In the Venezuelan port of Guiria local fishermen, supported by the community, have occupied the port and installations. They are fighting against the profiteering of private companies, oil companies and the port authority. They have been treated shamefully by the authorities and political parties, accusing them of being CIA agents and counterrevolutionaries. They have had to go to the Island of Trinidad to get access to the media and make their voices heard.
Local Fishermen fight for their right to work in the international port of Guiria
Translation by Elizabeth O’Hara, London, 31 October 2006
As of Monday 9th October 2006, a large number of residents of Valdez, in the state of Sucre, have been mounting a continuous peaceful protest over their right to work. Amongst the protesters are fishermen, local traders and their families.
The protest is taking place following the closure, by the Port Authorities, of the local ice factory. Production ceased two weeks ago, leaving the fishermen without the raw materials necessary for them to earn their living.
The company responsible for the closure of the factory is Duarte & Co, which has been running the port since it was privatised in 1997 under Governor Ramon Martinez. Since that time the Port Authorities have maintained a hostile stance towards the fishermen, who are not only from Guiria, but also from El Morro, Carupano and Macanao. Many of fishermen have been evicted from the port, in order to facilitate the entry of the oil companies.
The State Governor has attempted unsuccessfully to calm the public outcry. He has given a party political response to the situation by carrying out a restructuring of the CAPPIG management board and bringing in local leaders of the political parties which support him. He has also issued a press statement announcing that half of the profits made by the Port Authorities would be reinvested in the port. The new CAPPIG board of directors, instead of representing the interests of local people, is extending the privatisation of the port facilities.
By closing the ice factory, the Port Authorities are attempting to deal a final death blow to the fishermen. Output had already been dramatically reduced. At its peak, the ice-production at the factory catered not only for the fishermen of the whole of the east of Venezuela but also for various international fishing fleets. At the point it was privatised, it was producing more than 2000 tons of ice; at the point of closure, that had been reduced to 20 tonnes.
Rather than having a factory which provides ice to preserve foodstuffs, the Port Authorities have opted for a business which will be much more profitable for the board members. They plan to build a new processing plant, which will handle highly toxic substances such as mercury, lead and arsenic, all known to severely damage the human nervous and respiratory systems. And if these substances are processed on the coast, where will they end up, other than in the waters of the Gulf?
The fishermen and other protesters have proposed that the international port be declared a "development zone" and be taken back into public ownership under MINEP. They then want the Government to transfer completely the management and daily running of the fishing port to the people of Guiria.
The response from the Sucre state governors to this proposal, made by organised workers in defence of the port and in defence of their jobs, has been to repress the protesters. Representatives from the Campaign to Reclaim the International Fishing Port of Guiria have confirmed that one fisherman has been injured and that the National Guard have been called in, with a view to forcefully evicting the demonstrators who have taken over the port buildings as part of the protest. Not only have the fishermen occupied buildings, but they have also positioned their fishing boats to form a barrier, closing off access to one part of the port.
The Campaign representatives have also reported a major problem with both the state-owned and the private media. The private media has been inaccurately reporting the events, in order to score political points against the Chavez government and the state-owned media has played down the struggle of the fishermen and the local residents, siding with the governor and the Port Authorities.
The spokespeople for the Campaign have reported the situation to the Ombudsman’s Office in Carupano, giving full reasons for occupation of the buildings. This is in addition to other reports which have been made by Dr Sandra Gonzalez and Alexis Pinango.
There are at present two major concerns. Firstly, the threat of a forced eviction of the fishermen and other protesters who are at the forefront of the struggle to defend their right to work. Secondly, there is the problem of misinformation via the media, turning public opinion against the victims by making them out to be the perpetrators. It is for this reason we are using other channels to publicise our struggle and make it known that we are fighting to protect our jobs and we are fighting against the environmental damage that the fishing port is facing.
We support President Chavez, we are in favour of his re-election and we are working towards that, but we also want to make his words a reality and we are organising in defence of our rights. We are fighting and we will continue to fight for the international fishing port of Guiria to become a "development area", run by the people of Guiria.
- For the port to become a development area, actively run by the people of Guiria
- For the conscious organisation of the workers and the poor to carry this out
- For the defence of the revolutionary process
- For a socialist Venezuela, independent and free from imperialism, without multinational companies, without bosses and landowners, without bureaucrats and free from corruption
- Socialism is reached through nationalisation!