Archive for October, 2007

Cultural Scoundrel by Teodoro Petkoff

October 31, 2007

Cultural Scoundrel by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

Few documents like the letter sent by Farruco Sesto about actress
Fabiola Colmenares reveal in more crystal clear fashion the
Stalinist-fascist spirit that is behind some of the sectors of this
regime. It would be injustice, besides being imprecise, to say that
everyone in Chavismo identify themselves with the way of thinking and
acting of this guy, whose value as a man of culture is practically
nil. Even more, there are a few that refer to him with great sarcasm
and disdain. But this small scoundrel occupies the Ministry of Culture
and from there he exercises a level of power and influence that can not
be watched by indifference not only by any Venezuelan, but any of the
intellectuals that are honestly riding the train of this Government.
Sesto asks himself, referring to Fabiola Colmenares: “Is it an error to
have allowed this small personality of the criollo fascism to have
worked in a movie of the Villa of Cinema?” And he answers it himself:
“We should make it clear once and for all (…) that our spaces, the
spaces of the people, are not going to be used to attack the
revolutionary process”. Question and answer are preceded by some
considerations about “exclusion” and “inclusion” in cultural management
that do not deserve any comments both by their conceptual poverty, as
well as the galloping lies that he pretends to pass as judgments about
the past and the present of public cultural activities in the country.

According to this little personality, only Chavistas can have access to the cultural spaces in the hands of the State.

Anyone
who does not understand this creed is excluded. The State does not
belong to the Nation; the State is the Government and the Party. And
they all belong to Chavez. That is the way it was in the Soviet Union,
that is the way Nazi Germany was, and that is the way Cuba still is.
The farruquian cretinism pretends to impose as cultural policy the
disregard of pluralism and diversity, which are proper of any society
and wants to substitute it with submission to official thinking in all
of its variations. Because the true reason is that Fabiola is only a
pretext for Farruco Sesto. The great inquisitor is actually addressing
in reality, all of the cultural creators and is warning them that those
that do not subject themselves to the political guidelines of the
regime do not have anything to look for in “our spaces”. This text
represents threats and blackmail.

It would be good to hear from one of the intellectuals that
identify themselves with the regime but who were known to spouse
democratic and anti-totalitarian convictions, what opinion they have
about the political cultural creed of Sesto. Carlos Noguera, Luis
Alberto Crespo, Carlos Azpurua, Roberto Hernández, Juan Pedro Posani,
just to mention a few, are you going stay silent and accept it?

When confrontation and ideology are taken to absurd limits, there is no hope for democracy.

October 30, 2007

When I think about what Governments should be about, the
first thingthat comes to mind is that they try to solve the problems of the
population in order to improve their standard of living and their quality of
life. This would seem to have little ideological content; Government is there
first to serve and help the people and should look for solutions.

This all comes to mind because there is one problem which in the last couple of
years ahs gotten really bad in Venezuela,
the problem of traffic. To give you an idea of the problem, in 2002, when we
moved to the office where I work, it would take me some 8 minutes to get there.
I timed it, because I was so please that I could get to work so fast, when
three years early, it would take me two hours to drive into Caracas
from Los Teques
where I lived. Then I moved to Caracas and it would take about twenty minutes and when the office moved, it became
only eight minutes. To me, it was Nirvana.

Well, lately, it is taking me about twenty five minutes to get there in the morning
and between 45 minutes and one hour to get back in the afternoon. Just to get
out of the parking lot is a nightmare, as there is a light around the corner
and each time it changes maybe a couple of cars get out of the parking lot.

The reason for the increased traffic is simple: Cheap gas and cheap cars.
Gasoline prices have not increased since 1998, making gas essentially free in Caracas. I fill up the
tank of my car with less than $2 at the official rate of exchange or less than
$1 at the
parallel rate to give a very rough number. The second reason is that since car
companies are able to import vehicles at the official rate of exchange, which
has remained constant for the last three years, those that have salaries can
afford more and more to buy cars as their salaries have moved up with
inflation, while car prices have remained the same. This has increased car
sales (to mostly the well to do, not the poor!) to levels near half a million
cars per year. Add to that no major road construction within Caracas in the last eight years and no major
highways and you can see the problem.

