The truth about trade union freedom in Venezuela

[this article can be downloaded as a PDF file]

[this article can be downloaded as a PDF file]

1.- Venezuela is the northernmost country in South America. It is one of the main oil exporters and produces other minerals, such as iron, aluminum and gold. It has a democratic government since 1958, when a popular movement ended the last dictatorship, thus starting a process that resulted in the Constitution of 1961.

Today, Venezuela is living another stage in its democratic process; to many it is the most democratic moment in its history, while to others it is on the way to dictatorship. In the last five years, the ILO has condemned alleged violations to trade union freedom. In these five years, the Venezuelan democratic system has faced 'over a dozen failed coups. One of them even incarcerated the President and set a brief 48-hour dictatorship until the rebels were ousted by popular mobilization. Also, in the last five years, Venezuela has suffered four entrepreneurial strikes called by FEDECAMARAS (employers' organization) and the Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela, CTV (workers' organization). One of these strikes included an oil sabotage that for two months affected oil, gasoline and gas production essential for basic services. This strike was defeated by the workers' will to keep the industry, specially the oil industry, operating.

A street violence plan was orchestrated at the beginning of this year, aimed at creating a chaos similar to the one lived in Haiti during those same days. Luckily, it was limited to middle and high-class residential areas only and controlled in just a few days. Last month. a Colombian paramilitary camp was dismantled close to the city of Caracas. During all these attacks, the democratic system has come out unharmed thanks to popular support.

2.- However, threats and dangers continue. In view of the threats to democratic institutions, workers' nights, and rights to life, we should wonder: Whom are those interested in exerting pressure and Issuing hasty and baseless condemns serving? To whose side IS ILO being pushed? From the Venezuelan trade union movement the UNION NACIONAL DE TRABAJADORES (UNT) of Venezuela wishes to give Its opinion to the world trade union organizations' representatives attending this 92nd: International Labor Conference - ILO


3.- Venezuela has the advantage of receiving huge resources from oil exploitation. At the beginning of the democratic process. the Venezuelan Social Security Institute was in charge of rendering social security However these services were very limited night from the start A free and public education was guaranteed and Important benefits were granted for the working population. Democracy had wide support: election processes had less than 5% abstention and the two main political parties AD and COPEI together had over 85% of valid votes. The democratic environment and national unity effort that overthrew the last dictatorship in 1958, created the Constitution of 1961. However, the rights contemplated in that Constitution and other laws derived from it, such as the Labor Law, were never guaranteed nor respected for the majority. In Venezuela, the legal saying "the law says one thing, but practice dictates another" is fairly common.

4.- The crisis generated by the guerrilla phenomenon, which received great support from the Venezuelan youth who questioned the government's treason to the new Constitution's principles, and the pressure exerted by the ultra-right linked to the oil companies' interests, gave way to a political repression climate that thrived under the need to "consolidate the democratic regime".

The basis for this was the "Punto Fijo Pact", an agreement between political parties that guaranteed governability, strengthened "democratic institutional ism" and supported one another to exclude the "internal enemy". That is to say, it guaranteed democratic appearances and institutions (presidential elections every five years, a two-chamber congress, etc.), but was maintained through political control and brutal repression against any factor identified as "destabilizing".

5.- This doctrine justified purges among middle-rank military officials and trade union organizations: it banned political parties, incarcerated legislators and persecuted political leaders. The "guerrilla threat" disappeared in the late sixties, but the repressive policy was unaltered.

In Venezuela, there were missing persons even before South American dictatorships made them popular. In 40 years, over 1 0 thousand Venezuelans were murdered or disappeared because of their political and trade union activities. During that same period, the economic guarantees provided in the Constitution were suspended. Trade unions were intervened alleging "subversive activities" and the night to go on strike was denied. The country's statistics show that in those 40 years there was not a single strike. There were strikes alright, only that they were not recorded the accusations taken to international organizations were never processed. The Venezuelan democracy. in the midst of Latin American dictatorships, had many advocates and it was needless to "stain it". Truth and statistics were tampered with m order to protect the Image of the Latin America democracy "showcase'.


6.- During the 80's, in Venezuela, and the rest of Latin America, some economic measures dictated by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund were implemented. A weak oil-dependent economy tumbled. The barely existing social security was dismantled, along with the public education system. Deteriorated public services, unemployment and high cost of life swiftly and unexpectedly became part of the Venezuelan life.

8000 of Venezuelans saw how their life level rapidly fell. A very small sector continued boasting scandalous privileges directly or indirectly derived from oil profits. In Venezuela we have areas (barrios) with high unemployment and lack of services coexisting slde-by-slde with mlddle and-hlgh-class neighborhoods with all the privileges Over 500,0 of the active population lives with the minimum wage (U.S.$150 per month) while an oil industry's middle manager earns between U.S.$ 8,000.00 and U.S.$1 0,000.00.

We are great whisky and imported cell phones consumers but bandages and cotton are scarce in our hospitals. Schools dropout rate was 60% and over 40% of the population did not have access to any health center. Globalization appointed us mineral suppliers (oil, iron, aluminum, etc.), but we import almost everything we consume, even the products derived from the minerals we export. Our industrial park was dismantled to favor importing and financial capitals.

By the year 1989, the recently-elected President, Carlos Andres Perez, announced new and stricter measures, despite the fact that his electoral campaign was focused on attacking the International Monetary Fund's guidelines.

7.- On February 2ih, 1989, barely twenty-three days after Perez took power, the implementation of the first measure: increasing gasoline prices and consequently increasing public transportation, provoked a popular protest in downtown Caracas that in a matter of hours extended to the whole country. Thousands of stores and industries were looted and several bank offices were burned. The population attacked governmental, political parties, CTV and FEDECAMARAS' buildings with stones. For two days, popular actions were uncontrolled by municipal police forces and the government had to ask the Army to take control.

In order to recover control, a massive repression was ordered against the population. For over a month, the popular neighborhoods were "swept" by machine-gun fire to deter inhabitants from taking to the streets, a curfew hour was established and constitutional guarantees were suspended. The terror aftermath of the military repression against the defenseless population included over 3 thousand killed, hundreds of missing persons and tens of trade union, neighbor and student leaders detained.

The situation was controlled but at such a high bloody cost that it mortally wounded the oil democracy installed in 1958. Less than a year after the Caracazo, during the governors' elections, the abstention rate went from 5% to 42%, when the highest figure recorded In the previous 30 years had been 7%. Persecution and human rights violations Increased while economy fell to its lowest rates.

8.- Three years after the Caracazo, on February 4th 1992. a group of middle-rank officials rebelled against Its commanders and mobilized troops against Perez In a failed military Insurrection The support this military insurrection enjoyed was so evident that there was not a single mobilization to defend the government.
That same year, on November 27th, another military insurrection unsuccessfully tried to overthrow the government After each try, the government's repression against students and trade union organizations Increased and the political crisis deepened In mld-1993, the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) took President Perez to trial for corruption and ordered him to resign to Presidency In the following election process, the political parties AD and COPEI that had alternated In power for 35 years were defeated and will never again rule the country's destiny.

9.- From 1993 to 1998 the situation worsened: a banking crisis swallowed the population's savings while the bankers flee to Miami. In a single year, inflation grew over 100%. The labor reform eliminated two historical conquests for workers: the annual social benefits' adjustment and the unjustified dismissal bonus. 60% of the active population was working in the informal economy and 80% was living in misery, excluded from the health and education systems and lacking every service. Support to the government fell to 5% and it did not even dare appoint a candidate for the election process of 1998.

In 1998, the people voted for Hugo Chavez who led the military insurrection of 1992 and was freed from jail a few years before. Chavez' first decree was to call a referendum to approve the appointment of a Constituent Assembly, A few months later, the Assembly members were nominally elected and only 5% corresponded to traditional parties. The new Constitution was publicly discussed with the participation of every sector involved and approved via a referendum by the people.


10.-Some of the targets of the protesters' attacks during the "Caracazo", were the buildings that housed the official labor organization, CTV and FEDECAMARAS, Why CTV? CTV had historically fought dictatorships until the last one was overthrown in 1958, it emerged as one of the symbols of democratic unity, The majority of its Board members belonged to the government's party, AD and the Punto Fijo Pact's doctrine oriented the exclusion of trends suspected of not favoring "democracy". A trade union "McCarthyism" made many leaders suspects and over 4000 of trade union organizations were excluded or forced to withdraw from CTV.

During that period, the Confederaci6n General de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CGT) (Venezuelan Workers General Confederation), affiliated to CMT: the Confederación de Sindicatos Autonomos de Venezuela (CODESA) (Venezuelan Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions) and the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CUTV) (Venezuelan United Workers Central), affiliated to FSM, Dozens of trade Union organizations excluded from CTV were stopped from affiliating to any trade union central CTV broke the unity of the trade union movement.

11.- Venezuelan law contemplates trade Union plurality: however, the political practice favored trade union unit and what was even worse, The trade union direction was controlled by a single party The government forced the estate's public workers to adhere to CTV's trade union organizations If trade unions were not supported by CTV their legality was obstructed The entrepreneurs were allowed to control trade unions (entrepreneurial trade unions) to halt "antidemocratic agents".

Agreements included clauses where only the trade union could accept workers. Affiliation quotas were discounted by companies, many times without the worker's authorization CTV received estate's subsidies and support that were refused to other centrals or trade unions AD's trade union department appointed CTV's president and other governmental labor officials ILO's records show that delegates attended conferences representing the government on some occasions and the workers on some others.

The majority of trade union organizations had not called to elections in 20, 30 or 40 years. Only political parties' members could be part of a federation's or CTV's Board of Directors and positions were distributed among the parties in terms of the amount of trade unions each party "controlled". Political parties created fake trade union organizations to guarantee their presence in conventions. These are the so-called "attaché-case" trade unions.

