Friday, January 30, 2009

2 Auto workers killed by state police as workers demand nationalization

On the afternoon of Wednesday, January 29th, two workers of an occupied factory in Anzoateguí state were killed by state police acting on the orders of a local judge. Pedro Suarez, a worker in the occupied Mitsubishi factory (MMC) and José Marcano, a worker in the auto parts company Macusa were among the hundreds of workers occupying the Mitsubishi since January 22nd.

The conflict arouse with the company fired 135 contract workers of the Induservis firm. In a mass assembly, Mitsubishi workers voted 863 in favor, 21 against and 4 abstentions to occupy the factory to demand the return of fired workers, linking their collective demands with those of VIVEX, Franelas Gotcha, INAF and ACERVEN, who have been pressuring for the nationalization under worker control of their respective employers.

From the original article published at
“The brutal attack by the Anzoategui police was the result of a judge’s order to vacate the premises. The workers refused, at which point the police opened fire with live ammunition, killing two workers and leaving others wounded. The situation lasted until the National Guard arrived to halt the police’s attack against the workers. The workers remain inside the factory, but the judge insists on the execution of the eviction order, resulting in a very tense situation.
“The governor of Anzoategui is Tarek William Saab, a ‘Bolivarian.’ This brutal action of the judge and the police is totally unjustified. Last year, the Anzoategui state police were involved in attacks against petrol workers fighting for collective bargaining rights…the police keep behaving in a pre-revolutionary manner. The governor and the national government of President Chávez need to immediately open an investigation to put this situation to a stop and bring those responsible for this brutal murder to justice.
“The immense majority of the Mitsubishi workers are Bolivarians and many have been working actively on the campaign in favor of the constitutional referendum this February 15. They have already received the support for their actions from the workers’ movement of Anzoategui, and have received delegations of workers from Toyota and Ford, whose unions are discussing a possible occupation of their factories in solidarity with the workers at MMC and VIVEX.

“We are making an urgent call to all worker activists, youth, revolutionaries and of the international solidarity movement to:

- send a message of support and condolence to the workers through Freteco:, and to the Sindicato Nueva Generación, MMC:

- send messages to the governor of Anzoategui demanding an immediate end to workers and eviction threats against the workers and that those responsible for these murders be brought to justice:,,,,

- send messages to the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, embassies and consulates, asking for an end to the violence against workers at MMC, the arrest of those responsible, the nationalization of Vivex and a resolution to the demands of MMC workers:, and

have since last year already had a role in attacks anti-petrol worker attacks as

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Speaking at UCSC, Tuesday Feb 3rd

Beyond the ‘3 Rs’?
Year Ten of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution

Tuesday, February 3rd 4:00-6:00 pm
Baobab Lounge, Merrill College, UCSC

After the failed constitutional referendum of 2007, 2008 was to be a year of reexamination, rectification and the relaunching of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Building on research conducted while in Venezuela throughout 2007 and 2008, this talk will examine the phases leading up to the present moment in Venezuelan politics and the open-ended questions of revolutionary politics today.

Donald Kingsbury is a PhD. Candidate in the Department of Politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His work centers on the relation between constituent power and the modern state form in contemporary Venezuela and its implications for political thought.

This talk is sponsored by the Department of Politics and the Venezuelan studies research cluster.

Friday, January 23, 2009

President Chávez’s First Column

Hugo Chávez Frías

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced Tuesday that he will write a new opinion column titled "Chávez's Lines," the first of which was published today. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, twenty-eight newspapers across the country including Venezuela's largest newspaper, Ultimas Noticias, will publish the column, according to the Ministry of Communication and Information. Two predominant newspapers considered to sympathize with the opposition, El Universal and El Nacional, will not publish the column, but have written reviews of this first one. Last weekend, Chávez temporarily suspended his weekly Sunday talk show, "Aló Presidente," in which he addresses the public directly for many hours, in order to dedicate himself to the campaign for a constitutional amendment that would abolish the two-term limit on all elected offices if it wins the majority of votes in a national referendum this coming February 15th. President Chávez said his new column would be charged with "the force of ideas and the passion for homeland, which like fire I carry in my soul, and the patriots of Venezuela carry in our hearts." Below is a translation of the first column, "Chávez's Lines #1."

Chávez's Lines

My strongest hits as a baseball player always went to the right field.

Now, on the playing field of politics and revolution, these hits that begin today will go toward every field with the same force as my hits.

Only, now they go with the force of ideas, of convictions, and of passion for the homeland.