According to Chavez, he does not want to improve roads in Caracas, because he has better things to
spend money on. While don’t believe that excuse, he ca definitely set priorities
on how money is spend. However, traffic is a problem for everyone, as commuting
times have doubled or tripled in the last three years and this affects everyone
and definitely affects not only the quality of life, but takes away family and
rest time from everyone.

The mayors of two of the municipalities in the Caracas metropolitan area have tried to
improve the problem by banning cars from driving one day a week for three and a
half hours every morning and every afternoon. First it was the Mayor of Baruta
and last week the Chacao municipality began a pilot program to try the same
system. Last week the ban, with no fines, was started in the mornings and this
week the afternoons were added. Next week, anyone driving on the day their car
is banned will be fined. It should be noted that the ban does not include the
highways that crisscross Caracas
so that people from other municipalities can cut across as long as they use
them.

The problem arises in that the two Mayors happen to belong to the opposition.
You would think this would not matter when you are trying to solve a problem
that affects everyone, but it does with the confrontational style of Chavismo.
Last week, the Mayor of Chacao suggested that the other municipalities should
join them, to make it more effective and efficient.

The response? Exactly the opposite. Since it is an initiative of opposition
Mayors, then instead, the Director of the Metropolitan
Transportation Institute said that they plan to issue a decree prohibiting the
application of the bans in what he calls

Francisco de Miranda, which also cut across the city. The guy, namedu003cbr />Rafeal Argotti, argued that they have studies of car mobility thatu003cbr />show these bans do very little and added that his daughter, who worksu003cbr />in one of the municipalities with the ban, tells him that there areu003cbr />traffic jams all the time anyway (El Nacional page C-2 today, byu003cbr />subscription).u003cbr />\u003cbr />This is clearly ridiculous. First of all, the bans do have an effect.u003cbr />The last two days I have found no traffic coming out of where I worku003cbr />and the times have been shorter. Second, his daughter’s evidence isu003cbr />less than scientific. Finally, while his mobility studies may suggestu003cbr />it does not work; removing 20% of the cars in a city jam-packed withu003cbr />vehicles ahs to have some significant impact.u003cbr />\u003cbr />The point is that this should not be a debate about ideology, butu003cbr />Chavismo turns it into one, as the fact that it was the oppositionu003cbr />mayors that began these projects makes it “bad”. Bt what is worse isu003cbr />that there is no alternative solution to the problem. As we say inu003cbr />Spanish these guys “Neither do the wash, neither they lend theu003cbr />washing trough” (Ni lavan ni prestan la batea).u003cbr />\u003cbr />How can you even begin to hope to agree on a Constitutional reform oru003cbr />a framework for how the country should function, if you get hung upu003cbr />in minor practical problems like this one on ideological grounds?u003cbr />There is little chance for a democracy to function when theseu003cbr />bickering over minutiae occurs. But, of course, who says Chavismo isu003cbr />even interested in creating a democracy or even debating issues likeu003cbr />this one.u003cbr />\u003cbr />In the mean time screw the people, let them waste an hour daily inu003cbr />traffic, just because…u003c/div>”,0]
);

//–>
“intermunicipal” avenues, such as Avenida Libertador and Avenida
Francisco de Miranda, which also cut across the city. The guy, named Rafeal
Argotti, argued that they have studies of car mobility that show these bans do
very little and added that his daughter, who works in one of the municipalities
with the ban, tells him that there are traffic jams all the time anyway (El
Nacional page C-2 today, by subscription).

This is clearly ridiculous. First of all, the bans do have an effect. The last
two days I have found no traffic coming out of where I work and the times have
been shorter. Second, his daughter’s evidence is less than scientific. Finally,
while his mobility studies may suggest it does not work; removing 20% of the
cars in a city jam-packed with vehicles has to have some significant impact.

