While in Caracas, Venezuela for the Sao Paulo Forum at the end of July 2019, Fire This Time had the chance to interview revolutionary Venezuelan youth about the impact of the unjust economic blockade on Venezuela; and about their message for people living in Canada, the United States, and around the world. The following is an interview with a young revolutionary Venezuelan woman Yakuana Martinez, the coordinator of the Estafeta Cultural Centre, a collaborative art space that opened one year ago in the heart of Caracas. To read more about Fire This Time’s experiences in Venezuela, and for some our other interviews see Fire This Time Volume 13 Issue 9 (September 2019) and Issue 8 (August 2019).
Fire This Time: Hello, thank you for being here with Fire This Time social justice newspaper. Can you please introduce yourself and say a little about what you do here in this cultural centre?
Yekuana Martinez: My name is Yekuana Martínez. I am the coordinator of this cultural centre, which is one of the many projects that exist in Venezuela led by young people. These are cultural-political projects supported by the Bolivarian revolution. In the past 20 years of Bolivarian project young people and women, because we are also militants in the Venezuelan feminist movement, have had a very interesting process of empowerment and of unprecedented access to study and to work. This is despite everything that we must deal with related to the issue of sanctions and the economic blockade.
We are developing autonomous productive experiences that can slightly counteract the effects of the crisis that undoubtedly affects us as young people, as women. It affects our work and our daily lives. We believe that the response to this crisis cannot be individual, as capitalism tells us, but that it must be a collective response. We must join with our communities to undertake productive projects and to promote popular power, by carrying out collective work, an economy of solidarity, and collective life, which exists in a small way here in the Estafeta.
The Estafeta is a cultural centre in the heart of the city of Caracas, in a parish that is within the centre of the city of Caracas. We are organized by a collective of 15 young people from different experiences. Some are artists, others are designers, historians, or computer scientists, others come more from administrative areas. We came together with the idea of developing this political and cultural experience.
FTT: If you could talk to the youth of Canada and the United States, whose governments are attacking Venezuela, what would you say about the experience of youth in Venezuela, and what Venezuela needs?
YM: The first thing that I would say it that here in Venezuela there is a people and a youth that resists; that resists the onslaught of the blockade and of a war that is not only economic, but also a propaganda, cultural, and psychological war. The whole of the great empires is against our project because we decided to be free, we decided to build our own project here in Venezuela. We decided to give ourselves our own form of democracy, political participation, and organization and to take control of our natural resources.
Given the level of attack against Venezuela today, it seems that the cost of these decisions is high. It is very expensive to be young, be revolutionary and have a struggle for independence that has gone on for more than 200 years. The great empires continue to see us as the third world, as their backyard, as a people who do not deserve self-determination. In the 21st century, we continue fighting for that right, which seems incredible, but it's true. When finally, we have decided to give ourselves our own form, we are attacked brutally as we see happening today. These attacks have also increased after Comandante Chavez died. At that time, they believed that everything was going to end with the death of Comandante Chavez, but it turned out not to be the case.
Next, I would tell the youth of Canada and the United States to come to our country. Here, you can counteract all the false discourse about Venezuela. We know what is said about us outside - that here there is a dictatorship, that human rights are violated, that youth are going outside to look for opportunities. We do not deny the difficult economic circumstances, but we say that we must examine the causes of this crisis. Who benefits from this crisis? Who is economically choking the Venezuelan people? It is not the revolution, it is the Venezuelan oligarchy, it is the national bourgeoisie that doesn’t want poor people, working people, to have the power.
FTT: What are the impacts of the U.S., Canada and European Union sanctions against Venezuela?
YM: The most brutal impact of the sanctions is how they have attacked living conditions in Venezuela. For example, the whole issue of medicines impacts us very much because we do not produce medicines in our country but depend on these medicines coming from outside. We are talking about patients with chronic diseases, for example, that are denied the right to their medicines because the Venezuelan state is prohibited from being able to legally purchase those medicines from companies around the world. There are cancer patients, there are AIDS patients, there are patients who need those medications. This impacts us brutally.
The sanctions also impact, for example, us as young people in our right to a free, enjoyable and responsible sexuality. Likewise, the current situation with contraceptives is very difficult, because we do not produce them in Venezuela. They are produced in European or North American laboratories, and it is now impossible to buy them. This has the effect of increasing unwanted pregnancies and taking away our ability to control our own pregnancy, and our right to decide whether to have children.
Food supply is also impacted, which has led us to think that we need food sovereignty, to produce our own food. The sanctions have been suffocating, especially in the last three years, and if they continue, the issue of importing food will more and more become an uphill battle. Even third countries that try to trade with us are sanctioned from providing us with food or medicine.
FTT: What do you think peace-loving people in North America or European can do to help the Venezuelan people?
YM: Look, I think it is very important to convey the truth of Venezuela. I think it is key that you are here, that you keep coming, that we can also connect through digital means so that when you are not here we can continue to weave bridges between us through social networks and other mechanisms that allow us to keep in touch.
For us, it is crucial that the truth of Venezuela comes out. If they manage to isolate us, if they manage to impose their version of the truth, if they successfully impose on the world that in Venezuela there is a dictatorship and not an authentic revolution led by a people who want to be free, if they win that battle, we believe that will be the end.
That is why it is important for us that at the same time as we are resisting here in Venezuela, there are revolutionaries around the world and noble and humanistic people of the world, who may not fully agree with our Bolivarian project, but who stand with us. I believe that the humanists of the world, the sensitive people of the world, can help us to spread out the reality of our country, denounce the consequences of the blockade and put pressure on their governments.
We know that not all the people of Canada, for example, are in favour of what the government of Canada is doing against Venezuela. We know that there are critical people, people who think, people who have ideas, who reason and who cannot be in favour of their government's decisions to support, for example, Guaido [the U.S.-backed self-declared “interim President” of Venezuela].
To convey that it is very valuable. It is very valuable every time people take action in our defence, every time they go to the embassy to protest or have public actions, every time they write. We do not always get all the news about actions in support of Venezuela that happen around the world, but we do know that every time there are international days of solidarity with Venezuela people from all over the world mobilize, as they mobilized in favour of the Cuban Revolution or in favour of Nicaragua.
Venezuela is not alone, and I believe that the United States and imperialism must be reminded that even if they have economic power, the peoples of the world are also strong, if we are coordinated and united.
FTT: Thank you very much.
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