"Bolivarian Revolution"?

Chávez pays $1.4 billion to US firms

February 20, 2007

Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela, has just paid out $723,000,000
to compensate US businessmen for the state purchase of the main
electricity company of Venezuela and $570,000,000 to buy 28% of the
telephone company. The fabulous sum that Chávez is removing from the
public treasury confirms what we had been charging in these pages
about the announced measures, since he began his new term on January
10, about the fake "nationalizations" of the electric companies and
the Compañía Autónoma Nacional Teléfonos de Venezuela (CANTV). What
caused the "alert" by the US and praise from those in Latin America
who are promoting the badly-named "Twenty-First Century Socialism"
(including not a few "leftists"), ended up being a pleasant surprise
for businessmen from the North. Faced with such a big sum, "the US
firm AES, majority owner of Electricidad de Caracas (EDC), agreed
without problems," a journalist from the daily El País said,
sarcastically. "It’s not the market price, but it comes close. It’s
good news," said an analyst from Goldman Sachs in New York. Also, "the
announcement of the purchase of 28.5% of CANTV was received favorably
on Tuesday by investors, which made the price per share rise on the
New York Stock Exchange," says El Nacional de Venezuela (February 14).

The "nationalism" of Chávez is more rhetorical than real, in spite of
the fact that, after decades of privatizations and the surrender of
the natural resources by Latin American governments, what Chávez
says awakens expectations among vast sectors of workers and the
people. Let us consider a comparison between measures by Chávez and,
not what a socialist government would do, but, for example, the
nationalizations by General Lázaro Cárdenas in Mexico of the oil
companies in the year 1938. At that time, the 17 nationalized foreign
companies were demanding, in the international press, compensation of
$400 million, 2 billion Mexican pesos at that moment [1], but the
Mexican state only paid compensations according to the criterion that
"the price of the expropriated object will be based on the tax value
that it has in the property tax or tax collector’s offices." [2]That
means the value of the liquid assets and the real property considered
by the Mexican Treasury (and not the market value that the firms
declared), judging as property the crude oil and gas found under the
surface of the expropriated oilfields, which were a part of the
national wealth. Finally, six years later, in 1944, under the
government of Avila Camacho, Mexico paid the expropriated US oil
companies 24 million pesos, plus 3% interest for the oil companies’
properties expropriated in 1938. And, at the end of 1947, the Mexican
government of Miguel Alemán announced the British and German oil
companies, that had demanded 250 million pesos for the expropriated
properties, had accepted the payment of 21 million.

However, as the present Minister of Finances of Venezuela clearly
defines about the "nationalizations" of Chávez: "it is not a matter of
a measure of expropriation; the strategic companies are going to be

Even so, Lázaro Cárdenas’ own jurists declared in 1938 - in a sincere
recognition of the limits reached by bourgeois nationalism already in
the past century - that that Mexican government showed that it had
"less courage that the French revolutionists. . . . When the French
Revolution, represented in the Revolutionary Convention, decreed the
abolition of feudalism and with it, that of all the privileges,
benefits, income, and inheritances with which the 20 thousand families
of France maintained their affluence, their abolition was made without
compensation or payment of any kind." [3]The same could be said when
the US declared its independence from the English Crown, which lost
properties, lands, mines, taxes and titles, without any compensation;
or that by Abraham Lincoln, who never thought of compensating the
owners who lost their titles of ownership when slavery was abolished.

If the measures by twentieth-century bourgeois nationalism could not
even be compared to those by the bourgeoisie in its revolutionary
epoch, what is it that deserves to be called "Bolivarian revolution,"
as so many "leftists" in Argentina and the [Latin American] continent
insist? "Twenty-first century socialism"? That cannot even be
considered to have the status of the bourgeois nationalism of the past