From: ZZZ
Subject: An Alternative
Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2001 08:34:56 -0800

Amazingly Hugo Chavez is still alive and in power, despite Washington's
extreme displeasure with his land reform policy and friendship with that
arch-enemy of U.S. capitalists - Fidel Castro!  Below is a mainstream
article on his ongoing struggle to institute reform, followed by an
excellent, and more meaningful, interpretation of the facts.

At a time when the New World Order has descended into chaos and despair, I
find it helpful to hear of and support those who are working - with some
success, even - to find a way out.  And so I begin with the "end" of the
below commentary:

(W)hat is the Left's answer
to "terrorism" -- which is nothing more than a symptom and symbol of
the abyss the capitaslist/imperialist system is pushing the world
towards, I would say this is it. Fight on the side of Venezuela, on
the side of Cuba and Fidel, on the side of the Argentine unionists
confronting the austerity plan, on the side of the Palestinians, on
the side of the side of the Irish patriots.

Right now, social and political forces are in motion in Venezuela.
There is a sharpening class polarization and class conflict. The
situation is evolving, we can --we should-- make a difference.


[Venezuela is experiencing another period of "tension and unrest"
amid last week's "coup rumors" -- and the mainstream press is
covering all this as if it is "unprecedented" in Hugo Chavez's
presidency. This is at least the third time "coup rumors" have
circulated, the last time during a 15-nation tour by Chavez a few
months ago, which even included a paid advertisement in US newspapers
by his opponents (the fingerprints of the CIA, as the terrorism
pundits like to say, were all over that one).

Last year, Hugo Chavez was extremely cool toward the "Free Trade Area
of the Americas" initiative, which was rammed down the throats of
hemispheric leaders by the US at the Montreal Summit -- to which only
Cuba was not invited. Chavez was also critical of that, and returned
from the Summit urging that a popular referendum on the FTAA be held
in all Latin American countries.

Since then, Venezuela has distanced itself from the US by asking the
Pentagon's military advisory mission to move out of its offices into
new space (allegedly because the space was needed by the Venezuelan
governemnt, but probably for reasons of security); the US State
Department has made disparaging remarks about Chavez, his
relationship with Fidel Castro, and security and intelligence
cooperation between Cuba and Venezuala, echoing the claims of
"domestic dissidents" that Chavez was "Cubanizing" Venezuela -- a
theme undoubtedly penned in Langley. The US has also recently
expressed "disappointment" that Venezuela's President has not climbed
on the "War on Terrorism" bandwagon. Although Chavez is continuing to
sell oil to the US, and is an important supplier, his latest foreign
trip to OPEC nations succeeded in hammering out an agreement to limit
production and thus stem the falling price of oil -- even non-OPEC
Mexico finally went along, although the US appears to be counting on
the cowed and compliant Vladimir Putin to up production and save
their gas-guzzling asses.

Since his election, Hugo Chavez has been extremely outspoken, and
it's not surprising to see "unrest and tension" in Venezuela. What's
surprising is that more active attempts to remove him have not yet
occurred. Washington seems to be somewhat occupied elsewhere,
plotting to subjugate the entire planet, but apparently not everyone
in Covert Country is working on Afghanistan or lining up Iraq and
North Korea as its latest victims.

Expect to see more of this sort of thing, and expect to see more
economic problems that will be exploited by the Evil Empire and their
paid agents. Expect as well that Venezuelan housewives will start
marching, banging pots and pans, since the CIA never knows when to
retire a good act. (Whoops -- it seems they hae already begun,
according to this IPS story... The CIA's Latin America desk really
DOES NOT have many new ideas.)

The latest news report from IPS on the "unrest" is below, followed by
a broad analysis of the situation from Jose Perez. -- NY Transfer]


Friday November 23 01:16 PM EST (IPS via Yahoo)

VENEZUELA: Unrest, Protests Mark Rising Tension

By Andrés Cañizález, Inter Press Service

CARACAS, Nov 22 (IPS) - A protest demonstration that ended in a
pitched battle Thursday spawned a climate of tension in Venezuela
that had not been felt since President Hugo Chávez took office, while
the business community prepared for an unprecedented freeze on
productive activity.

