US Advising Latin American Allies on Drafting Sanctions Laws Against Venezuela

  • The White House, National Security Council, State Department and Treasury Department are also working on options to "help drive Maduro from office," the report noted.

TeleSUR English, April 9 – In yet another attempt at undermining Venezuela’s democracy, U.S. President Donald Trump is prepping a team of lawyers and policy experts to help right-wing Latin American governments write new laws to impose sanctions on Venezuelan officials and industries, as part of Washington’s economic and political war against the leftist government aiming to oust President Nicolas Maduro, a U.S. source familiar with the policies told Mcclatchy News’ Washington Bureau.

The source revealed the White House has been mounting pressure on its Latin American and Caribbean allies to build a strong mechanism which can be used against Venezuela, a country already embroiled in economic troubles due to U.S. and European sanctions.

“They don’t have the authority,” a senior administration official told McClatchy. “So what we really have to do is help these countries write laws that give them jurisdiction to carry out these kind of sanctions if they choose to.”

According to the report, while U.S. officials publicly urge the Latin American governments to support U.S. efforts, U.S. diplomats have been actively making concerted efforts to either bring together ambassadors of those governments in Washington or dispatch diplomats across the region, “to encourage allies to reform their laws aimed at ousting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.”

“They’re urging Latin American leaders to join the United States, Canada and European allies who have worked together to starve the oil-dependent Caracas government of desperately needed cash,” Mc Clatchy noted.

The senior official did not reveal the names of the countries the U.S. is pressing but the official reaffirmed “the effort is modeled on past work by previous administrations to help allies draft laws” in countries like Syria and Iraq.

Similar to when “in 2014, former Obama Administration Attorney General Eric Holder dispatched lawyers to North Africa and the Middle East” to help  them with possible “terrorist attacks.”

The report further stated the United States also aided Central American governments “write asset forfeiture laws to allow the governments to seize the property of the accused even before they’re convicted of a crime.”

The U.S. Treasury Department plays a major role in helping finance these activities in the form of its Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes which “works with partner countries on a number of issues, including sanctions implementation,” the McClatchy report noted.

“Treasury also engages, when requested by foreign partners, to counter an array of threats to global security and the international financial system, including from Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, narcotics trafficking, and transnational organized crime,” a Treasury official said, according to McClatchy.

The U.S. has imposed sanctions on the Latin American country in an attempt to further paralyze its economy. As part of the US-imposed sanction, over 20 current and former Venezuelan government officials have been sanctioned, including the South American country’s president.

The White House has barred U.S. banks from loaning Venezuela any money, also sanctioning the recently launched ‘Petro,’ Venezuela’s national cryptocurrency based on natural resources.

“Countries in the Americas have a responsibility to work together to address the humanitarian crisis that’s been created by the Maduro regime in Venezuela,” another senior administration official said.

The White House, National Security Council, State Department and Treasury Department are also working on options to “help drive Maduro from office, including prohibiting any Venezuelan oil being sold in the United States,” the report claimed.

In March, Panama’s Economic and Finance Ministry issued a warning to the country’s banks, stating Maduro along with over 50 Venezuelan nationals are considered “high risk” for laundering money and financing terrorism, claims that have no evidence and are flatly denied by the Venezuelan socialist government.

Peru’s so-called Lima Group, which includes other right-wing governments of Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, has publicly demanded that Maduro allow free elections and release “political prisoners”. The Venezuelan government had started dialogue and peace talks with the opposition in the Dominican Republic late last year, which ended in January with opposition parties falling short of signing the final agreement under pressure from Washington.

One of the opposition demands had been calling for early presidential elections, which the government announced in February for May 20. However, the main opposition coalition MUD has refused to participate.

Trump is expected to attend the Summit of Americas in Peru next week, from which Venezuela’s Maduro has been banned. However, Maduro has vowed to attend the Summit of the Americas despite Peru’s ban, a move supported by multiple countries in the region.

Venezuela Stands by Brazil’s Lula Following His Imprisonment

President Maduro and over fifty Venezuelan grassroots movements have voiced their solidarity with popular leftist former President Lula da Silva.

Ex-President Lula is carried by supporters before handing himself over to the police

Ex-President Lula is carried by supporters before handing himself over to the police. (Rodrigo Capote / Bloomberg)

Paul Dobson

Merida, April 9, 2018, (venezuelanalysis.com) – President Nicolas Maduro led a multitude of Venezuelan voices who spoke out this weekend in solidarity with the Brazilian people following the imprisonment of the presidential candidate Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva.

“What is going on in Brazil is a coup d’état,” Maduro declared during a ceremony broadcast on state television Saturday.

Widely viewed as a favorite to win Brazil’s October presidential elections, Lula turned himself in to police Saturday, accompanied by tens of thousands of supporters, following a two-day stand-off in the metal workers union headquarters in Sao Paolo, where the ex-president got his start as a grassroots union organizer.

“First [the Brazilian right-wing] ousted the constitutional President Dilma Rousseff with a parliamentary coup and now they want to imprison Lula da Silva because he is leading in the polls,” Maduro added, referring to the controversial impeachment proceeding that removed elected President Rousseff from office in 2016.

A warrant was issued for Lula’s arrest after Brazil’s Supreme Court issued a controversial ruling Thursday that the leftist presidential hopeful could be jailed despite constitutional guarantees stipulating that the accused have the right to exhaust their appeals in freedom. The ruling was preceded by a highly publicized warning against “impunity” by the Brazilian military, which was widely condemned as an attempt to influence the verdict.

Lula was sentenced to ten years last August for allegedly accepting a US$1 million renovation to a luxury beachfront apartment that he does own and never visited, a sentence which was upheld and extended to twelve years in January. There is no material evidence linking Lula to the apartment, and Lavo Jato chief prosecutor Sergio Mora has been accused of pursuing politically motivated anti-corruption investigations against leftist Brazilian leaders in coordination with the US Justice Department. Lula has proclaimed his innocence and is appealing the conviction.

The former president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010, Lula is a candidate for the center-left Workers Party (PT), which he helped found in the 1980s in opposition to the country’s military dictatorship. He is currently leading polls, but it is unclear how is imprisonment will affect his candidacy.

The current government of Michel Temer, which assumed control of the country following the 2016 ouster of Rousseff, is highly unpopular due to the imposition of a series of neoliberal economic measures, including a constitutional amendment freezing social spending for twenty years. Many of the cabinet are currently being investigated for corruption.

Following Lula’s surrender to police, ex-bus driver Maduro took to Twitter in defense of the Brazilian leftist leader.

“Lula is an honest man who comes from the factories… a democratic and moral leader who is committed to the people,” he declared.

The imprisonment of Lula is “a criminal persecution by the neo-fascist oligarch elite” and “an oppressive and dirty trick,” added Maduro. “This injustice hurts us in our soul.”

Nicolás Maduro@maduro_en

We are all Lula. They can’t deal with the hopes and convictions of the rebels. Nothing will stop the march for justice and dignity of Brazil. To speak the truth and the heart, we are invincible. We are with you.

But Maduro was just one voice of a growing chorus of Venezuelan popular movements expressing solidarity with Lula.

On Friday, more than fifty Venezuelan grassroots organizations signed a manifesto of support with Lula, the Brazilian people, and the country’s popular mass movements who back him.

The declaration calls for “support[ing] the resistance of the Brazilian workers and social movements” and condemns “the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie which has been installed in Brazil… which looks to extinguish the insurgent and unified national flame of the Brazilian people.”

It was signed following a demonstration in Caracas in front of the Brazilian embassy by a range of popular organisations, including community TV station ALBA TV, the Clara Zetkin women’s movement, the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current, numerous trade unions, ecological collectives, student groups, and anti-imperialist organisations.

Venezuelan social movements marched through Caracas Friday in solidarity with Lula
Venezuelan social movements marched through Caracas Friday in solidarity with Lula. The banner reads, “Lula, friend, Venezuela is with you.” (La Iguana).

Venezuela’s United Socialist Party (PSUV) also released a communiquearticulating its “complete solidarity with our companion Lula,” as well as denouncing the unpopular economic measures of de facto President Michel Temer.

