British Latin America conference pushes solidarity with progressive struggles

Issue 
Some of the speakers at Latin America 2014, held in London on November 29.

Latin America 2014 conference, in solidarity with the continent's progressive struggles, was held in London on November 29 and attracted hundreds of participants.

Held in the Trade Union Congress building, it was jointly organised by several trade unions, Latin America solitary groups and other supporters of the progressive and revolutionary struggles in the region.

The participants took part in more than 30 workshops across a broad range of topics surrounding the achievements and challenges of the various governments, social and political movements across the continent.

Matthew Willgress, the national coordinator of Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, said: “About 700 people attended throughout the day, making it the biggest yet.

“From a Venezuela point of view, [it was] the biggest solidarity event since Hugo Chavez came to London.”

The opening panel addressed the progress made so far by Latin America's left-wing governments, compared with the program of austerity being implemented by the British government.

Owen Jones, a freelance journalist and author, addressed the need for ongoing solidarity with the Venezuelan government at the time of renewed media war attacks against the Bolivarian Revolution.

Seumas Milne, an associate editor of The Guardian, highlighted the danger posed to Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolution by the violent demonstrations organised by the ultra-right sections of the opposition earlier this year.

“We have witnessed the violent campaign of destabilisation, financed by the United States, and aimed at overthrowing a democratically-elected regime of Nicolas Maduro,” Milne said.

National secretary of the National Teachers Union Christine Bowler highlighted the high levels of public spending and investment that the countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba have invested into health care and education over the past few years.

She compared that to the cuts implemented to social services and public education by Britain’s government.

The guest of honour was Aleida Guevara, a Cuban paediatric doctor and the daughter of Argintinean-born Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. Addressing the conference on behalf of the tens of thousands of her fellow Cuban doctors working across the world, she highlighted the enormous effort that Cuba was making to combat the Ebola outbreak in west Africa.

Several prominent left-wing British political figures also addressed the workshops and forums.

George Galloway, an MP for Respect and outspoken opponent of war and for solidarity with Palestine, outlined the continuous achievements of the Cuban Revolution.

“Cuba has served and continuous to serve as a threat of a good example to the rest of the world,” Galloway said.

Galloway remarked on the conference’s growing popularity and the broadening of the scope of solidarity campaigns, noting: “The reason why this conference keeps growing is because Latin America can give far more to us, than we can give to Latin America.

“Hugo Chavez [for instance] proved to us that another world is possible, a better world is possible!”

Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour Party MP for Islington and a leader of Labour Friends of Venezuela, talked about the region’s drive towards peace and co-existence with the rest of the world.

He also pointed out that every country within Latin America has officially recognised the state of Palestine.

Among other campaigns featured at the conference was the “Dirty Hand of Chevron” campaign, initiated and led by Friends of Ecuador.

Justice for Colombia was also present, and focused on recent developments in the peace talks between Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government.

Its coordinator Mariela Kohon reiterated the need to support the struggle for freeing jailed trade union activists and leaders in Colombia.

Ambassadors and foreign dignitaries of Cuba, Venezuela and Argentina also addressed the conference. Alicia Castro, Argentinian Ambassador to Britain, raised the issue of the current dispute between the country’s government and a group of vulture funds.

[Visit www.latinamerica2014.org.uk for more information.]

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