Over the first three weeks of November, participants in a 35-strong Australian solidarity brigade to Venezuela have been arriving in Caracas.
Organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN), the brigade will be present for the December 3 presidential election. Polls are tipping a clear win for the incumbent, socialist Hugo Chavez. However, there are rumours that the US-backed right-wing opposition will try to destabilise the country and delegitimise the election.
Green Left Weekly spoke to two participants about their expectations for the brigade in the country of the Bolivarian revolution.
Eulalia Whitney-Reyes has not lived on her native Venezuela for many years, but she is flying from Brisbane to be in her home town of Barcelona for election day. Eulalia said: "Supporters of the Bolivarian revolutionary process have been campaigning for 10 million votes for Hugo Chavez. I'm going back to Venezuela to make sure that there are 10 million and one votes for the president!"
Whitney-Reyes wrote a letter to Chavez about the solidarity work in Australia being done by the AVSN and asked for the Venezuelan government to set up a centre to work with solidarity groups around the world. (GLW Caracas correspondent Coral Wynter handed the letter to Chavez at a November 8 press conference.)
Eulalia, who is "looking forward to a big bear hug from our inspirational leader", added: "It is my hope that while I am in Venezuela I get to go on [Chavez's television program] Alo Presidente to tell the Venezuela people how much support they have here in Australia, and how we would love for the president to visit."
The last time Lisa Macdonald, a leader of Australia's Socialist Alliance, was in Latin America was during the years of Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua. Its 1990 defeat left a bitter taste.
"The Washington-run contra war against the Sandinistas showed that imperialism will stop at nothing to block people's aspirations if these conflict with its own needs", she said. "But in Venezuela the US rulers have a much bigger problem than they ever faced in besieged and poverty-stricken Nicaragua." MacDonald told GLW that Venezuela is "creating hope around the world".