IV353 Venezuela 2 Part 2

Johannes Schneider Johannes.Schneider at gmx.net
Wed Sep 10 08:42:17 MDT 2003


continued from part 1:

We should also mention the role played by activists of Trotskyist origin,
notably in the Democratic and Classist Bloc of Carabobo, an industrial state
in the centre of the country. This bloc is a member of the new trade union
the
UNT. Also, the excellent website aporrea.org, a kind of autonomous press
agency of the Bolivarian revolution, is organized by activists of Trotskyist
origin. [E.D.]

----------------

Box: Attempted coups

After having been swept away at the elections of 1998 to 2000, the
opposition
began to regain hope from 2001 onwards when the government introduced new
legislation; laws which protected small fishers against industrial fishing,
laws on land which implemented a timid but necessary agrarian reform, new
tax
laws which introduce the concept of taxation in a country where nobody was
used to it.
The opposition embarked on a strategy of permanent destabilization; economic
destabilization by the leaders of the oil industry and the local and
international employers, permanent demonstrations of the middle and upper
classes relayed through the media, and military destabilization.
Economic sabotage culminated in the lockout of December 2002-January 2003.
The
country's key industries were brought to a halt, while the big food
companies
stopped production, creating serious shortages for the poor. In the
shantytowns without access to town gas, families had to cook with charcoal
in
the absence of supplies of bottled gas. Meanwhile, international reserves
melted away following a massive flight of capital (50 billion dollars in
summer 2002).
Since December 2001, Venezuela has experienced a whole year of
demonstrations
of the opposition calling for the resignation of the head of state. Some
attracted hundreds of thousands of participants. Support for these
demonstrations is presented by the media as heroic opposition to the
'Castro-Communist dictatorship' of Chavez. Between programmes,
advertisements
for the opposition are broadcast. Some journalists describe the situation as
a
media coup d¹État.
Since the defeat of the lock-out of December 2002-January 2003, the
opposition
continues to pin its hopes on a military uprising, turning its propaganda
towards the denunciation of Venezuela's protection of the Colombian FARC.
The
goal is to put Venezuela on the list of "rogue states" and provoke an
extreme
tension with neighbouring Colombia, the US's foremost ally in the region (it
was the only Latin American country to have supported the war in Iraq).
If the degree of radicalism of the Bolivarian revolution is to be assessed
by
the radicalism of its opposition, there is no doubt that Venezuela is in the
vanguard of the anti-imperialist movement in Latin America! [E.D]


---------------

Box: An anti-imperialist policy

For a country historically linked to the United States, the foreign policy
of
Hugo Chavez constitutes a significant rupture. In the name of the struggle
against a unipolar world Venezuelan diplomacy has developed a range of
polices
on Latin American integration, the strengthening of links with OPEC and the
development of economic relations with China and Russia.
>From its arrival in power, the government demanded that US military forces
leave the country. It introduced a clause in the Constitution banning
foreign
troops from the national territory. At the same time, the government banned
US
planes headed for Colombia in the framework of Plan Colombia from flying
over
Venezuela. The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) project has been
rejected by Chavez, who prefers a Latin American political integration. At
the
Quebec summit, Venezuela was the only country to express reservations on the
implementation of the agreement.
On Colombia, Chavez refuses to characterize the FARC as a terrorist
organization, contenting himself with condemning the terrorist actions
carried
out by the guerillas.
During his electoral campaign and to this day, Chavez made solidarity with
Cuba an axis of his foreign policy. In the area of oil the two countries
have
signed an agreement which has given Cuba favourable credit conditions
indexed
on the international price of a barrel of oil; the higher the price, the
lower
the part of the bill paid in cash and the higher the part paid in credit.
Cuba
provides contingents of doctors and sports instructors in return; also, it
has
cared for 5,000 Venezuelan patients in Cuban hospitals and welcomed hundreds
of students to its medical schools. Venezuela is the only Latin American
country not to have voted for the recent resolution of the UN Human Rights
Commission against Cuba and Fidel Castro is regularly hailed in Chavez's
public appearances.
Venezuela has signed an oil agreement with a dozen other Caribbean and
Central
American countries, with similar credit conditions (if slightly less
advantageous than the Cuban deal) which help reduce the oil bill for small
economies.
Chavez welcomed the decision of the OPEC Summit in 2000 to respect
scrupulously production quotas. The immediate consequence was a rise in the
price per barrel which went from less than US$10 to more than US$20 in a few
weeks. Venezuela has sought a rapprochement with the big exporter countries
like Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq.
Chavez has visited Saddam Hussein, becoming the sole head of state to break
the embargo decided on in 1991 by the UN Security Council. Venezuela opposed
both the war in Afghanistan and the recent war in Iraq.
Recently Chavez attacked the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade
Organization, as agencies that oppress the peoples more than they help them.
Despite all, trade relations with the US have not been modified. Venezuela
remains the main American supplier of oil to the US. The latter, which
desires
the fall of Chavez and
participated actively in the attempted coup of April 2002 and recognized the
transitional government of the employers' leader Carmona, is isolated at the
continental level because of the Chavez government's strict respect for
constitutional legality. The Organization of American States had condemned
the
coup. Yet, outside of Fidel Castro, Chavez has no strategic allies in
America.
[E.D.]
-------------

