Correcting Eva Golinger on Venezuela
Stansfield Smith, ChicagoALBASolidarity.wordpress.com
As the class struggle heated up in Venezuela this year, fueled by interventionist threats by the pro-US Organization of American States (OAS) bloc, many former supporters of the Bolivarian revolution have remained sitting on the fence about continued support to the democratically elected Maduro government. Rejecting left-liberal claims of Maduro “authoritarianism”, a number of writers, including Shamus Cooke, Greg Wilpert, Maria Paez Victor, have come with articles clarifying the stakes and calling on the “left” to take a stand against US aggression.
Venezuelan-American lawyer Eva Golinger, the author of The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela, an outstanding defender of Venezuela during the Chavez era, no longer plays the same role in the solidarity movement.
The day after Trump threatened to militarily intervene in Venezuela, Jeremy Scahill posted his interview with Eva Golinger on The Intercept. Golinger hardly goes as far in anti-Maduro criticisms as Scahill, who may fit what Shamus Cooke characterized as “the intellectually lazy “pox on both houses” approach that has long-infected the U.S. left.”
To her credit, Golinger does emphasize the real class issue ignored by “pox on both your houses” liberals like Scahill: Washington’s and the Venezuelan right-wing’s goal is to crush the heart and backbone of the Chavista revolution, “the grassroots, the social movements, the workers, the community organizers, the people who are actually the ones trying, struggling to hold on to anything that’s left of this movement that they have been building and empowering themselves with now over the past fifteen years or so.”
And, counter to claims of Maduro “authoritarianism,” she correctly notes in her recent article,
“Imagine if protestors were to use lethal weapons against security forces in the U.S., even killing some of them. In Venezuela, the anti-government protestors have even burned innocent bystanders to death because they suspected them of being ‘chavistas’. Were that to happen in the U.S., the repression and forceful action by the state would far exceed the leniency exercised by the Venezuelan government in the face of these deadly demonstrations.”
Yet within her valuable analysis, and precisely because of her valuable analysis, both in the interview and in her article Golinger makes some statements that require correction.
One, Golinger writes “The demonstrations arose from the massive discontent throughout the country as food shortages, lack of access to medications, skyrocketing inflation and erosion of democratic institutions have intensified since Maduro won office by a slim margin in 2013.”
In fact, the violent demonstrations arose as part of a coordinated effort by OAS General Secretary Luis Almagro, the US government, and the rightwing MUD opposition to generate a chaos in the streets that demanded OAS “humanitarian intervention’ to restore order and displace the Maduro government. While there is massive discontent due to food and medication shortages and inflation, those most affected by this, the working classes and poor, are not the ones participating in the anti-government protests.
Two, Golinger defends Attorney General Luisa Ortega, [“the judicial maneuvering by the country’s highest court to silence critics should cease.”] who was eventually removed by unanimous vote of the Constituent Assembly after recommendation by the Supreme Court. The issue was not simply being a critic; Ortega had failed to prosecute violent protesters and their financial backers, and lied to the public.
Three, Golinger says “they [the Maduro government] even gave over a half a billion dollars to Trump’s inauguration fund.” This is clearly wrong, as has been pointed out on the article’s comments section. PDVSA gave $500,000 to Trump inauguration. Yet Golinger and the Intercept do not correct this.
Four, Golinger writes “A growing number of Venezuelans who supported Hugo Chávez and his policies have distanced themselves from his successor, dismayed by the country’s turn from a once vibrant participatory democracy towards a closed one-party state, intolerant of critics.”
She, like other left-liberal critics, sees a divide between the Maduro and Chavez eras, when in fact the fundamental problems of oil dependence, corruption, bureaucracy existed throughout this period, in part overshadowed by Chavez’ charisma and high oil prices.
That the majority of opposition MUD parties are participating in the coming October regional elections clearly proves Venezuela is not a “one-party state, intolerant of critics.”
Five, she writes “President Maduro’s convening of a constituent assembly to rewrite the nation’s constitution has been vehemently rejected by the opposition and has caused severe internal rifts within his own movement.”
