As Greece rejoiced with the victory of SYRIZA, a coalition of “radical” left-wing parties ranging from Maoists to Trotskyists to everything in between, calling it the annunciation of the end of the terrifying reign of austerity, the most impoverished Venezuelans were ransacking grocery stories in the hopes that they would stock-up just enough to sustain themselves through the next neo-liberal heist. Meanwhile, Argentinians were holding up the floodgates withstanding as much as they could the latest economical onslaught sponsored by Wall Street hedge funds.

Even though the glowing hope emanating from Athens might have seemed contagious on the evening of January 25th, one red-string of flowing open arteries, the catastrophic aftermath of an attempted neo-liberal suicide, ran through Buenos Aires, Caracas and Athens, bonding them together. It seems as though the “war on terror” is a perfect distraction from the “war of terror” that the free world is waging against the democratic aspirations of people throughout the globe. Here illustrated are three contemporary examples: Greece, Venezuela and Argentina. This obviously isn’t an exhaustive study of all of the cases.

Greece Fights Back


The electoral success of SYRIZA, even though a foreseen outcome, sent an electro-shock throughout the European continent. It was the proof that what had been deemed as dangerous, radical and suicidal could actually work. A program that was deemed to be the annunciation of the apocalypse, a program that dared to put human development over debt reduction and paying off interest, could actually be a winning motion!

“Scandalous” and “outrageous” must of been the first words to come to mind at the hedge-funds, the European Central Bank (ECB) and among Srasbourg technocrats when news of SYRIZA’s overwhelming victory hit. For the first few days, many within the mainstream media were under the illusion that somehow SYRIZA’s radical demands could be tamed. The strategy of containment that was prevalent for the past year, since the neo-liberal forces in Greece had started faltering, was at its apogee: “SYRIZA’s now in government will come to see the light, they will understand the logic of austerity, why austerity is necessary.”

And for the first week of SYRIZA governance, many on the left had that fear; the fear that SYRIZA under piling pressure might fall on their own sword, might be a victim, as are so many, of their own failed dreams. But they haven’t and it looks as if the coalition government lead by SYRIZA will stop at no lengths to bury once and for all the Troika. The first bombs, the first economical terrorist attacks to destabilize the newly elected government have landed on the Greek capital.

The War on Venezuela’s Poor

During that time while the world was engulfed in their war against terror a.k.a the war against ISIS, the “free world” of free markets and free trade was waging a war of terror. In Caracas, the war against the Bolivarian revolution was initiated (in the same manner the war against SYRIZA) on the night of Hugo Chavez’s election. Since Hugo Chavez’s death and the ascension of Maduro, his dauphin, to power, domestic neo-liberal elites with the help of their CIA foreign counterparts have declared an all out war on the most impoverished sections of the Venezuelan population.

Those who have directly benefited the most from the social transformation that started with the Bolivarian revolution and those who have been at the avant-garde of the social transformations are now under attack. For the past year, inflation has been soaring, stock markets such as Wall Street have been carpet bombing the Venezuelan domestic market and multinational corporations have been withholding basic goods in an attempt to make prices soar and turn the most in need against the government.

Argentina’s Debt Crisis

What is going on in Caracas is very similar to what happened in Argentina during their “debt-crisis”, their refusal to pay back a debt that was forced upon them by the IMF, the World Bank and their puppets within the Argentine military junta. Weren’t those the days, when neo-liberal austerity measures could be imposed with lethal force!

In Argentina’s case a vulture fund had set Argentina in its cross-hairs, buying its unsolvable debt knowing full well that Argentina had no intention to pay it. They set about strangling and bombarding the country in every economical sense of the term, until it did!

Argentina has withstood the economic assaults that have been made against it, for the time being, but its people have also paid the price. Cuba wasn’t the only country under embargo in Latin America from 1998 to 2002, Argentina, even though no media would report it, was defacto under economic embargo. Argentina, in many ways, had to go into autarky mode for the past few years, because of the pariah label that has been given to the country by the big institutions of deregulation, the IMF, the WTO, the World Bank. That’s the price to pay, I guess, for being counter current.

Austerity’s Self-Destruction

And this is why SYRIZA’s victory is truly groundbreaking, because the pariahs are making inroads into the epicenter of global capitalism. Like a gregarious disease, neo-liberalism and its ultimate and most violent form austerity, have bread the seeds of their own self-destruction. Within this self-destruction comes the opportunity, through revolt, to refute the system of values and principles and to rebuild, to change the behavior, to change the foundations of society.

