News and Analysis

After two long years of struggle at long last the expropriation of the CNV was put into practice. The CNV had been taken over by the workers throughout this time.

The Constructora Nacional de Valvulas is a factory which was owned by the coup plotter Andres Sosa Pietri, a former president of PDVSA. After the coup he refused to restart the operations and the workers decided to take over the installations.

Jorge Paredes, one of the main leaders of the factory said: "this is a new experience for the workers, a new model of development which will be at the service of the workers and the community. This process of co-management that we now start must be taken to other companies and other workers."

The company at one point supplied 22% of the national market for valves. It is calculated that this year PDVSA has to invest 148 million Bolivars in valves.

The workers estimate that in three months they will have the company ready to start producing. 

See also:


Read more ...

We publish a translation of a leaflet produced by the CNV workers in Venezuela calling for a rally today in support of public ownership of the company.

We, the workers of the CNV, have not received a single Bolivar for two years and four months from the coup plotter employer Andres Sosa Pietri, member of the famous “Democratic Coordination”, who has his own party supporting neoliberal doctrine, forerunner of the privatisation of PDVSA, who collaborated in the financing of the failed coup on April 11, exploiter of the workers for more than 20 years in our country, and one time president of PDVSA. This is the curriculum vitae of the said director, who studied in the best US universities.

This employer left more than 120 workers on the streets on December 2002, during the oil stoppage. We, the 62 workers who did not want him to get away with it, kept the struggle going against Andres Sosa Pietri. We knew who we were facing, a big oligarch with a prestigious family name who has been trampling the Venezuelans underfoot. We knew that he was the “Goliath” of Venezuela, but as always, history remains and one learns from that history for the different struggles one is faced with in life.

The workers united and created a big “David” who is going to defeat this “Big Goliath”.

Throughout this period (2 years and 4 months, plus the current year so far) we have always been clear that our aim was to save our jobs, with the difference that we do not want to be exploited by anybody!!!! We are prepared to die, if necessary, to achieve our aim which is to restart production of valves under workers’ control, without being exploited from anyone, with social justice towards our comrades, communities and Venezuela in general. We want to restart not just for the common well-being of 62 workers, but for the well-being of the Country, to build a socialist Venezuela. We are conscious that we are currently trapped under a capitalist system. But it is not impossible to overthrow it if the working class of our country unites. It is important to stress that we the workers as a whole are the source, the engine which propels the country forward. If we unite, we become the great David that Venezuela longs for. Please, wake up, so that we can deepen the workers’ revolution!

We invite all workers and all the people of Venezuela to support our struggle which is the struggle of everybody, to join us in the rally to the National Assembly to give the President of the Assembly a document asking for the company to be declared of Public Interest, since the problem is a social one.

Let’s gather on Tuesday, April 26, 2005, at 8 am at the CNE building, and from there we will march united to the National Assembly!

We expect your valuable support!!!!!

Yes, for the building of a fair and socialist Venezuela!!!!!!!!

Read more ...

During his weekly Alo Presidente broadcast Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave an explanation of the reasons for the suspension of the bilateral military exchange programme with the United States. According to Chavez, US military advisors "were carrying out their own campaign within the military institution and this cannot be allowed". He added that they were "talking ill of the [Venezuelan] president to our boys", which is something that goes against the country's stability and sovereignty.

Hugo Chavez argued that this measure was also taken in order to protect the physical integrity of US military personnel. He reminded the audience that in the build up to the US invasion of Panama, a number of US military personnel were attacked in the streets. It was later found out that these attacks had been carried out by the US intelligence services in order to prepare a "justification" for the invasion.

Last year, Venezuela had also suspended the military mission that the US had kept within Fuerte Tiuna, the main military garrison in the capital. Chavez accused the US officers of being CIA agents and there is suspicion that they participated in the failed military coup against Chavez on April 11, 2002. The first place Chavez was taken after being deposed by reactionary military officers was precisely the Fuerte Tiuna barracks.

In the same programme Chavez explained that the desperation of the US in relation to Venezuela is because of its oil. The "United States want to continue to get hold of that oil, but it is now ours (...) and it is being used for the welfare of all Venezuelans, and not of a privileged minority" he added.

