Strike’s Back, 15 Years On


It’s January, 2003, and I’m drinking Coca Cola with the crazed abandonment of a crackhead getting his fix. The Paro Cívico is in full swing, I’m a high school senior and this stuff hasn’t been on the shelves for weeks.

In December of 2002, the Coordinadora Democrática (a kind of proto-MUD) called for an ill-advised, indefinite general strike demanding Hugo Chávez’ resignation from presidency. I don’t know it yet, but this will end in tears.

The strike, which went on for over two months and severely impacted the economy, was crazy unpopular. Many companies, including Coca-Cola, supported the action by shutting down, causing their products to disappear from the shelves. That January day when my mom scored an imported bottle of Coke? We partied like it was 1999.  

Looking back, even by the crazy life standards of chavismo, the strike stands out in my memory as a powerful reminder of how chavismo learned to get results by deranging its opponents first.

At that time, my 17 year old self focused on trivial stuff the shortages of your favorite snacks, hours upon hours watching TV. I remember gas becoming, for the first time in Venezuela, a precious, expensive product that we would endure long lines in the car to secure. I also remember every shop in eastern Caracas closed and the hysterical reaction to anybody breaking the strike. The boredom, the overall tension and hysteria and the naïf hope that this self-defeating hissy-fit was going to make chavismo go away.

It’s time for the oppo leadership to speak softly and carry the stick against the looming threat of the Constituyente.

Now, almost 15 years later, MUD has called for a 24 hour national strike, a notion that has been taboo since the 2002 crash. Although we don’t know the details, looks like a 24-hour event, unlike the Ghost of Christmas past, making me realize how far we’ve come as a political movement. We’ve learned not despair and let hysteria get the better of us. We’ve organized, protested and scored major political victories. Unlike 2002, the opposition now stands as defenders of liberal democracy and human rights against a declared military kleptocracy. We have gained the support of the country that saw us in 2002 as doñas del cafetal.

However, the self-destructive impulse that birthed the 2002 strike lives on. Chavismo is doing its best to back us against a corner and provoke a fatal misstep and, as long as we are run by warchiefs who conceive politics as a game of domination, there’ll be the allure of 2002, this time spiced with colectivos and their dance macabre.

I, for one, feel encouraged. Sunday’s self-organized election was a reminder of the rational, inclusive, hard-working opposition that has fought against chavismo for a better country but let’s always remember the nature of the beast. It’s time for the oppo leadership to speak softly and carry the stick against the looming threat of the Constituyente.

We cannot afford blunders like the 2016 fiasco, an ending that would make 2002’s disaster feel as sweet as the finest Coke you’ve tried.

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  1. My guess is, the regime does not have a whisper of the reserves it had in 2003, making a real strike far more effective. But it has to be a real economic threat. Not just closing some shops.

      • One important element that seems to be missing are strong affiliations between opposition parties and any powerful trade unions. Many, perhaps most have been ‘Cubanized’ (like the military and upper civil service). While that does not prevent them from becoming independent again, I don’t see any evidence of that happening yet. Maybe folks with a closer perspective have thoughts on that.

        But violence is not an effective response to people simply not working. If you have tens of tousands of people staying home for a day, the regime’s ability effectively to prevent that is extremely limited and the means you mention tend to be counterproductive.

        1500 truck drivers working the ports could end this regime. Does the opposition have the support of 1500 truck drivers?

  2. I’m hoping for the best but worried about the ramifications if it flops. Businesses, rightly so, fear this government when guys like Godgiven Hair say, “a business closed is a business expropiated”. Alternately, with a wink and a nod from the authorities, chavistas will loot a business faster than a cat can lick his ass.

    • The kind of businesses that need to close for this strike to work are mostly the kind that can’t be expropriated.

  3. The gathering winds are of such magnitude and of a destruction potential, potentially afecting regional interests, that all major players have come out clamoring for an ANC recall.

    The circus owner is not opposed to the ANC recall, as evidenced by Santos’ comment just after his meeting with Raul in Havana. Trump’s economic threat is not really directed at Masburro, but to the FANB.

