NUS cops out on Venezuela solidarity

Issue 

After having supported the May 20 international day of action in solidarity with Venezuela and Cuba, the National Union of Students (NUS) has taken a retrograde step by voting against giving support to the international week of solidarity with Venezuela starting on November 12.

Organised under the slogan "US hands off Venezuela", the week is aimed at drawing attention to the increased likelihood of US-instigated right-wing provocations in the lead up to the December 3 Venezuelan presidential election. Washington is increasingly desperate to stop radical socialist President Hugo Chavez being re-elected.

Chavez first came into office in 1998 with 58% of the votes cast. He was re-elected president in 2000 with 60% of the 6.2 million votes cast. In 2004, an opposition-initiated referendum to force him of office was rejected by 59% of the 10 million Venezuelans who voted.

Rachel Evans, NUS female queer officer and the mover of the motion to support the solidarity week, explained to Green Left Weekly that the main opposition has been voiced by NUS president Rose Jackson and her Labor "left" faction in NUS, National Labor Students.

Evans said that Jackson had claimed that there are attempts in Venezuela to suppress or ban opposition parties. This, said Evans, "could be dismissed as ridiculous if it wasn't so dangerous". She pointed out that 28 candidates had registered their intent to run in the Venezuelan presidential election. Not one has been disallowed. In 1998, there were 11 candidates, and three in 2000.

Opinion polls are showing Chavez has the support of up to 59% of the voters, while his nearest rival, Nuevo Tiempo party member Manuel Rosales, is backed by up to 35%. Rosales is the current governor of Zulia State and has the backing of Venezuela's capitalist business elite.

"No opposition party, including those that participated in the abortive April 2002 US-backed military coup against Chavez and numerous other plots to overthrow him, have been banned", said Evans. Jackson's arguments therefore parrot the lies being spread by the US government.

The Bush administration has for years now been attacking Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution, claiming it is leading to an "erosion of democracy" in Venezuela.

Evans, who spent several months at the end of 2005 in Venezuela, said: "I visited the free schools and health centres provided by the revolution's missions. I saw first hand the involvement of students, workers, communities in the running of their everyday lives, building real democracy.

"The Venezuelan people, led by Chavez, are doing the exact opposite to what Howard is trying to do here in Australia. While Howard pushes war, anti-worker laws, racism and crackdowns on civil liberties, Chavez is leading the fight against US imperialism and to extend democratic rights and freedom to all the people, not just in Venezuela."

The issue at stake is the principle of national sovereignty. Venezuela claims there are fresh attempts by the US to subvert Venezuelan democracy and overthrow Chavez. It should be a perfectly straightforward matter for NUS to support actions that oppose such attempts.

Resistance stands shoulder to shoulder with the Venezuelan people and the Chavez government in the struggle for a better world, exactly were NUS and student organisations should be.

In the lead-up to the NUS national conference, to be held in Ballarat in early December, Resistance members, along with activists from the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network, will be running a campaign to push NUS, student unions and student representatives to take a pro-Venezuela position. Send letters of protest to Rose Jackson at pres@nus.asn.au (with copies to fred@venezuelasolidarity.org).

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