[News] Coup D'Etat Rumblings in Venezuela

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Nov 19 12:46:52 EST 2007

Coup D'Etat Rumblings in Venezuela


by Stephen Lendman
November 19, 2007

The Bush administration tried and failed three prior times to oust 
Hugo Chavez since its first aborted two-day coup attempt in April, 
2002. Through FOIA requests, lawyer, activist and author Eva Golinger 
uncovered top secret CIA documents of US involvement that included an 
intricate financing scheme involving the quasi-governmental agency, 
National Endowment of Democracy (NED), and US Agency for 
International Development (USAID). The documents also showed the 
White House, State Department and National Security Agency had full 
knowledge of the scheme, had to have approved it, and there's little 
doubt of CIA involvement as it's always part of this kind of dirty 
business. What's worrying now is what went on then may be happening 
again in what looks like a prelude to a fourth made-in-Washington 
attempt to oust the Venezuelan leader that must be monitored closely 
as events develop.

Since he took office in February, 1999, and especially after George 
Bush's election, Chavez has been a US target, and this time he 
believes credible sources point to a plot to assassinate him. That 
information comes from Alimamy Bakarr Sankoh, president of the Hugo 
Chavez International-Foundation for Peace, Friendship & Solidarity 
(HCI-FPFS) in a November 11 press release. Sankoh supports Chavez as 
"a man of peace and flamboyant champion of human dignity (who 
persists in his efforts in spite of) growing US blackmail, sabotage 
and political blasphemy."

HCI-FPFS sources revealed the plot's code name - "Operation Cleanse 
Venezuela" that now may be unfolding ahead of the December 2 
referendum on constitutional reforms. According to Sankoh, the scheme 
sounds familiar - CIA and other foreign secret service operatives 
(including anti-Castro terrorists) aiming to destabilize the Chavez 
government by using "at least three concrete subversive plans" to 
destroy the country's social democracy and kill Chavez.

It involves infiltrating subversive elements into the country, 
inciting opposition within the military, ordering region-based US 
forces to shoot down any aircraft used by Chavez, employing trained 
snipers with shoot to kill orders, and having the dominant US and 
Venezuelan media act as supportive attack dogs. Chavez is targeted 
because he represents the greatest of all threats to US hegemony in 
the region - a good example that's spreading. Venezuela also has 
Latin America's largest proved oil reserves at a time supplies are 
tight and prices are at all-time highs.

Sankoh calls Washington-directed threats "real" and to "be treated 
seriously" to avoid extending Bush's Middle East adventurism to Latin 
America. He calls for support from the region and world community to 
denounce the scheme and help stop another Bush administration regime 
change attempt.

More information on a possible coup plot also came from a November 13 
Party for Socialism and Liberation article headlined "New US plots 
against the Venezuelan Revolution." It states Tribuna Popular (the 
Communist Party of Venezuela) and Prensa Latina (the Latin American 
News Agency) reported: "Between Oct. 7 and Oct 9, high-ranking US 
officials met in Prague, Czech Republic, with parts of the Venezuelan 
opposition (where they were) urged to convene social uprisings, 
sabotage the economy and infrastructure, destroy the food 
transportation chain and plan a military coup." It said Paul 
Wolfowitz and Madeleine Albright attended along with Humberto Celli, 
"a well-known coup-plotter from the Venezuelan party Accion Democratica."

The article further reported Tibisay Lucena, The National Electoral 
Council chairman, said the Venezuelan corporate media was "stoking a 
mood of violence amongst right-wing students" through a campaign of 
agitprop, and Hermann Escarra from the "pro-coup" Comando Nacional de 
la Resistencia openly incited "rebellion" last August and then called 
for constitutional changes to be stopped "through all means possible."

The Venezuelan news agency, Diaria VEA, also weighed in saying 
"anonymous students planned on committing acts of destabilization" as 
the December 2 vote approaches. Venezuelan Radio Trans Mundial 
provided proof with a recorded video of a youth dumping gasoline into 
an armored vehicle, ramming metal barricades into police on top of 
other vehicles, and knocking them from their roofs and hoods onto the ground.