The point is that this should not be a debate about ideology, but Chavismo
turns it into one, as the fact that it was the opposition mayors that began
these projects makes it “bad”. Bt what is worse is that there is no alternative
solution to the problem. As we say in Spanish these guys “Neither do the wash,
neither they lend the washing trough” (Ni lavan ni prestan la batea).

How can you even begin to hope to agree on a Constitutional reform or a
framework for how the country should function, if you get hung up in minor
practical problems like this one on ideological grounds? There is little chance
for a democracy to function when these bickering over minutiae occurs. But, of
course, who says Chavismo is even interested in creating a democracy or even
debating issues like this one.

In the mean time screw the people, let them waste an hour daily in traffic,
just because…

News from around the fascist robolution…

October 28, 2007

Getting ready to watch the Red Sox game, so in short you should learn about these events driving news in the fascist robolution::

—-Human Rights organization COFAVIC, warns
that it is the poor that has been affected the most by abuses when a
state of exception has been called in Latin America’s history.

—-Imagine
how bad things must be in terms of corruption and drug trafficking in
Venezuela, when former cheerleader of the revolution reporter Juan
Forero writes this piece
in today’s Washington Post. Just think, revolutionary military officers
like border postings because they can get rich and drug traffickers
have credentials from the intelligence police and the Ministry of
Finance. God help us form robolutionary destruction!

—-And
how about funny man the Minister of Culture, who incensed because
actress Fabiola Colmenares opposes the Constitutional reform and has
joined students demonstrations, thinks that maybe, just maybe,
people like her should not be hired by the Government. Calling her “a
minor personality of criollo fascism” because of her dissenting
position, the Minister proposes having a discussion as to whether
people like her should be hired in Government cultural projects. Jeez,
who is the fascist here? Does this remind you of Tascon/Chavez
database? Of course, its is the same discriminatory policy from a
well-known fascist Government.

—-And since we
are visiting the Ministry of Culture, how about Vice-Minister
criticizing the violence associated with the destruction of the
monument to honor Che Guevara? Wasn’t he the one that twenty years ago
was part of the guerrillas and was part of the group that kidnapped
William Neihous and was captured when he attempted to collect the
ransom?

\u003cdiv\> \u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>—-And the Minister of the Interior and Justice joins the fascist chorus \u003ca href\u003d\”http://www.unionradio.com.ve/Noticias/Noticia.aspx?noticiaid\u003d220362\” target\u003d\”_blank\” onclick\u003d\”return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)\”\>as he tells us\u003c/a\> that the only way of expressing dissent against the Constitutional Reform is through the vote on Dec. 2\u003cfont size\u003d\”2\”\>\u003cspan style\u003d\”font-size:10px\”\>nd\u003c/span\>\u003c/font\>. And threatens dissenters that “his pulse will nor shake to stop those that are promoting violence, civil disobedience and the altering of the normal and harmonic order”. \u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\> \u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>Where should I start? First of all the violence is coming from pro-Government groups. Second, has he read Article 350 of the Venezuelan Constitution? It seems to call for civil disobedience precisely against his type of authoritarian, fascist non-democratic behavior. Finally, what are we supposed to vote on if the Government makes no effort to discuss what is in the proposed Constitutional Reform? After all, the original 33 articles are now up to sixty-something, with most of the new ones being added and discussed by small groups in smoke filled rooms. Additionally, the Constitution is being violated in the way the reform is being done. Shouldn’t the people have the right to do that?\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\> \u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>—-And Chavez did not hold his Sunday variety show “Alo Presidente” today for the second Sunday in a row because of health reasons. I guess this is one case where I do not wish someone a speedy recovery…\u003c/div\>\u003c/div\>”,0]
);

//–>

—-And the Minister of the Interior and Justice joins the fascist chorus as he tells us that the only way of expressing dissent against the Constitutional Reform is through the vote on Dec. 2nd.
And threatens dissenters that “his pulse will nor shake to stop those
that are promoting violence, civil disobedience and the altering of the
normal and harmonic order”.