12.- When something escaped control, police or CTV's "shock groups" exerted direct repression. Armed groups assaulted trade unions, attacked workers assemblies and/or hit trade union leaders with steel bars. Manuel Cova, current CTV president, was a famous "cabillero" (steel bar wielder). One of the main victims of this practice was SUTISS, the metallurgy trade union, where Andres Velasquez was part of the Board of Directors.

This explains the trade union structure in place in the year 2000: over 80% of workers did not belong to any trade union organization; 75% of trade unions grouped public or estate-owned companies' workers, despite the fact that this sector represents less than 30% of the country's active population. 60% of trade unions have less than 100 workers and over 40% of these organizations did not record any activity, had not disclosed financial balances, affiliates list nor elections records, despite the law requiring it with certain periodicity. Neither had they appeared in any negotiation process for collective work contracts.

CTV's control by political parties led party members to be favored against trade union leaders to occupy Board positions. After a while, the majority were party leaders and not union leaders: some of them were not even workers.

13.- In the mld-70's control was relaxed and elections were allowed In some unions, but the trade union organizations grouping the metallurgy, textile, graphic and other sectors now were in the hands of people opposing CTV's Board of Directors. In 1980, the opening period ended and. "in order to recover unity In the labor movement", unions were Intervened by the police, being accused of subversion, new Board of Directors were appointed by CTV and tens of leaders Incarcerated The metallurgy sector leader Melchor Rosas was disappeared In 1980 and his body has not been found yet


14.- When during the "Caracazo" people attacked the CTV building with stones, its president. Jose Delpino, said that CTV's "Image" had to be Improved and return to workers' hands. Two months later he called a 24-hour long national strike against '"the government's economic policy" It was a good try, but CTV's Board of Directors had lost contact and credibility.

A trade union opening process was started and new leaders were elected In over 3000 of basic trade unions, however political parties kept control of federations and CTV.

The Labor Ministry statistics show that more trade union organizations were created during the 90's than in the three previous decades. The rigid trade union control of the oil democracy was broken.

15.- In 1997, CTV, FEDECAMARAS and the government agreed to reform the law aimed at eliminating important labor conquests such as the annual social benefits' adjustment and the unjustified dismissal bonus. Rallies and regional strikes rejected the agreement, which worsen CTV's internal situation. The government's term ended and CTV started the political campaign supporting Salas R6mer, an entrepreneur, who was defeated by Hugo Chavez by a wide margin. For the first time in 40 years CTV was out of the government and did not win a single representative.


16.- In 1999, the constitutional process was started. CTV held a congress to reform its by-laws and approved the election of trade union federations to appease the ever increasing demand for trade union democracy. During the constitution's discussions many demands for trade union democracy and corruption control were voiced. The Constitution of 1999 respected trade union autonomy and only addressed three topics: trade union leaders must declare their assets to the Republic's Comptroller; workers' representatives in estate enterprises' Boards should be democratically elected by the enterprise's workers and not appointed by CTV and trade union directors should be relegitimized through an election process.

These three topics, clearly and openly democratic in nature, were reported to ILO as violations of trade union freedom. The calling for an election process in every trade union was approved via a national referendum. ILO appointed a "direct contact" mission is trade union freedom violated by requesting a director to annually declare his assets as a way to control corruption? The Constitution demands such a practice from every public worker is trade union freedom violated if workers are granted the right to choose their representatives?


17.- The process to relegitimized union leaders took place In 2001 under the observation of the Conselo Naclonal Electoral (CNE) (National Election Council,. the official agency In charge of Venezuelan election processes as per CTV by-laws. and the CNE officials and the election process rules were chosen by national consensus with CTV's participation.
3.543 trade union organizations were Included Many others did not participate, arguing that the rules went against their by-laws CTV and its organizations participated accepting CNE's observation 2.974 trade union organizations fulfilled the legal requirements for the election process 2.871 were basic trade union organizations and 103 were trade union federations or trade union centrals. At that time (2001) 68% trade union organizations were affiliated to CTV. 29% did not belong to any federation or central and 3% were affiliated to other existing trade union centrals. 2,852 election processes were carried out and 2,749 were approved. 103 trade union organizations did not complete their election process due to defects and problems in the process, among them CTV itself.

18.- During CTV's elections, on October 21st, 2001, several voting centers were assaulted by armed bands and witnesses were refused access in many voting centers located inside private companies. The books had to be filled out immediately but they took up to three weeks to get back to CTV and they were evidently modified, a fact that questioned their legitimacy. 48% of the records disappeared and the existing ones were never delivered to CNE. The president of CTV's Election Council (opposing Chavez' administration) refused to sign the final record objecting the results.

CTV declared then it had one million fifty thousand affiliates but only 450 thousand workers participated. The final book only reflected 240 thousand votes and Carlos Ortega, CTV's Board of Directors candidate, declared himself president with a result of 150 thousand votes, barely 15% of CTV's affiliates.