The demonstration staged by the opposition Democratic Action (AD)
party ended in a brawl with sympathisers of the ruling Fifth Republic
Movement (MVR), in a week marked by rumours of a coup and
announcements of further protests.

Analysts agree that Chávez's "peaceful social revolution" is facing a
critical juncture.

The president, who was inaugurated in February 1999, is a retired
paratrooper who headed a thwarted coup staged by junior officers in
February 1992. He eventually became the standard- bearer of those
demanding widespread change in a once oil-rich country where a
majority of the population of 23 million has fallen into poverty.

Chávez's arrival to power brought an end to the political hegemony
enjoyed by the social democratic AD, a re-writing of the
constitution, and an enormous concentration of power in the hands of
the president.

Chávez has brought about a radical transformation of the political
system. But according to opinion polls, Venezuelans are still
awaiting balanced economic policies with an emphasis on social

Downtown Caracas is the usual venue for protest demonstrations, due
to the presence there of public offices and the seat of the

"An average of 100 protests a month have been held nationally over
the past year. That is only comparable to the period of
demonstrations during the second government of Carlos Andrés Pérez,"
Carlos Correa, general coordinator of the Venezuelan Programme of
Education and Action on Human Rights, told IPS.

Pérez (1974-79 and 1989-93), who belongs to the AD, was unpopular in
his second term due to the economic difficulties plaguing
Venezuelans. He stepped down on the decision of the Supreme Court,
which later confined him to house arrest on charges of misuse of
public funds.

Venezuela is today experiencing "tough times. There is a climate of
growing social unrest," said journalist Manuel Felipe Sierra.

In his view, it is not just a question of "the unrest spawned by a
long economic recession, which looks like it will become more severe
in the next few months. It is also the result of a more active and
militant stance by business associations and civil society groups."

The country's main business association, Fedecámaras, announced
Monday that it would bring productive activity to a standstill on Dec
10 "to demand a rectification" by the Chávez administration and the
creation of "a channel for dialogue."

Meanwhile, the new leadership of the Confederation of Venezuelan
Workers (CTV) - the main trade union - is preparing a series of
protests in regional capitals to demand "policies that create
employment and boost salaries."

Both Fedecámaras and the CTV, which complain that the president has
turned a deaf ear to their grievances, have given assurances that
their aim is not to "destabilise the government" with their protests.

Chávez also recently suffered a setback in the elections for new CTV
leaders. The candidate that the government openly supported,
Aristóbulo Iztúriz, was defeated by Carlos Ortega, who the president
had publicly accused of forming part of a "trade union mafia."

"Chávez's discourse and his confrontation with the traditional
political structures have worn thin, and he has been incapable of
establishing dialogue with newly emerging social forces," said

The president held a long meeting Wednesday with the military brass,
which has issued a series of statements in favour of the
institutional order and implicit expressions of support for Chávez's
political programme.

"The only coups are in the mind of a tiny group of oddballs wandering
around out there," said the inspector-in-chief of the armed forces,
General Lucas Rincón.

Besides the rumours of a coup, "pot-banging" demonstrations were held
this month to protest statements by Chávez, who in turn called on the
"revolutionaries" to respond to the "weak" protesters with fireworks.

Analysts also say the unrest will be aggravated by the slump in oil

Another problem that has spurred controversy over the past year and
which appears to be fuelling the clashes with some sectors of the
productive apparatus is a new "Land Law" aimed at distributing plots
to landless farmers, part of a package of four dozen laws decreed by
Chávez under special powers he was granted by parliament.

According to the president, the state will only take action in the
case of rural property "whose owners fail to show up" in a period of
10 days after they have been called on to claim their land. Chávez
clarified that there would be no forced confiscations of property,
nor any nationalisation of the rural sector.

