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vivavenezuela! ■ Vol 1 ■ Issue 3 ■ Winter 2011-2012

Countdown to the 2012 Presidential Election Also inside:

■ Venezuela at the UN ■ Venezuela to Raise Spending 46% in 2012 ■ Millions Register for New Housing Programme ■ TUC & Labour Meetings Show Solidarity With thanks to

www.thompsons.law.co.uk

www.venezuelasolidarity.co.uk e: info@venezuelasolidarity.co.uk


...EDITORIAL...EDITORIAL...EDITORIAL...EDITORIAL...EDITORIAL...EDITORIAL...

Countdown to 2012 Presidential elections – Chávez Increases Support Venezuela’s presidential election has now been confirmed for 7 October 2012. Many new readers of Viva Venezuela may be surprised to know that this will be the 16th national election in Venezuela since President Chávez was first elected in 1999. That is more than nearly any other country in the world!

This magazine is published by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign Contributors to this issue were: ■ Lee Brown ■ Francisco Dominguez ■ Catriona Goss ■ Matt Willgress and ■ Tim Young

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he presidential election will dominate Venezuelan politics over the next year, with two countering visions for the country.

Hugo Chávez will be standing at the head of a broad coalition with a promise of continuing the social inclusion and progress witnessed over the next decade. Thousands of social movements, grassroots organisations of all types as well as political parties have signed up to support Chávez’s re-election. With less than one year to election day, polls seem to indicate Hugo Chávez is the overwhelming favourite. Recent polls have shown his levels of approval at around 70% and estimate that he would receive around 60% in the presidential election. No doubt Hugo Chávez’s support has been boosted by Venezuela’s economic recovery, with its economy expected to grow by 4.5% in 2011. The Chávez government’s decision to ensure that the living standards of the majority were defended even during recession by maintaining social spending has also been a key factor. This is in stark contrast to countries where the poorest have been punished by government policies. To challenge Chávez, Venezuela’s right-wing coalition of parties is currently seeking to elect a single candidate, with primaries to be held in February. Incredibly, despite denouncing Venezuela’s independent National Electoral

Chávez launches the election campaign

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Council (CNE) for 12 years for alleged fraud and bias in spite of all the independent verifications of their electoral processes, the opposition has asked the CNE to run their primaries! Currently pre-candidates are campaigning across country, holding rallies and appearing across the media. With more than 60 parties forming part of the right wing coalition, it’s clear that Venezuela’s democracy is alive and vibrant. As election day nears, there will be outside attempts to undermine support for Hugo Chávez, with the hope of affecting the outcome of the vote. Washington has lined up $20m to support the opposition’s campaign against Chávez during the coming elections. Given that Venezuela is a much smaller economy than the UK, this would be the equivalent to the US giving $150m to fund an election campaign here! Most of the right-wing potential candidates actively supported the short-lived 2002 coup d’état against Hugo Chávez. Some call for replacing ‘the chavista regime’ with ‘popular capitalism’ and have already promised privatisations. Added to their strong links with US neo cons and US destabilising agencies, this would make an electoral victory for the opposition a serious threat to Venezuela’s democracy and social progress. This shows how much is at stake. The outcome of this election will determine whether social progress in the country continues – or there is a return to the inequities of the past.

is delighted to send solidarity and support to VSC and the Venezuelan People

WINTER 2011-2012 ■ VIVA VENEZUELA!


...VENEZUELA IN THE NEWS...VENEZUELA IN THE NEWS...VENEZUELA IN THE NEWS...

Independent survey ranks Venezuela high on democracy and progress Venezuela tops the list of Latin American nations that value democracy and continues to perform well above average on a range of other indicators, according to the 2011 Latinobarametro survey. The independent survey interviews 20,000 people in 18 Latin American countries.

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ts findings show that in Venezuela 77% say democracy is preferable to any form of government, the continent’s highest score against an average of 58%. Asked to grade how democratic their country is, Venezuela came third with 7.3 out of 10 and fifth regarding satisfaction over the functioning of their democracy.

