Video, Report & Slideshow of VSC’s Successful Solidarity Conference in May

On May 10, hundreds of supporters of democracy and social progress in Venezuela packed out a VSC Conference at the University of London Union. A video of the day can be found below, alongside a full report and photo slideshow.

In May, over 250 people attended the VSC’s national conference entitled Celebrating Hugo Chavez’s Legacy – Defending Venezuela Against Us Intervention & Right-Wing Destabilisation. Guests and speakers included journalists, diplomats from Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba Ecuador and Nicaragua, MPs, academics, film makers and activists.

The Conference was opened by VSC Secretary Dr. Francisco Dominguez who explained that the recent violent protests in Venezuela “are political” and “have always been about overthrowing the Government,” a point reinforced by CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes who argued that “Some forces within the [Venezuelan] opposition have no confidence in their ability to secure a future majority, so they are violently attempting to provoke a coup or an intervention against the elected Government.”

Continuing on this theme, in the opening plenary, Guardian journalist and author Seumas Milne spoke of the continued media distortion of the situation in the country and provided a firsthand insight into his recent trip to Caracas, his interview with President Maduro and the attempts to destabilize Venezuela by extreme right sectors. Reminding the conference that the right-wing extremists in Venezuela, on the eve of the current violence, said they would set streets alight, he explained how he had witnessed the effects of an opposition arson attack. He convincingly argued that we were seeing violence from elements of the opposition after they have lost 18 out of 19 referendums and elections – even though elements of the media portray it as democratic – and concluded that the protests (including those he had witnessed) were a “naked and democratic revolt of the rich concentrated in wealthy areas.”

He also linked attempts to destabilise Venezuela with external intervention, pointing out that “There’s no doubt whatsoever about the scale of US and foreign intervention in Venezuela. The evidence is voluminous, from the time of the 2002 coup to the $100 million estimated of funding to the Venezuelan opposition in all its forms.”

He was joined by US writer Mark Weisbrot who outlined why it is so important to debunk lies in media and Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament Neil Findlay who spoke about his experiences as an observer to last year’s elections in Venezuela and the country’s vibrant, inclusive democracy. Reflecting on this experience, he argued that “There is a seismic shift [in Latin America] that the corporations and their US allies detest. They detest the loss of control and their role of kingmaker. They hate the fact that the people are in control and not them… the fact that democracy has produced a result they don’t like.”

Numerous workshops provided an insight into the current, violent attempts to destabilise the country by extreme right-wing elements, and additional workshops on various aspects of social progress in Venezuela reminded us why our solidarity is so important, confirming CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes’ point that the gains of Venezuela “matter to the left and are hated by the right.” Or, as Guardian Comment is Free contributor, blogger and campaigner Ellie Mae O’Hagan put it, “The reason that the Right really dislike Venezuela in this country, and in the US, is that they can’t stand the fact that in that country there are free, democratic and frequent elections, and people keep choosing socialism.”

After a full day of insight and discussion the conference ended with a closing rally where the Charge d’Affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy, Alvaro Sanchez, thanked all the participants for their continued support and highlighted the efforts being made by the government of President Maduro to ensure peace throughout the country.

The actor and screenwriter Andy de la Tour spoke of his experience as an international observer of the 2013 elections in Venezuela, and international guests, Camila Mejia from the union FETSALUD Nicaragua and Fran Perez from the United Left of Spain, gave fascinating insights into solidarity with Venezuela in their countries. The latter touched on the key themes of the day and argued that “Venezuela needs us. The chaos, destabilisation and violence by the Right and the oligarchy are an attempt to illegitimately overthrow Nicolas Maduro. The undemocratic right-wing is attempting to achieve what they couldn’t in the December elections by way of violence. With the support of the US government, they are attempting to ensure Maduro can’t continue the work of Hugo Chávez.”

Continuing on this theme, Bethan Jenkins, Welsh Assembly Member added that as “Venezuela is an oil rich country… Of course America are going to be looking to Venezuela to destabilise the situation. Look at what happened in Iraq,” adding to great applause that “We are not foolish enough to not understand that’s why they want destabilisation in Venezuela.”

Finally Jeremy Corbyn MP called for continued efforts to build the solidarity movement to ensure Venezuela can be defended internationally. Attendees left the Conference with the words of Alvaro Sanchez of the Venezuelan Embassy ringing true when he said “it’s not just the progress of Venezuela but the progress of the world” that is at stake and that’s why our support is so vital. Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.