The Threat of Street Protest Violence

For weeks, protests with sporadic violence have been on Venezuela's 
streets as anti-Chavistas use middle and upper class students as 
imperial tools to destabilize the government and disrupt the 
constitutional process. The aim is to discredit and oust the Chavez 
government and return the country to its ugly past with Washington 
and local oligarchs in charge and the neoliberal model reinstated.

Venezuela's Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro, weighed in on this on 
November 8. He accused Washington of meddling by staging violent 
Caracas street protests against proposed constitutional reforms to 
extend the country's participatory social democracy. Referring to a 
November 7 shootout at Caracas' Central University, he said: "We 
don't have any doubt that the government of the United States has 
their hands in the scheme that led to the ambush yesterday" that 
Chavez calls a "fascist offensive." Several students were wounded on 
the streets from a clash between pro and anti-Chave zelements.

"We know the whole scheme," Maduro added, and he should as it 
happened before in 2002, again during the disruptive 2002-03 oil 
management lockout, and most often as well when elections are held to 
disrupt the democratic process. These are standard CIA operating 
tactics used many times before for 50 years in the Agency's efforts 
to topple independent leaders and kill them. Chavez understands 
what's happening, and he's well briefed and alerted by his ally, 
Fidel Castro, who survived over 600 US attempts to kill him since 
1959. He's now 81 and very much alive but going through a difficult 
recovery from major surgery 15 months ago.

Chavez has widespread popular support throughout the region and from 
allies like Ecuador's Raphael Correa and Nicaraguan President Daniel 
Ortega who expressed his "solidarity with the revolutionary people of 
Venezuela and our friend Hugo Chavez, who is being subjected to 
aggression from a counterrevolution fed by the traitors from inside 
the country and by the empire (referring to the US)." He compared the 
situation to his own country where similar efforts are being 
"financed by the United States Embassy" in Managua to support 
elements opposed to his Sandinista government even though it's very 
accommodative to Washington.

Even Brazil's Lula chimed in by calling Chavez's proposed reforms 
consistent with Venezuela's democratic norms, and he added: "Please, 
invent anything to criticize Chavez, except for lack of democracy."

Constitutional Reform As A Pretext for Protests

Washington's goal from all this is clear, but why now? Last July, 
Chavez announced he'd be sending Venezuela's National Assembly (AN) a 
proposed list of constitutional reforms to debate, consider and vote 
on. Under Venezuelan law, the President, National Assembly or 15% of 
registered voters (by petition) may propose constitutional changes. 
Under articles 342, 343, 344 and 345, they must then be debated three 
times in the legislature, amended if needed, and then submitted to a 
vote that requires a two-thirds majority to pass. Finally within 30 
days, the public gets the last word, up or down, in a national 
referendum. It represents the true spirit of democracy that's 
unimaginable in the US where elitists control everything, elections 
are a sham, and the people have no say.

That was true for Venezuela earlier, but no longer. In its history, 
there have been 26 Constitutions since its first in 1821, but none 
like the 1999 Bolivarian one under Chavez that's worlds apart from 
the others. It created a model participatory social democracy that 
gave all citizens the right to vote it up or down by national 
referendum and then empowered them (or the government) later on to 
petition for change.

On August 15, Chavez did that by submitting 33 suggested amendment 
reforms to the Constitution's 350 articles and explained it this way: 
The 1999 Constitution needed updating because it's "ambiguous (and) a 
product of that moment. The world (today) is very different from 
(then). (Reforms are) essential for continuing the process of 
revolutionary transition" to deepen and broaden Venezuelan democracy. 
That's his central aim - to create a "new geometry of power" for the 
people along with more government accountability to them.

Proposed reforms will have little impact on the nation's fundamental 
political structure. They will, however, change laws with regard to 
politics, the economy, property, the military, the national territory 
as well as the culture and society and will deepen the country's 
social democracy.

