[News] US Companies Behind Anti-Reform Propaganda in Venezuela

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 29 18:06:33 EST 2007

U.S. Companies Behind Anti-Reform Propaganda in Venezuela


November 27th 2007, by Michael Fox - Venezuelanalysis.com

"I voted for Chavez for President, but not 
now.  Because they told me that if the reform 
passes, they're going to take my son, because he 
will belong to the state," said Gladys Castro 
last week, a Colombian immigrant who has lived in 
Venezuela for 16 years, and cleans houses for a living.

Gladys is not the only one to believe the false 
rumors she's heard.  Thousands of Venezuelans, 
many of them Chavez supporters, have bought the 
exaggerations and lies about Venezuela's 
Constitutional Reform that have been circulating 
across the country for months.  Just a few weeks 
ago, however, the disinformation campaign 
ratcheted up various notches as opposition groups 
and anti-reform coalitions placed large ads in major Venezuelan papers.

The most scandalous was an anonymous two-page 
spread in the country's largest circulation 
newspaper, Últimas Noticias, which claimed about the Constitutional Reform:

"If you are a Mother, YOU LOSE! Because you will 
lose your house, your family and your children 
(children will belong to the state)."

The illegal ad, which was caught and suspended by 
the Venezuelan National Electoral Council (CNE) 
after a few days in the press, has received 
relatively high-profile attention in the 
Venezuelan press, and even Chavez joked about it 
last Friday on the nightly pro-Chavez talk show, 
La Hojilla.  What appears to have gone completely 
ignored, however, is the fact that the ad itself 
was placed by an organization which has at its 
core, dozens of subsidiaries of the largest US 
corporations working in Venezuela.

Disinformation & Propaganda

The scare tactic against Venezuelan mothers isn't 
the only piece of misinformation in the anonymous 
advertisement.  Under the title, "Who wins and 
who loses," it goes on to tell readers that under 
the new reform, they will lose their right to 
religion; that 9.5 million people will lose their 
job; that small, large or cooperative 
businesspeople will lose their "store, home, 
business, taxi or cooperative"; that urban, rural 
and mountain militias are going to replace the 
National Armed Forces; that students will lose 
their right to decide what they want to study; 
that campesinos are going to lose out because 
they won't be owners of their own land; and that 
the value of the Venezuelan currency, the 
Bolivar, is going to drop along with the value of 
Venezuelan homes, cars, farm lands (finca), and educational studies.

Comments in the ad refer to specific reformed 
articles in the Constitution, as if providing a 
reference for readers to verify the claim.  Of 
course, briefly examining the article in 
reference verifies that each claim is either 
completely false, or a ridiculous exaggeration 
and manipulation of the reform.  Article 112, for 
instance, which the advertisement says will take 
Venezuelan children from their families, in 
actuality discusses economic development and production.

Last week, after a barrage of illegal propaganda 
on the part of both the pro and anti reform 
camps, Venezuela's National Electoral Council 
(CNE) began to crack down, following through with 
their promise to regulate the propaganda.  In an 
announcement last week, Tibisay Lucena, President 
of the CNE made specific reference to the "Who 
wins and who loses" piece, pointing out its 
illegality because of the falsities and its 
anonymity.  Although published as an anonymous 
article, Lucena announced that according to the 
official tax number (RIF) published with the 
article, the advertisement was actually placed by 
the Cámara de Industriales del estado Carabobo 
(The Carabobo State Chamber of Industry).

The Carabobo State Chamber of Industry (CIEC)

The CIEC is a 71 year-old organization, 
headquartered in the Carabobo state capital of 
Valencia, which groups together more than 250 
businesses in the region.  Among those are dozens 
of subsidiaries which compose literally a who's 
who list of some of the largest and most powerful 
US corporations, including (among others):  Ford, 
General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Bridgestone 
Firestone, Goodyear, Alcoa, Shell, Pfizer, 
Dupont, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Novartis, 
Unilever, Heinz, Johnson & Johnson, Citibank, 
Colgate Palmolive, DHL and Owens Illinois.

