Venezuela between revolution and counterrevolution

By Alan Woods

The reports from Venezuela indicate a sharpening of the struggle between the contending forces.

On Friday a gunman killed three people and wounded 21 others at an anti-government rally in a plaza where rebel officers have held daily protests. This bloody incident bears all the hallmarks of a premeditated provocation. According to reports in Clarin, snipers mounted on motorbikes fired at a group which included dissident army officers. Police have arrested seven suspects, one of whom is Joao de Gouveira, a Portuguese national and a taxi driver by profession, who is said to have confessed to the shooting in Altamira Square.

We have no information about this Gouveira. It is impossible to say whether he is a professional provocateur or a deranged ultra-left or a terrorist manipulated by the CIA or some other state agency. This, however, is a secondary matter. The objective content of this action is that it is a provocation that is designed to discredit the revolution and provide support for the anti-government forces. In particular, it is intended to create an atmosphere of fear and panic that is conducive to the formation of a "Party of Order" among the army officers.

The revolutionary camp must be on its guard against provocateurs who have undoubtedly infiltrated themselves into the mass movement, with a view to causing disorder and panic. Their aim is to drag the mass movement into futile armed conflicts that can end with a large number of casualties. This is the main aim of the counterrevolutionaries. That is why the ideas of "foquism" and individual terrorism are so harmful to the movement. The groups that advocate such tactics are very easily infiltrated by the police and secret services and manipulated for sinister purposes. It is necessary to firmly oppose all adventurist tactics that put the whole movement at risk.

The way to defeat the counterrevolution is not through individual shoot-outs but through the actions of the masses themselves. And the masses are responding to the challenge magnificently! On Saturday about 100,000 Chavez followers poured onto the streets of Caracas in a human flood. This is the way to answer the enemy! By contrast, the number of counterrevolutionaries on the streets was much less. This is an indication that the willpower of the middle class is waning. That is quite typical of the petty bourgeois, which looks for quick successes and is easily discouraged when it meets resistance.

However, the struggle is by no means over yet. Troops ordered to seize the Pilin Leon, anchored off the coast, failed yesterday to retake the oil tanker which was seized by counterrevolutionaries because the crew said they would break maritime law to surrender control to unqualified officers. The aim of the reactionaries is perfectly clear: to cause the maximum chaos and disorder, to wreck the economy, to take the bread from the mouths of the people and thus create the conditions for a coup.

Having initially failed to bring things to a head by demonstrations, the attention of the reaction has shifted from the street to the state oil monopoly, PDVSA. Since the beginning of the present campaign of sabotage oil production has fallen 40% and key refineries are on the verge of closing. Since oil exports account for half of the government's revenue, this is a calamity for the country.

Hugo Chavez has ordered the army to increase its protection of oil sites and has warned that he may declare a state of emergency if the disruption continues to grow. He has also threatened to remove staff at refineries.

But the counterrevolutionaries are implacable. They understand that if this movement - the fourth this year - fails, they will find themselves in great difficulties. Behind the scenes the US embassy is urging them on. There is no shortage of dollars to finance these murky operations. Both sides understand that the outcome of the present test of strength will be decisive.

The counterrevolutionary forces do not feel strong enough to take power by themselves. The intention of the street demonstrations is not to stage a national uprising, but only to create panic and disorder in the hope that the reactionary elements in the tops of the army will be encouraged to carry out a pronunciamiento.

To the degree that the present situation is permitted to last, the possibilities of such a development will increase. The idea will gather force that "this cannot continue", "order must be restored". The risk of Bonapartist tendencies in the armed forces is very real.

Hugo Chavez has accused his enemies of sabotage and urged his people to "keep mobilised on the streets and in the countryside to defend the revolution once again". This is in fact the only way to save the revolution from imminent disaster. However, the mobilisation of the masses, by itself, is not enough. The movement requires not only courage and fighting spirit - it needs a clear goal, a programme and a strategy.

