No. 465

The Chicago Tribune: Chavez
enemies an odd mix.  

A word on the Venezuelan "Opposition"


The Chicago Tribune: Chavez enemies an odd mix

Por: Gary Marx
- The Chicago Tribune
Publicado: 23/12/02

Nota de aporrea: Translation into Spanish at:
Los enemigos de Chávez, una mezcla extraña

See aporrea's new English language section at:

Gary Marx
Tribune foreign correspondent

December 22, 2002

CARACAS, Venezuela -- One opposition leader is a gruff union boss. Another is a successful businessman.

There are middle-age housewives campaigning to oust President Hugo Chavez, along with longtime politicians, right-wing former military officers, good-governance activists, button-down oil executives and even hard-core communists.
Opposition leaders say the diverse nature of their alliance, which includes dozens of groups, is its primary strength. But others say such scope has fostered infighting, muddled their strategy and obscured their ultimate goal.
Almost three weeks into a debilitating national strike, even opposition officials concede that it is unclear what they would accept to end the months-long conflict that has split Venezuela and battered its economy.

In public, most opposition leaders are demanding Chavez's resignation, yet three top leaders said in interviews that they would call off the strike if he agreed to a referendum on his rule and promised not to punish oil workers and other participants in the work stoppage.

Reflecting increased tensions, some opposition leaders, fearing a backlash from angry Venezuelans facing gasoline and other shortages, want the strike lifted, at least for businesses and workers not involved in the oil industry. Others say the protest must continue to pressure Chavez into political concessions.
"The opposition seems to be united, but it's not true," said Alfredo Keller, a pollster and political analyst. "They are only together in their will to throw out Chavez."

Keller said one indication of the opposition's indecision is that its attacks have focused on Chavez's political strength--his leadership style--rather than hammering away on major issues such as his failure to reduce crime and poverty.
"It's very difficult for them to get together a common policy," he said.

Dislike has many flavors

Take the housewives, for example. They oppose their country's leader in part because of efforts to fire recalcitrant school officials, rewrite textbooks and change the curriculum to better reflect his populist and revolutionary values.
Many retired military officers scorn Chavez because he has used soldiers to repair houses, paint apartment buildings and complete other social programs--which his critics say is politicizing the armed forces.

Oil executives are campaigning to oust him for good because he tried to pack the state oil company with political allies, while good-government activists say the president has reneged on his promise to fight corruption and consult with civic groups before making key appointments.

Even the Bandera Roja, a hard-line Marxist-Leninist party, maintains that Chavez's populist revolution is not a real revolution at all. The group accuses him of being a "neo-liberal" sellout, even a fascist, who cannot be entrusted with implanting communism in the world's fifth-largest oil producing nation.
"He has never been a revolutionary," said Jesus Hermoso, a Bandera Roja student leader.

Like many in the opposition, Hermoso described the anti-Chavez movement--which he said was full of "reactionaries"--as an "alliance of circumstances."
"After Chavez there will come another stage in the fight," he vowed.

Diplomats and other experts say Chavez is mainly to blame for the appearance of such an oddball alliance. Campaigning on the promise of radical change, the former army paratrooper swept to the presidency in 1998, blowing out Venezuela's traditional political parties, which had been discredited as corrupt and ineffective.

Since then, his popularity has plummeted as he has challenged virtually every major institution in the country, including the church, the news media and the state-owned oil company. He made enemies at every turn, and his public approval rating is about 30 percent, boosted primarily by the poor.

Finger-pointing in strife

In an interview, Chavez laid his political troubles on the opposition-controlled news media and the nation's "elites," who he claimed were desperately trying to cling to power in the face of his efforts to reshape Venezuela into a more egalitarian society.

"They can put together hundreds of thousands. We, in these last few days, we have had millions of people mobilizing across the country," Chavez told four U.S. newspapers. "We have more force in the street than they have."
Opposition leaders beg to differ, asserting that the embattled president, who was ousted in a brief coup in April, is on the ropes as the oil industry founders and the government prepares to dip into its currency reserves to buy food and gas to blunt shortages.

They point to Friday's outpouring of hundreds of thousands of whistle-blowing marchers who took to the streets to again demand Chavez's resignation. A pro-Chavez demonstration attracted 10,000 people. There were no clashes.
Formed three months after the failed coup, the opposition alliance the Democratic Coordinator was forged from 18 political parties along with dozens of non-governmental organizations, business, labor and civic groups that dislike Chavez.