Without a doubt, the region carries important 
weight with heavy US interests.  The new US 
Ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, even said 
so when he visited Carabobo a few weeks ago on 
his first official trip within Venezuela.

"Valencia is a very important industrial center 
with a presence of American companies that create 
thousands of jobs and that also run social 
programs that benefit both their surrounding 
communities and their employees," said Ambassador Duddy.

According to an article on the US embassy 
website, during his stay in Valencia, Duddy met 
the board of the Venezuelan-American Chamber of 
Commerce and Industry, the board of Fedecámaras 
in Carabobo, and with a number of the above 
mentioned subsidiaries, including GM, Chrysler, 
and Ford.  He also spent time with the CIEC 
board, and in particular, then CIEC President 
Ernesto Vogeler, who also happens to be Chief 
Executive Officer for Protinal/Proagro, a 
subsidiary for the Ag Processing, Inc. (AGP), an Omaha-based AG coop.

In a normal state of affairs, this would all seem 
completely normal: The foreign ambassador meeting 
with his country's major subsidiaries, and the 
president of the chamber of industry to which 
they belong.  However, we should briefly remember 
the role that US businesses have played across 
Latin America, whether we are talking about the 
United Fruit Company's destabilization attacks 
against Guatemala's democratically-elected 
President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in the 1950s, or 
Anaconda Copper's support of the overthrow of 
Chile's Salvador Allende in the 1970s.  Alcoa, 
GM, Citibank and most of the above-mentioned 
companies know how to throw their weight around, 
be it by technically legal, or more subversive means.


Of course, it makes sense why US corporations 
based in Venezuela would be against the 
reform.  Various articles, if applied, could 
potentially cut in on potential profits, such as 
the reform of article 301.  Under the 1999 Constitution this article stated:

"Foreign people, businesses, and organisms can 
not be given more beneficial concessions than 
those established for national entities."

However, under the reform, the last sentence was cut:

"Foreign investment is subject to the same conditions as national investment."

One can thus infer that national investment may 
be given more favorable conditions than foreign investment.

Article 115 protects new forms of social and 
collective property, which anti-reform proponents 
fear may be used to expropriate private property.

On top of this, the Venezuelan government 
recently passed new rules on the growing 
automobile industry in Venezuela, which may have 
US automobile giants, GM, Chrysler, and Ford 
nervous about their the foreseeable future in 
Venezuela.  Although car sales in Venezuela have 
jumped by nearly 300% over the last three years, 
in an attempt to push for more domestic 
production, the Venezuelan government has passed 
new laws regulating the automobile industry, 
according to an early November article in the 
Venezuelan daily El Nacional.  Among them, the 
requirement of an "import license" in order to 
sell foreign cars, the mandate to install natural 
gas inputs in all vehicles produced after 2007, 
and the importation of only unassembled motors 
after 2010, in order to use to use nationally produced motor parts.

Protests in Valencia

According to reports, in Valencia last week, full 
color CIEC fliers against the reform were passed 
out during opposition student marches.  According 
to today's major papers, violent protests in 
Valencia yesterday left one dead, various wounded, and at least 15 detained.

It would be irresponsible to make accusations 
without evidence, but it is important to be 
conscious of where our information is coming 
from, if it is verifiable, and who are the 
interests involved.  This is the case now, only a 
few days before Venezuela's Constitutional Reform 
Referendum.  Hopefully the Venezuelan people will 
be able to decipher fact from fiction and make 
their own educated decision whether to vote "sí" or "no" next Sunday.

Like Gladys Castro, who has reconsidered her 
staunch position against the reform.  As she said 
last week, when she realized that the rumors she 
has been hearing are false, "Well, I'm going to 
read [the reform], think some more, and maybe I 
will vote for it after all."  She's probably not the only one.

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