[Marxism] Stedile on Venezuela

michael a. lebowitz mlebowit at sfu.ca
Mon Oct 17 09:55:23 MDT 2005


MST Representative Visits Venezuela, Sees Country in Transformation

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you from the bolivarian planes in 
the state of Barinas, in the centre of Venezuela. 
I am here doing a percorrido as they say, to 
learn about the agrarian reform process in 
Venezuela. I am impressed. I am very impressed. 
After all, as the oriental proverb goes: "The 
eyes see more than the ears". Venezuela had a 
glorious past in the 19th century brought about 
by the heroic struggles for independence led by 
Simon Bolívar, Ezequiel Zamora with the aid of a 
brave Brazilian combatant who reached the rango 
[rank] of general: Abreu Lima, born in 
Pernambuco, whom Venezuelans are very proud of, 
even though we Brazilians regrettably do not even know his history.

Nevertheless, the 20th century reserved to 
Venezuela a true economic and social tragedy. Its 
territory sits on a giant oil sheet and the North 
American civilization built on energy derived 
from oil, has practically transformed Venezuela 
in its colony, in order to guarantee the supply 
of its main energy source to the United States. 
Venezuela is responsible for supplying 25% of all 
oil consumption in the United States. There was a 
"wholly alliance" between a local minority 
oligarchy, which took over the state and oil 
resources. It was locapleted! And on the other 
hand, the ideological-economic-political and 
military power from the northern empire, maintained them intact.

Consequence: 80% of the population immersed in 
deep poverty, while 2% lived sumptuously. Only 8% 
of the population has survived in rural areas, 
since the agriculture was completely 
marginalized. And the country was forced to buy 88% of all its food abroad.

It was in this historical context that finally in 
1998, with the electoral victory of a young and 
impetuous colonel, banned from the army, change 
was initiated. They have entered the 21st century 
under a new perspective. Venezuela is no longer a 
US colony. It is now the Bolivarian Republic of the Venezuelan People.

In the beginning, it looked like he was going to 
be another one of those deceitful populist "army 
guys" that many times got to power in our 
continent. The local oligarchy lost the 
elections, but tried to maintain the same 
economic team from the defeated government, (have 
you seen this film in other countries?...). This 
cooptation attempt last for six months. But it 
looks like that young colonel Chavez was not 
kidding. He immediately changed the institutions. 
He called a constituent assembly, which altered 
all laws in the country and paved the way for 
popular participation. People believed and 
started to mobilize and participate in the 
government, which slowly transformed itself into 
a popular and revolutionary government. And they 
started incorporating more and more Simon 
Bolivar's anti-imperialist and independent feelings.

I was here in 2001, for a seminar on the 
challenges of humanity. I did not see significant 
changes then. On my return I could not report 
much to my friends from via campesina Brazil. 
Now, I see that progress was brewing. I have 
returned now and I can see enormous changes. In 
the government, among the people, in the process, 
in the way changes have been made. Only the 
elite, the oligarchy have not changed, they are 
holding on to their privileges like parasite 
ticks, trying to stop changes at any cost.

President Chavez went through six plebiscites, 
one referendum and two elections. He won each one 
of them. And still, he has been called a dictator 
and a despot. Some bit players from Brazilian bourgeoisie also say that

But wat is really changing?

The meaning of politics for the people has 
changed. People are aware, actively participating 
in all state and government decisions. This is 
the main path: to make the masses participate in the life of the country.

The direction of the economy has changed. Even 
more so here which is 80% dependent on oil. Very 
well, those billions of dollars from oil which in 
the past were used by only 8% of the population 
to indulge themselves in luxuries and 
extravagancies are now financing the 
universalization of public and health services 
for the population. They are now used for wealth 
distribution, to guarantee food at cost prices, 
free education, building popular housing and for land distribution,

It has changed its foreign policy. Now exercised 
with pride and a clear sense of independence from imperialism.

The role of the army has changed. I was impressed 
to see the level of political awareness of young 
lieutenants, majors, captains, who do not live in 
military quarters but rather take an active role 
in the administration of social projects: 
building roads, bridges, managing popular 
markets, etc. They have given meaning to their 
uniforms. Now I saw armed soldiers, but armed by 
the people, as in the song of Geraldo Vandré, 
helping to occupy Malquinesa farm, which recently 
had its totally unproductive 8,600 hectares 
expropriated, even though its soil is the best in 
the country, in the plains of Barinenha.

I saw poor, enthusiastic young people, who now 
have access to education, not only primary or 
secondary education, but they also can register 
for any university course. I saw the President 
announce the opening of 20 thousand spaces for 
medical students, as for this academic year. I 
saw the President participate in a television 
programme for seven hours, discussing all the problems in the country.

I saw a generous process of agrarian reform, 
which expropriates all land grilada by large 
farmers who cannot prove its source. But it still 
honors all properties up to 5 thousand hectares 
in size. I saw the oligarchy snarling like stinky 
dogs, stating that the law, which was approved by 
more than 80% congressmen, is an outrage to property rights!

I saw on the streets and popular libraries, the 
state distributing more than one million copies 
each of the classics of literature, such as The 
Miserable - Vitor Hugo and Don Quixote, etc.

I saw a highly mobilized and conscious people 
defending their interests and struggling for true 
economic and social transformation.

I saw the president of the Republic denounce on 
TV network, that there was an oil company 
operating 15 thousand petrol stations and three 
refineries, inside the United States, for 35 
years, owned by the Venezuelan state, and that in 
these 35 years, before the Bolivarian Government, 
had not sent even a penny to Venezuela. And 
finally now, after many interventions, for the 
first time, in 2005, in only eight months, the 
new direction has sent to the country 500 million 
dollars net profit. Imagine what they have stolen 
in 35 years! And the president announced that 
this money which was not included in the budget, 
would be used for social investment, among the 
poorest layers of the population.

However it is also certain that they are facing 
enormous challenges. Many obstacles, such as 
eliminating their food purchase dependency. As 
well as the challenge to rebuild the productive 
structure of the country, using oil resources for 
other productive investments, generating work for 
all. They say that the greatest challenge is to 
build a new economic model, breaking away from 
oil dependency and the financial empire and 
moving towards socialism. They call it the 
process of building a new endogenous development model, local and Venezuelan.

I saw many changes which are improving the life 
of the poor in Venezuela. I saw men and women 
walking with pride and dignity with raised heads.

I saw that there is a way out for Latin America. 
All we need is conscious, organized and mobilized 
people. And a government committed to the people and not to capital.

Boys/girls I swear that I saw all that!

Joao Pedro Stédile,
Economist and National Leader of the MST
Member of the Direction of Via Campesina Brasil

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
Residencias Anauco Suites
Departamento 601
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
Caracas, Venezuela
(58-212) 573-4111
fax: (58-212) 573-7724

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