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<nettime> Venezuelan Politics x2 [Brian Holmes]

Table of Contents:

   Venezuela - Urgent Politics                                                     
     Brian Holmes <>                                        

   Divided Venezuela Commemorates Riots                                            
     Brian Holmes <>                                        


Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2002 20:16:21 -0500
From: Brian Holmes <>
Subject: Venezuela - Urgent Politics

Dear Nettimers -

Here is a document which was passed on to me by Jean-François Gava, which
seemed to me so striking and so contrary to the rare snippets of
information that I have seen in the media concerning what is now happening
in Venezuela that I immediately set about translating it from the Spanish,
so as to spread it more widely. I have translated the first 3 parts of what
was a 4-part message. I was able to find no website but a contact mail is
given at the end of the text.

I am quite unable to judge the true value of the popular revolution whose
measures are recounted in the 3rd section of this text, as I am totally
ignorant about Venezuela. I am hoping someone with greater knowledge will
comment on it and point to reliable information sources. What we have here
suggests that the Argentine situation is less an exception than we are led
to believe, and that potentially the entire Latin American continent is on
the edge of a refusal of neoliberal policies and the appropriation of the
public sectors by private interests - as was already seen in the revolt
against the appropriation of the public water supply in Cochabamba,

Here is the text:

Venezuela - Política Urgente (Urgent Politcs). Counter-information bulletin

Caracas, February 20th, 2002 
1. Presentation of the initiative 
2. A Pinochet-style coup for Venezuela 
3. Major victories in the Venezuelan process 
4. Most important events in recent months 

- -------------------------------------------

1. Venezuela - urgent politics is a counter-information initiative from a
group of persons who, faced with the difficult situation currently being
traversed by the Venezuelan political process, have decided to put together
efforts in an attempt to reverse the campaign of informational manipulation
concerning what is happening in the country. In the present situation,
popular organizations, militants on the left, intellectuals, students and
progressive sectors in general find ourselves forced to close ranks in
defense of what we consider to be policies oriented unequivocally in favor
of social justice, equality and popular participation. 

We are taking a stand because not to do so would be to ignore the
exclusionary project of the right which is advancing among the ever-more
powerful and articulate enemies of the process. But also because we see
with surprise how militants on the left, members of social movements,
solidarity collectives, syndicalists, students and progressive
intellectuals abroad are victims of the powerful campaign of disinformation
orchestrated by the press agencies and the major communications media. 

With this effort of counter-information, we seek to offer another reading
of the Venezuelan situation to the collectives, groups and critical and
progressive individuals who may be interested, with the aim of facing up to
the campaign of manipulation by the major media, disqualifying in the most
shameless and deceitful way the complex and contradictory but valuable
process of popular liberation led by Chávez and pushed forward and
supported by the great majorities of excluded people. 

We do not aspire to be neutral: we clearly assume our political position in
favor of a process of change which is most uncommon in these times of
neoliberalism and social demobilization. In addition, we hope to promote a
vigilant attitude of solidarity from the spaces of progressive political
action both outside and inside the country. Nonetheless, we will attempt to
offer them sufficient elements of information so that they can form their
own judgments concerning what has been called the "Bolivarian" political
process - which beyond all labels represents a project of possibilities for
unheard-of social transformation in the country. 

- ----------------------------------

2. A Pinochet-style coup for Venezuela

 The political and social atmosphere of the nation has become stifling
after the recent declarations in the media by three right-wing military men
demanding that President Hugo Chavez step down. An open conspiracy can be
observed among various actors posturing in an orchestrated way. In the
tumultuous month of December the United States government pronounced its
opinion through Collin Powell and the director of the CIA, both insinuating
that Venezuela is a state with anti-North American inclinations. The high
ambassador continued this cynical extravaganza by calling for civil
disobedience. Then came the Papal Nuncio and the high ecclesiastical
hierarchy with medieval insinuations: Chavez should be excommunicated. The
major communications media constantly play up military discontent and
display the calls for a coup d'etat in lengthy editorials. The landowners
create paramilitary groups to defend their extensive parcels of idle fields
- - which are already laid in with their first victim in the person of a
militant campesino from Zulia state. The right-wing parties and the unions
caught up in the reaction vie publicly for the most radical of
conspiratorial overtones. The upper-middle class, passed off abroad as "to
the people rising up in anger," parade in luxurious cars, though without
leaving the streets and squares of their home districts. 

Nonetheless, this flood tide of speeches and mobilizations on the right
holds an incentive for the left and the excluded sectors: it has been
provoked by what we can call the radicalization of the process of change,
or what comes down to the same, the clear redistribution of political and
economic power toward the excluded majorities. 

In barely two weeks, the sectors with the greatest power, those who have
the most to lose, have decided to topple Hugo Chavez. They do not even
consider the constitutional possibilities: they demand immediate
renunciation of power, and since they cannot topple him by popular pressure
they have placed the pressure on the members of the armed forces, some of
whom are heeding the call while uncertain kinds of bribes flow under the

The excluded sectors, the activists on left, the people from the
countryside, the fishermen, the progressive sectors of the church, and the
people from the poor neighborhoods, for their part, constantly take to the
streets to defend not so much a president or a government as a project for
the country which is becoming conceivable, and which for the first time
takes them into account as participating subjects. Almost a million people
from these sectors mobilized on February 4th and will do it again
whennecessary. A display of force on the part of the powerful sectors then
opens up the stage for cruel and battles between the allies and enemies of
the revolutionary process: peace hangs by a thread when it only benefits
the excluded. 

Something very similar to what we're now seeing in Argentina happened here
12 years ago with the so-called "Caracazo." Our process has gathered up
these cries and struggles of innumerable men and women who decided to rise
against a dictatorship called democracy. Today, the same men and women are
in the street defending what they consider to be theirs, no longer as a cry
but as a real conquest: popular measures, a revolutionary constitution,
laws against exclusion, the centrality of the struggle against poverty and
hunger, the conferal of micro-credits, the tenancy of urban and rural land,
sovereign international policy, the transferal of power from the upper
class to the poor, the struggle against neoliberalism, against the
unipolarity of the United States and against the hegemony of an overtly
racist right. If the tendency in favor of a coup persists, many of these
men and women will carry out a repeat of the "Caracazo," which left behind
it the legacy of a bloody massacre of over 4000 people - and which will be
commemorated next February 27th with opposite signs and intentions by the
popular movement and the right, amidst a full-blown scenario of the
confrontation between contradictions. 

The cards are on the table. The process is radicalizing and the
radicalization leads to confrontation with a powerful groups. This and only
this is the reality constantly distorted by the national and international
communications media when they call the most popular of Venezuelan
presidents a dictator, a militarist and a caudillo, the only mestizo
president ever, who together with the people is taking the first steps to
put an end to a colonial era that has lasted over 500 years. This is what
they cannot forgive and what causes so much reaction from the sectors of
power and the opulent and pillaging middle and upper classes, which
constitute minority sectors in the country (80% poverty, 60% of the land in
the hands of 2% of owners, etc.). 

The configuration of this scenario pushes us to watch out for the
possibility of a rising in arms from the reactionary sectors and the right,
in close public alliance with the government of the United States. Or what
comes down to the same thing, a mortal attack against legitimate, popular
and constitutional democracy and consequently, a bloodbath in our streets.
It is necessary to ensure that our country should not be alone and that
despite the discredit produced by the international media, that news of our
process should be heard by world solidarity, above all if we can make it
clear that Latin America will not bear a new Pinochet-style coup ­ and that
the popular majorities will not let the first gains of the social
transformation process be struck down. 

- ---------------------------------

3. Major victories in the Venezuelan process 
a. Development of an international policy oriented to overcoming the
traditional relations of hegemony and to the formation of a geopolitically
multipolar world, a debate over social justice in the international sphere
and a decisive confrontation with neoliberalism, as well as a reinforcement
of Venezuelan sovereignty. Initiatives have been developed destined to
reinforce the self-determination of the oil producing countries with
respect to their own resources, with visits to Arab countries, the
realization of the OPEC summit and the defense of prices; to develop
exchanges with new allies such as China and Russia; to tightening of
relations with Cuba and the Caribbean countries, among others. Thus,
official declarations have been put forth questioning the U.S. war against
Afghanistan and its permanent exercise of force, the formation of the FTAA
as the imposition of a neoliberal model, and the opinions of spokesman of
this country with respect to matters of internal policy. 
b. Approval of the Law on Land and Agrarian Development, which constitutes
a powerful instrument to bring about an end to the long history of
injustices and inequalities in rural areas. The law declares the
latifundista regime as contrary to the social interest, establishing
penalties (lien or expropriation) for land left fallow. In this way
complete rural development and food security is sought for the nation, as
well as a more just and equitable distribution of the land, including the
adjudication of public or expropriated land to campesino sectors. Self
management and cooperative management is also being promoted through the
financing of agricultural cooperatives, and a system of social security is
being created for rural workers. 
c. Approval of the Law on Fishing and Acquaculture, which leads toward the
rational use of fishery resources within the framework of sustainable
development; promotes the reinforcement of small-scale fishing, on which
the large part of the coastal population depends and which provides for
internal consumption; and establishes, for the first time in the country,
clear regulations concerning drag-net fishing and the ecocidal practices of
industrial fisheries. 