Where should I
start? First of all the violence is coming from pro-Government groups.
Second, has he read Article 350 of the Venezuelan Constitution? It
seems to call for civil disobedience precisely against his type of
authoritarian, fascist non-democratic behavior. Finally, what are we
supposed to vote on if the Government makes no effort to discuss what
is in the proposed Constitutional Reform? After all, the original 33
articles are now up to sixty-something, with most of the new ones being
added and discussed by small groups in smoke filled rooms.
Additionally, the Constitution is being violated in the way the reform
is being done. Shouldn’t the people have the right to do that?

But his best phrase had to be referring to the students:”They had the gall to challenge the authority of the State”

Yes, when the State takes away your rights, you have th RIGHT to challenge its authority, you fascist!

—-And
Chavez did not hold his Sunday variety show “Alo Presidente” today for
the second Sunday in a row because of health reasons. I guess this is
one case where I do not wish someone a speedy recovery…

More flowering!!!

October 28, 2007

This magnificent bunch is called Bulbophyllum Tridentatum from Asia. The whole bunch is maybe two and a half inches long. On the right is a close up of one flower.

This is a very delicate Cattelya Warnerii from Brazil, this variety is called Alfonso Gregory and is very finicky, I have had it for 15 years and has only flowered three times in irregular fashion, the plant looks very healthy.

Left: Blc. Morning Glory. Right: Another no name Percivaliana, bad shape, but I love the coloring of the lip.

Blc. Keith Roth

Ignorance or bad faith?

October 27, 2007

Next Thursday the new Financial Transaction Tax (ITF) will go into effect. This 1.5% tax will imposed on any debit, credit, transfer from an account in the country by any corporation or institution, individuals are exempt from it.

We have had taxes like this before during emergencies, but never has it been at such a high level. Moreover, there have been exemptions to it, like inter-company transfers and compensation between banks. This time around these are not exempt.

The reason this tax was imposed is that the Government reduced earlier in the year the level of the Value added tax (VAT) I order to reduce inflation. However, its reimposition is even worse as it will have a much bigger impact, as the VAT you pay can be deducted from  the tax you obtain when you sell an object or a service. Thus, the VAT is a single tax, while the ITF is paid all along the chain of commercialization.

The decree imposing this tax is so absurd, that there has been a generalized feeling that it had to be changed, the Government could
not be that ignorant. Despite this, there has been little indication that it will be changed and Government officials say “their” studies are that it is not so bad as the private sector claims.

Let’s look at some examples:

—-You produce a product; let’s say milk, just to mention something that has been in the headlines. Starting next Thursday, you will pay 1.5% whenever you pay suppliers for feed for your cows, salaries to your workers, electricity and the like. Then you will sell your milk to the industrial company that bottles it, this company will likely sell it to a distributor that in turn will sell it to a supermarket. Each step will generate a 1.5% tax on the total amount. At each step there is a profit of course (or we hope), so the total tax paid will not be 4 x 1.5%=6%, but it will be around 5%. Thus the price of milk would have to go up to 5% or the profits of everyone will be reduced significantly.

—-You go to a store and use your credit card, when the store gets paid there is a 1.5% tax. If the point of sale does not belong to the same bank as your card, then there is a 1.5% tax when the bank that owns the point of sale gets paid and a final one when the bank pays the credit card operator. This adds almost 4.5% to the price. Since the margin in Venezuela is controlled at 3%, then each transaction will result in a loss. Not a good business to be in if there is a guaranteed loss each time.

—-Short-term borrowing will disappear. To begin with, the overnight market will shutdown, nobody can afford to pay 1.5% to borrow for a day when you are short. The result: Banks will be more careful in the way they handle their treasury so they are never short funds. This will reduce economic intermediation. Short term loans will be two expensive, if you borrow every month and have to pay 1.5%, that rate alone annualized is more than most prevailing lending rates in Venezuela. Long term lending will be more expensive as you will have to pay 1.5% more each time. All of this adds to inflation.

—-The Caracas Stock Market will collapse further if for each transaction you have to pay 1.5%. Today’s paper says this will be exempt like other times, but so far there is no action on this.

