Venezuela takes a left turn?
The rabidly anti-Chavez Devil's Excrement blog sees the sacking of Rangel as a sign 'that the revolution is about to deepen and become more radical'. Rangel, who is pushing eighty, is a long-time member of the Movement for Socialism, which began as a Eurommunist split from the Communist Party in 1971. The Movement for Socialism was opposed to the guerrilla war that the party and allies were waging in Venezuela's mountains and forests. Rodriguez's father was a famous martyr of that war. The subbing of Rodriguez for Rangel is part of a big shakeup of Chavez's government, which has seen the blooding of fifteen new Cabinet Ministers. Gregory Wilpert reports on the swearing-in ceremony:
Chavez swore his ministers into office with an unusual oath that had them paraphrase the oath that national independence hero Simon Bolivar swore when he began fighting for Venezuelan independence from Spain, adding to the oath that the goal would not only be Venezuelan independence, but also socialism. According to that oath, they would “never rest arm or soul in the construction of the Venezuelan path towards socialism.”
The Chavez government also outraged the opposition last week by announcing that it will not renew the broadcasting license of RNTV, the TV station which helped organise the unsuccessful 2002 coup, and which has continued to broadcast calls for the violent overthrow of Chavez.
Yesterday four important new announcements came from Caracas. The government has decided to nationalise the national telecommunications network, to nationalise all electrical companies in private hands, to end the independence of Venezuela's central bank, and to abolish the commercial code which regulates economic transactions in Venezuela. Chavez has been threatening for some time to nationalise the telecommunications company CANTV, which had angered the National Organisation of Workers, Venezuela's main trade union body, by refusing to bring its employee pension plan in line with government legislation raising the minimum wage.
All of the measures announced yesterday point to a left turn by Chavez and a deepening of the Bolivarian revoluton, though more details are needed before their import can be properly established. (Will the telecommunications industry be placed under workers' control, and if so what form will this control take? Is the central bank's independence being removed because, like the once-autonomous state-owned oil company PDVSA, it was acting as a conservative obstacle to the policy programme of the government?)
Watch this space, or this space, if you're lucky enough to read Spanish.
Footnote: Michael Leibowitz supplies a titbit from the swearing-in ceremony which will likely have pro and anti-Chavez Trotskyist groups dancing on the head of a pin for months to come.