Towards the end of July, the first Australia-Venezuela solidarity brigade will be travelling to Venezuela to experience first-hand how people's power is helping to change the lives of millions. Green Left Weekly's Katie Cherrington spoke to Resistance member Fred Fuentes, one of the organisers of this first-of-its-kind event.
"We expected a good response", Fuentes said, "but we have been overwhelmed by the support this brigade is attracting not even just in Australia but the world. Each day we are receiving requests for more information on how to sign up to the brigade, not only from around Australia, but countries like South Africa, New Zealand, the US and Turkey."
"Yet in many ways this is why the solidarity brigade was initiated and why Resistance is getting fully behind it. For many, Venezuela is a clear beacon of hope in a world of war and poverty.
"The simple idea that people can run society for the benefit of all and not just for the oil companies and other elites is taking form in Venezuela. There the poor, working with the government, have decided that the immense wealth from the oil reserves will not be held hostage to those who wage war on the world to grab control of every other nation's resources, but rather will be put at the service of humanity.
"As part of the brigade we will be meeting with community groups, student activists and trade unionists who are not only seeing the benefits of distributing wealth more equitably but are actually taking control of their destiny."
Initial plans have already been made for the solidarity brigade, which will run from July 26 until August 15 — the first anniversary of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's victory in a recall referendum designed to defeat him.
The "brigadistas" will have the opportunity to meet with representatives from new independent Venezuelan trade-union federation the National Union of Workers; the Union of Communist Youth; women's organisations; and factory committees, as well as seeing the results of the social programs being implemented to tackle illiteracy and improve community healthcare.
Participants will also be able to visit the new Bolivarian University of Venezuela, where students play an active role in deciding the functioning of the university and what is taught.
The last part of the brigade will involve participation in the World Festival of Youth and Students which is expected to attract 15,000 people from around the world.
"Our aim is not just to offer some people a fantastic experience, but to make sure this is broadened. We want make sure that as many people as possible know about the brigade, and why they should support it, and further brigades, that are organised. We also want participants when they return to take this information back to their workplace, campuses and local community to spread the information about what is going on in Venezuela.
"In many ways this brigade is crucial for helping to build a solidarity movement here with the Bolivarian revolution. The US is heating up its talk of aggression towards Venezuela, and there is no doubt they would love to crush this exciting movement that continues to resist their empire. At the same time, developments in Venezuela are moving forward rapidly as people are gaining more confidence", added Fuentes.
"We encourage all those who are interested in progressive issues and believe that there must be an alternative, to try and come on the brigade, help get someone else to go by donating money or help organise an information session about Venezuela and the brigade wherever you can."
[Around the country Resistance is holding information sessions on the brigade. Visit <http://www.venezuelasolidarity.org> for more info on upcoming sessions or to sign up to the brigade.]
From Green Left Weekly, February 23, 2005.
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