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In contrast to West, Venezuela and its allies are offering concrete help to Palestine

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In contrast with western complicity with Israel’s attack on Gaza, Venezuela and its allies are offering concrete help to Palestine, says Matthew Willgress

The Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Ministry has been transformed into a hub of activity over recent weeks as Venezuelans responded en masse to their revolutionary government’s call to provide donations for the people of Gaza.

“We have more than a plane’s worth of donations to send, more than two tons of food, clothes and medicine,” explained Danielis Escalona Arellano, who has been directing the effort. “We are all brothers and all united for the Palestinian cause,” she added.

Explaining the reason for the effort, Venezuelan official Marvin Mijares said: “Israel does not respect human rights. Venezuela is responding, we are a humanist country, we are supporting them with all our might.”

Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad Al Maliki is scheduled to arrive in Venezuela later this month when he will collect the aid before returning to Palestine.

His visit is particularly important, given that Venezuela is due to begin sending 240 million litres of oil to Palestine every four months as part of the creation of the new body PetroPalestina. The first batch is expected to be sent over the next few weeks.

Although the oil was originally intended to be sent to the West Bank, Palestinian authorities have confirmed that it will now be sent to Gaza, where it will be used to restart electricity generation since, as Palestinian ambassador to Venezuela, Linda Sabeh Ali, explained, “the only plant in the zone was bombed by Israel and now is in total darkness.”  

Many of those bringing donations to the centre felt that Palestine was suffering a massacre and that international organisations were failing to protect them.

“There is so much injustice and the world is asleep. The United Nations sits there with its arms folded,” commented Maribel Brazon, who brought medical supplies.

Thousands also marched through Caracas last Saturday for the second time this month, demanding an end to Israel’s siege of Gaza. In stark contrast to the attitude of many Western governments, these rallies have been announced in government media as well as progressive independent news sources, with a Twitter account associated with President Maduro even publicising them.

In motivating support for donations and the march, President Maduro said, “[Some] say that there is a war between Israel and Palestine, but there is no war,” adding that ”Israel, [is] recognised by the UN [as] an occupying power that has been displacing Palestinians from their historic territory, carrying out a war of extermination,” before confirming his government will give asylum and shelter to children orphaned by the onslaught. 

Earlier this month, President Maduro condemned “Israel’s unjust, disproportionate and illegal military attack on the heroic Palestinian people.” Launching an “SOS Palestine” campaign he said: “Enough already, I’ve joined the campaign.” 

“#SOS Palestina, let’s launch it,” he said while holding up a handwritten placard, adding: “The Palestinian people have the right to live in their ancestral lands in peace … our international position over the issue of Palestine is just and follows the policy of [former president] comandante Hugo Chavez.”

Venezuela is not alone in standing in solidarity with Palestine — other progressive governments in Latin America have also taken action. 

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has said it is high time something was done “to end the genocide that Israel is carrying out on Palestine” and labelled Israel a “terrorist state.” 

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega accused Benjamin Netanyahu of trying to “annihilate the Palestinian people.”

Cuba meanwhile has a long tradition of standing shoulder to shoulder with Palestine, while Chile (where the left recently returned to government) has halted free trade negotiations with Israel, withdrawn its ambassador is sending $75 million of aid and called for an immediate ceasefire. 

Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru and Brazil have also recalled their ambassadors.

Then, in the last week, as Latin American leaders met in Venezuela for a summit of the regional trade bloc Mercosur, the presidents of four of the five countries in the organisation demanded an end to the military actions in Gaza and called for Israel to permit the free flow of people, food and aid.

Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela (all except Paraguay which saw a left-wing president overthrown a couple of years ago in what was termed an “express coup d’etat”) announced in a statement that they “energetically condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, which in the majority affects civilians, including children and women.”

These positions and initiatives in solidarity with Palestine reflect a proud tradition in Venezuela in recent years. 

Former President Hugo Chavez cut diplomatic relations with Israeli after its earlier war on Gaza. This was followed by a statement in which Chavez declared that the presidents of both Israel and the US should be tried at the International Criminal Court. His stance was again emphasised in the aftermath of the massacre on board the Gaza-bound aid ship Mavi Marmara in 2010, with Chavez asserting that the attack was “an act of war undertaken by the Israeli army against defenceless civilians.” 

Following the UN vote which established Palestine as a non-member state, a Palestinian delegation from Ramallah visited Venezuela. A further notable gesture on behalf of Venezuela was the abolition of visas for Palestinians wishing to travel to the country. 

Most recently, just weeks before Israel’s attacks on Gaza, President Maduro received Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, explaining that “the Palestinian cause is the world’s cause.”  

A key reason for the visit was to establish PetroPalestina, an organisation aimed at helping fulfil the oil demands of the besieged Palestinian economy that will, in the words of Maduro, “firm up the supplying of diesel from Venezuela to Palestine.” 

Discussions were also held on the creation of a Palestinian centre of Mission Miracle, a health programme which, free of charge, uses laser surgery to restore sight to people who can’t afford private attention. 

As the holder of the world’s largest oil reserves, with a repeatedly elected progressive government in power committed to national sovereignty  and the redistribution of wealth, Venezuela has faced constant hostility from the US in recent years. No doubt Venezuela’s stance on Palestine and other Middle East questions, and its support for international justice more generally — the government opposed the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq — is another reason for this hostility.

It can also be added that one certain consequence if Venezuela’s revolution was ever overthrown would be the country’s dramatic realignment with the US camp internationally and the reactionary positions resulting from this. A hint of the right’s true alignments was made clear in 2012 when a Caracas mayor and leading figure in Venezuela’s right-wing opposition met Benjamin Netanyahu and pledged a future restoration of relations with Israel.

Viva Venezuela, Viva Palestina!

Matt Willgress is national coordinator of Venezuela Solidarity. For more information about the campaign visit To learn more about social change in Latin America come to the Latin America Conference on Saturday November 29 – tickets available soon at


Venezuela: Opposition leader Lopez on trial

JAILED Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez went on trial on Wednesday, accused of masterminding anti-government protests that left 43 people dead.

A Caracas court heard accusations against him of inciting crime and being the intellectual author of damages and arson.

Days after the demonstrations began in mid-February, Mr Lopez turned himself in to authorities and has been in a military jail since.

Nearly 900 people were injured in the worst explosion of violence for a decade, as reactionaries opposed to President Nicolas Maduro challenged government supporters.

Asked to comment about the trial, Mr Maduro lambasted Mr Lopez.

“The leader of the ultra-right is responsible for crimes, violence, destruction and the loss of human lives,” he said.

“He has to pay and he’s going to pay. Justice must be done. 

“And to the Bolivarian people I say stand firm against fascists.”

Maduro: Brics summit will change the world order

DECISIONS taken at the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) summit will change the course of the 21st century, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said today.

“Brics have made very important decisions to change the political and economic world order,” he told his weekly TV programme.

The bloc has “decided to create a development bank with $100 billion (£58bn) as starting capital and a commercial and financial system among its members to use local currencies instead of US dollars.”

It would have a reserve currency pool worth over another £58bn.

Both initiatives will counter the influence of imperialist lending institutions and the dollar.

The Brics leaders ended their two-day summit in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza with the announcement that the planned bank would be headquartered in the Chinese financial hub of Shanghai.

The New Development Bank will have an African regional branch in South Africa and other nations will be able to participate eventually.

President Maduro is among regional presidents from the Union of South American Nations and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States taking part in talks with Brics leaders to deepen co-operation between these blocs.

“Our foreign policy is well advanced,” said Mr Maduro.

“It’s at the centre of all world events to continue deepening our alliance with Brics.”

The Venezuelan president will host Chinese President Xi Jinping in Caracas later this week, before Mr Xi leaves for Cuba and Argentina.

