Monday, July 17, 2006

A HISTORY OF VENEZUELA IV

1953 -- Opposition parties force elections, but the leadership arranges for a plebiscite that can only have the reelection of Pérez Jiménez as the outcome. A military uprising against him is put down. Jails become filled with political prisoners, schools are closed and the student movement is repressed. Nevertheless, the popular movement gains strength. Intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, all denounce the régime. A general strike is called and Pérez Jiménez, with no longer any support, flees to Santo Domingo.
1958. The Larrazábal government includes members of the oligarchy who are to play a decisive role in the future of the country. The first unemployment insurance is instituted. Political parties are again legalized, and their members in exile are allowed to return. Thousands of citizens begin to agitate politically, to the consternation of the oligarchy. In the Pacto de Punto Fijo, the Democratic Forces propose a government that includes all parties.
1964. Rómulo Betancourt wins the elections with 1,284,000 votes. According to the Pacto de Punto Fijo, the government is made up of several parties; AD, URD and COPEI. However, the communist Party is excluded, due to the anti-communism of Betancourt, who courts the favor of the imperialists, the bourgeoisie and the conservative military.
As a reaction to this government, a new party is formed, called the movement of the revolutionary left (MIR) which declares itself anti-imperialist, anti-feudal and for a national revolution and socialism.
Under the obligation of the US government, Betacourt implements sanctions against Cuba and attempts to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. The URD joins the PCV and the MIR as opposition forces and the student movement gains strength. There is also greater repression by the government. It suspends the Constitution, intervenes in the universities, shuts down opposition newspapers and closes down political headquarters. This forces the left parties underground and armed guerrillas begin to appear. General Castro León in exile declares his intent to bring down the Betancourt government.
Petroleum extraction remains in foreign hands, which takes 50% of the profits out of country. Venezuela joins OPEC, along with Irak, Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Under Betancourt the price for a barrel of oil reaches a new low of $1.95.
CEPAL of the United Nations recommends the following measures for the developed countries: agrarian reform, administrative reform, tax reform, diversification of exports, educational reform, import-export duty protection, credits, a greater role of the government in social and economic developments and greater integration of Latin America.
A bomb is set off as Betancourt's car goes down the street, killing the Minister of Defense, his wife, another military and a passerby on the street. This act is planned by Pérez Jiménez and Leonidas Trujillo from the Dominican Republic, and denounced before the Organization of American States. Pérez Jiménez is extradited and put in jail at San Juan de los Morros.
Revolutionary nationalist sectors of the military form the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN). the guerrillas are made up of students and professors who take to the mountains. The third infantry Marine Battalion rebels and occupies the city of Carúpano.
In an attempt to recover civil liberties. militaries of the Naval Base at Puerto Cabello take over several areas and supply arms to 100 guerrillas. The rebellion is put down by the National Guard and costs hundreds of dead and wounded.
1960-- The law of agrarian reform. Of 22,000,000 hectares, 80% is in the hands of less than 9,000 landowners. 350,000 families, 97% of landowners, occupy barely 2 1/2 million hectares, that is 12% of arable lands. Illiteracy, exploitation and poverty continue to be the lot of the peasants. 100,000 families are given a token per cent of the land but this does not keep up with an increase in population. Moreover, there are no ecological studies, traditions are ignored, technology is imported,, and the natural resources remain in peril.
1963 -- Seven political parties participate in the new elections, which declare Raúl Leoni president. The communist Party abandons armed struggle, and, newly legalized, returns to mass politics and a broad united front. There is a schism within the left, with the PCV working within the political system, while the MIR continues to fight in the guerrilla movement.
1969 -- Rafael Caldera is elected president, a member of the social Christian party of COPEI. Caldera supports ideological pluralism, renews diplomatic relations with Cuba, establishes relations with President Allende of Chile, and with the Soviet Union.
A new schism on the left the results in the formation of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) as a party of a new type that to this day acts within the political party system.
