Solidarity activists who recently returned from a fact-finding tour of Venezuela are calling for concrete actions by the Australian community to assist the Venezuelan people currently facing economic hardship, primarily as a result of harsh US sanctions.
Workers in Venezuela are demonstrating what is possible when workers and communities take over the means of production.
Faced with a company shutdown and mass sacking, workers at the former Brahma beer factory in Barquisimeto, Lara state, occupied the factory in 2013. Today, the company is owned by the community, run by workers and geared towards meeting the need of local farmers and residents.
The Agricultural Social Production Unit (UPSA) Caquetios, located in Cabudare, in Palavecino municipality, Lara state, is run by the Brazilian Movement of Rural Landless Workers (MST). A campesino organisation, the MST shares similar objectives to those of former president Hugo Chavez and the pro-poor Bolivarian Revolution he led – in particular, land collectivisation as the best way to grow food and put an end to rural inequality.
In 2006, the MST was invited to Venezuela to take over a 40-hectare estate as part of Chavez’s attempt to transform Venezuela’s countryside. Since then, the group has been joined by several Venezuelan farmers, with both groups learning new experiences from each other.
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.
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.
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.
Many things have been said about Venezuela, its leaders and its people; namely, the ability of its process to survive the historical challenges of the growing economic crisis and attacks from the political opposition.
Now is the time to stand in solidarity with Venezuela and really get to know its people and process.