Narco News '02
By Kim Alphandary
Special to the Narco News Bulletin
The democratically elected, progressive government of Venezuela
has been overtaken by the winds of turmoil in recent months as
the plotting to suffocate the economy and discredit Chavez have
begun to take effect. The situation in Venezuela has become very
precarious, both economically and politically.
Chavez won Presidential
elections in 1998 and
again in 2000 by the largest majority in four decades. He has
been governing Venezuela following the principles of a new social
movement called the Bolivarianism, named after the South American
independence hero, Simón Bolívar. Nearly all Venezuelans
were eager for drastic change. They wanted a new government that
would eradicate corruption and graft, and redirect the money
from the vast oil fields away from the multinationals towards
the 80% of the Venezuelans living in poverty.
Using his enormous popularity,
Chavez has managed to implement an unprecedented amount of reforms.
To highlight just a few, Chavez has ratified a new Constitution
that now provides guarantees for indigenous rights and women's
rights, free health care and education up to the university level.
To reduce corruption Chavez has restructured the judicial and
legislative branches. The government serves breakfast and lunch
to schoolchildren year round and enrollment has increased by
over a million students. In a change that affected the world
economy, Chavez reinvigorated OPEC, raising oil prices from $8
a barrel to $27 - currently the price is $18 a barrel.
Christian Perenti, professor
at the New College of California believes that "Venezuela
is an example of a people struggling to create an alternative,
attempting to reform capitalism into a more egalitarian, healthier
system." Perenti went so far as to say that, "In fact,
perhaps Venezuela is the truest democracy in the world today."
The country is deeply
divided. Foreign interests
are audaciously setting about laying plans for an interim government.
Inside Venezuela the unions, the press, and the Catholic Church
have all begun to call for Chávez's resignation. Reports
of no confidence in Chavez's Venezuela have come from around
the world: financial institutions, governments, academics, the
US State Department and the CIA.
Professor James Petras of the State University of New
York, correspondent for the Spanish magazine, Rebelión,
believes that the United States has been leading a campaign to
destabilize Venezuela. "The tactics being used are very
similar to those used in Chile," Petras explains, "I
was in Chile when a very similar campaign was organized. Civilians
are used to create a feeling of chaos, and a false picture of
Chavez as 'dictator' is established, and then the military is
incited to make a coup for the sake of the country."
Petras asserts that another
important figure in the foreign-sponsored destabilization campaign
is Alfredo Peña, the Mayor of Caracas, Petras says that
"Peña was in Washington being groomed for the replacement."
A December 9 New York
Times report states that, "Alfredo Peña may just
be the mayor of Caracas, but that did not stop him from visiting
the State Department and the World Bank in Washington ... antagonizing
his rival, President Hugo Chávez."
The International Monetary
Fund (IMF) and Morgan Stanley
have come out in support of a 'transitional government' for Venezuela,
supporting Chavez's removal from office. Petras says that "
a number of stories have just come out in the daily La Nacional
mentioning that the IMF is willing to bankroll a transitional
government, a government that will replace Chavez." He believes
that, "the only way you do that is by coup." (Read
these reports in spanish at www.rebelion.org and www.el-nacional.com.)
The investment firm Goldman,
Sachs and Company estimates that "Venezuela is entering
a profound recession," stating that "there is fear
of a political and economic collapse, the financial situation
is in chaos, petroleum prices have fallen, the country has suffered
massive capital flight."
Petras believes that "the
IMF and financial institutions are fabricating a crisis. There
is no economic crisis. The economic problems facing Chavez have
always been there, they are problems that Chavez inherited. Venezuela
is an oil rich country that pays its debts and follows IMF guidlines
OF FOREIGN POLICY
Criticism by George Tenet,
head of the CIA, and
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has intensified, as Chavez
was repremanded some three times last week. They stated that
Chavez is undercutting American foreign policy by providing oil
to Cuba, opposing US counter-narcotics aid to Colombia, and giving
political support to guerrillas and anti-government forces in
neighboring Andean nations.
James Petras, believes
that "Chavez is an extremely moderate politician who is
being hammered for not allowing drug-surveillance flights over
Venezuela, being opposed to plan Colombia and working with OPEC."
WANTS BACK IN
In a recent meeting held
in New York City organized
to evaluate the delicate political situation, Latin American
experts agreed that, "Hugo Chavez must resign, and that
a transitional government must be installed." Ricardo Hausmann,
minister of Planning for ex-president Carlos Andrés Pérez
and professor at the University at Harvard affirmed that ,""the
only possible solution for resolving the current crisis is for
Chavez to leave the Government."
OF DOMESTIC POLICY
Fear of Chavez's peaceful
a genuine socialist revolution is escalating. The Spanish Minister
of Exterior, also current President of the European Union, Josep
Piqué, has made a call for Chavez to maintain "democratic
institutions and respect the 'rights of all'. Powell has reiterated
his fears that Chavez is distorting the democratic free-market
model advocated in Washington by consolidating institutions under
his control and setting himself up as 'elected dictator.'
Inside the country, the Chavez opposition organized
a general strike in December and a large march last month.
The latest in a series of anti-Chavez actions was lead by two
men, Air Force Col. Pedro Soto and National Guard Capt. Pedro
Flores Rivero, held a small rally to accuse the government of
being 'non-democratic' and asked that Chavez resign. They were
sent home in uniform and placed under investigation by a joint
civilian and military board.
Petras believes "Chavez
has taken remarkably mild measures against those officers, officers
that were asking for a military coup. They were interrogated
for one day, and released. They were acting in a way that goes
way beyond the democratic debate. If it happened in this country
they would have been tried as traitors."
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