Mass Uprising Defeats CIA Coup in Venezuela

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MASS UPRISING DEFEATS CIA COUP IN VENEZUELA
By Andy McInerney
The revolutionary process underway in Venezuela passed a decisive test over the weekend of April 13-14. Hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants across the country rose up to defeat a U.S.-backed coup attempt organized by the Venezuelan capitalist class against President Hugo Chávez. It was a genuine victory of people's power in the first open clash of social classes in the oil-rich South American  country. But the victory also lays bare the fundamental question of the Venezuelan Revolution: how to organize the  popular classes--the workers, peasants, soldiers and  students--to defend the revolution against further assaults  by the propertied oligarchy and the weight of U.S. imperialism. The Venezuelan Revolution, a process that opened with Chávez's election in 1998, is at a decisive crossroads. Its  progress will require the international solidarity of all progressive people, especially in the United States. CHÁVEZ AND THE "BOLIVARIAN REVOLUTION"

Venezuela is a mineral-rich South American country bordering  the Caribbean Sea. It is the third-largest exporter of oil  to the United States--down from the largest when Chávez was elected in 1998. But the tremendous wealth that the oil industry generates  has never impacted the lives of Venezuela's working class.  More than 80 percent live in poverty. One percent of the population owns 60 percent of the arable land. The tremendous social inequities have caused tremendous  explosions of popular outrage. In 1989, the ruling class  unleashed a military assault on tens of thousands of people demanding lower food prices; more than 3,000 were massacred. In 1992, junior military officers led by Lt. Col. Hugo  Chávez staged a coup attempt in solidarity with huge  demonstrations against International Monetary Fund-dictated austerity measures. After spending two years in prison, Chávez toured the  country, advocating what he described as a "Bolivarian  Revolution" against the pro-U.S. Venezuelan oligarchy. Named  for the great South American independence leader Simon  Bolivar, Bolivarianism has come to mean using Venezuela's  wealth for the benefit of the people of Latin America, and  Latin American unity against U.S. domination. His 1998 election was the result of an alliance between his  Fifth Republic Movement, based on progressive junior  military officers and rank-and-file soldiers, and the parties of the working class and left. His new government began to dismantle the political power  base of the rich oligarchy. The two main political parties  of the ruling class--the Democratic Alliance and the Social  Christian COPEI party--essentially collapsed. A new  constitution and National Assembly enshrined many of the key  progressive political features of the new Bolivarian  Republic. In the arena of foreign relations, the Chávez government  steered clear of the traditional servile position to U.S.  imperialism. Chávez traveled to visit Iraqi President Saddam  Hussein. He encouraged an independent OPEC. He brokered a  deal providing Cuba with oil at terms favorable to Havana.  He refused to participate in the Pentagon's military  campaign against Colombia's Marxist insurgencies. Beginning in June, the Venezuelan government began to turn  its attention from the political arena to the economy. In  November, Chávez signed a package of 49 laws aimed at  addressing the social disparities in the country. At the  heart of these laws were a land reform law and legislation  aimed at restricting the power of the old oligarchy in the state industries, especially the state oil company Petroleos  de Venezuela. The pro-U.S. ruling class in Venezuela had been grumbling  since the 1998 elections about Chávez's independent foreign  policy and populist rhetoric. But when he began to make moves that affected their vast wealth and private property,  grumbling changed to outright opposition. BOSSES LEAD ANTI-CHÁVEZ OPPOSITION

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