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      Stop Sanctions on Venezuela!
      Free Alex Saab!

      By Janine Solanki

      U.S. wars bring certain images to mind – G.I. Joe soldiers with machine guns, fighter jets screaming through the air and bombs exploding on so-called “enemy” territory. There is also a more insidious way the U.S. is quietly waging war on oppressed nations worldwide – sanctions. U.S. sanctions affect a third of humanity, with more than 8,000 measures impacting more than 40 countries. One of the countries facing some of the harshest sanctions is Venezuela, imposed by the U.S. government along with their allies, including Canada. These sanctions continue to deny people in Venezuela access to food, medicines, and basic necessities and are responsible for at least 40,000 deaths from 2017 to 2018, reported by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. What did Venezuela do to deserve this treatment? Since 1999 under the leadership of former President Hugo Chavez and now President Nicolas Maduro, the Bolivarian revolution started building a Venezuela to serve its people instead of profit.

      Around the world, supporters and defenders of Venezuela are demanding an end to U.S. sanctions on Venezuela and an end to threats, coup attempts and meddling in Venezuela's affairs. In Canada, monthly online picket actions are organized by Venezuela Peace Committee in Winnipeg, Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, and Just Peace Advocates with the support of Venezuela solidarity organizations and individuals across Canada.

      September 22 Picket Action Demands Free Alex Saab!

      A main demand in the Venezuela solidarity movement is for the freedom of Alex Saab. In June 2022, Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab was en route to Iran to negotiate a deal to alleviate the effects of the sanctions, enabling Venezuela to receive more fuel, food, and medical supplies. Alex Saab was abducted at the command of the U.S. government, arbitrarily imprisoned and tortured and is currently unjustly held in U.S. prisons.

      On September 22, the 19th consecutive monthly picket action featured special guest Camila Saab, wife of Alex Saab. Camila Saab gave updates on Alex Saab's case and gave a very moving speech about the conditions her husband faces and the resolve to keep fighting for his freedom. Camila Saab also shared a letter that Alex Saab had written in response to Alison Bodine, coordinator of the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, who was also chairing the picket action. (Reprinted on next page).

      The September 22 picket also included speakers: Cikiah Thomas, International Ambassador for the Global African Congress and executive member of the Canadian Network on Cuba; Luisa Martinez, Portland-based Chilean union and community organizer, steering committee member of Democratic Socialists of America International Committee and founding member of Hands Off Venezuela! - Portland; and greetings from Professor Luis Acuña, Charge d’Affaires of the Venezuela Embassy in Canada, speaking from Venezuela. Participants also heard greetings from groups and individuals in solidarity with Venezuela from across Canada and Quebec.

      October 18 Picket Action – Hands Off Venezuela!

      October 18, 2022, marked the 20th online picket action demanding Hands Off Venezuela. Participants at this action heard from Indhriana Parada, a Venezuelan lawyer, human rights expert and member of the Movement for the Liberation of Alex Saab, who spoke from Venezuela. She gave updates on Alex Saab's case and stressed the importance of international solidarity while his trial is set to start in December 2022 in Florida. Participants also heard from John Philpot, a Montreal-based international human rights lawyer who is on the board of directors of Just Peace Advocates and Cassia Laham, an antiwar organizer in South Florida with the People's Opposition to War, Imperialism, and Racism (POWIR) and the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC). Participants again heard updates direct from Venezuela from Professor Luis Acuña, as well as greetings from Venezuela solidarity groups and activists across Canada and Quebec.

      At every online picket, after hearing from inspiring speakers, the participants turn on their videos for a customary picket group photo! Venezuela supporters and activists across Canada, the U.S. and beyond join to chant together, hold picket signs and Venezuelan flags and demand Canada/U.S. Hands Off Venezuela! No Sanctions on Venezuela! Free Alex Saab!

      To learn more about events in defense of Venezuela visit www.firethistime.net or follow on Facebook @firethistimemovement, on Twitter @FTT_NP and on Instagram @firethistime and @FTT.Venezuela.

      Follow Janine on Twitter: @JanineSolanki

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