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Plutocrat bank strike in Venezuela

Hugo Chavez will come under further pressure to resign as the president of Venezuela today when bank workers join the paralysing strike which has already lasted more than six weeks.

As the government announced plans to restructure the state oil company, which has been at the heart of the general strike, the bank union confederation announced a two-day stoppage.
Bank strike deepens crisis in Venezuela
 http://www.guardian.co.uk/venezuela/story/0,12716,871077,00.html

Duncan Campbell
Thursday January 9, 2003
The Guardian

Hugo Chavez will come under further pressure to resign as the president of Venezuela today when bank workers join the paralysing strike which has already lasted more than six weeks.

As the government announced plans to restructure the state oil company, which has been at the heart of the general strike, the bank union confederation announced a two-day stoppage.

The strike will affect cash machines nationally, making it even more difficult to obtain money. The banks are already offering only a limited service, despite being told by the government to restore a full service or face penalties.

The energy minister, Rafael Ramirez, announced that the state oil company, PDVSA, would be radically restructured and split into two, and its Caracas headquarters would be largely dismantled.

About 30,000 PDVSA employees, including executives, managers and senior technicians, are on strike, severely damaging the country's oil production, which is estimated to be a fifth of normal.

Mr Ramirez said in a broadcast that a new board "with a more strategic vision" would be appointed to run the company "at the service of the nation".

Striking oil executives say that every day of the strike causes greater damage to the industry and the economy.

On Tuesday thousands of Venezuelans tore up their tax return forms outside the national tax agency in protest against Mr Chavez.

The president remained in defiant mood, no doubt reinforced by reports that the strike was slackening off.

His opponents are now putting their energies behind plans for a referendum on his rule, which they want held on February 2.

But it is unclear whether there will be a vote, and whether it would have have any legal standing if it were held.

President Chavez has already said that he will not be bound by it.

Under the constitution which he himself introduced Mr Chavez is subject to a referendum on his rule, which could be called in August, and he has said that that is the proper time to cast votes. His opponents say that the economy is in such a crisis that a referendum cannot wait.

President Chavez, who is halfway through his elected term of office, responded to the tax protest by taking to the airwaves to warn that tax evasion was an offence punishable by up to seven years in jail. "It's a crime not to pay taxes," he told Venezuelans in a speech broadcast on all the radio and television networks.

"We will not tolerate it. We'll take all actions necessary to make sure every last cent is paid because it belongs to the people."

Negotiations between representatives of the opposition and the government, under the auspices of the Organisation of American States, resumed this week in Caracas after a break for the holiday period.

A spokesman for the OAS director general Cesar Gaviria said he remained optimistic that a peaceful solution to the crisis could be found.

Five people have so far been shot dead in clashes and many others injured. Each side has blamed the other for provoking the violence.

The United States has played a changing role during the crisis.

A call for elections, made in December, was later reversed by the White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, who then suggested a referendum "as anticipated in the Venezuelan constitution".

The US media, whose coverage is watched keenly by the opposition in Venezuela, has been reporting a fall in support for the strike.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the strike was "partly running out of steam, with life on the streets and neighbourhoods appearing to return to normal".

The Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, called on Venezuelans yesterday to reach a peaceful solution.

"You should listen to us Colombians, because here we have suffered so much from violence," he said in a radio interview.

homepage: homepage: http://www.guardian.co.uk/venezuela/story/0,12716,871077,00.html
address: address: Guardian UK

Why is Hugo Chavez still there? 09.Jan.2003 20:00

Bush Admirer

Seems to me that Hugo Chavez has done enough damage and is long overdue to resign.

What can we do to help him understand that he is the problem and not the solution?

Well... isn't that interesting 09.Jan.2003 22:46

Bush detractor

BA, if Chavez doing such a bad job, please explain to me why:

1. He has won SIX elections since he took office in 1998 (it's supposed to be a six-year term in Venezuela, I believe).
2. In a recent vote taken by the Organization of American States (comprised of Central and South American nations), the tally was 32-0 "To fully back the democratic and constitutional legitimacy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, whose government is led by Hugo Chávez Frías, and to reject, categorically, any coup attempt or alteration of constitutional order that seriously affects democratic rule." Included in that vote was Mexico, who typically sides with America.

