Revolutionary youth mobilise in Caracas, February 12, 2010. Photo by ABN.
By Federico Fuentes, Caracas
February 20, 2010 -- Decisive battles between the forces of revolution and counter-revolution loom on the horizon in Venezuela. The campaign for the September 26, 2010, National Assembly elections will be a
crucial battle between the supporters of socialist President Hugo
Chavez and the US-backed right-wing opposition. But these battles, part of the class struggle between the poor majority
and the capitalist elite, will be fought more in the streets than at
the ballot box.
So far this year, there has been an escalation of demonstrations by violent opposition student groups; the continued
selective assassination of trade union and peasant leaders by right-wing
paramilitaries; and an intensified private media campaign presenting a
picture of a debilitated government in crisis — and on its way out.
Chavez warned on January 29: “If they initiate an extremely violent
offensive, that obliges us to take firm action — something I do not
recommend they do — our response will wipe them out.” The comment came the day after two students were killed and 21 police
suffered bullet wounds in confrontations that rocked the city of
Chavez challenged the opposition to follow the constitutional road
and a recall referendum on his presidential mandate if they truly
believe people no longer support him. Under the democratic constitution adopted in 1999, a recall referendum
can be called on any elected official if 20% of the electorate sign a
petition calling for one.
He said if the capitalists continued down the road of
confrontation, he would “accelerate the revolution”, which has declared
“21st century socialism” as its goal.
The stepped-up campaign of destabilisation is part of the regional
offensive launched by the opposition’s masters in Washington.
Last year, the US installed new military bases in Colombia and Panama,
reactivated the US Navy Fourth Fleet to patrol Latin American waters,
and helped organise a military coup that toppled the left-wing Manuel
Zelaya government in Honduras.
This year, the US has occupied Haiti with 15,000 soldiers after the
January 12 earthquake and US warplanes have been caught violating
Venezuela’s airspace. A February 2 report from US National Director of Intelligence, Admiral
Dennis Blair, labelled Venezuela the “leading anti-US regional force” —
placing the Chavez government in Washington’s crosshairs.
A US military invasion cannot be ruled out, but the main aim of the
US military build-up and provocations is to apply pressure on those
sections of Venezuela’s armed forces, and others in the pro-Chavez
camp, who would prefer to put the brakes on the revolutionary process
to avoid a confrontation.
This is occurring hand-in-hand with a campaign of media lies, combining
claims that Chavez’s popularity is rapidly declining with rumours of
dissent in the military and government.
The US and Venezuelan elite hope to isolate and ultimately, remove Chavez.
The campaign is similar to the one unleashed in 2007 to defeat
Chavez’s proposed constitutional reforms, which would have created a
legal framework for greater attacks on capital to the benefit of the
poor majority but were narrowly defeated in a referendum.
The opposition hopes to fracture Chavez’s support base — the poor
majority and the armed forces — and win a majority in the National
Assembly (with which it is likely to move to impeach Chavez).
At the very least, the opposition is seeking to stop pro-revolution
forces from winning a two-thirds majority in the national assembly, which would
restrict the ease with which the Chavistas could pass legislation. The
current assembly has a large pro-Chavez majority as a result of the
opposition boycotting the 2005 poll.
The global economic crisis is hitting Venezuela harder than the
government initially hoped. Problems in the electricity sector, among
others, are also causing strain.
The government’s campaign to raise awareness about the effects of
climate change and wasteful usage has minimised the impact of the
opposition and private media campaign to blame the government for the
problems in the electricity and water sectors.
Far from fulfilling right-wing predictions that falling oil prices
would result in a fall of the government’s fortunes, Chavez has
continued his push to redistribute wealth to the poor — and increased
moves against capital and corruption.
