Worker persecution on the rise in Venezuela

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In the context of the Communist Party of Britain’s and Young Communist League’s “Defend the Workers! Material Aid for Venezuela’s Class Struggle” financial appeal, the Committee of Family and Friends for the Liberation of Detained Workers – an independent and broad Venezuelan grassroots organisation – explains the uptick in the criminalisation of worker struggles and attacks against workers denouncing corruption.

Venezuela has suffered an increase in attacks against it since the death of President Hugo Chávez in 2013. These attacks have mostly been from abroad with the complicity of local actors. But Chavez’s physical departure also opened the way for many of those in government – acting as allies of the Revolution – to take advantage of their power to obtain private benefits.

Unlike the general population, some members of the ruling political class have not felt the pinch of the recent deterioration of economic and social conditions observed in the country over the past ten years. Many of those holding government posts are mixed up and immersed in major corruption schemes, and the coercive sanctions against the country have been used to further entrench this corruption.

The criminalisation of workers who raised their voices of protest against this trend has been carried out both in state companies and institutions, and in the private sector.

In cases where workers belong to state companies or institutions, this criminalisation has some delicate nuances. Here, it not only includes illegal dismissals, but also the imprisonment of those who denounce corruption, oppose corrupt plots, or demand workplace improvements.

All the while, the government allows laws and regulations to be violated against workers in full complicity with this persecution. When workers raise their voices to defend their hard-fought-for legal benefits or in favour of trade union organisation, many are illegally dismissed and others are imprisoned. Those imprisoned are commonly charged with “crimes” such as incitement to hatred, thus being deprived of their liberty and entering a judicial system plagued with irregularities.

The criminalisation of workers, as well as of people belonging to other popular sectors, has a whole system of complicity from the State beyond turning a blind eye to illegal activities. It also involves the security organs (mainly those converted into “political police” such as the SEBIN Bolivarian Intelligence Agency or DGCIM military counter-intelligence), the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalía) and the judiciary, with the orders generally coming from representatives of the cabinet (ministries and institutions).

If a worker is the victim of criminalisation, the order is given by a high-ranking official and/or representative of the company or institution in the majority of cases, who is backed by his or her political “godfather”. Following this, state security forces, together with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, are in charge of preparing the “case” (mostly without evidence and with large legal loopholes) and the judiciary executes the deprivation of liberty.

In some cases, there is also a media campaign by government representatives who, through violating the principle of the presumption of innocence established in the Constitution, publicly condemn the innocent worker before any judicial process begins.

Studies by some leftist human rights groups show that over the last 8 years no less than 150 workers have been imprisoned, most of them under the same modus operandi and with repeated accusations including terrorism, treason, instigation of hatred, corruption and association to commit a crime, accusations that by law require the deprivation of liberty of the accused. Also common in each case is the violation of fundamental and human rights, procedural delays, and unfounded and unproven accusations.

Over the last four years, the criminalisation of workers who fight against corruption and against labour rollbacks from their places of work has become more evident, while at the same time we see great concessions to private companies in their anti-worker actions.

This criminalisation of workers has some clear goals: 1- To remove those who expose the corruption carried out by sectors of the government and which has contributed to the great crisis that the country is currently going through from the game field. 2- To justify alleged saboteurs within companies and institutions on the basis of lies. 3- To terrorise other workers who try to demand and defend labour rights and/or oppose corruption schemes. 4- To demobilise the working class by terrorising those who may fight back with the threat of possible imprisonment.

In this way, those in power can stay in power, and neoliberal policies can be applied without fierce resistance from the working class.

The workers, victims of state criminalisation, not only suffer unjust imprisonment, but they are also victims of a whole rotten judicial system. This extends from those who detain them, who apply procedural delays and coercion in most cases, to the painful conditions to which they are subjected in the prison system where the right to life is totally violated, especially in the case of women.

The fundamental objectives of this struggle are the liberation of all of the victims, the eradication of this sad and dangerous neo-liberal state policy, which is accompanied by overt or covert repressive practices, and the transformation of the conditions to which detained women are subjected to.

The CPB’s and YCL’s Defend the Workers! Material Aid for Venezuela’s Class Struggle campaign looks to generate funds to purchase technological equipment to the Venezuelan working class. Please donate what you can through bank transfer or cheque to the Communist Party of Britain (Acc. No. 50725694, sort code 608301) putting reference Viva 2022 (important!). Contact 07521464927 or for more information.