What? Is the rest of the world that stupid, or is it just that you're buying into all the shit being pumped your way by the American media? I'm here to tell you that the media in Venezuala strongly opposes Chavez and does all it can to remove him from power, but THE PEOPLE just won't have it. If Bush got that much opposition from the American media his level of support would be far lower than the support Chavez has.

Chavez, unlike Bush, hasn't declared class warfare on the proletariat.

corporate media sucks 10.Jan.2003 00:44

indymedia activist

the freakin' Guardian's got it all wrong with this one. the "strike" in Venezuela is a myth created by the corporate media in that country, and propped up by foreign press from the U.S. and Europe who live in the rich neighborhoods with the ruling class down there and never talk to the people.

Check it out at  http://www.narconews.com == news from the frontlines in Venezuela. real, investigative journalism like you don't see here anymore hardly ever. great stuff -- well written and researched. cuts through the lies.

what's funny about Bush Admirer is that if he was in Venezuela he would definitely be on the side of the people too, because he would be ONE of them down there. the elite who oppose Chavez are the idle rich, and are very very small in number. the working people -- regular Joes (or Juans, in this case) are with Chavez all the way because they enjoy more liberty with him. BA - read up at narconews. you're missing out on a rEvolution that you would enjoy. also vheadline.com, if you want something you wouldn't consider "activist".

narconews.com 10.Jan.2003 04:22

Bush Admirer

Nothing could be more ridiculous than to quote sources of leftwing propoganda and news distortion such as narconews.com. One of the front page articles has the byline "Nessie." That's funny. Nessie is a well known lunatic from SF Indymedia who specializes in conspiracy theories.

If you're going to criticize real news sources, then you'll need to come up with something better than narconews.com or Pacifica Radio or other similar disinformation propoganda outlets for far left radicals.

To find out what's really going on with Venezuela, read news sources with high credibility, such as the Financial Times of London. Furthermore, read articles written and reported by credible authors like the Harvard Professor who wrote the piece below, and not some clown like Nessie.

B.A.
____
Chávez must yield to election calls

By Ricarado Hausmann

Published: January 7 2003

Venezuelans used to take uneventful politics for granted. No more. They now march in unprecedented numbers against a president - Hugo Chávez - who is unable to keep things running. A six-week general strike has shut down much of the economy, including the oil industry. The crisis now competes with Iraq and North Korea for space on the front pages.

The decline in oil production has raised world prices and disrupted the supply of petrol in the Americas. Fiscal solvency has evaporated, raising the spectre of a default on Brady bonds and a crisis in the mostly foreign-owned banking system. What is fuelling the passions behind the protests?

The Venezuelan story has three main ingredients: poorly diagnosed bad economic performance; the perils of constitutional reform; and the totalitarian implications of revolutionary ideals.

After being the fastest-growing economy on record between 1920 and 1980, Venezuela experienced an extraordinary reversal of fortune in the following two decades, with income per capita falling by half. Disappointed with their lot, Venezuelans voted for a candidate who blamed corruption and privilege - not lack of growth - for their miseries and who offered a political agenda centred on constitutional reform. Since Mr Chávez took power four years ago, income per capita has fallen by another 20 per cent, in spite of high oil prices.

The constitutional reform approved in 1999 did away with a 40-year-old constitution that had generated enough political stability to ensure the transfer of power to nine elected presidents, seven of them running from the opposition. Enough checks and balances were put into the system and sufficient institutional space was created for political parties so that all constituencies found it in their interest to play by the rules and to search for consensus.