This is occurring alongside important street mobilisations
supporting the government (ignored by the international media, which
gave prominent coverage to small opposition student riots). There are new steps to increase the transfer of power to the people,
such as incorporating the grassroots communal councils further into
In November, Chavez announced interventions into eight banks found
to be involved in corrupt dealings. A majority were nationalised and
merged with a state bank to form the Bicentenary Bank. Together with the Bank of Venezuela, nationalised in 2007, the state
now controls 25% of the banking sector — the largest single bloc.
Nearly 30 bankers were charged and face trial over the corruption
allegations. Significantly, a number of these had been closely aligned
with the government. One of them, Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco, was a relatively unknown
entrepreneur in the food sector who rose up the ranks of the business
elite to own four banks and 29 Venezuelan companies.
Much of this meteoric rise was due to his ties with a section of the
Chavez government, which provided him with generous contracts to supply
government-subsidised Mercal food stores with produce and
transportation. This earned Fernandez the nickname the “Czar of Mercal”.
The arrest of another banker over corruption allegations, Arne
Chacon, led to the resignation of his brother Jessie Chacon as Chavez’s
State institutions, militants of the Chavez-led United Socialist Party
of Venezuela (PSUV) and the National Guard have also moved to tackle
price speculation following the January 8 decision to devalue the local
currency, the bolivar. More than 1000 shops were temporary shutdown for price speculation in the first week after the announcement.
On February 13, Chavez announced that the government had come to an
agreement with French company Casino to buy out 80% of its shares in
the CADA supermarket chain, which has 35 outlets across the country. Together with the recently nationalised Exito supermarket chain and the
mass importation of various essential goods, the government is moving
to take up a much larger share of the retail and distribution sector.
The devaluation of Venezuela's currency, the bolivar, means imported goods have become more
expensive, lowering workers’ purchasing power. To compensate, the
government decreed in January a 25% increase in the minimum wage (10%
to be implemented in March and 15% in September).
Government sources told Green Left Weekly it is also studying a further wage increase and steps towards establishing a state monopoly over foreign trade.
Grassroots organising, youth
Despite the violent protests and slander campaign, a January poll
by the Venezuelan Institute of Data Analysis (IVAD — generally accepted
as one of Venezuela’s least biased polling companies) found more than
58% of Venezuelans continue to approve of Chavez’s presidency. The same poll also found 41.5% believed the opposition should have a National Assembly majority, compared to 49.5% who didn’t.
Some 32.6% said they would vote for pro-revolution candidates, 20.8%
for the opposition and an important 33.1% for “independents”. That 33.1% will undoubtedly shrink by September. The question is
whether this section will abstain (as in the 2007 constitutional
referendum) or the revolutionary forces can organise themselves to win
them over and deal a decisive blow to the right.
Three massive pro-revolution demonstrations have been held already this
year, dwarfing the small, but violent, opposition protests.
A new grouping of revolutionary youth organsations, the Bicentenary
National Youth Front, has also been created to organise the
pro-revolution majority of youth and students. The injection of organised youth into the revolution is vital for
its future. This is needed, as Chavez noted in his February 12 speech
to a mass demonstration of students in Caracas, to tackle the serious
problems of reformism and bureaucratism that hamper the revolution.
Chavez has argued against those sectors of the revolutionary camp who insist it is possible to advance by strengthening the private
sector and wooing capitalists. Chavez has repeatedly said the “national
bourgeoisie” has no interest in advancing the process of change.
Chavez has emphasised the “class struggle” is at the heart of this process.
He said it was vital to combat the inefficiency and bureaucracy of
the state structures inherited from previous governments that hold back
and sabotage the process. “We have to finish off demolishing the old
structures of the bourgeois state and create the new structures of the
To help achieve this, the government has encouraged the creation of 184
communes across Venezuela. Communes are made up of a number of communal
councils and other social organisations, bodies directly run and
controlled by local communities. Chavez has referred to the communes as the “building blocks” of the new
state, in which power is intended to be progressively transferred to
the organised people.
The recent creation of peasant militias, organised for self-defence by
poor farmers against large landowner violence, is also important.
However, the biggest challenge is the continued construction of the
PSUV, a mass party with millions of still largely passive members, as a
revolutionary instrument of the masses. In its extraordinary congress, which began in November and continues
meeting on weekends until April, debates are occurring among the 772
elected delegates. Differences have arisen between those who support a
more moderate reformist approach and those arguing for a revolutionary
An important debate is over whether to back Chavez’s call for a new
international organisation to unite revolutionary forces globally to
strengthen the fight for “socialism of the 21th century”.
The debates also include whether party members will elect National
Assembly candidates, or whether this important decision would be left
in the hands of a select committee (as more conservative forces
After the decision to hold primary elections for candidates was
announced, Chavez said on February 11: “I have confidence in the
people, I have confidence in the grassroots, they will not defraud us.”
[Federico Fuentes is a member of the Green Left Weekly/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal Caracas bureau. This article first appeared in Green Left Weekly issue #827, February 24, 2010.]
Venezuela: Mass student protest for Chavez
By Kiraz Janicke, Caracas
February 19, 2010 -- Tens
of thousands of students rallied on February 12 in the Venezuelan
capital, Caracas, in a show of support for President Hugo Chavez and
the Bolivarian revolution.
The demonstration, to celebrate the “Day of Youth”, occurred just weeks
after violent protests by hundreds of right-wing opposition students in
support of private television channel RCTV made international
Robert Serra, an activist from the United Socialist Party of
Venezuela-Youth (J-PSUV) said the rally was “a clear demonstration of
where the majority of the youth and student sectors of the country
Dani Valles, a student councilor from the University of the East,
said: “We are on the side of the people and we’re not going to let the
oligarchy destabilise Venezuela.”
From the early hours of morning, students gathered at the
Bolivarian University of venezuela. To the sounds of music and chants
of “Chavez is here to stay” and “Expropriation, confiscation, the means
of production for the people”, students danced and marched 10
kilometres to the Miraflores Presidential Palace, where Chavez spoke.
The president called on young people to assume a leading role in the revolution, saying its future depended on them. He called on them to be critical and to tackle bureaucracy, which
he said posed the biggest threat to the revolution. Chavez pointed to
the example of the bureaucratic degeneration of the Russian Revolution
Chavez referred to the recent, much smaller, opposition student
protests. He said the opposition students were being used by local and
US elites to attempt “regime change” in Venezuela. Venezuela’s sharp class divisions and political polarisation are
reflected in the competing pro- and anti-revolution student movements.
The experimental universities, the new “Bolivarian” universities
and the “social missions” providing free education to all ages together
account for about 700,000 students from mainly poorer and working-class
backgrounds. These students strongly support Chavez and the revolution.
However, most elite “autonomous” (nominally state-run) and private
universities, which account for about 300,000 students from largely
middle- and upper-class backgrounds, are dominated by right-wing
[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]
Venezuela creates peasant militia, decentralises more power to communal councils
By Kiraz Janicke, Caracas
February 22, 2010-- Venezuelanalysis.com – Venezuela's President Hugo
Chavez announced the creation of a new peasant militia, which will form
part of the national Bolivarian Armed Forces (FAB) and also enacted the
new Law of the Federal Government Council, during a ceremony to
commemorate 151 years since the Federal War led by peasant leader
General Ezequiel Zamora on February 20.
The peasant militia will be responsible for protecting poor farmers
from mercenary groups organised and financed by rich ranchers and wealthy
landowners, Chavez explained in his weekly column, “Chavez’s Lines” on February 21. More than 300 peasant leaders and activists have been murdered
since the government introduced the Law on Land and Agricultural
Development in 2001 and launched a program of agrarian reform.
Some 1505 farms totalling 2.5 million hectares have been recovered
and redistributed under the agrarian reform program. However, “The
landowning oligarchy launched a violent agenda against the rescue of
the commons”, Chavez said.
Manuel Heredia, president of the National Ranchers Federation,
responded, “As an institution, we have never sought paramilitary
groups to protect us”, but he did not rule out the possibility that
individual members maybe be involved in financing paramilitary groups,
saying, “If one of our members is proven guilty of a crime, then they
should pay for their crime.”
