Coup D'Etat Rumblings in Venezuela

For weeks, protests with
sporadic violence have been on Venezuela's
streets as anti-Chavistas use middle and upper class students as imperial tools
to destabilize the government and disrupt the constitutional process. The aim
is to discredit and oust the Chavez government and return the country to its
ugly past with Washington
and local oligarchs in charge and the neoliberal model reinstated.

By Stephen Lendman
Topics
Short URL

The Bush administration tried
and failed three prior times to oust Hugo Chavez since its first aborted
two-day coup attempt in April, 2002. Through FOIA requests, lawyer, activist,
and author Eva Golinger uncovered top secret CIA documents of US involvement
that included an intricate financing scheme involving the quasi-governmental
agency National Endowment of Democracy (NED) and the US Agency for
International Development (USAID). The documents also showed the White House,
State Department, and National Security Agency had full knowledge of the
scheme, had to have approved it, and there's little doubt of CIA involvement as
it's always part of this kind of dirty business. What's worrying now is what
went on then may be happening again in what looks like a prelude to a fourth
made-in-Washington attempt to oust the Venezuelan leader that must be monitored
closely as events develop.

Since he took office in
February, 1999, and especially after George Bush's election, Chavez has been a US
target, and this time he believes credible sources point to a plot to
assassinate him. That information comes from Alimamy Bakarr Sankoh, president
of the Hugo Chavez International-Foundation for Peace, Friendship &
Solidarity (HCI-FPFS) in a November 11 press release. Sankoh supports Chavez as
"a man of peace and flamboyant champion of human dignity (who persists in
his efforts in spite of) growing US blackmail, sabotage and
political blasphemy."

HCI-FPFS sources revealed the
plot's code name - "Operation Cleanse Venezuela" that now may be
unfolding ahead of the December 2 referendum on constitutional reforms.
According to Sankoh, the scheme sounds familiar - CIA and other foreign secret
service operatives (including anti-Castro terrorists) aiming to destabilize the
Chavez government by using "at least three concrete subversive plans"
to destroy the country's social democracy and kill Chavez.

It involves infiltrating
subversive elements into the country, inciting opposition within the military,
ordering region-based US
forces to shoot down any aircraft used by Chavez, employing trained snipers
with shoot to kill orders, and having the dominant US and Venezuelan media act
as supportive attack dogs. Chavez is targeted because he represents the
greatest of all threats to US
hegemony in the region - a good example that's spreading. Venezuela also has Latin
America's largest proven oil reserves at a time when supplies are
tight and prices are at all-time highs.

Sankoh calls
Washington-directed threats "real" and to "be treated
seriously" to avoid extending Bush's Middle East adventurism to Latin America. He calls for support from the region and
world community to denounce the scheme and help stop another Bush
administration regime change attempt.

More information on a possible
coup plot also came from a November 13 Party for Socialism and Liberation
article headlined "New US
plots against the Venezuelan Revolution." It states Tribuna Popular (the
Communist Party of Venezuela) and Prensa Latina (the Latin American News
Agency) reported: "Between Oct. 7 and Oct 9, high-ranking US officials met
in Prague, Czech Republic, with parts of the Venezuelan opposition (where they
were) urged to convene social uprisings, sabotage the economy and
infrastructure, destroy the food transportation chain and plan a military
coup." It said Paul Wolfowitz and Madeleine Albright attended along with
Humberto Celli, "a well-known coup-plotter from the Venezuelan party
Accion Democratica."

The article further reported
Tibisay Lucena, The National Electoral Council President, said the Venezuelan
corporate media was "stoking a mood of violence amongst right-wing
students" through a campaign of agitprop and Hermann Escarra, from the
"pro-coup" Comando Nacional de la Resistencia, openly incited
"rebellion" last August and then called for constitutional changes to
be stopped "through all means possible."

The Venezuelan newspaper,
Diario VEA, also weighed in, saying "anonymous students planned on
committing acts of destabilization" as the December 2 vote approaches.
Venezuelan Radio Trans Mundial provided proof with a recorded video of a youth
dumping gasoline into an armored vehicle, ramming metal barricades into police
on top of other vehicles, and knocking them from their roofs and hoods onto the
ground.