The new constitution, through design and circumstance, ended up concentrating power in the presidency and eliminating most checks and balances. It was drafted by a constituent assembly elected through a rule that gave Mr Chávez 92 per cent of the seats with just over 50 per cent of the vote, essentially disenfranchising the opposition. This winner-take-all assembly dissolved the elected Congress and appointed loyal supporters to the Supreme Court, the attorney-general and the comptroller-general without following constitutional procedures. In addition, the new constitution extended the presidential period, allowed for a one-time re-election and substituted a two-chamber congress with a one-chamber national assembly, in order to lessen the burden of consensus-building. This concentration of power has allowed the government to get away with murder, misuse public funds, arm violent gangs and disarm opposition local police.

Last, Mr Chávez's revolutionary ideology, for all its romanticism, inevitably involves a totalitarian system of values that is inconsistent with an open society. According to him, inherited institutions and organisations are a priori bad, income is a sign of corruption, merit a sign of privilege. Stealing is fine if you are poor. Consensus-building is a sign of weakness.

These ideas rub most Venezuelans the wrong way. After all, the country exhibits the highest social and political mobility in the hemisphere. The middle classes find that their dwindling incomes are well deserved, a product of the dramatic rise in educational attainment over the past generation. They feel that a society that does not reward effort, recognise excellence and punish crime is bound to become chaotic. But these values are eroded by the president in his interminable speeches.

To regain governability, the country must return to a political representation that expresses society's wishes and checks and balances to force consensus and limit abuse. This can be achieved only by new elections and reappointing the Supreme Court, attorney-general and comptroller-general. This would require constitut- ional reform or a constituent assembly.

The government has opposed this because it fears losing its power and impunity. The opposition, meanwhile, thinks it can impose it without negotiations. The deadlock is costing all dearly. The international community instead of just facilitating dialogue, as has been the case, should put its force behind a quick electoral solution.

The writer is professor of the practice of economic development at Harvard University. He was minister of planning in Venezuela

Source:  http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1039524265782&p=1012571727126

terminology is INCREDIBLY important... 10.Jan.2003 08:32

this thing here

... otherwise it's nothing but propaganda.

a strike is when WORKERS refuse to work.

a lockout is when MANAGEMENT doesn't want the workers to work.

there's been so many "strikes" in venezuela. but how many are actually worker instigated, and how many are started by the bosses?

THIS DISTINCTION IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT IN DETERMINING WHERE OPPOSITION TO CHAVEZ IS COMING FROM. TO BANDY ABOUT TERMS LIKE "STRIKE" WHEN IN FACT IT IS NOT A REAL STRIKE AT ALL IS PROPANGANDA, PURE AND SIMPLE.

the terms have got to be correct. otherwise we are wallowing in fiction.

Credible Sources 10.Jan.2003 10:19

Gollum

Yes, please quote only from sources that Bush Admirer thinks are credible. Otherwise, how can we keep everybody ignorant and brainwashed?

It's a standard conservative tactic to dismiss anything they don't like as illegitimate (usually accompanied by personal attacks), then trot out some professor or other "authority" to set the record straight.

The problem in Venezuela is a class war stemming from the elite stealing most of the oil profits. Now the elite want all of the profits, or they'll destroy the country and its democracy in the process.

This is not a simple case of fiscal mismanagement on Chavez's part (although he could have done some things better). The country has been on a long slow economic slide for many years. Much of this was due to deep-rooted corruption and patronage, something past presidents were intimately involved in and profited from. These prior administrations were "US friendly" and sold us oil at a deep discount--which didn't exactly help the Venezuelan economy.

Pacifica News 10.Jan.2003 10:32

Gollum

BA continues to spout sadly informed rubbish. He calls Pacifica Radio a "disinformation propoganda outlet for far left radicals." If he knew his facts, he'd know that Pacifica is funded by conservative interests as it masquerades as progressive. [Last year KBOO dumped Pacifica and began producing its own news.]

BA prefers that we read Financial Times. That's where you can read articles fawning over Wal*Mart and its "fashion clothing" or the merits of Bush's dividend tax cut for the wealthy. High credibility indeed.

well... isn't that interesting... AGAIN! 10.Jan.2003 15:39

Bush detractor

BA, I like how you conveniently decided not to respond to my post, and attempted to trash narconews.com instead. How about answering my questions which were posed BEFORE the posting based on narconews.com?

Anyway, as for the article you posted:

1. It was written by one of the Venezuela's well-to-do. "He was minister of planning in Venezuela." Gee, I suppose he wouldn't be at all biased, would he? Asking him about Venezuela is like asking the abusive husband if he's stopped beating his wife.

2. As your article of choice admits, the economy was in the dump waaaaay before Chavez took office and it's rate of decline didn't exactly snowball AFTER Chavez took office. When you have pretty much every big business in the country fighting you, going from a 2.5 percent annual decline to 5 percent isn't really unexpected or all that bad. So, what is the problem with the economy? It's clear that the checks and balances of the former constitution weren't sufficient to help the economy prosper. Why did growth in Venezuela falter in those two decades after six decades of fantastic growth? Why does growth ever falter? Sometimes it's socio-economic stratification caused by excessive greed of the wealthy. Prosperity happens when more people are doing fine, not when a few rich folks fare extraordinarily well.

3. Your article says he must go thru ANOTHER election before his term is up. For crying out loud, he's already been thru SIX!!!! Why should he go thru ANOTHER before his term's even over?!?

4. As mentioned by another poster, it's a lockout, not a strike. Quite similar to the longshoremen right here in Portland. They wanted to work, but weren't allowed.

5. Regardless of how you feel about the constitutional reform of Chavez, he was DEMOCRATICALLY elected (unlike Bush) and in his SIX elections, won fair-and-square every time (unlike Bush in his one election). And since we don't really know much on the background of who he's appointed, it may be fair to say that the judges he appointed are loyalists, but then again we could say that about the judges of our own Supreme Court, except that they are only appointed a couple at a time.

6. Regardless of how you feel about his ideals, they DON'T "rub most Venezuelans the wrong way." They are the centerpiece of his policy, which is why he's been elected time and time again.

Of course reform will be difficult; the corporate world has fought him every step of the way. Despite all this, he hasn't forced the corporate TV stations to say something nice about him. And taking over control of the oil from foreign companies is good policy--they were only allowed in there by greedy rulers. Do you think America would stand for it if a wealthy Saudi bought rights to all of our oil? I don't think so. A nation should not suffer just because some foreign corporation controls its wealth.

BA, I'm sure you have answers to some of these questions, but will you stick around and see a debate to the end, or will you run away like you usually do when your "experts" have been knocked down a notch?

well... isn't that interesting... AGAIN! 10.Jan.2003 16:01

Bush detractor

BA, I like how you conveniently decided not to respond to my post, and attempted to trash narconews.com instead. How about answering my questions which were posed BEFORE the posting based on narconews.com?

Anyway, as for the article you posted:

1. It was written by one of the Venezuela's well-to-do. "He was minister of planning in Venezuela." Gee, I suppose he wouldn't be at all biased, would he? Asking him about Venezuela is like asking the abusive husband if he's stopped beating his wife.

2. As your article of choice admits, the economy was in the dump waaaaay before Chavez took office and it's rate of decline didn't exactly snowball AFTER Chavez took office. When you have pretty much every big business in the country fighting you, going from a 2.5 percent annual decline to 5 percent isn't really unexpected or all that bad. So, what is the problem with the economy? It's clear that the checks and balances of the former constitution weren't sufficient to help the economy prosper. Why did growth in Venezuela falter in those two decades after six decades of fantastic growth? Why does growth ever falter? Sometimes it's socio-economic stratification caused by excessive greed of the wealthy. Prosperity happens when more people are doing fine, not when a few rich folks fare extraordinarily well.

3. Your article says he must go thru ANOTHER election before his term is up. For crying out loud, he's already been thru SIX!!!! Why should he go thru ANOTHER before his term's even over?!?

4. As mentioned by another poster, it's a lockout, not a strike. Quite similar to the longshoremen right here in Portland. They wanted to work, but weren't allowed.

5. Regardless of how you feel about the constitutional reform of Chavez, he was DEMOCRATICALLY elected (unlike Bush) and in his SIX elections, won fair-and-square every time (unlike Bush in his one election). And since we don't really know much on the background of who he's appointed, it may be fair to say that the judges he appointed are loyalists, but then again we could say that about the judges of our own Supreme Court, except that they are only appointed a couple at a time.

6. Regardless of how you feel about his ideals, they DON'T "rub most Venezuelans the wrong way." They are the centerpiece of his policy, which is why he's been elected time and time again.

Of course reform will be difficult; the corporate world has fought him every step of the way. Despite all this, he hasn't forced the corporate TV stations to say something nice about him. And taking over control of the oil from foreign companies is good policy--they were only allowed in there by greedy rulers. Do you think America would stand for it if a wealthy Saudi bought rights to all of our oil? I don't think so. A nation should not suffer just because some foreign corporation controls its wealth.

BA, I'm sure you have answers to some of these questions, but will you stick around and see a debate to the end, or will you run away like you usually do when your "experts" have been knocked down a notch?

Gollum 10.Jan.2003 21:14

Bush Admirer

OK Gollum - Let's go through your little world and point out the errors in your thinking

>>>The problem in Venezuela is a class war stemming from the elite stealing most of the oil profits. Now the elite want all of the profits, or they'll destroy the country and its democracy in the process.

Ho hum. The elite are stealing the oil profits are they? Stealing them from who?

Are you saying that Chavez represents Democracy? If that's what you're saying then you can't possibly have read the article I posted above.

>>> This is not a simple case of fiscal mismanagement on Chavez's part (although he could have done some things better). The country has been on a long slow economic slide for many years. Much of this was due to deep-rooted corruption and patronage, something past presidents were intimately involved in and profited from. These prior administrations were "US friendly" and sold us oil at a deep discount--which didn't exactly help the Venezuelan economy.

Sure, Venezuela has had problems. Don't we all? But a Socialist like Chavez or Castro is most assuredly not the answer.











BA continues to spout sadly informed rubbish. He calls Pacifica Radio a "disinformation propoganda outlet for far left radicals." If he knew his facts, he'd know that Pacifica is funded by conservative interests as it masquerades as progressive. [Last year KBOO dumped Pacifica and began producing its own news.]

BA prefers that we read Financial Times. That's where you can read articles fawning over Wal*Mart and its "fashion clothing" or the merits of Bush's dividend tax cut for the wealthy. High credibility indeed

BA Correct the Errors of Gollum's Thinking 11.Jan.2003 12:57

Gollum

BA: Ho hum. The elite are stealing the oil profits are they? Stealing them from who?

G: The oil industry in Venezuela is nationalized. PDVSA, the oil company, returns only 20% of revenues, to the people. The oil company was in the private sector, and that's what this lock-out is all about--forced privatization of the oil industry by those that have gotten rich from it at the expense of the Venezuelan people.


BA: Are you saying that Chavez represents Democracy? If that's what you're saying then you can't possibly have read the article I posted above.

G: Chavez represents democracy. He was democratically elected (by a majority of the popular vote--what a concept!)and is trying to get the Venezuelan people more and more involved in their government. This is called "participative democracy". This may look strange to Americans, who don't actually have a democracy at all.

I did read the article and I don't understand how reading it is supposed to bind my speech. It was written by a Venezuelan elite, who naturally will write from the perspective of the opposition--it's to be expected. A number of points presented as facts in the article were distortions or lies, as any honest student of Venezuelan politics and history could tell you.


BA: Sure, Venezuela has had problems. Don't we all? But a Socialist like Chavez or Castro is most assuredly not the answer.

G: Calling Chavez a Socialist is irrelevant. The answer is for the Venezuelan people to decide. It seems that Chavez has won six elections in the past three years or so. The destruction of democracy by the opposition certainly is not the answer.