Pg. 7 | Analysis
Pg. 8 | Opinion
The Big Lie on Labor in Colombia and Venezuela
James Petras on US aggression toward Venezuela and continuing efforts to oust Chavez
Unions are at the vanguard of the revolution in Venezuela, while in Colombia, unions are on the verge of extinction.
FRIDAY | August 13, 2010| No. 24 | Bs. 1 | CARACAS
ENGLISH EDITION The artillery of ideas
The Unity of Venezuela and Colombia
Colombia and Venezuela have reestablished relations this week after both nations were on the verge of war
Mass Grave Found in Colombia
Last month Venezuela broke all relations with Colombia after the Uribe government made dangerous accusations of “terrorism” on Venezuelan soil and issued a “30-day ultimatum” calling for international intervention. The region plunged into tension and concern, causing the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to hold several meetings on the issue. For the first time in history, the US was not involved in the resolution of a grave conflict in the hemisphere.
The outgoing Uribe administration in Colombia created an international distraction last month by accusing Venezuela of harboring terrorist groups. Meanwhile, activists and human rights defenders had uncovered a mass gravesite in Macarena, Colombia, with over two thousand farmers and activists killed at the hands of Uribe’s security forces. Mass media chose to report the accusations against Venezuela, and ignored the mass human rights violations committed by the Uribe government.
An Extraordinary Relationship Brazil and Venezuela continue to forge a strong bilateral relationship to advance development and economic sovereignty.
Building a Multi-Polar World Brazil and Venezuela continue to forge a strong bilateral relationship to advance development and economic sovereignty.
US designate Ambassador “out”
Attorney General Prosecuted Almost 3,000 Cases of Corruption
enezuelan Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, reported that in 2009 her office prosecuted 2,700 individual cases of corruption, an amount representing 99 percent of the goal set for that period. “All institutions should work on the basis of planning. For 2011 we’ve already planned out how many cases, how many offices, and how many staff members will be at the service of the nation”, she said in reference to ensuring compliance with the country’s
laws, democracy, and state of social justice. Similarly, Ortega stressed that more than 17,000 cases relating to drug trafficking were prosecuted, a figure that represents the Venezuelan government’s commitment in the fight against drugs. Corruption has been a historical problem in the oil-producing nation. Former president Carlos Andres Perez was impeached in 1993 on charges of corruption and embezzlement of millions of dollars in state funds.
In 2009, Venezuelan judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni was also prosecuted for judicial corruption, after violating judicial protocol and regulations by allowing a detained businessmen release on bail without presence of the prosecutor. The prisoner, Eligio Cedeño, subsequently fled to Miami. Earlier this year, three former directors of PDVAL, a state-run subsidized food distribution system, were charged and imprisoned for their involvement in the contaimination of several thousands tons of food.
Gustavo Dudamel Rocks Hollywood
ive years ago an unknown 24-year-old Venezuelan conductor made his US debut at the Hollywood Bowl. You probably don’t need to be reminded that 10 months ago the now famous Gustavo Dudamel made history a second time at the Bowl with “¡Bienvenido Gustavo!” -the free celebratory concert that began his Los Angeles Philharmonic music directorship. Last week marked Dudamel’s third Bowl appearance, and once more an unwieldy amphitheater served as a site for a rite of passage. This time it was Dudamel’s American opera debut. He conducted a dazzling concert performance of “Carmen” to begin a week of Bowl appearances with the orchestra that included a Bernstein/Gershwin program last Tuesday and a Latin-themed one Thursday. Thus far, Dudamel’s operatic activity has been limited. But he reportedly brought enough electricity to Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and Puccini’s “La Bohème” at La Scala in Milan that he is now rumored to be a leading candidate to take over the famed Italian company at some point in the next few years. He’s done “Bohème” in Berlin as well as Donizetti’s “L’Elsir d’Amore” at the Staatsoper. Last summer, he conducted his first “Carmen” in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital. Gustavo Dudamel is part of Venezuela’s star music “in the barrio” program, “El Sistema”, that teaches music to young kids from poor communities. The program is currently being adapted in the US.
| No 24 • Friday, August 13, 2010
The artillery of ideas
“UNITY MUST PREVAIL” Speaking to the Argentine radio station La Red, Timerman expressed his conviction that the arrival of Santos and the departure of Uribe would create the conditions necessary for a fruitful dialogue. “I am sure that with the arrival of the new Colombian president a new dialogue will begin”, Timerman stated last week. “There will be a dialogue and it is going to channel relations. I’m convinced of it”, he said. Timerman was correct.
