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      Vancouver Activists Defend Venezuela Against Brutal U.S. Sanctions

      By Janine Solanki

      On June 6

      The U.S. government increased its brutal sanctions against Venezuela, announcing that exports of diluents to Venezuela are subject to U.S. sanctions. This not only sanctions U.S. companies from exporting diluents to Venezuela but also threatens secondary sanctions on non-U.S. entities. Diluents are a necessity for Venezuela’s oil industry, which Venezuela’s economy relies on and which funds important social programs in Venezuela. Venezuela’s oil exports, which have already suffered greatly in recent years, just in May 2019 dropped 17% due to the U.S. sanctions. Despite this enormous economic stress of the U.S. blockade, Venezuela has not stopped their social programs, such as the “Canaima Plan” where students from primary grades to university are provided free laptops.

      Another program being targeted by the U.S. government is the CLAP (Local Supply and Production Committees) food program, which provides regular deliveries of basic foodstuffs to six million Venezuelan families at a subsidy of 98%. In recent months the U.S. government has been preparing sanctions against companies and individuals involved in the program. Already the program is being impacted by the U.S. blocking shipments delivering goods to Venezuela. A recent report by the Center for Economic Policy Research also put the malicious intent of the U.S. blockade into figures, finding that U.S. sanctions amount to “collective punishment” and have been responsible for over 40,000 deaths between 2017 and 2018.

      On June 11

      The Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign held a monthly protest action demanding “U.S./Canada Hands Off Venezuela!” The action started with a picket in front of the U.S. Consulate in downtown Vancouver, where protesters raised their voices and picket signs demanding an end to the U.S./Canada/EU sanctions on Venezuela. Speakers at the action also demanded that all charges be dropped against members of the Embassy Protection Collective who were arrested by the U.S. government in their heroic defense of Venezuela’s sovereignty. For 37 days the Embassy Protection Collective protected the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC from taking over by supporters of the U.S.-backed puppet of their failed coup attempt in Venezuela, self-declared “interim President” Juan Guaido.

      From the U.S. Consulate, the protest moved to the busy downtown Robson street plaza, where an information table was set up and teams of activists approached passers-by with a petition against Canada’s sanctions on Venezuela. A huge Venezuelan flag and a banner reading “U.S./Canada Hands Off Venezuela!” attracted people to the table, where they were able to sign petitions, pick up information and talk with organizers. While people stopped to ask questions about what is happening in Venezuela, organizers with Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign were able to share their experience, from recent trips to Venezuela to observe the May 2018 Presidential elections, participate in solidarity exchanges and conferences, and to document the effects of the U.S. sanctions.

      As the hostility and aggression of the United States, Canada and their allies grew, the determination of the people of Venezuela to defend their sovereignty and self-determination is becoming more united and stronger. The Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign stands with the people of Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution, and these actions and other events in defense of Venezuela will continue! For more info on upcoming events visit www.firethistime.net, or follow on Facebook, on Twitter @FTT_np and on Instagram at ftt.venezuela!

      Follow Janine on Twitter: @janinesolanki

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