The Venezuelan government returned more than 15,800 hectares of ancestral lands to the indigenous Yukpa people on October 12, as Venezuela celebrated “Indigenous Resistance Day” with public events and marches across the country. Originally designated by then-US president Franklin Roosevelt as “Columbus Day” in 1937, October 12 is the date that Christopher Columbus first “discovered” the Americas. The anniversary was re-named “Day of Indigenous Resistance” by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002 to commemorate indigenous struggle against European invasion and colonisation.
“The process of building socialism, as shown in Venezuela, is very complex. It is often a matter of two steps forward, one step back,” said John Cleary, coordinator of the May Day 2011 solidarity brigade to Venezuela, at a forum at the Brisbane Activist Centre on September 17. The Brisbane forum, sponsored by the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN), heard a report from Cleary about his recent trip to Venezuela, and to Bolivia on the brigade that followed.
Voters should expect to see “a new Chavez, a rejuvenated Chavez, touring the country as a candidate, touring the streets at a rhythm set by the circumstances”, said Venezuela’s socialist president Hugo Chavez after the date for Venezuela’s presidential elections was announced as October 7, 2012. The Venezuelan Electoral Commission’s (CNE) president Tibisay Lucena also announced that judicial, regional and local elections would take place on separate dates.
On August 23, military chief Henry Rangel Silva revealed that over 40,000 hectares of land had been recovered and 15,000 people freed from conditions of “slavery” as part of Plan Caura, the Venezuelan government’s anti-illegal mining project. Silva, chief of Venezuela’s Operational Strategic Command, is head of the anti-illegal mining initiative, formed in 2010 when the Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) were given the task of stemming Venezuela’s growing problem with illegal mining activities in the south eastern part of Bolivar state.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that his government would nationalise the exploration and exploitation of gold and related activities, AVN said on August 17. Chavez said: "I will soon propose an enabling law so as to begin taking control of the gold area and I expect you to support me, because anarchy rules in this zone, there are mafias, smuggling. "This is a great wealth, one of the world’s largest. There is plenty of gold, precious stones, diamonds, bauxite and iron in Guyana.
In a move that will provide important savings for low-income families, the Venezuelan government unveiled a plan on August 15 to distribute 12 million new textbooks to primary school students around the country in the coming scholastic year. Education minister Maryann Hanson said: “The objective of this program is to ensure that those with less economic resources can count on having textbooks in order to guarantee education as an inalienable human right.” The new textbooks represent an investment of more than US$45 million.
More than 2000 workers marched to the National Assembly in Caracas on July 26 in support of increased workers’ control. Handing over a document with more than 45,000 signatures, the workers demanded that the legislative body approve the Special Law for Socialist Worker Councils and begin an immediate discussion of a “new and revolutionary” Organic Work Law (LOT). Both demands were submitted under article 240 of the Venezuelan constitution, which allows the people the right to legislate.
Venezuelan foreign affairs minister Nicolas Maduro has criticised the US government for having an “absurd and extremist” policy with regards to Venezuela. Maduro made the comments after the publication of a report in late July that outlines the US government’s tactics for dealing with transnational criminal organisations. The document cites Venezuela as a country that promotes a “permissive environment for narco-trafficking and terrorist organisations”.
In early July, Venezuela’s Social Investigation Group XXI (GIS) released new comparative data on electoral fairness in the country compiled by the Canada-based Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) which found Venezuela’s elections to be “exceptionally fair, and thereby highly democratic”.
No sooner had information come out that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was undergoing surgery in Cuba than the international media was full of speculation and rumours regarding his imminent demise. Projecting their hopes that an illness could succeed in removing Chavez where military coups and assassination attempts had failed, the right-wing Venezuelan opposition went into overdrive. They demanded the president step down and hand over power to the vice president.