News and Analysis

One of the international guests at the Annual General Meeting of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union, was Ruben Dario Linares Silva, national coordinator of the Venezuelan National Workers' Union (UNT) and vice-president of the United Transport Federation in Venezuela. The RMT congress took place in Exeter in South West England from June 26 to Friday July 1.

Ruben Linares

The RMT has been very supportive of the Venezuelan revolution for a number of years and is also affiliated to the Hands Off Venezuela campaign. A delegation from the RMT, including general secretary Bob Crow and president Tony Donaghey, was present at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre earlier this year when Chavez made the speech in which he said that the Bolivarian revolution had to go towards socialism. A whole number of RMT branches have also affiliated to the campaign and the union's president spoke at the recent public meeting in London with UNT representative Anastacio Rodriguez.

Speaking to the RMT conference on Monday, June 27, Ruben Linares thanked the RMT for having invited him to attend their conference and explained the basic aims of the Venezuelan Revolution and how they have improved the conditions of working people and trade unionists. He explained how the new Bolivarian constitution had become a weapon of struggle: "Our revolution is armed, it is armed with this constitution," he said, showing the delegates one of the pocket size editions everybody in Venezuela carries. Ruben also described how the policies of Thatcherism, "which started in your country 25 years ago, also hurt our peoples, the policies of privatisation and neoliberalism". The Bolivarian Revolution "has put an end to privatisations, no more privatisations," he emphasised, describing this move as part of a continent-wide rejection of Thatcherism in Latin America, including the uprising in Arequipa, Peru, "which defeated the privatisation of electricity".

Ruben Linares, a very powerful speaker, described how Chavez has said that the only way forward is socialism "and socialism is what we are building in Venezuela, taking into account the local conditions". The mood in the conference was electric as delegates identified with the revolutionary spirit he was bringing from Venezuela. Ruben Linares ended his speech paraphrasing Che Guevara: "Let those who are born know, let those who are yet to be born know, the workers are on struggle, and we were born to be victorious, we were not born to be defeated"! The whole conference exploded in a heartfelt standing ovation.

Three quarters of all delegates signed the Hands Off Venezuela petition, and many took information and leaflets from the campaign and were generally very enthusiastic to get involved. By the end of the day, most delegates were wearing the distinctive Hands Off Venezuela stickers and pledged to take the message back to their branches and regions.

The visit by Ruben Linares, a national coordinator of the UNT, who also met with the TUC International Department, is an important step forward in the struggle to get the UNT recognised by the international trade union movement.

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On the occasion of the National Conference of UNISON (public sector workers union) the Hands Off Venezuela and the Colombia Solidarity Campaign supporters in UNISON organised a meeting on the evening of June 22 to catch the attention of the delegates attending the conference of the biggest trade union in Britain. The appeal of the meeting went beyond the UNISON conference and there were several students from the University of Glasgow, some Labour party members as well as Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) members who were responsible for organising the meeting.

Andy Higginbottom, Colombia Solidarity Campaign Secretary, opened the meeting. Andy explained the relationship between paramilitaries, government and multinational companies in Colombia who are right behind the onslaught that the social and trade union movement has suffered over 20 years. This repression has worsened since Uribe Velez was elected as president of Colombia in 2003. Andy illustrated the level of collaboration of the Colombian army and the paramilitaries by saying that the same soldiers wear the armbands of the Colombian army and the AUC (the main far right paramilitary group), depending of the actions they are going to execute. He also presented the Coca-Cola boycott as a tactic to denounce the violence that this company is employing against their workers in Colombia.

Ramon Samblas, Hands Off Venezuela spokesperson, followed on by explaining the improvements that the Venezuelan Revolution has brought about. It was really inspiring to hear that four new universities had opened their door with the aim of providing education to these layers in society that had never had this chance before.

“But all of that [the social programmes on housing, education and healthcare] has not been free from harassment and attacks from the US administration and the Venezuelan oligarchy. They can see that their power is slipping through their fingers and they have organised reactionary attempts to defeat this movement,” Ramon said to the audience. He went on explaining the different attacks on the part of US imperialism against Venezuela: coup d’etats, lock-outs, terrorism, diplomatic harassment, amongst other. The HOV activist reported on the experiences of workers’ co-management and finished up his contribution explaining the need for “going all the way through”, completing the process and install socialism in the country. The debate that Hugo Chavez has sparked about the need of the Venezuelan Revolution to follow a socialist path will help for sure.

