The Venezuelan Revolution - An Appeal from Women to Women all over the World
Issued by the Global Women's Strike, January 2003
February 28, 2003
"We women reject the organizers of hate and chaos. We women are on the front line for our right to live in peace and to defend the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela, which gives us, for the first time in history, the right to full legal equality, to social security, to a pension for housewives. We are on the streets backing our President and our Bolivarian Revolution. Long live the Constitution! No to the fraudulent referendum!"
In response to women in Venezuela, we urgently appeal to you to speak out in defense of the revolution of which women are a leading part. Since President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias was elected by a landslide in 1998 to carry out sweeping economic and social reforms to rid the country of poverty and corruption, their revolution has been under constant threat.
As you may know, in April 2002 the elite, acting with the US government, imposed a military coup. Women from the poorest neighborhoods of Caracas were the first to descend from the hills, risking their lives to demand the return of their elected president. Filling the streets, the population, supported by the army rank-and-file, reinstated their government. Women's courage and initiative in defeating the coup is widely acknowledged in Venezuela, and first of all by President Chavez.
We learnt this, and much else, when three of us from the Global Women's Strike in Guyana, Peru and the US, attended the international women's solidarity conference at the invitation of INAMUJER (the Women's Institute) last July.
For four decades the ruling elite has been bleeding the country's wealth, above all its oil revenue (Venezuela is the 5th largest exporter mainly to the US), leaving 80% of the population - overwhelmingly people of mixed African and Indigenous descent - impoverished. The white elite is furious that from 1998 a man who is the color of their servants is in power representing those they have defrauded. Despite retaining preferential treatment for its oil imports, the US, which has had a hand in the corrupt handling of Venezuelan oil revenue, also fears the policies of the Chavez government: no privatization, lower oil rates for Cuba, Guyana and other small Caribbean countries, and bringing together Latin America and the Caribbean for the benefit of all its peoples.
By 1999 the population created and passed with a 72% vote a revolutionary new Constitution. Women, Indigenous communities who, as in the rest of the Americas, have been under threat of genocide for centuries, other women and men of color, and other social groups who suffer discrimination, won rights fought for over years:
A just distribution of wealth.
Full legal and pay equality between women and men in employment.
The recognition of housework as an economic activity that creates surplus value and produces social wealth and well being.
Social security and a pension for housewives.
A minimum wage, an 8-hour day, no compulsory overtime and the right to paid holidays. Women, the lowest paid everywhere, who do a double day of unwaged caring work on top of low-waged work, would benefit most.
Protection from discrimination based on sex, race, politics, age, religion and disability. Positive steps to favor those who may be discriminated against, marginalized or vulnerable, and punishment of those guilty of abuse or mistreatment.
Recognition of Venezuelan sign language, and the use of subtitles in TV programs.
Recognition and protection of Indigenous communities, their social, political and economic organizations, cultures, religious and health practices, the collective ownership of ancestral land and knowledge. Bilingual education in Indigenous areas. Women stress that it is their work that has kept cultures and languages alive.
Outlawing the patenting of genes, technologies and inventions arising from ancestral knowledge or resources.
No privatization of water; food security through sustainable agriculture;
protection of the environment.
No oil privatization - the State will keep 100% of oil shares.
Always the poorest everywhere, women have the most to gain from all these reforms. Despite the elite's power to frustrate change, there have been remarkable achievements that we have not yet won in most countries in spite of our own years of struggle.
A strong commitment to tackling domestic violence and the machismo of the justice system.
A Women's Bank that puts money for income generation directly into women's hands.
Better child nutrition and greater school attendance through free breakfast programs and a clampdown on schools illegally charging fees. A dramatic drop in the infant mortality rate.
The distribution of title deeds to land built on by squatters, mostly woman-headed households in the shanty towns on the Caracas hills.
A law distributing unused state and private land to rural people. Women, including Indigenous women, are often the main agriculturalists.
Subsidies of $1000-$2000 to small farmers - a lot for people earning $15 a month.
Women's determination to resist provocation and to protect "el proceso" - the peaceful and democratic process to which many middle class people are also committed - has been hidden by the corporate-owned media. National and international audiences are bombarded with lies promoting the coup leaders and glorifying or hiding their ongoing violence.
This has so incensed women that they have declared a "permanent mobilization". Every day thousands surround the main TV channels to demand an end to media lies about them. They are also infuriated that the leadership of the CTV, the corrupt trade union federation involved in the coup, has been given a platform to claim that workers are backing the employers' efforts to destabilize the economy. These lies are given credibility by the financial and other support for CTV from the US union
federation AFL-CIO (without union members' knowledge), and by the silence of the UN's International Labor Office.
Most recently, a "general strike" that has been in fact a corporate lockout, has tried to stop oil exports, to give the US an excuse to intervene and restore the rich and racist elite to power. The situation is heightening now because basic changes, such as land reform and regaining control over the national oil industry in order to tackle poverty, are to be implemented in January 2003.
The impact of the popular mobilization in support of the elected government, and fears that the US will attack not only Venezuela and Iraq but any country it wishes, spurred the Organization of American States to support the Chavez government against calls for early elections. Apparently, this is the first time the OAS has stood against a major US policy, which shows we can win.
We urge women, women's organizations and all who support women's rights and anti-racism to endorse the following, and to send protest emails and faxes to the State Department, the AFL-CIO, the ILO and major media outlets. Please also send your letters to Venezuela's Women's Institute, President Hugo Chavez and the Global Women's Strike (numbers on page below).
The Global Women's Strike is active in more than 60 countries every March 8 since the year 2000. We demand that the world "invest in caring not killing." The GWS sent a women's truth-finding mission to Venezuela in July 2002. Findings can be found on the GWS website: http://womenstrike8m.server101.com, email@example.com
What You Can Do: Send protest emails and/or faxes to:
J. Curtis Struble, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (202) 647-5780; Fax -0791
Brian Naranjo, Venezuela Desk Officer, US Dept of State Tel (202) 647-4216 or -3338;
AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney, Tel 202-637-5231; Fax 202-508-6946; email : firstname.lastname@example.org; Barbara Shailor, Director, Int'l Affairs Dept, (202) 637-5050
ILO Regional Office for the Americas: email@example.com Fax +51.1.442.25.31
ILO Geneva email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax +41 22 798 8685
Send copies of your protest letters to: The Honorable Hugo Chavez, President, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela email@example.com; Fax: +58-212-806 3145;
Maria Leon, INAMUJER (Venezuelan Women's Institute) firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information contact: