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New attacks on Venezuela 's democratic revolution

The corporate-owned media internationally is at it again. A new round of lies and distortions are being spread about the peaceful and democratic revolution in Venezuela being led by the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The catalyst for this campaign is the democratic process in Venezuela to reform the existing constitution. The media, ignoring the content of the proposed reforms that would significantly extend democracy and social justice, have, by taking a tiny minority of proposed changes out of context, presented this as moves by Chavez to establish himself as a ``dictator-for- life''.

This media campaign coincides with a fresh offensive inside Venezuela by the privileged elite that, failing to defeat pro-Chavez forces at the ballot box (which have won 11 straight election victories nationally since 1998, most recently with Chavez being re-elected president last year with the largest number of votes in Venezuelan history) have resorted to violent campaigns to overthrow the government.

Strong evidence suggests a fresh campaign is underway. According to the October 24 edition of Venezuelan newspaper Dario Vea, opposition leaders had held a meeting with US officials (the US government backed an opposition-led coup in 2002 and continues to provide millions of dollars of funding to opposition groups), where the officials urged the opposition to ``organise acts of economic sabotage against infrastructure, destroy the food transport and delivery chain … and organise a military coup with all means possible, including bloodshed by means of paramilitary force''.

Reports emerged on November 7 of shootings related to protests on at least one university campus leaving at least two students injured. On November 5 there was a carefully timed press conference by former defence minister and ally of Chavez, retired General Raul Baduel, to which only pro-opposition media were invited, where he not just argued against the constitutional reforms, repeating opposition claims that they amount to a “constitutional coup”, but urged those in the military to study the proposals and act to stop them. This is widely interpreted as an incitement for a coup, although the government insists the military remains loyal and that the people are prepared to resist attempts to topple Chavez.

The corporate media have provided out-of-context footage and accounts of demonstrations by right-wing students, who have organised violent riots that have seen parts of Caracas torched, and have deliberately attempted to provoke security forces to create the impression of a “crackdown” on opposition. Chavez has accused the opposition of attempting to cause a death that could be blamed on the government. The corporate media has largely ignored the massive demonstration, in the hundreds of thousands and completely dwarfing the right-wing student protests, in support of the reforms on November 5.

Democratic and progressive changes

The proposed changes to constitution are being carried out democratically and in accordance with the existing constitution, adopted in a national referendum in 1999 after Chavez was first elected. The National Assembly (AN) has debated the proposals, and added 36 proposals to Chavez's initial list of 33, and adopted the proposals with the necessary two-thirds majority. Now, the proposals will go the Venezuelan people to reject or accept in a referendum to be held on December 2. The proposals have been thoroughly debated through out all Venezuelan society, with AN deputies participating in popular assemblies that have debated and made proposals relating to the reforms. From August 16 to October 7, some 9,020 public meetings were held and over 10 million copies of the proposals have been distributed.

The media have ignored the profoundly democratic and progressive nature of the proposed changes. These include the institutionalisatio n of new institutions of popular power based on direct democracy, such as the communal councils, as well as a series of new measures to allow people to directly manage resources and decision making in their communities. While respecting the right to private property, it recognises new forms of “social” property run by and for the people themselves, and gives further recognition to the growing number of cooperatives.

If adopted, the reforms would make Venezuela the first country in South America to recognise the rights of gays and lesbians in its constitution. The voting age would be reduced to 16. The measures to protect the rights and culture of Afro-Venezuelans and indigenous people will be strengthened. Governments would be obliged to ensure free university education to the entire population. Workers' rights will be significantly extended, including a reduction in the working week from 44 to 36 hours, and the provision of social security and pensions to workers in the so-called informal economy.

The media have focused overwhelmingly on two proposed changes: the proposal to allow a president to stand for elections for more than two terms, and a new proposal from the AN giving the government the ability to call a ``state of emergency''. The media ignore the fact that many nations around the world allow a president to stand for re-election either for a number of terms or indefinitely, and the Venezuelan constitution grants people the ability to recall any elected official, including the president, before their term finishes. Chavez faced a such a recall referendum, after 20% of the population signed a petition calling for it, in 2004, which he won with nearly 60% of the vote. The measure to call a state of emergency, which was enshrined in Venezuela's 1961 constitution, is not fundamentally any different to similar measures in many countries, including both the US and Australia.

Powerful interests threatened

Behind this campaign is the hand of the US and corporate interests, who stand to lose the wealth and control. The constitutional reforms will provide a legal framework for significant advances towards empowering the majority, which explains the increasing desperation for US and Venezuelan elites.

Chavez told supporters of the reform at a mass meeting on November 6 that the current offensive against the elected government “is part of an international conflict, because we have declared ourselves free ... The United States wants a Venezuela that is on its knees, weakened, dependent, like a sick person in intensive care”. Chavez insisted, they are never going to achieve this”.

In Australia , we can expect an increase in media, and possibly government, hostility, as Venezuela 's pro-people policies begin to extend to the Pacific region. In October, Venezuelan foreign vice minister Vladimir Villegas attended the Pacific Forum and offered to provide the impoverished nations similar energy deals to assist them as Venezuela has to poor nations in Latin America and the Caribbean. This stands in stark contrast to Australia 's policy of exploiting the resources of Pacific nations, and keeping them dependent.

Hostility to Venezuela's humanitarian approach has already begun, with the October 20 Australian reporting “The Government of international pariah Hugo Chavez has signalled a challenge to Australia's influence in the Pacific with an aggressive diplomatic push based on cheap fuel for island states.” This is how the Murdoch press present a foreign policy based on solidarity and social justice!

Solidarity needed now

It is important that progressive, social justice-minded people in Australia understand that it is this perceived threat to Australian corporate interests that drives the media campaign against the Venezuelan revolution. Supporters of the Venezuela 's democratic revolution, and all supporters of democracy and social justice, need to raise their voices now against the latest threat to the Venezuelan revolution.

The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network is organised solidarity actions in the lead-up to, and corresponding with, the December 2 referendum on the constitutional reforms. Please visit <http://venezuelasolidarity.org> for the details. Another crucial aspect of constructing solidarity is the AVSN-initiated campaign for Hugo Chavez to visit Australia , which Chavez has indicated he is interested in accepting providing it gathers enough support. To add your name to the petition, and find out how you can assist in building the campaign, visit the website.

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Paul | November 09, 2007

MEDIA MANIPULATION OF VENEZUELA EVENTS

This week has been pretty active in Venezuela, to say the least!! On the ground, things are heating up with the campaign for the referendum on the constitutional reform, which will take place on December 2, 2007. The pro-reform folks are the "SI" (YES) block and the anti-reform and opposition folks are "NO" this time around. On Sunday, we had a major march in favor of the reform.There were tens of thousands of pro-reform supporters in the streets of Caracas that marched 7 miles from Parque del Este to Avenida Bolivar to hear President Chavez speak. Most international media didn't report on that, but rather has spent its time reporting on the minor opposition student protests that continue to destabilize and provoke violence throughout the nation.

Today, Wednesday, November 7, there was an opposition student march to the Supreme Court in Caracas to symbolically hand over a document protesting the constitutional reform as unconstitutional to the members of Venezuela's highest court. The students marched relatively peacefully throughout the center of Caracas and a small commission of students entered the Supreme Court, were received by the judges and even had a chance to read a statement before the high court members that was broadcast live on national television. This event went without any violent incidents, unlike last week's opposition student march to the National Elections Council (CNE) that resulted in students trying to illegally chain themselves to the staircase inside the CNE headquarters. That incident did end in some violence and obvious reaction from state security forces, though no major injuries occurred.

After the march to the Supreme Court (TSJ), the oppositional students returned to the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and proceeded to kidnap a group of approximately 60 pro-reform and pro-Chavez students, including Libertad Velasco, one of the more well known leaders of the revolutionary student movement. Since public universities have autonomy over their security, state security forces were not able to enter immediately to resolve the situation and rescue the hostages. Private media, such as Globovision, reported that there was an "irregular situation" at the UCV, and later showed images of what they termed "pro-Chavez" supporters armed and firing at the oppositional students. What they did not tell their viewers was that those oppositional students had kidnapped a group of about 60 pro-Chavez students inside the Social Work school of the UCV and the "armed" individuals that entered the ground were members of Venezuela's Civil Protection unit, that entered the UCV after almost an hour had passed, to rescue the hostages. Images broadcast later on national television clearly show the hostages running out of the building on the UCV campus once rescued by the Civil Protection officers. Gunshots were fired up into the air to ward off the violent kidnappers, not to injure them in any way. Unfortunately, in the confrontations before the Civil Protection officers were able to enter the UCV grounds, 9 students were injured, one critically.

International media and wire services, such as Associated Press, published this photograph: (see link) and claimed that government forces are repressing students in Venezuela.

Take it from someone on the ground who is closely monitoring all events: The Venezuelan government is doing everything in its power to allow these students to freely enjoy their rights to protest without permitting them to destabilize the country, create chaos, and place in danger the lives of citizens. These types of protests that these students freely enjoy in Venezuela would NEVER, I repeat, NEVER be permitted in the United States. There is just no way the US Government or any city, state or county's police force would permit students to take the streets and public spaces almost daily, throwing molotov cocktails and bottles, as well as other debris, at the police, while damaging public property. In the US, thousands of them would be jailed and subjected to severe repression. Venezuela, on the other hand, is overly permissive with these protests and despite the ample freedom enjoyed by all sectors in this country, the international media distorts the scenario and attempts to paint a portrayal of the Venezuelan government as repressive. Repressive is the US government, permissive is the Venezuelan.

Stay alert to the media manipulation and the growing threat of a "colored revolution" (termed the "Marigold Revolution") in Venezuela (like Ukraine, Serbia, Georgia, etc).

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