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Report Back From the 16th World Festival of Students in Venezuela (part 1)

by Rick Panna Friday, Oct. 21, 2005 at 12:30 AM
grizzwasmycat@yahoo.com

"[The U.S. ruling elites] have a lot to lose because Venezuela is setting an example. If the people of Venezuela are able to struggle and alleviate so much poverty and illiteracy and lack of healthcare in their country, then why can't we do it here as well?" -- Muna Coobtee, delegate, World Festival of Students, 2005

Report Back ...
picture_1_im_art.jpg, image/jpeg, 120x90

Main photo courtesy of Anna Kunkin. Many thanks also to Jennifer Caldwell for the additional

photos.

This is one of three planned stories about report backs from this year's World Festival in

Venezuela.

(A full transcript of this event is in parts 2 and 3 of this coverage.)

The 16th World Festival of Students was held in Venezuela last August and was attended by

17,000 to 20,000 people from 144 countries. The delegates exchanged information about each

other's homelands, witnessed the changes happening in Venezuela under President Hugo Chavez,

and expressed solidarity with that nation.

On August 26th, four of the U.S. delegates to the event shared their findings and experiences at

ANSWER's headquarters in Hollywood. The host and moderator was Stephanie Beacham. Seated

at a table were the delegates: Carlos Alvarez, a 19-year-old student of El Camino College and

organizer of Youth and Student ANSWER; Marcial Guerra, who has worked hard on issues

concerning Cuba (e.g., efforts to free the Cuban Five) and, at the World Festival, participated in

numerous workshops related to Cuba; Jennifer Caldwell, who is on the Committee to Free the

Five and an organizer with ANSWER; and Muna Coobtee, a member of the Free Palestine

Alliance and an ANSWER organizer.

Many other U.S. delegates were sitting in the audience and shared some of their information

during the question-and-answer session. "There was really a lot of wonderful things that we got

see while we were in Venezuela, and [we had] many great experiences," said Coobtee. "[R]eally

one of the most powerful parts of the trip for me was to stop and realize that we were standing in

Venezuela at a time like no other in its history, at a time when you can feel this sense of change

in the air, and a feeling that you were witnessing a society that is on the verge of great change and

progress. They've gotten this far, not without a lot of struggle and a lot of opposition, though.

And we should take time to analyze that and also the period ahead of them right now."

She began by discussing the accomplishments thus far of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

"Since the democratic election of President Hugo Chavez in 1998, great gains for the people of

Venezuela have really been made," she continued. "He based his government on the aspirations

of more than 80% of the Venezuelans who are living in poverty. Chavez led the effort to rewrite

the country's constitution in 1999 and reshape the political structure in a more democratic way.

For the first time, ordinary Venezuelans had access to the political system under which they

lived.

"One of the greatest criticisms by the right wing--and we've all heard it, and we heard it a lot

when we were in Venezuela as well--was that Chavez is merely a dictator that rules over

Venezuela without allowing for the participation of others or allowing free speech. But one of the

greatest lessons that we learned while we were in Venezuela was that the Bolivarian

Revolution [The term Bolivarian Revolution is described in Additional Information, which

immediately follows this article.] (which is what they call all of these gains that have taken place

over the last several years) is much larger than Hugo Chavez himself. Of course, the people have

a lot of trust in him and his policies, but the revolutionary process is one that is much more

widespread and engraved in the population than any right-winger would care to know.

"One of the major differences is the redirecting of the wealth of Venezuela's oil industry.

Venezuela, as many of you know, is the fifth-largest exporter of oil in the world, and Chavez has

rerouted a substantial amount of the oil revenues into social programs. These [institutions] called

misions take place in the neighborhoods in some of the most deprived areas of Venezuela. The

misions are truly a large step forward in Venezuela's revolutionary process because Chavez has

decided to go around the right-wing opposition in his own government, who early on stood in the

way of a lot of the progressive reforms, and decided to go straight to the people themselves in

Venezuela to be the organizers and leaders of these misions, with the great help of the Cuban

people."

Delegate Carlos Alvarez recalled his visits to some of the misions. "We walked into mision

Mercal," he said, "where food was sold at 50% at what it would normally cost or free if 50% was

still too much or even sent to your home by the reserves if you were either handicapped or elderly

or had some sort of disability that prevented you from getting to the food.

"We also visited the mision Barrio Adentro sector of St. Augustin, the program that focuses on

one of the most important and universal needs: health. We met with two of the Cuban doctors

of that particular location and talked with them about the hundreds of patients that rely on them

on a daily basis, only to be interrupted by a spontaneous yell of 'Viva Chavez!' coming from

some home, followed by a burst of applause and cheering all down the street."

On a related subject, Alvarez described an encounter he had with a homeless woman. "She had

picked up the bag of one of the ANSWER delegates after we had forgotten we set it down in [an]

open field," he recalled. "[S]he walked us back to the van we were in [and] walked with me

holding onto my arm. [S]he was barefoot and had trouble walking. [W]hat I really remember is

what she told me. She leaned into my body as we walked and told me, 'You know, ever since the

Cuban doctors came, they've been able to heal my feet.'"

Alvarez further described Venezuela's public services. "We also visited one of the many

government-funded sports and music schools throughout Venezuela," he said, "where anyone can

delve into productive recreational activities such as basketball, soccer, piano, guitar, etc.

". . . [Mision Ribas] focused on education, but unlike mision Robinson, which has obliterated

illiteracy in so many villages and cities throughout Venezuela, mision Ribas was meant for what

would be the equivalent of a high school education. The teacher at this particular site was once

helped by mision Robinson. She, too, was once illiterate."

"There are other great gains that have taken place," continued Coobtee. "Workers are taking

matters into their own hands in workplaces. But the difference in Venezuela is that they're

receiving support for doing so by the government instead of being crushed. Of course, in

Venezuela there existed for a very long [time], and still continues to exist, a right-wing,

reactionary federation of unions called the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, the CVT. And

in the past few years, workers have left the CVT after the pro-Chavez labor forces were unable to

wrestle control of the CVT itself. So they formed their own militant trade federation called the

UNT, the National Union of Venezuelan Workers. And nearly one million workers have left the

CVT and joined the UNT, where the workers are increasingly gaining control of strategic areas of

the economy like the oil industry which is nationalized in Venezuela. [A documentary on this

subject, The Bolivarian Revolution: Enter the Oil Workers, is available through Global Women's

Strike. Www.globalwomensstrike.net/]. Although the oil industry has been nationalized for a

quite a long time in Venezuela, because of the former governments, the profits from the oil

industry were still going to a few families in Venezuela and to the profit of international

corporations.

". . . Minimum wage, since Chavez has come into office, has increased by 30% for workers, and

there is freedom of speech."

Coobtee's report segued to Venezuela's land reforms. "[I]n the last year, the government has

started to implement land reforms that gave large landholders a choice, 'You either give up

this unused land that is just sitting around in Venezuela or the army will take it away and turn it

over to poor farmers,'" she said. "In Venezuela there are millions of poor and landless

Venezuelans, and so these land reforms are starting to take place."

Also mentioned was the urban farms that, with Cuba's help, are appearing in Venezuela.

"[A]bout 10 of us U.S. delegates [went] to the working-class barrio of St. Augustin," reported

Alvarez. "We walked past the community gardens that were once landfills before there was a

government that cared about taking care of not only how the community looked, but potential

health hazards of having tons of rotting garbage in the middle of the city." "[T]hey've turned it

into an organic garden," elaborated Guerra. "Every season they change [to] a different crop."

[More about this urban farm can be found at: http://www.Vheadline.com/readnews.asp?id=6432

and for information about Venezuela's urban farms, organic gardening, and land reforms, see:

http://www.organicconsumers.org/corp/cubavenez20205.cfm ]

Another aspect of Cuban life that Venezuelans are adopting is less wasteful lifestyles. "The

Cubans have developed a new culture," Guerra stated. "They are one of the few people that

don't waste anything; they don't throw away anything. It's really incredible that they are able to

manage every available resource that they have and stretch it and are able to make a lot out of

it. In Venezuela there has been a culture of capitalism, of exploitation, and pillage for the last

50-100 years. It's a process that's still in its infancy. However, that is one of the things that the

young people are doing in Venezuela right now." [He later elaborated on this subject, and his

remarks can be found after this article in Additional Information.]