Chavez argued, “Faced with the backlash against the peasants through
an escalation of attacks, sabotage and paid assassinations by the most
retrograde forces in our society, the duty of the
Bolivarian national state and the revolutionary government is to
protect the peasantry: to defend them with all means at its disposal.”
“The peasant militia has been created to fulfil that duty, placing
emphasis on the protagonism and responsibility of the peasantry as a
collective subject in function of their own defence”, the president
Rebutting opposition allegations that the new militias
are paramilitary groups, Chavez explained that the peasant militias
will form part of the Bolivarian Armed Forces, and “therefore, do not
undermine it, nor are they intended to supplant it” and will be
“absolutely regulated by the law”, adding, “What bothers and annoys
those who spread such lies, is that the armed forces have been reunited
with their original identity: the people in arms.”
The peasant militia will also assist the regular army “against any
foreign aggressor”, wrote Chavez, who has warned that the US military
could invade Venezuela in order to seize control of its vast oil
“We have no plans to attack anyone, but we will turn Venezuela into
a country that is able to defend every last inch of its territory”, the
president told thousands of supporters on February 21.
For Chavez, the peasant militias “are just a first sign of
developing a popular armed force to safeguard our integrity and our
sovereignty” and are “expressions of the new communal state; an
integral part of the new structures of communal power that we are
The peasant militias, which are active in rural areas, will
complement the primarily urban-based Bolivarian Militias, which were
incorporated into the reform of the Armed Forces Law that came into
force on October 22, 2009.
Major general and defence minister Carlos Mata Figueroa described
the peasant militias, which began training in the state of Cojedes last
week, as a “strategic arm for the defence of our republic”.
During the ceremony on February 20, which was attended by a contingent
of the new peasant militia, Chavez also signed the new Law of the
Federal Government Council, which aims to decentralise a range of
powers away from traditional municipal and state authorities and
transfer those powers to grassroots communal councils, involving more
people in the evaluation and approval of financial resources.
The Federal Government Council will consist of elected governors,
mayors, members of the executive, as well as spokespeople elected in
popular elections and representatives of the communal councils.
The new Law of the Federal Government Council “is a powerful tool
for the construction of a socialist homeland … to give shape to a new
geometry of popular, political, social, communal and military power”
and to create a new organ of “revolutionary power to continue fighting
against the oligarchy and empire, to continue building the independence
of our nation”, Chavez declared.
As part of the ceremony Chavez also unveiled a new stature of Zamora
in El Calvario Park in western Caracas and renamed the park, Ezequiel
Hugo Chavez: `Onwards towards a communal state!'
February 21, 2010 -- "Zamora
lives, the struggle continues," is the slogan that lives among our
people. There could not be a more propitious framework for enacting the
Organic Law of Federal Government than the act of unveiling the statue
of Sovereign People’s General Ezequiel Zamora at the park El Calvario
in Caracas. Accompanying us on this bright day are representatives of
community councils across the country, together with the Legislature.
It is 151 years since the start of the Federal War (1859-1863): it
was February 20, 1859 when Tirso Salaverría commanded the Battle of
Coro and then raised the cry of Federation. We couldn’t give Zamora a
greater tribute then, than giving our people a law to help with their
"I always put
the community before the individual," wrote our liberator Simón Bolívar
on October 28, 1828 to General Antonio José de Sucre. This is the
spirit and driving force of our current Bolivarianism: the communal and
social are foremost above all things. Simon Rodriguez was right when he
said in his American Societies in 1828: "You will see that there are
two kinds of politics: popular and governmental: and that the people
are more political than their governments.”
Today we can say that we have a highly politicised society, in the
true sense and meaning of the term, and that our Bolivarian Revolution
is a direct consequence of such politicisation, whose point of rupture
was on 27 February 1989, the popular rebellion that on Saturday reaches
its twenty-first anniversary. Remember what the great Venezuelan
revolutionary Kleber Ramirez said in the documentary 'History of
February 4 (1998) - back in August 1992 in the purest Robinsonian
spirit: "... the time has come for communities to assume the powers of
state, which will lead administratively to the total transformation of
the Venezuelan state and socially to the real exercise of sovereignty
by society through communal powers.”
These are the reasons why this Saturday 20 February, we have enacted
and launched the new Organic Law of the Federal Government Council.
With it we further open the door to advancing in the distribution of
power in the hands of the people, and to achieving a more efficient and
effective state, and, above all, unity to fulfil its functions under
Over and over again I have said: the Venezuelan territorial reality
must be transformed and, therefore, it is necessary to configure a new
geometry of power that becomes a popular, communal and socialist
restructuring of the geopolitics of the nation.
By socialism we mean unlimited democracy, following in this sense
the great Portuguese theorist Boaventura de Sousa Santos. From this
comes our firm conviction that the best and most radically democratic
of the options for defeating bureaucracy and corruption is the
construction of a communal state which is able to test an alternative
institutional structure at the same time as it permanently reinvents
With this law, we must begin in earnest and in reality, as Garcia
Bacca would say, to disassemble the entire corroded colonial
scaffolding on which a territorial organisation was erected and that
was intended to smash national unity to pieces. And of course people's
power will play a major role; I would say an essential role, in the
radical transformation of our country.
the Land and Agricultural Development Law came into force in 2001, the
landowning oligarchy has launched a violent agenda against the rescue
of common land and the full exercise of rights enshrined by the Land
Law and the Constitution itself. Faced with the backlash against the
peasants via an escalation of attacks, sabotage and paid assassinations
by the most retrograde forces in our society, the non-delegable duty of
the Bolivarian national state and the revolutionary government is to
protect the peasantry: to defend it with all means at its disposal. The
peasant militia has been created to fulfil that duty, placing emphasis
on the protagonism and responsibility of the peasantry as a collective
subject in function of their own defence.
The first exercises of the peasant militia, that we did in El Pao,
Cojedes state last Friday, are just an initial indication of developing
a popular armed force to safeguard our integrity and our sovereignty in
the fields of Venezuela. Who else but the community knows best the
dynamics, activities, failures and essential aspects of safety in their
locality? This is the same with geographical, spiritual and material
The peasant militia and the Bolivarian Militia as a whole are not
paramilitary forces, as the brainy analysts always try to suggest, even
less so if we conceive of such a word within the reactionary Colombian
semantics. On the contrary, the Bolivarian Militia (a body absolutely
governed by the Law), as well as community councils, are expressions of
the new communal state, an integral part of the new structure of the
communal power we are building.
The Bolivarian Militias are a component of the Bolivarian Armed
Forces and, therefore, do not undermine it, even less is there any
intention to supplant it. What bothers and annoys those who spread such
lies is that the Armed Forces have been reunited with their original
identity: the people in arms.
The Peasant Militia today
embodies a transcendent principle: defending the homeland, our land.
Defence against any outside aggressor, but also against the internal
aggressor who has been protected, for too long, in a real state of
impunity that has counted with the venality of certain courts of the
Republic which safeguard and protect the landowners and criminalise
peasants and farmers who want to enforce the Land Law.
On 15 February, 191 years passed since the memorable speech at
Angostura. The Revolutionary War had not ended but the words of our
Liberator embodied the recapture of our identity as a nation and the
libertarian stamp was put on Venezuela. Let’s recall these brilliant
lines which confirm the reason for our peasant militias, our Zamoran
militias: "The chains of slavery have been broken, and Venezuela has
been surrounded by new sons and daughters, grateful sons and daughters
who have converted the tools of their captivity into weapons of
freedom. Yes, those who once were slaves, are free, those who once were
enemies of a stepmother, are now advocates of a homeland. "
Let’s go, with Zamora, with Robinson and Bolivar, towards a communal state!