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vivavenezuela! ■ Vol 2 ■ Issue 1 ■ Summer 2012

Venezuelan Elections:

100 Days to Go Also inside:

■ Strong Support Shown for Venezuela ■ Vigilance needed against US and right-wing opposition destabilisation efforts ■ New Labour Law Advances Social Justice ■ Please Support the VSC’s Special Financial Appeal

With thanks to

www.thompsons.law.co.uk

www.venezuelasolidarity.co.uk e: info@venezuelasolidarity.co.uk


...EDITORIAL...EDITORIAL...EDITORIAL...EDITORIAL...EDITORIAL...EDITORIAL...

Vigilance needed against US and right-wing opposition destabilisation efforts homes in just 18 months! A new progressive As October’s Presidential election nears, the options open to the Venezuelan people are becoming clearer.

T “the social achievements of the government are leading to strong support for Hugo Chávez’s candidacy”

he presidential hopeful of the right-wing coalition that has been formed is Henrique Capriles Radonski. Although Capriles has tried to conceal his politics, his campaign manager and other prominent supporters have already given the game away. There have been calls for Venezuela’s state oil company, which has funded the huge increases in public services in recent years, to be privatised and for the IMF to help ‘readjust’ the economy. The highly successful social programmes – that have transformed health and education – would be similarly ‘restructured’by bringing in the private sector for their ‘support’ rather than the state oil company! All this points to the right-wing coalition’s desire to return to the disastrous free-market economic policies of the former ruling elite, of which Capriles is a prominent member, that ran Venezuela into the ground for decades. Unfortunately for those seeking to replace the government of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s economic performance is improving. Not only is it solidly out of recession with growth of 4% in 2011, but in the first quarter of 2012 the economy grew by 5.6%. The government’s housing programme, which underlies the economic recovery, has built 180,000 new

This magazine is published by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign Contributors to this issue were: ■ Lee Brown ■ Francisco Dominguez ■ Catriona Goss ■ Terry Hoad ■ Matt Willgress and ■ Tim Young

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Labour Law and huge increase in the minimum wage are further evidence of continuing social progress. Although Capriles has travelled all around Venezuela to rally support, and has overwhelming support from the privately owned media which dominates Venezuela’s airwaves, his candidacy is consistently trailing badly behind in the polls. Pollsters are currently giving Hugo Chávez strong double digit leads. Given this, substantial sections of the rightwing opposition and of its sponsors in Washington have begun to toy with the idea of yet again resorting to sinister and undemocratic methods. Most worryingly, not a single spokesperson for the Capriles’ campaign has yet said that they will respect the electoral results of the Presidential elections. There are already several US-led provocations under way. For example, Eladio Aponte, a fugitive Venezuelan judge wanted by the international police agency Interpol - which issued a ‘red alert’ arrest for his connections with narco-trafficking has fled to the USA where he is giving interviews and spreading false allegations against the Venezuelan government. The opposition have also built close links with neighbouring Colombia’s extreme right wing, notably the former President Uribe, who is accused of countless human rights abuses, yet personally met representatives of Capriles’ opposition MUD coalition recently to advise on security issues, and is clearly publicly intervening in support of Capriles. All the while, US state agencies such as the National Endowment for Democracy continue to provide millions of dollars in funding to Capriles. Although the social achievements of the government are leading to strong support for Hugo Chávez’s candidacy, we must remain extremely vigilant against the threat of the US interfering in Venezuela.

is delighted to send solidarity and support to VSC and the Venezuelan People SUMMER 2012 ■ VIVA VENEZUELA!


...VENEZUELA IN THE NEWS...VENEZUELA IN THE NEWS...VENEZUELA IN THE NEWS...

Chávez Returns to Venezuela after Treatment President Hugo Chávez returned to Venezuela on May 12 after concluding six rounds of radiotherapy treatment in Cuba to treat the cancer that re-emerged earlier this year.

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s he left the plane after arriving back in Caracas President Chávez said: “I can tell you that in the last few days we successfully completed the radiation cycle, as planned by the medical team,” adding that he will “rigorously follow the medical advice in these coming days in order to continue recuperating.”

