Venezuela: Huge May Day march amid new struggles, wage rises


President Nicolas Maduro at International Workers' Day celebrations in Caracas, May 1.

Braving the heat, more than 100,000 Venezuelans flooded the streets of Caracas on May 1 to commemorate the International Workers' Day and gains for working people under the Bolivarian Revolution.

Indira Bolivar, an activist from the northern Sucre state, said: “We are here celebrating workers' day, the day of the committed, patriotic worker, the public servant who was exploited for so many years.

“But today we have awakened with the Revolution and we stand shoulder to shoulder behind the revolutionary process.”

Starting at the Colegio de Ingenieros metro station in the heart of Caracas, the march continued along the steaming asphalt of Avenue Urdaneta, which was transformed into a seemingly endless column of red.

The marchers hailed from a range of diverse parties and social movements, for whom May Day bears a variety of meanings.

Nelida Cordero, a national spokesperson for Resident Workers United for Venezuela that organises female domestic workers, said: “We workers are here fighting not only for the right to work, for the liberation of the people as workers, but we are also here as workers who fight for access to land, the right to the city, and the right to dignified housing.”

Norma Romero, spokesperson for the National Council for the Development of Afro Descendent Communities, noted the importance of workers' struggles for Afro-Venezuelans, saying: “This workers' day, we stand by the victorious struggles which culminated in the Organic Law of Work and Workers [LOTTT], in which we made gains never before seen in Venezuela.

“For Afro-Venezuelans, [LOTTT] has meant revolutionary inclusion: our jobs are insured in terms of wages, public service, medical care, all of these necessities are guaranteed by the Bolivarian Revolution.”

Signed into law by late president Hugo Chavez in 2012, the LOTTT is a revolutionary labour law that bans exploitative practices such as subcontracting and recognises an unprecedented array of workers' rights denied in many other countries. These include extensive maternity leave, a 40-hour work week and retirement pensions for all workers, including homemakers.

The three-year grace period for employers to comply with the LOTTT's moratorium on subcontracting expires in early May. This means this year's May Day came amid many heated labour struggles against outsourcing and mass firings.

Emilio Tobar, a worker at US transnational Colgate-Palmolive's Valencia-based plant, said: “We're marching today because we are workers of Palmolive in Carabobo state, and we are protesting that we were fired unjustly for refusing to be subcontracted.”

On April 28, workers from General Motors Venezuela marched on the National Assembly in Caracas to demand legal action after the transnational fired 466 workers in violation of the LOTTT.

The May Day march finished in Olary Square where tens of thousands gathered to hear President Nicolas Maduro, who returned from Havana after taking part in Cuba's May Day celebrations.

In honour of workers' day, the socialist leader announced an across-the-board rise of the minimum wage, by 20% as of May 1 and by 10% at the start of June.

“With oil at 40 dollars or with oil at zero, workers' rights will be guaranteed,” pledged the president, referring to economic problems caused by falling oil prices.

The march was also widely hailed as a celebration of the “anti-imperialist victory” in the global campaign initiated by the government against US President Barack Obama's March 9 executive decree declaring Venezuela a “national security threat”.

As part of the campaign, more than 13 million people, including 10 million Venezuelans, signed a petition demanding the decree's repeal.

For Juana Soledad Rodriguez, a member of the Guerrilla Inces collective, Venezuelans took to the street son May Day “so that President Obama understands that here there is a true people, and in no way are we going to allow US colonial power to touch our shores”.

During his speech, Maduro praised Venezuelans for their efforts in the “tremendous battle against imperialist aggression”. In the face of huge opposition, the US president backtracked in his description of Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat”.

Maduro said: “When a people stands united, conscious and mobilised, it is an indestructible people.”

Some marchers also criticised Obama for his condemnation of the uprising in Baltimore after the death of African-American man Freddy Gray at the hands of police.

Romero said: “Obama is killing one Afro-descendant after another. He doesn't share our struggle. He is not the icon of the Afro-descendant population worldwide, he is not our leader.

“He is a construct of the US oligarchy, a puppet with a face of the people.”

[Reprinted from Venezuelanalysis.com.]

Photo: Lucas Koerner/Venezuelanalysis:

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