The integration of Venezuela's military into the communities was also discussed. "I would say

that the military is one of the most visible ways in which the revolution has been consolidated,"

noted Jennifer Caldwell. "[H]ere in the U.S., the military is kind of scary and very separate from

the people and doesn't seem to be part of the people. In U.S. history, the military has even

fired on the people many times. It was an amazing and touching thing to see soldiers doing things

like passing out water and passing out food. There was a camaraderie between the military

and the civilians that was really an amazing thing to witness. We also interviewed several

soldiers while we were there, most of them lower-ranking soldiers but also some higher-ranking

military personnel. When we get our video together, I'm sure we will have some of that footage

on there.

". . . We should keep in mind that the people and the military together did defeat the police

during the coup. [The coup of 2002 against President Chavez is described later in this article.]

This is a very important thing to remember."

Guerra contrasted the current military to the one that preceded Chavez. "Venezuela was under a

dictatorship for a long time, and it was very interesting to see the way military bases were

built," he said. "Most of the poor towns are at the bottom, and the military bases were always

built on top of the hills. It was just to keep a check on the people. It was very creepy trying to

imagine what life was like 10 or 15 years ago. These places have now been turned into

community centers; they actually turned [some of] them into universities. That speaks for itself."

Another goal of the Bolivarian movement has been to increase acceptance of homosexuals in

society. Alvarez attended a workshop that addressed this issue. "[A] member of the Bolivarian

government of Venezuela spoke about the important seeds within the Bolivarian constitution to

build a society intolerant of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender," he

recounted. "The audience of many hundreds was made up of people from around the world, but

most importantly, the largest group represented there was from Venezuela.

". . . Things like equality for LGBT aren't stated directly in the constitution, but the constitution

talks about standing against all forms of discrimination of people. So that and having a

representative of the Bolivarian government there, is a huge step in bringing this dialog into the

consciousness of the people of Venezuela."

Coobtee continued, "But it has not been easy to get to this stage that Venezuela is at right now.

The U.S. government has made a large series of efforts to oust Chavez and to reverse the gains

of the Bolivarian Revolution, many of which we know about. The U.S., of course, financially

supported a coup against Chavez in 2002 that many of us already know about. The anti-Chavez

forces, with the assistance of the U.S., used the military to oust Chavez. Even with much of the

military leadership and the Caracas Metropolitan Police on the side of the right wing, the people

came out in the streets in massive numbers to demand the return of Chavez, which they

accomplished.

". . . The U.S. financially supported the coup and so many other attempts to oust Chavez through,

how many of you have heard of the National Endowment for Democracy? It's through this

National Endowment of Democracy, this non-profit puppet of the CIA and the U.S. government,

that we're channeling in, and continue to channel in, money to right-wing opposition groups

inside of Venezuela. Maybe some of you have heard of Sumate and the leaders of the coup itself.

"In the same year as the military coup, in December of 2002, the U.S., through the Native

Solidarity Center of the AFL-CIO, funded the right-wing labor federation, the CVT, that

controlled the oil revenues by going on strike and closing down. So this whole oil

industry, that was still controlled by these few families and big corporations, shut down and

severely affected the families living in Venezuela. This was something that, when speaking to

Venezuelans, especially more middle-class Venezuelans, deeply affected them and turned their

families from anti-Chavez supporters to pro-Chavez. They saw how the right wing was willing

to hurt people in order to control their wealth and their power inside of Venezuela.

"And of course, we know about the referendum that happened last year, but there have been eight

popular referendums since Chavez was elected in 1998 that affirmed the government's

revolutionary policies and the masses' desire for real economic and social change. And the

biggest blow to Venezuela's right-wing opposition was last year on August 15th: this referendum.

The referendum was to decide whether Chavez would carry out his term as president of

Venezuela, which is up next year. The referendum was introduced by this group Sumate, who

was funded by the National Endowment for Democracy by the U.S., and, of course, it

was defeated. That's why Chavez is still in power, and he's up for reelection next year.

