"We are facing severe economic and political destabilisation in Venezuela. The leaders of the right-wing opposition have been trying to create fear in the country for many weeks now," Eulalia Reyes, a Venezuelan activist in Australia, told a Sydney forum on September 3.
She was in Venezuela during the violent opposition protests in 2014, and more recently from October 2015 to June 2016. She presented an eyewitness account of what is really going on in Venezuela today.
The forum, "Crisis in Venezuela? An Eyewitness Report", was organised by the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) and the Latin America Social Forum with the support of the Venezuelan Embassy. Minister counsellor Daniel Gaspari gave greetings to the forum on behalf of the Embassy.
Reyes, a co-convenor of AVSN in Brisbane, told the forum: "The opposition had been planning their big anti-government rally in Caracas on September 1 for some time. They are really provoking, rather than protesting.
"But the Venezuelan people will not accept the defeat of the Bolivarian Revolution. They are ready to defend the revolution against all threats, including the US government who says it is ready to 'come and help'.
"Despite media reports of chaos and starvation in Venezuela, the reality is different. There are many shortages of goods, but Venezuela has been recognised by the UN FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] as not suffering from widespread hunger.
"Venezuela now averages 2700 calories per person per day, compared to the UN recommended average of 2300. In fact, Venezuela has reached almost all the official Millenium goals set in 2000.
"We have a problem of shortages, medicines, basic products, but where do these shortages come from? Certainly, the drastic fall in the price of oil is a major issue.
"Some people are doing it hard, but certainly not everyone. The wealthy elite are doing very well. The question is who is provoking the crisis?"
Asked how the country is facing this crisis, she said: “The government had a plan to transform the economy, which was too dependent on oil revenues.
"There is a campaign to diversify the economy, to produce more food. The social missions are active, and the MERCALs [community shops] are distributing subsidised products to the people. The government and the people are confronting the crisis together."
She concluded that the majority of the Venezuelan people continue to support the process, although she admitted it was a big shock when the opposition won a large majority in the National Assembly last December.
"The socialist deputies are in a minority, but are maintaining the fight to defend the gains of the revolution. And the people are now more aware of the real policies of the opposition.
"Venezuela needs international solidarity now more than ever. We cannot allow the right-wing opposition to get into power again.
"The Venezuelan people and our supporters must be alert and ready to defend the revolution against all attacks."