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Venezuela: Opposition In Dirty Tricks Campaign
TWO PREVIOUS attempts by Venezuela's right-wing opposition to overthrow the twice elected radical national government of President Hugo Chavez have failed. The April 2002 military coup and the ten week bosses' strike and work lock-out in December 2002-February 2003 were defeated by the resistance of the Venezuelan poor and workers.
Alistair Tice and Gustavo Brito (CWI Venezuela)
Whilst not a socialist, Chavez has carried out reforms that have benefited the poorest sections of society and driven the privileged 'oligarchy' (the rich landowning/capitalist class) into a frenzy.
The right-wing opposition, backed by the US administration and the private media companies, tried to oust Chavez by triggering a recall referendum to end his rule.
Despite widespread evidence of fraud (see below), the opposition claimed to have collected 3.8 million signatures in December (2.4 million are needed). But on 2 March, the National Electoral Council (CNE) declared only 1.8 million actually valid.
This figure is very close to the 1.9 million that SUMATE (a US funded opposition organisation that provided logistical support during the petition drive), had admitted to counting in a secretly taped phone conversation between opposition figures.
A further 1.1 million signatures are "under observation" and require confirmation. These are mainly the so-called "writing exercise" forms where 10 names on a petition have been written in the same handwriting and the signatures are suspiciously similar!
However, the Supreme Court has ordered the CNE to lift its objections to the petition. The government is now appealing against the court's decision.
BETWEEN 27 February and 4 March, small groups of opposition protesters took to the streets and erected barricades in middle-class and upper-class neighbourhoods in Caracas and then other cities, and sought confrontation with the Chavez-loyal National Guard.
Egged on by the hysterical private media and with the collusion of the opposition controlled Caracas police, these 'protesters', some since exposed as mercenaries, were trying to destabilise the country to provoke civil disorder and encourage international pressure to force the referendum.
Despite eight deaths in these clashes, for now these tactics have failed. Significantly there were no protests in the barrios and working-class areas, and in one case where outsiders set up a barricade they were chased off and the locals cleared the road.
In fact Chavez's opinion poll ratings have reached 51% which means he would not only win a referendum were it to be held, but also the election due in 2006.
So the increasingly desperate opposition are openly campaigning for a US Haiti-type intervention. For these continuing counter-revolutionary plots to be defeated, the workers and poor need their own party to complete the "Bolivarian revolution" by overthrowing the capitalist oligarchy and lighting a socialist beacon for the rest of Latin America.
In The Socialist 27 March 2004:
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