    We have to be concerned if out of all this, the only thing we get is a postponement of the ANC. Masburro wont be opposed to a temporary measure in exchange for some wiggle room. However it would be a mistake on our part.

  4. Don’t you see it?

    USA’s embargo against Maduro will affect Cuba more than Venezuela. And all those little islands in the Caribbean.

  5. I am trying to follow along, and I am not getting it. If, as I have read on this blog and especially in the comments, oil is 95% of all Venezuelan exports, then what is the other 5%? And, since all non-export economic activity is based on something being imported, or otherwise both produced and consumed in Venezuela, how does a strike that does not involve oil production and shipments hurt the regime? I can see how it would hurt the populace that are relying on products made/distributed in VZ (like Coca cola) , and who rely on public services, but I am told on this blog that the regime does not give two shits about the people. Plus, I thought stuff like coca cola is no longer being produced in Venezuela? Any tutorial one of you can supply would be appreciated/educational.

    On the topic of possible US embargo of VZ oil, I can see how that matters to the regime, but oil is a commodity. As long as someone else is there to buy it (e.g., China), how does this hurt VZ production? Or are the heavy crude US refineries essential and so US is their only customer? Again, any tutorial one of you can supply would be appreciated/educational.

    • You are 100% right. It does not make any sense to stop private enterprise while PDVSA coughs along. Specially since Chavistas LOVE not to work and to destroy private enterprise.

      Here is an example of one of Maduro’s bright ideas:
      El presidente de Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, declaró los viernes de abril y mayo como no laborables como medida para ahorrar energía. El plan pretende contrarrestar los efectos de la sequía, producto a su vez del fenómeno El Niño, informó la Agencia Venezolana de Noticias.Apr 7, 2016

    • 1) VZ can hardly pump enough as it is to provide China with free and reduced price oil it owes them as the result of passed loans. They owe China a fortune.

      2) The U.S. is by far VZ’s biggest customer, and look at a map. Shipping from VZ ports to U.S. ports/refineries in the Gulf of Mexico…or shipping where? The Far East? Europe? The Middle East? Come on.

      A U.S. embargo on buying VZ oil would bury the economy in 2 months.

      An additional U.S. embargo on selling them light crude to mix with their heavy crude (they need U.S. lighter crude to mix with their oil in order for it to flow through their pipes) would cut that down to 1 month.

      Of course, let’s not forget the options of seizing VZ refineries in the U.S., albeit legally messy and questionable but certainly within the realm of possibilities.

      Oil is fungible. Lose one supplier and you can find another.

      However, as a SELLER of oil, VZ is fucked.

  6. Maduro doesnt give a shit about a 24 hour Strike. IN fact, he is very happy with a 24hr strike. Doesnt anyone remembers this:

    “El presidente de Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, declaró los viernes de abril y mayo como no laborables como medida para ahorrar energía. El plan pretende contrarrestar los efectos de la sequía, producto a su vez del fenómeno El Niño, informó la Agencia Venezolana de Noticias.Apr 7, 2016”

    Chavistas are happy when people do not work and companies are destroyed.

    How does this Strike help the opposition????

  7. More effective than an embargo would be to condition payment for the oil to acceptance by the national assembly. No go ahead from them, and the funds stay in an escrow account until a functional democracy is in place.

  8. So, the two most used arguments by chavismo are about to kick in: Paro and Economic Sanctions by the US. Are we really going to have un paro when 95 % of the economy is controlled by PDVSA and over 75% of the working force belongs to the government controlled institutions/companies?
    Im honestly open to explanations, I can’t understand this decision. Please help me to understand.

  9. Good questions. Thing is, Trump, for all his foibles and folly, can not afford to bluff or make mere threats re “swift and decisive action.”

    Either Maduro calls off his dog and pony show or Trump will squeeze him hard, and out every crook and narco in his staff, including the army and GN.

