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Re: Venezualian history and analysis

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  • Gary Denton
    In a well argued post ... ... While it had a nationalized oil industry at that time it was not a socialist state. Oops, in fact, 1971 is before the oil
    Message 1 of 2 , May 30, 2005
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      In a well argued post

      On 5/29/05, Dan Minette <dsummersminet@...> wrote:
      > Gary gave a short description of recent Venezuelan history to frame our
      > discussion. I thought it might be worthwhile to look a bit further back
      > and a bit more in depth to frame this discussion.
      > My uncle lived in one of the barrios of Maracay, working with the poor
      > people. When he got there, in the mid-60s, the housing was mostly tin
      > shacks. By the time I visited him, around Christmas 1971, things had
      > changed for the better. Water and sewer services existed. Tin shacks were
      > rare; brick homes were the norm. I visited with a number of his
      > parishioners while I was there, and got the impression that their life was
      > far better than the abject poverty common in South America. Venezuala was,
      > in many ways, an example of working socialism at the time. The government
      > had nationalized oil and used oil revenue to promote the ecconomy, build
      > housing that they rented/sold to workers (It was a rent to own deal).

      While it had a nationalized oil industry at that time it was not a
      socialist state. Oops, in fact, 1971 is before the oil industry was
      nationalized although there was a state oil company.

      1958 Jan 23, Venezuela gained liberties with the overthrow of
      Gen. Marcos Perez Jimenez, its last dictator. The social democrats'
      Democratic Action (AD) and the Christian Democrats (Copei) began
      alternating power and then entered into the power-sharing agreement
      called "Pacto de Punto Fijo."

      1962 wholly private oil exploration was ended.

      1974 Pres. Andres Carlos Perez nationalized the oil industry.
      For the next 20 years there appears to be increasing government
      ownership of the country industry and property.

      1989 Carlos Andres Peres took office again and instituted
      "reform" plans. Increases in fuel costs and government reforms in
      Venezuela sparked extensive rioting and looting with almost 1,000
      people killed by government forces.

      1992 Lt. Col. Chavez launched coup attempts. He surrenders and
      serves two years.

      1993 Pres. Carlos Andres Perez was impeached. He was later
      charged with misusing $17 million security fund for election debts and
      a lavish inauguration.

      1994 The largest bank Banco Latino fails and Venezuela is in
      its worst fiscal crisis. Chavez is pardoned with the condition he not
      rejoin the military. Chavez vows to use political means to take over
      from corrupt government officials.

      1996 Jun 7, Assets under state control includes all mines, oil
      production, petrochemical, aluminum and iron factories, beaches,
      ports, a large proportion of agricultural lands, prime real estate
      locations, 60% of the value of the banking system, manufacturing
      companies, TV and the main radio stations. - WSJ in an article
      shortly before privatization occurs.

      1996 The government reopened the oil sector and many others to
      private foreign investments. The tax authorities increased the
      general sales tax to 16.5% from 12.5%. There has been a 108% rate of
      inflation over the last 12 months. Transparency Int'l., a Berlin base
      non-governmental anticorruption organization, rate Venezuela as the
      most corrupt country in the Western hemisphere.

      1998 Nov 8, In Venezuela a leftist coalition led by Hugo
      Chavez, the Patriotic Pole movement, won a majority in parliament.

      1999 Jul 26, In Venezuela candidates from the Fifth Republic
      Movement, supported by Pres. Chavez, won over 80% of the 131
      constituent assembly seats elected to rewrite the constitution.

      1999 Nov 4, The Constitutional Assembly approved a 6 year
      presidential term and allowed reelection. The constitution disallowed
      privatization of national industries and was this was followed by a
      doubling of the royalty rate of foreign oil companies.

      2000 Jul 30, In Venezuela national elections were scheduled.
      56% of the populace turned out and endorsed Pres. Chavez to a 6-year
      term by a 59 to 37% margin over Francisco Arias. Chavez's Fifth
      Republic Movement also won 9 of 23 state governor races and a simple
      majority of the legislature. The new constitution gave voters the
      right to revoke the president's mandate after 3 years by referendum.

      2000 Nov 7, The congress granted Pres. Chavez fast track powers
      to decree laws without parliamentary debate.

      2001 Dec 10, In Venezuela a nation-wide 12-hour work stoppage
      was planned to protest policies of Pres. Hugo Chavez. (This is
      shortly after the time the American press began running articles on
      Chavez. National Endowment for Democracy, which handles the more
      public overthrows of governments disapproved of by the U.S. funneled
      money to the leaders of the unions and organizers committed to
      overthrowing Chavez as revealed in FOI requests.)

      2002 Apr 9, The 1-million member Workers Confederation planned
      a strike to support protesting oil executives of Petroleos de
      Venezuela, who were protesting tightening controls by Pres. Chavez.
      Later reports indicated US cash was used to support strike plans.

      2002 Apr 11, The military removed Pres. Chavez from power after
      at least 12 demonstrators were killed as some 150-200k marched on the
      presidential palace in Caracas.

      2002 Apr 13, Hugo Chavez returned to the presidency as Pedro
      Carmona resigned following large protests in Caracas with dozens
      reported killed. In the short time Chavez was held at a prison, oil
      executive Pedro Carmona dissolved the National Assembly, voided the
      1999 Constitution introduced under Chavez and approved by popular vote
      in a national referendum, fired Supreme Court justices, repealed laws
      that gave the government control of the economy, and handed control of
      Petroleos de Venezuela over to Gen. Guaicaipuro Lameda, an active
      military officer. As Philip Reeker, US State Department spokesman,
      said at the time, "We want to see a return to democracy" in Venezuela.

      2002 April 24, the New York Times reports that the
      US-government funded nonprofit agency called the National Endowment
      for Democracy had funneled more than $877,000 into Venezuela
      opposition groups in the weeks and months before the recently aborted
      coup attempt. The US based, International Republican Institute, that
      has an office in Venezuela, received a grant of $339,998 for
      "political party building." On the day of the coup it hailed the
      takeover. These two groups are mainly funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars
      and officially "promote democracy" but unofficially are more public
      successors to the CIA. The president of the Republican Institute has
      close ties to the Bush administration, and is now the assistant
      secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. The aim of
      the two groups is to destabilize progressive movements, particularly
      those with a socialist or democratic-socialist bent.

      2002 Jun 19, In Venezuela Pres. Chavez made an offer for a
      referendum on his rule in 2003.

      2002 Aug 16, President Hugo Chavez railed against a Supreme
      Court decision to absolve four military officers accused of leading an
      April coup but urged Venezuelans to accept it.

      2003 Jan 3, In Caracas, Venezuela, clashes between opponents
      and supporters of Pres. Chavez left at least eighty people wounded.

      2003 Jan 29, the WSJ reveals that the CIA has set up training
      grounds in Florida for a Venezuelan paramilitary coalition formed by
      the 'F-4 Commandos' and 'The Venezuelan Patriotic Junta.'

      2003 Apr 11, The Venezuela government of Hugo Chavez and his
      opponents agreed to a plan for a referendum on his presidency, and the
      chief of state pledged to leave office if he loses.

      2003 Dec 19, Venezuela's opposition turned in 3.4 million
      signatures to demand a recall referendum on Hugo Chavez' rule.

      2004 Jun 8, In Venezuela, elections officials said President
      Hugo Chavez must face a recall vote on Aug 15.

      2004 Aug 15, In Venezuela the opposition's long and bitter
      campaign to oust Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez finally came down to
      a recall referendum. Chavez won.

      2004 Aug 21, The head of the Organization of American States
      said the results of an audit supported the official vote count showing
      that President Hugo Chavez won this month's recall referendum in

      2004 Oct 31, In Venezuela candidates backed by President Hugo
      Chavez swept all but two of 23 governorships in regional elections.

      2005 Apr 23, President Hugo Chavez says "Don Quixote" is a
      must-read for Venezuelans — and his government has printed 1 million
      free copies to mark the 400th anniversary of the classic tale of the
      knight who dared to dream.

      Extracted from a much longer timeline.


      > The government borrowed money to make up the difference. By early 1989, it
      > was about to default on its debts. The IMF offered the usual loan...tied
      > to austerity measures. I don't see how Perez could have gotten a loan from
      > anyone else, and the government was dependent on going deeper into debt
      > just to keep the economy functioning at any level at all.
      > He had just been elected with a strong mandate, so it wasn't a matter of
      > his regime growing unpopular over time. What happened was that he announced
      > austerity measures, and the sh&t hit the fan. I will quote from a Time
      > magazine article written just after the announcement, riots, and killings:
      > http://www.time.com/time/archive/printout/0,23657,957236,00.html
      > <quote>
      > Monday, Mar. 13, 1989
      > ... Last week the citizens of one of Latin America's most stable
      > democracies were in shock after a social explosion that tore apart downtown
      > Caracas, the capital, and shattered the peace in at least 16 other cities.
      > Government-imposed austerity measures had ignited a three-day free-for-all
      > of rioting, looting and killing that left an estimated 300 people dead,
      > 2,000 injured and another 2,000 in jail..... The most important victim of
      > the upheaval was probably President Perez himself, who had begun his second
      > term in office (the first was from 1974 to 1979) with a huge margin of
      > popularity. That goodwill was suddenly forgotten when the rattled leader
      > failed to stop the violence with a rambling, sometimes angry television
      > address. Meantime, Venezuela had provided the world with an ugly example of
      > the trials Latin America faces in trying to step out of the debt quagmire.
      > To me, this looks like an incompetent politician handling a difficult task
      > about as ineptly as possible. It does not planned at all, let alone a well
      > orchastrated set of killings of political opposition. If you want to lay
      > most of blame at Perez's feet, then that would sound reasonable.
      > But, that's not justification for a coup. There was no reason to deduce
      > that Perez had ended constitutional government with this debacle. The coup
      > was an attempt to overturn an elected government, that did not give any
      > indications that it was in the process of concentrating power and
      > eliminating the opposition.

