Venezuela

Having spent our first few days in Caracas, we travelled to Higurote, the capital of Brion municipality, in Miranda state, which is part of the coastal region known as Barlovento – a centre of African culture in Venezuela. 

Venezuela’s right-wing opposition announced on September 26 that its representatives would not attend the upcoming round of exploratory talks that were set to be held in the Dominican Republic the following day. 

The boycott came one day after a small group of masked opposition militants took to the streets of the wealthy eastern Caracas municipality of Chacao in renewed anti-government roadblocks. 

Using the Metro Cable car system built under former president Hugo Chavez, our solidarity delegation to the South American nation, organised by Venezuelanalysis.com, travelled high up into the mountain to the neighbourhood of San Agustin.

The Metro Cable system, the first of its kind in Venezuela, was inspired by a visit by Chavez to Austria where he saw dozens of chairlifts going up and down the mountains.

Since the start of the year, 76 women have died while giving birth in Lara state — the highest rate of any state in Venezuela and three times the rate for the rest of the country.

Speaking about the situation to Green Left Weekly, Katrina Kozarek from the Women’s Movement for Life in Barquisimeto, the capital of Lara, explained: “Both the doctors and nurses treat poor, black women really badly. They slap their bottoms, call them filthy names and say ‘stop screaming because you didn’t scream like that when you were having sex’.”

With the Venezuelan right-wing opposition in disarray after failing to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro through violent protest, and divided in the face of the upcoming October 15 regional elections, the frontline of the battle for Venezuela’s future has shifted outside its borders.

Travelling past El Calvario Park, just a few blocks from the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, we see a familiar image: an outline of late former president Hugo Chavez’s eyes, painted across several stairs.

This image can be seen all over Caracas. The government of President Nicholas Maduro has converted it into a recognisable trademark, much like the iconic image of Che Guevara that is splashed across T-shirts, flags and walls the world over.

Hurricane Irma has just passed through the Caribbean, in a procession of tragedies that have destroyed lives and left material damage behind.

In response to this natural disaster, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sent humanitarian aid to Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda (with 95% of buildings in Barbuda destroyed), and the French colony of Saint Martin on September 10.

As Barbuda, part of the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, reels from having almost the entirety of its infrastructure and 95% of its homes destroyed due to Hurricane Irma, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has rejected a moratorium proposal to discuss the island's US$3 million dollar debt.

“The US is doing the same thing as it did with the economic blockade on Cuba, to try and suffocate the Venezuelan economy” explained Williams Camacaro, a long-time Venezuelan grassroots activist based in New York.

Speaking to Green Left Weekly in Caracas, Camacaro said “The sanctions will cause a lot of difficulties for Venezuela”, but “the reality is that a lot of time has passed since [the blockade was first imposed on Cuba]. Many things have changed.”

Flying into Caracas, the plane was full of middle class Venezuelans travelling home from Miami. On board, no one spoke to the passenger next to them for fear of finding out they were on the opposite side of the political divide.

In highly polarised Venezuela, these things are best left unsaid.

A few days after arriving in Venezuela, we drive past La Carlota military base in the east of Caracas, which was a regular site for the violent street protests commonly known here as guarimbas.

The highway we were travelling on was often blockaded by protesters — guarimberos — who made up the backbone of the self-dubbed “La Resistencia”. They received glowing praise in the international media during the wave of protests that rocked the country from April to July.

The Donald Trump administration announced new, unprecedented sanctions against Venezuela on August 25 that are designed to cut off financing to Venezuela. The Trump team pretends that the sanctions are only directed at the government. But as any economist knows, this is clearly false.

By starving the economy of foreign exchange, this action will harm the private sector, most Venezuelans, the poor and the vulnerable.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has slammed the major damage caused to Venezuela over recent months of opposition violence, comparing the right-wing protesters to the white supremacists in the United States who organised violent and deadly protests  in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12.

Speaking at a media conference on August 22, Maduro deplored how “fascist groups” attacked people based on their observable ethnic characteristics — in the United States and Venezuela.

US President Donald Trump told the media on August 10 that he would not “rule out “military options” for dealing with Venezuela. His comments were followed by the imposition of economic sanctions against Venezuela on August 25.

Labeling Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as a "dictator", the White House said in a statement that the new sanctions seek to block "a critical source of funding" for the Venezuelan government, which is having to deal with a deep economic crisis.

There has been a lot of media focus on Venezuela’s recently inaugurated National Constituent Assembly (ANC). However, little attention has been paid to the response it has generated among grassroots organisations or the variety of proposals being discussed in communities in terms of potential constitutional changes.

In January last year, Henry Ramos Allup, president of the then newly-installed Venezuelan parliament, hastened to make a demonstration of institutional power. The opposition bloc had obtained a strong victory in the 2015 legislative elections and the veteran political leader of Democratic Action (AD) was probably thinking that Venezuela would soon follow Argentina’s suit and do away with its leftist government.

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