Skip to comments.Venezuela Assoc. Approves Strike
Posted on 11/28/2001 11:54:00 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - The members of Venezuela's largest business association swiftly approved a Dec. 10 strike called for by its directors to protest a package of economic laws passed by President Hugo Chavez, allegedly without consulting the private sector.
Breaking into cheers and circumventing discussion in a Wednesday meeting, the 241 chambers affiliated with Fedecamaras unanimously voted to close their doors for one day.
Fedecamaras, which represents companies that generate 90 percent of Venezuela's non-oil production, wanted more say in the drafting of 49 laws that Chavez passed earlier this month under special powers that allowed him to bypass Congress.
Chavez, who insists the laws were widely consulted, dismissed the strike as a political maneuver by an ``oligarchy'' that stands to lose privileges with the reforms contained in the laws.
He directed his Fifth Republic Movement political party to organize a series of street protests in the week leading up to the strike as a demonstration that the public opposes the stoppage.
The most contentious law is a Land Reform Law that determines how the government can confiscate private, idle land. Farmers affiliated with Fedecamaras complain the law requires them to conform to a national agricultural plan drawn by the government.
Fedecamaras is also protesting a Hydrocarbons Law that imposes the highest royalty rates in the world on companies exploring and exploiting Venezuela's state-owned oil fields.
On Tuesday, the fishing industry began a strike to protest a law that requires shellfish trawlers to work farther from the coast.
The government argues that the steeper royalty rates for oil projects create a steadier revenue flow that will make budgeting easier. It also argues that the new fishing law will protect small fishermen by giving them a larger area in which to work.
"Strike" Fedecamaras ____________________ Chavez "I dare them"
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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