Venezuela and Colombia reestablish relations after a conflict that brought the two nations on the verge of war resulted in a regional response. For the first time in history, the United States government was not involved in the resolution of a conflict in the hemisphere
enezuelan President Hugo Chavez and new Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos reestablished bilateral relations last Tuesday after the Venezuelan head of state traveled to the city of Santa Marta, Colombia, to meet with his Colombian counterpart. The meeting between Santos and Chavez marks a diplomatic breakthrough in the crisis affecting the neighboring nations for the past three weeks and creates the conditions for a re-commencement of bilateral relations between both countries. “My love for Colombia, which was never lost, has been renewed”, proclaimed Chavez during a press conference held after Tuesday’s meeting in Santa Marta. The town is the original resting place of Simon Bolivar, Liberator of Venezuela and Colombia, who was forced into exile from Venezuela due to betrayal after Independence was won. Bolivar died alone in Santa Marta. “My love, hope, and Bolivarian spirit have been strengthened… Strengthened in a common future and better day so that we can give life to this great bilateral relation”. As part of the normalization of relations, five working commissions were created to rebuild commercial ties, settle economic debts, bolster development in border areas and improve infrastructure and security. Speaking at the press conference, newly inaugurated President Santos highlighted the need for the two countries to turn the page and look towards the future. “We have decided the two countries reestablish diplomatic relations
and turn over a new leaf so that all aspects of the relationship can progress, advance, and deepen”. URIBE’S BLUNDER On July 22nd, Venezuela officially suspended relations with its neighbor after the Colombian Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), of the outgoing Alvaro Uribe administration, accused Venezuela of harboring Colombian guerrillas in its Western border region. The unproven allegations were categorically rejected by the Venezuelan government and a diplomatic crisis ensued, resulting in escalating rhetoric and innuendos of armed conflict. The Venezuelan government has repeatedly blamed the United States for being behind the numerous provocations emanating from the Uribe administration over the years. According to Venezuelan officials, the latest attack was yet another intent by Washington to divide the continent, further the United States hegemonic interests in the region and plot against the oil rich nation. Others have argued that former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has used the accusations to divert media and human rights attention away from a mass grave of 2,000 farmers and activists discovered in the Colombian province of Macarena just one day after the claims were levied against Venezuela.
UNASUR Regardless of the intentions behind the accusations, a major force behind the speedy resolution of the conflict has been the diplomatic efforts of the Secretary General of Unasur, Nestor Kirchner. Kirchner, who was also present at the meeting in Santa Marta on Tuesday, made the resolution to the Colombian-Venezuelan issue a priority for the regional block, pressing for swift measures and international collaboration. On July 29th, a meeting between Unasur Foreign Ministers was held in Quito to discuss the problem, and although no concrete result was forthcoming at the time, the gathering laid the foundation for an internal resolution and demonstrated the commitment of the South American community of nations to confront the problem. The crisis was again raised at the 39th Summit of the Market of the South (Mercosur) held in the Argentine province of San Juan last week. Then, on August 5th, Kirchner traveled to Venezuela to meet with Chavez, two days before attending the inaugural ceremony of President Santos in Bogota. After the meeting on Thursday night, both Kirchner and Chavez refused to comment on specifics of what was discussed, but both leaders seemed optimistic. “It was an extraordinary meet-
“My love, hope, and Bolivarian spirit have been strengthened… Strengthened in a common future and better day so that we can give life to this great bilateral relation” President Hugo Chavez ing”, Chavez said after meeting with Kirchner for several hours at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas. “I appreciate all the efforts that you [Kirchner] have made for integration, peace, and development in this great region”, he added, addressing the Secretary General. For his part, Kirchner also referred to the positive nature of the conversations. “We had an excellent meeting, touching upon our entire regional and global agenda”, the former Argentine President said. “I’m leaving here very satisfied and for now, I don’t have anything to say. In the near future, we can talk more extensively”, he added. Hector Timerman, the Argentine Foreign Minister, was more forthcoming at the time about what would be an eventual resolution to the crisis.
CHAVEZ’S GESTURE In a goodwill gesture and demonstration of Venezuela’s desire to resolve the dispute, Chavez sent his Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Santos last Saturday. Speaking to the media upon his arrival at the airport in Bogota, Maduro made his intentions clear. “We want to deliver, in the name of President [Hugo] Chavez, a message of love and solidarity to the entire Colombian population – a message of hope and the future. We want to congratulate the government of Juan Manuel Santos for his inauguration as head of state and we come to offer our disposition to work to advance an improved vision of the future”. While in Colombia, Maduro met last Sunday with Colombia’s new Foreign Relations Minister, Maria Angela Holguin. This encounter, which also saw the attendance of Nestor Kirchner, solidified what would be the eventual meeting between Santos and Chavez on Tuesday. Foreign Minister Holguin has since confirmed she will travel to Caracas on August 20th for followup meetings with her Venezuelan counterpart to discuss the commissions created by the two presidents last Tuesday. Given the satisfactory implementation of the five commissions in a few months time, Holguin said, “then we can can talk about victory”. For his part, President Chavez recalled a phrase of Simon Bolivar, “Unity will be the result of sensible and sustainable efforts”. T/ Edward Ellis P/ Agencies
The artillery of ideas
No 24 • Friday, August 13, 2010 |
Colombia: Mass grave found The genocidal consequences of Uribe’s policies were evident in the mass grave La Macarena. Giraldo revealed that “Many, many executions, forced disappearances, tortures and displacements” were carried out in order to clear the area and bring it under state control.
