Embassy of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela responds to Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson

Canberra, 03rd July 2017

Dear Senator
The Hon. Peter Stuart Whish-Wilson
Canberra. –

Please receive warm greetings from our Embassy in Canberra and on behalf of the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, I would like to respond to your recent speech to the Senate on June 20th and to the authorities of the Australian Foreign Ministry at the end of the month of May 2017. I have tried to contact you on two occasions in order to promote a meeting where we could converse, however, and because this has not been possible, I would like to draw a few observations to your attention.

I would like to begin my letter by reiterating the great affection I feel for this multicultural land and for the pride that overwhelms me to be a representative of the Venezuelan Government in Australia. Venezuela has been historically respectful of the internal affairs of the countries with which we esteem ourselves to have excellent relations, based on the principle of non-intervention and mutual respect that have allowed, in the case of Australia, to carry 44 years of uninterrupted diplomatic relations in cordial and friendly terms. We are, like Australia, signatories to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, framing “the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, such as the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, of the sovereign equality and Independence of all States, of non-interference in the domestic affairs of States …”

In this regard, I would like to point out that President Nicolas Maduro was democratically elected in April 2013 under an electoral system endorsed by a large number of international observers, including the Carter Centre, whose spokesman, Jimmy Carter himself, affirmed on 20th September 2012 in his annual speech in the city of Atlanta, that the Venezuelan electoral system was: “the best of the world”.

In the last eighteen years more than 19 elections have been held in Venezuela and, although it is true that the ruling party has won the majority, we have also recognized our defeats. Prompting us to reflect on; which dictatorship in the world could say that so many popular elections have been celebrated and its defeats recognised?

At the request of the opposition and by general consensus, President Nicolas Maduro has convened a National Constituent Assembly. On July 30th, Venezuelans will be directly and secretly electing 540 constituents who will be reviewing our Constitution and by the end of this year we will held regional elections nationwide.

Once the new text of the Constitution is ready, it will be submitted to a referendum by direct and secret ballot. It should be stressed that it was the opposition itself that, for years, proposed the National Constituent Assembly, however, now seeing their backing diminished by not having majority support, are trying to sabotage this sovereign democratic process.

It was the opposition itself that attempted to call a referendum to cease the function of the President of the Republic. However, and because of the internal divisions of the hundreds of parties that bring together the Democratic Unity Roundtable (an association that groups the opposition parties known by its Spanish acronym MUD), the requirements to call a referendum were not fulfilled accordingly, in that occasion, as per the guidelines of the National Electoral Council (CNE). An independent power of the Venezuelan State, the CNE regulates the electoral processes and that has validated the results in the three elections in which the opposition has emerged victorious.

Regarding your concern with the number of Venezuelans in Australia, I would like to inform you that the number you have mentioned, a figure provided by DFAT, indicates that there are 4,000 Venezuelans in Australia. This is not an overestimation because according to the figures that we handle in this Embassy, until 2015 there were approximately 5,200 Venezuelans in the country. This amount has remained practically unchanged since then. It should be noted that, part of this figure, is given by students who have benefited from a privileged system of currency exchange rates by the Government that allows them to study in Australian schools. In Tasmania, the state that you represent before the parliament, only 8 Venezuelans are registered.

Respected Senator Mr Whish-Wilson, you have also mentioned in your speech your concern for Human Rights in Venezuela and the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council. We would like to inform you that although Australia was among the 28 countries that expressed concern about human rights in my country, it is equally true that more than 77 countries overwhelmingly supported Venezuela in the Universal Periodic Review that took place last March 16th in Geneva. Our Government have willingly accepted 193 of the 264 recommendations based on political, civil, economic and social rights, which shows that Venezuela is a territory of peace and our government has always supported dialogue, understanding in accordance to the democratic path framed in our Constitution and laws.

On Wednesday, June 21st, 57 countries of the Human Rights Council expressed, through a statement, their overwhelming support for the government of President Nicolas Maduro in its efforts to preserve peace and maintain democratic institutions. Venezuela’s excellent performance in human rights has been fully recognized by countries at the UN. Evidence of this can be found in that Venezuela was elected a member of the Human Rights Council for the period 2013-2015, and was re-elected until 2018 with the support of Australia. I would like to emphasize that Venezuela has stated that it will support Australia in its candidacy as a member of the Human Rights Council for the period 2018-2021 and will be supporting Australia in various candidacies, among which are: International Maritime Organization, Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), among many others.

I am agreeing that there is a delicate economic situation in Venezuela and analysing it with care with the understanding that Venezuela depends greatly of its oil production and revenue and the impact on our economy when there is a the fall in the market of oil prices. Secondly, the fierce economic war perpetrated by large corporations that are managed from countries, to which you refer in your speech, and whose interests have been diminished since the arrival of President Chavez in 1999 as at that time our oil was sold at US$ 7.00 per barrel to the price levels obtained since that date. It is not necessary to state the price that oil has reached after the efforts made from Venezuela through the member countries of OPEC but in the other-side, since the benefits of Venezuelan oil revenue have gone directly to the care and aids of the people, and not to the large transnational corporations and a minority group of Venezuelans.

Further on, I will bring to your attention a few figures clearly showing how this income has been invested in the country to detriment of the multinationals and the minority of Venezuelans previously controlling the country.

Unfortunately, the information embodied by the large international media corporations is far from the reality of my country and a media’s war against the democratic government of Venezuela began with the arrival of Hugo Chavez Frias, intensified after April 2013 reaching unheard levels of provocation, open instigation to violence after the election of President Nicolas Maduro. This atmosphere of aggression and permanent media harassment produces an insidious misinformation about the reality of Venezuela providing support to the groups operating in Venezuela against the government and with false consigns claiming free expression, liberty and authoritarian abuse.

On 11 April 2002 this anti-democratic opposition tried to overthrow the then President Chavez by way of force and put an entrepreneur in his place, but not before abolishing all the powers of the state.

In 2008, Senator Bob Brown, the then leader of your own party, visited Venezuela with the objective to aid the release of the Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt who had been taken hostage by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

In a statement to the Senate on May 14th of that year, Senator Brown has declared that: “Venezuela is an oil rich nation, with a highly educated elite and a strengthening democracy. Its President, Hugo Chavez, was one of few world leaders with the gumption to publicly contest the mistakes and exported violence” of then US president George W Bush.

Senator Brown added: “Due to the Chavez popular government — and that is what all the opinion polls show — concentration on helping the millions of poor people on the land and in Caracas’s huge barrios, or slums, the small but highly educated richer class are emigrating.” Clearly showing a weighty reason for a large group of Venezuelans migrating to other countries such Australia.

Since 2013, destabilizing sectors of the opposition have promoted a socio-economic boycott characterized by systematic and planned shortages of food, electricity and other vital goods by the national and international private sector. In January 2014, once again, extremist sectors of opposition called for violence in order to achieve the overthrow of the democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro. These actions resulted in 54 people killed and hundreds injured, including children, youth, the elderly, civil servants of the Public Ministry, police agents and National Guards officers. They also attacked and destroyed schools, universities, health centres and public transport, among others, leaving substantial material losses.

From 2016, to the multifaceted destabilizing actions exacerbated since 2013, joined the new parliamentary Opposition majority of which its nucleus can be found in MUD – a space from which they continue managing formulas to reach their original aims to overthrow the democratically elected Government. Some of the formulas used to achieve these objectives include: exacerbating difficulties, pushing back social gains, increases hoarding and the speculation of food and other essential products in a strategy of destabilization through the construction of social unrest and media manipulation, which also takes advantage of the fall in oil prices – Venezuela’s main source of foreign exchange.

In this context, it is critical to observe that the MUD parliamentarians are free to come and go from Venezuela as they pleased and no restrictions have been imposed to them as the government of Venezuela follows its Constitutional rights and respect the opposition despite their constant violation of Human Rights and Constitution.

Today we face the same scenario of three years ago where radical opposition groups have killed more than 70 people. Sadly, most of the deaths have been caused by the actions of radical armed opposition groups whose terrorism and vandalism have moved to an unprecedented level of action, and in some cases have even recruited minors to commit assaults. In countries like Australia, these events would be considered terrorist acts produced by organized radical groups and believe they would be behind bars. Although the media indicated that the whole country is plunged into a “war” and a “disaster” as also mentioned by you. The fact remains that of the 335 municipalities which make up the country, only in 7 municipalities does violence reign – a violence that is often reduced to hooded vandal groups blocking an avenue and intimidating passers-by. It is interesting to note one more time, that the municipalities which are witnessing violence are those 7 governed by mayors of the opposition who were also democratically elected and legitimately recognized by the Government.

On 1 October 2014, these radical opposition groups organized the assassination of the official Deputy Robert Serra, a case seriously under reported by the international press. This prescription, supported by the USA administration, implemented by radical opposition groups in Venezuela is not far from the formula applied by the hegemonic countries such as Chile in 1973 which resulted in a bloody dictatorship that lasted 17 years and left thousands of people dead, disappeared and tortured. According to a study conducted by the journal Latin American Perspectives (2007), initially at least 200,000 Chileans (roughly 2% of Chile’s population in 1973) fled the country while, in addition, hundreds of thousands continued to leave the country following the economic crisis and military repression that persisted into the 1970s and 1980s.

Many of these Chileans, as it was the case with other Latin American countries such as Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, have fled U.S.-backed right-wing military dictatorships in the region, have settled in Australia with their families and can willingly confirm the veracity of my statements. The reality is that; should a similar scenario of 1973 in Chile will developed in contemporary Venezuela, and the Maduro administration be overthrown through violence, a military coup or foreign intervention, neighbouring countries and members of the international community like Australia will be facing with a humanitarian crisis as hundreds of thousands of government supporters and sympathisers will undoubtedly face cruel and violent repression and they will be forced to seek political asylum aboard.

Since you have mentioned in your address to the Senate that Venezuelan “national intelligence service is arresting critics for crimes against the homeland”, I have to assume that you have referred to the people who have been arrested for the burning of public transport facilities, hospitals, educational centres and government buildings. In fact, journalists from “Reuters news agency” recognized that, on street actions, it has become typically to witness the presence of hooded people that prevent them from taking photos where they appear with their cameras and reporters. Furthermore, “Reuters” has added that hooded youths have taken over cities freeways filling them with debris and burning garbage while other opposition groups focused on vandalism and plundering. The reporters have found that the opposition vandals have set fire to trucks and have stolen medical equipment from ambulances, which are crimes sanctioned by Venezuelan legislation.

In recent days, these radical opposition groups from which you have received information have stabbed and burned a man just because he was Afro-Venezuelan, poor and looked like a government supporter. In another incident, a member of the opposition on Twitter stated that Venezuelans could sabotage pro-government marches in many ways, even by throwing pot plants from balconies. Recently and as a result of the opposition suggestions, a 47-year-old woman was hit by a bottle of frozen water thrown from a building floor when she was on her way to work – not participating in an opposition or pro-government march. This is a crime and should be penaliced despite of political inclinations.

I could list many more examples of the actions of violence, crimes and open violations of Human Rights and freedom from the terrorist Right or opposition. Also, I would like to prompt to you that equally some diplomatic officials and our relatives abroad have been victims of harassment and even death threats from the same opposition groups inclusive of Australia. I would like to invite you to contact the Australian Federal Police in order to verify this assertion, and to observe from this source that in Australia we also have not escaped the threats of radical opposition groups that have come to live in this country, and probably have approached you looking for support under false pretensions and distorted information about the today’s reality of Venezuela.

Regardless of this crisis, which I am sure will be temporary, the achievements of the Venezuelan Government are indisputable. Let me humbly point out some figures from non-governmental organizations that summarize the achievements of the Government of Venezuela since the arrival of the Revolution in 1999:

* According to the United Nations, Venezuela is among the 29 countries in the world that have met all the Millennium Development Goals.
* According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), between 1998 and 2013, hunger declined in Venezuela from 21.0% to less than 5%. These figures, taken from the total population of the country indicate that in 1998 there were 5 million people with hunger and at the moment the number does not surpass half a million.
* According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malnutrition in Venezuela decreased by 57%.
* Venezuela is the fifth country in the region with the highest number of doctors per capita: 1.94.
* In 1998, only 80% of the population had access to drinking water. Currently, the service reaches 95% of Venezuelans.
* UNESCO has recognized that Venezuela is the third country in the region whose population reads to a greater extent.
* Education in Venezuela is free: 10 million Venezuelans study some type of studies. Venezuela has the highest index of the continent of people in school.
* In 2005 UNESCO declared Venezuela a territory free of illiteracy.
According to figures from the United Nations, Venezuela reached an Index of Human Development (HDI) over countries such as Brazil, China and Mexico.
* Until 2012, 337 indigenous communities were awarded more than 1.8 million hectares rescued from the hands of large landowners.
* According to figures from the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Venezuela has one of the most equal wealth distributions in Latin America, alongside with Uruguay.
* Thanks to the social investment of the Bolivarian Government, food consumption soared 80%.
* Before 1999 there were 350,000 pensioners. This figure has increased by 775% to reach more than 3 million pensioners.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness to this letter and once again, I would like to reiterate the intention of the Bolivarian Government of Venezuelan to continue strengthening relations with the People and Government of Australia. This consolidation of relations will always be framed around the principles of mutual respect and understanding while I am reiterating my readiness to meet and discuss with you with the sole purpose of providing objective information on the reality of what occurs in Venezuela.

Esteemed Senator Whish-Wilson, please receive a fraternal greeting from Venezuela and I personally.

Cordially,

Daniel D. Gasparri Rey
Minister-Counsellor
Chargé d’ Affaires a.i.

Venezuela responses to US/Trump threats: “Today, Venezuelan people are free and will respond united against the insolent threat posed by a xenophobic and racist empire”

BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA
MINISTRY OF PEOPLE’S POWER FOR FOREIGN RELATIONS

STATEMENT

REJECTION TO THE ERRATIC STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES AGAINST THE HOMELAND OF BOLÍVAR

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela rejects the unbelievable statement published today by the White House on 07/17/2017.

It is a document of a sort that has never been seen before, which, due to its poor level and awful quality, makes it difficult to intellectually understand the intentions of the assailant country. Without a doubt, the government of the United States is used to humiliating other nations in its international relations and believes that it will receive as a response the subordination to which they are accustomed. The trench that the government of the United States is digging in its relations with Venezuela makes it difficult to rationally predict its actions for the entire international community.

The government of the United States, unashamedly, shows its absolute bias towards the violent and extremist sectors of Venezuelan politics, which favor the use of terrorism to overthrow a popular and democratic government.

The moral ruin of the Venezuelan opposition has dragged President Trump to commit an open aggression against a Latin American country. We know not who could have written, let alone authorized, a statement with such a conceptual and moral poverty.

The thin democratic veil of the Venezuelan opposition has fallen, and it reveals the brutal interventionist force of the U.S. government, which has been behind the violence suffered by the Venezuelan people in the last four months.

It is not the first time that we denounce and confront threats as ludicrous as those contained in this unbelievable document.

We call on the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as on the free peoples of the world, to understand the magnitude of the brutal threat contained in this imperial statement and to defend the sovereignty, self-determination, and independence, fundamental principles of international law.

