June 9, 2001
Venezuela's Chavez Declares Revolutionary Campaign
Filed at 5:35 p.m. ET
CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Saturday he would not shrink from adopting emergency powers if necessary, and urged supporters to unite behind him in a justice-seeking, anti-imperialist revolution.
Speaking as guest of honor at a meeting organized by Venezuela's tiny Communist Party, Chavez threatened confiscation of properties of big business tax-evaders and absentee land-owners.
He declared an energetic counter-offensive against what he called ``an avalanche of attacks on all fronts'' by his political foes.
``We are going to defeat the counter-revolution and push forward with the revolution,'' Chavez told cheering Communist militants who chanted ``Unity, unity'' in a theater decorated with revolutionary slogans and pictures of Argentine guerrilla icon Ernesto ``Che'' Guevara.
The president, a left-leaning former paratroop officer and coup-plotter with an outspoken populist style, was accompanied by senior members of his cabinet, including his interior, defense and foreign ministers.
Venezuela's Communist Party holds no seats in the National Assembly, which is dominated by Chavez supporters. It had called the meeting to declare its support for the president.
During his fiery speech, Chavez announced ``revolutionary laws'' were being prepared, praised Russia, China and Cuba.
Repeating a warning made a month ago, he also made clear he was still considering the possibility of declaring a ``state of exception'' under the constitution to bolster his government's powers to legislate on urgent national problems.
``It's on the horizon as a possibility... and if we have to use it, we won't have any problem doing so,'' he said.
``TIME TO UNITE AND FIGHT''
It was one of the most forceful, ideologically charged speeches delivered in recent months by the Venezuelan leader, who has been accused by his critics of moving toward increasingly authoritarian rule and radical policies.
Chavez, who won a landslide election victory in 1998 six years after failing to take power in a coup bid, called on his supporters to mobilize across the nation and respond to every attack and maneuver by political opponents.
``This is the moment to unite, to fight, to go on the offensive,'' he said.
Stressing that his revolution needed an ideology, he declared ``Our banner is Bolivar,'' a reference to 19th century Latin American independence hero Simon Bolivar whom Chavez has proclaimed as the inspiration for his nationalist crusade.
``We have to carry the justice-seeking, revolutionary, anti-imperialist message of the greatest American of all time (Bolivar) ... we have to believe it, spread it,'' he said.
Among the ``revolutionary laws'' whose preparation Chavez said he was personally supervising, the Venezuelan leader mentioned a land law that would target owners of vast unproductive estates. ``What do these estate owners think, that they're just going to merrily carry on?'' he said.
Chavez also lambasted members of Venezuela's business elite who have been among his most vociferous critics. Blaming them for opposition campaigns against him and conspiracies to destabilize his government, he also accused many of them of failing to pay taxes and falsely declaring business losses.
He singled out owners of banks, newspapers, TV stations and soft drink companies and said a new tax law was being prepared that would toughen penalties against offenders. He threatened confiscation of properties. ``That's justice,'' he said.
The president accused his opponents of spreading false alarmist rumors in a bid to stir up discontent in the armed forces and damage Venezuela's image abroad.
``Hugo Chavez, as a person, as the commander-in-chief, as a soldier, and with me the people and the revolution, are supported by the armed forces,'' he said.
His choice of language closely echoed that habitually used by Cuba's veteran president Fidel Castro, for whom Chavez has expressed friendship and admiration.