As of October 1, about 7000 protests had occurred this year (roughly 25 a day), according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflicts.
Unlike before, these protests have by and large not taken place in right-wing opposition strongholds nor necessarily demanded the removal of President Nicolas Maduro.
Instead, they have focused on demands around access to basic services — electricity, domestic gas, water — and occurred in areas that traditionally voted for former socialist president Hugo Chávez, Maduro’s predecessor. Differing from the “protests of the rich” of past years, Unitary Chavista Socialist League (LUCHAS) spokesperson Stalin Pérez Borges told Green Left Venezuela is witnessing a rise in “protests of the poor, driven by the difficult situation people face.” Their targets, in most cases, have been officials aligned with Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
United Left general coordinator Feliz Velasquez agrees. These protests were “very different from the protests we had in Venezuela in 2014 or 2017, which were violent protests seeking to bring down the government.
“Today, what we have are largely peaceful protests by popular sectors, organised sectors, including in some cases entire small communities, that, faced with the crisis affecting basic services, have decided to protest.”
Neglected for decades by traditional parties, Venezuela’s countryside became — alongside the barrios — Chávez’s strongest base of support. Life there was radically transformed under Chávez pro-poor Bolivarian revolution through the rapid expansion of education, healthcare and basic services. Important initiatives in promoting cooperatives, communes and community-owned productive enterprises also took root. However, eight years after his death, it is here where the reversals of the revolution have been felt the most. In regional towns, residents can often go days without basic services. Fed up with this situation, popular movements are taking to the streets.
Along with basic services, there is also the issue of workers’ wages. September registered a daily average of nine protests or strikes demanding better wages. Hyperinflation, another weapon alongside sanctions in the economic war against Venezuela, has meant workers’ wages have plummeted, leaving most essential goods out of reach for the majority.
“Right now, Venezuela has the lowest wages in the world,” Velasquez said. “A teacher, a professional, a university academic does not earn more than $2-3 a month, which of course creates a lot of hardship when a kilo of rice can cost $1.”
Velazquez — whose organisation is part of an alliance of left parties and movements running candidates against the PSUV in the coming election — believes there has been a shift in the government’s approach between Chávez and Maduro. “Chávez always sought consultation, debate. He always asked people to present proposals for overcoming problems and was willing to correct mistakes, learn together with the people.
“The style of government we have now is very different”, he said. The Maduro government has an “aristocratic vision of doing politics, where the government thinks they are the owners of the truth, that they are a government of the best, for the rest."
“This vision of politics has led them to discredit the views and opinions of other political movements, to ignore peoples’ needs and demands.”