Venezuela: Chavez speaks on the revolution's challenges

South American Events

| Home | Populist reforms in Bolivia | Ecuador President Correa--Palast Interview | Free Popular Election in Cuba | Venezuela hugh oil reserves | Radical Leadership, 4 countries | Brazil Election Unrest | Brazil President's conservatism cause of unrest | HUMANITARIAN TRADE--CHAVEZ | Bolivia joins Venezuela | Venezuela: Chavez speaks on the revolution's challenges | Venezuela's social programs | Venezuela Oil Fields Takeover | Venezuelan Socialism | Bolivia not socialist | Chavez and the people's revolt against foreign exploitation | Latin America Heading Towards a People's Socialism? | Peasant (Campesino) movemnt in Peru


From Green Left Weekly, September 27, 2006.
Visit the
Green Left Weekly home page.



VENEZUELA: Chavez speaks on the revolution’s challenges

Stuart Munckton


In an exclusive interview with the September 10 Spanish-language daily Diario Panorama, Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez spoke about the challenges facing the Bolivarian revolution — as the process of social transformation his government is leading is called.

Many of the gains of the revolution are well-known, with a growing number of social missions redistributing the nation’s oil wealth and resulting in significant drops in poverty. Revolutionaries inside Venezuela are pointing to the dangers of a strongly entrenched state bureaucracy that remains largely unchanged from before Chavez was elected that works to sabotage the process of change — in particular the transfer of power to the poor, a key stated aim of the revolution.   {This parallels the cause for the failure of the elected socialist government in Great Brittan and during the 1930s—jk.}


A number of this layer have joined the pro-Chavez camp for opportunist reasons. A number of self-proclaimed Chavistas in positions of power, referred to as “counter-revolutionaries in red berets”, are criticised by the popular movements for continuing the same bureaucratic and often corrupt practices as before the revolution. Chavez has been at the forefront of calling for moves to give more power to the poor, and has sacked a number of high-ranking public officials and ministers for failure to adequately tackle corruption.

Asked by Diario Panorama about the risks facing the revolution, Chavez stated: “The biggest threat is inside; there is a permanent, bureaucratic counterrevolution. I spend my time with a whip because all around me is the enemy of an old and new bureaucracy that is resisting change.” Chavez said that it was important to make sure policies are carried out and not “derailed or minimised by this bureaucratic counterrevolution that is inside the state”.

“The state has been transformed at a macro level”, Chavez explained, “but the micro levels remain intact. It is necessary to think about right now a new package of laws [to facilitate] the transformation of the political and judicial framework right down to the most micro levels of the state to overcome this resistance.

“The counterrevolution of corruption is the sister of the bureaucratic counterrevolution. This is another terrible threat, because it appears where you least expect it ... it is like a demon that has to be exorcised.” Chavez explained this is why, among the key strategic goals for the revolution to be fulfilled if Chavez, as is widely expected, is re-elected in December, is the development of a “socialist ethic”.

Chavez explained that the “other threat is external” to the revolution. “It continues to be assassination”, he said. Venezuela has repeatedly claimed to have evidence of US involvement in plots to kill Chavez. “I am obliged to look after my life, not only for me but for the stability of the country.”

On the possibility of another military coup, like the US-backed one that briefly ousted Chavez in April 2002, Chavez argued that “one can not rule out a manifestation of a group of discontent or bought-off soldiers, like the ones that let [Carlos] Ortega escape [a coup participant jailed for his role in sabotaging the economy who escaped from prison in August].” However, he argued “beyond that, a threat of a coup that breaks the foundations of the republic does not exist”.

“Today the Armed Forces is firmly on the side of the revolution. The military structure of Venezuela has been transformed to a great extent.”

On other potential threats, Chavez explained: “A US invasion can never be discarded, although I believe that the North American empire already has enough complications for it to go and get itself involved here.”

Asked about whether he worried about an attempt to de-legitimise the electoral process via opposition forces withdrawing from the presidential elections (as they did with the National Assembly elections in December) Chavez said, “Yes, of course it is a worry. I am busy working to impede this plan, if they activate it, it will damage us.”

“In Venezuela”, Chavez argued, “we are dealing with a 'democratic’ opposition that supports coups and does not recognise electoral results. They are now handicapped, because their methods are known throughout the world.”

The Chavistas are seeking to gain as strong a mandate as possible to deepen the revolution by winning 10 million votes. With even the opposition’s own polls showing Chavez set to win comfortably, the election is being presented as a referendum on the Chavez’s stated aim of constructing “socialism of the 21st century”.

Chavez commented, “I know that it is impossible to reach this figure, although that is where we are heading”. Since Chavez was first elected in 1998, the numbers of people participating in presidential ballots, and casting votes for Chavez in particular, have increased as support for the revolution has grown. “We have come from 3.5 million votes in '98, 3.8 million in 2000 and we reached 6 million votes in 2004.”

Chavez argued, “what is certain is that we have to win by a big margin. If they withdraw and call to abstain, and 4 million do not vote, we have to get 7 or 8 million votes in order to demonstrate our strength and neutralise the plans for destabilisation [by claiming the vote was illegitimate].”

Asked whether he expected the leading opposition candidate, Manuel Rosales, to go through with standing for election, Chavez said: “I don't know if they will make it to the finish. We are dealing with people that do not keep to their word. No one can believe them. I would say that there is a 50% probability that they will stay until the end.”

“The great tragedy of the opposition”, Chavez added, “is that the same old hulks that don't want to die, should already be dead as parties, because they have nothing to say. The worst thing is that new parties of the opposition have allowed themselves to be absorbed by the old hulks.”

Chavez was asked about what should form the central axis of constitutional reform, an issue that is being publicly debated by different members of the government. The constitution adopted by referendum in 1999 is considered one of the major gains of the revolutionary process. It sets out a vision for society based on social justice and guarantees different sectors of the oppressed rights they never previously enjoyed.

However, the constitution, while including a clause that subordinates private property to social need, remains within the framework of capitalism, leading some to argue it should be reformed to better reflect the growing anti-capitalist direction of the revolution.

Chavez said, “The ’99 constitution was infiltrated by some counterrevolutionary interests, let’s remember the case of Luis Miquilena and Alfredo Pena”. Milquilena was a key adviser to Chavez in the early stages of his presidency. Pena was elected mayor of Caracas as a Chavez supporter. Both were moderates who joined the pro-capitalist opposition to Chavez when he introduced laws that affected the interests of the rich in 2001.

They had helped ensure that the initial economic policies of the Chavez government did not break decisively with neoliberalism. “In those days I had to firmly oppose many articles that attempted to leave things like they were.”

“We would have to revise the economic framework” of the constitution, Chavez said. “We have made economic achievements, but we have hardly impacted on the redistribution of the national rent. The poorest class has improved its income due to [increases in the] minimum salary [and the provision of] free health care, free schooling. That undoubtedly has been a relief, but the upper classes have also benefited [from economic growth] much more so.

“The gap between an enriched elite and the lower classes, instead of reducing, has grown. We have to revise this. For example, those from the banking sector have been the ones who have made the most money, [for whom] growth in the first semester of 2006 is 40%, that is billions of bolivares in profits, that has to be revised.

“In the political sphere, we need to revise the revolutionary democracy, elevate to the constitutional level the issue of power for the people, the communal councils, direct democracy and defence of the state.

“Many people told me, during the coup, that I should decree an emergency, but I don't have the faculty, not even to intervene [on] a television station. An emergency does not give the state the ability to take extraordinary measures like were necessary on April 11 [2002], when uniformed generals came out on televisions stations calling for a rebellion in support of the coup.”

Diario Panorama asked Chavez what was going to be done about the housing crisis facing the poor. He explained: “We will shortly launch a new mission, named Villanueva [New Home]. For example in Catia we have already located an area that is occupied by large sheds that we are going to acquire. If they belong to the state then occupy them; if they are private, expropriate them.” Chavez said private owners would be compensated for any expropriations.

“We will knock down those sheds and we will construct small buildings. We will bring down an entire neighbourhood. This is one part of Mission Villanueva. The second will be satellite cities, like the one we want to do in Maracaibo, facilitating its inhabitants” with public transport. Chavez explained that one possibility is that excess from Venezuela’s foreign reserves will be used to invest in a decade-long US$2 billion per year housing plan.


Enter supporting content here

link to political cartoons
link to political cartoons

For more articles of a similar flavor