CNE did not accept this illegal self-proclamation. Even so, Carlos Ortega was announced to the country as CTV's new president by Pedro Carmona, president of FEDECAMARAS. That is to say, the employers "decided" who had won the elections in the workers organization. Is this part of trade union freedom?

19.- The majority of basic organizations questioned this fraudulent Board of Directors. Directors of the main federations: workers in the oil, energy, pharmaceuticals, basic aluminum enterprises, steel-works, university and public sectors disavowed CTV's Board of Directors and demanded a statement from CNE. CNE did not make a statement because it never received documents from CTV that would allow it to issue a favorable or unfavorable opinion. Up to now, three years later, those documents, the election process books, have never been delivered.

CTV's Board of Directors since 2001 is not legitimate: neither does it abide by that organizations by-laws or the rules to relegitimate trade unions The status of CTV as a trade union organization was never questioned, what was questioned was its Board of Directors legitimacy.

The doubt about CTV's Board of Directors legitimacy does not come from the government as ILO has been told, but from basic trade unions that have demanded the disavowing behavior.

CTV and Its trade union freedom has not been attacked. Its Board of Directors has been questioned, ILO officials have demanded the Venezuelan government to recognize CTV's Board, but that would mean Ignoring laws and trade union by-laws and also, the opinion of basic trade unions, affiliated to CTV, has been consulted.


20.- The end of the oil democracy affected the political parties AD and COPE I who together had over 85% of the votes and that could not get even 20% in the last elections. The opposition was dispersed into small groups.
By the year 2001, they grouped into an Opposing Coordinator but the parties' weakness made it unstable. The gap that these parties justify was filled by FEDECAMARAS and CTV who became political organizations; thus CTV was getting even farther away from being a representative union structure.

21.- On December 10, 2001, FEDECAMARAS with CTV's support, called a national strike to protest a group of laws that had been passed by Chavez' administration. The Constitution sets forth an abrogation referendum to disapprove any law passed by the executive power. However, FEDECAMARAS never requested such referendum, it rather took direct confrontation. The strike was limited to the private sector: workers were sent home. In the public sector it only affected the oil industry's offices and management areas. Inside CTV, the illegitimate Board of Director's decision to support the entrepreneurial strike was questioned.

22.- By the year 2002, there was a strong agitation climate generated by tile pronouncement made by some high-rank military officials against the government. The oil industry management also issued a statement against the oil policy (OPEC's strengthening, respect for production quotas, etc.).

The government appointed a new Board of Directors for PDVSA, the national oil company. The oil management then formed UNAPETROL. a trade union that supposedly grouped oil workers, led by oil industry leaders. In just a few days, FEDECAMARAS again supported by CTV, called another strike, this time of indefinite nature aimed at demanding Chavez's resignation. Most of the country's trade unions rejected this strike, including the three existing federations in the oil sector. CTV being one of them.
The strike was not fully supported but it continued because it was a smoke screen to cover a military coup that was developed a few hours after the strike started.


24.- On April 11 t'. 2002, there was a military coup organized by high-rank military officials with direct support from mass media network owners. CTV's Board of Directors. FEDECAMARAS and the 011 Industry's top management. The high-rank military officials demanded Chavez' resignation and threatened to attack the Government House which was surrounded by thousands of Chavez followers The President decided to surrender but not resign and was detained by the Chief of Stat! In the early morning hours the Chief of Staff announced the new president Pedro Carmona, president of FEDECAMARAS.

In the morning of April 12th the coup promoters distributed the governmental positions among themselves and CTV accepted two ministries Labor and Planning The first governmental decree was approved by consensus. According to Pedro Carmona talking a few days later from exile: "The only argument was about who would be Vice-President because CTV wanted that position"

25.- The only decree of this FEDECAMARAS-CTV government suppressed the Constitution, dissolved the National Assembly, and dismissed all the ministers, the Attorney General and the Supreme Court of Justice' magistrates. It was a dictatorship by any standard and it was supported by CTV. In the national oil industry, management took over and dismissed any worker who did not support the coup, over two thousand dismissals were announced in a single day, they specially dismissed the trade union leaders. The houses of several leaders were raided and hundreds were incarcerated during the coup's first hours.

While there was a celebration in the House of Government, the streets started buzzing with protests against the dictatorship. Spontaneously, on April 12th afternoon a labor strike that included the country's main industries, mainly oil, steel-works and transportation, was started. By April 13th, the strike and protests had extended to include garrisons who disavowed the coup leaders. In just a few hours, protesters were at the House of Government's doors. In the early morning of Sunday 14th. Chavez was rescued from La Orchila, a Venezuelan island in the Caribbean, and taken back to the House of Government, thus restoring the constitutional thread. There were no persecutions or vengeance. The only civilian who was put under arrest was Pedro Carmona, the brief dictator. A few days later, he broke away from his home, were he was arrested, and took refuge in the Colombian embassy from where he went to exile

26.- Only three weeks after the military coup, in May 2003, an ILO "direct contact" mission visited Venezuela. It met with representatives from the different trade union organizations, grouping workers, employers and government members. It listened, saw proves and documents and was able to analyze all the existing versions of the facts and drafted a report that was divulged a few months later.

