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Ayinde
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« on: June 26, 2004, 10:42:33 AM »

Replay of Chile and Nicaragua?

By ALEXANDER COCKBURN
http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn06262004.html

You can set your watch by it. The minute some halfway decent government in Latin America begins to reverse the order of things and give the have-nots a break from the grind of poverty and wretchedness, the usual suspects in El Norte rouse themselves from the slumber of indifference and start barking furiously about democratic norms. It happened in 1973 in Chile; we saw it again in Nicaragua in the 1980s; and here's the same show on summer rerun in Venezuela, pending the August 15 recall referendum of President Hugo Chávez.

Chávez is the best thing that has happened to Venezuela's poor in a very long time. His government has actually delivered on some of its promises, with improved literacy rates and more students getting school meals. Public spending has quadrupled on education and tripled on healthcare, and infant mortality has declined. The government is promoting one of the most ambitious land-reform programs seen in Latin America in decades.

Most of this has been done under conditions of economic sabotage. Oil strikes, a coup attempt and capital flight have resulted in about a 4 percent decline in GDP for the five years that Chávez has been in office. But the economy is growing at close to 12 percent this year, and with world oil prices near $40 a barrel, the government has extra billions that it's using for social programs. So naturally the United States wants him out, just as the rich in Venezuela do. Chávez was re-elected in 2000 for a six-year term. A US-backed coup against him was badly botched in 2002.

The imperial script calls for a human rights organization to start braying about irregularities by their intended victim. And yes, here's José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch. We last met him in this column helping to ease a $1.7 billion US aid package for Colombia's military apparatus. This time he's holding a press conference in Caracas, hollering about the brazen way Chávez is trying to expand membership of Venezuela's Supreme Court, the same way FDR did, and for the same reason: that the Venezuelan court has been effectively packed the other way for decades, with judicial flunkies of the rich. I don't recall Vivanco holding too many press conferences to protest that perennial iniquity.

The "international observers" recruited to save the rich traditionally include the Organization of American States and the Carter Center; in the case of the Venezuelan recall they have mustered dead on schedule. On behalf of the opposition, they exerted enormous pressure on the country's independent National Electoral Council during the signature-gathering and verification process. Eventually the head of the OAS mission had to be replaced by the OAS secretary general because of his unacceptable public statements.

The Carter Center's team is headed by Jennifer McCoy, whose forthcoming book, The Unraveling of Representative Democracy in Venezuela, leans heavily against the government. One of its contributors is José Antonio Gil of the Datanalysis Polling Firm, most often cited for US media analysis. The Los Angeles Times quoted Gil on what to do: "And he can see only one way out of the political crisis surrounding President Hugo Chávez. ‘He has to be killed,' he said, using his finger to stab the table in his office far above this capital's filthy streets. ‘He has to be killed.'"

Media manipulation is an essential part of the script, and here, right on cue, comes Bill Clinton's erstwhile pollster, Stan Greenberg, still a leading Democratic Party strategist. Greenberg is under contract to RCTV, one of the right-wing media companies leading the Venezuelan opposition and recall effort. It's a pollster's dream job. Not only does he have enormous resources against an old-fashioned, politically unsophisticated poor people's movement, but his firm has something comrades back home can only fantasize about: control over the Venezuelan media. Imagine if the right wing controlled almost the entire media during Clinton's impeachment.

That's the situation in Venezuela. Just think what Greenberg's associate, Mark Feierstein-a veteran of similar NED efforts in ousting the Sandinistas in the 1990 elections-can do with this kind of totalitarian media control. NED? That's the National Endowment for Democracy, praised not so long ago by John Kerry, who, like Bush, publicly craves the ouster of Chávez.

The NED is coming over the hill arm in arm with the CIA and CIA-backed institutions in the AFL-CIO, where John Sweeney's team has dismally failed to clean house. The NED has helped fund the opposition to Chávez to the tune of more than $1 million a year. Among the recipients are organizations whose leaders actually supported the April 2002 coup-they signed the decree that overthrew the elected president and vice president and abolished the country's democratic institutions, including the Constitution, Supreme Court and National Assembly. The coup was thwarted only because millions of Venezuelans rallied for Chávez.

