Guayana’s Other Rubén

Union leader Rubén González (center) celebrating his victory in the internal elections of Ferrominera Orinoco

The last three years have been hard for Guayana union leader Rubén González: In August 2009, as leader of the main workers’ union at Ferrominera Orinoco, he led a protest that led to an agreement with the company. It didn’t last.

The following month, he was put under house arrest. In January 2010, he was sent to prison, in February 2011, he was sentenced to seven years on charges incitement, trespassing and “violating the right to work” – all charges stemming directly from his union activism. A month later, he was released on conditional parole.

Mr. González spent almost 18 months in jail but he’s now been vindicated by his fellow workers. He has been re-elected as head of Ferrominera’s union, defeating Chavismo’s candidate Alfredo Spooner (who had the heavy backing of the Bolívar State Government). Other Guayana basic industries’ unions have already fallen to the opposition, including Alcasa and Carbonorca. For the record, González supports Orlando Chrinos’ fringe trotskyite presidential bid, not Capriles’s.

Losing this election is a huge blow to Chavismo’s control of trade union movement, even after the approval of the Organic Labor Law last May. It’s also seen as a signal that Guayana could be in play in the upcoming elections. Protests are worsening there and the Chaverment is doing what it can to calm things by throwing middlemen under the bus if necessary.

But the Chavernment is still committed to control all union activities by forcing them to register and even considering withdrawing Venezuela of the International Labor Organization. After all, they already violate many of their rules. Meanwhile, Bolivar State Governor Rangel walks away of this failure by jumping into the Limardo bandwagon.