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KEEP AN EYE ON VENEZUELA SITUATION

Opponents of Venezuela's left-wing president, Hugo Chavez, are getting desparate, fueling rumors of another coup attempt.
Never a dull moment in George W. Bush's new world order. While we are justly concerned with the impending war with Iraq and the continuing horror in Palestine, the South American volcano is rumbling again.
In April, there was an attempt at a military coup against the left-nationalist president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, which was thwarted when the poor people poured into the streets and the rank and file of the army turned against the coup plotters, bringing about Chavez's triumphant return to power.
However, the elements that organized the coup attempt--the right wing in the military, the landowners and oligarchs, and the highly corrupted sectors of the trade union movement and media, did not stop plotting a second act for a minute.
Last week, there was a big anti-Chavez march in Caracas. The opposition was exultant, claiming that they had put a million people on the streets. But the very next day, there was a pro-Chavez march, whose organizers claimed mounted to two million demonstrators. Then this Monday, there was supposed to be a 12 hour general strike, which fell short of expectations because the oil workers' union and others refused to support it. There was also a report of a failed assassination attempt against Chavez. The day before yesterday, 14 high-ranking army officers held a public meeting calling for Chavez's overthrow, and today they were joined in a sort of rolling public anti-Chavez happening by some 300 other officers, plus several thousand civilians. But reports are that they do not have the majority of the army with them. Also, the open call for a coup has been widely denounced, by other Latin American governments, by the Organization of American States and even in a half-hearted way by the US government.
There could be another coup attempt at any momment, especially as by this time the right-wing opposition surely must feel that it's strength is ebbing, creating a possible "now or never" mentality. If Chavez can hold on a bit more, reinforcements may be on the way. At the end of this month, a runoff presidential election will almost propel into power in neighboring Brazil the left-wing candidate, José Inacio Lula da Silva. And in Ecuador last week, which also had presidential elections, the left-leaning candidates did well. A Chavez-like figure, colonel Lucio Gutierrez, got a plurality with 20% of the vote in a crowded field. Gutierrez had led a wildly popular uprising against president Mahuad two years ago, in which rank and file military and Native American people had basically run Mahuad out of power because of his subsurvience to the US and to the international lending institutions. So it is not out of the question that Gutierrez might win the runoff in Ecuador. This could get things on a roll in Latin America, with a whole series of countries lined up to oppose the Free Trade Area of the Americas (which Chavez and Lula have criticized) and other imperialist policies. Should that happen, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth in Washington, and dancing in the streets in Havana.
Meanwhile, we in the United States have to be vigilant to make sure that if there is another coup attempt against Chavez, it is not effectuated with US help while we are preoccupied with the Middle East.
 
 

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