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Venezuela: Washington's Hand at Work
International Liaison Committee for a Workers International (ILC)
ILC News -- 8 January 2003
By ANDREU CAMPS
For the past 30 days, the "Coordinación Democrática" -- or Democratic
Coordinating Committee -- has been attempting to paralyze Venezuela,
particularly its oil industry. The goal of this organization is to
force President Hugo Chávez, who was duly elected to office in
December 1999, to step down. The situation of heightened social
confrontation is reaching the breaking point.
Demonstrations and counter-demonstrations are a daily occurrence,
especially in Caracas and its greater metropolitan region, where
close to one-third of the country's population lives.
The Spanish daily newspaper El Pais (Jan. 4), in an article that
reported two deaths and dozens of wounded in a recent street clash,
described the situation as follows:
"This latest confrontation revealed once again that the divide among
Caraqueños aside from being political is markedly social, even
geographic. The great bulk of the anti-Chavista crowds come from many
different places, though mainly from the Eastern district (the
wealthier neighborhood). The pro-Chavistas come from the southern
sector of the city, which is flanked with popular neighborhoods and
shantytowns, where President Chávez maintains a strong following."
What's involved here, therefore, is a veritable confrontation among
social classes in Venezuela.
At the center of the multiple demonstrations held over the past weeks
in Venezuela lies the strike of the PDVSA -- that is, the
nationalized oil company of Venezuela. The nationalization of this
corporation took place in the 1970s, providing the OPEC -- the cartel
of oil-producing countries that was formed to negotiate better prices
for each barrel of oil -- with much of its vigor.
PDVSA has a payroll of 40,000 workers -- to which one must add an
additional 60,000 workers involved in subcontracting or derivative
industries. It is the second largest oil company in the world in
terms of output, and the fifth in the world in term of exports. Its
net worth is approximately US$130 billion.
PDVSA accounts for 29% of Venezuela's Gross Domestic Product, 50% of
the state's income, and 80% of its exports. Its maritime fleet is
responsible for 13% of oil imports into the United States. So,
clearly, what's at stake with Venezuela's oil is of prime concern to
the multinational corporations and to the governments and
institutions in their service. It is no wonder, therefore, why so
many people see Washington's had behind the unfolding events in
In this regard, the PDVSA strike -- just like the "general strike"
decreed by the anti-Chávez opposition -- has very particular
First, the employers -- through their organization, the FEDECAMARAS
-- pledged and are delivering on their pledge, to pay the striking
workers the totality of their salaries during the course of the
"strike." Moreover, the "strike" mainly involves the top
administrative personnel of the company. It is a "strike" that was
imposed on the workers without any assembly or consultation.
The president of PDVSA, Ali Rodriguez, who is also a minister in the
Chávez government, described the strike in the following terms: "This
strike is above all a political strike against the president and
against the people. It has been organized by the very same people who
orchestrated the military coup of April 2002. The spokespersons of
the strike are people like Luis Giusti [former president of PDVSA
during the second government of Caldera]. They are all people who
have been outspoken about the need to privatize PDVSA." (El Pais,
It goes without saying that to the extent PDVSA is a nationalized
enterprise, the government has every right to appoint its top
administrative officers and to exert control over the functioning of
the company. But this is precisely what the current administrators of
PDVSA refuse to accept. For example, they refuse to accept the quotas
negotiated by OPEC with the goal of raising the price of oil, thereby
acting outright as spokespersons for the U.S. administration, whose
main concern is to increase Venezuela's oil production.
It is in the interest of the Venezuelan workers and people that this
imperialist interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela come to
The Bush administration has systematically targeted and acted in a
belligerent manner toward the government of Chávez and its policies.
The Bush family, which is tied directly to major oil interests, was
directly implicated in the organization of the first coup attempt
against Chávez on April 11, 2002. Just a few days before this coup
attempt, the U.S. press reported that George Bush Sr. visited the
Venezuelan multimillionaire Cisneros, who was one of the instigators
and financial backers of the coup.
According to the U.S. and international press, the contacts between
the coup perpetrators and the U.S. Embassy in Caracas were ongoing.
Moreover, in the last few months, the White House press secretary,
Ari Fleischer, has spoken openly about the course Venezuela needs to
follow -- according to the U.S. government. On Dec. 13, he stated
that Venezuela needs to hold early presidential elections, which
requires that the Venezuelan Constitution must be changed. On Dec.
16, Fleischer called openly for a national referendum in Venezuela
over whether Chávez should remain in power or not.
At the same time, through the aegis of the Organization of American
States (OAS), now headed by former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria
Trujillo, increased pressures are being exerted on the Venezuelan
government to accept holding a referendum or early elections.
When Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva took office in Brazil on Jan. 1,
2003, he officially met with Chávez. The Washington Post published an
editorial on Jan. 2 calling on Lula to act as a mediator in the
Without a doubt, it is in the interest of the entire Venezuelan
nation -- of its workers and people -- as it is in the interest of
all the peoples of the continent, that this imperialist interference
be halted, so that the Venezuelan people can have the full freedom
and sovereignty to control their own energy resources -- which
implies that PDVSA should be maintained as a nationalized oil company.
Addendum on the Role of the "Socialist International"
The trade union bureaucracy of the Confederation of Venezuelan
Workers (CTV) is in large part at the origin of these anti-Chávez
demonstrations. It is important to remember that this bureaucracy is
linked politically to the "Acción Democrática" (AD) party, which is a
member of the Socialist (or Second) International, and to AD's former
leader, Andrés Pérez. It should be recalled as well that Pérez, at
the beginning of his second term in office in February 1989 ordered
the brutal repression against the people of Caracas, who arose in a
massive uprising against the hikes in the cost of public
transportation. That repression left many dead and hundreds injured.
(Andreu Camps is a journalist with the weekly Informations Ouvrieres,
or Labor News, the publication of the French Workers Party.)
International Liaison Committee for a Workers International (ILC)
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