      It was more the extent of his corruption that may have been
      revolting(pun), although ordering the national guard and police to
      kill around a thousand people doesn't lead to stability.

      > Oil prices continued to fall, until they were around 12-13 dollars a barrel
      > in 1998. That was around the time Chavez was elected. They bounced back,
      > so that they were around 23 dollars a barrel in 2002.
      > 2002 11 April - Some 150,000 people rally in support of strike and oil
      > protest. National Guard and pro-Chavez gunmen clash with protesters - more
      > than 10 are killed and 110 injured. Chavez shuts down coverage of violence
      > by TV stations. Military high command rebels, demands Chavez resign.
      > <end quote>
      > Another quote on the demonstration, from the Guardian:
      > http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4394124,00.html
      > <quote>
      > An extraordinary week for the world's fourth largest oil-exporting country
      > began last Tuesday with a general strike called by unions in solidarity
      > with the state oil monopoly, PDVSA, which had objected to the way Mr. Chavez
      > was appointing political allies to top posts.
      > By Thursday hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans were marching against the
      > president through the streets of Caracas. When the march drew close to the
      > Miraflores palace witnesses reported seeing Chavez snipers fire at the
      > crowds, killing more than 16 people.
      > <end quote>
      > In another article, which I can get if you want, it was pointed out that in
      > the 17 reported deaths, the evidence indicated that they were shot from
      > above, sniper style. I remember seeing coverage of the demonstration, and
      > I did get the definate impression that it was a political demonstration,
      > not a riot. This also jibes with my memory of Chavez shutting down the
      > media.

      Begin my quote
      "On Tuesday, April 9, Fedecamaras, the nation's main business
      organization, headed by Carmona, and leaders of the main labor group,
      the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers -- CTV -- called a 24-hour
      general strike. Venezuela's business-controlled TV stations and
      newspapers actively supported the walkout. TV stations preempted most
      regular programming with saturation coverage of the strike and
      interviews with Chávez opponents calling for his resignation or even a
      coup. The media coverage went on that way for three straight days as
      the strike continued. By Thursday, April 11, the strike was losing
      steam, but CTV head Carlos Ortega extended it indefinitely anyway and
      called for a protest march to demand Chávez's resignation.

      The march started in wealthy sectors of eastern Caracas and was
      diverted illegally by its organizers at the last moment from its
      officially authorized route, heading straight to the presidential

      Near the palace, shots suddenly rang out, killing 17 people.
      Initially, in a widely reported version of the events, military
      officers, Chávez opponents and the U.S. government said Chávez had
      ordered his supporters to open fire against the peaceful protestors.
      Outraged by the bloodshed, the military officers overthrew the

      But new evidence is emerging that shots were fired by both pro- and
      anti-Chávez forces who clashed at the scene, and that people on both
      sides died, according to Venezuelan investigators and eyewitnesses.
      Chávez's allies contend the shooting was started by snipers on
      rooftops, and that the killings were a set-up to make the president
      appear like a cold-blooded murderer, giving the military an excuse to
      launch the coup.

      Chávez told The Washington Post that four foreigners fired
      high-powered rifles on the crowd from the Hotel Ausonia. They were
      arrested by the military unit responsible for protecting Chávez, but
      released the next day by Carmona's junta. They have since disappeared.
      Venezuelan police say at least five of those killed were shot in the
      head from above.

      The labor group CTV, a main Chávez opponent, is a major beneficiary of
      funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, a nonprofit agency
      created and financed by the U.S. Congress and which played a role in
      the 1980s contra campaign against the Sandinista government in
      Nicaragua. Blum contends -- and some endowment officials have
      acknowledged -- that the endowment was created in 1983 to carry out
      many of the covert activities of the CIA, which had come under fire in
      the late 1970s after many of its unsavory activities were exposed.
      Blum asserts that the endowment remains a CIA conduit, a charge
      endowment officials deny.

      In the last year, the National Endowment for Democracy says it has
      dispensed $877,000 to Venezuelan and American groups involved in
      Venezuela including many opposed to Chávez. Beneficiaries include
      labor groups, journalists and business organizations. The endowment's
      heavy presence in Venezuela is "a guarantee of U.S. covert
      involvement," Blum said.
      -- end quote

      > Before the coup, I recall thinking that this was the end of >40 years of
      > Venezuelan representative government. I also know that Chavez had earlier
      > discussed invoking the extrodinary power clause in the constitution (in
      > times of extreme peril), which allows him to rule the country as a virtual
      > dictator.
      > Contrast the two coups. In the first case, years after riots were
      > surpressed (no doubt brutally), a coup was staged by a low ranked army
      > officer. In the second case, it appeared that a widely unpopular
      > president, who's death squads were killing opposition leaders, and who
      > ordered TV shut down as the National Guard fired from above on protesters,
      > was forced into resigning by the top military brass. I think, in
      > retrospect, that he still had the legal right to govern, but with his
      > ability to dismiss anyone from the Supreme Court for "conduct detremental
      > to the dignity of the court", it's hard to see how any of his actions could
      > be checked by the courts.
      In the first case an unpopular and extremely corrupt President orders
      riots surpressed brutally and as the country's economy goes into the
      toilet stages elaborate expensive government spectacles. In the
      second case a half-caste democratic-socialist leader supported by the
      poor but overwhelmingly opposed by the wealthy shuts down TV stations
      inciting riots and a US supported coup occurs before a military
      counter-coup and popular riots force the new ruler who had abolished
      the constitution, the judiciary and the legislature in his first 24
      hours to step down.

      As to the non-independent judiciary may I remind you of this --- 2002
      Aug 16, President Hugo Chavez railed against a Supreme Court
      decision to absolve four military officers accused of leading an April
      coup but urged Venezuelans to accept it.

      > Having said that, the Bush Administration pulled another trick out of it's
      > "big bag of stupid" in handling the situation. They should have made, at
      > most, non-committal statements, not support the action....at least until
      > details came out....like "did he order the army to break up any further
      > demonstrations by all means necessary?" I tend to see that week as a
      > massive failure in both democracy, and American foreign policy, with plenty
      > of blame to go around for all concerned. There were other things that the
      > generals could have tried to do to stop the firing on demonstrators by
      > soldiers before forcing Chavez out with threats of force. Unless something
      > happened to turn things around, Chavez didn't appear to be in a position to
      > weather more strikes and demonstrations. There were two possibilities for
      > that: either orders to shoot to kill en mass that were obeyed, or what
      > happened.
      > Bush acted as though he worked for the Committee to Relect the President,
      > Venezualan branch. He, even more than the rise in oil prices, managed to
      > turn the popularity of Chavez around. But, that is to Bush's detriment,
      > not Chavez's credit.
      > I don't have to favor the generals that temporarily deposed him, I don't
      > even have to favor Bush in order to have my suspicians about Chavez. His
      > presidency has not helped the poor people of Venezuela...even with all of
      > his extrodinary powers....and even with oil prices going from 10-50 dollars
      > under his administration....which I don't think he can take credit for.
      > Should the US keep it's hand's off the government of Venezuela?
      > Absolutely. Does that mean that the country's people will benefit from his
      > rule? No.
      I agree.

      > A question was asked of me by a conservative, are liberals bound and
      > determined to support leftists against all comers? In response, I've tried
      > to have a consistent set of rules by which I judge leftists and rightists.
      > I would not support a right wing government where converage was turned off
      > as National Guard snipers fired on demonstrators. I don't see why I should
      > support a left wing president who does it. If the right wing or left wing
      > government is reelected, that's the people's choice...and not mine to
      > overturn. But, I don't have to admire the leader.

      There has been no evidence accepted that National Guard snipers were
      firing on civilians. The only thing accepted is that 5 or more
      civilians were killed by unknown snipers. Many others were killed in
      armed clashes. Chavez claims he captured the snipers and the
      dictator-for-two days let them go. The right claims the snipers were
      under the orders of Chavez.

      So you are in support of no more interventions by Washington in
      Venezuela but would like to see Chavez gone?

      I support no more interventions in support of some rich oil men and I
      support democracy. I am not convinced Chavez is undemocratic but I
      know the opposition leaders in Venezuela are undemocratic. I know
      this administration uses Orwellian language to proclaim support for
      democracy abroad while not showing any particular fondness for it.

      If there was a huge demonstration in Washington by both pro and
      anti-Hillary forces and Ms. Clinton shut down the TV networks
      encouraging her overthrow and suddenly there are reports of Army
      snipers on roof tops killing demonstrators I take it you would not
      support or admire her but would not like to see her overthrown? (Just
      taking notes for future reference. ;-) )

      Gary Denton
      Easter Lemming Blogs
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