"So these attempts by the opposition that were instigated and supported by the U.S. have really

only served to make the people of Venezuela realize their revolutionary potential. It has also

emboldened the people to realize that there will soon come a time when they will need to defend

the revolutionary gains they've made so far."

Coobtee then discussed the tasks that lay ahead for the Bolivarian movement. "After the time that

Chavez was initially elected back in 1998," she continued, "there were a lot of progressive laws

and provisions of the new constitution that were put into place that would have dramatically

changed the lives of the Venezuelans and still could. But they had not at the time because the

opposition within Chavez's own government--they're still in the government--and the National

Assembly had prevented them from doing so. So there's a lot of block between what could

really happen and what's being put on paper.

". . . [P]eople realize the gains that they've made [and] that they have the potential for even

greater ones, [but] there is the opposition that stands in their way. And they have a lot to lose if

the opposition wins. But after making these gains for the past seven years, and the people,

through defending them again and again, they've realized the potential to get even

more.

"Despite the great wealth of the nation of Venezuela--as I said, they're the fifth-largest exporter

of oil--there's still a disproportionate amount of people who live in poverty in Venezuela, even

though there have been such great improvements in their lives, based on their ability to get

healthcare, the alleviating of illiteracy, and all of these projects. So, many members of the

Venezuelan government, including Chavez and Vice-President Rangel, have talked about the

next phase of the revolutionary process.

"The head of the Women's Institute, who we got to hear speak, talked about the first phase of the

revolution being called the Constitutional Phase, where they were able to achieve getting a

progressive leader, Chavez, in power; getting their new revolutionary constitution into place that

provided for the people and empowered them to put more and more laws into place

that help the people; the misions established to begin to providing basic relief for people in

Venezuela in education and healthcare. This was the first phase. The laws on paper are

starting to be implemented, but it is really the next phase that is really the critical one, as said by

Chavez and the Venezuelans while we were there.

"First, there has to be sweeping domestic reforms that take place. For example, there are laws

that have been on the books for decades for the protection of consumer rights, for tenants'

rights, all of these things, but they've never been implemented. So large monopolies still control

things like paper, they control food products, basic necessities that are expensive for ordinary

Venezuelans. So now is the time to take this drastic move and break up these monopolies inside

of Venezuela. This is also the same of the more massive redistribution of land so it's more

equitably apportioned amongst the population of Venezuela. These are very large reforms that

really the right-wing opposition or the ruling elite inside of Venezuela will not be looking

forward to.

"Second, Venezuela is still living under the threat of U.S. neoliberalist policies, just like all other

Latin American countries. So the Venezuelan government of Chavez has put forward an

alternative. Being the fifth-largest exporter of oil in the world, Chavez has now created

something called ALBA, which is the Bolivarian alternative for the Americas. [It's] an alternative

to what we know as FTAA, that's Free Trade Area of the Americas, that the U.S. is trying to push

forward. [It] would allow the U.S. and other western countries to come in with their corporations

and more easily exploit the resources and the people of Latin America. So Venezuela and

Chavez, in these negotiations, are saying: 'Well this isn't so good for us. It isn't fair. And anyway,

in our constitution in Venezuela, we cannot approve it unless it's passed through a vote of the

people.' So the people of Venezuela have to vote for the FTAA before it can be passed.

"But anyway, Chavez is putting forward things like ALBA as an alternative to build a way for

countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to trade amongst one another without U.S.

interference. This is very big. "And where is this all headed? During the first speech, where we

all got to march by Chavez and the heads of Venezuelan government, and then we got to hear

Chavez speak for quite a while, he talked about the history of U.S. intervention in Venezuela and

in Latin America. And he said that really where Venezuela is now is on the road to socialism.

This was a theme that was echoed by leaders of Venezuela throughout the week, including Vice

President Rangel, the head of the Women's Institute, and it was an overwhelming sentiment

coming from the Venezuelan youth that were participating. [Coobtee talks about Venezuela's

active youth in the transcript.] Why is this the case? Well, the current form in the government, as

I said before, is really standing in the way of the relief that's needed for the people of Venezuela,

and that is constantly putting them under the threat of attack. So as long as Venezuela has a form

of government that they do now, there's always this strong opposition from the ruling elite inside

of Venezuela that is always going to be trying to get at the gains and to reverse the gains that

people are trying so hard to achieve. And the threat is from outside as well. The U.S. will

continue to try to interfere with the gains of the revolution and reverse them."

