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Some positive (although tragic) events in Venezuela

By Aleksander Boyd

London 10 May 2004 – However oxymoronic the title of today’s piece seems, in the past few weeks there have been truly interesting events that have not received the appropriate media coverage. The political issue commandeers everyone’s attention. However I will mention four episodes of the Venezuelan drama that need be readdressed.

The strike at SIDOR

Siderurgica del Orinoco (SIDOR) was privatised in 1.997 via public offering, resulting in the acquisition by Consorcio Amazonia of 59.7% of the shares. The remaining shares are owned by the Venezuelan State. Workers of SIDOR (grouped in a union called SUTISS) decided in the last general meeting that in light of the $90 million -annual profits- that the company has given to the State, they must receive their share. Article 174 of Venezuela’s Organic Labour Law establishes that profit-geared enterprises must distribute amongst its workers at least 15% of the gross profits made at the end of the financial year. Moreover workers based their claim in the Labour Participation Programme that ceded six years ago 20% of the company’s shares to them. Said programme is run by the Social and Economic Development’s Bank of Venezuela (BANDES), that owns together with Corporacion Venezolana de Guayana (CVG) the remaining 41.3% of shares of SIDOR.

Notwithstanding the State, i.e. CVG-BANDES- considered the request totally unacceptable, which in turn has caused for the union to strike until an arrangement is reached. It is very interesting, to say the least, that the regime of Hugo Chavez -that prides itself to have in high esteem the welfare of the workers- illegally denies them of their monies. The private consortium, formed by Hylsamex, Tamsa, Siderar, Usiminas and Sivensa, has got nothing to do with the strike. As a matter of fact the stoppage is causing them, and the government, losses mounting already to millions of dollars. Why is it that Chavez does not want to honour the country’s laws in this case? The answer is simple, the union leader spearheading the strike is Mr Ramon Machuca, who is also candidate to the governorship of Bolivar state (enclave where SIDOR is based) and has a voice of his own. He has been touted as the only man capable to bring to a standstill Venezuela’s government, the private sector and the unions simultaneously. Are we seeing a rupture amongst chavistas?

The elections at Venezuela’s Central University.

The origin of all leftist radicals of Venezuela; the hotbed of anti establishment youth leaders; the meeting point of rioters and vandals; the fertile soil from which all revolutionary movements stemmed; that is the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and more. Curiously enough there were elections some days ago and the chavistas were humiliated at the polls. Not only did they not win, they failed to come even close. Antonio Paris won the race for the deanship with 79.50% of the votes. His closest rival – Marcerlo Alfonzo partisan of the regime- got 20.50% of the ballots. The coalition led by Paris, identified with the opposition, won also the academic and administrative vice deanships and the secretary. Analysts have concluded that the highly polarised political climate in the country was the reason for such an overwhelming victory of opposition-inclined candidates. Quite obviously the Venezuelan ‘radical academia’ has sent a clear message of repudiation to Hugo Chavez and results of future elections will only be mirrored. One must wonder how the international Gauche Caviar will explain such an electoral beating.

The repair process

As we all know, the CNE got away with the scam of the repair process. Disobeying rulings they leapfrogged, in the country’s hierarchical legal system, the Supreme’s Court Electoral Chamber. The opposition agreed to go to the repair process in order to push Hugo Chavez closer to the abyss; that is to say either he allows for the recall referendum to happen or else he declares once and for all officially what he has been saying unofficially all along, read “I will not abandon power no matter what.” The international community watches closely, no one believes in Venezuelan officials anymore. The regime, with the ever present ‘magnanimity’ of Fidel Castro, cries foul everyday about -unsubstantiated with evidence- US intervention in a rather pathetic attempt to deviate attention from the much dreaded recall. They have recourse to all sorts of intimidation tactics –such as denying passport or IDs; outright threats; dismissals and torture (including the incendiary type) aimed at creating a sense of hopelessness and shear fear amongst the citizenry. Nonetheless Venezuelans proved last Saturday, for the umpteenth time, their resolute disposition to get rid of the pariah who happens to misguide the country. Despite rain and presidential threats they came out again, in their hundreds of thousands, to check the status of their signatures. Sumate, the much dreaded NGO, carried out the process impeccably informing citizens on the exact nature of signatures, specific locations where any given person need to go in order to repair it, how to formally complain before the courts (for those who did sign and the CNE simply eliminated their signatures without further repair possibilities), in sum the operation was an outstanding success.

The burning of the soldiers at Fort Mara

Is Hugo Chavez a man of the people? Think again. The issue of the burnt soldiers keeps pounding the general psyche. Is the talk of the moment and is killing, as mercilessly as the burning of the soldiers, the political image of Hugo Chavez. He enjoyed, until recently, the admiration of the soldiers, who saw him as a role model, an example of what can be achieved. No more. Instead of investigating and bringing to justice those responsible, Chavez keeps lying and twisting the facts. More than a month after the tragic events no one has been convicted and officials seem pretty clueless about what in fact took place, which reinforces the apprehension of a cover up; something rather sinister is at play there. Are Cubans militias really behind it all? Or is it that the soldiers did sign the recall petition and were set on fire because of it? No one knows and the official attitude is certainly not helping in the slightest.

For all the aforementioned I honestly believe that Hugo Chavez’ days at the presidency are rapidly coming to an end, not because of the shrewdness of the opposition politicos but rather due to his own making.

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