Category Archives: President Hugo Chavez

XXV Sao Paulo Forum Demonstrates that Venezuela is not Alone!

Photo by Alicia Jrapko

From July 25-28 the XXV Sao Paulo Forum took place in Caracas, Venezuela, with the participation of 190 organizations, political parties, social movements, workers’ movements, parliamentarians and intellectuals from Latin America, the Caribbean and several continents.

The date chosen for this historic meeting had a symbolic character to it. During those four days a number of coinciding historical events were celebrated such as the birth of the Liberator Simón Bolívar, the assault on the Moncada Barracks that marked the beginning of the Cuban revolution and the 65th anniversary of the birth of Commander Hugo Chávez.

The Forum of Sao Paulo is the oldest continuing event of progressive unity in Latin America.  The first Forum was held in the city of Sao Paulo Brazil in 1990 as an initiative of the historic leader of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz and the then leader of the Workers’ Party of Brazil (PT), Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The two put out a call to political parties and organizations from Latin America and the Caribbean to discuss alternatives to neoliberal policies. Since then the Forum adopted the name of the city where it was born. Twenty-six countries from Latin America and the Caribbean make up the member countries of the Forum.

Today, the scenario of all Latin America is very different from previous forums. Of the two leaders who brought the idea of the Sao Paulo Forum to life, one is no longer physically present and the other one is serving an unjust sentence in a Brazilian prison for having had the audacity to lift 30 million Brazilians out of poverty. The triumph of the Bolivarian revolution in 1998, with the popular election of Hugo Chavez, opened the door to a new continental stage where progressive projects sprouted up in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and El Salvador.  The current situation is very different than it was then.  The integration of Latin America is now in jeopardy, and a number of countries in the region are led by puppet governments subordinate to the designs of the U.S. government. Venezuela has held on but it is in the cross hairs of the empire to bring about regime change at all costs. This reality made the Forum to be held in Venezuela all that more important.  Never before in the 29 years since its inception, has the host country been more besieged and blockaded than Venezuela today and it is here where the destiny of the Great Homeland lays in the balance.

Despite the difficult situation in this South American nation, whose only crime in the eyes of US imperialism has been to divert their vast natural resources for the betterment of those who had been poor and dispossessed, approximately 700 people merged with hundreds of Venezuelans in this critical 4 day meeting to discuss the burning questions of Latin America and also to reinvigorate the same spirit of regional integration sown by those who founded the Forum. Overall those in attendance came to show the world that Venezuela is not alone.

For those delegates coming from the United States they had to go through a series of added hurdles just to get there. After the suspension of diplomatic relations in January 2019 traveling to Venezuela has become more difficult with no direct flights from the US and no consulates to grant visas.  Nevertheless, activists were creative and found the way to be present including representatives of the Collective for the Protection of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC who occupied and protected the embassy for 37 days.

During the opening ceremony of the Forum, the First Vice-President of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and president of the National Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, set the tone when he told the enthusiastic audience:

No one will be able to do it alone, it is the unity of the people that is necessary. The more they insist, the more we are going to solve our problems; here in Venezuela the right wing will not be able to govern. The right likes elections when they win, when the people win they don’t like it, the right doesn’t respect the process. They can’t, their nature doesn’t allow them. The right-wing is the same everywhere, we feel the support of the people but those people also need our support. We resisted and marched with the conviction that we are going to win. The people here don’t get depressed because with Chavez they learned to have a voice. We have even been threatened with everything including a military invasion, but we are willing to defend the Bolivarian revolution, which is a revolution for the peoples, not just for Venezuela. No one can do it alone.

Other speakers included Monica Valente, of the Brazilian Workers’ Party, and the Executive Secretary of the Sao Paulo Forum and the Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to Cuba, Adan Chávez. Also Julio Muriente Pérez, member of the National Hostosian Independence Movement of Puerto Rico. Muriente talked about the popular victory that just took place in Puerto Rico. “Thousands of Puerto Ricans raised the flag of dignity forcing the corrupt governor Ricardo Rosello to resign.” he said, as the audience stood up cheering, “It wasn’t that he resigned, the people took him out.”

It is important to note that this was not just a talking conference but a meeting of activists who on Saturday went out to the street along with thousands of Venezuelans to call for the US hands off Venezuela and all of Latin America. In all meetings inside and the rally outside, participants expressed their support to the only president of Venezuela elected by popular will — Nicolas Maduro Moros.

During the last day of the Sao Paulo Forum, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro reiterated his gratitude to the members of the Protection Collective of Venezuela’s Embassy in Washington. “Their performance reflects high morals for the defense of the dignity and sovereignty of the Venezuelan people,” the president said. He presented the activists with a replica of Simon Bolivar’s sword.

The closing ceremony took place after a walk to the Cuartel de la Montaña, in the 23 de Enero neighborhood, where the remains of Hugo Chávez rest. Present at the closing were Presidents Nicolas Maduro, President of Cuba Miguel Díaz-Canel, Diosdado Cabello, and Mónica Valente.

A Final Declaration of support for Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and other progressive governments under attack by US imperialism, and a demand for the freedom of Lula and other left-wing leaders imprisoned for political reasons was issued.

What the XXV Sao Paulo Forum demonstrated most was the essential and immeasurable examples, inherited from Fidel, to guide the revolutionaries of Latin America and the Caribbean; that is the unity of the left progressive forces and the practice of internationalism.

In Venezuela, the Right to Housing is Made Possible by the Revolution

In the Antímano neighbourhood of the capital district of Caracas, a very special block of flats has been built. Its inhabitants built it with their own hands. In 2011, on the initiative of President Hugo Chávez, a little less than one hectare of land was expropriated from the Polar company. The idea was to rescue abandoned urban land that did not fulfill any social function to benefit families in a situation of “social risk, without their own housing and young couples who are founding families”.

Camp Amatina is located in an industrial zone, but other camps were also set up “in upper class, middle class and peri-urban areas, adapting to urban contexts with different characteristics” – explains Housing Vice-Minister Nelson Rodríguez. In Amatina there are about 140 families that meet in weekly assemblies. Iraida Morocoima, one of their spokespersons, welcomes visitors to share this experience:

Many people among these families had no idea how to hit a brick. There were certainly others who were bricklayers, but most of us were women. The first challenge was to assume that a five- or six-story building had to be built; it was difficult, we couldn’t even conceive of it.

To get there, the pioneers relied on construction materials and technical advice provided by the state as part of the Gran Misión Vivienda Venezuela.

The architectural plans were studied and finalized under the supervision of the future inhabitants, based on the specific needs of each of the families.  “This served us as a tool to give a different approach to this type of urbanism. If we had not politicized this construction, we would have fallen into the error of reproducing the family model advocated by capital: housing spaces conceived only for a male and a female, even changing their skin color… But we said no, because here there is a prototype of a different family. Our goal was to build a community.”

An example?

“There are no elevators in the building, so elderly and disabled people live on the ground floor. Before coming here, that disabled girl had nowhere to share. Now here we have this meeting space, where she can come and participate in parties like Christmas,” says Moracaimo.

Once they obtained state support through technical assistance, the camp established a model of self-managed construction, with no construction companies. In this way, “for the State, the cost of the project was reduced by half” – concedes Nelson Rodríguez. But the most relevant thing is the dynamic of participation that it provoked, with “hundreds of hours of organization of the families and the other 11 movements of settlers that came to their aid: material and resources were lent, it functions as a network, a system in which workers exchange, a joint purchase of machinery is made, etc.”.

Once the housing was raised as a right, returning the use to an abandoned land, the tool for the community to consolidate its objective was to assume self-government. It is one of the basic notions of this camp. “This is the first project that was carried out, and surely there are many mistakes that we made, with cracks in the wall, but we are learning. And the most important thing is what we have learned with this participatory design, because we are very aware that living here has to be different. This is a well-established idea among the families, including the younger ones. As I climb the stairs of the block of flats, I comment to a child who accompanies me how grateful the community must be to the Bolivarian government. His spontaneous response breaks in a thousand pieces the concept of “assistentialism” that has been recurrently applied as the characteristic seal of the Latin American processes of socialism in the 21st century: “We make this Revolution, nobody gives it to us!”

Nelson Rodríguez insists on the idea that the Amatina camp is not just a housing: “They are not only houses, but also community spaces, productive spaces such as cooperatives, communal gardens, and communal services such as a bank, a bakery, a factory… What is sought is the construction of a community of life and means of production based on self-management. It is an integral project of production and supply”. There are those who relativize this type of struggle for the right to housing, giving lessons from their ivory tower, but for others it is intolerable and must be ended in any way: “Many economic sectors did not accept this state intervention. The right wing says there are processes of land confiscation. They intend to return them, as they were confiscated by the Revolution. It is a battle, the company wants to initiate a process to recover them”. Far from being conceived as an isolated experience, its protagonists seek to extend it to the length and breadth of Venezuelan geography in order to strengthen the construction of the “communal state,” destined to undermine the foundations of institutionality and thus progressively replace the old state structures, tailored to the needs of the ruling class throughout decades of Punto Fijo government. It is therefore a question of deepening participatory democracy to the detriment of “restricted democracy”.

Without a doubt it is communal experiences like Amatina’s that best explain the quixotic mood and the unbribable attachment of this people to his government; also why Nicolás Maduro was re-elected president in May 2018 defying the economic crisis, the threats of the coup right-wing, the announcement of non-recognition by the EU and the sanctions of the Obama empire and then Trump. Morocoima sums it up like this:  “We didn’t plan to live here and then become another social class. We live here to defend the Revolution, to maintain this revolutionary process. This is a dignified and struggling people: Chávez came, he revived Bolívar and now we are Guaicaipuro, Bolívar and Chávez together!”

The indigenous, the Creole and the mestizo are symbols of the sovereignty of Venezuela and of its generous identity for the sake of integration; their incarnation in those three historical figures is the sample of the fact that this people made reality what seemed impossible: holding the reins of their destiny against all odds.

Ottawa hires Hit Man to Overthrow Venezuelan Government

Meet the hired gun Ottawa is using to overthrow the Venezuelan government.

The brazenness of Ottawa’s intervention in the South American country’s affairs is remarkable. Recently Global Affairs Canada tendered a contract for an individual to coordinate its bid to oust President Nicolás Maduro. According to buyandsell.gc.ca, the Special Advisor on Venezuela needs to be able to:

Use your network of contacts to advocate for expanded support to pressure the illegitimate government to return constitutional order.

Use your network of civil society contacts on the ground in Venezuela to advance priority issues (as identified by civil society/Government of Canada).

Must have valid Government of Canada personnel TOP SECRET security clearance.

The “Proposed Contractor” is Allan Culham who has been Special Advisor on Venezuela since the fall of 2017. But, the government is required to post the $200,000 contract to coordinate Canada’s effort to overthrow the Maduro government.

Culham is a former Canadian ambassador to Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Organization of American States. During his time as ambassador to Venezuela from 2002 to 2005 Culham was hostile to Hugo Chavez’s government. According to a WikiLeaks publication of US diplomatic messages, “Canadian Ambassador Culham expressed surprise at the tone of Chavez’s statements during his weekly television and radio show ‘Hello President’ on February 15 [2004]. Culham observed that Chavez’s rhetoric was as tough as he had ever heard him. ‘He sounded like a bully,’ said Culham, more intransigent and more aggressive.”

The US cable quotes Culham criticizing the national electoral council and speaking positively about the group overseeing a presidential recall referendum targeting Chavez. “Culham added that Sumate is impressive, transparent, and run entirely by volunteers”, it noted. The name of then head of Súmate, Maria Corina Machado, was on a list of people who endorsed the April 2002 military coup against Chavez, for which she faced charges of treason. She denied signing the now-infamous Carmona Decree that dissolved the National Assembly and Supreme Court and suspended the elected government, attorney general, comptroller general, and governors as well as mayors elected during Chavez’s administration. It also annulled land reforms and reversed increases in royalties paid by oil companies.

After retiring from the civil service in 2015 Culham described his affinity for another leading hard-line opposition leader. Canada’s current Special Advisor on Venezuela wrote, “I met [Leopoldo] López when he was the mayor of the Caracas municipality of Chacao where the Canadian Embassy is located. He too became a good friend and a useful contact in trying to understand the many political realities of Venezuela.” But, López also endorsed the failed 2002 coup against Chavez and was convicted of inciting violence during the 2014 “guarimbas” protests that sought to oust Maduro. Forty-three Venezuelans died, hundreds were hurt and a great deal of property was damaged during the “guarimbas” protests. Lopez was also a key organizer of the recent plan to anoint the marginal opposition legislator Juan Guaidó interim president

In his role as Canada’s ambassador to the OAS Culham repeatedly took positions viewed as hostile by the Chavez/Maduro governments. When Chavez fell gravely ill in 2013, he proposed the OAS send a mission to study the situation, which then Vice-president Maduro described as a “miserable” intervention in the country’s affairs. Culham’s comments on the 2014 “guarimbas” protests and support for Machado speaking at the OAS were also unpopular with Caracas.

At the OAS Culham criticized other left-of-centre governments. He blamed elected President Rafael Correa for supposedly closing “democratic space” in Ecuador, not long after a failed coup attempt in 2010. When describing the Honduran military’s overthrow of social democratic president Manuel Zelaya in 2009 Culham refused to employ the term coup and instead described it as a “political crisis”.

In June 2012, the left-leaning president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, was ousted in what some called an “institutional coup”. Upset with Lugo for disrupting 61-years of one-party rule, Paraguay’s ruling class claimed he was responsible for a murky incident that left 17 peasants and police dead and the senate voted to impeach the president. The vast majority of countries in the hemisphere refused to recognize the new government. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) suspended Paraguay’s membership after Lugo’s ouster, as did the MERCOSUR trading bloc. A week after the coup Culham participated in an OAS mission that many member countries opposed. Largely designed to undermine those countries calling for Paraguay’s suspension from the OAS, delegates from the US, Canada, Haiti, Honduras and Mexico traveled to Paraguay to investigate Lugo’s removal from office. The delegation concluded that the OAS should not suspend Paraguay, which displeased many South American countries.

Four years later Culham still blamed Lugo for his ouster. He wrote:

President Lugo was removed from office for ‘dereliction and abandonment of duty’ in the face of rising violence and street protests (that his government was itself instigating through his inflammatory rhetoric) over the issue of land rights. Violence in both the countryside and the streets of Asuncion threatened to engulf Paraguay’s already fragile democratic institutions. Lugo’s impeachment and removal from office by the Paraguayan Congress, later ratified by the Supreme Court, launched a firestorm of protest and outrage amongst the presidents of Paraguay’s neighbours. Presidents Rousseff of Brazil, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, were the chief defenders of Lugo’s right to remain in office.

After retiring from the civil service Culham became more candid about his hostility to those trying to overcome extreme power imbalances in the hemisphere, decrying “the nationalist, bombastic and populist rhetoric that many leaders of Latin America have used to great effect over the last 15 years.” For Culham, “the Bolivarian Alliance … specialized in sowing its own divisive ideology and its hopes for a revolutionary ‘class struggle’ across the hemisphere.”

