U.S.-Netherlands Plan Military Attacks on Venezuela From Caribbean

Netherlands and U.S. Planning Military Aggression Against Venezuela from Dutch Antilles

by James Suggett - Venezuelanalysis.com

Merida, December 18th 2009 – During a meeting with trade unions, political organizations, and social movement leaders in Copenhagen, Denmark on Thursday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused the Netherlands of allowing the United States military to plan a future attack against Venezuela from its island territories in the Caribbean, known as the Dutch Antilles.

“I am accusing the Kingdom of the Netherlands together with the Yankee empire of preparing a military aggression against Venezuela,” said Chavez, who came to Copenhagen to participate in the XV United Nations International Conference on Climate Change this week.

“The islands of Aruba and Curacao, both of which belong to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, have permitted the installation of United States military equipment on their soil, placing Venezuela under the watch of the United States,” Chavez explained. “It would be good for Europe to know that the North American empire is arming these islands Aruba and Curacao to the teeth, filling them with war planes, war ships, and CIA spies.

“Since the Kingdom of the Netherlands is a member of the European Union, I would like to see what the European Union has to say about this,” Chavez declared.

In response, a spokesperson for the Netherlands Foreign Ministry, Bart Reis, called the accusations “groundless.”

“As Venezuela knows,” said Reis, “the United States only uses civilian airports” and “unarmed planes for the fight against drug trafficking” in the Dutch Antilles.

Reis said the Netherlands Foreign Ministry would seek a meeting with Venezuelan government officials to discuss the issue.

President Chavez emphasized that the U.S. military presence in the Dutch Antilles, which are located approximately one hundred kilometers off the Venezuelan coast, is only part of broader U.S. strategy to expand its military power in Latin America in order to crush the socialist movements and progressive governments that have been democratically elected in countries across the region over the past ten years.

Last year, the U.S. military re-activated the Fourth Naval Fleet of its Southern Command. In October of this year it signed a military pact to use seven Colombian military bases as a launching pad for “full spectrum operations” across the South American continent, according to U.S. Air Force budgetary documents.

“This new Yankee military deployment that is now in full scale development threatens not only Venezuela,” but also other countries whose governments openly support socialism and are members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), Chavez said on Thursday. Several of the nine ALBA member countries, including Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, sent representatives to Thursday’s meeting with social movements in Copenhagen as well.

Shortly after Chavez made his announcements in Copenhagen, U.S.-Venezuelan lawyer Eva Golinger testified to the truth of Chavez’s accusations on a nightly Venezuelan talk show.

The U.S. has had a “contract” with the Dutch government since 1999 to use air and seaports in the Dutch Antilles for what the U.S. military calls “advanced operations,” said Golinger, who has used the U.S. Freedom of Information Act many times to find information on U.S. intervention in Latin America.

Since the creation of the ALBA in 2004, the re-election of Chavez to a second presidential term in 2006, and Chavez’s increasing advocacy of “21st Century Socialism”, the U.S. has placed more than a hundred warships in Aruba and Curacao, an increase of 1000%, said Golinger, holding up newspapers from 2005 and 2006 in Curacao as evidence of her assertion.

Time Running Out for Climate Change Solution

Venezuela: What’s Happening in Copenhagen is Unacceptable”Developed nations will be judged by the world for what they are doing at the moment … we are not going to let them get away with it.”

December 15, 2009 - The Venezuelan delegation to the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, denounced Tuesday the attitude of developed countries in the world meeting for not committing to reduce emissions of polluting gases because this would presumably affect their economies. The delegation said that developing nations “will not let them get away with it” because it is unacceptable that they do not take into account that they are responsible for the future of the planet.

In an interview with Telesur, Claudia Salerno, director of the Venezuelan Environment Ministry’s Office of International Cooperation, explained that the 30 industrialized countries have the potential to “change the destiny of the world, but today they are telling us that it is too expensive and they are unwilling to let the GDP of their economies be impacted by the response measures to climate change.”

“That is unacceptable, I not only point out to them, but I accuse them … not only are they going to be responsible for climate change but they will be responsible for the future of this planet,” said the official

She said that developed nations “will have to be judged by the world for what they are doing at the moment…we are not going to let them get away with it.”

The delegate announced that Venezuela, failing an agreement, will stay there [in Copenhagen] until the 18th or until Christmas if necessary.
The [representative of the] Caribbean country said that nothing will happen in the Copenhagen Summit unless the commitment that developed nations must assume is taken as the starting point
She disagreed with the statement by UN Secretary General (UN), Ban Ki-Moon, saying that the problem is not about “pointing fingers” at polluting countries, and said “with respect”, that it is just to accuse the 30 countries that are destroying the worldThe Venezuelan delegation criticised that the meetings are closed and without access to the press and international observers. “They are getting away with it without letting the world know … the world has its eyes on us. Let the discussions become more open and let the press into the discussions to make the world know what is happening here,” she said.

She welcomed the decision of the African delegations on Tuesday to pull out of negotiations because of the intention of the developed countries to discard the Kyoto Protocol.

”The industrial nations can not continue to sabotage the process and break the UN rules on the discussion of the issues, here are the 130 nations which are still developing because there is no time for more … they should make a commitment to reduce emissions and provide funding for developing nations so that we can take action together to improve climate change alleviation.”

The 15th United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen (COP15) counts with the attendance of representatives of 192 countries. The meeting will last eleven days and it is expected that 100 heads of state and government will be at the closing ceremony. Published by Telesur, December 15th 2009. Translated by Kiraz Janicke for Venezuelanalysis.com;Also see: climateandcapitalism.com

More Needs to be Done to Deepen This Social Process Across Latin America

Hugo Chavez: Evo Morales' Electoral Victory in Bolivia is a Victory for Latin America
by Kiraz Janicke

Caracas, December 8, 2009 -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez congratulated his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales for his landslide electoral victory on Sunday saying it was a victory for all of Latin America.

"Yesterday there was jubilation throughout the continent," Chavez said Monday during his speech at the First International Conference celebrating ten years since the adoption of the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela.

Chavez said he was sure Morales would continue "fighting without rest to diminish poverty" and improve the welfare of his people, "based on indigenous philosophy."

Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, was re-elected with 63% of the vote, 35% ahead of his nearest rival Manfred Reyes Villa.

Popular constitutionalism
Chavez said that governments like that of Morales embody a social movement which he dubbed "popular constitutionalism," that exists throughout Latin America is also promoted by the governments of Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Brazil) and Cristina Fernandez (Argentina).

"This process that I dare to call constitutionalism is a new force," and "I say with humility that the initial outbreak began here in Caracas," he said, referring to the adoption of the new constitution in 1999, which many refer to as the beginning of the popular constitutionalism, as the process of progressive social change underway in Venezuela is known.

Constitutionalsim Born in Venezuela
"Here in Caracas was where it was born and I believe we must stay strong and I think the [U.S] Empire is clear on that and that's why it has concentrated its fire on Venezuela," he added.

He stressed that more needs to be done to deepen this social process across Latin America "with the variations of each case, of each country... to build a new path in peace...The other way would be to take up arms. I think that is what the bourgeoisie wants but they are at a disadvantage even though they count on the support of the Empire."

In Honduras, There is Terror of Popular Constitutionalism Chavez pointed out that when the president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, made the proposal to consult the people about the possibility of convening a Constituent Assembly; he was deposed in a military coup, which, according to the Venezuelan president demonstrates "the terror of the Honduras bourgeoisie has of popular constitutionalism."

Alerts on Threats of Coups to Stem the Rising Tide As in Honduras, the threat of a military coup also exists in Bolivia and Ecuador, in order "to stem the rising tide" of independent governments Chavez said.

Israeli Apartheid Week: International Solidarity with Palestinians

The Sixth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW)
"Solidarity in action: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions"
March 1 - 7, 2010 www.apartheidweek.org
Mark your calendars - the Sixth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week will take place across the globe from March 1-7, 2010.

First launched in Toronto in 2005, IAW has grown to become one of the most important global events in the Palestine solidarity calendar.

Last year, more than 35 cities around the world participated in the week's activities, which took place in the wake of Israel's brutal assault against the people of Gaza. In Toronto, IAW 2009 featured a full week of events kicked off by Palestinian activist and writer Omar Barghouti.

IAW 2010 takes place following a year of incredible successes for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement on the global level. Lectures, films, and actions will highlight some of these successes along with the many injustices that continue to make BDS so crucial in the battle to end Israeli Apartheid.

Speakers and full programme available soon at www.apartheidweek.org
Join the facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=185933489468

U.S. Threatens War in Latin America

Colombia-Venezuela: The Threat of Imperialist War Looms in the Americas

November 9th 2009,
by Kiraz Janicke

The possibility of an imperialist war in the Americas came a step closer on October 30, when Colombia and the United States finalized a ten year accord allowing the U.S. to massively expand its military presence in the Latin American nation.

The move comes as the U.S. seeks to regain its hegemony over Latin America -- which has declined over the past decade in the context of a continent-wide rebellion against neoliberalism spearheaded by the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, led by President Hugo Chavez.

In order to regain control of its "backyard," the U.S. is increasingly resorting to more interventionist measures. This is reflected by the recent military coup in Honduras, destabilisation of progressive governments in Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Paraguay and a massive military build up in the region, including new military bases in Panama and the reactivation of its Fourth Fleet.

Over the past decade the Venezuelan government, which is the fifth largest oil exporter in the world, has used its control over this resource to massively increase social spending. This has resulted in significant achievements, such as poverty levels being reduced by half, the eradication of illiteracy, and free universal education and healthcare for the poor.

In 2005 Chavez declared the revolution to be outright socialist in its aims. Since then, in addition to regular elections and referendums, the government has sought to promote grassroots democracy and participation, through the creation of institutions such as urban land committees, health committees, grassroots assemblies, communes, workers' councils and communal councils.

However, these pro-poor and redistributive policies have increasingly brought the Chavez government into conflict with powerful economic interests both in Venezuela and the U.S. The new bases deal poses a direct threat to this radical process of social change.

Hand in hand with this military build up has come a fraudulent propaganda campaign that tries to paint the democratically elected Chavez government as a "dictatorship" and claims that the government promotes drug trafficking, and supplies arms to left-wing guerrillas in Colombia.

Tensions between Venezuela and the U.S.-aligned government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe have also increased with the deal. As the negotiations came to light in July, Chavez ordered the "freezing" of all diplomatic and commercial relations with Colombia.

With the finalization of the accord Chavez declared that Colombia had handed over it's sovereignty to the U.S. "Colombia today is no longer a sovereign country... it is a kind of colony," he said.

Under the deal, the U.S. military has access, use, and free movement among two air bases, two naval bases, and three army bases, in addition to an existing two military bases, as well as all international civilian airports across the country.

The deal also grants U.S. personnel full diplomatic immunity for any human rights abuses or other crimes committed on Colombian soil.

Among other things, U.S. military, civilian, and diplomatic personnel and contractors covered by the accord are also exempt from customs duties, tariffs, rent and taxes, while ships and planes are exempt from most cargo inspections.

Although U.S. officials claim publicly that only 800 personnel will operate in Colombia the deal places no limits on the numbers of military personnel that can be deployed.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly denied that under the accord Colombia will be used as a launching pad for military interventions in other South American countries.

However, as James Suggett pointed out in a recent Venezuelanalysis.com article, the U.S. military's financial documents tell a different story.

"The Pentagon budget for the year 2010 says the Department of Defense seeks 'an array of access arrangements for contingency operations, logistics, and training in Central/South America,' and cites a $46 million investment in the "development" of Colombia's Palanquero air base as a key part of this," Suggett wrote.

Also the 2010 fiscal year budget of the U.S. Air Force Military Construction Program describes the Palanquero base as a "Cooperative Security Location (CSL)," which "provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-US governments, [author's emphasis] endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters."

"A presence [at the Palanquero base] will also increase our capability to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), improve global reach, support logistics requirements, improve partnerships, improve theater security cooperation, and expand expeditionary warfare capability," the budget states.

"It also supports mobility missions by providing access to the entire continent, except the Cape Horn region, if fuel is available, and over half of the continent if unrefueled," the budget continues.

On August 10th, Chavez said in an open letter to all South American presidents that the U.S.-Colombian bases deal shows that the U.S. Empire wants to "control our resources."

Colombian paramilitaries operating illegally in Venezuela's oil rich border regions, together with the right-wing opposition in Venezuela are the advance guard of this imperialist project to destabilise and ultimately defeat the Bolivarian revolution.

Tensions flared in recent weeks when the bodies of nine Colombians believed to have been executed by an illegal armed group were found dumped in the border state of Tachira. The Venezuelan government said the group was part of a "paramilitary infiltration plan."

In addition, Venezuela announced that it has captured three Colombians accused of spying for Colombia's intelligence service, the Administrative Security Department (DAS), as well as documents that indicate that Colombia sent spies to Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba as part of a CIA operation.

Then on November 2, two Venezuelan National Guard members were shot dead at a border checkpoint by armed gunmen. In response the Venezuelan army has begun massive security sweeps of the border region where paramilitary groups, Colombian guerrillas, extortion and kidnapping rings and smugglers are rife.

Also, trade between the two countries dropped a dramatic 49.5% for September, after Chavez ordered commercial relations to be "reduced to zero" to protest the bases.

Former Colombian President Ernesto Samper, who has criticised the bases deal, said in a recent interview "we are in a pre-war situation… the situation could harden and reach extremes."

Brazil, the major economy in South America has called for "dialogue" between Chavez and Uribe.

While an armed conflict is a possibility, the current tactic of the U.S. is to continue undermining and destabilising the Venezuelan revolution in the hope that it will collapse under its own weight.

A war would also be dangerous for U.S. imperialism already bogged down in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even a proxy war via Colombia would be likely to spiral out of control. Latin America's poor, downtrodden and marginalized have had a taste of independence; it is likely they would fight back.
An abridged version of this article was published on November 7th by Green Left Weekly [1]. http://www.greenleft.org.au/2009/817/42020

Chavez: Democracy From Below

United Socialist Party of Venezuela Elects
Congress Delegates In Debates over Party Direction

by Kiraz Janicke

Caracas, November 16th 2009 -- The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) held nation-wide delegate elections on November 15 for its First Extraordinary Congress which will be held over the next several weekends in Caracas.

Up for discussion at the congress are the party's program, principles, organizational structure and most likely the mechanism for selecting candidates for the national parliamentary elections of 2010.

A total of 7,800 members competed in the elections for 772 delegate places to the congress. Although the PSUV nominally has nearly 7 million members, voting in the delegate elections was open only to the 2,450,377 "active" members of the party who are registered in patrols.

Jorge Rodriguez, the PSUV's national coordinator who announced the results of the elections on Sunday, did not present official figures of overall member participation in the elections, though informal estimates indicate that between 40-50% of the active membership, or around 1 million people, participated.

While the more conservative sector of the Bolivarian revolution, often referred to as the "endogenous right," is overwhelmingly dominant in the PSUV, left-wing PSUV activists said they had advanced with the election of a number of respected revolutionary delegates.

Among others, the left-wing activists elected to the congress include: Gonzalo Gomez, one of the founders of the pro-revolution website Aporrea.com and member of the Marea Socialista union current; Nora Castaneda, the head of the Women's Bank; National Assembly Deputy and economist Jesus Faria; Sergio Sanchez and Lidice Navas from the former Socialist League; Fredy Acevedo from the Revolutionary Marxist Current; and Julio Chavez, the former mayor of Carora who pioneered a process of direct democracy and community budgeting in his municipality.

