ALI MUSTAFA | March 22nd 2010
As Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution enters a new decade of struggle and defiantly advances towards its goal of ’21st Century Socialism,’ serious challenges to the future of the process emerging from both inside and outside the country still abound. As a result, key questions surrounding Venezuela’s mounting tensions with the West, the role played by its fiery and outspoken leader Hugo Chavez, and the future of the process itself remain as relevant today as ever before. Australian-based journalists and long-time Venezuela solidarity activists Federico Fuentes and Kiraz Janicke have been carefully following Venezuela’s ongoing political transformation for several years now, countering mainstream media Spin and providing invaluable on-the-ground coverage and analysis about the process as it unfolds. I had the fortunate opportunity to sit down and speak with them both in Toronto before they were set to return to Caracas, following a 10-day Canadian solidarity tour.
Ali Mustafa: Over a decade now has passed since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Can you provide an overview of the type of gains that have been made since President Hugo Chavez has come to power and what Venezuela looks like today?
Federico Fuentes: Well, I think the first thing to note in regards to the gains that have been made in the 10 years of the Venezuelan Revolution is the huge improvement that has occurred in peoples’ daily lives. The fact that the previously excluded majority of people now have access to free health care, free education, unemployment has fallen by more than half of what is was before, the level of poverty has decreased, and many other statistics and social indicators that show that general Venezuelan living standards have improved dramatically. But also extremely important has been the active political participation of people in daily life; we are talking about a country where, literally, something like 80 percent of the nation were excluded and felt that they were not represented at all by the sort of representative democracy and two party system that had existed.
It’s the collapse of that system and the important movement for change that erupted – prior to Chavez’s election but, of course, which then has been stimulated even further by Chavez’s election – in the re-writing of the new constitution that’s brought about these important gains that Venezuelans have been able to achieve… This reflected itself in important mobilizations that occurred particularly in 2001, 2002, 2003 that defeated a military coup and an attempt by the capitalist class to strangle the economy, which of course meant that the government basically was unable to carry out a lot of the ‘missions’ that it first set out for itself, but through that struggle was able to move into a position where it could begin to carry out a lot of these social programs, and as always places emphasis on the people involved in them. I think one of the most exciting things is, for instance, the health care social missions – it’s not just that free health care is now being provided but that this health care is being carried out by the people, for the people.
So, I think the Venezuela that exists today is fundamentally different from what it was like 10, 11 years ago in the social aspect, in the political aspect – and I think it’s a Venezuela that today, in its large bulk, refuses to go back to what existed before. That’s one of the most common things that you’ll find amongst Venezuelan people: that no matter what problems, or whatever they may be encountering, they strongly feel that there is no going back to what Venezuela was like before and they are willing to die to defend what they’ve won.
Kiraz Janicke: Yeah, I think that for the first time the Venezuelan people have a government that’s actually truly independent of US imperialism. But of course in addition to all of the social gains, one of the most fundamental changes is this kind of mass political awakening of the Venezuelan people and the amount of participation of the Venezuelan people in political life through many instances of grassroots participatory democracy. For instance, the communal councils that since the end of 2005 have developed and spread all around the country. You have now approximately 35,000 of these communal councils…where the highest decision making body is the General Assembly of the local community, and importantly they have the ability to recall elected officials or elected spokespeople. This is something that was also another major democratic gain of the 1999 Constitution…which was the first constitution that the Venezuelan people were ever able to democratically decide upon themselves. They democratically voted on that constitution in a popular referendum, and that in many ways has provided a legal framework for further changes. But the real driving force behind the change has been the mobilization of the people.