“Temer isn’t just deploying a neoliberal plan which is doing away with the social conquests achieved during the democratic governments of Lula and Dilma, but he is also part of a plan which looks to take Brazil back to the [dictatorial] times which seemed to be over,” it claimed.

The Communist Party of Venezuela also voiced its solidarity with the “Brazilian revolutionary movement” in light of the events in Sao Paolo.

In its weekly press conference, the party stressed that Lula’s imprisonment “should be a wakeup call for the revolutionary movement in our country of what may happen should the right win the upcoming elections.”

Trade unions in Venezuela, including the Bolivarian Centre of Workers (CBST) confederation, have also made their voices heard, stressing Lula’s origins as a metalworker’s union leader.

“We add our voice to the rest of the political organisations of the working class and popular movements of the continent in defence of sovereignty and self-determination and against exploitation and imperialism,” reads a press release from the Venezuelan government workers’ union SINTRASDE.

“We declare ourselves to be on combative and proletarian alert alongside the Workers Party of Brazil,” the union added.

Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry likewise issued a formal statement expressing the Maduro’s government’s “absolute solidarity” with Lula on Sunday.

Full text of the “Manifesto of Popular Movements against the Unjust Decision of the Brazilian Coup which Imprisoned Lula”

We, the below signed popular and social movements of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, express our deepest rejection of the ruthless attack against our comrade Lula Inacio da Silva by the extreme right of Brazil, who look to impede his imminent election as president and to extinguish the insurgent and unified national flame of the Brazilian people.

Likewise, we express our absolute and resolute solidarity with Lula and with the popular and social movements and organisations which continue to be on the streets in Brazil in defence of the sovereignty of the people. The events which they are living through in our South American sister republic is an example of the continued anti-democratic incursion into Brazil which looks to coerce the progress of the popular sectors, not just in Brazil, but in the whole continent.

We denounce the rupture of the democratic order in Brazil. The will of the people was pushed aside when [President] Dilma Rousseff was unconstitutionally removed [from office], and today justice and human rights suffer a mortal blow with the imprisonment of Lula, impeding that he be chosen the next president of the Federal Republic of Brazil.

Bearing all this in mind and considering the decision of the anti-democratic sectors of Brazil to imprison Lula, we call on all the Venezuelan social and popular movements to support the resistance of the Brazilian workers and social movements and to condemn the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie which has been installed in Brazil with the complicity of the Organisation of American States, which has made no declarations about this obvious rupture of the democratic order.

Today we have the duty to make ourselves heard in all possible areas, on the streets and on social media, we must cry out with dignity that the Venezuelan people join the Brazilian people in their fight against imperialism and for their sovereignty, as a people, and for the Great Nation of Bolivar, Chavez, and Fidel.

Edited and with additional reporting by Lucas Koerner from Caracas. 

Venezuela Inaugurates University in Honor of Martin Luther King

Venezuela

In honor of the slain leader, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro inaugurated the Martin Luther King University Complex in the state of Lara.

TeleSUR English, April 4 – Venezuela paid tribute Wednesday to Martin Luther King on the 50th anniversary of his assassination in which Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro inaugurated the Martin Luther King University Complex in Barquisimeto, the capital of Lara state.

The school is part of the government’s initiative to expand university education. More than 6,000 young people will pursue higher education at the complex. Maduro said the higher education institution “is named after this hero of the African-American peoples” and will serve to promote culture, health and education for residents of underserved communities in the region.

Maduro expressed the need to strengthen university programs focused on training professionals who will attend to priority areas needed by the country. “A university education has to be linked to the development of the country.”

He noted that universities need “to graduate more doctors, because we need doctors in all the communities of the extensive geography of Venezuela…We need to graduate agronomists, veterinarians…We need to graduate educators, civil engineers to build homes.”

The Martin Luther King University will also have laboratories dedicated to mining Venezuela’s new cryptocurrency, Petro.

Venezuela’s head of state also pointed out that 7.5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product is invested in educational programs, unlike right-wing governments that preceded former President Hugo Chavez, which had invested a mere three percent in the sector.

He also highlighted that Venezuela has the second highest university enrollment in South America, given that 77 percent of its higher education institutions are public.

