Opinion and Analysis: Bolivarian Project | Opposition
What’s Behind the Venezuelan University Strikes?
In this series of short interviews by Merida based community television station, TatuyTv, university teachers and students argue that the university strikes aren’t trying to fight for worker rights, but rather are part of the opposition’s destabilisation plan. Below is a translated transcription of the interviews that TatuyTv put together in the following news clip.
TatuyTv narrator: The Federation of Professor Associations of Venezuela (FAPUV) has been calling an indefinite strike in public universities since 30 May this year and after various staggered strikes. The Federation has argued it is for supposed salary and budget demands.
The professor Reynaldo Ortiz, representative of the science faculty for the Professors of the University of Los Andes Association (APULA) refutes this argument.
Reynaldo Ortiz: Really, since last year the national government was already calling for discussion roundtables with all the teachers’ and university worker unions of all the universities. Now, adjusted to the new work law, these discussions have to be held with the ministry of work. The FAPUV, knowing this, didn’t adjust to the new law, and the FAPUV is an organisation that is completely illegal, as it hasn’t held elections since 2005. So in that way, they aren’t adjusted to the new work law and they can’t attend the dialogue meetings that the government has been convoking, or that the ministry of higher education is convoking, in order to discuss wage increases, not just for teachers, but rather for all the unions.
The FAPUV didn’t mean to accept the invitation. They refer to their exclusive representation of national teachers, which isn’t true, not all universities are attached to FAPUV. There are more than twenty-two universities that have been created recently, in the last fourteen years of revolution, and these universities are represented by unions that participate in a different series of federations, which are the ones participating in the dialogue meetings. Likewise the workers from this university [the ULA] are involved in the meetings.
TatuyTv narrator: Professor Pedro Rivas, from the humanities faculty, attempts to unveil the real reason behind these [strike] measures.
Pedro Rivas: I think that the national government has had a few small weaknesses, we might say, in not having resolved this sooner. But currently, the national government is discussing, in a collective way with the whole university sector, their life conditions, which, I repeat, attend to the demands of the university sector.
The strike has some interests behind what it’s supposed to be about. That is, the strike isn’t a strike with labour character to it. It’s not a strike which is aiming to make demands for the teaching sector. It’s a strike which is linked to a plan to politically destabilise [the country], a plan which has been underway for a while. It is within the framework of a silent coup d’état, an economic coup, which aims to place the democratic system in a crisis situation. All the time this federation [FAPUV]... in 2002 it participated in the April coup d’état and in the petroleum strike, which generated for the country loses of over $20 billion and destruction of the petroleum industry,
Reynaldo Ortiz: The indefinite strike called by the FAPUV is simply a political manoeuvre which together with a series of other activities that the Venezuela opposition is carrying out, aims to destabilise the country and to take advantage of the current situation.
Pedro Rivas: For us, it’s a political decision that is related to the destabilisation plans and with coup-ism, the coup-ism that is established in Venezuela, and which the universities have used as a refuge to destabilise and place the country in a situation of chaos.
What we categorically reject is that the university becomes a national political party, just like Fedecameras [Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce], the Catholic Church, and the rightwing parties, the traditional ones like COPEI, or the newer ones like First Justice, and so on.
TatuyTv narrator: These institutions from so called “civil society” aim to maintain the structures of capitalist society, covered by “democratic” prestige, but really they only seek to maintain the privileged status of the minority. In the case of the ULA, the mask melted away when this measure of paralysing activities was implemented against the consulted desire of the faculty staff.
Pedro Rivas: The Association of Professors and its local offices, by faculty and by nucleus – all the nuclei of Merida and Trujillo decided not to participate in the indefinite strike. The majority of teachers decided, in two separate consultations, to not go on strike, so the indefinite strike was rejected in a democratic consultation. What isn’t understood is how the president of the APULA [Association of Professors of the ULA] goes to the FAPUV to vote against a majority decision, that doesn’t make sense. What isn’t understood is how the FAPUV decrees, ignoring the consultations, an indefinite strike.
It’s a mechanism which closes the university off from dialogue, when the university is just that, its dialogue, it’s conversation, it’s agreement, it’s divergence, a deliberation.
TatuyTv narrator: Faced with the absolute illegitimacy of the strike, a group of students sustain the vile arguments of their authorities, even proposing hunger strikes while they continue organising their luxurious banquets. Nevertheless, dignified students denounce the measure because it is hindering their academic learning process and other students’ rights. <Footage of students chanting “Yes to classes, no to the strike”.>
Inder Romero (student representative to the University Council): FAPUV is made up of around 18 associations. Of these 18 associations, around 13 are participating in the dialogue meetings, are participating in the discussion for the collective contract. The wage increase is expected [translator: and was announced a few days ago]. The vice-minister, Jason Gusman, announced the increase in scholarships. So then, why are they protesting? What do they want? That they keep being sent money, like they did before in past years, so that the [university] authorities [translator: which are opposition supporters] can keep buying trucks and keep spending money on luxuries that the university is used to?
Douglas Jover (student representative to the Student Affairs Board, ULA): Evidently, it’s a political plan which the APULA has to destabilise the city of Merida. Today, we, the students, the real students of the University of Los Andes, we’re going to introduce an appeal in the courts of Libertador municipality, Merida, because we are aware that what they want to deny us is the right to education, as stipulated in article 102 of the constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Today, the students, we decided that we’re going to... via legal means, bring suit before the president of the FAPUV, Luis Loaiza.
Michael Navarro (fifth year forestry engineering student): Article 103 of the constitution establishes that all people have the right to quality, integral, permanent education, without any limitations that aren’t derived from their vocation. Our right to education has been violated. We call on the rector, on the academic vice-rector, Patricia Rosenzweig, on the different faculty heads, to resume classes, because they are interfering with our rights to education.
Inder Romero: We don’t think the strike is the best alternative, the best decision; it’s to the determent of the quality of training of the students.
Transcribed and translated by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com
- 16/06/2013: Venezuelan University Workers Receive Salary Increase, Protests Continue
- 10/06/2013: Strikes Continue at Venezuelan Universities
- 22/01/2013: Opposition Violence in Merida
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