[Marxism] AFL-CIO in Venezuela

james daly james.irldaly at ntlworld.com
Tue Nov 7 10:33:16 MST 2006

AFL-CIO in Venezuela: Déjà Vu All Over Again

by Kim Scipes
April 2004

Massive mobilizations, strikes, street conflict, hysterical mass media, 
social and economic disruption: Chile in 1972-73 Venezuela in 2002-04.

The AFL-CIO is once again on the scene, this time in Venezuela, just as it 
was in Chile in 1973. Once again, its operations in that country are being 
funded by the U.S. government. This time, the money is being laundered 
through the quasi-governmental National Endowment for Democracy, hidden from 
AFL-CIO members and the American public.

Once again, it is being used to support the efforts of reactionary labor and 
business leaders, helping to destabilize a democratically-elected government 
that has made major efforts to alleviate poverty, carried out significant 
land reform in both urban and rural areas, and striven to change political 
institutions that have long worked to marginalize those at the lowest rungs 
in society. And also like Allende's Chile, Venezuela's government under 
president Hugo Chavez has opposed a number of actions by the U.S. 
Government, this time by the Bush Administration.

-- snip --

But there are three questions that beg for answers from ACILS, Harry 
Kamberis, and the AFL-CIO leadership in general. First, how do these efforts 
to overthrow a democratically-elected president-a president who is actively 
trying to meet the needs and aspirations of the poorest 80 percent of the 
population-help meet the needs of these working people? Second, how does 
working to destabilize the elected government of Venezuela help workers and 
their families in the United States? And third, if your projects such as in 
Venezuela are so good for American working people, why are you trying so 
desperately to keep U.S. trade unionists from accurately knowing what you 
are doing in these countries? Why, indeed?

For the most developed account of the AFL-CIO's role in destabilizing Chile 
in 1972-73, see my article in the Summer 2000 issue of Labor Studies Journal 
titled, "It's Time to Come Clean: Open the AFL-CIO Archives on International 
Labor Operations." This has been posted on-line in English by LabourNet 
Germany at http://www.labournet.de/diskussion/gewerkschaft/scipes2.html.

For a discussion of resolutions for the AFL-CIO to "clear the air" that 
developed, at least partially stimulated by the above article, and how 
AFL-CIO International Affairs leaders have basically ignored them, see my 
"AFL-CIO Refuses to 'Clear the Air' on Foreign Policy, Operations" in the 
February 2004 issue of Labor Notes at 


Additional Resources:

For an important compilation of documents regarding the National Endowment 
for Democracy and its efforts to destabilize Venezuela--all obtained through 
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by journalist Jeremy Bigwood and 
posted on a web site by the Venezuelan Solidarity Committee/National 
Venezuela Solidarity Network, go to http://www.venezuelafoia.info/.

Included in here are an important set of reports from ACILS to NED about its 
work with CTV--and these obviously were never expected to see the light of 
day. For these, go to the http://www.venezuelafoia.info/ site, and on the 
left hand of the page, in a box under National Endowment for Democracy 
(NED), click on "ACILS-CTV." These are extremely important documents. (The 
documents on this web page are those referred to by Juan Forero in his 
article that appeared yesterday, "Chavez Condemns US, Citing Efforts to End 
His Rule" in The New York Times, March 11, 2004: A-3.)

Another excellent web site, including analysis of developments in Venezuela 
is http://www.venezuelaanalysis.com/. Gregory Wilpert's reports have been 
quite helpful in understanding the situation.

Still another excellent site is that called "Venezuela Watch" on ZNet: 
http://www.zmag.org/venezuela_watch.htm This has a number of articles--most 
are quite good to excellent--concerning developments over the past two years 
on Venezuela.

Another recent labor-related piece is "The Question Remains: What is the 
AFL-CIO Doing in Venezuela?," by Alberto Ruiz on ZNet: 

For an article by Stanley Gacek, Assistant Director of the AFL-CIO's 
International Affairs Department, detailing how he, and presumably the IAD, 
sees the situation in Brazil and Venezuela, see his "Lula and Chavez: 
Differing Responses to the Washington Consensus," which was published in the 
Spring 2004 issue of New Labor Forum, and can be found on-line at 

Stan Gacek complains that some critics are even wondering why ACILS is even 
operating in Venezuela...duh! He is referring, at very least to an article I 
published on ZNet on May 2, 2002: Kim Scipes, "AFL-CIO and Venezuela: Return 
of Labor Imperialism, or a Mistaken Reaction" 
http://www.zmag.org/content/labor/sipesaflven.cfm (yes, they misspelled my 
last name).

You also might want to reference my Feb 2004 article in Labor Notes about 
how the AFL-CIO has refused to address issues raised by the California State 
AFL-CIO concerning their international labor operations: Kim Scipes, 
"AFL-CIO Refuses to 'Clear the Air' on Foreign Policy, Operations" at 
http://www.labornotes.org/archives/2004/02/articles/b.html. There are a set 
of references after the article (not including the ones presented here), 
with links directly to each of them, and these references are annotated.

An excellent chapter in a recent book--not on-line--that gives an in-depth 
look at the Venezuelan labor movment is Steve Ellner, "Organized Labor and 
the Challenge of Chavismo" in a book that Ellner co-edited with Daniel 
CONFLICT, Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner Publishers, 2002.

Some older articles that provide useful information:

David Corn, "Our Gang in Venezuela" (about the National Endowment for 
Democracy--not the most sophisticated analysis, but provides some good 
information): http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020805&s=corn.

Greg Wilpert, "Why Venezuela's Middle Class (for the most part) Opposes 
Chavez," dated October 27, 2002 on ZNet: 

Mike Lebowitz, "Venezuela's National Union of Workers," dated April 2, 2002 
on ZNet: 

There have been three recent articles on line about recent efforts to 
destabilize Venezuela. All three give particular attention to the 
reactionary role being played by the private news media (mass media) in that 

Bill Berkowitz, "Venezuela at the Crossroads," dated March 5, 2004. It was 
on Alternet last week and was quite informative: 

Dario Azzelini, "The Destabilization Script as Applied to Venezuela," dated 
March 5, 2004, on ZNet (not yet posted on Z's Venezuela Watch): 

Gregory Wilpert, "How To Turn a Government into a Pariah: Venezuela's 
Matrix," dated March 8, 2004 on ZNet (not yet posted on Z's Venezuela 

For an important evaluation of the mass media's role in the April 2002 coup, 
by the International Federation of Journalists, see "Missing Link in 
Venezuela's Political Crisis: How Media and Government Failed a Test of 
Journalism and Democracy," Report of the IFJ Mission to Caracas, June 10-12, 
2002: http://www.ifj.org/pdfs/venezuelajuly02.pdf.

Kim Scipes, PhD, is a former member of the Graphic Communications 
International Union as well as the American Federation of Teachers and the 
National Education Association.

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