A mass gravesite found and inspected by international NGOs in Macarena, Colombia, contained thousands of bodies killed by security forces during the Alvaro Uribe government
resident of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Cilia Flores, claimed last week the real reason for (now ex) Colombian President Alvaro Uribe´s allegations of “terrorist guerrilla camps” on Venezuelan soil may have been to block media coverage of the discovery of a mass grave in Macarena, Colombia. On July 22nd, Colombian Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Alfonso Hoyo, made a formal complaint during an “extraordinary session” of member states, alleging Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez were providing safe haven and support for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a group deemed “terrorist” by the US and Colombia. President Chavez rejected the allegations as “false”, “unfounded” and “threatening” and broke off diplomatic ties with Colombia as a consequence. (Relations between Colombia and Venezuela were just reestablished on Tuesday after President Chavez met with the new President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos). But on the same day as Colombia preceded to make defamatory claims against Venezuela, in La Macarena, in the State of Meta, around 200 miles south of the Colombian capital Bogota, a public meeting was taking place to raise awareness and demand an investigation into a mass grave, full of around two thousand dead bodies, buried by the Colombian army. THE COVER-UP The meeting, titled “Humanitarian Crisis in the Eastern Plains”, was attended by an international delegation with representatives from Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. After the Colombian government approached the OAS with
the allegations against Venezuela, the expected and hoped for publicity regarding Macarena – adverse publicity for Uribe and incoming President Juan Manuel Santos – didn´t materialize. The mass grave is located next to the Colombian Rapid Deployment Force army base and it is full of graves marked “NN” denoting the anonymity of the victims. The Colombian army openly acknowledges and even boasts of the fact the bodies were put there by them, saying the dead were guerrillas killed in combat. The Colombian government also acknowledges there were 449 bodies “belonging to people who were attacked by the National Army of Colombia in combats that occurred in the area”. The government claims all of the dead were guerrilla fighters, but the local community and Colombian human rights groups deny this allegation and have found evidence demonstrating many of the bodies actually belonged to local farmers and activists. The Colombian Attorney General´s office has agreed to an exhumation process to identify the victims. “FALSE POSITIVES” Jairo Ramirez, Secretary of the Permanent Committee for the De-
fense of Human Rights in Colombia, described the grave: “What we saw was horrifying; an innumerable number of bodies and, at the top, hundreds of white wood plaques with an inscription saying NN with dates from 2005 to the present time”. “The Commander told us those were guerrilla people who died in combat, but people in the area assure us they were social leaders, farmers and community activists who disappeared leaving no trace”, he added. Well-known fighter for human rights in Colombia, Jesuit priest Father Javier Giraldo of the Center for Research & Popular Education, spoke at the humanitarian event raising his concerns regarding the transparency of the exhumation process, “The international community and, especially Latin America, must help us observe the exhumation process and make it visible, because the main problem here is that everything gets hidden”. “We need the media to make visible what is happening. The crimes don´t only affect the victims and those around them. Crimes against humanity offend all of humanity”. Giraldo also said President Santos did not have “clean hands” in this. Santos was Uribe’s Minister
of Defense through 2008. Giraldo described the shocking situation of “false positives”, an illegal and horrifying policy implemented by the Uribe government. Since Colombian soldiers are rewarded by the government for killing guerrillas in combat, they began killing civilians, mainly poor farmers and community activists, and falsely presented them as guerrilla combatants in order to claim higher numbers of “terrorists” had been killed. Until 2004, La Macarena had been a FARC stronghold for decades, with the guerrilla organization providing social services, education and even identity cards to the local population. But in 1999, the FARC, together with President Andres Pastrana, began a peace process, part of which included an officially recognized de-militarized zone, controlled by the FARC where the peace talks would take place. La Macarena was part of this area. The Pastrana-led peace process broke down in 2002 when Uribe came to power. His objective was to drive the FARC out of the areas traditionally occupied by the group for decades. Uribe gave the Colombian army carte blanche to achieve that goal.
MEDIA BLACKOUT The human rights activist complained about how the Colombian press, in the hands of the elites (national daily El Tiempo is owned by the Santos family), which “tended to obscure and cover up this atrocity”. Uribe visited the military base in La Macarena only last week, before leaving office, and he hailed military operations in La Macarena as a “great example of his recovery and territory consolidation project”. “Terrorism, in combination with all forms of struggle, uses some spokespeople to propose peace, while it uses others to come here to La Macarena to find a way to discredit the security forces and accuse them of violations of human rights”. Uribe was referring to the international NGOs that had visited, inspected and denounced the mass gravesite at Macarena. Uribe also called Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba, who has been leading the investigation into the mass gravesite, a “terrorist”. Uribe has, on numerous occasions during his presidency, linked anyone who criticizes the army or his policies of having connections with the FARC, giving implicit encouragement for them to be murdered. La Macarena has been a key strategic area for the US military and its operations in Colombia. The US was working directly with the Colombian army between 2004 and 2006 in La Macarena. According to human rights groups, the bodies began being buried in the mass grave not long after. The US continues to provide huge financial and military assistance to Colombia through Plan Colombia. Since the plan´s conception in 2001, the Colombian government has received over $7 billion of mostly military aid from the US. T/ Steven Mather
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The artillery of ideas
Brazil and Venezuela: Forging an extraordinary relationship Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his Brazilian counterpart, Lula Da Silva, held their 10th trimestral meeting last Friday in the Venezuelan capital Caracas, signing a host of new accords in areas of agriculture, energy, housing and finance
he meeting is the last trimestral encounter that the two presidents will hold as Lula finishes his final term as Brazilian president this year. “In eight years, we have done more than what we had done in the past 5 centuries”, the Brazilian head of state said in reference to the cooperation that has blossomed between the neighboring countries since both South American presidents came to power. In April, Chavez and Lula met in Brazil and signed 20 accords in different areas ranging from energy to culture. On Friday, the two presidents signed 27 more. “We signed 27 accords that can be added to all the earlier ones”, explained Lula. According to a press release from Venezuela’s Foreign Relations Ministry, agreements have been signed in the following areas: Social Action: The two nations have put into effect a social action plan that includes short and medium term projects in the areas of social protection, health, education, human rights and gender equality. This includes an expansion in coordination and cooperation regarding support and attention for women’s issues. Border: A special border regime has been created to help monitor and secure the frontier between Venezuela and Colombia. Agriculture: Five instruments of cooperation have been signed including a memo of understanding between governments to create a national telecommunications center
with agricultural ends. Other memos have been signed for the production of high value corn seeds, the creation of a development district in the southern Bolivar state which borders Brazil, the elimination of foot and mouth disease, and the creation of four technical centers for agricultural production in the Venezuelan states of Bolivar, Delta Amacuro, Anzoategui and Monagas. Tourism: A pact was signed to further develop land transportation in order to bolster international tourism between the two nations. Commerce: A memo was signed between the Venezuelan Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Commerce of Brazil for the transfer of knowledge and experience. A work program has also been created to monitor bilateral commerce. Electric: Agreements were signed to further collaboration between the Venezuelan state electric company, Corpoelec, and the private Brazilian company Andrade Gutierrez. Further agreements were confirmed between Corpoelec and
the Brazilian companies Constructora Queiroz and Weg Equipamentos Electricos. Energy and Oil: An agreement was signed for the supply of gasoline between the Venezuelan state oil company, Pdvsa, and the private Brazilian company Braskem. Also agreed upon was the opening of the Applied Economic Investigation Institute (IPEA) of Brazil in Caracas to work with Pdvsa and to collaborate in consulting and territorial planning as well as training in public policy and the formulation of development plan proposals. An accord was also signed to facilitate the sale and purchase of plastic resin between the Venezuelan petrochemical company, Pequiven, and Braskem. In reference to the sale and purchase of plastic resin, President Chavez explained the agreement will “increase and contribute to a balance in commercial trade [between Venezuela and Brazil] which has grown by more than a thousand percent” since Lula took office. According to the BBC, Brazilian exports to Venezuela in the first semester of 2010 grew by 7% from
last year for a total of $1.7 billion USD. Venezuela, on the other hand, has exported $465 million to its southern neighbor. Informatics: An accord was signed to complement the already existent Basic Agreement of Technical and Scientific Cooperation for the carrying out of the Technical Collaboration project between the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics and the Venezuelan National Statistics Institute. Environment: An agreement was signed between the Venezuelan state company, Hidroven, and the Brazilian company Construcões e Comercio Camargo Correa relating to the sanitation and development of the Tuy river basin in Northern Venezuela. A pact was also signed for the financing of this project. Science, Technology, and Medium Industry: Five agreements were signed in total including a contract between the Venezuelan state company Corpivensa, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Medium Industry and the Brazilian Foundation CERTI for the installation and operation of in-
dustrial refrigeration and food processing factories. A memo of understanding was signed for the creation of a binational industrial group between the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Medium Industry and the Brazilian Industrial Development Agency to strengthen productive infrastructure between the two countries. A pact was created for the establishment of the Venezuelan Productive Economy Research Institute and a program was founded to create a binational work group for productive and industrial integration under the auspices of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur). Housing: The Venezuelan Housing Ministry signed an agreement with the stateowned Brazilian bank, Caixa Economica Federal, as well as with the Brazilian company Constructora Oas Ltda, to carry out sanitation projects in Venezuelan barrios. Banking: Stronger relations have been forged between the Bank of Venezuela and the Caixa Economica Federal. With respect to this last area, the Venezuelan head of state made an appearance via satelite on Friday to the Caracas neighbor of La Vega were he inaugurated the first Communal Banking Terminal made possible with the support of the Brazilian Caixa Economica Federal. The Venezuelan government is planning to install 100 such terminals in impoverished areas throughout the country as part of its “bancarizacion” of the poor, providing financial services to previously excluded populations. During the inauguration, Lula commented on a similar initiative implemented in Brazil and the positive results it has had for underserved populations. “You are living an extraordinary experience and you are going to note in a short period of time how people’s lives are going to be changed”, exclaimed the Brazilian head of state. T/ Edward Ellis
The artillery of ideas
No 24 • Friday, August 13, 2010 |
Africa and Latin America: A pluripolar world The strengthening of South-South ties in the construction of a multi-plural world was the driving force behind a presidential meeting held between Latin American and African leaders in Caracas last Friday
he Strategic Presidential Meeting of South America and Africa (ASACOF) saw the discussion of 8 key themes encompassing economic development, food production, energy stability, maritime cooperation, and the environment. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in attendance at the meeting alongside Brazilian President Lula Da Silva and Secretary General of Unasur, Nelson Kirchner, spoke about the importance of building stronger global relations between underdeveloped countries. “We consider the union between Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean to be vital for the creation of a new pluripolar world”, declared Chavez. “We cannot continue looking towards [North America and Europe]. Let’s look towards our-
selves. There are still naïve people who think the North is the way to development, but this is not our way. One only need look at the current crisis cutting across the United States”, the Venezuelan leader affirmed. INDEPENDENCE AND INTEGRATION Brazilian President Lula Di Silva, echoed Chavez’s call for international relations indepen-
dent of the wealthy capitalist countries. “Before, our countries were accustomed to maintain political, economic, social, and cultural relations with the big powers like North America and Europe. Now the people of Latin America and Africa are coming together after so many centuries in order to develop and exchange things which favor the improvement of our people”, Lula said.
“Our continents are growing closer”, the Brazilian head of state continued, “no rich country has focused on our needs and neither will one solve our problems. That’s why it is fundamental to make our own decisions”. Representatives from the African Union, Libya, and Nigeria were also present in the meeting, which served as a follow up to two previous South America –
Africa (ASA) summits held in Nigeria and Venezuela. “The two summits that have been celebrated until now in Abuja [Nigeria] in 2006 and in Margarita [Venezuela] in 2009 have undoubtedly allowed for the strengthening of the union between two regions that have common histories…Both regions share a history of colonization”, explained the Vice President of the Commission of the African Union, Erastus Mwencha. As an outcome of the discussions held last Friday, a document was released spelling out the priorities for future collaboration and establishing an organizational structure to put in practice a course of action. The document confirms the appointment of Venezuela’s Ambassador to France, Jesus Arnaldo Perez, to the newly created position of Executive Secretary for the ASACOF presidential working group, based in Margarita Island, Venezuela. ASACOF representatives also agreed to present a strategic plan for cooperation between member nations during a meeting of high government officials to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in September. T/ EE P/ Agencies
Chavez: Obama’s ambassador nominee “disqualified himself”
n his written testimony to the US Senate, President Obama’s designate ambassador to Venezuela, Larry Palmer, weighed in on a regional diplomatic controversy by saying Venezuela supports Colombian insurgents and violates human rights, prompting President Hugo Chavez to say the nominee “disqualified himself”. Palmer’s Senate testimony came at a crucial moment two and a half weeks after Colombia, the US main military and political ally in South America and Venezuela’s next-door neighbor, went before the Organization of American States (OAS) to accuse Venezuela of tolerating the presence of Colombian insurgents, which the US and Colombia deem terrorist, in its territory. Venezuelan officials suspected the move was aimed at establishing a pretext for military intervention to weaken or topple
the Chavez government, which opposes US militarism and free trade policies in the region. In his written statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 27th, Palmer, a US diplomat with extensive experience in Latin America during the 1980s and 1990s, committed to work with the US Congress “to advance our interests in Venezuela and the region” and to “safeguard American economic interests and investments”. A week later, in written answers to questions posed by the committee, Palmer supported Colombia by reiterating the accusations against Venezuela as fact. “I am keenly aware of the clear ties between members of the Venezuelan government and Colombian guerillas. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) maintain camps in Vene-
zuela, and members of the FARC high command have occasionally appeared in public in Caracas”, he wrote. When asked what his top areas of concern are, Palmer cited “threats to human rights and fundamental freedoms” in Venezuela, including threats to “freedom of expression and of the press, the right to own private property, and freedom of association for civil society”. He further criticized “the increasing centralization of power in the executive branch”. As an avenue of influence on Venezuelan society, Palmer advocated the US “increase efforts to support civic leaders, human rights activists, journalists and others who are working toward positive change in Venezuela”. Palmer is well-situated to carry out this task as the current
president of the Inter-American Foundation, which channels US government funds to non-government organizations in line with US interests in Latin America. A recent report by the FRIDE Institute revealed the US National Endowment for Democracy in team with other US and European agencies contribute approximately US$40 million annually to antiChavez organizations, including subversive groups involved in an attempted coup d’état against the president in 2002. VENEZUELAN RESPONSE Following Palmer’s comments to the Senate, the Venezuelan Foreign Relations Ministry formally requested an explanation from the US government, stating, “The content of these statements constitutes a serious precedent of meddling and interventionism by
someone who has yet to set foot on Venezuelan territory”. On Thursday, US State Department Spokesperson Philip Crowley stated that Palmer will remain the US nominee for ambassador and that Palmer’s comments to the Senate “convey our best judgment on issues between the United States and Venezuela”. During his Sunday talk show, President Chavez said Palmer “disqualified himself as an ambassador by breaking all the rules of diplomacy”. “I’m asking the president of the United States to withdraw this nomination. I cannot accept this gentleman as ambassador in Venezuela. The best the US Government can do is to look for another candidate”, said Chavez. T/ James Suggett www.venezuelanalysis.com
| No 24• Friday, August 13, 2010
The artillery of ideas
Venezuela: Ending farmer exploitation T
he Venezuela government has taken possession of a massive country estate formerly belonging to the wealthy banker and fugitive from justice, Nelson Mezerhane. The announcement was made by president Hugo Chavez last Sunday during his weekly television broadcast, Alo Presidente. The Hato Santa Elena, located in a remote area of the state of Apure, consists of more than 38,000 acres and will be converted into a Socialist Production Center. Mezerhane fled Venezuela last June after violating numerous financial laws related to his ownership of the private bank, Banco Federal. He is currently taking refuge in the United States. According to Venezuelan Vice President, Elias Jaua, the Hato Santa Elena was being administrated under fraudulent and exploitative conditions where 18 workers with salaries under the minimum wage and without social security benefits were not allowed to leave for 8 months. “It’s the corruption of capitalism”, Jaua said. During the recovery of the estate, President Chavez made a call to end all exploitation of agricultural workers in the country and ordered officials to carry out a survey to uncover abusive working conditions.
“I give the order to the National Guard, the National Land Institute to comb Venezuela, estate by estate, hacienda by hacienda. We cannot accept the fact that our small farmers continue to be exploited in such a miserable way by a corrupt bourgeoisie”, exclaimed the Venezuelan leader. SUGAR PACKAGING PLANT Also during his program, Chavez inaugurated, via satelite, a new sugar packaging plant in the Caracas neighborhood 23rd of January. The plant, called Panal 2021, will package in its first phase at 30% capacity, 7.2 tons of sugar daily, and will reach 369 tons monthly when operating at full capacity. The sugar will be distributed to community members at costs well below those of the private sector. The neighborhood 23rd of January is one of the most organized communities in the capital Caracas and, according to the president of the Socialist Agrarian Development Fund, Ricardo Sanchez, Panal 2021 is the direct result of community organizing initiatives. “This project grew out of the organized communities who are operating the productive part of this plant”, Sanchez explained. Sanchez highlighted the fact that seven community councils from around the neighborhood are involved in the plant’s activi-
Partial sale of seized Banco Federal T
he auditor board of the seized Banco Federal decided on the partial sale of the bank’s assets through the Fund of Deposit Guarantees and Banking Protection (FOGADE), said Venezuelan Minister of People’s Power for Planning and Finances Jorge Giordani this week during a press conference held in Caracas. The minister also explained that during the auditing phase, deposits and assets of account holders were paid by the government, totaling $1.05 billion USD out of $1.11 billion from the financial losses.
The seizure of Banco Federal was announced by Venezuelan Superintendent of Banks Edgar Hernandez Behrens on June 14, based on the bank’s failure to fulfill an increase in capital – the deficit solvency of the minimum balance required by the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) – and increase its liquid assets. Banco Federal’s largest shareholder, Nelson Mezherane, fled to the US in June to avoid prosecution, taking with him millions of dollars from the bank and customers’ savings. T/ CO
ties and directly participated in its design and construction. Panal 2021 is a “social property business” and is part of a larger food plan being implemented by the Venezuelan government to ensure the availability of basic foodstuffs for the population through
a state-run supply network. According to Food Minister, Carlos Osorio, the government run supply chain is currently providing roughly a third of staple food consumption in the country. “We are advancing with the supply of 244,200 tons of food
monthly whereas the monthly consumption of the basic food basket is approximately 750,000”. President Chavez called on the government supply to be risen to meet 50% of consumption needs. T/ EE
Reforestation in water basins T
he Venezuelan government, through Mision Arbol (Mission Tree), a program created to recover green and wooded areas in Venezuela, is reforesting areas where water basins are located, informed the Vice-Minister of Environmental Conservation of the Ministry of People’s Power for the Environment, Jesus Alexander Cegarra. The minister said that beyond the planting efforts taking place across the country, the government has focused on hydrographic regions “because they have a high impact on human consumption, agricultural irrigation, [and] industrial use. Communities are actively participating in this reforestation process”.
Among the regions benefiting from the project are Alto Apure in the southwestern part of Venezuela, the central west region (which includes Lake Maracaibo
and the Gulf of Venezuela), and the country’s eastern regions. Virginia Medina, a member of a conservationist committee in El Junquito, one of the parishes of Caracas, claimed that her group had planted about 2,700 plants along the highway that leads to that area as part of the projects developed by Mission Tree. Communities in Venezuela are actively involved in Mission Tree for the recovery, conservation and sustainable use of the Venezuelan forests. There are currently 35,000 conservation committees in Venezuela, and the Venezuelan government expects to incorporate 1,721 more in 2010. T/ CO
The artillery of ideas
he biggest obstacle to the attempt by the Bush Administration, and now by the Obama Administration, to achieve passage of the long-stalled Free Trade Agreement with Colombia is that country’s long-standing shameful reality as “the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists”, to use the words of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the largest union confederation in the world, representing 176 million workers in 156 countries and territories. Since 1986, over 2800 unionists have been assassinated in Colombia. The clear and ever-present danger to organized labor in Colombia is the most salient and undeniable fact about the US favorite nation in the region. Incredibly, it appears that adherents of the FTA may have commenced an effort to smear Venezuela with the same “danger to labor” brush in order to advance the prospects of the Colombia agreement by using bare statistics without elaboration or explanation to suggest Colombia is no different. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to the ITUC’s 2010 Annual Survey, of the 101 unionists assassinated in the world last year (2009), 48 (almost half) were Colombian. And, a recent, July 8, 2010 press release from the AFLCI0 indicates that another 29 Colombian unionists were assassinated in the first half of 2010. It is well known that the assassination of unionists in Colombia is largely carried out by rightwing paramilitary groups linked to the Colombian government or by Colombian security forces themselves. Indeed, according to a 2007 report by Amnesty International on Colombia, “around 49 percent of human rights abuses against trade unionists were committed by paramilitaries [themselves linked to the Colombian state] and some 43 percent directly by the security forces”. The Colombian government up to its highest reaches, including ex-President Alvaro Uribe, regularly (and quite falsely) stigmatized unionists as “guerrillas”, thereby setting up union leaders for paramilitary murder. In light of all of this, the ITUC concluded in its 2010 Annual Survey,”[t]he historical and struc-
No 24 • Friday, August 13, 2010 | |
The big lie: Venezuela & labor tural violence against the Colombian trade union movement remains firmly in place, manifesting itself in the form of systematic human and trade union rights violations. On average, men and women trade unionists in Colombia have been killed at the rate of one every three days over the last 23 years”. VENEZUELA This conclusion is in stark contrast to its report about what is happening in Venezuela. Thus, while hardly uncritical of the situation confronting unionists in Venezuela, the ITUC, in its 2010 Annual Survey, concluded nonetheless that “[v]iolence linked to the fight for jobs continued to be the main reason behind the killing of trade unionists.” The ITUC explains this phenomenon in more detail in its 2009 Annual Survey: “[a] delicate issue for the labor world in Venezuela is the persistent dispute over the right to work, which has cost the lives of at least 19 trade unionists and 10 other workers. The situation is particularly acute in the construction and oil industries, where various interest groups and mafias have clashed over the negotiation and sale of jobs, which is affecting trade union activity per se”. The 2009 report goes on to note, “there has been a fall in the number of murders to the fight over jobs in comparison with the previous year (from 48 to 29 for the period from October 2007 to September 2008).” In other words, the ITUC, which is recognized as the foremost authority on anti-union violence, views the killings of unionists in Colombia and Venezuela very differently; the violence against unionists in Colombia is “structural” and “systematic”, almost invariably with government sanction; and the violence in Venezuela stems from mafia-like corruption largely within the union movement itself. This is a distinction with a huge difference. As the ITUC itself reported in 2008, the trade union movement
in Colombia has been brought to the point of near extinction by violence specifically designed to wipe out the union movement as a whole, with only 4% of workers represented by unions; while in Venezuela, approximately 11% of workers are represented by unions -- just under the rate of unionization in the United States (12.3%). WASHINGTON POST DISTORTIONS Reporter Juan Forero of the Washington Post, in a very misleading and contradictory story, claims that Venezuela should be considered “the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists”, pushing Colombia out of the number one spot. His article, which received a lot of attention, could not be better timed as far as policy-makers in the US and Colombia are concerned. Obama has announced a renewed interest in the Colombia
Free Trade Agreement (despite his campaign pledge to oppose it based upon trade union considerations). In his July 15, 2010 Washington Post piece entitled, “Venezuelan union clashes are on the rise as Chavez fosters new unions at odds with older ones”, Forero first acknowledges the fact that Venezuela considers itself “the most labor-friendly government in Latin America”, having “repeatedly increased the minimum wage, turned over the management of some nationalized companies to workers and fostered the creation of new unions”. In regard to the latter, Forero explains later in his piece that there are now “4,000 new unions, up from 1,300 in 2001”. However, Forero’s piece attempts to paint a sinister side to this by emphasizing the killing of unionists, albeit by rival unions [as opposed to state or quazi-state forces as in the case
of Colombia]. According to Forero, 75 unionists lost their lives in the past two years to such violence, 34 in the 12 months ending in May. Of course, in Colombia, 77 unionists have been killed in merely the past 1.5 years with 29 killed in the past 6 months, and this in the context of a country with much lower union density that Venezuela. Still, Forero presses on, suggesting the killings in Venezuela are in fact politically motivated, and somehow the fault of the Chavez administration. A close examination of Forero’s own piece, however, belies this claim. The most concrete example Forero gives of these “intraunion killings” is by way of an interview with Emilio Bastidas, a leader of the UNT, who talks of the murder of eight union activists from the UNT in recent years. Bastidas himself is quoted in the story as saying that “We believe it is political to debilitate the UNT and cut us off from projecting ourselves”. While Forero explains that the UNT represents 80 unions, what he fails to tell the reader is that the UNT is a proChavez union formed after the coup against Chavez in 2002. This is an incredible omission, for this obviously cuts against Forero’s premise that Chavez is somehow responsible for the violence. After all, why would Chavez want to interfere with the growth of a pro-Chavez labor federation? Pro-Chavez unionists are much more often the target of the violence described in Forero’s piece than anti-Chavista unionists. As Jacobo Torres de Leon, Political Coordinator of the Fuerza Bolivariana de Trabajadores Dirrecion Nacional, explained, “there are no political killings like in Colombia”. Jacobo further emphasized the unionists recently killed were his (pro-Chavez) comrades. There is an old saying, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure”. It seems an appropriate prism through which to view this most current attempt to rescue the Colombia FTA from that nation’s own continuing and indisputable status as the number one country in the world for anti-union killings. T/ Dan Kovalik
FRIDAY | August 13, 2010| No. 24| Bs. 1 | CARACAS
ENGLISH EDITION The artillery of ideas
A publication of the Fundacion Correo del Orinoco Editor-in-Chief | Eva Golinger • Graphic Design | Arturo Cazal, Pablo Valduciel L., Alexander Uzcátegui • Press | Fundación Imprenta de la Cultura
US-Venezuela: The empire strikes back (and Loses) Part I
