Venezuela: left, right charge union repression

The Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Fedec├ímaras) filed a complaint at a meeting of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva on June 11 against the labor and business policies of President Hugo Ch├ívez’s leftist government. In addition to protesting the nationalization of businesses, the group charged that the government was “criminalizing protest” by labor unions and that the murders of some 200 unionists over the past five years had gone unpunished. On June 15 pro-government unionists protested in front of the Fedec├ímaras office in Ciudad Guayana in the eastern state of Bol├şvar, denying that there was repression of labor and charging that the business group, which supported a 2002 coup against Ch├ívez, was trying to destabilize the government. (El Nacional, Caracas, June 11 from EFE; El Diario de Guayana, Venezuela, June 16)

One of the cases of alleged repression cited by Fedec├ímaras is the imprisonment since Sept. 29, 2009 of Rub├ęn Gonz├ílez, general secretary of the Ferrominera Workers Union (Sintraferrominera), which represents employees at the government-owned Ferrominera Orinoco (FMO) in Ciudad Guayana. Gonz├ílez is charged with instigating criminal activity and with agavillamiento (“forming criminal gangs”).

The charges stem from a dispute last August at Ferrominera, an iron ore mining subsidiary of CVG, the national heavy industry holding company. According to the government and another Sintraferrominera official, Alfredo Spooner, Gonz├ílez led a band of 20 to 50 workers that attacked other workers in an effort to force a strike by the company’s 6,232 employees. Gonz├ílez’s supporters, including anarchists and some other leftists, say that there was a 16-day strike at the company by many of the workers and that on Aug. 26 FMO president Radwan Sabbagh publicly signed an agreement with Gonz├ílez ending the strike and promising that there would be no reprisals against the strikers. The supporters also say that far from opposing the Ch├ívez government, Gonz├ílez is a member of the pro-government United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). (Aporrea, Venezuela, Aug. 19, 2009, from Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias (ABN), May 10; Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo action alert, June 4)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 20.

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