Maduro gives jolt to regime changers
The fingerprints of US oil and multinational corporations seeking control of the strategic natural resources of Venezuela are reputedly behind the unrest on the streets of Caracas, which has claimed 35 lives since violence broke out on April 10 this year. Oil has always been considered a strategic resource since its discovery in the Middle East in the early twentieth century, and the Allied powers strove assiduously to keep it under their control.
Coltan (columbite-tantalite) is a dull black metallic ore from which the elements Niobium and Tantalum are extracted
Venezuela has one of the largest oil reserves in the world, which was nationalized by late President Hugo Chavez to fund his socialist programmes, possibly the largest welfare programmes in the world. In 1999, 65 percent of the population was below the poverty line, but the end of US control over oil led to a steady rise in living standards and Venezuela is now the highest ranking Latin American country in Human Development Indices, according to the UN Development Program Report 2017 that was released four weeks before the street protests began.
But the most important strategic raw material, discovered in the Amazon basin in 2009, is Coltan. Western companies are keen to control the Coltan reserves.
Coltan (columbite-tantalite) is a dull black metallic ore from which the elements Niobium and Tantalum are extracted. Its high conductivity (even in extreme temperatures) makes it the critical component in electronic circuits in all electronic devices in civil and military life (cell phones, laptops, optical and medical equipment, even intercontinental missiles). It has no substitute. The decline of production in Australia, once the world leader, has taken the demand for Coltan to war-torn Central Africa, where mining is controlled by armed gangs and organized criminal syndicates. The other legitimate source is Venezuela, Brazil, and Colombia.
Fed up of the rampaging gangs that attacked the Supreme Court, oil tankers, hospitals, buses, ambulances, supermarkets, stripped policemen and tied them to trees in the four opposition-held municipalities in Caracas, President Nicolás Maduro announced a 60 per cent wage hike for all workers and professionals at a gala May Day celebration and, invoking Article 348 of the Constitution, called elections for a 500-member National Constituent Assembly. The next day, he submitted the proposal to the National Electoral Council. The winners will write a new constitution for the country.
The sudden development, accompanied by a 60 percent wage hike, has made it difficult for the combined opposition to defeat the socialist President and hand over the country’s oil and natural resources to multinationals.
Maduro’s patience ended when even earnest attempts by Pope Francis to broker peace failed. The goal of the opposition is regime change – the US Congress is said to have approved USD 100 million for USAID while the National Endowment for Democracy has named its ambitious programme in Venezuela as ‘Transition to democracy in Venezuela’. The ingredients of a colour revolution seem firmly in place.
The sudden development, accompanied by a 60 percent wage hike, has made it difficult for the combined opposition to defeat the socialist President and hand over the country’s oil and natural resources to multinationals. Venezuela is India’s fourth largest supplier of oil and first began to supply oil to India under late President Hugo Chavez.
The failure to achieve a new general election (dates for regional polls due in December 2016 have not been set on account of economic woes and instability; the presidential election is due in 2018) has enraged the opposition parties who want Maduro to step down and order fresh polls.
Reports suggest the opposition’s attempts to mobilize people on the streets fizzled out on May 3, with only armed gangs moving around. The new Constituent Assembly is expected to comprise mostly of ordinary people. The National Assembly President Julio Borges denounced the move as a “coup”, while the leader of the protest movement, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, urged the people to “disobey the convocation of a fraudulent constituent assembly.”
Venezuela ambassador to India, Augusto Montiel, told this writer that the opposition charge that Venezuela elections of 2013 were not fair are unwarranted and that the Election Commission of India had sent observers
Besides Capriles and Borges, the major opposition leaders in Venezuela include Leopoldo López (in jail), María Corina Machado, Lilian Tintori, Henry Ramos Allup, Henri Falcón, Jesús “Chuo” Torrealba, Freddy Guevara, Manuel Rosales and Timoteo Zambrano. Nearly one hundred opposition leaders have also been jailed in the ongoing protests.
Washington’s fingerprints are visible in Lilian Tintori’s meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in February 2017, accompanied by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida). Maduro insists, “Venezuela’s problem is that an empire in extremists’ hands wants to take our oil and carry out a coup”.
So far, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and El Salvador have come out in support of President Maduro and affirmed allegiance to the 2014 declaration of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace. Brazil, where popularly elected President Dilma Rousseff was overthrown in a thinly veiled constitutional coup and replaced by Michel Temer, has backed the opposition parties.
Venezuela ambassador to India, Augusto Montiel, told this writer that the opposition charge that Venezuela elections of 2013 were not fair are unwarranted and that the Election Commission of India had sent observers, while former US President Jimmy Carter had asserted that they were among the best in the world. The electronic voting machines emit a paper slip that clearly shows the voter whom he/she has voted for; the slips are put in a box and 50 per cent of the votes are counted per booth; it is the fairest system in the world.
The opposition parties, he countered, only accept results that favour them; they are happy to comprise the majority in the National Assembly in the elections of 2015. But when President Maduro was elected in 2013, they took out a rally to delegitimise the election. To Indians, the charge has a familiar ring.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.