Mr Xi supports a China-Latin America forum to further expand bilateral trade that has already reached $262bn (£153bn) in the past year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who began his Latin American tour with a visit to Cuba at the weekend, will be pleased to have shown that his country’s recent exclusion from the G8 group of industrialised nations does not signify international isolation.

The new Brics financial mechanisms could benefit Argentina, which is at risk of defaulting on $1.3bn (£759 million) in debts after losing a US Supreme Court battle with “vulture” hedge funds.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said that nothing was certain “because we just formed this institution,” but she was sure that the group would “examine” any request from Argentina.

US House of Representatives backs Venezuela sanctions

THE US House of Representatives disregarded regional consensus on Wednesday by voting to support sanctions against Venezuela.

The vote by acclamation was overwhelming despite a last-ditch appeal by Michigan’s John Conyers and 13 other progressive Democrats who opposed sanctions and called for restoration of diplomatic relations between the two nations.

The minority had pointed out that regional bodies including the Organisation of American States, the Caribbean Community and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) had all rejected the case for sanctions.

But far-right Florida Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, who cut their teeth on campaigns to undermine Cuban independence, led the charge to attack Venezuela.

The House, with 435 members, took just 20 minutes to pass the Bill that would impose sanctions on Venezuelan officials it considers guilty of human rights violations while funding political opponents of President Nicolas Maduro.

The Senate foreign relations committee, headed by fellow far-right Florida Republican Marco Rubio, has already backed the Bill.

If the full Senate emulates the House, President Barack Obama’s signature would then make it law.

President Maduro has scorned the sanctions process, pointing out that US laws have no jurisdiction outside US territory.

“The north American government cannot approve legislation to sanction the inhabitants of another country … any sanctions law approved by the US is spurious. We reject it and will confront it in forums worldwide.”

Unasur condemned US “interference” in Venezuela last week, calling its meddling an obstacle to national dialogue, and backed the peace process initiated by the Bolivarian government.

Venezuela Foreign Minister Elias Jaua plans to propose condemnation of US interference at the Summit of the G-77 plus China, which meets in Bolivia on June 14-15, and at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States which meets next month.

The Maduro government claimed on Wednesday that US ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker was involved in attempts to destabilise revolutionary Venezuela.

It cited emails from Maria Corina Machado, who was dismissed as a deputy in March for unconstitutional behaviour, to other opposition activists.

Democratic congressmen make a stand against Venezuela sanctions

FOURTEEN Democratic members of Congress voiced their opposition to authorising unilateral US sanctions against Venezuela today.

A Bill before Congress instructs the Obama administration to compile a list of human rights abusers in the Venezuelan government, freeze their assets and ban them from the United States. 

Foreign relations committees in the House and Senate have overwhelmingly approved it, although administration officials are opposed.

They say sanctions risk undermining mediation efforts in Venezuela.

And Democrats led by Michigan Congressman John Conyers wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday backing his administration. 

They also urged an exchange of ambassadors with Venezuela after a four-year hiatus.

In Caracas, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro welcomed the Democrat initiative, saying he hoped “there is a bit of wisdom” in Washington.

“Thank you for taking this initiative to try to raise awareness,” he said.

“Any law approved in the US Congress to sanction Venezuela is spurious.”

US sanctions on Venezuela rejected by South American leaders

SOUTH American governments have rejected an effort by US politicians to apply sanctions on Venezuela over supposed human rights concerns.

Foreign ministers from the 12-member Union of South American Nations issued a statement on Friday night warning that the proposed legislation would constitute interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs and undermine attempts by regional diplomats to foster dialogue between government and opposition.

Sanctions represent “an obstacle for the Venezuelan people to overcome their difficulties,” according to a statement after a meeting in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.

The US House of Representatives is expected to debate a bipartisan Bill on Wednesday that would force the Obama administration to ban visas and freeze the assets of Venezuelan officials accused of rights abuses. 

Similar legislation has already cleared the Senate foreign relations committee.

