For the first time since Venezuela’s last Dictator was
overthrown in 1958, the May Day march by the Confederation of Workers was not given a permit to
march. Symbolic no?. What is most intriguing is that the ostensibe reason
for not allowing it is that the endpoint of the march, the same one for the
last 49 years, was Plaza O’Leary on downtown Caracas, which according to the Mayor of the Libertador
district of Caracas is “within the security zone of the Miraflores Palace”.
What is most intriguing abut this very strict statement by the
obviously pro-Chavez Bernal, is the fact that you may recall these two pictures
taken last September at a Chavez rally:
which took place in , you guessed it,
the same Plaza O’Leary, where the pro-Chávez rally not only entered into the security
zone of the Presidential Palace, but the rally itself took place at that
square, with the autocrat himself presiding over the events. Curiously that rally was
authorized and not even the drunks were kept off the newly restored statues of
the fountains of Plaza O’Leary, in one of the few worthy aschievements of the revolution in the last eight years.
But that is Venezuela
nowadays, there are two classes of people, those with Chavez and those not with
him or against him and the pro-Chavez group certainly receives preferential
treatment. Those not with him or against him are discriminated against,
ignored, persecuted and treated differently as this case shows.
Meanwhile, there will be a second march (the CTV march is
going ahead as planned as of this afternoon) of the pro-Chavez unions, a
concept that may seem oxymoronic given the fact that the Chávez autocracy has
refused to sign any collective bargaining agreement with any union in the last
four years. I guess the Chavista workers will be celebrating how the Government
is buying from them their CANTV shares, for which they paid over four dollars
in the early nineties, and which they will seel back to the Government for US$ 2.12, thus reversing a true case of collective
ownership when workers were given 12% of that company when it was first
And then tomorrow Chavez will fly to Orinoco Oil Belt to
complete what he calls the “nationalization” of the oil industry, in what is
nothing but a very capitalistic private equity buyout of the partners. Of
course, he will pay dearly for that equity that he wants to add in each of
these projects, which would have never been built without the foreign partners
due to the technology required. And don’t be surprised if to sweeten the deal,
PDVSA throws in an increase in production for these projects, giving foreign partenrs a larger share of Venezuela’s oil production.
In fact, a few months ago Chavez was saying he wanted to
have 100% of these projects, until someone pointed out to him that it would not
only be very expensive, but a company that can barely handle fifty year old
technology could not possibly handle the technology of the heavy oil projects.
But it is good for international propaganda, you acquire an
additional 20% on the average of these projects, but then you need PDVSA to
sell bonds to the capitalistic hedge funds and investors in order to pay the
foreign partners. And it is the existence of these same bonds which binds you
to the rules of capitalism, because you know you may need them again in the
future. In fact today the bondholders of one of these projects, Cerro Negro,
delivered to that company a notice of “Prospective Default”, which simply warns
the Government that whatever it does, since this is a forced change in
ownership as well as violation of covenants, it will have to buy back all of
the outstanding bonds and debt of these projects. And it will not be cheap. In
the end, PDVSA will likely pay the partners with the buyout of the debt, making
the deal sweeter for the foreign partners in all four projects.
So, it is May Day in this workers non-paradise. Workers get
an extra 20% pay raise, which covers inflation and is hailed as the highest
minimum salary Latin America, which is, of
course, calculated at the official rate of exchange, for which most Venezuelans
have little access and which has remained fixed for the last three years.
Maybe they will also hold a ceremony to celebrate that from
now on, workers will pay their own health insurance too.
You’ve got to love the revolution!