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Progressives build support for Venezuela

Published Mar 10, 2006 11:49 PM

From March 3-6 representatives of the progressive movement inside the United States met here in a National Conference in Solidarity with Venezuela. Its aim was to increase support for the Venezuelan Revolution and prevent further aggression from the U.S. government against that Latin American republic.

Bernardo Alvarez
WW photos: Malcolm Cummins

The conference took place at George Washington University, just a few blocks from the U.S. State Department, where many anti-Venezuelan projects originate. Over 400 people attended, representing dozens of organizations.

Participants discussed and supported a proposed May 20 March on Washington to Stop U.S. Intervention against Vene zuela and Cuba. Organizations and individuals can get more information about the march by sending e-mails to [email protected].

Berta Joubert-Ceci

Participants also read and discussed a resolution establishing a National Net work of Solidarity with Venezuela and a calendar of grassroots Venezuela solidarity actions. Anti-war actions already plan ned for March 18-20, the third anniversary of the U.S. war against Iraq, were included in the calendar and groups were encouraged to have Venezuela contingents in the demonstrations.

A special resolution was also passed denouncing the U.S.’s Plan Colombia.

Nellie Bailey

Representatives of the governments of both Venezuela and Cuba who spoke at the conference showed the strong connection between these two countries. Through their examples of generosity and dignity they are now the hope of millions, not only in Latin America but throughout the world.

The presence of many students and youth, not only from Washington but from as far away as Canada and Florida, showed the Bolivarian Revolution’s appeal. Young activists mixed with seasoned organizers who have been in the anti-war and Latin America solidarity movements for decades. Organizers also came from community-based, religious and labor groups. African Americans and Latin@s had a strong presence throughout the conference.

Cuban Ambassador
Dagoberto Rodrguez

Many organizations endorsed the conference, including the Alliance for Global Justice, All-African People’s Revolu tion ary Party, Bolivarian Circles, the National Network on Cuba, CISPES, FMLN-MD, Latin American Solidarity Coali tion, Nica ra gua Network, the People’s Hurri cane Relief Fund, Ocean Press, National Law yers Guild, Global Exchange, Global Women’s Strike, Iran ian Cultural Associ ation, Inter national Action Center and several student groups. A full list of sponsors can be found at www. lasolidarity.org /venezuelaConf.html.

Unite in solidarity
with Venezuela

An evening of music and poetry on Friday night, March 3, opened the events. The next morning, Chuck Kaufman, a main organizer of the conference from the Nicaragua Network, welcomed the attendees, stressing that the gathering brought together a united group in solidarity with Venezuela.

Attendees took part in three panels and 40 workshops throughout the weekend. Workshops linked solidarity with Vene zuela to events in the U.S. Topics like “The Aid Offered by Venezuela and Cuba to Katrina Victims” and “Venezuela Comes to the Aid of the North American Public” helped put this vision in perspective.

The Katrina workshop included Kali Akuno, National Outreach Coordinator of the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; Lour des Madriz, Consul General of Venezuela in New Orleans; and Joaquin Gutierrez, Second Secretary of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C.; it was chaired by Ignacio Meneses of the U.S./ Cuba Labor Exchange.

Madriz described the help Venezuela offered to Katrina survivors in the aftermath of the storm, including fuel, interpreters, monetary assistance and more.

Gutierrez gave background on the medical aid offered by Cuba, which the Bush admin istration rejected. He said that though Cuba early on offered to send a team of doctors, the Cuban government held off making a public announcement or releasing a photo of the 1,500-plus doctors waiting with bags packed until other countries asked why they had not made an offer to assist, since they sent doctors everywhere else.

Madriz noted that one of the first doctors from the U.S. to graduate from medical school in Havana was from New Orleans, and did return to help.

Akuno gave background on the struggle in New Orleans, how little has been done by the U.S. government, how bad conditions remain six months after the storm, especially in Mississippi, Southern Loui siana and the rural areas outside New Orleans, where towns were literally wiped off the map. Most of these areas have received no help at all. Mobile homes intended for these areas still sit in Arkansas and Texas.

Akuno explained that in the tourist area around New Orleans’s French Quarter, some hotels are built on top of levees—that’s how wide they were. But in the Ninth Ward and areas with a predominantly African American population, some levees were only two feet wide. He also reported on how both FEMA and the Red Cross divided people in shelters into three groups—Black, white and immigrant. If the immigrants could not provide documentation, the INS was on hand to deport them.

U.S. attempts at subversion

People also discussed the Venezuelan Revolution, its advancement and constitution, and its regional and international relations, including the Bolivarian Alter native for the Americas (ALBA). Several workshops discussed Washing ton’s aggres sion against Venezuela, particularly through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and USAID, including the reactionary role of the AFL-CIO in the April 2002 coup that tried to overthrow President Hugo Chávez Frías and in the destabilization campaign later.

Several workshops discussed different ways of building solidarity. Others were about Latin America and the Caribbean, including Colombia, Cuba and Haiti.

The conference packet contained a resolution submitted by progressive elected officials to the Michigan State Legislature that expresses solidarity with Venezuela and demands that terrorist Posada Carriles, now in the U.S., be extradited to Venezuela.

Among the many speakers were Rev. Roy Bourgeois of the School of the Americas Watch and Bill Fletcher, director of the Trans-Africa Forum.

During a cultural and political event held at All Souls Church on March 4, Vene zuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez spoke eloquently about how aid from Cuba is proving essential in eradicating illiteracy in Venezuela and in the success of its health programs.

Cuban Ambassador Dagoberto Rodrguez spoke in turn of how Venezuela has made economic cooperation possible through ALBA, the Latin American alternative to U.S.-sponsored “free trade” agree ments. Jorge Marin from the Martin Luther King Bolivarian Circle of Boston and Berta Joubert-Ceci from the Inter national Action Center co-chaired the event.

This very successful conference follows previous events in solidarity with Vene zuela: the Evening in Solidarity with Boli varian Venezuela held last November in New York City’s Town Hall and in Los Angeles the Feb. 17-19 organizing conference in New York of the Bolivarian Circles in the U.S.

Betsey Piette, Cheryl LaBash and Steven Ceci contributed to this article.