Recall Referendum in Venezuela, recent events

Supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro force their way to

On Thursday, state-level courts in Aragua, Bolivar, Carabobo, and Monagas which do not seem to have the authority to sanction on electoral matters, issued injunctions against the presidential recall referendum. The claim is that there were significant irregularities in the first step, the collection of 1% of registered voters’ signatures necessary to begin the recall referendum process. Later the National Electoral Council (NEC) would state that the referendum couldn’t proceed in these states, until responsibility for the fraudulent signatures had been addressed. After many months of stalling, the referendum was about to enter its next step, now seeking 20% of registered voters’ signatures across the country. The NEC had in fact decided that the 20% would be collected in each and every state, thus further complicating things for those who back the recall. This next step was going to to take place this week, between Wednesday 26 October and Friday 28 October.

On Sunday, the Venezuelan National Assembly scheduled a special session to address these politically charged events. The National Assembly essentially declared that the constitutional order in the country had been broken. During the parliamentary session, which was likened by government supporters to the parliamentary coups of Brazil and Honduras, a large group of government supporters stormed the building and disrupted the session. Still, amid all this the oppossition-led legislative was also able to come back to some of its absurd talking points, like its ongoing gripe about Maduro’s nationality (!?). Though it’s exciting to see everyday Caraqueños breaking through the gates and entering parliament, the significance of these events remains unclear to me. The Mayor of Libertador, Jorge Rodriguez, not a virtuous person, may have either been involved in spurring on the event or, at least, in demanding that government supporters leave the parliamentary building.

Local and state elections, which would nortmally be scheduled this year, have been suspended until next year by the NEC, because it was concentrating on the recall referendum. This hasn’t been much discussed, but putting the referendum on hold, turns the attention back on local and state elections. In fact, this may be the government’s strategy, to force the opposition to focus on these lower-level elections, and to offer these in exchange for a deffered recall referendum.

Critical chavismo, as represented by former socialist ministers, Marea Socialista and a ‘Platform for the defense of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s Constitution’, have come out strongly against these recent moves by the government-controlled National Electoral Council and the courts backing it, which have put the recall referendum indefinitely on hold. I myself did not think that the Maduro government would close down the path for the referendum on Maduro’s presidency. Rather, I could see the benefit for the Maduro’s government in stalling and not facilitating the process, and in this way changing its outcome. I still think this is the case, stalling puts the government in a better position, and also offers Chavismo-in-government a stronger hand in its negotiations with the opposition.

As things stand, the government’s play seems to have given it the political initiative, and the situation backs its call and version of ‘political dialogue’. President Maduro, who has been on a ‘lightening trip’ to reach a deal on oil prices with OPEC and non-OPEC countries, made a quick stopover in Rome, and met up with Pope Francis in order to signal to the country and the various regional and international organsiations and observers who have taken a keen interest in Venezuela, that the government is willing to sign-up to a Vatican-backed dialogue between the parties. But this meeting and announcement also puts the Venezuelan opposition on its back foot. Both President Maduro, and Hector Rodriguez, the government leader in the National Assembly and, Elias Jaua, an important PSUV leader and former vice-President under Hugo Chávez, have all come out in favour of a renewed ‘dialogue’, that is, they appreciate that political negotiation in the current context is a necessity. So, these recent moves by the National Electoral Council, state courts, and the presidency, can be seen as steps taken to ensure a better bargaining position for the tricky political negotiations to come, now endorsed or ordained by the highest powers possible.

For the last couple of months, an ongoing UNASUR backed dialogue had accompanied the Venezuela crisis. A UNASUR commission with former PSOE Spanish Primer Minister José Rodriguez Zapatero, and the former Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez, have attempted to push through some kind of arrangement between Maduro’s government and opposition. But nothing much had come from this. The Venezuelan opposition is very weary of the fact that calls to further dialogue and never-ending discussions, may simply be used as a way to stall and undermine the impetus that the opposition seems to have around the referendum. It is clear that a great majority of Venezuelan citizens see the plebiscite as a path to overcome the complex crises the country faces. The opposition’s next steps will now be to take people out on the streets in order to put pressure on the government and state institutions. Large rallies will be held throughout the country on Wednesday 26 October. As regards the negotiations, these will now pick up in intensity as they ‘officially’ begin on 30 October.



