By New Worker correspondent
Supporters of the Venezuelan revolution packed London’s Conway Hall last Saturday for a conference by the Venezuela Solidarity Committee.
Issued discussed included how the country is developing public services and social inclusion, the 2012 general election in Venezuela and how to combat the demonisation of the country by the western imperialist media.
Speakers included Samuel Moncada, Venezuelan Ambassador to Britain and Ireland, Benita Fional from the Venezuelan Women’s Ministry, Temir Porras, Venezuelan Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Juana Garcia from the Venezuelan National Women’s Institute, author Richard Gott, journalists Alex Main and Jody McIntyre and Islington Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn.
The first plenary session was chaired by Gail Cartmail of the union Unite and began with Ambassador Moncada giving an account of how the country has improved since Hugo Chavez was elected to the presidency in 1998; how the oil revenues of the country have been turned from supplying profits to wealthy imperialists to tackling poverty, illiteracy and ill health in Venezuela and the impact this has made.
Levels of malnutrition have fallen from 7.7 per cent of the population to 3.7 per cent (the Latin American average is six per cent), thanks to food prices subsidised by oil money.
And Moncada told the conference that although Venezuela had been affected by the recent global economic crisis and had fallen into a brief period of recession, it had never cut funding to any of the programmes aimed at improving the social wellbeing of the people – but rather increased them, investing in the working people.
Moncada also mentioned the unsuccessful US-backed coup of 2002, which had the support of the right-wing media in Venezuela – though later, when the coup was brought down by the people, they tried to deny their support.
The Catholic Archbishop of Caracas had even complained to the Chavez government that the church was being sidelined in its work among the poor and downtrodden because now there was a shortage of people who were poor and downtrodden.
Women have been at the forefront of Chavez’s onslaught on poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition and Benita Fional explained why Chavez has the loyalty and support of the women of Venezuela.
She said that one of Chavez’s first acts had been to outlaw violence against women and all forms of domestic violence and to pass a law confirming the equality of women in all aspects of life.
This has made a huge difference to their lives and opened up a vast array of opportunities previously closed to women. Now they are well represented at all levels of government and administration – and now men to their share of looking after the children and housework, including the washing up.
Many speakers stressed the onslaught of irrational and vicious slanders directed at Venezuela and Chavez in particular, describing him as a dictator in spite of his continuing support in elections – and the fact that Chavez lost one referendum vote on 2005 And the right-wing still control the media in Venezuela and they do have an impact. As Temir Porras said, of the four million or so who cast their votes against Chavez, “they are not all wealthy oligarchs”.
Journalist Alex Main and researcher Lee Salter showed how the western media, in Britain the BBC in particular, describe Chavez’s achievements negatively for their impact on a small minority of wealthy people – who they regard as “Venezuela”, while the majority of workers and poor people who vote for Chavez are regarded as a dangerous, intimidating sub-human mob.
They all stressed how important it is for progressives in Britain to keep countering these lies and to promote a more balanced view of Venezuela, in the run-up to next year’s elections.
photo: Temir Porras