Oedipus, in the words of Gilles Deleuze, is the norm, society, capitalism breeds schizophrenia, breeds suicidal tendencies, but beyond that codifies them and normifies them. Thus austerity becomes the norm. Anything outside of the box of austerity is radical and dangerous, even though the only thing in the world that is radical today is the radically limitless ascension of greed in every sphere of public life.

In these times of economic terrorism we must stand with those that have refuted the norm. To create a new norm, we must bond with them. Capitalism and austerity validity are the first and foremost mental blocks. The converts of radical capitalism are a zealous bunch and are growing at a rapid pace, the threat of neo-liberalization is eminent. If we we want to win the war against terror we must end the capitalist war of terror first!

In the past few weeks Venezuela has been shook by violent protests, some say violent repression of peaceful protests. The central notion in every narrative about Venezuela in the past week is violence, so what are the roots of this violence?

Let’s role things back a bit here. When Chavez first assumed the office of president in 1998, the Venezuelan Republic, although lavished with the greatest petroleum reserves on earth, was unable to  offer to half of its people adequate living conditions.

In 1997, the percentage of Venezuelans living under the poverty line was 67%. Thanks to the economic reforms of the Bolivarian Revolution, the percentage was 24.7 in 2011.

Venezuela Protests 2014 (2)

Chavez was elected on the “radical” idea that maybe the wealth generated by the exploitation of natural resources such as petroleum should be more equally redistributed between all walks of Venezuelan society. Thus Chavez launched a campaign to put the profits of the oil to work (the over-dependence of the Bolivarian regime on oil is a valid point of criticism) for the marginalized classes of society, to make sure that the majority of Venezuelans would be lifted out of poverty and the economics of strict subsistence when wealth was surrounding them. Chavez gave a voice to these disenfranchised sections of Venezuelan society.

Chavez created an economic revolution; his administration put full force in breaking down the barriers of social inequality in Venezuela, using the profits of the money-making oil industry to bring electricity and running water to the slums of Caracas and offering universal healthcare to all Venezuelans. Again, extremely “radical” ideas.

In 2002 the Chavez administration decided to take their democratization of the Venezuelan economy to another level through the complete nationalization of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). This put an end to the concentration of the greatest source of wealth in Venezuela in the hands of a few.

Venezuela Protests 2014 (11)

It goes without saying that those who had benefited from the old way of things were not inclined to accept the coming changes. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the attempt of the Venezuelan government to implement a redistribution of agricultural land in the country.

75-80% of all land in Venezuela was owned by 5% of the population and 60% of all agricultural land was owned by 2%. The violence to repress the demands of landless campesinos had already claimed 300 lives nation-wide but this wasn’t worthy enough to be news.

Thus in 2002, the business community, big oil multinationals, right-wing media elite and the corporate magnates of Venezuela gave Pedro Carmona, president of the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce, the presidency on a silver platter, ousting Chavez, despite the fact that he had been duly elected. The Caracas stock exchange hit record levels, all was well…

Little did they expect that 48 hours later, Venezuelans of all walks of life would descended upon the American Embassy where Chavez was held prisoner and bring him back to Miraflores, the presidential palace. Since the coup attempt didn’t work out exactly in the favor of the Venezuelan oligarchy, they decided to do what they do best start an economic war against the Bolivarian regime.

Back to the current context of unrest in Venezuela. The narrative this time is the same: the communist thugs of Chavez and company are forcing an economic dictatorship on the people of Venezuela and to defend their hold on the Venezuelan economy they employ violence.

But who are really the violent ones in this situation? Who has used violence since the time of colonial expansion in Venezuela, exploiting the indigenous population, the poor immigrating farmers, depriving them of their land, racking-in the big profits and letting the rest subsist with what’s left? Surely the same that are the instigators of the violence now.

Venezuela Protests 2014 (8)

Maduro’s project to prevent Venezuelan companies from making more than 30% profit on any product on the market is directly linked to a new chapter of this economic war that has been waged by certain companies within Venezuelan society that have decided to use inflation as a political weapon. But nothing is new here, it’s just part of the never ending struggle for economic democracy aka real democracy and that’s exactly what this so-called revolution (it’s a counter-revolution) wants to prevent.

What is new and despicable in many ways is the fact that this economic war against the Venezuelan people is being carried out under the auspices of a student strike. Here is neo-liberal appropriation at its best: use the tactic that was used by left-wing movements in Chile and here in Quebec as the vehicle for a neo-liberal economic agenda. It’s hard to find the words to express how insulted I am to hear people insinuate that the Quebec or Chilean student strikes and the current Venezuelan student protest are in any way the same thing.

