La Trobe University Latin American studies lecturer Ralph Newmark told a meeting of 80 people on February 20 that the English-speaking media misrepresents the causes of the crisis in Venezuela.
The meeting was organised by the newly-formed Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.
Newmark said the crisis is being caused by external pressure from the United States and internally by the Venezuelan middle and upper class who oppose the government’s pro-poor measures.
The US and Australian governments’ recognition of the National Assembly president Juan Guaidó as the country’s unelected interim president would be equivalent to Australia recognising Hillary Clinton as president of the US, Newmark said.
Venezuela’s Charge d’Affaires in Australia Daniel Gasparri explained that Nicolás Maduro received more than twice as many votes as opposition candidates in the 2018 presidential election, adding that just because a section of the opposition decided to boycott does not invalidate the results.
Gasparri said that there are shortages in Venezuela, but people are not dying of hunger. He outlined some of the achievements of the Bolivarian revolution, including providing housing for 3 million families. He said the GINI coefficient (a measure of inequality) for Venezuela is the lowest on the continent, meaning that the country is more equal than others.
Gasparri said that the US has been stealing Venezuelan assets, such as the US subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. He said the US sanctions had made life more difficult for Venezuelans, and had even affected the embassy as they have been unable pay staff for several months due to funds being blocked.
Gasparri said he was confident the Venezuelan army would remain loyal to the Maduro government. He said that there are also 2 million militia members who will resist any US aggression in their country.
[An international day of solidarity with Venezuela has been organised for Saturday March 23. Go to the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network Facebook page to see the events organised in Australia.]