—-There are other cases, such as travel agencies which get a fixed rate which is regulated, they will have to pay 1.5% more each time.

Thus, the only benefit is that the Government will collect more, but it would make little sense, even if you need financing to create such an inflationary a growth reducing tax, just when you claim to be introducing a new currency to attempt to stop inflation.

Unless, this is all a bad faith attempt to hurt the private sector even more in your attempt to impose the yet to be defined XXIst.
Century Socialism faster. Of course, it will all be blamed on the private sector, never in the stupid or misguided Government policies or in the end, on another cynical attempt to destroy private enterprise in Venezuela.

You be the judge.

Got Milk? There are ways in the Venezuelan robolution

October 26, 2007

I always find it hilarious when the cheerleaders of
the revolution who live abroad question the veracity of shortages of
food in Venezuela, after all they claim, how can there be shortages
when oil prices are at all time highs and the country is in the middle
of the biggest windfall in its history? As if we could invent such a silly concept!

The explanation is easy,
it is called populism, economic populism. Price controls, Government in
charge of imports and distribution and the absurd fixed exchange rate
have led to shortages of the most basic foodstuffs, while you can buy
caviar and foie gras at stores because they are not part of the
Government’s control.

But those of us who live
here, see the shortages daily. For some items like corn oil, sugar and
milk, the shortages never ease. For others, like black beans, meat and
eggs, it varies. The latest victim is bread, as the shortage I wheat
flour (all imported) have created a new form of rationing at bakeries,
where you can buy up to Bs. 2,000 of bread after you stand in a brief
line for ten minutes.

Today, I actually did not
have lunch, because we had a case of good news, bad news. The
supermarket in the building where I work, had powdered milk for the
first time in about ten or twelve days. Thus, when I attempted to go
buy my usual lunch there, lines stretched out for about three hundred
meters and actually went to the sidewalk. Just imagine, people making a
half hour line so that they could get in the end two kilos maximum per
person of awful powdered milk. Such is the state of things in the
robolution in Venezuela these days, despite oil hitting $90 a barrel
this week.

In fact, things are so ridiculous,
that I decided to try out what happened if I put the word milk into
mercadolibre’s website and low and behold, you can buy powdered milk
(leche) in Venezuela’s equivalent of eBay. \u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\> \u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>Just in case the skeptics visit, here is the screen shot of one of the results:\u003c/div\>\u003c/div\>”,0]
);
D(["ce"]);

//–>Check it out!

Just in case the skeptics visit, here is the screen shot of one of the results:


As my sister told me today, had she known how severe this would get, she would not have stopped feeding her one year old baby five months ago. In fact, she said, she could actually feed all three of her kids if she had not stopped!

What can I say? It’s called a rebolution for some reason, no?

The ugly head of Chavista fascism blocks dissent once again

October 26, 2007

Disregarding the now empty voice
of the Minister of Defense, who yesterday called for accepting
dissidence and respecting the rights of others, Chavista thugs today
once again used violence and threats to silence the opposition in their
attempt to voice their objections to the proposed Constitutional
reform.
 
It was once again a carefully prepared
plot by the pro-Chavez fascist thugs who claim they are students, but
look like they were in graduate school in the eighties. As the
Secretary of the student parliament Yon Goicochea began addressing the crowd
at a meeting organized to present their objection to the Constitutional
reform, the violent Chavistas came in the room and prevented him from
speaking. The disruption became violent, some sort of firecracker was
exploded and a student injured and as Goicochea tried to protect
himself his nose was broken.
 
It was juts one
more event of a long list in the past couple of months in which the
voice of dissent was shattered by violence and the intolerance as
Chavismo tries to approve this one sided and illegal reform without
even allowing a significant fraction of the population to even express
its dissent.
 
Ironically, Goicochea was saying
that any constitutional reform should arise out of a consensus and
without any violence as the violent groups disrupted him.
 
Thus,
Chavista groups are so accustomed to running amok without control that
the Minister of Defense carries no weight. What else is new in the
autocracy?
 
Thus the reform continues its
unstoppable momentum towards the vote in December, no matter how
illegal it is and how much it violates the current Constitution. It has
been a on sided process, even repressive in the way it has been pushed
through without regards for those that either do not agree with it or
would like a reform that is the result of a consensus as any democracy
should be. \u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\> \u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>And as empty as the words of the minister of Defense are those of the Deputies of the National Assembly who day after day carry on in the name of the “people” and “democracy”, while both are simply outrageously ignored in the fundamental definition of the future of rule of law in Venezuela. \u003c/div\>\u003c/div\>”,0]
);
D(["ce"]);

//–> 

 
And
as empty as the words of the minister of Defense are those of the
Deputies of the National Assembly who day after day carry on in the
name of the “people” and “democracy”, while both are simply
outrageously ignored in the fundamental definition of the future of
rule of law in Venezuela.

The Myth of “Co-Management” in Venezuela

October 25, 2007

I have written before about the failure of the project of cooperatives in the robolution, which are a drain on resources and take away many rights from the workers. This article about Alcasa and Invepal proves that this is part of the silly economic schemes of the autocrat.

The Myth of “Co-Management” in Venezuela

by El Libertario, Venezuela

Thursday, Oct 25 2007, 1:39pm

Reflections on Alcasa and Invepal

*
With a lot of rhetoric and propaganda the Chavez administration has
advanced different examples of co-management which, they claim,
demonstrate their desire to transform Venezuela’s relations of
production. A compańero from Europe visited us recently and got to know
two of the most celebrated cases: Alcasa and Invepal. Here is the
report he prepared for El Libertario # 51 about the actual working
conditions in the country’s most “important” co-managed businesses.

Alcasa
is an Aluminum factory located in Ciudad Guayana, some 800 km
south-east of Caracas. According to official accounts it is an example
“par-excellance” of co-management. In order to “change the relations of
production” inside the factory the government placed it under the
control of a “revolutionary” manager — an old-guard activist of the
radical left whose ideological discourse is influenced by elements of
the Frankfurt School and sprinkled with references to the marxist,
anti-lennist, Pannekoek.

Alcasa employs some 3,000 workers. To begin with, the factory (like
others in the country such as the privately run company SIDOR) ought to
be immediately shut-down due to its un-healthy working conditions.
After 20 years of service in the plant, workers resemble the
walking-dead, contaminated by the high-grade aluminum dust which slowly
devours their lungs. Never mind that the whole world knows about the
lethal side-effects of aluminum dust, the situation at Alcasa continues
unchanged. For their part, the workers argue that they need to feed
their families and earn enough money to live on after their customary
20 years of service to the company is over. Not surprisingly, they have
rejected the initial offer management made on their behalf: the typical
far-left proposal of reducing the hours of the working week. The
worker’s claim that this reduction would lead to the creation of an
entirely new shift-rotation and eliminate the possibility of their
earning over-time. The management has drawn the political conclusion
from this rejection that the workers are “too egotistical,” that they
are “only interested in money,” and, therefore, are in need of
political-ideological re-training in the classroom. The refusal of
workers to quietly accept their program apparently “confirms” for them
Pannekoek´s thesis that sindicalism impedes the formation of class
consciousness.

Much of the machinery Alcasa bought when the company was founded some
40 years ago is still in service, and even the “modern” equipment is at
least 20 years old. The technology is obsolete and some of it is no
longer functional. Production capacity is scarcely running at 60%.
Although supply has continued to meet demand on the market, the
international price of aluminum has stagnated in recent years and the
financial loss to the company has been enormous. It appears, however,
that neither the state nor company management has efficiency or profit,
in the capitalist sense, as its ultimate objective. In private,
management complains that ministerial bureaucracy blocks the financing
necessary for technological renovation while inside the factory they
continue their courses dedicated to political-ideology. Management has
contracted private personnel to lead their re-education sessions: old
militants from the same political group as the factory’s director.
Workers are invited to attend these meetings for up to one week — and
eventually longer — while receiving time-off from their jobs with pay.
An example of the discussions that take place are the difference
between Normative Planning (“Bourgeois”) and Strategic Planning
(“Revolutionary”) citing Marx, Gramsci, Adorno, etc., without
introducing into the discussion any concrete issues facing workers
inside the Alcasa factory.

The Wage Policy

Within the factory saleries vary according to qualification and
senority —there are significant differences between employees. The
workers do, however, receive a relatively high wage. The entry-level
salery is approximately 500 Euros — three times the minimum-wage — and
the medium salary is double this amount. But there is hardly a trace of
the co-management announced at the outset of the project. At the
initiation of co-management in 2005, three representatives per-workshop
were elected and one year later there is only one: who only visits his
fellow-workers on occassion. There is already no place for round-table
debates about working conditions and “team assemblies” only occupy
themselves with questions such as how to keep the bathrooms clean and
distribute work-clothes. If a worker were asked what co-management has
done for them, they would not have a clear answer. They would say, “its
good,” “we raised production,” etc., or simply “we’re still working the
same as always.” If one insisted on a more concrete response they might
hear, “It’s better if I don’t say anything, I don’t want to have any
problems.” Never would it occur to them to mention any serious
participation in the strategic decisions concerning the process of
production or administration of the factory. On the contrary, for some
the situation has actually deteriorated: for those workers from the old
buisnesses who orgainzed themselves into cooperatives during the era of
out-sourcing in order to retain their jobs.

These cooperative workers (some 600) are put to work directly in the
process of production in the same manner as the other employees of the
factory but are excluded from the “co-management.” They are not able to
use the company’s autobuses to travel to and from work and are not able
to eat in the cafeteria. They do not receive extra benefits such as the
end of the year bonus (equal to 3 or 4 months salary) and when they
become sick, they lose their pay. These workers are not protected by
the collective contract but are instead paid by the cooperative which
has an independent service contract with Alcasa. As a consequence each
cooperative worker receives a specific sum of money for a specificly
designated task and nothing more. It is evident that the cooperatives
function as a form of micro-business which only perpetuates the
precarious status of labor in the cororate world. Even more troubling
is the fact that members of different cooperatives rarely communicate
with one another and have failed to collectively denounce their
situation. Each is left alone with their anger and frustration. The
other worker’s at Alcasa only demonstrate their solidarity with these
casualized laborers in a distant, abstract way: after all, “the
administration already tried to improve their situation.” And the
response to a cooperative worker who complains about their plight? To
participate in the “political” courses we refered to earlier!

Invepal: A Paper Factory

Located in Morón, some 200 kms east of Caracas, this business was
closed by its previous owner. The workers fought for two years to keep
their jobs before it was finally expropriated by the State (with a
large compensation going to its proprietor) and transformed into a
co-managed business. The nearly 400 workers were asked to form a
cooperative and purchase 49% of the companies shares with the remaining
51% going to the State. To accomplish this, the cooperative took out a
loan with a private bank. For its part, Invepal subcontracted as many
positions as it deemed necessary for the operation of the company (and
who therefore were not part of the cooperative). In total, they
employed some 650 workers.

The equipment at Invepal is the same as was originally installed when
the factory opened in 1957. It is totally obsolete and in a state of
disrepair. The capacity of the machinery is running at an abismal 20%.
This is in part due to a defective internal electricity generator and
the irregular delivery of raw materials from Argentina and Colombia. In
total the loses are estimated to be more than 2 million Euros a year
and the factory continues to operate only thanks to the help of the
State. We can see that the logic of “welfare” has simply taken the
place of the capitalist logic of “production.”

