Skip to comments.Chávez defies protests of his economic policies-"I dare them to have that strike…"
Posted on 11/28/2001 1:50:17 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
CARACAS -- President Hugo Chávez dared Venezuela's largest business federation Tuesday to proceed with a one-day strike to protest his economic policies, saying his government's popularity would win the day.
``I dare them to have that strike. We will see who has more strength, [business] or the sovereign people,'' Chávez said while inaugurating a transportation law. ``I'm the head of state. You're not going to put me against the wall; you're not going to blackmail me.''
Fedecamaras, which represents companies that generate 90 percent of Venezuela's non-oil revenues, has called on its members to close their doors Dec. 10 to protest a package of 49 laws Chávez passed under a law that allowed him to bypass parliamentary debate.
Fedecamaras claims it wasn't consulted on the laws, especially those addressing land reform and foreign investment in the oil industry. Its members will decide whether to strike today.
On Tuesday, the Venezuela-American Chamber of Commerce and Industries endorsed Fedecamaras' call to strike, calling it a ``democratic'' response to ``government actions . . . that harm the interest of the country and violate the established legal order.'' Venamcham, as the chamber is known, is the country's largest association of foreign businesses, with more than 1,000 members, including oil and telecommunications companies.
Chávez said the strike threat ``doesn't bother me at all,'' because his government has the support of Venezuela's poor, who represent 80 percent of the country's 24 million people.
Chávez said his Cabinet had considered Fedecamaras' suggestions, especially regarding the land reform law, which is designed to eliminate idle land and hand it over to the poor or landless farmers.
Fedecamaras says the law allows public officials too much say in deciding when to expropriate.
The Hydrocarbons Law raises royalty rates from 16.7 percent to 30 percent. Giusti warned the new rates will drive investors to other oil producing countries, where rates do not exceed 20 percent and the average rate is 7.1 percent. Among Venezuela's fellow OPEC members, the average is 14.7 percent.
Critics were unappeased by a compromise allowing payments as low as 20 percent for the most high-risk projects, such as heavy crude oil fields in the environmentally fragile Orinoco River Delta.
Allowing for rates of 20 percent ``can only be considered a gesture. This doesn't change the law's central objective, which is to impose absolute state control over the oil industry,'' said economist Orlando Ochoa in an editorial published last week in Caracas daily El Universal.
The Hydrocarbons Law is among the most contentious of 49 laws that Chavez passed last month under special powers that allowed him to bypass Congress. Several business leaders and opposition legislators have threatened to ask the Supreme Court to strike down all 49 laws, arguing that Chavez passed them without consulting the private sector.
Business leader have also called a Dec. 10 strike to protest the laws. [End Excerpt]
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