In his speech President Chávez emphasised that he will now be preparing for the forthcoming electoral campaign, saying: “I’ll progressively put myself where I should be, in the front line of battle ... pushing forward the revolution of peace and love” and continuing “to fight the battle of ideas”.

The recent VSC delegation to Venezuela saw a massive rally to greet President Chávez as he returned to Venezuela during his treatment

Polls show strong lead for Hugo Chávez With the countdown to Venezuela’s election well under way, a range of polls published in May indicated convincing double digit leads for Hugo Chávez against Henrique Capriles, the candidate of the united rightwing coalition.

SUMMER 2012 ■ VIVA VENEZUELA!

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as the overwhelming majority of Venezuelans come from poorer communities. 61% of respondents supported policies of President Chávez against 22% approval for those of Capriles.

These indicate a widening lead on the strong following for Chávez shown in polls taken in April. The Venezuelan Institute of Data Analysis April poll gave Hugo Chávez 57% and Henrique Capriles 27% – a lead of 30%. Separately, Hinterlaces said 52% would back Chávez and 34% Capriles – a lead of 18%. A poll by Datanalisis gave Chávez 43% and a 17% lead.

A survey by Datanalisis – a company more favourable to the opposition – showed an increase in the positive assessment for the Chávez government to 65% between March and May 2012, with support for the right-wing opposition coalition dropping from 50% to 47%. Chávez’s approval rating averages 63% in 2012, the highest since 2006, and a huge 80.5% of those polled described their personal situation as “very good, good or average” while only 18.4% described it negatively.

The reasons for these clear leads were obvious from a poll published in late May by Consultores that said 59% of Venezuelans believe Hugo Chávez is the candidate that best promotes social inclusion, against 32% for Henrique Capriles. Additionally, 67% said Chávez is concerned about poor people, with just 22% opting for Capriles. This is important

Datanalisis director Luis Vicente Leon was quoted as saying that winning “seems difficult for Capriles” while Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a note to investors that the high level of electoral support for President Hugo Chávez “limits the possibility of a change toward more market friendly policies in the near future.”

poll published by ICS gave Hugo Chávez 63% to Henrique Capriles’ 26%, while a separate survey by GIS XXI saw Chavez on 57% and Capriles on 21%, with 20% having not yet made up their mind. Similarly, a CMIDE survey gave 57% to Chávez against 26%, with a Consultores poll giving Chávez 58% to 32%.

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...NEW LABOUR LAW...NEW LABOUR LAW...NEW LABOUR LAW...

Venezuela’s New Labour Law On May 1, a day celebrated across the world as international workers’ day, Venezuela signed into law new labour legislation that will extend employment rights and widen access to social security benefits. Over one million marched on May Day, with placards saying, “The new labour law = respect for the worker” and “The labour law is social justice.”

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his new progressive law followed a consultation process with the public which lasted five months and saw some 20,000 submissions from trade unions and other organisations. The new law will see the working week reduced to 40 hours and guarantees 2 days off for every worker in a 7 day week. It enshrines trade union freedom, including the right to strike and collective bargaining and seeks to end all outsourcing. It has also been described as a big step forward for women’s rights in the workplace, with post-natal maternity leave being raised from 12 up to 20 weeks and increased job

security for new parents. They will now be protected from dismissal for two years following the birth of a child. It also improves childcare provision – with every workplace with more than 20 workers having to provide a creche for children aged from three months to six years. It also provides an obligation on the state and companies to promote and support employment for disabled workers. Another new legal protection is the guaranteed access to social security for all workers, including those in the informal sector. Workers’ organisations within Venezuela have cited the re-establishment of a retirement bonus as a sign of the more progressive direction the country is moving in under the current government. The bonus is determined by a worker’s monthly wage at the time of retirement multiplied by years in service. It was eliminated in 1997 by the right-wing, neoliberal Caldera government in conjunction with

Left: 1000s of assembies were held across the country to feed into the law. Above: Banner: ‘The Working Class is with Chávez’ Small insert: President Chávez with the new labour law

UCATT Stands in Solidarity with the People of Venezuela! No US Intervention!

www.ucatt.org.uk

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Steve Murphy General Secretary

John Thompson President

SUMMER 2012 ■ VIVA VENEZUELA!