Left out of the coup government, despite his support for it, was Carlos Ortega, head of the CTV (Central Labor Federation). The AFL's Solidarity Center, successor to the CIA-linked AIFLD, gets more than 80 percent of its funding from the NED and USAID and has funneled NED money to Ortega and his collaborators. The Solidarity Center has been up to its ears in opposition plotting, a reprise of the Allende years, when the AFL helped destroy Chilean democracy. The AFL has denied any role, but Rob Collier, an excellent San Francisco Chronicle reporter, recently gave a detailed refutation of AFL apologetics in an exchange in the current New Labor Forum. "In Venezuela," he writes, "the AFL-CIO has blindly supported a reactionary union establishment as it tried repeatedly to overthrow President Hugo Chávez-and, in the process, wrecked the country's economy.

The CTV worked in lockstep with FEDECAMARAS, the nation's business association, to carry out the three general strikes/lockouts" of 2001, 2002 and 2003. The CTV, Collier says, was directly involved in coup organizing, and its leader was scheduled to be part of the new junta.

The end of this particular drama has yet to be written. The left here in the United States could make a difference if it got off its haunches and threw itself into the fray.

http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn06262004.html
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ras_tito
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« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2004, 10:09:30 PM »

Since I`m a venezuelan actually in Venezuela right now (Caracas to be exact) I felt the need to reply to this article.

" Chávez is the best thing that has happened to Venezuela's poor in a very long time. His government has actually delivered on some of its promises, with improved literacy rates and more students getting school meals. Public spending has quadrupled on education and tripled on healthcare, and infant mortality has declined. The government is promoting one of the most ambitious land-reform programs seen in Latin America in decades. "


Tell that to the millions of unemployed people right now in the streets of Venezuela.80% of venezuelans dont have a regular job,most of them have to resort to "buhoneria" (selling stuff on the street) and the increaso of people begging in the streets is scary.Tell the hundreds of kids everyday in Caracas and other cities that have learnt juggling with balls and fruits in corners and stop lights to make some money to take home.
The ambitious land-reform programs apparently involve giving a few people some land titles on TV for populist purposes.The rest have been invasion of private lands that are being farmed and are productive and actually giving jobs and something back to the country.
I haven`t seen the money for health care in any hospitals lately.God have mercy on you if something happens to you (which is very likely since insecurity is running rampant in venezuela with at leat 100 dead every weekend) and you should set foot in a hospital.Doctors will ask you to bring in your own medicines because there simply isn`t any in the hospitals.

" But the economy is growing at close to 12 percent this year, and with world oil prices near $40 a barrel, the government has extra billions that it's using for social programs. "

Chavez`s term has had the  highest oil prices in a long time.Where is that money going?? These so called social programs only started as soon as he saw that there might be a recall referendum against him.We have yet to see the reach of these since they only started last year as he saw that it would be a good idea to throw huge amounts of money at the problem of the referendum by adopting a bunch of populist programs that we don`t know how long they will last or how good they are working since everything in this government is done in the utmost secrecy.

" The imperial script calls for a human rights organization to start braying about irregularities by their intended victim. And yes, here's José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch. We last met him in this column helping to ease a $1.7 billion US aid package for Colombia's military apparatus. This time he's holding a press conference in Caracas, hollering about the brazen way Chávez is trying to expand membership of Venezuela's Supreme Court, the same way FDR did, and for the same reason: that the Venezuelan court has been effectively packed the other way for decades, with judicial flunkies of the rich. I don't recall Vivanco holding too many press conferences to protest that perennial iniquity. "

This article conveniently missed the main fact why Vivancos was here. During protests against his government in february more than 15 people died and hundreds of others were wounded or ilegally detained  in the huge repression by the Guardia Nacional.Repression that Chavez used to criticize during previous governments but know he promotes.


It irks me to read these articles by so called experts of the situation in Venezuela when  it is so obvious that they haven`t even set foot in this country or haven`t even paid the tiniest bit of attention to this.It is false that this government is good for the poor.People are poorer than ever here.
It is false that this is a democratic government since it is trying to impede at all costs  going to the referendum.During the signature collection people that work for the government were threatened with being fired from their jobs if they signed and  hundreds of workers where fired from their positions.Now that we have the signatures, they are trying to scare people against voting against Chavez in august by implementing some sort of fingerprint recognition machines so they can identify those that are agains the government.What happened to the secrecy of vote??

