Aurora Morales, member of the Venezuelan National Assembly and secretary for international relations for the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR) party, was a guest speaker at an international conference, "Socialism in Latin America: Experiences in Change and Regional Integration", held in Quito, Ecuador, on April 17-18. The conference, sponsored by the Socialist Party of Ecuador to mark its 80th anniversary, heard speakers from socialist and revolutionary parties from around the continent. The following is an abridged version of Morales's address to the conference.
Greetings from Hugo Chavez, president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to all the socialist parties participating in the historic project of changing Latin America, and to all those present today to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Socialist Party of Ecuador. I welcome the chance to exchange opinions, impressions and ideas with other political figures and personalities from Latin America, to look for a united strategy for this continent so that our people can live with increased dignity. I look forward to listening to the ideas and thoughts of Ecuadorians who are socialist, progressive, revolutionary and Bolivarian. I also want to deliver greetings from my Bolivarian compatriots.
My talk is on Latin American integration and international relations, from a revolutionary Bolivarian perspective. We have a project of constitutional change and at the centre of it is the human being. When talking of jurisprudence, I mean how do we look for a new system of international relations that provides equity in the arena of social, political and economic exchange in the region and internationally.
This is not a program of short duration, but a very long project. To break with the hegemonic monopoly of imperialism, to break with the old system we have inherited, is not easy. The difficulties we have to confront are difficulties of a different type in each country, because not all of our countries are equal. Because of this, we can't find just one form in which we can develop. We have to adapt to different customs, economics, social conditions, politics, and relationship of forces in each one of our countries.
But we have to unite on this highway, to try and march together, to tackle the inevitable contradictions that arise and have arisen. We need to have the will to resolve these contradictions, the will to search for a better world.
Constructing a new state
With the Bolivarian project [in Venezuela], we face a great challenge in the construction of a new state: a state that is democratic and socialist, with rights and justice for all. We are working in part with the old state machinery, because imagine the situation if we had sacked all the employees and the administrators of the old state. We are humanists, with an ideological foundation — Bolivarianism — and we are revolutionaries. We can be thankful for the conquest and the defeat of imperialism in our country, and the victory against the military coup and the petroleum sabotage.
I know you Ecuadorians are interested in this struggle because of the [cancellation of the] US oil concession with Oxy [Occidental Corporation]. Venezuela nationalised the petroleum industry under [former president] Carlos Andres Perez in 1974. Yet although it was nationalised, the business remained under the control of commercial interests, including the automation of production. And the management of the petroleum industry was controlled from the US — a management that demonstrated later [during the oil industry lock-out in 2002 that aimed to undermine the Chavez government] that it had all the power.
Therefore, this experience that we have had in this country must be assimilated by all the peoples of Latin America — because we have absorbed the experience, both the successes and the failures. All these experiences are struggles for liberty and justice: this is the history of humanity. We have studied the failure of the socialist project in Europe, in the Soviet Union, and the question of popular democracy. We have also studied the coups against progressive Latin American governments, promoted by the US. The case of Chile was very tragic: the intervention and the repression. Thanks to [people power in 2002 that defeated the US-backed coup attempt], and Chavez's victory in the elections and the  referendum, we were able to overcome these attacks.
As you are aware here in Ecuador, the Cuban Revolution — under the leadership of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Communist Party — which hasn't been co-opted and hasn't been beaten, has helped us enormously. For example, the creation of the Latin American missions of Barrio Adentro were a product of this help. More than 20,000 Cuban doctors in Venezuela, working with Venezuelan doctors with a class orientation, have improved the health of the people in the barrios. This never could have happened without the Cuban Revolution.
This is our perspective, with many difficulties to overcome. In the case of the petrol strike, we were able to re-nationalise the industry and achieve an income [to the state] of 80%, while 20% remained with [the state-owned oil company] PDVSA for investment. With the passage of time, the whole situation changed. The old directors of the petroleum industry had invented a series of terrible, legal manoeuvres, whereby only 20% of the oil income went to the state.
