Steve Ellner

Venezuelan economist

Steve Ellner (born December 21, 1946) has taught economic history and political science at the Universidad de Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela since 1977. He is the author of numerous books and journal articles on Venezuelan history and politics, and has written op-ed articles in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. He received his Ph.D. in Latin American history at the University of New Mexico in 1980, and frequently lectures on Venezuela and Latin American political developments in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Steve Ellner (July 2011)

Quotes edit

(Most recent first)

  • Washington’s recognition of the shadow government headed by Venezuelan National Assembly president Juan Guaidó is one more demonstration of how the Trump administration has radicalized foreign policy positions and in doing so violates international law, including the charter of the Organization of American States.
    Never since the Cuban revolution, has the U.S. government played such an overtly activist role throughout the continent in favor of the isolation of a government that is not to its liking. In the process it has further polarized Venezuela and the continent as a whole. The moderates in the Venezuelan opposition, including two former presidential candidates of the two main traditional parties, Claudio Fermín and Eduardo Fernández, have favored electoral participation and recognition of the legitimacy of the Maduro government. Washington’s actions pull the rug from under the moderates and strengthen the hands of the extremists in the opposition.
  • The sanction that prohibits Citgo from remitting profits to Venezuela... means that the Venezuelan government is being deprived of approximately $1 billion a year. But in addition to that, the sanctions also stipulate that Venezuela practically cannot refinance its foreign debt, which is something logical that any country facing a difficult economic situation would do. The sanctions prohibit U.S. financial institutions from having any transaction, any interaction with the Venezuelan government and the Venezuelan state oil company, addition to that, there is a major impact in terms of discouraging commercial and financial interests throughout the world from any kind of transaction with Venezuela.... And that translates into a situation in which the U.S. government, and specifically Steven Mnuchin, the secretary of the treasury... has created a situation in which commercial interests throughout the world are afraid to have anything to do with Venezuela. That amounts to virtually... an economic blockade.
  • The opposition… is quick to dismiss even the most obvious gains of the Bolivarian Revolution. They deny the profound impact of social programs that facilitated educational opportunities and a sense of empowerment among formerly excluded sectors of the population. Since its founding in 2003, for instance, the makeshift “Sucre Mission,” with a budget far inferior to the established universities and which largely operates out of public school buildings at night, has taken in 700,000 students (370,000 of whom have graduated). The nation’s current university population of 2,630,000 represents a three-fold increase since 1998. Yet the opposition belittles this achievement…
  • For years, the Venezuelan opposition has made clear that regime change is their principal goal. They have engaged in insurgent activity to overthrow the democratically elected Chavista governments — in an attempted coup in April 2002, a business-promoted general strike seven months later, and more recently during a four-month period of urban violence in 2014… Even though the guarimba violence resulted in the death of six national guardsmen, the protesters counted on favorable international media coverage and the solid backing of the Obama administration to paint a picture of a nonviolent opposition movement being ruthlessly repressed…. For opposition leaders, there is little attempt at compromise. In recent months, they have rejected President Nicolás Maduro’s call for a “Grand National Dialogue” to be held following this month’s National Assembly elections. Responding to the proposal, MUD head Jesús Torrealba snapped at the president, saying “Maduro: you are not qualified to convoke a dialogue.”
  • Ultimately, the moderation of many Chavista policies and some of their negative consequences have to be understood in the context of the aggressive acts of the Venezuelan opposition, and the contradictions of populism. But the fact that they have been on the whole successful has kept the government in power. The guarimba campaign to overthrow the government in 2014 failed because it did not spread from middle class areas to the barrios. The refusal of the Venezuelan poor to join the protests was a reflection of the political success of the government’s social programs. … Throughout the seventeen years of Chavista rule, the aggressiveness of the opposition has taken a heavy toll. Its tactics have pressured the government into an unholy alliance with a new business elite that is responsible for much of the nation’s corruption.
  • A February 15, 2015, op-ed on Venezuela by Enrique Krauze seems to have slipped by the New York Times‘ factcheckers. Krauze’s thesis (a tired one, but very popular with Venezuelan and Cuban right-wingers in South Florida) is that Venezuela has not only followed “the Cuban model,” but has recently outdone Cuba in moving Venezuela further along a socialist path even as Cuba enacts economic reforms. This idea is not merely an oversimplification–as it might appear to the casual observer of Latin American politics–but is largely misleading. To bolster his case, Krauze–a prominent Mexican writer and publisher–includes numerous false statements and errors, which should have been caught by the Times‘ factcheckers. Krauze begins by claiming that the Venezuelan government, first under President Hugo Chávez and then his successor Nicolás Maduro, has taken control over the media. Chávez “accumulated control over the organs of government and over much of the information media: radio, television and the press,” we are told, and then Maduro “took over the rest of Venezuelan television.” A simple factcheck shows this to be false. The majority of media outlets in Venezuela–including television–continue to be privately owned; further, the private TV audience dwarfs the number of viewers watching state TV… A 2013 Carter Center report found that Venezuela’s private TV outlets had about 74 percent of the audience share for coverage of “recent key newsworthy events.”
  • The statements coming out of the U.S. Congress and Obama administration condemning human rights violation fail to recognize that sectors of the opposition have been involved in acts of terrorism. It is ironic that the same government that justifies massive indiscriminate surveillance throughout the world and intervenes in numerous nation’s of the Middle East and Africa in the name of anti-terrorism turns a blind eye to terrorist activity in Venezuela and ends up actually encouraging it. The (U.S.) State Department’s revocation of the visa of the president of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello (on the absurd grounds that he acted as a bag man on behalf of Osama bin Laden) attempts to discredit the very Chavista who represents a hard line in the struggle against terrorism in Venezuela. Terrorism cannot be defined as actions only carried out by one’s enemy. If that is case, the term loses all credibility.
  • Washington circles view (President Hugo) Chávez as the ringleader of these expressions of Latin American nationalism and unity… There is good reason why political actors and analysts of different ideological convictions single out Chávez for special treatment. Widespread expropriations and other reversals of neoliberal economic measures, the creation of a popular militia, the firm control of the armed forces, and the generous funding of programmes of international cooperation that bolster Venezuela’s standing in Latin America are distinguishing features of the Chávez government unmatched elsewhere.
    Another far-reaching goal outlined in Chávez’s electoral platform is the expansion of the power of community councils. Several hundred “communes in construction” group a dozen or more community councils each to undertake projects covering a wide area, such as gas and water distribution. Chávez proposes to promote the creation of new communes to represent 68 per cent of the population. The communes are to be granted the same prerogatives as state and municipal governments, including budgeting, participation in state planning and, eventually, tax collection… Venezuela’s social transformation over so long a period, under a democratically elected president, is without parallel in contemporary history.

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