[This article originally appeared in Green Left Weekly]
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Venezuela’s socialist president Hugo Chavez has likened the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States to Venezuela’s February 1989 Caracazo riots against neoliberal policies that are widely seen as the start of Venezuela's revolutionary process.
Chavez made the comments by phone on the television program Dando y Dando on October 5.
Chavez also expressed solidarity with the protesters and condemned police repression of peaceful protest. “This movement of popular outrage is expanding ... and the repression is horrible, I don’t know how many are in prison now,” he said.
Discussing the roots of the popular explosion, he said: “Poverty’s growing. The misery is getting worse”.
The Caracazo broke out across Venezuela after a “shock package” of neoliberal reforms was introduced by then-president Carlos Andres Perez involving drastic price hikes in fuel and transport costs.
It was a popular explosion of anger by Venezuela’s working people and destitute masses. It marked the beginning of the end of the rule of Venezuela’s capitalist oligarchy.
Three years later, Chavez lead a failed military rebellion aimed at toppling the Andres Perez regime and establishing a popular revolutionary government. The attempt failed, but it earned Chavez and his military comrades immense respect among Venezuela’s poor majority. On the back of this mass support, Chavez was elected president in December 1998.
In his comments, Chavez characterized the Caracazo as “a forerunner to what we are seeing in Europe, and in North America, huge protests” against neoliberalism. In the Caracazo, “the Venezuelan people struck out against neoliberalism, against the Washington consensus, and here a revolution broke out”.
Venezuela has provided an example of an alternative approach to neoliberialism. The Chavez government has continued to nationalise more and more of Venezuela’s productive forces, starting with the biggest monopoly corporations in areas such as steel, electricity and telecommunications, to benefit Venezuela as a whole, not just the rich.
Venezuelanalysis.com said on October 11 that Chavez announced that houses built illegally on the Los Roques islands would be nationalised and turned into holiday resorts for workers and the poor. Until now, the archepelago has been frequented by Venezuela’s rich and international tourists.
Commenting on the nationalisation, Chavez said: “The upper class bourgeoisie privatised all of that, and that’s what we are going to expropriate.”
He also announced that yachts appropriated from fugitive bankers would be used for sight-seeing tours in the region.
[Owen Richards is the author of the Venezuela: translating the revolution blog.]