The Venezuelan vice president, Vincente Rangel, is heading the governments’ intentions to redefine its policies and attitude to the private sector.

Or to be more precise it has become the Vice-president’s task to shout it from the roof tops that the Venezuelan employers and the representatives of capitalism who are willing to tolerate the Chavez regime have nothing whatsoever to fear from the government.

Meeting with employers from Oriente and Guayana the vice president made it clear the government wanted to enter a new stage in its relationship with the employers and the private sector. Rangel called on the bosses to “take up institutional political positions”. He added that “they do not have the right to engage in the bastard forms of politics like the coup or the lock-out” and finished with the solemn promise that the “government will respect private property”.

These comments by the Vice-president are another reminder of the limits of the Chavez government and its “socialism in the 21st century” which in its most radical form is a stageist approach to building socialism. In its more common form it represents an attempt to built Venezuelan capitalism with a ‘human face’ and use a larger part of Venezuela’s wealth to build the country, it’s infrastructure and carve out a sphere of influence for Venezuela in Latin America.

The TV shows here promote the Bolivarian government and its achievements. It has to be said that the Chavez government has indeed developed many social programs and invested millions in health care and education. Nevertheless the advertisment to arouse the passion of ordinary Venezuelans for the nationalised oil company PDVSA is an example of the limits of this process. The advert praises the virtues of the mixed companies (part private and part state) and its most clinching argument is that whilst commercial disputes under the old regime would have been brought before an American court of law then thanks to the Bolivarian government now these will have to be brought to a Venezuelan court of law.

Although there is of course merit in advancing the sovereignty of Venezuela and its control over its resources but it is hardly the kind of stuff that sets the mind racing with ideas about how to create a new socialist society.

The growing tiredness with the slowness of the process and the growing understanding of the limits of the government are taking hold in the most pro-Chavez areas of Caracas. Street interviews in the pro-opposition paper El Nacional (25 June 2006) gave an interesting picture of the feelings among many Venezuelans in the run-up to the national elections. In La Vega, an area of Caracas described by the inhabitants as pro-Chavez territory, people talk of their disillusionment with the government. Guadalupe Jaramillo, a member of the UBE (Unidades de Batalla Electoral – the pro Chavez mobilisation machine) sums up the feelings of many when she declared “We are disillusioned, they do not take us into account. We are unemployed and they do not help us. We work from the morning till the evening for the election campaign, but when they win they forget about us, it is like it was under the old political system. But I am ready to work and do whatever it takes to assure a victory of President Chávez”

While there many like Guadalupe who will fight to get Chávez re-elected for fear of what he might be replaced with, the regime cannot take their support for granted. The only way the reforms implemented by the Chávez regime can be protected and widened is by the building of an independent movement of the working class, young people and poor peasantry committed to the overthrow of capitalism and the building of a democratic socialist Venezuela.

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