Monday, February 16, 2009

The Herald vs Hugo

In a small corner of a back page of this morning's New Zealand Herald one can find the headline 'Venezuela votes on limitless term for leader'. The attached article claims that:

Venezuelans will decide President Hugo Chavez's future today in a referendum that could end term limits...On the eve of the vote, Chavez - first elected in 1998 -said the proposed constitutional amendment would deepen democracy by allowing voters to choose the officials they want...He shrugged off opposition talk of dictatorship, pointing out that Franklin Roosevelt was elected United States President four times...

Without a constitutional amendment, Chavez will have to leave office in 2013. He lost a broader referendum in December 2007 that also sought to abolish presidential term limits, and says nothing is stopping him from trying again if he loses this time.

What Chavez is seeking in today's referendum is an end to the limit on the number of times Venezuela's President can be re-elected. Under the country's Bolivarian constitution, which was drawn up by an elected assembly and approved by referendum in the first year of Chavez's rule, a President can only serve two terms in office.

Chavez's second term expires in 2013, and we wants to stand for re-election at the end of that term. For this reason, he and his supporters - a million of them marched through Caracas the other day - have gone to the voters to seek approval for an amendment to the constitution.

The Herald's article is radically misleading, because it repeatedly suggests that Chavez wants to extend his rule by making his current term as President limitless. There is a world of difference between a 'President for life', who never has to go to the voters to renew his mandate, and a President who spends a long period in office because he is repeatedly approved by the voters. Chavez is quite right to use Roosevelt as an example of leader who was re-elected repeatedly, yet never became a dictator.

In its attempt to portray Chavez as a threat to democracy, the Herald's article echoes, whether consciously or unconsciously, the propaganda of the Venezuelan opposition, the US government and many right-wing newspapers and blogs. The opportunism of the anti-Chavez propagandists is extraordinary. When the Bolivarian constitution was created a decade ago, the Venezuelan opposition and its overseas supporters condemned the document as a blueprint for 'totalitarianism'. The leaders of the US-backed coup which wrested power from Chavez for a couple of days in 2002 unceremoniously tore up the constitution and instituted martial law. Now, suddenly, the constitution has become a rock of democracy which must not be altered in any way.

I'm sorry if I sound like an apologist for tyranny, but I think that it should be up to the Venezuelan people, and not the governments and the media of the West, to decide who occupies the Presidential palace in Caracas.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Venezuela: US-backed right wing murders unionists, attacks revolutionary gains
A statement from the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network

November 28, 2008 -- In the aftermath of the November 23 regional elections, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition has launched, in the states it won, an all-out assault on grassroots community organisations.

President Hugo Chavez and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won a clear mandate in the elections for the project to build socialism of the 21st century: the PSUV won 17 states with 5,730,774 votes nationwide, compared to the opposition’s 3,948,912 votes. The opposition’s vote was concentrated in key strategic areas, giving them the governorships of five states and the mayor of Greater Caracas.

In the days following the elections, grassroots activists in Caracas, Miranda and Tachira have reported that the public community health clinics (part of Barrio Adentro, the free universal healthcare program), communal councils and other centres where social programs operate are being shut down or attacked by opposition party, despite the public assurances of at least one right-wing govenor-elect that the legal frameworks would be respected.

Venezuelan radio station YKVE Mundial reported on November 25 that “people sent by the new authorities of the governorship of Miranda arrived in the early hours of the morning in Baruta, to an Integral Diagnostic Centre [public health clinics], where they shut down a House of Popular Power” where the local grassroots communal councils operate. Cleira Ruiz, local coordinator of Mission Ribas in Mariche, reported that people from the far-right Justice First party harassed the centre, and tried to remove the people inside and take the keys.

Gerson Rivas, a representative of Fundacommunal (communal bank) in the municipality of Guaicaipuro in the state of Miranda, reported that Cuban doctors were being intimidated by Justice First supporters, who were threatening to kick them out of the Barrio Adentro modules.

William Castillo, vice-president of Venezolana de Televisión, reported that groups have also tried to attack the Caracas office of alternative television channel Avila TV.

More disturbingly, three activists in Venezuela's national trade union peak body, the UNT, were brutally murdered two days after the elections.

From the state of Tachira, won by the right wing, Ana Rivero reported to YVKE Mundial that, although the new governor, Cesar Perez, had not yet assumed his position, “functionaries” had ordered coordinators of the missions to leave the state schools where the missions operate, and that this order is being applied across the whole state. She said that classes in Mission Ribas in the school Timoteo Chacón de Santa Ana, in the municipality of Cordoba, where she studies, have been suspended until they can find another location.

María Malpica, the PSUV mayor-elect in Colon municipality in Zulia, reported that riots were being promoted by the opposition with the aim of preventing her from taking office, and that eight people were injured in the clashes.

YKVE Mundial reported that street battles broke out in Los Teques, the capital of Miranda, on November 26. Carmen Bermúdez, who witnessed the incident, told YKVE Mundial that the violence erupted when right-wing governor-elect Capriles Radonski arrived in Plaza Bolivar in Los Teques accompanied by men on motorbikes and police from the municipalities of Rosales and Carrizal. The police and Capriles’ private thugs violently attacked people congregated in the plaza for the inauguration of the new PSUV mayor of Los Teques, Alirio Mendoza.

As well, workers in the Integral Diagnostic Centre in Los Dos Caminos in Sucre municipality reported on November 27 that members of Justice First have threatened to burn down the building and are circulating a petition to remove the Cuban doctors. Similar incidents have been reported in Carabobo. In the state of Barinas, which was won by the PSUV, opposition groups have launched violent attacks, refusing to accept the outcome of the vote.

In 2002 the Venezuelan opposition, backed by the United States, launched a military coup against the democratically elected Chavez government. However, the coup was defeated within 48 hours by a mass uprising of workers and the poor, together with rank-and-file soldiers.

In Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, major social gains for the poor and working people have been won by the grassroots movements together with the pro-people polices promoted by Chavez. Extensive education programs have eradicated illiteracy and the introduction of universal healthcare has meant that many poor Venezuelans have been able to visit a doctor for the first time. Under wealth redistribution policies factories have been nationalised and put under workers’ control, and unused land has been distributed to peasants.

The US government has given millions of dollars to Venezuela’s opposition groups in an effort to roll back the democratic revolution in Venezuela. These latest attacks are part of a broader strategy to get rid of Chavez and reassert imperialist control of the nation.

Responding to the opposition attacks, Jesse Chacon, the PSUV candidate for Sucre, told VTV on November 25 that, “Any attempt to roll back what the people have conquered is going to generate conflict, because the people are organised … The people will not allow it!" In a televised speech on November 27, Chavez also responded, stating that the national government and the armed forces, together with the people, would act to defend the missions and social services.

The minister for justice has also made public statements to clarify the obligations and role within the state of the governors-elect, including that they must not abuse the power invested in them. El Aissami specifically reminded the newest governors-elect of the importance of not abusing police powers.

The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network stands in solidarity with President Chavez and the grassroots Bolivarian movement against the right wing’s latest attacks. We call for the democratic process in Venezuela to be respected by the new oppostion governors, and for an end to all United States interference in Venezuela’s sovereign affairs.

Stop the opposition attacks in Venezuela!
Stop US intervention in Venezuela!

* * *

The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network AVSN has brought together a range of existing organisations and supportive individuals now campaigning to demand US hands off Venezuela and to break down the mass media's silence and lies in regard to the Bolivarian Revolution. The Network was formed at the Second National Australian Conference in Solidarity with Latin America in 2004.

The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network is an organisation of volunteers. The success of our activities in support of the Venezuelan people depends on the energy and commitment of people around Australia.

If you have some time, skills and/or enthusiasm to offer the AVSN, please get in touch with us. Help with everything from fundraising, to letter-writing, phone calls and computer work, to Spanish-English translations – and lots of other things - is always greatly appreciated.

AVSN has three main aims:

1. Support communities and organisations participating in the fundamental social transformation now underway in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
2. Campaign against the US led aggression against the Chavez government and people's of Venezuela.
3. Demand that the Australian government condemn the U.S intervention in Venezuela's sovereign affairs.

The Network coordinates activities in four main areas:

1. INFORMATION CAMPAIGNS to inform trade unions, student and community organisations and the Australian public in general of the struggles of Venezuela's people.
2. AID PROJECTS that assist local communities in Venezuela.
3. BRIGADES, EXCHANGES & TOURS to promote the interchange of experiences between Australian and Venezuelan communities in struggle.
4. ACTIONS & PROTESTS in support of Venezuela's people and against foreign aggression.


* * *

Venezuelan trade union leaders shot dead, workers call for armed self-defence

By Kiraz Janicke

November 29, 2008 -- -- Three trade unionists Richard Gallardo, Luis Hernández and Carlos Requena, leaders of the pro-revolution National Union of Workers (UNT) and also members of the United Socialist Left were shot dead late Thursday night in Aragua state, Venezuela.

The union leaders were gunned down by an armed assassin on a motorbike as they made their way home after participating that day in a labour dispute with the Colombian-owned Alpina food processing company.

There is speculation that the attack was carried out by paramilitaries hired by the Colombian company, which is reported to have utilised paramilitaries in similar disputes in its home country. Patricia Rivas writing for YKVE Mundial on November 28 pointed out that the attacks resembled a method of assassination commonly used against unionists and social movement activists in Colombia, known as sicariato, whereby hired gunmen on motorbikes carry out drive-by shootings.

However, the day before, the unionists had also been attacked by the Aragua state police aligned with outgoing opposition governor Didalco Bolivar. Bolivar, who was previously an ally of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez but defected to the right-wing opposition in the lead up to the constitutional reform referendum in Venezuela in 2007, has previously deployed the state police against workers in labour disputes.

In a press conference on November 27 Hernández had denounced that 400 Alpina workers had been brutally repressed by the police, "The workers were inside the factory demanding from the company that they pay, in full and quickly, the money owing, when the police unexpectedly entered the premises and in a brutal manner began to kick out the workers."

We immediately contacted workers in the rest of the area and "in a matter of minutes the company was surrounded by workers affiliated to the National Union of Workers (UNT). Thanks to this act of solidarity we managed to regain control of the factory and the workers have occupied it again," Hernandez had told the media.

Hernández, Gallardo and Requena were known as "implacable fighters" for workers' rights who "never bowed down in the face of constant threats by bosses, union bureaucrats and elements of the public force that are enemies of the workers," a statement by the United Socialist Left said.

"We render tribute to our murdered comrades who showed us, by their example and behaviour, that the rights of workers must be respected. The comrades offered their life for the principle of the defence of the interests of the working class and of socialism."

"In their name and with their example we will continue the battle for the socialist revolution, expropriating from the bosses, breaking definitively with imperialism and building a government of the workers and the people," the statement continued.

The workers are calling for the incoming governor of Aragua Mario Isea, a member of Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and the national government to immediately carry out a full investigation.

The attorney general's office responded that it has launched an investigation and assigned national public prosecutor Orlando Villamizar and Aragua state prosecutor Elas Pérez, to head up investigations.

The incident highlights the growing class conflict that has erupted across Venezuela in the aftermath of the November 23 regional elections. Numerous reports have surfaced of Venezuela's elite, US-backed opposition launching a campaign of violence and intimidation against trade unionists, grass roots community organisations and pro-revolution social movements, particularly in the areas where they won.

In a statement in solidarity with the workers in Aragua, the Carabobo section of the UNT said the incidents are not isolated and that many cases of sicariato have occurred across the country, particularly in the construction sector, against unions in the private sector and against peasant leaders fighting for land reform in the countryside.

The statement argued that there had been no serious investigations into the many cases of sicariato and that the governmental bodies such as the police and the attorney general's office had been incapable of responding to such incidents.

Stalin Perez Borges, a national coordinator of the UNT, argued "President Chavez and the national government must carry out an investigation to the ultimate consequences and with mobilisation we must defeat impunity."