The National Assembly (AN) completed its work on November 2 adding 25 
additional articles to Chavez's proposal plus another 11 changes for 
a total of 69 articles that amend one-fifth of the nation's 
Constitution. The most important ones include:

-- extending existing constitutional law that guarantees human rights 
and recognizes the country's social and cultural diversity;

-- building a "social economy" to replace the failed neoliberal 
Washington Consensus model;

-- officially prohibiting monopolies and unjust consolidation of 
economic resources;

-- extending presidential terms from six to seven years;

-- allowing unlimited presidential reelections so that option is "the 
sovereign decision of the constituent people of Venezuela" and is a 
similar to the political process in countries like England, France, 
Germany and Australia;

-- strengthening grassroots communal councils, increasing their 
funding, and promoting more of them;

-- lowering the eligible voting age from 18 to 16;

-- guaranteeing free university education to the highest level;

-- prohibiting foreign funding of elections and political activity;

-- reducing the work week to 36 hours to promote more employment;

-- ending the autonomy of Venezuela's Central Bank to reclaim the 
country's financial sovereignty the way it should be everywhere; 
today nearly all central banks are controlled by private for-profit 
banking cartels; Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul wants to 
end that status in the US and correctly explains the Federal Reserve 
Bank is neither federal nor does it have reserves; it's owned and run 
by Wall Street and the major banks;

-- adding new forms of collective property under five categories: 
public for the state, social for citizens, collective for people or 
social groups, mixed for public and private, and private for 
individuals or private entities;

-- territorial redefinition to distribute resources more equitably to 
communities instead of being used largely by economic and political elites;

-- prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination and enacting gender 
parity rights for political candidates;

-- redefining the military as an "anti-imperialist popular entity;"

-- in cases where property is appropriated for the public good, fair 
and timely compensation to be paid for it;

-- protecting the loss of one's home in cases of bankruptcy; and

-- enacting social security protection for the self-employed.

The National Assembly also approved 15 important transitional 
dispositions. They relate to how constitutional changes will be 
implemented if approved until laws are passed to regulate them. One 
provision is for the legislature to pass 15 so-called "organic laws" 
that include the following ones:

-- a law on "popular power" to govern grassroots communal councils 
(that may number 50,000 by year end) that Chavez called "one of the 
central ideas....to open, at the constitutional level, the roads to 
accelerate the transfer of power to the people (in an) Explosion of 
Communal (or popular) Power;" five percent of state revenues will be 
set aside to fund it;

-- another promoting a socialist economy for the 21st century that 
Chavez champions even though he remains friendly to business; and

-- one relating to the country's territorial organization; plus 
others on education, a shorter workweek and more democratic changes.

Under Venezuelan law, and in the true spirit of democracy, these 
proposed changes will be for citizens to vote up or down on December 
2. The process will be in two parts reversing an earlier decision to 
do it as one package, yea or nay. One part will be Chavez's 33 
reforms plus 13 National Assembly additions, and the other for the 
remaining 23 articles.

Coup D'Etat Rumblings Must Be Taken Seriously

Now battle lines are drawn, opposition forces are mobilized and 
events are playing out violently on Venezuela's streets. The worst so 
far was on November 7 when CNN falsely reported "80,000" anti-Chave 
zstudents demonstrated "peacefully" in Caracas to denounce "Hugo 
Chavez's attempts to expand his power." The actual best estimates put 
it between 2000 and 10,000, and long-time Latin American expert James 
Petras calls the protesters "privileged middle and upper middle class 
university students," once again being used as an imperial tool.

In their anti-government zeal, CNN and other dominant media ignore 
the many pro-Chavez events writer Fred Fuentes calls a "red 
hurricane" sweeping the country. An impressive one was held on 
November 4 when the President addressed hundreds of thousands of 
supporters who participated in an 8.5 kilometer Caracas march while 
similar pro-reform rallies took place at the same time around the 
country. They're the start of a "yes" campaign for a large December 2 
turnout that's vital as polls show strong pro-reform support by a 
near two to one margin.

In an effort to defuse it, orchestrated opposition turned violent and 
officials reported eight people were injured in the November 7 
incident. No one was killed, but one was wounded by gunfire when at 
least "four (masked) gunmen (who looked like provocateur plants, not 
students) fir(ed) handguns at the anti-Chavez crowd." In an earlier 
October demonstration, opposition students clashed with police who 
kept them from reaching the National Assembly building and a direct 
confrontation with pro-Chave zsupporters that might have turned ugly.

