Sunday, May 30, 2010

The naked Emperor: when a leftist icon is abandoned by the working class

Richard Prieto, head of a major Polar Union
Last night I kept reading the rather fascinating tale of Domingo Alberto Rangel.  The very aged leftist, subversive of the 50ies and 60ies, one of the founder of the Venezuelan MIR, is now settling accounts by doing among other things a short book in the form of a lengthy interview by Ramon Hernandez.  I am not going into the details of this book which deserves a full post when I am done with it.  Suffice to say that for Rangel Chavez has been a fraud and that in his opinion he represents the fascist wing of the army.

The point is that this morning El Nacional right on cue brings us the fascinating interview with the president of the Ceveceria Polar Union, that is, the main beer maker of Venezuela and as such one of the main Unions within the Polar group, which has the largest Unions of the Venezuelan private sector.  In this interview we can see how far has progressed the waking up of the working class of Venezuela as to the fraud that chavismo has been all along.  Better late than never we could add.

The original interview is here in Spanish as El Nacional is by subscription.  At the end of this post there is the translation.  But before posting it I must also mention the OpEd of Milagros Socorro that goes in the same direction, mentioning yet another leader of Polar group Unions who is issued from chavismo but who know criticizes it: Juan Tacoa.  In that not to be missed piece, Milagros Socorro explains why the 32,000 are going to be a much harder bone to chew than what PDVSA was.  Times have changed and now people know perfectly well what happens when the Venezuelan state nationalizes a business.  Does Prieto not say:
Yo quisiera que el Presidente me diera el nombre de una empresa que él haya expropiado que sea exitosa. Yo no conozco ninguna. Y no sólo yo: nadie.
I would like the President to give me the name of a business that he has expropriated which is successful. I do not know of any.  And it is not me alone: nobody [knows of one]
This is a UNION LEADER saying these words about the Socialism of the XXI century president.  No small potatoes.  A challenge, by the way, that we know will not be countered by the regime which will simply accuse Prieto of being a sold out, never offering the example we all wait for and that he requested.

Long ago now, in 2007, I wrote the prescient post where the unveiling of the Chavez masquerade started, with the students.  Now it is starting with the working class, as they realize that without the oil check book Chavez is not only nothing, but that in fact deep down he never liked the Venezuelan working class.  The emperor is now naked, with only the bandits around here trying to put a Cuban veil around.

Richard Prieto is president of the Brewery Workers Union at Polar. He gets to stay in the ring at a time of great struggle. In one corner, the Government. And in the other, the labor force. Born in Barquisimeto in 1968 and graduated from high school in the Lyceum Lisandro Alvarado. Has been married for 23 years. One of his sons died in an accident. You has two left. He worked 11 years in the bottling Marbel. He joined Polar in 2000. He works as a forklift operator or what the organization is known as operator III. The task consists of loading the trucks that go out and download the arrivals. His monthly package is approximately 5 thousand Bolivares. Besides, he has other benefits: trust fund, four months of bonus, savings and health insurance that covers his entire family. Prieto spoke in guaro [Barquisimeto colloquial accent and way of speech]. He carries his Polar ID card hanging on  his chest as one would carry a gold medal won in the Olympics.

The head of state said last Sunday in Alo Presidente, that workers who have sided with Polar have sided with those who exploit the people. What would you reply?

Mr President, we do not defend either the bourgeoisie or imperialism: we defend our jobs, our collective contract, our job security, the bread of our children.

Empresas Polar generates over 32,000 jobs nationwide and is the first tax payer of the country. This organization is offering the best wages in Venezuela and allows workers to make a career within it. We have a good collective agreement. And that's what moves us to keep up the fight. Not any  bourgeoisie.

Would not it be more convenient for you that the company passed into the hands of a government that proclaims socialism and therefore must defend the interests of the working class? Would not it be preferable that option before closing ranks around the business? -

We do not believe in that participatory socialism peddled by the President of the Republic. All companies that have fallen into government hands are broken.