The Obama administration has condemned President Nicolas Maduro’s crackdown on the right-wing opposition but wants to delay applying sanctions.

Masked Venezuelan rightwingers clash again with riot police

Rich protesters trying to oust President Nicolas Maduro again take to the streets of Caracas

Hooded rightwingers rampaged through Caracas streets on Sunday night, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at Venezuelan riot police.

Masked youths battled police, protesters burned and hanged effigies of socialist President Nicolas Maduro from lamp-posts while marchers demanded the "resurrection" of democracy.

Disgraced and dismissed opposition MP Maria Corina Machado joined several hundred members of the right-wing Voluntad Popular (Popular Will), a far-right party whose leader Leopoldo Lopez has been jailed since February.

Ms Machado was barred from the National Assembly after speaking to the US-dominated Organisation of American States as part of a Panamanian delegation.

Four people were injured in unrest that erupted in Caracas's up-market Chacao neighbourhood after police returned fire with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon.

At the end of the march, hooded activists had blocked a main Chacao road and nearby streets with debris that included an uprooted bus shelter and sewer grates.

Some wore gas masks and construction helmets. Others hid their identity with scarves and Guy Fawkes masks.

Also attending the protest with Ms Machado was former mayor Antonio Ledezma.

Both of them, along with Mr Lopez, support a strategy which aims to push President Nicolas Maduro from office through violent street protests since the right has long lost at the ballot box.

But in Petare, the biggest shanty-town in Caracas, residents burned effigies of opposition governor Henrique Capriles and Mayor Carlos Ocariz, accusing them of failing to rein in opposition supporters.

Despite the protests of recent weeks, President Maduro's position is clearly not under threat, with numbers on the street demonstrations dropping and the armed forces firmly behind him.

"One year into government, I will continue to fulfil my oath with the people," said Mr Maduro, who this week celebrated the anniversary of his election win.

"No-one will deny our right to be happy, free and independent," he added.

Venezuela has been rocked by two months of protests, with at least 41 killed since early February.

Around 600 people have been injured and 100 arrested.

The Guardian Publishes Letter from Prominent Figures from Across British Society on Venezuela

The British daily newspaper The Guardian has today published a statement signed by a range of figures from across British society (see full text and list of signatories below) initiated by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign deploring “the wave of violence from minority and extremist sections of Venezuela’s opposition.”

Commenting on the continuing destabilization efforts of anti-democratic elements of the right-wing opposition, the statement notes that the “wave of violence” was unleashed as a consequence of the proclaimed objective of the “recently launched campaign by Venezuela’s extreme right for the La Salida (‘The Ousting’) of the government of President Maduro before his constitutional mandate ends in 2019.” It concludes by “supporting the Government’s call for peace and dialogue to resolve  differences” which has been echoed by UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations.)

Prominent signatories include Grahame Morris MP of Labour Friends of Venezuela; Colin Burgon, VSC Chair; former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, former Minister Peter Hain MP, a wide range of prominent figures in the academic and cultural sectors including filmmaker John Pilger, musician Dave Lee, poet Linton Kwesi Johnson and writer Tariq Ali; and numerous Trade Union leaders, alongside student leaders, peace campaigners, community representatives and an array of others from across society.

In the political field, further members of Parliament Dave Anderson, Michael Connarty, Paul Flynn, Roger Godsiff, Ian Lavery, Elfyn Llwyd, John McDonnell, Chris Williamson and Mike Wood added their support, alongside Baroness Anne Gibson (Vice-chair, All-Party Parliamentary British-Latin America Group,) London Assembly member Murad Qureshi plus Members of the Scottish Parliament Elaine Smith and Sandra White.

An impressive selection of further supporters in the trade union and labour movement include the general secretaries Billy Hayes (CWU,) Bob Crow (RMT,) Manuel Cortes (TSSA,) Mick Whelan (ASLEF,) Doug Nicholls (General Federation of Trade Unions) and John Smith (Musicians’ Union & President of the International Federation Musicians) plus Unite the Union Assistant General Secretary Tony Burke.

