[Marxism] Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network statement: New attacks on Venezuela's democratic revolution

Stuart Munckton stuartmunckton at gmail.com
Thu Nov 8 00:32:07 MST 2007


Please circulate widely

Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, November 8, 2007

New attacks on Venezuela's democratic revolution

The corporate-owned media internationally is at it again. A new round
of lies and distortions are being spread about the peaceful and
democratic revolution in Venezuela being led by the government of
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The catalyst for this campaign is
the democratic process in Venezuela to reform the existing
constitution. The media, ignoring the content of the proposed reforms
that would significantly extend democracy and social justice, have, by
taking a tiny minority of proposed changes out of context, presented
this as moves by Chavez to establish himself as a
``dictator-for-life''.

This media campaign coincides with a fresh offensive inside Venezuela
by the privileged elite that, failing to defeat pro-Chavez forces at
the ballot box (which have won 11 straight election victories
nationally since 1998, most recently with Chavez being re-elected
president last year with the largest number of votes in Venezuelan
history) have resorted to violent campaigns to overthrow the
government.
Strong evidence suggests a fresh campaign is underway. According to
the October 24 edition of Venezuelan newspaper Dario Vea, opposition
leaders had held a meeting with US officials (the US government backed
an opposition-led coup in 2002 and continues to provide millions of
dollars of funding to opposition groups), where the officials urged
the opposition to ``organise acts of economic sabotage against
infrastructure, destroy the food transport and delivery chain … and
organise a military coup with all means possible, including bloodshed
by means of paramilitary force''.

Reports emerged on November 7 of shootings related to protests on at
least one university campus leaving at least two students injured. On
November 5 there was a carefully timed press conference by former
defence minister and ally of Chavez, retired General Raul Baduel, to
which only pro-opposition media were invited, where he not just argued
against the constitutional reforms, repeating opposition claims that
they amount to a "constitutional coup", but urged those in the
military to study the proposals and act to stop them. This is widely
interpreted as an incitement for a coup, although the government
insists the military remains loyal and that the people are prepared to
resist attempts to topple Chavez.

The corporate media have provided out-of-context footage and accounts
of demonstrations by right-wing students, who have organised violent
riots that have seen parts of Caracas torched, and have deliberately
attempted to provoke security forces to create the impression of a
"crackdown" on opposition. Chavez has accused the opposition of
attempting to cause a death that could be blamed on the government.
The corporate media has largely ignored the massive demonstration, in
the hundreds of thousands and completely dwarfing the right-wing
student protests, in support of the reforms on November 5.

Democratic and progressive changes

The proposed changes to constitution are being carried out
democratically and in accordance with the existing constitution,
adopted in a national referendum in 1999 after Chavez was first
elected. The National Assembly (AN) has debated the proposals, and
added 36 proposals to Chavez's initial list of 33, and adopted the
proposals with the necessary two-thirds majority. Now, the proposals
will go the Venezuelan people to reject or accept in a referendum to
be held on December 2. The proposals have been thoroughly debated
through out all Venezuelan society, with AN deputies participating in
popular assemblies that have debated and made proposals relating to
the reforms. From August 16 to October 7, some 9,020 public meetings
were held and over 10 million copies of the proposals have been
distributed.

The media have ignored the profoundly democratic and progressive
nature of the proposed changes. These include the institutionalisation
of new institutions of popular power based on direct democracy, such
as the communal councils, as well as a series of new measures to allow
people to directly manage resources and decision making in their
communities. While respecting the right to private property, it
recognises new forms of "social" property run by and for the people
themselves, and gives further recognition to the growing number of
cooperatives.

If adopted, the reforms would make Venezuela the first country in
South America to recognise the rights of gays and lesbians in its
constitution. The voting age would be reduced to 16. The measures to
protect the rights and culture of Afro-Venezuelans and indigenous
people will be strengthened. Governments would be obliged to ensure
free university education to the entire population. Workers' rights
will be significantly extended, including a reduction in the working
week from 44 to 36 hours, and the provision of social security and
pensions to workers in the so-called informal economy.

The media have focused overwhelmingly on two proposed changes: the
proposal to allow a president to stand for elections for more than two
terms, and a new proposal from the AN giving the government the
ability to call a ``state of emergency''. The media ignore the fact
that many nations around the world allow a president to stand for
re-election either for a number of terms or indefinitely, and the
Venezuelan constitution grants people the ability to recall any
elected official, including the president, before their term finishes.
Chavez faced a such a recall referendum, after 20% of the population
signed a petition calling for it, in 2004, which he won with nearly
60% of the vote. The measure to call a state of emergency, which was
enshrined in Venezuela's 1961 constitution, is not fundamentally any
different to similar measures in many countries, including both the US
and Australia.

Powerful interests threatened

Behind this campaign is the hand of the US and corporate interests,
who stand to lose the wealth and control. The constitutional reforms
will provide a legal framework for significant advances towards
empowering the majority, which explains the increasing desperation for
US and Venezuelan elites.

Chavez told supporters of the reform at a mass meeting on November 6
that the current offensive against the elected government  "is part of
an international conflict, because we have declared ourselves free ...
The United States wants a Venezuela that is on its knees, weakened,
dependent, like a sick person in intensive care". Chavez insisted,
they are never going to achieve this".

In Australia , we can expect an increase in media, and possibly
government, hostility, as Venezuela 's pro-people policies begin to
extend to the Pacific region. In October, Venezuelan foreign vice
minister Vladimir Villegas attended the Pacific Forum and offered to
provide the impoverished nations similar energy deals to assist them
as Venezuela has to poor nations in Latin America and the Caribbean.
This stands in stark contrast to Australia 's policy of exploiting the
resources of Pacific nations, and keeping them dependent.

Hostility to Venezuela's humanitarian approach has already begun, with
the October 20 Australian reporting "The Government of international
pariah Hugo Chavez has signalled a challenge to Australia's influence
in the Pacific with an aggressive diplomatic push based on cheap fuel
for island states." This is how the Murdoch press present a foreign
policy based on solidarity and social justice!

Solidarity needed now

It is important that progressive, social justice-minded people in
Australia understand that it is this perceived threat to Australian
corporate interests that drives the media campaign against the
Venezuelan revolution. Supporters of the Venezuela's democratic
revolution, and all supporters of democracy and social justice, need
to raise their voices now against the latest threat to the Venezuelan
revolution.

The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network is organised solidarity
actions in the lead-up to, and corresponding with, the December 2
referendum on the constitutional reforms. Please visit
<http://venezuelasolidarity.org> for the details. Another crucial
aspect of constructing solidarity is the AVSN-initiated campaign for
Hugo Chavez to visit Australia , which Chavez has indicated he is
interested in accepting providing it gathers enough support. To add
your name to the petition, and find out how you can assist in building
the campaign, visit the website.




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