Martin Luther King Jr. Was assassinated on April 4, in 1968. In 1999, a civil trial in Memphis, Tennessee, which included testimony from 70 witnesses, reached a unanimous verdict that King’s assassination was the result of a conspiracy that included elements from the U.S. government.

Following the case his widow, Coretta Scott King, welcomed the verdict, saying, “There is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband, Martin Luther King. And the civil court’s unanimous verdict has validated our belief.”

Venezuela Rejects Swiss Sanctions & Panama Accusations of Funding WMD and Terrorism

Maduro’s government has been the subject of escalating international sanctions by Washington’s allies

By Paul Dobson

Merida, April 3, 2018, (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan authorities hit back at their counterparts in Panama and Switzerland this week after they approved new measures targeting Caracas.

Panama’s Economic and Finance Ministry announced this past March 27 that a warning was being issued to the Central American country’s banks advising them to limit and “diligently” supervise financial transactions involving 55 top Venezuelan officials as well as 16 private businesses allegedly associated with the Maduro government.

The list includes President Nicolas Maduro, National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena and rectors Tania D’Amelio and Socorro Hernandez, National Constituent Assembly members Diosdado Cabello and Hermann Escarra, Education Minister Elias Jaua, and Culture Minister Ernesto Villegas.

In an official statement, Panamanian authorities categorized the individuals and businesses as being “high risk in the area of money laundering, financing terrorism, and financing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” No evidence was, however, presented to support the allegations.

Venezuela possesses no nuclear weapons and is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as well as various other treaties banning the acquisition and development of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Similarly, many of those accused by Panama of allegedly financing terrorism belong to institutions which were themselves the objects of violent opposition attacks during last year’s anti-government protests – including the Supreme Court, the National Electoral Council, and regional government offices – which the Maduro administration has repeatedly described as “terrorism”.

Speaking Monday, Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab, who is included on Panama’s list, fired back, describing the accusations as “fake news” and calling on them to provide evidence.

“Show the accounts, my accounts for example, show where my name, my photo appears,” Saab challenged.

Penitentiary Affairs Minister Iris Varela, who also appears on the list, similarly denied the accusations and called on the Central American authorities to publish a “complete list” of all Venezuelan citizens who own assets in the country, placing special emphasis on those mentioned in the Panama Papers.

“Why don’t they do it [publish the complete list],” she questioned. “Simply because they have assets and fortunes that belong to the [Venezuelan] opposition.”

The recent measures follow close on the heels of an announcement last month that Panama will not recognise the results of Venezuela’s upcoming presidential election, mirroring steps taken by the Trump administration and other regional conservative governments in rejecting the May 20 vote.

Meanwhile, Switzerland also moved to apply sanctions against seven high-ranking Venezuelan functionaries last Wednesday, freezing their alleged assets in Swiss banks and applying travel bans.

In response, the Venezuelan government delivered an official letter of protest to the Swiss charge d’affaires Monday, calling the sanctions a violation of the UN Charter’s ban on unilateral coercive measures and charging Switzerland with “subordination” to Washington and Brussels’ hardline Venezuela policy.

“This erratic action… on the part of a historically neutral country like the Swiss Confederation does not create conditions for dialogue and strengthens extremist positions that seek violent solutions,” reads the text of the letter.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court also issued a declaration Monday rejecting the moves as “illegal”. Supreme Court President Maikel Moreno was named in both Swiss and Panamanian measures.

The latest international actions targeting Venezuela have, however, won praise from members the country’s right-wing opposition, including Popular Will party Political Coordinator Carlos Vecchio, who applauded the Panama measures as “the right path at this stage”.

Vecchio is currently in Paris meeting with center-right French President Emmanuel Macron as part of a European tour aimed at drumming up support for more sanctions against Caracas.

During the meeting Tuesday, Vecchio, together with First Justice party leader Julio Borges and ex-Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma – who is currently fleeing the Venezuelan justice system – called on Macron’s government to apply “more sanctions” against Venezuela and to “halt Petro, gold, and capital legitimation operations,” referring to the South American country’s new crypto-currency. They also urged the French president and other European leaders “not to dialogue” with Caracas.

