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      Free Venezuelan Diplomat Alex Saab from U.S. Jails!
      Fight the Media Blackout!

      By Alison Bodine

      For over 17 years, Venezuela has faced increasingly harsh sanctions and blockades from the United States. These inhuman and brutal sanctions restrict Venezuela’s access to fuel, food, medicine and all kinds of necessities. The U.S. sanctions are responsible for at least 40,000 deaths from 2017 to 2018, reported by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and many more deaths prior to and after this study.

      In efforts to alleviate the effects of U.S. sanctions, the Venezuelan government sent Alex Saab, a Venezuelan diplomat, to Iran to negotiate new trade deals. On June 12, 2020, during a refuelling stop in Cape Verde while en route to Iran, Alex Saab was abducted and arbitrarily imprisoned at the command of the U.S. government. Over a year later, Alex Saab was illegally extracted by the U.S. government from Cape Verde to the U.S., where he continues to be imprisoned, bypassing his diplomatic immunity. On December 23, 2022, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Robert Scola released his decision not to recognize the diplomatic status of Alex Saab. This decision, and Alex Saab’s continued detention, is a violation of international law and an injustice against Alex Saab and the people of Venezuela.

      On June 14, the Free Alex Saab Movement in Venezuela organized a one-day international conference titled “Lawfare Against Venezuela: Three Years After the Kidnapping of Diplomat Alex Saab” in Caracas, Venezuela. The conference included over 300 Venezuelan government officials, social movement leaders, and organizers of the Free Alex Saab Movement, including Camilla Saab, the wife of Alex Saab, Yvan Gil, the Foreign Minister of Venezuela and freed Cuban Five political prisoner Rene Gonzalez. Alison Bodine was invited to attend as a speaker on behalf of the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice and was one of over 50 international guests in attendance. Alison Bodine gave a rousing speech at the conference, which was also broadcast online and on Venezuelan national television, and which follows below.

      Hello everyone, greetings. First, let me say, it is an honour to be here today to mark this horrible anniversary of three years since the kidnapping and imprisonment of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab. So far this morning, I have been inspired to see and hear from so many people who are committed to this struggle: leaders in Venezuela, his family, and of course, Camilla Saab, his wife.

      Media Blackout Against Alex Saab

      More than a media disinformation campaign against Alex Saab, the overall character of the Western imperialist mainstream media coverage of the case of Alex Saab is a media blackout and very much the same situation we experienced with the Cuban 5 Heroes in the U.S. prisons for over 15 years.

      Searching the website of the CBC - the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, the largest mainstream media in Canada, there are only three articles with mention of Alex Saab. One is from 2017 and is part of the attacks on his work in securing food contracts in Venezuela, and the other two are from after his kidnapping. The National Post, the largest newspaper in Canada, has more articles about Alex Saab on their website, but they are all just reprinted from the Reuters and the Associated Press, short pieces all filed under their section on Crime Stories - which completely purposely ignores that the case of Alex Saab is political, not criminal in nature.

      The Necessity for a Dynamic and United Campaign for Freedom for Alex Saab

      For people in Canada, and especially in the U.S., our work must be to make Alex Saab and the ongoing lawfare against Venezuela a kitchen-table issue.

      What does this mean? This means that we must use many different methods to bring Alex Saab, and the injustices that he faces, to poor, working and oppressed people in the U.S., Canada and internationally. This is important because Alex Saab’s issue is about Venezuela; it is about the U.S. and Canada political aggression, sanctions, and blockade against the Bolivarian revolution.

      In our work, we must appeal to all forms of alternative media to cover Alex Saab and, more generally as well the criminal U.S.-led sanctions and blockade against Venezuela. This means reaching out to community radio shows, alternative newspapers, podcasts, YouTube shows and all other forms of social media and local media.

      For example, I am here representing the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice, and we publish the Fire This Time newspaper. The case of Alex Saab is featured in every issue. I believe that all other publications that state that they are part of the struggle for a fairer and more just world must also consistently feature the case of Alex Saab. What it means is that progressive, alternative media and the media on the left need to make Alex Saab’s freedom one of their main campaigns.

