Introducing a new weekly update on Venezuela

Alliance for Global Justice

With this posting, the Alliance for Global Justice is inaugurating a weekly email with a few useful articles on Venezuela and  an occasional action item.Chicago Venezuela Solidarity Campaign member, Stan Smith, is providing this service.  It is AfGJ’s conviction that we in the US defend Venezuela’s sovereignty and recognize the Bolivarian Revolution has improved the lives of its citizens, led the movement toward Latin America integration, and is building participatory democracy structures that are an example for us in the US as well.

We are implementing this service because of the failure of the alternative press in the United States to adequately cover the great strides forward that Venezuela has made since President Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998. Following his death in March 2013, and the democratic election of President Nicolas Maduro, the right-wing in Venezuela and the US, as well as transnational business interests, have been trying to take power through destabilization campaigns, as they have been unable to do so through the last 16 democratic elections.

With the alternative press missing in action, and an unceasing barrage of disinformation from the corporate media and politicians, US activists have few tools to counter the efforts to destroy Venezuelan democracy. One of the most important tools that we as activists can wield is information. Our goal is to provide you with a weekly, bite-sized dose of the truth so that you can fight the disinformation in your own community. – AfGJ Staff

Venezuela Solidarity Weekly

Roy Bourgeois’ article “The U.S. should respect Venezuela and Latin America,” casts the Venezuela protests by the opposition into context. Though it is very much the right of people to protest, and to protest with due conviction and effectiveness, it is not right to overthrow democratic governance. Father Bourgeois knows a thing or two about pushing the envelope on protesting having grown an effective movement against the School of the Americas and having spent many many days in jail because of that effort. In many ways it is the subversion of democracy that makes protests necessary. Unlike in the US, money isn’t protected as free speech in Venezuela.

Regarding U.S. policy toward Venezuela, a 2006 U.S. diplomatic memo published by Wikileaks reveals ongoing subversion of democracy. It outlines a strategy in which U.S. funding was to be used for “penetrating [late president Hugo] Chavez’ political base,” “dividing Chavismo,” “isolating Chavez internationally” and creating organizations opposed to the government. The U.S. spends millions each year supporting groups that have, in recent years, backed unconstitutional “regime change.”

Let’s hope that respect for democracy becomes the belief of the entirety of the Venezuelan opposition.

In another article “Venezuela: Where the Wealthy Stir Violence While the Poor Build a New Society,” by Dario Azzellini, the author spells out why he thinks Venezuela is under vicious internal attack.

On April 1, a group of rioters set the Ministry of Housing on fire with Molotov cocktails while 1,200 workers were inside the building. The fire was set close to the ministry’s nursery school, and 89 toddlers had to be evacuated by firemen. This lethal act is no anomaly. During the last several weeks, a university has been burned down, as have nurseries, subway stations, buses, medical centers, food distribution centers, tourist information sites and other civic spaces. In Mérida, the drinking-water reservoir was deliberately contaminated with fuel, and in Caracas, the nature reserve on the north side of the city was set on fire to destroy the power lines that supply the city with electricity.

The US press ignores stories about the opposition like this one. This is why we have to continue sharing the positive stories from Venezuela. Be sure to pass these on to your friends and family, especially those folks who may be characterized as “progressive but on Venezuela.”

Here are some of the best “Letters to the Editor” in solidarity with Venezuela.

Support peaceful protests in Venezuela

Venezuela’s former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles has said “I don’t believe in violent removals [of governments].”  When such an opponent of President Maduro is rejecting the violent protests, it behooves the U.S. Government to stay away from taking violent-aggressive type actions.  I reject what Mr. Rubio and other overthrow-by-any-means supporters in our government are promoting.  The NYT needs to get more representative letters/articles on the issue.  I have been through the last 40 years of history of US intervention (including armed) in Latin America–Nicaragua, Guatemala in particular.  No MORE!

-Tom Luce (Bay Area)

Our government has for at least the last 50 years used our embassies as “mafia services outposts” in foreign countries.  They identify people who can be incited to conflict against the foreign government and then bring in CIA agents to provoke trouble.  This opens the door to excuse our government’s interference in the internal affairs of foreign countries.  It is quite ruthless and dishonest.

It is used generally to force the foreign government to “cave in” regarding demands made by our banksters and corporations to meet their “commercial goals”.  In Venezuela it is to force the government into co-operating with our oil companies’ desire to form a world cartel to their huge enrichment.  The Times can do a much better job in reporting this to America!

-Charles Clements

Democracy in Venezuela

Having officially witnessed random auditing of votes during the 2012 Venezuelan presidential election, I can attest that Venezuela has an enviable electoral system. Last April Venezuelans elected Nicholas Maduro president by clear majority. The right wing, having lost 14 of 15 nationwide elections in 15 years, including December’s  sound beating in  municipal elections, are attempting through street violence to do what they are unable to accomplish with ballots, unseat the popular Chavista government. I have seen the opposition in the street in Venezuela and there is no problem with constitutionally protected protest. The government has a fine record of respecting and protecting free speech and human rights. The current “protests” have always been centered in a small and shrinking number of well-to-do neighborhoods. They have morphed into sheer terrorism. Imagine the government reaction in the US if 200 law enforcement personnel were injured, dozens by gunshot, a substantial number killed! President Maduro’s current efforts to seek social peace, under law, with the participation of the foreign ministries of the other South American nations is laudable.

-Lawrence Fisk

The Real Story About Events in Venezuela

I was in Venezuela in March 2014 with a delegation. The protests were only in 18 of 337 municipalites, all upper class neighborhoods. They have been violent, burning several public buildings and killing several people at the barricades. The leaders, also involved in the 2002 coup, call for the unconstitutional ouster of the legally elected president.

Why is the US government siding with the 1% who used to benefit when US companies extracted the oil, which is now benefitting the other 99%? The majority now participate in the democracy, and receive health care, education, and housing from the revenues of the oil. The government has a peace process and dialog, and listens to suggestions to improve the economic situation.

These advances should be supported, not undermined by the US government. Hands off the sovereign Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela!

Susan Lagos (swlagos@yahoo.com), CA

Support for Peace in Venezuela

My name is Nan McCurdy and I have worked as a United Methodist missionary in Latin America for thirty years, currently serving in Nicaragua.

I was very pleased to read the piece by President Maduro. I have not seen any other news or opinions that foster peace.

The right-wing Venezuela lobby is strong and is able to influence many US representatives. The US has found many ways to finance and encourage the opposition, and unfortunately the violent opposition.

A number of the leaders participated in the military coup of 2002. More people have been killed by the protesters than by the goverment, something very rare that points to outside influence.

On February 28, the Latin American Council of Churches stated: “We have seen in the protests in this month of February in Venezuela, directed by the opposition, that their own leaders have confessed the aim of “regime change”.

I encourage you to print the truth, and print at least as many opinion pieces in favor of peace as the ones in favor of “regime change”.

Thank you so much,

Email Nan McCurdy, MD

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Venezuela: Chavistas Debate the Pace of Change

by Steve Ellner in NACLA Report on the Americas

2504 Mural in the barrio of La Vega, Caracas. Photo by Sujatha Fernandes.

The violent anti-government protests that shook Venezuela in February have once again thrust the issue of the pace of change into the broader debate over socialist transformation. Radical Chavistas, reflecting the zeal of the movement’s rank and file, call for a deepening of the “revolutionary process,” while moderate Chavistas favor concessions to avoid an escalation of the violence. The same dilemma confronted the socialist government of Salvador Allende in the early 1970s, but under different political circumstances. Unlike in Chile, Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro have won nearly all national elections over a period of 15 years by absolute majorities. In addition, Chavistas, since the early years, have maintained firm control of the two most important institutions in the country: the armed forces and the state oil company PDVSA.

The invigoration of the Chavista rank and file, along with mass mobilizations, became a must for the Maduro government’s political survival in the face of the opposition’s disruptive and at times violent tactics in February. Thus on successive days in late February, Maduro spoke at mass rallies of women, oil workers, motorcyclists, telephone workers, and finally peasants and indigenous people. On each occasion social movement representatives called for the “deepening of the revolutionary process,” “radicalization,” and “people’s power.” Maduro, for his part, outlined popular measures and at times threatened the elite with radicalization. This combination of expectations of radicalization and announced programs favoring the popular sectors had enabled Chávez to overcome situations of crisis in the past.

Similarly, immediately after each triumph, the Chávez government took advantage of its political capital by announcing bold initiatives. For instance, following his victory in the recall election of 2004, Chávez defined himself as a socialist and expropriated several abandoned factories. After his capture of 63% of the vote in the 2006 presidential elections he nationalized strategic industries. The impressive showing of the Chavistas in the December 2013 municipal elections appeared to follow the same pattern in that immediately after the contests, Maduro took calculated risks. Opinion, however, has been divided within the movement as to whether his moves contributed to the deepening of the revolutionary process or represented a step backward. The measures he implemented were designed to face the problems of acute shortages of basic commodities, price increases far above those set by the government, a 56% inflation rate (nearly triple that of the previous year), widespread currency speculation, and the refusal of the opposition to recognize the government’s legitimacy.

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