Colombia and Venezuela, again

In a state of preoccupation about the recall referendum trap that Venezuela has found itself in, I thought I would check Colombia’s national newspaper, El Tiempo, to see what they are saying about it. El Tiempo is actually a better paper, even on Venezuelan issues, than any of the Venezuelan papers. I saw something that is quite ironic. It seems that yesterday, the very day that the results of the signature drive for the recall referendum came out in Venezuela, the Colombian Congress narrowly passed legislation enabling Colombia’s current president Alvaro Uribe Velez to be re-elected.

So, while the oligarchy of one country conspires to cut the term of a decent president in half, the oligarchy of another conspires to double the term of a most indecent president (see ZNet Colombia Watch for a mountain of articles about Uribe, going back years, and for the most damning piece, see this interview with Javier Giraldo).

When Uribe tried to get his own re-election prepared in a referendum in October 2003, it failed. So he defied the will of the people, defied the constitutional court, defied the constitution itself, and has finally slipped his re-election through the cracks, with no one paying attention.

Imagine if Chavez had tried to pull the same thing? Imagine the appalled notes of concern about democracy and constitutional process and the will of the people, coming from not only the State Department but other equally hypocritical sources?

Imagine, in other words, if Venezuela was ruled by someone like Uribe instead of someone like Chavez?

The frightening thing is that you don’t need to imagine it. If the US and the Venezuelan elite have their way, that’s exactly what you are going to see. And when that happens, you’ll find parts of the ‘left’ supporting it, the kind of ‘left’ that supported the paramilitary killers to take over Haiti and are supporting the ongoing slaughter there by focusing — at a time when Aristide has been driven out, the will of the people torn to shreds — on supposed crimes committed by the very parties (Aristide, Lavalas) who are now being hunted down, hounded, and murdered. You can be sure these people will be back to claim that whatever the US is doing in Venezuela is for the best, and what the ‘left’ in Venezuela really wants.

The Venezuela Recall Trap

Looks like yet another country will be going to the polls before the United States, with Venezuela set on the course of a recall referendum for Chavez. The article linked is from, which is where I would recommend English-speakers go. ZNet Venezuela Watch is good too, there is much overlap.

The whole thing is troubling. Even though Chavez and many Chavistas believe that Chavez could handily win the referendum, the point is not and never has been to let Chavez win. This is a destabilization program, pure and simple. And the climate of a referendum offers innumerable opportunities for destabilization. A quote from the article is a good summary:

“We would win the recall referendum by a wide margin, and that would be an excellent opportunity to re-legitimize the [revolutionary] process,” said a pro-Chavez activist who wishes to remain anonymous after losing a debate during a meeting with other grassroots leaders who rejected the recall. “U.S. imperialism wants the CNE to declare that there were not enough signatures for the recall, so they can say that Chavez prevented the opposition from exercising their democratic rights. It’s a trap to label Chavez as a dictator, invoke the OAS Democratic Charter against Venezuela and isolate us,” he said.

Those who reject the recall, arguing that there was fraud, say that it will be hard to combat fraud during the recall vote. Another Chavez supporter said that “they have huge technological resources, the support of the U.S. government, and all the media at their disposal. We are the majority, but they can win with fraud. They did it now, and they can do it again.”

“They won’t get any more votes than the signatures they collected,” said another Chavez supporter.

Chavez loyalists coincide that winning the recall won’t cause Chavez enemies to stop their efforts to oust him. “We have won 7 electoral processes in five years, how many more do we need to win in order to be seen as legitimate?”, asked a pro Chavez activist during the meeting.

It is a horrible situation to be in: the Venezuelans have no choice but to walk into a trap set for them by the US and the local oligarchy — forces that have nothing but a demonstratedly murderous contempt for the people.

56 Colombian paramilitaries captured — in… Venezuela?

More from El Tiempo, which today reported that 56 Colombian paramilitaries (or people suspected of being Colombian paramilitaries) were captured in Venezuela, where they were training and organizing with dissident members of the Venezuelan Armed Forces for another coup d’etat. According to Venezuela, they were part of a larger group of 130 paramilitaries in the country.

