This is article is based on a talk was given by Alison Bodine with the same title at the Fire This Time forum on December 17, 2015, in Vancouver, Canada, ten days after National Assembly elections in Venezuela.
Obviously a lot has been said tonight that I think is very important for our discussion, I want to add just a few things which I think are really important for us as far as where exactly I think Francisco ended, which is our necessity to build a broad and united movement in solidarity with the people in Venezuela fighting for the Bolivarian Revolution. And to really keep our “eyes on the prize” as they say, are eyes straight forward at the goal, which is to win the self-determination of the people of Venezuela and an end to imperialist intervention in Venezuela.
U.S. Hostile History Toward Venezuelan
Just to highlight a little bit about U.S. intervention, because I do think that it is the most important and critical point for us to organize on following this electoral defeat in the Venezuelan National Assembly elections, not very many days ago, about 10 days ago. We have to remember, of course, and maybe for some of us it is not remembering, I think that it is important to realize that there may be some people that have not been following Venezuelan politics, don’t know about the Bolivarian Revolution and just now are finding out about it. So, we always have to talk and speak some about the history and about the tremendous gains made for poor, working and oppressed people in Venezuela under the Bolvarian Revolution, under the leadership of the late Hugo Chavez and now under the leadership of President Nicolas Maduro.
We have to remember that ever since the election of Chavez in 1998, the United States government has had Venezuela continuously in its targets, and this includes, who was President when Chavez was elected? Bill Clinton, all the way up through eight years of George W. Bush and now Barack Obama, where really this war against Venezuela, through all of its different means that we have discussed tonight, has not ceased and continued, in fact, to expand, and get trickier and do what imperialism does around the world. Including the fact that Barack Obama is the one that put Venezuela in the “terrorist axis of evil.”
We have to remember dates like the April 2002 attempted coup, when the U.S. backed forces in Venezuela temporarily ousted Hugo Chavez from government, but the people of Venezuela took to the streets and brought Hugo Chavez back. We have to remember the oil strike in 2002-2003 that was an attempt to cripple the economy in Venezuela. Many of the perpetrators of the Venezuelan oil strike are in fact those that are living here in Alberta, Canada.
U.S. Intervention In Venezuelan
We have especially a continuous funding of political parties and “civil society” in Venezuela, This is, of course, is the code-word for opposition groups against the government of the Bolivarian revolution. The main arm of the funding has come through the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) or the USAid. This includes things that many of us that have been involved in the Cuba solidarity movement will remember. Things like a five-day-a-week television program in Spanish, broadcast in Venezuela, or other PSYOPS, as they say, psychological operations meant to convince the people of Venezuela to rise up against their democratically elected government. These are, of course, things run out of the US military Southern Command. This includes a division of the USAid called the OTI, which was asked, in fact, directly by the State Department of the United States, if it could, in fact “offer programs and assistance in order to strengthen the democratic elements that are increasing under fire from the Chavez government.” This, happening right after Venezuela passed what I would consider one of the world’s most democratic constitutions. Other objectives of the USAID and NED have included strengthening of political parties and unions, really working in all sectors of Venezuelan society to try and destabilize it from the inside.
The funding of these groups is linked directly to an organization that many of us are also familiar with, and may have thought of on today’s date, which is DAI. This is the same group that Alan Gross worked for, Alan Gross is, of course, the person that was arrested in Cuba on charges of espionage and bringing equipment illegally into Cuba, telecommunications equipment illegally into Cuba and was released from Cuba when all of the Cuban 5 were released from U.S. prisons, one year ago. So this organization, DAI an operative of the U.S. government directly works in Venezuela, in Cuba and in Afghanistan.