Coobtee insisted that socialism is not being imposed on Venezuela by the Cuban aid workers.

"[T]he Cuban doctors-volunteers [in Venezuela] that are totaling in 15,000, stressed--and we

witnessed--that they aren't there to teach their ideology, and they really, truly aren't," she stated.

"They're just trying to providing services in Venezuela. But it's easy to see for any Venezuelan

that the people of Cuba have so much more in the ways of basic goods and services than the

people in Venezuela, a much richer country, simply do not have. And they're starting to ask,

'Why is that the case?' So this is what is facilitating the introduction and the continuing education

about socialism as an alternative to the form of government they currently have."

"A lot of the sentiment was 'Chavez until 2021,'" said Guerra. "Many, many people think that if

this process continues the way it is right now until 2021, this is going to be a first-class

country."

Coobtee returned to the subject of the unification of Latin America. "The people in Venezuela,

especially their leadership, realize that they will not be able to maintain the revolution without

international solidarity as well," she said. "This was a big lesson that the Cubans were bringing to

the conference. This was the main topic of conversation of the [Cuban] Prime Minister of

Foreign Affairs, Felipe Roque. In his address to the festival, [he] said that it is through

cooperation and through this continued international solidarity that Cuba has been able to

thrive. Cuba sent tens of thousand of volunteers to South Africa to throw over Apartheid. They

led as an example of what international solidarity and the strength of it can do."

"[T]here are so many projects going on," noted Guerra. "One of the most important things, I

think, is Telesur. They're breaking away with the imperialist ideology that is being broadcasted to

people 24/7 by CNN, ABC, El Telemundo, and all. The fact that they are now trying to re-create

a culture of solidarity and friendship among the people is an important step.

"But there are many [other] things: there's Petro Caribe, which is cooperation between all the

Caribbean countries and Venezuela to [inaudible] and drill for oil and take advantage of the

resources for the people. There are numerous other projects."

Coobtee continued, "[I]n Chavez's second speech that we got to hear in the closing--and he's

talked about it before then and since then--he talked about selling oil directly to oppressed or

impoverished countries, which, as we saw on the news, to two other countries in the Caribbean.

[He's] selling directly at a fair price to other countries who are in deep need of this oil.



"When we got to hear Chavez speak, he took out his paper and his pen, and he wrote down how

much oil that Venezuela is sending to the U.S., which is quite a lot, and he calculated how much

it costs people, all of us here in this room, to buy gas. But if we were to receive these goods from

Venezuela directly, it would cost us half the amount without having to go through our

government.

"So he was making an offer. It was this gesture from Chavez that 'I am willing to sell to any

progressive collective in the United States oil directly to you.' [Laughter.] Maybe someday the

ANSWER Coalition will be getting oil directly from Venezuela." [Extended applause.]

Throughout the evening, there was discussion about new tactics being used by the U.S. to stop

the Bolvarian movement. "Well, really the U.S. has had little to no success in indirectly trying to

overthrow Chavez through the funding of these right-wing groups inside of Venezuela," Coobtee

stated. "Of course, these groups are still very powerful; we got to see a handful of them. But the

U.S. appears to be taking a new approach towards Venezuela and Chavez as Chavez gains more

and more international support, especially from other Latin American countries. In recent

months, Washington has stepped up its anti-Chavez rhetoric. It appears that the U.S. is now

taking it upon itself to destroy the Bolivarian Revolution, instead of through these right-wing

groups, by trying to portray Chavez as this rogue agent in Venezuela that needs to be eliminated.

The U.S. government realizes that Venezuela only gets stronger through its relationships with

other countries, so they're attempting to isolate Venezuela and make it appear to be out of step

with the rest of Latin America. "On January 18th of this year, Secretary of State Condoleezza

Rice told the senate that, quote, 'we are very concerned about a democratically-elected leader

who governs in a liberal way.' She has described Chavez's government as being a, quote,

'negative force in the region,' and Washington has repeatedly criticized Chavez for his close

relationship with Fidel Castro. Threats have come from the CIA director as far as ALBA and the

alternatives to trade with the United States. Chavez is really perceived as a threat to U.S.

hegemony in Latin America because he represents what can be achieved by a formerly-colonized

nation that decides to break away from the U.S.-dominated economic institutions like the IMF,

the International Monetary Fund.

"And millions of Latin Americans are seeing Venezuela now as an example of what truly

independent nations can accomplish, much in the same way that Cuba had been seen for the last

50 years. And at the festival, support was coming from so many movements in other Latin

American countries, where people are struggling against the same neoliberal policies of the U.S.

that have hurt the poor and working people of those countries.

"Also, there was a very serious threat against the life of Chavez. At the festival, Chavez was

giving testimony to the Anti-Imperialist Tribunal [and] spoke about the evidence Venezuela has

of numerous plots to assassinate him, to eliminate him. And he told the delegates at the festival

that 'if I am to be eliminated, the person that you should blame first, no matter what, is President

George Bush.' These are very serious threats. Not too far away, the CIA has tried to organize over

300 attempts to assassinate Castro, so it's something that is a reality. They have a very good

reason to believe that this is a serious threat. It was this speech by Chavez at the festival that Pat

Robertson was probably referring to last Monday when he called for the assassination of Chavez

by the U.S. government, an escalation of outright hostility against the Venezuelan government."

Another delegate of the World Festival, who was seated in the audience, made additional

comments on this issue, based on conversations he had with Colombian delegates. "[R]ight now

the biggest fear for them is that part of Plan Colombia is beefing up the Colombian military so

that there's that risk that there might be some type of escalation between Colombia and

Venezuela," he said. "It was mentioned over and over by Colombian delegates who we actually

spoke to in an informal basis. I know several people mentioned the possibility of a U.S. invasion

of Venezuela, but the Colombians are almost positive that it will be through the aegis of the U.S.

government under Plan Colombia, that they're beefing up the Colombian military."

According to Coobtee, Venezuela is preparing for these dangers. "These threats are not taken

lightly by the Venezuelans and Chavez." she said. "They realize that between the confrontations

within Venezuela over the past several years, funded by the U.S., and through the direct threats

from the U.S. government in various forms, they know that a confrontation is on the horizon.

A confrontation with the U.S. directly or through this ruling elite within Venezuela is something

that is very much a reality and something we very much need to know about.

"In his testimony during the Anti-Imperialist Tribunal, Chavez told the world, 'I am not Allende.'

[He] was referring to Chile in 1973 where the military carried out a bloodbath and fascist

coup that destroyed the gains of the people and murdered tens of thousands of workers and

leftists. Salvador Allende, who had just been democratically-elected by the people of Chile, had

mistakenly believed that the military would be true to the constitution and was faithful to the

government. The general view is that most of the military stands with Chavez today, even

though there are still some hostile elements that Chavez is attempting to purge from the military.

Another problem is that much of the Caracas Metropolitan Police, 21,000 strong and heavily

armed, are in the hands of the reactionaries. [It's] the same in the second-largest city in

Venezuela.

"Chavez has reaffirmed the current attempt to strengthen the military. He announced earlier this

year that he would create neighborhood popular defense units that would vary in size and

function in various areas, too, not just as military but would help in farming and fixing roads and

all sorts of areas. And more importantly, Venezuela is building its number of reservists to

foster increasing ties between civilians and the military and encourage working people and poor

people to participate in the defense of the country. So the reserves is supposed to increase from

35,000 people to 100,000 people."

Guerra also talked about the reservists. "We talked to a lot of people who have become military

reservists because they're taking it on themselves to defend this [movement]," he said. "Before

this process was in place, people had nothing to eat, people had never seen a doctor in their lives,

and now they have all these basic human rights that are actually being given to them by this

process. So people are taking it onto themselves to protect this with their lives. Many, many

workers that we spoke to are volunteer reservists, and they are actually being trained by the

military to defend this process. We thought it was very inspiring to see common people who

didn't have anything before [who now] have a job, they have an education, they have a house."

