Toronto, Canada — If there was ever a need to stand in solidarity with the working-class masses and protagonists of the various progressive movements that have swept Latin America in this new century, it is now.
In Argentina, the right-wing and U.S.-backed presidential candidate won the election that took place in late November. Ecuador’s socialist president, Rafael Correa, has announced he will not run for re-election in 2017 despite high approval rates, though the decision has been made in part to allow for new political leaders and activists to step in and pump new blood into the country. Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, is facing impeachment proceedings which have been denounced as a “coup” by several leftist movements pledging allegiance to her. In Bolivia, Evo Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism lost regional elections in March, though the Indigenous president remains popular with the people.
And on Dec. 6, during the Venezuelan parliamentary elections, the Venezuelan people faced their first electoral defeat since 1999, when Commander Hugo Chavez became president and marked the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution.
Nearly 75 per cent of Venezuelans — roughly 19 million people — went to vote and ultimately gave 111 of the 167 National Assembly seats to the opposition party, Democratic Unity Roundtable. The socialist coalition, Great Patriotic Pole, won only 55 seats. In peaceful and democratic fashion, however, Chavistas and socialists both at home and abroad accepted the defeat with honour and dignity, calling for a strengthening and deepening of the revolutionary process with peace.
“Solidarity with Venezuela is more important than ever,” said Raul Burbano, program director at Common Frontiers Canada, a working group that includes various civil society organizations, in a Facebook conversation.
Burbano was also one of the organizers of the Hands Off Venezuela! rally, which took place in front of the U.S. Consulate in Toronto on Sunday, as Venezuelans headed to the polls. It was part of an international effort denouncing what the organizers described as imperialist actions in Venezuela and the region, which saw similar demonstrations in Toronto, Vancouver, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Haven and Washington, D.C.
Against U.S. intervention
In Toronto, nearly 60 demonstrators and community organizers gathered to denounce the United State’s efforts to destabilize Venezuela’s political and economic affairs and to show solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution. They also called for respect of the Venezuelan electoral system, which former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has called “the best in the world.”
“I’m sure you know there has been a fierce economic sabotage in Venezuela this last year,” said prominent Venezuelan-Canadian sociologist, Dr. Maria Paez Victor, one of the event’s speakers. She also called U.S. democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton a “harbinger of war” for suggesting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was preparing fraud in the elections.
“This is shameful, for a country like the U.S., for someone who aspires to be their president, to be so ignorant,” she added.
A teleSUR English article written earlier this year highlighted the history of the U.S.’ National Endowment for Democracy’s involvement in destabilizing popular governments throughout Latin America. “Allocations for 2014 and 2015 have been approved for US$103.5 million,” the article read, “while over US$7 million was directed primarily to opposition organizations in Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba in 2013.”
USAID also transferred around US$7.7 million from 2010-2015 with a funding spike last year for “electoral processes” and “political party strengthening,” according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
Though demonstrators said they had hoped for a victory in order to ensure the revolutionary process would continue with limited interference from the right-wing opposition, the defeat is being interpreted as a temporary setback only. It was a loss of a battle in a much bigger war being fought with revolutionary ideas and legislation, and through communal governments, rather than with guns and violence.
What’s more, civil society and the socialist government’s peaceful and dignified way in which they have accepted the setback has debunked the notion that Venezuela was under a dictatorship, a lie mainstream media outlets have grossly perpetuated inside and outside of the country.
It has also been yet another display of the integrity that has characterized the Bolivarian Revolution.
Unity and resilience
Burbano had opened the Hands Off Venezuela! rally by acknowledging their presence in “stolen, Indigenous land,” a truth that became alive with Ruben Benny Esguerra’s powerful and lively mix of Indigenous sounds and hip hop. He’s part of the group New Tradition Music, which performs music described as “ancestral musical styles + urban cultural expressions.”
Esguerra, a Colombian-Canadian hip-hop artist, performed two songs focused on the reunification and the resilience of the original peoples of North and South America.
“This is a tribute to the Earth, to the indigenous struggles, and it’s a call for unification again,” he said of the event, as he prepared his kuizi bunzi flute, an ancestral Colombian instrument more than 2,000 years old. The opening song, titled “The Condor and the Eagle,” spoke specifically of the need for the masses to unify. “Not these leaders in the north, but the people from the south and the people of the north to come together in unity.”
“And we will see the light when the Condor and Eagle fly side by side,” he sung. “The two will glide in one sky, North and South will unify.”
His second song, which spoke of the resilience of the Latin American people in the face of constant U.S. aggression and invasions, had the crowd dancing and singing, “Bounce, Bounce, Right Back,” as Esguerra wailed on his flute.
Other speakers included Beatrice Santiago and Francisco Suarez, both Circulo Bolivariano Louis Riel members, and Julian Ichim, community organizer and member of the Hugo Chavez Peoples’ Defense Front, among others.
Both organizations sponsored the event along with ALBA Movimientos — Capitulo Canada (Canadian Chapter), HOV Venezuela, and the Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network.
The event concluded in a lively and joyful fashion, among chants of “Yankees, go home” and “Chavez vive, la lucha sigue” — Chavez is alive, and the struggle goes on!