Chavez’s legacy: the fight for socialism

The death of President Hugo Chavez on 5 March has prompted fresh presidential elections in Venezuela on 14 April. Former Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, whose candidacy was proposed by Chavez, is widely expected to win. On 19 March, results published by private poll Datanalysis gave Maduro a lead of 14% over Henrique Capriles, the candidate of the opposition’s Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition. Capriles himself has recognised his minimal chance of a victory, comparing his candidacy to being ‘led to a slaughterhouse and dropped into a meat grinder’. Despite winning 44% of the votes in October 2012’s presidential election (the opposition’s best electoral result to date) the coalition lost all but three of Venezuela’s 23 states in December’s governor elections and has become increasingly divided. Sam McGill reports.


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Comandante Chavez: socialist, internationalist, revolutionary

Comandante Chavez: socialist, internationalist, revolutionary

28 July 1954–5 March 2013

‘I am convinced that the path to a new, better and possible world is not capitalism – that is the path to hell. The path is socialism.’

The death of Hugo Chavez, socialist leader of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, sent a shock wave around the world. The millions of Venezuelans who gathered across their country in mourning, with shouts of ‘Chaves lives, the struggle continues!’, had their counterparts not just across Latin America – where many flags few at half mast and national days of mourning were announced – but in Haiti, in Palestine, in the Philippines, across Europe and even in parts of the United States. Twenty-two heads of state and 50 international delegations attended Chavez’s state funeral on 8 March.


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Victory for Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution

Nicolas Maduro, candidate of the Bolivarian Revolution, has won the 14 April snap presidential election with 50.66 percent of the vote against 49.07 percent for his neoliberal challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski. With the turn out at nearly 79 percent of the electorate, the results were announced with 99.12 percent of the votes totalled and were considered an irreversible trend.


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SWP’s Mike Gonzalez says yes to counter-revolution in Venezuela

As the imperialist media and its hired lackeys foretell the end of the Bolivarian Revolution, Socialist Worker has once again entered the fray on their side against the Venezuelan people. (see for their previous attempt in January this year)


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In memory of President Hugo Chavez

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Long live the Bolivarian Revolution!
28 July 1954-5 March 2013

The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez from complications following surgery for cancer, is a huge loss to the revolutionary movement worldwide, and the Revolutionary Communist Group and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! joins with the people of Venezuela in mourning the loss of a great socialist leader.


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Venezuela: masses mobilise in defence of Bolivarian Revolution

‘All of us here are Chávez, the people in the street are Chávez, the lady who cooks is Chávez, the soldier is Chávez…the farmer is Chávez, the worker is Chávez; we’re all Chávez.’

Elias Jaua, Minister of Foreign Relations, 10 January 2013

On 10 January, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez still recovering in Cuba from post-operative complications following surgery for cancer and unable to attend his inauguration ceremony, tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets in his place. With their symbolic tri-colour presidential sashes and rallying cries of ‘Yo soy Chavez!’ – ‘I am Chavez!’ and ‘Chavez is the people’, the vast crowd was proof once again that the power of the Bolivarian Revolution lies not in the hands of a single revolutionary but in the vast mass of that same Venezuelan working class which swept Chavez to a fourth presidential term in the elections of October 2012. SAM MCGILL reports.


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SWP vultures circle Bolivarian Revolution

[RCG 12.01.2013] For fifteen years, since Hugo Chavez’s first presidential election in 1998, we have been witness to a popular struggle in Venezuela for political and economic power by working class people which has withstood every attempt by imperialism and its local allies to destroy it.

Venezuelan militants protest in support of Chavez in January 2013The Bolivarian Revolution and its leader have given hope to hundreds of millions of people in Latin America and have inspired movements throughout the continent and indeed throughout the world. With the support of Cuba and other countries in ALBA Venezuela has put the US completely on the back foot: no longer can it treat Latin America as its back yard. Such developments should be celebrated by every socialist wherever they are.

