Venezuela’s D-Day – The December 2, 2007 Constituent Referendum: Democratic Socialism or Imperial Counter-Revolution

by on November 29, 2007 · 1 comment

James Petras November 27, 2007

On November 26, 2007 the Venezuelan government broadcast and circulated a confidential memo from the US embassy to the CIA which is devastatingly revealing of US clandestine operations and which will influence the referendum this Sunday (December 2, 2007).

The memo sent by an embassy official, Michael Middleton Steere, was addressed to the head of the CIA, Michael Hayden. The memo was entitled Advancing to the Last Phase of Operation Pincer and updates the activity by a CIA unit with the acronym HUMINT (Human Intelligence) which is engaged in clandestine action to destabilize the forth-coming referendum and coordinate the civil military overthrow of the elected Chavez government. The Embassy-CIA polls concede that 57% of the voters approved of the constitutional amendments proposed by Chavez but also predicted a 60% abstention.

The US operatives emphasized their capacity to recruit former Chavez supporters among the social democrats (PODEMOS) and the former Minister of Defense Baduel, claiming to have reduced the yes vote by 6% from its original margin. Nevertheless the Embassy operatives concede that they have reached their ceiling recognizing they cannot defeat the amendments via the electoral route.

The memo then recommends that Operation Pincer (OP)[Operaci Tenaza] be perationalized. OP involves a two-pronged strategy of impeding the referendum, rejecting the outcome at the same time as calling for a no vote. The run up to the referendum includes running phony polls, attacking electoral officials and running propaganda through the private media accusing the government of fraud and calling for a no vote. Contradictions, the report cynically emphasizes, are of no matter.

The CIA-Embassy reports internal division and recriminations among the opponents of the amendments including several defections from their umbrella group. The key and most dangerous threats to democracy raised by the Embassy memo point to their success in mobilizing the private university students (backed by top administrators) to attack key government buildings including the Presidential Palace, Supreme Court and the National Electoral Council. The Embassy is especially praiseworthy of the ex-Maoist Red Flag group for its violent street fighting activity. Ironically, small Trotskyist sects and their trade unionists join the ex-Maoists in opposing the constitutional amendments. The Embassy, while discarding their Marxist rhetoric, perceives their opposition as fitting in with their overall strategy.

The ultimate objective of Operation Pincer is to seize a territorial or institutional base with the massive support of the defeated electoral minority within three or four days (before or after the elections is not clear. JP) backed by an uprising by oppositionist military officers principally in the National Guard. The Embassy operative concede that the military plotters have run into serous problems as key intelligence operatives were detected, stores of arms were decommissioned and several plotters are under tight surveillance.

Apart from the deep involvement of the US, the primary organization of the Venezuelan business elite (FEDECAMARAS), as well as all the major private television, radio and newspaper outlets have been engaged in a vicious fear and intimidation campaign. Food producers, wholesale and retail distributors have created artificial shortages of basic food items and have provoked large scale capital flight to sow chaos in the hopes of reaping a no vote.

President Chavez Counter-Attacks
In a speech to pro-Chavez, pro-amendment nationalist business-people (Entrepreneurs for Venezuela EMPREVEN) Chavez warned the President of FEDECAMARAS that if he continues to threaten the government with a coup, he would nationalize all their business affiliates. With the exception of the Trotskyist and other sects, the vast majority of organized workers, peasants, small farmers, poor neighborhood councils, informal self-employed and public school students have mobilized and demonstrated in favor of the constitutional amendments.

The reason for the popular majority is found in a few of the key amendments: One article expedites land expropriation facilitating re-distribution to the landless and small producers. Chavez has already settled over 150,000 landless workers on 2 million acres of land. Another amendment provides universal social security coverage for the entire informal sector (street sellers, domestic workers, self-employed) amounting to 40% of the labor force. Organized and unorganized workers workweek will be reduced from 40 to 36 hours a week (Monday to Friday noon) with no reduction in pay. Open admission and universal free higher education will open greater educational opportunities for lower class students. Amendments will allow the government to by-pass current bureaucratic blockage of the socialization of strategic industries, thus creating greater employment and lower utility costs. Most important, an amendment will increase the power and budget of neighborhood councils to legislate and invest in their communities.

The electorate supporting the constitutional amendments is voting in favor of their socio-economic and class interests; the issue of extended re-election of the President is not high on their priorities: And that is the issue that the Right has focused on in calling Chavez a dictator and the referendum a coup.

