Changing Venezuela by Taking Power; The Policies of the Chávez Government

Dear Friends,

Greg Wilpert, editor of the independent solidarity news source Venezuela, is a sociologist (Ph.D. Brandeis University), freelance journalist, and a former US Fulbright Scholar in Venezuela.

Greg Wilpert has published a new book-- Changing Venezuela by Taking Power; The Policies of the Chávez Government, in which he argues that the Chávez government has instituted one of the world’s most progressive constitutions, but warns that they have yet to overcome the dangerous specters of the country’s past: its culture of patronage and clientelism, its corruption, and its support for personality cults—all of them fuelled by the attention and interference of a succession of US administrations.

Noam Chomsky endorses this new book as a “fascinating study—deeply informed, penetrating in its analysis, comprehensive in scope—explores the historical and socioeconomic roots of the Venezuelan initiatives of recent years, the conflicts they have engendered, the achievements and pitfalls, the animating ideals of a genuinely participatory society, and the prospects for realizing them in ways that, if successful, might have significant impact not only for Latin America but well beyond.”

It’s available from for $12.39.

Venezuelan Legislature Approves 30 Articles for Constitutional Reform
Author: Gregory Wilpert

Caracas, October 22, 2007 ( - In marathon sessions, often lasting until nearly midnight, Venezuela's National Assembly has approved 30 out of 60 constitutional articles targeted for modification. The most recent changes, which will be submitted to a nationwide referendum on December 2nd, include one of the most controversial articles, which would extend the president's term from six to seven years and would allow him to be reelected an indefinite number of times.

Last August 15th, President Chavez presented a proposal to modify 33 articles of Venezuela's constitution, with the argument that these changes are necessary to bring about 21st century socialism in Venezuela. The president's proposal was then discussed in forums throughout Venezuela during the month of September and the first half of October.

Then, beginning last on October 15, [2006], the National Assembly (AN) initiated its third and final discussion of the reform proposal, recommending the addition of 25 more articles to be reformed and making a wide variety of changes to the president's original text. In the course of the discussions two more articles were added, so that the total number of articles to be modified reached 60 as of Friday last week.

Until now, the AN has approved nearly all the changes proposed by its constitutional reform commission without changes.

Aside from the change to the presidential term (article 230), the AN also approved of changes that would provide communal councils with 5% of the nation's budget (art. 167). Also, the change to article 184 more clearly defines the functioning of communal councils.

Articles that had already been approved earlier last week include
* The prohibition against discrimination based on health or sexual orientation (art. 21),

* The lowering of the voting age from 18 to 16 (art. 64),

* A requirement for gender parity in candidatures for public office (art. 67),

* The toughening of requirements for initiating popular referenda (art. 71-74),

* The right to not having one's primary residency expropriated (art. 82),

* The creation of a social security fund for the self-employed (art. 87),
* The reduction of the workweek from 44 to 36 hours per week (art. 90),

* The protection of Afro-Venezuelan culture, in addition to indigenous and European culture (art. 100),

Stronger self-management rights for university students (art. 109),

* And new forms of social and collective property (art. 115).

The AN plans to continue its article-by-article discussion of the constitutional reform until the end of October, at which point a national referendum will be organized to vote on the reform.

Other articles to be discussed and voted upon in the course of this week include
* An expansion of the president's powers (art. 236),
to allow him to revise political boundaries of municipalities and to name second vice-presidents, among other things.

* Other changes would include a prohibition against privatizing subsidiaries of the country's state oil company PDVSA (art. 303), the removal of central bank independence (art. 318),

* The transformation of the country's military reserve force into a "popular militia" (art. 320)

*And the strengthening of the president's state of emergency powers (art. 347).

One of the Chavez government's coalition partners, the social democratic party Podemos, has objected to the AN's inclusion of new articles besides the ones first proposed by the President, arguing that these articles have not had time to be discussed in public, since they were added only shortly before the third and final discussion. It has taken its objection to the country's Supreme Court with the argument that the move is unconstitutional.

Vancouver takes up for Tyendinaga Mohawk Shawn Brant

Dear Friends,

The Coalition Venezuela We Are With You (CVEC) passed a resolution on August 12, 2007 calling for the freedom for Shawn Brant, spokesperson for the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. The fight continues! Below is an announcement of meetings in Vancouver where featured speakers include Sue Collis, Kaheld Barakat, Dustin Rivers, Lindsay Bomberry and Angela Sterritt. Be sure to sign the petition in support of Shawn Brant at


THURS NOV 15 @ 6:30 PM
Suggested Donation $5-20
All proceeds go to Tyendinaga Support Committee

FRI NOV 16 from 12:30-2:30 pm
UBC, Student Union Building Room 205
Organized by Students for a Democratic Society
Supported by UBC Law Students of Colour United
Information: email or call 778.868.1907
With Sue Collis, Lindsay Bomberry, and others TBC

* SUE COLLIS a non-native resident of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territories (TMT).She is the wife of Shawn Brant and mother of two children and is currently on a speaking tour to build awareness on the struggles at Tyendinaga. She has also been an anti-poverty organizer with OCAP in Toronto.

* LINDSAY BOMBERRY is Onondaga Nation, Eel clan of the Haudenosaune Confederacy League of Peace. She is a youth activist, performer, artist and writer and has been involved with indigenous and community politics for most of her life. She is currently training to be a traditional clanmother and maintains a strong voice and presence within the grassroots. She is just returning to Vancouver from the frontlines of the Six Nations Reclamation on Grand River Territory in Ontario.

* KHALED BARAKAT is a Palestinian community activist who was born in Rammallah. He is the editor of the Al-Shorouq Arabic newspaper and also a member of Al-Awda-Palestine Right to Return Coalition.

* DUSTIN RIVERS is a Skwxwú7mesh youth. Fueled by generations of injustice and a legacy to decolonize, he searches for an authentic Indigenous way to create lasting change for his people. He is currently working at Redwire, Native Youth Media.

* ANGELA STERRITT is a Gitxsan, Irish woman who lives and works on Coast Salish Territory. She is a grassroots indigenous organizer, an advocate for indigenous women and girls, as well as an artist and writer.

When Justice Fails, the Tyendinaga Mohawks Block the Rails
The Culbertson Tract was stolen from the Mohawks in 1832 and in 2003, the federal government acknowledged that the Culberston Tract was never surrendered and is Mohawk Land. Although negotiations for the land began, the land itself continued to be exploited by corporate developers and the government issued licenses to gravel quarry operator Thurlow Aggregates to remove over 100,000 tonnes of gravel per year.

In November 2006, the Mohawk community of Tyendinaga reclaimed and occupied the quarry and shut down corporate operations at the quarry. This served as a basis to launch a broader struggle to raise awareness on issues of theft of indigenous land, polluted drinking water, and overwhelming poverty and suicides in all indigenous communities. On June 29th, the Mohawks of Tyendinaga blockaded rail lines running through stolen land for upwards of 30 hours. Dozens of trains were stopped, business as usual in Ontario was ground to a halt, and the Canadian public was forced to consider the reality and struggle of indigenous communities.

As a result of these actions, criminal charges have been laid against Mohawk spokesperson Shawn Brant. Shawn was released on bail in September after having spent more than a month in custody at the Quinte provincial detention centre in Napanee, Ontario. He now faces a total of nine (9) charges and a minimum of 12 years of jail time if convicted, while living under bail conditions including a curfew.

It is clear that the severity of the prison time openly being sought by the Crown indicates the punishment the Canadian state is prepared to inflict on all indigenous people who take courageous stands against ongoing colonial exploitation and corporate devastation in order to defend and protect their land and their communities for future generations.


* Interviews with Shawn Brant

* More than a mine, a metaphor by Naomi Klein, Globe and Mail, May 4 2007
Reprint at:

* Shawn Brant: Another case of Canada's political persecution of indigenous people

* For more information contact the Tyendinaga Support Committee: