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VIVA

VENEZUELA!

■ Vol 1 ■ Issue 1 ■ Summer 2011

Venezuelan Sovereignty

Under Attack Britain Shows Its Solidarity Full report of Venezuela: Defending the Majority, Not Punishing the Poorest Conference inside Also inside: ■ ‘Dodgy dossier’ exposed ■ Venezuela sees stronger economic growth ■ Opposition to US sanctions on Venezuela ■ New anti-racism law passed ■ Massive housing programme launched ■ Growing interest in Venezuela’s positive example With thanks to

www.thompsons.law.co.uk

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


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

Welcome to Viva Venezuela! Welcome to the first edition of VSC’s new magazine, Viva Venezuela!

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e are launching Viva Venezuela! at a crucial time. We are now entering the run up to Venezuela’s 2012 presidential elections - both supporters and opponents of the remarkable social transformation taking place there are becoming increasingly galvanised as this key date approaches. In Venezuela itself, the former ruling elite are in the process of selecting their Opposition presidential candidate to challenge Hugo Chávez. On the international scene – as covered in depth in this issue – we are seeing a resurgent US Republican Right step up its efforts to isolate Venezuela internationally, and build support for further US intervention. Expectations that under Obama there could be some normalisation of the relations with Venezuela have been thoroughly unfulfilled. In fact, in June the Obama administration imposed sanctions against Venezuela's state oil company. This follows the election of Republican Right hardliners to influential positions following US elections last November. Connie Mack, Chairman of the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, has said he is determined to get Venezuela into the list of states that sponsor terrorism. His

This magazine is published by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign

Contributors to this issue were: ■ Lee Brown ■ Francisco Dominguez ■ Stephanie Pearce ■ Matt Willgress and ■ Tim Young

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Republican colleague, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who publicly called for Fidel Castro to be assassinated, has said she fully backs Mack’s efforts. Indeed, as we go to press, Connie Mack was already making calls for tightening the aforementioned sanctions at a Committee hearing in Washington, where he demanded the US Government stop purchasing Venezuelan oil. The launching in London of a very negative and false report by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) claiming Venezuela has terrorist links, which we cover inside, shows that the current anti-Venezuelan crusade has like-minded people in very high places. A key dimension of both US aggression against Venezuela and the right-wing Venezuelan Opposition’s work internationally is the demonisation of the Venezuelan Government by their allies in much of the mainstream media. On past evidence, the intensity and quantity of this demonisation increases substantially whenever elections are held in Venezuela. Here in Britain we should therefore expect systematic media attacks against Venezuela in the next period. Viva Venezuela! will not only counteract such distortions, but also give the facts on the positive changes being made to the lives of millions of Venezuelans.

President Chávez in Hospital At the time of writing, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was in hospital in Cuba, having fell ill whilst on a regional tour. Whilst the Right-wing Opposition is seeking to use the situation politically to argue he should stand down temporarily, the Government has issued a statement saying he is recovering well.

SUMMER 2011 ■ VIVA VENEZUELA!


...NEWS FROM VENEZUELA...NEWS FROM VENEZUELA...NEWS FROM VENEZUELA...

Venezuela to build two million affordable homes In a move that could be just as impressive as Venezuela’s transformation of health and education services, a new social housing programme has been launched across Venezuela.

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he ambitious plan is to eradicate Venezuela’s estimated housing deficit of over 1.7m homes by 2017. The initial target of building 350,000 new homes by the end of 2012 would see more houses built in the next 18 months than the past 10 years! So far the government has announced it will invest more than US$14bn in the scheme. To assess need, a registration programme was launched in May and more than 355,000 people signed up in the first two days. Those left homeless by the last year’s heavy rains have been prioritised, along with people suffering particular hardship.

a government subsidy, with the rate depending on their level of income.

Nonetheless, Mission Housing Venezuela, will be open to all and everyone will be entitled to

Venezuela sees stronger economic growth Venezuela's government has revised upwards its economic growth forecast for the year to 5 percent after strong growth in the first quarter of 2011.

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Venezuela went into an 18-month recession in the first quarter of 2009 following a six-year period of sustained economic growth, during which poverty halved.