The state, with its 51%, has absolute control over the administration
of the factory (the manager is also the Minister of Labor) and hardly
passes on any information to workers in the cooperatives. Because their
previous representatives simply tolerated this state-of-affairs, at the
beginning of 2006 the cooperative workers elected new, more radical
management who are in constant conflict with Invepal — although the
actual situation has not changed substantially. Under the new
administration, the volume of production has remained essentially the
same. The cooperative workers have weekly meetings in which they
oraginze the work of each section — without supervision or department
heads — and they are much more happy with the climate on the factory
floor. Invepal’s management has yet to interfere in this autonomous
process but when the workers received their end of the year bonus for
2006 it was less (3 months salary) than the previous year (4 months).
In reply the workers took to the streets in a rage, protesting the
reduction by blocking traffic. Considering that in the final analysis
management fails to give much importance to the process of production,
nobody thought to declare themselves “on strike” because under these
circumstances it is not an effective form of pressure. Furthermore,
they were not able to take legal action since they are not protected by
any form of collective contract; at the end of the day they are a
member of a cooperative and they are simply working as “co-proprietors”
of the business. One might add to this the fact that everyone in the
cooperative receives the same salary: a situation not exactly the
result of a decision making process based on solidarity! Even the
workers themselves consider this arrangement to be unjust. They resent
it as a negative consequence of their participation in a cooperative.

Workers are now placing their hopes in the preperation and
implimentation of a series of statutes which will, at last,
definitively clarify their rights as working members of the
cooperative. When we ask their opinion respecting co-management, they
reply: “This is the same as always, the level of exploitation was the
same before as it is now.” Moreover, because the cooperative has not
been able to pay its debts to the banks, the business (or as the case
may be, the State) has needed to pay it for them. The end result is
that the cooperative workers are now financially endebted to Invepal.

The workers have not heard anything about the film, “5 factories:
Working-class control in Venezuela,” which was filmed at Invepal and
extensively exhibited abroad, especially in Europe! In spite of the
critiques that workers have of the Minister of Labor/Manager of
Invepal, they supported the re-election of Chávez. On the occassion of
a visit from the state television channel, they decided not to say
anything about what has been transpiring at the factory in order not to
slander the image of their favored candidate.

October 2007

El Libertario (in Spanish & English): http://www.nodo50.org/ellibertario

Weil hits the spot

October 24, 2007

Weil captures it very well with this black caricature, while Chavez can say anything he wants because it is considered “information”, videos quoting Chavez’ great hero Simon Bolivar saying  that it is dangerous to allow someone to stay long in power are banned by the electoral board in another great “celebration” of the state of democracy in Venezuela

Another shameful day in Venezuela’s democracy

October 23, 2007

It was typical of the discrimination and repression that has characterized this Government during the last eight years as student marched to the National Assembly today to present their comments on the proposed Constitutional reform and ask that the process be delayed so that the reform can be discussed and modified to satisfy the largest possible percentage of Venezuelans.

But you can not even find democracy in the country’s Parliament. Despite the rain (top left) and their buses being detained outside Caracas by the National Guard, students marched massively. They had the required permits to march all the way to the Esquina de Sociedad near the National Assembly, but pro-Chavez groups (not students) who had no permits were allowed to gather all morning near the Capitol building as the police set up a barricade to block the students from even reaching the end of their authorized march. (Top right).

The cops were very ready to repress (Middle left) and for a while there was a stand off, but the students had sworn that they would not allow their rights to be violated and if blocked they would push thru (Middle right), which they managed to do because of the sheer size of the crowd (Bottom left) and as they went thru, both cops and Chavistas ran back (Bottom Right). Later, to insure the safety of the students, the National Guard had to transport the delegation with their documents to the Capitol building  in an armored car. Thus, only the safety and the voices of pro-Chavez supporters can be guaranteed in this fake revolution and empty democracy.

To make matters even worse, the pro-Chavez groups blocking the way included a couple of Deputies of the National Assembly, demonstrating that democracy is not alive and well in Venezuela. As the representatives of the students went into the Capitol building, only the pro-Chavez media was allowed in and even more remarkably a group of pro-Chavez “students” who had nothing to do with the march were also allowed in. Deputy Calixto Ortega won the day in terms of shame, when he said he did not understand why these students required “special” treatment, since the reform has been discussed extensively (!!!) and the students were getting “too much coverage” from the press. I guess the right to express yourself has now become a “special right” in Venezuela.

Truly a shameful day for the country’s democracy.

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