Initially when the Chavez government came to power, Chavez said he thought that there was a third way between Capitalism and Socialism and that it was possible to create Capitalism with a human face. For every time that the government attempted to implement reforms in the interest of the poor majority of Venezuelans, they were met with extremely violent resistance by the traditional ruling elite; for instance, the carrying out of the coup in 2002, the bosses lockout of the oil industry, and so on. It’s actually been through this process that Chavez himself came out and said that, ‘I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not simply possible to reform the system but it’s necessary to change the system entirely,’ and he came out and made his famous speech at the Porto Alegre World Social Forum in 2005, where he called for ‘Socialism of the 21st century’. And that really has sparked a huge debate in Venezuela… People are very politically aware, people are participating and debating and discussing an alternative to the capitalist system, which is currently in crisis.
AM: Can you further elaborate on the formation of these communal councils and how they fit into the notion of participatory democracy currently taking root in Venezuela?
FF: Well, when Chavez was elected he said that the only way to get rid of poverty was to give power to the people, and I think that the communal councils are probably the most concrete example of that. The background to the communal councils is that throughout the 90’s there was an explosion of community organizing – particularly in the poor areas in Caracas, but also in some of the other large cities – and what you saw was the emergence of a lot of small, localized committees dealing with a lot of issues: health, education, housing, roads, water, but all campaigning around local issues. The communal councils emerge out of that necessity to bring together all of these committees, so that rather than being just simply campaigning groups to demand that the government or state do things, it’s actually organizing those communities so that they themselves can take control over these issues.
The communal councils today represent 200-400 families in an urban area, 20-50 families in a rural area (given that they are more spread out), and it’s essentially the community getting together to discuss what are their most urgent needs and, within those needs, which are the ones that they as a community…can collectively come up with a plan for how to combat those problems… The emphasis is, again, not on asking someone else to do it, but doing it themselves – of course with the help of the government – but really empowering the people through that process.
KJ: And there’s a vision that is being presented now – and it’s a very new development in Venezuela – that is, the formation of what they call communes. These are more than just an aggregate number of communal councils but also other organizations such as cooperatives in a particular geographical area that will coordinate grassroots decision-making on a larger scale than what a communal council can do. For instance, a communal council can make a decision over a smaller project in their local community but they can’t necessarily make a decision to build a new school because that’s something that affects a much larger area. But the important aspect of these communes is the idea that they have communally owned property or control over the means of production in their local area. So, the idea is not only that communities can get together and make decisions about how resources are distributed; they can also own the means of production that benefit these communities and collectively control them…
This fits into the idea that Chavez has spoken of many times and was part of his proposed reform referendum in 2007 of what he refers to as ‘creating a new geometry of power in Venezuela,’ and essentially this is a vision of creating a new superstructure that’s different to the old superstructure of the traditional Venezuelan state. So, in addition to creating the communal councils and the communes, there’s a vision of coordinating the activities of communes on a broader scale; so, for instance, creating communal towns or communal cities and then ultimately what they call communal territories. And just before we left Venezuela, there was a new law passed called the ‘Law of the Federal Government Council’, and the idea is that it will create a space where these representatives or spokespeople for these grassroots institutions – as well as representatives of the traditional structures such as governors and mayors and the national executive – can participate…This is one key example where you see an attempt to decentralize power from the traditional structures of the capitalist state…
AM: Typically, media coverage surrounding Venezuela tends to represent one of two extremes: uncritical praise and acclamation from supporters on one hand, and of course, especially in the Western mainstream media, a sort of reflexive, de-contextualized vilification of Chavez on the other. As two individuals who have spent much time covering Venezuela both inside and outside the country, what is the main misconception about the Bolivarian Revolution that you would like to dispel?
KJ: Well, for me, I think the main misconception or lie that is often repeated in the media is the idea that this is an undemocratic government – that Chavez is a dictator. Most of the international media overwhelmingly focuses on Chavez, but they always ignore the fact that the Bolivarian movement, which is led by Chavez, is a movement that’s made up by millions of people that support Chavez: the workers, the urban poor, campesinos, students, sectors from right across Venezuelan society… They feel that the Chavez government is implementing policies that are in their interests. If you look at all the opinion polls over the years, they will show that Chavez has consistently higher levels of support within Venezuelan society, and it’s always hovering around 60% support. And it’s not only that people are just passive supporters of Chavez, they are active supporters as well, and active participants in the Bolivarian Revolution.
