RE: [Marxism] Chávez Plans to Take More Control Of Oil Away From Foreign Firms

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Mon Apr 24 12:28:01 MDT 2006

Thanks very much to Andrew Pollack for posting this WSJ article.

One of the best sources for information on Chavez and the Bolivarian
process now unfolding there is the recent Monthly Review book which
consists of an extended interview with Chavez by Marta Harnecker. 
(It's not online at the moment, but in time hopefully it will be so
Yoshie: this is a suggestion/request...hint, hint, hint! <g>)

There's a wide ranging process of continental integration which is
currently underway in all of Latin America. In some places it goes
faster, in some places slower, but the process (I'm not saying that
it's irreversable, only that it is relentless progressing today) is
sweeping the continent. This is one of the central points which it
seems Alarcon was trying to make in the recent Rebelion interview.
This is what Chavez, Fidel, Alarcon, Evo Morales and others are in
the process of working toward. Naturally they are running into the
fearcest resistance from Washington, but the process is continuing.
Look, for example, at Colombia, one of the two regimes which has
the closest ties to Washington. Even in Colombia, look at what is
happening: there are a thousand Colombian medical students now in
school in Cuba. Colombian officials travel to Cuba for meetings
with the National Liberation Army in a long-drawn-out negotions
process. Meanwhile, when Colombia announced it was privatizing its
oil production, PDVSA, the Venezuelan state enterprise, bought it.

Walter Lippmann
RICARDO ALARCON explains 21st Century Socialism this way:
It seems to me that Chávez provides the right contribution through
his formulation of 21st Century Socialism, which is not just any kind
of socialism, for its features are similar to Venezuela’s. Empirical
data documents Venezuela’s economic growth, mainly in the private
economy. In revolutionary, Bolivarian Venezuela there’s room for, and
it's used by, the domestic bourgeoisie. They’re out for Chávez’s
blood, but at the same time doing business, investing and making
profits in the meantime. [Vice-president José Vicente] Rangel told me
that private economy is growing the fastest. So, if it is growing
while there’s talk about a 21st Century Socialism, the door is open
to discussion about and awareness of the need to defend socialism as
the real alternative. That possible better world is either socialist
or nothing at all, but under a rather different socialism. What’s
more, it would be socialisms, in plural: ways to organize society on
basis of solidarity, equality, etc. We would have to part with
Marxism’s classic, traditional approach. I don’t think that’s the
issue today. A Marxist or a revolutionary has

April 21, 2006 	 

A Venezuelan Rerun in La Paz
April 21, 2006; Page A15

Senator Chris Dodd's call for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation is a
badge of honor that the secretary of defense might like to put on his
resume. After all, the best thing that can be said about the
Connecticut lawmaker's instincts on national security is that they
are a leading contrary indicator.

One need not dig up Mr. Dodd's embarrassing record of support for the
Soviet-backed Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the 1980s to make the
point. His more recent foreign-policy wisdom features a defense of
Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, who the senator has repeatedly championed
for being "democratically elected" despite a widely publicized clamp
down on civil liberties.

Chávez is also a vociferous supporter of Iranian nuclear aspirations
and seeks to stir nationalist hysteria against the U.S. with daily
warnings that an attack from the "empire" is imminent. Is there any
doubt that if the mullahs get the bomb they will want to use their
new power on behalf of their Western Hemisphere ally?

Military ambition is not the only threat that Chávez presents to
hemispheric security. There is also his obsession with ending
pluralistic democracy around the region. Energized by his own success
at home in consolidating power under the guise of legality, the
enfant terrible from Caracas is now financing and guiding such power
grabs in some of the region's weakest democracies.

Bolivia is his most advanced project, where democracy is collapsing
in an all-too-familiar manner into authoritarian rule under President
Evo Morales. If it succeeds Bolivians will not get their very own
strongman but instead a diluted version with Evo controlled by Hugo.
The blended outcome, perhaps best described as egoismo, is shaping up
to be a political philosophy aimed at promoting the ambitions of one
man across a continent rather than serving the nation.

Since taking office in January, Mr. Morales has purged the top
generals in the Bolivian military and promised to nationalize the
country's natural resources. Cuba has been given an active role in
egoismo, providing security agents and advisers to Evo's government.
Over 500 Cuban doctors now spread Fidel Castro's word in Bolivia and
the Cuban dictator is hosting trainees from Mr. Morales's Movement to
Socialism (MAS) party in Havana. MAS trainees have been sent to
Caracas as well. Further aping Hugo, Evo has prevailed in his goal of
holding a national vote in July to form a constitutional assembly
that will rewrite the law of land over the next year.