Opposition presidential frontrunner Henri Falcon, who defied the main opposition in launching his candidacy and has opposed economic sanctions in the past, has yet to issue a public statement with regard to the latest measures from Panama and Switzerland.

So far, only the US and the UK have approved economic sanctions against Caracas, while Canada and the European Union have rolled out sanctions against top Venezuelan officials

International sanctions against Venezuela have been denounced by the UN Human Rights Council as well as by UN Independent Expert Alfred de Zayas, who labeled the US-led measures “crimes against humanity” and called for the International Court of Justice to investigate.

According to Datanalisis, 55.6 percent of Venezuelans oppose economic sanctions against their country, while just 42 percent support individual sanctions targeting top officials.

Edited and with additional reporting by Lucas Koerner from Caracas. 

Interviews with Pacha Catalina Guzman from the Bolivar & Zamora Revolutionary Current

https://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/sites/sbs.com.au.yourlanguage/files/styles/full/public/podcast_images/pacha_guzman_1.jpg?itok=N2dQ_Zj2

During her visit in Australia, Pacha Catalina Guzman, from the Bolivar & Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ) and the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (FNCEZ) spoke on a number of radio stations. Click below to listen to some of the interviews

SBS radio (spanish)

4ZZZ (english/spanish)

Perth Indymedia (english/spanish)

3CR – Accent of Women (english/spanish)

3CR – Mujeres Latinamericanas (spanish)

3CR – Latin American Update (english/spanish)

3ZZZ (spanish) go to minute 49:00

UN expert: Venezuela must take the US to the International Court of Justice

Alfred De Zayas, UN independent expert for the promotion of an international democratic and equitable order (Archive)

Alfred de Zayas, a UN Independent Expert for the promotion of an international democratic and equitable order, told Venezuela’s newspaper Últimas Noticias that “it is time” for Venezuela to ask the International Criminal Court “for an investigation into the crimes against humanity committed by the United States for imposing sanctions against it.”

Why do you consider sanctions as crimes against humanity?

In 2000, the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights published a study that described sanctions as a serious violation of international law and human rights. In 2015, the Human Rights Council in Geneva created the role of the Special Rapporteur on Unilateral Coercive Measures. In his reports Idriss Jazairy, the Rapporteur, has demonstrated the adverse impacts of sanctions and has negotiated with governments so that sanctions are eliminated, as they are contrary to the spirit and letter of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The General Assembly of the United Nations has condemned the sanctions against Cuba and the “blockade” with 25 resolutions that, unfortunately, the US has ignored.

In my opinion, as a professor of International Law and former Secretary of the Human Rights Committee, sanctions that cause the death of children due to malnutrition, lack of drinking water, or that cause deaths due to lack of insulin, medicines against cancer and malaria, or due to lack of medical equipment and technical material, constitute a crime against humanity, especially because they are intentional, sadistic, their objective being to create suffering.

The sanctions against Venezuela have exacerbated the economic crisis caused by the collapse of oil prices, leading to a serious scarcity of medicines and food, other shortages, distribution delays, etc. As a consequence Venezuelan children have died, as have adults and elderly people. Keeping in mind that sanctions are not accidental but planned and deliberate, this amounts to criminal liability, and the situation must be brought to the attention of the General Assembly with a view to adopting resolutions that clearly declare the sanctions illegal and criminal.

What could be done?

It is time to ask the Prosecutor of the International Court of Justice to open an investigation into the US’s crimes against humanity for imposing sanctions against the Venezuelan people, since the direct consequences of the sanctions are shortages of food and medicine and the death of innocent people through malnutrition or lack of medicines.

We need to determine the number of people who die, for example, from lack for insulin or antimalarial and anticancer drugs, etc. Article 7 of the Rome Statute defines what crimes against humanity are, and I am convinced that the kind of sanctions that are being applied against Cuba and Venezuela constitute crimes against humanity. This could also be verified by the International Court of Justice acting in an advisory role.

You mentioned that the UN should help. In what way could it do it?

Secretary General Antonio Guterres should offer his good offices to mediate between opposition and government and reopen the Dominican Republic negotiations. He should also send observers to the elections.

Do you plan to visit the country?

Not for the moment, but my colleague Idriss Jazairy, the Rapporteur on Unilateral Coercive Measures, has requested an invitation to visit Venezuela. The government has given him a go ahead on the visit, which will take place this year.