FF: Yeah, I think that definitely one of the main myths of the media is this idea of Venezuela drifting towards an undemocratic dictatorship – which is ironic because I think there is possibly no other country in the world that has more electoral processes than Venezuela. Almost every year there is an election, and there has been at least one example of an election that the government has lost, and that was the Constitutional reform vote in 2007, which generally under a dictatorship doesn’t happen… The other major lie is this idea of the restriction of the freedom of the press; I think it’s an important issue, particularly in the case of RCTV [Radio Caracas Televisión Internacional]…It’s worth just quickly explaining that no TV station has ever been shut down in Venezuela. What we have is RCTV, which in 2007 – after having actively participated in provoking and carrying out a coup that, by law, would have easily justified them being taken off air in any country – was not taken off air; instead, their license was up for renewal…and the government, or the broadcasting authority, decided that at this time it was not in its best interests to continue to give a license to a company that would use it to destabilize the country.
Then, again, at the beginning of this year, it became a scandal internationally because, even though we were told in 2007 that RCTV had been shut down, it was still broadcasting (it was broadcasting on cable). But this was not a question of the government silencing dissent; this was a TV station that was operating illegally: their paperwork said they were an international channel, but by law – and everyone accepted this, including RCTV afterwards – they were a national channel, because more than 80% of their production was made in Venezuela for a Venezuelan audience. So they needed to renew their paperwork, and the government said that until they did, they would be temporarily removed from air. Once the paperwork was put in, they would be able to broadcast again on cable. There are many other examples, but that’s I suppose the biggest one that’s always in the media.
KJ: Yeah, well, as an independent journalist, I monitor the media everyday about Venezuela and look at what all different kinds of news sources say about the government – both news sources internally and externally – and I would have to say that the kind of manipulation and distortion of Venezuelan reality is something that I’ve never seen anywhere else. There’s an Australian journalist and documentary film-maker, John Pilger, who said that, ‘What you’re seeing is really an unprecedented propaganda campaign that’s being waged against the Chavez government’ –
FF: It’s a media war –
KJ: It really is a media war. And I think if you go to Venezuela and see what the media says, this will become clear immediately. You often hear the claim that there is no freedom of speech and so on, but internally in Venezuela there are more than 50 daily newspapers and about 45 of those newspapers support the opposition and are constantly attacking the government everyday – including having front page headlines calling for the military overthrow of the government… Then you have those 4 newspapers that support the Bolivarian process; and then you have one newspaper that, you know, presents itself as being neutral. So, on the level of the print media, the opposition to the government is overwhelmingly dominant… A lot of the television stations are extremely hostile as well.
The other important aspect to note is that, as a result of the Bolivarian process, you actually have a massive explosion of community media in Venezuela, in particular community radio stations in the Barrios…but also a number of community television stations and other independent media websites and so on. So this is like the first time where a lot of the grassroots groups and Venezuelan poor are actually getting to participate themselves in the production of the their own media; whereas prior to the Chavez government, they didn’t have a voice in politics or the media. They were just excluded.
AM: For all the popular support he continues to enjoy in Venezuela, Chavez still remains quite a polarizing figure here in the West and to some extent even in Latin America, portrayed as everything from a dictator and demagogue, to a liberator and socialist hero. How much does being the face of the revolution make him an easy target and feed into such facile caricatures?
FF: I think it’s undeniable the role Chavez has played in that, what I mentioned before, profound level of local organizing that exploded in the 90’s but which was kind of very fragmented and dispersed and localized. What Chavez, more than a person, but as an image, represents is a national project that unites all of these people towards building a new Venezuela. That dynamic bond that exists between Chavez and the people has really been the motor force that has been able to move this process forward. Now of course, the media then tries to use this as evidence of Chavez trying to be a demagogue and a populist, but I think what is clear at every step of the way is that – unlike many of the other cases where you’ve had a situation where a particular individual has used that power to reinforce it – Chavez has constantly moved to try to empower and organize the people, making it clear to them that the revolution is more than just him, that the revolution is the people and it is with the people that it will continue to move forward.
