Why the PSUV Winning Miranda Is Important
Miranda, a strategic Venezuelan state that was for a very long time controlled by the political opposition, is now governed by Héctor Rodríguez of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). A few key points explain why it is of such vital importance that the PSUV won Miranda from the opposition Justice First party.
For two administrative periods, from 2008 through to 2017, the state government of Miranda was run by Justice First leader Henrique Capriles Radonsky. During that time the state was characterized by poor government and an increase in the intensity of the violence and amount of street fighting at crucial political and electoral moments.
The state is strategic for the stability of central northern Venezuela because through it, on a daily basis, move trade goods and people traveling between the east and west of the country. Millions of people live in Miranda getting along together in what is a very important political-judicial axis given its proximity to the Capital District of Caracas, site of Venezuela's principal public institutions.
So in terms of national security, economic stability and political viability, Chavismo's recovery of Miranda is of the greatest importance. The following are the key points for understanding why.
Geoeconomic life and population area
Historically, Miranda has been a state in which various economic factors of major importance converge such as agriculture, manufacturing industry and tourism. To the north of Miranda between mountainous areas like El Hatillo and Caribbean coastal areas like Barlovento, recreational activities attract a great deal of national and foreign tourism. To the south and west of the state, extensive cattle ranches, large extensions of horticulture and rural family farms supply Miranda's cities and towns, as well as Caracas and neighboring states, with large quantities of beef, fruit, vegetables, cereals, flowers and cocoa.
On the other hand, industrial manufacturing is focused in different municipalities where most of the working class and lower middle-class population live in far from opulent, ordinary, low-income districts, for example, in the municipal urban capitals Petare (Sucre), Guarenas (Plaza), Los Teques (Guaicaipuro), Charallave (Cristóbal Rojas), Ocumare del Tuy (Lander). It was precisely in these parts of Miranda state that Chavismo increased and consolidated the electoral majority that voted in Héctor Rodríguez last October 15th.
The last census by the National Statistical Institute (INE) in 2011 gave Miranda’s resident population as 2.6 million and it is estimated that now, in 2017, the population is probably almost 3 million. Miranda is Venezuela's most populous state after Zulia.
Four of Miranda's 21 municipalities belong to the Metropolitan District of Caracas. They are Baruta, Chacao, El Hatillo and Sucre, known together as East Caracas. Venezuela's wealthiest people live in Baruta, Chacao and El Hatillo. Historically, from a class perspective, this has been the sector challenging Chavismo, whose majority support comes from the impoverished working class and lower middle class.
Petare – Latin America's biggest barrio
396 years after it was founded, the parish of Petare is the biggest in Latin America thanks to the population living in the urban district of the same name. Petare's urban development covers around 70% of the Sucre municipality. The urban districts known as "the misery cordon" during the mass migration of people from rural to urban areas between 1960 and 1970 are corralled between the Francisco Fajardo highway, the Avenue Boyacá (also known as Cota Mil),wealthy areas like Terrezas del Ávila, the Palo Verde residential zone and the Guaire River.
In the image: satellite view of Petare
Petare in turn is composed of 50 sectors with high levels of violent crime and critical problems in terms of public services. Its population of 400,000 is about 46% of the municipality's total. Unofficial counts put Petare's population at over 500,000 including people the census missed, among them foreigners mainly from Colombia, Perú and China.
Media reports, generally by opposition sources, depict life in Petare as a hyperviolent dystopia for which the national government is to blame. However, during the administrations of Sucre's Justice First mayor Carlos Ocariz and his party leader Henrique Capriles as state governor, crime levels rose scandalously, something the opposition media suppress.
Petare's importance is not only on account of its large population and its important economic activity, or its levels of criminal and political violence, but also for its strategic location at the eastern extreme of Caracas making it the main access to Guarenas, Santa Lucía and the east of the country.
Linking east and west in northern Venezuela
Just as Petare is a direct link going to the east of the country so Miranda's state capital, Los Teques, links to Venezuela's west. Many thousands of people travel daily along the region's strategic highways, between Miranda’s natural symmetry of mountains and rural roads, going from one side of Venezuela to the other or else to work in the commercial, industrial, agricultural and tourist centers that are the territory's economic lifeblood.
