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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.

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Trade Unionism in Venezuela: The Current Situation 121

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HÉCTOR LUCENA Trade Unionism in Venezuela: The Current Situation 1. Socio-Political and Economic Reality Venezuela is a country of 26 million people, with a high demographic growth rate (more than two per cent). Its population is racially mixed, the result of a prolonged process of racial integration between native settlers, those of African and those of European origin. Politically the country lived under democratic regimes for more than half the 20th century. The great Venezuelan democratic experi- ment advanced dramatically from the 1960s, but by the 1990s it had seemingly exhausted itself and has given rise to political instability in the last fourteen years (McCoy and Myers 2004). In 1992 there were two military rebellions, and in 1993 a constitutional president was dismissed by the Congress of the Republic. The 1998 presidential elections represented a political watershed, when the victorious candi- date announced radical changes backed by ample electoral support. Implementing the announced changes led to shocks and political tensions that gave rise to four national general strikes in the year following December 2001. During this strike period a coup d’etat took place (April 2002) that briefly ousted President Hugo Chávez. An important segment labour movement was intimately involved in these political affairs, as will be seen in this chapter (Lucena 2003b). In the economic arena, Venezuela both enjoys the benefits from and weaknesses of dependence on its main export, petroleum. At the dawn of the 21st century, a new oil price boom has channelled extra- ordinary amounts...

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