As he always says, one day he is going to die, so this thing has to keep going with or without him (hopefully he will be there for a while longer) and I think one of the key examples of that is the construction of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela [PSUV] – that is, the attempt to bring together the most politically militant people to discuss and debate the way forward. So, of course it makes him a target and I think it makes it harder to understand from the outside. I think it’s easy to see a particular, partial vision of that situation, but I think there’s a historical explanation, and I certainly believe that that bond between Chavez and the people has been so fundamental for where the revolution is today…
AM: As phenomenal as the social transformation in Venezuela has no doubt been, at the same time we also see tremendous gains being made in other countries in Latin America – Bolivia for example – but not the same type of virulent attacks from the media or the organized Right in general. Why do you think that is?
FF: I think there are a number of aspects to that. The first aspect is the fact that Evo Morales is a much harder target to personally attack – I mean it’s much easier to target Chavez who comes from the military; they like to talk about how he attempted to carry out a coup in 1992, but which was in fact a rebellion by a section of the military and the people against the government. So it’s easy to try and portray a picture of…’This guy comes from the military;’ ‘he’s carried out a coup;’ ‘he’s a strong-man,’ and so on, which is very different when you look at Evo, the first Indigenous president in a country where the overwhelming majority are Indigenous. To put it into context, Evo got elected in 2005; in 2003 the president who was there at the time [Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada] literally spoke Spanish with an English accent. In a country where actually there’s a lot of people who don’t even speak Spanish and their first language is an Indigenous language, this guy’s second language was Spanish and his first was English… So, in that kind of context to attack a guy that emerges from a poor peasant family, who goes on to lead social struggles, be part of that social movement, and today represents the first Indigenous president is a little bit harder, I think, to attack.
But that doesn’t mean that they haven’t attacked Evo as well. We shouldn’t forget that in 2008 there was an attempted coup against Evo… The social base of that was a particularly virulently racist, White, upper-middle-class in the east of Bolivia… This was reflected in open calls of things like, you know, ‘Let’s overthrow this shitty little Indian’ – that’s how they used to refer to him, and some probably still do now, except they are on the back foot because the social movements pushed them back. When the Constituent Assembly met in Sucre, there were literally racial lynch mobs that went and physically attacked Indigenous people there… That virulent racism in Bolivia, the media tried to portray it as if Evo was responsible for that; they talk about how the Indigenous, now that they are in power, are going to do a ‘racial revenge’ against the White people (ironically accepting the fact that the White people who dominated for so long were doing that to the Indigenous people) but Evo has made it clear that that’s not his mission; his mission is to involve all Bolivians, but understanding that the Indigenous people have a central role to play….
KJ: Yeah, I think it’s particularly because Venezuela has really played a leading role – it’s the spearhead of this push for independence from the US in Latin America… When there was that attempted coup in Bolivia in September of 2008, it was partly because the strategy of US imperialism at the time was to pick on what they thought was the weakest link in terms of this growing shift to the Left in Latin America. But in fact what happen was the opposite occurred and the upshot of that was that, as Fred said, the Morales government came out of that politically strengthened. But I think that they really concentrate on Venezuela because it is playing a leading role in the region, and they want to really try and rollback this process of integration and independence that’s happening in Latin America. So you have not only this kind of media campaign against Chavez…but also an ideological or diplomatic offensive against Venezuela. Every day you hear United States diplomats and even Canadian officials, like Peter Kent [Canadian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Americas], come out and make some statement attacking Venezuela…
The other aspect is the increased militarization of the region to put pressure on the revolution that’s developing in Venezuela – so you’ll see that with the reactivation of the United State’s fourth fleet, which was deactivated after WWII; the7 US military bases in Colombia; the 4 extra military based in Panama; the US-backed coup in Honduras; and now more than 15,000 US troops in Haiti, which I think has a geo-strategic importance for imperialism….however, I think it’s not all going imperialism’s way. The fact that all the Latin American and Caribbean countries came out recently and said, ‘We will form an organization without the US and Canada’ just gives you another kind of indication of how much this shift to the Left and independence has occurred….
AM: The organized Right and the traditional ruling elite are no longer in political power in Venezuela, yet they continue to act as an irrepressible and resilient destabilizing force in the country. What can you tell us about this bloc and how much of a threat do they really pose in Venezuela today?
FF: I think the real threat comes from Washington. This opposition within Venezuela is very much backed by Washington and that is what gives it a lot more strength and visibility internationally. But that doesn’t mean that the opposition doesn’t continue to have strong allies within Venezuela – as Kiraz said, they continue to own the overwhelming majority of the media; economically, they continue to have very firm control over important parts of the economy that they are able to use to pressure the government; and they have a solid base, particularly among upper-middle-class people that constantly come out to vote against Chavez. So that’s why we see, even ten years later, most elections tend to be split 60 – 40 percent; some will be a bit different and get down to 50 – 50, but generally the percentage tends to rely more on the fluctuation of the vote for-or-against the revolution than necessarily the vote in favor of the opposition. The opposition kind of stays steady, its about 4 or 5 million, and they will consistently come out to vote, and it’s this bloc that the opposition leaders have been able to maintain through their control of the media and the economy. They are certainly a threat and they have to be taken very seriously, but I think they have to be taken very seriously in the context of what they represent, as I said, as part of that broader front internationally because that’s where a lot of their funding comes from…
I think it’s also important to note – I don’t think that the only threats come purely from US policy, other regimes, and the opposition within Venezuela, but I think that there is also that opposition internal to the process itself; that of course doesn’t express itself as being against Chavez (because obviously no one would accept anyone within the process who was against Chavez) but that continually expresses itself in attempts to sabotage government initiatives… This has been expressed in many ways as the process has radicalized. We’ve seen different people leaving the revolution; the most recent example being, for instance, the Governor of Lara, Henri Falcon, who was elected less than 2 years ago as a PSUV Governor but today has left the Party and has already started to say that he won’t be implementing certain policies that the government is bringing in. So, I think it’s also important to realize that within the process itself there are different ideas and there is a battle there. There are sectors within the process that reflect that pressure from outside to hold back this process.
AM: That 60 – 40 split is really important and indicates that, as much support as Chavez may enjoy and as deep as the gains of the revolution have been, there still exists a sort of tenuous balance in moving from election to election and referendum to referendum that jeopardizes the stability of the revolution and can cause it to implode at any point. A lot of it seems to be attributed to low voter turnout or abstentions when it comes to key referendums. To what do you attribute this lack of voter turnout (whether it’s a sense of disillusionment or complacency or so on) and how much of a threat does this pose to the revolution moving forward?
FF: As I said, the opposition have maintained a pretty solid voting bloc, and it doesn’t really increase much; what fluctuates is how many people come out to vote or not. I think there are both circumstantial and more profound reasons for that. The circumstantial reasons are that when Chavez is up for election, the people come out and vote because they understand and believe that Chavez is the leader, but many of the other governors and mayors and National Assembly deputies don’t have that same respect or level of support from the people…
I think the other challenge is that – Fidel Castro said it to Chavez best: ‘Look, there are 4 million people that pretty solidly vote against you, but there are not 4 million oligarchs or 4 million capitalists,’ so it’s also a question of how do we, as I mentioned, break down that economic power, that media power.
AM: Because the Bolivarian Revolution, like much of the Left resurgence in the region, has taken place primarily in the electoral arena and operated largely within the existing framework of state institutions, what role do grassroots social movements still play in the life of the revolution? To what extent have they been absorbed or collapsed into the state or undercut from acting as a countervailing force to state power?