    And Venezuela cannot “sell” oil already promised to and paid for by China. OR Russia. They are shorting both countries on oil promised and selling it elsewhere for cash money, believing there’s not a lot China or Russia can do about it. Problem is, the general population will have to suffer once the petro cash is off the table.

    The US is not the overt bully it used to be, but it’s not sane policy to dare them to take action. The sticky part is to do so if a way that it imperils the government and not the people, and I’m wondering how that is possible.

    • In response to Trump, according to Delcy Rodriguez, we will die of hunger first to defend the patria. Shame is, the rest of the pueblo is not ready to die of hunger to defend socialismo chimbo. News on the same day the road from La Guaria to CCS was blocked by people protesting for lack of food.

      Delcy Rodríguez: “Nos moriremos de hambre pero aquí seguiremos defendiendo la Patria”

  10. From The Economist:

    Mr Maduro’s government vowed to proceed with the vote, hitting out at what it called a “brutal interventionist” threat from its ideological foe in the north.

    “Venezuelans are free and will unite against the insolent threat from a xenophobic and racist government,” said Samuel Moncada, the foreign minister, on Tuesday.

    He said the elections for the Constituent Assembly was “an act of political sovereignty by the republic.”

    “Nothing and nobody can stop it,” he added.

    • Ho-hum. Xenophobic, racist, homophobic, transphobic, nazi, white-supremacist, jingoistic, deplorable, etc., etc.

      God, am I glad I voted for Trump.

      • you left off “misogynistic,” “bigoted,” “Alt-Right” (whatever that means) ,and “spewing” (proggies can use verbs as nouns”)

        • Let me fill you in on a secret not confined to proggies (whatever they are): in English, all verbs correspond with a noun. I suspect that is also the case in Spanish.

          • So they do! But that would be a “spew government”. I think “spewing government” is a better fit

    • Damn. You can bet the chinese technicians are crawling all over that thing to make the next generation of Rhinos capable of running over even more students.

    • They are serious not because they are afraid but because they are intoxicated with their own kool-aid; these people are beyond reason.

    • Indeed Lorenzo, and coupled with major bond payments due in a few months, this government will be in a world of hurt. No money and corroding military support.

  11. What Rubiocito said, pues. The real international pressure will come through what even Amargo could not pull off: cut the flow of platta. Or as it were, the trickle. And when Rubio said “major,” we’re talking to the tune of over three billion.

    The faces around that table looked oblivious to all this … Boggling.

  12. So what do you guys think? All bluff for chavista consumption tonight, or is he serious about going through with it? If Raul calls tomorrow and tells him to can the ANC, he’s finished IMHO.

  13. Trump has the balls, a Castro-Cuban primary tumor on the north coast of SA CANNOT/WILL NOT be allowed to stand–what’s up in the air now is if pragmatic Chavismo has the strength to stop the ANC/Castro-Cuban Communism, or will what’s left of them/Chavismo go down in flames along with the Narco/Cuban/Corrupt/Communist Regime as blood runs freely in the streets….

  14. Trump threatened Syria and he followed through with tomahawk missiles. Say what you may, but Trump will follow through, not doing so would make HIM look weak and that he cannot tolerate.

    Also a win is sorely needed by his administration, so he may think Venezuela is a good opportunity

  15. Good point 67, Trump could use some positive headlines right now and kicking Maduro in the teeth might be just what the doctor ordered.

  16. Gentlemen, I do not know about you, but I much rather watch in 3D the lancing of a gigantic, purulent zit than seeing peorra Delcy in TV.

    On to economic matters: Venezuela buys A LOT of WTI from the US. With dwindling light crude production and little/no money to buy light oil from Russia, Libya or Nigeria to mix with our heavy crude, we are not going to be able to get to a 16 API (commercially viable) product. What about Venezuela commitments if the US restricts oil sales & purchases?

    Adding to the drama, an important volume of the gasoline that Venezuela buys in the US at market price, ends up in Cuba, basically free. Me thinks that Raul wants to have his limo fueled up and also some to sell in the market.