The petroleum industry is nationalized without indemnization. Venezuela has the technical and administrative capacity to run the oilfields. This measure is considered necessary for the development of the country. There are moves toward the integration of South América which result in the signing of the Andean Pact. Signatories are: Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Perú .
In spite of nationalization, corruption allows foreign companies to continue skimming off the top, with the help of Venezuelan nationals, who get their cut. By 1978 the foreign companies have recouped their losses. Venezuela remains technologically dependent, unable to diversify thanks to contracts with foreign companies.
1970- Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías enters the military Academy at the age of 17. The Carrillo wars are over and the country appears to enter into relative democracy and stability. Chávez studies military theory and is inspired by Mao-Tse-Tung. His brother joins him in Venezuelan Revolutionary party. Chávez believes that there must be a close relationship between the people and the Army. Other writers he reads are; Klaus Heller, Bolívar, Páez, Napoleon and Hannibal. He grows to see democracy as the government of the people, of human rights and civil rights. Bolívar identifies democracy as "the greatest happiness for the people." He sees his fellow soldiers as the people; peasant boys from the neighborhood. He begins to think of how to increase their self-esteem, their unity, their loyalty to the homeland. At this time at the military academy he becomes friends with a son of Omar Torrijos, who was murdered by the CIA. Chávez becomes a toriijista.
Algeria nationalizes its petroleum, followed by Lybia, Syria and Iraq. These countries immediately become demonized by the United States. The rise in oil prices results in hostility from the oil buying countries.
1971 Chávez is influenced by the coup against Allende. In the military academy he becomes friends with José Vicente Rangel, later his vice-president.
1974 -- Carlos Andrés Pérez becomes president. A rise in oil prices (from 1.92 dollars a barrel to 14.35 dollars a barrel) gives him enormous resources but chronic unemployment continues. The oil industry does not take into account the needs of other sectors of the society. Inflation (68%) makes the poor more and more miserable. Public spending sharply increases; everything is imported and bought at dollar prices, from luxury airplanes to the most advanced industrial plants. Machinery, materials, technicians, administrators, are all paid for without any limits. Andrés Pérez begins to spend more than he has in the treasury and the national debt rises to 100 billion bolívares. In spite of the original nationalization, foreign companies are indemnified and continue to receive local assistance. Attempts are made to develop alternative forms of energy.
1975 -- Hugo Chávez graduates from the military academy. He is ordered to torture peasants and refuses.
1978 -- Chávez has a meeting with Maeiro and Pablo Medina. Luís Herrera Campíns of the COPEI is elected president, inheriting a debt of 80 billion bolívares and a bureaucracy that has grown from 300,000 to 700,000.
1982 Chávez forms of the revolutionary bolivarian movement.
1983–Jaime Lusinchi is elected president.
1988 – Andrés Pérez of the AD is elected president once again. He follows the neoliberal program and the recommendations of the international monetary fund which include; raising prices on public services, such as water, public sanitation, and the gradual elimination of subsidies in education, transportation and health. This has the result of raising prices, where merchants hoard goods to sell them at a markup later.
1989. El Caracazo. The population takes to the streets protesting the economic policies of Andrés Pérez, and is brutally repressed. The revolutionary bolivarian movement with Chávez decides to take up arms. The draconian measures of the international monetary fund give rise to street protests, violent demonstrations and looting. After two days of disturbances the army is called in to put down the rebellion. Hundreds are left dead and wounded.
Corruption in the Pérez government reaches new heights. Billions of bolívares are exchanged below the official rate, at the black market prices, defrauding public monies. Government cars wind up in private ownership. Andrés Pérez is accused of misuse of 250 million bolívares. Many of his deputies were also involved in corruption. The president is put on trial.
1992 Chávez instigates a rebellion against the government with 6,000 men, but fails from lack of popular support, on one hand, and sabotage by ultra left groups on the other. Chávez surrenders and is jailed.
