Activists and organizers with the Hands Off Venezuela PDX coalition hosted an event June 15 at the Sunnyside Community Center in Portland’s southeast neighborhood. Featured speakers were Dan Shea, president of the Portland chapter of Veterans For Peace, and Sara Flounders, co-director of the International Action Center and Workers World Party representative. The event was moderated by Christopher McLaughlin of Hands Off Venezuela PDX and Democratic Socialists of America.
Shea and Flounders traveled in March to Venezuela as part of a peace delegation, which included 2016 Green Party Vice Presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka and many others. These two reporters told of their experiences in the country which has recently been rocked by a U.S.-backed coup attempt and sabotage of its electrical grid after years of sanctions and imperialist interference. Shea and Flounders told of the massive support in Venezuela for the pro-socialist government led by President Nicolás Maduro. Their remarks were in stark contrast to the lies and distortions in much of the U.S. media.
The Venezuelan constitution was created with the mass involvement of the people. The Bolivarian government has made huge investments in social programs, which have extended health care and education to many working-class people, primarily Indigenous and Black Venezuelans. Also, millions of units of public housing have been built.
The working people of Venezuela regularly come out into the streets to defend their country from right-wing, U.S.-backed sabotage and counterevolution. Reactionary opposition demonstrations, which were planned to take place during the peace delegation’s visit, attracted relatively few protesters, while thousands of Chavistas filled the streets and squares of Caracas to support the Bolivarian government.
Sanctions = a silent killer
Speakers discussed the impact of the U.S.-led sanctions. They highlighted the fact that thousands of people have died due to lack of life-saving medications. The sanctions were described as a silent killer which harms, even kills, civilians — children, women and men. This brutal impact of the sanctions receives little, if any, coverage in the corporate media.
Portrayed as a “humane” alternative to war by many in the imperialist ruling class, sanctions are anything but that. Flounders reported meeting Venezuelan government agricultural experts who are developing a system of sustainable urban agriculture to address food insufficiency resulting from the sanctions. Rooftops, yards and empty lots are being converted into gardens, while small animal husbandry, primarily chickens and rabbits, is being promoted to provide local, sustainable sources of protein.
The Venezuelans reported that they have received technical support from experts from Cuba, Vietnam and north Korea — all countries with deep historical experience in building functional agricultural systems while under extreme imperialist attacks.
The peace delegation met with President Maduro, who extended his gratitude to the anti-war, anti-imperialist movement in the U.S. for the work it has done opposing U.S. imperialism from within the “belly of the beast.” The delegation attained somewhat celebrity status while it was in Venezuela, with many residents intrigued by the visit of a U.S. group which opposes U.S. imperialist aggression.
Q&A exposes Guaidó, supports Maduro
A question-and-answer session followed Flounders and Shea’s description of their visit. In reply to a query about the nature of the opposition movement, Shea and Flounders explained that it was disorganized and beset with infighting.
Juan Guaidó, the U.S.-backed, self-proclaimed coup leader who contends he is the legitimate interim president of Venezuela, doesn’t even have the support of all those in the opposition movement. And Guaidó certainly does not have the support of the Venezuelan masses who largely back Maduro’s democratically elected government.
After the public event, Shea and Flounders met with members of the Hands Off Venezuela PDX coalition to discuss the next steps for the anti-war, anti-imperialist group. While the latest anti-Maduro coup attempt appears to have failed — with the opposition falling into disarray — it is still critically important for all anti-war, anti-imperialist forces to loudly and publicly keep the pressure on U.S. warmakers and proponents of the deadly sanctions.