Rosie Kane, SSP Member of the Scottish Parliament reported on her trip to Cuba where she had the chance to meet Fidel Castro. The MSP was invited to Cuba to attend an international event where people from all over Latin America and beyond denounced the crimes of imperialism. During three days, hundreds of people gave accounts of the abuse and violence they had suffered because of the terrorist methods of US imperialism. All these accounts were broadcast by Cuban TV which reaches the neighbouring islands and some Latin American countries. While in Cuba, Rosie spoke on Western hypocrisy and the need of tackling it together with the system that sustains it, capitalism. In her contribution, she despised British media because of the lack of interest in the struggle of the Cuban people against US imperialism. She illustrated this with an anecdote that happened to her the day after she came back from Cuba. A Guardian journalist phoned her and asked her, “What do you think about the architecture of Scottish Parliament building?” Her answer was “For Christ’s sake, I have met the leader of the Cuban Revolution and you are asking me about the Scottish Parliament Building!” She finished her contribution by saying that we have to support all the revolutionary movements that are taking in Latin America and the groups that are developing solidarity with these movements from Britain.

When the main speaker, Colombian trade unionist Juan Carlos Galvis started his speech there were 80 people packed in the room. Extra chairs had to be brought in to accommodate everybody. Some people had to stay outside because there was not enough space for them all. Juan Carlos spoke on behalf of SINALTRAINAL (Colombian beverages and food workers union) about the actions that the trade union had taken at a worldwide level against the abuse and violence that his trade union had suffered by Coca-Cola. Juan Carlos has been working for this company for 16 years.

He explained how SINALTRAINAL had opened four court cases against this company in the United States with the help of one of the US trade union that organise workers in the food and beverages industry. Horrifying examples were given of the level of violence against them by Coca-Cola altogether with the Colombian paramilitaries. The only “crime” they had committed was to organise workers and stand up for their rights. Amongst the methods used is the hiring of paramilitaries to kidnap, threaten and assassinate his trade union colleagues and the accusations of “rebellion”. In Colombia this is the first step to be accused of colluding with the guerrilla groups to “justify” the assassination of trade union, student or peasant activists. Jorge Humberto Bernal is one of Juan Carlos comrades. He was kidnapped by the paramilitaries in Cucuta. He was abducted, blindfolded and thrown into the back of a van. After he was driven around the city of Cucuta for 45 minutes, he was brought to a room where he was shown pictures of a SINALTRAINAL protest outside Coca-Cola bottling plant. He was told that if SINALTRAINAL carried out more protests, he and his comrades would be killed. Juan Carlos himself had suffered the threats of the paramilitaries.

The Colombian brother also explained the origins of the World campaign against Coke. After the company refused to even respond a document with basic demands to stop the violence against their own workforce SINALTRAINAL decided to launch a worldwide boycott against Coca-Cola in July 2003. After two years, the boycott has supporters in Britain, Ireland, Spain, France, Switzerland, US, Canada, Bolivia, Argentina, Venezuela and many more countries. Juan Carlos finished his speech vowing to fight against multinationals and therefore against capitalist globalisation. His speech was welcome with a standing ovation. Juan Carlos replied saying that the applause must go to all these that have shown solidarity with his Colombian fellow trade unionists.

A lively debate developed with some UNISON delegates asking other UNISON delegates to support the Hands Off Venezuela motion due to be debated at the Conference the very next day. Others asked for practical ways to implement the boycott and the question what to do to stop imperialist intervention against Cuba and Venezuela was raised. There were also people from the audience that highlighted the revolutionary movements in Bolivia and Ecuador. Above all, there was a feeling in the audience to go out and build solidarity with the movements that will expel imperialism from the continent and build a socialist society.

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The country of Venezuela is a startling paradox of immense suffering and extreme wealth. According to a private Caracas-based polling company, Datanalisis, over 58% of the 25 million people in Venezuela live on less than $253 (Cdn) a month. The level of poverty becomes all the more damning when factoring in that Venezuela is also the world’s fourth largest oil exporter. This glaring contradiction remained unchallenged until the election of Hugo Chavez as Venezuelan President.

In 1998, Hugo Chavez was elected Venezuelan President with an approval of 56%. His electoral success came about because if elected he promised to immediately instigate land reform and to put the countries oil revenues back into public services like education and health care. Since his Presidential victory Chavez has made good on his promises. The government under his leadership has:

a)      built 657 new schools, created four universities, hired 36,000 teachers and given the opportunity for a formal education to three million new people

b)      distributed 5.5 million acres of land to 116,000 families organized in cooperatives

c)      traded oil to Cuba in exchange for 13,000 doctors in an effort to expand health care to 1.2 million more people

These are just some of the many things President Chavez has done in order to combat poverty in Venezuela. Unfortunately for Venezuelans these social programs aimed at giving the 15 million previously neglected people a decent standard of living comes into direct conflict with national and international business interests.

Before the election of Chavez, Venezuela was just another waypoint for the United States to get below market-value oil without having to give anything significant back. According to the Energy Information Administration of the US governmental department, in 1997, approximately 17.4% (1.773 million barrels a day) of all American oil imports came from Venezuela, making it the largest and most reliable oil source for the US in the world. This also accounts for over half of all Venezuelan oil exports.

