This week the Venezuelan media paid a lot of attention to how the Government handled the eviction of oil workers from the Los Semerucos oil camp. The story is complicated. PDVSA workers in oil regions have access to housing owned by PDVSA. Since they were fired, they are supposed to abandon it. However, most of the same PDVSA workers are fighting their firings in Labor Courts and, except for the cases of some women who were pregnant at the time of their firing which is illegal in Venezuela, very few cases have been dealt with by the courts. Thus, the workers were indeed fired by they contend this was done illegally and the eviction will have to wait until the labor case is decided. Despite this, a Judge order some people evicted. The National Guard surrounded the oil camp, entered the residences and began using tear gas to evict people and contain the protesters against their action. Things got out of hand and there was violence, a car was burned, 26 people were jailed. No matter what the facts, what is not permissible is for the National Guard to go in a residential area and begin using tear gas against people, including kids and older people. Moreover, those detained have been incommunicado and their lawyers are saying that the cases against them are clearly “cooked up” as, for example, the testimony by cops against some of the individuals is identical even in the specific words used by more than one witness. But by now, we have gotten used to the Government using excessive force and violating the rights of the opposition. So what else is new?
What is new is that in the La Rinconada section of Caracas, about one year ago, a group of very poor people invaded some Government land. They set up shacks and a barrio was built up over time. Last week, a judge ordered the land cleared, apparently for environmental reasons. Well, this time the Caracas police, which is part of the Libertador District headed by Chavista Mayor Bernal, showed up to execute the order. The people stood in front of their houses much like on Los Semerucos and the police began gassing them, you could even see babies in the hands of the women. After hours of fighting, the police managed to evict everyone and proceeded to burn down all of the shacks with the people’s possessions inside. Even in the much-maligned IVth. Republic, evictions like these were always negotiated and the Government found alternative locations for people to move to and even would help them move (under protest of course!). Thus, it is difficult to understand how this Government which claims to be so socially sensitive and caring to do this., The use of tear gas and force is becoming the rule of day against poor, rich, friend or foe alike. Thus repression is becoming more democratic in a very perverse way. One may only wonder whether we are seeing the beginnings of outright repression every time events occur that go against the Governments wishes. But beyond that, how can Chavez allow this sort of repression against the very people that he claims his revolution is for? Is the revolution so corrupt by now that even the poor are no longer relevant in its path to impose total control of the country? You be the judge….