Interview with Venezuelan Interior Minister

Jay Moore research at
Mon Aug 14 19:00:41 MDT 2000

Comrades -- I have just received some new materials from Steve Ellner in
Venezuela.  Here's the first.

best regards,

INTERVIEW WITH LUIS MIQUILENA - President Hugo Chávez's Right Hand
by Steve Ellner
 Hugo Chávez's electoral victory brought to power important political actors
who had been "outsiders" over a considerable period of time. Few of them
have been around as long as Luis Miquilena. As a student disguised as
worker, Miquilena was jailed for leading a bus drivers strike in 1944. He
belonged to a dissident Communist faction known as the "Machamiquis" (named
after veteran Communist Eduardo Machado and the youthful Miquilena) which
challenged U.S. Communist chief Earl Browder several years before he fell
into disgrace at the international level. After initially extending
qualified support to military dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1948,
Miquilena was jailed in Ciudad Bolívar. Subsequently, he renounced Communism
but remained identified with leftist politics and was an influential
supporter of the presidential candidacy of socialist José Vicente Rangel
(the current Foreign Minister) in 1983. In the latter part of the decade,
Miquilena joined a group of prominent citizens who called for the
convocation of a constituent assembly - Chávez's main banner in the
attempted coup of 1992. Miquilena became Chávez's financial manager for the
1998 presidential campaign and after the elections was appointed Minister of
the Interior. In July 1999, he was elected delegate to the Constituent
Assembly and then chosen its president. Presidential candidate Francisco
Arias Cárdenas has raised the cry of corruption against a major contributor
to Chávez's 1998 campaign for receiving numerous contracts in the public
sector as a result of his connections with Miquilena, a former business
associate. Miquilena, who currently presides over the interim congressional
body known as the "Congresillo," was interviewed in his office in the
presidential wing of the Capitol.

S.E.: Chávez has retained popular support since his election, but the middle
class has become increasingly alienated. Why?
L.M.: The principal alliance of our political project is a social one. Our
message has to represent the economic interests of the middle class,
including the productive sectors, which have historically struggled to
assert their independence. Nevertheless, we lack an effective communications
approach toward these sectors. The failure to reach the middle class has
been our movement's Achilles' Heel.

S.E.: MVR leaders talk of the need to undergo an internal reflection to
define the party ideologically and create a more solid internal structure.
What ideas do you have on this?

L.M.: That is correct. The successive electoral contests have not provided
us with time to dedicate ourselves to party reorganization. This structure
must be furnished with basic tools, which include a definition of the
country we want to create. We need to purge the organization of those who do
not share this ideological vision. Party members need to have a sense of
discipline to accept the majority's decisions since those who fail to do so
desert the organization whenever their personal ambitions are thwarted, and
that is precisely what is happening now.

 S.E.: Do you support the system of primaries?

L.M.: Yes and that is spelled out in the Constitution. Democracy must
originate from within political parties. Not everyone in our party supported
the idea, since authoritarian tendencies exist in all organizations, but the
vast majority did.

4. S.E.: Do you believe that Arias Cárdenas chose [Foreign Minister] José
Vicente Rangel and yourself as targets because they believe the two of you
exercise a leftist influence on President Chávez?

L.M.: What happened is that the previously established objectives that these
gentlemen were beginning to push within the ranks of our movement did not
coincide with those embraced by Hugo Chávez. They attempted to gain
positions and represented a Trojan Horse within the movement, but their
actions were frustrated some time ago and now their exit fortifies the
movement. Since separating they have embraced a discourse in which they
raise practically the same banners as did our adversaries during the past
[presidential] elections. Their positions differed in fundamental ways from
ours from the very beginning. They have targeted Rangel and myself because
being civilians with years of political participation we are perceived as

S.E.: The Constituent Assembly ended up modifying certain articles from
their original form, for instance those dealing with abortion and social
security. Did you have definite positions on these issues?

L.M.: We favored eliminating the term "from the time of conception" because
we consider that abortion is an acceptable option under certain
circumstances, such as those of a social nature and the defense of life
itself. With regard to the social security system, there was considerable
debate over whether private management could have some input in the system
and we left open that possibility, but insisted on the fundamental guidance
of the state. Here we were influenced by the example of the mixed system of
Uruguay, which demonstrated that people are increasingly convinced of the
central role of the state in the system.

6. S.E.:  You have dedicated 60 years of your life to political struggle.
What has been your achievements?

L.M.: I have always been a man of ideals, in a certain sense a dreamer.
Politics, as [José Carlos] Mariátegui says, is the great creative activity
of man. The most important achievement in my political life is the
possibility that some of those dreams will materialize through a government
like the one presently in power. The challenge Venezuelans of this
generation are facing is transcendental, since our victory or failure will
determine whether these ideals of mine are satisfied or whether a new
frustration will result.

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