Evidence of U.S. intervention in Venezuela also includes Wikileaks, some cables released by Wikileaks, which have shown communiqués between the charge d’affairs or the U.S. Ambassador in Venezuela before he was kicked out, the charge d’affairs, which is now the representative of the U.S. government in Venezuela, or the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs, who laid out clearly in their cables back to the FBI and the State Department, or to the CIA, the areas of action that the US government needed to take to “limit Chavez’ influence in the region,” including the idea that the U.S. needed to strengthen ties with military leaders Latin America who are also concerned about Chavez, and therefore by extension now, to Maduro as this war has not ended. For instance, in 2012, 20 million dollars went directly to Venezuelan opposition parties, including $5 million that came at the request of President Barack Obama as part of the U.S. Federal Budget.
Venezuela, A Threat to U.S. National Security! Really?
More recently, if we talk about just in the last year we have what we saw in the video earlier, but I also want to remind people about, the Presidential Decree of U.S. President Barack Obama who said that Venezuela was a “threat to U.S. National Security,” increased sanctions against people in Venezuela and, in fact declared “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela.”
We have the presidential election, which saw the victory of President Nicolas Maduro led to an increasing re-enforcement of the U.S. destabilization campaign, a sabotage of basic infrastructure, including a strategy to destabilize the electrical grid in Venezuela, which I think is so interesting about the workers for the electricity company being those strongest out supporting their government and standing up for their rights at this time. There are many documents proving communication between people in Venezuela and the United States working strategy to “to blame the government for a weak infrastructure and projecting a crisis in Venezuela when it comes to the electricity, before the last election. The U.S. government has also continued its direct funding of MUD, which in the coalition, the right-wing opposition coalition that won in the recent National Assembly elections. They find them through the International Republican Institute, which also works on “facilitate experiences between the Democratic Unity Roundtable [which is the English translation of the MUD] and the counterparts in Bolivia, Nicaragua and Argentina.”
Right-wing Media Campaign And Economic War Against People
As well as what was mentioned before by Francisco as far as the media campaign, which I think is really important. We have to remember that Venezuela exists in a world capitalist economy that is facing crisis. Also, Venezuela still has a capitalist economy, and because of this, I think this is most clearly where we see the effects of the economic war. As I say this, I will comment and quote from Nicolas Maduro, who on the night of the election said “the victory of the counter revolution... [came with] the state of need created by the politics of savage capitalism.” I have just one image to help illustrate that from TeleSUR English, which is of course a tremendous resource for us in our solidarity work. This image clearly shows one arm of this economic war, which has to do with the cross-border smuggling of goods, which Venezuela took steps against with the closing of the border with Colombia, but just, I won’t read the whole thing, just the big yellow box. “In 2014 28,000 tons of food was seized and 12 million litres of oil and lubricants were seized when attempting to cross the border into Colombia, where they could be sold at profits thousands of times greater than they could be bought in Venezuela, because they were bought with subsidized prices in Venezuela. So, people say “where are the basic goods going?” This is one of the ways that basic goods are smuggled out, facilitated by the right-wing in Venezuela and sold at exurbanite prices.
I think that is what many of us have answered in different ways tonight and I think that it is also a lot where our discussion is going to lead. But I will say one thing that has specifically to do with U.S. intervention. The coalition of the right-wing opposition in Venezuela is actually made up of 20 different political parties that have slightly different politics and different tactics, differences which we will see in discussion in the coming months as they take their seats in the National Assembly, but the party that one the most seats from the right-wing coalition, in fact 30 of the seats is Primera Justicia, which is the party of Henrique Capriles, who is the one that ran against Nicolas Maduro in the last Presidential elections and lost. This party was directly founded by working with the National Endowment for Democracy in the United States. It was directly funded by them and those connections are well established since the year 2001. So, Henrique Capriles and his party is very much at the beck and call of the United States and imperialism in Venezuela.
