Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced on October 31 the expropriation of steel company Siderurgica del Turbio (Sidetur). The company is a major producer of steel used in the building of homes, bridges and other infrastructure and public works. Chavez also announced government interventions in six large housing developments being built and eight others that are ready for residents to move in. Government oversight has been increased in a further 19 privately-run housing projects.
On November 2, the Venezuelan government expropriated the Caracas shopping centre Sambil La Candelaria, Venezuelanalysis.com said on November 4. The government decree said the shopping complex and large parking area would be “transformed into a meeting space for Venezuelans within the framework of a sustainable economy and permitting the development of the exchange of goods and services as well as the development of cultural expression”.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced the nationalisation on October 25 of US-based glassmaker Owens-Illinois affiliates, Venezuelanalysis.com said on October 27. The article said this places 60% of Venezuela’s glass bottle industry under government ownership.
It is not difficult to see that the events in Ecuador on September 30 amounted to an attempted right-wing coup d’etat. Mass mobilisations in the streets of the capital, Quito, and other cities — together with action by sections of the armed forces loyal to the government — stopped the coup before the day was out. But those few hours highlighted, again, the deep dangers facing those fighting for progressive change in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Venezuela’s representative in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Alfredo Missair, spoke on October 18 about Venezuela’s achievements in the field. He said that 14 million citizens (about half of the population) now have access to food at fair prices. On the TV show Desperto Venezuela, broadcast by VTV, Missair stressed the country is on track to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals of halving the proportion of the population that is undernourished.
Factory workers from the Venezuelan chemical and lubricant company Veneco held a demonstration on the evening of October 10 in Carabobo state to show their support for the company’s nationalisation. President Hugo Chavez announced the nationalisation that afternoon. Jose Martinez, the general secretary of the Venoco workers’ union, said: “We are endorsing this takeover that will bring us many benefits. “It will bring a change from the capitalist mode to the socialist mode and we are going to strengthen our company.”
On his TV show Alo Presidente on October 3, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez drove tractors and inspected corn crops as he pledged to accelerate land reform and increase the government’s share of food production and distribution. Chavez announced the nationalisation of the agricultural supplies company Agroislena and the Venezuelan properties of the British Vestey Group. The show took place in Guarico state, where Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won most of the state seats in the September 26 National Assembly elections.
In September, I spent two weeks on a solidarity brigade in Venezuela. The brigade participants were able to witness the September 26 National Assembly elections and get a first hand view of the revolutionary changes taking place across the country. The brigade was organised by the Australian Venezuelan Solidarity Network (AVSN), and included political activists and enthusiasts from Ausstralia, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Britan, Canada and the United States. I would thoroughly suggest this experience to anyone interested in the Venezuelan revolution.
On September 28, a British Guardian reporter who interviewed me by phone published an article on the September 26 Venezuelan National Assembly elections titled “Opposition Gains Loosen Chavez’s Grip on Power.” According to the article, I said the electoral results “suggested the government should try to modify its radical discourse and accommodate the opposition, as long as it accepted the government’s legitimacy”.
Venezuela’s September 26 National Assembly elections gave an interesting insight into the state of class struggle in a country sharply polarised by the revolutionary changes led by the government of President Hugo Chavez. The significance lies in the vote occurring after 11 years of the Chavez-led Bolivarian revolution, which has resulted in big improvements in the living standards of the poor majority.