Translation by Cira Pascual Marquina for Venezuelanalysis.com.

Rodriguez: ‘Media War Being Waged Against Venezuela’

Jorge Rodríguez le responde a VP: Váyanse a la calle que en la calle los esperamos

The media tour was announced after the United States scheduled a series of military exercises off the Venezuelan coast.

TeleSUR – Jorge Rodriguez, Venezuela’s Communications Minister, says international news outlets are playing a significant role in the “media and psychological war against Venezuela.” Speaking in an interview with the BBC, Britain’s public service broadcaster, Rodriguez said that there is a significant amount of misrepresentation taking place in the media about the current socio-economic situation in the country.

“There is a newspaper in Spain that publishes a (negative) story about Venezuela every 36 hours, almost one a day. I ask myself: ‘Is it that other countries do not have problems? Is it that Spain considers it more important to deal with the affairs of Venezuela than with the issues of Spain?” Rodriguez said while pointing out that Spanish media outlets published almost 4,000 negative stories about Venezuela in 2017.

“I think there is a lot of misrepresentation; I believe there is a real operation of a media war, a psychological war, almost a lynching against Venezuela,” he added.

During the interview, Rodriguez also pointed out the contradictions in the international media’s coverage of Venezuela‘s upcoming elections and Colombia’s recent legislative elections and interparty primaries, which were marred by allegations of fraud and vote tampering.

“A few weeks ago there were elections in Colombia, and it can only be categorized as a catastrophe… People had to photocopy the ballots; there was vote buying. Like Saramago’s novel “Essay on Lucidity,” there were more blank votes than valid winning votes. I said: ‘Well, the scandal in the European media will be huge.’ It was not so. That is to say, the subject to attack is Venezuela, and we would like with all humility to address the media of the whole world to tell the truth or say in any case what is our truth,” he said.

Highlighting the level of freedom of expression in Venezuela, Rodriguez said there have been, “calls to murder the president, which one sees with frequency in Venezuelan and foreign media, and social media those would not be tolerated in countries like France and Spain.”

Rodriguez, who is on a European media tour designed to expose the current anti-Venezuela agenda, said he plans to visit media outlets and present an alternative view of the country. The tour was launched after the United States Southern Command, based in Florida, announced a series of military exercises off the Venezuelan coast, in Trinidad and Tobago, for April 16 – 26.

Changes in the Trump administration have also pushed Venezuelan authorities to address the biased perception of the country.

In recent weeks, U.S. President Donald Trump has announced the appointments of John Bolton, and Mike Pompeo as senior members of his administration.

Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations, has been described by several senior U.S officials as having “always emphasized how Cuba and Venezuela and Nicaragua have undermined U.S. interests throughout the region.”

“He’s a warmonger, and Latin Americans get nervous when American presidents tend to lean toward military versus diplomatic solutions,” a National Security Council official for former President Barack Obama told the Miami Herald. “It’s a militaristic style that won’t go down well in Latin America.”

Days before it was announced that Bolton would replace Herbert Raymond McMaster as Trump’s national security advisor, Pompeo was announced as the new U.S. Secretary of State.

The South American country has routinely accused Washington of planning to orchestrate a coup or invasion, and the appointment of Bolton and Pompeo given their past statements go a long way to supporting these claims.

‘Revolution will win’ – Venezuelan activist tours Australia

Jim McIlroy, Green Left Weekly

Pacha Guzman, a leading activist with Venezuela’s largest peasant-based organisation, the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (FNCEZ), told a public meeting in Sydney on March 21 that despite serious challenges, Venezuela’s pro-poor “Bolivarian Revolution will win”.

Guzman also reaffirmed the continued strength of the popular movement for socialism launched by former President Hugo Chavez and said she expects his successor, President Nicolas Maduro, to win the May 20 presidential elections.

Guzman is on a tour of Australia coordinated by the Latin American Solidarity Network (LASNET). She has been touring as a representative of the FNCEZ and the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ), of which Guzman is a national spokesperson.

“The purpose of my visit here to Australia is to provide a vision from the viewpoint of Venezuela’s social movements on what is really happening in our country. We are hopeful that the Australian people will support us,” she said.

Guzman explained that the FNCEZ “was founded in 2002, as a social movement, not a political party; one that is profoundly Chavista, anti-imperialist and revolutionary”, adding that they have elected representatives at the national, state and local government level.

“Venezuela is currently facing an economic and political blockade, led by the US, which is causing severe hardship for our people. We are experiencing an internal crisis primarily resulting from the international blockade, in addition to the actions of the Venezuelan right-wing opposition.

“Venezuela is almost exclusively reliant on oil exports and dependent on other countries for imports of food and medicines. Only 2% of our people are currently engaged in agriculture.

“We now have a shortage of these products, to a great extent because of hoarding, the black market, and sabotage of our production.

“President Maduro and his government have called for an increase in food production in Venezuela, which we agree with. The key focus of our organisation is to help the country develop its agriculture to produce enough food for our survival, and to strengthen the communal structures in Venezuela.”

Guzman described in detail the communal system underlying Venezuela’s unique grassroots democracy. Having as its foundation local communal councils that bring together about 150 families, Venezuela’s communal structure of decision making operates from the bottom up.

“Decisions are made at the grassroots level, and rise up to the city level. Communal councils also have commissions to deal with issues such as healthcare, communications and gender equality,” she said.

“The basic idea within Chavez’s communal project is to eventually replace the capitalist state structures with communal democracy. While there has been significant resistance from existing state bodies, we now have more communal organisations than ever before.”

Guzman said that in the face of a divided opposition, she was confident the majority of the people would support Maduro in the upcoming presidential elections. She also expressed confidence that there would be no military coup, as urged by the US, because of the changes inside the military initiated under Chavez. She warned that any attempt by the US to invade Venezuela would be disastrous for the US.

Guzman called for an end to the international media campaign of lies about Venezuela. “The only way to combat the right-wing media lies is for people like you to help get out the truth about our country to the world,” Guzman said.

Guzman also visited Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and Canberra as part of her tour, which will finish with two public meetings in Melbourne on March 27 at Victoria Trades Hall (7pm, Spanish-speaking meeting) and March 29 (7pm, Edinburgh Gardens Community Hall, Fitzroy North).

During her tour she addressed numerous public forums, as well as meeting Greens parliamentarians, representatives of various First Nations communities and trade unions, including the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union WA Branch, the Queensland Council of Unions and the MUA Sydney branch.

Guzman was also interviewed on a number of community radio stations and by some local Spanish-language newspapers.

Among the groups that have supported Guzman’s tour are: the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, the Latin America Social Forum (Sydney), Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (Melbourne), Australians in Solidarity with Latin America (ASLA), Colombia Demands Justice Campaign, Chile Solidarity Campaign, Mujeres Latinoamericanas 3CR radio program, Australia Cuba Friendship Society (Melbourne), the Socialist Alliance, Communist Party of Australia, Maritime Union of Australia (Sydney Branch) and the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Popular Victory: Thirty-Two Land Occupiers Released from Jail

The campesinos of La Magdalena, Merida state, hours after being released from jail

By Cira Pascual Marquina

Caracas, March 28, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Thirty-two campesinos from Venezuela’s Merida state, arrested on March 16 and charged with illegally occupying land and contempt of court, were released Sunday. The sudden freeing of this group, which includes two women and their babies and a person with cancer, has been hailed as an important victory for the campesino movement in its attempt to occupy and produce on idle land in Venezuela.

Last year, the campesino group occupied and began to grow food crops on an estate called “La Magdalena,” which was formerly property of the Aranguren family. They did so based on a ruling by Venezuela’s National Land Institute (INTI) declaring the land to be idle and fit to be recovered.

Despite the INTI’s favorable ruling, the investigative police force, CICPC, and the National Guard, acting on behalf of the Aranguren family, arrested the campesinos, who spent more than a week in El Vigia jail in Merida. Their situation became a cause celebre because of the images of a mother and her nursing child in prison.

Campesinas of La Magdalena in El Vigía jail, Merida state, in early March
Campesinas of La Magdalena in El Vigía jail, Merida state, in early March.

