Venezuela’s D-Day - Constituent Referendum: Democratic Socialism or Imperial Counter-Revolution

Venezuela’s D-Day - The December 2, 2007 Constituent Referendum:
Democratic Socialism or Imperial Counter-Revolution

by James Petras

On November 26, 2007 the Venezuelan government
broadcast and circulated a confidential memo from the
US embassy to the CIA which is devastatingly revealing
of US clandestine operations and which will influence
the referendum this Sunday (December 2, 2007).
The memo sent by an embassy official, Michael
Middleton Steere, was addressed to the head of the
CIA, Michael Hayden. The memo was entitled Advancing
to the Last Phase of Operation Pincer and updates the
activity by a CIA unit with the acronym HUMINT (Human
Intelligence) which is engaged in clandestine action
to destabilize the forth-coming referendum and
coordinate the civil military overthrow of the elected
Chavez government. The Embassy-CIA polls concede that
57% of the voters approved of the constitutional
amendments proposed by Chavez but also predicted a 60%
The US operatives emphasized their capacity to recruit
former Chavez supporters among the social democrats
(PODEMOS) and the former Minister of Defense Baduel,
claiming to have reduced the yes vote by 6% from its
original margin. Nevertheless the Embassy operatives
concede that they have reached their ceiling,
recognizing they cannot defeat the amendments via the
electoral route.
The memo then recommends that Operation Pincer (OP)
[Operaci Tenaza] be operationalized. OP involves a
two-pronged strategy of impeding the referendum,
rejecting the outcome at the same time as calling for
a no vote. The run up to the referendum includes
running phony polls, attacking electoral officials and
running propaganda through the private media accusing
the government of fraud and calling for a no
vote. Contradictions, the report cynically emphasizes,
are of no matter.
The CIA-Embassy reports internal division and
recriminations among the opponents of the amendments
including several defections from their umbrella
group. The key and most dangerous threats to democracy
raised by the Embassy memo point to their success in
mobilizing the private university students (backed by
top administrators) to attack key government buildings
including the Presidential Palace, Supreme Court and
the National Electoral Council. The Embassy is
especially praiseworthy of the ex-Maoist Red Flag
group for its violent street fighting
activity. Ironically, small Trotskyist sects and their
trade unionists join the ex-Maoists in opposing the
constitutional amendments. The Embassy, while
discarding their Marxist rhetoric, perceives their
opposition as fitting in with their overall strategy.
The ultimate objective of Operation Pincer is to seize
a territorial or institutional base with the massive
support of the defeated electoral minority within
three or four days (before or after the elections is
not clear. JP) backed by an uprising by oppositionist
military officers principally in the National
Guard. The Embassy operative concede that the military
plotters have run into serous problems as key
intelligence operatives were detected, stores of arms
were decommissioned and several plotters are under
tight surveillance.
Apart from the deep involvement of the US, the primary
organization of the Venezuelan business elite
(FEDECAMARAS), as well as all the major private
television, radio and newspaper outlets have been
engaged in a vicious fear and intimidation
campaign. Food producers, wholesale and retail
distributors have created artificial shortages of
basic food items and have provoked large scale capital
flight to sow chaos in the hopes of reaping a no
President Chavez Counter-Attacks
In a speech to pro-Chavez, pro-amendment nationalist
business-people (Entrepreneurs for Venezuela EMPREVEN)
Chavez warned the President of FEDECAMARAS that if he
continues to threaten the government with a coup, he
would nationalize all their business affiliates. With
the exception of the Trotskyist and other sects, the
vast majority of organized workers, peasants, small
farmers, poor neighborhood councils, informal
self-employed and public school students have
mobilized and demonstrated in favor of the
constitutional amendments.
The reason for the popular majority is found in a few
of the key amendments: One article expedites land
expropriation facilitating re-distribution to the
landless and small producers. Chavez has already
settled over 150,000 landless workers on 2 million
acres of land. Another amendment provides universal
social security coverage for the entire informal
sector (street sellers, domestic workers,
self-employed) amounting to 40% of the labor
force. Organized and unorganized workers workweek will
be reduced from 40 to 36 hours a week (Monday to
Friday noon) with no reduction in pay. Open admission
and universal free higher education will open greater
educational opportunities for lower class
students. Amendments will allow the government to
by-pass current bureaucratic blockage of the
socialization of strategic industries, thus creating
greater employment and lower utility costs. Most
important, an amendment will increase the power and
budget of neighborhood councils to legislate and
invest in their communities.
The electorate supporting the constitutional
amendments is voting in favor of their socio-economic
and class interests; the issue of extended re-election
of the President is not high on their priorities: And
that is the issue that the Right has focused on in
calling Chavez a dictator and the referendum a coup.
The Opposition
With strong financial backing from the US Embassy ($8
million dollars in propaganda alone according to the
Embassy memo) and the business elite and free time by
the right-wing media, the Right has organized a
majority of the upper middle class students from the
private universities, backed by the Catholic Church
hierarchy, large swaths of the affluent middle class
neighborhoods, entire sectors of the commercial, real
estate and financial middle classes and apparently
sectors of the military, especially officials in the
National Guard. While the Right has control over the
major private media, public television and radio back
the constitutional reforms. While the Right has its
followers among some generals and the National Guard,
Chavez has the backing of the paratroops and legions
of middle rank officers and most other generals.
The outcome of the Referendum of December 2 is a
decisive historical event first and foremost for
Venezuela but also for the rest of the Americas. A
positive vote (Vota Sí) will provide the legal
framework for the democratization of the political
system, the socialization of strategic economic
sectors, empower the poor and provide the basis for a
self-managed factory system. A negative vote (or a
successful US-backed civil-military uprising) will
reverse the most promising living experience of
popular self-rule, of advanced social welfare and
democratically based socialism. A reversal, especially
a military dictated outcome, will lead to a massive
blood bath, such as we have not seen since the days of
the Indonesian Generals Coup of 1966, which killed
over a million workers and peasants or the Argentine
Coup of 1976 in which over 30,000 Argentines were
murdered by the US backed Generals.
A decisive vote for Sí will not end US military and
political destabilization campaigns but it will
certainly undermine and demoralize their
collaborators. On December 2, 2007 the Venezuelans
have a rendezvous with history.