Other people to add their support from across British society include director Ken Loach, actor Andy De La Tour, Professor Bill Bowring, Director of the LLM/MA in Human Rights at the School of Law of Birkbeck University, progressive barristers Liz Davies and Tim Potter of the Haldane Society, plus a range of academic and writers including Richard Gott, Professor Ernesto Laclau, Professor Doreen Massey, Dr. Julia Buxton and Dr. Francisco Dominguez.

Prominent campaigners for peace and social justice include Bruce Kent, Zita Holbourne (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts,) Salma Yaqoob, Kate Hudson (General Secretary of CND,) Lindsey German (Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition,) student leader Aaron Kiely (NUS Black Students’ Officer) and many others.


We deplore the wave of violence from minority and extremist sections of Venezuela’s opposition, that left 3 dead, 60 injured and saw physical assaults on government institutions including shots and Molotov cocktails attacks on the state TV channel and a state governor’s residency.
We note that this followed a recently launched campaign by Venezuela’s extreme right for the La Salida (The Ousting) of the government of President Maduro before his constitutional mandate ends in 2019.
La Salida is led by extremists politicians Leopoldo Lopez and María Corina Machado who were both implicated in the 2002 coup in Venezuela, with Lopez claiming that it will only “be over when we manage to remove those who govern us,” an irresponsible attitude that can only lead to inflame the situation further.
We note that this is not the first time that the sections of the opposition have sought to oust the elected government by unconstitutional means having lost at the ballot box. Most infamously there was the military coup in 2002 but also includes an oil lock-out designed to wreck the economy, economic sabotage and refusal to recognise electoral results declared free and fair.
These unconstitutional attempts have intensified in the aftermath of the death of President Chavez and include the violence unleashed in 2013 in the aftermath of the Presidential election that left 12 people dead.
We further note that Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has expelled three US consular officials from the country, accusing them of meeting people involved in anti- government protests.
We believe that whilst people in Venezuela have the right to protest – and that the Venezuelan constitution guarantees these and other democratic rights – this must be done peacefully. There is no justification for violent opposition to the elected government in Venezuela.
We support the Government’s call for peace and dialogue to resolve differences rather than violence and welcome the huge rally it organized for Peace and Life. We also oppose any external intervention in Venezuela.
We strongly support the statement of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) that violence to seek to overthrow the elected, constitutional government is unacceptable. We join them in both condemning the wave of violence unleashed as a consequence of the proclaimed objective of “the ousting” of the elected government and in supporting calls for dialogue and peace.


Grahame Morris Member of Parliament, Chair, Labour Friends of Venezuela
Colin Burgon, Chair, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign
Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London
Dave Anderson, Member of Parliament, Labour
Michael Connarty, Member of Parliament, Labour
Paul Flynn, Member of Parliament, Labour
Roger Godsiff, Member of Parliament, Labour
Peter Hain, Member of Parliament, Labour
Ian Lavery, Member of Parliament, Labour
Elfyn Llwyd, Member of Parliament, Plaid Cymru
John McDonnell, Member of Parliament, Labour
Chris Williamson, Member of Parliament, Labour
Mike Wood, Member of Parliament, Labour
Elaine Smith, Member of the Scottish Parliament, Labour
Sandra White, Member of the Scottish Parliament, Scottish National Party

Chavistas Celebrate Victory in the Venezuelan Municipal Elections

Caracas, 9th December 2013 ( – Supporters of the Venezuelan government celebrated their victory in the municipal elections held yesterday, with analysts commenting that President Nicolas Maduro has “reconnected” with Chavismo’s social base.

The first results announced last night gave the government’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) victory in 58% of the country’s municipalities, while the PSUV and its allies gained over 49% of the total vote share versus 43% for the opposition.

After the results were announced, President Nicolas Maduro gave a televised speech from the Plaza Bolivar in central Caracas to celebrate the win.