In 1995, Theodore Petkoff introduced the Venezuelan agenda. This agenda was to sell all the concessions of the petroleum industry to the US with the aim of privatising the industry. But there was no privatisation of the Venezuelan oil industry, thanks to Hugo Chavez and his government. You should take notice of the voracity of imperialism, due to the necessity [of that system] for the greatest concentration of capital. This propelled them to carry out a coup in April 2002, and the petrol strike in December 2002.
Our current project is the construction of a new state with justice, human rights and popular power. The popular power we are developing is participatory democracy. Its latest form is through the Communal Councils, at the level of the communities, with a registry. Each incorporates 400-450 families. The involvement of the population in politics is normally much lower. This initiative will involve all citizens and they will have a community bank and the appropriate social control of the monies.
The construction of popular power in Venezuela is fantastic. I recently attended a meeting of a barrio (neighbourhood), which had been waiting approximately 30 years for the production of water. With a working group of water technicians, and people in the barrio, they received state finance of 30 million bolivares for their project. The working group were, in the majority, women. With the help of this capital, they were able to put in the pipes. They put the remaining money into an account in the name of their council, to use later to solve other problems. The law of the Communal Councils was discussed at all levels, with widespread participation.
At this moment, there is a recomposition, a change in the situation of the blocs, of the political forces, around the world. In Europe this is producing great contradictions. We have to take into account the asymmetry of inequalities.
If a worker in France goes to Rumania, and a Rumanian worker goes to France, what are they going to do with the social security system and vacations and different scales of pay?
A worker in France is more expensive and the cost of living in France is higher, but they will not pay the same salary. So this European unity is deteriorating and breaking up. As a consequence of this, we have to look for real unity, a unity that is equitable and fair for all of us.
Consider Africa, a country destroyed by colonial interests. If one looks at the map of Africa and sees how many military bases the US has in Africa, it is very disturbing. The problems of desertification are terrible. In Africa, conditions are very much worse than ours, with terrible sickness and massive poverty.
In Asia, China is experiencing great development. China is the most populous country on earth, with 1.3 billion inhabitants, a growing productive capacity, and a quota of many millionaires. But China faces very difficult conditions. It could adopt the same methods as North America — the same model of capital accumulation that consumes large amounts of energy; the model of the great multinationals that will destroy the planet in 50 years. At the level of accumulating capital, China is following this model. It's a good thing that the Communist Party of China is well organised. We have to study this phenomenon closely, and I hope that their own technology can help them develop their own model, and not follow that of North America.
In the Middle East, as we know, we have seen the invasion of Afghanistan, the occupation of Iraq — an occupation that is terrible, with the aim of destroying the traditions, the culture, all the history of the people of Iraq. The threats continue, with the US warnings against Lebanon. There are designs against the sovereignty of Iran, where this Islamic people have undertaken their own development, their own nuclear technology, toward peaceful ends. But the US won't allow this. We need solidarity with the Iranian people. The US plans to destroy the nuclear plants. It doesn't rule out the possibility of invasion. This would be disastrous for the whole of humanity.
We also have the tragic situation of the Palestinians. We all know the story of the fight of the Palestinians for national control of their country. Just recently, Hamas won the elections. This has produced a new form by which the US blocks Palestine's sovereignty. Hamas is possibly going to win sovereignty, but the US won't allow Hamas to exercise genuine democratic self-determination.
In Latin America, we are in a different phase of transition. The victory of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela was the result of an accumulation of many struggles, of the organisation of social groups. Chavez and his speeches where he educates the people, his deep knowledge of the people, and the relationships he has established in the international field, have been a tremendous advance. With [President] Lula in Brazil, there is a different situation. All the countries are different. We in Venezuela can advance more because we have a leader in the political, the moral, and the military fields. In the armed forces in Venezuela, the officers, the troops, with the thoughts of Simon Bolivar and the Bolivarian ideology, want to serve to guarantee the rights of the people. This process of change in the armed forces is important. Recently, by contrast, a Brazilian general spoke of the 'threat of communism'.