      We need this constant coverage of Alex Saab in all alternative media to help us to build a movement in the U.S. and Canada, and Europe and elsewhere for an effective campaign for the freedom of Alex Saab. We fight for justice in the so-called U.S.- justice system, but we do not expect to find justice without a struggle. We will win justice and freedom for Alex Saab by appealing to working people in the U.S., Canada and internationally.

      In this manner, a coalition of three organizations in Canada, the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, the Venezuela Peace Committee in Winnipeg, and Just Peace Advocates, have been organizing monthly online pickets for U.S./Canada Hands Off Venezuela and Free Alex Saab! Each month, this brings a platform for supporters of Alex Saab to raise their voices through Zoom, but also Facebook and YouTube. Recordings of the monthly event are then also future shared on other social media platforms. And here, I want to say thank you to the Free Alex Saab Movement in Venezuela for their continuous support of these actions.

      But this work in alternative media and in alternative spaces does not mean we should dismiss or ignore mainstream capitalist media.

      We must appeal to them constantly to cover the case of Alex Saab, from all its important aspects. Whether in local or national media, mainstream news organizations have the ability to reach hundreds of thousands of people at once. Even though the coverage is manipulated to fit the imperialist narrative, it gives us activists and supporters of Alex Saab an opportunity to have his name heard. Each news media is different, but many newspapers publish a counter-opinion in their Op-Ed sections or letters from readers.

      By not covering the case of Alex Saab,mainstream capitalist media is preventing people in the U.S., especially, from ever knowing about the injustices imposed by their government on Alex Saab and the people of Venezuela. If people are kept in the dark, then they don’t even have the opportunity to question the media’s narrative or to think critically about the U.S.’s continuous and gross violations of international law. We must break the media silence on Alex Saab. And then we have to fight to break that “one truth,” that singular narrative about Alex Saab in the media. We must intervene in their deception and in their blackout.

      We have a member of the Cuban Five Heroes joining us here today. Seeing Rene Gonzalez here reminds me of the dedicated work of supporters of the Cuban 5 Heroes, who finally achieved the interview on the BBC in 2010, which he gave from within a U.S. prison. It reminds me how more than 15 years, every month, on every occasion we could get, we brought the case of our Cuban 5 Heroes to the public and media. Together with the people of Cuba and around the world, we won; we achieved their freedom!

      But before they we released, in 2010, that BBC interview became a tool for people around the world to use to help reach more people about the case of the Cuban 5 Heroes. To win the freedom of Alex Saab, we need similar breakthroughs. Through press releases, letters to the editor and even protests outside of mainstream media offices, petitions campaigns, either online or in person, and actions at U.S. Embassies and consulates, we can work to put pressure on the media to break their silence about Alex Saab and Venezuela.

      At these conferences, we also can develop action programs according to local conditions and peculiarities. This is a way to activate and motivate activists and progressive people and convince them of the importance of fighting for Alex Saab’s freedom and ending the U.S. and Canada’s hostility to Venezuela.

      Join the Free Alex Saab Postcard Campaign to U.S. President Biden

      To close my remarks for today, I want to bring to this conference another campaign, the Free Alex Saab Postcard Campaign to U.S. President Joe Biden. This postcard campaign was launched by the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuela Solidarity Campaign in March. It is an international postcard campaign with three goals:

      1. It is a pressure campaign on U.S. President Biden and his administration

      2. It is an excellent public education campaign

      3. It allows for broader participation of different layers of people in the campaign to Free Alex Saab - including engagement with social media

      We have already distributed and sent out more than 700 postcards to people in the U.S. and Canada, and we hope to send thousands more and extend the campaign to Latin America, Europe and worldwide.

      From here in Caracas, Venezuela, let us declare our commitment to unify and strengthen the international campaign for Alex Saab! We will not stand for one more day of the torture and imprisonment of Alex Saab, and we will continue our work! We will win!

      Stop the Blockade of Venezuela!
      U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!
      Free Alex Saab! Free Alex Saab! Free Alex Saab!

      Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette

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