From March 5-7, 2018 Venezuela hosted the #TodosSomosVenezuela (We are all Venezuela) international solidarity conference. #TodosSomosVenezuela was an important success, with over 300 international participants from 95 countries in North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. For everyone that participated, the conference was educational, dynamic, and inspiring. Held during a critical time for the Bolivarian Revolutionary process in Venezuela, #TodosSomosVenezuela was also necessary.
In the weeks leading up to #TodosSomosVenezuela, Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolutionary process were under increasing attack from the U.S. government and their allies. Rex Tillerson, the former U.S. Secretary of State, had just completed a tour of five right-wing Latin American countries attempting to drum up support for further U.S. intervention in Venezuela. He even went as far as to insinuate that the Venezuelan military should overthrow the democratically elected government.
These attacks have been ongoing since the Bolivarian Revolution process began with the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998. Increasing over the last few years, the governments of the U.S., Canada, and the European Union have introduced criminal sanctions and fueled an economic war against the people of Venezuela. These governments have also made constant threats to Venezuela’s sovereignty and self-determination, including funding and support to Venezuela’s violent, counter-revolutionary opposition.
For almost 20 years the people of Venezuela and the revolutionary government, first of Comandante Hugo Chavez, and now of President Nicolas Maduro, have stood strong against imperialist intervention. They have continued to build the Bolivarian Revolutionary process in favour of poor, working and oppressed people in Venezuela.
Throughout the Bolivarian Revolutionary process, Venezuela has not been alone. Together with Cuba, they have fought to build a new balance of power in Latin America and the Caribbean, one that stands for independence and self-determination against the hegemony of the United States and their imperialist allies.
With an understanding of the urgent necessity to build a stronger and more united Venezuela solidarity movement, the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice – Venezuela Solidarity Campaign sent three delegates to #TodosSomosVenezuela. Tamara Hansen, Alison Bodine and Azza Rojbi, all members of the Fire This Time Newspaper Editorial Board joined the conference, alongside more than 300 international delegates and 500 delegates from the newly elected National Constituent Assembly, social movements and community organizations within Venezuela. Over three days, they participated in workshops, discussions and cultural events at the Teresa Carreño Theater in Caracas, at important sites within Caracas and in the adjacent state of Vargas.
Beyond the informative and dynamic program, there was also the important opportunity for Venezuela solidarity activists to get to exchange with one another about our solidarity work for Venezuela. Whether in between scheduled events, or over the dinner table, there were countless discussions and exchanges between delegates, focused on sharing our experiences in building Venezuela solidarity and planning for future coordination and collaboration. Rarely is there the opportunity for such a diverse group of solidarity activists to get to know one another, making these discussions, whether held in Spanish, English, French or Arabic, or many other languages, some of the most important work of the conference.
In addition to spaces for workshops or speeches, the main square of the theater complex was transformed into a TV and radio studio for Venezuela’s revolutionary media, including VTV Channel 8, TeleSUR and the Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information. The Fire This Time delegation was invited to give several interviews, for links to some of the interviews see the end of this article.
The workshops of #TodosSomosVenezuela covered a broad section of society and of the gains and challenges of the Bolivarian revolutionary process. There were sessions of women, trade unionists, and youth in Venezuela which highlighted the important role of these sectors of Venezuelan society within the revolution. From the speakers and the discussions, it was especially apparent that women and youth are the motor force of the revolution – the people that are driving it forward and taking a leading role, not only in the streets, but in their schools, workplaces, community groups, and neighborhoods. The energy under the large tents where the workshops were held was tangible. Typically, the presentations of the speakers would end with supportive chants, or even songs from the audience, proceeding a lively discussion. One song that could be heard was:
Chávez no se murió (Chávez did not die) Chávez no se murió (Chávez did not die)
Chávez se hizo millones, se hizo millones (Chávez became millions, became millions)
¡Chávez soy yo! (Chávez is me!)
