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Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson ​welcome to the real news network I'm Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore there has been a significant setback and defeat for the Maduro government in the congressional elections in Venezuela the victory significantly alters the political balance giving the opposition party mud a crack at power for the first time in 16 years the election was framed to by the country's deep economic crisis due to the fallen oil prices and lack of access to basic goods for its people to discuss these developments and more I'm joined by two guests joining us from the New York Airport on his way back from being an electoral observer at the villain Venezuelan elections on sunday is Gabriel headland Gabriel is an assistant professor of Latin American Studies and sociology at SUNY Albany and also joining us from Caracas is Gregory will portray curry is the former director of tellus or English and author of the book changing Venezuela by taking power the history and the policies of the chåvez government thank you both for joining me thank you for having me Sharmini glad to be here so Greg you are still in Caracas oh let me start with you what are the most recent developments since we spoke to you on sunday evening well the most recent development is first of all that the the National Electoral Council announced that the opposition at 11 hundred nine out of the 167 seats for the National Assembly if you add sorry actually 107 so I was it they announced officially 107 late last night I you need to add to that also the three indigenous representatives that are sympathizing with the opposition and so they actually have officially 110 and then this afternoon they are announced one more race so now they're at 111 they need 112 in order to get a two-thirds jordy and there's still one outstanding race that's being counted I assume that any moment now they will announce which way that seat is going the opposition to say has been saying all along that it's theirs according to their records I haven't seen the Chavistas actually deny that so it leaves me to believe that they might be correct and get Gabriel you've just landed in New York but prior to your departure what were your observations I was on in the state of nueva esparta for election day observing voting centers there and basically observing a process similar what's been reported elsewhere a very smooth process very high participation high turnout in terms of the process no problems actually happening at this point there's a lot of questions about what this means for chavismo what it means for venezuela what it means for popular movements and the region as a whole and and what what are you hearing on the ground in terms of you know the defeat of course is very clear it's now a question of a two-thirds majority which enables the National Council to do various things that they weren't able to do before so what are the spirits on the ground in relation to that well as you can imagine in the opposition wealthier communities spirits are quite high people are celebrating and smiling and in you know wonderful spirits in Chaves two communities and amongst folks who are sympathetic to chavismo in one way or another spirits are much much lower and just traveling from nueva esparta back to caracas on monday i sort of noticed that people in general seemed a bit stunned I'm not sure that people quite expected this to happen possibly even some of the people voting for it I think they wanted to give the government a bit of a kick in the butt but i'm not sure that everyone who voted for the opposition really knew what they were getting into and and Greg on Sunday night when Paul Jay did an interview with you where you went through a list of things that the two-thirds majority would enable the opposition to now you know carry out can you just review some of them for the listeners well the would probably would be able to remove ministers and the vice president first of all they can pass what are known as organic laws those are laws that are touch on basic fundamental rights and such as the labor law and that are derived from directly from the Constitution they can also initiate referenda now there's a bit of a debate about whether or not whether or not they can ishy 8 recall referendum I my interpretation is they cannot that they still need to collect signatures to do that um but they can't end start signatures initiate a constitutional convention and they can remove Supreme Court judges and they can impeach the president so all of those things put together that is a very powerful situation for the opposition and the significance of all of this how soon how soon will they be able to enact on some of this now when will they be sworn in and and there were some rumors in the in the US media in USA Today about the powers that the current national council has in terms of being able to endow some power in Maduro so that it leaves the newly elected council somewhat mood is there any truth to that well in theory the the National Assembly could pass a an enabling law which they've done before which would

allow the President to to pass laws by decree for a limited time and on particular specific issues I'm kind of doubtful that they will do it because with such an overwhelming opposition majority they could quickly and easily reverse that kind of a law so I'm kind of skeptical that they would do that or we try to do that they take office on January fifth and the first order of business is to elect a president of the National Assembly which they probably do and also perhaps reform the procedures of the National Assembly and they already said that the other first thing that they want to do is pass an amnesty law for the so-called political prisoners so that's those are the things first things on their agenda as for the other things we don't really know yet what they plan to do because they haven't said they campaigned without a program without saying what they intend to do once they get into office but we know from past experience that their top priorities to get rid of the president as quickly as possible and Gabriel did you get a sense of the what the people know in terms of the consequences of this kind of political change in Venezuela particularly embracing a national program that might be more neoliberal than they are used to from the past previous leadership of both Maduro and president Chavez yeah I think it's safe to say following Greg that people have really no idea what the opposition that they were voting for was going to do many people responded to questions about whether or not they knew who the candidates were by saying I don't know but I'm going to vote for them anyway this really was a decisive rejection of the government but it was not necessarily a vote for any particular program the opposition did not present an agenda to people so people really were voting for an end to lines in the grocery store and end food shortages it's not clear that that's going to happen with the opposition but that's what people were hoping might happen as a result of this and and Greg what is the government plan to do now I know if it was president Chavez in place right now the entire chapter community would be called to order in terms of what's next is any plan taking place well President Maduro certainly announced that the first thing that he wants to do is I do a profound revision and self-criticism of what has gone wrong what can be changed what can be improved so that's something that he announced today that he plans are doing and it's been echoed by a number of other people saying that you know we should take this opportunity to learn from our mistakes in order to move forward and to carry the Bolivarian project forward which is obviously going to be very difficult under these circumstances others have been saying also that this is an opportunity that should be seen as an opportunity for the project to renew itself on then at the same time the night that Maduro gave his concession speech though he also said he basically blamed the opposition for the economic war and for the loss at that night on sunday so it's a little bit I think he's you know respect now since two days of past it seems to be a little bit more self critical than he was on Sunday night and and Greg in terms of one of the big issues is the economic wars people are experiencing right on the ground you can see so many media are planting the empty of shelves in the in the stores basic goods that people need in order to feed their children and and be healthy and and basic goods are missing from the counters what what led to this crisis and is the government now acknowledging that they should have done something about it well first let me just step back a second i mean the empty shelves when they are when international media shall show them i mean i think that's really relatively rare i mean when i was at the supermarket today the shelves were all very full that doesn't mean though that there aren't shortages there definitely are plenty of shortages but at the same time the shelves are still full it's not like people are going hungry here anything like that so there's plenty of food here to be had it's just that certain staples are definitely missing I could not find any rice for example it's been very difficult to find the the cornmeal that people use for a day pass the national dish and eggs are in short supply and so's milk and those are significant I mean one who's running for a campaign would make sure that there's plenty of that if you want to or plan to get reelected yes absolutely no that is very significant and it seems very clear as to what the problem is the problem is that the government tries to keep the prices low for those products and has introduced price controls for them and people just buy them up as quickly as possible and sell them on the black market or export them to neighboring countries because they can make up to 10 to 50 times the prod cast of that of those products here and that they are at the official exchange I'm sorry at the official price so on so there's a tremendous incentive for people to to resell things and it makes it almost impossible to really have institute a real price control so actually everything can be had it's just that they disappear so quickly because of the lowest price and then you have to buy it on the black market which is usually hidden as a visitor I normally want to see it a black market anywhere because they're you know the run out of the garage of you know the high-rise buildings or something like that so they're completely invisible and only available through connections um yeah so so that says so this stuff is there it's just the problem that the price controls are so far lower than what they can be had to the prices that can be had on the black market or neighboring countries and that's really the crux of the problem and Greg Gabriel I know you have to go soon to get a connection but give us a sense of what that conversation on the ground while you were there look like in terms of the the absence of basic goods that they need and not having access to it I know some people have been lining up very early in the morning to have their ration of food but but this on the ground actually turned the

election so give us a sense of what you observed in that regard yeah I mean I spoke to people in the neighborhood of Betty tres de enero in Caracas and they told me that this is a Teresa supporter who said that he and his wife and family have been unable to get soap deodorant tampons birth control pills he said getting basic foods at cheap prices are difficult but the other products that I mentioned he can't get at all whatsoever and I did take some trips to the pharmacy myself and notice that there was absolutely no soap absolutely no shampoo I didn't find toilet paper so there are certain products that are pretty basic for people's lives that are unavailable alright and then what do you think the the new government or new National Council is going to do to address these kinds of problems or can they well I think there's a split emerging within the new government not entirely surprisingly between a relatively more moderate camp led by and Ricky Capriles Radonski the ex presidential candidate and then a more radical camp led to some extent by Leopoldo Lopez and people surrounding him Maria good evening I'm a cello and others and I think the more radical camp is very very focused on removing Maduro from office and probably seeks that as the overwhelming priority Capriles has made some statements I've read in newspapers about wanting to focus on the economic situation it's not entirely clear what they would do to focus on the economic situation but I would imagine they would try to boost domestic private investment and foreign investment there was a video leaked of an opposition leader talking about doing an agreement with the IMF I don't believe that they could do that with that National Assembly I think that could only be done through the executive but clearly stimulating private investment both domestic and foreign will be a priority for National Assembly leaders to try to do the other thing that they might try to do is get the currency situation under control but I haven't heard any specific proposals whatsoever there's been very very broad and relatively vague proposals by some leaders about the social and economic situation and then there's been other leaders explicitly saying we're going to move to remove Maduro from power so I would imagine there's going to be some jockin within the coalition to figure out what they actually want to do another interesting thing to think about is the fact that this is a very diverse coalition that was really only united by opposition to the government it's entirely possible that they will not be able to maintain a two-thirds majority come January when they sit down it's very possible i would even say probable that the government will do strategy try to peel off a few legislators if they're able to do that they could prevent a two-thirds majority from taking hold it's not clear that they'll be able to do that but I imagine they'll be jockeying on both sides of the aisle to move forward and Greg what do you make of this priority of removing Maduro as the number-one priority for the National Assembly and and how soon do you think if they were able to form a kind of a coalition to do that would they be able to be successful in her house soon might that happen I do think it's a very high priority for them as Gabriel the thing is that if they want to make an agreement for example with the IMF or something like that they need the presidency obviously for that and many of the other things that they want to do so it's definitely going to be on the top of their agenda but also I think I want to reinforce also what Gabriel said that because of their diversity it's going to be very difficult for them to actually maintain the unity for of 112 seats now on the other hand you might also have the opposite phenomenon that some people opportunists basically within the PSUV that is the socialist party coalition might might feel off towards the position on the other hand so there's going to be a lot of jockeying that could delay things and so it's very difficult to say they have a deadline which is kind of the end of 2016 because if they remove Maduro after 2016 then the vice president takes over for the rest of the term but if they do it before that the end of 2016 then they there would be a new presidential election so I would say it could happen any time I mean if they managed to succeed that's the big if but if they manage to get those 112 votes then it could it would be still a drawn-out process because they would still first have to probably remove Supreme Court members appoint news Supreme Court judges and only then proceed with an impeachment process or as they go the Constitutional Convention routes that could also take a very long time because they would obviously have to come up with a new constitution so whatever cenar you look like it's going to take a while I would say at least six to twelve months as my guess but who knows things could be very fluid from now on I thank you both for joining us today and hope to have you back very soon as we will be following this issue tomorrow as well thank you thank you thank you for joining us on the real news network Mandl College of Allied Health.