Since former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998, and continuing after the passing of Chavez with President Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela has been in the process of the Bolivarian Revolution. For the majority of Venezuela's population who previously suffered poverty, lack of education, healthcare and adequate housing the changes have been enormous. According to even World Bank figures, poverty was decreased from 50% in 1998 to approximately 30% in 2013. Venezuela's unique model of social missions tackled issues like education, with 1.5 million Venezuelans learning to read and write with the Mission Robinson I literacy campaign, and UNESCO declaring that Venezuela had eradicated illiteracy in December 2005. In the field of health, the number of doctors increased from 20 per 100,000 population in 1999 to 80 per 100,000 in 2010, or an increase of 400%. One of the first steps of the Bolivarian Revolution was to rewrite the constitution, which included many important changes such as enshrining the rights of Indigenous people, women and even the environment, extending the definition of rights to include the social rights of housing, education and healthcare, and many other progressive changes.
However, Venezuela's counter-revolutionary right-wing, aided by the US government, has been trying everything they can to turn back these progresses and to return Venezuela back to the hands of the former ruling classes who subjected their citizens to poverty and oppression. Recently the right-wing opposition has turned to creating an economic crisis in Venezuela, by hoarding food and consumer goods and smuggling goods to be sold in neighbouring Colombia, and shutting down factories to reduce supply and put people out of work. The right-wing opposition has also made calls for violent actions, which they have a history of doing such as when they incited violent street riots known as the “guarimbas” in 2014 which killed 43 people.
Venezuela's counter-revolutionary forces have been operating with US government support, both financially, politically and militarly. The US government has also declared, in 2015 and again in 2016, that Venezuela is “an unusual and extraordinary threat to US national security,” and imposed economic sanctions.
In the face of all of these counter-revolutionary actions, the Venezuelan people are still organizing and coming out to demonstrations in massive numbers to show their support for the Bolivarian Revolution. Here in Vancouver, supporters have been coming to the streets monthly for the past year to demand, “USA Hands Off Venezuela!”
On Friday November 4th, Fire This Time's (FTT) Venezuela Solidarity Campaign organized a protest action in front of the US consulate. Raising picket signs and voices, protesters called for Obama to repeal his decree against Venezuela and to stop intervening in Venezuela's affairs. Among the speakers at the picket was Kelly White, an Indigenous elder, who drummed, sang and reminded people of the progress for Indigenous people that Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution has brought.
Protesters then moved the demonstration up to the busy downtown streets in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery, to setup a petition drive and info display declaring “Maduro is Our President!”. For Vancouverites who often get just the Western media spin on the situation in Venezuela, this is an important opportunity for the truth about Venezuela to be discussed with passers-by who stop at the information table. Many people stopped to sign the petition demanding that US President Obama lift sanctions, repeal the decree and stop intervening in Venezuela.
Venezuela's social gains are an example for people fighting for a better world everywhere, from Latin America to here in Canada. Supporters in Vancouver are committed to continue defending the Bolivarian Revolution, and to protesting the US interventions aimed to turn back Venezuela's progress. To join in the next FTT Venezuela Solidarity Campaign action check www.firethistime.net or follow @FTT_np on Twitter.
President Obama Repeal the Decree Now!
U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!
U.S. Respect the Sovereignty and Self-Determination of the Venezuelan People!
Long Live the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution!
Follow Janine on Twitter: @janinesolanki
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