Located in Venezuela's Capital Region in the country's central north, Miranda borders the state of Vargas to the north as well as the Capital District of Caracas and part of the coast where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. To the east, Miranda borders the state of Anzoátegui, now controlled by the opposition Democratic Action party; to the south lie the states of Guárico and Aragua. Miranda occupies 7950 km² and its dense population is matched by the great number of people from out of state who transit through it.
At the moment, Miranda's main transport systems are the Caracas-Cua line of the Central Ezequiel Zamora Railway, the five station Los Teques Metro, and the road system including the Francisco Fajardo, Prados del Este and Avenida Boyacá (Cota Mil) highways. These land communications were clearly designed to transport goods and people to and from the urban center of Caracas, where most people in Miranda work and do business.
Likewise, the highways are direct and relatively quick ways of getting to and from the states surrounding Miranda and Caracas. This was a key factor in the street violence by paramilitary-style criminal gangs denounced, documented and dismantled by Venezuela's national authorities.
Paramilitary corridors and their links to opposition leaders in Miranda
The capture and dismantling by Venezuela's security and intelligence forces of groups, individuals and encampments involved in paramilitary style criminal activity were very clear evidence of how this type of violence was introduced into the country and uncovered thanks to the action of the authorities.
In general, the paramilitary style criminal groups came into being as a kind of foreign import, starting in about 2002. In Miranda state, they found it easy to embed and expand, thanks to complicity by omission and sometimes via direct collaboration of the Justice First state administration and others among the opposition leadership.
The following facts stand out in statements by the Ministry for Interior Relations, Justice and Peace from 2015 to date.
- Then Minister Gustavo González López announced in May 2015 that his officials had identified who was financing the paramilitary criminal gang known as "Gamma" operating in the La Dolorita area of the municipality of Sucre. González López noted "This gang was dismantled from May 8th onwards. Paramilitary activity has tried to look like common crime when it is not". He added, "The paramilitaries are basically an expression, a structure of the economic elite, of a financial elite, trying to get hold of power by persistently outrageous means, anyway they can."
- José Pérez Venta, convicted of the notorious murder of Liana Hergueta, was also a militant of the Popular Will opposition party. He admitted receiving paramilitary training in Cúcuta in Colombia on the orders of Popular Will leader ex-General Antonio Rivero. Pérez Venta also linked Henrique Capriles, Miranda's state governor at the time, to his criminal activity in Venezuela.
- In October this year, Minister González López reported the arrest at a farm in Valles del Tuy of 10 paramilitaries who also trafficked drugs from Colombia to the Caribbean and Africa. The Minister stated, "We have connections confirmed by the arrested drugs traffickers."
- In April 2016, González López also reported via his Twitter account that State Security agents detected and engaged with "improvised paramilitary camps" in the municipalities of Páez and Andrés Bello in Miranda's sub-region of Barlovento.
- In July 2016, González López insisted that the US citizen Joshua Holt and his female Venezuelan partner, whose apartment stored military weapons for irregular use, were linked to people involved in Miranda's state administration controlled then by Justice First. The Mision Verdad website commented at the time "...the role of the opposition in relation to this infiltration of Special Forces like Holt was revealed by Minister González López based on rigorous intelligence and security research. González López said, "According to the investigation Holt and his partner met each other via a strange and suspicious relationship over the Internet, then got to know each other personally in the Dominican Republic and five days after Holt arrived in Venezuela got married in the parish of Leoncio Martínez, in Sucre, a municipality of Miranda administered by Carlos Ocariz of the Justice First party in Miranda state, governed by Henrique Capriles Radonsky also of Justice First."
Furthermore, the Minister said "'The investigation found that the civil marriage did not meet administrative rules since Sucre's municipal authorities processed it in breach of the Civil Code and other laws.' The approval of this breach of the Civil Code by the municipality's price-gouging administration is a direct link to Phase 3 of the US Army's Unconventional Warfare Manual as interpreted by the political leaders of Sucre's opposition alliance, the United Democratic Table (MUD). The administrative breach was clearly detailed by the Minister for Interior Relations, Justice and Peace."