Culham praised the defeat of Cristina Kirchner in Argentina and Dilma Rousseff Brazil.

In a 2015 piece titled “So long, Kirchners” he wrote, “the Kirchner era in Argentine politics and economics is thankfully coming to an end.” (Kirchner is the front runner in the upcoming election.) The next year Culham criticized Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s bid to have UNASUR challenge her impeachment, which he celebrated as “a sign of change in Latin America”.

Culham denounced regional integration efforts. In a long February 2016 Senate foreign affairs committee discussion of Argentina, he denounced diplomatic forums set up by Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Venezuela and others to break from US domination of the region. “Since I’m no longer a civil servant”, Culham stated, “I will say that CELAC [The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States] is not a positive organization within the Americas. Mainly because it’s built on the principle of exclusion. It purposefully excludes Canada and United States. It was the product of President Chavez and the Chavista Bolivarian revolution.” Every single country in the hemisphere except for Canada and the US were members of CELAC.

Culham criticized left-wing governments position at the US dominated OAS. Culham bemoaned the “negative influence ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America] countries have brought to the OAS” and said Argentina “often sided with Bolivarian revolution members” in their “negative agenda” at the OAS, which he called “very close to my heart”.

In his comments to the Senate committee Culham criticized Kirchner for failing to pay the full price to US “vulture funds”, which bought up the country’s debt at a steep discount after it defaulted in 2001. He described Kirchner’s refusal to bow down to highly predatory hedge funds as a threat to the “Toronto Stock Exchange” and labeled a Scotia Bank claim from the 2001 financial crisis a “bilateral irritant” for Canada.

Canadian taxpayers are paying a hardline pro-corporate, pro-Washington, former diplomat hundreds of thousands of dollars to coordinate the Liberal government’s bid to oust Venezuela’s government. Surely, there is someone in the House of Commons willing to inquire about Canada’s Elliot Abrams?

Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution in the Crosshairs of US Imperialism

With the likes of John Bolton and Elliot Abrams directing US foreign policy, the US government has abandoned all pretense of “plausible denial” for its illegal regime-change initiatives. The “humanitarian” bombs may not be falling but, make no mistake, the US is waging a full-bore war against the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

Back in 1998, Venezuela had had nearly a half a century of two-party rule. A duopoly, not unlike the Republican and Democratic parties in the US, alternated in power imposing a neoliberal order. Poor and working people experienced deteriorating conditions of austerity regardless of which party was in power.

Then third-party candidate Hugo Chávez was elected president. He initiated what has become known as the Bolivarian Revolution, which has inspired the peoples of the world while engendering the enmity of both the US imperialists and the Venezuelan elites.

This article explores the contributions, shortcomings, and lessons of the Bolivarian Revolution’s two decades, in the context of the US regime-change efforts from its inception to current attempts by the US to install the unelected Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s president.

  1. Forging a new national identity based on a people’s history. History, it is said, is written by the victors. The historical narrative typically reflects the class that enslaved the Africans, dispossessed the Indigenous, and exploited the workers. There are exceptions. In the US, we have the legacy of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States.

In Venezuela, Chávez revised his country’s history and thereby wrought a sea change of national consciousness. Prior to Chávez, Venezuela was arguably the most sycophantically pro-US country in South America. Miami was looked to for cultural affirmation; baseball was the national pastime.

Chávez took special inspiration from the leader of the South American struggle against Spanish colonialism and named his project after Simón Bolívar, known as the “Liberator.” Bolívar was not merely a national leader, but a true internationalist. The Bolivarian project is about the integration of nations based on mutual respect and sovereignty. Bolívar presciently declared in 1829: “The United States appears to be destined by Providence to plague Latin America with misery in the name of liberty.”

This new Venezuelan national identity and consciousness, based on their history told from the bottom up, may prove to be the most lasting legacy of the Bolivarian Revolution.

  1. Inclusive society. Fundamental to the Bolivarian project has been the inclusion of the formerly dispossessed: especially women, people of color, and youth.

As professor of Latin American history at NYU Greg Grandin observed, this inclusiveness has awakened “a deep fear of the primal hatred, racism, and fury of the opposition, which for now is directed at the agents of Maduro’s state but really springs from Chávez’s expansion of the public sphere to include Venezuela’s poor.”

For example, when an opposition demonstration came upon an Afro-descendent street peddler, he was presumed to be a chavista because he was dark-skinned and poor. The opposition demonstrators poured gasoline over him and set him on fire. Then the horrific image was posted on social media.

A less gruesome example occurred at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC. North American activists in solidarity with the Bolivarian government protected the embassy in accordance with international law from being usurped by representatives of US-backed Juan Guaidó for 36 days. Before the protectors were evicted by the US Secret Service on May 16, counter-protesting opposition expatriate Venezuelans would wave bananas at African American solidarity activists, chanting “go back to the zoo.” Such is the racist loathing that fuels the Venezuelan opposition.

  1. Special option for poor and working people. Why should a state of all the people have a special option for those who are poor and working? Because these are the people who most need the social welfare services of the state. Billionaires don’t need government schools, hospitals, and housing, but the masses of Venezuelan people do.

The Bolivarian project had halved poverty and cut extreme poverty by two-thirds, while providing free health care and education. On May 27, the United Nations cited Venezuela as one of the top countries for guaranteeing the right to housing, recognizing the over 2.5 million public housing units built.

  1. Democracy promotion. The role of a state aspiring to be socialist is not simply to provide social welfare, but to empower the people.

The Bolivarian project has experimented in what is called “protagonistic democracy”: cooperatives, citizens councils, and communes. Some succeeded; others did not.  One of the first priorities was to eradicate illiteracy. The Bolivarian state has promoted community radio stations, low-cost computers, internet cafés for senior citizens, and other venues for popular expression. Venezuela now has one of the highest rates of higher education attendance in the world. These are not the hallmarks of a dictatorship.

  1. 21st century socialism. More than even Bernie Sanders, the Bolivarian Revolution put socialism on the agenda for the 21st century. For this we owe the Venezuelans a debt of gratitude, not for providing us with a playbook to be copied, but for demonstrating that the creation of a better world is principally a process.

This was not the primary transgression placing Venezuela in the crosshairs of US imperialism. Promoting socialism may be regarded as blasphemy, but the original sin is the following.

  1. Multi-polar world and regional integration. The greatest challenge to the Empire, to the world’s sole superpower, is a multi-polar world based on regional integration. In 1999, Chávez helped strengthen OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). In 2004, he helped initiate ALBA (Alliance for Our Peoples of America), followed by PetroCaribe in 2005, UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) in 2008, and CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) in 2011. Venezuela has consistently demonstrated solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and other oppressed peoples.

When the small fish organize, the big fish gets nasty. Above all, this is why the world’s hegemon has targeted Venezuela.

The traumatic transition from Chávez to Maduro

 Chávez, suffering from cancer, died on March 5, 2013. The reaction in Venezuela was polarized. The elites danced in the street. The majority, composed mainly of poor and working people, were traumatized.

The bully to the north, smelling blood, saw an opportunity. The US had conspired to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution from the beginning, backing a short-lived coup in 2002 followed by a boss’s strike. With the passing of Chávez, the imperialist offensive doubled down.

A snap election was called according to the Venezuelan Constitution for April 14 to replace the deceased president. Chávez, anticipating his demise, had designated Nicolás Maduro as his successor. Although polls had shown Maduro with a 10% lead going into the election campaign, he won with a narrow 1.5% margin.

