CARACAS – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced the creation of a socialist “youth front” to battle “capitalism’s vices,” which he said are inevitably holding back the changes he has been striving to implement for more than a decade.
“Venezuelan socialism is just being born and it’s impossible for it to do it without being contaminated with capitalism’s vices, which were inoculated into the society” of this country, the leftist leader said.
Chavez made his remarks to a large group of supporters, who had arrived from all parts of the country and gathered outside the presidential palace to celebrate Venezuela’s Youth Day.
In his speech, broadcast nationwide, Chavez hailed as an “important political event” the presence of the “real youth, the real students” in the streets of Caracas on Friday, and announced the creation of what he termed the “bicentennial youth front.”
That front will encompass “all the currents of the real youth,” Chavez said, adding that he expects of its members “criticism and self-criticism” vis-a-vis the Bolivarian revolution, referring to his moves to put large swaths of the Venezuelan economy, including its vast oil industry, under state control and boost social spending.
“I care about the criticism of the young; youth can’t be uncritical,” according to Chavez, who called on the new front “to take up the battle against corruption, against the detours that always threaten every revolution.”
He predicted the new official organization would have “worldwide resonance” and offered to “cooperate in its structuring, in its work, in its battle.”
The president said the “Chavista” youth front will counteract the opposition student movement, which he derided as an alleged instrument of “fascist” groups that is commanded by the U.S. “empire” and only seeks to destabilize the country and overthrow his government.
“It’s a strategy employed by the Americans to destabilize the countries that the empire doesn’t want to be governed by popular forces,” Chavez said.
Student opponents of Chavez led several large demonstrations in late January in Venezuela’s largest cities to protest the “temporary” removal of the opposition-aligned RCTV Internacional channel from satellite and cable TV.
Spokespersons for the students said they were also protesting rampant crime – which claims the lives of at least 10,000 people a year in Venezuela, according to police figures – and an electricity crisis that threatens to leave the country in the dark in the coming months.
But Chavez said in his speech that “socialism is the only path” toward “justice, equality and peace” and said it is essential that his political allies retain their large majority in the 167-seat unicameral legislature in September elections.
Failing to obtain “at least two-thirds of the seats ... would be a truly crushing blow” to the revolution because the opposition would try to detain the process of socialist changes, Chavez, who first took office in 1999, said.
“They would come to topple me, to ignore the rights of the people. We’re going to pulverize them on Sept. 26!” the president said.
The state-sponsored “grand march” in Caracas capped off a series of events that included a civic-military parade in the central region of Aragua – also presided over by Chavez – to commemorate the 196th anniversary of an independence battle and Youth Day.
During his speech at the parade, the strident critic of U.S. foreign policy reiterated his repudiation of “imperialism and the bourgeoisie” and stressed the need to deepen the process of socialist changes in Venezuela.