Venezuela hits back at critics of Chávez’ constitutional reforms

Written By: Tribune web editor
Published: September 26, 2007 Last modified: September 26, 2007

by Keith Richmond

THE Venezuelan government defended its proposed constitutional reforms – promising a referendum on them before the end of the year – and hit out at US policy in Latin America at the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth.

Speaking at a packed fringe meeting Temir Porres, chief of staff for foreign affairs in the Venezuelan government, attacked the neo-liberal policies and IMF-imposed programme of cuts of the previous régime which culminated in riots on the streets of the capital Caracas.

Mr Porres said: “We are victims in Venezuela of the imperial policy of the United States – let us not forget that a coup d’état was plotted against us by the US government – but we have had a constitutional and democratic revolution and we want to keep it that way. That’s why we are giving more power to the people. We want to deepen our democracy. But the probable constitutional reforms will only be put in place if the people vote for them in a referendum in December.”
Graham Goddard, deputy general secretary of Unite Amicus, said: “Venezuela has become a beacon of inspiration to people across the world seeking a more just and equal society. President Hugo Chávez and his supporters have won 11 elections in nine years. The reason for this support is simple ­– the Chávez government is transforming lives.

“Extreme poverty has been halved, illiteracy eliminated and millions of people can now see a doctor for the first time. But the success of the government has not gone unnoticed – that’s why the Bush administration is running a misinformation campaign against Hugo Chávez.”

Ken Livingstone said Chávez had been the subject of a “Goebbels-style tissue of lies” by the US. “The profits from Venezuelan oil used to go into the pockets of American oil companies and into the pockets of the 200 richest families in Venezuela. Now they go to help the poor.”

He added: “The Chávez government is the most exciting thing to come out of Latin America since the Cuban revolution.”

Dr Julia Buxton told the meeting: “What is going on in Venezuela is an exercise in participatory democracy not liberal democracy.” And in a dig at hostile coverage of the country in the British media, she added: “That’s what The Guardian doesn’t understand.”