By Chavez’s second year in power in 2000, Venezuela dropped from being the largest oil exporter to the United States to being their 3rd largest, sending over approximately 400,000 less barrels a day. Chavez, by actually enforcing OPEC quotas through decreasing oil production while maintaining the same level of profitability meant financial benefits for Venezuela at the expense of cheap oil prices. This was not a conscious effort by the Chavez government to undermine the United States but a means for Venezuela to redistribute oil revenue into social spending. In addition to this and putting heavier regulations on the public oil sector, Chavez raised taxation on the private oil sector to an average of 25% from the previous average of

7% as well as giving the state oil company, the PDVSA, a 51% stake in all new private oil developments. Once again, all the extra revenue generated by the Venezuelan State went back into social spending instead of private business subsidies. Under previous US-friendly governments this would have been unheard-of.

The wealth had always been in Venezuela, and now, under a more planned out economy, it was genuinely being used to benefit the whole of Venezuelan society instead of just acting as corporate welfare or private sector investment. All of these accomplishments were done through legal means and without violating the sovereignty of any other countries. Regardless of this, Chavez became the victim of imperialist manoeuvring and domestic sabotage.

It is no secret that in April 2002 a coup was orchestrated by the CIA to be carried out by the Venezuelan business congress and right-wing elements within the Venezuelan military. Chavez was kidnapped and many of his cabinet ministers were put under arrest. The head of the business congress, Pedro Carmona, was named President, the Constitutional Assembly was dissolved and the Supreme Court was virtually fired. The next day, the New York Times and Washington Post ran articles claiming that popular mass anti-government protests forced Chavez from power. No mention of a coup was made.

Meanwhile, private media outlets, which make up 90% of all Venezuelan media, were hailing the coup as a “triumph for democracy” and the “defeat of the dictator”. The majority of the Venezuelan populace had no idea what was going on because the one state-owned television station and all state run radio was ‘mysteriously’ cut. Long story short, within a couple of days the word spread throughout Venezuela and millions marched on the Presidential palace in opposition to the new illegitimate government. At that moment, palace guards sympathetic to Chavez stormed the palace and placed under arrest any members of the new government who had not yet fled. By the end of the day Chavez was returned safely and sworn back in as President.

The political intrigue did not end there. Less than 8 months later a lockout was organized by anti-Chavez high-level government bureaucrats to shut down the national oil company, the PDVSA. The concept was that if the economy was sabotaged Chavez would be forced from power. What the lockout organizers didn’t take into account was just how much the workers supported Chavez -- so much so, that they actually broke the lockout and ran the facilities themselves, without management, to keep the economy alive.

The list goes on.

Later still in August 2004 a national referendum was held on Chavez’s Presidency. The Carter Center, who helped monitor the vote, reported that over 90% of the eligible voting public voted, of which approximately 60% were in favour of keeping Chavez in power. This was yet another example of how the people of Venezuela have never failed to defend Chavez with their mass support whenever he has come under attack, legal or otherwise.

Despite his continual victories over local capitalists and US imperialism, the struggle is far from over for the President and people of Venezuela. The CIA is still, to this day, going on record making completely unfounded claims that Chavez is a threat to stability in South America and that Chavez is “aiding and abiding” terrorists and the drug trade in Columbia. The US state department has even invented a new set of terms just for Chavez by referring to his government as an “elected dictatorship” or an “authoritarian democracy”.

Anyone following the political situation in Venezuela should not be tricked by the unfounded rhetoric of the United States. Interested parties should also be aware that the anti-Chavez forces will not rest until he is defeated by whatever means necessary; the US conducted assassination of the democratically elected leftist President of Chile, Allende, in 1973 is just an example of how far the US has been willing to go in the past to enforce their agenda. It is for this reason as well as others that supporters of the reforms being made in Venezuela must be diligent in helping build international solidarity to support Chavez and the Venezuelan people against foreign intervention and to make any extreme actions on the part of the United States government an impossibility.

The New Democratic Youth of Canada is doing its part by endorsing the “Hands off Venezuela!” campaign, which is organized in almost 50 countries. The campaign is endorsed by Chavez himself and is so far operating in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Peterborough, Waterloo, Toronto and Montreal. The campaign aims to educate people on the history of Venezuela and the current political situation. Raising awareness on the plight of Venezuela acts as a means to expose the not-so-hidden agenda of the US, the corruption of the Venezuelan oligarchy as well as provides a forum by which to promote the legitimacy of the struggle for participatory democracy in Venezuela.

Against imperialist intervention in Venezuela! For the defence of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela! For the victory of democratic socialism in Latin America!

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On Monday, June 20th the Edmonton and District Labour Council (EDLC) set an exciting example for the Canadian Labour movement, donating $500 to build the Hands Off Venezuela campaign in Alberta and Canada. Following a brief presentation by young representatives of the campaign, a motion was passed to affiliate to Hands Off Venezuela and encourage all of their affiliated union locals to do the same. Significantly, they have offered to distribute our affiliation materials to their mailing list.

There has been much discussion recently in the Canadian Labour movement, about the Bolivarian Revolution and the importance of defending it. At the EDLC meeting on Monday evening, discussion focused on connecting the struggles of Venezuelan workers to the struggles of workers in Alberta and Canada – since they are the same struggles, against privatization, for quality healthcare and education, and against domination by American multinationals. At the regional level, the Alberta Federation of Labour Convention passed a resolution in May, calling for the support of the progressive reforms being put forward by Chavez, the denunciation of foreign aggression against Venezuela, and for solidarity to be established between the Canadian labour movement and the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela. Many of the EDLC meeting delegates had recently returned from the Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress, which took place last week in Montreal, and at which there was an educational focus on Venezuela and extensive discussion urging affiliates to follow events and show their support. This recent discussion and the Edmonton and District Labour Council’s affiliation signal an increasing awareness and sense of urgency. This is clearly just the beginning for the Canadian campaign.

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[Speech made at a Labor Assembly in Geneva, June 12, 2005]

Brothers, Sisters, Friends and Comrades in the unending struggle for the rights of workers, equality, peace and democracy,

Thank you for this great honor of speaking here today with such a working class international assembly. I come to you with letters of representation from my own union, Plumbers and Fitters Local 393 in San Jose, California, the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council in San Jose, and the San Francisco Labor Council. I am pleased beyond words to have been invited to participate here by leaders of the Union Nacional de Trabajadores de Venezuela (UNT) (Venezuelas’ National Workers Union) - to join them in their struggle against the complaint raised by the joint voice of FEDECAMARAS, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce in Venezuela and the CTV, that nation’s old labor federation. Their boss-union collaboration is a marriage that could never be heaven blessed and can only be consummated in a warmer, subterranean climate.

I am Vice President of a 2500 member local union of pipe trades workers. I’m a plumber by trade, retired after thirty eight years as a rank-and-file worker in construction. I’m not a scholar. I have no university degrees, but for many years I have and worked on the issue of AFL-CIO intervention in the political and trade union life of sovereign nations, with most attention to the effect on workers and their organizations in Latin America. Whatever other factors may be involved, the FEDECAMARAS-CTV collusion against the UNT and the Bolivarian Republic, led President Hugo Chavez, is an ugly outgrowth of intervention by ACILS, the AFL-CIO’s American Center for International Labor Solidarity subsidized by the Bush administration, whose policy, in Venezuela, it parallels.
For over fifty years the interventionist work of the AFL-CIO has been financed by agencies of the U.S. Government. Among those agencies are the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State, the Department of Labor, the U.S. Agency for International Development and some other agencies. In recent years, most ACILS funding comes from U.S. taxpayers through NED, the National Endowment for Democracy. Formerly, Latin American labor intervention operations were manipulated by AIFLD, the American Institute for Free Labor Development, which worked hand-in-hand with ORIT, the InterAmerican Regional Labor Organization. Three other AFL-CIO “institutes” operated on other continents. AIFLD operations, strengthened sellout unions and attacked militant unions, paving the way for transnational corporate globalization and influencing regime changes with disastrous results for workers.

An AFL operative, Serafino Romualdi, was a founder of ORIT. His clandestine work in Guatemala, fifty one years ago, was pivotal in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz. It resulted, through ensuing decades, in the deaths of uncounted tens of thousands of workers. Romualdi later set up AIFLD, whose work under his protege, William C. Doherty Jr., was critical to the Pinochet putch against democracy in Chile, unleashing terror, torture and death for seventeen years. Over three thousand lives were taken. I fear that US. government manipulations in Venezuela duplicate its work in Chile in 1973.

These issues have been on my mind many years. It began in 1973 when I learned that the AFL-CIO was part of what happened to democracy in Chile. I was outraged - simply outraged. As the facts came clear, I saw that our Federation’s role was fundamental to that coup. It could not have happened without us! In my city, we organized and welcomed hundreds of Chileans from Pinochet concentration camps. They had suffered torture and lost husbands, wives, children and lovers - their lives torn asunder. I told them though their tears that when the U.S. workers learn the grief our AFL-CIO collaboration causes, we would end that treason to the workers and to what we stand for. We’re still working on it and our California resolution against such collaboration may strike a blow at the July AFL-CIO convention.

I mention this hsitory because AIFLD had the same boss-labor collaboration as we see with FEDECAMARAS and the CTV. Bosses from the biggest U.S. corporations with interests in Latin America sat on AIFLD’s Board of Directors. Representatives of the CTV, already a client of AIFLD in the sixties, sat on that same Board with the bosses. A CIA whistle blower identified both Romualdi and Doherty as CIA agents who funneled U.S. federal money into their so-called “solidarity” operations. Of AIFLD’s work, Doherty said: “Our collaboration (with business) takes the form of trying to make the investment climate more attractive and inviting.”