At any opposition march, onlookers can see yuppie executives riding brand-new BMW motorcycles, bleached-blond punks in baggy trousers, scruffy Bandera Roja members hoisting their trademark red flag and a group of well-manicured housewives led by Maeca Lopez-Mendez.

"He is trying to pull our families apart through the educational system, and, besides that, give our kids communist instruction," said Lopez-Mendez, who leads a group called Women for Liberty.

Antonio Ledezma, an opposition leader, acknowledged that reaching consensus is difficult but said that members had shelved their ideological and political differences in the quest to oust Chavez. Talk of future policies is limited to vague niceties, such as healing class divisions, depoliticizing the military and improving the economy.

"In a marriage of two where there are quarrels, imagine a polychromatic movement where each one has a manner of thinking and a distinct manner of resolving the country's problems," said Ledezma, a veteran politician. "But the interests of Venezuela have taken precedence."

Nightly updates

Nowhere is the opposition's loose and quirky nature more apparent than in its nightly news conference, when the alliance's three major stars pronounce that day's successes before a national television audience--and inevitably extend the strike another day.

Speaking first is Carlos Ortega, a longtime union boss and former oil worker who concedes that he has picked fights with nearly every Venezuelan president in the past decade.

Next comes Carlos Fernandez, the son of Spanish immigrants who runs a construction, transportation and cement conglomerate and heads the country's most powerful business group.
A new member is Juan Fernandez, a dissident oil executive and budding politician, whose presence indicates the ascendancy of the oil workers in the opposition movement.

Ortega, who may be the alliance's most recognized figure, acknowledged that it is strange for union and business leaders to be battling together toward a common goal. He said it may be Chavez's only lasting accomplishment in office.
"Chavez has succeeded in uniting all of civil society, the entire world," Ortega said.

Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune


A word on the Venezuelan "Opposition"

Por: Jutta Schmitt
Publicado: 16/12/02


there is something very, very important we have to take into consideration when talking about the Venezuelan "opposition". Venezuela, at this point of its modern, democratic history, does not have a genuine, political and democratic opposition, reason for which I always put this term in quotation marks. The old, corrupt leadership of the country's Trade Union Central "CTV" under Carlos Ortega, discredited amongst most of the Venezuelan workers, has, in tight agreement and cooperation not only with the president of the Employers Federation FEDECAMARAS, but also with the upper management of the State's oil industry PDVSA, as well as with the military leaders of last April's failed coup d'état - who were absolved by a scandalous sentence of bribed Venezuelan Supreme Court magistrates - as well as in unison and with the active support of Venezuela's commercial TV stations and printed media, been canalizing the discontent of all those, who for one reason or the other are in disagreement with the government of Hugo Chávez and who, in the total absence of a genuine, political opposition, have joined this antidemocratic and outright fascist movement, that is hellbent to overthrow the democratically elected government by all means available - being supported in its antidemocratic goals from abroad, diplomatically and financially.

This kind of "opposition" has a pseudo-political one-point-only agenda: the ousting of president Chávez by all means, and that's about it. There is not even a minimum programme of what could be called an alternative, political agenda countering the government's political and economic programme for the nation, and worse even, this "opposition" does not have political speakers, neither does it have a minimum consensus (other than ousting the president) for a common, political platform, nor credible politicians, and in the meantime there is not even a single spark of democratic attitude left anymore. I have not seen one, single "politician" of all those political splinter groups that make up the so-called Coordinadora Democrática ("democratic coordination"), who would have had the decency and fundamentally democratic stand to publicly distance him/herself or their fraction from the openly undemocratic, putschist objectives and means pushed forward by the spearheads of another edition of past April's coup d'état: Trade Union Central, Employers Federation, big Oil Business Management and putschist military leaders. No one of the "political leaders" of this mistakenly called "opposition", of this cynically called "Democractic Coordination", has publicly spoken out in favour of democracy and the constitution - absolutely nobody.

The discourse held at their rallies with all those fatally mislead "opposition" supporters - perhaps and in the best case victims of the insane, incessant media campaign - is an open discourse of contempt, hate, racism, ridicule and violence directed against a democratically elected government, and does not posess any genuine, political content whatsoever!!

This "opposition", obsessed with regaining political power, goes as far in their total absence of goals and programmes as to hope for and actively promote a foreign intervention in Venezuela - foreign intervention the whole, ancient political caste of this country or "ancién regime", that have plundered this nation's resources for the past 40 years, and who have been categorically and democratically destituted in the 1999 elections, aspires may finally restore them in their old position.

This is, what has yet to be analysed and reflected by the ineffable, international mass disinformation media.