Yet throughout this time, the SWP has repeatedly attacked the Bolivarian Revolution and denigrated President Chavez. The latest issue of Socialist Worker (12 January 2013) continues in this reactionary vein, joining the international ‘campaign of psychological warfare’ denounced by the Venezuelan government (see our blog).


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Venezuela: on the frontline of the battle for socialism

From the beginning of 2012, the RCG grasped the tremendous significance of Venezuela’s October presidential elections – not just for the people of Venezuela, but for the whole of Latin America and, indeed the international working class. We began organising and raised money to send a delegation to Caracas and to make a film about the election period. Our aim was to understand better the process of the Bolivarian Revolution and to directly challenge the hostile propaganda and lies of the imperialist media. Over a period of two weeks, we saw how hundreds of thousands of working class Venezuelans thronged the streets of the city, braving torrential rain or baking sun, to express their support for President Chavez.


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Venezuelan presidential elections the state and the Bolivarian Revolution

We go to press on the eve of the October Presidential elections in Venezuela. The re-election of Hugo Chavez is crucial for the continuation of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ that has decisively changed the political history of Venezuela and Latin America. Chavez’s opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski of the Roundtable of Democratic Unity coalition (Mesa de Unidad Democratica, or MUD) is a right-wing extremist who participated in the 2002 attempted coup against Chavez. Whilst even opposition polls give Chavez an 18% lead over Capriles, the political outcome of the election will depend on the strength of class forces in the coming battles to implement government plans for 2013-2019. SAM MCGILL reports.


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RCG Delegation Heads to Caracas Today! - 26 Sep 2012

Hugo Chavez[RCG 26/09/12] TODAY, The Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) is sending a delegation to report on and film Venezuela’s presidential elections on 7 October, elections which will play a crucial role in determining the future not just of the country itself but of the whole of Latin America.

Our delegation team have been working hard updating our blog with news and articles but also fundraising, to ensure our film work can take place out in Venezuela and we can present a full-length documentary on our return to Britain.


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Venezuela elections: political violence and media manipulation

Political violence and media manipulation are going to be the campaign signature of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski in the run up to Venezuela’s October Presidential elections. The electoral campaigns officially began on 1 July for both the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (Mesa de Unidad Democratica – MUD) candidate Capriles and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) candidate Hugo Chavez.

Barely a week later controversy reigned at a MUD march through La Vega, a predominantly proChavez neighbourhood in Caracas. In a clear act of intimidation, Capriles’ supporters arrived carrying guns and wearing facemasks. Chavez supporters flooded into the streets to oppose the armed gang, resulting in the National Bolivarian Police (PNB) intervening to prevent violence and injury. This presented the private media with the perfect opportunity to denounce police repression which Ultimas Noticias, the media chain owned by the Capriles family, took advantage of.1 The next day in the eastern state of Mongas, four thugs wearing Tshirts of the MUD coalition party, Un Nuevo Tiempo, attacked a group of Chavez campaigners who were distributing leaflets in the city of Maturín. Geraldin Lara, one of the victims, described how the men ‘approached our campaign tent and attacked us with knives and bottles’. Ten people were injured and taken to a medical clinic after the men broke a bottle over the head of one victim, stabbed one man, and kicked and punched eight others.


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Venezuela and Cuba at the heart of Latin American independence

‘For how long are we going to be the backwards periphery, exploited and denigrated? Enough! Here we are putting down the fundamental building block for South American unity, independence and development. If we hesitate, we are lost!’ (Simon Bolivar)

On 2 December 2011 the 33 independent countries across the Americas – with the exception of the US and Canada – founded the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). CELAC is designed to counter the Organisation of American States, which the US has used as a tool for protecting its interests in Latin America since 1948. The new alliance is committed to promoting economic and social development across the region and undermining the unequal terms of trade with Europe and the US.


