Good news: Anti-Chávez conspirators say "uncle!"

Nestor Gorojovsky nestorgoro at
Fri Jan 31 08:00:41 MST 2003

[A few comments by yours truly, between square brackets. NG]

President Hugo Chavez Frias on the offensive. 
By: Calvin Tucker *

[One of the wonderful things with Chávez is that he breaks any 
"intelligent" (but not "smart") forecast. How many among us were 
"wary" because this "bourgeois and populist" military leader would 
not stand the pressure of imperialism? A good leson in sober thinking 
for those who believe that with a couple of well placed Shibbolets 
reality will yield to our mind...]

It is one of life's little ironies that the impending reopening of 
that symbol of American capitalism, McDonald's Hamburgers, which is 
still on "strike" against the Venezuelan government, will be hailed 
as a victory for President Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution. But 
perhaps we should not be too surprised.

This is, after all, the country where everything seems the wrong way 
round and language is being continually reinvented.

[A very insightful observation, which demonstrates that the author 
has discovered that formal similitudes and frozen categories are 
quite worthless in Latin America, as compared to Europe or the United 
States. This task of "reinventing a new language" is precisely what 
should be accomplished by the Latin American Left, something that has 
been found tremendously difficult to develop, particularly due to 
imperialist colonization of the mind in the petty bourgeois layers 
that define themselves as "Left"]

In Venezuela, the word "democracy" has come to mean the overthrow of 
the elected President. Bosses organise the strikes and corrupt union 
leaders complain about the government defending workers' legal 
rights. And the military, armed with cement mixers and bricks, invade 
the shanty towns to build houses, not to destroy them.

In the midst of this struggle for the future of Venezuela, is an 
increasingly confident Hugo Chavez, who, having seen off a US backed 
coup attempt last April, is now busy banging the last nails into the 
coffin of a collapsing two month old strike of managers in the state 
owned oil company, the PDVSA.

The strike is a showdown between the right wing opposition and the 
government over the control of the country's vast oil reserves, which 
provide Venezuela with two thirds of its export earnings.

[The description is incomplete: the "right wing opposition" contains 
many "leftist" groups, in fact the most fervid and uncompromising 
enemies of Chávez. Of course, when it comes to defend revolutions 
elsewhere, they are always on the "right" position. A pity that when 
they act in their own country, they coincide with the oligarchs, thus 
must be labeled, as the author does, a part of the "right"]

Wresting control of the PDVSA from the old pro-American management, 
who had run it as a personal fiefdom and favoured privatisation, is 
seen as pivotal to Chavez's ability to deliver on his promises of 
homes, health and education for the poor.

Just as the failure of April's coup allowed Chavez to purge the 
military of right wing Generals, the slow defeat of the strike in the 
PDVSA, has provided Chavez with the opportunity to dismiss 5,000 anti-
government executives and saboteurs, and press ahead with the long 
overdue reform of the company.

Thus far, the Venezuelan opposition's tactics bear a remarkable and 
uncanny similarity to those which successfully overthrew Salvador 
Allende's government in Chile in 1973 and which led to Michael 
Manley's defeat at the ballot box in Jamaica in 1980.

[Not the best of comparisons. Because there are more similarities 
with those which "succesfully overthrew" Vargas, Perón, and 
Villarroel. Perón was forced into exile, Vargas was pushed into 
suicide and Villarroel was hang by an excited mob of petty bourgeois 
in the central square of La Paz.  The basic component of these coups: 
a united front of "leftists" and "rightists" against a national 
liberation movement. It could be also demonstrated that -appearences 
non withstanding- something similar happened in Chile, 1973, too, but 
it would be lengthy. Unfortunately, the usual sources in English on 
Latin America are quite shy when it comes to denounce these 
antinational "lefts" as what they actually are: enragé petty 
bourgeois allies of the imperialist bloc]

In each case, there was a sustained and organised attack on the 
legitimacy of the government led by the big business owned media 
monopoly. Each of the country's leaders was subjected to a campaign 
of character assassination, and labelled a tyrant, a liar and an 

The government was declared "undemocratic" and "communist" and lies 
and misrepresentations abounded. In turn, this created an atmosphere 
in which political violence would be seen as aimed not at the 
destruction of democracy, but at its preservation. Economic 
destabilisation then occurred which included the flight of capital 

In all three cases, the government was accused of taking orders from 
Fidel Castro and of hiding thousands of Cuban troops in the country. 
Each leader was also accused of arming terrorists.

