Venezuela

Preventable blindness has declined significantly in Latin America and the Caribbean through the Miracle Mission program initiated by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004.

The project was created by former Cuban president Fidel Castro and backed by former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Under the program, Venezuela flies those needing eye surgery to Cuba, where they are operated on for free.

Dr Marcelo Jose Alfonzo Rosas, who passed away on February 22 aged 66, was a committed revolutionary and supporter of Venezuela’s late socialist president Hugo Chavez. He had been an active socialist since his student days at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), where he studied medicine and biology.

Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on February 14 denouncing a move by the Trump administration to sanction Venezuelan Vice-President Tarek El Aissami over drug trafficking allegations.

On February 13, the Treasury Department froze all of El Aissami’s alleged assets in the US under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. This makes Venezuela’s vice-president the top-ranking official of any country to be sanctioned in this way.

Marta Harnecker is a Chilean-born socialist activist and intellectual. A former advisor to Venezuela’s late revolutionary president Hugo Chavez, she has written dozens of books on popular struggles and socialist theory.

The new US administration of President Donald Trump publicly declared it will seek regime change in Venezuela. The call, disguised in “transition to democracy” rhetoric, was made by Trump’s proposed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“If confirmed,” the ex-Exxonmobil CEO told Latin America Goes Global, “I would urge close cooperation with our friends in the hemisphere, particularly Venezuela’s neighbours Brazil and Colombia, as well as multilateral bodies such as the OAS, to seek a negotiated transition to democratic rule in Venezuela.”

When Donald Trump is sworn in as president on January 20, he will take over the running of the US intelligence agencies — the CIA, FBI, NSA etc — that have brought charges to discredit the outcome of his election.

The Electoral College has rubberstamped Trump’s election and Congress has ratified it. The storm over allegations of Russian interference in last year’s elections will pass as The Leader takes charge and cleans house in these agencies.

But there are some things that should be noted about this brouhaha.

More than 500 participants gathered at the Trade Union Congress headquarters in London on November 26 for the annual Latin America Adelante conference, now in its 12th year.

With more than 70 different speakers and 30 different workshops and plenary sessions, plus the concurrent Alborada film festival, Latin America Adelante has become one of the most important and well-known gatherings of solidarity with a continent that is increasingly facing a right-wing neoliberal backlash.

Chavistas march against right-wing attacks in September.

The government of Hugo Chavez, who was first elected in 1998, helped lead the Bolivarian revolutionary process that made impressive social gains by redistributing oil wealth and promoting participatory democracy.

Since Chavez’s death in 2013, the Bolivarian government led by President Nicolas Maduro has faced mounting problems. In recent times, a worsening economic crisis has undermined the revolution’s gains and, along with political gains by the counter-revolutionary opposition, has raised questions about the survival of the revolution.

Venezuela is again grabbing headlines in the media, amid allegations of lack of democracy and exaggerated accounts of nonetheless very real economic problems.

Much commentary puts the problems facing the country down to the alleged “failed populism” of Venezuela’s pro-poor Bolivarian Revolution. Last month, the New York Times even compared Donald Trump to Venezuela’s late socialist president Hugo Chavez in an article titled “What Hugo Chavez can teach us about Donald Trump”.

After a year of political turmoil, Venezuela turned a corner recently, at least according to an eye-catching October 21 op-ed in The Washington Post. Titled “It’s official: Venezuela is a full-blown dictatorship”, the piece claimed the country has become an “all-out, no-more-elections dictatorship”.

Building the Commune
By George Ciccariello-Maher
Verso Books, 2016

Every commune is different, George Ciccariello-Maher says in Building the Commune, but “the coffee is always too sweet, and the process is always difficult, endlessly messy and unpredictable in its inescapable creativity”.

The announcement from Venezuela's electoral authority on October 20 that it would head a court ruling and not proceed with a recall referendum has unleashed yet another wave of critical articles and opinion pieces throughout the English-speaking media, labeling Venezuela government as “authoritarian” or even a “dictatorship.”

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced his proposal for the country’s federal budget for 2017 on October 14 — indicating that a staggering 73.6% would be dedicated toward social investment. It comes in a context of an economic crisis, including shortages of some goods.

In the days leading up to the announcement, the governing Untied Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) held street assemblies with thousands of Venezuelans to discuss and debate the proposed budget.

“In a democracy like ours, the budget is debated by the people,” Maduro said on October 12.

Thousands marched in Venezuela’s capital of Caracas on October 12 to commemorate the Day of Indigenous Resistance — previously known as “Colombus Day”. The march also sought to counter opposition mobilisations in favour of the recall referendum against socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela confirmed shipments of humanitarian aid to the island nation of Haiti on October 5 after category four Hurricane Matthew made its way through Haiti. On October 8, the death toll fro the hurricane, which caused widespread devastation, was put at more than 800.

President Nicolas Maduro made the announcement of aid on his weekly television program In Contact with Maduro on the evening of October 4.

Venezuelan foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez called on the United States to pull out of its military bases across Latin America on October 6.

In a fierce speech, Rodriguez labelled the US military presence across the region as a threat to peace and stability.

“We denounce the presence of 70 US bases in our region, we have to unite and demand the closing of these bases,” said Rodriguez.

The comments were made while Rodriguez addressed the Latin American Summit of Progressive Movements in Quito, Ecuador.

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