All of this is distinctly Venezuelan. But the Bolivian's maneuvering
features some new twists too. One of these is a draconian salary cut
for legislators, judges and commissioners.

This is a stroke of brilliance in a country with strong populist
traditions. First, because the majority poor widely believe that the
political class is too richly rewarded. Second, because it is likely
to act as a purging mechanism to rid the government of the educated
middle-class, which might be inclined to resign and return to the
private sector for better salaries. Spaces will open up for party
hacks and coca growers who are far more likely to toe the line of the
strongman. Third, those who accept the pay cuts and remain on the job
may be more open to bribery as a way to supplement incomes.

Despite these obvious disadvantages for the opposition, the president
has already gotten his way with salary slashing in congress. To do
so, he first cut his own salary and then announced that the
legislature should do the same, stipulating that no one in government
ought to earn more than he does. Legislators at first resisted the
poison pill but by threatening to unleash notoriously violent street
protestors, which brought down two presidents in less than 20 months,
MAS prevailed.

Still, as Chávez well knows, controlling the legislature is only part
of the game. The big prize is reeling in the independent judiciary.
And while a rewrite of the constitution might deliver that power in
18 months, that's a substantial wait. So instead Mr. Morales has
extended the salary cut proposal to the courts, which like the
legislature, stand to lose qualified judges if incomes drop
precipitously. The judges, who jealously guard their independence
from the executive, are in open rebellion against the idea but it
remains to be seen whether they can win out. This month the entire
Bolivian judiciary sent a letter of protest to their peers in the
Western Hemisphere decrying the executive's attempt to "damage the
fundamental principles of the rule of law."

Mr. Morales spins all of this as great courage against a corrupt
traditional status quo and a system that he says has
"institutionalized" corruption. The Aymara Indian, who wears pullover
sweaters as a symbol of his populism, claims to be above it all. Yet
early signs suggest that corruption could get worse, as it has in
Venezuela, under a government that successfully consolidates power
and wipes out its opposition.

On the heels of the congressional pay cut, a scandal has already
broken with an opposition congresswoman alleging that the
anti-corruption MAS tried to bribe her on an important vote related
to the constituent assembly. But it is the case of 67-year-old José
Maria Bakovic that speaks loudest about where Bolivia may be headed
if one-man rule takes hold.

Mr. Bakovic, who was thrown into prison without due process at the
behest of Evo on March 31, has a stellar reputation as the president
of Bolivia's National Highway Service (SNC) since 2001 and a former
World Bank infrastructure specialist. During his tenure at the SNC he
instituted a competitive, transparent bidding process for Bolivia's
road works.

At his inaugural address Evo began accusing the SNC of corruption.
Mr. Bakovic's supporters say that the SNC president immediately
requested a meeting with Mr. Morales so that he could get to the
bottom of it. That failed and he was forced to resign on Feb. 13. 
The kicker was that, on March 3, Evo signed an executive decree 
for a new road project, bypassing the transparent bidding process.

It didn't take too long for Mr. Morales to realize that he had
overplayed his hand and he has rescinded the contract for the road.
But his critics theorize that his backtracking has more to do with
public opinion ahead of the constituent assembly than any honest
repentance. Mr. Bakovic was released from jail this week but is not
permitted to travel. Unfortunately, his future, like that of his
country, will depend heavily on the success of egoismo in La Paz.

Venezuela and Cuba Team Up to Revamp Refinery, Supply Oil Reuters
April 12, 2006; Page A7

HAVANA -- Venezuelan state oil company PdVSA has formed a joint
venture with Cuba to revamp an unfinished Soviet-era refinery on the
island and supply it with oil as Havana and Caracas tighten their
political alliance, the company said.

The joint venture known as PDV-Cupet will be 49%-owned by PdVSA, with
Cuban state oil company Cupet taking a 51% stake, PdVSA said.

Agreements signed Monday guaranteed Venezuelan feedstock of 70,000
barrels a day to the currently unused refinery on the shore of
Cienfuegos Bay in south-central Cuba.

"The initial investment will approximately be between $800 million
and $1 billion in shared costs," said Venezuela's ambassador to Cuba,
Adan Chávez. The pact will bring total Venezuelan oil shipments to
Cuba to 160,000 barrels a day. PdVSA didn't say when the refinery
would begin operations.

The revamped refinery will help Cuba reduce its fuel imports. It also
would help supply energy to neighboring Caribbean nations as part of
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's energy-integration efforts.

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