In Brazil, Chavez brings Venezuela front and center

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Feb 11 04:39:02 MST 2003


-------------------------
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Feb. 13, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper
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BRAZIL: CHAVEZ VISIT BRINGS VENEZUELA FRONT AND CENTER

By Berta Joubert-Ceci
Porto Alegre, Brazil

The World Social Forum held here Jan. 23-28 had as its two main and
urgent topics the U.S. war against Iraq and the process of neo-
liberalism, exemplified in the U.S. plan to set up the Free Trade Area
of the Americas .

But an unexpected visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez showed how
the 100,000 people attending the WSF felt about another present danger
looming over the Americas: the threat of a U.S.-sup port ed coup against
his elected government.

Thousands of voices chanting in unison, "Uh! Ah! Chavez no se va"--
Chavez is not leaving--let the world know both the immediate crisis and
the determination of the people of Venezuela to defend their Bolivarian
Revolution.

The people of Latin America and the Caribbean understand passionately
that a setback in Venezuela would mean a setback for all the Americas.
It was quite moving to see how Venezuelans and non-Venezuelans alike
defended this revolution with words and deeds.

The main participants in the revolutionary Bolivarian process have no
thoughts of losing. Jacobo Torres, general coordinator of the Bolivarian
Force of the Workers (FBT) in Venezuela, told Workers World, "We are
more convinced than ever that we are going to further our revolutionary
process, that the will of the people will prevail and that nobody will
abolish our constitution."

The FBT is a labor and political organization embracing different union
sectors. These pro-Chavez forces are attempting to consolidate labor's
power away from the old union organization, which is really like a
company union.

The leaders of the old group, the Workers Confederation of Venezuela,
have been colluding with the right-wing opposition forces responsible
for the bosses' "strike" that has damaged the country's economy.

Right now, Torres said, the oil workers are waging the most difficult
struggle. The boss organization Fedecamaras, responsible for the
abortive coup last April, tried most viciously to sabotage the economy's
vital oil sector.

When these entrepreneurs started a lockout, which the right-wing media
called a "strike," the managers left their work places and started
sabotaging the sophisticated computer system that coordinates the
different complex operations of oil production and distribution,
including the automatic filling of oil tanks. This slowed oil production
tremendously, jeopardizing not only the economy but the whole society by
attacking energy production.

The functioning of schools and hospitals, even doing a simple task
around the house, became extremely difficult and could endanger people's
lives. Fires and explosions were a constant threat, since the sabotaging
managers broke valves and caused leaks in some pipelines.

The bosses' purpose was to totally choke the country's economy. Oil
production decreased from almost 3 million barrels a day in November to
150,000 barrels.

WORKERS DECIDE TO TAKE OVER PRODUCTION

Then, on Dec. 4, Torres said, the workers decided to secure the oil
production. So they, together with the people, occupied the oil plants
and evicted the right-wing managers.

"For the first time, the workers took direct control and responsibility
for the production of our industry," said Torres. "And little by little,
in 15 days, Venezuela started to produce gasoline again.

"Heroic pages were written in those days by companeros who stayed awake
for 96, even 120 hours, working to make sure that raw materials would
get to the centers of production and distribution and preventing the
coup agents from entering the plants," continued Torres. "Today, we can
say without doubt that the workers, together with the national armed
forces and with the new management, have started to increase the oil
production. When we arrived in Porto Alegre, production had already
increased to 1.2 million barrels a day."

Venezuelan speakers, the Venezuelan flag and placards calling for
solidarity with the Bolivarian movement were prevalent in gatherings and
demonstrations in Porto Alegre. The Venezuelan ambassador to Brazil,
plus several compatriot cultural workers and intellectuals, were guests
at the House of Cuba here, where they spoke on the current situation.

But the highlight of the Venezuelan presence in Porto Alegre was Hugo
Chavez himself. He was invited by the recently elected president of
Brazil, Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva.

Chavez spoke at the Porto Alegre Legislative Assembly building. Powerful
loudspeakers were placed on the balcony, allowing the thousands gathered
outside to listen to his stirring and militant words.

His 90-minute speech exuded confidence based on the backing of the
Venezuelan people. Chavez assured his listeners that the Bolivarian
Revolution would not die.

This confidence had been demonstrated several days earlier, on Jan. 23,
when people took to the streets in Venezuela in support of their
revolution and their president. With thousands wearing the Bolivarians'
red beret, the massive demonstration was dubbed the "red tide."

Speaking with a warm and friendly delivery, Chavez declared his
allegiance to the people, particularly the poorest, and his conviction
that the people are the ones in power. His job, he said, is to guarantee
that the will of the people prevails. "Uh! Ah! Chavez no se va!"

- END -

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