The Uhuru Solidarity Movement was honored to receive a solidarity statement from Marcos Garcia, Labor Attache of the Venezuelan Embassy, on the occasion of our National Convention, “Occupy Imperialism: Crisis, Resistance, and Solidarity with the Liberation of Africans and Oppressed Peoples,” held on June 9-10, 2012 in Philadelphia, PA.
As a representive of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Comrade Marcos Garcia has established a historic political relationship with the African Liberation Movement as represented by its revolutionary leadership, the African People’s Socialist Party. In 2010 Comrade Garcia spoke at the 5th Congress of the APSP in Washington DC. In 2012, he made an official visit to the Uhuru House in St. Petersburg, FL. You can view Comrade Garcia’s presentation at the Uhuru House here.
As the organization of Euro-Americans formed by and working under the APSP’s leadership to build material solidarity with the liberation of Africans and all oppressed peoples, the Uhuru Solidarity Movement stands in complete solidarity with the people of Venezuela against US imperialism! Uhuru!
Revolutionary greetings, dear comrades and friends of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement on the occasion of your National Convention, on behalf of the people and government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
It is an opportunity to discuss about the challenges that revolutionaries around the world have to face due to the crisis that the capitalist system is undergoing. As you know, the Latin American Peoples have showed in a very practical way how to defeat the imperialist policies and promote solidarity and cooperation instead of selfishness and greed. In this sense, it is always a pleasure for me to contribute in your activities in terms of the experience that we developed in our Bolivarian Revolution, from the point of view of the public policies aimed at promoting the wellbeing of our people and also helping our brother and sisters of other countries even in the USA. In this message I would like to underline first some important achievements that show the experience of the revolution in different areas and then the aggressions that we face due to our commitment with the dispossessed.
Talking about democracy, since 1998, there have been 16 elections in Venezuela, including a vote on a new constitution in 1999 and a recall referendum in 2004. More people are voting, too; the last presidential election had 75 percent turnout. Over 18 million Venezuelans – about two-thirds of the population – have already registered to vote ahead of the next presidential election on October 7, 2012.
- Regional cooperation has been a priority to our government; Venezuela recently hosted the founding summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). This historic regional group, comprised of 33 countries, is dedicated to forging unity and peace, without the participation of those who promote aggression not only in the region but around the world.
- Increasing social spending, the Government investment in social programs since 1999 has reached $468 billion, an amount several times greater than the investment made in the decade prior. In 2011, social investment accounted for 60 percent of government spending.
- More and better health programs, Mission Barrio Adentro (“Inside the Neighborhood”) has brought medical clinics to communities that never had them before. From 2003 to 2010, the clinics were visited 432 million times and over 300,000 lives were saved.
- Gender equity as a public policy priority, under the administration of President Chávez, women have led three out of the five branches of government. Women currently hold about 30 percent of cabinet positions and 16 percent of seats in the National Assembly.
- Fighting poverty without rest, Venezuela has the third lowest poverty rate in the region, according to the UN Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Between 2002 and 2010, poverty fell by 20.8 percentage points (from 48.6 percent to 27.8 percent), and extreme poverty fell by 11.5 percentage points (from 22.2 percent to 10.7 percent). New social missions have been created to target extreme poverty, such as “Sons of Venezuela,” a program providing teenage mothers with economic benefits and education, and the “Housing Mission” program.
- Decreasing inequality, Venezuela stands out among countries in the region for progress on reducing inequality; its gini index (which measures inequality) fell by 2 to 3 percent annually since 2002, largely due to rising per capita incomes.
- Decreasing malnutrition, the level of malnutrition in Venezuela has been reduced by more than half, from 7.7 percent in the 1990s to 3.7 percent in 2010. 14 million citizens now have access to high-quality foods at subsidized prices, and a new Fair Prices Law in 2011 is ensuring the continued availability of affordable food for everyone.
- Decreasing unemployment At the close of 2011, Venezuela’s unemployment rate was 6.5 percent, down from 13.7 percent – more than twice that amount – in early 2001.
- Decreasing media concentration, Venezuela has seen a surge in community-based media outlets as the media landscape has been democratized. There are now at least 244 community radio stations and 37 community television stations. While private outlets continue to have an overwhelming influence in the Venezuelan media market, other players are getting a boost from the National Commission of Telecommunications (CONATEL), which allocated funds to 31 community and alternative media outlets in 2012.
- The New Labor Law approved in May prohibits all unjust dismissal of workers, and approved a severance payment of two months of salary by each year worked, plus an additional two days salary after the first year up to 30 days. It also prohibits outsourcing by Venezuelan firms as a means of skirting labor laws. All workers in Venezuela are entitled to a pension after retirement – generally age 55 for women and 60 for men – regardless of whether they were engaged in formal or informal employment. In fact, women who remain in the home to take care of their families are also entitled to the benefits, as their labor is recognized under the new legislation as a valuable contribution to society. Independent workers or free-lancers are also now entitled to a pension. The new law guarantees all women the right to full pay during maternity leave, which is extended to include six weeks before delivery and twenty weeks following delivery, for a total of 26 weeks.
THE STRUGGLES AND ACHIEVEMENTS OF AFRO-VENEZUELANS
In recent years, Venezuela has made unprecedented progress in combating the historical legacy of racism and recognizing the importance of its African heritage through government initiatives such as the following:
- The Council for the Development of Afro-Descendent Communities (2012).
- The Law Against Racial Discrimination (2011).
- The inclusion of Afro-descendents in the census (2011).
- The Education Law recognizing Afro-Descendents (2009).
- The creation of the Presidential Commission for the Prevention and Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination in the Educational System (2005).
- The celebration of May as the Month of Afro-Descendents and May 10 as Afro-Venezuelan Day (2005).
- The creation of the Ministry of Culture’s Liaison Office for Afro-Descendent Communities (2005).
- The designation of a Vice Minister for African Affairs (2005) and opening of 18 new embassies in countries including Mali, Morocco, Congo, Angola, and many more. The diplomatic initiative has been accompanied by cooperative energy agreements as well as programs in health and education.
- The new Constitution which states that Venezuela is a “multicultural and multiethnic society” guided by the principle of equality among cultures (1999).
- In the Caribbean, Venezuela is helping ease the energy burden faced by many countries through a plan called PetroCaribe, which provides countries with oil at market prices made affordable through beneficial financing terms. This aid provides member countries with energy and stimulates national and regional economic and social development.
- Venezuela has provided consistent aid and support to the people of Haiti in the wake of the devastating January 2010 earthquake that struck the country. Over the course of the year since the earthquake, Venezuela sent 8,139 tons of food, medicines and other forms of humanitarian assistance. Through the Bolivarian Alliance of the People of Our Americas (ALBA), Venezuela established a $100 million Humanitarian Fund. Additionally, Venezuela fully forgave Haiti’s $395 million debt to PetroCaribe. In making the announcement in late January 2010, President Hugo Chávez stated, “Haiti has no debt with Venezuela – on the contrary, it is Venezuela that has a historic debt with Haiti.” In a March 2010 international conference on Haiti, Venezuela announced that its assistance to Haiti from 2010-2016 would total $2.4 billion.
US attacks on the peoples and Government of Venezuela
The history of US intervention in Venezuela began formally in 1907 when the general Juan Vicente Gómez organized a coup d’état against his buddy Cipriano Castro, with the support of the US Government, the main goal was Venezuela’s oil industry, controlled by European and US interests. The US government was involved in important historical events like coup d’étas against general Medina Angarita in 1945, general Pérez Jiménez in 1958, the organization of the bipartisan system in 1959, and the coup d’état against President Chávez in 2002. But the coup d’état of 2002 fails as well as the oil sabotage organized after that. Since then the US government has been developing different actions to present Venezuela as a failed state. Among those actions we have the following:
- Since 2004, the US International Narcotics Control Strategy Report portraits Venezuela as a major drug-transit country, with a weak judicial system, inconsistent international counternarcotics cooperation, generally permissive law enforcement, and a corrupt political environment.
- In May 15 2006, Venezuela was certified by the Secretary of State as “not fully cooperating” with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The designation, included in Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act. Effective October 1, the decision imposed sanctions on all commercial arms sales and transfers.
- In May 24 2011 the U.S. State Department’s imposed unilateral sanctions against Venezuela’s oil company PDVSA according to the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) and the Iran Sanctions Act. Sanctions were also imposed on the Venezuela’s military industry CAVIM according to the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA)
- The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasure imposed sanctions on Venezuelan officials accusing them of terrorism and drug trafficking.
However, if we consider the behavior of the US government in just one specific case we can have a better idea of the reality. Venezuela requested the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles, a known terrorist who has to face justice for a vicious terrorist attack that left 73 innocent civilians dead. To date, Posada not only remains free in South Florida, but he is still plotting against our countries. President Obama ought to comply with the U.S. government’s international treaty obligations and either extradite Posada or try him for 73 counts of first-degree murder in the United States. It should also detain him immediately under the authority granted the Executive under the provisions of the Patriot Act that was enacted to combat terrorism.
On the other hand, the lack of influence and power of the US government in the Latin American region is real. For instance, in December, 2011, Venezuela hosted the formation of CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. Its purpose is to be a regional bloc that is a strong voice for its members, that furthers more cooperation amongst them and actively challenges U.S. domination of the region. Unlike the Organization of American States (OAS), CELAC excludes the United States and Canada.
In June 5th, in the last meeting of the OAE in Cochabamba, the General Assembly approved by consensus the Social Charter of the Americas, a project that Venezuela has been pushing since 2001, which outlines social, cultural, and economic rights. In that meeting, the some ALBA countries stated that the OAS has to change to express the interests of the member states or disappear.