At the PSUV's founding congress in early 2008, about 1600 delegates elected the national leadership and adopted a party program that defined the party as "anti-capitalist," "socialist" and "internationalist."

Discussion over the party's constitution and structure were postponed, however, resulting in ad-hoc regional leadership bodies appointed from above by the national leadership, rather than being democratically elected.

Frustration over the lack of democratic structures and spaces for participation has generally lead to a decline in the PSUV's active membership. Differences of opinion over whether the party should be simply an electoral organisation or a political instrument that can deepen the Bolivarian revolution towards socialism are clearly marked.

The extraordinary congress will serve as a measure of the competing tendencies within the PSUV who are fighting it out to determine which direction the party should take.

Left wing members say they will fight to extend the PSUV's democratic structures and defend the program adopted at the founding congress against efforts by conservative sectors to overturn the program.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is also the president of the PSUV, voted in the party's internal elections in the 23 de Enero parish. After he cast his ballot, he revealed that he had voted "overwhelmingly for women," and noted the importance of the elections.

"It is very important what is happening. There is a good turnout throughout the country, and our party is giving an example of democracy from below," said Chavez.

With these internal party elections, "we are breaking the culture of elites, fake democracy, where the people were called on [to vote] every five years… The PSUV has to be a motor force of popular power," he said.

Chavez also called on PSUV members and regional PSUV leadership bodies to debate and discuss with minority parties that support the revolutionary process but are not part of the PSUV, including the Communist Party of Venezuela and Patria Para Todos.

"They decided not to join the PSUV. Well, it is respected that they maintain their own profile, their cadres, hopefully they continue strengthening their ranks," Chavez said.

Chavez also stressed that the Bolivarian revolution has an important mission to ensure its continuity next year in the upcoming National Assembly elections scheduled for September 2010.

"Next year there is going to be a tough battle. The opposition is doing the math and believes it will win a majority in the National Assembly, but we're going to give them a knockout in those elections," he assured.

The latest survey by the Venezuelan Institute for Data Analysis (IVAD) shows support for Chavez remains high at around 62.4%, while support for the PSUV is much lower at 32.3%.

Despite the gap between support for Chavez and support for the PSUV, the PSUV remains the most popular political party in Venezuela with opposition parties trailing far behind. The Democratic Action (Accion Democratica) party enjoys 5.3% support, Justice First (Primero Justicia) 4.4%, A New Era (Un Nuevo Tiempo) 2.5%, COPEI 2.2%, while other smaller parties account for 4.8%.


Chavez: Only Peace Solution - Immediate End to U.S.-Colombian Deal

Chavez Rejects U.S. Mediation in Venezuela-Colombia Spat, U.S. Withdrawal is “Only Solution”

by Kiraz Janicke

Caracas, November 16th, 2009 – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that the only “practical solution” to tensions with neighbouring Colombia, which escalated as a result of an October 30 military pact between the U.S. and Colombian governments, is an “immediate” end to the deal.

The agreement, which allows U.S. military access to seven air, naval and army bases in Colombia and grants full immunity to U.S. personnel, is a “pact for war,” and will give the U.S. carte blanche to conduct military operations that could jeopardize the sovereignty and integrity of neighbouring countries, the Venezuelan president said.

Chavez was responding to comments by U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ian Kelly who said on Friday that the U.S. is disposed to mediate between Venezuela and Colombia to find “practical solutions” to the conflict.

Kelly’s proposal is another demonstration of Washington’s “cynicism,” Chavez told the press after exercising his right to vote in the elections of delegates to the second congress of his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in Caracas.

“The U.S. government is the champion of cynicism,” Chavez said, assuring that “Venezuela’s sovereignty is not up for discussion, nor will it be negotiated with any other country

“United States, if you want practical solutions, withdraw the Yankee bases in Colombia and free those fraternal people, free Colombia,” said Chavez.

U.S. and Colombian officials deny that Colombia will be used as a launch pad for military interventions in other South American countries, and say the agreement is designed to fight drug trafficking and fight left-wing guerrillas in the Andean nation.

However, this is contradicted by the 2010 fiscal year budget of the US Air Force Military Construction Program, which states that access to the Palanquero air base through the pact “provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub region of our hemisphere” and “supports mobility missions by providing access to the entire continent.”

Last week Chavez said that Venezuela, the largest oil producer in Latin America, would defend itself and its resources from the threat of a U.S. invasion from Colombian territory by reorganizing the armed forces and arming civil militias.

If Venezuelans “want peace, we must prepare for war…this will be the guarantee for peace,” he said..”

Chavez also ordered an increased military presence in the border state of Tachira after two Venezuelan National Guard members were shot dead by armed gunmen at a checkpoint. The Venezuelan government said the killings were the work of Colombian paramilitaries.

Colombia in turn complained to the U.N. and the Organisation of American States alleging that Chavez’s comments amounted to “war threats.”

Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister Nicolas Maduro responded that Colombia’s complaint to the U.N. is “immoral” and is aimed at diverting attention from its military deal with the U.S.

Chavez argued a dialogue with the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is “impossible…Never has a government, and there have been many right-wing governments in this continent over the centuries, sunk to such a level, as the government in Colombia…. it betrays its own people, the spirit of the people of Colombia and the peoples of South America.”

Chavez also dismissed Colombia’s claims that he is threatening war. “I’m not calling for any war. The gringo empire is calling for war. I’m calling for the defence of the sacred land that is Venezuela,” he said. “I’m obligated to call on all Venezuelans to prepare for combat to defend the homeland, if not, who will?”

Chavez also criticised what he described as the “despicable attitude” of right-wing opposition parties in Venezuela who have welcomed the installation of the U.S. bases, “because of their opposition to the Bolivarian Revolution they support the plans of aggression against this continent… They do not have the slightest dose of dignity or self respect.”

Venezuela is a country of peace, he reiterated. “We do not want wars, our wars are fighting are against hunger, against misery, against insecurity, crime, drug trafficking, these are our wars, a war for social justice, for life.”

Chavez also repeated his call for U.S. President Barack Obama to give back the Nobel Peace Prize, “out of dignity, decorum, respect,” because “he keeps sending more troops to Afghanistan and the war is spreading across this part of Eurasia, Pakistan, in Iraq they are still bombing children and entire families, and they are supporting the coup in Honduras.”

In a further response to Kelly, Chavez argued that the upcoming elections in Honduras are a “farce” designed to “legitimise” and “buy time” for the coup government, which ousted the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya on June 28.

“We support the elections process there,” Kelly said last week, referring to Honduras. “We have provided technical assistance. ... These elections will be important to restoring Democratic and constitutional order in Honduras.”

“The U.S. is writing the script,” and pressuring other governments such as Panama to recognise the results, but Venezuela will not recognise any government in Honduras other than that of Manuel Zelaya, “the legitimate government of Honduras,” Chavez stated.

Health Care: People Before Profits Works In Venezuela

The People Before Profit Community Healthcare Project Visit to Venezuela: An Interview with Netfa Freeman
by Gregory Elich - Monthly Review

In June, the People Before Profit Community Healthcare Project visited Venezuela in order to assess the state of its healthcare system. The People Before Profit Community Healthcare Project models itself on the Cuban community-based approach to healthcare, and has established a project along those lines in a small neighborhood in Washington, DC. The visit was therefore directly relevant to its own project's goals. Netfa Freeman is an organizer with the organization, and he discusses here what the delegation saw in Venezuela.

Greg Elich: What led the People Before Profit Community Healthcare Project to decide to send a delegation to Venezuela?

Netfa Freeman: Well Greg, there are a couple reasons for this. I guess I should start by mentioning that our project is inspired by and modeled after the Cuban healthcare system, particularly their door-to-door approach in providing for people's healthcare needs and how communities are involved in coming up with solutions. A couple of us have been to Cuba before, on unrelated occasions and we do intend to eventually take a project delegation there. But as you know the U.S. government imposes travel restrictions that make it much more challenging for U.S. citizens to go to Cuba. That's one reason. The other reason and probably the main reason is that Venezuela's situation more closely resembles the situation our project is up against, in the sense that Venezuela is still relatively new at their implementation of the Cuban healthcare model. Cuba already has 50 years under their belt and has already solved most if not all of the healthcare problems plaguing the U.S. Also Venezuela has a more industrialized economy than Cuba, with urban and community conditions that more closely resemble those we have in the District of Columbia.

So the direct answer to your question is that we decided to go to Venezuela to see how they were doing in implementing the Cuban healthcare model and to see what lessons there were for us in what we are trying to do with our project.

I'd like to come back to how the trip ties in with the project a bit later. But, for now, let's jump into the trip itself. What towns and areas did you visit? I assume you stopped in Caracas first. What did you see there?

Freeman: Yes, we actually stayed in Caracas at the Hotel Alba. The Alba is a state-run establishment that was once a Hilton Hotel but at some point the company abandoned it in opposition to Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution and the state had to take it over.

Caracas reminds me a little of downtown Manhattan. During the weekdays it's a very congested city. There we visited the Ministry of Health and met with people from the union of healthcare workers. I'm sorry I can't remember the official name of their union but they gave us a very detailed and compelling history of the movement for socialized medicine in Venezuela, which actually began in 1935. They made a lot of advances in this movement over the years until the so-called free trade agreements under the Clinton administration saw the privatization of things in the healthcare industry. This was followed by a rapid closing of public hospitals and the deterioration of both healthcare conditions and the rights of healthcare workers. Of course people began to organize, and once the new government led by Hugo Chavez came to power, their demands began to get a revolutionary response.

This response being the enshrining of healthcare as a human right in the new Bolivarian Constitution, improvements in conditions for healthcare workers, and an invitation for Cuba to come help them with their new socialized system.
The meeting was very enlightening and the spirit and respect of the people we met was inspiring. They were very curious about and supportive of our project and allowed us to talk about the conditions of healthcare in the U.S. and in DC in particular. They treated us like very important people, which we saw as a mutual respect for fellow social justice activists.

We also visited the Dr. Gilberto Rodriguez Ochoa Children's Cardiac Hospital of Latin America, which if not in Caracas is right outside. This was a very remarkable hospital with state-of-the-art facilities. It was opened in 2006 and named after an icon in the movement for socialized medicine, a pioneer in the more recent movement that arose in response to the NAFTA-instigated decline in healthcare. Unfortunately Dr. Ochoa was killed in a car accident in 2002. Now the driving culture in Venezuela is another story, which we hope our sisters and brothers will eventually address. But this hospital was exceptionally clean. There is so much to say about it. In the patients' rooms there were mini sofas that unfolded into visitor beds so that parents could stay with their children in the hospital.

Venezuela has an estimated 4,500 children per year born with heart defects, with about 70 percent of them needing surgery. Even with eight other regional children's cardiovascular centers, only 600 children out of that 70 percent received surgery prior to the opening of the Ochoa Children's Cardiac Hospital. Now the number of those getting the surgery they need has increased by nearly 800 percent.

This includes 45 patients from Saudi Arabia, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Gambia, Nicaragua, Mexico, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. And in the same spirit of the Cuban healthcare missions, these patients are also treated free of charge, as if they were citizens of Venezuela.

The Ochoa hospital is a very big hospital and there were a lot of young people as technicians and physicians. A young doctor telling us about the blood bank was so enthusiastic and passionate about what he was describing to us. He couldn't have been over thirty years old. It was a humbling experience.

Elich: Did anyone at the Ministry of Health talk about the extent of domestic opposition they faced in undoing the damage done under the neoliberal approach? I imagine there must have been powerful interests that wanted to maintain the healthcare system as a profit-making enterprise rather than one that served the people.

Freeman: They touched on this a bit but the conversations we had with the Venezuelan and Cuban doctors of Mission Barrio Adentro had the most to say. They said that when they were trying to start this new initiative in health, a call was made for Venezuelan doctors to step up and help in impoverished areas of the country. Because most were orientated in the field of medicine from a capitalist framework, they weren't inclined to give their services without substantial personal gain. They described how many Venezuelan doctors become so because it is seen as a profession that makes a lot of money, and not because it is a profession that provides better quality of life for others.

Many people might tell themselves differently but if this were not true there wouldn't have been so few doctors answering the call. They made sure we understood that many Venezuelan doctors did respond but it was not enough to address the health disparities they were up against. So Venezuela turned to Cuba for help. Of course Cuba is very renowned for their healthcare missions in many other countries around the world.

They told us that many of the more capitalist-minded doctors and medical associations were overtly against the mission and actually organized to oppose it. They even went so far as to try slandering the Cuban doctors and spread talk of them being there to implant "the communism of Fidel Castro." Many people don't know that Cuban doctors actually have a prime directive that forbids them from interfering in the politics of the countries in which they're serving.

Well, the organizing spirit of a people who just fought for their Bolivarian revolution didn't take the opposition to the healthcare mission lying down and in turn began organizing to combat that anti-people movement. Now Venezuela, with the help of Cuba, is training many of their own young people to become doctors and healthcare workers so they can help in their own communities. We visited one class and spoke with the students. They're very enthusiastic. It was very obvious from what they had to say and ask that the education they're getting is not just to teach them medicine but also to imbue them with selflessness as agents of social change. They are very conscious of their mission, not only to change the conditions of the less economically privileged in Venezuela, but also the world. Several of them expressed this. It was incredibly moving to speak with those youth.

Elich: I can well imagine how moving that must have been. Tell us about Mission Barrio Adentro.

Freeman: Mission Barrio Adentro, meaning "mission inside the neighborhood," is the name of Venezuela's social mission around healthcare. There are several "social missions," which are state-funded social programs covering diverse areas of human development like education, medicine, nutrition, and culture. In 2003 the government began the missions to revolutionize the country's old social service institutions and reach out to communities all over the country in an aggressive program to address people's fundamental needs. The social missions are funded with revenues from the state-owned oil company PDVSA.

So Barrio Adentro is not one location but refers to the network of healthcare missions scattered across the country that include community clinics in rural and urban areas, Integral Diagnostic Centers they call CIDs, which are like mini-hospitals, and the public hospitals, most of them new. We visited one CID that was fully equipped with state-of-the-art x-ray machines and sonograms, facilities for dental and ophthalmology treatment, pharmacies, and a trauma center. They also have a few beds for short-term stays and hold classes for medical students at the CIDs and students do some of their residency at CIDs. More numerous and accessible are the community clinics that are staffed by at least one doctor and a nurse. We visited one in a rural town that I believe is called Juarena. The clinics are for regular checkups and treating people who are ill. The doctors also go out regularly into the community to check on the people and are expected to go to those who are sick but may not, for some reason, be able to make it to the clinic. When we went to this clinic not only the clinic staff met with us but the community leaders as well.

They explained to us that the spirit of Mission Barrio Adentro is to work in collaboration with the community, under the assumption that some of the best solutions to the problems can come from those directly impacted by them. So the doctors don't go in with the condescending attitude of telling the community what to do but instead hold meetings and listen to people first. Then together they come up with solutions that often end up not being medical. For example in Juarena they told us that before the mission came there was a 60% malnutrition rate among the children. The solution was to build a cafeteria in the school, which was part of Venezuela's education mission. Now the children are able to get a hearty breakfast and lunch at school. I threw in the word "hearty" because they fed us in the cafeteria and we couldn't stop talking about how good the food was. The result was a reduction in the previous 60% malnutrition down to 6%.

They also told us that the cafeteria was built by a local manufacturing plant that employed many of the community's residents. The company wasn't particularly fond of Hugo Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution. They made a point, however, to explain to us that, while many of the elite are opposed to the revolution, they're not all bad people and are mostly affected by the negative propaganda saturating the media there. So the community was ambitious enough to approach the plant owners, explain the situation to them, and propose that they donate the cafeteria, which they did. It was an interesting story.

The community is also extremely grateful to the Cuban medical workers. They spoke of the fact that when the doctor first came he had no place of his own to stay, so the community ended up coming together to build him a house. We got the feeling that the community and the doctor have all become very close. We learned a lot.
Elich: It sounds like a remarkable achievement for a rural town. Do you have anything else to add about what you saw in rural areas? I suppose that meeting people's health needs in the countryside presents special challenges, and it is probably there where the contrast with pre-revolutionary healthcare is greatest.
Freeman: Yes, the contrast is greater in rural areas. It's usually more logistically challenging and expensive to service rural areas because of transporting supplies for one thing. Private healthcare not only has prohibitive cost for the rural poor but generally healthcare professionals aren't even geographically accessible in rural areas. There is no profit incentive for doctors to live in or set up practice in the rural areas and often the living conditions are not considered desirable for those used to or intent on more affluent living.

This is actually the argument the people used when they had to refute the mobilization of bourgeois medical professionals against the Cuban doctors. That is, when these professionals claimed the Cuban doctors were intruding upon their roles in society or displacing them, the people would correctly point out that the Cuban doctors were working in areas of the country that these doctors refused to go. This was in fact the reason Cuban doctors were invited to Venezuela in the first place.

Elich: What else did you see in Venezuela?

Freeman: Well, I would be remiss if I didn't mention our visit to Curiepe, which was the first town of freed Afro-Venezuelans, founded in 1723. It was liberated by a militarized group of Afro Venezuelans, led by Juan del Rosario Blanco. After fortifying the area they petitioned the Spanish crown to recognize its sovereignty. Curiepe is located in Barlovento, a traditionally African region in the Venezuelan state of Miranda, and Curiepe is known for having maintained many African traditions. We saw this celebrated while we were there during the San Juan Festival that takes place from June 23 to 24.

We toured a very nice library in Curiepe named after Juan del Rosario Blanco. It looked very new. If I'm not mistaken, Professor Alejandro Correa, who was our guide in Barlovento and who is actually the Assistant Director of the Instituto Universitario de Barlovento, attributed the town's funding and support for the library to the Bolivarian Revolution.

I should add that support for Hugo Chavez is extremely high among Afro-Venezuelans. The library is designed to give the people and particularly the children a sense of pride and understanding of their rich African heritage within Venezuela. It's equipped with computers and internet access.

We did also visit the Instituto Universitario de Barlovento, which was founded in 1991 and is one of the only historically Black institutions of higher education in Latin America. IUB is doing some very remarkable things with young people, including the establishment of exchange programs, where Venezuelan students will visit the U.S. and U.S. students will visit Venezuela. In fact we've already helped them a little in that regard.

The people in Barlovento are a beautiful people and distinctly African. It was very refreshing to be among them celebrating and dancing to the drum. Much like how African descendents in Cuba adapted their beliefs and traditions through the practices of Santaria, to preserve them against the cultural impositions of Spain and the Catholic Church, Afro-Venezuelans had to do similar things. So, during the San Juan Festival you see an interesting blend of the Spanish culture with things that are very much African in nature.

Elich: A very full and rich schedule. It's probably too soon to answer such a question, as I am sure your team has much information to analyze and process. But what are some of the concepts that you witnessed in Venezuela that you think could be applied by the People Before Profit Community Healthcare Project on its home turf? Your trip came at an interesting time, given the healthcare debate here in the U.S. The Cuban healthcare model your organization seeks to implement presents a real alternative to healthcare reform as it is shaping up, where the one essential ingredient is that corporate health insurance profits must be maintained or increased. All other aspects of healthcare are potentially dispensable.

Freeeman: A big difference that makes it hard to translate the lessons from Venezuela into things that can be applied in the U.S. in general and Washington, DC in particular is that Cuba's and Venezuela's healthcare systems have the support of the state. This of course allows them so much flexibility with what they're able to do and affords them resources. And as you pointed out, here it's the opposite. It is in fact the U.S. government, serving primarily as agents of corporate health insurance and pharmaceuticals, that is actually working against the people's interests.

But a concept that can certainly be applied without state support and is in fact indispensable for what we're trying is ideological buy-in from the community. When the community as a whole internalizes the ideas that, first, healthcare is their human right and, second, only they themselves are capable of solving this issue, then we can see some change. We also have to begin realizing that the issue of healthcare is inextricably related to all other aspects of injustice that the people face and act accordingly. That is to say that the root causes for lack of healthcare, affordable housing, quality, empowering education, job security, and even issues like the prevalence of police brutality and the industrial prison complex's "school-to-prison pipeline," etc. fundamentally all have the same root causes, so our actions must begin to reflect this understanding.

In Venezuela we noticed that part of what is being done on the community level, at least in some areas, is to find the civic leaders in each community and work with them. And just like in Venezuela or any other place we have such leaders within our neighborhoods in the District of Columbia. They might not always be easy to find or identify but such leaders are always there and we have identified some within the neighborhood where we're working. And once their commitment is secured it is easier to get the community as a whole to work together.

Another thing we can certainly take away from the trip and apply is an unshakable faith in the people to understand their conditions and their ability to come up with the means to solve their own problems. This is something liberal advocates generally lack. They instead tend to see change as only coming through appealing to the powers that be and not from a profound and prerequisite transformation on the ground. I suppose that's the main difference between reformists and revolutionaries.

Netfa Freeman is director of the Social Action and Leadership School for Activists at the Institute for Policy Studies [1] and is also an organizer with the People Before Profit Community Healthcare Project [2]. Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and on the Advisory Board of the Korea Truth Commission. He is the author of the book Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit.
[1] http://www.ips-dc.org/
[2] http://home.comcast.net/~peoplebeforeprofit/

Haiti and its relationship to ALBA

Dear Friends,

This article is based on a speech given by Melanie Newton at the panel discussing the English Speaking Carribean nations and their relationship to ALBA. Melanie Newton discussed the experience of Haiti – substantially aided by ALBA members, but oppressed and exploited by Canada.
In The Diaspora

By Melanie Newton

In 2004 two events sent shock waves across the Caribbean Sea, presenting us with two radically different blueprints for future hemispheric relations. In February a combined force of American, Canadian and French troops slipped into Haiti in the dead of night, “convinced” President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resign, and spirited him out of the country into exile. Over the past five years the United Nations has occupied Haiti, ostensibly helping to build democracy, but, in reality, crushing democratic opposition movements. In a historic turn of events, Brazil, which has emerged in recent years as a regional superpower, has led UN forces in Haiti since 2005.

Meanwhile, in December 2004, the governments of Venezuela and Cuba spearheaded the Bolivarian People’s Alternative (now the Bolivarian Alliance, or ALBA). ALBA has sought a new kind of relationship between independent Caribbean and Latin American states. Several islands have joined ALBA, attracted by Hugo Chavez’s apparent willingness to use his country’s oil wealth as the lubricant for a new kind of regional politics. ALBA’s concept of trade and development seems to be based on the advancement of social justice and human well-being, rather than the expansion of free trade and global capital. Chavez’s commitment to solidarity with the non-Hispanic Caribbean seems to be reflected in his vocal opposition to the Brazil-led UN mission in Haiti. Most other continental Latin American governments are either contributors to the Brazil-led occupation force or have greeted the coup and the subsequent occupation with silence. This is in stark contrast with most of Latin America’s outspoken opposition to the military coup in Honduras and their support for ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya.

The occupation of Haiti and the Bolivarian Alliance open a new window on to the historical landscape of the Caribbean and continental America. To understand the deeper significance of recent events we must go back 200 years, to early 19th century Haiti. In spring 1806 Francisco de Miranda – a man second in importance only to Símon Bolívar in the history of Latin American independence – arrived in Haiti, seeking support for an uprising against Spain. In Haiti he procured ships and found time to sketch the national flag of the future republic of Venezuela. The new flag was first hoisted in the Haitian city of Jacmel on March 12, 1806, a date still celebrated as “National Flag Day” in Venezuela.The Haiti of Miranda’s day was only the second independent state in the Americas after the United States, and the first nation to abolish slavery. In an age dominated by slaveholding and colonising powers, Haiti’s revolutionaries had the audacity to reject both slavery and French imperial rule. The Haitian revolutionary army was one of the most effective military forces the world had seen, defeating Spain, Britain and Napoleon’s France within the space of a decade. After declaring independence in 1804, Haiti’s emperor, a former slave named Jean-Jacques Dessalines whose back bore scars from whippings he had endured as a slave, declared Haiti a black republic and committed Haiti to an anti-slavery foreign policy in the Americas.

On Christmas Eve 1815, Simón Bolívar, the future “Great Liberator” himself, sailed into the Haitian city of Les Cayes as a political refugee. The President of Haiti’s southern Republic, Alexandre Pétion, gave the stranded Bolívar political asylum, as well as military and financial support and a printing press (a very important element of any 19th century revolution). Pétion had one condition: Bolívar had to make slave emancipation in Spanish America an immediate priority. Pétion saw in the “Bolivarian Dream” of an independent Latin America a chance to end Haiti’s crippling international isolation. Slaveholding powers were determined to see the Haitian experiment in black freedom and independence fail, because Haitian success spelled the end for slavery. The United States did not recognize Haiti until 1862, and France, the former colonial ruler, only accepted Haiti’s independence after Haiti agreed to pay the equivalent of $2.4 billion US as “indemnification” for the loss of French property (most of it property in human beings).

Bolívar had already freed his own slaves but it was Pétion who convinced him to make general emancipation a central revolutionary goal, and Pétion’s support proved crucial to Bolívar’s success. To some degree Bolívar kept his promise to Pétion, promulgating a constitution in 1827 which denounced slavery as an outrage against justice and humanity. Ultimately, however Bolívar’s anti-slavery impulses could not keep pace with his commitment to a united Latin America. Time and again, Bolívar compromised with Latin American slaveholding elites in order to secure their support, allowing slavery to continue. Bolívar was even less committed to Haiti than he was to abolition. Under pressure from the United States, Bolívar did not even invite Haiti to the 1826 Congress of Panama, the first hemispheric meeting of independent states. Incidentally, Brazil and the United States, the hemisphere’s two biggest independent slaveholding nations, were both invited.

Despite his genuine admiration for Pétion and the key role of black soldiers in the continental wars of independence, it seems Bolívar had little time for black people. Bolívar’s limited willingness to acknowledge his movement’s debt to either Haiti or to Afro-Latin Americans is one source of modern Latin American elites’ inability to come to terms with their own history of slavery and racial inequality. The “indemnification” payment to France and Haiti’s exclusion from the Panama Congress burdened Haiti with a terrible debt and confirmed Haiti’s diplomatic isolation. The freedom for which so many of Haiti’s people died, was tragically undermined, and subsequent generations of Haitians have paid the price.As we face the current crisis in Haiti and ALBA’s effort to forge a new regional solidarity, we can choose what lessons we draw from this history. We must come to terms with the fact that our own internalized racism – not just the racism emanating from Northern countries – has limited our chances for a better collective future. Nevertheless, in the story of Pétion and Bolívar, we can also choose to see the glimmer of tremendous, as yet unrealized human potential and possibility. Bolívar made a choice not to take the high road and embrace Haiti’s revolutionary blackness, but the road is not closed to us forever. We do not have to be victims of our past, doomed to repeat its mistakes for all eternity.

The answers to the Caribbean and Latin America’s present dilemmas lie in our own histories of struggle, survival and unfinished revolutions. The life and ideas of another heir to the legacy of the Haitian Revolution can perhaps offer us a constructive way of charting a better, common Caribbean and Latin American future. Born in Martinique, Frantz Fanon became the international spokesperson for the Algerian National Liberation Front in its battle against French rule. Like the Haitian revolutionaries of long ago, he was his generation’s most scathing critic of imperialism and racism in general, and French colonialism in particular. Through his own life and his writings, Fanon taught the world that true political solidarity is not based on supposed cultural or ethnic sameness, but rather a leap of faith, a willingness to see alliances with and between the most dispossessed and degraded people as the root of social transformation. Lasting changes begin when we acknowledge the burden of past error, and confront and commit ourselves to working through differences, real or imagined. The ghosts of Bolívar, Pétion and Fanon, along with the hundreds of thousands of black and indigenous Caribbean and Latin American revolutionaries who died for this more democratic vision, wait to see which path we choose.

Melanie Newton is a Barbadian and Associate Professor of History at the University of Toronto.


ALBA Counties Vote to Replace U.S. Dollar

Latin American bloc to stop using dollars in trade

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia -- The leftist Latin American ALBA trade bloc is
scheduled Friday to approve measures that would replace U.S. dollars
with a new virtual currency for regional commerce, an official said

Bolivian Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade Pablo Guzman told reporters
that members of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA)
"will replace the dollar in commercial exchanges" between members with
the Unified Regional Compensation System, or sucre.

The new monetary system was adopted in principle at an ALBA summit in
April by organization members, which include Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba,
Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominica, Saint Vincent, Antigua and

Initially the sucre system -- the acronym comes from the Spanish name
Sistema Unificado de Compensacion de Pagos Reciprocos -- will be a
virtual currency used in commercial exchanges between ALBA countries.

An agreement on the value of the sucre relative to regional currencies
is 90 percent complete, according to La Paz.

The sucre was also Ecuador's currency until it was replaced by the U.S.
dollar in 2000.It was named after Jose Antonio de Sucre, who fought for independence
from Spain alongside Venezuelan hero Simon Bolivar in the early 19th

ALBA's long-term goal is to establish a unified regional currency,
which Bolivia has already suggested could be named "Pacha" for the
Quecha Indian word for Earth, Guzman said.

Bolivian authorities said Thursday that four of Latin America's most
prominent leftist heads of state had confirmed they would attend the
Cochabamba summit -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Ecuador's
President Rafael Correa, Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega and
Bolivian President Evo Morales.

The Cochabamba summit is also expected to lay the groundwork for a
regional arbitrage mechanism to replace the International Center for
Settlement of Regional Disputes, a World Bank organization.

Most ALBA members have already withdrawn from the organization, with
Ecuador announcing last July that it would pull out of the group.




Venezuela We Are With You Coalition invites you to participate in the first half of a study series on The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of Pillage, by Eduardo Galeano.

Centre for Social Justice, 489 College (One block west of Bathurst)
Sunday, October 18, 3 p.m.- 5 p.m.
Reading: Introduction and Appendix – In the eye of the hurricane

Saturday, October 31, 3 p.m.- 5 p.m.
Reading: Chapter 1 – Lust for Gold, Lust for Silver

Saturday, November 14, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Reading: Chapter 2 – King Sugar

Saturday, November 28, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Reading: Chapter 3 – Invisible Sources of Power

The book can be purchased online for less than $15.
Spanish version: email ctorchia39@aol.com

Space is limited: If you would like to take part, please contact us at cvec-tor@yahoogroups.com

THE OPEN VEINS OF LATIN AMERICA: This book by Eduardo Galeano, a study of "five centuries of the pillage of a continent," jumped to #2 on the best-seller list, when Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez gave it to U.S. President Barack Obama. Join us for a four-part study group based on this classic text.
Co-sponsored by Centre for Social Justice.

Latin America Important to Canadians

Report on three meetings in Toronto This Weekend

Three meetings in Toronto over the past week have shown increased interest and concern in developments in Latin America.

1. On September 26, the Latin American Solidarity Network (LASN) held a five-hour teach-in on “Lessons From Honduras,” attended by about 60 solidarity activists. The first session was a report from three participants in the LASN reporting trip, just returned from Honduras, and a presentation of the video they compiled during their visit.

