezuelan, Chavista and comunera to defend the Bolivarian process. While this stage of the revolution trusts to be one of the historically hardest, what rests assured is that the people who ushered in this revolution will continue to fight. They will defend Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution’s achievements and what it means to movements across the globe: that another world is possible.
As the world waits and watches Venezuela, we, the movement leaders, comrades, believers and fighters for liberation, cannot swallow nor consider that the left is “losing” in Latin America. The state is not the maximum expression of people’s power nor does it fully represent the left’s strength. Rather, in the last two decades, Latin America and the Caribbean have utilized the state as a tactic in this greater strategy to transform the region politically, economically and culturally. And, in this fight against imperialism, there are many battles left to be waged and the people will find their motivation to struggle, build unity, go to battle again and ultimately secure victory, as Chavez called every Venezuelan to do shortly before his passing.
For the next few days we may cry and mourn an era of the Bolivarian Revolution that has passed. We have witnessed an unexpected blow to one of the region's strongest revolutionary movements. However, if in the last 17 years the Venezuelan people have taught us anything is that at its core, what lies ahead will be one of the greatest battles that the revolution will face and the Venezuelan people in the spirit of their foremothers and forefathers, such as Juana Ramirez, Negro Miguel and Guaicaipuro among countless others, will indeed rise to the occasion.