That report does not mention that there was a coup, neither does It mention the brief dictatorship that suppressed every democratic right. Including the Constitution or that the brief dictator was president of FEDECAMARAS It never said any1hmg about the hundreds of trade union leaders who were detained although this mission met with them.

The report mentions a trade union leader who was murdered but It does not say any1hlng about the name, place or way In which he was murdered. It also mentioned paramilitary groups that harassed trade unions but that was the first and only time that this fact has been mentioned. The report stated that CTV was being harassed, despite the fact that the mission met freely with its representatives and that this organization had been part of the recent coup

ILO should guarantee that Its officials, especially those who are part of a "direct contact" mission are unbiased and transparent Where is that transparency? Were they really unbiased? Why did the mission reject all the information provided and only mentioned the accusations without any proof? That was the experience of Venezuelan workers with an ILO "direct contact mission"


27.- After the Board of Director's participation in the coup, it was evident that CTV was internally divided. The illegitimate Board continued being part of the Opposing Coordinator while many trade union leaders were actively preventing a new fascist coup attempt.

For the 90° International Labor Conference of the year 2002 two fractions demanded to represent CTV. The Labor Ministry resorted to the Supreme Court who resolved the controversy reporting that in view of the lack of documents, it was "public and notorious" that Carlos Ortega was president. The rest of the delegation was equally shared by the two fractions. CTV did not protest the mixed delegation before the Powers Verification Commission.

That year, they tried to register the oil management trade union, UNAPETROL, once again. The Labor Ministry rejected it based on the principle of purity: the employer's representative cannot be part of a workers trade union. CTV supported the oil managers despite their rejection by the three oil workers federations.

.- In December 2002, the oil management called a strike supported by FEDECAMARAS and CTV. The majority of industry's managers and directors abandoned their posts forcing operators to leave the areas unattended. After three days of strike, the oil trade union organization called the operators back to work, thus ignoring the company's top management orders. 90% of operators answered the call and confronted managers, starting a battle for the oil industry's control.

For two months, workers tried to operate the oil industry without the supervision of bosses or leaders, facing the threats from their higher-ups, overcoming technical problems, computer sabotaging and terrorist attacks that started against the oil industry.

And the oil workers won the battle. Almost 80% of the industry was manually operated to overcome computer sabotaging. The ports were put under the dockworkers' control and the ships were brought to port by sailors who evicted the officers that had kidnapped the ships at high sea. Refineries produced gasoline and gas required by the population and the truckers' trade Unions guaranteed fuel distribution to the whole country. By the end of January 2003. the oil stoppage was defeated and In February the situation went back to normal.

29.- 18 thousand POVSA workers were out of the Industry. Including executives, top, middle and low managers, supervisors, and administrative, computer, control and security personnel. Many of them were evicted by the workers themselves arguing they had attempted against themselves and the country. We will not allow them back as the government has made clear on more than one occasion.

Not a single operator or blue-collar worker was dismissed, not even those who were in favor of the strike. Only directors and administrative personnel that committed sabotage were dismissed. We know that some ILO officials have pressured the government to take those dismissed back on behalf of trade Union freedom. Why don't they talk to the 30 thousand oil industry workers and ask their opinion? Why do managers and directors who attacked workers are to be considered victims?.

You can frequently see Horacio Medina and Edgar Quijano on ILO's hallways. They are received as "oil industry workers' representatives" Since when? They represented the industry as managers in the collective bargaining while they worked in the company.
Can't the owner of a business (in this case the estate) dismiss its executive and managerial personnel if it acted against business' interests and even more so when the workers demand it?

The most recent report of the Trade Union Freedom Committee doubts whether the strike had a political nature, but the only request was the President's resignation. If that is not a political strike, what is?

30.- After the strike, 250 thousand workers were laid off by businesses that irresponsibly shut down for two months. After this inoperative period they were justify in a dire economic situation so they resorted to personnel cutbacks. A similar amount of workers were forced to give up their contractual benefits or accept worse working conditions to overcome the crisis derived from that irresponsible strike: over half a million workers had to pay for the strike costs by being laid off or accepting conditions that violate Venezuelan laws. Entrepreneurs now refuse to accept workers back denying them their rights. Why is this situation not considered interested but that of oil managers is? What type of trade union freedom is that that is so exclusive?

31.- CTV placed itself in the workers, opposite side. It publicly supported dismissals, personnel cutbacks or wage retention and ignored the worsening of working conditions. After the strike was defeated it called workers to "accept sacrifices" imposed by entrepreneurs CTV's Internal fracture turned into a division. Differences were no longer political or methodological In nature. CTV's illegitimate Board was openly executing FEDECAMARAS decisions In April 2003, two months after the strike ended, over a thousand trade unions. 6000 coming from CTV, held a trade union meeting from where the UNION NACIONAL DE TRABAJADORES (UNT) was created


32.- During the last International Labor Conference. UNT's member delegate Orlando Chirino, former CTV leader, was credited CTV protested (however not In Venezuela) before the Credentials Verification Commission. Although the protest was fruitless the Commission repeated CTV's arguments, not paying attention to existing documents and trying to turn an Inter-trade union problem between UNT and CTV into a government's aggression to CTV.

CTV insists that CNE informed that CTV had 6800 of trade union organizations registered for the election process. However. It does not mention that that was In the year 2001 That same document says CTV's Board of Directors was not approved because the election process was not legal It does not mention either that UNT was created after that registration process.

CTV had the majority m 200' and It continued so during 200 when there were two CTV delegations but by 2003 It was divided and lost majority CTV declared that It had one million fifty thousand affiliates in 2001. Trade unions that created UNT surpass that figure and many come from CTV. So, how can they still claim majority?

CTV has kept 2001 figures. According to them unemployment has risen, over 5 thousand companies have closed down and there is trade union persecutions but they have not lost a single affiliate since 2001. The workers who belong to the different unions: energy, oil, public sector, textiles, transportation, aluminum, iron, mining, petrochemical, automotive, construction and health are no longer in CTV, but they still have the same figures as in the year 2001.

CTV denies reality. It claims it has not received requests for disincorporation, but CTV bylaws are very clear. Whoever adheres to another central is out of CTV. Last month, the Energy Workers Federation held an Assembly and publicly announced their affiliation to UNT. On May 1st, the oil federation marched alongside UNT and not CTV. Why doesn't it sanction its leaders? Maybe it doesn't want to leave any proof that they are already out. 250 new trade union organizations have been created this last year, many of them are part of UNT, others are independent but not a single one is affiliated to CTV.

33.- It has been argued that UNT has not celebrated elections to appoint a Board of Directors (neither has CTV). It will have elections this year. 18 months after its creation as per its by-laws. UNT does not have a Board of Directors but it has a National Coordinator constituted by the most important trade union organizations' directors, some of whom belonged to CTV, such as Marcela Maspero (President of the Pharmaceutical Industry Workers Federation). Orlando Chirino (Secretary General of the State of Carabobo General Workers Federation). Joaquin Osorios (President of the Disciplinary Court of the Energy Workers Federation), Rafael Rosales (President of the 011 Workers Federation). Nelson Nunez (President of the National Oil Trade Union. SINUTRAPETROL). Franklln Rondon (President of the Public Workers Federation. FENTRASEP). Juan Crespo (President of the Flour Workers Federation) Jose Gil (Secretary General of the Aluminum Workers Union). Andres Mercado (Secretary General of the Ford Motor Company Workers Union) and many other Union and federation directors.

Over 4000 of the country's trade Unions abandoned CTV and even If it had not been numerically reduced to a shadow of what It once was. It could only account for less than 2500 of the country s existing trade union organizations

34.- UNT was created as an answer to the way In which CTV was used to favor fascist coup advocates CIOSL organizations In Latin America develop policies to combat fascism, the murder of trade union leaders In Colombia, the application of LAFTA and American interventionism and war All these initiatives are supported by UNT How does CIOSL explain that CTV does not support a single one of these causes? That is because CTV's political orientation is subjected to the Opposing Coordinator's decisions where fascist organizations such as Tradición, Familia y Propiedad (Tradition Family and Property) Opus Del and the Organización Contrarrevolucionana Venezolana, Venezuelan Counter-Revolutionary Organization, all have a say These are Its allies not the workers. It is not the government's fault that CTV is disintegrating, if anything is to blame is that organization's policy.


35.- In a campaign against UNT, this organization was accused of being a government's union organization. CTV projects its own image because for 40 years it was the government's official branch. For example, Leon Arismendi attended conferences sometimes as a worker and sometimes as government representative and he was appointed minister of the brief government installed during April 11 's coup. CTV has no moral to accuse anyone of being part of the government. They are simply crying for lost privileges.

UNT defends the Bolivarian Constitution and its principles, but it also defends workers and their rights against any enemy, be them inside or outside Chavez' or any other government. 70% of its trade union leaders have been active for over 15 years and were not formed under the protection of any government.
The only true labor conflict the government has had was with UNT trade unions. However, it is also true that we have called trade union organizations and workers to defend the constitutionally elected government from the fascist threat.

36.- The Opposing Coordinator's data give Chavez 40% acceptance, while governmental agencies give the opposition only 2500 acceptance, so there must be a middle point of around 35°;0. No organization representing workers can favor one sector and reject the other Only CTV has proclaimed itself to be 10000 Opposition, which goes against its nature as a labor organization. UNT's leadership is like a melting pot that combines different philosophies: Social-Democracy, Soclal-Christianity, Marxism. Maoism, Trotskism. Anarchism. Christianity. Nationalism, LatinAmencanism. Independents, etc It embodies the history of the Venezuelan labor movement It is not possible to reduce the labor movement to a single philosophy and say it has the majority versus, other organizations: that would be going against history.