The Threat of Street Protest Violence

For weeks, protests with
sporadic violence have been on Venezuela's
streets as anti-Chavistas use middle and upper class students as imperial tools
to destabilize the government and disrupt the constitutional process. The aim
is to discredit and oust the Chavez government and return the country to its
ugly past with Washington
and local oligarchs in charge and the neoliberal model reinstated.

Venezuela's Foreign Minister,
Nicolas Maduro, weighed in on this on November 8. He accused Washington of meddling by staging violent Caracas street
protests against proposed constitutional reforms to extend the country's
participatory social democracy. Referring to a November 7 shootout at Caracas' Central University, he said, "We don't have any doubt
that the government of the United
States has their hands in the scheme that
led to the ambush yesterday" that Chavez calls a "fascist
offensive." Several students were wounded on the streets from a clash
between pro and anti-Chavez elements.

"We know the whole
scheme," Maduro added, and he should as it happened before in 2002, again
during the disruptive 2002-03 oil management lockout, and most often as well when
elections are held to disrupt the democratic process. These are standard CIA
operating tactics used many times before for 50 years in the Agency's efforts
to topple independent leaders and kill them. Chavez understands what's
happening, and he's well briefed and alerted by his ally, Fidel Castro, who
survived over 600 US
attempts to kill him since 1959. He's now 81 and very much alive but going
through a difficult recovery from major surgery 15 months ago.

Chavez has widespread popular
support throughout the region and from allies like Ecuador's
Raphael Correa and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who expressed his
"solidarity with the revolutionary people of Venezuela
and our friend Hugo Chavez, who is being subjected to aggression from a
counterrevolution fed by the traitors from inside the country and by the empire
(referring to the US)."
He compared the situation to his own country where similar efforts are being
"financed by the United States Embassy" in Managua to support
elements opposed to his Sandinista government even though it's very
accommodative to Washington.

Even Brazil's
Lula chimed in by calling Chavez's proposed reforms consistent with Venezuela's
democratic norms, and he added: "Please, invent anything to criticize
Chavez, except for lack of democracy."

Constitutional Reform as a Pretext for Protests

Washington's goal from all this is clear,
but why now? Last July, Chavez announced he'd be sending Venezuela's National Assembly (AN)
a proposed list of constitutional reforms to debate, consider, and vote on.
Under Venezuelan law, the President, National Assembly, or 15% of registered
voters (by petition) may propose constitutional changes. Under articles 342,
343, 344 and 345, they must then be debated three times in the legislature, amended
if needed, and then submitted to a vote that requires a two-thirds majority to
pass. Finally within 30 days, the public gets the last word, up or down, in a
national referendum. It represents the true spirit of democracy that's
unimaginable in the US
where elitists control everything, elections are a sham, and the people have no
say.

That was true for Venezuela
earlier, but no longer. In its history, there have been 26 Constitutions since
its first in 1821, but none like the 1999 Bolivarian one under Chavez that is
worlds apart from the others. It created a model participatory social democracy
that gave all citizens the right to vote it up or down by national referendum
and then empowered them (or the government) later on to petition for change.

On August 15, Chavez did that
by submitting 33 suggested amendment reforms to the Constitution's 350 articles
and explained it this way: The 1999 Constitution needed updating because it is
"ambiguous (and) a product of that moment. The world (today) is very different
from (then). (Reforms are) essential for continuing the process of
revolutionary transition" to deepen and broaden Venezuelan democracy.
That's his central aim - to create a "new geometry of power" for the
people along with more government accountability to them.

Proposed reforms will have
little impact on the nation's fundamental political structure. They will,
however, change laws with regard to politics, the economy, property, the
military, the national territory as well as the culture and society and will
deepen the country's social democracy.

