TWO PREVIOUS attempts by Venezuela’s right-wing opposition to overthrow the twice elected radical national government of President Hugo Chávez have failed.

The April 2002 military coup and the ten week bosses’ strike and work lock-out in December 2002-February 2003 were defeated by the resistance of the Venezuelan poor and workers.

Whilst not a socialist, Chávez has carried out reforms that have benefited the poorest sections of society and driven the privileged ’oligarchy’ (the rich landowning/capitalist class) into a frenzy.

The right-wing opposition, backed by the US administration and the private media companies, tried to oust Chávez by triggering a recall referendum to end his rule.

Despite widespread evidence of fraud (see below), the opposition claimed to have collected 3.8 million signatures in December (2.4 million are needed). But on 2 March, the National Electoral Council (CNE) declared only 1.8 million actually valid.

This figure is very close to the 1.9 million that SUMATE (a US funded opposition organisation that provided logistical support during the petition drive), had admitted to counting in a secretly taped phone conversation between opposition figures.

A further 1.1 million signatures are "under observation" and require confirmation. These are mainly the so-called "writing exercise" forms where 10 names on a petition have been written in the same handwriting and the signatures are suspiciously similar!

However, the Supreme Court has ordered the CNE to lift its objections to the petition. The government is now appealing against the court’s decision.

Class struggles

BETWEEN 27 February and 4 March, small groups of opposition protesters took to the streets and erected barricades in middle-class and upper-class neighbourhoods in Carácas and then other cities, and sought confrontation with the Chávez-loyal National Guard.

Egged on by the hysterical private media and with the collusion of the opposition controlled Carácas police, these ’protesters’, some since exposed as mercenaries, were trying to destabilise the country to provoke civil disorder and encourage international pressure to force the referendum.

Despite eight deaths in these clashes, for now these tactics have failed. Significantly there were no protests in the barrios and working-class areas, and in one case where outsiders set up a barricade they were chased off and the locals cleared the road.

In fact Chávez’s opinion poll ratings have reached 51% which means he would not only win a referendum were it to be held, but also the election due in 2006.

So the increasingly desperate opposition are openly campaigning for a US Haiti-type intervention. For these continuing counter-revolutionary plots to be defeated, the workers and poor need their own party to complete the "Bolivarian revolution" by overthrowing the capitalist oligarchy and lighting a socialist beacon for the rest of Latin America.

AFL-CIO chiefs help CIA plotters

US TRADE unionists have recently learnt that their parent body the AFL-CIO (the US equivalent of the British TUC) has been funding and organising Venezuela’s opposition coup plotters.

Last year, the New York Times (whose editorials have called for Chávez’s removal) reported that $154,377 was given by a CIA front organisation - the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) - to the American Center for International Labour Solidarity, which is the AFL-CIO’s international arm.

Between September 2002 and March 2004 the NED contributed $116,000 every three months to the AFL-CIO. This money was "to assist the main Venezuelan labor union [the CTV] in advancing labor rights".

The CTV’s leader, before going into exile in Florida, was Carlos Ortega. According to the N.Y. Times, Ortega "worked closely with Pedro Carmona Estanga, the businessman who briefly took over from Mr Chávez, in challenging the government". (nb. "took over" means ’attempted coup’!)

Moreover, the AFL-CIO prior to the failed April 2002 coup arranged for Ortega to meet US state Department officials.

cwi

"I am sure that my grandma did not sign..."

MY GRANDMA’S ID appears in the signatures that the opposition leaders want to use for a referendum against the President Hugo Chávez.

Her ID number was 754987 and had been used in this fraud.

I am sure that my grandma did not sign the petition against Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez for many reasons.

She never agreed with the former ’democratic system’ that we used to have in our country.

In February 1989, when Venezuelan military forces went out onto the streets killing poor people she understood we had not got a democratic government. I remember when she told me that "we need a President who can lead the Bolivar’s country for the people and not against them".

I am sure she did not sign against Hugo Chávez because she was always standing up for the poor and waiting for a change in our very rich and poor country. She always told me that those who were selling our country to the Americans were not Venezuelan but heartless people.

And finally, I am really sure that she did not sign against Hugo Chávez because she died of cancer 14 years ago. It was 16 March 1990 when she closed her eyes without knowing who Hugo Chávez was.

For you, grandma, this fraud won’t be successful and it is because with lies we will not sell our country to the rich ones who control the world and want to control also the Bolivarian people of our rich and poor country.

Gustavo Brito Solorzano, Amalia’s Grandson

From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales

Committee for a workers' International publications

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