International Lessons of El Caracazo


The media, left, right and center, is awash in opinion pieces and analyses of the recent Greek negotiations with the Euro zone and IMF about paying down the Greek debt. Did the recent temporary accord represent a total defeat of Syriza, who won the recent elections on an anti-austerity platform? Or was it a partial victory which gave the newly formed government breathing space to renegotiate the draconian debt repayment plan? Does it signal a new opening for leftist governments should they come to power in Europe? Or have the German led bankers squashed whatever hope there was?

At the heart of the original Greek bailout agreement is the rate of surplus the Greeks must meet to pay off their IMF/Euro zone lenders. The original bailout agreement required Greeks to run a surplus, of about 2% which they have met. That rate was set to double in the coming period, effectively ramping up austerity measures. This rate, demands for privatization, and new anti-worker legislation were the heart of the matter.

As everyone weighs in—on the left check out Portside, The Bulletin and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal—it useful to remember this isn’t the first time leftist governments have won shocking electoral victories based on debt relief and anti-austerity measures.

February 27, 2015 marked the 26th anniversary of El Caracazo, the massive popular uprising in the Venezuelan capital against the neoliberal austerity measures imposed by President Carlos Andrés Pérez, the IMF, the World Bank and the ruling bipartisan alliance of Acción Democrática (theoretically a social democratic party, but we all know what that often means when the rubber hits the road) and COPEI. The rebellion was valiant and the ensuing repression in this supposedly democratic country was fierce. Estimates of the death toll range from the dubious official count of 300 to as many as 3,000.

The most important aspect of El Caracazo, however, is that as Hugo Chávez himself said, it was the spark that led to the formation of the Movimiento Bolivariano Revolucionario, the popularly supported military coup attempt led by Chávez in 1992 and the Bolivarian Revolution initiated by Chávez’ electoral victory in 1998. Both events sent shivers into the ranks of the Venezuelan oligarchy that are still felt today. El Caracazo was also significant because it sent a message throughout the Americas that resistance against neoliberalism was not only possible, but absolutely necessary. While some of us, might not remember this important event, the neo-liberals haven’t and refer to it when discussing the Greek situation.

So we can best celebrate the legacy of Él Caracazo by supporting the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela and the progressive governments and movements throughout the Americas. The pressure against the revolutionary process there–both internally and externally–is intense and reminiscent of Chile in ’73 and Nicaragua in’90, so that support is more important than ever. Those who remember the Caracazo and all the anti-masses actions perpetrated by the bourgeoisie and international finance capital against the people continue to cry out, ¡No Volverán! (They will not return!).

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