Some interviews with Chavez

Just reading some interviews with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, in various Latin American papers. Some quotes from a La Jornada interview are interesting about the conflict the US is trying to sow between Colombia and Venezuela:

On the Colombian Senate declaration against Venezuela:

-“The Colombian Senate is nothing but the firing of a sniper whose mission comes from Washington. I am absolutely sure… Such a stupid, senseless, incredible resolution can’t be explained any other way… a group of the most rancid and ultraconservative oligarchs of Colombia are following an order that came from Washington”

-” It shows the lack of reflection by the US government, which doesn’t understand the strength of this government and its genuine popular support, where the people are defending a peaceful revolution, despite all there remains to be done and all the projects that were foiled by the coup…”

He criticized the Latin American elites, calling them a “fifth column” for US plans. But he pointed out another fact:

“While the Colombian oligarchy attacks Venezuela’s dignity or tries to, here we are, for the first time, giving a just and dignified treatment to millions of Colombians who live in our country, no different from our own Venezuelans. There are 3 million Colombians who are receiving documentation, especally those who have been here over 5 years, fleeing war or narcotrafficking. These are the problems the oligarchy has sown over many years. But they are our brothers and we know that 80% of these Colombians are Bolivarians.”

-“Today Bush’s government is seeking authorization from Congress to put more troops in Colombia… on the border, there are armed groups doing incursions into our territory… kidnappings and assassinations of leaders… we have had to send two brigades, because it’s an extensive area. We are in a lot of danger: the Bush government is pushing the government of Venezuela and we don’t know where this will end…”

[From La Jornada, April 18, 2004]

Irony, anyone?

Okay, so what is the textbook, classic example everyone thinks of first when they think of a US-sponsored coup in Latin America to install a murderous dictatorial regime?

Hint: Castro told Chavez not to become the assassinated President of this country on the phone during the April 2002 coup in Venezuela.

Hint #2: Kissinger said, about this country: “I don’t see why we have to sit back and let a country go communist just because of the irresponsibility of its own people.”

Answer? The same country that is sending more troops to help the US with its post-coup occupation of Haiti, of course!

Yes, it’s true. Chile, the country that suffered so brutally under Pinochet’s dictatorship, is now sending soldiers to occupy Haiti, or so said Chile’s ambassador to Haiti Marcel Young, today. There are over 300 Chilean troops in Haiti, along with US Marines, Canadians, and French soldiers.

(On the hints: Castro apparently told Chavez ‘No seas un Allende’, or ‘Don’t become another Allende’: Salvador Allende was the president who was murdered during the 1973 coup in Chile — on 9/11, as I’m sure most people reading this blog know. The Kissinger quote comes via Noam Chomsky, of course, so I’m sure most have read that one as well!)

Venezuela’s petition problem

The ZNet blogging tradition (brief as it is) seems to be that we answer questions put to us in our forums on our blogs. I was just asked this question:

Is there any credible evidence that “hundreds” of workers who signed the petition to recall Chavez are being fired for signing the petition and that pro-Chavezist legislators are posting the names of signers on their internet sites which are linked to by the government’s official webpages?

And in fact, I don’t have the answer.

I haven’t seen anything on this from sources that I think are credible, no. The most credible source in English in Venezuela is Actually, there is very little that I find better than that site even in Spanish.

But there is a larger point to be made here, and that is this: the Venezuelan elite, and those who would like to see that elite regain its grip on the government of the country (the US media and so on) seem to have a strategy — the strategy is to present tons and tons of ‘factual’ and ‘pseudofactual’ claims about what Chavez, or Chavistas, are doing. They are stealing babies to indoctrinate them in communism; they are funneling arms to FARC in Colombia; they are housing Al-Qaeda training camps. Or the National Guard beat up unarmed demonstrators. Or Chavistas were sniping at protesters from crowds. Or Chavistas are firing workers who signed the petition (remember that most employers are anti-Chavez and most workers, probably pro-Chavez, so it’s not clear how many Chavez supporters are in a position to fire anybody). Claims range from the fantastic to the plausible. But the point is to bog Chavez supporters down in the details, obscure the bigger picture, and confuse anyone who is unsure what side they are on.

The bigger picture is this: there is a class conflict going on in Venezuela. A lot of the poor feel that they have found a voice in the Chavez administration. The elite and parts of the middle class, and of course the US, virulently hate this situation. If that elite, with US help, replaces Chavez’s regime in power, you can expect a situation that resembles Colombia’s, I suspect — the unleashing of a murderous repression against the population, accompanied by propaganda, in order to try to destroy any possibility of a decent future.

I started working on Venezuela, rightly or wrongly, not so much because I believe in what Chavez is doing, but because and I feel that Venezuela is perched on a knife-edge right now. I would much rather see Colombia’s social movements drag their country out of the abyss than to see Venezuela’s elites plunge their country into that same one.

Q & A on Bolivia

What is happening in Bolivia?

A massive popular mobilization is demanding the resignation of the President, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, and several ministers, including the Minister of Defense. On October 16 hundreds of thousands of demonstrators filled the main square in La Paz, Bolivia’s capital. The presidential palace, guarded by tanks and trenches, is surrounded by demonstrators.

Continue reading “Q & A on Bolivia”