Box: The oil curse

In Venezuela, politics and oil policy are synonymous. Indeed, oil is today
the
main concern of the USA. What happens in Venezuela has, then, world
repercussions.
Venezuela is one of the main oil producers of the world, the fifth biggest
world exporter, the only American member of OPEC and the second biggest oil
supplier to the US, behind Saudi Arabia.
The known reserves of non-conventional, extra heavy petroleum are equivalent
to the reserves of Saudi Arabia. Oil represents 50% of tax receipts and 80%
of
Venezuela's exports. From his arrival in power, Chavez had said he wanted to
make oil the motor of a new Venezuelan economy at the service of the whole
of
the population.
The attempted coup of April 2002 and the attempts at destabilization of the
Chavez government fit into the imperialist strategy to control the oil
resources. After the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the suspicions of
Saudi
financing of the Al-Qaïda network, the US realized that the Saudi monarchy
is
an increasingly unreliable ally for their energy supplies. Hence the
necessity
of controlling other oil reserves, which explains the military intervention
in
Afghanistan and the desire to gain control of Iraqi oil reserves. Venezuela
fits into this geopolitical agenda, just like Plan Colombia.
Under the leadership of Hugo Chavez and Ali Rodriguez, the role of OPEC has
been considerably strengthened and the price of oil per barrel has risen
from
8 to 30 dollars.
The best allies of the US were found until December 2002 at the head of
Venezuela's national oil company, PDVSA. With the private media, they are
the
spearhead of opposition to Chavez. Paradoxically, it was with the
nationalization of the oil industry by Carlos Andres Perez in 1976 that the
problems began. The new directors were the Venezuelan managers of the big
foreign companies who had until then been responsible for oil exploitation.
Rather than changing the political economy of oil, they would manage PDVSA
as
they managed their private companies. The national company would behave like
a
transnational private enterprise, one of whose central objectives would be
to
escape state control. Rather than managing the reserves to benefit future
generations, the strategy adopted was to sell as much as possible. Venezuela
did not respect its production quotas, thus reducing the price per barrel to
7
dollars.
In 1976, for each barrel of oil exported, 80% of receipts ended up in state
coffers; in 2000 it was only 20%. The brunt of the oil surplus value escaped
the state through many mechanisms. The most important of them was the
so-called policy of internationalization of oil.
Venezuela's most significant strategic reserves are in extra heavy
petroleum,
the richest in terms of by-products but also the most difficult to refine.
PVDSA directors invested massively abroad in refineries supposedly
specializing in petroleum of this type. Today, the PDVSA owns 8 refineries
in
the USA, Venezuela becoming the first country in the South to export its
capital to the North. A network of 15,000 franchises exists in the USA for
the
sale of Venezuelan products. These investments escape state control and
allow
profits to escape the Venezuelan tax system. . Since Chavez came to power,
the
government has demanded the opening of PDVSA books so as to subject them to
an
audit - which the directors have consistently refused.
While particularly high salaries are paid to PDVSA's top managers, this
policy
extends to nearly all the company's permanent employees, who have become the
best-paid wage earners in Venezuela. As a consequence PDVSA workers are more
linked to the survival of the system than to the working class. Thus, when
the
PDVSA directors and the trade union confederation, historically and
organically linked to the AD, the pivotal party of the old political regime,
decided to halt oil production, the permanent workers to a large extent
supported the "strike".
The PDVSA temporary workers refused to bend to this strategy of
strangulation
of the country. These workers are members of Fedepetrol, one of the most
important trade union federations in the CTV, which has since the beginning
refused to follow the employers' strike movement.
The response of the Chavez government from December 2002 onwards has been
firm. Oil has become an element of national security and emergency measures
have been taken. The militarization of the sites has put an end to the
sabotage of the managers and technicians. All those who had left their posts
or participated in sabotage were dismissed, or around 15,000 people. These
dismissals are justified by the fact that the strike was a political strike
with an insurrectional character.
"The proof that all this bureaucracy was not needed is the fact that the oil
industry has resumed production without the dismissed workers" said Ali
Rodriguez in February. In fact the company is essentially being run by the
temporary employees, with the active participation of Fedepetrol. This has
allowed the latter's secretary general, Rafael Rosales, to demand that the
government establish a new type of co-management of the company with its
rank
and file employees.

1. Ali Rodriguez, a former guerilla, has specialized in the analysis of the
oil industry. He has served as Chavez's minister of energy and Venezuela's
representative at OPEC and is currently director of the PDVSA.
[E.D.]




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