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Venezuela’s communal councils: socialism in construction

‘The issue of people’s power is the ability of the people to take action and take control…to appropriate this new structure which ultimately means the democratisation of the state in order to establish socialism’ (Comuna member, Barinas)

How do you build socialism in a country where the capitalist state has not been overthrown by force? This is the question facing Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution as it fights to construct what President Hugo Chavez has described as a socialism of the 21st century. It has ensured oil revenues are used to fund health, education, housing and food programmes, has nationalised many key companies and banks and is redisributing unproductive land. Through its radical constitution, referenda and mobilisations for national and local elections, the Bolivarian Revolution has given the masses a real sense of engagement with the political process.


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Venezuela: rebuilding a nation

Government figures released in September show homelessness in Britain has risen by 17% over the last year while council house building remains practically zero. In stark contrast to this, the Venezuelan state is tackling the country’s own housing crisis head on.

On 30 August President Chavez inaugurated the socialist city of Caribia on 30 August, opening the doors of 602 apartments to families made homeless by devastating floods earlier this year. The homes have been planned and built through ‘Mission Housing Venezuela’ as part of the push to build two million new homes in the next six years. Although Venezuela’s housing deficit is estimated to be 1.5 million, the housing mission plans to exceed this in order to meet the needs of a growing population. Caribia City, located in Camino Los Indios outside Caracas, was first conceived of by Chavez and the Venezuelan government in 2006 and will be a planned, holistic community, complete with schools, health clinics and employment. The project was constructed by ALBA Bolivarian, a Venezuelan-Cuban enterprise agreed under the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). This has been financed largely through 2.9bn bolivars ($674m) of nationalised oil revenue allocated by the Venezuelan government. The homes can be subsidised up to 100% if necessary depending on the occupant’s income.


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Venezuela defies US interference

chavez_supportersAmidst international media speculation about his health, on 5 July 2011, President Chavez address Venezuelans from Miraflores Presidential Palace, Caracas as part of a civic-military parade to mark 200 years of Independence from Spanish colonialism. Chavez had returned from Cuba the previous day, following an emergency operation to remove a pelvic abscess and small tumour discovered by Cuban doctors whilst he was on a tour of Latin American countries promoting further regional integration. Chavez has now returned to Cuba for further treatment.

Whilst Venezuela has been celebrating its historic independence from Spanish colonialism, the US has stepped up its aggression against the Bolivarian revolution.


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Chavez returns: The battle continues

Chavez returns: The battle continues

“ I swear to you that we will win this battle...we'll win it together. The battle for life, the homeland and the revolution!”

With these words, Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, addressed 100,000 Venezuelans from Miraflores presidential palace, Caracas as part of a civic-military parade to mark 200 years of Independence from Spanish rule. His return to Venezuela muffled frenzied media speculation surrounding his health and ability to lead the Bolivarian Revolution, for now.

Chavez had been visiting Latin American and Caribbean countries in advance of the founding meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations (CELAC). Whilst in Cuba, Chavez was unwell and underwent emergency treatment in early June to remove a pelvic abscess. Thanks to the high standard of Cuban healthcare and medical attention, repeated checks on Chavez's health by Cuban doctors uncovered a small cancerous tumour which was then removed. Adding to Cuba's reputation as a leading healthcare provider, Chavez was able to return to Caracas just in time for the bicentennial independence celebrations on 5 July.


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BBC distorts truth about Venezuela

‘Land of plenty, land of poverty, Venezuela ought to be soaring, a great success story in South America, with exceptional oil wealth spreading prosperity to all’. With these words James Robbins begins his documentary ‘Oil, Politics and Hugo Chavez’, part of the BBC’s Our World series first broadcast in February 2011. Sam McGill exposes this report as baseless propaganda.

Lack of investment in infrastructure?

Full of sloppy journalism, Robbins first claims that little of Venezuela’s oil wealth has been spent on infrastructure other than the iconic metrocable in Caracas, where he sets the opening scenes.

In 1998, before the election of Hugo Chavez, just one fifth of Venezuelans had access to primary health care. The average rate of infant mortality was 19 per 1,000 live births. Health care was a privilege, not a right. In 2002, following a political struggle to wrest control of Venezuela’s huge oil reserves, the Bolivarian Revolution was able to channel profits from oil into health care among other social priorities. This included an agreement between Venezuela and Cuba whereby, in return for subsidised oil, Cuba has sent thousands of educators and medical personnel to create a free health care (Barrio Adentro) and education system across Venezuela. This prioritises the needs of the poorest and hardest to reach communities, whilst providing training for Venezuelan students to become the next generation of doctors and teachers. By 2008 infant mortality had dropped to 13.9 per 1,000 live births and is expected to fall below 10 per 1,000 in the next few years.


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Venezuela: revolution mobilises after disastrous floods

Despite disastrous flooding across the region, the socialist government in Venezuela has continued to push forward the Bolivarian Revolution through land and other expropriations, and by developing popular participation in tackling the housing crisis. Floods and landslides affected over 40% of the country, leaving 138,000 Venezuelans homeless and killing 35 people. In response, Venezuela’s National Assembly approved an enabling law on 15 December 2010 allowing President Hugo Chavez to enact decrees related to flood recovery independently of the National Assembly. These powers are limited to a maximum period of 18 months; Chavez has said that he will return these powers to Congress in May.


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Venezuela: PSUV acts to provide food and housing for all

In the recent 26 September National Assembly elections, Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 96 seats; the opposition’s United Democratic Roundtable coalition (MUD) won 63 seats, leaving the PSUV short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass new laws. However, the PSUV still gained seats over the opposition compared to the 2000 elections which, due to its boycott of the 2005 elections, were the last in which the opposition participated. During the 2001-2005 term, the Movement for the Fifth Republic became the PSUV and various splits and mergers resulted. Throughout these years, pro-Chavez parties held between 83 and 92 seats at any given time, while opposition parties held between 73 and 82 seats. Therefore, in comparison to the last elections they participated in, the opposition lost around 20 seats, whilst the PSUV gained seats.


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Venezuela: key elections imminent

On 26 September 2010 Venezuela will hold elections for the National Assembly. These will be decisive for the path towards socialism in the republic and in the continent as a whole. Sam Mcgill reports.

Until 1999, Venezuela had a corrupt congress where former presidents were awarded lifetime senate seats and only the Accion Democracia and COPEI ruling class political parties were permitted to participate in elections. Then the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR), led by Hugo Chavez, demanded proportional representation and popular democracy, initiating a new Bolivarian constitution and National Assembly. Now the Assembly has 110 deputies elected via first-past-the-post elections in 87 different electoral circuits, 52 deputies elected via state-based lists, to ensure an element of proportional representation, and three indigenous representatives selected by indigenous peoples themselves (The indigenous population forms approximately 2% of the Venezuelan people).


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PSUV speaks in Liverpool and Manchester


On 24 April, Venezuelan comrade Rafael Ramos spoke in Liverpool to an audience of 40 people and the next day in Manchester to 50 people, about the revolutionary process in Venezuela. Rafael is an art student at UNEARTE (The Experimental University for the Arts) in Caracas, and a member of JPSUV (the youth wing of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela).


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Venezuela: the battle for workers’ control

Over a decade has passed since the Bolivarian Revolution swept to power in Venezuela under the leadership of Hugo Chavez. Five years later, Chavez announced that they were building socialism for the 21st century. However, while millions were pulled out of poverty by the government’s social ‘missions’ and employment creation, and marginalisation was reversed by the integration of the poor into national politics, the majority of the means of production remained in private hands and Venezuela’s dependency on oil exports, particularly to the US, continued. This contradictory situation raised questions – about the extent to which it was possible to build a parallel economy; state ownership, or socialised production, alongside capitalist industry and financial institutions – and about the limits to the revolutionary or socialist character of the Bolivarian process in Venezuela, without serious inroads being made to capitalist social relations and bourgeois political institutions. Under the leadership of Chavez and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), set up in 2008, the Bolivarian Revolution has begun to tackle those contradictions by extending state ownership and socialised production. Sam Mcgill reports from Venezuela.


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The Real Bolivarian Youth

real-bolivarian-youthFrom International Media reports and hysterical blogs on the internet, you could be forgiven for thinking that all the students in Venezuela are engaged in a struggle for free speech and against repression from the Chavez “dictatorship”. However, last Friday 12 February, in celebration of “the Day of Youth” tens of thousands of revolutionary students marched in support of the Bolivarian Revolution with a new focus on campaigning for the National Assembly elections this September.

The 10km march departed from the National Experimental University of the Armed Forces (UNEFA), through the opposition controlled wealthy eastern suburbs of Caracas to the Bolivarian University, past the revolutionary barrio of San Agustin (now served by the new metrocable connecting them to the city centre) and arriving at 5pm at the Miraflores Presidential Palace.


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Venezuela – Chavez takes over the banks

‘These bankers should be shown for what they really are to the public: vulgar robbers, thieves in ties, pickpockets and obstinate kleptomaniacs’. Hugo Chavez

Chavez’s government well knows that the dollar-blinded rich in Venezuela must be defeated politically. A democratic economy is essential, and as private ownership fails to meet the needs of the masses, the state is taking over and formulating alternative ways of managing production and distribution. The pricing system is being moderated and social priorities are replacing market manipulation.

Dealing with the banks

The shift towards a new economic model has ameliorated the effects of the global economic crisis on Venezuela. Preventive measures were taken beforehand: the government diversified its currency holdings in order not to rely exclusively on the dollar, changing them to Euros, Yen and other currencies so that the dollar’s fall did not sharply affect the Venezuelan economy. The government also budgeted for an oil price of $60 per barrel. Since the price fluctuated between $65 and $70 until the middle of 2009, state revenues were healthy compared to planned expenses.


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Venezuela: confronting reaction

23 January 2010: Government supporters demonstrate in Caracas.

On Sunday 24 January, the Venezuelan government shut down Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) for persistent violation of the law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television and of Cadena Nacional, a law pre-dating the Chavez government and requiring TV channels to broadcast important presidential speeches.

RCTV has repeatedly refused to broadcast speeches included under Cadena Nacional and has called for a violent overthrow of the government. RCTV claims to be an international channel and therefore exempt from national laws. On the contrary, 94% of its writers, actors and reporters are Venezuelan. Under the law, only channels that broadcast foreign programmes for 70% of the time or more are classed as international.


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Chavez calls for a Fifth International

An international conference of over 50 left parties from 31 countries held in Caracas on 19-20 November heard President Chavez call for the creation of a Fifth International. It passed a resolution to form a committee to prepare a global conference of left parties in Caracas in April 2010 to discuss its formation.

Support came from a number of Latin American parties, including the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) of Bolivia, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) of El Salvador, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) of Nicaragua, and Alianza Pais of Ecuador, plus smaller parties and groups such as the Proposal for an Alternative Society (PAS) of Chile, New Nation Alternative (ANN) of Guatemala, and Australia’s Socialist Alliance.


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The Bolivarian Revolution resonates in London…

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez swept like a refreshing revolutionary breeze into London between 14-16 May, returning from the EU-Latin American Summit in Vienna. The Bolivarian socialist lit up the rainy British capital with his sparkling denunciations of imperialism resonating in the belly of the beast.