As might be apparent to researchers who are conversant with Marxist critical theory and Marxist-inspired critical scholarship, the categorical distinction between ‘politics’ and ‘economy’ is neither prevalent in such inquiry, but nor is it truly overcome. This itself may have to do with the fact that the Marxist and Hegelian traditions, historically the main store of theoretical wealth for critical scholarship, tend to address in negative terms the now common bifurcation in Anglo-American and European academia of political economy into politics (later, political science) and economy. As Venezuelan philosopher and political economist, Enzo del Bufalo, has put it, Marxist critique concerned as it is with revealing ‘las relaciones de poder que tejen las prácticas sociales’; the very commitment to ‘esta intención de la critica marxista le confiere su carácter desmitificador e impide su reconstitución como una filosofía o una teoría económica’ (p. 21).

The many Marxisms, despite their diversity, have fundamentally disputed the bifurcation of the discipline and the constitution of separate objects of study (or critique) as dependent on self-same scientific methodologies guaranteeing by means of shared positivist or empirical ‘rules of access’ the objects and objectivity of economics.[1] But this difficulty within the Marxist critique should refer us to the need to readdress the ways in which the distinction is drawn in particular and contingent situations, therefore, it is key to have present ‘the deeply discursive nature of the realms of politics and economics’, given the fact that the distinction’s deployment, constitution or enactment will have been achieved by means of discourse, technical artefacts and practice in distinct historical and textual sites.[2]

This bifurcation in Latin America proper is much more recent than would seem. Not only is the continent’s best known theoretical ‘IPE-like’ export, la teoría de la dependencia, critical of the merits of such a disciplinary distinction, but, indeed, the institutionalisation of academic departments dedicated to one or the other, politics or economy, is a mid-20th century phenomenon. To take note, the earliest courses in economics and the departments teaching the latter were established in the region in the early 1930s.[3] Normally, this ‘fact’—the belated specialisation of social sciences—is accounted for in terms of a narrative of underdevelopment and academic backwardness. And yet, one might convincingly read this fact in terms of hegemony and the distinctive experience of reality in the periphery. Many Latin American intellectuals encountered a different reality that simply could not be grasped in terms of the grounding theoretical assumptions that would allow for the political economy split, but would nevertheless later be compelled to shift into specialisation given the arguments, resources and technical knowledge of hegemony in the metropole in favour of bifurcation.[4] This problematic is interestingly highlighted by Roberto Schwartz, a Brazilian Marxist literary critic, in his discussion on ‘misplaced ideas’ in Latin American.[5] Economics and politics, we might say, as separate endeavours are necessarily misplaced.

[1] See Barry Hindess, Philosophy and Methodology in the Social Sciences. Sussex: Harverster Press, 1977.

[2] de Goede, 2006, p. 5.

[3] See the various histories of economic thought and political economy developed by the the Latin American intelelctuales Victor Urquidi, Arturo Uslar Pietri and Enzo Del Bufalo.

[4] It is interesting to note that the ‘Programa de Formación de Grado en Economía Política’, one of the few in Venezuela and in the region, was established with the creation of the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela as a strongly critical and Marxist-inflected program. The UBV offers no ‘economics’ degree, but rather incorporates the ‘micros’ and ‘macros’ into a historicised teaching curriculum whose framing of ‘economics’ as subsumable into political economy is, nevertheless, ambivalent.

[5] See Roberto Schwartz, ‘Misplaced ideas’. See alo my ‘Misplaced IR / IR fora do lugar. Politics and Emancipation in Latin America’ (2015).


A workshop for postgraduate and early-career researchers

The Australian National University, Canberra Friday 15 July 2016


We invite abstracts for an all-day workshop on postcolonial political economies to be held on Friday 15 July 2016 at the Australian National University in Canberra. We welcome abstracts from postgraduate researchers and academics in a variety of disciplines.

Please submit a short abstract with a brief biography or institutional affiliation by Monday 20 June 2016 to If you have any questions, feel free to write.

This workshop is sponsored by the ANU’s School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR) and the Australian National Centre for Latin American Studies (ANCLAS).


The aim of the workshop is to encourage discussion on the subject of postcolonial political economies, as either research approach or interdisciplinary problematic.

There are currently several lines of inquiry, cutting across the social sciences and humanities, which engage in insightful ways with what we may term postcolonial political economies. For instance, Jon Altman’s ‘hybrid economies’, J.K. Gibson- Graham’s post-capitalist ‘diverse economies’, Nitasha Kaul’s ‘economics otherwise’, Arturo Escobar’s earlier ‘post-development’, and, more recently, T. Mitchell’s research on technopolitics and ‘economentality’ among others, are some of the contemporary approaches in which economic matters have been discussed in ways that intersect with postcolonial interpellations.

In addition, science and technology studies and STS-inflected studies of the economy have much to offer a postcolonial political economy. These as well as other ethnographically informed and critical interdisciplinary approaches, looking into alternative knowledges and practices, or developing critical and ethical analyses, may allow us to advance a thought-provoking and empirically-attuned analysis of postcolonial economies and politics.

If you would like to present aspects of your research in the workshop, in dialogue with postcolonial concerns, please contact us prior to 20 June 2016.


  • Raoni Rajão is a senior lecturer in social studies of science in the Department of Production Engineering and the Department of Anthropology at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil.
  • April Biccum is a lecturer in development, postcolonial studies, and international relations in the School of Politics and International Relations at the Australian National University.
  • Elise Klein is a lecturer in development studies at the University of Melbourne and a former post-doctoral research fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Policy Research at the ANU.
  • Carlos E. Morreo is a PhD candidate in the School of Politics and International Relations (ANU) and a convenor at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies in Melbourne.


Download a flyer through here: ANU_PPE_15_July_2016

Conferencia de Zonas Francas de las Américas

Nindiri, Nicaragua. 03/Noviembre/2014. Draxlmaier, empresa de zona franca que elabora Arneses para sistema electrico de vehiculos automotores. Oscar Navarrete/ LA PRENSA.

Nindiri, Nicaragua. 03/Noviembre/2014. Draxlmaier, empresa de zona franca que elabora Arneses para sistema eléctrico de vehículos automotores. Oscar Navarrete/ LA PRENSA.

A principios de noviembre se realizará en Managua, Nicaragua, la XIX Conferencia de Zonas Francas de las Américas. 

«La XIX Conferencia está dirigida a usuarios de zonas francas, representantes de parques industriales, inversionistas, representantes del sector de aduanas, exportadores, agencias de carga y aduanas de la región, de acuerdo con la información oficial».

«El evento, que reunirá a unos 200 participantes, principalmente de Estados Unidos y Latinoamérica, es organizado por la Asociación de Zonas Francas de las Américas (AZFA), la Comisión Nacional de Zonas Francas de Nicaragua (CNZF), y la Federación Cámara Nicaragüense de Zonas Francas Privadas (FCNZFP)».

Lo ideal sería financiar el trabajo de campo, y lanzarse a Nicaragua entre el 4 y 6 de noviembre, para realizar una suerte de etnografía de los discursos latinoamericanos de la construcción de la zona franca como realidad económica. Una propuesta a medio camino de la sociología de la economía y los estudios de los discursos económicos.

Más información, por aquí.

Debt Relief!

35551jamaican_dollarThough not for Greece, at least not for now. Nevertheless, as we have been following the story of ‘Grexits’ and ‘agreekments’ with A. Tsipras, Y. Varoufakis et al as protagonists, the ECLAC has been singing a different tune to monotone official Europe.

In fact, Alicia Bárcena, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), will be putting forward a proposal to have ALL multi-lateral debt owed by Caribbean island states written off! This will be discussed in mid-July during the Third International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in Ethiopia.

The ECLAC statement doesn’t mince its words, speaking of a “write-off of total multilateral external public debt” for Caricom states. The claim is really very simple: no “sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” can be attained with current debt levels. And, furthermore, this this debt cannot be justified in the somewhat moralistic and preachy terms often used to refer to Greek debt by Northern Europe and ‘centrist’ politicians and voters.

As regards this latter point, the statement reads thus:

ECLAC contends that the tax adjustments needed to reduce debt to sustainable levels would be so tough that they would put countries into recession. Additionally, the organization stresses that this debt has not been the result of political errors, poor fiscal management or the global financial crisis, but rather stems from external shocks, aggravated by the inherent vulnerability affecting the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean, and the decline in foreign direct investments in recent decades”.

More, through here. And a good slide presentation on the proposal by ECLAC Deputy Executive Secretary, Antonio Prado, though here.

La pobreza teleológica del Banco Mundial

world-vs-bank.jpg_1718483346La semana pasada el vicepresidente para América Latina y el Caribe del Banco Mundial, Jorge Familiar Calderón, discurría en torno a la pobreza en América Latina. Al hablar de la situación de «vulnerabilidad» de una amplia parte de la población, estimada en 40%, demostró que la teoría social etapista y su afán teleológico sigue en boga. Para eso es que tenemos al Banco Mundial. Este 40% pudiera «retroceder», se nos dice, si las cosas no se hacen debidamente ahora que China pasa del 12% al 6% de crecimiento del PIB.

Calderón insitió que «es importante retomar la senda de crecimiento en la región para que los vulnerables puedan ingresar a la clase media, los pobres a la vulnerabilidad y los de extra pobreza a la pobreza y vamos en ese camino de desarrollo».

Ese el camino del desarrollo, un mundo con poblaciones escalonadas en torno a poder adquisitivo. Imaginar algo contrario sería inaudito. Mejor que nadie se plantee la igualdad o siquiera las inversiones justicieras que tiende a anunciar la izquierda. Pero si el paso de la pobreza a la vulnerabilidad es de lo que se trata el desarrollo, habría que tomar entonces la senda del no-a-este-desarrollo, e insistir en una igualdad que sí pudiera importarle a las mayorías.

A la vez, Augusto La Torre, el economista jefe para América Latina y el Caribe del Banco Mundial, afirma desde la misma estrechez que caracteriza a la pobreza teórica de Calderón, que Grecia no importa para América Latina porque «no impactará» sobre el crecimiento de la región. Los horizontes económicos, que quisiéramos reconocer como plurales, se reducen a PIB, crecimiento, commodities y burda teleología.

La nota de prensa con el análisis de Calderón y el Banco Mundial, por aquí. Las declaraciones de La Torre, por aquí.

El ALBA con los BRICS o en torno al espectro del Banco del Sur

BRICS_DEV_BANK-630x354«Le vamos a proponer a la ALBA para que nos incorporemos en el banco del BRICS, para ir construyendo los nuevos mundos financieros».

Estas son las palabras del Presidente venezolano Nicolás Maduro que se recogen en una nota de la Agencia Venezolana de Noticias (AVN) de la semana pasada.

Es ese el proyecto, definitivamente, construir «los nuevos mundos financieros».

Pero para hablar de esta vía, de la entrada de la ALBA-TCP en el banco de los BRICS, y así, de cierta manera, de la mismísima Alianza en los BRICS, se hace inevitable hablar del paradero de nuestro Banco del Sur, y con esto Maduro declaró que:

«[El Banco del Sur] quedó congelado por la burocracia, por falta de la voluntad política, a veces, de los gobiernos, es lamentable que a 8 años de firmado el proyecto esté congelado y secuestrado por una burocracia. Nosotros vamos a tomar una iniciativa en las próximas horas con nuestros hermanos gobiernos de Unasur para que lo activemos definitivamente».

Viene entonces la renovación del banco, pero viene por medio de Unasur. Así son las cosas, en el entramado regional, se hala por acá, para empujar por allá.

Más información, por aquí y aquí.