A video of the US organised Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba in 1961 was shown during the weekly programme. President Chavez said that a similar strategy had been planned in relation to the 100 Colombian paramilitaries arrested on a ranch in El Hatillo, near the capital Caracas, in May 2004. Chavez also announced that a US military officer had been found taking pictures of the Command of the Armoured Army Brigade in Maracay, and a number of US citizens, who later identified themselves as journalists, had been found taking pictures of the El Palito refinery in Moron. He warned that "if any officer of the US military repeats these kind of activities again, they are going to be arrested and tried in Venezuela."

To combat these threats, Chavez argued, it is necessary to organise the reserve forces of the army, which he wants to increase to 2 million people, and to "strengthen the mobilisation of the people ... to defend the country in any circumstance"

Since the beginning of the year, the US administration and media have stepped up a belligerent campaign against Venezuela. The democratically elected government of Hugo Chavez has been accused of everything from linking up with North Korea, supplying arms to the Colombian FARC guerrillas, funding the "subversive" MAS in Bolivia, forming an axis of evil with Cuba's Castro, starting an arms race in Latin America, to harbouring Al-Qaeda terrorists.

On March 13, an article in the Financial Times quoted US Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere, Roger Pardo-Maurer, who accused Chavez of "picking on the countries whose social fabric is the weakest. In some cases, it’s downright subversion." This is in fact the key to the belligerent attitude of the US. Translated into plain English, what Roger Pardo-Maurer is saying is that the Venezuelan revolution is seen as an example by the workers and peasants throughout Latin America. The policies of privatisation, de-regulation, the opening up of markets, and the free trade agreements pursued by Washington in the whole of Latin America for the last two decades have plunged these countries into deep economic crises. The number of poor and unemployed have gone up, while multinational companies have plundered these countries' natural resources.

The policies of the Chavez government of opposing privatization, using large amounts of the country's oil revenues, his stance against the policies of US imperialism and the Free Trade Area of the Americas, are obviously seen as an alternative. Furthermore the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela has proven that the diktats of Washington can be defied and that the attempts of the oligarchy and imperialism to put an end to this defiance can be overcome through mass mobilisation. Venezuela is indeed a very "dangerous" example from the point of view of the White House. For them, anything that threatens the rule of big business is "downright subversion".

Many in the current US administration know a lot about “subversion”. Rogelio “Roger” Pardo-Maurer himself was the political officer in the Washington office of the Nicaraguan contras from 1986 to 1989. Other prominent figures in the US administration are also well versed in “subversion”, having been involved in the counter-insurgency operations in Central America in the 1980s (Elliot Abrams, Otto Reich, John Negroponte, Roger Noriega, etc). Several of them also met the Venezuelan April 2002 coup organizers in Washington in the weeks prior to the “subversive” ousting of Chavez. As for “picking on weak countries” Roger Pardo-Maurer, Otto Reich, and other US officials, intervened directly in El Salvador last year to prevent a victory of the left-wing FMLN in the elections. They hinted that this would put at risk the remittances of Salvadorian immigrants in the US (one of the country’s main sources of income). The FMLN lost the election by a very small margin.

President Chavez and the Bolivarian revolutionary movement are right to take measures to defend themselves from the threat of intervention by the US. To act in any other way, taking into account the long history of US participating in the crushing of revolutionary movements in Latin America, would be downright irresponsible.

Read more ...

During the workshop on "Workers' participation in the management of companies" at the 3rd International Gathering in Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution, which took place in Valencia (Carabobo state), Alan Woods interviewed Orlando Chirinos, National Coordinator of the Venezuelan trade union confederation, UNT (National Workers Union).

Alan Woods: In a very short space of time the UNT has become the most important trade union confederation in Venezuela, completely pushing the old bureaucratic CTV to one side. How many members do you have right now?

Orlando Chirinos: There are some 600,000 members, though I do not have the latest figures and we are still growing. In any case, this figure does not give a precise picture of the strength of the UNT within the Venezuelan working class. There are millions of workers who think they are part of the UNT, though they are not formally registered as such.

Alan Woods, Orlando Chirinos
and Ricardo Galindez

AW: And the CTV?

OCh: We have documents that show that the CTV does not even have 300,000 members right now. In an attempt to justify their collapse they say that President Chavez has smashed them. But this is not the case. They are the victims of their own behaviour and their inability to represent the interests of the working class.

