Current U.S. ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte has been nominated by President Bush to be chief advisor and the first National Intelligence Director,  with authority over 15 formerly independent intelligence agencies. So just who is he? For starters, John Negroponte is a multi-millionaire who has made a lot of money off of owning stock in companies that benefit directly from the war and occupation of Iraq. In Iraq, he has been linked to a proposal where U.S.-funded Central American-style death squads or the so called "Salvador option"  has been put forward as a way to quell the Iraqi insurgency against the U.S. occupation.

Negroponte has denied this, but his record indicates that his support for such a plan is not at all far-fetched. During his 41-year career with the State Department, or as some have called it "Death Squads Inc.", he and his cronies shepherded a murder machine from Vietnam to Iraq.  Negroponte worked as a political officer at the U.S. embassy in Vietnam from 1964-1968, a period during which there was increased involvement of the government in the war and thousands of executions of civilians and human rights abuses, including the massacres by the infamous "Tiger Force" of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division.

As ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985, he was in charge of the Command Center set-up to stop and overthrow all the emerging national liberation movements taking place in Central America. Military budgets grew in Honduras alone from 4 million dollars to 77 million dollars and the CIA agents stationed there increased tenfold. Money was no object legality or illegality to fight the insurgencies.  He lied to Congress about the CIA-created "Battalion 316" Honduran death squad and covert operations that occurred. He supervised the building of the "El Aguacate" air base and other regional military training centers for the Central American Forces, the Contras, and the Salvadorean military. These bases were also secret detention and torture centers and were used to launch the covert war against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua and the mining of their harbors.

But we must remember that Negroponte did not act alone, he got his marching orders from Ronald Reagan and William Casey and all the U.S. embassies in the region worked together to put down these revolutionary movements.In El Salvador, one player stands out from the rest, the current ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield. He played a decisive role along with John Negroponte as a political officer in the embassy cover-up of U.S. involvement in the assassination Archbishop Oscar Romero.  He also worked to cover up the murder of the four American Maryknoll nuns and other nuns escaping the violence there.  Brownfield also played a key role in directing the death squads and El Salvadorean military, who butchered tens of thousands of trade unionists and members of the FMLN. The death squads did not just kill these people, but in a lot of cases they dismembered them and placed their heads on poles as a warning to the rest of the population.

In Venezuela, ambassador Brownfield has been brought in as a relief pitcher to former ambassador Robert Shapiro, himself no stranger to coups.  Shapiro helped in the staging of the April 2002 coup against President Chavez and the destabilization programs that followed. He was also involved in the CIA-backed murderous overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende in September of 1973, and death of thousands of people under a military dictatorship that lasted a decade.

In fact, William Brownfield, as ambassador to Chile on the anniversary of the overthrow of that government in 2003, stated publicly in a memorial service that "people who hate the United States must be controlled, arrested or eliminated."

Brownfield's game plan for Venezuela is to unite the opposition, the 400 U.S. corporations, and the fifth-columnists and create an atmosphere for the overthrow of the Bolivarian Revolution. He along with Negroponte will be at the forefront in trying to stop the flowering of the Latin American and World revolutions that we find ourselves in this epoch.

These are the types of people the U.S. government makes responsible for carrying out U.S. policy around the world - under both Republican and the Democratic administrations. The interests of the U.S. imperialists are defended, while the revolutionary aspirations of working people are drowned in blood. Our task is to build a new society in which death squads, the Brownfields, Negropontes and the capitalist system that creates and nurtures them are consigned to the dust bin of history.

Hands Off Venezuela!
Forward to Socialism!

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I have said it already, I am convinced that the way to build a new and better world is not capitalism. Capitalism leads us straight to hell
(Hugo Chavez)

“I am convinced that the path to a new, better and possible world is not capitalism, the path is socialism”. With this clear statement on his weekly TV programme “Alo Presidente,” Chavez reaffirmed his point of view that socialism is the only way forward to solve the problems of inequality, misery and poverty that millions face in Venezuela and the world today.