    Masburro and accolites might be criminals, but they are not stupid. Havana is anything but stupid. The FANB “high command patriotism” is all about business. Godgiven Hair should be very concerned, not only because the Dept of Justice likely has a big bulls-eye ready, but also because he was pushed aside with the decision to release LL and again, will be pushed aside in the decision to negotiate the ANC. His wing has a lot of lead…

    I am not sure what the MUD is discussing behind closed doors, or if any entreaties have been made with the government or even Zapatero, but together with the recall of the ANC, worthwhile goals would be:

    Full, recognition of the AN (112 representatives= a super majority).
    New members of the TSJ sworn ( paving the way to renovate the CNE)
    A definitive election schedule

    We all want Masburro out sooner rather than later. In the meantime: A Dios rogando y con el mazo dando. Take that Godgiven!

  17. This scenario is very unlikely but me wonders if the US Marines will land during this 24Hr Strike, it looks like the perfect opportunity clearing the way to finally trap the Donkey with the gun.
    Trump always said in regard to international conflicts that he would move swiftly without warnings and diplomatic BS.

  18. That was a big meeting tonight and I did not see Godgiven’s mug. Excluded? Refused to participate? Off on one of pep rallies? Interesting times.

    FGB, what’s the API of Belt crude before adding the diluent? My God, they “lighten” it to 16? I cursed like a sailor the few times I had to work with something as heavy as 16.

    • Maybe Godgiven had a case of “the runs”….

      The Belt is reportedly > 90% extra heavy at < 10 API. We do not have enough production of diluents, hence the apparent incongruity of being in a country with the greatest oil reserves, needing to import oil. Of course, if a few billion had been invested in larger/better upgraders, another rooster would be singing. But we had better uses for the windfall of cash in the first decade (purchasing Argentinian debt is one of the first that I can remember, I am sure we can name a few).

      We had a technology 100% Venezuelan "Orimulsion", developed by our people at Intevep, where the extra heavy was mixed with a surfactant and water. Why were we investing on hare brained schemes all around and not looking at the elephant in the room?

      Se cansa uno!

  19. Cesar, the 2002 strike was not a failure. It was a needed step to continue to peel te onion of the regime’s apparent legitimacy and democratic credentials.

    I agree tactically, it was full of contradictions, shops closed in the ghettos while mercados populares and most of the country was open for business.

    Arbitrage opportunities for smugglers and vivos de siempre to profit insanely (even by YV standards) with scarce cocacola, gas and food items….

    Worst of all, it showed how close sighter the society was to not close ranks in doing well what it had stated it was attempting to do, typical mediocrity of doing things halfheartedly…

    Fast forward 15 years or so, the peeling has continued and the allure of God-Chavez is gone. Eating out of the trash cans and dying from caries and dengue does that for even the hard adoctrinated. The regime has all along prepared for this contingency, it has brain washed and hate filled his accolades and manages to have a hard core of fanatics ready to kill their kin. Rwanda style.

    The opportunity to get rid of this regime is in front of us, however, braking chavismo does not mean recovering peace, a long process may involve forming interventions, civil war, continued low intensity warfare as nowadays, and all kind of horrible scenarios, ranging from Rwanda, through Somalia, Syria and Cuba to name a few.

    Venezuelans have demonstrated their strong love for democracy (SIC) and peace and continue to resist falling into the violence that the regime is promoting desperately to cover up their crimes. My hope lyes that all kind of civil resistance options are tried and improved and we manage to avoid the most destructive scenarios.

    Kudos to Trin paro nacional de 24 hr, with all the stigma and shortcoming it may have.
    Otherwise, time to sharpen up on your rifle mark-ship skill and hit the monte y culebras my friend.

  20. 2002’s strike failed for several reasons other than “shiabbe’s cunning” or “being unpopular”, but just two reasons for example were:

    * The enchufados from that time supported chavismo (Ex. Wilmer Ruperti)
    * The enchufados hijacked the transitional government (Aka Venezuela C.A.)

    So yeah, everything was because the enchufados, the same enchufados that are stealing billions today.


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