AW: Some of their leaders even supported the coup three years ago.

OCh: That is true. What we have to realise is that in Venezuela there is a process of change and this has its reflection in the trade union movement. There is a real trade union revolution, a revolution from below, and the clearest expression of this is the UNT. Here is a significant fact: here in Carabobo [one of the main industrial and workers' centres of the country] there were 27 referenda on collective bargaining agreements, and the UNT won 22 of them.

AW: However, the CTV still has a certain base. How do you explain that?

OCh: They count above all on the support of the CIOSL [ICFTU]. They receive funds from the US. The imperialists, who are continually harassing the Venezuelan revolution, want at all costs and by any means necessary to stop the UNT. This explains their support for the CTV, despite the demonstrable fact that they no longer represent the working class of this country.

AW: Obviously. There is an incredible international campaign to isolate and harass the Venezuelan revolution. We know that there are strong pressures in the US trade unions and also the right wing of the European trade unions to deny international recognition of the UNT. Through the "Hands off Venezuela" Campaign we are doing all we can to explain the real situation to the labour and trade union movement in Britain and throughout Europe. The main problem is the lack of information. Once European trade unionists have real and truthful information, the reception is very good.

OCh: This is very important. The UNT is an internationalist organisation. The working class is a world class. We should not be limited by narrow national horizons. Our motto is, "Workers of the world, unite!"

AW: We are in the workshop about workers' co-management. I personally prefer to talk about workers' control. What do you think?

OCh: Our strategic struggle is not co-management. At this particular time we are passing through this phase. But we must put into question capitalist production relationships and advance towards socialism. There are concrete facts: for instance the nationalisation of Venepal (now Invepal) and tomorrow there will also be the nationalisation of the Constructora Nacional de Valvulas (CNV). There are elements of workers' control like we see in ALCASA (in Bolivar state), where the process has gone further.

AW: Finally, what do you think of the "Hands Off Venezuela" Campaign"?

OCh: The "Hands Off Venezuela" campaign is an extraordinary initiative. It is the only significant campaign that is taking place internationally. Unfortunately, until now we have not paid enough attention to this campaign, but its support has been very valuable to us. The truth is that no one else has done what you have done. I consider the links between the UNT and the "Hands Off Venezuela" Campaign very important. I promise to raise this question at the next meeting of the National Coordination [National Executive Committee]. You can rest assured that we will continue to deepen the relationship with the Campaign.


Read more ...

Minister of Energy and Petroleum and PdVSA President Rafael Ramirez
Credit: ABN

According to Venezuela’s minister of Energy and Petroleum, Rafael Ramirez, the operating agreements that exist between the state oil company PDVSA and various transnational oil companies caused $260 million of losses for PDVSA and will thus be revised. During a press conference yesterday, Ramirez said that the goal would be to change the operating agreements into joint ventures with PDVSA, where PDVSA would have a majority stake.

Ramirez, who also serves as president PDVSA, explained that there are 32 operating agreements with companies such as ChevronTexaco, Royal Dutch Shell, France’s Total, and Spain’s Repsol, which produce about 500,000 barrels of oil per day, mostly from marginal oil fields. The contracts were signed in the between 1992 and 1997, when the price of oil was very low and the government at the time was interested in opening up the country’s oil industry to foreign investors.

The operating agreements are service agreements, in which the Venezuelan state pays a fee for the production of the oil. According to Ramirez, in many cases the fees the state paid for this extraction service cost more than could be earned by the sale of the oil, thus leading to losses in many cases for the state-owned oil company. Ramirez says that it costs $14 per barrel to extract oil under the service agreements, while in other oil fields the PDVSA operates it costs only $4 per barrel.

The Energy Ministry’s new requirement is to have all operating agreements changed into joint ventures in the next six months, under which they would pay 30% royalties, as well as taxes of 50%. A royalty is the percentage of the extracted oil’s market value that an oil company must pay directly to the government, before it subtracts any of its expenses. The taxes are then applied to the profits that the oil company makes on the sale of the remaining oil (i.e., after subtracting its expenses).

According to the new law on hydrocarbons, which went into effect in late 2001, international investment project in the oil sector would take the form of joint ventures, with PDVSA maintaining a 51% stake in these ventures. The new law also raised royalties from 16.6% to 30% and lowered taxes from 67% to 50%.