The original constituent power is contemplated in our Constitution and it only concerns the Venezuelan people. The National Constituent Assembly will be elected by the direct, universal, and secret ballot of all Venezuelans, under the authority of the National Electoral Council, as contemplated in our legal framework. It is an act of political sovereignty of the Republic, nothing and no one can stop it. The Constituent Assembly will go on!

Today, Venezuelan people are free and will respond united against the insolent threat posed by a xenophobic and racist empire. The anti-imperialist thought of the Liberator is more valid than ever. “The United States seems destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty” Simón Bolívar

The National Constituent Assembly will consolidate the achievements of the revolution

Daniel Gasparri Rey
Daniel Gasparri Rey

By Daniel Gasparri Rey

After 18 years of the Bolivarian Revolution, it is clear that great progress that has been made in the political, economic, cultural and social spheres. It is evident that sectors which had historically been excluded in the Homeland of Bolivar are now protagonists of their own social demands.

In this context it would be unfair to object to the dignity that citizens have been given and their right to a better standard of living, evidence of which can be found in the empowerment and attention they have received during all these years through the Social Missions, which have focused on inclusion in subjects like ​​education, food, health, housing, just to name a few.

In light of this, and with his visionary spirit, the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro Moros, has convened a National Constituent Assembly (ANC), which will not only wisely and fairly allow us to include all the socialist missions promoted by the Bolivarian Revolution in the Constitution, but will also, as in any society that is subject to changes over time, allow us to perfect our constitution and with that continue along the path of development in peace and with the active presence of the Venezuelan People. It is necessary to take advantage of this new instrument to advance towards greater social and legal justice.

Five and forty five women and men, from all sectors of the community, invested by the original and plenipotentiary power of the People, will have the historical mission of taking the qualitative leap that will allow us to consolidate and deepen the progress that we have achieved through our social policies, so that the Venezuelan people continue to climb the scale of human dignity.

This is why we have great expectations for July 30, a historic day in which all popular forces that support the legacy of President Hugo Chavez will joyfully, peacefully and with revolutionary consciousness come out to renew the basis of the transformation that will allow us to continue building a splendid and glorious future, which translates into making more Revolution and giving more power to the People.

I have no doubt that once again this slow and difficult process of transformation will continue consolidating itself. The people are certain that this is the best and only option.

Daniel Gasparri Rey is Charge d’Affaires and Minister-Counsellor of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Australia

 

 

Venezuela Votes: Will the World’s Media Ever Get It Right?

Venezuelans flock to the streets to take part in the dry run vote for the National Constituent Assembly.International coverage entirely ignores the July 19 demonstration of support for a Constituent Assembly, writes Iain Bruce.

Did you hear the one about a practice election in Venezuela, where millions of people lined up from early morning until late at night, just to cast their vote in a dry run poll that meant absolutely nothing at all? Except to express support for another election in two weeks time?

Actually, it’s not a joke. It did happen. On Sunday. Video shows them singing and dancing as they waited to test voting machines and see how the election of a new Constituent Assembly on July 30 will work.

But you probably never heard about it. Because the world’s media, pretty much without exception, concentrated almost exclusively on the other vote happening in Venezuela on Sunday, an informal plebiscite held by the opposition, with no constitutional status, to oppose that Constituent Assembly.

So let’s just look at the quality media. The New York Times for example — you remember: “All the news that’s fit to print.” Well, maybe not ALL of it …

“Venezuelans Rebuke Their President by a Staggering Margin” states the headline.

“More than 98 percent of voters sided with the opposition,” continues the paper that certainly would have sneered at results like this when the beneficiary was Saddam Hussain or Mobuto Sese Seko.

Mind you, since only opposition supporters voted in this plebiscite, 98 percent is probably fairly accurate.

The Times goes on to say this vote undermines “Mr. Maduro’s plan to appoint an assembly of handpicked supporters to draft a new Constitution”.

Sorry, “Appoint,” “handpicked”? Was that what all those millions of mainly poor Venezuelans thought they were doing when they waited in line all day in favor of the right to vote for the Constituent Assembly?

Readers of the Times have to wait until paragraph 16 to get one short paragraph on the “Maduro loyalists’ drill,” where they learn that “The turnout for that was notably thin.”

That must explain why some of them were still lining up at 10 p.m. after the exercise had been planned to finish at 4 p.m.

The BBC, who many have looked to as the gold standard of accuracy and equilibrium, headlined its lead story overnight, “Woman shot dead in Venezuela voting queue.”

Really, was that the story in Venezuela on Sunday, as millions, voted peacefully on both sides of the political divide?

It goes on, “Men on motorbikes fired at a queue, killing her and wounding three others. The opposition blamed a “paramilitary” gang.”

Now a woman, a nurse, was indeed shot dead, in the working-class Caracas neighborhood of Catia, where there had been a confrontation between government and opposition supporters. But the circumstances are unclear and an investigation is underway. It’s certainly not clear who did the shooting, much less that they were men on motorbikes firing at a line of voters.

But never mind, that story at least fits the assumed narrative of Chavista thugs terrorizing peaceful opponents that has shaped so much coverage of Venezuela in the last three months. So probably somebody thought it must be true.

To give them their due, it seems the BBC did do some checking. By morning they had wiped that story and replaced it with a more sober headline.

Sadly, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, and so on, didn’t fare a lot better.

Now the opposition plebiscite certainly did get a decent turnout. They say almost 7.2 million took part. But none of those serious, fact-checking media saw any need to question that number, even though it is impossible to verify, and likely to be at least a little exaggerated. That’s because it was, of course, an informal ballot, with no roll of electors or way of telling whether people had voted twice, or even 17 times as one person was accused of.

But let’s not be grudging. Let’s assume it was indeed 7.2 million. And let’s assume they all voted against the Constituent Assembly. None of these media told you that there are almost 20 million registered voters in Venezuela. So that would mean 37 percent had supported the opposition. That’s a little bit less than the percentage that Venezuela’s opposition have got in most of the more than 20 elections held in this well-known dictatorship in the last 18 years, and the same percentage with which they have lost all but two of them.

And all the quality media managed to ignore, or dismiss, the millions of Venezuelans who turned out in support of the Constituent Assembly election.

We don’t yet have official figures for how many took part in the dry run. But initial estimates suggest it may have been even more than the 7 million that the opposition claims for its vote.

So, what should we make of the international media coverage of this important day in Venezuela? Plus ca change!

Republished from TeleSUR English

Venezuela: Controversy and bloodshed mark start of election campaign

Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was moved from jail to house arrest on July 8.
Emilio Torres, Caracas

Venezuelans were taken by surprise with the announcement that opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez would serve out his jail term under house arrest. The move is an unprecedented concession that seeks to calm the waters in the lead up to the July 30 Constituent Assembly elections.

But the conflict in the country is showing it has multiple faces. On July 10, a day after the official election campaign began, a candidate was assassinated in the middle of a campaign event.

Continue reading here 

Venezuela: ‘Our revolutionary democratic experience is at stake’

Revolutionary activist and sociologist Reinaldo Iturriza has spent many years working with popular movements in Venezuela and writing on the rise of Chavismo as a political movement of the poor. He also served as Minister for the Communes and Social Movements, and then Minister for Culture in President Nicolas Maduro’s cabinet between 2013 and 2016.

Together with activists from a range of grassroots revolutionary organisations and social movements, he is standing as a candidate for the Popular Constituent Platform in the July 30 elections for a Constituent Assembly that will seek to find a political way out of the current turmoil gripping Venezuela through the drafting of a new constitution.

Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network’s Federico Fuentes interviewed Iturriza for his views on the current challenges facing Chavismo and the proposed Constituent Assembly. Read interview here

Marco Teruggi, Caracas (Translated by Federico Fuentes)
 

The right-wing opposition has put its foot down on the accelerator, it is moving all of its pieces at once, and aims to shatter the balance of forces through a coup. It has made it clear: the opposition has June and July to achieve its objective.

It has declared that, backed by article 350 of the constitution, it does not recognise the government. Nor does it recognise the call for a National Constituent Assembly and it is organising to impede the elections for the assembly going ahead on July 30.

Translating these words into actions has meant a rise in clashes between state powers through its use of the attorney-general and National Assembly, largely unsuccessful attacks from the Organisation of American States, media pressure, ramping up attacks on the economy and a deepening of the violence, street terror and attacks on state security forces, particularly the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB)…..

Continue reading here

Why is a Greens senator promoting right-wing violence in Venezuela?

Peter Whish-Wilson (standing) in Parliament next to other Greens senators.

Jim McIlroy & Federico Fuentes

Green Left Weekly – In a speech to parliament on June 21, Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson attacked the Venezuelan government and President Nicolas Maduro, while praising right-wing opposition protests in the country.

It is not clear whether Whish-Wilson’s position reflects the official policy of the Australian Greens or is merely a personal view. In either case, the Greens should reject this position that promotes violence and confrontation, rather than dialogue and respect for Venezuela’s democracy and sovereignty.

To understand the current turmoil in Venezuela, Whish-Wilson and the Greens would do well to look at statements made by former Greens leader Bob Brown.

Brown visited Venezuela in 2008 in an attempt to aid efforts undertaken by the Venezuelan government to secure the release of Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, taken hostage by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

In a statement to the Senate on May 14 that year, Brown said: “Venezuela is oil rich, with a highly educated elite and a strengthening democracy. Its President, Hugo Chavez, was one of few world leaders with the gumption to publicly contest the mistakes and exported violence” of then US president George W Bush.

“Due to the Chavez government’s popular — and that is what all the opinion polls show — concentration on helping the millions of poor people on the land and in Caracas’s huge barrios, or slums, the small but highly educated richer class are emigrating.”

While Venezuela faces important challenges, it is clear that Venezuela’s government, first under Chavez and now Nicolas Maduro, continues to focus on helping the poor and has in many ways worked towards implementing policies in line with the Greens’ “Four Pillars”: ecological sustainability, grassroots democracy, social justice and peace and non-violence.

These policies include, among many others:

* a program that has seen Venezuela’s deforestation rate reduced by almost 60% and that this year alone is set to plant 1.6 million plants and trees;

* the promotion of community councils and communes as a way of directly involving citizens in decision making over how resources are spent in their communities;

* a dramatic expansion of the education and healthcare system — which is now free — and a massive housing program that has handed over 1.5 million homes to the poor, to ensure everyone has access to these basic rights; and

* strong opposition to wars abroad and support for neighbouring Colombia’s peace negotiations.

Because of this, the Venezuelan government has faced a sustained campaign of opposition from the richer class — the traditional base of support for the right-wing opposition — including coup attempts, economic sabotage, bosses’ lockouts and violent protests, such as the ones we see today.

It is from this class, which Brown identified back in 2008 as the main source of emigration, that much of the Venezuelan community in Australia is drawn.

But the government also continues to maintain support among the country’s poorer classes, even if their voices are generally silenced by the media, with recent pro-government protests drawing hundreds of thousands of people.

All of this is ignored by Whish-Wilson, who said: “The situation in Venezuela right now is a disaster … some of this situation stems from a sudden drop in the oil price, but much of the trauma appears to come from an increasingly anti-democratic and corrupted government under President Nicolas Maduro”.

