The naked Emperor: when a leftist icon is abandoned by the working class

Richard Prieto, head of a major Polar Union
Last night I kept reading the rather fascinating tale of Domingo Alberto Rangel.  The very aged leftist, subversive of the 50ies and 60ies, one of the founder of the Venezuelan MIR, is now settling accounts by doing among other things a short book in the form of a lengthy interview by Ramon Hernandez.  I am not going into the details of this book which deserves a full post when I am done with it.  Suffice to say that for Rangel Chavez has been a fraud and that in his opinion he represents the fascist wing of the army.

The point is that this morning El Nacional right on cue brings us the fascinating interview with the president of the Ceveceria Polar Union, that is, the main beer maker of Venezuela and as such one of the main Unions within the Polar group, which has the largest Unions of the Venezuelan private sector.  In this interview we can see how far has progressed the waking up of the working class of Venezuela as to the fraud that chavismo has been all along.  Better late than never we could add.

The original interview is here in Spanish as El Nacional is by subscription.  At the end of this post there is the translation.  But before posting it I must also mention the OpEd of Milagros Socorro that goes in the same direction, mentioning yet another leader of Polar group Unions who is issued from chavismo but who know criticizes it: Juan Tacoa.  In that not to be missed piece, Milagros Socorro explains why the 32,000 are going to be a much harder bone to chew than what PDVSA was.  Times have changed and now people know perfectly well what happens when the Venezuelan state nationalizes a business.  Does Prieto not say:
Yo quisiera que el Presidente me diera el nombre de una empresa que él haya expropiado que sea exitosa. Yo no conozco ninguna. Y no sólo yo: nadie.
I would like the President to give me the name of a business that he has expropriated which is successful. I do not know of any.  And it is not me alone: nobody [knows of one]
This is a UNION LEADER saying these words about the Socialism of the XXI century president.  No small potatoes.  A challenge, by the way, that we know will not be countered by the regime which will simply accuse Prieto of being a sold out, never offering the example we all wait for and that he requested.

Long ago now, in 2007, I wrote the prescient post where the unveiling of the Chavez masquerade started, with the students.  Now it is starting with the working class, as they realize that without the oil check book Chavez is not only nothing, but that in fact deep down he never liked the Venezuelan working class.  The emperor is now naked, with only the bandits around here trying to put a Cuban veil around.

Richard Prieto is president of the Brewery Workers Union at Polar. He gets to stay in the ring at a time of great struggle. In one corner, the Government. And in the other, the labor force. Born in Barquisimeto in 1968 and graduated from high school in the Lyceum Lisandro Alvarado. Has been married for 23 years. One of his sons died in an accident. You has two left. He worked 11 years in the bottling Marbel. He joined Polar in 2000. He works as a forklift operator or what the organization is known as operator III. The task consists of loading the trucks that go out and download the arrivals. His monthly package is approximately 5 thousand Bolivares. Besides, he has other benefits: trust fund, four months of bonus, savings and health insurance that covers his entire family. Prieto spoke in guaro [Barquisimeto colloquial accent and way of speech]. He carries his Polar ID card hanging on  his chest as one would carry a gold medal won in the Olympics.

The head of state said last Sunday in Alo Presidente, that workers who have sided with Polar have sided with those who exploit the people. What would you reply?

Mr President, we do not defend either the bourgeoisie or imperialism: we defend our jobs, our collective contract, our job security, the bread of our children.

Empresas Polar generates over 32,000 jobs nationwide and is the first tax payer of the country. This organization is offering the best wages in Venezuela and allows workers to make a career within it. We have a good collective agreement. And that's what moves us to keep up the fight. Not any  bourgeoisie.

Would not it be more convenient for you that the company passed into the hands of a government that proclaims socialism and therefore must defend the interests of the working class? Would not it be preferable that option before closing ranks around the business? -

We do not believe in that participatory socialism peddled by the President of the Republic. All companies that have fallen into government hands are broken.

