Indigenous and labor rights in Venezuela: do our readers care?

Our November issue featured the stories “Venezuelan Labor Between Chávez and the Golpistas” by Venezuelan journalist Rafael Uzcategui writing for the Spanish anarchist journal Tierra y Libertad, and “Venezuela: Demarcation Without Land” by José Quintero Weir writing for the Caracas anarchist journal El Libertario. The stories documented, respectively, repression against unionists and indigenous peoples under the Hugo Chávez regime. Our Exit Poll was: “Are we traitors to the Revolution for airing an anarchist critique of Bolivarian Venezuela?”

We received no responses. Which again raises the question of whether anybody actually reads World War 4 Report, and whether we should continue publishing.

We do note that our comrades at Upside Down World on Oct. 15 ran the following VenezuelAnalysis report on the violence against indigenous leaders in Venezuela’s conflicted Sierra de Perijá:

Venezuelan Yukpa Indigenous Community Attacked, Two Murdered Following Land Grants
On Tuesday [Oct. 13], the day after the national government granted more than 40,000 hectares of land to Yukpa indigenous communities in northwestern Venezuela, assassins attacked the community of Yukpa chief and indigenous rights activist Sabino Romero, killing two and injuring at least four.

Romero’s son in law, Ever Garcia, and a young, pregnant Yukpa woman were shot dead in the attack. Romero received three bullet wounds and is currently in the hospital in stable condition, according to reports from the community. Romero’s daughter, grand daughter, and nephew were also hospitalized with bullet wounds, and are now in the hospital in stable condition.

Romero was one of several Yukpa chiefs who led land occupations last year to demand that the government pay indemnity to the private estate owners and transfer the land to the Yukpa in the form of collective property, in accordance with the Venezuelan Constitution and indigenous rights laws passed by the government of President Hugo Chavez.

Since the land occupations began in July 2008, the Yukpa communities involved have been subject to repeated death threats and attacks by thugs believed to have been hired by large estate owners and their local government allies.

In August 2008, estate owner Alejandro Vargas participated in an attack on Romero’s community, during which Romero’s father, a community elder of more than one hundred years of age, was beaten and killed.

Vargas, a cattle rancher, in an attempt to justify his deadly raid on the Yukpa, accused Romero of stealing several head of cattle. He also claimed on one occasion to have paid bribes to local legal authorities for protection against prosecution, according to the victims of the attacks.

The Yukpa reported the attacks to local police, who said investigations were opened, but no suspects have been arrested.

The National Guard maintains a heavy presence and the government plans to build a new military base in the sparsely populated and conflict-ridden border zone, which is rich in coal deposits and affected by the spillover of refugees, guerrilla insurgents, and paramilitaries from the civil war in Colombia.

Romero and other Yukpa chiefs allied with him are openly opposed to the land grants issued by the government on Monday. They say the government did not effectively consult with the Yukpa communities about the proper demarcation of Yukpa land, and instead carved up Yukpa territory to protect large estate owners, preserve access to coal deposits, and preserve space for a military base in the region. Meanwhile, several other Yukpa chiefs have allied themselves with Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nicia Maldonado and supported the government’s plan for indigenous land demarcation.

See our last posts on Venezuela and the Sierra de Perijá

See our last Exit Poll results.

Please leave a tip or answer our new Exit Poll.

  1. Nature of the question
    Hey Bill! Long time! I hope all is well. A comment about the blog and then the Venezuela issue.

    First, this site is an incredible resource. I tweet about it and reference it regularly. A lot of radical/progressive sites are out there, but NONE are as thorough as you are in presenting analysis and news. I’ll make a point of putting a link in my site’s blogroll. I would encourage you to remind others to promote the site if they like it; sites like this one aren’t dailykos as far as content, and genuinely depend on friends to support it and share it with comrades.

    Second, Venezuela. I confess missing the question the first time it had been posted. I don’t think critiquing Venezuela is an either/or proposition. I think one can raise principled debate over issues and the nature of political approaches. I do think one can undermine a revolution by presenting false, misleading or ruling-class-positioned items under another cover, but don’t expect that to be an issue here.

    Cheers! Keep up this amazing site, please!

    1. Somebody gets it…
      Thank you, Ernesto, for a very encouraging and intelligent response. Yes, anything readers could do promote our existence to the wider blogosphere would be greatly appreciated!

      1. More more thoughts
        Hey again Bill! Two expanded thoughts.

        Those reading this site should make a point of forwarding links to the reporting. Don’t take these resources and reporting for granted. Support the people doing courageous journalism that addresses issues from the perspective of affected voices. And give suggestions for coverage! What’s happening in South Asia, Latin America and Africa right now is remarkable. This site provides it. Oh, and get Bill’s book, Homage to Chiapas, the best book on Mexico’s insurgencies available, period.

        Bill, I would also suggest adding such reminders to the site, and to make About Us and Support links higher on the page. You have a stellar group of contributors and a mission everyone should read more about. Drupal also has add-ons for most-viewed posts-of-the-week and other additions to encourage user participation.

        Another thought on Venezuela, I think critiques of Venezuela (and anywhere else) should also be examined for intent. For example, a commentator may decry tactics of Chavistas, but (ultimately) their actual criticism has to do with Hugo Chavez and the fact he leads Venezuela. For reactionaries, the Chavistas may just be a convenient vehicle toward an agenda that has nothing to do with particular incidents (maybe not in this case, but I’m sure you understand the fine points to this). Sort of reminds me of the bigots who decried the involvement of communists in the U.S. civil rights struggle when, really, their beef was the civil rights movement itself. One of the reasons I like this site is the appreciation of complex differences. I think explorations of sources, etc. are invaluable.

        Thank you again, and please stay hopeful and dedicated as you always are. Link added.

  2. we’re in a bit of a vacuum
    Hey Bill. I don’t make it here nearly as often as I should, but I for one appreciate the WW4 Report. In fact, you were a big inspiration for my own website (Intercontinental Cry). You regularly offer an intelligent, reliable and unique analysis of events. That is sorely lacking on the internet.

    But even so, the analysis is taking place in a bit of a vacuum. Most people are pretty reluctant to share their thoughts, especially now with twitter and facebook around. The vast majority of readers are more likely to say their piece on those sites and then never look back.

    You do get a fair number of comments here though, and that’s a good measure of the number of readers you have. The average is about 100/1 (for every hundred readers you get one comment.) For donators, at least in my case, it’s 1000/1.

    If you have a computer tech on hand, there are a few things you can do to increase the number of readers and commenters (though it may take some months to really show). Perhaps send me an email and we can talk about that. Respectfully, A

  3. one more thing…
    Forgot to answer your question…. I’d have to say absolutely no. But it would be a mistake for us to think Venezuela is an exception to the common rule of states.

  4. Bakunin still relevant
    Received via e-mail from Joe J., somewhere in cyberspace:


    I know this is a little late, but i did want to respond to this exit poll, because when I was back in the US, I was told the same thing, namely “don’t criticize Chavez!” Well, I think everyone deserves a little criticism. None of us are perfect, and our perspectives won’t allow us to see everything, so we should accept constructive criticism as what it is, and try to work on what we don’t do well. When you “lead” a country, or when we’re talking about criticizing “the Revolution”, those criticisms should be well formulated, but should exist all the same. If any revolution was perfect, we’d all be ‘saved’, and that’s not the reality we live in.

    Though the Bolivarian Revolution brought about some substantial changes within Venezuala and Latin America in general, I’m afraid Bakunin’s original critique of Marx’s theories still stands. If you don’t destroy the state in it’s entirety to start with, then the state will simply be taken over by a new class bureaucrats and scientists. “While redistribution of sovereignty may indeed challenge a particular colonial oppressor, it will not necessarily challenge the tools of his oppression.”—Richard J.F. Day < that's one of my favourite quotes. To think that the state is a neutral actor/tool is to fall victim to the logic of the state, and hierarchical structures in general. Chavez will never be able to "give" everyone in Venezuela freedom, because they need to be taking it for themselves for it to truly be free. Unions can be a liberating structure, but not when they're subsumed by larger and larger units, and can gain no autonomy at the local level, which is the situation I keep hearing coming out of Venezuela. States need to consume any identities that are outliers in the territory for authority's sake, and need an expansionist mode to keep up with the "market economy" to keep up in the wonderful global system we have. This is why indigenous groups like the Yukpa are being swallowed up and 'codified', along with their traditional lands, so as to be processed more efficiently, and so that the 'resources' that are a part of their habitat can be used as commodities for the growth and entrenchment of the state. I know it's not right to tell others what to do, but several hundred years of the existence of 'states' as a dominating concept should show us all their destructive nature. They're not the only thing that should be struggled against, but they are a huge part of the hell that our world has been becoming. Glorifying the Bolivarian version of the state will not get us anywhere, because it will only continue to deal with opposition and difference the same way any other state would, even if it has slightly redistributed some very small portions of the resources it has accumulated. Joe