Events have shown “severe internal rifts” to be false. The July 30 vote was a major victory for the Chavistas and a major defeat for the rightwing. Now the violence has mostly ended and opposition parties say they will participate in the upcoming elections.
Six, Scahill dishonestly claimed the July 30 vote for the Constituent Assembly
“was held after an order issued by Maduro. Why that was necessary was baffling even to former supporters of Chavez, as the Bolivarian movement has often celebrated its constitution as a revolutionary and meticulous document. For many seasoned observers, the whole affair reeked of an effort to consolidate power.”
Scahill’s “seasoned observers” is a euphemism for “professional corporate media propagandists.”
To clarify, Venezuela’s constitution Article 348 states
“The initiative for calling a National Constituent Assembly may emanate from the President of the Republic sitting with the Cabinet of Ministers; from the National Assembly by a two-thirds vote of its members; from the Municipal Councils in open session, by a two-thirds vote of their members; and from 15% of the voters registered with the Civil and Electoral Registry.”
In other words, rather than being an act that violated the constitution, a little fact checking would show Maduro’s action followed the constitution to the letter.
Seven,Scahill claims “The vote for the assembly was boycotted by many Venezuelans and when the official results were announced, it was clear that the tally had been tampered with.” Like the claims of “no doubt” Russia interfered with the US election, Scahill’s “it was clear” comes with no evidence attached.
Golinger, who is not as hostile as Scahill, still says, “There’s a lot of indication that it wasn’t a free and fair vote — that the tallies are not accurate.” But she likewise gives no evidence for this “indication”.
In fact, international election observers have vouched for the validity of the vote, and the agreement of opposition parties to run in the upcoming regional elections implies they accept the integrity of the National Electoral Council.
Eight, Golinger says the government chose the candidates for the Constituent Assembly, so it would have won regardless of how many voted. In fact, people were free to nominate anyone, and in the end, there were 6120 candidates for 545 seats. She does not mention that Chavista candidates won for the simple reason that the opposition boycotted the Assembly election, having planned to have overthrown Maduro by then.
Nine, Scahill asserts “Maduro’s forces have also conducted raids to arrest opposition figures and both government forces and opposition forces have been involved in lethal actions during protests. It must be pointed out that Maduro controls the country’s military and intelligence forces and those far outgun all of the combined masses of government opponents.“
Is he actually surprised that a country has armed forces that can outgun the civilian population? Scahill does not mention that army and police members have also been charged with killing opposition protesters.
Ten, Golinger makes a series of misleading statements comparing the present Constituent Assembly process to the one that took place under Chavez. The Chavez one
“was put to a vote after he was elected, to whether or not people actually wanted to proceed. More than 70 percent of those participating said yes. Then they elected the members. Then it was done in this extremely open, transparent way. You know, there were drafts of the constitution passed around and discussed in communities. And then it was put to another vote to actually ratify it by the people on a national level. So I mean, we’re missing almost all of those steps this time around and it lasted four months, it had a mandate of four months. And it wasn’t all-supreme, that it could be a legislator and an executor and an enforcer, which is what we’re seeing now.”
No mention that the Chavez era turnout to convoke an Assembly brought out 37.8% of the population (92% voted yes, not 70%). This July 30, voter turnout was higher, 41.5%. No mention that now, just as before, proposed changes to the constitution must be made public, discussed and voted on by national referendum. No mention that the present Assembly is all-supreme — even over Maduro — unlike the previous Assembly, because this is what the present constitution states, not the case before.
Article 349: “The President of the Republic shall not have the power to object to the new Constitution. The existing constituted authorities shall not be permitted to obstruct the Constituent Assembly in any way.”
It is hard to believe Eva Golinger does not know this. She claims the present process is a “major rupture” from the Chavez era, when in fact the government and Constituent Assembly are simply following the Chavez 1999 constitution.,
Eleven, she says, “I wish that they hadn’t moved forward with this rewriting of the constitution and creating this sort of supra government, because it does make it more difficult to find a solution to the crisis.”
We see that the opposite is the case. The vote for the Constituent Assembly has made it easier to find a solution.
Maduro did not act in an authoritarian manner. He did not quell the violent protests by declaring a national emergency and resorting to police and military repression. He did not use death squads, or torture, jail and exile the opposition. Instead he called for a Constituent Assembly, and with the mass show of support in the election, the violence has died down, and most of the opposition has returned the electoral field.
We should call this for what it is: a humanitarian example for other governments when faced with social unrest.
With the July 30 Assembly vote, the US, the OAS Almagro bloc, and the opposition MUD have suffered a serious defeat, as even the hostile New York Times has noted. This gives the progressive forces an opening to resolve the serious problems the country faces. The extent it will make use of this opportunity to break out of the unresolved social, political and economic conflicts of the last few years remains to be seen.
Also published here:
4 thoughts on “Correcting Eva Golinger on Venezuela”
On Saturday, August 19, 2017, 8:48:47 AM CDT, Eva Golinger wrote:
One important lesson I learned from my friend Hugo Chavez was to choose your battles wisely. “Aguila no caza mosca” (Eagles don’t hunt flies), as he liked to say. I was loath to respond to an article directly attacking me, written in an arrogant tone by a U.S. man who, to my knowledge, has not lived for any significant period of time in Venezuela or been close to or worked directly with Hugo Chavez and his inner circle or Nicolas Maduro. Attempting a character assassination of someone who not only is Venezuelan and lived there for over 12 years (both before Chavez was first elected in 1998 and well after), and who has deep ties and involvement in the Bolivarian Revolution and international solidarity movement, as well as had a close friendship with (and worked directly with) both Chavez and Maduro, and many, many others both inside and out of the government, is a pointless effort for someone claiming to “defend” the Bolivarian process.
I have the same position I have always had. My principles have never wavered in my defense of social justice and the right to self determination. I will always stand up and denounce, and fight against, with the tools I have, U.S. imperialism, aggression and war. But I will never defend corruption, organized crime or abuse of power. As someone who was very close and worked with the highest levels of the Venezuelan government for years, recently I have seen and discovered things that would make your skin crawl. Things I will never defend because they betray everything I have always fought for and they are destructive to the Venezuelan people’s movement for social justice, revolutionary democracy and peace.
The role of international solidarity activists, especially those from the United States, is to stand up against U.S. aggression and interventionism. It is not to interpret or judge the motivations or differing perspectives of others in the affected countries. I stand by my recent statements on the elite circle currently in power in Venezuela because I have documentary evidence to back up my position and many, many years of profound, insider experience. I will continue to be honest, introspective and nuanced in my discussions and writings on Venezuela because what is happening is not a “one or the other” situation, but rather a complex, deep and diverse struggle to defend a movement that faces severe and debilitating threats both internally and externally. A movement that I am a part of.
I won’t be intimated or silenced by yet another man claiming to be “progressive” or “leftist” who utilizes subtle sexist undertones and arrogance to attempt to discredit me. My position on Venezuela is legitimate and grounded in real life experience, struggles and deep ties. I stand with the people and never with the elite. I stand against war and interventionism. I will fight against corruption and abuse of power wherever it originates. Another relevant phrase my friend Hugo Chavez repeated often was “Cuando los perros ladran, es señal de que vamos avanzando”. When the dogs bark at us, it’s a sign we’re advancing.
On Sat, Aug 19, 2017 at 10:29 AM, stansfield smith wrote:
A person can read my article and see it disputes 10 things claimed in your interview with Scahill or written in your article. That is not character assassination. In fact, this is what you seem to be doing. If you want to show me to be incorrect on any of those points I made, go ahead.
You are correct “The role of international solidarity activists, especially those from the United States, is to stand up against U.S. aggression and interventionism.”
Part of US aggression is propaganda attacks and smears of a target country and government. That sets groundwork for an actual military attack. You and Scahill repeat and reinforce some of these propaganda attacks.
There is no reason why an opponent of US intervention cannot make criticisms of the policies a government the US is threatening. An excellent example of this is Marc Weisbrot, whose views are widely read and respected by anti-intervention activists.
On Saturday, August 19, 2017, 10:58:30 PM CDT, Eva Golinger wrote:
If the issue must be insisted upon and misinformation continues to spread, I’m going to way in with some of what I know based on documentary evidence, personal testimonies and open sourced information.
