Latin America
From Cuba, Nicolás Maduro Celebrates Axel Kicillof's Win
The president of Venezuela appeared next to Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel. Maduro celebrated the triumph of the Frente de Todos in Argentina. "Good and better airs arrived," he said.

The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, celebrated the triumph of Axel Kicillof in the province of Buenos Aires during an international summit against Imperialism and Neoliberalism, held in Havana with the head of the Cuban Army and leader of the revolution, Raúl Castro, and Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel.

This gesture reveals the ideological differences that nest within the Frente de Todos coalition, where Cristina Kirchner and allies like Kicillof represent the left-wing that Maduro praised in his speech. Maduro and Díaz-Canel highlighted the " revival of the Latin American left " and called for taking advantage of " the weakening of the right " in the region. This support comes as President Elect Alberto Fernandez tries to seal a strategic alliance with Mexico's Lopez Obrador, who is closer to the center-left with respect to Maduro and Castro.

Kicillof's proximity to Cuba jeopardizes the bond that Alberto Fernandez is trying to build with the United States amid the contradictions he is displaying towards Venezuela, which caused him a direct confrontation with the U.S. ambassador in Buenos Aires. Edward Prado warned the president-elect not to remove Argentina from the Lima Group, a diplomatic coalition created by the United States to force a change of regime in Venezuela.

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During his speech in Havana, Maduro pledged to Kicillof to send the necessary funds to finish the two oil tankers that the Rio Santiago Shipyard has not been able to finish for the last 14 years.

"Venezuela has the resources and is ready to invest and finish the two ships at the Rio Santiago shipyard as soon as the necessary conditions are met," Maduro said this Sunday during his unexpected appearance in Cuba.

Maduro praised Kicillof's arrival to the government of the Argentine province and questioned the Mauricio Macri administration. "With Macri's arrival, with his hatred and ideologization of international relations, Macri, who hates us and fears us at the same time, stopped everything and sabotaged us," said the Venezuelan leader.

The president mentioned the twin oil tankers, named after Eva Perón and Juana Arzuduy, and claimed that he was unaware of the situation of these vessels. He said that the Eva Perón was 98% complete. "There is a new governor and a new president (in Argentina). And Venezuela is ready to invest," Maduro said.

The oil tankers are symbolic of the relations between the Kirchnerist governments and Chavismo. The agreement was signed amid big celebrations in August 2005 and was scheduled for delivery in 2009. However, between the Venezuelan and Argentinean bureaucracies, 14 years have passed and the ships are still in the shipyard.

The Eva Perón was launched in 2012 in a mega ceremony in which then Governor Daniel Scioli and the state shipyard workers were present. Since then, however, it has rested on an internal canal of the shipyard.

As for the Juana Urzuduy, in August the port and starboard blocks corresponding to the ship's chimney were erected, and their work is lagging behind that of the Eva Perón.

Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal, who just lost reelection against Kicillof, opted for a confrontation with the state-owned shipyard in a conflict that lasted for several months. The underlying conflict was against the Association of State Workers (ATE), the union that controls the shipyard.

There was strong opposition. At the shipyard (located in Ensenada, Argentina), the workers held a group of union leaders hostage. In La Plata, demonstrations were held in front of the Government Palace, some with serious incidents and repression. Later, the workers even took over the Ministry of Economy.

To the right, the Eva Perón ship. To the left, Juana Urzuduy.

On the Venezuelan ships you can see several graffiti that refer to these tensions with the government. "Capdevilla traitor", reads over the Juana Urzuduy. Daniel Capdevilla is the president of the company, appointed by the Governor.

The situation was normalized when both parties understood that it was impossible to continue escalating the conflict. Archbishop Victor Fernandez was key in that dialogue.

As part of the agreements, the government defused a series of union negotiations at the shipyard and the workers agreed to carry out work outside the naval industry, including several floodgates in the Carhue lagoon and a 65-ton bridge to be built over the Los Huesos stream in Lobería.

Throughout the years, the amount of personnel at the shipyard grew exponentially although the production was decaying. LPO anticipated one of the reasons for the increase in personnel. During the years 2011 and 2012 almost 500 Uocra workers joined the company, who performed tasks at the Estadio Único de La Plata.

Shipyard workers during the takeover of the Ministry of Economy.

The shipyard has 3,251 workers. Under the current budget it spends AR$3.5 billion a year (about 15% of the annual fiscal deficit). According to government information, without any production the Ensenada plant generates only 1% of what it spends. The other 99% is financed by the people of the Buenos Aires province through their taxes.

Of the 3,251 workers, 70% have average salaries of AR$40,000. Some 18% belong to hierarchical positions and receive salaries ranging from $100,000 to $300,000 per month. As LPO learned, average salaries are even higher than those of Siderar (Techint), one of the companies in the industry that pays workers the best.

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