Good news: Anti-Chávez conspirators say "uncle!"
nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar
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
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
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 fibertel.com.ar
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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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