In 2005 I travelled to Venezuela to participate in the World Festival of Youth and Students. I remember marching with youth from all over the world, with then President Hugo Chavez waving proudly at everyone, culminating in moving 2-hour speech from the president that covered a wide range of topics, from land reform, to the rights of indigenous people, to the attacks on Venezuela’s sovereignty. I recall being excited at everything I was hearing; for once there was someone who was talking about our needs, our problems.
I had grown up thinking all governments were the same but I could tell there was something different about what was happening in Venezuela, about Chavez himself, and what was being called the Bolivarian Revolution.
As much as I was left astonished by overall experience in Venezuela, there is one moment that stands out. A few days into my trip a small group of us visited the interior of Venezuela. We were taken to tour a food bank, there it became apparent to me that this space was clearly someone’s house. I asked our host whose it was, she replied by leading me to a small room.
Seated in this room was an elder who greeted me warmly, I asked her about the house and she replied with the following, “This used to be my house but I realized that what is happening is the most important thing to ever happen in my country.
I don’t need much space, at my age there is only so much I can do but by doing this I know my people can get two meals and have the nutrition necessary to participate in the running of our new society. Offering up my house for this program is my way of contributing to the revolution.” I was left speechless, in that moment I learned what a “revolution” is really all about, it is about facilitating the participation of the people in the running of society, awakening the spirit of solidarity that exists within all of us.
Venezuela has been in the news recently but unfortunately it has not been to trumpet the tremendous achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution.
Those within the country who are opposed to changes brought about by the revolution have been calling for the ouster of Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s successor after his death from cancer in 2013. Elements of the opposition have held violent demonstrations, burning public buildings, even setting up barbed wire across public streets that have resulted in the decapitation of two people.
These days when we see people on the streets face-to-face with police many are quick to sympathise with the protestors.
However, in the case of Venezuela, it is the opposition that is antidemocratic. Supporters of the revolution have won 18 of the 19 elections since 1998. All of the elections have been declared to be free and fair. A supporter of Maduro at a rally in Toronto put it bluntly, “If the pro-democracy opposition is actually pro-democracy and popular, then they should go and win an election instead of rioting after losing every election.”
The upper classes of Venezuelan society became immensely wealthy by living off the proceeds of an oil-rich nation while leaving everyone else to suffer in poverty and misery.
Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution changed all of that, there have been massive investments in health, education, and social programs. Instead of letting a small section of society benefit from the exploitation of natural resources, the proceeds from oil were used to create a more equal country.
The opposition would like to see the ways of the past restored, they can’t stand seeing peasants, workers, afro-Venezuelan and indigenous people in power making decisions that benefit the vast majority of Venezuelans.
These changes also bother the ruling elites in the United States and Canada, who are actively working to destabilize the country. This is often the case with any nation that dares to assert is sovereignty and chart its own course. In fact, in a scenario similar to the one being played out now, Chavez was briefly removed from power in a US-backed coup in 2002 until massive mobilizations restored him to the presidency.
In an interview with Telesur, a regional news network, President Maduro stated, “It’s not another conspiracy plan or another day of street barricades, it’s a developing state coup, decided in the circles of power in the United States, conjured with the business elites of Venezuela, and directed and driven in the streets by a sector of the Venezuelan extreme right-wing.”
The Bolivarian Revolution has also been a friend of Venezuela’s 1,000,000 plus indigenous people, and Chavez himself was of indigenous decent, something his adversaries often ridiculed.
The government approved several laws directly related to indigenous people, with the full participation of the various indigenous groups of Venezuela. It opened the Indigenous University of Venezuela and even renamed “Columbus Day” to the “Day of Indigenous Resistance”.
The Bolivarian Revolution is facing a grave threat and deserves our support. There have been many false articles and images circulating on the internet, this too is part of the campaign of destabilization and demonization being implemented by the opposition.
The Bolivarian Revolution is not without its faults, but the opposition is not interested in resolving any of the problems facing Venezuelans, their goal is to restore the old system of abuse and exploitation.
They would rather people like the elder I met in 2005 stay at home and leave the running of society to a small group of elites. There is a chant that is popular with the supporters of the revolution, “No Volverán” or “They shall not return” referring to the old rulers of Venezuela, let us stay vigilant and stand with the Bolivarian Revolution so that they indeed never return.