The Guardian April 24, 2002


A new day for Venezuela

by Blair F Bertaccini

The 11th Congress of the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) opened on the 
evening of International Woman's Day with a speech by Venezuela president, 
Hugo Chavez Frias.

Roberto Hernandez, of the PCV, spoke at the opening of the Congress of the 
PCV history and its responsibility in this important moment of Venezuela's 
history. The PCV has played a role in all the struggles of the Venezuelan 
people since its inception in 1933, whether taking up arms or waging 
electoral campaigns.

The PCV has been a participant in the Bolivarian Revolution, led by 
President Chavez, since its early days. Hernandez called this current 
peaceful revolution, "The most outstanding historical moment since 
independence." Indeed it takes its name from Simon Bolivar, the Liberator, 
who won independence from Spain in the early 19th century.

The origins of the current revolution are to be found in 1989, when the 
Venezuelan people rose up in revolt after a series of economic measures 
drove the prices of basic goods and services out of reach. A 50 percent 
hike in bus fares was the spark that lit the fuse of rebellion that 
resulted in the deaths of hundreds at the hands of the Venezuelan army and 
police, and the imposition of martial law.

Then a Lt. Colonel of the paratroopers, Hugo Chavez founded the Bolivarian 
Revolutionary Movement among military officers outraged at both the use of 
the military against the people and corruption among the country's high-
ranking military and political leaders. In 1992, Chavez led a frustrated 
coup detat, resulting in his imprisonment.

In the years that followed, successive governments of the country's two 
main political parties, Accion Democratica (AD) and the Christian Social 
Party (COPEI), instituted economic policies, advocated by the International 
Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, that continued to worsen the 
situation of the majority of Venezuelans. These measures included 
privatising state-owned enterprises, raising the prices of consumer goods 
and cutting social programs.

Venezuela, a member of OPEC, is the fourth leading oil exporting nation in 
the world. It exports roughly one million barrels of oil to the US daily. 
The wealth created by this industry did not reach the Venezuelan workers 
and peasants. By 1999, 80 percent of Venezuelans were below the poverty 
line.

Chavez was pardoned and released from prison in 1994. He organised a new 
political movement and ran for president in 1998. He promised a new 
constitution and policies that would help those living in poverty. Chavez 
won the election with 56.5 percent of the vote.

He quickly began the political changes he promised. In rapid succession, 
voters approved a consituent assembly (85 percent), elected the assembly, 
with Chavez supporters of various political parties winning 121 of the 131 
seats, and approved the new constitution (72 percent). Chavez was re-
elected under its statutes to a six-year term in July 2000, garnering 59 
percent of the vote.

Chavez continued making the promised political changes, instituting a new 
agrarian reform designed to give to the landless and small farmers. He has 
also guaranteed free health care and education to the university level, 
protected indigenous people's rights, stopped further privatisation of the 
state-run oil company and limited foreign penetration of the industry, and 
approved new conservation measures to protect Venezuela's marine resources.

Chavez has also set up five new banks for women, small enterprises and 
farmers and established a new National Women's Institute. In addition, he 
expelled US military advisors and forbade overflights by US military 
aircraft with missions in Colombia.

The Communist Party of Venezuela, with members throughout the nation, came 
to its Congress ready to reorganise and prepare itself for the struggles 
with the oligarchy's, i.e., the rich and the two political parties that 
served their interests for so many years. As Chavez said during his speech, 
"We are in full battle and cannot lose it."

The revolution's enemies include all the major newspapers of the nation and 
four of the five TV stations. Supporters of the old order organise 
demonstrations of middle-class elements, members of COPEI and AD, and have 
tried to foment rebellion among the country's military officers.

The US Government is working with the oligarchies to create a situation of 
economic and political instability, much like what was done against 
Salvador Allende in Chile before the bloody military coup that overthrew 
him. Secretary of State Colin Powell has stated that the US will "put 
Venezuela in diplomatic isolation."

Chavez is being portrayed as undemocratic with intentions of becoming a 
dictator. "Polls" are released in the domestic and foreign press supposedly 
showing his dwindling support. He is accused of being incompetent and 
unstable. All of this forms a part of the destabilisation campaign.

The PCV remains solidly behind the Bolivarian Revolution and sees its task 
as both supporting it and amplifying it. The PCV stands for bringing 
socialism to Venezuela and creating a society organised for the workers and 
peasants. As Chavez spoke the over 400 delegates to the Congress and other 
party members frequently interrupted with shouts of "No Volveran" (They 
shall not return) and "No Pasaran"(They shall not pass), referring to the 
enemies of the Bolivarian Revolution.

The government has organised "Bolivarian Circles" throughout the nation. 
These circles are to help mobilise citizens in their communities to improve 
in areas such as education, health, housing and public services. The PCV 
organises and participates fully in these organisations.

During its congress, the PCV elected new leadership, rewrote its 
constitution and examined how well they were functioning throughout the 
country in the unions, peasant and women's organisations.

The Venezuelan communists see this revolution as the way forward for the 
mass of Venezuelans who for so long have been excluded from full 
participation in the Country's politics and from sharing in its wealth. 
They realise its importance not only for their own nation but all of Latin 
America. Everywhere in the continent, except Cuba, living conditions are 
worsening, with Argentina being the most salient recent example.

Venezuela was the only country at the meeting of Western Hemisphere nations 
in Montreal last year that refused to sign on to the Free Trade Area of the 
Americas (FTAA) as presented. The FTAA will only lead to further US 
penetration and degradation of the economies of Latin America, as has 
happened to Mexico under NAFTA.

The PCV will continue to live up to its proud history of struggle and 
called upon Communist parties around the world to do more to support the 
Bolivarian Revolution.

* * *
People's Weekly World paper of Communist Party, USA

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