I was in Caracas as an election observer when Maduro won. My observation of the election was like that of former US President Jimmy Carter, who had declared a year before that of the 92 elections the Carter Center had observed, “The election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”

Within minutes of the announcement of Maduro’s victory, the main opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, came on TV to denounce the election as fraudulent and call on the people to “show their rage.” Thus began the opposition’s violent offensive, the guarimbas, to achieve by violence what they could not achieve in democratic elections.

The opposition charges of fraud were investigated by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) and found groundless, based on a 100% audit of the electronic vote backed up with paper receipts. Capriles still maintained the charge of fraud, and the US became the sole nation to refuse to recognize the Maduro presidency. The opposition violence continued, taking over 40 lives.

Upon assuming the presidency, Maduro inherited existing problems of crime, inefficiency, corruption, inflation, and a dysfunctional currency exchange system. These were problems that existed during the Chávez period and even prior to that. These problems persist in varying degrees to the present, despite concerted programs to address them.

President Maduro has had his feet held to the fire by the imperialists from the get-go. Far from having a respite, shortly into his presidency, Venezuela was hit with petroleum prices plummeting from a high of nearly $125/barrel to a low of close to $25/barrel. Despite efforts to diversify the economy, Venezuela remains dependent on oil exports for most of its foreign exchange, which is used to fund the social programs.

US regime-change war intensifies

The US regime-change war continues to intensify with increasingly harsh sanctions. These unilateral measures are illegal under the charters of the United Nations and the Organization of American States, because they constitute collective punishment. Trump’s security advisor, John Bolton, elucidates: “It’s like in Star Wars, when Darth Vader grips someone. That’s what we’re doing economically with the (Venezuelan) regime.”

In 2013, the US waited until after the presidential election in Venezuela to declare it fraudulent. Taking no chances, the US declared the 2018 election fraudulent four months before it was held. Joining Trump in this rush to pre-judgement were eleven Democratic senators including Bernie Sanders.

The charges of fraud were based on three issues: setting the date of the election, disqualifying opposition parties, and barring opposition candidates. Maduro had continually called for dialogue with the opposition to set the election date. But each time a date was mutually agreed upon, the opposition backed out after their US handlers intervened. As for the disqualified parties, they had lost their ballot status because they had boycotted past elections. They then refused to reapply for ballot status, because their intention was not to participate in the electoral process.

Opposition candidates, namely Leopoldo López and Henrique Capriles, were barred from running, because they had committed criminal acts that warranted their exclusion. López clearly incited violence that resulted in deaths and would have received far harsher treatment had he committed such acts in the US. Capriles was convicted of economic fraud, “administrative irregularities,” during his tenure as a state governor. While the courts found Capriles guilty, this action against a political opponent damaged the Maduro government’s international image.

Overall, the charges of fraud by the radical right opposition were mainly pretenses to delegitimize the upcoming election. However, several moderate opposition candidates did run, defying the US demand that the election be boycotted.

Henri Falcón was the leading opposition candidate to run in 2018, championing a neoliberal platform of privatization, austerity for workers, and subservience to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The US, which would ordinarily gleefully embrace such a platform, instead threatened Falcón with sanctions for breaking the election boycott.

The explanation for this seemingly anomalous behavior by the US government is that the stakes in Venezuela are much higher than just the presidency. The regime-change project is to exterminate the Bolivarian Revolution, reverse its social gains, and return Venezuela to a subservient client state where the world’s largest oil reserves would be freely exploited by US corporations.

Orwellian world of US foreign policy

As CEO of the capitalist world order (that is what is meant by exercising “American world leadership”), then US President Obama declared in 2015 that Venezuela constituted an imminent and extraordinary threat to US national security. He didn’t mean a military or even an economic threat. That would have been preposterous. What Obama was implicitly confirming is that Venezuela poses a “threat of a good example.” Venezuela is at the top of US imperialism’s hit list because of the good things, not for its faults.

President Trump has intensified Obama’s regime-change policies aimed at Venezuela. Condemning the Bolivarian Revolution, Trump opined: “Socialism is not about justice, it’s not about equality, it’s not about lifting up the poor.” Might he have been really thinking of capitalism? His national security advisor John Bolton tweeted that removing the democratically elected President Maduro by violent coup and installing the US-anointed and unelected Guaidó is protecting the Venezuelan constitution.

On the other side of the aisle, Senator Sanders accused Chávez of being a “dead communist dictator.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described the US regime-change war as a contest of “authoritarian regime versus democracy,” with the questionable presumption that the US is the democracy.

In the Orwellian terminology of US politicians and corporate media, a fraudulent election is one where the people vote their choice. A dictator is the democratically elected choice of the people. And the so-called dictator is an authoritarian if he resists rather than surrenders to the bullying power.

Surrender does not appear to be on the agenda for the Bolivarian Revolution, with US asset Guaidó forced to negotiate in Norway after his failed coup attempts. Despite the suffocating sanctions and threats of military action, the poor and working people in Venezuela who are most adversely affected by the US war against them remain the strongest supporters of their elected government.

Make Orwell fiction again!

Canada Supports Most Hardline, Anti-Democratic Elements of Venezuela’s Oppposition

Not only has Canada financed and otherwise supported opposition parties in Venezuela, Ottawa has allied itself with some of its most anti-democratic, hardline elements. While the Liberal government has openly backed Voluntad Popular’s bid to seize power since January, Ottawa has supported the electorally marginal party for years.

Juan Guaidó’s VP (Popular Will in English) party has repeatedly instigated violent protests. Not long after the Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition coalition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles effectively conceded defeat in January 2014, VP leader Leopoldo López launched La Salida (exit/departure) in a bid to oust Nicolas Maduro. VP activists formed the shock troops of “guarimbas” protests that left forty-three Venezuelans dead, 800 hurt and a great deal of property damaged in 2014. Dozens more were killed in a new wave of VP backed protests in 2017.

Effective at stoking violence, VP has failed to win many votes. It took 8% of the seats in the 2015 elections that saw the opposition win control of the National Assembly. With 14 out of 167 deputies in the Assembly, it won the four most seats in the Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition. In the December 2012 regional elections VP was the sixth most successful party and did little better in the next year’s municipal elections.

VP was founded at the end of 2009 by Leopoldo López who “has long had close contact with American diplomats”, reported the Wall Street Journal. A great-great-grand nephew of independence leader Simón Bolívar, grandson of a former cabinet member and great-grandson of a president, López was schooled at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Between 2000 and 2008 López was the relatively successful and popular mayor of the affluent 65,000 person Caracas municipality of Chacao.

During the 2002 military coup López “orchestrated the public protests against [President Hugo] Chávez and he played a central role in the citizen’s arrest of Chavez’s interior minister.” He was given a 13-year jail sentence for inciting and planning violence during the 2014 “guarimbas” protests.

Canadian officials have had significant contact with López’s emissaries and party. In November 2014 Lilian Tintori visited Ottawa to meet foreign minister John Baird, Conservative cabinet colleague Jason Kenney and opposition MPs. After meeting López’s wife, Baird called for his release and other “political prisoners”, which referred to a number of other VP representatives.

Three months later VP National Political Coordinator Carlos Vecchio visited Ottawa with Leopoldo López’s sister Diana López and Orlando Viera-Blanco to speak to the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. At a press conference, “Popular Will’s international wing” denounced the Venezuelan government and spoke at a McGill University forum on “Venezuela in Crisis: The Decline of Democracy and the Repression of Human Rights.”

Vecchio was appointed as the Guaidó phantom government’s “ambassador” to the US and Orlando Viera-Blanco was named its “ambassador” to Canada. In October 2017 Vecchio and VP deputy Bibiana Lucas attended the anti-Maduro Lima Group meeting in Toronto.

In June 2015 VP councillor of Sucre, Dario Eduardo Ramirez, spoke to the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. In May 2016 VP Assistant National Political Coordinator Freddy Guevara and VP founding member Luis Germán Florido met foreign minister Stéphane Dion and members of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee to denounce Maduro’s government. During the trip VP’s Coordinator of International Relations Manuel Avendaño and an aide Abraham Valencia published an opinion in the Hill Times titled “Venezuela is on the brink of disaster. Here’s how Canada can help.”

The Canadian embassy in Caracas and former ambassador Ben Rowswell worked with VP officials pushing for the overthrow of the elected government. The runner-up for the embassy’s 2012 “Human Rights Prize”, Tamara Adrián, represents VP in the National Assembly. At the embassy during the presentation of the 2014 human rights award to anti-government groups were López’s lawyers and wife. In response, then president of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello accused Rowswell of supporting coup plotters.

The leader of VP in Yaracuy state, Gabriel Gallo, was runner-up for the embassy’s 2015 human rights award. A coordinator of the Foro Penal NGO, Gallo was also photographed with Rowswell at the embassy’s 2017 human rights prize ceremony.

The Montreal based Canadian Venezuelan Engagement Foundation is closely aligned with VP. Its president is Guaidó’s “ambassador” to Canada — Viera-Blanco — and its founding director is Alessa Polga whose LinkedIn page describes her as VP Canada’s Subcoordinator and Intergovernmental Relations. Polga has been invited to speak before the House of Commons and in 2017 demanded Canada follow the US in adopting sanctions on Venezuela. Justin Trudeau offered words of solidarity for a recent Canadian Venezuelan Engagement Foundation “Gala for Venezuela” in Toronto.

In 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018 VP youth outreach leader and former mayor David Smolansky spoke at the Halifax International Security Conference. During his 2018 trip to Nova Scotia Smolansky published an opinion piece in the Halifax Chronicle Herald claiming, “more than just a failed state, Venezuela is a criminal state.”

In May 2017 Tintori met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the leaders of the opposition parties. In response, Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodríguez described Lopez’s wife as an “agent of intervention” who claims the “false position of victim” while she’s aligned with “fascist” forces in Venezuela.

Three months earlier Tintori met US President Donald Trump and The Guardian reported on her role in building international support for the plan to anoint VP deputy Guaidó interim president. According to the Canadian Press, Canadian diplomats spent “months” working on that effort and the Associated Press described Canada’s “key role” in building international support for claiming a relatively marginal National Assembly member was Venezuela’s president. Presumably, Canada’s “special coordinator for Venezuela” organized these efforts which included foreign minister Chrystia Freeland speaking to Guaidó “the night before Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony to offer her government’s support should he confront the socialist leader.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken with Guaidó at least twice since.

Canada has strengthened VP’s hardline position within the opposition. A February Wall Street Journal article titled “‘What the Hell Is Going On?’ How a Small Group Seized Control of Venezuela’s Opposition” noted that leading opposition figures on stage with Guaidó when he declared himself interim president had no idea of his plan despite it being reliant on the Democratic Unity Roundtable’s agreement to rotate the National Assembly presidency within the coalition. (VP’s turn came due in January).

Venezuelans require a vibrant opposition that challenges the government. They don’t need Canada to boost an electorally marginal party that drives the country into increasing conflict.

Venezuelan Communes Protect the State

Direct democracy works like a charm. Check out Venezuela’s Communes….

Venezuela’s ubiquitous Communes are proof that direct democracy works. And, interestingly enough, those same Communes are powerful buffers to attempted coups, protecting the sanctity of direct democracy in their country.

In all likelihood, John Bolton and Trump and Pence and Pompeo and Rubio were shocked beyond recognition by the failed coup attempt they helped orchestrate to overpower a democratically elected government south of the border, colloquially known as extending the concept of Manifest Destiny to its fullest extent.

To Bolton’s/Rubio’s dismay, opposition leader Juan Guaidó proved to be a clown dressed up as a proponent of democratic spirits, a motivator, a savior. Well, he’s been tossed into the dustbin as a miserable failure, an international pariah who has been shamed into seclusion. His American co-conspirators look like big fat dupes.

Interestingly enough, the citizens of Venezuela did not answer Juan Guaidó’s official call to assemble, to revolt, and eliminate Maduro, overthrowing the dictator. Those were the instructions to a public that remained dead silent and in place. Nobody showed up for the well-advertised great event, as Juan Guaidó wanted to “Make Venezuela Great Again.”

Only in the U.S. do people fall for such claptrap. Venezuela’s politically astute citizens know hollow sloganeering when they hear it. After all, they have direct democracy that works like a charm. Why change anything?

Localized political orders, Communes in Venezuela, have proven to be a safety net for families and their communities. It’s direct democracy at work, and it works remarkably well under the toughest of circumstances, as tough as it gets, which goes to demonstrate the mettle of direct democracy.

As for proof of the effectiveness and importance and steadfastness of Venezuela’s Communes, the Indio Caricuao Commune in southwest Caracas was one of the first targets of Juan Guaidó’s supporters. They looted the Commune and set fire to its headquarters. Local residents used the building for meetings, and it housed a Commune-operated textile mill, which funded projects for the local community.

It’s instructive that Guaidó’s supporters selected a prominent Commune as their first line of attack and not Maduro. Of course, the logical upshot to that tactical move is that they recognized the power of Communes superseding the power of Maduro, which, in fact, is the case throughout the country of Venezuela. Maduro is more figurehead than manipulator of the political strings. The people control those strings via direct democracy, by and large, throughout all of Venezuela.

Under the tutelage of former president Hugo Chavez, Communes were established. He viewed the Communes as “fundamental building blocks of a new communal state” based upon self-management by local democracy, by local communities.

Nowadays, according to Venezuela’s Ministry of Communes, the country has nearly 47,000 registered communal councils throughout the country and close to 3,000 Communes. The Communes have been consolidating their networks now for over a decade and represent a powerful force in the country, arguably, more powerful than President Maduro.

According to Commune leaders like Gsus Garcia of the Altos de Lidice Socialist Commune, they acknowledge that Chavistas (Chavez supporters) were at the heart of creation of Communes, but the Communes include residents that oppose Maduro and some that favor him. Their focus is on their local community, not on Maduro.1

A prime example is the Panal 2021 Commune, consisting of 3,600 families. The Commune initially funded itself by holding raffles and received state funds, but now it is self-financing and self-managed. Panal 2012 has (1) its own bakeries, (2) a textile mill, (3) a sugar packaging plant and (4) an expansive food storage and distribution centre to make sure no families go hungry.

Proceeds from communally operated businesses are deposited in a communal bank with citizen’s assemblies deciding how to redistribute funds for community projects. It is direct democracy at work.

Similarly, all across the land, Communes generate their own revenue and take care of their local communities. No state funds needed. Not only do Communes take care of local communities, but the Communes have also resorted to feeding urban centers that are not organized, as Panal 2021 linked up with other Communes in the countryside to bring food to the cities and sell it at much cheaper prices than private supermarkets. Thus, Venezuelans are fed via direct democracy at work.

According to sources in Venezuela:

Regardless of what happens next in Venezuela… the strong level of community organization built up over the past two decades will not go away easily. There’s still a lot of strength, a high level of organization. Wherever you look, you will find a commune, a cooperative, and some kind of committee or organization… If [the government] was to fall, that organization will still be here; this huge spirit of participation will still exist, and it will be a problem for any government that tries to dismantle it.2

It is likely that international media sources have mischaracterized the status of Venezuela with a feeding frenzy of falsehoods that simply fed on its own story lines. But, then again, that’s the new normal.

