Venezuela: Some tire of 19-day strike

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Sat Dec 21 05:52:59 MST 2002

(Even the Herald is now being compelled
to admit that support for the bosses strike
against Venezuela is losing steam, though
their headline writers haven't caught on.
I preferred the more accurate subhead to
the main headline for this article...

(This shows that the patient and emimently
POLITICAL approach which the Chavez team
hase practices is on the mark. Monday
morning quarterbacking is a well-practiced
art, but it little serves the struggle in
Venezuela which is being organized by an
experienced and proven leadership team.

(Of course this puts off the decisive
confrontation which must inevitably come
to bring an end to the campaign of both
economic and political sabotage which is
being orchestrated and encouraged by the
media and from abroad. While Washington
hates Chavez and would love to see him
removed, it knows that a civil war in
the Bolivarian republic could cause an
even greater increase in oil prices as
well as restrictions in the availability
of this precious commodity. At a time
when Washington is revving up rhetoric
for the invasion of Iraq, the relatively
small amount of oil which is going to
Cuba is of slightly less concern to
them than the stability of the entire
continent of Latin America.

(The role of the individual in history
can be significant at certain times,
in negative as well as in positive ways.
This may well explain the peculiar,
if rather pleasant, silence from the
mouth of Otto Reich...)

Posted on Sat, Dec. 21, 2002
March in Caracas supports walkout
Some tire of 19-day strike
jtamayo at

CARACAS - Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans marched
through Caracas Friday to support a 19-day-old walkout
against President Hugo Chávez, despite signs that some
striking businessmen are growing tired.

The opposition march snaked around the capital to avoid a
rival demonstration by supporters of Chávez and his leftist
revolution, which has pledged to benefit the majority of
Venezuelans who live in poverty.

National guardsmen erected a fence of barbed wire around the
Miraflores presidential palace, but opposition leaders
rejected calls from firebrands to march on the complex in a
heavily pro-Chávez neighborhood.

Drivers and housewives waited up to six hours at gasoline
stations and cooking gas distributors as the walkout
continued to hamstring the state-run PDVSA oil company,
which provides 12 to 15 percent of the oil the United States
imports annually.

PDVSA's walkout, which continued despite a court injunction
Thursday ordering its employees back to work, is the
backbone of the nationwide strike called by labor, business
and political groups to force Chávez to resign or allow
early elections.

But there were hints that some businessmen are growing weary
of the losses they have endured during the Christmas
shopping season and the government's assertions that people
are going without food and medicines.

''Everyone is tired . . . and the commercial side of the
strike is dropping slowly,'' said Manuel Martins, a hotel
supplies distributor in Valéncia, an industrial city of one
million 100 miles west of Caracas.

Most domestic airlines are operating on full schedules
again, and the giant Polar food conglomerate said Thursday
it was restarting two of its 22 production lines ``to secure
the supply of basic goods.''

Caracas shopping mall owners have pressured strike leaders
to let them open, and some shuttered businesses are reported
to be opening their back doors so they can receive clients

About 80 percent of Valéncia's large and medium industries
are closed, Martins said.

His own sales are off by 75 percent, going only to fill
emergency orders from hospitals and clinics, he said.

Valéncia's sprawling industrial park is virtually silent,
with all major factories -- Ford, Mazda, Firestone and the
company that makes the chassis for the U.S. military's
Humvees -- idle since Dec. 2.

''We didn't make one sale since the strike, but we can't
turn back until this dictator resigns or calls elections,''
said Carlos Balaguera, still paying the salaries of the 28
employees in his idle lubricants factory.

Sixty percent of Valéncia's food, clothing and other
commercial shops are striking, Martins said.

Many of those commercial shops are ''lamentably violating''
strike rules that allow such stores to open for only five
hours a day, he said.

''We never thought this would go to 15 to 20 days,'' bakery
owner Carlos Rodrigues said. ``If this strike is successful
it is only because of PDVSA, because to be frank the
commercial side is almost a failure.''

Up to 35 percent of the 500 large bakeries in Valéncia's
surrounding state of Carabobo are closed because they can't
get flour or natural gas, Rodrigues said.

No serious food shortages have been reported, but the
government has threatened to charge warehouses with hoarding
and has announced emergency imports of powdered milk and
flour in an apparent bid to paint itself as the protector of

But whatever happens on the commercial side of the walkout,
it is the PDVSA strike that will decide the fate of the
year-old struggle between Chávez and his opponents.

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