[Marxism] Fwd: Pro-Chavez Union Leaders in Venezuela Urge Chavez to Do Better

David Walters dwalters at marxists.org
Wed Oct 12 16:57:30 MDT 2005

This is the kind of wide ranging debate that makes the Bolivarian  
Revolution so fascinating and why I have optimism about the situation  
in Venezuela (even though the tone of this article is very negative  
and critical). The issues being debated are ones should be highly  
interesting to Marxists, especially union members and to all  
supporters, world-wide, of the Revolution in Venezuela.

--David Walters

Original: http://venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1780

Pro-Chavez Union Leaders in Venezuela Urge Chavez to Do Better

By: Alessandro Parma - Venezuelanalysis.com

Caracas October 07, 2005—During a protest rally last Thursday,  
Orlando Chirinos, the leader of the National Union of Workers (UNT),  
said he is pushing for trade union elections to take place quickly  
and criticized how slow the progress for workers in Venezuela has  
been. Also, Ramon Machuca, a leading trade unionist and head of a  
steelworkers union, has alleged that the Governor of Bolivar State,  
Rangel Gomez, is corrupt. As a result, both men are criticizing  
President Hugo Chavez and his party, the MVR, due to their connection  
with these issues.

The increasing criticism from Chirinos and Machuca is significant  
because both occupy significant leadership roles in the pro-Chavez  
union movement. Two years ago, unions sympathetic to Chavez and his  
Bolivarian Revolution split from the Venezuelan Confederation of  
Workers (CTV) and formed a new national union federation, the  
National Union of Workers (UNT). Ever since its formation, factions  
within it have been debating how close the new federation should be  
to the Chavez government and who should lead it. Chrinos and Machuca  
are seen as leading opposing factions in this debate.

On Wednesday, Orlando Chirinos put pressure on the National Electoral  
Commission (CNE) to set a date for elections in his trade union  
federation. He has done this by saying publicly that the National  
Electoral Commission will reply to his request for an election date  
by October 10. Chirinos, speaking in Plaza O’Leary in Caracas said,  
“We want a clean and transparent election. We want one without  
intimidation. I have spoken with the CNE to make sure that this  
happens.” UNT elections were originally to take place in early 2005,  
but have been announced and postponed for most of the year now.

Chirinos also expressed concern about the workers situation in  
Venezuela. “We have a public sector that pretends its workers are  
happy when they aren’t. We need conditions that suit the needs of the  
workers. For the defense of the country it’s sovereignty and  
independence against Imperialism.”

In an interview this week with the newspaper El Mundo, Chirinos as  
quoted making several critical comments about government labor  
policy. He said that President Chavez, “has to cease making  
unilateral declarations on the minimum wage. We have demanded this  
for two years and accomplished it, but there is a problem… workers  
are not receiving the minimum wage country-wide.”

Chirinos also criticized some of the labor laws that the government  
passed at the beginning of Chavez’s presidency, saying that they left  
too much power in the hands of bosses. He said, “The employers can  
unilaterally dismiss their workers when they like.” He said that part  
of the problem was the lack of internal debate in the unions, just as  
there is in political parties at this time.

Chirinos’ critical comments do not appear to have hurt his relations  
with the government. Yesterday afternoon he met with the Minister of  
Labor María Cristina Iglesias to discuss the details of the benefits  
for his union members. It is expected that his union’s terms will be  
agreed to. He is also expected to meet with the Vice President, José  
Vicente Rangel, on Monday to discuss UNT elections.

Similarly, another pro-Chavez union leader, Ramon Machuca, who is the  
leader of SUTISS, the steelworkers union of the SIDOR steel  
production plant in eastern Venezuela, has been attacking one of his  
political rivals. In an interview on Thursday with the weekly paper  
Quinto Dia, Machuca alleged that Rangel Gomez, the pro-Chavez  
Governor of Bolivar State, was involved in defrauding Machuca’s  
members of millions of dollars when he was the head of the Venezuelan  
Corporation of Guyana, the CVG. The CVG is a state holding company  
that has a 40% share in the SIDOR steel plant. According to a  
collective agreement the workers in the plant are supposed to receive  
30% of the profits. Machuca said, “I have the numbers of deposits and  
receipts that SIDOR made at the CVG and the amount is in the millions  
of dollars.” However, the private consortium that owns the other 60%  
has apparently paid them none of this for several years.

There have been many protests about this recently, but this is the  
first time that Machuca has alleged wrongdoing on the part of  
Governor Rangel Gomez and the CVG. He said, “I don’t have a concrete  
explanation what happened with this money or with the workers’ part  
of the money. Undoubtedly something shady has occurred.” He also  
said, “As a Trade Union we are not permitted to find out precisely  
what has happened with the surpluses in the bank and we cannot get a  
reply from Rangel Gomez.”

Machuca has said that he will take this matter to Hugo Chavez, “He is  
a friend of mine, he respects my revolutionary position and I respect  
his leadership.” He added, “I have much information to give to the  
President on the topic of effectiveness and the quality of the  
revolution in government.” He also said that Chavez was becoming  
distant from the common people and didn’t always understand what was  
happening. “The situation down here is not what the President is  
hearing. Down here it is very worrying. There are many problems with  
the situation of the workers and of the people. The President knows a  
lot about what is happening at the higher levels of society but less  
about what is going on at this level.”

Some say that Machuca’s attack on Rangel Gomez is because of his  
personal rivalry and is politically motivated. On last Sunday’s Alo  
Presidente, Hugo Chavez called Machuca a friend and urged him to  
accept that he had lost the election to Rangel Gomez and not to “make  
trouble in Bolivar.” Rangel Gomez is not Machuca’s only rival. In  
Plaza O’Leary, on Thursday, Orlando Chirinos said, “It’s no secret  
that Ramon Machuca is a very ambitious person and that he wanted to  
be the president of the UNT.” He also said, “We don’t agree on  
things… he has a caudillo-like vision, an individualist vision and an  
individualist movement is not a trade union movement.

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