People's army for Venezuela
Following the capture by Venezuelan forces of 150 Colombian paramilitaries who had been hired to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez the government has decided to form a people's army to defend the unfolding revolution in that country. The capture of the assassins was a reminder that US imperialism has not ceased to conspire to overthrow President Chavez through a failed recall referendum and by secret but violent means. It is reported that the Colombian group planned to kill and decapitate the Venezuelan president and send his head to Cuban President Fidel Castro. In a speech on May 16, Chavez announced a new phase of the Bolivarian Revolution. While formally declaring the revolution to be anti-imperialist, he made a call to the masses to be an army for the defence of the revolutionary process. Stating that the revolution is "just beginning", Chavez encouraged the crowd to always think and reflect on the events that occur and put them in an historical perspective. Always ask: "Where are we? Why has it happened?" Referring to the revolution's newly declared anti-imperialist character, he said: "And that gives it a special content, which forces us to think and act clearly not only in Venezuela but in the rest of the world", adding that "with the Constitution in our hands, we have to take actions ... for example, the expropriation of lands to put them in the hands of those who really need them". Chavez said, "We cannot permit [ourselves] to be absorbed by a conservative spirit; either we are or we are not". He spelt out the different laws that have been enacted and should be enforced, like the Land Law and the Supreme Justice Tribunal Law. This last one will allow, after careful review, the removal from the courts of counter-revolutionary elements who are still part of the justice system and are sabotaging the Bolivarian process. Popular army Chavez called for the formation of a popular army to defend the revolution. He went on to say, "I call on all the Venezuelan people to incorporate themselves into the national defence, the territorial defence and the defence of the national sovereignty. I not only make a symbolic call to the people; no, as head of the state, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces I have already begun to give the orders to open the massive popular participation into an integrated national defence." Retired military professionals are to be selected as part of the active reserve to "incorporate them into the tasks for the defence of the country in each district, in each ravine, in each island, in each field, in each university, in each factory, in each jungle, in each place where there is a group of patriots, there they must be organising themselves." The government has already allocated about US$1 billion for the armed forces and the National Guard and to weed out counter- revolutionary elements in the armed forces. In a display of compassion and understanding of the roots of the problem in Colombia from where the assassins came, Chavez mentioned that some of the paramilitary forces were children who had been forced into the ranks of the paras by extreme poverty and lack of opportunities in their own country. He said these children are not in a military prison like the adults arrested and that they will be returned to their parents. He added that after consultation with the National Council for the Defence of Children and Adolescents' Rights, it had been decided that these children could stay in Venezuela if they wish to and receive free education in an effort to save their futures. The Bolivarian Revolution is at a crossroads, with all the elements, particularly the strength of the peoples' commitment to it, in place. However, US imperialism has plans to destroy it. As Chavez said recently, the revolution is very strong but not yet irreversible, as is the Cuban Revolution. Venezuela, along with Cuba, is a beacon to all the dispossessed masses in Latin America and the Caribbean who are rising up for the first time in considerable unison, realising that US imperialism and its "free trade" will never be the answer to their needs and their misery. On the contrary, it is the health care, education and development of employment offered by these revolutions that gives hope to the millions of people in deep poverty, not only in the region but worldwide. This is a huge threat to the bourgeoisie who will not let it go on voluntarily. It is an urgent task for the people everywhere to demand: Hands off Venezuela!
* * *Acknowledgement to Workers' World News Service (Abridged)