S policy toward Venezuela has taken many tactical turns, but the objective has been the same: to oust President Chavez, reverse the nationalization of big businesses, abolish the mass community and worker based councils and revert the country into a client-state. Washington funded and politically backed a military coup in 2002, a bosses’ lockout in 2002-03, a referendum and numerous media, political and NGO efforts to undermine the regime. Up to now all of the White House efforts have been a failure – Chavez has repeatedly won free elections, retained the loyalty of the military and the backing of the vast majority of the urban and rural poor, the bulk of the working class and the public sector middle class. Washington has not given up nor reconciled itself to coming to terms with the elected government of President Chavez. Instead with each defeat of its internal collaborators, the White House has increasingly turned toward an ‘outsider’ strategy, building up a powerful ‘cordon militaire’ surrounding Venezuela with a large-scale military presence spanning Central America, northern South America and the Caribbean. The Obama White House backed a military coup in Honduras, ousting the democratically elected government of President Zelaya (in June 2009), a Chavez ally, and replacing it with a puppet regime supportive of Washington’s anti-Chavez military policies. The Pentagon secured seven military bases in eastern Colombia (in 2009) facing the Venezuelan frontier, thanks to its client ruler, Alvaro Uribe, the notorious narco-paramilitary President. In mid 2010 Washington secured an unprecedented agreement with the approval of right wing President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, to station 7000 US combat troops, over 200 helicopters, and dozens of ships pointing toward Venezuela, under the pretext of pursuing narco-traffickers. Currently the US is negotiating with the rightist regime of President Ricardo Martinelli of Panama, the possibility of re-establishing a military base in the former Canal Zone. Together with the Fourth Fleet patrolling off shore, 20,000 troops in Haiti, and an airbase in Aruba, Washington has encircled Venezuela from the West and North, establishing jumping off positions for a direct intervention if the favorable internal circumstances arise. The White House’s militarization of its policy toward Latin America, and Venezuela in particular, is part of its global policy of armed confrontation and interventions. Most nota-
bly the Obama regime has widened the scope and extent of operations of clandestine death squads now operating in 70 countries on four continents, increased the US combat presence in Afghanistan by over 30,000 troops plus over 100,000 contract mercenaries operating cross border into Pakistan and Iran, and provided material and logistical assistance to Iranian armed terrorists. Obama has escalated provocative military exercises off the coast of North Korea and in the China Sea, evoking protests from Beijing. Equally revealing, the Obama regime has increased the military budget to over a trillion dollars, despite the economic crises, the monstrous deficit and the calls for austerity cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. In other words, Washington’s military posture toward Latin America and especially toward the democratic socialist government of President Chavez is part and parcel of a general military response to any country or movements that refuse to submit to US domination. The question arises – why does the White House rely on the military option? Why militarize foreign policy to gain favorable outcomes in the face of decided opposition? The answer, in part, is that the US has lost most of the economic leverage, which it previously exercised, to secure the ousting or submission
of adversary governments. Most Asian and Latin American economies have secured a degree of autonomy. Others do not depend on US-influenced international financial organizations (the IMF, World Bank); they secure commercial loans. Most have diversified their trading and investment partners and deepened regional ties. In some countries, such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru, China has replaced the US as their principal trading partner. Most countries no longer look to US “aid” to stimulate growth, they seek joint ventures with multi-national corporations, frequently based outside of North America. To the extent that economic arm twisting is no longer an effective tool to secure compliance, Washington has resorted more and more to the military option. To the extent that the US financial elite have hollowed out the US industrial sector, Washington has been unable to rebuild its international economic levers. Major diplomatic failures, resulting from its incapacity to adapt to basic shifts in global power, have also prompted Washington to shift from political negotiations and compromise toward military intervention and confrontation. US policymakers are still frozen in the time warp of the 1980’s and 1990’s, the heyday of client rulers and economic plunder,
when Washington secured global support, privatized enterprises, exploited public debt financings and was relatively unchallenged in the world market. By the end of the1990’s, the rise of Asian capitalism, mass anti-neo-liberal uprisings, the ascendancy of center-left regimes in Latin America, the repeated financial crises and stock market crashes in the US and the EU and the increase in commodity prices led to a realignment of global power. Washington’s efforts to pursue policies attuned to the previous decades conflicted with the new realities of diversified markets, newly emerging powers and relatively independent political regimes linked to new mass constituencies. Washington’s diplomatic proposals to isolate Cuba and Venezuela were rejected by all of the Latin American countries. The effort to revive free trade agreements, which privileged US exporters and protected uncompetitive producers, were rejected. Unwilling to recognize the limits of imperial diplomatic power and moderate its proposals, the Obama regime turned increasingly toward the military option. Washington’s struggle to re-assert imperial power, via interventionary politics fared no better than its diplomatic initiatives. The USbacked coups in Venezuela (2002) and Bolivia (2008) were defeated by mass popular mobilizations and the loyalty of the military to the incumbent regimes. Likewise in Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil, post-neo-liberal regimes, backed by industrial, mining and agro-export elites and popular classes were able to beat back traditional pro-US neo-liberal elites rooted in the politics of the 1990’s and earlier. The politics of destabilization failed to dislodge the new governments’ pursuing relatively independent foreign policies and refusing to return to the old order of US supremacy. Where Washington has regained political terrain with the election of rightist political regimes – it has been through its ability to exploit the ‘exhaustion’ of center-left politics (Chile), political fraud and militarization (Honduras and Mexico), decline of the national popular left (Costa Rica, Panama and Peru) and the consolidation of a highly militarized police state (Colombia). These electoral victories, especially in Colombia, have convinced Washington that the military option, combined with deep intervention and exploitation of open electoral processes, is the way to reverse the left turn in Latin America especially in Venezuela. James Petras