Pedro Carmona Estanga, president of Fedecámaras, complained that the
government had "rammed through" several laws "without consulting
anyone," based on his special powers.

Ortega, the new head of the CTV, said that under the present
circumstances, it is essential for the government to set up "a
national panel for dialogue to pull the country out of intensive



Venezuela: Sharpening Class Polarization and September 11

by Jose G. Perez

In the wake of the enactment by presidential decree of a package of
laws, including an agrarian reform law and a law increasing petroleum
royalties, pro-capitalist opposition forces staged a provocative
march in Caracas, Venezuela, on Thursday which ended with street

The capitalist Democratic Action Party staged the provocative march
taking advantage of a trip abroad by President Hugo Chávez. Last
Thursday, Chávez enacted 49 new economic reform laws under special
authority granted to him by the legislature. The most important of
these laws is an agrarian reform law that calls for the intervention
and expropriation of arable land allowed to lie idle by large
landowners, with the land being turned over to landless peasants.

Without intimate and detailed knowlege of the Venezuelan countryside,
which this writer lacks, it is impossible to say whether this measure
could lead to the wide-ranging agrarian reform which virtually all
Latin American countries need. Moreover, the most important part of
such a law is not the detailed wording of the measure, such as limits
on landholding, but how it is implemented.

In Cuba, retrospectively, one could find weaknesses in the first
Agrarian Reform Law promulgated in May of 1959. Under its provisions,
it was still possible for a class of significant landowners who
derived their livelihood overwhelmingly from exploiting the labor of
others to perdure, and it proved necessary for a second agrarian
reform to wipe out this layer of smaller rural exploiters three or
four years later. And the change in the law itself was the least of
it. It took a long, hard and bitter struggle --the fight against the
"bandits" as it is known in Cuban history-- to extirpate exploitation
in the countryside, which was the social basis for the
counterrevolutionary bands that were active in the early 1960s,
especially in the Escambray mountains. Yet without the first agrarian
reform law, there could not have been a second one, nor the struggle
around it.

That's because the 1959 Cuban law struck directly at one of the major
types of property of some of the biggest capitalists on the island
and some of the biggest foreign interests. Under the leadership of
the Rebel Army-staffed National Instute for Agrarian Reform (INRA),
it ushered in a wave of escalating class struggles in the countryside
through which the worker-peasant class character of the revolution
came to the fore.

The 1959 Cuban agrarian reform did not go beyond the formal bounds of
capitalist property relations. But dismissing it as "bourgeois" --as
some ultralefts did at the time-- was of no comfort to the actual
capitalists involved in the class struggle the law unleashed, as they
saw their property stripped from them by the mobilized power of the
working people who acted directly in their own interests with the
support of a revolutionary government.

In Venezuela, it is way too soon to try to draw a comparison to those
events more than 40 years ago. But the outraged howls and screeches
of the capitalists, their news media and their parties suggests that
they view Chavez's agrarian reform measure much as a vampire might
view a wooden stake about to be driven through its heart. Consider
the reaction:

The union of Venezuelan bosses, Fedecámaras, has called for a 12-hour
lockout for December 10. (How succesful it will be is open to
question. Already the most outspoken Chávez critics -- the radio and
TV station bosses -- have said they can't join the lockout as that
would be illegal. And Chávez has ensnared another section of the
bosses --especially smaller capitalists, according to press reports--
into a dialogue about the modalities for implementing the laws,
dividing what was an initially united opposition.)

Another reaction: the front pages of certain dailies became
tendentious denunciations of the president. Just one example: the
daily "El Universal" Friday a week ago had headlines like:
"Fedecámaras wants the National Assembly to ammend the laws;" "'The
President of Venezuela should watch what he says,' said U.S.
ambassador to the OAS" and "'Chávez has damaged relations with
Washington,' says report by the Stratfor agency."