In 2001, Chavez came to Britain on an official visit, meeting the Queen and the Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. Since then, Chavez has condemned Blair as an ally of Hitler (US President Bush) and a ‘pawn of imperialism’. In February 2006, Blair criticised Chavez in the House of Commons for not abiding by ‘the rules of the international community’ and for his close relationship with Fidel Castro and Cuba. Chavez reacted by demanding that Britain return the Malvinas Islands to Argentina and added: ‘Tony Blair, you have no moral right to tell anyone to respect international laws, as you have no respect for them, aligning yourself with Mr Danger [Bush] and trampling on the people of Iraq…Do you think we still live in the times of the British Empire?’


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Venezuela: a step forward for socialism

‘For there to be socialism, we have to transform Venezuela's economic structures, we have to work towards social property of the means of production, which will allow us to generate the conditions required to achieve social justice, for there to be no misery, poverty or crime in Venezuela ... socialism is scientific or it is nothing.’ Hugo Chavez, February 2009

On 15 February the national referendum to remove limits on periods of office of elected representatives produced a 55% vote in favour, with 45% against. This important victory demonstrated the successful political consolidation of the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). President Chavez is now able to fight a campaign for re-election in 2012 as leader of a socialist party with a majority in Congress, a great step forward from the previous cross-party alliances.


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Venezuela defeated coup the background

FRFI 167 June / July 2002

The US government objects to the Venezuelan government and wants ‘regime removal’. Why? Firstly this President is the first ever to openly side with the poor and attempt to deal with the poverty endured by 80% of the people. To do this means to challenge the existing system of economic plunder. So new policies towards the oil industry in particular, which provides 75-80% of export revenue and 40-50% of government revenue, had to be formulated. The new President took the initiative within OPEC to strengthen its ability to maintain oil prices, to the detriment of the US and other industrial importing states. President Chavez is committed to reduce poverty through universal education, health care and rural resettlement and development programmes.


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Venezuela: defeated coup

FRFI 167 June / July 2002

chavez april13 2002

In a counterblow that stunned US imperialism, the coup it had sponsored against the popularly elected government of President Chavez, was quickly broken by the strength and determination of the Venezuelan working masses. On the weekend of 11-14 April, after more than ten months of continued planning, a plot to remove not only President Chavez but every single democratic gain made in Venezuela over the last four years was shattered by the resistance of the poor and their democratic allies. In Caracas, Venezuelans marched in their thousands to the Presidential Palace forcing the cancellation of the inauguration of the plotters’ ‘interim’ Cabinet, effectively placing them under citizen’s arrest. The masses announced that they would remain until the elected President, Hugo Chavez, was returned to the Palace. With loyal troops actually waiting in the Palace basement corridors, the chief of the paratroop division then ordered the trapped would-be dictator to release President Chavez .


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‘Economic coup’ against Chávez crumbles

FRFI 171 February / March 2003

For ten weeks an acute struggle has taken place over Venezuela’s future. Managers of the national oil corporation – Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) – with leaders of skilled trades unions, prompted by big businesses, carrying out economic sabotage to get rid of President Chávez. With their military allies, they suffered defeat in a coup attempt in April 2002 (FRFI 167). A second planned coup was aborted on 25 June. Several assassination attempts have been made on the President’s life. Then, in August, the new ‘Patria para Todos’ party called for an ‘economic coup’. ‘It’s all part of our strategy,’ said Carlos Ortega, fraudulently elected head of Venezuela’s CTV union federation. So on 2 December the business sponsored opposition launched its most serious attempt at a business shutdown. ALVARO MICHAELS reports.

The centre of this struggle focuses on legislation that came into force on 1 January 2003. The new Hydrocarbons Act gives the state a 50%+ stake in new joint ventures in the oil sector and gives it 30% royalties on all extracted crude. In 1974, PDVSA delivered 80% of its income to the state and kept 20% (as ‘operating costs’ entering the coffers of foreign companies and its directors and managers). In 1990, the ratio was 50:50 and in 1998 it became 20:80! The government is stopping this theft. The New York Times denounced the Hydrocarbons Act as a ‘grave risk’ to foreign investment.


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