The Opposition
With strong financial backing from the US Embassy ($8 million dollars in propaganda alone according to the Embassy memo) and the business elite and free time by the right-wing media, the Right has organized a majority of the upper middle class students from the private universities, backed by the Catholic Church hierarchy, large swaths of the affluent middle class neighborhoods, entire sectors of the commercial, real estate and financial middle classes and apparently sectors of the military, especially officials in the National Guard. While the Right has control over the major private media, public television and radio back the constitutional reforms. While the Right has its followers among some generals and the National Guard, Chavez has the backing of the paratroops and legions of middle rank officers and most other generals.

The outcome of the Referendum of December 2 is a decisive historical event first and foremost for Venezuela but also for the rest of the Americas. A positive vote (Vota Sí) will provide the legal framework for the democratization of the political system, the socialization of strategic economic sectors, empower the poor and provide the basis for a self-managed factory system. A negative vote (or a successful US-backed civil-military uprising) will reverse the most promising living experience of popular self-rule, of advanced social welfare and democratically based socialism. A reversal, especially a military dictated outcome, will lead to a massive blood bath, such as we have not seen since the days of the Indonesian Generals Coup of 1966, which killed over a million workers and peasants or the Argentine Coup of 1976 in which over 30,000 Argentines were murdered by the US backed Generals.

A decisive vote for Sí will not end US military and political destabilization campaigns but it will certainly undermine and demoralize their collaborators. On December 2, 2007 the Venezuelans have a rendezvous with history.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Gary G December 3, 2007 at 11:55 am

In some ways this is good for Chávez to understand what he is up against. For one, the level of fascism among the opposition is astonishing. They have no interest in truthing the facts or in recognizing a system of egalitarian functioning. If they were ever to come back to power under the Primary Justice or Christian Democratic parties they will undo the constitution that defines the rights of the poor.

This is not a Venezuela problem; this is a U.S. problem and the root of this class racism is U.S. neoliberalism and exceptionalism as the reference point for the opposition in these times. The acceptance of violence among the opposition youth and lack of critique from their parents and opposition political parties speaks volumes about this tendency. The corporate television, violent video games, and U.S. “terror” movies are well consumed by the opposition class and the children are raised up with ritualized violence as a form of entertainment from birth. It mirrors the dilemma for U.S. youth from sub-literate and reactionary upbringings.

The left to the right here have to be very careful to work towards continuing infrastructural improvements ongoing here with the newly retained oil wealth and not let lapse the reform process into an internal class warfare that could lead to another post Allende Chile of right wing atrocities. The dirty tricks put into place in this campaign were in full force leading up to the reform vote including passing out false descriptions of the reform process and spreading of rumors including such whoppers as that girls would no longer be able to wear string bikini’s at the beach or buy deodorant. The poor to the middle class were susceptible to these claims and I heard them repeated many times without irony.

Another obstacle in the process with the reform is the corruption that has occurred within the Mercal food program that is under the directorship of the military. Political corruption has been endemic to South American politics for so long and eliminating this abuse entirely is a great struggle though the Chávez government has been the most accountable to date. If the Primary Justice or Christian Democrats re-assume power we can expect the back room deals with the multinational companies and loss of national wealth and of popular democracy again. There have been food shortages that are the result of the military selling food slated for the poorest Venezuelans that has found its way into Columbia and into the black market for the purposes of enrichment of unscrupulous military managers. This needs to stop and I know that to keep the Bolivarian reforms in movement Chavez has had to make alliances with some of these elements to protect himself from internal pressures. The poor are effected by this corruption in a visceral way that can effect his support base with those not directly in the Bolivarian councils. All these factors could, in part, explain why 3 million of the poor this time did not go to vote. Another reason is the complexity of the reform issues needing one to read them and be familiar with them in relation to the entire Bolivarian project and that may have proved a burden for this group. We know how uninformed (read disassociated) are U.S. American voters about the minutia of electoral propositions after being bombarded with “information” campaigns, especially targeting those designed to increase the popular power like rent controls or public health care.

I also think Chávez overestimated the level of political education that had taken place here and tried to make changes towards a new socialism to fast. If he had removed the caveat of unlimited reelection and stuck to eliminating foreign campaign funding, which is illegal in the U.S.A., and social security for the poor street vendors and housewives, community power, and other pro popular reforms, he likely would have prevailed but all is not clear at this moment the extent of the funding by NED to help produce this result. He is still president for five more years and, based on good work, could leave the PSUV with the possibility to achieve another leader to continue the reform process past his tenure.



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