37.- We defend social programs that use oil resources to take health care, water, proper housing and electricity to the poorest sectors from where they had disappeared. to educate two million illiterates that were the product of globalization, to organize cooperatives to rebuild the dismantled Industrial park.
We reject the privatization of public services and estate companies. We participate as workers in the management of estate companies. We are against LAFTA and the invasion to Afghanistan and Iraq. We support these causes not because we are on Chavez side but because we have always defended them Conversely, it is Chavez' administration the one who is on our side. We defend trade union freedom not only with words or because we are scared of what others might say, but with our moral because we have been the victims of trade Union persecution.
No CTV member has been detained, tortured or reported missing during this administration. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about the governments that CTV supported.

38.- We support trade union pluralism; we believe that every central has the same rights, we advocate the elimination of subsidies and the elimination of mandatory affiliation for public workers, let them decide by themselves which trade union should negotiate their collective contracts, let the workers choose their leaders and representatives in the companies' Board of Directors. Going against these topics is violating trade union freedom and that is the case with CTV. The government-imposed trade union unit is over.

There are still hundreds of trade union organizations that are led by company representatives to prevent the workers' expression. There are businesses that fool the Labor Law by creating intermediaries ignoring their labor obligations. There are companies who fire their trade union directors and disregard the orders issued by labor organizations to take them back. There are regions where it is still mandatory for public workers to affiliate to CTV. In some areas, such as construction, only the trade union can authorize the acceptance of a worker. In the last five years. over 70 farmer leaders have been murdered by assassins hired by the entrepreneurs. However. these accusations never reach ILO because the violators are not part of the Venezuelan government but are those who sit on ILO's chairs to accuse it.


39.-The recent Trade Union Freedom Committee's report, approved by the Administrative Council shows new and revealing accusations. The most important accusation is the murder of a trade union leader during the CTV march on May 1 SI. 2003. It is important because the right to life is above everything else however, the report does not mention, despite knowing the fact, that this trade Unionist was killed during a personal fight right in front of a liquor store when the march was over. This is not the first time that something similar happens during a CTV march. The assailant was detained, judged and condemned by court. Is there any Agreement that sets forth that a government is responsible for the victims of personal attacks when the person is a trade union leader? What else is justify to do, other than send the assailant to court? What can be said about those countries where hundreds of trade union leaders have been murdered for political reasons without even mentioning those who were responsible? Where is ILO's transparency? Why is there manipulation and concealment of part of the Information? No ILO official has mentioned that over 70 farmer leaders have been murdered by assassins hired by cattle raisers' entrepreneurial organizations.

40.- Another accusation mentions that the government did not legalize the UNAPETROL trade union which IS constituted by oil Industry managers and executives The report recognizes that the principle of purity applied by the government agrees with ILO principles but requests a meeting with them and to look for an agreement. It also requests from the Venezuelan government to maintain Its relationship with the oil industry trade union organizations.

There are three oil workers federations. They all have maintained relationships with Chavez' administration with whom two work agreement have been negotiated and a third one will be negotiated this year. The presidents of the two largest federations were appointed members of the Board of Directors. And all these federations reject the managers' trade union because they are not workers.

We understand the friendship that exists between Horacio Medina and Edgar Quijano, oil industry's former managers, and high ILO officials, we do not criticize it. However, this friendship does not justify ignoring ILO principles and trying to impose these men as trade union leaders. They are managers, not workers, so they cannot lead a workers' trade union, neither can they go back to the company because oil workers reject them.

41.- Another accusation is the alleged persecution of CTV and FEDECAMARAS leaders. We are talking here of three men: Pedro Carmona, Carlos Ortega and Carlos Fernandez. The first one was FEDECAMARAS president until April 11th, when he became a dictator for 48 hours, was detained by his own military accomplices and taken to his house while he awaited trial. He fled, helped by his police custodians and took refuge in the Colombian embassy where he requested political asylum. Can a man who ordered the detention of a country's President, suppressed the Constitution and dissolved public powers and was the visible head of a coup be considered a political persecute? In the case of Carlos Ortega and Carlos Fernandez, president of CTV and FEDECAMARAS, respectively (after Carmona fled), their stories go hand-in-hand. They participated on the April 11th. 2002 coup and called the oil strike In December 2002.

During 63 days, everyday at six in the afternoon, they broadcasted through joint private TV and radio transmission the actions their followers should take. During these actions many were wounded. or killed and public and private property was destroyed.
After the strike was defeated, they were accused and called to trial. Carlos Ortega, the CTV president, took asylum m the Costa Rican embassy. Carlos Fernandez did not have the same luck, he was not informed on time and was detained m the early morning hours in a night club while totally drunk his doctor said that he was practically Incapacitated and was taken home on a stretcher A few days later, during the last ILO conference, he was seen m the hallways after fleeing the country. None of them IS being persecuted they are fugitives and responsible for crimes against workers.