To do justice to the counterrevolutionaries, they have such a goal, and have consistently pursued it with skilful tactics, worked out by intelligent people who have no concern for constitutions, laws or any other scruples when it comes to defending their class interest. We should learn from our enemies, and show exactly the same qualities in fighting for the interests of our class.

The masses are responding with their customary energy and determination. There have been reports of factory occupations, including in the oil industry. This is the way forward!

From all over the country messages and resolutions are pouring in from rank and file organisations of the Bolivarian Movement demanding that the President take decisive action. In particular the people are enraged at the vile conduct of the press, the radio and the television. These powerful instruments in the hands of the capitalists are always used against the labour movement. At this moment they are being used by the counterrevolutionary forces in Venezuela to agitate against the legally elected government and in favour of a coup. The question is posed of occupation of the TV, radio and press offices in order to put an end to the manipulation of the news by the reactionaries.

In 1968 in France, the print workers obliged the millionaire press to submit to scrutiny by a workers' committee to ensure that the content of the newspapers was reasonably balanced. The papers had to publish the workers' point of view on the main questions of the day. This is probably the only time that the people of France could read the truth about the workers' struggle. The working people of Venezuela could do more than just follow this example.

Under the capitalist system the freedom of the press is an empty phrase. In all countries the media is owned and controlled by a handful of super rich tycoons who appoint and sack the editors according to their tastes. It is they who ultimately decide the political line of the media. A tiny group of powerful men, elected by nobody and responsible to nobody, is able to shape and mould public opinion, to make and break governments. And this is what they call "democracy"!

A workers' state would nationalise the mass media and provide free access to them to all political and social tendencies in proportion to their support in the population. In this way, the revolutionary committees would have television stations and daily papers, and could permit themselves the luxury of giving the wealthy press tycoons the democratic right to produce a small duplicated monthly which they could sell at the bus stops and market places.

When Chavez was elected four years ago, he promised a fundamental change in Venezuelan society. The people believed him. There is no doubt whatsoever of his personal honesty and his sincere desire to act in the interests of the mass of poor people, the workers and peasants. Important gains have been made, and these must be defended. But in the end, the real problem remained unsolved. The country's economy remained in the hands of a tiny oligarchy that has robbed and ruined the country. These wealthy and powerful men will never be reconciled to a free, just and equal Venezuela. As long as the land, the banks and the industries remain in their hands, no real lasting solution is possible.

What is required in Venezuela is a social revolution. The question is: who shall prevail? A handful of wealthy magnates backed by US imperialism, or the overwhelming majority of the people whose only crime is to seek a better life for themselves and their children? Those who talk grandiloquently about democracy conveniently overlook the fact that what they are advocating is that a tiny handful of wealthy parasites should control the lives and destinies of the vast majority of the people. That is not democracy. It is the dictatorship of Capital.

The economic sabotage has had a certain effect, provoking shortages in the shops and a wave of panic buying across Venezuela. As the conflict entered its second week, the National Guard has had to commandeer delivery trucks and force petrol stations to open. The shutdown has crippled the oil industry of the world's fifth-largest producer as wells, refineries, tanker ships, delivery centres and gas stations have stopped operating. The situation thus remains serious.

Outside Caracas, the National Guard seized at least three gasoline distribution centres that had closed in the strike. The government hired civilians to drive tanker trucks - commandeered from their private owners - to gas stations. The Energy Ministry said the private property would be returned to its owners "as soon as activities are normalised."

But here is the problem. There is no question of things ever being "normalised" in Venezuela until the fundamental contradiction is removed. What is necessary is to destroy the economic power of the capitalist class by expropriating the commanding heights of the economy. This would make it impossible for the enemies of the revolution to conduct the kind of sabotage we are now witnessing.

More importantly, it would enable the people of Venezuela to mobilise the full productive potential of Venezuelan industry, agriculture and manpower to solve the burning problems of the masses.

