Australians are being invited to join a special delegation to Venezuela this September to witness an important event for the country's pro-poor Bolivarian revolution.
On September 26, Venezuelans will vote in national assembly elections. The election outcomes will significantly influence the ability of the government of President Hugo Chavez, and the mass movement it leads, to take further steps towards creating socialism of the 21st century.
The right-wing opposition boycotted the 2005 national assembly elections. This time, it is contesting the poll and is already pulling out all stops to win as many seats as possible to hamper pro-Chavez assembly members' ability to pass laws to advance the revolution.
Pro-Chavez candidates are expected to win a majority of seats. The opposition will be seeking to stop the revolutionary forces winning a two-thirds majority so it can make passing laws more difficult.
The elections are scheduled to take place at a dangerous time for Latin America. The United States has launched an offensive aimed at stopping the process of regional unity, which Venezuela is helping lead and is strengthening the region's independence.
In the past two years, the US has carried out a large military expansion in Latin America. This has included: reactivating the US Navy's Fourth Fleet in Latin American waters; increasing its military presence in the Caribbean, Panama and Central America; supporting a failed coup attempt in Bolivia; providing behind the scenes support for the coup in Honduras last June that ousted democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya; and signing an agreement with the brutal Colombian government for access to seven military bases in that country and unrestricted use of Colombian territory for military operations.
Colombia said a new 1000-soldier military base, funded by the US, would be built on the Guajira Peninsula — near the Venezuelan border.
The Venezuelan revolution is in US government sights. Venezuela is subjected to a constant, intensifying campaign of subversion and destabilisation.
This year, the budget for the US government-funded agencies USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy to advise, train and resource right-wing opposition groups in Venezuela, is nearly US$15 million — more than double last year's allocation.
In February, US officials ramped up their propaganda attacks, falsely accusing the Chavez government of failing to combat narcotics operations, violating human rights, repressing the media, "not contributing to democracy and regional stability", and of being the "regional anti-US leader".
The ability of Venezuela's revolutionaries, especially those organised in the Chavez-led United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), to mobilise the strong grassroots support for radical change in these elections will be crucial to the outcome.
If the revolution suffers a political defeat, it will embolden Washington to increase its attacks. A decisive victory, however, will send a strong message that the Venezuelan people are with the revolution.
Given the importance of the poll, the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) is organising a solidarity brigade from Australia to observe the elections. The brigade itinerary, from September 17 to 28, will include taking part in the traditionally large election rallies held on the weekend before polling day, as well as observing Venezuela's highly advanced voting system on the day.
The delegation will also visit communal councils and communes, the backbone of Venezuela's developing system of participatory democracy, as well as worker-run factories and cooperatives, public health and education services, and community controlled media.
It will meet with community activists, trade unions, indigenous, women's and other oppressed groups' organisations, and Chavez government representatives to discuss the radical changes being implemented by the Venezuelan people.
The national elections brigade is the 11th solidarity tour organised by the AVSN. It will follow a May Day brigade that kicks off in Caracas on April 24.