[OPE-L:8606] Re: Re: Venezuela: the way forward?

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Date: Thu Mar 13 2003 - 16:32:54 EST

At 21:38 12/03/2003 -0500, Jerry wrote:
>Re Mike L's [8579]:
> >          'Venezuela: the way forward?' I assume that Jerry's title was not
> > meant to ask if Venezuela is 'the' new model but, rather, if it is going
> > forward.
>Neither: my question was _what_ is the way forward?
>There are many ways that I could respond to your post (e.g. by
>discussing the Cuban experience),  but I will simply ask a question:
>*  What can, should and is being done to ensure that there isn't a
>         repeat of  what happened in Chile in 1973?
>Comradely, Jerry
>PS: the announcement for the conference [8573] made reference to
>the failed coup last year but not the 'capital strike' this year.

         On the latter, I summed up a much longer draft call; the full 
version does include economic sabotage, terrorism in oil sabotage, etc; 
I'll get that out once there's an english version.
         On the former question, there are of course no guarantees--- 
although the difference in this case is that the army is not just being 
supposedly neutral because here it is a protagonist. (My own fear would be 
assassination because Chavez, who is an incredible personality, goes off in 
crowds without much protection; that would generate bloody reprisals.) As 
to the general situation, I'd suggest reading Marta Harnecker's chapter 
that I mentioned and which is on the rebelion.org website. Here's a 
relevant excerpt (which provides an indication of the kinds of questions 
she posed--- which were generally ones people on the left were concerned with):

>         Regarding the peaceful aspect of the Revolution, when you’ve been 
> asked if you fear that a new Chile might happen in your country, keeping 
> in mind the coup d’état against Allende, you’ve answered that the 
> difference between that and this process is that the first one was a 
> Revolution without arms while the Bolivarian Revolution has arms and 
> people ready to use them if it’s necessary to defend it. On the other 
> hand, you expressed before the coup in April 2002 that any intent of a 
> coup d’état could generate radicalization of the Revolution, therefore 
> the oligarchy had to think seriously about taking that step. You’ve also 
> affirmed that having a military force doesn’t necessarily mean “using the 
> arms” but counting on them as “a supporting and dissuading force”78. In 
> fact, as per your account, the Armed Forces blocked a military-coup 
> attempt in preparation during the electoral process of 1998 and they 
> stopped the electoral fraud at the beginning of the process. On the other 
> hand, one cannot negate that they’ve played an important role during the 
> current process: in first place, as guarantors of six electoral processes 
> in less than two years, avoiding fraud and military coups; in second 
> place, as the main executors of Plan Bolívar 2000 and of the emergency 
> plans to confront the consequences of the natural disasters that affected 
> many Venezuelan villages.
>         I understand that until before the coup of April 11, 2002, you 
> estimated that the majority of those in high command supported you, 
> despite that in the last few months some officials of high rank appeared 
> publicly asking you to resign as president of the republic, and General 
> Guaicaipuro Lameda had recently resigned as president of the state-owned 
> Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). He expressed to have disagreements with 
> some policies of his government. Is that the case?
>         However, the coup on April 11, 2002, was only possible due to the 
> fact that an important sector of the high ranks supported the opposition, 
> although it’s also true that your return to power was due to, among other 
> things, that many in those ranks rethought things and finally you ended 
> up with a majority support within the military.
>         What is the reason for your erroneous perception of the level of 
> support within the Armed Forces?
>         And here a large topic is unveiled: how does a leader of the 
> country obtain objective information of what is going on in his country? 
> On one side, it often happens that the people around him, in order to 
> please him, to save him worries or because of opportunism avoid informing 
> him of the problems by giving him rosy information. On the other side, 
> the attitude of the leader subtracts himself  from paying attention to 
> critical information. Is there any mechanism to avoid what Eduardo 
> Galeano in a conversation named as the echo problem: the leader and his echo?
>221  Or as Matus says: “The leader and his bell jar.”
>222 Look, in regard to the first question, without any doubt I 
>overestimated the strength of a group of people whom I believed I knew 
>well enough, maybe it was the heart…. When feelings play an important role 
>it is sometimes fatal, tragic. Since 1999, I kept respecting 
>senioritiesrespecting the military roll with minor variations. There was 
>no beheading of the military leadership. And regarding the perception of 
>their disposition to respect the constitution, the government, the 
>commander-in-chief, I was wrong. In reality, it wasn’t a total mistake; if 
>that had been the case, you and I wouldn’t be sitting here. Because in 
>reality the answer that we experienced on the Saturday and that allowed 
>the government to return to power shows in a very objective manner that 
>the great majority of the generals were not involved. It was a minority 
>that was able to mislead the rest. I mistrusted some of them. There was no 
>surprise regarding those who engineered the coup. We had delicate 
>information about, for instance, the military attaché in Washington and 
>some expressions from some other generals. But I admit that I was wrong 
>regarding some persons in key positions, like the commander-in-chief of 
>the army, General Vázquez Velasco, and that I never even thought that a 
>group of officers was able to reach such extremes as to get involved with 
>the movement for the coup. There, one has to assume self-criticism: one 
>needs to be much more cautious.
>223 With regard to the resignation, it was something that had a really 
>negative effect. Many militaries were surprised by the way the situation 
>was managed, but they reacted later on.
>224 Well, in any case it’s been a learning experience. From now on we’re 
>going to pay much more attention to some signals, we’re going to try to be 
>more precise in our individual evaluation: the interests of each human 
>being and the internal conflicts of the institution, often injected from 
>the outside.

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Cuba. Can be reached via:

Michael Lebowitz
Calle 13 No. 504 ent. D y E, Vedado, La Habana, Cuba
Codigo Postal 10 4000
(537) 33 30 75 or 832  21 54
telefax: (537) 33 30 75 

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