Workers [of state companies taken over] do not have, even a collective agreement. In Barquisimeto, there is the case Vengas (gas communal). Four years ago the government took it and now workers are clamoring for a collective agreement.

When functioning as Vengas, if people emptied the bombonita [gas container, most cooking in Venezuela is made through gas containers delivered at home or carried in by the individuals], they called, no later than two days later it is replenished. Now it may take 15 or 20 days and it is still not replaced. How can the President expect that we accept that? The first days could be like a party, but after we will be mournng [after an eventual take over].

There are the cases of Cemex, Sidor ... We do not want that fate for Polar. So we defend our jobs.

- Do you defend capitalism? -

No. We do not advocate capitalism: we defend our rights, under the Constitution.

A Constitution which the President speaks of, but that does not comply with. What allows us to feed us and our families, are our jobs. And if we have to go out every day to defend them, we will. It woudl be good if Venezuela had not one Polar but several Polar, not a Mendoza, but several Mendoza. Unemployment in this country would end. The Polar Group has been a blessing for the people of Venezuela. It's true.

Suppose the company passed into the hands of the Government, would this one be able to operate it? -

Honestly, no. And the proof, I repeat, is what has happened with other companies that the Government has taken allegedly to push them forward and what has happened is that they have collapsed. Workers who are making a living there protest every day. If the President wants to start a business to benefit the people, he should do so with the state's resources, without expropriating the others.

Because he expropriates here and he expropriates there, and he bankrupts here and bankrupts there [drives into bankruptcy]. All companies that he has expropriated are in the red. And if they are operating, they do it at half speed. It would be a catastrophe for the country for Polar to pass into the hands of the government.

- Why a disaster? -

The Government drives the companies into bankruptcy because, among other things, it puts in management positions people who are not trained. Polar produces 80% of the country's food [80% of the food produced in Venezuela as we import way more than half what we eat]. Imagine that failing. How would Venezuela manage? Looking for imports? What is needed here is to have production. And if the government wants to create a company to compete, fine. But not that way: expropriating solid and operating companies. No, he should do that with his money.  I would like the President to give me the name of a business that he has expropriated which is successful. I do not know of any.  And it is not me alone: nobody [knows of one]

Would you be willing to risk your lives to defend your jobs? -

If necessary, yes. Not that we want to be martyrs.

I wish we did not have to go there. But if we had to risk our life, we would do so because somehow we would leave a legacy for those who woudl follow us. We are not thinking about anything else for us today.

We are thinking about the future.

We will fight to where we can so that the right to work is not snatched from us .

The Government must respect the Constitution. We must fight for the good: we can not go back. And the only way is to stand firm in our position.

The decision to defend at all costs the right to work is shared by most of the workers? -

I can tell you 500% of workers have that conviction. It is not anymore one hundred percent. In a meeting we did, we took the decision.

And it does not matter whether one is forklift operator, if the other works in the maintenance area and the other is an engineer. Here we all speak the same language: to defend our jobs. We see ourselves in a single row: a row of workers, because we are employed and deserve respect. We are tired of the vulgarity and insults.

We too are people. Many of us, the workers voted for President Chavez. I do not know why he sees us as if we were little bourgeois who betray the country.

The country is divided into two factions we all see (one for and one against President Chávez), is that not seen in Polar? -

Here everyone's ideology has been respected.

If someone is red, green or blue [s/he] is free to be. There were some workers who supported the government, but after February 13, when President Chávez passed by Barquisimeto branch and said, "that take outta here that garbage from the center of the city!" things changed. We feel that we are all garbage. Garbage we all are because we proudly belong to this company.

The President may make an advisory referendum of the 32,000 workers of Polar and I think he would not take five votes in his favor. We are calling on the President of the Republic: rectify. We are not challenging, we just want to bet let work in peace. This soap opera began 107 days ago. And our children when we get home, no longer ask the blessing [bendicion, traditional way for Venezuelan children to greet their elders], as before, but they ask, "Dad, are you going to be expropriated?."