Lets not forget that Chavez in the past led a coup which led hundreds of dead.Now that he finally came to power through votes he has betrayed us and he will not cringe at killing hundreds more just to stay in power.

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Ayinde
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« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2004, 05:22:19 PM »

Venezuela's Chavez Receiving Lower Oil Revenues than Previous Governments

By: Venezuelanalysis.com

July 7, 2004—According to a report issued by the Venezuelan Finance Minister Tobias Nobrega, the government of President Hugo Chavez has received significantly lower oil revenues than the previous five Venezuelan administrations.

"It is false that the government of President Chavez has received fiscal oil revenues that are superior to those of previous governments," said Nobrega.

The report specified that, "The Bolivarian government has received 26% of the oil revenues obtained by the Carlos Andres Perez administration; 35% of the revenues of Luis Herrera Campins, 56% of the revenues of Jaime Lusinchi, 49% of the revenues of the second period of Carlos Andres Perez, and 85% of the revenues received by the last administration of Rafael Caldera," based on real per capita terms.

According to the Finance Minister, the analysis should be made taking into account important economic variables, such as population growth, inflation rate, the balance of import-export, among other elements that determine the real profits. As a result, Nobrega affirms that: "The Chavez administration has received the smallest amount of oil revenues since 1974."

Despite the increase in oil prices for this year, if the price averages out at $30 per barrel for 2004, Venezuela would still receive only 60% of the oil revenues received in 1974. Nobrega added that to this one must also take into account a doubling of Venezuela’s population, which went from 12.3 to 26 million between 1974 and 2003.

The Finance Minister also pointed out that by the end of the 1990’s a process of deterioration of the fiscal oil contribution began due to, among other causes, high operational costs. For this reason, by 1998 the oil contribution fell down to 5.5% of the Gross Domestic Product.  However, since President Chavez took office a recuperation of the fiscal oil contribution began, thus causing resistance by high ranking executives inside the state owned oil company (PDVSA). This was the detonator of the conspiracy against the Venezuelan oil industry in April and December 2002.

Finally, the Minister said that those so called oil analysts who criticize the use of the oil revenues for social programs must recognize that these revenues are being used to recover state investment in goods and services for the most excluded segments of Venezuelan society. Many regions that are in need have benefited from the transfer of resources in order to improve social security, investment in infrastructure, public health, and education.

Sources: Radio Nacional de Venezuela and Venpres
http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1305
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Ayinde
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« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2004, 05:26:21 PM »

Referendum and Revolution in Venezuela

By: Derrick O'Keefe and Michael Lebowitz - SevenOaksMag.com

Michael Lebowitz is a retired professor of economics at Simon Fraser University. He is currently living in Venezuela, and is a close observer and frequent commentator on that country's 'Bolivarian Revolution.' On a recent visit to Vancouver, Lebowitz sat down with Derrick O'Keefe of Seven Oaks to discuss the current political situation in Venezuela.

Seven Oaks: August 15 has been set for a referendum on the presidency of Hugo Chavez, who has won numerous elections and of course survived a failed coup d'etat in April, 2002. Is this referendum a 'make or break' vote?

Michael Lebowitz: I think it is make or break, in many respects. But you have to put it in the context that the opposition is trying to get rid of Chavez everyway that they can. You know, they tried the coup and that failed. The attempt was to cut off the oil industry, and other industries, in order to cut off the life-blood of the government. They were very confident that they were going to succeed in that. It was early December [2002] and they figured Chavez would be out by Christmas. And that one failed completely. Chavez always responded, 'look, if you don't like me, we have a mechanism in our constitution, which is recall. All you need is 20% of the people who voted for me in the last election, and then you can trigger a recall. So, we have that democratic, constitutional road, take it.' And in fact Chavez himself had recommended this to the Constituent Assembly which wrote the Bolivarian constitution, that there be a right of recall. But in Chavez's own recommendation it was a 10% trigger. So he was not in anyway opposed to this concept, in fact it's central to his idea.


S.O.: A recent article on Venezuela in the Washington Post essentially accused Chavez of bribing the poor in that country, by using oil revenue to fund social programs. Perhaps they were upset that Chavez doesn't understand that bribes are supposed to go only to the upper classes. How are the new social programs, such as the literacy campaign, working to solidify Chavez's support?

M.L.: Well, the first thing is to recognize what Chavez has done with the oil company, PDVSA (Petroleos de Venezuela). The company was essentially a state within a state, very little revenue going to the government, much of it just tapped by the oligarchy. Chavez has ensured that that money is now going to support public programs and one of the things that is happening is a diversion of the resources that are generated by the oil company to social programs, to the people. Now that's not unusual, this is the people's oil. People sometimes say this is bribery, but if you look at Alaska, the oil revenue goes to every citizen. It's simply their right. In Venezuela, what's happening is the oil revenue is going to the people, but in a different way. It's going for programs that allow for greater education, that allow for greater health care, and it's also going through the Bank for Economic and Social Development, through the Bank for Women, the micro-finance fund, and it's also going to establish cooperatives. So people are getting loans to create their own cooperatives. An enormous amount of money is going for that purpose. I think there are one hundred thousand cooperatives waiting to be registered at this very moment under the Law of the Cooperatives.

These programs are in fact being used to transform the country. It's not simply social programs, for health, education, etc. The most significant program happening right now is called Vuelvan Caras, which is taking people who are coming out of the education programs and putting them into a new program that is to focus on endogenous development. In other words, to create new industries, which are, in some cases, import substitution both in agriculture and in industry. Agriculture, especially, is critical. Venezuela is this warped country, which has amazing agricultural land and imports 70% of its food. One of the focuses of the government is to reverse that situation, to create the infrastructure and conditions under which people will be attracted to work on the land, and will have the funds, equipment, etc., to be able to do that. And to get what Hugo Chavez has called 'food sovereignty,' the ability to rely on Venezuela's own resources.

S.O.: Early in his presidency, Chavez spoke of working to reverse traditional migration trends from the countryside to the city. What is the state of this rural development, and of the process of land reform in Venezuela?

M.L.: They faced a dilemma. They know what the long-term goal has to be. They have to create this development in the countryside, to create centers where people can have amenities so they have a desire to stay in the countryside, rather than to be drawn to live in the hills around the cities. But they can't simply take this money, that is all coming from oil, and pour it into that, because the mass of the people are in the cities. They have to satisfy the needs of people, and so they are caught in the situation: Either we meet the needs of people in the short run or we have this long run plan. But if we don't meet people's expectations now, we're not going to be around to do the other.

The Minister of Planning really has this vision in terms of what can be done in the interior, but the social cabinet ministers are saying 'no, we have to work on the cities.' And they've chosen the cities. The most significant social programs right now are in the cities, where people are, and that's critical. That's why they'll get that positive response from people, because they are meeting their expectations. The opposition says 'look, there's still poverty, there's still unemployment,' and they've got to deal with that in the short run. But the long-term goal, and that's what Vuelvan Caras is about, is to create the basis for internal development and endogenous growth.

In terms of land reform, it continues. I don't have any figures. Some of the land that is being turned over is state land that was usurped by private owners, through illegal means. In that case, part of the process is getting the land away from the private owners. And here everything revolves around the courts, through legal mechanisms. And it's important to always remember that everything the Chavez government does is through the legal mechanism.

S.O.: That's the government, but have there been any cases of land occupations like those of the MST (Landless Workers' Movement) in Brazil?

M.L.: I think in some of these cases there have been land occupations –not on the scale of the MST. There are land occupations, especially with the indigenous people, that's where I've read about the land occupations. In many cases, one of the problems is that they're going in with the legal mechanism, and the legal mechanism is held up. And I'm not sure whether they've got all the laws passed that are necessary.

This is one of the many problems in the whole revolution. They don't have a significant majority in the National Assembly –at this point I think it's five –and they find it difficult to pass laws and everything's held up. For example, the constitution calls for pensions for housewives, a very strong recognition of the economic contribution that people make working in the home. But the organic law, the law flowing out of the constitution, has not been passed yet.