Workers [of state companies taken over] do not have, even a collective agreement. In Barquisimeto, there is the case Vengas (gas communal). Four years ago the government took it and now workers are clamoring for a collective agreement.

When functioning as Vengas, if people emptied the bombonita [gas container, most cooking in Venezuela is made through gas containers delivered at home or carried in by the individuals], they called, no later than two days later it is replenished. Now it may take 15 or 20 days and it is still not replaced. How can the President expect that we accept that? The first days could be like a party, but after we will be mournng [after an eventual take over].

There are the cases of Cemex, Sidor ... We do not want that fate for Polar. So we defend our jobs.

- Do you defend capitalism? -

No. We do not advocate capitalism: we defend our rights, under the Constitution.

A Constitution which the President speaks of, but that does not comply with. What allows us to feed us and our families, are our jobs. And if we have to go out every day to defend them, we will. It woudl be good if Venezuela had not one Polar but several Polar, not a Mendoza, but several Mendoza. Unemployment in this country would end. The Polar Group has been a blessing for the people of Venezuela. It's true.

Suppose the company passed into the hands of the Government, would this one be able to operate it? -

Honestly, no. And the proof, I repeat, is what has happened with other companies that the Government has taken allegedly to push them forward and what has happened is that they have collapsed. Workers who are making a living there protest every day. If the President wants to start a business to benefit the people, he should do so with the state's resources, without expropriating the others.

Because he expropriates here and he expropriates there, and he bankrupts here and bankrupts there [drives into bankruptcy]. All companies that he has expropriated are in the red. And if they are operating, they do it at half speed. It would be a catastrophe for the country for Polar to pass into the hands of the government.

- Why a disaster? -

The Government drives the companies into bankruptcy because, among other things, it puts in management positions people who are not trained. Polar produces 80% of the country's food [80% of the food produced in Venezuela as we import way more than half what we eat]. Imagine that failing. How would Venezuela manage? Looking for imports? What is needed here is to have production. And if the government wants to create a company to compete, fine. But not that way: expropriating solid and operating companies. No, he should do that with his money.  I would like the President to give me the name of a business that he has expropriated which is successful. I do not know of any.  And it is not me alone: nobody [knows of one]

Would you be willing to risk your lives to defend your jobs? -

If necessary, yes. Not that we want to be martyrs.

I wish we did not have to go there. But if we had to risk our life, we would do so because somehow we would leave a legacy for those who woudl follow us. We are not thinking about anything else for us today.

We are thinking about the future.

We will fight to where we can so that the right to work is not snatched from us .

The Government must respect the Constitution. We must fight for the good: we can not go back. And the only way is to stand firm in our position.

The decision to defend at all costs the right to work is shared by most of the workers? -

I can tell you 500% of workers have that conviction. It is not anymore one hundred percent. In a meeting we did, we took the decision.

And it does not matter whether one is forklift operator, if the other works in the maintenance area and the other is an engineer. Here we all speak the same language: to defend our jobs. We see ourselves in a single row: a row of workers, because we are employed and deserve respect. We are tired of the vulgarity and insults.

We too are people. Many of us, the workers voted for President Chavez. I do not know why he sees us as if we were little bourgeois who betray the country.

The country is divided into two factions we all see (one for and one against President Chávez), is that not seen in Polar? -

Here everyone's ideology has been respected.

If someone is red, green or blue [s/he] is free to be. There were some workers who supported the government, but after February 13, when President Chávez passed by Barquisimeto branch and said, "that take outta here that garbage from the center of the city!" things changed. We feel that we are all garbage. Garbage we all are because we proudly belong to this company.

The President may make an advisory referendum of the 32,000 workers of Polar and I think he would not take five votes in his favor. We are calling on the President of the Republic: rectify. We are not challenging, we just want to bet let work in peace. This soap opera began 107 days ago. And our children when we get home, no longer ask the blessing [bendicion, traditional way for Venezuelan children to greet their elders], as before, but they ask, "Dad, are you going to be expropriated?."


