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Date: Tue, 12 Aug 97 12:15:05 CDT
From: rich%pencil@YaleVM.CIS.Yale.Edu (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Weekly Americas News Update #393, 8/10/97
Article: 16123
/** reg.nicaragua: 66.0 **/
** Topic: Weekly News Update #393, 8/10/97 **
** Written 8:04 AM Aug 11, 1997 by wnu in cdp:reg.nicaragua **
From: Weekly News Update <>
ISSUE #393, AUGUST 10, 1997
339 LAFAYETTE ST., NEW YORK, NY 10012 (212) 674-9499

General strike confuses Venezuela

Weekly News Update on the Americas, No. 393, 10 August 1997

A general strike called by Venezuela's principal labor group, the Federation of Workers of Venezuela (CTV), all but shut the country down between 6 am and 6 pm on Aug. 7. The CTV and the main employers' group, the Federation of Chambers and Associations of Commerce and Production (Fedecamaras), agreed that the strike was nearly total in Caracas, although the employers attributed the strike's success to the total shutdown of public transportation by the strongly pro-CTV transport workers unions. The strikers were protesting the government's raising of gasoline prices and businesses' failure to increase wages. The action, the country's first general strike in nearly eight years, was largely peaceful; the CTV discouraged demonstrations and told members to stay home. [El Diario-La Prensa (NY) 8/7/97 from EFE; New York Times 8/7/97 from Reuter]

In the evening, after the job action, there was a confrontation between police and masked protesters at the University of the Andes (ULA) in Merida, but no injuries were reported. [El Universal (Caracas) 8/7/97]

Venezuelan analysts noted a lack of clarity in the strike's demands and in its relation to the government of President Rafael Caldera. During the militant general strike of May 1989, the Caracas daily El Universal writes, "the entire country knew with certainty what they were protesting against: the economic adjustment measures of [then-president] Carlos Andres Perez." This year Finance Minister Luis Raul Matos Azocar referred to the "legitimacy" of the strike, since employers had failed to give raises suggested by the government-sponsored Tripartite Commission. Cordiplan (planning) Minister Teodoro Petkoff was virtually public in his support for the job action, and Labor Minister Maria Bernardoni de Govea found herself having to deny that the government backed the strike. Justice Minister Hilarion Cardozo called the job action "absolutely inappropriate, outrageous, unsupportable." [El Universal 8/7/97; ED-LP 8/10/97 from EFE]

Caldera's government is supported by a "triple alliance" including the centrist Copei, the social democratic ex-guerrillas of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), and the leftist Causa R, which split this year over its approach to Caldera's neoliberal policies [see Update #389]. MAS too is splitting, between a faction including Cordiplan Minister Petkoff and MAS congressional leader Luis Manuel Esculpi and a faction led by Leopoldo Puchi and Felipe Mujica. [El Universal 5/2/97]

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