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      US/Canada Hands Off Venezuela!

      By Alison Bodine

      The inhuman unilateral economic, financial, and commercial sanctions against Venezuela imposed by the United States, Canada, England, the European Union, and Switzerland have cost the economy of Venezuela more than $258 billion, between 2016 and 2020 alone.

      In a recent report to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), UN Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan describes, “Venezuela faces a lack of necessary machinery, spare parts, electricity, water, fuel, gas, food, and medicine. Venezuelan assets frozen in the US, the UK, and the EU banks amount to US$6 billion.” She further recommends that “sanctions, which were mostly imposed in the name of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, be lifted as they undermine these very principles, values, and norms.”

      Meanwhile, the United States government and its allies have shown no signs that they will take steps to alleviate the suffering that the blockade has caused. Just the opposite. Since taking office in early 2021, U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has doubled down on U.S. sanctions and attacks on Venezuela. The Biden administration has continued to recognize the U.S.-puppet Juan Guaidó as the “interim President” and stated that “the United States is in no rush to lift sanctions.”

      The government of Canada is complicit in the U.S. campaign to overthrow the democratically elected government of President Nicolás Maduro. Canada has also given no indications that they are planning on alleviating the sanctions or ending meddling in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

      The criminality and brutality of the United States and its allies against Venezuela are also exposed in the case of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab. On June 12, 2020, Alex Saab was arrested and held in Cape Verde under orders from the U.S. government while en route to Iran to negotiate shipments of fuel and humanitarian supplies for Venezuela. On October 16, 2021, Alex Saab was abruptly kidnapped and flown to the U.S. without the knowledge of his family or legal team. He is now in jail awaiting trial on trumped up money laundering charges in Miami.

      One-Year of Cross-Canada Online Pickets Demanding US/Canada Hands Off Venezuela!

      In March 2021, Venezuela solidarity groups and individuals began united monthly online actions demanding “US/Canada Hands Off Venezuela!” and “End the Sanctions on Venezuela,” based on the initiative of the Venezuela Peace Committee – Winnipeg and supported by the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, alongside other Venezuela solidarity groups and individuals across Canada and Quebec. Since then, the dynamic online actions have brought together hundreds of people from across Canada, the United States, and many other countries to stand against brutal sanctions being imposed on Venezuela.

      Each month, the online action opens with a panel featuring activists, organizers, and progressive intellectuals from different countries who each present their perspective on the necessity to end the sanctions and attacks on Venezuela. Then, there is time in the program for greetings from the antiwar, social justice, and Venezuela solidarity groups across Canada who are participating in building the online actions and organizing in defense of the self-determination of the people of Venezuela. The monthly actions are broadcast from Vancouver, with the support of organizers with the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuela Solidarity Campaign in Vancouver.

      Over the past 12 months, a broad range of panelists have joined the online actions. This has included diverse voices from across Canada: Radhika Desai, Professor at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg; Maria Paez Victor, Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle of Toronto; Alison Bodine, Coordinator of the Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign; Nino Pagliccia, Hugo Chavez Peoples' Defense Front - Southwest Chapter; Alan Freeman, research affiliate of the University of Manitoba’s Geopolitical Economy Research Group (GERG); Arnold August author, lecturer, and journalist; Claudia Chauffan, professor at York University, Toronto; Don Foreman, Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW); Dimitri Lascaris, lawyer, journalist and activist; Yves Engler, author, foreign policy analyst, and activist; Bianca Mugyenyi, Director of the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Tamara Lorincz, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace; John Philpot, international human rights lawyer based in Montreal, Quebec; Margaret Villamizar, Secretary for International Relations of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist); Henry Heller, Professor of History at the University of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and member of the Communist Party of Canada; Raul Burbano, Program Director for Common Frontiers; Joe Emersberger, Co-Author of "Extraordinary Threat: The US Empire, the Media and Twenty Years of Coup Attempts in Venezuela" (2021, Monthly Review); and Azza Rojbi and Mike Larson of the Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, who had just returned from Venezuela where they participated as the only delegates from Canada to the Bicentennial Congress of the Peoples.

      Participants in the actions have also heard about the important work taking place in the United States and internationally against the blockade on Venezuela. From the United States, speakers have included Leonardo Flores and Teri Mattson, who both presented about the critical work of the U.S-based group CODEPINK; William Camacaro, a leading organizer in the Sanctions Kill coalition and the Campaign to Free Alex Saab; Professor Fred Mills, Senior Editor at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA); Pete Seidman, activist with the US Hands Off Cuba and Venezuela South Florida Coalition, based in Miami; and Dr. Adrienne Pine, one of the four members of the Embassy Protection Collective arrested in May 2019 for defending the Embassy of Venezuela in Washington, DC against its illegal takeover by the fake government of U.S-backed puppet “interim President” of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó.

      As well, the monthly actions have also featured speakers direct from Venezuela, representing many different parts of Venezuelan society including: Professor Luis Acuña, the Charge d'Affaires from Venezuela to Canada, who is currently living in Venezuela and shares his critical analysis and greetings at each picket action; Carol Delgado, a distinguished Venezuelan diplomat and political analyst; Nelson Herrera, Secretary General of the Vice-Presidency for the Working Class of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and Coordinator of the Anti-Imperialist Workers Platform (PCOA); Jimmy Gudiño, City Councillor of the Caracas Libertador Municipality and member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV); Laura Isabel Franco, Director of Exchange and Cooperation of the Simón Bolívar Institute for Peace and Solidarity among Peoples; Daymar Martes, Venezuelan anthropologist and researcher with SURES, a Venezuelan civil society organization; and Indhriana Parada, Venezuelan lawyer and member of the Free Alex Saab Movement in Venezuela.

      The 13 consecutive monthly online picket action held on March 10, 2022, had a special focus on the case of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab. At this action, participants heard from Camilla Saab, the wife of Alex Saab and the head of the Free Alex Saab Movement in Venezuela, leading the campaign for his freedom. As Camilla explained during the picket, Alex Saab’s “arrest sets a dangerous precedent with consequences for all nations and diplomats to exercise their legitimate functions.” She also expressed her gratitude for the wave of international solidarity with Alex Saab and her firm conviction that he would be free to return to his children and the people of Venezuela.

      Also joining the march online picket action, which was chaired by Alison Bodine, the Coordinator of the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, was Dr. Francisco Dominguez, National Secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign in the U.K., which is currently leading a campaign for the release of Venezuelan gold being held by the Bank of England and Karen Rodman, human rights advocate and executive director of Just Peace Advocates, a Canada based international human rights organization.

      Building the Movement Against Sanctions on Venezuela in Canada and Internationally!

      Through the monthly online actions, Venezuela solidarity organizations and individuals have reached new and different audiences and heard from people across the country doing important work against the government of Canada’s sanctions on Venezuela.

      As people living in Canada, a country complicit in the sanctions and attacks on Venezuela, we are responsible for organizing against the brutal and unjust sanctions, threats, and attacks on Venezuela by the United States, Canada, and their allies. These consistent monthly actions will continue to contribute to building a united front and stronger movement in defense of the sovereignty and self-determination of Venezuela.

      In solidarity with the people of Venezuela, who struggle every day to defend their sovereignty and independence from the United States, the monthly US/Canada Hands Off Venezuela actions will continue until the sanctions and blockade of Venezuela are lifted. For more information and to register for the next online picket action, visit: https://tinyurl.com/handsoffvzla

      Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette

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