Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries
Edited By Craig Phelan
Trade Unionism in Venezuela: The Current Situation 121
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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