Rumors of a coup started to fly, which were, of course, promptly
answered by Chávez, who said any attempted coup would be met "with a
rifle in my hand."

Even the most ill-fitting and worn out hobby horses of the bourgeois
press have been trotted out. Pascal Fletcher, who for years
specialized in slandering Cuba as Reuter's man in Havana, is now
putting this training to good use pontificating from Caracas.
"Venezuela's latter-day 'Liberator' loses his shine," says the
headline of his latest offering, in which he assures us: "Once
hailed, like Bolivar, as the potential 'Liberator' of Venezuela's
downtrodden masses, the 47-year-old president is now denounced by his
more strident critics as a 'dictator' and accused of everything from
insensitivity to insanity."

Fletcher seems to not have heard the capitalists' outraged wailing
following last week's package of economic laws, and decries Chávez,
not for being a revolutionary, but for NOT being revolutionary
enough: "But even impartial observers describe his political program
as slow-moving and ineptly executed at best, while critics shrilly
deride it as a 'Revolution of saliva,' bereft of real action and
existing only in Chavez's long, meandering speeches." Tell it to
Fedecámaras, Mr. Fletcher.

Another old stand-by of bourgeois slanders against revolutionaries
has also been pressed into service: that Chávez is an enemy of the
freedom of the press.

"Preocupan en Venezuela ataques de Chávez a libertad de prensa," says
the headline on a November 17 AP dispatch. "Chavez's attacks on press
freedom cause worry in Venezuela." With a headline like that, you
know what to expect: orders from the presidential advisors forbidding
the broadcast of certain interviews, systematic slanting and spinning
to have the news media reflect an overwhelmingly pro-government point
of view, the jailing without charges of hundreds of people, in short,
the kind of thing we're becoming all too used to in the United States
under the regime of George II.

But what had actually happened in Venezuela? AP says, "Unlike other
Venezuelan leaders, President Hugo Chávez has never attempted to
control the inputs of dailies and has allowed press criticism,
although not without expressing his displeasure."

It turns out Chávez's "attacks" have all consisted of criticizing
press coverage. Not a single publication or broadcast stations has
been shut down; not a single journalist has been killed, arrested or
"detained" as we now say ever so euphemistically in the US press; not
a single article has been censored; not a single show has been driven
off the air (at least that AP is willing to tell us about).

So what is Chavez's crime? "His diatribes against the press have
alienated prominent journalists and owners of radio and television
stations, who say the president is trying to intimidate them." Poor
babies! Imagine that! Chávez has the *temerity* to actually express
HIS OWN opinion! Even when it does not coincide with those of the
gasbags on TV!

[This, by the way, is striking confirmation of the Marxist
proposition that "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one."
The bourgeoisie insitinctively reacts to those who express views
inimical to its own by labeling them as "enemies" of a free press,
even when all they have done is to express their own views. Bourgeois
freedom of the press is freedom to express pro-capitalist -- and ONLY
pro-capitalist -- points of view. But then if you had been paying
close attention to our three-letter TV news media of late, you would
have known that.]

The only case that the article documents in which Chávez threatened
to initiate coercive measures against a media outlet was that of
Globovisión, which falsely reported that nine taxi drivers has been
murdered one night in Caracas, leading to a cab drivers strike.
Chávez quite correctly noted that broadcasting such "news" fabricated
out of whole cloth with the obvious and foreseeable effect of
disrupting the transportation system was an attack on the economy,
not an exercise of freedom of the press. He explained that the
airwaves belonged to the Venezuelan people, and that Globovision's
abuse of the public's trust could result in their license to use
those airwaves being withdrawn.

However, after Globovisión retracted this false story, Chávez dropped
the threats of taking legal action.