Perez Borges added that workers could not simply rely on the "ordinary justice" system because it often sided with the right-wing opposition and bosses against workers and instead called for the formation of a special commission comprised of workers organisations whose investigations "have the force of the law."

"For this reason, at the same time, we convoke the immediate organisation of popular workers self-defence. The government must grant all the resources for the training and armed defence of the workers and their leaders. It will not be the corrupt police, in many cases the direct assassins, who will prevent these crimes. It will be us, the workers. We propose…our own self-defence against fascism," he said.

Similarly, in a speech on Thursday highlighting a number of opposition attacks against Cuban doctors, education and health missions and community organisations Chavez, who described himself as a "subversive" in Miraflores presidential palace called for the "permanent mobilisation" of the Venezuelan people to defend the Bolivarian Revolution.

3:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

秋葉原 メイド
ペット火葬 つくば
つくば ペット火葬
つくば ペット霊園
つくば ペット葬儀
soul source production
ベトナム シーフード
高収入 アルバイト
高収入 アルバイト
アパレル 求人
アパレル 派遣
人妻 出会い
性感マッサージ 名古屋
M性感 名古屋
I wish you always happy and success in your life.
Thanks for sharing!
Best regards!
i love venezuela!

5:57 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

Surely the point of a constitution is that it prevents arbitrary abuse of power. It is not for El Presidento to decide how many terms he will serve or whatever other whims he may indulge. The Constitution states the rules.

It is opportunistic, disengenuous and vain of Chavez to liken himself to FDR. The US Constitution did not limit the number of terms a President could serve, until the 22nd Amendment was passed after FDR's last term.

Chavez could more plausibly linked to the likes of Napoleon I and Napoleon III, as well as Adolf Hitler, who modified their constitutions to their own ends.

7:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


a) Chavez is proposing the same system NZ has.

b) he's doing it via a referendum (the will of the people) not a personal whim.

c) do you go about making such brainless arbitrary comments in the 'real' world?


10:15 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:32 pm  
Blogger Paul said...


don't be a dick.

NZ does not have a President. We elect parties.

Hitler and both Napoleons used referenda to get their way.

Breaking news: the people have spoken. Chavez won, just.

1:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chavez is leader of the left-wing parties the same as Key is leader of the ctre-right. The president is voted certain times when he can rule by decree but he represents a party and a policy the same as Key. It was Chavez who instigated the 99 constitution limiting the president to two terms, if he's now found it a hindrance to carrying on his socialist policies in Venezuela then changing the law by referendum is hardly to compare him to Hitler, which is almost always a dull comparison.


2:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to The Boston Globe, the head of Chávez's Mission Sucre, a program to provide free and ongoing education, says that “investments in education, health, and infrastructure will have a lasting effect on standard of living”. Data from a private Venezuelan research firm shows the incomes of the “poorest Venezuelans have risen because of subsidies and grants”. The Globe reports that the government has “subsidized markets in poor neighborhoods that sell staple foods up to 40 percent cheaper than elsewhere.” Low income residents are reportedly living better because of subsidies that boost household income, decrease food costs, and provide access to free schooling and basic medical care. Chavez’s “missions” offer education, aid to the needy, soup kitchens, and medical care.

3:01 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

Yes, complying with the rules of your constitution is so often a tiresome thing. Fortunately for Chavez, he had rigged it so that he only needed a simple majority to change the rules. He obtained his slender majority and he will have his way.

The Chavistas will say that it is the bourgeois lackeys of imperialism who oppose him, but it is worth remembering that almost half the voters were against his demagogy. He claims to be a people's man, but a lot of the People are agin him.

3:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christian Science Monitor February 2, 2009

Where has Chávez taken Venezuela?

After 10 years as president, Hugo Chávez has polarized Venezuela, but inspired its poor.

By Sara Miller Llana | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Caracas, Venezuela - José Luis Ramirez dropped out of school at age 13 and spent most of his life doing odd jobs. The father of six had little time to think beyond how to make ends meet.

But after Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was elected and began a series of social programs called "missions," Mr. Ramirez's life changed. He joined a literacy program and later one on television training. Today, he's not only a TV producer, but trains others and sets up everything from street cleaning to fundraising dinners.

