Chavistas Strong-Arm State Workers into Signing Anti-Obama Petition
EspañolOn Wednesday, March 25, the state firm Carbonorca fired an employee who refused to sign a petition against US “intervention” in Venezuela. The Maduro administration launched the campaign after President Barack Obama signed an executive order declaring the South American country a “national security threat.”
Other public employees have taken to social media to denounce the layoffs and threats if they do not sign the petition or help collect signatures.
Tulio Navas, finance secretary at Cabonarca’s workers union, told the PanAm Post that the state firm based in Bolívar state sent a termination letter to superintendent Diego Carrero after he refused to participate in the national government’s “anti-imperialist” campaign.
During a meeting between the managers and the firm’s president, Carrero vehemently opposed taking part in the collection of signatures. Hours later, he received the letter along with his final paycheck. Navas said the document made no mention of the reason Carrero had been fired, despite having worked at Carbonarca for 21 years.
Although other employees have similarly refused to sign the petition, the state firm has so far only terminated Carrero, says Navas.
In Caracas, Reuters reported on Wednesday that an employee at the state-run oil company PDVSA was denied entry until he signed the petition. He was let in only after phoning a manager about the situation, according to the report.
The renowned Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda denounced the same intimidation tactics within the Venezuelan Army and most state facilities.
“All members of the Venezuelan Army and relatives, including underage children, must sign [the petition] along with ID number, and the signatures must be delivered before April 7 at the CEO [Strategic Operational Command].”
The Venezuelan human-rights NGO Provea echoed similar threats received by public employees:
Recibimos denuncias de personas despedidas de instituciones del Estado por negarse a firmar contra decreto de EEUU
— PROVEA (@_Provea) March 25, 2015
“We have received complaints from people who have been fired over refusing to sign the petition against the US executive order.”
En Ministerio para la Suprema Felicidad denuncian despidos de mujeres embarazadas que se han negado a firmar contra decreto EEUU
— PROVEA (@_Provea) March 25, 2015
“There are complaints at the Ministry for Supreme Happiness that pregnant employees who have refused to sign [the petition] against the US executive order have been fired.”
The opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) issued a press release Wednesday warning that Venezuelan expats have received letters from embassies “inviting them to sign” the petition. They denounced the move as a “mechanism of undue pressure” on Venezuelans living abroad who do not comply.
The Venezuelan Education Ministry recently requested that elementary and secondary schoolchildren across the country create posters adorned with their signatures condemning Barack Obama’s executive order.
Collecting Signatures on the Clock
Caracas’s streets and public squares are brimming with signature-collection centers.
In at least 20 such stations in the nation’s capital, the PanAm Post confirmed a low or null turnout, despite the government’s claims that they reached 3 million signatures on Wednesday.
Employees from state companies sporting their ID badges stopped passers-by and asked them to place their signatures on a list with the rest. At one of the stands near Plaza Venezuela in Caracas, employees from the state insurance firm Bolivariana de Seguros y Reaseguros competed with one another to collect as many signatures as possible.
One government employee who wished to remain anonymous said he had been working at the stand since 8 a.m. in order to achieve the minimum amount of signatures demanded by the firm, but by 1 p.m had only collected 17.
The government’s petition sheet contains fields for name, ID number, telephone, and signature. The state employee said “it was not advisable” to sign more than once.
While unable to produce a copy of Obama’s executive order, the employee said the Venezuelan public should sign the petition because the US president declared the country a “terrorist” nation. As for the petitions’ destination, he said they would be “sent in boxes to the Venezuelan embassy in the United States” and delivered to Obama.
On Friday, however, Maduro announced he will hand-deliver the signatures to Barack Obama at the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama. “I want to have 10 million signatures by April 9, so that when I see President Obama and shake his hand … I can say to him: all of Venezuela demands you revoke that imperial decree threatening us.”
The government has responded to the fears that many Venezuelans have expressed over potentially losing their jobs if they refuse to sign the petition by assuring the public there will be no repeat of the infamous Tascón List.
“There is no Tascón List here, and I want to make that clear,” said National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello on Tuesday.
In 2003 and 2004, opponents of late President Hugo Chávez collected signatures to trigger a recall referendum. The plan failed, and the Chavista congressman Luis Tascón published the list of signatures online. Government supporters then used the list to discriminate against the opposition and have them fired.
This time around, Cabello says the government is creating an “Obama list” instead. “With this, we will reject US imperialism and intervention,” he said.
Translated by Daniel Duarte. Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.