He added: “I have said it already, I am convinced that the way to build a new and better world is not capitalism. Capitalism leads us straight to hell.” The President had already made similar statements speaking at the World Social Forum in Brazil at the end of January.

Last Sunday’s Alo Presidente programme was broadcast from Cocorote in the mainly agricultural state of Yaracuy. Chavez made an appeal to open a discussion about the question of socialism within his own party, the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR), and within the Bolivarian revolutionary movement in general.

He explained how this conviction came after many years of struggle: “I am convinced, at this stage of my life – I am now 50 years old – after six years as a president, after nearly 30 years of political struggle, since 1977, when I had the idea of taking an oath from a small group of fellow countrymen, soldiers, to create the first nucleus – there were only about 5 of us then – of what later became the MBR-200 [Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement 200] ... after many readings, debates, discussions and many travels around the world, etc., I am convinced, and I think that this conviction will be for the rest of my life, that the path to a new, better and possible world, is not capitalism, the path is socialism, that is the path: socialism, socialism”.

The public cheered and applauded the speech. The reaction of the live audience to Chavez’s words shows the enormous potential that there is in the Venezuelan revolutionary movement for the ideas of socialist transformation. This is the result of the practical experience of the last 16 years of struggle. February 27th marked the 16th anniversary of the “Caracazo” uprising, which was to transform Venezuela’s political life. And in particular the last six years since Chavez was elected in December 1998 have had an impact.

Hugo Chavez’s political evolution has not proceeded in a straight line, as he explained himself on Friday 25th, at a Summit on Social Debt in Caracas. He honestly pointed out that he had toyed with the idea of a “Third Way” as a solution to capitalism: “a third way, capitalism with a human face, trying to give the monster a mask.” But he concluded: “this mask has fallen to the floor shattered by reality”.

When he came to power in 1998 Chavez did not start from a socialist standpoint. He was committed to solving the problems of inequality, poverty, and misery of millions of Venezuelans. But he initially thought that could be done within the limits of the capitalist system. His government actually has gone out of its way not to violate private property rights of big landowners, bankers and businessmen.

The contradiction from the very beginning was precisely that any attempt to seriously address these problems would clash head on with the interests of the oligarchy, a tight coalition of interests of landowners, bankers, capitalists and the state bureaucracy, completely subordinated to the wishes of US imperialism.

Since President Chavez was seriously committed to solving these problems, the oligarchy, en masse, went over to the side of armed insurrection against the democratically elected government. This shows the extremely parasitical nature of the Venezuelan oligarchy (a feature it shares with the ruling classes of all capitalist countries in the so-called Third World). They organised the military coup of April 2002, the oil industry sabotage and bosses’ lockout of December 2002, the bringing of Colombian paramilitaries to Caracas and the fascist provocation of la guarimba in February 2004, the presidential recall referendum in August 2004, and so on.

It has been this rich experience of the revolutionary movement, faced with the constant provocations of the ruling class, that has pushed Chavez and many in the Bolivarian revolutionary movement to draw the conclusion that “Within the framework of capitalism it is impossible to solve the challenges of fighting against poverty, misery, exploitation, inequality” (Venezuela’s elections: defeat for the opposition, advance for the Bolivarian movement), as Chavez himself explained during the October regional election campaign.

This dynamic of action and reaction of the Venezuelan revolution reminds us in a very powerful way of the first years of the Cuban revolution. In a process of attack and counter-attack, the leadership of the Cuban revolution, which did not start with the intention of overthrowing capitalism, was forced, in order to solve the most pressing needs of the masses, to overthrow capitalism.

