As the Venezuelan presidential elections approach The Point reprints three articles from the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, dealing with the current state of the polls, the new labour laws enacted, and the mass house building programme currently taking place.
Chávez Returns to Venezuela after “Successful” Treatment, Riding High in Polls
By Ewan Robertson for Venezuelanalysis.com
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez returned to Venezuela on Friday night, announcing a successful conclusion to his radiotherapy treatment in Cuba and his intention to return to the frontline of Venezuelan politics. Meanwhile, polls show him extending his advantage over rival Henrique Capriles Radonski ahead of the 7 October presidential election.
“I should inform [the country] that in the last few days we have successfully concluded the full radiotherapy cycle… I come with great optimism that this treatment will have the effects we hope for,”
said Chávez upon his arrival in Maiquetia International Airport in Caracas.
The Venezuelan president had been in Cuba since 30 April undergoing his last round of radiotherapy treatment. He has experienced six rounds of treatment since he announced the return of cancer in February. In June 2011 he was first diagnosed with cancer, when he had a baseball-sized tumour removed from his pelvis.
Chávez confirmed that he would now continue to “rigorously” follow medical advice as part of his recovery.
Regarding the campaign ahead of the presidential election, in which he will seek a third term in office against Capriles Radonski of the right-wing Democratic Unity Table (MUD), he declared that as time passes “I’ll progressively put myself where I should be, in the frontline of battle with the Bolivarian people, pushing forward the socialist revolution of peace and love”.
Chávez stressed the intention of his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to continue strengthening the Great Patriotic Pole, a coalition of pro-Chávez social movements, as well as the importance of continuing “to fight the battle of ideas” ahead of the elections.
Journalists linked to the opposition continue to speculate on the nature and seriousness of Chávez’s state of health. Chávez urged people not to be influenced by rumours, which he said were aimed at causing anxiety in the country.
Hugo Chávez continues to enjoy high approval ratings in Venezuelan opinion polls, and appears to be increasing his electoral advantage over rival Capriles Radonski.
In the latest study by GIS XXI, a firm considered favourable towards the government, 57% of respondents declared an intention to vote for Chavez in the presidential elections against 21% for Radonski. The study also shows 66% overall approval of Chavez, which has been experiencing an increase of around 2% each month this year.
Last Thursday GIS XXI director Jesse Chacon commented of the figures saying, “After 12 years in power President Chávez has huge potential. The people know he’s achieved a lot and what is lacking they’re going to achieve with Chávez as president, because he hasn’t misled the people”.
A study in April by private polling company Hinterlaces showed 53% voting intention for Chávez and 34% for Capriles. A poll in the same month by the Venezuelan Institute of Data Analysis (IVAD) predicted election results of 58.6% for Chávez and 34% for Capriles.
A survey released last Thursday by Datanalisis, a firm associated with the opposition, put Chavez on 42% voting intention and Capriles on 26%. Datananalisis head Luis Vicente Leon blamed Capriles’s falling support, down 5% from March’s Datanalisis poll, on the media’s constant attention on Chávez’s health.
Based on the fact that the great majority of people expect Chávez to fully recover and run in the presidential elections, “the opposition’s strategy cannot concentrate itself on the president’s health, but rather it must focus on defeating Chávez as a candidate,” stated Hinterlaces director Oscar Schemel while speaking on private television channel Televen yesterday.
The GIS XXI study demonstrated that Chávez has the highest levels of approval (67.7%) among women and youth.
The functioning of government social programs also showed strong approval ratings, with 70% for the Ribas and Robinson education missions, 73 – 76% for the Barrio Adentro health program, and 65% for the Great Housing Mission house construction program.
Meanwhile respondents felt that the country’s main problems were insecurity (34%), unemployment (15%), public services (12%) and inflation/cost of life (10%).
The GIS XXI investigation was conducted across Venezuela between 11 April to 5 May with 9,300 interviews and a 1% margin of error.
* From http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6985 Venezuelans Celebrate May Day after Chavez Signs New Labour Law for Social Justice & Workers Rights
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last week signed into law the country’s new labour legislation after a consultation process with the Venezuelan public which lasted five months.
The new labour law will see the working week reduced to 40 hours and maternity leave increased to 6.5 months. The law also seeks to eliminate outsourcing, private sub-contracted labour in Venezuela, which the government has previously described as an exploitative practice produced by the neo-liberal politics of the 1990s. Following the passing of the new labour law, Venezuelans celebrated May Day en masse, many catching buses to Caracas for the main march, others joining the smaller marches in cities and towns around the country. Many people held up placards saying, “The new labour law = respect for the worker” and “The labour law is social justice”.
“We’re marching to tell the whole world that in Venezuela we march for the happiness that this revolution is giving us,” said minister for indigenous peoples, Nicia Maldonando
“This new [labour] law is something that not only the workers of Venezuela deserve, but those of all Latin America and the world deserve it,” said Vargas mayor, Alexis Toledo.
“Today [May Day] is a day of struggle for workers in a large part of the world, but here in our country it is a day of celebration,” Toledo said.