...NEW LABOUR LAW...NEW LABOUR LAW...NEW LABOUR LAW...NEW LABOUR LAW...

Advances Social Progress Labour Law Advances LGBT Rights As a sign of progress in Venezuela, the new Labour Law explicitly prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on sexuality as part of action against all forms of discrimination. big business and under pressure from the International Monetary Fund. President Hugo Chávez signed the law on national television from the Miraflores Palace, stating that he was carrying out an act of “social justice” for Venezuelan workers at a time when labour rights were being rolled back across Europe and the United States.

Separately, in May, the Venezuelan government's human rights ombudsman addressed the launch of a new report on the International Seminar on Sexuality, Sexual Diversity and Human Rights that the government organised in 2010 as an opportunity for LGBT groups to recommend policies for the government to undertake.

Chávez added: “We have a law which will go down in history. That history...tells us that the triumph of the people, of the workers, has never come about without a long process of resistance, of struggle, suffering even. This law, which I will have the honour of signing...is the product of a long process of struggle.”

Additionally, recently movements for LGBT rights in the coalition working for President Chavez's re-election met to form a sexual diversity council. In total, people representing 228 movements or groups met to form this new body. “Years ago we were subject to... a patriarchal system that had us on our knees, that marked us out,” said Ronny Ortega, spokesperson for a movement in Aragua state. “But now... we can say that we are part of the construction of a new country that goes against that system.”

“This new [labour] law is something that not only the workers of Venezuela deserve, but those of all Latin America and the world deserve it,” said Vargas mayor Alexis Toledo, adding that “today [May Day] is a day of struggle for workers in a large part of the world, but here in our country it is a day of celebration.” Here in Britain, leading progressives welcomed the developments, with Tony Burke, Unite the Union Assistant General Secretary, saying: “With the new progressive labour law Venezuelan workers and their unions are able to show to the world the social progress being made under President Chávez. Viva Venezuelan workers! Viva progressive Venezuelan unions!”

Unite North West Region – in Solidarity with Venezuela Paul Finegan, Regional Secretary

SUMMER 2012 ■ VIVA VENEZUELA!

The GFTU Stands in Solidarity with Venezuela – Yes to Social Progress! No to US Intervention!

www.gftu.org.uk Joe Mann MBE President

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John Fray Vice-President

Doug Nicholls General Secretary


...STRONG SUPPORT SHOWN...STRONG SUPPORT SHOWN...

Strong Support Shown Leading Figures from Britain Celebrate 10th Anniversary of the Defeat of US-backed Coup in Venezuela In April, as Venezuelans celebrated the 10th anniversary of the defeat of the US-backed coup that briefly overthrew the elected Chávez-led government, a broad range of prominent figures in Britain expressed their support for the expansion of democracy and social progress that followed the reversal of the coup, but warned against further US intervention.

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MPs supported a motion noting that the defeat of the coup was a victory for democracy, pointing out that “since President Chávez was first elected in 1998 Venezuela has held more sets of elections than in the country's previous 40 years of democracy, all of them free and fair [and] that Hugo Chávez and his coalition of supporters have won all but one of these elections”. The MPs also congratulated the Venezuelan government on “its strong democratic record and strengthening of social progress since the coup, including free healthcare being made available to millions for the first time, the eradication of illiteracy and the halving of extreme poverty”.

Support from Across Society Further support was shown in a statement launched by VSC to mark the coup defeat. This addressed the ongoing threat from the US to the right of the Venezuelan people to determine their own affairs. Supporters included poet Linton Kwesi Johnson; film director Ken Loach; filmmaker and journalist John Pilger; writers Owen Jones and Richard Gott; musician Jon McClure (Reverend & the Makers); rapper Lowkey; prominent academics including Professor Ernesto Laclau (University of Essex) and Professor Doreen Massey (The Open University); plus peace campaigners Bruce Kent and Lindsey German (Stop the War Coalition Convenor). Strong support also came from the British labour movement, including seven General Secretaries and leading national

Supports the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign

Billy Hayes Jane Loftus General Secretary President

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SUMMER 2012 ■ VIVA VENEZUELA!