Another topic that was discussed was the role that people in the U.S. can play to support

Venezuela's Bolivarian movement. "We in the anti-war movement in the United States have a

responsibility to educate people in the U.S. about Venezuelans and what is taking place there at

this time," continued Coobtee. "Time and time again, delegates from all over the world, from

North Africa to Asia to Latin America, everywhere, were coming up to us and telling us (and this

was Chavez's message at the beginning of the conference as well), 'We are so happy to see that

there are 700 delegates from the United States because we see you not as your government and

the policies of your government but that you are fighting for the same thing as we are, for a better

life for our people and for greater gains for the people as a whole.' And what every single one of

them wanted to know, especially the people of Venezuela and Cuba, was that people here in the

United States are struggling as well, that we're not just sitting back and watching what's

happening because of the policies of the Bush administration and the U.S. government. They

were so excited to hear that we were going to be having demonstrations, like on September 24th.

So we need to continue to struggle in the United States, build international solidarity with the

people of Venezuela, Cuba, and Latin America. Viva Chavez! Long live the Bolivarian

Revolution! [Applause and shouts.]"

END

Special thanks to Carlos Alvarez, Marcial Guerra, Jennifer Caldwell, and Muna Coobtee for

making clarifications and answering follow-up questions.

A complete transcript of this event can be found in part 2 of this coverage. A great deal of

information could not be included here in part 1.

A link to the transcript is provided in the Comments section below.

------

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

SIMON BOLIVAR

The term Bolivarian Revolution is based on Simon Bolivar, who is seen as "the liberator of South

America, one of the great heroes of its history," as described in Webster's encyclopedia. "[H]e

led the liberation of Venezuela [from Spain] in 1821 and created the federal state of Greater

Colombia, including what is now Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador," the article explains. "He

went on to liberate Peru and to form the republic of Bolivia (1825)." However, before long,

various countries seceded from Bolivar's state. (See: The 21st Century Webster's Family

Encyclopedia, Volume 2, 1999 Edition, pp. 20-21. Published by Trident Press International in

Naples, Florida.)

Bolivar is also discussed at the website VenezuelAnalysis.com. It is stated there that Bolivar's

"major contribution was perhaps his understanding of importance of Latin American integration.

He understood very early on that our countries had no future unless they joined in their struggle

against European countries and the United States. Already, in the second decade of the 19th

century, he foresaw that 'in the name of freedom, the United States of North America seem to

have been destined by providence to plague America with miseries.'"

VenezuelaAnalysis.com goes on to say, "While Bolivar never spoke of class struggle, he did

insist on the need to abolish slavery, and his work always shows concern for the common people.

. . . He also believed that democracy had to be conceived as a political system to give people

supreme happiness. According to him, no military man should ever aim his weapon against the

people. . . ." (see: http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1040)

MARCIAL GUERRA: MORE ABOUT RESOURCEFUL LIVING IN CUBA

In a conversation that I had with Guerra after the ANSWER presentation, he elaborated on

Cuba's less wasteful lifestyle. "Forty years of embargo has taught [the Cubans] to be very

resourceful," he noted. "They don't have much paper, they don't have a lot of other stuff that we

take for granted here. Because of that, they're not so wasteful with paper the way we are here.

In the United States, if you went into an average home, you'll see piles and piles of garbage. They

don't have that in Cuba. Because of the inherent culture of our system, we think that whenever

we are able to throw lots of stuff into the garbage, we must be doing well. They have a huge

program of recycling and [reusing]. Whatever [electronics] they have, they repair and reuse and

turn it into something else."

HOW TO BUY GAS FROM VENEZUELA

The Venezuelan-owned gas station chain, Citgo, may have a location in your area. You can find

out by going to this site and entering your zip code:

http://www.citgo.com/CITGOLocator/StoreLocator.jsp Phoning the station(s) before going is

recommended as some of the site's information is said to be out of date.

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World Festival in Venezuela: Photo by Jennifer Caldwell

by Rick Panna Friday, Oct. 21, 2005 at 12:30 AM
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World Festival in Venezuela: Photo by Jennifer Caldwell

by Rick Panna Friday, Oct. 21, 2005 at 12:30 AM
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