- At the time, in a press conference on the Holt case, Minister González López described paramilitary activity in Venezuela like this, "These operations are characteristic of paramilitary criminal gangs establishing themselves in Venezuela under the auspices of opposition sectors whose strategy aims at legitimizing the insertion of these criminal organizations into Venezuela under camouflage, with the intention of committing terrorism under different guises."
Available information indicates that a corridor had been established near Petare, in La Dolorita, in the Sucre municipality running into Barlovento, essentially from eastern Caracas across to eastern Miranda. Another corridor turned on Valles del Tuy down to southern Miranda. Both ran between mountains and rural settlements, along so-called "green trails" out of the way of national government forces but readily accessible to local municipal and state police forces controlled back then by the most extreme political opposition, embodied in the parties Justice First and Popular Will.
It is worth noting that the corridor starting from the north of Miranda in Sucre going down to Valles de Tuy feeds out into other criminal corridors already dismantled by Venezuela's national authorities where criminal gangs had operated under individuals known as "El Juvenal" and "El Picure", who aspired to emulate Colombia's Pablo Escobar in the states of Guárico and Aragua.
"East Caracas" – Venezuela's color revolution capital
In terms of anti-politics, the violent protests against Chavismo between April and July this year were a kind of natural climax of opposition sentiment in the wealthiest areas of Miranda state. The municipalities of Chacao, Baruta and Sucre, as well as the Altos Mirandinos where Miranda's upper and middle classes mostly live were the location, apart from the states bordering Colombia, registering the highest peaks of the political belligerence invoked by the MUD.
The marches, protests, disturbances, attacks on government administrative offices, roadblocks, sabotage of public services, were similar to color revolution tactics used elsewhere around the world. They include violence tending towards armed insurrection and were used all through April and July in different municipalities in Miranda state, whose inhabitants, as a result, were held hostage.
Necessarily, society’s wealthiest classes, in any country where these actions take place, are the most active in supporting them. In Venezuela, they are the most reactionary against Chavismo as a cultural and political expression and against the Bolivarian government in terms of national policy.
The former governor of Miranda, Henrique Capriles, thanks to his ancestry and genealogy, is the paradigmatic representative of these classes who protested violently during those three months. With his complicity, the Venezuelan opposition got together logistical assets such that, without Miranda state being under his control, things would have turned out very differently there. The same happened in 2014 at the time of the plan of opposition leaders Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado known as "The Exit."
One indication of this is how the lack of action by the local police in those municipalities, in collusion with the Miranda state police (Polimiranda), facilitated street violence abetted by opposition sympathizers in government institutions like the Attorney General's office.
Much earlier, in May 2016, the Ministry of Interior Relations, Justice and Peace intervened in the Chacao municipal police force (Polichacao) where a crime network operated involved in various crimes including the political murder of Chavista journalist Ricardo Durán. Despite that precedent, police officers sympathetic to the political opposition supported the actions of violent opposition mercenaries and protesters.
In June this year, in the context of this failed color revolution attempt at a coup d'etat to overthrow the government of President Nicolás Maduro, which also called for intervention by the United States, Minister Néstor Reverol formally intervened in the Miranda state police based on "sufficient evidence to convict officers of that force of human rights violations and links to crime networks."
The state government's neglect of the stability and security of its inhabitants also figured in the disqualification from public office of Capriles for 15 years for administrative offenses.
The destabilizing actions of the Justice First governors and mayors were combined with the work of the party's founder Julio Borges calling for US government sanctions against Venezuela which made attacking the country's economy and international financial boycott official policy of Venezuela's opposition.
The National Constituent Assembly brought political stability which completely wiped out the insurrectional plan of the domestic and international forces of anti-Chavismo. That lead to the regional elections which ended in the defeat of the opposition candidate in Miranda, Carlos Ocariz, and a win for the Chavista candidate Héctor Rodríguez.
It was of vital strategic importance for Chavismo to win Miranda, because it means security and stability for Chavismo as a historic project that the region needs to promote Venezuela's overall development. The alternative was to have chaos, government breakdown and coup attempts still dominating the country's politics.
Translated by TeleSUR English.