A commemoration to mark the tenth anniversary since Hugo Chavez’s death was organised by the Venezuelan Solidarity Campaign (VSC) on March 5.
Chavez was President of Venezuela from 1999 to 2013. He used Venezuela’s oil wealth to benefit the poor as well as promoting health, education and housing “social missions”. He encouraged people to organise to produce food and other necessities, including in communes.
Chavez survived attempts by the United States and the Venezuelan capitalists to overthrow him. A military coup in April 2002 was temporarily successful, but was defeated by mass protests and quick action by Chavez supporters in the military.
Participants watched the documentary Chavez. Romina Beitseen from Campaign for International Cooperation and Disarmament spoke about Chavez’s life. Maree Dellora, president of the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society (Melbourne), spoke about relations between Cuba and Venezuela.
An agreement in October 2000 means that Venezuela supplied oil to Cuba while Cuba provided it with health and education support. As a result, poor districts and neighbourhoods received free, high-quality health care. Cuba and Venezuela helped other Latin America countries, and elsewhere.
Dellora discussed the US campaign against Cuba and Venezuela, which continues today. Both countries face severe economic sanctions which, she said, amount to an “act of war”. Venezuelan assets, such as bank accounts, have been “stolen” by the US government and its allies.
VSC member Lucho Riquelme said that after Chavez’s death the US blockade, combined with a fall in the price of oil, had led to an economic crisis. People are growing more of their own food and trying to revive the “spirit of Chavez”, which Riquelme said means “revolution from below”.
Daniel Gasparri, the head of mission at Venezuela’s embassy in Canberra, addressed the meeting by video link. He described Chavez as a leader for Venezuela, Latin America and the whole world.
Responding to questions about the current situation, he said the election of a left-wing government in Colombia has been beneficial to Venezuela. Diplomatic and trade relations have resumed. Colombia will no longer be used as a base for attacks on Venezuela.
Gasparri said that the social missions are continuing, and new ones are being set up. For example, there is a program to refurbish old houses. Venezuela is beginning to recover from the economic crisis, Gasparri said, adding that its growth rate is now the highest in Latin America.