Whish-Wilson provides no evidence for his claims of a “corrupted government”, nor does he explain why much of the fault of the current situation lies with Maduro. He ignores strong evidence of a sustained economic campaign being waged by Venezuela’s richer class to create chaos and destabilise the government.

Instead, he accuses the government of seeking to “cling onto power” by any means, including the use of “excessive force against protesters and political opponents — my understanding is that in 80 days of protest over 75 people have now been killed”.

Whish-Wilson goes on: “Despite losing a parliamentary election and despite attempts by the opposition to initiate recall of the president … the president has used what is in effect his own supreme court to overrule these democratic actions.”

Not only are these claims false, they deliberately conceal the violent and anti-democratic nature of the right-wing opposition.

As of June 19, 84 deaths had occurred as a result of the recent wave of political violence. Yet of all these deaths, less that 20% (14 deaths) have been directly attributed to security forces or government supporters. In response almost 30 officers have been detained or have warrants out for their arrest — a stark contrast to Australia, where almost no police officer has been charged for the hundreds of deaths in custody that hagve occurred.

In contrast, 22 deaths have occurred as a result of the actions of right-wing opponents. This includes the targeted assassination — and in some cases mob lynching – of government supporters and deaths resulting from traffic accidents caused by road blockades set up by protesters.

The large bulk of deaths are still under investigation, but victims include security forces, protesters and government supporters.

Clearly, there is violence on both sides. So why does Whish-Wilson only condemn the government?

Moreover, Whish-Wilson seems to lack a basic understanding of Venezuela’s democratic system.

Unlike Australia, Venezuela has a presidential, not a parliamentary, system of government. The president is elected by the people — unlike prime ministers in Australia, who rely on backroom party deals to keep their position — and can only be removed by the vote of the people.

There is no provision in the constitution for the National Assembly to remove the president, something the opposition-controlled parliament attempted to do in January this year. This move was rebuked by the Supreme Court.

Rather than distance himself from undemocratic attempts to use a vote in parliament to overturn the vote of the people, Whish-Wilson attacks the Supreme Court for upholding the constitution.

He also incorrectly attacks the Supreme Court for the opposition’s failed attempt to convoke a recall referendum against Maduro. It is worth noting that while this legal right exists in “anti-democratic” Venezuela, it is denied to citizens in Australia.

It was the National Electoral Court that suspended the recall process, based on decisions made by regional electoral courts that found strong evidence of irregularities in the signature collection process.

Whish-Wilson not only makes a mistake akin to confusing the Australian Electoral Commission with the Federal Court, he provides no evidence to contradict the findings of fraud.

Far from clinging onto power, Maduro has announced elections on July 30 for a Constituent Assembly — which until recently was a demand of the opposition — for regional governors in December, and for president next year. Within a year, the opposition could control the presidency, state governments across the country and remake Venezuela’s constitution to its own liking.

Instead, the opposition has rejected these elections and stated it will do whatever it takes to remove Maduro.

Whish-Wilson not only presents an inaccurate picture of the political struggle underway in Venezuela; he clearly takes the side of the right-wing opposition while ignoring their violent and anti-democratic actions.

Rather than taking the side of the undemocratic opposition, Whish-Wilson and the Greens should be encouraging the Australian government to condemn violence on either side and support efforts that seek to promote dialogue in Venezuela while respecting its sovereignty.

[Jim McIlroy and Federico Fuentes are national co-coordinators of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network.]

Paramilitarism, terror and an all-out struggle for power. Welcome to Socopo, Venezuela

Since opposition protests began in Venezuela in early April, much of the media coverage has focused on clashes in Caracas. However, the opposition’s campaign to bring down the government of Nicolas Maduro has not been limited to the country’s capital.

Marco Teruggi reports on a recent visit to the small, but strategic town of Socopo, in the largely rural state Barinas, which has been the site of a campaign of terror and an all-out struggle for power.

It was original published at 15 y Ultimo and has been translated by Green Left Weekly’s Federico Fuentes.

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