  1. concerned9:53 PM

    I had always said that if the government took over Polar, that would be the end...Fin de Mundo. Pack up and pull out. I was at the time implying the quantity of beer that I consume (It is hard to beat a good, cold Polar beer), and with that in jeopardy, it would be time to go. This is before I realized just how much Polar does for Venezuela and the diversity of the food staples that they provide.

    The quality of any company expropriated by Chavez has been compromised or destroyed. It would be ironic and fitting that of all the companies within Venezuela, that Polar is the one with the balls to stand up to the madman.

    Way to go Polar...Salute!

  2. Socialism does not work, period.

    Only freedom and capitalism can make the workers prosper.

    A fact supported by history.

  3. Wow. Well said Richard Prieto, and thanks Daniel for the excellent translation.

    This needs to go viral, worldwide on the internet.

  4. Boludo Tejano12:06 AM

    Now that Mr. Preito has had his say, look for him to be arrested on some bogus charge, or to suffer some work or auto "accident"

  5. Please no one tell Sr Preito that by definition Polar is a capitalist company, as well as Mendoza. Still delusional..

  6. The proletariat speaks! This interview seems very significant in that this individual is a bona fide working class representative, and apparently was a Chavez supporter. Whether he represents the tip of something much bigger remains to be seen.
    Off topic: first news from Colombia indicates Santos is leading...more evidence of the Lat Am tidal shift, bad news for Chavez but hardly unexpected.

  7. Lazarus

    Mr. Prieto is not delusional at all. He is not even defending capitalism. But he knows a good thing when he sees it. He also sees that workers in state companies look everyday more like slave labor, or at least with slave labor wages that are not even regularly paid.

    The only people delusional here are those that still think that chavismo will work out in the end.

  8. Boludo Tejano3:50 AM

    Mr. Prieto doesn't bother with theory. He focuses on what works, on what he observes. Polar is a company that delivers good products and treats its workers well. Government owned companies are disasters and treat workers unfairly. Both accurate observations.

    Maybe the way for Thugo to destroy Mr. Prieto is to send Mr. Prieto to university, where he can learn sociology and such, so that theoretical flatulence destroys his ability to think and to observe.

  9. There is a difference between free enterprise and capitalism/corporatism.

    Free enterprise is the corner grocery, the farmacia, the shoe store, or even Polar. Provide a good product and make a profit. Treat your employees well or they will go elsewhere. Everyone benefits.

    Capitalism is WalMart. The goal is to use large amounts of capital as a club, as a force to destroy all competition and monopolize the market. Which makes Thugo a true capitalist.


    I did my best to spread the link around. Maybe it will wake some people up; those who want to be woken up.

    My best guess is that Thugo will back off of Polar completely. He's a bully, but a coward as well. He'll likely have the same response to this as he did to the reaction after he tried to ration electricity in Caracas. I hope I'm wrong, I hope he does try to push it through out of sheer egotism, because it may well be his Waterloo.

  10. Venezuelan Patriots Against the Bolivarian Revolution4:04 AM

    Sr. Prieto is right, many companies that have been taken over by the state have fallen behind the rest of the world.

    A perfect example of this is the former Soviet Union. Until the fall of the USSR in the early 90s, the Soviet government ran everything and still could not pay its employees. The same situation happened all across Eastern Europe in 1980s.

    I am glad that Polar, its employees and Sr. Prieto is standing up against that tyrant of 21st Century Communism.

    Que viva La Republica de Venezula y que muere la Revolución Bolivariana.


Comments policy:

1) Comments are moderated after the sixth day of publication. It may take up to a day or two for your note to appear then.

2) Your post will appear if you follow the basic polite rules of discourse. I will be ruthless in erasing, as well as those who replied to any off rule comment.