Though discussion of this history has never been welcome in the AFL-CIO, delegates to the 2004 Convention of the California Labor Federation, representing 2.4 million workers demanded unanimously that the AFL-CIO “fully account for what was done in Chile and Venezuela and other countries where similar roles may have been played in our name, and to describe, country by country, exactly what activities it may still be engaged in abroad with funds paid by government agencies and renounce any such ties that could compromise our authentic credibility and the trust of workers here and abroad and that would make us paid agents of government or of the forces of corporate economic globalization.”

Full accountability will be difficult. For example, they’ve ransacked the Chile file. In 1975 Luis Figueroa, head of Chile’s Labor Federation, blamed AIFLD for “fourteen years of treason” in Chile. The record of that fourteen years in the AFL-CIO archives amounts to twenty-four pages of disparate letters and notes.

We had new hope when John Sweeney became AFL-CIO President in 1995. Stanley Gacek, of his International Affairs Department, flatly told us in San Francisco on November 15, 1997 that AFL-CIO work abroad “does not follow a corporate or government agenda.” Today AIFLD and the other institutes are gone, but ACILS still relies on the Bush administration, receiving its cash mostly through NED, the National Endowment for Democracy, for its work, in 40 countriues, including Venezuela. Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the law establishing NED admitted in 1991: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” (“Rogue State” Bill Blum)

It’s ironic that the word “Solidarity” is in ACILS’ name. Our South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council says: “We believe that international labor solidarity must come from the heart of the workers in one country to the heart of workers in another country - a...reciprocal relationship.” There’s no solidarity when labor becomes a go-between, laundering funds and resources from the Bush administration and passing them to groups abroad. That role is more appropriate for government agents - agents of empire.

In Venezuela, ACILS reflects the policies of George W. Bush and his union busting neoconservative cronies. My union says it is dishonest that “ACILS received a 2002 grant of $116,001, awarded by the NED under 'the authority contained in P.L. 98-164, as amended...and Grant No. S-L MAOM-02-H-0054 between the United States Department of State and the National Endowment for Democracy..,’ part of $703,927 that had been granted by NED to ACILS between 1997 and 2002 for ACILS’ work in Venezuela. During 2001 NED granted $154,377 to ACILS as part of a massive increase in NED funding that year to $877,000 for activities which coincide directly with the efforts of the Bush administration leading toward the April 11, 2002 coup in oil rich Venezuela”

It shames us that: “according to ACILS’ VENEZUELA: QUARTERLY REPORT 2001-045 January to March 2002, 'The CTV and FEDECAMARAS...held a national conference on March 5...to identify common objectives as well as areas of cooperation...the culminating event of some two months of meetings and planning...during which the two organizations announced a Œnational accord’...The joint action further established the CTV and FEDECAMARAS as the flagship organizations leading the growing opposition to the Chavez government’” - THIRTY SIX DAYS PRIOR TO THE APRIL 11, 2002 COUP!

My union is offended that ACILS boasts that they “helped to 'support the event in planning stages, organizing the initial meetings with...FEDECAMARAS... Solidarity Center (ACILS) provided assistance for the five regional preparatory meetings ...held between January 22nd and March 1st... The March 5 national conference was financed primarily by counterpart funds,’” ACILS money. Our Labor Council wants to know why “ACILS...is operating...as part of the Bush administration’s drive for regime change in Venezuela, a replay of the Nixon administration’s bloody collusion in crimes in Chile over 30 years ago.”

With this background, there should be no surprise when we learn that AFL-CIO representatives use their influence, in line with the Bush strategy, to promote the false complaint of FEDECAMARAS and their historic ally, the CTV, which went fifty years without a democratic election of leadership.

Bush strategy is to isolate, demonize and destroy the government of Hugo Chavez . They supported and lost the coup, the oil lockout, the Referendum. Now they claim denial of workers' rights. They do what they can to undercut the support given the Chavez government by the Venezuelan working class, led by the UNT. It is the same pattern cut by Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger and AIFLD in Chile.

FEDECAMARAS’ complaint diverts attention from its criminal and treasonous role in shutting down the oil industry and in the aborted 2002 coup d’etat against an administration which has won the overwhelming support of the people through six faultlessly democratic elections. FEDECAMARAS must hunger to regain lost control of oil and government favors, and CTV must grieve its lost ability to broker the needs of the workers to management and government.

We are heartened that their complaint failed at the March ILO meeting and was postponed. After March, ACILS worked to squeeze the following words from ORIT: "The Congress of CIOSL/ORIT reaffirms its concerns with the complaint against the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela insofar as its practices violate trade union freedoms.” The fact that ORIT’s presiding officer is a Vice President of the AFL-CIO did not hamper ACIL’s efforts to elicit ORIT’s support for the FEDECAMARAS-CTV complaint. Another fact: the President of ORIT along with John Sweeney and various top officers of the AFL-CIO and ACILS take their place in the U.S. State Department’s Advisory Committee on Labor Diplomacy (ACLD). The “Labor Diplomacy” leader is Tom Donahue, formerly President of the AFL-CIO. The role of the State Department and its committees is solely support of the Bush foreign policy - a collaboration as unjustifiable as ORIT’s backup to the FEDECAMARAS’ attack.

My local union twice sent me to Colombia, where I saw our brothers and sisters going about their daily union business in the face of death threats. In 2004 the ILO reported 186 murdered Colombian union leaders. They were assassinated with impunity by paramilitary death squads that work hand-in-glove with the military which receives billions from Bush. I saw desperate fear in the eyes of a Coca Cola worker when he learned his family was menaced by paramilitaries in Bogota. I consoled a woman in Barrancabermeja whose husband, son and son-in-law were cut down in a soccer field massacre a block from her home. A poster on her wall said “make love to fear.” I interviewed a television union representative in Bogota who lost six members of his family.

I have also been part of a solidarity delegation to Caracas and mixed among the members of the UNT to find the most exuberant rank-and-file expressions of democracy and loyalty to unionism that I have ever encountered. Last May Day proved one difference between the UNT and the CTV. While only a few hundred people attended the CTV event, joining in jubilant celebration of International Workers’ Day, the Chicago Martyrs, their own Federation and the Bolivarian Revolution.

The explosion of democracy I witnessed in Venezuela the day of the Referendum last August resonates worldwide. It is an insult to reason that the ILO even considers disciplining Venezuela with a Commission of Inquiry, while the need for ILO attention cries out in bleeding pain from our sisters and brothers in Colombia.

And in the San Francisco Labor Council AFL-CIO, where the delegates meet, with calloused hands and in sweaty work clothes , unlike the calloused souls and fine suits of the AFL-CIO’s foreign service staff, the workers proudly declare that their Council:
“...Opposes the complaint initiated by...FEDECAMARAS...This Complaint has been endorsed and supported by employers' associations in 23 countries, including the United States...Convening of an ILO Commission of Inquiry is designed to undermine the very progress of the labor movement within present-day Venezuela.

“Today in Venezuela, workers are participating in a democratic, transparent and inclusive process to strengthen the organization of labor groups. The Venezuelan Constitution protects a worker's right to organize, the freedom of association and collective bargaining.

'We recognize and respect the right of Venezuelan workers to determine their own processes and procedures in accordance with the ILO mission to promote social justice, human and labor rights.'

The workers in San Francisco note that: “the California Federation of Labor adopted a resolution opposing NED funding by the national AFL-CIO for the purpose of promoting U.S. government policy in Venezuela. Opposition to the ILO Commission of Inquiry on Venezuela by the U.S. labor movement is part of the same struggle to promote a new foreign policy by labor that is independent from U.S. State Department objectives.”

My brothers and sisters, this struggle is not just for Venezuela. The Bush strategy advanced by FEDECAMARAS and the CTV could lead to a new Chile,new Iraq - or worse. It is part of a struggle for our own peace and security and the rights of workers and our families everywhere. When they touch Venezuela, they touch us all.

This false complaint deserves full hearted denunciation by workers and unions worldwide.


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Yet another move forward has been made in the trade union movement in support of the
Bolivarian revolution.

A motion calling on trade unionists to support and promote the reforms in Venezuela, was agreed at the Trades Union Councils’ Conference Liverpool (UK) 10-12 June 2005.

In addition to the unanimous support by the Trades Union Councils across the country, numerous copies of the DVD The Revolution Will Not Be Televised were distributed. This has proven to be one of the most effective tools at proving the lies and corruption of the opposition.

Yvonne Washbourne moved the motion on behalf of the West Midlands CATUC and informed the delegates of the significant reforms made in Venezuela and the illegal pressure of the US.

Nick Kelleher W-Ton TUC spoke in support of the motion and urged all people to raise the issue within their international committees and co-ordinate work through the VSUK. A full copy of the motion is available on Venezuelasolidarity.org.uk and the action points included

1) Express its solidarity to the trade unionists of the UNT.

2) Support the Venezuelan people in their effort to extend social and economic freedom.

3) Support and promote Solidarity campaigns within Britain that support the popular reforms.

4) Encourage solidarity activities to be co-ordinated via the newly established Venezuela Solidarity Campaign at venezuelasolidarity.org.uk.

Andy Goodall of VSUK stated: “At this moment when there is a real threat of assassination by the fascist and US supported big business of president Chavez. It is critical that workers in Venezuela are supported worldwide and we put pressure on our national governments to resist illegal US interference. Anybody interested in finding out more about the campaign then visit Venezuelasolidarity.org.uk.

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"We are going to hit a Cuban airplane," said Luis Posada in Caracas, Venezuela, according to a recently declassified CIA document. On October 6 1976, just days later, Cubana Airline flight 455 exploded off the coast of Barbados, killing all 73 passengers.

Posada, who is 77 and has dual Venezuelan and Cuban citizenship, was arrested in Miami on May 17 for illegal entry into the US. He is claiming asylum and, so far, the Bush administration has refused to extradite him to Venezuela, where he is wanted for the terrorist bombing.

Until 1974, the ex-CIA agent, who specialised in explosives at Fort Benning, Georgia (later home to the infamous School of the Americas), was head of the Venezuelan political police — DISIP — from where he, reportedly, oversaw the assassination of prominent leftists.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has threatened to sever diplomatic links if Posada is not turned over, which the US is obliged to do under bilateral treaties. He has accused the US of harbouring a known international terrorist, making a mockery of its “war on terror.”

“We demand that the US government stop its hypocrisy and its two-faced attitude and send this terrorist, this bandit, to Venezuela,” Chavez insisted last month. “The world is watching.”

This case has become a major headache for George Bush, who is loth to give up such a loyal veteran of the right-wing cause.

Posada is hailed as a hero among Miami’s rich, Castro-hating Cuban exiles, who form a key component of his base of support, as well as that of Bush’s brother Jeb, the governor of Florida.

A policeman in the Batista dictatorship, Posada also participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion as part of “Operation 40.” Their mission was simply to assassinate Castro.

He also freelanced for the Las Vegas mafia, at one point, supplying mob boss Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal with detonators and fuses for car-bombs, according to the FBI.

Two Argentinian founders of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a movement which supports parents of missing or tortured people in south America, are also demanding Posada’s extradition. They accuse him of involvement in Operation Condor, the US military plan which co-ordinated the bloodthirsty dictatorships of the 1970s in the region.

After bribing his way out of Venezuelan jail in 1985, he worked for Oliver North, directing terror against the people of Nicaragua, supplying the US-backed Contras with weapons in an illegal war against the Sandinista government.

The main focus throughout his life, however, seems to be an obsession with overthrowing Fidel Castro.

Posada masterminded a string of bombings in Havana during an international youth and student festival in 1997, resulting in the death of an Italian tourist at the Copacabana hotel.

“We didn’t want to hurt anybody,” he claimed in an interview with the New York Times the following year. “We just wanted to make a big scandal so that the tourists don’t come any more.”

“I sleep like a baby,” he famously boasted, showing little remorse for the misery he caused. “That Italian was sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

In 2000, he was caught red-handed in Panama, preparing to assassinate Castro by blowing up a packed auditorium of over 3,000 students with 33 pounds of C-4 explosives. Although found guilty, he was pardoned in 2004 by outgoing President Mireya Moscoso, who promptly moved to Miami.

Reports that he was back in the US began surfacing earlier this year, but the government denied any knowledge of his whereabouts. However, after Posada held a press conference in Miami, this illusion was impossible to sustain and it was forced to act.

Appearing in an El Paso, Texas, courtroom last Monday, dressed in a red prison suit and bullet-proof vest, Posada renewed his request for asylum. His lawyer argued that his green card is still valid and requested that the case be moved to Miami.

The judge set an August 29 trial date and will decide next Friday whether to grant the self-confessed terrorist bail. The immigration trial is seen by Venezuela as a stalling tactic to obstruct the far more serious issue of extradition.

“The US government should not believe that, because it is delaying the process, the people are going to give in,” said Nicolas Maduro, president of the Venezuelan parliament. This week, Maduro announced that a parliamentary delegation had been sent to Washington to demand Posada’s extradition.

That message was echoed by protesters around the world, with millions taking to the streets in Cuba and Venezuela. Outside the El Paso courtroom on Monday and in 13 other cities across the US, demonstrations were held by anti-war coalition ANSWER.

On the same day, solidarity activists from Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia campaigns picketed the US embassy in London. Protests have also been held in Mexico, Spain, Portugal and the Philippines.

The problem for Bush is that, if he backs down, it will be seen as a major propaganda victory for Chavez and Castro, whom he views as deadly enemies. Both are left-wing charismatic leaders who give their people hope instead of fear and invest their nations’ resources in health care and education rather than weapons and the stock-market.

The US backed a failed coup against Chavez in 2002 and it has consistently labeled him a “negative force.” As well as providing an energy lifeline to Cuba by bartering oil for doctors, he has successfully torpedoed the neoliberal FTAA agreement, promoting his own “Bolivarian” alternative based on co-operation not competition between countries. The US imports 15 per cent of its oil from Venezuela.

Luis Posada is an old man who has dedicated his life to terrorising progressive movements in Latin America on behalf of the US. But one of the most dramatic allegations against him centres around some terrorism a little closer to home. Compelling evidence exists suggesting that Posada was part of the team that assassinated John F Kennedy, on whom he blamed the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

“Who, in 1963, had the resources to assassinate Kennedy? Who had the means and who had the motives to kill the US president?” asks Fabian Escalante, former head of Cuban counter-intelligence. “CIA agents from Operation 40 who were rabidly anti-Kennedy.”

Maria Lorenz was briefly Castro’s lover before being recruited by the CIA. In 1985, she testified under oath that, the week before the JFK assassination, she travelled from Miami to Dallas with members of Operation 40 in two cars carrying weapons in the boots.

In a videotaped interview made shortly before he died, Chauncy Holt, a self-confessed CIA asset and mobster, identified Posada as one of the Cuban exiles who were in Dealey Plaza at the time of the assassination.

Whether he was involved or not, it is clear that Luis Posada is a dangerous, vicious psychopath who should not be able to freely wander the streets no matter who he works for. As Chavez puts it, “The US has no choice, either send him to Venezuela or be seen by the world as protecting terrorism.”

The US corporate elite, who are no fans of Chavez themselves, seem to agree that Posada must be sent to Venezuela or US credibility in the “war on terror” will be completely lost. All major newspapers support the extradition, even the right-wing Miami Herald — aka the “Coup-plotters’ Journal.”

Bush himself put it best when he said bluntly, shortly after September 11, “If you harbour terrorists, you are terrorists.” But will the CIA ever let someone as knowledgeable as Posada spill the beans on all their dirty tricks over these last four decades in Latin America?

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For the last four weeks, Bolivian workers and peasants have been mobilising demanding the nationalisation of the country's oil and gas reserves. This movement represents the will of the majority of Bolivians to win control over their natural resources. The oil and gas multinationals have been benefiting from the country’s natural resources through illegal contracts for years, while the majority of Bolivians live under the poverty line.

Far from being a “radical minority” as president Mesa said, those who demand nationalisation of gas are the majority, as was shown by the open mass meeting that took place on June 6th in La Paz, with half a million people present, and the continued strength of the general strike, road blockades, mass marches and demonstrations.

We wholeheartedly support the legitimate demands of Bolivian workers and peasants and give support to their movement and organisations and the decisions they take about how to conduct their struggle.

We reject any attempt of the government or sections of parliament to impose a military solution or the use of repression to put an end to the protests. We also reject the attempts of the so-called “Civic Committees” in Santa Cruz and other regions to use paramilitary gangs against the peasant mobilisation.

We reject any foreign intervention. The solution to the problems facing the Bolivian people must be in the hands of the people themselves, without any interference from the Organisation of American States, the United States, etc.

We appeal to the labour and trade union movement worldwide and to all progressive people to show solidarity with the Bolivian workers and peasants in these crucial moments, send solidarity resolutions, pass motions, organise pickets of the embassies and oil multinationals, and in general support our Bolivian brothers and sisters.

Further details from
Bolivia Solidarity Campaign
53 Fladgate Road
E11 1LX

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Ft. Lauderdale, FL, June 5, 2005—The representative of the host state, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, spoke at the 35th General Assembly of the OAS this Sunday night.

Referring to Secretary General Insulza, Rice said she and US President George W. Bush looked forward to working with Insulza towards making the OAS a “very effective organization for the promotion of democracy and prosperity in our hemisphere.”

Rice cast the US conflict with Venezuela as a divide between “nations that promote democracy, good governance and free trade, and those that do not.  Washington is eager to have good relations with all nations…provided that they agree on those core concepts.”  Her paring of democracy with free-markets provides a particular contrast to Venezuela, given that perhaps the most fundamental conflict between the US and Venezuela is over the neoliberal model.

"The last time the OAS met in the US in 1974," noted Rice, "10 of 23 members were dictators."  "For seven days leaders of non-democratic countries waxed hypocritically on the ideals of 'democracy,'" she said, criticizing the 'old OAS' for being “long on talk and short on action.”

At the time, many of the military dictators Rice referred to were the US government’s closest allies in the region.  The meeting in 1976, when the OAS held its 5th General Assembly in Santiago, Chile, was home of the US-supported Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Rice also reiterated a now common statement, generally understood as a reference to Venezuela, saying, “Governments that are elected democratically, must govern democratically.  And as Secretary-General Insulza has rightly declared: governments that fail to reach this crucial standard must be accountable to the OAS.”  When Insulza made this statement, it was, according to an aide to Secretary Rice, insisted upon word-for-word by Secretary Rice as the condition for US support for Insulza’s leadership bid at the OAS.

"We at the OAS must be impatient, we must replace excessive talk with action,” said Rice.  “We must never accept that democracy is merely an ideal to be admired instead of a purpose to be realized.”

OAS Interventionism

In a press briefing given on the plane to Florida this morning, Secretary Rice did not mince words on what she sees as the necessary teeth the OAS must develop.  Rice responded to a question regarding the adverse reaction of a number of Latin American ambassadors to US proposals to create a mechanism for OAS intervention, saying “let me say again the OAS has intervened in the past…this is not a matter of intervening to punish; it is a matter of intervening to try and sustain the development of democratic institutions across the region.”

For his part, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said “if any member-government of the OAS should be monitored, it’s the government of the United States.”  “A government that supports terrorists, invades countries, that tramples its own people, that is trying to impose a global dictatorship,” said the Venezuelan President, “is the government that should be monitored for human rights violations.”

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