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BTL:Venezuelan Elite Attack President Chavez to Block Reforms that...

...Benefit the Poor. Interview with Gregory Wilpert, sociologist and journalist, conducted by Between the Lines' Scott Harris
Venezuelan Elite Attack President Chavez to Block Reforms that Benefit the Poor

Interview with Gregory Wilpert, sociologist and journalist, conducted by Scott Harris

In organizing a two-week national strike, opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have succeeded in crippling their nation's economy, but have thus far failed in their bid to force the populist leader to resign.

Venezuela has been thrust into crisis since last April's botched coup attempt where business leaders and their allies in the military briefly detained President Chavez before his supporters re-installed the democratically elected leader. While the Bush administration openly welcomed the April coup, the White House has since been more careful in its recent public statements, owing to the fact that Venezuela supplies the U.S. with 14 percent of its crude oil.

The Organization of American States' Secretary General Cesar Gaviria has attempted to mediate the crisis by trying to bridge the gap between the opposition's demands for a national referendum this February with President Chavez's position that the constitution does not allow for a referendum until August of next year.

Meanwhile, the OAS has voted overwhelmingly to reject any future coup attempt in Venezuela or an alteration of that nation's constitution. Sixteen members of the U.S. Congress, joined by religious and labor organizations, recently sent President Bush a letter asking him to support democracy and the rule of law by opposing any move to oust Chavez by force.

Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Gregory Wilpert, a sociologist and freelance journalist currently living in Caracas, who assesses the effects of the two-week national strike, popular support for President Chavez and the fate of key reforms proposed by his government.

Gregory Wilpert is a former Fulbright scholar currently conducting research in Caracas, Venezuela. Read his dispatches from Venezuela at www.zmag.org.

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