There were instant allegations of fraud, doubts and questions raised amongst ‘losing’ candidates from the broader alliance of political parties that participated in the constituent assembly elections in the hours and days after the July 30 vote. Most of them were immediately silenced by the ruling party. Some aired their views on sites like Aporrea or gave press conferences, but were subsequently persuaded by party/government elites that accepting the results they were given was the option to ensure “peace” in the country. Allied parties such as PPT and Redes both questioned the results, as well as others from PSUV who were deceived into believing more grassroots candidates would be given an opportunity to participate in the assembly and actually have a voice. Instead, entire slates of hand picked PSUV candidates with name recognition, many former high level government officials and family members of the president, were all easily ushered into the new assembly and given the leadership roles. Anyone who questioned the results was either labeled a traitor or convinced to just move on since this was said to be the proper (and only) path to peace.
I personally saw the same documents Reuters had access to and they are irrefutable, internal CNE documents that clearly show the voting tallies on July 30, which were well below what PSUV claimed. They will not publish them, nor will I, because the source could be traced (remember how The Intercept burned Reality Winner by publishing the NSA document she leaked). I also heard the testimonies of two CNE employees who were in the totalization room at the time when the inflation of numbers was illegally done at the end of the evening (in the presence of PSUV leaders). On top of that, I’ve had contacts with others very close to Smartmatic who are emphatic that the company is telling the truth and never would have made such claims if they didn’t have solid evidence of their veracity. And I have full confidence in my sources. Furthermore, the CNE has never published the full voter data, which would include per voting table (mesa) as they have done for every election before. There is only one reason not to publish this data and it’s because the numbers won’t add up. So yes, it happened, even though it was entirely unnecessary since the numbers they actually got were substantial and would have still shown enormous support for the process. They just weren’t higher than what the opposition alleged they got in their unofficial and unverified ‘plebiscite’ on July 16. In my opinion it was a really stupid thing to do since they compromised the integrity of one of the best electoral systems in the world just to show they had higher numbers than the opposition. Greed is dangerous and detrimental to a people’s revolution.
I would also agree with Gunner that if this was truly an election to form an assembly of “the people” than why were party elites immediately put in the highest decision-making positions? What about the voice of the people? Are they not capable? These are elites who are entirely detached from the reality of most Venezuelans, especially the grassroots base of chavismo. They have been in positions of power, living in luxurious homes, driven by chauffeurs and bodyguards, never cooking their own meals or shopping for their own food, or paying their own bills for over 15 years. Also, the person selected to be in charge of the assembly was previously removed from the government by Chavez himself over ten years ago because of corruption and he banned her from his administration. She only was brought back in after he passed away.
On the issue of the process itself, at this stage it doesn’t matter much since the whole thing has proceeded, but there are starkly different interpretations of the constitution with regards to the capacity to convene the constituent assembly. And there are multiple, living members of the 1999 constituent assembly that came out publicly against the way this process took place. One interpretation is that the president can initiate the process to convene a constituent assembly (Art. 348) and the other is that only the ‘people’ can actually convene the assembly (Art. 347) which would be through a referendum as was done in 1999. Fred covered these interpretations in his message above. The jurisprudence can be persuasive for either interpretation, but neither is conclusive, which means in the end, the decision probably should have gone to the people via a referendum. But this is a moot issue now, because one interpretation quashed the other and is now barging forward, no holds barred. And in fact, so far they’re not even writing a constitution but rather decreeing and expanding their own powers. And then there’s the larger question (not to answer here) of why rewrite one of the best constitutions in the world that already guarantees the widest umbrella of human rights possible?
There are many, many other points that could be made and evidence that exists of unsavory things, but none of it really matters for international solidarity. Plus, I don’t think any of you want to know some of the things I know because you can never look back. But, the actions of a corrupted elite should not compromise the defense of the people and the grassroots revolutionary movement in Venezuela in the face of war. The U.S. is amping up its aggression and strategies of regime change and more hostile actions will come in the following days. The international defense of Venezuela against threats of war and aggression should not be conditional on what happened on July 30 or which interpretation of the constitution is correct.