The National Assembly (AN)
completed its work on November 2 adding 25 additional articles to Chavez's
proposal plus another 11 changes for a total of 69 articles that amend
one-fifth of the nation's Constitution. The most important ones include:

  • extending existing
    constitutional law that guarantees human rights and recognizes the
    country's social and cultural diversity;
  • building a "social
    economy" to replace the failed neoliberal Washington Consensus model;
  • officially prohibiting
    monopolies and unjust consolidation of economic resources;
  • extending presidential
    terms from six to seven years;
  • allowing unlimited
    presidential reelections so that option is "the sovereign decision of
    the constituent people of Venezuela"
    and is a similar to the political process in countries like England, France,
    Germany and Australia;
  • strengthening grassroots
    communal councils, increasing their funding, and promoting more of them;
  • lowering the eligible
    voting age from 18 to 16;
  • guaranteeing free
    university education to the highest level;
  • prohibiting foreign
    funding of elections and political activity;
  • reducing the work week to
    36 hours to promote more employment;
  • ending the autonomy of
    Venezuela's Central Bank to reclaim the country's financial sovereignty
    the way it should be everywhere; today nearly all central banks are
    controlled by private for-profit banking cartels; Republican presidential
    candidate Ron Paul wants to end that status in the US and correctly
    explains the Federal Reserve Bank is neither federal nor does it have
    reserves; it's owned and run by Wall Street and the major banks;
  • adding new forms of
    collective property under five categories: public for the state, social
    for citizens, collective for people or social groups, mixed for public and
    private, and private for individuals or private entities;
  • territorial redefinition
    to distribute resources more equitably to communities instead of being
    used largely by economic and political elites;
  • prohibiting sexual
    orientation discrimination and enacting gender parity rights for political
    candidates;
  • redefining the military as
    an "anti-imperialist popular entity;"
  • in cases where property is
    appropriated for the public good, fair and timely compensation to be paid
    for it;
  • protecting the loss of
    one's home in cases of bankruptcy; and
  • enacting social security
    protection for the self-employed.

The National Assembly also
approved 15 important transitional dispositions. They relate to how
constitutional changes will be implemented if approved until laws are passed to
regulate them. One provision is for the legislature to pass 15 so-called
"organic laws" that include the following ones:

  • a law on "popular
    power" to govern grassroots communal councils (that may number 50,000
    by year end) that Chavez called "one of the central ideas....to open,
    at the constitutional level, the roads to accelerate the transfer of power
    to the people (in an) Explosion of Communal (or popular) Power;" five
    percent of state revenues will be set aside to fund it;
  • another promoting a
    socialist economy for the 21st century that Chavez champions even though
    he remains friendly to business; and
  • one relating to the
    country's territorial organization; plus others on education, a shorter
    workweek and more democratic changes.

Under Venezuelan law, and in
the true spirit of democracy, these proposed changes will be for citizens to
vote up or down on December 2. The process will be in two parts reversing an
earlier decision to do it as one package, yea or nay. One part will be Chavez's
33 reforms plus 13 National Assembly additions, and the other for the remaining
23 articles.

Coup D'Etat Rumblings Must Be Taken Seriously

Now battle lines are drawn,
opposition forces are mobilized and events are playing out violently on Venezuela's
streets. The worst so far was on November 7 when CNN falsely reported
"80,000" anti-Chavez students demonstrated "peacefully" in Caracas to denounce
"Hugo Chavez's attempts to expand his power." The actual best
estimates put it between 2,000 and 10,000, and long-time Latin American expert
James Petras calls the protesters "privileged middle and upper middle
class university students," once again being used as an imperial tool.

In their anti-government zeal,
CNN and other dominant media ignore the many pro-Chavez events writer Fred Fuentes
calls a "red hurricane" sweeping the country. An impressive one was
held on November 4 when the President addressed hundreds of thousands of
supporters who participated in an 8.5 kilometer Caracas march while similar pro-reform
rallies took place at the same time around the country. They're the start of a
"yes" campaign for a large December 2 turnout that's vital as polls
show strong pro-reform support by a near two to one margin.