S.O.: Getting back to the question of the national oil company, since this is the economic engine of the process, what are the dynamics within PDVSA, and what impact do any tensions have?

M.L.: I think, in general, the question of the opposition presence in the oil company was removed thanks to the fact that most of them left…

First of all, the cost of production plummeted after they were gone, even though production was maintained. And the other thing is that they have these gigantic, wonderful new buildings, because they were, you know, basically getting the rent for themselves. So you think about BC Hydro, BC Gas buildings, wonderful buildings, well suddenly 18 000 people aren't there, the managers and high-level technicians. And so they have empty buildings. I guess it was a year and a half ago I went to the opening of the first Bolivarian University, it was in the old PDVSA building, with wonderful offices, luxurious classrooms. And they bused students from the barrios, who wanted to be in university but were rejected. And it's all run, the Bolivarian University, on a democratic basis, which means students are making decisions on courses, and faculty who want to teach there have to pass a test, effectively.

But that's a sidebar. In PDVSA, there are many charges that there are still some golpistas there, oppositionists there, and it's hard to know whether it's true or whether it's gossip. The leadership of PDVSA is under Ali Rodriguez, who was a guerrilla fighter, and went back and did his economics, and was basically the oil opposition spokesperson for years. He was head of OPEC at one point. He doesn't go out to inflame the opposition, he's very careful in his statements, but he's committed to making the oil company a success.

There's a new board of directors, which includes two representatives from the unions, from the blue-collar unions, because the blue-collar workers kept working during that oil coup. So they have representatives there. But one of the most significant things happening, I think, in PDVSA, is that there's a movement from below of workers who are organising something called the 'guide committees.' And they are organising from below for more workers' control, basically, of PDVSA.

S.O.: Internationally, the Left, generally, and especially early on, kept its distance from Chavez. Some of the 'New Left' disparaged him for leading a 'top-down' process, while others rejected a process that wasn't explicitly Marxist, or even socialist ideologically. Has the process in Venezuela changed from what it was a few years ago, and how would you define the process today? Where is the Bolivarian Revolution going?

M.L.: I think a lot of the criticisms by the 'New Left' and by the old, abstract Left, don't amount to much. You have to concretely look at what is happening in Venezuela; it doesn't fit any models that we've seen before. I think the best way to get a sense of what Venezuela's about is to look at the constitution. It's an incredible constitution. The first thing I said when I read it was: 'who wrote this?' It basically talks about the need for focus on human development, developing human potential. It's basically a focus on a profound democracy and struggles and activity from below. And social movements were key in doing that, and I understand that especially the women's movement and the indigenous movement were most active in sort of shaping the character of that constitution. You look at that constitution, and you say 'that's different from any model that I know.' There were, also, questions every step of the way as to, well, there are beautiful constitutions everywhere, the question is: Is it made real?

I think that at so many points the Revolution could have gone either way. Look, the opposition lived with the constitution until Chavez brought 49 laws by presidential decree, because he couldn't get them through the Assembly, which started to put meat on the constitution. And that's the question: Will they follow through? And I'd say, you know, the process changes every step of the way, and what drives this revolution, and has driven this revolution, has been the opposition. The opposition protests and actions against Chavez have deepened the revolution every step of the way. And there were points where I think they could have made more accommodations with capital, but the actions of capital itself, and the actions of the United States in supporting the coup, etc., have created this wedge, have moved the revolution forward, just as I think this referendum has the potential of deepening the whole revolutionary process.

I think that Venezuela is in a very unique situation, that it can proceed to creating an alternative to capitalism without directly confronting capital, in many cases, because it has this oil wealth.

S.O.: Would that then be some kind of a radical social democracy?

M.L.: I don't like the term, describing it as social democracy. I think there's a revolutionary process, of which the outcome is unclear. I think that to be true to the constitution, and to Chavez's own personal sentiments, that that revolution has to continue to in fact become a socialist revolution. But I think that that doesn't drop from the sky, and that the most significant thing is this sort of growth in the capacity of people through their struggles that's occurring…there's no formula to determine who will win. That's always a question: who will win? That's going to be determined by people's struggles.


SevenOaksMag.com
http://www.sevenoaksmag.com/features/20_venezuela.html
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