Caracas, October 28, 2005 – At the opening rally for the First Meeting of Latin American Worker Occupied Factories last night, President Hugo Chavez said that the state is expropriating two more Venezuelan factories on behalf of their workers. Chavez told hundreds of activists that Latin America is freeing itself from US dominance and that, "we are not just recovering these factories, we are recovering our true sovereignty."
Chavez made these comments while giving the opening speech of the conference in the Teresa Carreño Theatre in Caracas. Representatives from 21 trade unions and 235 worker-occupied factories from 13 Latin American countries are participating. Ministers, parliamentarians, and senior government functionaries from Venezuela and other Latin American countries also attended.
Chavez praised those taking part in the workers’ struggles across the continent, comparing them to those who fought for independence from Spain in the 19th century. Chavez said that the new struggle for independence was from the US and that, "We are in the presence of a new opportunity… to really set people free in these lands." Chavez suggested that there should be an international organization for worker occupied factories to help activists from across Latin America share and compare, "concrete strategies and tactics".
The two Venezuelan most recent factories being expropriated are Central Cumanacoa, a sugar processing plant in Sucre state, and Sideroca, a series of metal processing plants in Maracaibo. The question of their appropriation has been discussed in the National Assembly since September. Last night Chavez confirmed that they would be appropriated. "We made this decree, but the workers have taken these companies with their own hands," said Chavez.
Chavez also said that worker occupation had to look beyond the immediate circumstances of the factories taking part and consider a broader social strategy. Chavez called this wider strategy Social Production Businesses or EPS in Spanish. He said, "we haven’t expropriated Cumanacoa and Sideroca for their workers just to help them become rich people the day after tomorrow." "This has not been done just for them, it is to help make everyone wealthy," Chavez added.
Chavez said that workers should also create effective trade union movements. He said that there must not be a repeat of the type of trade unionists who, "turned their back," on their members and, "Leaders, like those in Venezuela, who enriched themselves from the bosses and negotiated away the lives of the workers." Chavez also said that Venezuela is approaching a, "post-capitalist society," but that people had to be patient. He said, "We cannot speed up. We cannot drive ourselves crazy. We must be conscious that this is a process with a far off deadline, this has always been the case."