Ellner on Venezuelan Situation

Jay Moore pieinsky at igc.org
Sun Aug 18 08:31:47 MDT 2002

Comrades -- I just returned from an overnight visit to the World Fellowship
Center in Conway, New Hampshire where I heard a lecture on the situation in
Venezuela from Steve Ellner, an old college friend of my wife's from SDS
days.  Ellner has lived and taught in Venezuela for many, many years.  He
has a new book coming out on the situation.  The title of his talk was "Can
Hugo Chavez survive politically?".  Briefly, his conclusion was that the
opposition to Chavez is heavily divided.   Perhaps 30% of the people are
committed "Chavistas".  Another 30% are unalterably opposed to Chavez.  The
remaining 40% are wavering.  Many of them may say they don't care for Chavez
but when asked specifically if they would vote in an election for x, y or z
from the other parties, they often say they would not -- those parties are
all too discredited from the past -- but would vote for Chavez.  Meanwhile,
a purge is taking place in the ranks of the military with more pro-Chavez
middle-ranking officers (the grouping that he came from) being promoted.
The Bolivarian Circles, the local committees to defend the revolution, have
been growing a lot since the coup.  The Supreme Court decision to exculpate
the four military leaders of the coup was just coming down when we were at
the WFC and were away from the latest news.  So I didn't get any
observations on that situation from Ellner.  I myself take the fact that
Venezuela resumed its oil exports to Cuba, suspended by the coup and after,
as a sign that Chavez is feeling more secure in power.  It was Ellner's
strong conclusion that Chavez was a "man of the left", though not of a
clearcut ideology (although he said Chavez was very close to his brother who
was much more ideological and that there were many leftist people
surrounding Chavez) and that he had longer range revolutionary goals which
he wanted to implement.  He described Chavez as a very good tactician but
who had made some tactical mistakes with the opposition.  Unfortunately, we
had other family commitments and couldn't stay longer to talk in greater
detail with Ellner.  I could, however, pass along any comments or questions
to him by email when he gets back to Venezuela.


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