In Venezuela, this wouldn't happen. I don't want to say that there is no seed of anti-communism, but our armed forces are patriotic, a sensibility that was generated by Chavez. They understand they have to work with the people to solve all the problems that exist. Imperialism tried to block our petroleum production two years ago, no one should forget. This meant two months without gas, without petrol, without food. The managers tried to sabotage our industry. From all points of view they were trying to create ungovernability, to force the armed forces against us. On the contrary, when they saw this national danger against Venezuela, the armed forces stood with Chavez.
So this alliance of the armed forces with the people in this project is fundamental. And in the difficult moments of the April 11, 2002 coup, the battalions of the armed forces were in support of the constitution, despite the Golpistas being present in the [Miraflores] Palace. The same thing happened with the petroleum sabotage. Therefore, in Venezuela, we have forged a civic-military alliance.
I have been a revolutionary all my life. My parents have also been revolutionaries, although my father was in the military. My parents went to prison when I was one year old, and were in prison for seven years. The armed forces have a special character in Venezuela.
We must remember that the enemy penetrates everywhere. In Venezuela there is not one space where the enemy doesn't penetrate. We must realise that the enemy is everywhere and we must be there as well. A comical event occurred about 20 years ago. There was an organisation for the defence of the rights of sex workers, and a lot of homosexuals and transsexuals joined. A member of the North American embassy was the head of the organisation and I began to wonder why. You must realise they do it for the intelligence. Do you think they wanted to participate in the defence of the sex workers? No, They were thinking that through the sex workers, they could obtain information. This is why I say there is no area where the enemy has not been inserted. We must have the firmness and conviction to also do the same, because we are defending our life, our country, and our rights, and the lives of our children, our future and our humanity. We are doubly obliged to do this.
Latin America is confronting a situation of transition, where US imperialism is imposing ALCA [the Free Trade Area of the Americas]. Because we would not go into ALCA, the US is trying to form a free market with all the Latin American countries, which will affect their national interests. In Colombia, for example, it will affect all the producers, and this will affect Venezuela. Because of this, we had to denounce this process and leave the Andean Pact. We are taking measures to protect ourselves. But at the same time, we are hoping that the Colombians will take account of these facts and fight to get rid of this free trade agreement. The same is happening in Peru. But all this process and transition is up for debate, with a model of hegemony versus a revolutionary model.
There is a crisis in this period. There is a crisis of capital accumulation. This crisis has other aspects: financial, a crisis of energy, and a crisis of consumerism. We can't continue a situation where 4.7 % of the world's population consumes 25% of the energy.
There is also a military crisis. People are denouncing the occupation of Iraq. Now, the military in the Pentagon is working closely with the intelligence services, including the CIA. But, there are too many fronts opening up.
What is the tendency of the future? US military forces can destroy the world. We can't allow this. The problems with the Middle East, with China — what have they got to do with Latin America? Because we need to do business in the market, we need to conserve our resources and we need to stop the increase in prices.
We proposed in the Letter to America this same idea, of a co-ordinated regional trading policy. El Salvador and Colombia are also participating in this. There is a recomposition of forces in the world; break-ups, a recombination of blocs. Latin America is in this process of transition, with the possibility of advancing to a new model, which we call Bolivarian.
In the political field, we are proposing to work with all the available movements against the forces of neoliberalism: with the small and medium businesses, nationalist sectors, the indigenous movement, revolutionary movements, social movements, anti-capitalist movements — for example, the MST in Brazil, the youth movements, the students, the workers' movements, etc.
In our case, the Bolivarian movement doesn't have any belief in capitalism. We say: Resist the pressure. Advance on the revolutionary path. We can't stop until the whole world is socialist. Open the doors, because the options for the world are, as Rosa Luxembourg said, "Socialism or barbarism".
Socialism is our model. The road is very long. But we have the spirit to walk along the endogenous [national] path for equality in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, and to construct a regional, integrated Latin American economy with a strong presence in this international process of change.
Viva Chavez, Viva Evo, Viva Kirchner, and Viva all those who want a better world!
[Translated by Coral Wynter.]
From Green Left Weekly, June 21 2006.
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