In Allende's case, it was communist guerrillas. In Manley's case, the 
PLO. And in Chavez's case, FARC and al Qaeda. In Chile, the coup was 
preceded by an employers' strike.

In Jamaica, Manley's election defeat was preceded by an employers' 
strike. In Venezuela, last April's coup was preceded by an employers' 

At the time the United States issued categorical denials that the CIA 
was behind the destabilisation and coups, or had ever financed and 
advised government opponents. They later admitted their intimate 
involvement in the Chilean coup, but only after the mountain of 
evidence became so overwhelming it couldn't be credibly denied.

Chavez has learnt the lessons of Chile and Jamaica.

Firstly, he has secured his base in the military, making another coup 
attempt a near impossibility.

Secondly, he has set up over one hundred and thirty thousand grass 
roots neighbourhood organisations in the slums, called Bolivarian 
Circles. These are self help groups of between 7 and 13 persons, 
which represent and organise the local population and act as a 
communication channel between the populace and the government.

The opposition claim that they are heavily armed.

Thirdly, providing the government defeats the oil executives strike, 
he will have access to a steady and reliable source of hard currency 
revenue with which he can continue to finance the social programmes 
for the working class and poor.

The opposition's media monopoly, which includes three of the four TV 
stations and all the national papers, remains Chavez's biggest 
obstacle and the opposition's biggest strength.

Recently, legal documents were served on the private TV stations, 
threatening them with closure if they continued to undermine the 
constitutional legitimacy of the government and participate in 
attempts to overthrow it.

The opposition, having played the cards of military coup and economic 
destabilisation are looking increasingly boxed in.

The United States, currently pre-occupied with the Middle East and 
still smarting from the embarrassment of having recognised last 
April's short lived coup, has been forced to declare that it wouldn't 
recognise another dictatorship or directly intervene. Provided that 
that remains the US position, the opposition is left with elections 
as the only viable means of unseating Chavez.

Under the Constitution, a binding referendum on Chavez's presidency 
may be held in August, which is the mid point of his six year term. 
However, in order to trigger a vote, the opposition must first 
collect the verified signatures of at least 20% of registered 

To unseat the President, the opposition must not only win the 
referendum, but also attract a larger number of actual votes than 
Chavez received when he was elected in 2000 with 56% support.

The opposition is not confident they can reach this target, hence 
their strategy to force out the President by alternative means. Their 
problems are further compounded by internal division and lack of a 
clear position. Some leaders are calling for an end to the crumbling 
business strike, others are calling for it to be strengthened.

A group of disgraced former army generals are demanding the 
assassination of the President, whilst more moderate voices are 
calling for negotiations.

In public, the opposition is trying to put on a brave face. They 
point to opinion polls which allegedly show a majority against the 
government. But opinion polls, even legitimate ones - which the 
Venezuelan versions are not - often understate the support for an 
incumbent President because voters are more inclined to express their 
dissatisfaction when the choice is abstract. When voters have to make 
a real choice and consider the alternatives, they are often more 

Opinion polls, particularly those conducted by partisan pollsters, 
don't reflect the fact that interviewees will frequently hide their 
true opinions, particularly when they feel that their viewpoint is 
controversial or not what they think the person asking the question 
wants to hear.

Neither is public opinion static. It reflects, at any given moment, a 
whole range of factors. One of these factors is 'momentum', which is 
something the government now has in droves and which the opposition 
has squandered by virtue of the failure of their business strike.

The battle for public opinion also appears to be moving steadily in 
the government's favor.

In January, up to a million mainly indigenous and darker  skinned 
Venezuelans from the city slums and the countryside, marched through 
the capital, Caracas, in a huge show of support for the government.

The opposition's counter demonstration, held a few days later, 
attracted only about seventy thousand mostly white middle class 
people. This was significantly down on previous figures for 
opposition marches.

Senior opposition leaders are now admitting that they are facing a 
backlash from ordinary workers, particularly from those who have lost 
their jobs as a result of bankruptcies brought about by the business 

At the gas stations, irate motorists queuing for scarce petrol are no 
longer  heard blaming the government for the shortages. And in some 
parts of the country, car stickers are appearing, saying "Opposition 
supporter turned Chavista".

* Calvin Tucker writes on British and international issues for the 
monthly "Straight Left".  In November  2001 Tucker correctly 
predicted a 
coup attempt after becoming convinced that the United States of 
America was preparing for a coup against Venezuela's elected 
President, Hugo Chavez 

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
nestorgoro at

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"Sí, una sola debe ser la patria de los sudamericanos".
Simón Bolívar al gobierno secesionista y disgregador de 
Buenos Aires, 1822
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