“Without a doubt we’ve obtained a great victory today, the people of Venezuela have said to the world that the Bolivarian revolution continues with more strength than ever,” he said.

Maduro mentioned that the opposition’s Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition had now lost four national elections over the last fourteen months. He also responded to opposition leader Henrique Capriles’ argument that the municipal elections would be a “plebiscite” on the government’s mandate.

“There you have your plebiscite, Caprichito, fascist. I hope that he learns about humility and shows his face to the country and resigns from the political leadership of the MUD,” declared the Venezuelan president.

The next electoral challenge for the government will not be until 2015, when National Assembly elections will be held. Maduro suggested the PSUV and their allies in the Great Patriotic Pole coalition should start thinking about these now, in order to “win big” and “sweep fascism away”.

2014 a year of challenges

Backed by the election results, Maduro also announced the government’s economic and political priorities for 2014.

The president is hoping to draft a law this week that will set out a comprehensive methodology to regulate costs, prices and profits “for all the products in the country, for all sectors”.

“Yes it can be done, and we’re going to consolidate it,” Maduro announced. He said he will also look at measures against overpricing in the property and housing sectors.

A new phase of Maduro’s Street Government initiative will be launched in January. Priorities to work on include: developing the housing mission and the community renovation program Barrio Nuevo, the improvement of public hospitals, the guarantee of drinking water supply to all homes, and the spreading of the anti-crime Safe Homeland Plan.

Opposition reaction

Unlike during the municipal election campaign, opposition leaders did not mention the words “referendum” or “plebiscite” in their response to the results.

Henrique Capriles claimed that turnout of 59% was “low” and that the government had run an “abusive” campaign.

Like other opposition leaders, the state governor alleged the government’s recent economic measures were solely aimed at gaining electoral support for the municipal elections.  The measures, termed as an “economic offensive” by Maduro, forced price reductions of some goods regarded as speculative.

“All those measures…were taken to try and arrive at 8 December, but we know there’s a 9 December tomorrow and that a very difficult future is coming for our country,” Capriles argued.

The opposition also called for “unity” and “dialogue”. Maduro has committed himself to work with all mayors elected yesterday.

Maduro “reconnected” with Chavista base

The president of private polling firm Hinterlaces, Oscar Schemel, commented this morning that the municipal election results are positive for Chavismo.

He further argued that the recent price reductions and other measures which lowered the cost of life for ordinary people helped the Maduro government garner greater support among its traditional social base.

“This evidently reconnected Chavismo and Maduro with their followers. In some way the hopes of broad sectors that were distanced from the government have been reestablished,” he said to TV channel Globovision.

Both state-owned and private media have coincided in praising the peaceful and ordinary nature of the elections held yesterday.

Santiago to Caracas repression to revolution across a continent over 40 years

11.00 – 3.00 Sunday 8 December 2013

STUC building, Woodlands Road, Glasgow

40 years ago, the democratically-elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende, was murdered in a brutal US-backed coup – the first of many such repressive interventions across Latin America. Where US influence remains, the people continue to suffer the cycle of growing poverty and political violence.
Today however, in countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, progressive governments in are honouring his legacy by combating US influence in the region through regional endeavors like ALBA and UNASUR. By transforming the lives of millions of people, extending healthcare and education provision and reducing inequality,  they continue to challenge the logic of austerity which dominates the post-crisis world.

Confirmed speakers include:
•    Katy Clark, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran
•    Oscar Mendoza, Chilean exile and international development expert
•    Arthur West, Scottish Cuba Solidarity Campaign

Also, showing of
April: between peace and rage
A short documentary exposing the true face of Venezuela’s anti-democratic opposition – the violence against supporters of the elected government afer Maduro’s victory in April 2013

Followed by AGM of the Scottish Venezuela Solidarity Campaign

To register interest, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Organised by Scottish Venezuela Solidarity Campaign and Scottish Cuba Solidarity Campaign