Just to summarize what the response has been in Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the PSUV, another quote from Maduro, “unity should be the aim, nobody should be confused by this adverse situation.” And how that has expressed itself, just in the last few days in rapid action has included meetings of the Grand Patriotic Pole, the GPP, which is the coalition of the Bolivarian Revolution in the National Assembly election. Over this past weekend there were meetings of the Presidential Councils of Popular Power, which are the groups that represent women’s organizations, LGBTQ groups, youth, Indigenous people, Wednesday there were meetings of the PSUV delegates themselves, and then all of the street meetings and mobilizations that we saw in the photos. These are an incredibly significant show of force and unity to defend the Bolivarian Revolution. Those are going ot continue. We also have the creation of the National Communal Parliament, or the Parliament of Communes, which is actually an institution codified in Venezuelan law to help create a balance of power to the National Assembly, which we can talk about more in discussion.
Debate Among Revolutionaries Is Positive!
An important quote, I think, to remember when we talk about where Venezuela is going and what President Nicolas Maduro and the PSUV are doing now is when Nicolas Maduro said, “I want a debate over revolutionary strategy in order to turn this crisis into a revolutionary crisis that allows us to experience another 4th of February, another 13th of April, a rebirth of this popular force in the Venezuelan revolution”
Maduro has called upon people in Venezuela to reflect and think about the Bolivarian Revolution and the next steps in this new situation, which will be one of increasing right-wing attack and attacks from U.S. and other imperialist forces. We also have to take that same reflection here, we have to hear those words as if they were own instruction of how to build and continue our solidarity work for Venezuela. We need a broad solidarity movement with Venezuela, now is not the time to be sectarian, it is not the time to limit ourselves in any way in building our solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution. Venezuela, in action, in word, in deed, belongs to all oppressed people all over the world, the same as the Cuban Revolution, as the Russian Revolution, as the Chinese Revolution. These are acts that have changed history and we need to know that those are ours. It is our people on the streets of Venezuela as we are here today in this room. We need people from all sectors of society, from the middle class, the working class, all oppressed people across Canada and really the world to join in the solidarity movement with Venezuela. We need to, of course, not only hear the words of Nicolas Maduro, but hear the words of Chavez when he himself said that the Venezuelan Revolution was not just for Venezuelans, it is for everyone.
Building A Strong Solidarity Movement in Canada
As we are here, as has been said a few times tonight, on the anniversary of the death of Simon Bolivar, the Liberator, I will also bring a quote from Simon Bolivar, who was speaking about the unity of Latin America. In his last public announcement addressed to people of the territories, on December 10, 1830, he summoned union. He said, “My last wish is for the motherlands happiness. If my death contributes to stop the parties and consolidate the union, I will calmly go down into my grave.” Because he wasn’t worried about political parties, but about divisions within his motherland. That same year, he said something else that I think it powerful too. He said, “Country fellowmen, women, listen to my last voice as I finish my political career. On behalf of Colombia [the Grand Colombia] I implore you to remain united so that you do not become the killer of the motherland and your own executioner.”
We hear those words too, form here in Vancouver, Canada, as they do in Venezuela, in their united fight to defend the Bolivarian Revolution. For us in Canada that means that we do whatever we can to build a broad solidarity movement. We bring university students, workers, church groups, many of which are represented in this room but could be taken much further to get them to understand, and get them to know more about the Bolivarian Revolution, for the great gains that it has made for people on important issues, especially during this time of economic crisis, housing, food, basic human rights. We have a common goal, to defend the Bolivarian Revolution, we have a common enemy as well, imperialism, whether from the giant U.S. government apparatus that works to destabilize and destroy the revolution every day to here in Canada where we have to hold the government accountable for its relationship with Venezuela and its attempts to also contribute to the destabilization there, including the funding of right-wing groups through Canadian organizations and apparatus.
Whatever the opposition ends up doing when it sits in Parliament on January 5, we know what we have to do. We have to fight where we are. Whether it is in Canada, the U.K. or wherever else we may call home. We have to appeal to everyone and fight with everything that we have and that is what I ask people here to do today. Join us in this important fight to defend the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela.
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