Witnesses to a Sovereign People in Venezuela

Australian Solidarity Activists Visit Venezuela for 2013 Municipal Elections

By Ewan Robertson - Correo Del Orinoco
A group of Australian solidarity activists visited Venezuela during the recent municipal elections in order to find out more about the Bolivarian Revolution and strengthen solidarity between the peoples of the two countries.

The visit was organized by the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) and was the 14th solidarity brigade the organization has conducted to Venezuela since 2005. The brigade was also the AVSN’s first since President Hugo Chavez passed away earlier this year. Along with members from Australia, activists from several European countries such as Britain, Bulgaria and Croatia participated.

Brigade leader Federico Fuentes told Correo del Orinoco that despite Chavez’s death and the economic war being waged against the Venezuelan government, the brigade had found the Bolivarian movement resilient and continuing to work to transform society.

“What we have very much witnessed being here is in many ways the continued presence and reinvigoration of the Chavista movement; one which has captured the imagination of millions around the world”, he said.

Brigade participants attended campaign events in the run up to the municipal elections held on December 8th, and observed polling centers in Caracas on voting day. Along with commenting on the peaceful and orderly nature of the voting process, several noted upon people’s high level of political participation during the electoral campaign.

English socialist activist Daniel Gent compared the political activism of students at the Caracas campus of Venezuela’s Bolivarian University with the low levels of student participation during Britain’s last general election.

“It was amazing to see how in a municipal election everyone had [political] t-shirts, there were stalls and posters everywhere, and a rally with 1000- 2000 people...it was just mind blowing for someone from England to see”, he commented.

During the eleven day visit the brigade visited several institutions promoting solidarity between Venezuela and the wider world, such as the headquarters of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the PetroCaribe agreement, the Venezuelan foreign ministry, and the Salvador Allende Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM).

At the ELAM, brigade members found out how Venezuela is training medical students from 42 countries around the world for free, to later go back to their communities and promote public healthcare in their home countries.

Yvonne Eunson, a retired nurse from Australia, reported on the groups’ sentiments of the ELAM. “The quality of the students was just amazing. They were so inspired and so inspiring. It’s a great project, and it gives you so much hope,” she stated.

The solidarity activists also visited communal councils, communes, and state-owned food production firm Diana Industries, which is run with workers’ participation.

Diana Industries produces low-priced cooking oil, margarine, mayonnaise and soap, and the majority of their produce is distributed directly to the population through state-run food programs in order to avoid price speculation and hoarding.

Fuentes said the visit to Diana was particularly important “to see how workers in the country are trying to work together to confront this economic war that the capitalists have been unleashing”. Brigade members also noted on the marked difference between the image the mainstream media presents of Venezuela and the reality they experienced during their visit.

“The mainstream image of Venezuela is absolutely crazy, crazier than any other country you could imagine. The fact that Venezuela reduced poverty by 20% last year isn’t a story, but that fact that in one shop at some point you couldn’t buy toilet paper is a story,” said Daniel Gent.

The activist added, “Upon coming here now I can see why Venezuela is demonized so much. It’s not just because America wants control over the oil here, but because it presents an alternative model”.

Fuentes of the AVSN also said that the information gathered during the brigade would be useful for promoting greater understanding of the Bolivarian Revolution in Australia and other countries around the world.

“We’ll continue to take all this information back to Australia, in order to strengthen solidarity between the people of Venezuela and Australia,” he affirmed.

Invitation to eyewitness Venezuela

Invitation to visit Venezuela - January 28 to February 6

While the mainstream media speculates about the future of the Bolivarian Revolution since the passing of Hugo Chavez, for the Venezuelan people, there is no question. Come learn about the process currently transpiring in Venezuela as the people, reinvigorated by the legacy of Chavez, deepen and further radicalize their struggle in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution. Come learn, connect, and show your solidarity at this critical moment for the Venezuelan process.

Through direct exchanges with community organizations, social movements, and political leaders, we will explore various areas of social transformation, including food sovereignty, education, healthcare, media, and direct citizen participation in the political process. There will also be trips to beaches, parks, and other sites of interest.

Cost for Activities: $1100. This will cover all lodging, all ground transportation, 2 meals per day, qualified trip leaders, and Spanish-English interpretation. Additional expenses during the trip will be low.
Airfare not included.

Tentative Itinerary. Start and end in Caracas; visits to the states of Maracay, Yaracuy and Carabobo.
Day 1: Caracas – Arrival; orientation/welcome; visits to social programs and discussions with community leaders and local authorities.

Day 2 and 3: Visits to urban agriculture sites and other community initiatives in different communities in Caracas, including 23 de Enero, El Valle, and Petare.

Days 4, 5 and 6: Visits to rural areas in the states of Yaracuy, Lara and Carabobo: learn about agrarian reform and agroecology through visits to agricultural cooperatives, biological control laboratories, food processing coops, and agricultural education programs

Days 7 and 8: Visit to the Afro-Venezuelan coastal community of Chuao, known for producing some of the world’s best cocoa; learn about artisanal cacao production as well as artisanal fishing and Venezuela’s progressive fishing laws; enjoy beautiful beaches.

Day 9: Caracas: free day for sight seeing, getting souvenirs

Day 10: departure for home.

To Learn more and hold a spot for the trip, email cbalbertolovera@gmail. com. Please be in touch as soon as possible, as space is very limited. Please allow several days for responses.

Sponsored by the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of NY.

What people are saying about our delegations:
Visiting Venezuela with the Bolivarian Circle of New York “Alberto Lovera” delegation was a great experience. "I was able to enter into dialog with the process underway at cooperatives and communal councils and see for myself the enthusiasm of the Chavista base for participatory democracy, food security and protecting the social gains of the revolution while moving forward."
Frederick B. Mills
Professor of Philosophy
Bowie State University

"The delegation gave me a fabulous window into one of the most exciting social experiments of our time, the Bolivarian revolution and the public policies committed to social Justice that it informs. It also wetted my appetite for more. I will soon be incorporating some of what I learned into my seminars, and I hope to be able to bring a contingent of students in the near future."
Claudia Chaufan
Associate Professor
 University of California San Francisco

“The Food Sovereignty delegation to Venezuela was interesting, informative and a lot of fun. We saw collective farms, factories, feeding centers and spent time with groups of people struggling for land reform and human dignity. We had lots of opportunities to see how people work together and how agriculture is changing in Venezuela. I loved the people we traveled with and created strong bonds with many of them. It’s the kind of trip that makes you want to return in a few years to see how much progress is being made. It further inspired me to work in the food democracy movement in the US and figure out ways to stay in solidarity with our Venezuelan sisters and brothers.”
Nancy Romer
General Coordinator
Brooklyn Food Coalition
http://www. BrooklynFoodCoalition.org

“Traveling with William and Christina gave me an insider perspective that I couldn’t have gotten otherwise. I highly recommend taking a trip on one of these delegations whether you are highly interested in food politics and socialism, or are new to the subject.”
Paula Crossfield
Founder and the Managing Editor of Civil Eats
http://civileats.com/ about/

“I traveled to both Venezuela and Bolivia with William Camacaro and Christina Schiavoni as the leaders of the trip. I can’t say enough about the quality of these trips and their leadership. I was astounded at the range of activities each trip provided: food centers for the elderly, African communities, women’s collectives, revolutionary centers, fishing industry in Venezuela, agricultural initiatives such as the production of quinoa in Bolivia, meetings with government officials, wonderful community cultural events (sometimes in our honor!), and more. Additionally, both William and Christina were very attentive to the people on the trips, addressed personal crises that arose, and helped in any way possible.

There was never a sense that you were simply on your own in a foreign country, and had to fend for yourself. They were always available for questions, suggestions, and concrete help. IN SO DOING THE TRIP LEADERS CREATED A FAMILY-LIKE FEELING AMONG THE GROUP MEMBERS. I have been traveling on political/educational trips for decades, and can only say; the Bolivarian Circle’s trips are the bomb!”
Suzanne Ross, PhD.
clinical psychologist and activist with the Free Mumia Abu Jamal Coalition, NYC

“The food sovereignty tours to Venezuela are an incredible eye opener. You can read about aspects of the country’s shift to a fairer food system but to see it first hand – and meet the people that are making the change happen – is totally inspiring.”
Simon Cunich

Australian Filmmaker
Creator of the documentary GrowingChange

Venezuela: A people politically alert

Media War Against Venezuela Continues

by María Páez Victor

Commentary broadcast on the Latin American community radio, Radio Voces, Toronto,
3 December 2013; www.paezvictor.blogspot.com

Since the election of President Hugo Chávez in 1999 there has been antipathy and deliberate media distortion of the political events in Venezuela.

Last Sunday, the Toronto Star (newspaper that self-identifies as liberal, broad thinking, progressive) published a defamatory article about the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro. Once again the Canadian press goes on the attack against Venezuela, ridiculing and misrepresenting its president. And if at any time you thought that it was the personality of President Chávez that offended the world press, think again because all that media aggression now focuses on his successor, President Nicolás Maduro.

Maduro is a tall, dark, handsome man, a good orator, intelligent and friendly, but he is not charismatic like Chávez. But who could possibly be like Chávez? He was a singularity. Maduro is the first to admit it and so repeats that he is not Chávez, but with the slogan “We are all Chávez” he spurs solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution of his government.

