Pacha Guzman, a leading activist with Venezuela’s largest peasant-based organisation, the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (FNCEZ), told a public meeting in Sydney on March 21 that despite serious challenges, Venezuela’s pro-poor "Bolivarian Revolution will win".
Guzman also reaffirmed the continued strength of the popular movement for socialism launched by former President Hugo Chavez and said she expects his successor, President Nicolas Maduro, to win the May 20 presidential elections.
Guzman is on a tour of Australia coordinated by the Latin American Solidarity Network (LASNET). She has been touring as a representative of the FNCEZ and the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ), of which Guzman is a national spokesperson.
"The purpose of my visit here to Australia is to provide a vision from the viewpoint of Venezuela’s social movements on what is really happening in our country. We are hopeful that the Australian people will support us," she said.
Guzman explained that the FNCEZ "was founded in 2002, as a social movement, not a political party; one that is profoundly Chavista, anti-imperialist and revolutionary”, adding that they have elected representatives at the national, state and local government level.
"Venezuela is currently facing an economic and political blockade, led by the US, which is causing severe hardship for our people. We are experiencing an internal crisis primarily resulting from the international blockade, in addition to the actions of the Venezuelan right-wing opposition.
"Venezuela is almost exclusively reliant on oil exports and dependent on other countries for imports of food and medicines. Only 2% of our people are currently engaged in agriculture.
"We now have a shortage of these products, to a great extent because of hoarding, the black market, and sabotage of our production.
"President Maduro and his government have called for an increase in food production in Venezuela, which we agree with. The key focus of our organisation is to help the country develop its agriculture to produce enough food for our survival, and to strengthen the communal structures in Venezuela."
Guzman described in detail the communal system underlying Venezuela's unique grassroots democracy. Having as its foundation local communal councils that bring together about 150 families, Venezuela’s communal structure of decision making operates from the bottom up.
"Decisions are made at the grassroots level, and rise up to the city level. Communal councils also have commissions to deal with issues such as healthcare, communications and gender equality," she said.
"The basic idea within Chavez's communal project is to eventually replace the capitalist state structures with communal democracy. While there has been significant resistance from existing state bodies, we now have more communal organisations than ever before."
Guzman said that in the face of a divided opposition, she was confident the majority of the people would support Maduro in the upcoming presidential elections. She also expressed confidence that there would be no military coup, as urged by the US, because of the changes inside the military initiated under Chavez. She warned that any attempt by the US to invade Venezuela would be disastrous for the US.
Guzman called for an end to the international media campaign of lies about Venezuela. "The only way to combat the right-wing media lies is for people like you to help get out the truth about our country to the world," Guzman said.
Guzman also visited Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and Canberra as part of her tour, which will finish with two public meetings in Melbourne on March 27 at Victoria Trades Hall (7pm, Spanish-speaking meeting) and March 29 (7pm, Edinburgh Gardens Community Hall, Fitzroy North).
During her tour she addressed numerous public forums, as well as meeting Greens parliamentarians, representatives of various First Nations communities and trade unions, including the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union WA Branch, the Queensland Council of Unions and the MUA Sydney branch.
Guzman was also interviewed on a number of community radio stations and by some local Spanish-language newspapers.
Among the groups that have supported Guzman’s tour are: the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, the Latin America Social Forum (Sydney), Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (Melbourne), Australians in Solidarity with Latin America (ASLA), Colombia Demands Justice Campaign, Chile Solidarity Campaign, Mujeres Latinoamericanas 3CR radio program, Australia Cuba Friendship Society (Melbourne), the Socialist Alliance, Communist Party of Australia, Maritime Union of Australia (Sydney Branch) and the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.