It did on November 7 when violence erupted between pro and 
anti-government students, but it wasn't as reported. Venezuelan and 
US corporate media claimed pro-Chavez supporters initiated the 
attack. In fact, they WERE attacked by elements opposing the 
President. They seized this time to act ahead of the referendum to 
disrupt it and destabilize the government as prelude to a possible 
planned coup.

One pro-Chavez student explained what happened. She and others were 
erecting posters supporting a "yes" referendum vote when they were 
attacked with tear gas and crowds yelling they were going to be 
lynched. Avila TV had the evidence. Its unedited footage showed an 
opposition student mob surrounding the School of Social Work area 
where pro-Chavez students hid for safety. They threw Molotov 
cocktails, rocks, chairs and other objects, smashed windows, and 
tried to burn down the building as university authorities 
(responsible for security) stood aside doing nothing to curtail the 
violence. Another report was that corporate-owned Univision 
operatives posing as reporters had guns and accompanied the elements 
attacking the school in an overt act of complicity by the media.

The pattern now unfolding on Caracas streets is similar to what 
happened ahead of the April, 2002 aborted coup attempt, and Petras 
calls it "the most serious threat (to the President) since" that 
time. The corporate media then claimed pro-government supporters 
instigated street violence and fired on "unarmed" opposition 
protesters. In fact, that was later proved a lie as anti-Chavez 
"snipers" did the firing as part of the plot that became the coup. A 
similar scheme may now be unfolding in Caracas and on other campuses 
around the country as well.

In his public comments, Foreign Minister Maduro accused the major 
media and CNN of misrepresenting events and poisoning the political 
atmosphere. It's happening in Venezuela and the US as the dominant 
media attacks Hugo Chavez through a campaign of vilification and 
black propaganda.

US Corporate Media on the Attack

On November 12, The Venezuela Information Office (VIO) reported that 
growing numbers of "US print newspapers lodged attacks against 
Venezuela" using "outdated cold-war generalizations" and without 
explaining any of the proposed democratic changes. Among others, they 
came from the Houston Chronicle that claimed:

-- constitutional reforms will "eliminate the vestiges of democracy" 
in Venezuela when, in fact, they'll strengthen it, and the people 
will vote them up or down;

-- Chavez controls the electoral system when, in fact, Venezuela is a 
model free, fair and open democracy that shames its US equivalent. 
The Chronicle falsely said reforms will strip people of their right 
to due process. In fact, that's guaranteed under article 337 that 
won't be changed.

VIO also reported on a Los Angeles Times editorial comparing Chavez 
to Bin Laden. It compounded that whopper by claiming reforms will 
cause a global recession due to higher oil prices that, of course, 
have nothing to do with changes in law. In another piece, the LA 
Times inverted the truth by falsely claiming a public majority 
opposes reforms. Then there's the Miami Herald predicting an end to 
freedom of expression if changes pass and the Washington Post 
commenting on how high oil prices let Chavez buy influence.

The Post then ran an inflamatory November 15 editorial headlined "Mr. 
Chavez's Coup" if which it lied by saying November 7 student 
protesters "were fired on by gunmen (whom) university officials later 
'identified'....as members of government-sponsored 'paramilitary 
groups' when, in fact, there are no such groups. The editorial went 
on to say Chavez wants to "complete his transformation into an 
autocrat (to be able to) seize property....dispose of Venezuela's 
foreign exchange reserves....impose central government rule on local 
jurisdictions and declare indefinite states of emergency" as well as 
suspend due process and freedom of information. Again, 
misinformation, deliberate distortion and outright lies from a 
leading quasi-official US house organ.

Rupert Murdock's Wall Street Journal weighed in as well with its lead 
anti-Chavez attack dog and all-round character assassin 
extraordinaire, Mary Anastasia O'Grady. This writer has tangled with 
her several times before and earlier commented how one day she'll 
have a serious back problem because of her rigid position of 
genuflection to the most extreme hard-right elements she supports. 
Her latest November 12 column was vintage O'Grady and headlined "More 
Trouble for Chavez (as) Students and former allies unite against his 
latest power grab."