This is one side of the question, but there is another side. Chavez is a man who devours books and has an enormous thirst for ideas. This is no accident. It reflects the pressing need to find a way out of the problems faced by the revolution. That is why Hugo Chavez has been reading Marxist literature, which has undoubtedly had an influence on him. He has publicly praised Alan Woods’ book Reason in Revolt on several occasions. He has particularly quoted the section that deals with the molecular process of the revolution, a section that is particularly relevant to the stage the Bolivarian Revolution is now passing through.

Even more relevant is Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution, which he bought from the comrades of El Militante at the meeting with the workers in Madrid, and which he has also recommended enthusiastically. The main thesis of this book is precisely the fact that none of the tasks of the national democratic revolution can be carried out by the bourgeoisie in backward capitalist countries, since they have arrived too late on the scene of history, and that these tasks can only be solved by the working class through the struggle for socialism.

The central idea of the theory of Permanent Revolution is that in colonial and ex-colonial countries the struggle for the bourgeois democratic tasks, if it is pursued to the end, must lead (in an uninterrupted or permanent manner) to the socialist revolution. But that is only half of the theory. The other main idea in the Permanent Revolution is that revolution cannot be limited within the borders of one country, but must spread internationally as the only guarantee of its victory. Chavez has also commented favourably upon this idea, stating publicly that Trotsky was right against Stalin on this question, and that the Bolivarian Revolution must spread to other countries in order to succeed.

At the Summit on Social Debt, he said that so far in six years of government, “we have not defined our model as socialist”. He added: “I am saying this in my personal capacity, to contribute to the debate, to open the discussion within the parties that support the revolution”. But his position is clear: “if it is not capitalism, then, what is it? I have no doubts, it is socialism”. On Alo Presidente he stressed the need for a debate on this question: “let’s discuss, we are not afraid of ideas”.

In previous occasions Chavez has made it clear that what is needed is to study the original ideas of socialism, which have been distorted by Stalinism. “Which socialism, of the many that there are? We could think that none of those that have existed, though they represent experience, achievements, advancement in many cases, we will have to invent it, this is why this debate is so important, we must invent 21st century socialism.”

At the end of his Alo Presidente programme he insisted that the kind of socialism he is thinking about is based on “revolutionary democracy”: “all of this, the urban land committees, the endogenous growth nucleus, the ‘Into the neighbourhood’ mission, the Housing Mission... all of these are tools for the building of socialism, we must move away from capitalism”.

Chavez has said on many occasions that the only way to end poverty is, “to give power to the poor”. That idea is basically correct, but like all the other ideas expressed by Chavez, it must be given a concrete content. Genuine socialism can only be based on the democracy of workers’ committees in the factories, workplaces and working class communities, soldiers’ committees and peasants’ committees. This was actually carried into practice by the Bolshevik Party under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky in Russia in 1917, although it was later betrayed and distorted by Stalin.

Chavez’s latest statements about socialism come after the Zamoran decrees to speed up land reform were passed in January and the expropriation of Venepal, also in January. The land reform decrees have already been used to take over part of El Charcote ranch (owned by British multimillionaire Lord Vestey). Venepal is now jointly owned by the state and the workers and run on the basis of a structure in which the Workers’ Assembly is the supreme body. The workers at the Constructora Nacional de Valvulas (the CNV makes valves for the oil industry), also abandoned by its owners, have now re-launched their struggle and are also demanding nationalisation under workers’ control.

It is clear that the Bolivarian Revolution now stands at the turning point. If it is to go forward, it must now grasp the nettle, confront the oligarchy and carry out the expropriation of the land, the banks and the big enterprises that remain in private hands. In order to avoid the abomination of bureaucracy and totalitarianism, it must develop a democratic model – not the corrupt pseudo-democracy of the bourgeoisie but a new model of socialist democracy that means that power is firmly in the hands of the workers and peasants.

Some people say that the Bolivarian model must not take its ideas from other countries, especially Europe. If that means that the Bolivarian Revolution must not slavishly import foreign models, we agree. The Venezuelan revolution has its own character, personality and historical traditions and the masses have already demonstrated their colossal capacity for creativity and inventiveness.

But if it signifies a national limitedness and narrow mindedness, that is bad and has nothing in common with the true ideas of Bolivar. Let us not forget that Simon Bolivar based himself on a very European model – that of the French Revolution. In the same way the modern descendants of Bolivar will seek to learn from other revolutions. After all, we do not need to re-invent the wheel. Revolution did not end with Bolivar, and the revolutionary ideology was later perfected and placed on a scientific basis by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, and other revolutionary thinkers.

The modern Bolivarians will be as open to genuinely revolutionary ideas from other countries as was their founder. It is no accident that, along with Bolivar and the other heroes of the Latin American revolutionary tradition, Hugo Chavez quotes the works of the great Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky. The modern Bolivarians will repeat the experience of the Russian Revolution, but on a higher level, and filling it with a genuinely Venezuelan and Latin American content. In this way they will preserve the best of the old to produce something genuinely new and original.

Above all, it is necessary to commence the debate on ideas that President Chavez has called for. The Marxist tendency represented in Venezuela by the Revolutionary Marxist Current, and internationally by El Militante and Marxist.com will participate actively in this debate. This is the only way in which we can develop a layer of revolutionary cadres, integrated in the Bolivarian Movement, capable of providing the necessary guidance in the decisive battles against capitalism.

The opening of the debate about socialism represents a decisive turning point in the Venezuelan revolution and it has worldwide implications. For the first time in many years, the leader of a mass revolutionary movement is drawing the correct conclusions from his own experience. He has come to the conclusion that capitalism cannot solve the problems of the masses and that socialism is the only way forward. That should be warmly welcomed by all sincere revolutionaries. Now what is needed is to convert words into deeds!

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In a speech that further solidified President Chavez's embrace of socialism, Chavez said that he "has no doubts" that socialism is the only model that will allow societies to overcome poverty. According to Chavez, "Within the capitalist model it is impossible to overcome the drama of poverty, of misery, and of inequality."

Chavez gave this speech at the opening of an international conference on the "social debt," which began on Friday in Caracas, where analysts from around the world discussed the foreign debt, the Social Charter of the Americas, environmentalism, and Western domination. Chavez's speech at the conference represented a further endorsement of how his views had moved towards an embrace of socialism since his speech at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a few weeks ago.

Chavez added that it was necessary to "invent the socialism of the 21st century," rather than applying the old model that had been tried before. "This is a debate that we've begun to have in Venezuela," said Chavez.

According to Chavez, it is not just the Third World debt that prevents their development, but also their lack of unified action. Also, it is not just neo-liberal capitalism that contributes to poverty, but its concept of sustainable development does not help either.

Instead, Chavez proposes "endogenous development" and the creation of an International Humanitarian Fund, 50% of which would come from Third World countries' foreign debt payments, which are estimated to be at $270 billion per year.

Chavez also reiterated the need for debtor countries to develop a unified strategy for dealing with the Third World debt.As part of this need Venezuela is promoting the creation of a Social Charter for the Organization of American States, which would complement the existing Democratic Charter. The Social Charter will be one of the main topics of discussion at the conference.

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Venezuela's National Lands Institute (INTI) says 4 million hectares are in the hands of 150 persons.

INTI president, Eliecer Otaiza has splashed adverts in the national press listing the supposed owners of idle lands and question them to present themselves with papers confirming ownership.

"We are complying with the dictates of the law ... we want owners and presumed owners to prepare themselves so that we can proceed legally knowing they have complied with the dictates of the law."

The people mentioned have 15 working days starting 8 days after the appearance of the adverts to present themselves and defend their property.