The article also lies in another way: it fails to note that one
extremely popular weekly political radio show was driven off the air
by the "Chávez regime." It happened before the most recent
presidential elections. That show was "Aló Presidente," Chávez's own
weekly call-in show, where people can phone in with everything from
criticism of his policy towards Russia to demands that potholes be
fixed on their street. The election authorities ruled that Chávez
could not continue to host the show because he was a candidate and
that would be unfair to other candidates. Chávez disagreed with and
criticized the ruling, explaining that he was not just a candidate
but also the President, and had an obligation to communicate with and
be answerable to the people. But he obeyed the ruling. Then he got
re-elected by an even more crushing majority than he had won
originally, and the show went back on the air. For some strange
reason, all the usual suspects, from the New York Times to the SIP
(Interamerican Press Society a.k.a. the CIA public relations office)
"forgot" to "condemn" this attack on press freedom.

On top of this, we have Thursday's clashes. Based on what can be
gleaned from various reports, what actually happened is that Acción
Democrática called for a march on the national assembly; a pro-Chávez
workers organization staged a counter-mobilization, and this
pro-Chávez countermobilization was then attacked by the Caracas
police, who used water cannon, rubber bullets, tear gas and shots
into the air with presumably live ammunition to disperse the
pro-government "turba," or mob, as demonstrations by working people
are invariably called by the Latin American "free" press.

Eight people were treated for various injuries, none, as far as is
known, life-threatening. All told at most a few thousand people were

It will seem odd that the police were attacking pro-government
demonstrators, but it is a reflection of how the sharpening of the
class polarization in Venezuela is playing out in real life. The
mayor of Caracas used to be a Chávez supporter but now, like Petkoff
and some other petty-bourgeois politicians, he has become a renegade.
He is using his position to encourage protests against the
"antidemocratic" Chavez government (which, it should be noted, has
won about a half dozen national elections in the last three years)
and, of course, hizzoner is ALSO trying to deny to working people who
support Chávez THEIR democratic right to mobilize against
right-wingers who would block the advance of the revolution.

[I guess I should make clear here that I'm using the expression "won
... elections" in the archaic sense of actually getting more votes
--and, in Chávez's case, a hell of a lot more votes-- than the other
candidates/parties/sides in the contest; and not in the modern,
antiterrorist sense of "getting half a million less votes than the
other guy but having your brother in Florida and your daddy's buddies
on the Supreme Court fix it for you."]

Whether the confrontations around the agrarian reform and other
economic laws will become a turning point in the Bolivarian
Revolution is something no one can predict. But the more time goes
by, and the more President Chávez sticks to a course of placing the
national interests of Venezuela first, doing things like extending a
hand of friendship to the Cuban people, helping to lead the fight for
oil producing countries getting a fair price for their products and
against a U.S.-imposed "free trade" area of the Americas, the more
reality will show that it is the working people that he must rely on
and that must become the protagonists of the revolution if it is to
survive and continue advancing.

Chavez's revolution in Venezuela could well become a key turning
point in the history of Latin America. For despite all the
triumphalism of the last decade since the end of the Cold War, if
these ten years have shown anything it is that the current world
order is unsustainable; that "neo-liberalism," i.e., capitalism, far
from providing a basis for development of the Third World, only leads
to ever increasing pauperization and with it a breakdown in social
and governmental institutions, as well as despair leading to madness
like what we saw on September 11.

There are, of course, no guarantees. Nothing is inevitable, not even
the survival of our species. No one can vouchsafe the outcome of this
battle, or even of the political steadfastness or acuity of a given
political leader. But for those that ask, what is the Left's answer
to "terrorism" -- which is nothing more than a symptom and symbol of
the abyss the capitaslist/imperialist system is pushing the world
towards, I would say this is it. Fight on the side of Venezuela, on
the side of Cuba and Fidel, on the side of the Argentine unionists
confronting the austerity plan, on the side of the Palestinians, on
the side of the side of the Irish patriots.

Right now, social and political forces are in motion in Venezuela.
There is a sharpening class polarization and class conflict. The
situation is evolving, we can --we should-- make a difference.