For the present, the situation of unstable equilibrium continues. Egged on by Washington the reactionaries are even hardening their demands. Talks between the opposition and government were resumed Saturday night but appeared to make little progress. The opposition initially was seeking a referendum on Chavez's 4-year-old government, but now it is demanding his immediate resignation.

The most serious aspect of the situation is the beginnings of what are clearly armed provocations, like the one that was staged last Friday. There is no doubt that this was intended to lead to even more serious clashes. Fortunately, so far this has not occurred. However, the need for some kind of defence force or militia is clearly posed.

The need for defence should be discussed in every committee and where possible arrangements should be made to set up defence groups to patrol the local areas and maintain order. The workers' districts must be protected against criminal elements and provocateurs that seek to disturb the peace and provoke conflicts. Specialised people with a knowledge of military affairs can be put in charge of these units. The purpose is not to cause violence, as some have suggested, but to minimise it and to deter aggressors.

The question of the army remains the central issue. The majority of the soldiers are on the side of the people. The closest contacts must be maintained between the barracks and the committees, and together they should keep a close watch on the movements and conduct of army officers whose loyalty is doubtful.

It is absolutely correct to place demands on the President and to press the leadership to act in a decisive manner. In the last analysis, Chavez himself is a personification of the aspirations of the masses, or, to be more correct, of the first confused aspirations of the masses that have been recently awoken to political life. In appealing to these aspirations and the striving for a better life for the poor and oppressed, Hugo Chavez undoubtedly played a progressive role.

But life moves on. The situation now is posed in darker colours. Venezuelan society is fractured and polarised to the left and right. The old vague slogans no longer have any value or use in this situation. What is needed is clarity and firmness. An ever increasing number of people are beginning to see this and are loudly demanding a firmer hand and more decisive action in dealing with the enemies of the people. It is entirely correct and necessary to put pressure on the leadership to act. If they do so, the struggle can be won far more quickly and with fewer sacrifices.

But what is absolutely necessary is for the masses to continue to act from below, immediately to carry their demands into practice, without waiting for any lead from the top. This was how they won in April and this is how they can win now.

Unfortunately, Hugo Chavez has often displayed indecision in the face of events. Lacking a clear perspective, he finds himself under extreme pressures from left and right. He is being urged by so-called friends to behave with moderation, for fear of making things worse. With "friends" like these one really needs no enemies! It is necessary to counteract these pressures by stepping up the pressure from below.

Undoubtedly, a great weight of responsibility rests on the shoulders of the President. As an old army man, all his instincts are against splitting the army. He does not want a civil war. But the fact is that the only way to prevent a civil war is by taking decisive action against the counterrevolution and arming the people. The Romans of old had a saying: "Si pacem vis, para bellum" - If you desire peace, prepare for war! It is the eternal dialectic of reformism and pacifism that they achieve precisely the opposite results to the ones intended. By arming and mobilising the masses against the danger of reaction, that danger becomes less, not more. By compromising and trying to avoid a fight, that is, by showing weakness in the face of reaction, the latter becomes more confident and more aggressive.

As for the army, it is already divided between the majority that is on the side of the people, and a minority of elements who have been bought by the counterrevolution. The only question is which of the two factions will emerge triumphant. Hugo Chavez should base himself on the masses and the soldiers who are with the masses in order to disarm and arrest the counterrevolutionary elements in the barracks. Do not trust those who pose as loyalists but who advocate a policy of conciliation with the enemy and complain about the masses "going too far"! Remember the fate of Salvador Allende, who trusted the "democratic" general Pinochet and refused to distribute arms to the masses who were willing to fight for the government.

Here and in other articles, we have advocated a definite line of action to save the Venezuelan revolution and carry it forward. One may be in favour of these proposals or against them. But what happens at the end of the day will be decided by the masses themselves in the course of struggle. Their own experience will teach them which ideas are correct. The presence of a revolutionary Marxist party with a far-sighted leadership would enable them to find the right way in a shorter space of time. The marvellous resolutions from the local committees show that they are in the process of finding this way, and that in the committees there already exist elements that are fighting for a Marxist policy. Once the masses are convinced that this is the way in which to move, no force on earth can stop them.

Buenos Aires,
December 10, 2002.

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The revolution in Venezuela is in danger!

By Fred Weston

This article is based on material published in Venezuela, which is available in Spanish (see links at the end of this article). We will provide more material in the coming days. We ask all our readers and supporters to step up the campaign we launched last week in defence of the Venezuelan revolution. Keep collecting the solidarity signatures, organise meetings, raise money, spread the word about what is happening in Venezuela.

Events in Venezuela are moving fast. Twice the "opposition" – which gathers around it all that is reactionary in Venezuela – has tried to overthrow Chavez. First they tried the coup in April 2002, then the so-called oil workers' strike. On both occasions mass opposition from the workers and poor of Venezuela stopped the reactionaries in their tracks. But in the last few days they have adopted a new tactic, to sow terror on the streets. Workers, students, Chavez supporters, left activists have come under physical attack. This is part of a grand plan to destabilise the country and create conditions more favourable for the opposition, including the possibility of another coup.

Speaking at a mass rally in Caracas on Sunday Chavez made the harshest speech he has ever made yet against Bush. He said that if US imperialism dares to interfere in Venezuelan politics and tries to remove the democratically elected government of the country, not one drop of Venezuelan petroleum would go to the United States. This is a serious threat because Venezuela exports about 1.5 million barrels of oil daily to the U.S. He also raised the possibility that the U.S. may be tempted to carry out a military intervention. In such a case there would be enough mountain, enough jungle, enough savannah, enough dignity and also enough guts to confront such an attack.

Chavez speaks at Sunday's demonstration

The campaign to destabilise the country is being orchestrated nationally within Venezuela and internationally. In different towns and districts around Venezuela small but very determined and fanatical groups have been carrying out attacks on supporters of the revolutionary process. Faced with the counter-attacks of the workers and youth, these gangs have fired on ordinary civilians.

These activities have already provoked mass reaction. On Sunday, February 29th, Caracas saw millions of ordinary working Venezuelans, the downtrodden, the poor, the workers and youth, march through the streets for six hours. The masses could sense the danger that was looming. Two days earlier the opposition had mobilised a much smaller force on the streets of Caracas. Sunday's mass rally represented the whole people mobilising in defence of their basic democratic rights and in defence of the revolutionary process unfolding in Venezuela.

At the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) a small gang of "oppositionists" tried to raise barricades but they were swept away by the spontaneous mobilisation of students and workers. Similar provocations have taken place elsewhere. In the area of El Valle a group of about 100 provocateurs backed by an armed group attempted to take control of the streets, but were later dispersed by the mobilisation of the local people. The students at the UCV were holding a mass meeting today to discuss how to proceed.

These events are all part of a grand plan to present Venezuela as a country falling into chaos, with the clear aim of justifying moves against Chavez and the Bolivarian movement that stands behind. They want to confuse the workers and youth of the world about what is really going on in Venezuela and thus justify their attempts to overthrow the democratically electe3d government and President of Venezuela.

But why is all this happening now? After the failure of the April 2002 coup and the "oil workers' strike" the reactionary opposition was in difficulty. It had lost its momentum. Its supporters were demoralised. They were no longer capable of mobilising the already weak forces they had. Recent opinion polls actually show that they are weaker electorally. The same polls show that Chavez has more than 60% support among the population. There is even greater support for some of his basic reforms, such as in education and healthcare. These have 75-80% support. Ordinary workers and poor know where their interests lie!

Faced with this, the opposition shifted all their efforts to getting a recall referendum, which the Venezuelan constitution allows for. For this they need to get a minimum of 2,400,000 signatures. They have failed abysmally to achieve this figure. They claim they have the signatures, but it has been clearly demonstrated that many of these are false. There have been many cases of people declaring that their signatures had been falsified. In some cases it has been proven that the signatures were of dead people! Even children were signing for the opposition! And many signatures were duplicates. The opposition could sense that the National Electoral Council (NEC) was not going to come down on their side.

Without the referendum the "opposition" faced a further weakening and demoralisation of its forces. However, even if the NEC were to declare that this time round a sufficient number of signatures has been collected it seems very unlikely that in the given conditions, the opposition could win such a referendum.

The opposition leaders are fully aware that they would most likely lose, but they need something to keep their forces mobilised. Part of their plans are clearly to try to go ahead with the referendum, and if the result turns out be a defeat for them they would then declare it a fraud and mobilise on that basis. This seems to be how they were planning to do things, but now that the referendum may not even take place they have been forced to anticipate events. Time was playing against them. Opinion polls show that they could even lose control of some local councils. This, again, would put them in a very unfavourable situation. They could not claim to represent the "people" of Venezuela as they have been trying to do, once the masses had passed their verdict.

The opposition has thus found itself in extreme difficulty. It is their very weakness which has placed them with their backs to the wall. They must move, they must do something if they are to get their supporters mobilised behind them. But it is their very weakness which is leading them to act in the desperate way they are doing at the moment.

They may even be contemplating an attempted assassination of Chavez himself. If this were to happen, Venezuela would be thrown into even greater turmoil. A civil war could be on the agenda. The masses would not remain passive. They would come out in their millions. We would be facing a new "Caracazo", but this time on a much higher level. The masses are much more organised. They have a greater experience. They have gained much and will not be willing to give all this up to the reactionary, pro-imperialist gangsters that want to turn the clock back.

The opposition is clearly thinking of what their next step should be. Some must be playing with the idea of another coup. They are looking for support among the higher levels of the military. For now, the balance of forces, even at this level of the armed forces, is still weighed against them. Most of the officers have stated their loyalty to Chavez. In fact, last time there was a coup, under the pressure of the masses, a wing of the army moved to save Chavez and overthrow the coup leaders. However. There is no guarantee that this "loyalty" will remain for ever. It depends on several factors.

If they see the country falling into "chaos" some of them may decide to switch their allegiances. We have seen this many times before. At the crucial moment, the top officers side with their own class, the bosses. But it seems we have not yet reached that stage. But this stage clearly remains within the plans of the opposition. What they are doing is trying to create a more favourable situation for such a scenario.

One short term option is a possible embargo to be imposed on Venezuela from outside, led by the United States and backed by their allies in the rest of Latin America. This however, also has its risks. Instead of weakening Chavez it could push the movement onto a higher level, with the masses lurching evermore leftwards, thus increasing the pressures on Chavez to take even firmer measures against imperialism.

Another rumour circulating in Venezuela is that the governor of Zulia, an oil-rich region on the border with Colombia, may be tempted to declare independence. This would be a provocation aimed at getting Chavez to intervene militarily and thus justify some external intervention to "save" Zulia. The fact that it is on the Colombian border would facilitate this.

All these are clearly possibilities that the opposition is considering. The problem is that at this stage the balance of forces is still massively weighted against them. If they don't move then they clearly demonstrate their weakness and thus boost the confidence of the masses. If they do move they are escalating events and pushing the masses to counter-attack.

Mass demonstration

So it seems that their actions over the last few days are dictated by their desperate need to keep up the morale of their supporters. They are doing this by mobilising the dregs of society in these cowardly attacks of armed gangs against unarmed workers and youth. This is part of a more ling-term strategy aimed at destabilising the country and preparing more favourable conditions for reaction.

Their slogan is "the worse the better". More chaos and disorder they succeed in sowing, the more likely they feel they can start to change the balance of forces within the institutions of the state, in particular within the army tops. If they can convince some key elements at this level that the country faces "collapse" or some kind of "communist take-over" then they would be preparing the conditions for a new coup at some point in the future.

However, it is not ruled out, that faced with a desperate situation, they could be pushed into a premature action and try and base themselves on those officers who are already with them. We cannot be complacent about the situation. The Venezuelan revolution is staring reaction in the face. Any sign of weakness on the part of Chavez, or of the Venezuelan masses, would invite further aggression.

Mass demonstration

This threat will not go away. At best, it will be delayed for a further period. But the opposition will not stop until it has achieved its aim – to crush the Venezuelan masses, to give them a lesson they will not forget for a long time. We must make sure that it is the opposition that receives a lesson it won't easily forget. That will not be achieved by maintaining the status quo.

Last Sunday' massive mobilisation in Caracas shows clearly the immense power of the Venezuelan masses. They could crush the opposition a thousand times over. But this will not be done with pious appeals from the government. It is time to move into action. It is not enough to defend the revolutionary process. It must be deepened. The power of the opposition is based on its property. It owns the bulk of the media, the TV, the newspapers, the radio stations, it controls large parts of the economy. It still has substantial power. It has reserves of support within the state apparatus. Even the National Electoral Council is divided 3 to 2 in favour of Chavez. For now the NEC has taken the correct decision to challenge the signatures. However, there is no guarantee that they will stick to this. Under pressure, it would take just one of its members to shift their opinion, for it to fall into the hands of the opposition.

To defend itself the revolution must move forward. The property of these oligarchs should be expropriated. It should be nationalised under workers' control. However, this also is not enough. The opposition is armed and backed by the rich capitalists, behind whom stands imperialism. These forces are not going to stand idly by while the masses remove all their instruments of power from their hands. That is why it is an urgent task to organise the masses.

The first steps should be:

- call mass meetings in every working class neighbourhood and workplace; these should elect defence committees, elected by all and with the right of recall;

- workers' defence squads should be created to defend each area and each workplace;

- the Chavez government should distribute arms to these squads and provide the workers with the necessary training to use them; that is the only way the workers can seriously defend themselves against the criminal gangs that the opposition is unleashing;

- special defensive measures should be taken to protect those activists of the movement, shop stewards etc., against physical attacks; not to do all this with the excuse that this would merely provoke a reaction on the part of the opposition would be a serious dereliction of duty; the opposition is already mobilising, it needs no excuse;

- these committees and defence squads should be linked to the loyal sections of the army and measures should be taken to make sure the sons of the workers in the army stay with their class;

If such measures are taken quickly and the masses are mobilised then no force on the planet could stop the Venezuelan workers. The fascist scum would flee in the face of such a mighty movement. Not to take the above measures would be playing into the hands of the opposition. It would facilitate their manoeuvres. They may be weak now but they are preparing for the future.

The workers of the world must be vigilant. A defeat for the Venezuelan workers would represent a defeat for all workers, especially for the workers of Latin America. We repeat: the only way of stopping reaction in Venezuela today is to take the revolution forward, complete it!

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President Chavez thanks In Defence of Marxism
for our Hands Off Venezuela! solidarity campaign

Brothers, fraternal greetings,

The President of the Republic has asked me to pass on his gratitude to you for your solidarity actions in favour of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Luis Bonilla-Molina,

Caracas, March 5, 2004

Spanish original:

Hermanos un fraterno saludo,

El Señor Presidente de la Republica agradece por mi intermedio, las iniciativas de solidaridad desarrolladas por ustedes en favor de la Revoluciòn Bolivariana

Luis Bonilla-Molina,

Caracas, 5 de marzo del 2004

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Labour MP publicises Hands off Venezuela appeal

By John McDonnell MP

This article was first published in the British daily, the Morning Star (March 26, 2004) in its Features section: True Labour - The voice of the majority, under the title Hands off Venezuela. We are publishing it to make it available to a wider international readership. It is important to highlight that the article is written by John McDonnell, chairman of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs. (March 30, 2004)

While the world's attention has been focused on the occupation of Iraq and the Israeli assault on Palestinians, there has been little reportage of the renewed and systematic programme by the Bush regime to extend US hegemony over south American states.

Morning Star 26/3/2004

The central target of the Bush regime is the government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

Venezuela is the fifth largest oil exporter in the world and yet, as a result of its history of US economic exploitation, up to 80 per cent of its population lives in poverty.

The operation of US neocolonialism in Venezuela has traditionally maintained a rich ruling elite who, in return, ensure the cheap flow of oil to northern America at the expense of the dire poverty of the majority of the population.

President Chavez was elected by a popular majority on a clear programme to tackle poverty and to empower the people by using the great oil wealth of his country in the interests of the people as a whole.

His government's programme of reforms has included an additional 1.5 million children in school getting three free meals a day, over one million adults obtaining literacy, 1.5 million more people gaining access to drinking water, the establishment of indigenous people's rights to land and bilingual education, the distribution of two million hectares of land to small farmers, the introduction of food subsidies and vouchers for pregnant women and after birth as well as a massive expansion of health care to working-class families.

The response of the US has been to support a reactionary right-wing opposition in a series of attempts to destabilise and remove the Chavez government from office.

First, in April 2002, they tried a straightforward coup in the style of the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile. This involved the kidnapping of the president and seizure of power by an US-backed puppet regime.

Within days, the mass popular street protests of the people ensured the return of Chavez and the toppling of the US-led junta.

Then came a so-called oil strike engineered by Chavez's right-wing opponents and aided by US agencies. This attempt to destabilise the country failed miserably in the face of the determination of the Chavez administration, actively supported by an overwhelming majority of the population.

More recently, the opposition has launched a petition under the Venezuelan constitution to force a recall referendum on the government.

Alongside this manoeuvre, the opposition has sought to push the country into chaos by mounting a series of orchestrated physical attacks, demonstrations and disturbances.

These provocations are aimed at portraying Venezuela as unstable and, therefore, in need of a right-wing regime or even military intervention by the US to restore order. Haiti was just one recent example of the implementation of this US strategy.

The referendum strategy of the opposition is descending into near farce as many of the 2.4 million signatures that it requires to trigger a recall referendum are being found to be forgeries.

The question now is what, when this latest tactic has failed, will the right-wing opposition and the Bush regime contemplate next? The various scenarios range from US-led covert economic sanctions and embargoes, another attempt at a coup and even the assassination of Chavez.

President Chavez's response to these threats has been robust. He has made it clear that, if US imperialism attempts to interfere in Venezuelan politics and seeks to remove a democratically elected government, not one drop of Venezuelan oil will flow into the US.

At present, 1.5 million barrels of oil are exported from Venezuela to the US every day. Chavez has signalled forcefully that any military intervention would be met with solid resistance.

The plight of Venezuela has been barely reported in the British and European media. While the British labour and trade union movement has had a long association with the struggles of the peoples of south America in Nicaragua, Chile, El Salvador and Colombia, there has been little solidarity action as yet with the progressive forces within Venezuela.

The organisation Global Women's Strike has worked closely with Venezuelan women's organisations and co-operated in organised consciousness-raising tours in the US.

In addition, this week, it organised a meeting at the House of Commons to launch an Early Day Motion condemning the US government's interference in Venezuela.

The solidarity group Hands off Venezuela Campaign has been founded and has launched an appeal against the increasing interference of US imperialism in the country in the run-up to the decision on whether a recall referendum will be convened.

The appeal statement says: "The United States government has no moral standing to give the Venezuelan government and people lessons in democracy" and goes on to demand that the US halts its interference in Venezuela.

This appeal statement has been signed by numerous progressive politicians and trade unionists from around the world including Tony Benn and NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear.

It is time for all socialists, trade unionists, progressives and democrats to stand up for the right of the people of Venezuela to elect their own government and determine their own future.

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Cuban Right-Wing Terrorist Group"F-4 Commandos" Training Venezuelan Paramilitaries in the Miami Area

By Cort Greene

George Bush, who declared a "War against Terrorism", and has needlessly taken the world to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, has conveniently forgotten to look in his brother's own backyard in fighting it. Recently in Jeb Bush's Florida, Cuban paramilitary leader Rodolfo Frometa of the right-wing terrorist group"F-4 Commandos" openly admitted helping and training Venezuela paramilitaries associated with Luis Garcia Morales, a former National Guard captain who fled Venezuela after fomenting a military coup against the government of President Chavez. The Miami area has been a hotbed for terrorist groups for decades - the largest CIA center outside the Washington D.C. area is at the University of Miami. Many members of the Death Squads from the Wars in Central and South America of the 60s,70s, and 80s now reside in Miami. Also, two former members of the Venezuelan National Guard, wanted for terrorist attacks on the Spanish embassy in Caracas are currently being held at the Krome Detention Center - but efforts to extradite them for prosecution in Venezuela and / or Spain are being stalled by the US government. It's clear that for the US imperialists, "terrorists" aren't so bad when they're pro-US.

At last weekend's Anti-Chavez rally in Miami, where less than 200 demonstrators attended, leaflets were handed out with a picture of Frometa and Morales dressed in military clothing and brandishing guns, along with a statement calling on Venezuelans to rise in insurrection and encouraging them to wage a war against President Chavez if the opposition fails to oust him by a recall referendum. Rodolfo Frometa, who is well-known as a terrorist to the United States government, having been imprisoned for 3 years for illegal weapons purchases, said: "Our camps are open to any Venezuelan who understands that there can be no dealings with Communists". In a speech at the rally, fugitive CTV boss Carlos Ortega called for the assassination of Chavez and subversion against the Venezuelan government.

Since both Republican George W. Bush and Democrat John Kerry are vying for the Cuban right-wing community support in the upcoming election for President, they are trying to out-do one another to garner their votes. Bush has turned a blind eye to the homegrown terrorism of the "F-4 Commandos" in Miami, and covertly funds groups trying to undermine the Bolivarian Revolutionary process in Venezuela. The Democrats' Jimmy Carter demands that the recall referendum process continue even if fraud has been committed; and John Kerry who also concurred with Carter, has unscrupulously attacked President Chavez; calling him a dictator, ranting about how President Chavez will turn Venezuela into a Cuban-style government and comparing him to Cuba's Fidel Castro. These are nothing but red scare tactics and code words designed to whip up mass support for a counter-revolution both here and abroad.

Need we remind John Kerry and his supporters that at the very least President Chavez has been democratically elected; the Bolivarian Revolution has been affirmed by the people of Venezuela on 7 different occasions; and that he has mass support for himself and his social programs. That's more than can be said of George Bush, whose election is still in question; has less popular support than Chavez; has broken treaty after treaty; fought illegal predatory wars; turned back 70 years of progressive legislation for workers and the poor; and whose economic policies have only been to the benefit of the capitalist class, bringing disaster and misery for everyone else.

Those who say the upcoming US Presidential elections are nothing but a choice between Cancer and the Plague, and that neither party offers a way out of the worldwide economic crisis or a meaningful shift in policy for the masses of Venezuela or anywhere else are indeed right. It's crystal clear that the so-called "war on terror" is really a war on working people at home and abroad. Now more than ever, solidarity action with the Bolivarian Revolution and a strengthening of the process towards socialism is necessary to safeguard it.

  • No to US intervention in Venezuela!

  • Defend the Venezuelan revolution!

  • Forward to Socialism!

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