BEN CHACKO reports from the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign AGM
THE barrage of propaganda directed by media outlets and Establishment politicians against Venezuela reached new heights this summer.
Misinformation about the real nature of the country’s opposition is standard. The fact that it has repeatedly tried to overthrow the elected presidency by force and that a majority of the over 120 people who died in violent clashes earlier this year were killed by opposition supporters is never mentioned in news reports; even the most dramatic incidents of armed rebellion, such as the paramilitary attack on Fort Paramacay in August (preceded by a video in which the perpetrators stated they were participating in a revolt against the government) or the grenade and gunfire assault on the Supreme Court from a helicopter in June, were not deemed significant enough to feature in the “debate” about the situation in the country held by MPs on September 5, which ludicrously sought to portray the government as solely responsible for violence in the country.
We’ve seen this before — 2014’s lethal “guarimba” riots were also accompanied by a media offensive against Venezuela — but the race to denounce Caracas has been reinforced this year by Establishment interest in discrediting Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose prior acknowledgement of the Bolivarian revolution’s achievements gave his critics an in.
And the picture is darkening, Venezuelan ambassador Rocio Maneiro told delegates to the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (VSC) AGM in London this weekend.
While her country had endured “systematic aggression for a long time, beginning with Hugo Chavez,” the direct threats of military intervention by US President Donald Trump were something new, she said.
“The frontal aggression of the Trump administration is directed not only against Venezuela but against Cuba and Nicaragua,” she declared.
“It is a revival of the Monroe Doctrine aimed at the reconquest of Latin America. But Trump’s mistake is to believe that after Sandino, after Fidel, after Chavez, that will be possible. The Latin American people have grown up.”
Thanking VSC campaigners for their hard work to promote the reality about Latin American politics, she assured them that Venezuela retained “the support of the free peoples of the world — and we shall prevail. I promise you, your efforts are not in vain.”
It was a day of impassioned discussion around the challenges faced by Venezuela and other Latin American countries, as well as those campaigning on their behalf in this country.
Highlights included a panel discussion entitled Standing Together Against Trump, led by Cuban ambassador Teresita Vicente, Nicaraguan ambassador Guissell Morales-Echaverry, Fidel Narvaez from the Ecuadorean embassy and the Venezuelan embassy’s Marcos Garcia.
Ms Vicente recalled that former US president Barack Obama had urged Cubans to “forget history” when he sought to normalise relations.
“That would be a major mistake in Latin America,” she warned, pointing out that the blockade against Cuba was now tightening as Washington returned to a policy of “regime change, low-intensity wars and destabilisation of progressive governments.”
Ms Morales-Echaverry drew attention to the US House of Representatives’ unanimous passage of the Nica Act, which orders the president to instruct all US directors at international financial institutions to use “the voice, vote and influence of the United States to oppose any loan for the benefit of the government of Nicaragua,” posing a serious risk to the country’s economy.
The relentless hostility to Nicaragua, as to Venezuela and Cuba, was because they had sought to use their natural resources to build a better life for their peoples rather than to pile up profits for transnational corporations, she said.
“We are building a victorious Nicaragua and a victorious Latin America,” she said, having come through decades of brutal US-backed dictatorships — in Nicaragua’s case for over 40 years under the bloody rule of the Somoza family.
“That is why we are considered a danger to the US and to capitalism itself. None of our countries has ever lifted a finger against the United States.”
Mr Narvaez pointed to the shared history of Ecuador and Venezuela, having fought together against Spanish colonialism — “winning our first independence.
“We are now fighting for our second independence, independence from neocolonialism, from neoliberalism.”
It was essential that people stood by the Venezuelan revolution now it was in difficulties, he argued.
“Many on the left do not come out and support Venezuela as they must. We know what to expect from the right.
“If Venezuela falls, what comes after? A far-right government — there are no other options. It is crucial that people understand that this is a historic struggle, a social struggle.
“Capitalism, imperialism and the fight for socialism have not gone away, however much they want to sell us the idea that this is merely a struggle between ‘civil society’ and the state.”
Venezuela had shown other countries that socialism and defiance of Washington was achievable, he noted. “As a Latin American I think I owe a debt of gratitude to the Bolivarian revolution and the Venezuelan people.”
Mr Garcia said that if Salvador Allende in Chile had shown the left how to win elections, the brutal suppression of that revolution by the Pinochet tyranny showed socialists had a lot to learn about maintaining power and effecting change, he argued — but Hugo Chavez’s victories from 1998 had demonstrated not just how to win, but how to keep winning.
The current popular mobilisation around the revolution in Venezuela was part of that.
He pointed out that while “many people think of change as something nice, something beautiful, it is often the opposite.”
It was a point echoed by Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke, newly elected as chair of VSC, and General Federation of Trade Unions general secretary Doug Nicholls, the vice-chair, who both emphasised that the labour movement would not be “fair weather friends” of the Bolivarian revolution.
“In such difficult times our solidarity could not be more important,” Mr Burke argued, pointing to the bloody history of US interventions elsewhere.
“Venezuela’s economy has faced big problems but neoliberalism and external intervention are not the way to solve them … such US-led regime changes have been a disaster in other countries and there’s no reason to believe it would help the people of Venezuela.”
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament general secretary Kate Hudson said that existing sanctions were also a form of war.
It was unwise to underestimate the devastating impact of sanctions given the example of Iraq, where hundreds of thousands, many children, died as a direct result of US-imposed sanctions in the 1990s.
Delegates resolved to build a broad-based campaign of solidarity with Venezuela, tying it in with the need for greater awareness of Latin American struggles more widely — not just regarding the defence of progressive governments but also on the attacks on working people and roll-back of achievements taking place in Argentina under the Macri regime and by the unelected Michel Temer administration in Brazil, as well as the human rights abuses and corruption prevalent in right-wing Latin American states such as Mexico.
“We have a mountain to climb,” VSC secretary Francisco Dominguez cautioned, saying when even a progressive MP such as the shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry was swallowing right-wing propaganda on Venezuela the outlook was pretty bleak.
Delegates were agreed we did not have a choice, however.
Teresita Vicente summed up the issue for many of those present: “We are standing together in defence of our sovereignty.
“We know socialism is the sole system that can provide justice for people around the world. And we trust in socialism.”