Mujica Stands Up for the Democratic Left

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Jose Mujica.  Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — It was with great relief that I read the news about (former Uruguayan president) Jose Mujica’s condemning words to Venezuelan President Maduro. It was here on Havana Times that I was able to find this information on May 19.

I searched our media and Telesur in vain to see if they had at least a little bit of decency to communicate this important story. I found absolutely nothing. They’d ignored it completely.

I’m not sure what would be more interesting to analyze in this article, Mujica’s response or Cuban censorship of this news. Let’s start with Mujica. He is a distinguished leader of Uruguay’s political left and, we could also say, in the region. His casual manner for expressing his opinions has identified him since he became involved in formal politics and is part of the magic which led him to success.

I personally am a great admirer of Pepe Mujica. The more I hear and know about him, the more I sympathize with his ideas and his attitude. Now more than ever, because being a leftist, which I share, didn’t lead him to the chorus of “false collective opinions” that figures from this political standing tend to use.

You can be a leftist and a democrat; you can be a socialist and a democrat. Mujica acted as a representative of the democratic left. He is a man who has known how to adapt well with the times, combining a sharp vision and the sense of what is just in politics. He was a guerrillero when violence seemed to be the only option; he was imprisoned when his ideas made him break unjust laws; he was a formal politician when the conditions, which he had helped to bring about, arose.

Maduro is his friend, he has said so on many occasions, but he doesn’t approve of all his actions if these violate fundamental principles. Almagro (the current OAS secretary) was Mujica’s Foreign Minister and according to his own words, they didn’t see eye to eye all the time, but he recognises his commitment to the law and his integrity. It’s wrong to accuse a regional leader of being a CIA agent [as Maduro accused Amagro] without first presenting the facts; just because he is doing his job, which this time has Maduro himself as the likely lawbreaker. When this happened with Micheletti in Honduras, Hugo Chavez supported the OAS in a similar position.

Maduro’s attitude belittles the left and the socialist ideal. Euro-soviet and Asian models have already thrown a ton of mud on the socialist cause, turning progressive popular movements into leftist dictatorships. Once this period had been put behind us and after a period of neoliberal capitalist fundamentalism and severe economic crisis, the left won with renewed force in a lot of scenarios and began to talk about a different kind of socialism.

A socialism with democracy, markets, without a proletarian dictatorship and just as equally inclined to defend social matters. But populism swallowed up this idea, along with anti-capitalist discourse. It lacked realism and a concrete ideological base which told them how to get where they wanted to go and how it was different from the socialist dictatorships. Doing so would have rid us of our fear and eliminated mortal enemies, with a clear and pragmatic message that could have been part of a truly all-inclusive political model.

Today, storms are brewing and democratic socialists are suffering, as I am and I’m sure Mujica is too, and we have to prove that Maduro is wrong. Venezuelan socialists, or chavistas, feel stifled and aren’t thinking straight. Clearly, they’ve failed after a long time in office and they have no other option but to follow the legal route and, if this happens, leave power with their head held high and ready to learn from their mistakes, which includes never again staining the name of the left and socialism by displaying their tyrannical hold.

Maduro, the Venezuelan people and the rest of the world know well that Chavism has very little support at this time. It’ll be very difficult for them to win a referendum and it’s even less likely that they’ll win a new presidential term, even with Chavez’s daughter or son-in-law as candidates. They’ve lost a lot of prestige and credibility over the years and the opposition has taken full advantage of these political tools in their favor. This is the situation today and tomorrow Chavism can rebuild itself as a better and more viable project for its country. Now it’s time for them to leave for Venezuela’s own good if that’s what the people really want.  And it’s even better for Chavism in the long run. The excesses of power distorted their ideology and the petrol boom led them to believe they’re all powerful.

Maduro should immediately cease military operations, which only create more expenditure in a country in crisis. The rhetoric that “the imperial enemy threatens us” has been used to death and is a tied noose around their own political neck. Who believes in US military involvement just because a right-wing fundamentalist like [former Colombian president] Uribe asks for it? It’s well known by now that this tactic is used to intimidate the opposition and as Telesur TV journalist Walter Martínez says, “show their guns”. Although I doubt Martinez would say it in this case, because of the mistaken trend that I mentioned at the beginning, because of the “false collective opinions”.

Maduro has two choices: put himself at the mercy of the Venezuelan people in a referendum, as the Constitution decrees, or attack Parliament with military means, dissolving it along with opposition parties and become a dictator like Pinochet did. There is no middle ground; everybody knows what is going on there and there’s no way to hide it: he doesn’t have the popular majority’s support and he’s trying to evade the law with subterfuge.

Mujica deserves a round of applause for being so honest and fair; for his ethics which go far beyond friendships and ideological agreements. If only all of the leaders of the democratic left their false and harmful camaraderie behind and took a critical stand against Chavism’s degenerate trend, which could take us all to our political graves. The left, socialism and the progressive cause will come up on top if instead of concubinage, they show their valuable principles, their democratic spirit and respect for the law as well as for what the people really want. If the right and the left have committed political sins in the past and today, that doesn’t justify us losing heart and committing them in the name of a cause which is seemingly fair. It’s never too late to make a difference.

In regard to hiding Mujica’s statements in the Cuban press and on the Venezuela based Telesur, this is a clear example of media manipulation, of selective discourse, to benefit a political power. It’s a global phenomenon and it’s something that we, who want a better world, criticize time and time again; but in Cuba this has been taken to its extreme for over five decades.

I would like to listen to the opinion on the subject from French journalist Ignacio Ramonet, who is a critic of these new problems in modern times, and also on Maduro’s attitude.  I’d also like to hear from other intellectuals and politicians from the left. How good it would it be if Mujica wasn’t left alone standing up for the dignity and the principles of the real democratic socialists! That would be great progress, don’t you think?

6 thoughts on “Mujica Stands Up for the Democratic Left

  • As many on the Left in Venezuela and internationally have said since 2004 have pointed out, there is no third way and you can’t make half a revolution. To begin with you start by invoking workers control and proletarian democracy, expropriation of the banks, large capitalist’s, and the compreador bourgiese. If you don’t do that to begin with you leave to them organize against the revolution and you certainly don’t give them preferential dollars, bring them into the government and ministries and let them ignor laws and the constitution.

  • Carlyle: Chavismo didn’t just appear out of nowhere, the work of the Devil. It was the failures of a system called ‘democracy’ that made millions turn to Mr Chavez, just as it was the failures of this system that created Mr Chavez in the first place. If there had been a prosperous Venezuela with opportunities for all, Mr Chavez would have simply had a quiet career as an officer of paratroops.

    Thus it will not be enough to simply say ‘Venezuela must have democracy’. What social content must this democracy have, to win the allegiance of the millions who were shut out of the pre-Chavez democracy? “I’m-all-right-Jack” ‘democracy’ is no more likely to be stable in the future than it was in the past.

  • Cort: could you elaborate on how the government SHOULD have proceeded? What exactly would ‘completing the revolution’ have involved, economically and politically? Should the Venezuelan government have tried to make their economic system be more like Cuba’s? And the political system?

  • To begin with Maduro is no socialist or a revolutionary but a opportunist and reformist. Bourgeois democracy and capitalism has failed here, of which Maduro, the bureaucracy and the capitalist roader’s have clung to. The problems of Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolution stem from the world economic crisis, corruption, the government making deals with capitalist’s and not completing he revolution. As someone who has been doing solidarity work with the grassroots and rank and file militants for over 14 years and has been and stayed for lonf periods of time in Venezuela, I know a little more than most about what is happening.

  • I stand with President Mujica.

  • This article is based upon the difference between democratic socialism and that practiced in Cuba which although described as ‘socialismo’ is communism. Hugo Chavez was a disciple of Fidel Castro, describing him as “like a father”. Chavez hoped to turn Venezuela into a one party state modeled upon Castro’s Cuba establishing CELAC to pursue the idea of an enormous ‘socialist’ South American state.
    Maduro has pursued the Chavez beliefs and the consequences are there for all to see.
    There is a struggle to the death occurring right now in Venezuela. The only question is which belief is in it’s death throes – democracy or Chavismo?

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