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Economic warfare's new resistance
Posted: Saturday, February 1, 2003

By Matthew Riemer,

This past Sunday, January 26, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez greeted a reported 100,000 supporters at the third annual World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil; this year, the forum was appropriately titled "Life after Capitalism."

Such a title is appropriate because of the transformational throes and growing pains that world society and the global economy are now entering. As globalization's reach expands and its pace quickens, so too does the resistance and crisis.

The events in Venezuela over the past year are the perfect example. They represent the new economic warfare formula whereby the masses of a country (typically overwhelmingly poor) and their leader resist international forces usually comprised of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund, multinationals, and incredibly wealthy private investors.

These "international forces" are represented locally by the regional elite: bankers, union heads, wealthy businessmen, and the upper-middle class. Their goal is to de-nationalize industry and replace it with privatization, thus making accessible to foreign investment the whole of a country's resources. These resources are then developed with foreign money using cheap domestic labor while the products are almost exclusively exported.

This results in the inherent wealth (resources, human potential) of a country being siphoned off to the international "market" while the native population reaps no reward from their country's own wealth or their own labor.

Such was the case in Argentina. Such is the case in Venezuela. And Brazil could be next.

Venezuela's biggest prize is the state-run (nationalized) oil company, PDVSA. The reasons why should be obvious: PDVSA is the country's largest company and employer; Venezuela is a member of OPEC, and the only one in the Western hemisphere at that; Venezuela is the world's fifth largest oil exporter and third largest to the United States; the oil industry accounts for a full third of the Venezuelan GDP.

Control of the PDVSA means not only incredible control of the fortunes of Venezuela but also control of the world oil market. A Venezuelan economy in the hands of the United States and their proxy financial institutions is crucial to the life of globalization as Washington, with its newfound doctrine of unprecedented militarism and unilateralism, continues to destabilize both the world economy and social fabric.

Recently, opposition forces staged a sleepover protest on a section of one of Caracas' highways. The claims that the opposition is solely made up of the pampered upper-middle class is certainly born out by the photos from the event: the scene looked like some kind of rock concert festival held in the United States or Europe where a sea of brightly colored tents, sleeping bags, and inflatable mattresses are all the eye can see. This in a country where about 75 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Yet "the opposition" looked like they'd just visited their local REI or EMS outdoor retailer.

But Chavez is still holding tight. He survived the coup last April, even after temporarily being removed from power. Now, with the current work stoppage about to enter its third month next week, there are signs that the opposition is weakening and that Chavez will hold on for yet another round.

Such resistance should be quite indicative to globalizing forces of the human spirit's newfound resolve. One can only hope that the global elite, like so many times in the past, won't let their frustration get the better of them when subtler methods fail and resort to overt and bloody repression.

Matthew Riemer has written for years about a myriad of topics, such as: philosophy, religion, psychology, culture, and politics. He studied Russian language and culture for five years and traveled in the former Soviet Union in 1990.

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