Meanwhile, in spite of extreme dire circumstances, and including some cases of people suffering, by and large, Venezuela is beholden to Communes that take care of their own communities, feed them, clothe them, doctor them, and protect them, families working together to determine their own destiny.

It’s called direct democracy. It works!

Postscript: On Contact with Chris Hedges interviewed reporter Ben Norton, who spent one month in Venezuela. That video can be viewed here:

  1. Frederico Fuentes, Venezuela’s Crisis: A View From The Communes, Countercurrents, May 12, 2019.
  2. Ibid.

Cuba Defies the Threats from Trump with Hundreds of Thousands in the Street

Plaza of the Revolution (Photo by Bill Hackwell)

Considering the level of belligerence and hostility coming from the empire of the North one might expect that the powerful May Day march through the Plaza of the Revolution might take on a defensive military overtone. But Cuba is never that way and instead they show their resolution and defiance cloaked within their humanity.

Just as the sun started to rise the march to celebrate the International Day of the Workers began and behind the banner that read Unity, Commitment and Victory were not soldiers with weapons but waves of doctors, soldiers in white, who had recently been expelled from Brazil by the right wing government of Bolsonaro leaving vast areas of Brazil without medical professionals. Vibrant demonstrations also marked the occasion in all 15 provinces of Cuba and the Isle of Youth.

No one really talks about the numbers here but it took almost 2 hours for the marchers that filled the wide Paseo Avenue to pass the towering statue of Jose Marti. This year’s theme featured thousands of people who work in medical services and medical research along with contingents from medical universities like the Latin American School of Medicine that is the largest medical university in the world.

Organized by the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC), thousands of trade unionists representing 103 unions from 87 countries participated. Hundreds of solidarity activists were there including 300 who are attending the 14th May Day Brigade at the Julio Mella Camp in Caimito. The largest delegation in the camp this year comes from the United States.

The US: Maintaining Hegemony through Protectionism and Threats

Today, at the CTC trade union meeting at the Palace of the Conventions, Ana Teresita Gonzalez Fraga, Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister, explained to the assembled supporters of Latin American unity and sovereignty that we were in a complex period where US Imperialism was trying to hold on to its international hegemony through all out protectionism, the advancement of the Monroe Doctrine, the threat of war, political lies and the use of unconventional warfare against legitimate governments. As she was speaking the first lawsuits from Title III of the Helms Burton Act were being filed in Federal Court in Miami against Carnaval Cruise Lines for its use of the docks in Havana harbor. Title III is a unique measure of acquiring the rights to regain former property that Cubans who fled the revolution in 1959 by somehow magically turning it into US property because those Cubans later became US citizens. This legal stretch had been shelved by previous administrations from the pressure of European allies who will be affected. Also going into effect today is Title IV that prohibits entry into U.S territory people being sued under Title III.

It remains to be seen how deep the new sanctions that the Trump administration will be until they are written into law. In 2018 over 1 million Americans, including Cuban Americans, visited Cuba and in the vicious minds of Trump, Pompeo, Bolton and Pence this type of family and human interaction has to end, to squeeze even harder on an economy that has been blockaded since 1962 for being an disobedient colony and positive example to the world. Trump says he will limit family visits and remittances to $1000 every 3 months that will primarily affect small private enterprises.

Even before the laws are in effect intimidation is already taking place. In the Miami airport, after passing normal security checks passports were being re-checked at the gate and before Cuban Americans could board the plane to Havana their carry-on bags were being opened and searched by Federal Police while a police dog was aggressively checking everyone as they walked down to the plane. What else could this be but to create a chilling effect on Cuban travel?

The Charade of Guaido Fails Again

The failure of the amateurish coup attack on April 30th in Caracas only strengthened the forces of Chavismo in Venezuela according to the Venezuelan ambassador to Cuba, Adan Chavez, at the CTC meeting today, “The attacks on the Bolivarian Revolution started on day one but one thing we know now is that we will never again be a US colony. Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez made it possible to achieve victories that will not regress.” The coup that didn’t happen was built up in the corporate media but it has now fizzled out of the airwaves and the reality of installing Guaido, their selected president is evaporating and that is starting to sink in on Wall Street and their impatience is starting to show. Yesterday Forbes, the Capitalist’s Tool, begrudged, “We are not making money…We are all waiting for the catalyst that leads to change in Venezuela. Maduro has outlasted all expectations. He’s entrenched in Caracas.”

John Bolton; how low can you go?

John Bolton, the criminal architect of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that directly led to the death of a million Iraqis and the displacement of millions more, has come up with the latest attack to include both Cuba and Venezuela. Along with claiming that Venezuela has been colonized by Cuba he is also repeating the cynical and outrageous claim that the Cuba-Venezuela cooperative agreement that provides 20,000 Cuban medical professionals to every province, in cities and rural areas of Venezuela are in actuality Cuban soldiers and security forces. That is something they would do, as they have in 177 countries, with more than 800,000 soldiers on 800 bases. Trump is picking up the lie saying it over and over so that the US public will hear it so much that…well, it must be true. This far-fetched whooper of a lie is to justify the threats and tightening of all sorts of sanctions on both countries. The shackling of Venezuela is a key component of the US strategy in the destroying of Cuba, but as was on display here in Havana, in Caracas and in the defense of the integrity of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, the resistance is a force they have to reckon with.

Cuba Defies the Threats from Trump with Hundreds of Thousands in the Street

Plaza of the Revolution (Photo by Bill Hackwell)

Considering the level of belligerence and hostility coming from the empire of the North one might expect that the powerful May Day march through the Plaza of the Revolution might take on a defensive military overtone. But Cuba is never that way and instead they show their resolution and defiance cloaked within their humanity.

Just as the sun started to rise the march to celebrate the International Day of the Workers began and behind the banner that read Unity, Commitment and Victory were not soldiers with weapons but waves of doctors, soldiers in white, who had recently been expelled from Brazil by the right wing government of Bolsonaro leaving vast areas of Brazil without medical professionals. Vibrant demonstrations also marked the occasion in all 15 provinces of Cuba and the Isle of Youth.

No one really talks about the numbers here but it took almost 2 hours for the marchers that filled the wide Paseo Avenue to pass the towering statue of Jose Marti. This year’s theme featured thousands of people who work in medical services and medical research along with contingents from medical universities like the Latin American School of Medicine that is the largest medical university in the world.

Organized by the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC), thousands of trade unionists representing 103 unions from 87 countries participated. Hundreds of solidarity activists were there including 300 who are attending the 14th May Day Brigade at the Julio Mella Camp in Caimito. The largest delegation in the camp this year comes from the United States.

The US: Maintaining Hegemony through Protectionism and Threats

Today, at the CTC trade union meeting at the Palace of the Conventions, Ana Teresita Gonzalez Fraga, Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister, explained to the assembled supporters of Latin American unity and sovereignty that we were in a complex period where US Imperialism was trying to hold on to its international hegemony through all out protectionism, the advancement of the Monroe Doctrine, the threat of war, political lies and the use of unconventional warfare against legitimate governments. As she was speaking the first lawsuits from Title III of the Helms Burton Act were being filed in Federal Court in Miami against Carnaval Cruise Lines for its use of the docks in Havana harbor. Title III is a unique measure of acquiring the rights to regain former property that Cubans who fled the revolution in 1959 by somehow magically turning it into US property because those Cubans later became US citizens. This legal stretch had been shelved by previous administrations from the pressure of European allies who will be affected. Also going into effect today is Title IV that prohibits entry into U.S territory people being sued under Title III.

It remains to be seen how deep the new sanctions that the Trump administration will be until they are written into law. In 2018 over 1 million Americans, including Cuban Americans, visited Cuba and in the vicious minds of Trump, Pompeo, Bolton and Pence this type of family and human interaction has to end, to squeeze even harder on an economy that has been blockaded since 1962 for being an disobedient colony and positive example to the world. Trump says he will limit family visits and remittances to $1000 every 3 months that will primarily affect small private enterprises.

Even before the laws are in effect intimidation is already taking place. In the Miami airport, after passing normal security checks passports were being re-checked at the gate and before Cuban Americans could board the plane to Havana their carry-on bags were being opened and searched by Federal Police while a police dog was aggressively checking everyone as they walked down to the plane. What else could this be but to create a chilling effect on Cuban travel?

The Charade of Guaido Fails Again

The failure of the amateurish coup attack on April 30th in Caracas only strengthened the forces of Chavismo in Venezuela according to the Venezuelan ambassador to Cuba, Adan Chavez, at the CTC meeting today, “The attacks on the Bolivarian Revolution started on day one but one thing we know now is that we will never again be a US colony. Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez made it possible to achieve victories that will not regress.” The coup that didn’t happen was built up in the corporate media but it has now fizzled out of the airwaves and the reality of installing Guaido, their selected president is evaporating and that is starting to sink in on Wall Street and their impatience is starting to show. Yesterday Forbes, the Capitalist’s Tool, begrudged, “We are not making money…We are all waiting for the catalyst that leads to change in Venezuela. Maduro has outlasted all expectations. He’s entrenched in Caracas.”

John Bolton; how low can you go?

John Bolton, the criminal architect of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that directly led to the death of a million Iraqis and the displacement of millions more, has come up with the latest attack to include both Cuba and Venezuela. Along with claiming that Venezuela has been colonized by Cuba he is also repeating the cynical and outrageous claim that the Cuba-Venezuela cooperative agreement that provides 20,000 Cuban medical professionals to every province, in cities and rural areas of Venezuela are in actuality Cuban soldiers and security forces. That is something they would do, as they have in 177 countries, with more than 800,000 soldiers on 800 bases. Trump is picking up the lie saying it over and over so that the US public will hear it so much that…well, it must be true. This far-fetched whooper of a lie is to justify the threats and tightening of all sorts of sanctions on both countries. The shackling of Venezuela is a key component of the US strategy in the destroying of Cuba, but as was on display here in Havana, in Caracas and in the defense of the integrity of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, the resistance is a force they have to reckon with.

Venezuela: Embassy Protection Collective “The Next Two Days Are Crucial”

Embassy Protection Collective Will Refuse To Turn Over Embassy To US Puppet Government: Arrests Expected

The next two days will be crucial for the protection of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC. The Embassy Protection Collective is prepared to stay at the embassy for the foreseeable future, for as long as it takes to protect the sovereignty of Venezuela from a coup led by the United States with its fraudulent puppet government that the entire world knows is a farce — unelected and illegal under Venezuelan law. We stand with the Venezuelan government and their legitimately-elected president, Nicolas Maduro.

If you can make it to Washington, DC in the next two days, contact us by completing this form. If you can’t come to DC, please mobilize on Thursday, April 25 at the Venezuelan embassy nearest you to say that the embassy belongs to the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro and that you will protect it from illegal takeovers if such were to occur. This is important because if the US is successful at taking the embassy in DC, other countries may follow suit.

In Washington, DC, people can take action inside or outside of the embassy. A strong show of public support will prevent the takeover of the embassy. There are many levels of risk people can take to show their solidarity with the people of Venezuela.

In the last two days, more than 800 people and organizations have signed on to the Declaration of the Embassy Protective (Colectivos De La Paz). The Declaration makes explicit the illegal actions of the Trump administration and their fake puppet government and the legitimacy of President Maduro and the elected Venezuelan government. Sign on to the Declaration here to show your solidarity with the Venezuelan people and your opposition to the US coup.

There has been a series of amazing events at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC. The art build organized by the Embassy Protection Collective resulted in the Georgetown embassy being covered with political signs that describe the US coup and the fraudulent, illegal, puppet government. A banner with the “Eyes of Chavez” was installed on the embassy along with multiple other banners.

This Wednesday night, the Collective, which was initiated by CODE PINK and Popular Resistance, will be holding a forum with former CIA officer John Kiriakou. Kiriakou will discuss “An Inside View of CIA Led Coups.” The irony of Kiriakou making this presentation from inside an embassy being threatened by US take-over should not be lost on anyone. That event will be followed by a nonviolent direct action training for people who plan to resist the next day.

The Collective has highlighted that what is occurring in Venezuela is a US coup. Billboards attached to the building show the “The Regime Change Checklist,” which describes some of the steps the US has taken to force a coup in Venezuela. Another is “US Regime Change Results,” which summarizes some of the many US coups and their devastating impacts. A series of 32 panels along the front of the embassy describes the chronology of the US regime change campaign.

The Embassy Protection Collective is in the embassy with the permission of the Venezuelan government. The Collective is not breaking the law but serving the people of Venezuela. If law enforcement enters the embassy without permission of the Maduro government, they will be breaking the law and invading sovereign territory. This is a time when all who oppose US intervention need to show their support by doing all they can to protect the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC.

• All Images are from the Embassy Protection Collective

Solidarity With Venezuela Now! Protect The Embassy

Activists gather in front of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC in March, 2019.

We are writing to you from inside the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC where we are taking action against a US coup of the independent and sovereign Bolivarian Republican of Venezuela. The Embassy Protection Collective (Colectivos Por La Paz) is here with the permission of the Venezuelan government to show our solidarity with the Venezuelan people. The upcoming week will be a critical one, as we explain below.

The opposition, with its illegal, pretend government, say they will attempt to take over the embassy this week after the diplomats leave on Wednesday, as ordered by the US State Department. If they do, it will be a theft from the Venezuelan people who own the building. As we describe in some detail below, the opposition is acting in violation of the Venezuelan Constitution and the US is acting in violation of international law.

US and Canadian Peace Delegation organized by US Peace Council in Venezuela, 2019.

Guaido’s Power Shrinks, The Roots of Opposition are Based in Violence and US Coup Attempts

The opposition leader, Juan Guaido’s power is shrinking in Venezuela and he is often ignored. He has no transitional government, even Elliot Abrams admits he is not in power, and Guaido has been barred from running for office for financial improprieties after being investigated for illegally taking money from a foreign government. Guaido’s immunity from prosecution has been removed and he has been forbidden from leaving the country. He has announced major protests multiple times to support his takeover of the Venezuelan government on behalf of the US government, but the protests are often canceled or have small turnouts.

Mision Verdad, in “Guaido, A Laboratory Product That No Longer Works,” describes how the coup was designed in meetings in the Organization of American States (OAS) in December and January that included the convicted criminal, Leopoldo Lopez, and his protegé Juan Guaido by video link.

Lopez was convicted for his role in inciting fatal violent protests and road blockades in 2014 and 2017 that killed almost 200 people in an attempt to take over the government. He is currently under house arrest. While Lopez has tried to distance himself from the unpopular failed 2002 coup of Hugo Chavez, video and news from that time show he was one of the leaders of the Chavez coup. Lopez participated in the illegal detention of then-Minister of the Interior and Justice Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, as this video shows, as well as violent attacks against Caracas’ Cuban Embassy.

Chavez pardoned Lopez for his role in the coup in 2007, but Lopez was barred from holding political office from 2008 to 2014 for his misuse of public funds while mayor. Guarimba victims have pursued new charges against Leopoldo Lopez. Just two weeks ago, Lopez was implicated in a terrorist plot, funded by the United States and organized by Guaido’s chief of staff, where mercenaries from Central America, trained in Colombia, planned to attack infrastructure, government buildings, and assassinate political leaders, including President Maduro.