42.- Delegates are not fully informed. In the hallways there IS manipulation to favor some over others CTV and FEDECAMARAS have visited ILO's building for years, they have friends and favors to collect. Those who have just arrived are considered intruders. The truth about Venezuela does not matter. CTV and FEDECAMARAS have to be favored since they are friends: It does not matter if by doing so you go against a country.

The methodology that has been applied in the case of Venezuela leaves much to be desired regarding ILO's much-needed transparency. The interest does not seem to be focused in verifying the truth but in exerting pressure to force the government to agree to some of the requests. Specially, that CTV has once again the privileges it enjoyed when it was part of the government.

43.- Mr. Tapiola attended the last CTV congress, held in November 2003. After four years, that congress was supposed to discuss the CTV 2001 elections results, the 2002 coup, and the 2003 oil strike. But it was not so. The only discussion point was a plan to collect signatures for a recall referendum against president Chavez. It was not a congress, but a political event. Mr. Tapiola did not know, perhaps due to some language barrier.

Jose Navarro, CTV's union leader from the Asociación Sindical Independiente (ASI) (Independent Union Association), who strongly opposes the government, published a flyer for that congress that read "CTV has to be strengthened by calling for a clean elections process, we must avoid the fraud that marred the last elections, it is the only way to face the danger of trade union parallelism that UNT poses". It is not UNT the one that talks about fraud, that possibility is mentioned inside CTV. ILO knew nothing about this and neither did Mr. Tapiola.

He was not surprised either by the fact that the congress took place in one of the most luxurious hotels in our country or that he was escorted by a dozen of non-governmental armed police officers when he drove around town. These officers belong to the Opposing Coordinator's police force.

44.- ln two occasions, public political events against Chavez' administration have taken place in the ILO building. UNT has been refused this venue to explain the union situation in Venezuela. Is ILO being democratic?

We have known about accusations of extremely serious violations that have been put in a drawer to give way to the Venezuelan case, in order to favor political interests. Only poor countries have to occupy the accused stand. It is true that there are no union violations In the United States. Why has not this country ratified many agreements but still is part of the Administrative Council? The destiny of Colombian trade unions has been unabashedly negotiated In ILO's coffee bar.

How can we trust reports that state violations committed by governments against unions If we ourselves have witnessed a set-up against Venezuela? Despite our many years as union leaders we could never visit ILO but we believed in it and in its principles. We sent accusations against the Venezuelan government, but they were never answered or processed. Now we are here and we do not want to believe that ILO is subjected to a handful of manipulating officials who try to overpower the rightful mandators. i.e. the member countries delegates.

ILO's Trade Union Freedom Committee must guarantee foreseeable, transparent, democratic and equitable methods. That is the only way in which a true follow-up of trade Union freedom cases IS guaranteed, leaving politics out

45.- There is no doubt in our minds when we say that this has been the greatest union freedom period in Venezuela. In no other period we had so many union organizations or was a worker freer to affiliate to any organization. However, we understand that there could be doubts. Maybe we could prepare a balanced workers commission and we could agree on a visit that would allow you to evaluate without any limitations Venezuela's union reality. We are not afraid. However, others do not have the truth as their main interest. What are they looking for, then? Mr. Ubieta is a member of the Administrative Council on behalf of the workers, despite never having held a job in his life. Every time he visits our country he gives press conferences on ILO's behalf, saying Venezuela will be sanctioned and isolated or that an economic blockage could be implemented. What is the point of such a campaign?

They want to instill fear in the population. They want people to believe that the future will be very dark, that it will be war and chaos. They want to make people afraid so they give up the ideal of building the new country envisioned by the Bolivarian revolution. The same happened with Nicaragua. And if fear does not defeat us, then there is always the threat of a "liberating" invasion, as happened in Iraq. so that our oil riches are rescued. That is why we are requesting condemnation from ILO.

Violations to union freedom in Venezuela are equivalent to the biological weapons in Iraq. They are not there but they are a good excuse. The true interest is oil. It IS thus not surprising that accusations against Venezuela come from people linked to the oil business and the extreme interest of some ILO officials to defend them.
If the plan goes on and Venezuela is attacked. Will they do the same as in Iraq? Will they be sorry and rally for peace? Will they forget they were part of the plan? Is ILO willing to be part of this charade? We hope not

.- The problem In Venezuela IS not union freedom. The problem IS that we are sitting on top of oil reserves that others want and that the Venezuelan people need to leave the XX century behind where we were justify due to globalization: we need to finance our XXI century That IS why our motto IS NO INTERVENTION 'HANDS OFF VENEZUELA'

National Coordination
Union Nacional de Trabajadores
Junio 2004