Wills Rangel, the president of the Central Bolivariana Socialista de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CBST), a union that represents workers from various sectors, called for calm from the striking SIDOR workers. Rangel said:
Management and the workers must start coming together to hear how we’re going to move the company forward so that it can continue to produce for the country, and for the Mision Vivienda and other [programs] that need it.
On the other hand, the union’s general coordinator had sharper words for the SIDOR workers:
They’re conducting sabotage. They’re looking for violence, not dialogue. No other country accepts this type of barbarism, going down this wage claim spiral to keep the conflict going.
For their part, a leader of the union representing the SIDOR workers – the Sindicato Unido de Trabajadores de la Siderurgica (SUTISS) – accused CBST of looking out for the interests of the government rather than those of the workers. Yunis Hernandez said:
They don’t serve their purpose, which is to defend the workers… [CBST only exists] to defend the government.
The SIDOR protest – which turned violent yesterday – continued today, although no violence was reported. Hernandez added:
Fortunately, the National Guard’s violent repression did not leave any injured, as was the case this past Monday when eight workers [were injured], one of them shot in the mouth and the other with rubber pellet injuries to his chest.
This latest round of SIDOR protests started this past Friday, a day after Maduro called for the company to be “liberated” from the grip of “four union leaders”, whom Maduro blames for hijacking the negotiations.
SIDOR Protest Threatens to Spread
The Frente Autonomo de Defensa del Empleo, el Salario y el Sindicato (FADESS) voiced its solidarity with the SIDOR workers today, and called on unions throughout the country to join the demonstrations. The union released an official statement, saying:
The mobilization by SIDOR workers to defend their right to renovate their collective contracts which expired in 2010 is an example all public sector administrative workers from autonomous institutions, municipalities and governorships should follow, [whose] right to demand dignified working conditions has been suspended indefinitely.
FADESS represents workers in the public sector. It has also found it difficult to deal with the government, as a number of public sector contracts have been expired for anywhere between ten to eight years.
PDVSA Finds Negotiator for Citgo Sale
PDVSA has hired Lazard, an investment banking firm to act as a negotiator for its planned sale of Citgo.
Citgo operates three refineries in in the United States: one in Lemont, Illinois; another in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a third in Corpus Christi, Texas. The company processes approximately 750,000 barrels of oil per day.
The government announced its intention to sell the PDVSA subsidiary back on August 5.
Maduro: “Severe Economic Difficulties” Plague Venezuela
Speaking on his television show, En Contacto con Maduro, Maduro acknowledged that the country is currently going through exceptionally difficult times:
Who can doubt that the country is going through severe economic difficulties this year? That’s life. Life is full of obstacles and difficulties, and difficulties and obstacles are what test the character and strength of men and women, of people.
Maduro also talked about what he thinks the country’s biggest challenge over the past 15 years as been:
… the loss of our Comandante, the leader, the creator of this revolution, the re-founder of this homeland and look, we’re more united now than ever. We have faith on our homeland, and we trust our future. So, there is not difficulty that could disturb the continued advances of the Bolivarian revolution during what’s left of the 21st century.
Below, a few pictures from around the country today.
People lined up for food at a supermarket in Charallave, Miranda state:
Neighbours block a road in Vargas state, protesting the lack of water service:
Lastly, a new video from the SIDOR protest yesterday in Ciudad Guayana, Bolivar state. The video shows National Guard troops on motorcycles near the protesters, apparently pulling back from their positions. At around the 1:00 minute mark, two National Guard trucks are seen retreating from a mass of protesters: