CHAVEZ VS BUSINESS
As a nationwide "strike" called by business leaders took place in Venezuela today, President Hugo Chavez said that he might be forced to take strong measures if powerful "elites" tried to destabilize the democratically elected government. Chavez said he would not be blackmailed into changing a land law designed to strip rich landowners of idle property. ``The strike, to me, doesn't bother me at all. Absolutely not at all,'' Chavez said. ``Nobody, and nothing, will stop this revolution.'' Chavez says his land reform law will correct the injustice of only 1 percent of the population owning more than 60 percent of the country's arable land. But business leaders say it violates private property rights by forcing farmers to conform to a national agricultural strategy or risk having their land confiscated. Julio Brazon, president of Consecomercio, a national trade association called the strike a total success. The opposition-aligned Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, Venezuela's largest labor group, called on its 1 million members to stay home. Soldiers and police took up positions on bridges and outside gasoline stations, directing traffic and watching for any outbreaks of violence or looting of shuttered stores. Peasants gathered in downtown Caracas to protest the business shutdown which Chavez described as a political maneuver by a disgruntled "oligarchy." Many small business owners said the interests of big business were not worth sacrificing the day's earnings during the busy holiday season.
The halt to business was called by the country's leading business association, Fedecamaras. Fedecamaras represents companies responsible for 90 percent of Venezuela's non-oil production.
While there are many sides to Hugo Chaves he has certainly been a thorn in the side of both the United States because of his international policies and of the IMF because of his calls for a globalization which takes heed of the world’s poor and is not merely a tool of the rich. Chavez has shown himself to be very popular amongst the poor of Venezuela. His "revolution from above" has been described as, "is in many ways a logical response to the last 20 years of Latin American attempts at social change. He has cleaned up corruption in the judiciary and tackled prison reform, and created new constitutional rights for the country's indigenous people. He has begun to mobilize the armed forces to help with the provision of social services. His overall economic program is less clear, but at least he is talking about alternatives to the policies that have caused a steady decline in per capita income over the last two decades." Some, however, see him as a dangerous populist demagogue.
At the conclusion of a military ceremony today at the downtown Caracas air force base of La Carlota, a vehement Chavez dressed in military fatigues vowed: "I will never sit down at a negotiating table to betray a people already betrayed a thousand times."
Sources: Guardian, Reuters, Z Net, EFE, BBC
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