[permaculture] Venezuela need Help
peace at totalaccess.net
Wed Jan 8 10:25:28 EST 2003
I've been following the crisis in Venezuela closely. The US mainstream
media NEVER mentions why the oil workers are striking. Why would upper and
upper-middle-class workers be striking? Sounds pretty bizarre to me. Check
out the story from ZNet pasted below.
It's time to rally behind Hugo Chavez, Lula de Silva in Brasil and Fidel
Castro. These are the leaders in the West who hold human dignity up above
Check out other stories re: Venezuela on Democracy Now! The link is in my
For the real scoop on environmental and social justice issues check out the
archives of Democracy Now!
Of "Lungos" And "Senoritos" A Colombian View Of Venezuela January 02, 2003
By Hector Mondragon
At the petroleum refinery of Barrancabermeja the workers who
are consigned to hard manual labour are called 'lungos'.
There are a lot of them and they earn very little. They are
almost all temporary labourers and they live in the poor
neighbourhoods. When the 'lungos' go on strike, technology
guarantees that production doesn't totally stop-so even when
the majority of the workers are united in protest, if they
can't actually stop the plant from functioning, the
engineers, supervisors, and managers can keep the refinery
going under 'contingency plans'.
Right now the oil-workers union of Colombia, USO (Union
Sindical Obrera), is getting ready to go on strike in
response to the Uribe government's offensive. That offensive
is headed by Isaac Yanovich, a businessman from the private
banking sector who has been named president of the state oil
company. The workers, who struggled and won the creation of
a national oil company (Ecopetrol), have resisted its
privatization for the past 25 years. They have paid a
terrible price for their resistance: 100 union leaders and
activists assassinated (4 during 2002, which saw 160
Colombian unionists killed), 2 disappeared, 10 kidnapped, 31
imprisoned (6 of whom are still in prison), and 250 fired (11
of whom were fired just a few days ago).
It is in such difficult conditions that the Colombian
oil-workers are preparing their strike for the beginning of
2003. The victory of their movement will depend on their
ability to halt production. For this reason the union and
the government are both putting forth massive efforts to win
the engineers and supervisors to their side. If the union is
unable to win these over, the workers will have no option but
to occupy the plant. This will mean that they will face
military repression like they did in 1971. In that year, as
workers in the union remember well, worker Fermin Amaya was
murdered as he was about to stop production at the Barranca
Next door in Venezuela, the world is flipped entirely upside
down. There, the 'lungos' are working intensely while the
call to strike is followed with fervour and without
hesitation by the managers. On December 2 the managerial
body of Venezuela's state oil company, PDV (Petroleros de
Venezuela), blocked the entrance to the refinery and used
their vehicles to stop the workers, the 'lungos'-who had
showed up to work in massive
numbers-- from entering. The same managerial body was joined
by the executive of labour relations in its attempts to bar
the entry of workers.
But the real strength of the strike in Venezuela has been in
the computers that control the giant and highly automated
petroleum industry. Even though the PDV is nominally
state-owned and run, the computer system is in the hands of
the 'mixed' (public-private) enterprise Intesa. The party
with the technical skill in the partnership is the Science
Applications International Corporation (SAIC)-a transnational
computing company. Among its directors: ex-US Secretaries of
Defense William Perry and Melvin Laird; ex-directors of the
CIA John Deutsch, Robert Gates; Admiral Bobby Ray Inman
(ex-director of the National Security Agency); other retired
military staff including Wayne Downing (former commander in
chief of US Special Forces) and Jasper Welch (ex-coordinator
of the National Security Council).
The hold-up of the oil-tankers was directed from these
computing centers. The hold-up was welcomed by various
captains, but the tankers were forced to shore in any case:
nothing moves without direction from the computers, which
also stopped key operations in the refineries and the entry
of vital gas for the iron and steel industries of eastern
Venezuela. 'Lungos' from Guayana had to recover the gas.
The high salaries, privileges, and commissions of the
managers, labour relations chiefs, systems engineers, and
tanker captains has become a useful weapon of political
control for the transnational corporations who seek to
privatize Venezuela's (and Colombia's, Ecuador's, and
Brazil's) petrol industry.
This 'middle' class with its disposable income is the
political base of the right in Colombia and Venezuela (and
its heroes are Bush, Aznar, or Berlusconi). It is the
electoral force behind Colombia's president Alvaro Uribe
Velez and behind the coup in Venezuela. Washington uses the
mailed fist in Colombia and the velvet glove in Venezuela,
but in both cases its local support is from these 'middle'
classes who, like Bush himself, are too deaf to hear of the
assassinations of unionists in Colombia but scream in rage if
a hair on the head of a manager or oil-tanker captain in
Venezuela is touched; who are quiet when 2 million Colombians
are displaced from their lands but enraged by the Venezuelan
Land Law when it threatens the unproductive ranches of large
On September 16 2002, Colombian peasants were treated cruelly
for their protests on the highways. Their food was burned.
They were denied drinking water. They were surrounded by the
military and their leaders were arrested. 3 were disappeared.
International delegates were deported. 7 of the protest
leaders have since been assassinated, one disappeared, and
many others harassed and threatened with murder. They stand
accused-of blocking the roads. In Venezuela on the other
hand, the 'middle' and upper classes blocked roads with their
Mercedes Benz and BMWs, and their rights were respected.
In Cali, Colombia, the public service workers have been
protesting privatization. The young workers of the
apprentices' union have been protesting to maintain state
control over the apprenticeship institution, SENA. Both
sectors have been incessantly, brutally attacked and the
international media have nothing to say. The media are
silent as well on the daily confrontations on the Caribbean
coast of Colombia when the privatized electricity company
tries to cut electricity to thousands of indebted, poor
people. Neither popular protest nor state repression make
the international news if they occur in Colombia which, to
the media, is a land strictly of terrorism and drugs.
The 'middle' class ought to watch out though-sometimes it can
end up the victim of its own heroes, whether they be
politicians like Bush or the mainstream media itself. That
was what happened with the 'corralito' in Argentina, when the
whole country-including the 'middle class'-mobilized against
the banks and were denounced for it in the media.
Until this happen the 'senoritos' in wealthy eastern Caracas,
in the Chico of Bogota and of Miami, will be the darlings of
Hector Mondragon is an economist and activist in Colombia.
[This article was translated from Spanish by Justin Podur.]
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