Supporters sign up for President Chávez’s election campaign

The authors say perceptions of democracy are closely linked to how government and institutions are meeting people’s economic and political needs. Accordingly, for confidence in their government, Venezuela came third. Venezuela had the third highest ranking for satisfaction of income distribution, as it did for seeing their government as being “for all people”, rather than for “a few powerful groups”. Despite negative press coverage of its economy, Venezuela ranked high (5th) on whether people believed their economic situation would improve over the next year, with 46% believing it would. Polls indicate in Britain only 10% think similarly. Regarding those who see their economy as the greatest problem, Venezuela had the second lowest regional score. Crime was seen as its biggest issue, while it ranked 5th highest regarding transparency of the state. The report highlights discrepancies between domestic support for Venezuela’s government and some international assessments, noting that while international advisers praise the Chilean government, “the (Chilean) people pour out into the streets by the hundreds of thousands”. Yet it’s “the opposite case in Venezuela, where the people respond positively to the governing actions of President Chávez but the world classifies him negatively.” They conclude the international community “focuses on things that aren’t what matter most to the people in the country.”

Venezuela to Raise Spending 46% in 2012 to Aid Growth and Inclusion Venezuela’s government will boost spending by 46% in 2012, with new resources to fund programmes in job creation, housing and agriculture.

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xpenditure will jump to 297.8 billion bolivars ($69.34 billion), with Finance Minister Jorge Giordani announcing that “it will be possible to grow [the economy] 5% in 2012 thanks to our investments in oil projects and social programmes.”

Millions Registered in New Housing Programme

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t was recently announced that 3,679,339 households, totalling 10.8 million people, have registered with the Government’s new housing programme. This aims to construct over two million homes by 2017, and also carry out renovations, repairs and enlargements. Over 80,000 homes were built in October alone. It will particularly benefit the poorest and many women - 41.28% registering have single mothers as the household head. In all, 73.74% said they needed their own or new housing, citing reasons such as renting privately, sharing with multiple families or living in high risk situations such as steep hills prone to landslides. Registration began in Caracas and other regions in May, then across the country over the summer. Information gathered is used to plan policy. Visits to families registering to verify the data have reported very high accuracy so far. President Chávez has blamed the social exclusion and underdevelopment historically produced by neo-liberalism as the principal cause of Venezuela’s long-term housing crisis.

“Public spending in Venezuela is a tool to stimulate economic growth,” said Giordani, adding that Venezuela was dedicated to social justice and “protecting the economy from the structural international crisis.” The house building programme in practice

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...VENEZUELA AT THE UNITED NATIONS...VENEZUELA AT THE UNITED NATIONS...

Venezuela at the United UN Human Rights Council hears about Venezuela's In October, a Venezuelan delegation headed by Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro presented a report on Venezuela’s human rights advances at the UN headquarters in Geneva. This was part of the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights that assesses the human rights situations in all 192 UN Member States. Below we include some translated extracts of the speeches made at the UN.

Nicolas Maduro, Venezuelan Foreign Minister: “Let’s Humanise Humanity”Venezuela Donates $38,000 to UN Fund for Victims of Torture At the UN, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro announced a donation of $38,000 to the UN Fund for Victims of Torture. The funds were collected during a concert called “Let’s Humanise Humanity,” put on by the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra in Geneva. “We want to thank, on behalf of President Hugo Chávez, all those who made possible the concert. We hope that through the musicians’ human warmth we can transmit the essence of all Venezuelans,” Maduro said, adding “I am confident that this donation will be useful in fighting against the problems of violence and death affecting humanity.”

Venezuela... is immersed in a gigantic historic effort to build a democratic and social state...as enshrined in our Constitution ratified by a popular vote in 1999. The Venezuelan people have fought a historic struggle over the past 12 years to give birth to something new, just and humane having come from a legacy of oppression and injustice... The Venezuelan people inherited from European colonialism a state that was designed for the submission of the majority to the domination of the oligarchy and for the discrimination against long neglected sectors such as women ...and especially the indigenous peoples who were subjected to genocide and African people who faced the barbarism of slavery....The State was designed for the elites against the people so that it responded to people's struggles with violence and with laws that perpetuated economic, social and cultural inequalities ... Over the past 12 years, Venezuela has reduced poverty and inequalities at an astonishing rate, while at the same time freedoms and

democratic participation have been extended. ...From 1999 to 2010, the Venezuelan people have participated in 15 elections, demonstrating our expansion of democracy [and] ...a clear sign of the political freedoms enjoyed as never before in our history. The achievements of the Venezuelan State can be seen in indicators such as the reduction in the number of households in extreme poverty, from 21% in 1998 to 7.1% in 2010. Thus, Venezuela has successfully met the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of households in extreme poverty…[and] Venezuela is the country with lowest levels of inequality in Latin America. Venezuela is the fifth country in the world to have explicitly recognised in law the right to have access to food. The government has promoted food programmes to distribute goods at fair prices….. [and so there has been] a 58% reduction in child malnutrition. In Venezuela, education is a human right and a social duty…. The number of children and adolescents enrolled in school increased by 24 per cent between 1998 and 2010, standing at 7.7

UCATT Stands in Solidarity with the People of Venezuela! No US Intervention!

www.ucatt.org.uk

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George Guy John Thompson Acting General Secretary President

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...VENEZUELA AT THE UNITED NATIONS...VENEZUELA AT THE UNITED NATIONS...

Nations achievements

Elias Eljuri, President of the National Statistics Institute:

The Bolivarian government has invested $400 billion dollars on social issues, making it possible to fulfil the goal of eradicating poverty and hunger. We have met the [UN Millenium Goals] of gender equality and we are on track to achieve the goals of universal primary education and reducing child mortality. In addition, UNESCO recognized Venezuela in 2005 as a country free of illiteracy.

million in the academic year 2009/10. Likewise, net enrolment rates increased by 28% in nursery education. In 2010, UNESCO recognized Venezuela as the country with the fifth highest levels of higher education enrolment in the world and the second highest in Latin America and the Caribbean.

...We have achieved the goal of providing care and free medicines to more than 30, 000 people living with HIV-AIDS....

…We have set up 6,000 places where 900, 000 low-income people can eat free food. Our school feeding program benefits more than 4 million children.

With regard to social rights, it is important to mention the health policies developed by Venezuela, which are governed by the principles of universality, equality and solidarity...In 2003 Venezuela created a health plan called "Mission Barrio Adentro", thanks to which 24 million Venezuelans, 80% of the population, are now served by 13,510 free public health centres ...

This summary.. represents our massive policy of ensuring social inclusion and equality.

Nicia Maldonado, Venezuelan Minister for Indigenous Peoples

Before the invasion of the lands in America in 1492, indigenous peoples lived in peace, in harmony with nature, had different cultures, languages, music, natural medicines …many of these ancient civilizations were among the most advanced of the time. But with the European invasion, we were robbed of our lands, enslaved, persecuted … 500 years later came Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution. What has this revolution done [for indigenous people]? Indigenous rights are embodied in the legal system, official texts are now printed in indigenous languages, there has been the creation of a Ministry for Indigenous People, a health system that provides training for indigenous doctors… Chávez has returned approximately one million acres of ancestral lands [to indigenous people]

WINTER 2011-2012 ■ VIVA VENEZUELA!

Obviously our society is still confronting serious and very real problems. …[However] we are convinced there is no alternative path to a genuine and profound democratization of our society. This can only be achieved through effective transfer of power to the people and the concrete realization of the human rights of all Venezuelans... The path taken by Venezuela as an independent republic, on the road to socialism, has demonstrated that it is possible to break the chains of hunger and oppression ..and move towards a society of equal men and women and that is truly multicultural and humane.

Over 354,000 people with disabilities have benefited from “Mission José Gregorio Hernández.”

In terms of gender equality, the government has implemented policies in all its institutions for the effective exercise of women’s rights and taken positive steps [against] discrimination… .The Bolivarian Constitution establishes, for the first time in our history, a true system of protection for people of indigenous and African descent and recognises their contribution to Venezuela’s identity. This is complemented with mechanisms to ensure political participation at all levels ...[such as] the guaranteeing of indigenous representation in institutions like the National Assembly...

The number of people receiving a pension has increased exponentially and is approaching 2 million people.

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...REMEMBERING THE VICTIMS...REMEMBERING THE VICTIMS...

Venezuela Remembers the Victims of Pre-Chávez Oppression

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n October 18th the Venezuelan National Assembly passed the “Law against Forgetting,” in order to officially investigate - and remember the politically-motivated state repression in the period prior to Hugo Chávez’s election in 1998. During this time Venezuela was governed by a permanent right-wing coalition for forty years (1958-1998) in a period constitutionally known as the Fourth Republic. Politically-motivated state repression was common in this era, which saw huge levels of economic and social inequality. A situation of impunity meant that many victims and their families never got justice. Victims included progressive political activists, student leaders and intellectuals, peasant organisations, trade unionists and many others. Perhaps the most notorious case of such abuses was the ‘Caracazo’ of 1989. After an IMF-inspired economic package was implemented which saw price hikes in public transport and a scarcity of consumer