In conclusion, this is a war for democracy as many of the Venezuelan opposition say. This is war for economic democracy. If democracy means that you are entitled to the idea that you have the right to play a role in society, but that right never becomes anything else than symbolic then one’s relationship with democracy is but a platonic love. Be it said also to Leopoldo Lopez, the hero of this media sham, when you promote coups such as the one in 2002 against a democratically elected government, it’s hard to have any credibility when you call for more democracy.

A luta continua!

* photos by Joe Scarangella,

This post originally appeared on, republished with permission from the author

The larger than life, fourteen year populist leader of Venezuela Hugo Chavez passed away after a two year bout with cancer last Tuesday. The man who championed himself as a revolutionary and savior of the poor died at the age of 58.

From Pennies

Chavez and his five siblings grew up on their father’s rural teaching salary. With little money and a growing family he soon went to live with his grandparents to try and ease the financial burden. Chavez grew up in a Venezuela ruled by a list of dictators, converting later into a democracy in which the dominant political parties shared power regardless of how Venezuelans voted.

At 17, Chavez joined the military academy with the hopes of playing baseball. An injury kept him from realizing his baseball dreams, but it set in motion his rise to political office. As Venezuela grew increasingly corrupt, Chavez who witnessed the country’s poverty first hand, couldn’t comprehend that despite the country’s vast oil wealth, most Venezuelans had to fight hard just to get by.

In the early 1990’s, Corruption and austerity measures crippled the government with approval ratings below 20%. So, in 1992, Hugo Chavez led a failed coup that resulted in his surrender; however he was allowed to go on national television to inform his comrades to surrender.

During that one minute of airtime he took responsibility for the coup’s failure, the thing is, he did it in a country where no one took responsibility for anything. He served two years in prison only to be released to try and slow his growing popularity.

To President

In 1998 Chavez ran for office for the first time and won with 56% of the vote. He would go on to win three more presidential elections, the last of which he won last October with 54% of total votes. In his first term of two years he traveled the world and won a referendum to change the constitution, laying the foundation in which he hoped to build the country on.

Throughout it all, Chavez never forgot his roots. When he began his first term in 1999, half the population of Venezuela was below the poverty line. Before his last election victory it had dropped from about 50% down to around 30%. More importantly, extreme poverty fell by over 75%.

During his tenure Chavez made a lot of friends and enemies both at home and abroad. At home the poor loved him. He used his country’s vast oil wealth to introduce social programs that include state-run food markets, new public housing, educational programs and free health clinics (he raised health spending from 1% to 7% of GDP alone).

hugoWhat Goes Around, Comes Around

While the poor loved him, the rich despised him. Even though his first term could be considered a centrist administration, the start of the second would change that. Led by wealthy business leader Pedro Carmona, Anti-Chavez military officers supported by the business community (Venezuelan Chambers of Commerce), private media and certain political parties tried to oust him in a coup.

The Coup D’état seemed to work at first. They organized protests in the streets and used it as a screen to overthrow the president. They tried to frame Chavez for violence breaking out in the streets claiming he was using the military to crack down on dissent. It was later revealed it was the coup supporters that were largely responsible for the violence. The coup ultimately failed as the population out in the streets demanded Hugo’s return.

Whenever there is a coup in South America you can be sure that the United States had a part to play. Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Grenada, Nicaragua, Panama and El-Salvador could attest to that claim. It’s no surprise the US was the first country to recognize the Carmona government, but after it lasted less than 48 hours, the US backtracked. The failed coup against Chavez marked the last known attempt by the United States to undermine the will of a foreign populace.

From that point on, Chavez began to speak out against American Imperialism and started to govern from a more radical leftist position. In 2003 the state took over 51% of the country’s oil industry (which it was planning before the coup attempt). He built up his military readiness in anticipation of an American invasion. He also made friends with America’s enemies, namely Iran, Syria and Libya (the enemy of my enemy is my friend as they say).

hugo-chavez-y-fidel-castroIn the End

From the beginning, Chavez set out to help other leftist governments in Central and South America which now make up the bulk of the continent. He founded the Bank of the South with the help of Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia. The bank is to be an alternative to the IMF and World Bank which have screwed over some of these countries in the past. Unlike the IMF, there are no political conditions to receive funds. In 2007 alone, Chavez gave $8.8 billion to help development in other Latin American countries.

Like I said, Chavez did have his faults. Aside from allying himself with sometimes brutal dictators, he was known to be on the anti-Semitic side. In fact, half of all Jews reportedly left the country during his time in office. Inflation soared at times, hurting the poor above all and the homicide rate rose to among the highest in the world peeking in 2010 as the world’s worst.

He was known as “El Comandante” by his admirers. They called him a revolutionary on par with Che Guevara, Simon Bolivar and Fidel Castro.

What you think of the man might depend on where you live and whether you’re rich or poor. In time, history will decide.