Why I am Going to Venezuela!
That's it, in one word. And there's more!
I am writing this because many people have been asking – and have been worried – about my planned trip to Venezuela with a political delegation of 20 people from 7 countries that will be there from March 28 through April 7.
I have traveled on political delegations to Venezuela 5 or 6 times, beginning after I saw "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," a very well-named documentary about the attempted coup in 2002 against Hugo Chavez. The 2002 coup failed. I went to Venezuela because the people power provided hope, "esperanza".
What had Hugo Chavez done to deserve a U.S.-backed coup? He was elected president in 1998, more than 20 years after the oil industry was nationalized in 1976. Chavez began to share the oil wealth with all Venezuelans, including the 70% who had been living in poverty. As president, his first three projects were literacy (which increased to the high 90s, as certified by the U.N.), healthcare (brought clinics to poor barrios; traded oil for Cuban doctors, who then trained Venezuelans), and created, with the Venezuelan people, an empowering new constitution that people carried in their pockets and which achieved a 72% vote in favor. These projects are not how dictators seek to repress their people.
But these projects did inspire the 2002 coup attempt by former powers-that-be in Venezuela, with help from the U.S. (If you aren't sure the U.S. would do such a thing, read the history of U.S./Latin American relations!) The 2002 coup failed because millions of Venezuelans refused to go along with the self-declared new president at that time.
The 2019 coup attempt has also failed. Venezuelans are not going along with the self-declared Juan Guaido. That gives me hope.
It has been 20 years since Venezuela's two-party system lost its grip on the government. Then in 2013, Hugo Chavez died of cancer. That was also the last year that I was in Venezuela, when we observed the election of Nicolas Maduro. It is amazing to me that he is still president given the pressure his government has been under.
Without added pressures, the Venezuelan people and the Maduro government could have handled their difficulties, even with the price of oil dropping by two-thirds since its peak in 2008. Oil is by far their main export; they have tried to diversify with only limited success. But the one-percenters of both Venezuela and the U.S. smelled a weakness, caused additional disruptions, and reported a steady drumbeat from our government, media, and even non-governmental organizations about problems in Venezuela, problems that are ignored in neighboring Latin American countries, and ignored in the U.S.
In 2015, Obama imposed sanctions on Venezuela and designated it an "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." Venezuela? A threat to the U.S.? In 2017, Trump escalated the sanctions and the threat of military interventions.
Without these foreign interventions, life would be much easier in Venezuela. For that reason, we are going as a delegation to End Venezuela Sanctions. We will see for ourselves, show solidarity, and report back.
SAVE THE DATE
If you are in the area on Sunday, April 14, 2019, 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., I will be part of a report back for Green Sunday at 6501 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA.
Green Party of California Spokesperson
(1) venezuelanalysis.com, a "go-to" resource, read whatever piques your interest
(2) DemocracyNow.org, radio/video archives, search for "Venezuela"
(3) TheNation.com, magazine, search for "Venezuela" and especially look for Mark Weisbrot and Greg Grandin
(4) Finally, there's a special place in my heart for Lisa Sullivan, an American who has lived in Venezuela for more than 35 years, and who led most of the delegations I participated in. Her piece is personal and political, and demonstrates that this crisis has been building for years. This was written a year after Obama began imposing sanctions. "Calling All Venezuelans to the Table"