"I'm considered a community leader," says Ramirez, almost surprising himself.

Ramirez has come of age alongside the presidency of Mr. Chávez, and he is not alone. This week marks 10 years since Chávez was inaugurated. His decade in power has been a controversial one. To his harshest critics, he is squandering the nation's oil wealth, lavishing it on programs to boost his popularity and on allies abroad while crime and inflation remain rampant and unattended. To his supporters – and there are many – he's the first modern president to care about the poor and offer leadership in a region that has long been overshadowed by US foreign policy. Love him or hate him, many residents, analysts, and politicians say his most lasting legacy will be a sense of participation that has bloomed here – socially and politically – and that has been embraced on both ends of the political spectrum.

"In these 10 years, there is something that Hugo Chávez can take credit for, and that is the social question," says Teodoro Petkoff, a newspaper editor and leading Chávez critic. "The fight against poverty is now on the agenda of every sector."

A polarizing figure

When Chávez was elected in 1998, the national mood was one of exasperation: citizens, rich and poor, were sick of political leaders they considered corrupt and uncaring. But polarization, which has always been part of Venezuelan society, has only grown more intense under Chávez.

He dismisses his opponents as the "oligarchy," while his opposition gives him little credit, if any at all, for what he's done well.

Chávez's popularity has remained steady in the past decade, starting with massive support after a coup attempt in 2002. Later in 2006, he swept presidential elections.

His administration claims that today's Venezuela is democracy at work: they say of 14 various types of referenda and elections in 10 years, he or his party have won 12. But his critics claim it's all an attempt to consolidate power.

Venezuelans rose up in 2007 in protest against his decision not to renew a broadcasting license for a private television station critical of the government. Later that year, they claimed that a constitutional reform attempt, which included a measure to allow the indefinite reelection of heads of state, was another ploy.

In his 10 years in power, Chávez has also risen as the US's most uncensored critic: calling former President Bush everything from a donkey to the devil.

He has reached out to other US critics in an effort to create a "multipolar" world, sending subsidized oil and funding infrastructure projects across the region.

An actor on the world stage

Even his supporters have complained that as he presides over the world stage he is ignoring the day-to-day issues that affect most Venezuelans, like muggings and the price of milk.

Still, they say, he has done more for the poor than any president that many can remember.

Take El Valle, a hillside slum on the edge of Caracas, for example. Over the past few years it has bustled with social programs: Cuban doctors manning a health clinic, soup kitchens providing stew for the neediest residents, supermarkets with rice at subsidized prices. According to government figures, extreme poverty dropped from 16.9 to 7.9 percent between 2000 and 2007.

The opposition disputes these numbers, arguing that the government's methods for measuring poverty do not meet international standards.

Timoteo Zambrano, head of international relations for the opposition political party Un Nuevo Tiempo (A New Era), says that too many citizens featured in the government's figures work as independent street vendors or shoe shiners with no benefits or real security.

They also reject the notion that the missions solve poverty in the long term.

Although the health mission, called Barrio Adentro, for example, has brought free primary care to the poorest areas, many say state hospitals have been neglected and are in disarray – a situation that helps no one.

“That doesn’t generate a fight against inequality. All those missions and other types of social programs give them transitory means while those citizens form part of a political court that he represents,” says Mr. Zambrano. “And it doesn’t resolve the problem at its roots.”

Even though the opposition lambastes Chávez’s “21st-century socialism,” it has adopted his platform for the poor.

“The Chávez revolution has led some opposition sectors to engage their sense of social responsibility in actual projects of social, economic, and political empowerment rather than simply assume that inequality and marginality will be miraculously resolved by leaving people to their own devices,” says David Smilde, a sociologist and close observer of Venezuelan politics at the University of Georgia.

Transforming the lives of the poor

Indeed, few deny that literacy and education programs have had a transformative effect on people like Ramirez.

On a November day, as reporters fanned out across Caracas covering local elections, Ramirez sat behind television screens, editing the reports flowing in. This is only part of a day’s work for him, though. He spends the other portion training others in his neighborhood in television and leading a community council. “I always had a social conscience, I’ve always loved my neighborhood, but I couldn’t put it into use,” he says.

It is this kind of awareness that leaders say is here to stay. “A social consciousness has been created,” says Alberto Muller Rojas, vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Chávez’s political party. “It’s improbable that we will regress to the way it was before,” he says, when the poor neither knew, nor asserted, their rights.

Stifling dissent

In city streets and office buildings across Caracas, pictures of revolutionary Che Guevara hang. “Yankee imperialists” is scribbled on the chalkboard at the Catia TVe station where Rodriguez works.

Critics of Chávez complain that among a burgeoning sense of participation, the only ones treated as participants, and rewarded with government support and contracts, are those who support his “revolution.”

Carlos Tablante, a former Chávez ally and ex-governor of the state of Argua, and now a member of Un Nuevo Tiempo, says he sees the missions and social programs as a “positive” step by the government but argues that they are too politicized.

Those who don’t tow the revolutionary line are excluded from the government’s benefits and even blacklisted, say opposition leaders. In 2004, politician Luis Tascón published a database on his website that included their national identity numbers, of more than 2.4 million Venezuelans who had signed a petition for a recall referendum against Chávez. Chávez ordered the list to be “buried” some months later, but many claim they continue to be persecuted as a result of appearing on the Tascón list. “This is a list of political segregation.

Those who are on it don’t have access to passports, national identity cards, or work in the public sector,” says Zambrano.

Most of the Chávez era of participation plays out in the “barrios,” the tough Caracas neighborhoods that comprise Chávez’s base. The government has also reached out to rural areas, especially through technology programs such as wireless access and community radio and television stations.

One such beneficiary is the tiny rural community of Rio Negro, in the state of Miranda, which the government connected to the Internet in 2007, thus sparking a sense a participatory zeal in the town. “We want things to happen here,” says Nayetty Delgado, a community activist. “If we don’t see results, we try to motivate people to participate.”

“We promote the sharing of knowledge as a tool to give society the opportunity to grow more quickly,” explains Carlos Figueira, the president of the National Center for Information Technology. “It’s from a solidarity perspective to reduce the digital divide so not only the privileged actors in society grow.”

Last year alone, they trained 454 communities in open-source software.

Sparking civic participation

“The Chávez period has been all about making people ‘participants’ in the nation,” says Mr. Smilde.

The clearest way to see what Smilde means is to look at civic participation.

In recent regional elections for more than 300 mayors and 22 governors, 65 percent of the population turned out to vote. It was a modern record. In regional elections in 1998, only 54 percent turned out, according to Venezuela’s National Electoral Commission.

Student movements have also risen, starting first to protect their freedom of expression as the RCTV television license battle waged on – a movement that reached its height in December 2007 upon the constitutional referendum vote. Students supportive of Chávez rose in parallel protest.

Part of growing participation comes from polarization and sheer anger, but the byproduct can be viewed as a positive one. “Before, no one participated in anything,” says Eva Golinger, an American writer in Venezuela who denounces US intervention in the country. “People are motivated and feel obligation to play a role in their country.”

After 10 years, it is only recently that Chávez’s grip on power has seemed to have loosened a bit.

The first blow came with the rejection of the 2007 constitutional referendum. Most recently, although his party won the majority of gubenatorial seats in local elections, they lost key races, including some in key areas of urban Caracas, losses that have emboldened the opposition.

Chavez for life?

On Feb. 15, Venezuelans will vote in another referendum, this one an amendment to the constitution that would abolish the limit on presidential terms, as well as those for other political offices.

Chávez says he needs more time to continue his revolution. “There’s still much to do,” he said in a recently released television ad. “I need more time. I need your vote.”

Some say that if he loses the referendum and his term ends in 2013, it will be the end of Chávismo, the name given to his social movement. But many say that the ideals that the movement has planted in society are here to stay.

“There is a major part of the population that is visible now that was once invisible,” says Ms. Golinger. “You can’t make people invisible again.”

Charlie Devereux contributed to this report from Caracas.

5:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


8:41 pm  

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