The video included footage of a leadership meeting of the Honduras National Resistance Front.In the second session, Maria Paez Victor, Jorge Sorger, and Nchamah Miller discussed Venezuela and Colombia, and the broader issues of 21st century socialism raised by the Venezuelan and ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) experiences.

The final session featured stinging critiques of Canadian and U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean, presented by Todd Gordon and Paul Kellogg.

Although the sessions were extended, the spirit and attendance built toward the end, reflecting the gains of Latin American solidarity here in recent months.

That evening, the Salvador Allende Arts Festival celebrated the closing of its two weeks of exciting programming.

2. On September 29, Hands Off Venezuela/Bolivarian Circle Louis Riel presented “Freteco,” a new film on the Venezuelan revolution. It was a successful student-oriented event with an attendance of about 20.

3. On September 30, panellists from Honduras, Bolivia, Barbados, Guyana, and Canada discussed “ALBA: Dawn of Solidarity in Latin America” before a standing-room-only audience of almost 90. Presentations by two Honduran resistance activists placed defense of Honduras against the recent military coup at the centre of discussion. Panellists stressed that the attack on Honduran democracy – tacitly supported by the Canadian government – is a threat to the ALBA alliance and to all Latin American and Caribbean countries.Alissa Trotz spoke on ALBA’s three members of the English-speaking island nations of the Caribbean, and moderator Melanie Newton discussed the experience of Haiti – substantially aided by ALBA members, but oppressed and exploited by Canada. Their comments showed the importance of linking solidarity with the Caribbean and with Latin America, a basic principle of the ALBA alliance. The audience was graced with the presence of the Cuban General Counsul, Jorge Soberon, and Venezuelan General Counsul, MIrna Quero de Pena.

To view the video of this meeting www.socialistproject.ca/leftstreamed/

This meeting was organized by the Venezuela We Are With You Coalition and co-sponsored by Latin American Solidarity Network, Centre for Social Justice, HOV-Circulo Louis Riel, and the Toronto Haiti Action Committee.
President Manuel Zelaya returned to Honduras yesterday

Zelaya is based at the Brazilian embassy along with members of his cabinet. Early this morning, police and military violently dispersed a large crowd that spent the night in front of the Embassy to support Zelaya and in defiance of the 5pm curfew instituted as part of the state of siege declared by the coup regime. There are reports of wounded and two dead from this morning's attack.

The power at the Brazilian embassy has been cut. News transmissions from independent media stations have been cut. The state of siege has been extended and the coup regime is telling people to stay in their homes. The streets are deserted. The military has mounted a six block solid cordon around the Brazilian Embassy. There is a high level of concern about the possibility of an attack on the Embassy and bloodshed. The situation is extremely tense.

We have just received a report from the human rights organization, COFADEH, that their offices have been attacked with tear gas.U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. State Department and their Congressional Representatives to demand that the U.S. government:

•pressure the de facto government of Honduras to refrain from using violence against nonviolent protestors, human rights organizations or the Brazilian Embassy.
•pressure the de facto regime to cease its repression of the freedom of expression and information in Honduras
•impose full economic and trade sanctions on the coup regime
•unequivocally support the return to power of elected President Manuel Zelaya

The Honduran police and military have committed grave human rights violations under this coup regime, often during instated curfews. Please help to prevent bloodshed in Honduras. Contact the U.S. State Department (202.647.4000) and your Congressional Representatives (202.224.3121) to demand that the U.S. send a strong message to the coup regime in Honduras to refrain from violent assaults on civilians, human rights organizations and or the Embassy of Brazil.

Check the Quixote Center website (www.quixote.org) for updated information and action alerts.

Venezuela Progresses on Building Grass Roots Participation

Venezuela:communes Providing Hope, Solidarity and Participation
August 28th 2009,
by Kiraz Janicke

Inspired by the ideas of 18th century Latin American independence hero Simon Bolivar, Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution, led by President Hugo Chavez, has been shaking up Latin America and the world over the past decade in its struggle for independence from United States imperialism and for an alternative to rapacious neo-liberal capitalism.

In 2005, Chavez declared the aim of the revolution was to build socialism of the 21st century. This new kind of socialism, he said, would be a "humane socialism'' and emphasise democratic participation.

Direct democracy and popular participation has certainly flourished in Venezuela, expressed in a range of organising forms including urban land committees, health committees, grassroots assemblies, workers' councils and communal councils. However, many of these developing bodies remain localised or disconnected from each other, and often come into conflict with the traditional structures of the capitalist state. A new but developing initiative that aims to connect and extend popular participation in the struggle towards a new political and economic system is the formation of "socialist communes." Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network member Kiraz Janicke, who is currently living in Venezuela, spoke to Daniel Sanchez, a leader of the Rebirth of the South Commune in the city of Valencia, about how the development of "people's power'' is transforming Venezuela.

The idea of the commune
The formation of the communes in Venezuela comes from a proposal by President Chavez, Sanchez explained. "We know that the idea of the commune is not new; communes have existed in the past and exist in various countries today," he added, pointing to examples such as the Paris Commune in 1871 and forms of organising by indigenous communities in Latin America.

"But in Venezuela, we are not copying other models. Our model is constructed by ourselves, by the people themselves, by the grassroots organisations themselves, in the specific geographic territories where the commune experience is being developed." The emphasis on experimentation is a key feature of the Bolivarian revolution, perhaps best encapsulated in an often quoted phrase by Bolivar's teacher Simon Rodriguez: "We invent, or we err." Sanchez explained that there is no blueprint for building the communes: "Up until now we have been experimenting."

"We are part of a national network of communes that we have been developing over the past two years in collaboration with the Ministry of Participation and Social Development. Now, a new Ministry of Communes has been created and together with both ministries we are developing a network of 17 communes nationally."

Commenting on the relationship between the communes and the traditional state structures, Sanchez said, "There is a direct relationship with the national executive, but we are working at the grassroots level to make sure that this relationship is not one of imposition and control, and that there is a harmonious relationship of working together."

The Countryside Poses Different Challenges
A key aspect of this relationship between the popular and communal organisations and the government, he said, is to facilitate the search for solutions to community issues, such as housing, transport, crime, poverty and other social problems.

Communes in urban zones present different challenges to those being built in the countryside, Sanchez explained. "Most of the experiences [of communes] are in the countryside. I work in an urban zone, in Valencia, the state of Carabobo, one of the most important cities in the country, and in one of the poorest parishes in the country, Miguel Pena parish."

One of the most important challenges in the debate about how to build the communes "is to make sure the people are incorporated - the popular organisations, the cultural organisations, and the revolutionary organisations and parties," he said.

There is no exact number of communal councils or organisations that form a commune. Rather, Sanchez said, an ongoing discussion is needed about the "best mechanisms to integrate all the different organisations in the same geographical area, and the best structure for the people to govern themselves in a commune. The structure of the communes is fundamentally a socio-political question, which, of course, has to do with empowering the social bases."

Another important aspect of the communes, Sanchez said, is "to achieve the equitable distribution of resources. As President Chavez explained, the ownership of the means of production has to be in the hands of the commune." "We want to show the world what this socialism we are talking about really is," Sanchez declared. "We are putting it into practice, designing our own forms of communal government, advancing in our own project so that everyone can participate in transforming the current reality."

But in addition to transforming people's material reality, Sanchez argued, it is also necessary to transform human consciousness in order to achieve socialism.

Human consciousness on solidarity
"We don't want to transform Venezuela just on a material level; we don't believe the communes should simply be directed at resolving the material problems of the communities, such as housing, schools, transport, work, etc. All this is very important, but what is also important is the transformation of the human being, the development of human potential."

Therefore, "the type of structures we create logically have to correspond to the type of socialism we want to build; that is, a humanistic socialism. We are building structures based on a social sensibility, a human sensibility, that promotes solidarity and participation."