FF: Well, I think the important aspect is to understand the historical context. For instance, unlike in Bolivia where Evo Morales was elected as president after at least two presidents were overthrown and there were powerful mobilizations of large, national social movements with a history of struggle, with Chavez’s election there was a huge sentiment of resistance and opposition to neoliberalism and a huge level of local organizing but you can’t really talk about powerful social movements like what you had in Bolivia…
I think today there is a challenge. As these new institutions are built from the bottom-up by the people, together with the government of Chavez, they are really set up in parallel to the old existing structures which the government has found don’t work. You know that if you have got to set up a special mission to carry out health-care when you have a Ministry of Health, it’s because you’re basically accepting that the Ministry of Health doesn’t work….and that’s why there is a necessity to create a new parallel structure. But the problem is how long can you maintain this? How long can you maintain funding for two separate states? Because as the old is dying and the new is being born, the old, of course, is going to try and gain a stranglehold over the new emerging institutions – and sometimes you see that corruption and bureaucratism that infects the old begin to infect the new as well… These are things that predate the Chavez government but that still exist and haven’t been wiped out, and are almost impossible to wipe out in one day – so there’s that constant tension…
KJ: Yeah, I think there’s a real struggle because the Venezuelan government really inherited a capitalist state in crisis, a capitalist state that was unable to even meet the basic daily needs of the Venezuelan people, so the government has had to focus a lot on addressing these basic needs…but I think how this will be resolved depends a lot on the internal struggles within Venezuela – particularly the struggle of grassroots sectors, workers, urban poor, the key activists and militants in the communal councils and the ability to really push and develop these new structures – but also on the strengthening of the PSUV and the idea of creating a political instrument that can drive the process forward…
AM: Venezuela is one of the largest oil producing and exporting countries in the world and, as a result, is heavily dependent on the resource of oil, which has largely funded and bankrolled the revolutionary gains made in Venezuela today. Firstly, is this something that Venezuelans are conscious of, and secondly, is this the principle obstacle to the deepening of the revolution in the long-term?
FF: I think Venezuelans are very clear that their economy has historically been highly distorted by the role of the oil industry… Of course, the challenge to that is how do you diversify? How do you start to develop local industry? How do you start to have technological transfer, where the Venezuelan government can stimulate a new productive economy? And of course there are ecological factors to this… I think that this dependency on oil is a challenge that’s hard to break; it’s not that easy to move an economy away from oil… It’s just easier to rely on oil funds – the idea that oil money can solve all of our problems.
But I don’t think that’s the principle obstacle, and I also don’t think that the principle obstacle, in and of itself, is imperialism’s attack against Venezuela. I actually think that perhaps the foremost obstacle that the revolution faces is that challenge that exists within the process, because it’s those sectors – that act to sabotage the governments actions, to hold back the revolution, to confuse the masses – that pave the way for imperialism to be able to carry out its actions… Because it’s when internally you have people who wear the red hat, wear the red t-shirt, and salute Chavez – but are doing the opposite – where you start to see, for instance, discontent that perhaps can grow amongst the people; that internal enemy that exists in the revolution that put forward reformist solutions that say, ‘Really, we should just co-exist with private capital and not see ourselves in a permanent battle against capital,’ and that, ‘Maybe if we conciliate with Washington and extend our hand, they will accept us,’ when in fact Washington has made it clear that it wants to not just get rid of Chavez but reverse the whole process… So in order to defend and prepare the revolution, it needs the maximum amount of, of course, discussion, debate, criticism and so on, but also unity and strength putting forward a revolutionary alternative…
KJ: I think the question of oil is pervasive in every sphere of Venezuelan life – politically, economically, culturally. This kind of struggle to change Venezuela and its dependency on oil is very difficult…it means that, of course, the Venezuelan economy is extremely vulnerable to the world price of oil. I’ve heard arguments by some environmentalists that have criticized the Chavez government because it drills and exports oil, but you can’t simply just tell Venezuela to stop producing oil. We saw the effect of that in 2002 – 2003 when there was a bosses lockout of the oil industry: they shut down the oil industry and caused $20 billion worth of damage to the economy, unemployment spiked to 20 percent, people went hungry… So, it’s a very difficult kind of dependency to break, but I think the only way for Venezuela to break it’s dependency on oil is to actually break with the logic of Capitalism that’s imposed from the outside, and it’s only through this process of taking control over their own resources that Venezuelans themselves can decide how their going to develop their country…
AM: As central a figure as Chavez has been and continues to be for the revolution, he obviously cannot rule forever. What might a post-Chavez Venezuela look like and do you foresee this political void perhaps posing a real risk of jeopardizing some of the gains made under his time in power?