The advert lists the following farms in Apure and Aragua (12), Falcon (12), Tachira, Miranda and Delta Amacuro totaling around 4.5 million hectares. Perhaps the most famous name that appears on the list is former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez' wife, Cecilia Matos. Other names include Leopoldo Lopez Gil and rebel Air Force (FAV) Captain Silvio Bustillos. Otaiza admits that these are the alleged owners.

INTI has so far assessed 15 million hectares, discovering more than 4 million in the hands of 150 persons, which translates into 90% of farms in the hands of 1% of alleged owners.

"The assessment has been undertaken guaranteeing the rule of law ... some inspections have produced false documents with very clear interests that suppose tenancy of large extensions of lands in few hands."

Otaiza adds that some lawyers have been attempting to draw up new land registers to sustain supposed tenancies ... "they will be handed over to the courts."

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Chavez met with Invepal workers before his Sunday television program, which was broadcast from the factory.
Chavez met with Invepal workers before his Sunday television program, which was broadcast from the factory.
Credit: Prensa Presidencial

In his Sunday television address Aló Presidente, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced a new direction for economic development, centered around the slogan “made in Venezuela.” Chávez made the announcement from the Venezuelan Endogenous Paper Industry (Invepal), an enormous paper factory recently expropriated by the government after a hard fought battle by 350 paper workers.

Formerly the private paper company Venepal, Invepal was expropriated last month after the company was declared bankrupt and the National Assembly (AN) ruled the factory to be of social and public usefulness. The 900 workers at the factory were laid off in September, 2004, but 350 workers remained, threatening to occupy the factory if the government didn’t expropriate it.

Venepal had been in dire financial straights since the late 1990s, but according to paper factory union leader Edgar Peña, the company signed its own death warrant by participating in the oil industry shutdown in 2002-03. In December 2002, the traditional labor federation, the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV) and the largest chamber of commerce, Fedecamaras, joined forces, declaring a nation-wide “general strike” aimed at ousting President Chávez. In many cases, such as in the case of Venepal, employers locked workers out, shutting down production for over 2 months. The economic blow left Venepal reeling, eventually forcing it to declare bankruptcy in 2004. Property expropriated from Venepal covers 5,600 hectares in 4 states.

According to President Chávez, the renamed company, Invepal, will produce paper notebooks made of Venezuelan primary material. Wood produced in the Venezuelan states of Monagas and Anzoátegui, South-East of the capital Caracas, will be made into pulp at a new factory to be purchased by the state. The pulp will then provide Invepal with its own entirely domestic raw material. According to Peña, Invepal currently must import pulp from Chile, with a shipment of 600 tons expected in early March.

The idea, says Chávez, is for Venezuelan industry to satisfy national demand for paper, using domestic raw material, which is part of Venezuela’s shift to “endogenous” development.

“Endogenous development” essentially aims to promote economic and social development prioritizing the collective benefits of industry and production and focuses on local specificities in development planning. According to government literature, endogenous development is based on “cooperative and humanistic” logic, as opposed to the capitalistic individualism of the global economy.

The new paper company expects to restart production next month, thanks to a US$7 million grant from the national government. Invepal will be co-managed between worker and state representatives. A workers’ assembly, representing the maximum authority of the company, will eliminate bureaucracy, and merge production and administration, said Chávez.

“This structure will be put to the test, and we’ll adjust it as necessary, because here we are inventing our own model,” added Chávez.

Invepal is to act as a “pole” of endogenous development in Venezuela’s North-East, a long-time manufacturing center. The government is also looking into building a plastic parts factory to produce for the automobile industry, as part of a joint-venture with Iranian companies, and soap and fertilizer factories to supply the domestic economy.

The government is simultaneously working on a plan to bring all basic industry into the state-run endogenous development model. The mining and processing center in the country’s South-Eastern state of Bolívar looks to become a similar “pole” of co-managed state run enterprises. According to preliminary reports, Basic Industry Minister Victor Alvarez plans to begin with the Aluminum processing plant Alcasa, much as the North-Eastern pole is being launched with Invepal.

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