By Socialism and Freedom Party (Partido Socialismo y Libertad, PSL)
Photo Credit: Francisco Chirinos, El Pitazo. National Guard arrests trade union leaders in El Palito oil refinery, Jan. 28th 2020.
Caracas, February 6th, 2020.
In the past few weeks, the government has unleashed a brutal campaign of repression against trade union leaders and popular sectors that raise their voices against the terrible life conditions we endure, making demands around wages and other issues.
These repressive policies take a variety of forms. They range from lay offs, forced retirements, persecution and harassment, to detentions and imprisonments.
House arrest has been imposed since December on the workers Roger González, Eugenio Montes and MIguel Álvarez of the food processing plant Alimex in Lara state, for pushing forward the union struggles of their co-workers demanding a living wage. They had previously been imprisoned by the CICPC national police under accusations of ‘boycott’ and ‘sabotage’, but were given house arrests after mobilizations in their defense.
Marcos Sabariego and Gil Mujica, oil workers, were detained by the National Guard simply for participating in a massive workers’ assembly in El Palito oil refinery in Carabobo state. They were subsequently fired from PDVSA and detained under house arrest.
William Prieto, general secretary of SintraFogade workers’ union of FOGADE – the state financial oversight institution, was the target of persecution and harassment for his union activity, and because of his denunciations of the erosion of the salary’s purchasing power and the deterioration of work conditions, among other grievances, was arbitrarily removed from his work position by the president of FOGADE, Arlen Piñate, daughter of the Minister of Labor Eduardo Piñate. William Guzmán, another delegate of SintraFogade, has also been subjected to harassment and threats.
On January 30th in the city of Cumaná, Ramón Gómez, Carlos Ochoa and Joel Morales, workers of the state government and board members of the state workers’ union SUEPPLES, were arrested and brutally beaten up (see video linked).
This happened after an assembly in a public square, when they intended to deliver a document to the governor’s office demanding the payment of salaries, social benefits, and a discussion of the collective bargaining agreement. They were later charged with ‘incitement to hatred’ and ‘criminal association’ and locked under pre-trial arrest, started a hunger strike, and were finally released after eight days in prison.
This onslaught of repression is not accidental. The government intends to intimidate and silence any voice rising to demand rights, and any sector attempting to mobilize. Its objective is to eliminate any obstacles to the application of its brutal adjustment package, with which it attempts to unload the crisis on the shoulders of working people.
The economic package includes hunger wages, the elimination of collective bargaining agreements and the bargaining rights of trade unions through the Memorandum 2792, imposed on October of 2018 by Minister of Labor Eduardo Piñate with the support of the servile Workers’ Bolivarian Socialist Confederation (CSBT) the corporative union bureaucreacy. In fact, the bankruptcy of the primary industries of Guayana developed with the pitiless complicity of the corrupt trade union leadership of the now-rich José Gil, Alfredo Spooner, Héctor Maicán, José Meléndez, among others. In the case of the oil sector, the adjustment package includes the further privatization of the industry, and the fire-sale of assets and territories to American, Russian and Chinese transnational corporations.
The government fears a renewed rise in struggles. We call for the joining of forces to strongly confront the aggressions our comrades have suffered. We must assume that an injury to one is an injury to all, and we must respond as such. We make a call to all organizations and trade union leaderships that claim to represent the working class, and to organizations like Provea that advocate for human rights, to vigorously repudiate the government’s pretensions. We must stop harassment and repression through workers’ and popular mobilizations. Let us stop the government’s austerity plans, demanding a living wage.