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Hugo Chavez Deepens Venezuela's Social and Economic Transformation Interview with Steve E

Interview with Steve Ellner, professor of economic history at the Universidad de Oriente in Venezuela, conducted by Between the Lines' Scott Harris
Hugo Chavez Deepens Venezuela's Social and Economic Transformation

Interview with Steve Ellner, professor of economic history at the Universidad de Oriente in Venezuela, conducted by Scott Harris

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was sworn into office on Jan. 10 after winning a landslide, re-election victory by more than 62 percent on Dec. 3. As he began his third term, Chavez announced the nationalization of the country's electricity and telecommunication industries and his intention to seek greater state control over energy projects. He also asked for a constitutional amendment to eliminate the Central Bank's autonomy and increased power to legislate by presidential decree. In December, Chavez called for the merger of various political parties that have supported him to form a new United Socialist Party of Venezuela in order to "construct socialism from below."

In 2004, Chavez and Fidel Castro proposed the formation of a new Latin American economic bloc, called the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, as a counterweight to Washington's proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. Newly-elected Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega and Bolivian President Evo Morales signed onto the pact with Venezuela and Cuba in January, strengthening Hugo Chavez's influence around the hemisphere.

The Bush administration's support for, and likely involvement in a failed military coup against Chavez in 2002, escalated hostility between the two nations. After his declaration on nationalization, U.S. politicians and commentators have increased their condemnation of the popular Venezuelan leader, some comparing him to Hitler and Mussolini. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Steve Ellner, professor of economic history at the Universidad de Oriente in Venezuela. He discusses Chavez' new policy pronouncements and his oil rich nation's role in influencing Latin American politics.

Steve Ellner is co-editor of the new book, "Venezuela: Hugo Chávez and the Decline of an "Exceptional Democracy," published by Rowman and Littlefield.

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Follow Chavez's Lead; Nationalize US Oil 22.Jan.2007 11:55

2 benefit workers, residents and ecosystem

Hugo Chavez took the needed step of nationalizing Venezuela's petroleum reserves to prevent multinational corporations (ie., Exxon-Mobil) from continued theft of resources. Here in US, we would be wise to follow Chavez's example and nationalize our own oil..

For a brief time (1975-76) Venezuela's people experienced nationalization of their petroleum resources. Recently Hugo Chavez restored nationalization of petroleum to benefit the people, workers and ecosystem. Prior to Chavez's nationalization, petroleum profits from Venezuela did not stay around long enough to benefit the Venezuelan people, as foreign multinational corporations siphoned the profits into coffers of CEOs (ie., Exxon-Mobil, Chevron-Texaco, etc..)

Since nationalization Chavez has utlized the extra profits to help the struggling poor people in Venezuela. In addition certain pollution control measures are now affordable, since profits are no longer flying out of Venezuela to billionaire CEO's bank accounts in the US..

"Q: You have spent millions of dollars of your nation's oil wealth throughout Latin America. Are you really helping these other nations or are you simply buying political support for your regime?

Chávez: We are brothers and sisters. That's one of the reasons for the wrath of the empire. You know that Venezuela has the biggest oil reserves in the world. And the biggest gas reserves in this hemisphere, the eighth in the world. Up until seven years ago, Venezuela was a U.S. oil colony. All of our oil was going up to the north, and the gas was being used by the U.S. and not by us. Now we are diversifying. Our oil is helping the poor. We are selling to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, some Central American countries, Uruguay, Argentina.

Q: And the Bronx?

Chávez: In the Bronx it is a donation. In all the cases I just mentioned before, it is trade. However, it's not free trade, just fair commerce. We also have an international humanitarian fund as a result of oil revenues.

Q: Why did George Bush turn down your help for New Orleans after the hurricane?

Chávez: You should ask him, but from the very beginning of the terrible disaster of Katrina, our people in the U.S., like the president of CITGO, went to New Orleans to rescue people. We were in close contact by phone with Jesse Jackson. We hired buses. We got food and water. We tried to protect them; they are our brothers and sisters. Doesn't matter if they are African, Asian, Cuban, whatever."

read on @;

Since nationalization oil profits remain in Venezuela, this also gives Chavez the chance to improve upon environmental pollution controls, an inexpensive alternative that US petroleum corporations are unwilling to implement here at home..

Nationalization of US petroleum supplies could also solve the problems of residents living near oil refineries suffering disproportionate rates of cancer, leukemia, asthma, etc.. by treating residents and workers with respect, currently unheard of under cutthroat capitalism that places CEO profits above people's health..

"Despite Mobil's record, the TNRCC issued a permit allowing the facility to increase emissions in 1999--over the objections of neighboring residents and without allowing the public to challenge the expansion in a hearing. The TNRCC's failure to regulate the facility is compounded by a disturbing fact: 95% of the people living next to the Mobil complex are African American, with almost 54% of them living in poverty. Rev. Malveaux says that the Beaumont minority community is similar to others in Texas such as in Corpus Christi; "it's the poor, the minority, the disenfranchised, the children, the elderly; [and] they have no idea how to overcome their situation." He said that repeated fires, spills and explosions in the industrial plants forced the residents to begin scrutinizing their corporate neighbors. "In Port Arthur, we found a large amount of MTBE in the air, there was a school near, three churches near there, a housing project right there." In the early 1990's, these discoveries and others led Rev. Malveaux to found PACE, People Against Contaminated Environments, to protect the people from the industrial pollution from the refinery complex."

read on about petroleum's cancer alley @;

Same deal applies for the recent 100 ft. tall fire in Chevron-Texaco's Martinez/Richmond refinery, the lack of timely warning from C-T indicates their lack of concern for the nearby community of Martinez/Richmond, similar to Beaumont TX also predominantly lower income people of color..

"Richmond residents living near the Chevron refinery that erupted into flames didn't receive automatic phone calls alerting them to the shelter-in-place warning until more than an hour after the incident began, according to Richmond City Councilmember Tom Butt.

Chevron reported that the fire, which quickly grew to three alarms and prompted a shelter-in-place warning, started at 5:15 a.m. at the Chevron refinery located at 841 Chevron Way in Richmond."

read on @;

Another alternative to Chavez's socialism is anarcho-syndicalism, the iww is looking for help in organizing oil refinery workers..

organize iww union @;

read about Exxon's crimes against humanity @;