The Toronto Star is worried about inflation in Venezuela – but did it worry in the decade of the 1970’s when inflation jumped from 7.6% to 20.4%? Or that in the decade of the 80’s the average inflation rate was 19.4% until it reached 47.4% in the decade of the 90’s?[1] And what world newspaper or politician at that time forecasted with undisguised glee the ruin of the Venezuelan economy? None. Which newspaper denounced the immoral excesses – mistresses, drinking, fraud and corruption- of presidents Betancourt, Leoni, Caldera and Carlos Andrés Pérez? None.

But now, President Maduro is ridiculed for his symbolic language and, curiously, because he is not Chavez.

I have just returned from Caracas where I witnessed that there is social order; people go out Christmas shopping to shops full of products, all anticipating the season festivities. There is however, strong political activity because of the coming municipal elections on December 8th. It is so good to see a population that is politically alert, not like Canadian elections that seem to be done by sleepwalkers due to the lack of confidence that erodes political participation here.

Not so in Venezuela. The Communal Councils and the Communes are at the front of political activity; the government does not take a step without consulting them, and the participation of the communes in local projects is essential as they are its initiators.

Maduro has taken measures to combat what is called “ an economic coup d’etat”. Chileans know what this means because before the coup that overthrew the unforgettable martyr of the Americas, President Salvador Allende, the opposition with full support of the United States unleashed a terrible economic sabotage against Chile, with the aim of, as the sinister Richard Nixon stated: “to make Chile scream”. And so it was.

Venezuela has the advantage of learning from that experience and Maduro has taken the offensive with strong measures to control the economy, which have proved to be very popular. His popularity however was not in question. In October he was considered the #1 most popular president in the Americas according to a survey by the international news outlet NTN24 and by the ICS network.[2]

Corruption in the Venezuelan private sector works like this. It is an oil economy, the private sector is not the main sources of income, and instead of investing in their own country, the private sector prefers the comfort of importing, and depending on government largess. If Venezuela let the bolívar float in the international currency market, there would be a spectacular exodus of capital because that class that believes it is “capitalist” is not. In truth, it is a bourgeois, parasitic, rentist class that produces nothing.

The merchants obtain dollars from the government at a preferential price of 6.30 bolívares supposedly because they are going to bring into the country, imported goods, which is not always the case. They then sell those goods as if the dollars had cost them the price on the black market, which could be from 60 to 80 bolívares. Thus they make a profit of 200%, 300% even up to 1,500%. Normally in capitalists countries merchants can obtain a profit of about 15% - but not even the drug traffickers have profits like those of the corrupt Venezuelan merchants.[3]

Maduro did what Chávez did not do. He got the troops out into the street to find hoarded goods in hidden warehouses, inspected the large commercial houses that obtained government dollars, compared prices, set fines and even there will be jail sentences if they do not comply.

The business elite - which led the coup d’etat in 2002- is a minority that considers itself privileged, it systematically commits fraud against the nation obtaining and misusing dollars; they create artificial scarcity through hoarding, scandalously overprices goods, practices usury, promotes capital exodus, and unleashes rumors and lies to create panic and destabilize a government that is not convenient for their immoral avarice. The problem is not economic it is political.

The Venezuelan economy is doing very well. Its oil exports last year amounted to $94 billons while the imports only reached $59.3 billons – a historically low record. The national reserves are at $22 billons and the economy has a surplus (not a deficit) of 2.9% of GDP. The country has no significantly onerous national or foreign debts. These are excellent indicators that many countries in Europe would envy, even the USA and Canada.[4]

So good is the economic future of Venezuela that even imperial banks recognize it. The multinational bank Wells Fargo has recently declared that Venezuela is one of the emerging economies that is most protected against any possible financial crisis and the Bank of America Merril Lynch has recommended to its investors to buy Venezuelan government bonds.[5]

How sad that the Toronto Star should publish an article more appropriate to the sensationalist press. Its main sources were people from the United States who oppose Venezuela, and not a single source from the Venezuelan government itself.


I am sorry for the Canadian public who are not allowed to form their opinions in a balanced manner, exposed to a press sold out to United States hegemonic interests that does not even have a Canadian perspective on international affairs.

Behind all this aggression against Venezuela is the fear of a successful socialist revolution that is profoundly democratic, so much so that it shines and reveals the democratic deficit of the capitalist powerful nations.[6]

[1] Estudio sobre la inflación en Venezuela, Estudio del Banco Central de Venezuela, Caracas 2002
[2] Maduro es el presidente más popular del continente Americano, www.aporrea.org, 01/10/13
[3] Entre usureros te veas, Luis Brito Garcia, aporrea, 2 diciembre 2013
[4] La Guerra económica y las elecciones municipales, Juan Manuel Karg, Rebelión, 2 diciembre 2013
[5] La Guerra económica y las elecciones municipales, Juan Manuel Karg, Rebelión, 2 diciembre 2013
[6] Is Venezuela in Crisis? Ewa Sapiezynska & Hassan Akram, AL JAZEERA, 2 December 2013; Venezuelanalysis.com