Eyewitness reports from Venezuela

February 8, 2014

"One year after Hugo Chavez's death: Eyewitness reports from Venezuela," was the title of a public forum organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) at the Resistance Centre on February 4.

More than 40 people attended the forum, which heard a panel of speakers discuss issues facing the Bolivarian revolution today.

Special guest speaker Daniel Gasparri, newly appointed minister/counsellor for the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, outlined a brief history of the rise of former president Hugo Chavez till his tragic death in March last year. Gasparri said the attempted uprising led by Chavez on February 4, 1992, had "opened the doors to big changes in Venezuelan society".

Six years later, Chavez was elected president of the country, and continued on to "lead the Venezuelan revolution and the broader Latin American revolution which has now swept the continent,” Gasparri said. “Chavez became an international hero, and is remembered as one of the most influential leaders in Latin American history.”

Participants in the AVSN solidarity brigade to Venezuela in December last year, Fran McIlroy, Mark Westcott and Yvonne Eunson, spoke about their personal experiences of Venezuela and the social transformation occurring in that country. All three are members of the Australian Union Choir which was involved in a choir festival in Santiago de Cuba before going to Venezuela.

AVSN brigade organiser Fred Fuentes said last year was a "hard year" for Venezuela, with economic and political challenges arising from the death of Chavez, the economic war launched by the right-wing opposition and the international attacks on Venezuela led by the US.

Nevertheless, the economic counter-offensive against private business hoarding, price-gouging and corruption, initiated by new President Nicolas Maduro, had successfully "turned the situation around" toward the end of the year.

This resulted in the United Socialist Party of Venezuela winning a "decisive victory" in the municipal elections in December, and the "consolidation of Maduro's authority as national leader".

This has moved the country's discussion onto the strengthening of the Bolivarian Revolutionary process and to Chavez's key legacy: "How to build 21st century socialism" in Venezuela.

The speakers were followed by a lively question and discussion session from the floor, covering many issues facing Venezuela in the coming year. The forum will be followed by other activities, as part of an international month of solidarity, under the theme, "Chavez was here", from February 4 to March 5.

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