Australians say 'Hands off Venezuela'

A protest outside the US consulate in Sydney on March 23. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

More than 30 activists, supporters and members of the Latin American community rallied outside the United States Embassy in Canberra on February 23 as part of a global day of action against US-led aggression towards the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

With chants of "Hands Off Venezuela!" and "No More Pinochets!", the crowd expressed its solidarity with Venezuela’s pro-poor Bolivarian Revolution, led by President Nicolas Maduro of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

In recent months, the US has intensified its long-running campaign of diplomatic pressure, economic attacks and threats of military intervention against Venezuela.

The US was the first country to recognise Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido after he self-proclaimed himself “interim President” of Venezuela on January 23. Since then a number of other countries including Australia, Canada, some European nations and those governed by right-wing parties in Latin America have followed suit.

Despite claiming to represent democratic interests, the US continues to support Guaido despite the fact that Maduro was legitimately elected in the Venezuelan Presidential elections held in May 2018.

Latin American community leaders expressed their concern that US intervention in Latin America would risk a repetition of the tragic events that accompanied earlier US-backed interference in places such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Chile, where dictator Augusto Pinochet came to power in a CIA-backed coup in 1973 after ousting the democratically-elected government of socialist president Salvador Allende.

Union activist and Socialist Alliance member Paul Oboohov said: “The struggles of Venezuelan workers are the struggles of Australian workers.”

“The US has a long history of intervening in the affairs of democratically elected governments that don't toe the capitalist line, in Latin America and around the world.

“I believe that running Venezuela is a matter for the Venezuelan people to work out themselves, free from external pressure and American bully tactics.”

In Brisbane, more than 60 people joined a rally that same day to demand that the Australian government and opposition reverse their support for the coup attempt in Venezuela.

“Hands off Venezuela: No more coups; Lift the sanctions; No recognition for Guaido” was the theme of the rally.

Speakers included Mike Henry from Just Peace, Eulalia Reyes from the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) and Adela Brent from Australian Solidarity with Latin America (ASLA).

A much smaller gathering by supporters of the right wing opposition was held in the same location later in the day.

Despite heavy rain, about 50 people rallied outside the United States consulate in Martin Place, Sydney on February 23 to oppose the US coup in Venezuela. The rally also called for the US to lift its sanctions on Venezuela and for the Australian government to withdraw its recognition of coup president Guaido.

Rally organiser Federico Fuentes chaired the protest while speakers included Coral Wynter from the AVSN; Victor-Hugo Munoz, representing the Latin American Social Forum (LASF); academic and Latin American solidarity activist Tim Anderson; Jim McIlroy, from the Socialist Alliance; and Wayne Sonter, from the Communist Party of Australia.

A small protest was also held in Perth that same day.