I am, in essence, a soldier. And as such, I was shaped in the school of commitment and obedience to legitimate power that orients the collective force in pursuit of tactical objectives and strategic goals.

The circumstances and conditions that marked my life converted me early on into a revolutionary soldier. From that point on, I recognized as legitimate and superior the sovereign power of the Venezuelan people, to which I am now absolutely subordinated. And I will be for the rest of my days.

I say this today amidst events that mark the beginning of 2009, as the political battle that was unleashed in our homeland two centuries ago intensifies. Some, the majority of us, want national independence; others, the minority, want to convert Venezuela once again into a colony, into an imperial subordinate, a sub-republic.

There are no other paths to achieving Venezuelan independence than national revolution.

There are no other paths toward the great homeland than this path toward socialism on which we have already embarked; our Bolivarian Socialism, Socialist Democracy!

The other path, on which the Yankee-following colonialists want to take us, would condemn our country to handicap, to insignificance, and the historical tomb; it is the path of capitalism and its political expression, "bourgeois democracy."

We, the independence fighters, carry an oath; that which our leader, Simón Bolívar, took on the Sacred Mount on August 15th, 1805. We, the patriots, have a project, we bear a flag.

They, the colonialists, have no oath, have no project, have no flag. Or better said, as we have seen in several of the Yankee-followers' activities, their flag is reversed, turned upside down, with seven stars and not eight as our Bolívar commanded in Angostura. That says it all: they represent what is contrary to the homeland, they are the anti-flag, they are the anti-Venezuela, they are anti-Bolívar. They are the negation. They are the no-homeland.

And I want to express this in my lines, especially now, when we are in full campaign headed into the referendum on February 15th.

February, February once again! I have felt for years now that my life is powerfully linked to this month, the month of the festivities of the savannah and the gusts of dry season wind: February 27th, February 4th, February 2nd!

And now: February 15th.

Twenty years after the Caracazo[1] that bred me, seventeen years after the Bolivarian Military Rebellion[2] that gave birth to me, and ten years after my inauguration that brought me here, I once again place my life and my entire future in the hands of the people and their sovereign decision. This revolutionary soldier will do as the people command.

If the majority says no, then I will leave in another February, that of 2013.

On the other hand, if the majority of you, Venezuelan men and women, support the amendment with a ‘Yes' vote, then it is possible that I could continue in front of the wheel beyond 2013.

But this is not what is truly most important. Here and now, what is essential is that if the ‘No' wins, a colony will be imposed, the anti-homeland. And if the ‘Yes' wins, independence and homeland will prevail.

That is why I repeat to you, men and women, Venezuelan youth:

Those who want a homeland, come with me!

Those who come with me, you will have a homeland!

Introduction and Translation by James Suggett

[1] Caracazo is the name given to the wave of spontaneous protests, riots and looting that occurred on February 27, 1989 in the Venezuelan capital Caracas and surrounding towns against free-market reforms proposed by then social democrat President of Venezuela Carlos Andrés Pérez, who followed the recommendations of the IMF. These expressions of popular discontent extended for five days and were violently repressed by police and military forces.

[2] On February 4, 1992, by-then army officer Hugo Chávez led a military uprising against the neoliberal government of Carlos Andrés Pérez at a time when the government had lost all legitimacy due to the Caracazo and other acts of repression.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

U.S.-Venezuela Relations Uncertain as Obama and Chávez Intensify Rhetoric

James Suggett -
Mérida, January 19th, 2009 ( In statements to the press over the weekend, the president-elect of the United States, Barack Obama, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez intensified their critiques of each other while reiterating their mutual desire to improve relations, leaving much uncertainty as to how diplomatic relations will take shape following Obama’s inauguration as the 44th president of the U.S. Tuesday.

In the wake of widely-circulated news about meetings between opposition leaders and U.S. State Department officials in Puerto Rico last week, Chávez expressed skepticism toward the incoming Obama administration, demanding actions that show that the U.S. will put a halt to its long history of interventions in the affairs of its southern neighbors.

“I demand of the new president of the United States that he does not mess with Venezuela, because Venezuela is a free and sovereign country,” said Chávez, whose administration has purchased the majority share of all oil production in Venezuela and who strongly denounces U.S. government funding for domestic opposition groups.

Chávez alleged that several of those who met in Puerto Rico have now met with U.S. officials in New York to plan strategies to defeat a referendum to allow the Venezuelan president to be re-elected without term limits, which will face a national vote next month.

“Obama has decided to meddle in the battle [over the referendum],” said Chávez, who hopes to be able to run for re-election to a third term in 2012 in order to advance what many call “Socialism of the 21st Century” in Venezuela. He accused the president-elect of “following a campaign format that is dictated to him by the Pentagon, where the real imperial power lies.”

Obama, who advocates new energy sources to help the U.S. depend less on the million barrels of Venezuelan oil it imports daily, responded to a question on Venezuela in an internationally televised interview Sunday.

“Venezuela is a country of critical importance to commerce in the region, it is an important provider of petroleum. We are willing to begin diplomatic conversations about how to improve relations,” said Obama. He added that “all countries in the region of have something of importance to contribute.”

Obama included Cuba among the countries with which he would meet, as long as Cuban President Raúl Castro “is also willing to develop personal freedoms on the island.” He mentioned more flexible travel and remittance laws between the U.S. and Cuba, but denied an end to the U.S.-imposed embargo against the communist island nation.

The governments of Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, and several other Latin American nations view an end to the embargo against Cuba as a necessary step for the U.S. to prove it is serious about improving hemispheric relations.

Asserting that he desires “a change” in U.S.-Latin American relations, President-Elect Obama said, “Our responsibility as Americans is not to dictate policies… but to find cooperation and mutual interest.”

Obama then re-hashed previous remarks that “Chávez has been a force that has impeded progress in the region.”

Echoing the “War on Terror” rhetoric of outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush, Obama declared, “We must remain firm when we see the news that Venezuela is exporting terrorist activities,” referring to allegations by the Colombian government that the Chávez administration finances the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Colombian guerrilla army. “This is not good international behavior,” Obama said.

Chávez responded in kind Monday, calling the U.S. the world’s top exporter of terrorism. He harshly criticized Obama’s silence about the bloody invasion of Gaza by Israel, the U.S.’s principal ally in the Middle East. “You ask [Obama] his opinion about the massacre of innocent children in Palestine, and he does not respond,” Chávez said.

If under Obama’s administration the U.S.’s wars and interventions in foreign states continue as they have under the Bush administration, said Chávez, this will be “a new fiasco for his own people and for the world.”

“If you want good relations, not only with Venezuela, but with Latin America, I recommend that you review things a little, and take your role seriously,” Chávez advised Obama. “I hope I am wrong,” said Chávez, “I already think that Obama will come to be the same miasma… it will be up to him to demonstrate the opposite.”

Friday, January 16, 2009

Vote on Presidential Re-election Reform to be Held Nest Month

Yesterday, amidst opposition student protests in the capital and university centers throughout Venezuela, the National Assembly passed the resolution necessary to amend the constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela concerning the re-election of public officials. With only 6 votes against (all by representatives of the center-left party PODEMOS, which left the Bolivarian bloc in late 2007), the election will be held in February, with campaigning for or against the measure mandated to end on the 13th.

With the amendment the term limits for all elected officials -- from the office of the president to town mayor -- would be lifted. Opposition student groups, fresh from a weekend meeting of Venezuelan opposition officials and representatives of the US government in Puerto Rico, attempted to block Caracas's main thoroughfare but were dispersed with water cannons and tear gas.

While I am still rather confident that Chávez will win this vote handily, I should also point out that the last time the opposition held the political territory it does today was in 2002. In 2002, folks should remember, the Venezuelan opposition, major media outlets, and chamber of commerce launched a failed coup and orchestrated a devastating financial shut down. With the emergence and seeming consolidation of violent shock troops in the country's major universities, anything is once again possible.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Venezuelan Opposition Attacks Chavistas during Governor’s Swearing in Ceremony another stunning show of the Venezuelan opposition's democratic credentials...

Tamara Pearson -

Mérida, January 9, 2009 ( Over 40 United Socialist Party (PSUV) supporters have been injured by members of the opposition during the swearing in of the newly elected governor of Tachira state, according to national assembly member, Iris Varela.

Cesar Perez Vivas, who was also the general secretary of COPEI, Venezuela’s main Christian democratic party, recently won the governorship in the regional elections of November 23 of last year with 49% of the vote. Various supporters and a range of national governors including the new opposition mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, attended the ceremony, which took place in the main plaza of the state capital.

Varela called for protection for the workers in the social missions who have lately been attacked by opposition groups and announced that the National Assembly will start an investigation into the aggressions in Tachira.

Immediately after the ceremony in the main plaza, the opposition group beat up people identified as pro-Chavez. The outgoing governor, Ronaldo Blanco was escorted by the National Guard to his vehicle, to protect him from attacks. One 65 year-old woman was stripped of her t-shirt which had a pro-amendment slogan on it, and her other clothing and the opposition members tried to undress 10 other female Barrio Adentro health mission workers.

