Those were only a few of the provisions that impacted the interests of the country’s elite. Another group affected by the laws was the the country’s union federation, which had traditionally aligned itself with Venezuela's old ruling party. They couldn't stand Chávez because of his efforts to force democratic elections on the union federation. They are key members of the opposition to Chávez.
The opposition's first so-called general strike was actually more of a lockout, since it was mostly sponsored by the country’s main chamber of commerce. The strike led to a series of middle-class demonstrations and anti-Chávez pronouncements from disgruntled officers. The conflict with Chávez, who does not mince words when he is angry, heated up with significant help from the nation’s private mass media, about 90 percent of which supports or is run by the opposition. Chávez was not helped by an economic downturn during the first quarter of 2002 due to a slump in the world’s oil economy.
As a result of the economic downturn and the near ubiquitous anti-Chávez media, by April of 2002 the opposition had managed to lower Chávez’ approval ratings and to whip up opposition fervor. With that it was able to organize a second general lockout/strike and a major demonstration against his government. The goal was to force Chávez to resign.
Since it was clear that Chávez would not resign, the more radical members of the opposition hatched a plan to produce a confrontation between opposition demonstrators, pro-government demonstrators, and police forces, which would lead to numerous deaths it could then blame on the Chávez regime. The media played along, as did various high-ranking military officers. On April 11 they placed Chávez under arrest for having supposedly ordered his supporters to fire at opposition demonstrators. The coup fell apart 48 hours later when it became clear that Chávez’s supporters among the country’s poor and among the military would not stand for his illegal removal from office.
Following Chávez’s return to power, a long period of uncertainty ensued. The opposition still believed it could get rid of the president before his term in office ended in 2006. By late 2002, it had recovered from the coup attempt and decided to take another shot. This time it concentrated on the country’s all-important oil industry, which, if shut down, would surely drive the economy to its knees and force Chávez to resign. They were correct that the shutdown—which was led by the industry’s management and administrative employees—forced the economy into a tail-spin. But instead of resigning, Chávez fired the participants of the politically motivated strike. In a surprising recovery, Venezuela’s oil industry managed to get back on its feet in less than six months, employing only half the employees it had before the strike began.
After their second major attempt to remove Chávez failed, it became clearer to the opposition that only constutionally sound efforts would work. So they organized a February 2003 referendum against the president. Soon after, Venezuela's Supreme Court declared the referendum illegal because the opposition was trying to use a consultative referendum to ask a question about Chávez’s tenure in office, a question which is legally reserved for recall referendums. A recall referendum can only be called once the office-holder has served half his term. In the case of Chávez, that wouldn't be until August 19, 2003.
Not ones to give up, the opposition used the February date to collect signatures for a petition that could activate a recall referendum upon the half-way mark of the president's term.
The situation is thus quite dangerous for Venezuela. The opposition has played almost all of its cards now, from general strikes to a coup attempt to a recall referendum. If it does not succeed with the referendum, the opposition’s more radical elements will surely dominate once again. What that would mean for Venezuela is more destabilization, more obstacles in the implementation of the government’s progressive policies, and more suffering for the country’s poor.
On 15th August 2004, Hugo Chávez, faces the recall referendum and the worlds neo-liberal media war. Supporting him are the country's poor majority, who have seen their lives transformed with new schools, hospitals and housing, finally tasting their slice of the huge oil-revenue pie. Against him are the local elite who are used to owning Venezuela, and the Washington warmongers who are used to owning its oil.
August 9th-15th is Venezuela Week of Solidarity, a week of events in solidarity with the Venezuelan people, and to tell the US and UK governments (who've already backed one coup against Chávez) to keep their hands off Venezuela!.
Most of the events take place at the rampART in East London http://www.rampart.co.nr
Further info from firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.handsoffvenezuela.org