1993. Caldera, supported by COPEI, becomes president. Chávez is freed and he continues his organizing activities. He transforms the movement into a popular movement by going throughout the country talking to people in the village is in the towns.
1999 — Chávez Frías is elected president. He calls for a nationwide constitutional Congress. Chávez inherits the country in a state of economic recession. He enlists the army in a civilian and military alliance to take care of the most urgent social problems. This alliance participates in the construction of new housing and repairing the infrastructure, recovering schools, hospitals, etc.
Chávez promulgates the Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela, which is ratified in a nation-wide referendum. The Constitution deals with the geography, sovereignty and divisions of Venezuela, human and civil rights and duties, the rights of political, social, family, cultural, educational, economic, indigenous and environmental groups and activities. It also deals with the uses of public power and international relations, state and municipal rights, the legislative power, the national assembly (congress), the executive, the judicial, the rights of citizens, the electoral powers, the socio-economic system and the role of the state, fiscal policies, national security, and other guarantees and reforms.
2000 -- The Chávez Government enters a new phase of consolidation, reducing poverty and bringing about important social and economic reforms. 49 laws are introduced having to do with agricultural and other land development, hydrocarbons, fishing, micro finances and social security, which grant pensions to everyone in the country at the age of 65. Free medical care is instituted throughout the country, as is a free school lunch program. Attention is given to the indigenous communities. Scholarships are given. The government invests in education, health, housing organization, sports and culture. Spending on education rises from 3% to 7%, and health spending reaches 6% of the GNP.
A growing resistance on the part of corporations and communications consortiums manifests itself. The government calculates that $100 billion in hard-currency have fled the country, five times the national debt.
2002 -- This is most difficult phase of the Chávez government. Opposition corporations invoke general strikes and there is an attempt at a coup d'etat. The petroleum industry is paralyzed for several months, causing great losses, making it very difficult to go forward with the social programs. The agrarian reform starts to pick up support. 1,500,000 hectares are turned over to 130,000 families, with a benefit to 650,000 inhabitants. Cooperatives (from 800 to 50,000) in the countryside are established, with easy credits. There is a distribution of property in the cities, giving title to families in poor neighborhoods. The titles can be used as collateral for small loans, and allow the inhabitants to obtain water and electricity and improving the infrastructure of the streets etc. Special banks are established; a women's bank, a bank of social and economic development and a people's bank which supplies micro-credits.
In view of the fierce objections by the opposition, the government is obliged to institute parallel structures that are more efficient and that include people's participation. This gives birth to the Missions, geared toward the poorest sectors of the country.
Misión Robinson is geared toward overcoming illiteracy. 1,270,000 people learn to read in six months. Misión Ribas is geared toward helping high school dropouts finish their education. 629,000 people join the program. Most of the money for this mission is financed by the petroleum industry (PDVSA).
Misión Sucre allows people to go college. 470,000 high school graduates are able to continue their education. 140,000 scholarships are given, and the Bolivarian university is created.
Misión Zamora turns land over to the peasants.
Misión Mercal sells food and medicines at extremely low-cost, distributing them throughout 2,000 outlets in the country. 7 million people are benefitted. Free restaurants are administrated by this program.
Misión Miranda deals with ex-soldiers who are unemployed. They receive the minimum salary and are trained to enter the job market.
Misión Piar creates cooperatives in the mining areas to facilitate the construction of housing and recuperation of a degraded environment.
Misión Vuelvan Caras trains 1,200,000 unemployed in the poorest areas who are given scholarships to go to school and into the job market. They study between six months to two years and are trained by others who have gone to the program.
Barrio Adentro is a cooperative effort with Cuba, whereupon health committees and clinics with 10,000 doctors permanently in attendance are instituted where previously there had been no health care. They develop a program of health education, training local people to take over the clinics, make house calls etc.
Other missions are Misión Negra Hipólita, which takes care of street children the homeless and other indigents, and Misión Guaicaipuro, which is geared to reinstate the original rights of 540,000 indigenous people.

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