...STRONG SUPPORT SHOWN...STRONG SUPPORT SHOWN...

for Venezuela Solidarity Delegation Sees the Real Venezuela representatives of Unite and UNISON, as well as student leaders Kanja Sesay (NUS Black Students' Officer) and Aaron Kiely (NUS Executive). Jeremy Corbyn MP who launched the Early Day Motion (EDM) in parliament said: “In heroically defeating the US-backed military coup the people of Venezuela not only rescued their democracy. They also opened up the new era of social progress that has swept across Latin America in the last decade. “However, we need to remain vigilant against ongoing attempts to intervene into oil rich Venezuela to achieve regime change. It is very concerning that US government agencies continue to pour millions of dollars into the US opposition.”

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hospital for poor patients from across the continent; and the El Sistema musical centre, providing facilities for young people from all communities.

A busy programme enabled the delegates to see inspiring and tangible advances in areas such as housing, health care and education, including one of the new social housing developments; the Latin American School of Medicine, training Venezuelan and foreign students to become doctors in their communities; an impressive children’s heart

The delegation attended a rally to mark President Chávez’s return to the country; had meetings with government representatives academics, community leaders and others; and attended a couple of lively union rallies, one of which, with over 500 participants, had been arranged specially to build links between British and Venezuelan trade unionists. At the other rally, the delegation sent messages of support for the revolutionary new Labour Law.

SC recently organized a delegation of trade unionists to Venezuela to see the country’s inspiring social progress firsthand, including representatives of Unite, the CWU, NUT, UCU and RMT.

“I have witnessed people raised from poverty and seen the effects of the social missions [programmes] on the lives of ordinary people. I have seen the aspirations of working people become reality, and I have learned to love this Venezuela!” Mike Sargent, RMT Executive

Top: The delegation with doctors at the children’s heart hospital. Middle: The delegation at a Trade Union Rally. Botom: Delegates with teachers, doctors and students at the Salvador Allende School of Latin American Medicine

SUMMER 2012 ■ VIVA VENEZUELA!

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vivavenezuela! ■ Vol 2 ■ Issue 1 ■ Summer 2012

¡Viva Venezuela! Fiesta Celebrating in true Venezuelan style, over 170 people came together to a fiesta marking the 10th anniversary of Hugo Chávez’s return to power after the US-backed coup.

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iesta-goers were treated to authentic South American food and cocktails and a salsa lesson. The highlight of the evening for many was when special guest, the legendary Linton Kwesi Johnson (pictured), treated guests to a poetry

performance, before the distinguished Jesús Cutiño y Son de Cuba performed live salsa. £1000 was raised for the VSC which will go towards it 2012: Countdown to the Elections Financial Appeal (see below).

DONATE NOW TO VSC’S COUNTDOWN TO THE ELECTIONS APPEAL From Frances O’Grady, TUC Deputy General Secretary:

“Progress on rights and social development in Venezuela show what is possible when the political will is there to build alternatives.”

From Billy Hayes, CWU General Secretary :

“Venezuela is a beacon for progressives throughout the world, showing there is an alternative to cuts and privatisation. Please support the VSC as they seek to defend this revolution against external intervention.” This special appeal to raise £10,000 aims to fund VSC’s current campaigns to publicise and condemn US interference in the 2012 presidential election and will enable us to continue to expand our activity at this crucial time. You can donate at www.venezuela solidarity.co.uk or by sending a cheque payable to Venezuela Solidarity Campaign to VSC, PO Box 56210, London, N4 4XH.

Join the VSC ■ If you join VSC online at: www.venezuelasolidarity.co.uk for only £12 you receive a free DVD of Oliver Stone’s South of the Border. You can also join by cheque for £12 (£6 unwaged) to Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, c/o PO Box 56210, London N4 4XH


Viva Venezuela! Magazine Vol 2 Issue 1