The law was passed to mark the sixth annual Afro-Venezuelan Day and establishes mechanisms to prevent, respond to, punish and eradicate discrimination by any person(s), organisation, public authorities or private institutions.

enezuela's economy grew at 4.5 percent in the first quarter, compared with the same period last year, according to statistics released by the Central Bank of Venezuela in May. As a result government officials have revised upwards from an initial forecast of 2.5 percent growth in 2011 to double that.

Yet, despite oil revenues being hit hard and Venezuela witnessing a recession just as deep as Britain's, its government maintained frontline spending during the recession to protect people's living standards. Furthermore, government spending on services has been rising since early 2010, helping to spur economic growth. Spending on government services is now up eight percent above its pre-recession levels. Regarding future growth, Minister for Planning and Finance Jorge Giordani, said “the boost to the housing programme” will also give an economic boost.

SUMMER 2011 ■ VIVA VENEZUELA!

New Anti-Racist Legislation

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enezuela’s National Assembly has unanimously approved a Law Against Racial Discrimination. This new legislation, passed in April, follows laws which prevent discrimination against indigenous people or on gender grounds, and will protect the right of the Afro-Venezuelan community to lives free from discrimination.

The Vice-President of the National Assembly, Aristobulo Isturiz, himself of African descent, said that “diversity and equality are fundamental values which the government will continue fighting to achieve.”


...DEFENDING THE MAJORITY, NOT PUNISHING THE POOREST CONFERENCE...

Conference Celebrating Ve More than 300 people attended the biggest ever solidarity conference held for Venezuela in this country in April. Leading figures from the Venezuelan government, Britain and Europe came together to look at how Venezuela is defending the majority and not punishing the poorest.

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he conference focused on the magnificent social achievements of the Hugo Chávez -led government and showed the dramatic transformation that can take place when people are placed at the core of government policy. Venezuelan Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Temir Porras, was the conference keynote speaker, taking the opportunity to warn the audience to expect an aggressive campaign of misinformation in the media in the run up to the 2012 Presidential elections.

He explained that "in Venezuela there is a choice between voting for the old privileges of the traditional elite or real democracy. For the first time, all Venezuelans are benefiting from the oil wealth in terms of investment in social services and the increase in GDP since the election of President Chávez. Gone are the days when it was just a few oligarchs benefiting from the country's natural resources. When the majority speak, it is clear that people don't want to give power back to the minority elite." He also underlined a key theme of the day – namely that despite Venezuela being affected by the international financial crisis, "unemployment did not go up and there were no cuts in social spending. This meant that the economic crisis did not translate into a social crisis." Temir Porras was joined by representatives from the Venezuelan Women's Ministry, Benita Finol and Juana Garcia, and Venezuelan Ambassador Samuel Moncada. Opening the event, Ambassador Moncada spoke of how the US and the Opposition are continuing to work together to undermine Venezuela’s development. He said Wikileaks has revealed that the Archbishop of Caracas, Baltazar Porras, held secret meetings with the US Ambassador in Caracas to call for US

intervention in Venezuela to contain Venezuela's "regional aspirations". Another Wikileak showed former Colombian President, Alvaro Uribe, calling for US military intervention in Venezuela shortly before ordering the bombing of Ecuador in 2008. Ambassador Moncada said "people thought that Venezuela was paranoid but these documents show the nature of the very real threat that Venezuela faces."

An Example of Social Inclusion as Europe Faces Cuts The conference closed with a Q&A panel discussion with all Venezuelan and European guests. Winfried Hansch from Die Linke (the Left Party) Germany encouraged other countries to learn from Venezuela’s positive example, whilst Bernard Cassan (former Director General of the Le Monde Diplomatique newspaper) contrasted the "neo-liberal" policies of the EU with the progressive policies adopted by Venezuela and the other ALBA countries. Finally, Colin Burgon (Labour Friends of Venezuela) emphasised that it was crucial we learned from Venezuela as well as supporting it. Such a concluding message from Europe as many face savage cuts was particularly fitting – Venezuela shows another world is possible, where people are put first. It’s vital we support it!

“For the first time, all Venezuelans are benefiting from the oil wealth in terms of investment in social services and the increase in GDP since the election of President Chávez. Gone are the days when it was just a few oligarchs benefiting from the country's natural resources” Temir Porras (pictured left) 4

SUMMER 2011 ■ VIVA VENEZUELA!


...DEFENDING THE MAJORITY, NOT PUNISHING THE POOREST CONFERENCE...

nezuela a Massive Success! Women’s Progress Marked Gail Cartmail, TUC International Development Spokesperson: “A huge amount is at stake in Venezuela. The quality of life for millions of people depends on the continuation of the current processes of social progress.”

Jenny Jones AM & Green Party London Mayoral Candidate: “In Venezuela there is a focus on the needs of people and our planet rather than the unchecked quest for profit.”

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key theme of the April 16 conference was women’s role at the heart of social progress, with the event hearing first hand from Juana Garcia and Benita Fional of the Venezuelan Government’s Women’s Ministry. Benita Fional, who has been part of the women's struggle in Venezuela for 60 years, said: "Under previous governments women were invisible; it was as if we did not exist. We suffered terrible repression and discrimination but now finally we are being given the support, recognition and status we deserve. That's why in 2002 mostly women took to the streets against the coup to show we are willing to fight for our revolution." Following the Conference, the two women met with a range of political, community and labour movement figures including Labour Party Treasurer and Unite Assistant General Secretary Diana Holland (pictured), who paid tribute to the advances women in Venezuela have made in recent years.

Jeremy Corbyn MP: “Venezuela offers something fundamentally different. We can learn from Venezuela, be inspired, and apply the lessons here.”

Colin Burgon, Labour Friends of Venezuela & VSC: “Venezuela is putting people before profit, just as we did in the 1940s, creating a welfare state for the first time in its history.”

Thanks to all the following organisations for supporting the Conference and in particular, Thompsons Solicitors for supporting the publication of this magazine as follow-up work from the event

SUMMER 2011 ■ VIVA VENEZUELA!

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■ The successful trip followed a number of initiatives of the newly launched Women for Venezuela – contact vscwomenforvenezuela@yahoo.co.uk for information on future activities.


...DODGY DOSSIER...DODGY DOSSIER...DODGY DOSSIER...DODGY DOSSIER...

Dodgy Dossier Against Venezuela A new report, launched in London in May, sought to link Venezuela to international terrorism. It has led to concerns that it reflects an increasingly aggressive attitude towards Venezuela from forces linked to the Right in the US, both there and here in Britain.

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he International Institute for Strategic Studies report, The FARC Files: Venezuela, Ecuador and the Secret Archive of 'Raúl Reyes', claimed to look in detail at relations between the Colombian FARC guerrilla group and the Venezuelan and Ecuadorian governments, by examining hundreds of thousands of files allegedly found on computer drives seized by the Colombian military in 2008 from a bombed FARC camp. The IISS report claims that the files reveal Venezuelan and Ecuadorean collusion with FARC, involving the supply of weapons and participation in drug trafficking. In a further novel but ridiculous claim, the report also claims that the Venezuelan government requested the FARC to assassinate Opposition leaders. The Venezuelan Embassy in London rejected the report, saying it “looks like a Latin America dodgy dossier”. It warned that this could become part of an aggressive propaganda tool

against Venezuela to undermine progress in the region, precisely at a time when relations between Venezuela and Colombia have reached a level of stable cooperation and friendly dialogue. The key assumption made by the authors is that the information contained in the laptops is genuine. In fact, within days of the report being launched, Colombia’s Supreme Court declared any information coming from the laptops as “legally inadmissible” as evidence, because not only was it obtained illegally but also the laptops contained no technically verifiable electronic data which could be accepted as genuine and factual! International police organisation INTERPOL had previously said that the handling of the files did “not conform to internationally recognised principles for the ordinary handling of electronic evidence by law enforcement”. Yet, despite this, under the guise of academic research, and on the basis of ‘material’ from the laptops, the IISS made numerous allegations against Venezuela. It is worth noting that the IISS played a role in events that led to publication of the dodgy dossier justifying war on Iraq. As Kim Sengupta previously explained in the Independent: “The IISS dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, published on 9 September 2002, was edited by Gary Samore, formerly of the US state department, and presented by Dr John Chipman, a former Nato fellow. It was immediately seized on by the Bush and Blair administrations as providing ‘proof’ that Saddam was just months away from launching a chemical and biological, or even a nuclear attack. Large parts of the IISS document were subsequently recycled in the now notorious Downing Street dossier, published with a foreword by the Prime Minister, the following week.” Nigel Inkster, who presented the IISS report on Venezuela at its launch, was a former deputy director of MI6 in the lead-up to war with Iraq, as "part of the team monitoring chemical and biological weapons proliferation, including Iraqi attempts to procure such material”. Furthermore, among IISS trustees and council members are Robert D Blackwill, a former

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SUMMER 2011 ■ VIVA VENEZUELA!


...OPPOSITION TO US SANCTIONS...OPPOSITION TO US SANCTIONS...

‘The IISS’ Farc Files was clearly an attempt by powerful forces to step up the demonisation of Venezuela’s government and other progressive governments in the region’

Widespread British Opposition to US Sanctions on Venezuela The announcement of US sanctions against the state-owned Venezuelan oil company has been met by widespread condemnation in Venezuela and across Latin America.

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n defence of Venezuela’s national sovereignty, VSC launched the following statement which has been signed by numerous MPs, cultural figures, writers, trade union leaders, academics and others. Initial signatories include: former Minister Peter Hain MP, Sir Gerald Kaufman MP, performing artist Linton Kwesi Johnson, filmmaker John Pilger, writer Jody McIntyre and representatives of ‘the big four’ unions: deputy national security adviser to George W Bush; Dr John Hillen, formerly assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs; Dr Eliot Cohen, Condoleezza Rice's former senior adviser and Dr Ariel Levite, a former deputy national security adviser. From Britain, there is Sir David Manning, a foreign policy adviser to Tony Blair in the lead-up to Iraq, as well as Lord Powell of Bayswater, a former foreign policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher! The launch of this report to much international fanfare comes at a time when right-wing neocons have occupied key foreign policy positions in the US, from which they have intensified their efforts to get the Obama administration to harden its stance against Venezuela.

"We oppose the decision of US government to impose sanctions on the Venezuela state-owned oil company PDVSA, when no action of any kind undertaken by Venezuela contradicts any principle of international law. The sanctions have been described by Venezuela as "a hostile action on the fringes of international law that violates the principles of the Charter of the UN", and rejected by Venezuela’s elected National Assembly. This is the latest in a series of violations of Venezuela’s sovereignty in recent years. It reflects an increasingly hostile agenda being driven by the Republican Right, following its successes at last

The IISS’ Farc Files was clearly an attempt by powerful forces to step up the demonisation of Venezuela’s government and other progressive governments in the region. The fact that this report was launched in London – and Britain’s role in recent US foreign policy aggressions elsewhere in the world – shows just how important our role in explaining the truth about such matters can be.

SUMMER 2011 ■ VIVA VENEZUELA!

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November's US elections, which have led to it controlling a number of important foreign affairs committees. This hostility includes a stated desire by leading right-wing republicans to add Venezuela to the US list of ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ and has seen substantial increases in funding of Venezuela opposition groups. It also comes within the context of a build up of US military bases in the region in recent years, which many see as a threat to the region’s stability. We believe that in the run-up to Presidential Elections in December 2012, it is up to the Venezuelan people alone to decide their own future, free from external interference, and call on all governments to respect this right." ■ You can help by asking your MP to sign the statement using our easy online tool at www.venezuelasolidarity.co.uk . At the time of going to press, approaching 200 MPs had been contacted, with new MPs continuing to add their names.


VIVA

VENEZUELA!

■ Vol 1 ■ Issue 1 ■ Summer 2011

Growing Interest in Venezuela’s Positive Example

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n the last year, over 1000 people at labour movement conferences and fringe meetings have heard how Venezuela is putting people first. Speaking to BFAWU Conference, former MP Colin Burgon summed up the reasons for this support, saying, “Venezuela represents a break from neoliberalism that we can draw inspiration from, where health is now accessed by the poor and education is free for all, and the right to strike is enshrined in the constitution." A crucial opportunity to further build on this solidarity will be two Venezuela – Defending the Majority, Not Punishing the Poorest speaking

tours of Venezuelan trade union leaders from October to December. Additionally, in February 2012 a labour movement solidarity delegation will visit Venezuela. UNISON Scotland Regional Secretary Mike Kirby, who visited Venezuela in 2009, said “this is a unique opportunity to see first hand the positive alternatives to neoliberalism that are being developed and how these are improving the lives of ordinary Venezuelans.”

■ The speaking tours will include events hosted by Unite regional partners in the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside, North West, South East and Wales regions, plus UNISON Wales and VSC local group meetings. Email info@venezuelasolidarity.co.uk if you are interested in hosting a speaker.

■ For information on the solidarity delegation contact info@venezuelasolidarity.co.uk.

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