necessities, the social unrest which had been brewing came to a head. On February 27th a huge uprising began, lasting two days. The protesters were met by the armed forces, resulting in a massacre of an estimated 3000 Venezuelans, many of whom were buried in anonymous mass graves. In a precursor to the current law, in February 2011 71 victims who had originally been buried in such a grave were laid to rest in a special pantheon built in homage to all the victims. The new law will establish a Truth and Justice Commission in order to identify and sanction the perpetrators of human rights violations, as well as to discover the identity and number of victims. The Commission, made up representatives of both state institutions and members of the Relatives and Friends of Victims Front, will produce a report aiming to “clarify the truth”. The law also promotes rescuing the historical memory of the crimes and provides for “moral and legal” reparation for the victims’ families. It

The ‘Caracazo’ uprising of 1989 - brutal repression

also includes incorporating this stage of Venezuela’s history into education courses. Although the exact number of victims is still not known, it is thought at least 4000 people were murdered and around 1000 ‘disappeared’ during this period of repression. As part of its process of creating a Venezuela for all, the Chávez-led government has made a clear commitment to universal human rights and to justice for the victims of abuses under previous governments. This legislation will ensure that this darker chapter of Venezuelan history is not forgotten.

Supports the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign

Billy Hayes Jane Loftus General Secretary President

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vivavenezuela! ■ Vol 1 ■ Issue 3 ■ Winter 2011-2012

TUC & Labour Meetings Show Solidarity Leading labour movement figures declared their solidarity with Venezuela and other progressive struggles in Latin America at packed fringe meetings at September’s Labour Party Conference and TUC Congress. Chairing the TUC meeting, NUT General Secretary Christine Blower described the event as "probably the best supported fringe at conference". Len McLuskey, Unite General Secretary, (pictured with Venezuelan Ambassador Samuel Moncada) opened the meeting by paying tribute to the work of ALBA – the progressive bloc of countries in the region including Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua – noting that “whilst the prospect for trade unionists in non-ALBA countries is bleak,” these countries have led the way in providing “real and material benefits” to the dispossessed, including Venezuela which “has been able to reduce poverty by 50%.” Speaking at the event, Ambassador Samuel Moncada thanked the

Join the VSC ■ If you join VSC online at: www.venezuelasolidarity.co.uk for only £12 you receive a free DVD of Oliver Stone’s South of the Border. You can also join by cheque for £12 (£6 unwaged) to Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, c/o PO Box 56210, London N4 4XH

union movement for its support and drew parallels between Venezuela and struggles globally, saying "we are all struggling against overpaid bankers being subsidised by underpaid workers. It is an international crisis which needs international answers." At Labour Conference, a fringe of around 200 heard the importance of Venezuela and Cuba's work in fighting for social justice and internationalism. Addressing the importance of elections next year, Alvaro Sanchez of the Venezuelan Embassy said their outcome “will

determine whether social progress continues or whether the country returns to the crass inequalities of the past.” The meeting was chaired by Diana Holland (Unite and also the Labour Party Treasurer), and heard from Esther Armenteros (Cuban Ambassador), Cathy Jamieson MP, Colin Burgon and Stephen Cavalier from Thompsons. VSC would like to thank Thompsons Solicitors for their support in both these events.

Successful AGM Marks Countdown to Elections as 100s see Chomsky Condemn US Intervention

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espite numerous clashes, approaching 100 delegates registered for VSC’s AGM, which pledged to step up solidarity in the run-up to 2012. Speakers included Alvaro Sanchez and Jhon Guerra from Venezuela, Richard Gott, MP

Jeremy Corbyn, Laurie Heselden of SERTUC and Colin Burgon, who was elected VSC’s new Chair. Outgoing Chair - and new Vice-Chair Jennie Bremner welcomed delegates by celebrating VSC’s fifth AGM and "another productive year."

NAPO Celebrates Venezuela!

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party celebrating Venezuela for 600 delegates and visitors was a highlight at NAPO’s Conference this autumn, alongside a well-attended meeting on Venezuela Shows There is an Alternative. Special guest Alvaro Sanchez addressed both events, whilst a Latin American disco and live music entertained the crowds.

The AGM was followed by an event on US relations with Latin America with Noam Chomsky, co-organised by the VSC, CSC and SERTUC, and attended by over 500 people.

Viva Venezuela! magazine issue 3  

Winter 2011-2012 edition of the magazine of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.

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