People gather at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC to prevent takeover by the opposition.

What You Can Do to Show Solidarity With the Venezuelan People and Protect Venezuelan Solidarity

In mid-March, the opposition took over the Venezuelan consulate in New York and the Military Attaché office in Washington, DC. People feared the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC would be next and so they mobilized to hold space at the embassy in support.

Since then, people have been staying at the embassy 24/7. During the day, we work, and in the evenings, we hold public events. Yesterday, the ANSWER coalition held a national webinar and then we had an art build for people of all ages and light projection provided by the Backbone Campaign. See the list of events here. We are calling ourselves the Embassy Protection Collective and people in Venezuela are referring to us as Colectivos Por La Paz (Peace Collective).

We view the struggle to prevent the takeover of the embassy as fundamental to stopping this new phase of US imperialism in which the US attempts a coup and fails, but goes ahead and acts like it succeeded. President Maduro remains in power and is actively serving as the president. Juan Guaido has no power, yet the US is giving Venezuelan assets to him. It is truly Orweillian. If the US succeeds in this farce, then no country is safe. Where will the US turn next to appoint a president and give them power and assets? Nicaragua? Cuba? Iran?

You can be an Embassy Protector by doing any or all of the following:

1.Sign on in support of the Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective.  Hundreds of people and organizations have already signed. Show your solidarity with Venezuela. The Declaration is reprinted below.

2.Spread the word through your communities by forwarding this on email, sharing content from our Facebook page and using the hashtag #ColectivosPorLaPaz.

3.Contact your member of Congress (202-224-3121) and demand they intervene to stop the State Department from giving the embassy to Guaido’s hateful, violent forces and to investigate the US-led coup and ongoing war on Venezuela. Let them know that US citizens are staying in the embassy to defend the rule of law.

4.Join us in person during the day, evening and night. We are particularly looking for people who can join us on Wednesday night April 24 and Thursday morning April 25 because that is the earliest that the opposition will try to seize the building. There are different roles to play and different levels of risk. We need people who can video, photograph, share on social media, call media, rally on the sidewalk (all very safe), sit in on the steps (you can leave before they announce they will arrest if you need to), block the front door (you can still likely leave without arrest) or join us inside the building where we will peacefully resist their trespass (highest risk of arrest). A number of us are committed to staying in the building to defend it.

We are building for the day we anticipate the Guaido forces will try to take over the embassy. If you are interested in being an Embassy Protector, please complete this form and we’ll be in touch. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.  The upcoming week of April 21, 2019 is a critical week. Come and join us.

Please let us know if you can join us on by writing gro.ecnatsiseRralupoPnull@ofni.

The Embassy Protection Collective after a forum on Africom, April 15, 2019. From the Embassy Protection Collective.

Sign on in support of the Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective.

Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective (Colectivos Por La Paz)

We have joined together as the Embassy Protection Collective to show solidarity with the people of Venezuela and their right to determine their elected government. We are staying in the Venezuelan embassy with the permission of the legitimate Venezuelan government under President Nicolas Maduro. We seek to provide a nonviolent barrier to the threatened opposition takeover of their embassy in Washington, DC by being a presence at the embassy every day of the week for 24 hours a day.

The Collective is working from the embassy, located in the heart of Georgetown in Washington, DC during the day and holding seminars and cultural events in the evenings, as well as sleeping in the embassy. Events include forums on Venezuela, its government, economy and the ongoing attempted coup. We are also holding seminars on US foreign policy toward Africa, Honduras and Iran, the prosecution of Julian Assange and other issues.

There is great cause for us to be concerned about a hostile takeover of the DC Embassy. On March 18, 2019, the Venezuelan opposition took over the military attaché building on 2409 California St in Washington DC, with the help of the DC Police and Secret Service. On that same day, the opposition also took over the Venezuelan Consulate in New York City. They have publicly threatened to take over the embassy itself.

International Law Protects Foreign Embassies Located In The United States

According to Article 22 of the 1961 Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations, foreign embassies should be protected by the United States government and their space should not be violated by the US government. Specifically, international law requires:

  • The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
  • The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.
  • The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.

The Trump Administration is violating the Vienna Convention by not only allowing the illegal seizure of diplomatic premises but by facilitating it. The Election Protection Collective is supporting the people of Venezuela by taking responsibility to ensure that Article 22 of the Vienna Convention is followed.

The Elected Government of President Maduro Remains In Power

The government of President Nicolás Maduro was re-elected on May 20, 2018 in response to the opposition demanding an early election. The election was held consistent with the Venezuelan Constitution, in consultation with opposition parties and as determined by the National Electoral Council, an independent branch of the Venezuelan government.

Sixteen parties participated in the election with six candidates competing for the presidency. President Maduro won by a wide margin, obtaining 6,248,864 votes, 67.84%; followed by Henri Falcón with 1,927,958, 20.93%; Javier Bertucci with 1,015,895, 10.82%; and Reinaldo Quijada, who obtained 36,246 votes, 0.39% of the total. A total of 9,389,056 people voted, 46% of eligible voters.

The electoral process was observed by more than 150 election observers. This included 14 electoral commissions from eight countries among them the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America; two technical electoral missions; and 18 journalists from different parts of the world, among others, “the elections were very transparent and complied with international parameters and national legislation.”

In a letter to the European Union correcting some of the false statements made about the election, election observers wrote: “We were unanimous in concluding that the elections were conducted fairly, that the election conditions were not biased, that genuine irregularities were exceptionally few and of a very minor nature.”

Voting machines were audited before and immediately after the election. Venezuela does something no other country in the world does, of a random sample of 52 to 54% of voting machines. The Citizen’s Audit is observed by the media, the public, and all opposition parties, who sign the audits.

The Invalid Self-Appointment of Juan Guaidó Violated Venezuelan Law

Juan Guaidó’s self-appointment as interim president violated the Constitution of Venezuela. The language of the Venezuelan Constitution is clear regarding when the president of the National Assembly can become president and none of the conditions in the Constitution have been met.

The opposition relies on Article 233 of the Constitution, which allows the National Assembly president to serve as interim president only if the president-elect has not yet been inaugurated. Guaidó’s self-appointment occurred after President Maduro had been inaugurated.

Article 233 allows the president of the National Assembly to become president only if the president-elect:

become[s] permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice [equivalent of impeachment]; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.”

None of these conditions were met.

If Guaidó had met the above conditions, Article 233 allows him to serve for only 30 consecutive days pending election and inauguration of the new President. Guaidó’s self-appointment and fraudulent inauguration occurred more than 30 days ago and no election has been scheduled.

In a press briefing, Elliot Abrams, the US Special Representative for Venezuela, could not explain these violations of law by Guaidó and admitted that Guaidó is not “able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro still is there.” Even Abrams admits that Guaidó is not the president. Therefore, he has no authority over the Venezuelan embassy.

The Role of the Embassy Protection Collective

The Embassy Protection Collective is in the embassy with the permission of the Venezuelan government. We are upholding international law and the Venezuelan Constitution and opposing a coup attempt against the legitimate government of Venezuela on behalf of the people of Venezuela who elected their government.

The Embassy Protection Collective is made up of civilians, United States citizens, who are peacefully defending the embassy. If the opposition enters, they will be trespassing. We call on the DC police, Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security and any other law enforcement agency to uphold the law and prevent the opposition from trespassing.

The Collective feels a responsibility to hold our government to a standard of respecting the rule of law as well as a responsibility to stand in solidarity with the people of Venezuela.

Signed
The Embassy Civilian Protection Collective