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Narco News on Venezuela:
'The Strike that Wasn't'

Opposition's Attempted General Strike Fails;
Strong Political, Public Support Remains with Chavez

by Joe Taglieri, FTW Staff

[© Copyright 2002, From The Wilderness Publications, All rights reserved. THIS IS A SUBSCRIBER-ONLY STORY AND MAY NOT BE POSTED ON A WEB SITE WITHOUT EXPRESS WRITTEN PERMISSION. Contact This story may be redistributed, circulated or copied for non-profit purposes only.]

[Ed. Note: As the American people begin to take baby steps to combat repressive government and tyranny at home they continually ask, "What can we do?" Take a lesson from the people of Venezuela who understand the maxim, "in a ham and egg breakfast the chicken is involved but the pig is committed." The resiliency of Hugo Chavez is based upon two things: Chavez's well-honed political sense that knows how to turn, judo-like, the actions and energy of the U.S. corporate empire into his own weapons; and the willingness of the Venezuelan people to take risks in defiantly defending themselves against neo-colonial pressures.

At the heart of the U.S. government's desire to overthrow Chavez is the Empire's recognition that a successful, non-aligned leader who can actually improve conditions for his people is the ultimate threat to Wall Street and globalized financial interests. And the symbolic heart of Chavez's program is the new "Hydrogen Law" that will socialize part of the oil industry and mandate that more of the profits from Venezuelan oil production remain in the country for the benefit of the people who live there, rather than being exported to New York.

By surrounding local TV stations and newspapers that have been lying to them, by placing themselves in harm's way to express their support for Chavez, by engaging in non-violent civil disobedience, by focusing their protests wisely against the institutions and interests that cause them harm, the Venezuelan people are writing a textbook for actions the American people may soon have to take for themselves. - MCR]

Dec. 31, 2002, 17:00 PST (FTW) -- The aristocrats and corporate mangers of Venezuela failed once again this month to politically destabilize the nation. The organizers of April's aborted military coup against President Hugo Chavez this time attempted to give the impression of a general strike, which for the most part managed only to temporarily disrupt the nation's oil exports.

The result of this latest revolutionary escapade by Venezuela's wealthy elites, observers say, is in fact the opposite of what strike organizers intended. President Hugo Chavez, widely supported by Venezuela's poor majority, now has a firmer grip on the state-owned oil industry.

"There is no 'strike,'" said Al Giordano, editor of Narco News (, a website that covers Latin American politics. "What there has been is a lockout of employees by management, and some tankers hijacked by captains. Also some private subcontractors, such as tug boat companies, have participated in the lockout."


Violence was also relatively minimal, except on Dec. 6. Three people were killed and 28 were wounded in Caracas when, as in a similar incident in April, civilians were arbitrarily fired on by an unseen gunman or gunmen.

Venezuelan TV news reports purported to show a pro-Chavez, Portuguese suspect held in connection to the shootings. But a Narco News report has found that the timeframe reported by the anti-Chavez media of this suspect's whereabouts in Caracas Dec. 6 do not hold mathematical water. He simply could not have made it in time to be the man responsible for the shootings.[]

In-depth coverage of Venezuela can be found at Giordano's site,, and VHeadline,


Giordano and the journalists of Narco News have dug quite deep into what's been happening in Venezuela, and all over Central and South America, frequently reporting from Caracas and other affected areas.

Narco News has kept a close eye on the mainstream U.S. and British media, as well as their Venezuelan counterparts in the corporate, anti-government TV stations and wealthy suburban dailies.

Recent reports on Narco News reveal the pro-work stoppage spin in action at the highest bastions of mainstream journalism. Associate Publisher Dan Feder's Dec. 12 and Dec. 18 stories expose  "AP's One-Sided Venezuela Coverage: On 'Desk Reporters' Who Phone-in the Spin" and "NY Times and LA Times run identical stories on Venezuelan 'strike.'"

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Giordano published this scathing piece Dec. 23: "A Brit Reporter's Undisclosed Venezuela Conflicts, Phil Gunson and Eric Ekvall Are Upset with Narco News." Find out why by clicking here:

'strike' or lockout?

Despite anti-Chavez coverage from stations like RCTV, Globovision, TVS, Meridiano TV, and Venevision, thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets -- not to protest the Chavez government, but to voice their disgust for the commercial media. Venezuelan civilians nonviolently surrounded those Caracas-based stations and media outlets in other parts of the country.

