Mariano Picón Salas, the great Venezuelan writer, once said that Venezuela did not enter the twentieth century until the death of the iron-fisted dictator Juan Vicente Gómez in December 1935. Until then, ours was a semi- feudal, semi-colonial country still living in the nineteenth century. Thus, it was only after a delay of three and a half decades that Venezuela entered into the century of the most unforeseen changes and most radical revolutions.
The death of General Gómez shook the country to its foundations and set it on the road to the attainment of social rights and needs which had been denied by a backward social structure rooted in Spanish colonial tradition. It was in awareness of this that the newly born political parties and their leaders met the challenge of the times and started on a long and difficult journey that, in spite of some splendid successes, has not yet fully satisfied the just and reasonable aspirations of the Venezuelan people.
My close connection with the Venezuelan labor movement dates from those years, and in the intervening three decades of continuous and unflagging struggle the movement has succeeded in creating the powerful Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (C.T.V.), with nearly 4,000 unions representing over 1,500,000 rural and urban workers. The C.T.V. has always been a bulwark of constitutional government in Venezuela, in part at least because the three- year democratic régime of 1945-48 and the régimes since 1959 have considered the material and cultural well-being of the working masses a central objective and the basic reason for the democratic revolution which our country is at present undergoing.
Unfortunately, just as Venezuela arrived late to the twentieth century in a social sense, she was also tardy in joining the current of modern economic development which today offers such immense possibilities.