In an effort to defuse it,
orchestrated opposition turned violent and officials reported eight people were
injured in the November 7 incident. No one was killed, but one was wounded by
gunfire when at least "four (masked) gunmen (who looked like provocateur
plants, not students) fir(ed) handguns at the anti-Chavez crowd." In an
earlier October demonstration, opposition students clashed with police who kept
them from reaching the National Assembly building and a direct confrontation
with pro-Chavez supporters that might have turned ugly.

It did on November 7 when
violence erupted between pro and anti-government students, but it wasn't as
reported. Venezuelan and US
corporate media claimed pro-Chavez supporters initiated the attack. In fact,
they WERE attacked by elements opposing the President. They seized this time to
act ahead of the referendum to disrupt it and destabilize the government as
prelude to a possible planned coup.

One pro-Chavez student
explained what happened. She and others were erecting posters supporting a
"yes" referendum vote when they were attacked with tear gas and
crowds yelling they were going to be lynched. Avila TV had the evidence. Its
unedited footage showed an opposition student mob surrounding the School of Social Work area where pro-Chavez
students hid for safety. They threw Molotov cocktails, rocks, chairs and other
objects, smashed windows, and tried to burn down the building as university
authorities (responsible for security) stood aside doing nothing to curtail the
violence. Another report was that corporate-owned Univision operatives posing as
reporters had guns and accompanied the elements attacking the school in an
overt act of complicity by the media.

The pattern now unfolding on Caracas streets is similar
to what happened ahead of the April, 2002 aborted coup attempt, and Petras
calls it "the most serious threat (to the President)" since that time. The
corporate media then claimed pro-government supporters instigated street
violence and fired on "unarmed" opposition protesters. In fact, that
was later proved a lie as anti-Chavez "snipers" did the firing as
part of the plot that became the coup. A similar scheme may now be unfolding in
Caracas and on
other campuses around the country as well.

In his public comments, Foreign
Minister Maduro accused the major media and CNN of misrepresenting events and
poisoning the political atmosphere. It's happening in Venezuela and the US as the dominant media attacks
Hugo Chavez through a campaign of vilification and black propaganda.

US Corporate Media on the Attack

On November 12, The Venezuela
Information Office (VIO) reported that growing numbers of "US print
newspapers lodged attacks against Venezuela" using "outdated cold-war
generalizations" and without explaining any of the proposed democratic
changes. Among others, they came from the Houston Chronicle that claimed:

  • constitutional reforms
    will "eliminate the vestiges of democracy" in Venezuela when, in fact,
    they'll strengthen it, and the people will vote them up or down;
  • Chavez controls the
    electoral system when, in fact, Venezuela
    is a model free, fair and open democracy that shames its US
    equivalent. The Chronicle falsely said reforms will strip people of their
    right to due process. In fact, that's guaranteed under article 337 that
    won't be changed.

VIO also reported on a Los
Angeles Times editorial comparing Chavez to Bin Laden. It compounded that
whopper by claiming reforms will cause a global recession due to higher oil
prices that, of course, have nothing to do with changes in law. In another
piece, the LA Times inverted the truth by falsely claiming a public majority
opposes reforms. Then there's the Miami Herald predicting an end to freedom of expression
if changes pass and the Washington Post commenting on how high oil prices let
Chavez buy influence.

The Post then ran an inflammatory
November 15 editorial headlined "Mr. Chavez's Coup" if which it lied
by saying November 7 student protesters "were fired on by gunmen (whom)
university officials later 'identified'....as members of government-sponsored
'paramilitary groups' when, in fact, there are no such groups. The editorial
went on to say Chavez wants to "complete his transformation into an autocrat
(to be able to) seize property....dispose of Venezuela's foreign exchange
reserves....impose central government rule on local jurisdictions and declare
indefinite states of emergency" as well as suspend due process and freedom
of information. Again, misinformation, deliberate distortion and outright lies
from a leading quasi-official US
house organ.

Rupert Murdock's Wall Street
Journal weighed in as well with its lead anti-Chavez attack dog and all-round
character assassin extraordinaire, Mary Anastasia O'Grady. This writer has
tangled with her several times before and earlier commented how one day she'll
have a serious back problem because of her rigid position of genuflection to
the most extreme hard-right elements she supports. Her latest November 12
column was vintage O'Grady and headlined "More Trouble for Chavez (as)
Students and former allies unite against his latest power grab."