According to Reuters on Dec. 2, the day when Chavez opposition groups began scheduled demonstrations, the streets of Caracas "were free of the usual heavy traffic in the opposition's eastern stronghold, where many businesses closed their doors. But the center and west of city were bustling with street sellers and open restaurants though many businesses kept their metal shutters down.

"The nation's major industries -- the vital oil sector and state steel, aluminum and mining operations -- were mostly unaffected, the government said. Airports stayed open with some delays and public transport operated at near-normal levels.

"The government countered Monday's shutdown by organizing a huge street market in central Caracas, selling cheap food and services. Thousands of residents flocked around the stalls."

Even members of the upper classes, who comprise the majority of anti-Chavez Venezuelans, don't seem convinced that the opposition will attain it's goal of removing the president from power.

"On the [anti-Chavez] national daily El Nacional website, they have a readers' poll today [Dec. 17] asking if readers think the government will succeed in fully taking back the Venezuelan national oil company PdVSA from the rogues," said Giordano via e-mail. "Even among this newspaper's upper class readership, 67 percent of the respondents believe that, yes, the government will succeed. The 'opposition' overplayed its hand and has just lost its strongest card: oil. It's power to ever do this again is now over and done."

He pointed out that "when the coup plotters in the military all revealed themselves in April, 400 have since been removed from duty. Now "the coup plotters in the oil industry are fired and hung out to dry."

The Chavez government is now reorganizing the state-owned oil company, PdVSA. "This means that by early next year, PdVSA will no longer be vulnerable to this kind of stoppage," Giordano said. "The military is a good comparison because look at the military this month: no threat of military coup, having been cleaned up."


The names and faces of the Venezuelans behind April's coup attempt remained the same for this latest episode of political tumult in the nation's recent history. Despite attempts by the opposition -- with Washington's tacit blessing -- to destabilize the nation, Chavez has decisively won six elections since 1998.

Chavez's anti-poverty platform, inspired by Latin American revolutionary Simon Bolivar, has galvanized loyal support from the 80 percent of Venezuelans who live below the poverty line.

Since Chavez has been in power, Washington has consistently positioned itself against the former paratrooper. "Following the [one-day] ouster of Chavez last April, U.S. officials welcomed the coup," the World Socialist Web Site reported Dec. 11. Press reports "revealed at the time that senior Bush administration aides, including Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich and White House advisor Elliott Abrams -- both key players in the Reagan administration's covert network for supporting the contra terrorist war on Nicaragua in the 1980s -- had met repeatedly in Washington with the coup's organizers."

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During December's attempted general strike organizers such as CTV union chief Carlos Ortega and national chamber of commerce president Pedro Carmona, who Narco News refers to as Venezuela's "dictator-for-a-dayÉ also known as 'The Brief One,'" were once again at the forefront of biased media coverage. Carmona held the office of president for three days in April while Chavez was detained by rebellious military officers.

Venezuelan oil executives and union officials friendly to management's interests had the most impact of any sector of the economy, still the effects from this month's economic slow-down have been minimal, according to Giordano.

A notable dynamic in the 'oligarchy vs. populist' dynamic that seems to be in play right now in Venezuela is the glaring economic contrast between pro- and anti-Chavez Venezuelans.

"Keep in mind that the per capita income in Venezuela is $4,760 dollars per year," said Giordano. "So these guys are making an average of what 100 citizens make combined! If there ever was a case for Robin Hood, it's Venezuela. And the 'phony strikers' are the modern-day Sheriffs of Nottingham."

Venezuela exports about a third of its oil to the U.S., and there is some debate about how soon a restructured PdVSA can get back to full production. Government sources say oil output will be back to normal in a few weeks, though members of the opposition say it will take much longer to optimize production.

The White House's initial public response to the opposition's attempted general strike and anti-Chavez rallies came on Dec. 13, when the administration called for early -- and thus, unconstitutional -- presidential elections.

But on Dec. 16, however, the official line was softened, seeking only a referendum on Chavez's presidential tenure. This followed a 32-0 vote of confidence for Chavez from the Organization of American States (OAS). For latin America, Giordano referred to this day as, "December 16, 2002: the day the empire died."