The Chargé in Venezuela (Dawson) to the Secretary of State

No. 9243

Sir: I have the honor to report that, as anticipated, oil company heads last week received a document indicating various clauses of the recently-signed collective labor contract, the interpretation of which representatives of the Federation of Petroleum Workers desired to discuss with them. Although the document, a copy of which is enclosed,72 was submitted in the name of the Federation, its Secretary and principal agitator, Communist Jesús Farias, is widely credited with being the instigator thereof.

While some of the points admittedly are ones with respect to which clarification might appropriately be requested, most in fact constitute new demands. That being the case, and the contract containing a stipulation that no new demands would be presented or considered during its life (to December 31, 1947), officers of one company felt it would be unwise to meet with Farias or other Federation representatives and recommended that the industry refuse to do so. That point of view received little support, and one session has already been held with Farias. A suggestion that a Ministry of Labor representative be invited to attend the Federation-industry meetings, this in order that conscienceless Farias, who when it suits his interest will barefacedly deny previous understandings, likewise was disapproved.

Several management meetings, some of them reportedly rather heated, have been held, with jittery Creole and follow-the-leader Shell alternating between flat determination to reject the new demands and a disposition to talk them over with Farias. At the moment it appears [Page 1349] that unless Creole suffers a further change of opinion, and breaks the united industry front maintained since 1944, the demands will be turned down and Farias will run complaining to the Minister of Labor. The latter—albeit agreeing with the companies that the Federation is enjoined by the current contract from presenting new demands—is expected then to press the industry, for “political reasons”, to give in and accept the relatively minor additional burden; and the fat may be in the fire.

With elections for the Constituent Assembly scheduled for October 27th, foxy Farias has once more demonstrated his good sense of political timing. As indicated, at the moment it appears that the new demands will be turned down by the industry, which will then be ranted against in the Communist-controlled press as “reactionary” and an outstanding example of “monopolistic imperialistic capitalism”. If the Acción Democrática Minister of Labor fails to take up cudgels on behalf of the Federation, or fails to persuade the industry to give in, the Communists can likewise be expected to raise such a huge cry that AD may lose some votes. Regardless of which way the matter is decided, however, unless something unforeseen occurs to eliminate the Communists from the picture the Federation’s demands will be made to redound to the benefit of their party, which more than actual economic benefit for the industry’s workers is believed to be Farias’ principal aims.

Respectfully yours,

Allan Dawson
  1. Not printed.