[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
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
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
Residencias Anauco Suites
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
fax: (58-212) 573-7724
More information about the Marxism