Skip to comments.Chavistas Attack Venezuela's Congress - Bolivarian neighborhood groups inciting wholesale violence
Posted on 04/06/2002 3:00:12 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuela's National Assembly hasn't finished a session in the last two weeks, partly because opposition lawmakers are being harassed and even attacked by President Hugo Chavez's most radical supporters.
"We've been forced to suspend the sessions because nobody can work like this, trying to vote while knowing that armed thugs are waiting outside," Cesar Perez, a member of the Social Christian Party, said Friday.
More than 200 riot police and National Guardsmen were sent to the assembly on Thursday night to protect lawmakers from rowdy "Chavistas" who threw rocks and bottles when opposition legislator Pastor Heyra tried to enter the elegant assembly building.
"The next time I go to the assembly, I'm going with a gun and a group of party supporters ready to protect me," said Pedro Pablo Alcantara, a member of Democratic Action, Venezuela's largest opposition party.
Some recent sessions ended abruptly because either pro-government or opposition lawmakers, facing defeat on legislative items, have taken to leaving Congress and breaking the quorum required for a vote. But Thursday's episode was the most chaotic, and it almost led to blows inside the chamber.
Political violence appears to be increasing in this poverty-stricken South American nation of 24 million.
On Wednesday, a brawl erupted when striking public doctors affiliated with an opposition labor union tried to present their demands to pro-Chavez workers at a social security agency office in Caracas. Dozens of people were hurt.
On Thursday, a gunfight between pro-government and opposition oil workers in the eastern state of Monagas killed two people and wounded three. On March 20, hundreds of Chavez supporters and members of the Venezuelan Workers Confederation clashed in the central city of Barquisimeto during a workers' protest march.
"Bolivarian Circles," groups of government supporters organized by Chavez's political allies in neighborhoods throughout the country, are blamed by opponents for instigating some of the violence. Their leader, a fiery Chavez activist known as "Comandante" Lina Ron, is in jail awaiting trial for instigating violence during a student protest at the Central University of Venezuela.
Freddy Bernal, a Chavez ally and mayor of Caracas' poorest district, has admitted that some radical pro-government groups carry weapons - but denies opposition claims that the government is arming the groups. Bernal says violence only hurts the image of Chavez's "peaceful and democratic revolution."
Lawmakers work just a block from "The Hot Corner," a street corner in Plaza Bolivar where Chavez backers gather daily to discuss politics and voice unwavering support for the president, a populist former paratrooper elected in 1998 on an anti-poverty, anti-corruption, "anti-oligarchy" platform.
Some deputies claim their intimidators rush straight from the corner; Greater Caracas Mayor Alfedo Pena, a Chavez critic whose office sits next to "The Hot Corner," wants to remove them. Chavistas deny haranguing legislators and vow to stay.
"The violent ones are the opposition leaders, not us. Our only weapon is the law and the Constitution," Francisco Duran, 45, pronounced as he handed out leaflets at the corner.
"The Constitution gives us the right to gather wherever we want," insisted Lilian Rivas, a 60-year-old homemaker.
Opposition lawmakers want protection from the 1,400-member metropolitan police force, which is controlled by Pena. They argue the National Guard, which is controlled by the federal government, can't ensure their safety.
The assembly's interim president, Rafael Jimenez, suggested Friday that legislators and government activists should just take it easy.
"Both sides need to reflect, and I recommend that congressmen relax by drinking plenty of herbal tea before and during sessions," Jimenez jested.
Employees of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) protest outside the company's executive offices in Maracaibo, Venezuela, Friday, April 5, 2002. The sign at bottom left reads "Workers United for PDVSA." Work stoppages and protests at Petroleos de Venezuela's Caracas headquarters and installations across the nation erupted to protest what demonstrators call President Hugo Chavez's attempts to politicize the company. PDVSA is Venezuela's largest income producer and Venezuela is the third largest oil exporter to the United States and the world's fourth largest exporter overall. (AP Photo/Ana Maria Otero)
Chavez's Head of Venezuelan Oil Giant PdVSA Reportedly Asks 2 Executives to Resign--[Excerpt] CARACAS , Venezuela -- The conflict pitting managers at state oil giant Petroleos de Venezuela SA against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's government continued with PdVSA's president asking two top executives to resign. Gaston Parra, president of PdVSA, asked two company managers to step down, according to Saturday's editions of daily El Universal. Management began meetings to discuss possible actions after Oscar Murillo, a legal advisor at PdVSA, and Armando Izquierdo, a public affairs manager, were called on to resign. Hundreds of managers at PdVSA, the largest oil company in Latin America, have been protesting Mr. Chavez's appointment of five board...
Venezuela: Labor Strife of a Different Collar - Pdvsa--[Excerpt] CARACAS, Venezuela, March 18 - Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. may be state owned, but it is known internationally as efficient and well managed, even cutting edge. The company, one of the world's largest oil producers, has also long attracted the brightest minds in Venezuela to its singular task: producing the huge amounts of oil that motor this country.
Now, however, the behemoth, with $20 billion a year in oil sales and 40,000 employees, is in turmoil.
Its white-collar workers are locked in a bitter feud with the government of President Hugo Chávez, whose firing of the company president last month precipitated a rousing, public quarrel that has dominated the local headlines, caused a work slowdown and threatens to spill into a full- fledged strike. Such an event would be calamitous for a country where oil accounts for 80 percent of exports, most of it bound for the United States.
"This is a tragedy," said Luis Giusti, a former company president and now senior adviser for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "It is inconceivable that in this company people would go out and protest. They would have been fired right away. But this is a crisis situation." [End Excerpt]