Now set free and with the court’s decision in their favor, the victorious campesino group will return to producing on the occupied land and try to complete the process of legalization, explained local campesino leader Heber Castillo in an interview with Venezuelanalysis.

As is common in Latin America, Venezuela’s population is concentrated in big cities such as Caracas, Maracaibo and Valencia, leaving much of the land in the sparsely populated countryside concentrated in large underproductive estates called “latifundios.” Faced with this disparity and the need to build a more productive country, the late President Hugo Chavez attempted a bold land reform in 2001 and later encouraged the occupation of underused land.

Five years after Chavez’s death in 2013, the Magdalena’s occupiers may be suffering from the winds of shifting policy. According to analyst Marco Teruggi, land occupation has met with greater resistance since 2010. The emergence of a generous legal framework for seizing and distributing land that took shape in the early years of the Bolivarian process has given way to a period in which support for humble homesteaders may be waning, the analyst claims.

The Revolutionary Bolivar and Zamora Current (CRZB), a campesino organization, celebrated the release of the land occupiers on Monday, but their communique also makes reference to the vicissitudes of public policy. The text points to “elements in the leadership [of the Bolivarian process] that wish to restore the latifundio model of exploitation… a model that is contrary to the one promoted and developed by the Bolivarian Revolution under Commander Chavez’s leadership.”

Taking to Twitter Monday, Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab celebrated the release of the campesinos, in what was widely viewed as an encouragement to the popular movement. Saab said the campesinos’ arrest had been a “violation of what is established in the Republic’s laws, which hold the right to land to be a hallowed human right,” adding that the government was firmly committed “to confront landowners with the law.”

Open letter to the people and government of the United States of America by the people of Venezuela

We, the People of Venezuela, wish to address the People of the United States of America. You must know that on August 11, 2017, President Donald Trump threatened the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela with direct military intervention. This dangerous threat was rejected by all nations and by the People of the United States. Nevertheless, two weeks later, President Trump imposed severe and unfair sanctions on us, publicly admitting his intention was to economically isolate Venezuela. It is the same strategy – recognized by the U.S. Government– that was implemented to overthrow the democratic government of Chile in 1973, paving the way for the ruthless dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet to take power.

These threats and unilateral decisions will affect our economy and our means to obtain resources for food, healthcare and production, seriously impairing our citizens’ everyday life. President Trump seeks to manufacture a political crisis in our country by forcing President Nicolas Maduro out of office, even though he was democratically elected in 2013.

Furthermore, these actions also affect ordinary U.S. citizens who would face the possibility of a hike in gasoline prices, while thousands of workers risk losing their hard-earned savings as retirement funds are affected by the ban on Venezuelan bonds.

This behavior is inconsistent with Donald Trump’s campaign slogan: “Make America great again”. Rather, it creates new problems, both inside and outside the United States, making life harder both for Venezuelans and millions of U.S. citizens, while at the same time, it generates global rejection and resentment towards the U.S. government, and indirectly, towards its people, who have nothing to do with these warmongering actions.

As was the case in Iraq, we might be on the verge of an unfair and baseless military intervention, where oil is paramount. Yet nothing can justify that young Americans are driven into another military conflict, much less if it entails confronting a friendly and peaceful country such as Venezuela.

Venezuela is neither an enemy of the United States, nor does it represent a threat to its security. We admire its history, culture and scientific achievements. It is, therefore, imperative to cease this irrational policy of aggression and instead promote political understanding, so this long tradition of friendship between both countries can be made to flourish.

President Nicolas Maduro has tried to reach out to President Donald Trump several times, so as to facilitate communication and generate solutions based upon International Law and mutual respect. Regrettably, thus far, the U.S. Government has ignored and disregarded all dialogue initiatives proposed by the Venezuelan Government.

The People of the United States are a people of peace, and we believe you should lead efforts seeking to neutralize the jingoist intentions of your government. That is why we reach out to you, in fraternity and sincerity, to urge all Americans of goodwill, to join us in working together for the defense of our peoples’ freedoms, our children’s well-being, towards cooperation and peace for our region. It is a time for dialogue and understanding. Let us not miss this opportunity and in the words of John Lennon: Let’s give peace a chance.