There were also educational sessions such as those on health, on the challenges and advancements of the National Constituent Assembly, and on the sanctions against Venezuela and the impact of the Economic War imposed by right-wing Venezuelan opposition and the U.S. government. These workshops armed participants to fight against the media war against Venezuela, in which capitalist mass media has consistently echoed the lies and rhetoric of the U.S. government and their allies, reporting on Venezuela as a “failed state” and “facing humanitarian crisis.” Not only did speakers representing the revolutionary government refute these deceptions, Venezuelan grassroots activists participating in the conference also shared about the reality of the Bolivarian revolution in contrast to the manipulations of mainstream media.
Participants in #TodosSomosVenezuela were also honoured with the contributions of many leaders from the Bolivarian Revolutionary government, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the National Constituent Assembly to the conference.
Delcy Rodríguez, the President of the National Constituent Assembly and the Secretary General of the Somos Venezuela Social Movement, and Jorge Arreaza, the Foreign Minister of Venezuela both gave speeches appealing to everyone at the conference to work in all spheres of society to build solidarity with the Venezuela. They also gave the participants one of their important tasks upon returning from Venezuela, as Jorge Arreza said, “The delegations here present are jointly responsible for spreading the truth about Venezuela. To break the media siege there are various mechanisms that can be innovated.”
#TodosSomosVenezuela closed with a rousing speech by the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, who spoke of the legacy of Comandante Chávez, the achievements of the Bolivarian revolutionary process within the world of capitalism and imperialist attack, as well as the importance of building a stronger solidarity movement. President Maduro finished his speech by emphasizing the importance of building a strong network of solidarity, “We want to continue solidifying, improving these networks of solidarity, which provide mutual support. We must build a powerful communication network. We must build a powerful network to communicate, of those that know our truth and will stand with us; a powerful communication network to break the domination, lies and manipulations of the dominant network in each of our countries. "
It is also important to note that the #TodosSomosVenezuela Conference opened in Caracas, Venezuela on the 5th anniversary of the passing of Comandante Hugo Chávez. As President Nicolas Maduro said at the closing ceremony:
"For us Chávez is a commitment. For us Chávez is the ultimate expression of loyalty. In in the face of all tests, Chávez never made any excuse in order to violate a fundamental principle of loyalty to the revolution, to the people, to the principles of truth…For us Chávez is the capacity for creation, the audacity, the capacity for experimentation. For us Chávez is a reflection of the fact that socialism is the path of humanity, and the only way that will guarantee the permanence of the human species on this planet."
The majority of the participants in #TodosSomosVenezuela left the day following the conference closing, but some were able to stay and participate in the actions marking March 8 International Women’s Day. In order to mark this important occasion, thousands of women from all walks of life in Venezuela gathered inside the Miraflores Presidential Palace. There, Blanca Eekhout, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality spoke alongside President Nicolas Maduro about the gains made by women in Venezuela under the Bolivarian revolutionary process. Some of the international guests, including Azza Rojbi from the Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign were also honoured to be recognized from the stage for their participation by President Nicolas Maduro.
With the great success of the #TodosSomosVenezuela conference, the revolutionary government of Venezuela achieved their goals in promoting the advances of the Bolivarian revolutionary process, and in bringing together a broad representation of solidarity activists from around the world.
For those of us that participated, it is clear from our experiences that Venezuela does not need us to tell them what to do at this critical moment in their history. What they need us to do is to build a stronger solidarity movement to get the boot of the imperialists off their necks. We must join together to fight against imperialist sanctions, threats, and intervention in Venezuela.
It is our responsibility to show the U.S. government and their allies that we as poor, working and oppressed people around the world will defend Venezuela’s right to sovereignty, independence and self-determination. To show them that indeed, #TodosSomosVenezuela (We are all Venezuela).
Selection of Fire This Time Delegation Interview Links:
Follow Tamara, Alison & Azza on Twitter: @THans01 @Alisoncolette @Azza_R14
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