Editor’s note: The following speech on the “Anti-Blockade Constitutional Law for National Development and Guarantee of Human Rights” was delivered by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to National Constituent Assembly on September 29, 2020 and was approved just over a week later, on October 8. Liberation School is publishing an English translation of the adopted speech by Gloria La Riva to provide additional context to the relationship between Venezuela’s anti-blockade law as it pertains to the December 6, 2020 elections, which La Riva wrote about on Liberation News here. Yet it also provides important background information on Venezuela’s response to the tightening U.S. blockade to overthrow the government of the Bolivarian Revolution.
I come today before this most sovereign and plenipotentiary National Constituent Assembly, an expression of the original constituent power — and which I convened three years ago that in a miraculous way defended and guaranteed the peace of our people — to present the country and our people a proposal for an historical moment that Venezuela is experiencing, seriously threatened by imperial powers and the victim of a criminal blockade.
I come today to request that the Constituent Power debate a project of Constitutional Law that will provide the Venezuelan State with the institutional, legal capacities and management tools to face and overcome the most perverse, widespread and brutal assault that our country has suffered in 200 years of republican life.
Background of the blockade: Regime change
Since the Venezuelan people elected Comandante Hugo Chávez President of the Republic on December 6, 1998, the U.S. empire defined a strategic doctrine, a plan that has since dominated the relations between the United States and Venezuela: the doctrine of regime change.
This ideology states that the United States will not allow consolidation in Venezuela of a political project and a democracy governed by the principles of independence, self-determination, sovereignty and equality between States.
The United States empire does not tolerate that in Venezuela there is a Social State of Law and Justice, a people’s democracy, participatory and protagonist, whose center is the search for equality, collective well-being and social happiness.
The doctrine of regime change states that the United States will do everything in its power to prevent Venezuela from building peacefully and democratically its own path to development, social justice and well-being: the way to Socialism.
In more than two decades, this hegemonic doctrine has been applied and carried out by three U.S. presidents: George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
Regime change proposes that to replace the Bolivarian project the United States will apply in its relations with Venezuela all the available options, “all options are on the table,” as Donald Trump likes to say.
Overthrowing the legitimate government of Venezuela, destroying our democratic model, annihilating the political and social forces that lead the revolutionary process and taking control of the country. That is, in summary, the plan that guides the behavior of the empire toward Venezuela.
It is an anachronistic and reactionary ideology that revives the darkest times of the Monroe Doctrine and it has two big objectives.
First, to politically discipline the peoples of the continent, uprooting the dangerous example of the Bolivarian Revolution, and ensuring control over the “backyard,” as the White House contemptuously refers to America and the Caribbean.
The U.S. elite believes that liquidating the Bolivarian project will send a message to all peoples of the continent: nobody dare propose a democratic and popular model, otherwise it will be placed in the sights of the empire and will not have — as the personages condemned to a hundred years of solitude by García Márquez — a second opportunity on earth.
The realization of this stale ambition, revived in the century XXI for supremacist extremism that Donald Trump embodies, we see in the renovated blockade against Cuba; in the cowardly aggression against Sandinista Nicaragua, in coups against Evo Morales, Dilma Rousseff, Fernando Lugo, Mel Zelaya, and in the betrayal of Ecuador’s Citizen Revolution project.
It is the same doctrine that uses governments of sister nations as puppets, it instrumentalizes them, and — with total disregard for their peoples — uses their territories as a platform for aggression against Venezuela.
The two clearest examples of this political perversion, extremist and criminal, is represented today by Iván Duque’s Colombia and by Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil.
The second major objective of this crusade against Venezuela has to do, of course, with the economy.
Assaulting the political power in Venezuela and changing the political model has as its ultimate purpose the sacking of our country.
The ultimate goal is to take absolute control of the immense resources and riches of our country, resources that are the exclusive and irrevocable property of the Venezuelan people, and the lever for our development. To do so, the empire needs to destroy the state, raze it and “redesign” it under the heinous formula of neoliberalism and neo colonialism.
This and nothing else is what the imperial hawk seeks in Venezuela: appropriate our hydrocarbons, our minerals, our immense extensions of land, the gigantic water reservoirs and biodiversity which nature has blessed our homeland with.
The plan of Washington and its internal operators is to take hold of the material and spiritual patrimony of the Venezuelan people, and deliver it to the service of corporate and geostrategic interests of the decadent U.S. empire.
This plan, which seeks to reduce us to the condition of vassals, of lap dogs, of a new colony, is what we have faced since 1999.
To this project of destruction of our State, which intends to install a satellite government in order to disenfranchise the country and deliver it to the global powers that be, that anti-homeland project is what the Bolivarian Revolution — with Chávez and me today at the helm — has stood up to for 20 years.
The war of regime change
The empire’s strategy is realized by war. An undeclared war, invisible, unseen, but whose effects we feel every day in our life, at work, families, affections and awareness. The war of regime change is a war, and like all war is cruel, inhuman, criminal.
Behind hypocritical rhetoric of the cynical speech that extols democracy and humanitarian concerns, hides the most abject ambition.
The United States doesn’t want democracy nor elections in Venezuela. In order to subdue us, it executes an attack aimed at destroying our economy, to destroy the material bases that support the life of our people.
The economic impacts of the blockade
The economic, financial and commercial blockade carried out against our country since 2015 is the materialization in the field of economics of that policy of war.
The goal is to besiege, drown, suffocate the Venezuelan economy until it implodes and generates an internal crisis that justifies a foreign intervention and regime change in Venezuela.
The blockade, executed through the so-called sanctions policy, which the clinical discourse of the Venezuelan rightwing denies, is not simply a list of people whose visas are withdrawn, as Imperialism’s disinformation media hypocritically say.
The war is total, and it extends to our way of life, to our work, our way of producing and consuming. The blockade is, as Von Clausewitz would say, the continuation of war by other means, in this case through economic means.
Asphyxia, it may be said, was the first phase. In five years, the blockade managed to cut the financing to the country, blocking the State’s use of its foreign trade, the oxygen it requires to buy food, medicine, supplies, spare parts and raw material essential for economic activity.
The economic, financial and commercial short circuit induced by the blockade prevents us from obtaining the resources to strengthen salary and worker benefits, to feed us, to save lives, to educate our boys and girls, to sustain the system of social protection of the population.
Between 2014 and 2019 Venezuela experienced the sharpest drop of foreign revenue in our history. In six years, we lost 99% of the volume of foreign trade earnings.
In other words: of each 100 dollars or euros that the country obtained for the sale of oil in 2014, today we get less than 1.
That unprecedented crash, without a doubt an earthquake in the very foundation of our economy, was initially caused by a declared war on oil prices, designed by imperialism and the energy transnationals in order to attack the oil-producing countries.
Later, when prices began a relative recovery, reached by the political will of oil-producing countries inside and outside of OPEC, then came phase two: the collapse, the total blockade of the economy.
The drop in foreign income of Venezuela accelerated beginning in 2015 when the financial persecution began against PDVSA, culminating in 2019 with the theft of CITGO, the greatest confiscation operation ever committed in recent history against any nation in the world.
From 2015 onwards, the drop in foreign income of Venezuela rose to 30 billion dollars a year. This figure defies imagination. It is impossible to even imagine the size of the pressure that has been applied to our economy and the suffering which our people has been subjected to.
I invite you to imagine this scenario: find any country, I don’t mean an underdeveloped or poor country, seek any developed economy of the world, and ask your economists what would happen if that economy stopped receiving 30 billion dollars each year for five years?
What kind of crisis would that developed economy experience if that were to occur, what would happen with its population, with its boys, girls, with their elders, with the women?
The sharp drop in foreign income deeply deteriorated our macroeconomic equilibrium, severely affected all our indicators: the country’s reserves, the trade balance, the gross domestic product, the price index, monetary liquidity, the interest rate.
A relentless attack was unleashed on our currency; it induced a crisis in the normal functioning of the production, distribution and consumption circuits of the economy, creating de facto a process of chaotic and speculative informalization of the economy.
All this led to serious consequences for the real economy: industry, trade, agricultural production.
The blockade of PDVSA (Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company)
To undermine our economy and bring the country to its knees U.S. imperialism knew it had to hit Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., or PDVSA, the state-owned oil and natural gas company.
This was expressed in a Declaration of the U.S. State Department in January 2018:
“The pressure campaign against Venezuela is working. The financial penalties that we have imposed have forced the government to begin to default, both in domestic debt as in PDVSA’s debt, its oil company. And what we are seeing (…) is a total economic collapse In Venezuela. Therefore, our policy works, our strategy it works and we will maintain it.”
This is the confession of an international crime, an act of economic savagery with the sole intention of harming a country and its people. This is the confession of a crime against humanity.
Since 2015, the criminal persecution against our industry oil company has continued simultaneously several courses of action: 1) the financial persecution to suffocate it financially; 2) the juridical political operations in foreign courts to strip it of its assets; 3) the embargo on Venezuelan oil and trade; and 4) internal sabotage to cause a drop in production
The confiscation of resources and assets that PDVSA — including several refineries and the CITGO company, whose assets exceed 40 billion dollars — will go down in history as the most rogue act of infamy by a powerful nation, its courts and a mafia and criminal band.
Donald Trump’s executive orders impeded PDVSA’s ability to receive financing in the financial markets; diminished its investment and production capacity in an industry like oil, whose main characteristic is the intensive use of capital.
Between 2014 and 2019, Venezuela’s oil production fell 66.5%. For the year 2019 we only generated a third of the oil that we produced in 2014.
Between 2015 and 2019, Venezuela oil production dropped by a total of about 1,195 million barrels of oil, that is: 1.19 billion barrels.
Independent studies estimate that the sanctions were responsible for approximately 58% of the total drop in production of PDVSA since 2015.
Those same investigations calculate that the lost income for the Republic due to the fall of oil production between 2015 and 2019 is in the order of 65 billion dollars.
The last of these economic filibuster acts involves the assault of ships and dispatches that bring products to Venezuela that will allow us to reactivate refineries, produce gasoline and supply the domestic fuel market.
The de facto embargo on sales of crude oil from Venezuela to the world, the blatant pressure against companies from various countries to cease their operations in Venezuela, blackmail on providers of the industry to deny parts and services, everything, absolutely everything is written in Donald Trump’s executive orders against the national oil industry.
This mafia operation has been applauded by vulture companies who hope to take over CITGO and all Venezuelan assets abroad, and by the leadership of the Venezuelan extremist right.
How much more than we have done, how much more we could have done with those resources, how many houses we would have built, how many lives we would have saved, how much food and medicine we could have bought or produced, if the United States and its internal pawns would not have been cruel against PDVSA?
The social impacts of the blockade
When we say that the blockade and sanctions constitute the most perverse crime committed against Venezuelan people, it is because they directly attack the right to life, essential rights and dignity of us all.
During the first decade of this century, Venezuela obtained the highest social indicators of the whole continent, the impulse of the social policies of the Revolution, the policies of inclusion and equality created by Comandante Chávez. In less than ten years it allowed Venezuela to reduce poverty and extreme poverty to historic levels; flattened the social pyramid, reducing inequality and transferring more than 20% of the wealth of the high-level income sectors, towards the middle classes, the poor and the sectors historically excluded.
Comandante Chávez designed the System of Missions and Great Missions that in a few years — with creative energy and popular participation — were a powerful response to the accumulated social debt with the Venezuelan people of almost a century: Barrio Adentro, Robinson, Ribas, Identity, Miracle, Mercal, Negra Hipólita, José Gregorio Hernández … the System grew and spread to the Great Missions, the Habitat Mission led to the Great Venezuela Housing Mission, the Sovereign Supply Mission led to the Great Food Mission.
The Missions, that wonderful concept, a heroic creation of Comandante Chávez and the Venezuelan people, allowed for the most gigantic transfer of resources and wealth in all our history to the middle, poor and excluded sectors.
Still in poor health, Chávez wrote by his own hand the most advanced labor law of this continent. A fight was launched to end with the latifundio and millions of hectares were rescued and transferred to the peasantry.
The inhabitants of the hills and neighborhoods were converted into owners and the most ambitious construction project in the world of social housing was begun, that this year has delivered housing to more than 3 million 200 thousand families.
In a decade, the state dedicated $800 billion dollars to social investment. Venezuela became a nation of rights, more egalitarian and authentically inclusive.
Thanks to the rescue of our natural resources and democratization of the revenues, we are living a Social revolution.
We created an authentic State of Wellbeing, focused on social justice, on the effort to achieve the common good and on the tireless search — as Simón Bolívar dreamed of — for supreme social happiness.
The criminal blockade and multi-pronged aggression have attacked the heart of that project of social justice.
All our social indicators have been affected in an important way: morbidity and infant mortality, nutrition levels of the population, caloric intake, access to food, they have suffered the impact of the measures, or have been in good measure affected by the impacts of the blockade.
The U.S. Center for Economic Policy Studies has said it in a profound investigation of the blockade of Venezuela.
U.S. economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs state that due to its effects on the population the sanctions should be considered as a “collective punishment of the Venezuelan people” and argue that the blockade and coercive measures against Venezuela are responsible for at least 40 thousand deaths in our country in recent years.
A legal framework that legitimizes economic aggression
The architecture of this plan against Venezuela has been designed in detail from the United States, through the financial system, international and U.S. courts, with the support of the group of political puppets that Washington has placed in charge of legitimizing the larceny against our country.
The association between the White House supremacist hawks, the vulture companies aspiring to keep the assets of Venezuela and the gang of Venezuelan criminals headed by Mr. Juan Guaidó, constitutes today a true criminal organization.
It is a mafia organization that lacks scruples, does not respect legality, and is willing to do everything to achieve its objective.
Since 2014 United States has enacted a law, seven executive decrees or orders, one executive order signed by Barack Obama in March 2015, and six by Donald Trump, plus 300 administrative measures that together make up the policy of sanctions, of blockade, of a multi-faceted attack against Venezuela.
These legal instruments are the arm of the most savage blockade the world has ever known, cruelly directed against the Venezuelan people.
It is the same policy as Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot, U.S. economists, define in their studies on Venezuela as the “Collective punishment of the Venezuelan people”; and it is exactly the same that the independent UN expert on human rights, Alfred de Zayas, describes as “a crime against humanity”…
We always talk about the same policy: the illegal application of unilateral coercive measures, referred to by the cruel euphemism of sanctions, a policy rejected by the General Assembly of the United Nations, defined as contrary to International Law and a violation of the UN Charter.
The blockade of the Venezuelan economy is anchored to a long-term global strategy, of a bipartisan character, reflecting the consensus of the U.S. elite about relations with our country.
The whole country must understand that the criminal aggression against our country is part of a strategic action of the empire and is based on two laws of the U.S. Congress, of the years 1976 and 1977, which grant special powers to the President of United States in national emergency situations.
That is the reason why Barack Obama in 2015 declared Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States.” What seemed then an absurd gesture responded to a strategic logic: in order to raze Venezuela, it was necessary to demonize her as a “threat” and from there on invoke and apply laws that were written for a war situation.
It is, therefore, a policy sustained legally as a situation of exceptionality, that allows the head of the empire to threaten and attack other nations, persecute and punish people and institutions, inside and outside the United States, to confiscate funds and assets, until military actions are taken.
All Venezuelan men and women must understand that we are not facing a capricious policy, partial or personal, that depends on who occupies the White House, or one that can be reversed by an electoral result.
A new strategy: What to do in the face of the blockade
The blockade is a policy of State and must be answered with State actions and tools that rise to the gravity of the problem.
On February 13, a month before we started the fight against COVID-19 in Venezuela, we went to the International Criminal Court to denounce those who from the United States have committed these heinous crimes against humanity.
We are confident that, sooner than later, international justice will look at Venezuela with objectivity and will see the gigantic damage that the United States has produced on a peaceful, loving and hard-working people.
But that single action, though necessary, is not sufficient.
It is time for our nation, with the help of all good citizens — of all the patriots, from their productive sectors, intellectuals and scientists, the Armed Forces, Peoples Power — to respond to the blockade and sanctions with a strategy on the same level.
The damage caused by imperialism and its lackeys to our country and to our people is immeasurable and in large part, irremediable.
To the aggressive action of imperialism, we must answer with a flexible strategic action, of defense and counter attack, allowing us to confront the blockade, and keep it from causing more pain and damage to our homeland.
To this exceptional policy of United States, we must respond with boldness and creativity, adapting and making flexible our legal and administrative framework, and adapting to sanction threats and to complex and changing circumstances.
We cannot continue allowing our resources and assets to be frozen, blockaded or confiscated. It is mandatory, it is a patriotic duty to defend the heritage of Venezuelans. To protect our resources to produce more, to distribute better.
It is time to invent without making mistakes.
We need to search for formulas to be able to trade freely and legally with the world without fear of retaliation from the United States. We need to recover the income of the country relying on our strengths and capacities, to be able to defend our people from the terrible effects of the blockade.
That is the reason for my presence here today, and why on behalf of the Venezuelan people, I come today before this body of the originating constituent power, to ask that you discuss, debate and pass a Constitutional Law to face and overcome the blockade.
I have called it the Anti-blockade Law for National Development and to Guarantee the Rights of the Venezuelan People.
General description of the law: Main elements
The Constitutional Law that today we present for consideration of this sovereign National Constituent Assembly represents a first and necessary legal response to deal with the blockade.
Through this Law, mechanisms will be created that will strengthen public management, will improve the income of the nation and create rational and adequate incentives under flexible controls to stimulate internal economic activity and foreign productive alliances that favor national development.
All countries that are blocked and besieged by sanctions have developed legal instruments to respond to unilateral aggression from the United States.
The anti-blockade law is the first response of the State that, within the constitutional order and current legal framework, and within special and temporary regulations, will allow the State to:
Protect our internal and external assets from the threat of confiscation, theft and looting on the part of foreign governments or companies aligned with the blockade, through efficient management of those assets.
Make alliances or associations with productive sectors and companies inside and outside of Venezuela, to develop economic sectors or businesses in strategic areas such as hydrocarbons, mining, industrial production, agricultural production and services.
Design temporary mechanisms to accelerate management of economic sectors, attract productive investments on a large scale and improve the national income, making more flexible, for example, equity participation of the State in joint ventures.
Manage State assets and liabilities efficiently in order to increase the nation’s income.
Create frameworks of labor and tax incentives, and strengthen legal stability for the development of sectors or specific productive areas.
Promote the use of the Petro and others crypto-currencies in domestic and foreign trade.
The anti-blockade law for national development makes as a priority obtaining the resources that the country needs, and which have been stolen by the United States government.
The law opens doors for administrative innovation, legal management and to find our own original paths that allow us to come out of the crisis induced by the blockade.
The Law reaffirms the full validity of job security for all the workers and the full enjoyment of their social rights.[The law] orders the new income that the country obtains to be directed especially to:
Strengthen the real income of the workers and policies of compensation for the progressive recovery of salaries.
Strengthen and expand the network and social protection policies of the State, and of its priorities such as food and health. The extraordinary income generated by the productive alliances will be invested in a mandatory way in programs such as CLAP and in the social protection of boys and girls, adolescents, mothers and the most vulnerable sectors.
Improve the delivery of public services: water, electricity, domestic gas, transport and telecommunications.
The Anti-Blockade Law is an instrument to shield the 16 productive motors that we have designed with the people, to re-launch our economy.
To create, from the priorities defined in those 16 strategic sectors, the new production model of the country: a real and productive economy based on work, innovation, scientific knowledge, national industrial and agricultural production and development of all our economic potential.
It is an instrument to continue advancing in the Plan of the Homeland bequeathed to us by Comandante Chávez, as the supreme guide for construction of Venezuela Power, of the new homeland.
The Constitutional Law that we present today to the country, responds to a strategic need of the State, in virtue of multi-faceted aggression being executed against Venezuela. The mechanisms created by this legal instrument will be in force in an exceptional manner while the blockade lasts, or until the effects of the sanctions and threats against the economy cease.
Dear constituents. People of Venezuela
As we have demonstrated here today, Venezuela faces the greatest, cruelest and most widespread aggression of our history, executed by the most heartless and cruel empire that humanity has ever known.
We face a real international criminal organization that brings together powerful global financial, corporate and political interests.
This conspiracy won’t stop until it destroys Venezuela, overwhelms us and takes control of our Homeland. Therefore it is necessary, it is urgent, it is vital to unite the country.
After five years of infamy, blockade and sanctions, Venezuela marches in peace to an electoral process next December 6 to choose the new National Parliament.
Nothing that has been done against our country would have reached the level of atrocity shown, if the United States had not counted on the complicity of a group of politicians without a soul and without a country, who attained by electoral means control of the National Assembly, only to betray the country and try to deliver it, like Judas, to its executioners.
That is why, on the road we travel towards overcoming the problems generated by the blockade, it is so important that we reinforce our national conscience and together all of us, with our differences, let us march in peace towards the December 6 election.
When I say together, I say together, respecting our visions. Venezuela does not belong to a person, a group or a partiality. Venezuela belongs to us to all. And for that, all of us who, as Augusto Mijares said, feel the Homeland “in our veins,” we have a commitment with her on December 6. Let’s not fail her.
Venezuela’s main task in the next few years will be to overcome and defeat the blockade and sanctions; defeat this hybrid war that is carried out through the economy.
For that reason it is essential to provide the National Executive — with the support from all institutions of the State — with the capacity to face and conquer the gigantic robbery that runs against our nation. It is necessary to shield and protect our economy.
As in 1902, when Cipriano Castro summoned all patriots beyond their differences to stand up to the insolent blockade from the foreigners who blocked our coasts, today I summon the union, national unity, a single national will to overcome the blockade.
We are bound by our history, by our Constitution, by the heroic memory of the Liberator Simón Bolívar and by the legacy of the Eternal Commander Hugo Chávez to stand up and reverse this scandalous deed.
Venezuela did not seek this war nor this conflict with the United States. Venezuela loves peace and wants to be at peace with the United States. It is the United States, in its imperial ambition that has declared a silent and invisible war against Venezuela.
We have endured five years of the most perverse and inhumane aggressions. This generation of Venezuelan men and women has been chosen to face this historical ordeal and we do not regret it.
The blockade and sanctions have deeply wounded our people, it is true, but they have not been able to erase the smile from their faces, nor tenderness, nor love, nor infinite solidarity that nests in our soul. We are the sons and daughters of Bolívar, from Guaicaipuro, of Zamora, of Chávez. Today we are stronger. And tomorrow we will be even more so.
Our people have resisted imperialist aggression with dignity and firmness. And today we are here, after the United States launched against Venezuela “the blackest spiders from their nest” as the Spanish poet Miguel Hernández said, referring to fascism. We are standing up to the Yankee empire, saying: The criminal empire has failed in its aims, and you will never succeed!”
We are here with our heads held high, together with our people. We have paid a high price to defend our heritage, sovereignty and the dignity of our country.
Now we have the historical task to open paths to the future.
Today his words resonate like never before, José Felix Ribas to the young seminarians and soldiers in the heroic city of La Victoria, the night before February 12, 1814: “We cannot choose between winning or dying, it is necessary to win.”
Brother and Sister Constituents and the heroic people of Venezuela
Upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, the great poet of America, Pablo Neruda, spoke to the workers, to men and women of good will, telling them: “Our principle stars are the struggle and hope.”
And quoting the great poet Artur Rimbaud: “only with a fiery patience will we conquer the splendid city that will give light, justice and dignity to all men and women.”
And I add: with ardent patience, with work, with consciousness and with unity, we will defeat the darkness of the blockade and we will elevate the Venezuelan people to their historic destination: development and well-being down the path of Socialism.
Venezuelan people, here we are today, your sons and daughters of good will to defend you, to love you, to walk the road to victory together.
Together we will overcome the blockade and sanctions!
We will win!