“I ask that we have a single global agenda of struggle and permanent mobilization. I ask everyone to play their part in their country, everyone to lead the fight in their country and be united in the ideas, in the spirit and strength.” – Nicolás Maduro, President of Venezuela, January 24, 2020
These were some of the last words said by President Maduro at the closing ceremony of the First International Encounter Against Imperialism, for Peace, Sovereignty, and Life, held in Caracas, Venezuela from January 22-24, 2020. However, these words are also the best way to start a report from this dynamic conference. Because at the summary of three days of discussions, debates, planning and, of course, dancing and music too – building a more united and stronger world-wide anti-imperialist, anti-war movement was on the top of everyone’s minds.
This successful inaugural gathering brought over 400 international delegates from 72 countries and all five continents together with over 2,000 delegates from across Venezuela. Delegates were there to exchange ideas, learn from the struggles against imperialist war around the world, and plan for coordinated actions in solidarity with Venezuela, and against the U.S.-led war drive of sanctions, war, and occupations.
The U.S. War Against Venezuela
As the delegates to the anti-imperialist conference raised their voices against the death, destruction and chaos imposed by the U.S. government and their allies in Venezuela, war-mongering U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in the neighbour country of Colombia. Colombia, a so-called Global Partner in NATO, is host to seven U.S. military bases. Right-wing Colombian President Ivan Duque is a key ally of the United States in their interventions in Latin America and their war against Venezuela.
While in Colombia, Pompeo also met with U.S. puppet Juan Guaido. On January 23, 2019 Juan Guaido declared himself “interim President” of Venezuela. Today, he is no closer to overthrowing the democratically elected President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, then he was one year ago. The people of Venezuela have mobilized against this U.S. sponsored attempted coup. As President Maduro explained, also at the closing ceremony of the conference:
“With everything they do, with all the money they have spent, with the 500 million dollars they have given to Guaido, with everything they have invested, they have not been able to and will not be able to defeat the Bolivarian revolution of the 21st century. They have not been able to, nor will they be able to defeat Venezuela, they have not been able, nor will they be able to defeat us, now or ever. We will continue along the path of peace, democracy, freedom, independence and absolute sovereignty.”
Conference Unites Against U.S. Sanctions, War & Occupation!
Having an anti-imperialist conference in Caracas, Venezuela was significant not only because of what was happening in Colombia at the time, but also because the people of Venezuela face the brunt of U.S. imperialism every day. U.S.-led sanctions and blockade on Venezuela, which began under President Obama in 2015, have imposed tremendous pressure and difficulty on the people of Venezuela.
The U.S. government has blockaded Venezuela from buying food, medicines and basic goods, while at the same time also making it more difficult for Venezuela to sell its goods, and oil, in the international market. As reported by the U.S.-based think-tank CEPR (Center for Economic Policy Research), these sanctions have been estimated to have killed 40,000 people in Venezuela from 2017-2018 alone, and put another 300,000 people at risk.
The defiance and resistance which the people of Venezuela have fought against U.S. intervention in their country weaved its way into every part of the anti-Imperialist conference – from plenary sessions where there were standing ovations to the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation, to workshops discussing the important role of women, afro-descendants, youth and Indigenous people in the anti-imperialist struggle.
Fire This Time in Caracas
Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice send a delegate to this conference, Alison Bodine, who is also a member of the Fire This Time newspaper editorial board and the coordinator of the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuelan Solidarity Campaign.
On the first morning of the conference alone there were 12 simultaneous workshops covering topics such as NATO and the Military Aggressions of Imperialism in the 21st Century, Environmentally Sustained Development and Preservation of Mother Earth, Organizational Proposal and the Battle Plan for an International Anti-Imperialist Agenda in the 21st Century and Sovereignty and Liberation of the Peoples. The next day there were workshops dedicated to workers, women, communes, social movements, Indigenous people, afro-descendants, communication, youth and students, and parliamentarians.
Additionally, the workshops were not only an important opportunity for people to report on their struggle against U.S. imperialism in their home countries, but also an occasion to exchange directly with people in Venezuela that are leading the struggle for Venezuela’s sovereignty and independence and building the Bolivarian revolutionary process every day.
As part of the conference, there was also the opportunity to participate in multiple interviews with Venezuelan media. Alison was interviewed multiple times, including on the show of Gladys Requena, who is the Second Vice-President of the National Constituent Assembly in Venezuela. Her show is called “Junto al Pueblo,” (Together with the People). During the interview, Gladys Requena and Alison discussed the anti-imperialist conference, the government of Canada’s sanctions and attacks on Venezuela and about the struggle of Indigenous women in Canada.
The Conference Concludes in Solidarity with Iraq – U.S. Troops Out Now!
At the final plenary of the anti-imperialist conference a powerful declaration was passed with enthusiasm (which can be read in this issue of Fire This Time on page 20). There were also special resolutions in support of people of Chile who are mobilizing every day against their repressive neo-liberal government; people in Colombia who have also mobilized in the millions against their right-wing government; the people of the Western Sahara who are fighting for their sovereignty and self-determination and resolutions against imperialist sanctions and blockades.
One of the most powerful movements of the final day of the conference was dedicated to the people of Iraq. On January 24, 2020 millions of people were marching in Iraq against U.S. troops. This tremendous action and courage of the people of Iraq, who are fighting back against a U.S.-led occupation for nearly 17 years, inspired participants in the conference to pass a special resolution in solidarity with the people of Iraq.
President Maduro also spoke in solidarity with the people of Iraq as part of the closing event of the conference, and the crowd of international guests and Venezuelans erupted in support:
“Because international censorship covers the truth of the people, surely you none saw the images of the millions of Iraqis who went out to the streets of Baghdad today. With a single slogan “US Troops Out of Iraq! the people of Iraq united on the streets. Today the people of Iraq spoke in one voice.
…From Venezuela, from Caracas, I give the people of Iraq all my support. All our support to the people of Iraq in their struggle to remove the imperialist US troops from the sacred territory of Iraq. All the support of the people of Venezuela to Iraq. The peoples of the world cry for peace!”
Build a United Movement Against Imperialism and Neoliberalism!
Conferences such as the First International Encounter Against Imperialism, for Peace, Sovereignty, and Life demonstrate exactly why we need a world-wide anti-imperialist anti-war coalition. In the face of the U.S. military machine we need to bring hundreds of organizations, millions of people together with more coordination and more consistency in our actions.
These conferences help us to overcome the divisions that exist between peoples, between organizations, and between continents; help is to overcome divisions among working class that make it impossible to overcome imperialism.
Just as the United States and their allies, including the government of Canada, have infiltrated every corner of the globe with their agenda war and destruction, peace-loving people around the world need to come together with our message of resistance to imperialism and sovereignty and self-determination for all oppressed nations.
As President Maduro stated, “Another world is possible, and another world is emerging from our struggle, from our resistance, from our fighting capacity. Another world is emerging step by step.”
As people living in the United States and Canada, we carry the additional responsibility of fighting to end imperialist sanctions, wars and occupations – from Latin America to the Middle East and North Africa, and beyond.
Follow Alison on Twitter: @alisoncolette
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