Venezuela – Struggles reported in Caracas

Issue: 111

Mining communities of las Claritas

(from brochure of Por Todos nuestras luchas)

The movement of the small miners of las Claritas seemed to have reached an agreement with the state to put an end to a century of exploitation, repression and poverty of these communities, managing to get the National Guard to leave the areas and to be replaced by the Army. …Immediately after the reaching of this agreement with the government the first Miners Congress took place, coordinated by the Miners Front and the Mision Piar.

The ended with the drawing up of a revolutionary programme which included the exit of the multinationals from the zone, the formations of a National Mining Enterprise with a cooperative and co-management scheme for working together with the small miners, as well a series of organisational strategies for training, communication and the development of technological alternatives.

The ministry of basic industries and mines supported these resolutions and it seemed that in an exemplary process a third of the national territory was entering afresh into national sovereignty and a rational life.

At the end of September the units of the army based n the zone began to re-establish the old practices of harassing the small miners as well as corruption in the selling of and control over gasoline. The Chavista right, headed by the governor, began to declare an end the “backward artisanal mining” and the suspension of Mision Piar. This was to be accompanied by a media campaign from the new (palangristas) of the press along with new clients within the clientalist bureaucracy of the government. Already these cheap press hacks had worked on the indigenous people of Zulia (state), now they did the same to the small miners of Claritas.

The transnational gold enterprises headed by the transnational Cristallex closed the only access route to the small mines of Claritas with the help of the National Guard so as to provoke a situation of public disorder with enabled them to calls upon force to re-establish peace, subduing in this way the mining communities. The enterprises kept hold of their (predios) with the help of the National Guard and their own paramilitary guards.

It was then that began the attacks by the army, which until then had preserved dignified neutrality. The first contact tended to be very violent and affected children, families….Then began the detentions and the (allanamientos) breaking into homes. People were accused of possessing arms, of being guerrillas; there was talk of a conspiracy by forces of the opposition and of a paramilitary army in the process of being formed in the region. The military terror culminated in a complete occupation, with one soldier for each for inhabitants in a town of only four thousand people. The Mision Piar was almost completely dissolved by the direct persecution of its members who saw not other alternative but to go into hiding. A Tribunal began to imprisonment by decree not on those who had provoked all this, but against those who had defended their way of live and the dignity of everyone.

The national authorities intervened to arrive at an agreement which relegitimised the role of the transnationals in the zone. No-one spoke of the miners Congress nor of the of the Imataca Sur Project, drawn up by the militancy of the miners, people with thoughts, organisation and projects of their own, the protagonists, producers and true sovereigns of this region…Minimal accords were arrived at, as minimal as the way left open for the mining communities to get to zones left to them…An then within a month, the accord was made into a joke by the complicity of the army with mining bosses , and the miners remain in a even more precarious situation than at the beginning of the conflict in September.

The leaders are changed with rebellion and have had to go into hiding, the ministerial authorities who arrived at the agreement with the miners are (depuestos), the local and regional government bureaucracy are working with the multinationals and re-establishing a colonial order in the gold zone of Bolivar state. However, the communities are still there, with roots which mean they have to go on fighting.


UNT – foundation

Extracts from El Socialista (of MST Argentina)

The UNT was founded in Caracas, integrating the Bolivarian Force of the Workers, Autonomia Sindical,, the Democratic and Classist Bloc of Carababo, unions from the whole country and some important public sector federations, the Caracas Metro, chemicals, among others

It approved a programme which included, among other things, nationalisation of the banks, the taking over of factories that have closed down and their reopening under workers control, rejection of the external debt and use of the money to create jobs, reduce the working week to 36 hours, the creation of new enterprises controlled by the workers.

Orlando Chirino, Stalin Perez and Marcela Maspero were among its most representative leaders who formed a “national coordination” of a provisions character pending a second congress.

The UNT played an important role in the worker mobilisation during the recall referendum in August 2005. It has advanced rapidly since then until it groups the majority of the working class and leaves the (anti Chavez) CTV as an empty shell. It has put as its objective to unionise the majority of workers (at present only 15 per cent are affiliated).New unions have emerged in nearly all the states which have affiliated to the UNT, which supports their struggles against the bosses.

