A dangerous time for Latin America

September 7, 2009

"This is a very dangerous time for Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution and all of Latin America, and your solidarity now is extremely important", Venezuelan ambassador to Australia, Nelson Davila, told the closing session of the Latin America Solidarity Conference in Melbourne.

The August 28-29 conference brought together 150 activists from around the country. Discussion focused on the people's power movements sweeping Latin America, which are posing an new challenge to imperialism.

These revolutionary movements are building social and economic alternatives to the plunder, war and injustices of the old system, and giving new hope to freedom struggles internationally.

However, in the weeks leading up to the conference, the military coup in Honduras and the announcement of seven new United States military bases in Colombia made it clear that imperialism has launched a counter-offensive in the region. The sense of danger and urgency to defend the Latin American revolution was present in all the conference sessions.

The conference was addressed by five Latin American activists who are visiting Australia for solidarity speaking tours in August and September.

Venezuelan activists Heryck Rangel, Yoly Fernandez and Daniel Sanchez described the achievements of the Bolivarian revolution and the challenges it faces to build a new socialism of the 21st century.

They described some of the new institutions of grassroots democracy developing in Venezuela.

Many discussions focused on the revolutionary government's new reforms to strengthen popular control of the mass media and the education system.

Sanchez and Fernandez are now touring Australia. They will speak about Venezuela's "people's power" movement at public meetings in most capital cities. For details, visit www.venezuelasolidarity.org.

Jaime Gajardo, the general secretary of the United Workers Federation of Chile and a leader of Chile's teachers' union, described the struggles of the workers' movement in the context of the capitalist economic crisis in Latin America.

Jesus Gonzalez, a founding member of the United Workers Federation of Colombia, was forced into exile because of his work documenting the assassination of trade union leaders. At the conference, he called on activists in Australia to launch a campaign against the US military build-up in his country.

The conference also discussed the Obama administration's policy towards Latin America, the challenges facing El Salvador's new left-wing government, the international campaign for the release of the Cuba Five and the role of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas in developing continent-wide, anti-imperialist cooperation.

A workshop to discuss the June 28 coup in Honduras drew a large crowd. Greetings were presented to the conference from the National Resistance Front Against the Coup in Honduras, which is leading the battle for the restoration of democracy.

The conference later expressed its solidarity with a noisy march through the centre of Melbourne to demand that the Australian ALP government condemn the coup and demand the reinstatement of democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya.

Unlike most other countries in the world, the Australian government has not condemned the coup.

Greetings from Cuba's Consul-General in Australia and imprisoned Colombian human rights campaigner Liliany Obando were presented to the conference.

Obando has remained in jail since she was arrested by the Colombian authorities shortly after returning from the Latin America and Asia Pacific Solidarity Forum held in Melbourne in 2007.

All greetings and resolutions adopted by the conference can be viewed at www.solidarityconference2009.org.

On the following day, the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) held its annual national consultation in Melbourne.

The consultation planned the AVSN's solidarity activities for the next 12 months. About 40 delegates attended.

Some of the national projects adopted included: organising a visit to Australia early next year by leaders of Venezuela's militant trade union movement; organising two Australian solidarity brigades to Venezuela in 2010, including a May Day brigade to run from April 24 to May 3; and producing a range of new publications and films to better inform people in Australia about the achievements and significance of Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution.

The AVSN also agreed to take part in organising, along with other sponsors, a visit to Australia next month by senator, indigenous leader and coca farmer organiser Leonida Zurita from Bolivia.

[Lisa Macdonald is a national co-coordinator of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network.]

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