Venezuelan president meets with New York unionists
Published Oct 10, 2009 7:49 AM
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela took advantage of his recent visit to
the United Nations to meet a group of workers in New York City on Sept. 23. A
large group of labor unionists came, including a five-person delegation
representing workers at the Stella D’Oro Co., who have been fighting for
their jobs for more than a year.
President Hugo Chávez
After spending some time walking around the room and greeting everyone,
Chávez made remarks to the group, which were broadcast to many countries
via the network Telesur. What follows is an unofficial translation of some of
his remarks, noted down at that meeting.
Chávez talked about the current “tumultuous developments in Latin
America” as a “hurricane” into which he had been tossed and
is trying to navigate.
Washington’s plans in South America have failed, said the Venezuelan
president. He told the workers that capitalism has failed and that while the
Soviet Union fell apart, it was never a threat. The U.S. and European powers
were the threat. “They fought against socialism,” he said and
pointed out that since its inception, the Soviet Union had gone through many
wars and that “socialism got lost along the way.”
“Imperialism fought against the workers’ dream of building a new
world,” he said,” but “the only way to save the world is
socialism. Obama talks change, change, change. Tell me how, within the
framework of capitalism?”
Once the Soviet Union was gone, Chávez said, “The neoliberals were
able to impose themselves.” Neoliberal proposals became stronger and
“the free market has messed everything up. What is labor flexibility for
them becomes hungry children.”
Why are the imperialists fighting Honduras, Chávez asked. Because,
“It was expanding the hurricane in Latin America to further north.”
He noted that workers in the United States come from every part of the world.
The bosses “want to stop it from coming all the way up here.”
Referring to a demonstration that day near the United Nations supporting Manuel
Zelaya, the deposed president of Honduras, he said, “I congratulate the
protesters. I drove by them.” There was much applause from the assembled
workers for this act of solidarity.
He called the U.S. “a great country—the people, not imperialism. We
have great hope in the U.S. Latin American workers come here, make it their
home. You, the workers here, can save the world. I have great faith.”
He referred to a discussion he had with Evo Morales, the embattled president of
Bolivia. “We are not the enemies of the U.S., we are the enemies of
imperialism, of starvation, exploitation. We are brothers of the people of this
country. Their slogan is even more true now than in 1848, when Marx and Engels
wrote the Communist Manifesto: Workers of the world, unite!” And he added
that today, “Imperialism subjects its own people, colonizes its own
workers after it has colonized elsewhere.”
“Today is a great opportunity,” Chávez pointed out.
“When Obama won it caused great expectations. Who can deny it? But there
are two Obamas. One speaks and the other makes decisions that contradict his
speeches. He gave a big speech about peace. But there are seven [U.S.] military
bases in Colombia. The U.S. Fourth Fleet is in the Caribbean. This is not a
fleet of peace. To create peace is to fight hunger.
“[In his U.N. speech] Obama didn’t mention Honduras. Despite this
criticism I hope all this will enlighten him to fight for social justice. We
want good relations. The extreme right attacks him. Why don’t all the
unemployed, who need social security, the poor, make a call and challenge him?
Help save the world.
“You fight in your factories, your labor struggles. But you cannot fight
just there. It is also political. I believe a united world working class is
possible. We must embrace this choice—for socialism, for life to save the
In response to a question on the role of women from Estela Vasquez of 1199
United Healthcare Workers, Chávez said most members of the Venezuelan
cabinet are women, as are the chief justice and the president of the assembly.
“Women should step forward and take control and not wait,” he
added, stressing the importance of making social changes that affect poor
Chávez also spoke of an initiative Venezuela was taking while in New York
to host a meeting with African leaders.
Eddie Molina, an activist who has organized much labor solidarity with the
Stella D’Oro workers, asked if the Venezuelan oil company Citgo could buy
the plant and keep it in the Bronx. Chávez responded with great
seriousness and very specific questions. He asked the leading representatives
of Citgo, who were present, to meet the workers for a feasibility study.
The next day, in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Chávez took time
to formally asked President Obama’s permission to buy the plant in order
to keep it open in the Bronx.
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