So strong is the current that it has obliged even bureaucratic leaders to affiliate for fear of being thrown out by their own rank and file. These opportunist bureaucrats, often (enquistada) in the state or related to those with power, want to use the new federation for their own purposes. It was this which brought about the first crisis in the UNT, when these bureaucrats, headed by Franklyn Rondon of the public employees and Ramon Machuca of the unions in the big steel works Sidor went through all sorts of manoeuvres to prevent the holding of a UNT congress. They wanted to prevent the revolutionary, classist, democratic and internationalist current from winning at the congress now that it was a majority among the organised workers in the UNT.

According to Orlando Chirino, “They were more concerned with going on radio and TV, being in the permanent commission, getting money from participating in events abroad and benefiting many millions of bolivars of resources…Between them they have not built more than 10 per cent of the unions that we have achieved. Not one of them has taken part in the daily struggles of the workers, in the taking over of enterprises, they never joined with the workers of Venepal, the Constructador Nacional de Valvulas, Perfumes, Cristine Carol,, Textiles Felix and other such struggles…

“A revolution is taking place in the trade union movement…the union bureaucracy that that came to the UNT is going to be thrashed by its rank and file”.

“ Our medicine” against the bureaucracy, he said, was full union democracy, through general assemblies where all the comrades could express their opinions.

The rank and file demand a congress and elections

(Americo Tabata,

‘As has never happened before, the rank and file of the UNT had rebelled and called themselves together for an Emergency National Plenary. The auditorium of the Caracas Trade Union building was not big unions to hold the 800 union leaders affiliated to the 23 regional federations of the UNT…According to the registration figures, the participants represented more than 450 organisations, in the petroleum sector, transport, public administration, iron and steel, teachers and educational workers, health, the private secor. In emotive interventions, the comrades denounced the bureaucratic role played by a nucleus of pseudo leaders of the federation. Marcos GAracia was emphatic that Franklyn Rondon, a member of the national coordination of the UNT, was stealing the democracy of the sector of employers in public administration and was an obstacle to negotiating a contract for that sector. Jose Melendez from Guayana , leaders of the classist and revolutionary sector of the workers in Sidor, denounced the pro-boss role played by Ramon Achuca in favour of the Amazonia consortium and the Sidor bosses against the workers’

Similar calls came from the workers of the petroleum and petrochemical sectors, public transport, construction, and the regional federations of Carabobo, Tachira, Monagas and Amazonas.

‘Many of the leaders joined the call for a congress and elections. Their interventions also stressed the bureaucratic and corrupt role that was played by many functionaries of the national government and he anti-worker policies that supposedly revolutionary governors and mayors were developing.

‘In concluding the event, Orlando Chirino promised to respect the democratic decisions of the rank and file and to give battle against the union bureaucracy and achieve the total political and organisational independence of the federation so as to lead the struggle of the Venezuelan workers. He categorically asserted that no leader of the UNT could fulfil the role of government and of workers leader.

Finally he indicated that his desire to make concrete front of struggle with the peasant and popular sectors as demanded by the resolution adopted by the majority of the union representatives

Elections in Sidor.

(by Jose Melendez from El Socialista (of MST Argentina)

The workers of Sidor developed a ‘crusade for unity and democracy’ lasting 40 continuous hours. I this unprecedented event. Eight groups within the transnational enterprise, left behind their divisions and set out to realise elections to select the 11 best candidates for the list Unity and Revolution to confront the union bureaucracy led by Ramon Machuca.

“At 6am on 13 September, around 100 activists took on the task of going round the plant and developing the democratic consultation and replying to the multiple questions that the workers had.

‘The workers ended up supporting this unprecedented democratic process in an enterprise which for 25 year had been under the hegemony of Accion Democratic (the old social democratic party) and for 14 years had been led by Ramon Machuca’

–The one with most votes was Jose Melendez, a member of the leadership of the PRS.