The opposition members also threw large rocks, homemade explosives and other blunt objects. One witness said they wanted “to burn Chavismo and they wanted to burn more than 60 people who were in the bus.” The bus had taken Chavistas to the event to support the outgoing governor.

The legislator Ligia Montoya received bruises on her head from a shovel and legislators Nayibert Lugo and Jonathan Garcia received bruises on their arms and legs caused by impacts with shovels and bars. Others received a range of lesions, bruises, and some internal injuries. Six vehicles were also damaged.

The opposition group then headed for the legislative building of Tachira, “the Palace of Lions,” where they tried to knock down the doors of the judicial office and were blocked by the National Guard.

However, the general secretary of the new state government has rejected the denunciations that were made, saying “It’s true that there were skirmishes, we won’t deny it, because there was provocation… in a formal event like that the outgoing governor and all the legislators came dressed in red with their insignias of the [United Socialist Party] PSUV, disrespecting the solemnity of the event.”

Speaking at a press conference this morning, Freddy Bernal, vice president of the PSUV for the Andean region (Tachira, Merida and Trujillo states) complained of the lack of coverage by national and regional media.

Bernal said the events on Wednesday “are indicative of the character of the government of Cesar Perez Viva, who in his discourse called for unity and conciliation, the fascist gangs who supported him for election in Tachira state assaulted members of the PSUV indiscriminately and wildly.”

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

(translation) Venezuela to initiate a humanitarian airlift to Gaza

Telesur, 6 January 2009 -- Venezuela announced the beginning of humanitarian airlifts this Tuesday to help civilians affected by Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip which has resulted in more than 600 Palestinian casualties.

In a communiqué, a Venezuelan spokesperson said, “the government has decided to initiate a humanitarian airlift together with the Arab and Muslim community, as well as with other Latin American countries, to provide medicine, food, water, milk and other necessities [to the Palestinian people].”

According to the notice, the [Venezuelan] state will establish contacts with various global humanitarian organizations as well as with governments in the Middle East and the Palestinian people in order to deal with the current crisis.

Caracas also condemned Tel Aviv’s aggression that has already caused the deaths of more than 600 Palestinians and exhorted the United Nations to adopt resolutions which might aid the Palestinian people.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez said on Tuesday that it was necessary to establish a humanitarian airlift to Gaza because “the Israelis have blocked the Red Cross and other humanitarian aid. This is barbarism.”

In a speech to the media, Chávez said that the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, should be chargd by the International Criminal Court together with outgoing US president George Bush, “if this world has any sense of shame.”

“The world needs to call on Israel to take care of the children, to respect international laws. From my own modest voice I am asking, how much longer must the children of Palestine suffer?”

Chávez added that the Israeli soldiers, “are cowards, bombing a people as they sleep, exhausted, innocent, vulnerable.”

He also called on the Israeli people to mobilize against its government, “to put their hands on their hearts and put an end to this madness.”

At the same time, he expressed his hope that the Jewish community in Venezuela would speak out against the massacre of the Palestinian people.

“You who forcefully reject every act of persecution, should, you are justified. We have hope in our hearts for the children because the children are the heart of the world.”


Brazil also announced today that they will send 14 tons of food and other humanitarian aid to Palestine this Friday.
Way to lead by example guys.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Optimism and Responses to Economic Crises in the New Year

The vast majority of Venezuelans are supportive of President Chávez’s administration and are optimistic about the Bolivarian project of 21st century Socialism, according to 2 polls published today. According to Grupo de Investigación Social XXI (GIS) and the Instituto de Análisis de Datos (IVAD), 74.9% and 64.9% of Venezuelans approve of the Chávez government, respectively. The GIS survey also reports that 47.4% of Venezuelans are ‘optimistic’ regarding the economic future of the country this coming year – in stark contrast to similar polls that have recently reported rather gloomy outlooks in the centers of global capitalism.

These numbers bode well for Chávez, who has signaled that he would like the plebiscite for a constitutional amendment to allow for perpetual reelection of the presidency to take place on the upcoming 27th of February (the 20th anniversary of the Caracazo). If these numbers maintain, as we should expect, Chávez will win his bid to initiate the ‘fourth stage’ of the Bolivarian Revolution in the presidential elections of 2012. (The first stage, according to Chávez’s chronology, began with the popular rebellion against neoliberalism and the death knell of the puntofijo system in the Caracazo of 1989. The second stage was initiated with his election in 1998 and included the first steps toward ‘Socialism for the 21st century.’ The third, which started last year and continues to this day Chávez considers to be a stage of deepening and institutionalizing revolutionary hegemony. The fourth stage, envisioned to begin in the next ten years, is to be the final transition to a distinctive Bolivarian Socialism in Venezuela).

Until the regional elections in late November of last year (which saw a record turnout of 65.5%) one could see three related aspects – positive and negative – of Chávez’s overwhelming popularity. First, the popularity of Chávez reflects a more general symptom of contemporary democracy. Disproportionate attention and weight is placed on the chief executive, in an often times auto-reproducing dynamic that year after year increases the imaginary and actual power of the president. Area studies specialists have for a long time argued that the resulting ‘presidentialism’ is an endemic trait of Latin American politics (though they are often less apt to recognize the same dynamic in the post-FDR United States). While it must be noted that Chávez has perhaps been more willing to use this centralizing trend to democratize the Venezuelan state than any of his predecessors, the strength of the executive has nonetheless been cause for concern among left and right commentators.

Secondly, Chávez’s continued popularity underlines the perceived direct link between himself and the people. While political scientists have been quick to locate in this relation a recurrence of ‘populism’ of the Peronist or caudillo variety, their analysis misses the racial and economic components of Venezuelan politics. Whereas Peron and other examples of ‘classical populists’ were almost exclusively of the dominant racial group and spoke the language of national unity (de la Hoya in Peru being perhaps the most striking example here), Bolivarian discourse is one of a politics of antagonism and partisanship. While Chávez is indeed (perhaps before all else) a nationalist, the Bolivarian government is perhaps the only one in the world that orients itself toward the betterment of the poor and the interests of those marginalized by contemporary global capitalism. (not to mention the fact that the Chavista government of the past 10 years has delivered – increasing the quality of life, the purchasing power, and the access to social goods and services for Venezuelans on a scale never before seen).

Thirdly, and perhaps most disconcertingly, is the identification of Chávez with the revolutionary project itself – that only he can carry forward the transformation of Venezuelan society. The reasons for this are of course many, not the least of which is that many ‘Bolivarian’ politicians have ambiguous revolutionary credentials at best. The most significant problem with this identification has less to do with the norms of representative democracy than with practical concerns. If the Bolivarian movement cannot get beyond the centrality of Chávez, it will not be able to permanently transform Venezuela.

The hope – or my hope, in any event – is that the formation of parallel institutions and the deepening of popular power will be able to preclude this practical concern. The deepening of the role of the communal councils, the formation of the PSUV, and the continued work of the missions are gestures toward a fluid institutionality, a form of political power capable of adapting and escaping the inevitable entropy of the state and its subsidiary social formations. In this case, the hand wringing of allies and enemies of the Bolivarian Revolution vis-à-vis the centrality of Chávez would amount to a series of ill-formed questions.

Different numbers
On numerous recent occasions, Chávez and his ministers have argued that the global economic crisis triggered by the collapse of the US housing market will affect Venezuela less than it will other countries. Today communications minister Jesse Chacón declared “the global economic crisis will affect us less than other countries and we have sufficient savings to go on unaffected even if the price of a barrel of oil falls to $0.00.”

In another reaction to global market turmoil, members of ALBA (The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas – Venezuela, Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua and Cuba) will be meeting this week in Caracas to discuss the formation of a new, regional, currency and a new monetary standard and system intended to replace the continued dominance of the US dollar in financial matters. While simply changing currencies cannot hope to dislodge the United States’ central and commanding position in Latin America (paraphrasing Eduardo Galleano: “When the United States sneezes, Latin America as a whole catches pneumonia”), such a gesture would be a powerful symbolic blow to the Washington Consensus.

However, there remains much work to be done. One the whole, I find talk of the ‘pink tide’ of ostensibly left-wing governments in Latin America to be overexcited. There is simply too much variation among the governments in question to make any solid links (though it must be admitted that there is more in common between Venezuela and, say, Brazil than between Bolivia and Mexico or Colombia in terms of economic and social policy). What is more, ALBA has yet to truly emerge as more than a symbolic force, with even Ecuador refusing to join. The alliance’s vision and program will continue to gain popularity throughout Latin America and the rest of the world during this most recent crisis in global capitalism. However, if it hopes to combat the inevitably approaching ‘green Keynesianism’ of capital’s response, it will not only have to expand but also offer a concrete and antagonistic analysis of precisely the sorts of reformism making up the majority of ‘pink tide’ economies – a seemingly impossible and unlikely task.