Sanchez believes that "the biggest challenge we face in building a new society has to do with the construction of the new human being. We need to leave behind individualism, egoism and consumerism - all the 'isms' of capitalism."

When asked what Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolution represents for the world today, Sanchez replied with one word, "Hope."

"Hope that a better world is possible," he added.

The Coup in Honduras, ALBA, and the English-Speaking Caribbean
by Faiz Ahmed

The military coup carried out by masked soldiers in the early hours of June 28against the democratically elected President of Honduras, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, was a bandit act with differing messages intended for different audiences.

One such audience is the oligarchical groupings throughout the hemisphere, who will be emboldened by Washington's tacit tolerance of the coup makers. Another audience is the Latin American leftist and popular governments, who are being told that their agendas can be trumped by non-democratic means.

And there is yet another audience: the predominantly English-speaking Caribbean governments who, like Zelaya, are far from ideologically opposed to capitalism, but are aware of their inability to improve the overall quality of life of their societies within capitalism's current configuration. As a result, many of these island governments are edging towards regional agreements based on principles antithetical to the capitalist system.This is perhaps why English-speaking Caribbean nations account for ten of the eighteen countries participating in the Venezuelan-led regional agreement PetroCaribe. Launched in 2005, PetroCaribe enables Caribbean governments to purchase oil and natural gas on terms that allow for the financing of upwards of 60 percent of the costs over a twenty-five year period at interest rates close to one percent. Also included in the agreement are mechanisms to finance costs associated with building energy infrastructure projects such as refineries and fuel storage facilities, as well as costs of fertilizer purchases to increase food production.

These Caribbean countries typically have been grappling with debt-to-GDP ratios ranging between 50 percent and 150 percent for the better part of the past two decades. They are economically dependent on tourism and the export of a very narrow range of agricultural commodities and natural resources. They remain highly vulnerable to the effects of hurricanes, tropical storms, sea level rises, and climate change. As a result, this new ability to finance a large portion of their energy requirements creates much needed economic space to pursue domestic agendas which, among other objectives, include: creating national food security; repairing and maintaining physical infrastructure such as roadways and airports; and strengthening social services such as healthcare and education. Or more simply, building some degree of self-sufficiency, albeit within a program that does not deviate from a capitalist approach to development.

The ability to more freely pursue their domestic agendas is the main reason why, over the past eighteen months, three English-speaking Caribbean states have developed a rather perspicacious outlook and become members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA -- an acronym that also means "dawn"). In their view, the regional bloc is not oriented towards a competitive model that exploits weaknesses but is instead an example of a cooperative model that creates space for states to cultivate some degree of self-sufficiency. The coup against Zelaya, the utterly illegal removal of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide five and a half years before that, and the short-lived coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez two years before that all show that international capitalism cannot tolerate any domestic agenda which includes an objective of self-sufficiency. Added to this intolerance is capitalism's long-standing fear of the threat of a good example.

Located in the Eastern Caribbean, the three English-speaking states of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines form one-third of the nine-member ALBA. In fact, these islands are also members of three other important regional blocs, namely: the fifteen-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the twelve-member Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), and the nine-member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

All of these groupings, composed mainly of English-speaking Caribbean islands, have done much to create a unified relationship among its members. As such, the experiences of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines within ALBA will undoubtedly be watched by other islands in the region. Each of these islands has been trying to mitigate the myriad challenges facing them over the past two decades, yet are experiencing very little success, as demonstrated by their weakening economies, degrading environments, and alarmingly, declining social indicators such as mortality. By one measure, life expectancy in the English-speaking Caribbean has fallen by four years over the past decade.1

ALBA and the Road to Self-sufficiency
Alongside the commitment to facilitate cooperative development, ALBA's strength lies in its ability to identify member-states' weaknesses within capitalism and devise projects to mitigate and overcome their challenges. This analytical quality has allowed for the emergence of a large number of projects organized under ALBA's four main institutions: the ALBA Oil Agreement, the Bank of ALBA, the ALBA Peoples' Trade Agreement, and the ALBA Cultural and Sport Initiative. The sometimes overlapping projects are in various stages of development and implementation and are free to be used or ignored, at will, by any member state.

ALBA Oil Agreement
Modeled on the principles governing PetroCaribe, the ALBA Oil Agreement is a mechanism for member states to finance their oil purchases on a long-term, low-interest basis, of which a portion can be repaid in goods and services. For countries in the Caribbean, whose annual energy costs represent expenditures between 15 percent and 30 percent of their GDPs, the agreement is quite attractive. Furthermore, and similar to what exists under PetroCaribe, infrastructure projects designed to facilitate or increase oil delivery, oil storage capacity, and oil refining capabilities have been undertaken, all of which have the explicit goal of reducing the overall cost of each barrel of oil these countries import. Also within the ALBA Oil Agreement is a project that sees 25 percent of every oil receipt accumulate in what has come to be known as the ALBA fund, which is designed to be loaned to member states to pursue social development projects.

Bank of ALBA
In line with the objectives of the ALBA fund, and probably because of the example set by the fund, the Bank of ALBA was established in 2008 to offer member states access to capital to pursue social development projects. Although the Bank has a total capitalization of only a small fraction of the value of other regional multilateral lending institutions, it offers a far more egalitarian governance structure, exampled by a rotating directorship among member states, and a decision-making structure where each member has an equally weighted vote. Established in the shadow of the ongoing global food crisis, the Bank's first projects have been the establishment of a food-distribution company tasked with creating an efficient distribution network between member states and a regional food-production fund meant to be allocated to member states to assist them with domestic agricultural initiatives. Both projects have an explicit goal of creating some degree of regional food security.

ALBA Peoples' Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP)
Devised to coordinate the trading of goods and services within the bloc, ALBA-TCP outlines the specific obligations in the form of actions to be taken by each participating member state. The actions stipulated in the agreement attempt to locate areas of need within each participating state and then to match these areas with goods and services available in partnering member states. The result is a series of bilateral agreements between participating member state. To date, only Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela are active in ALBA-TCP.ALBA Cultural and Sport Initiative
The ALBA Cultural and Sport Initiative takes the form of developing localized independent media outlets and cultivating cultural exchange through sport. The most developed of these initiatives is the ALBA Games project, which has been held on a biannual basis since 2005 and is meant to facilitate competition and training among the hundreds of athletes from around the world who participate.

There are very good reasons to project that, left unmolested, ALBA has the potential to offer Caribbean states a space where self-sufficiency can be striven for. An appealing quality of ALBA and its sister initiatives such as PetroCaribe is that they do not have political strings attached to them. Countries are signing on because the regional arrangements primarily offer economic flexibility. Countries are able to follow development paths of their choosing, which in the Caribbean still seem to be a Keynesian-inspired form of state-capitalism. For most countries in the region, this means establishing a much greater degree of self-sufficiency, in the form of food security, social development, and economic growth.

In keeping with imperialism's sordid history, the reactionary forces in Honduras have demonstrated the lengths to which they are prepared to go to obstruct any goal of self-sufficiency that excludes oligarchical domination. The government of Zelaya was not revolutionary. However, it was looking to better the lives of the people who elected it and saw that ALBA was one mechanism by which it could fulfill this objective. This is precisely why the coup against the democratically elected government of Honduras is rightly being seen as a threat against the bloc, and it should also be seen as a threat against like-minded governments throughout the region, who are slowly edging towards ALBA.

1 Life expectancy estimates for the English-speaking Caribbean were taken from United Nations Human Development Reports. Taken in the aggregate, life expectancies in the region have fallen by roughly 6 months over the past decade. However, when the populations of these islands are assigned values based on their proportion to the entire population of the English-speaking Caribbean, we see that life expectancies have fallen by 4 years.
Faiz Ahmed is a doctoral student in sociology and focuses on the study of islands and the political economy of capitalist-led sustainable development plans. His master's thesis titled "An Examination of the Development Path Taken by Small Island Developing States" can be downloaded at www.islandvulnerability.org/m/ahmedm.pdf.