Chavez outlines priorities in defence of working people and social justice
Recently returned from undergoing radiotherapy treatment in Cuba, Chavez signed the law on national television from the Miraflores Palace, stating that he was carrying out an act of “social justice” for Venezuelan workers at a time when labour rights were being rolled back across Europe and the United States.
“We have a law which will go down in history. That history...tells us that the triumph of the people, of the workers, has never come about without a long process of resistance, of struggle, suffering even. This law, which I will have the honour of signing...is the product of a long process of struggle,” he said.
Prior to signing the legislation, Chavez spoke of the differences between the Venezuelan government’s progressive policies, which prioritise workers’ rights, in comparison with governments in capitalist countries which place profit above human development and wellbeing.
Workers’ organisations have cited the re-establishment of a retirement bonus, determined by the workers’ monthly wage at the time of retirement multiplied by years in service, as one of the greatest gains represented by the new law. The bonus was eliminated in 1997 when Venezuela’s labour law was redrafted by the neo-liberal Caldera government in conjunction with big business and under pressure from the International Monetary Fund.
As well as re-establishing the retirement bonus and backdated pay for all workers retired since 1997, the new law will also re-instate “double” compensation pay in the event of unfair dismissal. This requirement was also eliminated during the 1997 reform and obliges the employer to pay wrongly-dismissed employees compensation amounting to double their retirement bonus.
The new legislation has also been described as a big step forward for women’s rights in the workplace, with post-natal maternity leave being raised from 12 to 25 weeks and increased job security for new parents, who will now be protected from dismissal for two years following the birth of a child.
Chavez went on to announce that a national retirement fund will be set up by the government in order to process payments to workers, with Venezuelan Chancellor Nicolas Maduro confirming that workers will be free to choose whether the monthly sums set aside for their retirement bonus go into the new government controlled fund or into a public or private bank. Chavez also confirmed that a government body will be set up with a view to ensuring that employers comply with the new legislation.
Here in Britain, leading progressives welcomed the developments, with Tony Burke, Unite the Union Assistant General Secretary, saying
"We have long argued that trade union rights are human rights and these rights are global and universal. With the new progressive labour law Venezuelan workers and their unions are able to show to the world the social progress being made under President Chavez. We in the UK of course are still struggling under a labour code that is not compliant with the ILO's core labour standards. Viva Venezuelan workers! Viva progressive Venezuelan unions!"
VSC co-ordinator Matt Willgress carrying Unite's message to workers in Caracas
VSC is currently in the process of producing various materials on the Labour Law. Its key advances include:
1. A shorter working week,
2. Extended maternity and paternity leave,
3. The enshrining of trade union freedom, including the right to form unions and to strike (including secondary/solidarity action,)
4. The right to social security (including pensions) for all workers for the first time,
5. An end to outsourcing,
6. An end to the use of agency labour to undermine terms and conditions,
7. The right to training and education for all workers,
8. Recognition of the right to collective bargaining, and an obligation on employees to negotiate with trade unions,
9. An obligation on the state and companies to promote and support employment for disabled workers, plus to guarantee gender equality in all aspects of work and for to employers encourage and promote the equal participation of women,
10. The prohibiting of all discrimination, including on the grounds of age, race, sex, religion, sexual orientation and disability,
11. The creation of a National Council to ensure compliance with the law and its implementation.
Venezuela’s Housing Mission on Track for 2012 Construction Target
By Ewan Robertson for Venezuelanalysis.com
41,863 houses have been built so far this year as part of the Venezuelan government’s mass house construction program, equating to 21% of the 2012 aim of 200,000 new houses, according to the latest report from the government’s housing body. Housing minister Ricardo Molina confirmed that with the new figures, 188,851 houses have been constructed since the Great Housing Mission (GMVV) launched in 2011, 53% of the combined 2011 – 2012 goal of 350,000 new homes.
The housing body’s national coordinator Rafael Ramirez explained last month that while over 26,000 houses were completed in the first three months of 2012, 253,000 are currently under construction, and that the government expects to meet its 2012 construction target. The housing body including ministers of housing, defence, environment, industry, and communes.
In March President Hugo Chavez approved another 21 billion bolivars (US $4.9 billion) to support housing projects for the 2013-2014 period. “We’re going to have 416,729 housing units in construction,” said Ramirez.
April’s housing body report came as the Venezuelan government handed over 2,351 new houses to families across Venezuela yesterday. Families pay for the houses through government subsidised loans based on family income.
“Thanks to socialism and the [Bolivarian] Revolution, these families will sleep under a dignified roof as our people deserve,” said Interior and Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami at a handover ceremony in the western Tachira state.
Of the 41,863 houses built so far this year, 30% were built by the private sector and 70% by the public sector.
Housing minister Molina highlighted that 61% of public sector housing had been constructed with the involvement of communities and grassroots organisations, and lauded “the organised people working hand in hand with the revolutionary [state] institutions, developing the strategy outlined by ... Chavez”.
The GMVV was launched in May 2011 with the aim of resolving Venezuela’s long term shortage of good quality affordable housing.
The program aims to construct 3 million new homes by 2019, after a nationwide registration carried out from May to October last year revealed that 3.7 million heads of families in Venezuela lack their own home or require improvements to their housing.