A day earlier, on Wednesday, President Chavez had said during a speech that many of these oil companies declared losses in Venezuela and were thus not paying any taxes at all. Chavez announced that the state’s tax collection agency, SENIAT, would investigate these companies. “In some cases, and we already have the proof, that there are transnational companies that have not paid the taxes that they should have paid, so we will charge them,” said Chavez. “A country cannot allow itself to be looted in this way,” he added. Ramirez said that the back taxes could amount to as much as $2 billion.

The oil companies affected by this move have yet to comment on it. Industry analysts, however, say that it is unlikely that the companies will challenge the changes, since the oil price is expected to remain high and profits can still be made.

Last year, in a surprise announcement, the Chavez government had increased royalties that extra-heavy crude production projects pay in the Orinoco oil belt, from 1% to 16.6%. These extra-heavy crude production projects contribute another 500,000 barrels per day to Venezuela’s overall output. The extraction of extra-heavy crude is particularly difficult because the oil is so thick and thus needs to be processed with lighter forms of crude so it can be transported. The royalty rate for these projects was kept so low because when the contracts were signed, the price of oil was very low. However, the Chavez government says that the oil companies can afford to pay more, now that the price has reached new highs.

When the announcement of the royalty increase in the extra-heavy crude projects was made, all companies except for ExxonMobil accepted the change. ExxonMobil is currently engaging in negotiations over the increased royalties.

Read more ...

Although we do not agree with the slant of this article published by the Inter Press Service News Agency, we think it is worthwhile to republish Humberto Márquez's piece as it shows the increased support for president Chavez and the weakness of the Opposition.

President Hugo Chavez is governing Venezuela today virtually without any effective, united opposition, as shown by the third anniversary of the events of April 11-14, 2002, when massive opposition protests preceded a short-lived civil-military coup d'etat, and huge groups of Chavez supporters and loyal troops reinstated the President.

Hundreds of thousands of anti-Chavez protesters marched on the government palace on April 11, 2002, prior to the President's brief overthrow, and similar shows of the strength of the opposition movement continued to occur up until the August 2004 recall referendum in which the opposition unsuccessfully attempted to remove the President.

But only a few hundred demonstrators came out for Monday's anniversary march in a middle-class district of Caracas.

"People are discouraged, because the (opposition) leaders have gone from one failure to another. I used to march, but I don't anymore, and I won't until new leaders crop up,” Daisy Torcatt, an employee in a cafeteria along the route taken by the protesters, commented to IPS.

By contrast, a pro-government rally in the center of the capital drew tens of thousands of Chavez supporters Wednesday, including people from poor Caracas neighbourhoods as well as civil servants from the central administration and local governments of nearby cities and regions.

"We came here three years ago to demand that they give us back 'el comandante' (Chavez). That is what we are celebrating, and we have learned a lot. We will not be taken by surprise again by another coup,” said Luis Martinez, a motorcycle taxi driver standing in a group of 100 other motorcyclists, 200 meters from the government palace.

Chavez, a former paratroop lieutenant-colonel, led a failed armed uprising in 1992 against then President Carlos Andres Perez (1974-1979 and 1989-1993), who was later removed from office and convicted on corruption charges.

In 1998, Chavez was elected President, and under a new constitution that was approved by voters in a 1999 referendum, he won a six-year term in 2000.

After the 2002 coup staged by dissident high-ranking officers in alliance with business and other opposition sectors, tens of thousands of Chavez followers along with troops that supported the constitutional order brought the President back to Caracas from where he was being held under arrest.

The intense political polarisation continued for two years after the ouster, with the opposition holding huge protest rallies as well as a December 2002-January 2003 general strike, all of which failed in the aim to topple Chavez.

But the opposition began to run out of steam after 59% of voters backed Chavez in the 2004 Presidential recall referendum.

Another blow to the anti-Chavez movement occurred when the president's allies won 22 of the 24 regional governments and 75% of the 335 city governments in the October 2004 elections.

Political analysts also predict victories for the governing party and allied forces in the elections for city councillors in August, the December legislative elections, and the 2006 Presidential poll.

The enormous street demonstrations have disappeared for now, and Chavez is forging ahead with his self-styled ”social revolution,” including agrarian reform, a spate of social programmes that have benefited the poor majority, and the creation of citizen reserves aimed at deterring aggression against Venezuela.

On Wednesday, 20,000 reservists wearing olive-green fatigues paraded before the President at a military academy in Caracas, as part of the formal creation of the popular defence units as a fifth branch of the armed forces, along with the army, the navy, the air force and the national guard. The reserves will answer directly to the Head of State.

The government's foreign policy, meanwhile, has focused on the ongoing war of words with Washington, oil industry cooperation with Venezuela's neighbours in South America and the Caribbean, and the strengthening of political and trade alliances with countries like China, India, Iran, Russia and Spain.

A survey of 1,500 people in seven Venezuelan cities, by the polling firm Hinterlaces, found that 53% of respondents supported Chavez and 38% were opposed to him.

Meanwhile, only 10% of those surveyed said they backed the opposition movement ... which was rejected by 83%.

"There is a new political panorama in the country,” Hinterlaces director Oscar Schemel remarked to IPS. "The people see the opposition as a class of politicians stuck in the past, who want to maintain their privileges and who are neither working for the interests of the people nor coming up with a viable alternative to Chavez' programme.”

In focus groups with respondents, Schemel said he had found that "more than 60% of those polled would like to be able to compare Chavez to some alternative.”

Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel called for this year's anniversary of the coup to serve as an opportunity for the opposition to "renew itself, issue a mea culpa on the maneuvers it has used in its attempts to get rid of Chavez, and rebuild its forces in benefit of democracy. Governing without opposition is very boring.”

The opposition parties linked by the Democratic Coordinator coalition that sought to topple Chavez have been severely weakened since the 2004 Presidential recall referendum and the October 2004 regional elections, and have failed to reach agreement on a united platform for taking part in the August 7 local elections.

Read more ...

Three of the five Colombian paramilitary fighters that were captured in Venezuela.
Credit: VTV

Sunday morning Venezuelan security forces captured five Colombians in Venezuela’s Amazon state, who presumably belong to the United Self-Defense of Colombia (AUC). Commissar Victor Bolivar, of Venezuela’s national police, the DISIP, reported that the presumed paramilitary soldiers were apparently extorting local indigenous people of the Amazon, who they were forcing to mine for gold. The fighters were captured in a national forest preserve, where mining is prohibited.

The captured fighters were carrying seven AK-47s and over 2,400 rounds of ammunition, among other military equipment. They were detained without resistance.

“The first investigations and declarations of the captured indicate that these individuals were safe-guarding the area for the subsequent smuggling of drugs,” said Bolivar.

Minister of the Interior and Justice, Jesse Chacon, said today that Venezuelan police are now in the process of identifying the captured irregular fighters. Chacon explained that there is a growing problem of illegal mining in Amazonas state, which borders both Brazil and Colombia.

This incident coincided with separate incident, a day earlier, when eight soldiers of Colombia’s regular military force were captured, who were dressed in civilian clothes. According to Colombian officials, it is common that Colombian soldiers temporarily cross the border with Venezuela, only to take a shortcut to another location in Colombia. However, Colombia’s ambassador to Venezuela, Enrique Vargas Ramirez, said that these soldiers had no permission to enter into Venezuela. Venezuela's foreign minister Ali Rodriguez, said that the Colombian soldiers would probably be soon released to Colombia.

Border incursions of Colombian soldiers, paramilitary fighters, and rebels into Venezuela have been a relatively common occurrence over the years. On various occasions fights have broken out between Venezuelan military forces and armed fighters coming from Colombia. U.S. government officials have repeatedly claimed that Venezuela allows Colombian rebels to camp out on Venezuelan territory, but Venezuelan officials deny this.

Read more ...

Venezuela formally asked U.S. authorities to extradite an escaped prisoner who was responsible for the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976, in which 73 persons were killed. The former prisoner, Luis Posada Carriles, is a Cuban exile who had escaped a Venezuelan prison in 1985. For a while he lived in Panama, where he was also captured for planning an assassination of Cuba’s President Fidel Castro in 2000. He was then pardoned in Panama, though, and entered the U.S. about a month ago.

Venezuela’s Vice-President, José Vicente Rangel, said, “We going to step up our demands for extradition.” “I hope Mr. Bush will take note of his own anti-terrorism policies and hand over Posada Carriles,” added Rangel.

Posada Carriles’ attorney says that the U.S. should deny the extradition request because he was acquitted in Venezuela of the bombing of the Cuban airliner. Also, if deported to Cuba, he would face possible execution.

Rangel pointed out that it is no wonder that Posada Carriles is requesting asylum in the U.S., “because during all of the acts that he participated in he did so while he was an employee of the CIA.”

On Monday, Cuba’s Castro said that if the U.S. denies the extradition request, then it would effectively be backing international terrorism. He also noted that Bush once said that whoever harbors a terrorist is as guilty of terrorism as the terrorist himself.

According to Associated Press, an unidentified U.S. official said that Posada is “excludable” from the U.S. because of his involvement in the plane bombing.

Carriles Posada, who is 77 years old and dual Venezuelan-Cuban citizenship, is a veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and has also been connected to a string of bombings in Cuban tourist locations in 1997. He escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985, disguised as a priest, while prosecutors appealed his acquittal.

The extradition request is one of several that Venezuela has pending in the U.S. Two other requests involve Venezuelan citizens who are wanted for the bombing of the Colombian and Spanish consulates in Venezuela in February 2003.

Read more ...

Lawyer Venezuelan-American Eva Golinger spoke in an interview from New York about her controversial book "The Chavez Code: Deciphering the Intervention of the United States in Venezuela," before its publication in the United States and a few days before its official presentation in Venezuela.

Q. How conclusive are the documents you published in your book on Washington's harassment of President Hugo Chavez?

A. The important thing is that the information that I have been able to declassify and access, like internal documents unavailable to the public of the National Endowment for Democracy, or NED, and of the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID support for anti-Chavez groups that today in 2005 continue to be financed by the U.S. government, which has as its final mission the overthrow of the Venezuelan government. These documents are very important to let the world know what is happening and in order to possibly help prevent the U.S. government intervention against Venezuela's sovereignty from succeeding.

Q. Did the documentary proof of North American harassment helped Chavez win the recall referendum?

A. He already had substantial support, but after I concretely proved with documentary evidence covert U.S. financing of opposition groups like Sumate and Plan Consensus Country -- which represented the opposition in June 2004 with a political platform for a government after Chavez shortly before the referendum -- the president's popularity rose and the opposition's went down. There are a lot of people in Venezuela who are not on Chavez's side, but who do not like the idea of an opposition that receives financing and orders from a foreign government either. The top-secret CIA documents that I managed to get declassified demonstrate that the U.S. government had previous knowledge and even detailed plans of how the coup d'etat was going to be organized, from provoking violence during an opposition march in early April, two months before the referendum. I do not know the exact date because they are crossed out in the documents, but the plans included taking President Chavez prisoner.

Q. What prompted you to undertake this investigation?

A. I am American and Venezuelan. I have been a person who has spent many years from my youth in the fight for social justice, which is why I became a lawyer. Since 1998, I have been writing about Venezuela for the alternative media because I am not a well-known journalist. What interested me most about the government was Venezuela's new constitution -- which focused particularly in human rights, my area of specialization -- and when the coup happened, it touched me personally because I have family there. Being from the United States, I felt I had the duty to find out if the American government had participated in a coup d'etat to overthrow a democratic and legitimate government. Many can debate on whether Chavez is democratic or not, but it cannot be denied that he was elected in democratic and transparent elections. And it seemed to me unusual that the United States was again intervening as it had done during the 1970s and 1980s in Central and Latin America.

The American government had a major role in an illegal action, and as a lawyer it was my duty to unmask the injustice if a foreign government intervenes in the internal affairs of another country, much less when it tries to overthrow a democratic government. That is why I did it, but I did not think that it was going to have the repercussions that it has.

Q. It is true that you have received death threats?

A. Yes, it is true.

Q. From whom?

A. All the threats have been via e-mail. I don't know if the names I have are true because anyone can open an account in Yahoo and write whatever he wants. I believe they are Venezuelans or Cubans related to Venezuelans, but I do not know if they are in Venezuela or other parts of the world.

Q. You are being accused of being a Venezuelan spy in the United States and there are allegations that Chavez's government has paid you a large sum of dollars. What do you say to that?

A. I had not seen that (she laughs). The question of me being a spy is absurd speculation and it has no legal foundations. The information I am uncovering and making public is information that the U.S. government itself is giving me and it knows who I am because we have been corresponding. In order to be a spy, you have to obtain data and documents secretly and then present them to a foreign government. I do not have any secret links with the American government and the documents that I publish in my Web page (venezuelafoia.info) are available to anybody who visits the Web site, not only to Chavez. As far as the money goes, I have just paid my taxes and the U.S. government has that information, of how much I have made last year and what my sources of income are, who my clients are. I am a lawyer, I have my own office. I am not going to break laws to receive money illegally or hide my finances either. Chavez's government did not finance my investigation and paid me nothing for the book. I had great difficulty finding a publisher as happens to any author with his first book.

Q. Then you financed it from your own pocket?

A. Yes. Chavez did not know of the book until somebody gave it to him; he then talked about it in his program 'Hello President.'"

Q. Chavez has referred to the book on numerous opportunities. Has anybody from the U.S. government, the CIA or the State Department contacted you?

A. No. Never.

Q. The fact that the first time the book was presented to the public was in Cuba has created much suspicion, taking into account the relations between Chavez and Fidel Castro. What about that?

A. Cuba has a vast and hungry readership. They are fanatical about books; the country has great publishing houses and the ability to satisfy public demand. In addition, they have some of the best translation teams in the world. I succeeded in getting them to help me translate the book into Spanish. Then they requested my permission to publish an edition for the book fair that took place in Santiago de Cuba last month on March 5.

Q. Cuba's Granma newspaper reported that this book is only your first step and says that you have more than 4,000 documents that show the participation of the United States not only in the coup d'etat, but also in the oil strike and the recall referendum.

A. That is true. Much of that information is in the book.

Q. What is going to be your next step?

A. After finishing the book, I received 50 percent of the document requests that I filed under the Freedom of Information Act, and I still need a lot of information. I have not yet reviewed at least 1,000 of the 4,000 documents I've received so far. They include State Department and Defense Department documents, and now with everything that is going on between Venezuela and the United States, and with the situation being so tense, these issues will continue to develop still further.

Q. But will we be getting continuing installments of your investigation?

A. Certainly, because the investigation continues.

Q. What is your true relationship with the Venezuelan government? Many have labeled you as being pro-Chavez.

A. I don't like political labeling of any type, but I share the desire for social reform, the social changes which are being implemented to achieve a fairer system, which would really take into account the majority of citizens. If to be pro-Chavez is to support a political system and a government that is looking for a way to meet the needs of its people, then yes, I share that political view.

Q. Do you admire Chavez as a leader?

A. Chavez is a person with an extraordinary manner of speaking and articulating his thoughts. It is very rare to see a person who spends so many hours speaking without losing the thread of the issue he is talking about. He is very charismatic; I have talked to him, and it seems to me, although many would say that it is not true, that he is a very sincere person, with the best intentions for the country, for Venezuela.

Q. Many people mentioned that after you published the declassified documents Chavez's verbal attacks on the United States increased.

A. They say that it was my fault?

Q. No, but that you indirectly helped to increase the number of Chavez's attacks.

A. If to know the truth somehow can help somebody to express himself better, in that sense they are right. But that argument is absurd because based on that logic then it would be better to leave everything hidden because otherwise people would know what is happening, and they are going to complain and to protest. To give somebody proof and the truth about a situation does not mean that one is increasing tensions. Sometimes, the truth hurts and the end result is not necessarily what everybody wants.

Q. Aside from these documents, do you think that there really is a plot to assassinate Chavez?

A. I do not rule it out. Very simply, it is necessary to look at history to see that that strategy has been implemented in other countries. Are Bush and his close officials are discussing Chavez's murder on a daily basis? I don't think so, and I hope that that is not the case. There are people who, of course, have publicly spoken publicly in favor of Chavez's assassination. For example, there are the declarations of Felix Rodriguez, a former CIA agent who was involved in killing Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Bolivia; he appeared on television in Miami speaking on the subject of assassinating Chavez. This is only circumstantial evidence; as lawyer I do not have solid proof.

(Pedro F. Frisneda is a writer with Tiempos del Mundo)

Read more ...

Join / affiliate to the campaign!

Make a donation!

Hands Off Venezuela's financial resources are limited so we rely on our supporters around the world.  Please make a donation of any size towards building the campaign