FF: Firstly, the Constitutional Amendment that was approved in 2009 allows all elected officials to re-stand for elections as many time as they like. So, according to the constitution, Chavez can continue to stand until he decides not to, or the party decides not to preselect him, or he loses the elections. Now, if today Chavez was to leave, say, by a hypothesis of an assassination – which cannot be ruled out – I think there is high likelihood that the country would descend into a civil war because Chavez is that figure that maintains social unity not just amongst the people but also amongst the armed forces… I have no doubt that it’s through the development of the PSUV that those millions of ‘Chavezes’ and ‘little Chavezes’ that exist today all over the country will organize themselves politically through this instrument of the masses and ensure that the process will continue…
AM: Finally, what should international solidarity mean in the context of the Venezuelan Revolution?
FF: I think the first thing is that there is a lot to learn from the internationalism of the Venezuelan Revolution itself – that willingness, firstly, to speak out when things have to be said, as Chavez said when the US declared it’s war in Afghanistan and made that very bold statement to say, ‘You cannot fight terrorism with terrorism;’ that very bold statement denouncing Israel’s actions in Gaza and in Lebanon, and many other statement that he has made in all sorts of public forums and summits. So, I think we also need to be willing to speak out in this particular context against any attacks that come out against Venezuela. Any time that any government or any media comes out and says a lie about Venezuela we have to be responding and telling the truth to combat it…
I think it also has to be done through concrete demonstrations of solidarity; the Venezuelan government has placed a lot of emphasis on social programs and financial aid, with no strings attached, to some of poorest countries in the world – classic example being what they’re doing now in Haiti with the reconstruction effort. Well, I think we should also think about how we can help to build that concrete element of solidarity in whatever country we are. Every time the US talks about building another military base in Latin America, that means one more protest that we have to organize wherever we are… So, I think that solidarity is so important to the Venezuelan Revolution and so important to what we have to do as well in building a social force, not just to defend Venezuela, but as part of building a social force for change here… How we do that here in Canada or in Australia or wherever we are, that’s the question we have to try to deal with.
KJ: Another aspect is that people should actually learn from Venezuela and study the process of the Bolivarian Revolution because there are so many lessons that activists and evolutionaries can actually learn from the process – not to export models and so on but to inspire struggles in our own countries against our own governments. That’s why I think promoting as much debate and discussion as possible of what is really happening in Venezuela is really important.
For further information on the tour and to contact sponsoring organizations, email vzteachin[at]hotmail.com. Socialist Project has also posted a video of the tour meeting here.
Kiraz Janicke is an independent journalist based in Caracas, Venezuela, where she writes for Venezuelanalysis.com. She is also the editor of the Peru en Movimiento blog, part of the Green Left Weekly Caracas bureau and a member of the Socialist Alliance in Australia.
Federico Fuentes is the editor of the Bolivia Rising blog and, together with Kiraz Janicke, is part of the Green Left Weekly Caracas bureau, where his articles are regularly published. He is also a member of the Socialist Alliance in Australia
Ali Mustafa is a freelance journalist, writer, and media activist. He resides in Toronto.