I personally am deeply intwined in internal Venezuelan politics because of my long-term proximity to the government and my extensive involvement in the movement, which is why when I speak on Venezuela I speak from a place of honesty, experience, profound knowledge and visceral defense of Chavez’s legacy and the Bolivarian Revolution against all threats, internal and external. That said, positions of arrogance or righteousness do no favors to international solidarity and the defense of Venezuela and Chavez’s legacy.
From: stansfield smith
Sent: Sunday, August 20, 2017, 4:19:48 AM CDT
Subject: Re: Correcting Eva Golinger on Venezuela
It would be good if you did weigh in with “documentary evidence, personal testimonies and open sourced information.” I can’t say you have done more than provide personal testimonies – or your versions of personal testimonies.
One must also wonder why Smartmatic has not come out with evidence of July 30 election cheating. They claimed that August 1 or 2, it is now August 20. If they knew it by August 1 or 2, what is the hold up in releasing this information?
They say and you say the alleged cheating would not have altered the nature of the Constituent Assembly. So they cheated on July 30, when it did not really matter, but did not December 2015, when the Chavistas lost control of the National Assembly? Rather hard to swallow.
That there is bureaucratism and corruption in the PSUV is nothing new. It has been that way since it’s founding. Throwing that in there as part of an argument to substantiate election cheating July 30 is unconvincing. They were bureaucratic and had corruption before, and that never caused cheating. So now they do cheat, in an election they would win?
I would not have a problem saying they cheated in the election if there is evidence to show it. So far there is not. There are allegations, a large part based on talk of the untrustworthy nature of Maduro and Co. This is the same old argument the Venezuelan rightwing has made of all the Chavista era elections – except the one they won. Like I said in my article, this simply legitimizes Western corporate media propaganda against Venezuela.
On Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 12:35 PM, stansfield smith wrote:
When people with the reputations of Jeremy Scahill and Eva Golinger in the progressive world make unsubstantiated claims of Chavista cheating in the July 30 election and repeat a key element of the Western governments and corporate media propaganda campaign against Venezuela, they undermine Venezuela solidarity work. We need to call them out on it.
They don’t even correct this statement in the interview (which I did not put in my article, because I assumed they would immediately correct it, as it was clearly pointed out in the article’s comments section) –
Golinger says “they [the Maduro government] even gave over a half a billion dollars to Trump’s inauguration fund.” This is clearly wrong, as has been pointed out on the article’s comments section. PDVSA gave $500,000 to Trump inauguration. Yet Golinger and the Intercept do not correct this.
From: Eva Golinger
Subject: Re: Contraversy over Eva Golinger’s statements on Intercept and AfGJ posting
All of the claims I make are substantiated by documentary evidence. Just because you or someone else doesn’t have access to that evidence does not mean it doesn’t exist. I would never make any claim or assertion without solid evidence to back it up, as has been my work as a lawyer and investigative journalist for nearly 15 years. In fact, most of my investigative work that you and others have utilized in your solidarity work is based on my exhaustive collection of documentary evidence to show US government meddling in Venezuela and Latin America. Just because this time around the evidence doesn’t adhere to your narrative does not mean it is false.
I am not now nor will I ever be a part of anyone’s “propaganda machine”. But I will also never defend injustice, fraud, abuse of power, corruption or criminal activity. Those who blindly defend a government and refuse to recognize its errors and in this case, criminal actions, only aide and abet in the destruction of the people’s movement. Categorizing valid criticisms of the elite circle of power in Venezuela as merely serving the interests of US imperialism and the fascist opposition ,or as “shameful capitulations”, does a disgraceful injustice to the people of Venezuela fighting for their democracy and political process.
If you listen to the voices of people on the ground in Venezuela who do not have economic interests at stake in corrupt enterprises, and those who have been deeply involved within Venezuela for years, you will see that most of us have similar perspectives on the current situation. And all of us continue to support the Bolivarian Revolution and continue to fight against and resist US aggression.
Being honest and introspective and having integrity and a willingness to criticize and be held accountable are critical to the long-term success of a people’s movement. Otherwise, they tend to self-destruct. Toning down arrogance and listening with humility and openness would better serve the solidarity movement, instead of those who seek to “correct” others just because they don’t like what they hear.