In recent weeks, local and international media have attacked the left-wing Venezuelan government over alleged “economic woes”. Pointing to Venezuela’s inflation rate — the highest in Latin America — and an economy that shrank 3.3% last year, the private opposition media is raising fears of a serious economic crisis. These same media outlets, which have been predicting the fall of President Hugo Chavez for years, argue recent government actions will worsen the situation. Venezuelan business federation Fedecamaras warned on May 5 that Venezuela faces an “economic and social crisis”.
In further moves to strengthen the state’s role in the economy, Venezuelan President Chavez announced on May 11 the creation of a publicly owned import-export company as part of a broader plan to combat “the hegemony of the bourgeoisie”, speculation and inflation. Despite price controls and a fixed exchange rate, inflation reached 25.1% in 2009 — the highest in Latin America. Central bank figures reported inflation climbed 5.2% in April (double that of March), bringing accumulated inflation for 2010 up to 11.3%.
We have just finished a very successful May Day brigade to Venezuela, organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN). The majority of the 14 participants were from Australia, with two Canadians and one from the US also taking part. May Day was, of course, a highlight of the 10-day tour: more than 1 million marchers, all in red t-shirts. Brigadistas were greeted with cheers of welcome — we were easily identified by our Australian solidarity activists shirts and banner.
Venezuela’s principal trade union federation, the National Union of Workers (Unete), held the second session of its extraordinary congress on April 24, in a push to re-launch the federation. Hundreds of trade union delegates from around the country gathered in Union House in El Paraiso to discuss and vote on new set of statutes for the federation and a plan to organise nationwide elections scheduled for July.