Federico Fuentes

Bolivian indigenous group the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ) made headlines this year with its threats to blockade the Dakar rally when it passed through Bolivia's highlands region.

This was not the first time that the group caught the attention of the world’s media. Leaders of CONAMAQ have been regularly quoted in the media due to their outspoken criticism of the government of president Evo Morales ― Bolivia's first indigenous head of state.

The articles frequently describe CONAMAQ as “the main indigenous organisation in Bolivia's highlands”.

A recent spate of high-profile campaigns against industrial projects based on extracting raw materials has opened up an important new dynamic within the broad processes of change sweeping South America.

Understanding their nature and significance is crucial to grasping the complexities involved in bringing about social change and how best to build solidarity with peoples’ struggles.

Many of the campaigns target that specific mining, oil, agribusiness or logging ventures share common elements.

Below, Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network activist Federico Fuentes, provides answers to common questions about recent events in Venezuela. Key facts are referenced, largely from media outlets that could not be identified as pro-government.

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Is recent unrest in Venezuela due to government repression against peaceful protests?

The Chilean Supreme Court issued a request on January 15 that the Australian government extradite a former agent of dictator Augusto Pinochet’s notorious secret police back to Chile to face charges of kidnapping and forced disappearances.

The move comes after the revelation made public last September by SBS journalist Florencia Melgar that former National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) agent Adriana Rivas had been in Australia since 2010, despite bail conditions imposed following Rivas’s 2006 arrest prohibiting her from leaving Chile.

How could a former agent of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s notorious secret police, who is facing charges of kidnapping and forced disappearances and whose bail conditions prohibited them from leaving Chile, now be living in Australia?

This is the question many have asked after the recent broadcast on SBS Radio of an interview with former National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) agent Adriana Rivas.

In the interview, Rivas says she began working at DINA in 1974.

A new investigation has shed light on Australia’s role in the overthrow of Chilean leftist president Salvador Allende and exposed the continued veil of secrecy surrounding the precise activities of Australian intelligence agents, 40 years on.

Allende was elected president in 1970, but was deposed on September 11, 1973 by a US-backed military coup that put General Augusto Pinochet in power. Pinochet remained in power for 17 years, presiding over a regime of terror that left thousands dead or disappeared.

NSW parliament narrowly voted down a September 17 motion to discipline Liberal MLC Peter Phelps over comments he made in parliament defending General Augusto Pinochet’s violent military coup against Chile’s president Salvador Allende in 1973.

Members of the Chilean community have vowed to continue the campaign to hold Phelps to account for his outrageous comments.

On September 11, 40 years to the day of the coup, Phelps praised Pinochet as “a reluctant hero, a morally courageous man” and said he supported a military coup that deposed a democratically elected government.

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With Venezuela’s inflation rate for May soaring to 6.1%, first quarter growth stagnating at 0.7%, and shortages afflicting a number of basic goods, speculation has been rife regarding the country’s economic future.

Critics from the right and left have argued these are all signs that Chavismo (the name given to the radical project for change spearheaded by former president Hugo Chavez) has reached its limits.

Bolivia is demonstrating to the world why nationalising natural resources is a crucial first step for any government seeking to put people and the environment before profits.

On May 1, 2006, less than four months after becoming president, Evo Morales decreed the nationalisation of the country’s gas reserves. This move restored state control over the strategic resource.

An important summit of global significance, held in Brazil May 16-20, has largely passed below the radar of most media outlets, including many left and progressive sources.

This summit was not the usual type, involving heads of states and business leaders.

Instead, it was a gathering of social movement representatives from across Latin America and the Caribbean -- the site of some of the most intense struggles and popular rebellions of the past few decades.

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