On October 7th presidential elections will be held in Venezuela. In this election, there will be two main candidates: President Hugo Chavez, of the PSUV, and Henrique Capriles, candidate of the MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable), representing the traditional right-wing forces.
What is less known is another option: the presidential candidacy of labor leader Orlando Chirino running on the PSL ticket (Socialism and Freedom Party). This is a candidacy that upholds the banner of the political independence of the working class, without pacts or agreements with national or international bosses and on behalf of the fight for true socialism.
For many workers, the youth, anti-imperialist fighters and left-wingers around the world—who have heard the speeches of Chavez attacking US imperialism in the name of so-called Socialism of the 21st Century—there are doubts about Chirino’s candidacy. These doubts are encouraged from sectors within Chavismo accusing Comrade Chirino of being “divisive” and “of serving” the pro-US right wing candidate Henrique Capriles by saying there would be danger of “a comeback of the right to power”. This argument is repeatedly used by the Chavez government against those who disagree and fight for their just demands, thereby reaffirming its authoritarian character.
We understand the doubts that honest comrades and fighters have, but we do not share them. We wish to address these doubts to clarify to anti-imperialist fighters and left wing activists what is the reality in Venezuela. The Chavez government is not on the path to socialism; in fact, if there is any chance that the old bosses and pro-US politicians that launched the April 2002 coup will be voted back into power is it Chavez’s fault. First, because President Chavez pardoned the coup makers when in reality, the people wanted to punish them. And above all, in 13 years of government Chavez did not fulfill any of its promises to solve the underlying problems of workers and the people of Venezuela.
The Chavez government is not heading toward socialism
The sad truth is that Chávez rants against US imperialism but has made agreements with the multinational oil companies through joint ventures. This has happened by granting 40% of the shares in the oil business. The government is associated with Chevron, Mitsubishi, Total, Repsol, Petrobras, Norwegian companies, Russian and Chinese. The government is also a member of the Swiss multinational Glencore and Chinese multinationals in the business of aluminum and steel.
Chavez rails against imperialism but in April 2011 handed over to the pro-US government of Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia the exiled Colombian Joaquin Perez Becerra without respecting any international legal norms. This was an outrageous violation of human rights that led to the widespread repudiation of the Chavez government by broad sectors of the international left, including many supporters of Chavez. At the same time, Chavez stated Santos was his “new best friend.”
The Chavez government proclaims itself to be a leftist, popular and democratic government but it refuses to support the Arab revolutions against dictatorships. Chavez has even defended genocidal dictators like Qaddafi in Libya and Syria’s Bashar Al Assad and called them “anti-imperialist governments.”
Again, Chavez government proclaims itself to be a pro-worker government but it does not respect the collective agreements of unionized workers often ignoring the right to strike. In fact, it does not respect trade union autonomy, criminalizes social protest and accuses state workers who go on strike of being “counterrevolutionaries”. The most emblematic example of that is the union leader Ruben Gonzalez, a member of the ruling party, which spent than one year in jail for leading a strike.
The Venezuelan government has been implementing a harsh austerity measures since 2008 which includes the increase of one-third of value added tax, freezing collective agreements by state employees and steel and aluminum workers. Further, most food prices has gone up and the currency has been devalued in100%. According to the National Institute of Statistics, in 1998 the whole of the bourgeoisie appropriated 36.2% of the wealth produced, against 39.7% in the hands of all employees.
In 2008 this proportion changed in favor of employers, who moved to appropriate 48.8% of the wealth produced, while employees went to hold only 32.8% of the wealth produced.
Chavez speaks out against “capitalism” and claims that he is “building socialism”, but the sector of the economy in private hands has increase in relation to the public sector. According to the Central Bank of Venezuela, in 1998 the private sector contributed 65% of GDP, while the public sector produced 34.8%. In 2009, the private sector accounted for 70.9% of GDP, and the public sector fell to 29.1%. Banking, trade and telecommunications are the sectors most favored by the bourgeois Chavez government. Telecommunications companies are heavily penetrated by transnational capital, seeing more than three years of continued growth. For their part, bank profits in 2011 stood at 14,490 million bolivars (about 3,369 million dollars), a growth of 92.3% compared to the gains made the previous year. There is no “building socialism” with Chevron, Ford, Mitsubishi and private bankers, and at the same time, attacking the wages of the working class.
This is the reason why trade union and social protests are growing over homelessness, lack of electricity and land ownership. Government programs [misiones] such as health care (Barrio Adentro) which was a victory for the people has never moved from being a primary care service and, above all, has deteriorated for lack of funds and due to corruption. At the same time, there was never a larger budget for hospitals and the health system. That is why protests by both nurses and health workers are taking place.
Again, as in Nicaragua in the 80’s with the Sandinistas in power, the “national and popular” political projects based on joint ventures and pacts and agreements with the bourgeoisie, which were supported by Fidel Castro and the leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba and now support Chavez, fail. These are political projects that claim to be socialist but end up keeping their pacts with multinationals, businessmen, military and trade union bureaucracies.
Capriles is no way out for the workers
Those policies against workers and popular sectors, together with repeated acts of corruption, have led to workers and sectors of the masses to be distanced and let down by Chavez´s government. That´s why today some workers and masses tired with Chavism are taking the wrong road of voting for Capriles.
We maintain that Capriles of MUD and the old pro-US Venezuelan bourgeoisie are no way out for workers, and that all that they seek is to return to power to be able to benefit as direct agents of imperialism. Capriles and the old guard politicians want to benefit from the popular discontent and the lowering of expectations of millions of Venezuelans in Chavez as a way to channel a “punishment vote” in their favor. It already happened in the legislative elections in 2010, the masses mistakenly gave millions of votes to the Right wing MUD which obtained a majority when confronted with Chavez´s PSUV.
We totally reject voting for Capriles and the MUD because it means voting for a variant of pro- US capitalist policy that will continue to exploit working people, as they already do in the territories they have governed from many years (Miranda, Zulia, Carabaobo, etc.). Their program is to be better at giving away Venezuelan oil to international companies and to be the defenders of big national and international businessmen. Everybody knew the past governments of Carlos Andres Perez, Lusinchi and Caldera. Capriles doesn´t offer anything new for the workers and the people.
The working class, they youth, and masses of Venezuela need a true left and socialist political alternative to try to prevent the dead end of the revolutionary process that began with the popular insurrection known as the Caracazo in 1989, and the will for profound change. Millions believed that Chavez would fulfill expectations for a true anti-imperialist and socialist change. The risk of a new disillusionment exists. That is why the time has come for the workers and the people of Venezuela to continue their struggle for those changes and to strengthen a new socialist political alternative for the workers. That is the banner sustained by the worker candidacy of Orlando Chirino.
We support voting for Orlando Chirino
Orlando Chirino is a long time Venezuelan labor leader who has been a protagonist in the process of struggles that have gone on in Venezuela since 1989. He was in the front lines in the struggle against imperialist coup and oil sabotage of 2002-2003 and his performance was recognized by the workers and by the government itself.
Chirino, together with the grouping CCURA (Corriente Clasista, Unitaria, Revolucionaria, Autónoma or Autonomous, Revolutionary, United Class Current)assumed in 2006 the defense of union autonomy in the Union Nacional de Trabajadores (National Workers Union), which was later divided by the government. Later he refused to support a Constitutional reform because of its undemocratic and capitalist content and was illegally laid off from PDVSA as a political reprisal. Chirino spoke out against the economic austerity measures designed and applied by the national government to confront the effects of the world economic crisis. He took the same slogan of the workers and youth of Greece, the Spanish miners and “indignados”, the indigenous peoples and the millions of workers across the world: “Let the capitalist pay the crisis, not the workers”. Chirino is daily accompanying the struggles of the workers and popular sectors for their claims and against the anti-worker policies of Chavez´s government.
Chirino, together with the PSL, courageously raised support for the Arab people´s revolution and denounced the massacres perpetrated by the Syrian dictator Al Assad, while the Venezuelan government supports him. The Chirino platform, which is supported by the PSL (Socialism and Freedom Party), is the only left alternative in the Venezuelan presidential elections that is bound to the social struggles, committed to the rights of workers and popular sectors, and represents the continuity of the struggles carried forward by the people of Venezuela for the building of a true socialist society. It´s the only candidacy in the actual electoral scenario that stands for taking back oil and gas sovereignty and eliminating contracts with multinational companies so that oil is 100% for Venezuelan to use and its benefits will be used for salaries, work, health, education and households. It´s the only platform that defends total political independence from the governments of the big economic powers, minimum wage at a basic living level, stopping the payments of the foreign debt, ousting Venezuelas´ free trade agreements that mean double payments, nationalizing banks and multinational companies under the control of the workers, an agrarian reform to guarantee land to the peasants, recognition of indigenous peoples´ territories, and reorienting labor union organizations as a means for the struggle in the working class, with autonomy from government control. No bosses or unaccountable trade union bureaucrats.
It is the only candidacy that manifests its solidarity with the peoples who struggle, that denounces Chavez´s policy of giving away activists to the Colombian government, and solidarity with the people of Syria against the dictatorship, and that supports the process of the Arab revolution. It is the only candidacy that maintains that the time has come for the workers to govern.
Voting for Orlando Chirino, and supporting the campaign together with the PSL, will contribute to strengthen the building of a socialist revolutionary alternative, with no businessmen or trade union bureaucrats, that will redouble efforts to support the struggles and claims of workers, students and masses against capitalist austerity measures and that will bring together all the worker, youth, peasants, popular sectors and left activists that are tired of false promises and want to have a true class struggle, democratic and socialist political organization.
For all those reasons we support Orlando Chirino for President. We call on the Venezuelan people to vote for him next October 7th. At the same time we call on leaders of unions, students, masses, intellectuals, anti-imperialists and left organizations around the world to also support this independent, worker and socialist candidacy.
Lucha Internacionalista (Internationalist Struggle) from Spain and İşçi Cephesi (Workers’ Front) from Turkey both members of the International Liaison Committee (ILC)
Partido Obrero Socialista (Socialist Workers’ Party-POS) from México.
International Worker’s Unity-Fourth International (UIT-CI)
Sign the petition in support of the working class presidential candidacy of Orlando Chirino in Venezuela
We, the undersigned, wish to express our support for the presidential candidacy of labor leader Orlando Chirino in the October 7th elections in Venezuela. We do so because his is a working class and left-wing candidacy, independent from the government and the right represented by Henrique Capriles (MUD); Chirino advocates for the political independence of workers, trade union autonomy and the fight for genuine socialism.
Bolivia: Jaime Solares, secretario de Cultura de Comité Ejecutivo Central Obrera Boliviana (COB), Unites States: Stephen Durham presidential candidate and Christina López vice-presidential candidate, Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) Rusia: Boris Ikhlov, General Secretary Executive Committe (EC) of the political Workers Union (Rabochi) and member of the union committee of the “ZZZ” trade union from Perm; Alexander Sidirov, member of the Executive Committe ( EC) from Rabochi and president of the union committee of “ZZZ” from Perm. Turkey: İşçi Cephesi (Workers’ Front). Spain: Lucha Internacionalista (Internationalist Struggle). France: Stéphane Julien, Initiative Communiste-Ouvrière, México: Cynthia Orozco Flamand, member of the Executive Committe of Partido Obrero Socialista-Movimiento al Socialismo (Socialist Workers’ Party-POS) . Germany:KRD, Argentina: Liliana Olivero, Deputy from Córdoba, IzquierdaSocialista and Frente de Izquierda y los Trabajadores (Workers’ Left Front-FIT); Angélica Lagunas, Elected deputy from Neuquén, Izquierda Socialista and the FIT, leader of teacher’s union; José Castillo y Juan Carlos Giordano, national leaders of Izquierda Socialista; Rubén “Pollo” Sobrero y Edgardo Reynoso, railroad workers leaders from Cuerpo de Delegados de Ramal TBA-Sarmiento; Brasil:Babá, former federal deputy, national leader of PSOL; Silvia Santos, Douglas Diniz Fernandes, Michel Oliveira, Nancy de Oliveira Galvao, national leaders of PSOL, Wellington Cabral, leader of the do Sindicato Químicos de Sao Jose dos Campos (Chemical Workers’ Union), Sao Paulo; Pedro Rosa, leader of Sintuff and Fasubra (Federación trabajadores de las Universidades, University Workers Federation); Neide Solimaes, Cedacio Vasconcellos, leaders of the Sindicato Servidores Publicos Federales (Federal Employees Union) in Estado do Pará. Bolivia: Eliseo Mamani, leaders of the rural teachers’ organization Pachakuti, former Executive Secretary of the Federación maestros rurales de La Paz (Rural teachers’ federation) during 2011-2012,Juan Fernando Rojas, Municipal Council Member of Copacabana, Carlos Rojas, leader of La Protesta and Carlos Barrera, leader of La Protesta, former leaders of FEJUVE El Alto, Julio Quilali, leader of La Protesta,El Alto, Jorge Flores, Presidente Junta Vecinal, El Alto, Lidia Mamani,student leader UPEA El Alto, Edwin Mamani, leader of La Protesta, former leader of FUL Cochabamba, Gualberto Arenas, peasant leader, Miguel Lamas, journalist, Cochabamba, Emma Lazcano, psychology. Chile: Ranier Rios, leader of MST. Panamá: Priscilla Vásquez, national leader of Trabajadores del Seguro Social de Panamá (Social Security Workers Union)., Virgilio Arauz, leader of Propuesta Socialista. Perú: Enrique Fernández Chacón, former deputy, leader of Unidos en la Lucha (United in Struggle).