Approval of the Bank Law, which obliges the bank to offer 17% of its credit
to the agricultural sector under preferential conditions (in the accord
with the Land Law); to offer preferential credits to small and medium-sized
industry, and to destine a minimal percentage of its portfolio to the
populations with least resources, in the form of micro-credits. It also
establishes a mechanism to regulate the bank's profit rate. 

a. Initial cessions of title deeds to landless campesinos. 
Up to this date, the state has delivered 6751 title deeds in the
agricultural states of Zulia, Merida, Barinas and Portuguesa. These
cessions, which are accompanied by the delivery of agricultural credits,
include both the donations of new properties and regularizations of lands
occupied and used over long periods of time. 
b. The beginning of the process of ceding the property of land to popular
urban settlements. For the first time in the contemporary history of
Venezuela, on the basis of Presidential Decree no. 1.666, the inhabitants
of the popular neighborhood can obtain title deeds (both individual and
collective) to the land on which are established the living spaces they
have constructed in an informal manner on the margins of state policies.
The project includes the active part suspicion of the communities in
elaboration of the local plans for the normalization of tenancy.
c. Clear orientations of public policies in social matters to the
progressive retrieval of public structures of social protection, pillaged
within the framework of earlier neoliberal governments. Guarantees for free
education, health services, plans for participatory policies, budgetary
asignation in all social matters, these are only some of the most
exceptional elements in this respect.


For information and contacts:


Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2002 20:43:12 -0500
From: Brian Holmes <>
Subject: Divided Venezuela Commemorates Riots

Divided Venezuela Commemorates Riots  
The Associated Press, Thu 28 Feb 2002

  CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) ­ Tens of thousands of anti- and pro-government
Venezuelans staged noisy, rival  marches to commemorate deadly 1989 riots ­
another demonstration of their widening polarization over lefist  President
Hugo Chavez. 
  Families of those who died or disappeared at the hands of Venezuela's
military during the riots held a quiet mass  Wednesday and expressed dismay
that the anniversary was exploited for political ends. 
  Three days of rioting erupted Feb. 27, 1989, when then-President Carlos
Andres Perez raised gasoline prices  under an International Monetary
Fund-backed economic austerity plan. Hundreds died in the riots but no
security  officer has been punished for the atrocities. Bodies remain
unidentified in a mass Caracas grave. 
  ``We condemn that the victims' pain be used for political ends,'' said
Liliana Ortega, a rights activists who has  been seeking justice for the
victims for 13 years. ``We reject this celebration of impunity. This
frustrates us  enormously.'' 
  Chavez, a former paratrooper, told supporters at Wednesday's march that
he has restored public trust in the  military, dispatching soldiers across
the country to work for the poor. His comments came two days after a fourth
 military officer stepped forward to demand Chavez resign, saying soldiers
resent being used to advance the  president's populist agenda. 
  ``Today, more than ever, the military and the people share the same soul.
The military must use its sword to  defend social rights,'' Chavez told a
cheering multitude. 
  The U.S. government has reported that several officers have approached
American diplomats to sound them out  about a coup. 
  They were told Washington stridently opposes any coup, though U.S.
officials are concerned about the stability of  a nation that is one of the
United States' top oil suppliers. 
  Venezuela has been democratic since a dictatorship was overthrown in
  Chavez, whose term expires in 2007, dismisses the possibility of a coup.
He was overwhelmingly elected three  years ago but has seen his popularity
plunge to about 30 percent over frustration with crime, unemployment and 
his constant bickering the news media, Roman Catholic Church and business
  Chavez considers the 1989 riots the beginning of his movement to
dismantle a corruption-plagued political  system that was dominated for 40
years by two now-discredited political parties. The protests were a
rejection of  globalization and rampant capitalism, said Chavez, who led a
failed coup in 1992 against Perez. 
  Blocks away from Chavez's rally, opposition marchers wore black to
protest Chavez's combative rhetoric and the  government's celebration of a
dark day. 
  Venezuela's largest labor confederation organized the opposition march
and was joined by civic groups, political  parties, the country's largest
business association and citizens who say Chavez is fueling class division
and  harassing news media. 
  ``Chavista'' marchers said Wednesday they were celebrating a government
that, unlike past administrations,  hasn't banned opposition protests or
thrown journalists in jail. The president says constant protests against
and  for his government prove democracy and freedom of expression are
thriving in Venezuela. 
  ``I think it's great that they are marching over there, and we are
marching over here. I think we have more  democracy now,'' said Fada
Enriques de Garcia, who, unlike most of Chavez's support base among the
poor,  described herself as a middle-class homemaker. 


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