The November 2008 Venezuela solidarity brigade organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) spent its first days meeting community activists and hearing reports on the progress of the Bolivarian revolution.
On November 20, the 30 brigadistas from Australia, Canada and New Zealand heard talks from Green Left Weekly journalist and researcher at the Miranda International Centre (CIM) Federico Fuentes, as well as Professor Marcelo Alfonzo, the head of the Institute of Experimental Medicine at the Central University of Caracas.
The following day, the brigadistas visited the Endogenous Development Zone in the impoverished suburb of Catia, including tours of a shoe-making cooperative, a T-shirt coop, a hospital clinic of the Barrio Adentro medical program, and an organic garden.
The brigade has also toured the historic revolutionary Barrio January 23, where members viewed a Barrio Adentro primary care clinic, the Che Guevara community centre and the Simon Bolivar Co-ordination complex — which includes the local radio station, Voice of Barrio Enero 23, and branches of Mission Robinson primary education program and Mission Science.
On November 23, the brigade formed into three teams to observe the elections for governors and municipal mayors in several neighbourhoods of Caracas. Team members were escorted by United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) militants to a number of electoral booths.
They were able to talk to the voters lining up to enter the booths, noting the festival-like atmosphere prevailing in these areas. The brigadistas were also permitted to enter the polling stations and observe the highly advanced, computerised voting system that Venezuela uses.
The following day, the brigade divided into two groups to visit the regional centres of Merida and Valencia.
The two sub-groups will visit social missions, communal councils, cooperatives, local newspaper offices and talk to community leaders and trade union activists.
The brigade will finish with a closing discussion session, and an additional day involving a visit to the Ochoa Rodriguez Children's Heart Hospital.
[To find out more about the AVSN and future brigades, visit http://www.venezuelasolidarity.org.]