"I have recently had the opportunity to witness important developments in the Bolivarian Revolution," Nelson Davila, Venezuelan ambassador to Australia, just returned from a three-week visit to his homeland, told a forum sponsored by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) in Brisbane on April 20.
"There have been big developments in agriculture, mainly aimed at maintaining and improving the ecosystem, through expansion of eco-socialist co-operatives," Davila told the forum.
"This all falls within the revolutionary government's plan, which is for food sovereignty for Venezuela. We don't want to be dependent on other countries for our food, and the government is therefore increasing investment in agriculture and livestock."
Another priority is housing, Davila explained. "We have recently had a similar problem to Queensland, with massive floods leaving many people without homes.
"Slowly, the government has been moving to resolve this housing shortage," with the construction of public housing estates and co-operatives, he said.
Pensions and social welfare have been improved, and communications have been developed through an increase in the provision of community radio stations.
"Assistance has been increased to the Indigenous communities; and the popular sectors have been given greater support regarding medical services and transport.
"The rail network has been expanded, with greater connections being made between the various states. The rail system had been virtually eliminated under previous conservative governments," he noted.
"The Venezuelan government has also organised a joint venture with Cuba to expand the fishing industry, including fish farming, in order to increase the supply of food to the population."
"The education system has been improved considerably at all levels over recent years. But, while public university education is free, the main traditional universities are controlled by the right-wing opposition.
“The government provides the funding for all universities, but because of the legal autonomy of these institutions, it cannot determine the use of these funds," Davila said.
He noted that the anti-Chavez opposition is strong, with the support of around 4 million voters, including large sections of the middle class and parts of the government bureaucracy, "They try to block the government's political initiatives, but this is all part of the political struggle facing the revolution," he said.
"We are determined to defend our sovereigny against the threats of the US Empire," Davila stressed.
"April 19 is a historic day for Venezuela. On that day in 1810, the Venezuelan people declared their independence from Spain. We are resolute that we will never be a colony again."
"The empire has invaded Libya in order to gain full control of its oil. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, and much fresh water and gas.
"We will defend ourselves against any attacks. We are developing the popular militias as part of our armed forces to allow the people to be involved in this effort," he said.
"The US is financing the political opposition in Venezuela. We need all the international solidarity that can be mobilised, especially next year in the lead-up to the presidential elections at the end of 2012," Davila added.