Like most of her other articles,
this one drips with vitriol and outrageous distortions like calling Chavez a
"dictator" when, in fact, he's a model democrat, but that's the
problem for writers like O'Grady. Absent the facts, they use agitprop instead.
O'Grady writes: "Mr. Chavez has been working to remove any counterbalances
to his power for almost nine years (and) has met strong resistance from
property owners, businesses, labor leaders, the Catholic Church and the
media." Now add opposition well-off students. Omitted is that the
opposition is a minority, it represents elitist interests, and Chavez has
overwhelming public support for his social democracy and proposed reform
changes including from most students O'Grady calls "pro-Chavez
goons."

Once again, she's on a rampage,
but that's her job. She claims the absurd and people believe her - like saying
the media will be censored, civil liberties can be suspended, and government
will be empowered to seize private property. 
He's a "demagogue," says O'Grady, waging "class
warfare," but opposition to reform "has led to increased speculation
(his) days are numbered." Wishing won't make it so, and O'Grady uses that
line all the time.

The New York Times is also on
the attack in its latest anti-Chavez crusade. It's been a leading Chavez critic
for years, and Simon Romero is its man in Caracas.
On November 3, he reported "Lawmakers in Venezuela Approve Expanded Power
for Chavez (in a) constitutional overhaul (to) enhance (Chavez's) authority,
(allow) him to be reelected indefinitely, and (give) him the power to handpick
rulers, to be called vice-presidents, (and) for various new regions to be
created in the country....The new amendments would facilitate expropriations of
private property (and allow state) security forces to round up citizens
(stripped of their) legal protections" if Chavez declares a state of
emergency - to make him look like Pakistan's Musharraf when he's mirror
opposite.

Romero also quoted Jose Manuel
Gonzales, president of Venezuela's Fedecamaras (chamber of commerce), saying
"Venezuelan democracy was buried today" and anti-Chavez Roman
Catholic church leaders (always allied with elitists) calling the changes
"morally unacceptable." Then on November 8, Romero followed with an
article titled "Gunmen Attack Opponents of Chavez's Bid to Extend
Power" and implied they were pro-Chavez supporters. Again false. Still
more came on November 10 headlined "Students Emerge as a Leading Force
Against Chavez" in an effort to imply most students oppose him when, in
fact, these elements are a minority.

His latest so far is on
November 17 titled "Chavez's Vision Shares Wealth and Centers Power"
that in fairness shows the President addressing a huge crowd of supporters in Maturin on November 16.
But Romero spoiled it by calling his vision "centralized, oil-fueled
socialism (with) Chavez (having) significantly enhanced powers." Then he
quotes Chavez biographer Alberto Barrera Tyszka who embarrassed himself and
Romero saying the President is seizing and redirecting "power through
legitimate means (and this) is not a dictatorship but something more
complex," the 'tyranny' of popularity." In other words, he's saying
democracy is "tyranny." The rest of the article is just as bad with
alternating subtle and hammer blow attacks against a popular President's aim to
deepen his socially democratic agenda and help his people.

Romero's measured tone
outclasses O'Grady's crudeness that's pretty standard fare on the Journal's
notorious opinion page. He's much more dangerous, however, with a byline in the
influential "newspaper of record" because of the important audience
it commands.

One other notable anti-Chavez
piece is in the November 26 issue of the magazine calling itself "the
capitalist tool" - Forbes. It shows in its one-sided commentary and
intolerance of opposing views. The article in question, headlined "Latin
Sinkholes," is by right wing economist and long-time flack for empire,
Steve Hanke. In it, he aims right at Chavez with outrageous comments like
calling him a "negative reformer (who) turned back the clock (and) hails Cuba, the largest open-air prison in the Americas, as
his model. His revolution's enemy is the marketplace." He then cites a
World Bank report saying "Venezuela
is tied with Zimbabwe
as this year's champion in smothering economic freedom," and compounds
that lie with another whopper.

Point of fact - Venezuela and Argentina have the highest growth
rates in the region and are near the top of world rankings in recent years.
Following the devastating oil management 2002-03 lockout, Venezuela's economy
took off and grew at double digit rates in 2004, 05 and 06 and will grow a
likely 8% this year. Hanke, however, says "Venezuela's economic performance
under Chavez has been anemic (growing) at an average rate of only 2% per year.
In the same article, he aims in similar fashion at Ecuador's
Raphael Correa calling him "ruthlessly efficient (for wanting to) pull off
a Bolivarian Revolution in Ecuador."
Hanke and most others in the dominant media are of one mind and never let facts
contradict their opinions. Outliers won't be tolerated even when it's proved
their way works best.

There's lots more criticism
like this throughout the dominant media along with commentators calling Chavez
"a dictator, another Hitler (and) a threat to democracy." Ignoring
the rules of imperial management has a price. This type media assault is part
of it as a prelude for what often follows - attempted regime change.

Further Venezuela
Information Office (VIO) Clarification of Facts on the Ground

On November 15, VIO issued an alert
update to dispel media inaccuracies "about Venezuela's constitutional reforms
and the student protests" accompanying them. They're listed below:

  • Caracas has a student population of
    around 200,000; at most 10,000 participated in the largest protest to
    date, and VIO estimates it was 6,000;
  • the major media ignore how
    the government cooperates with students and made various accommodations to
    them to be fair to the opposition;
  • Venezuelan police have
    protected student protesters, and article 68 of the Constitution requires
    they do it; it affirms the right of all Venezuelans to assemble
    peacefully;
  • in addition, student
    protest leaders linked to opposition parties were granted high-level
    meetings with government officials to present their concerns;
  • on November 1, their
    student representatives met with directors of the National Electoral
    Council (CNE) and presented a petition to delay the referendum;
  • on November 7, they again
    met with National Tribunal of Justice officials and presented the same
    petition;
  • on November 12, Minister
    of Interior and Justice Minister, Pedro Carreño, met 20 university
    presidents to assure them the government respects university autonomy and
    their students' right to assemble peacefully;
  • VIO reported what really
    happened at another November 1 protest after students met with CNE
    officials; some of them then tried to chain themselves to the building
    while others charged through police lines and injured six officers; in
    addition, one student had 20 liters of gasoline but never got to use it
    criminally; after the incident, the CNE president, Tibisay Lucena, issued
    a public statement expressing her disappointment about this kind of
    response to the government's good faith efforts; and
  • VIO said students and
    university presidents from across the nation filed a document with the
    Supreme Court on November 14 supporting constitutional reform. Chief
    justice Luisa Estela Morales praised their coming and said the court's
    doors are open to anyone wanting to give an opinion. The dominant media
    reported nothing on this. It also ignored the government's 9000 public
    events throughout the country in past weeks to explain and discuss
    proposed reforms and that a hotline was installed for comments on them, pro
    or con.
  • Finally, when protests of
    any kind happen in the US,
    police usually attack them with tear gas, beatings and mass arrests to
    crush their democratic spirit and prevent it from being expressed as our
    Constitution's First and most important amendment guarantees. In Venezuela,
    the spirit of democracy lives. It never existed in the US, and we want to export our
    way to everyone and by force if necessary.

Here's a November 15 breaking
news example of our way in action. At 8:00AM, 12 FBI and Secret Service agents
raided the Liberty Dollar Company's office in Evansville, IN
and for the next six hours removed two tons of legal Ron Paul Dollars along
with all the gold, silver and platinum at the location. They also took all
location files and computers and froze Liberty Dollar's bank accounts in an
outrageous police state action against a legitimate business. This move also
seems intended to impugn the integrity of a presidential candidate gaining
popularity because he defies the bellicose mainstream and wants more people
empowerment.

Chavez champions another way
and answered his critics at a November 14 Miraflores Presidential Palace press
conference where he denounced them for lying about his reform package. He
explained his aim is to strengthen Venezuela's independence and
transfer power to the people, not increase his own. "For many years in Venezuela,"
he said, "they weakened the powers of the state as part of the neoliberal
imperial plan....to weaken the economies of countries to insure domination. While
we remained weak, imperialism was strengthened," and he elaborated.

He then continued to stress his
most important reform "is the transfer of power to the people"
through an explosion of grassroots communal, worker, student and campesino
councils, formations of them into regional and national federations, and the
formation of "communes (to) constitute the basic nucleus of the socialist
state." Earlier Chavez stated that democratizing the economy "is the
only way to defeat poverty, to defeat misery and achieve the largest sum of
happiness for the people." He's not just saying this. He believes and acts
on it, and that's why elitists target him for removal even though he wants
equity for everyone, even his critics, and business continues to thrive under his
government. But not like in the "good old" days when it was all
one-way.

Venezuelan Business is Booming - So Why Complain?

Business in Venezuela is indeed booming, and in
2006 the Financial Times said bankers were "having a party" it was so
good. So what's the problem? It's not good enough for corporate interests
wanting it all for themselves and nothing for the people the way it used to be
pre-Chavez. Unfair? Sure, but in a corporate-dominated world, that's how it is
and no outliers are tolerated. Thus Hugo Chavez's dilemma.

Last June, Business Week (BW)
magazine captured the mood in an article called "A Love-Hate Relationship
with Chavez - Companies are chafing under the fiery socialist. But in some
respects, business has never been better." Writer Geri Smith asked:
"Just how hard is it to do business in Venezuela" and then
exaggerated by saying "hardly a day passes without another change in the
rules restricting companies." Hardly so, but what is true is new rules
require a more equitable relationship between government and business. They
provide more benefits to the people and greater attention to small Venezuelan
business and other commercial undertakings like an explosion of cooperatives
(100,000 or more) that under neoliberal rules have no chance against the
giants.

Nonetheless, the economy under
Chavez is booming, and business loves it even while it complains. It's because
oil revenues are high, Chavez spends heavily on social benefits, and the poor
have seen their incomes more than double since 2004 when all their benefits are
included. The result, as BW explains: "Sales of everything from
basics" to luxury items "have taken off....and local and foreign
companies alike are raking in more money than ever in Venezuela." In addition,
bilateral trade has never been higher, but American business complains it's
caught in the middle of a Washington - Caracas political
struggle.

The article continues to show
how all kinds of foreign businesses are benefiting from cola to cars to
computer chips. Yet, it restates the dilemma saying "As Chavez continues
his socialist crusade, there are signs of rising discontent," and it's
showing up now on the country's streets with the latest confrontation still to
be resolved, one way or another.

Events Are Ugly and Coming to a Head

Through the dominant media,
Washington and Venezuelan anti-Chavez elements are using constitutional reform
as a pretext for what they may have in mind - "to arouse the military to
intervene" and oust Chavez, as Petras notes in his article titled "Venezuela:
Between Ballots and Bullets." He explains the opposition "rich and
privileged (coalition) fear constitutional reforms because they will have to
grant a greater share of their (considerable) profits to the working class,
lose their monopoly over market transactions to publicly owned firms, and see
political power evolve toward local community councils and the executive
branch."

Petras is worried and says
"class polarization....has reached its most extreme expression" as
December 2 approaches: "the remains of the multi-class coalition embracing
a minority of the middle class and the great majority of (workers) is
disintegrating (and) political defections have increased (including 14)
deputies in the National Assembly." Add to them former Chavez Defense
Minister, Raul Baduel, who Petras believes may be "an aspirant to head up
a US-backed right-wing seizure of power."

The situation is ugly and
dangerous, and lots of US money and influence fuels it. Petras puts it this
way: "Venezuelan democracy, the Presidency of Hugo Chavez and the great
majority of the popular classes face a mortal threat." An alliance between
Washington, local oligarchs and elitist supporters of the "right" are
committed to ousting Chavez and may feel now is their best chance. Venezuela's
social democracy is on the line in the crucial December 2 vote, and the entire
region depends on it solidifying and surviving.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago
and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog
site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and
Information Hour on TheMicroEffect.com Mondays at noon US Central time.