Political Background of the Current Strike

While the problems with the Chavez administration have been happening for years, including three other national strikes and a coup, there was certainly an explicit chain of events that brought about this strike.

The opposition put together a petition for a non binding consultative referendum of the people on the presidency of Chavez. They obtained two million signatures and submitted it to the CNE (The National Electoral Commission) for certification and approval. The CNE verified 1,800,000 signatures, the amount required for a referendum, before they voted. Here is where things get interesting. The CNE is supposed to be comprised of five members. One member had submitted his resignation to the National Assembly (NA), who refused to accept it. The constitution states that a qualified majority of the CNE must approve any referendum request before it may be approved. The NA passed a bill to permit a simple majority vote by the CNE to approve referendum votes. The CNE approved the referendum by a vote of 3 to 1.

Two things happened simultaneously. President Chavez stated on television that he would not listen to the vote, regardless of how it came out even if 99% of the population voted to ask him for his voluntary resignation. This is and was his choice as it was to be a non binding referendum. The second thing, the Chavez administration filed a motion with the TSJ (Supreme Justice Tribunal, or the equivelant of the Supreme Court) about the constitutionality of the CNE sanctioned referendum.

President Chavez replaced the Municipal Police department in Caracas with the Guardia National and a person loyal directly to him as the Police Commissioner. This was the camel that broke the straw's back, so to speak. The Fedacarmus (The confederation of business owners) and the CTV (The national union of Venezuelan workers) voted to strike.