Like most of her others, this one drips with vitriol and outrageous 
distortions like calling Chavez a "dictator" when, in fact, he's a 
model democrat, but that's the problem for writers like O'Grady. 
Absent the facts, they use agitprop instead. O'Grady writes: "Mr. 
Chavez has been working to remove any counterbalances to his power 
for almost nine years (and) has met strong resistance from property 
owners, businesses, labor leaders, the Catholic Church and the 
media." Now add opposition well-off students. Omitted is that the 
opposition is a minority, it represents elitist interests, and Chavez 
has overwhelming public support for his social democracy and proposed 
reform changes including from most students O'Grady calls "pro-Chavez goons."

Once again, she's on a rampage, but that's her job. She claims the 
absurd and people believe her - like saying the media will be 
censored, civil liberties can be suspended, and government will be 
empowered to seize private property.  He's a "demagogue," says 
O'Grady, waging "class warfare," but opposition to reform "has led to 
increased speculation (his) days are numbered." Wishing won't make it 
so, and O'Grady uses that line all the time.

The New York Times is also on the attack in its latest anti-Chavez 
crusade. It's been a leading Chavez critic for years, and Simon 
Romero is its man in Caracas. On November 3, he reported "Lawmakers 
in Venezuela Approve Expanded Power for Chavez (in a) constitutional 
overhaul (to) enhance (Chavez's) authority, (allow) him to be 
reelected indefinitely, and (give) him the power to handpick rulers, 
to be called vice-presidents, (and) for various new regions to be 
created in the country....The new amendments would facilitate 
expropriations of private property (and allow state) security forces 
to round up citizens (stripped of their) legal protections" if Chave 
zdeclares a state of emergency - to make him look like Pakistan's 
Musharraf when he's mirror opposite.

Romero also quoted Jose Manuel Gonzales, president of Venezuela's 
Fedecamaras (chamber of commerce), saying "Venezuelan democracy was 
buried today" and anti-Chavez Roman Catholic church leaders (always 
allied with elitists) calling the changes "morally unacceptable." 
Then on November 8, Romero followed with an article titled "Gunmen 
Attack Opponents of Chavez's Bid to Extend Power" and implied they 
were pro-Chavez supporters. Again false. Still more came on November 
10 headlined "Students Emerge as a Leading Force Against Chavez" in 
an effort to imply most students oppose him when, in fact, these 
elements are a minority.

His latest so far is on November 17 titled "Chavez's Vision Shares 
Wealth and Centers Power" that in fairness shows the President 
addressing a huge crowd of supporters in Maturin on November 16. But 
Romero spoiled it by calling his vision "centralized, oil-fueled 
socialism (with) Chavez (having) significantly enhanced powers." Then 
he quotes Chave zbiographer Alberto Barrera Tyszka who embarrassed 
himself and Romero saying the President is seizing and redirecting 
"power through legitimate means (and this) is not a dictatorship but 
something more complex," the 'tyranny' of popularity." In other 
words, he's saying democracy is "tyranny." The rest of the article is 
just as bad with alternating subtle and hammer blow attacks against a 
popular President's aim to deepen his socially democratic agenda and 
help his people.

Romero's measured tone outclasses O'Grady's crudeness that's pretty 
standard fare on the Journal's notorious opinion page. He's much more 
dangerous, however, with a byline in the influential "newspaper of 
record" because of the important audience it commands.

One other notable anti-Chavez piece is in the November 26 issue of 
the magazine calling itself "the capitalist tool" - Forbes. It shows 
in its one-sided commentary and intolerance of opposing views. The 
article in question, headlined "Latin Sinkholes," is by right wing 
economist and long-time flack for empire, Steve Hanke. In it, he aims 
right at Chave zwith outrageous comments like calling him a "negative 
reformer (who) turned back the clock (and) hails Cuba, the largest 
open-air prison in the Americas, as his model. His revolution's enemy 
is the marketplace." He then cites a World Bank report saying 
"Venezuela is tied with Zimbabwe as this year's champion in 
smothering economic freedom," and  compounds that lie with another whopper.

Point of fact - Venezuela and Argentina have the highest growth rates 
in the region and are near the top of world rankings in recent years. 
Following the devastating oil management 2002-03 lockout, Venezuela's 
economy took off and grew at double digit rates in 2004, 05 and 06 
and will grow a likely 8% this year. Hanke, however, says 
"Venezuela's economic performance under Chavez has been anemic 
(growing) at an average rate of only 2% per year. In the same 
article, he aims in similar fashion at Ecuador's Raphael Correa 
calling him "ruthlessly efficient (for wanting to) pull off a 
Bolivarian Revolution in Ecuador." Hanke and most others in the 
dominant media are of one mind and never let facts contradict their 
opinions. Outliers won't be tolerated even when it's proved their way 
works best.

There's lots more criticism like this throughout the dominant media 
along with commentators calling Chave z"a dictator, another Hitler 
(and) a threat to democracy." Ignoring the rules of imperial 
management has a price. This type media assault is part of it as a 
prelude for what often follows - attempted regime change.

Further Venezuela Information Office (VIO) Clarification of Facts on the Ground

On November 15, VIO issued an alert update to dispel media 
inaccuracies "about Venezuela's constitutional reforms and the 
student protests" accompanying them. They're listed below:

-- Caracas has a student population of around 200,000; at most 10,000 
participated in the largest protest to date, and VIO estimates it was 6000;

-- the major media ignore how the government cooperates with students 
and made various accommodations to them to be fair to the opposition;

-- Venezuelan police have protected student protesters, and article 
68 of the Constitution requires they do it; it affirms the right of 
all Venezuelans to assemble peacefully;

-- in addition, student protest leaders linked to opposition parties 
were granted high-level meetings with government officials to present 
their concerns;

-- on November 1, their student representatives met with directors of 
the National Electoral Council (CNE) and presented a petition to 
delay the referendum;

-- on November 7, they again met with National Tribunal of Justice 
officials and presented the same petition;

-- on November 12, Minister of Interior and Justice Minister, Pedro 
Carreno, met 20 university presidents to assure them the government 
respects university autonomy and their students' right to assemble peacefully;

-- VIO reported what really happened at another November 1 protest 
after students met with CNE officials; some of them then tried to 
chain themselves to the building while others charged through police 
lines and injured six officers; in addition, one student had 20 
liters of gasoline but never got to use it criminally; after the 
incident, the CNE president, Tibisay Lucena, issued a public 
statement expressing his disappointment about this kind of response 
to the government's good faith efforts; and

-- VIO said students and university presidents from across the nation 
filed a document with the Supreme Court on November 14 supporting 
constitutional reform. Chief justice Luisa Estela Morales praised 
their coming and said the court's doors are open to anyone wanting to 
give an opinion. The dominant media reported nothing on this. It also 
ignored the government's 9000 public events throughout the country in 
past weeks to explain and discuss proposed reforms and that a hotline 
was installed for comments on them, pro or con.

-- finally, when protests of any kind happen in the US, police 
usually attack them with tear gas, beatings and mass arrests to crush 
their democratic spirit and prevent it from being expressed as our 
Constitution's First and most important amendment guarantees. In 
Venezuela, the spirit of democracy lives. It never existed in the US, 
and we want to export our way to everyone and by force if necessary.

Here's a November 15 breaking news example of our way in action. At 
8:00AM, 12 FBI and Secret Service agents raided the Liberty Dollar 
Company's office in Evansville, IN and for the next six hours removed 
two tons of legal Ron Paul Dollars along with all the gold, silver 
and platinum at the location. They also took all location files and 
computers and froze Liberty Dollar's bank accounts in an outrageous 
police state action against a legitimate business. This move also 
seems intended to impugn the integrity of a presidential candidate 
gaining popularity because he defies the bellicose mainstream and 
wants more people empowerment.

Chavez champions another way and answered his critics at a November 
14 Miraflores Presidential Palace press conference where he denounced 
them for lying about his reform package. He explained his aim is to 
strengthen Venezuela's independence and transfer power to the people, 
not increase his own. "For many years in Venezuela," he said, "they 
weakened the powers of the state as part of the neoliberal imperial 
plan....to weaken the economies of countries to insure domination. 
While we remained weak, imperialism was strengthened," and he elaborated.

He then continued to stress his most important reform "is the 
transfer of power to the people" through an explosion of grassroots 
communal, worker, student and campesino councils, formations of them 
into regional and national federations, and the formation of 
"communes (to) constitute the basic nucleus of the socialist state." 
Earlier Chavez stated that democratizing the economy "is the only way 
to defeat poverty, to defeat misery and achieve the largest sum of 
happiness for the people." He's not just saying this. He believes and 
acts on it, and that's why elitists target him for removal even 
though he wants equity for everyone, even his critics, and business 
continues to thrive under his government. But not like in the "good 
old" days when it was all one-way.

Venezuelan Business is Booming - So Why Complain?

Business in Venezuela is indeed booming, and in 2006 the Financial 
Times said bankers were "having a party" it was so good. So what's 
the problem? It's not good enough for corporate interests wanting it 
all for themselves and nothing for the people the way it used to be 
pre-Chavez. Unfair? Sure, but in a corporate-dominated world, that's 
how it is and no outliers are tolerated. Thus Hugo Chavez's dilemma.

Last June, Business Week (BW) magazine captured the mood in an 
article called "A Love-Hate Relationship with Chavez - Companies are 
chafing under the fiery socialist. But in some respects, business has 
never been better." Writer Geri Smith asked: "Just how hard is it to 
do business in Venezuela" and then exaggerated by saying "hardly a 
day passes without another change in the rules restricting 
companies." Hardly so, but what is true is new rules require a more 
equitable relationship between government and business. They provide 
more benefits to the people and greater attention to small Venezuelan 
business and other commercial undertakings like an explosion of 
cooperatives (100,000 or more) that under neoliberal rules have no 
chance against the giants.

Nonetheless, the economy under Chavez is booming, and business loves 
it even while it complains. It's because oil revenues are high, 
Chavez spends heavily on social benefits, and the poor have seen 
their incomes more than double since 2004 when all their benefits are 
included. The result, as BW explains: "Sales of everything from 
basics" to luxury items "have taken off....and local and foreign 
companies alike are raking in more money than ever in Venezuela." In 
addition, bilateral trade has never been higher, but American 
business complains it's caught in the middle of a Washington - 
Caracas political struggle.

The article continues to show how all kinds of foreign business is 
benefitting from cola to cars to computer chips. Yet, it restates the 
dilemma saying "As Chave zcontinues his socialist crusade, there are 
signs of rising discontent," and it's showing up now on the country's 
streets with the latest confrontation still to be resolved, one way or another.

Events Are Ugly and Coming to A Head

Through the dominant media, Washington and Venezuelan anti-Chavez 
elements are using constitutional reform as a pretext for what they 
may have in mind - "to arouse the military to intervene" and oust 
Chavez, as Petras notes in his article titled "Venezuela: Between 
Ballots and Bullets." He explains the opposition "rich and privileged 
(coalition) fear constitutional reforms because they will have to 
grant a greater share of their (considerable) profits to the working 
class, lose their monopoly over market transactions to publicly owned 
firms, and see political power evolve toward local community councils 
and the executive branch."

Petras is worried and says "class polarization....has reached its 
most extreme expression" as December 2 approaches: "the remains of 
the multi-class coalition embracing a minority of the middle class 
and the great majority of (workers) is disintegrating (and) political 
defections have increased (including 14) deputies in the National 
Assembly." Add to them former Chavez Defense Minister, Raul Baduel, 
who Petras believes may be "an aspirant to head up a US-backed 
right-wing seizure of power."

The situation is ugly and dangerous, and lots of US money and 
influence fuels it. Petras puts it this way: "Venezuelan democracy, 
the Presidency of Hugo Chave zand the great majority of the popular 
classes face a mortal threat." An alliance between Washington, local 
oligarchs and elitist supporters of the "right" are committed to 
ousting Chavez and may feel now is their best chance. Venezuela's 
social democracy is on the line in the crucial December 2 vote, and 
the entire region depends on it solidifying and surviving.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at 
lendmanstephen at sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The 
Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on TheMicroEffect.com Mondays 
at noon US Central time.

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