Reportage about the situation in Venezuela is not balanced. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and other mass media in Canada publicize right wing opposition voices, but downplay pro-government sources in the oil-rich South American country. The CBC has no reporter in Venezuela. It regurgitates one-sided reports and biased commentaries emanating from U.S. media outlets. The coverage provides almost no social or political context for events. The truth about the causes of social conflict in Venezuela should be told.
The gathering heard Venezuela Solidarity Committee speakers talk about the reality of minority ultra-right wing violence, and the economic sabotage orchestrated by foreign and domestic business groups. They described the positive work of the National Constituent Assembly, elected democratically on July 30 in an election in which over 8 million voters participated.
Signs, placards and banners at the Toronto protest called for media accountability and honest reporting, and demanded that Ottawa and Washington keep their Hands Off Venezuela!
The August 29 event was sponsored by the Toronto Venezuela Solidarity Committee. It was endorsed by: ALBA moviementos – Capitulo Canada, Bolivarian Circle Louis Riel, Colombia Action Solidarity Alliance (CASA), Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front, Solidarity Against Fascism Everywhere (SAFE), Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network (LACSN), the NDP Socialist Caucus, and Socialist Action. Speakers at the rally included:
– Raul Burbano, Common Frontiers
– Francisco Suarez, Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle
– Elizabeth Byce, NDP Socialist Caucus
– Marta Palominos, Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front
– Javier Pineda, a Colombian activist and member of Socialist Action
– Juan Restrepo, Solidarity Against Fascism Everywhere
– Marco Castillo, Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network, poet and writer
– Sam Cheadle, Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union
– William, who presented one of his poems
– and two veteran companeros who led the crowd in singing the popular Latino anthem “Comandante Che Guevara”.
Opening remarks of the rally chairperson
Good evening. My name is Barry Weisleder and I am a member of the Toronto Venezuela Solidarity Committee.
I will introduce a number of speakers and entertainers who will explain why we are all here today. Let me begin by saying that I am a teacher, a Toronto resident and a tax payer. And I am very angry with the CBC. It’s the public broadcaster. It’s supported by the taxes you and I pay, but it’s not telling the whole truth about Venezuela. The CBC, and other mass media in North America, have become little more than a mouth piece for Washington, Ottawa, Wall Street and Bay Street, spreading exaggerations and lies about the progressive, popular, and elected govt of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. The CBC gives voice only to the violent right wing opposition in the country, ignoring the election of the Constituent Assembly on July 30 by 8 million-plus voters, ignoring the legal mandate to re-write the constitution of Venezuela. While Trump cuts off financial credit, and Trudeau applauds, the rich are putting the squeeze on the working class of Venezuela, hoping to create a shortage of basic goods, to foster social discontent and division, and instigate a fascist coup, like the one that occurred in Chile in 1973. Well, we say: Enough is enough! CBC, stop the abuse, it’s time to tell the truth.
Socialist Caucus remarks to August 29 Venezuela protest rally at CBC
Good afternoon. My name is Elizabeth Byce and I am speaking to you on behalf of the NDP Socialist Caucus, representing hundreds of left wing NDPers. I am the Socialist Caucus federal treasurer. I am also a retired member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and a past Secretary of the Toronto Labour Council.
On July 30 over 8 million people voted in Venezuela to elect a National Constituent Assembly. That is more than voted for Nicolas Maduro in 2013, or for his party in the 2015 legislature election. It is 1 million more than the votes claimed in the fake referendum conducted by the right wing over a month ago.
Sadly, the New Democratic Party foreign affairs critic, Helen Laverdiere (LA VER DEE AIR), called that vote “illegitimate.” Well, in light of the massive turnout, despite an organized right wing boycott, and recognizing the achievements of the Bolivarian process, we must say that the NDP critic’s criticism is illegitimate. It should be challenged across the Canadian workers’ movement. And that is exactly what we are doing.
On August 23, the NDP Socialist Caucus demanded the resignation of the NDP Foreign Affairs Critic. For months, Ms. Laverdiere has publicly expressed policy positions that are quite reactionary. In many cases, she has taken positions that violate NDP policies and principles. The latest is her effort, parallel to that of the Justin Trudeau Liberal government, and that of the Donald Trump White House, to isolate, starve and remove the popular elected government of Venezuela. Yves Engler, a widely-read Canadian foreign policy critic, exposed the record of the NDP spokesperson in an August 12 article, NDP foreign affairs critic marches in step with US Empire.
I quote: “Hélène Laverdière certainly seems to support the US-led geopolitical order. She’s aligned with the Empire on issues ranging from Venezuela to Palestine, Ukraine to Syria.
Echoing Washington and Ottawa, Laverdière recently attacked the Venezuelan government. “On the heels of Sunday’s illegitimate constituent assembly vote, it’s more important than ever for Canada to work with our allies and through multilateral groups like the OAS to secure a lasting resolution to the crisis,” she told the CBC.
But, the constituent assembly vote wasn’t “illegitimate”. Venezuela’s current constitution empowers the president to call a constituent assembly to draft a new one. If the population endorses the revised constitution in a referendum, the president – and all other governmental bodies – are legally required to follow the new constitutional framework.
Additionally, calling on Ottawa to “work with our allies” through the OAS may sound reasonable, but in practice it means backing Justin Trudeau’s efforts to weaken Venezuela through that body. In a June 2016 press release Laverdière said “the OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro (AL MAG RO) has invoked the Inter-American Democratic Charter regarding Venezuela, and Canada, as a member of the OAS, should support his efforts.” But, the former Uruguayan Foreign Minister’s actions as head of the OAS have been highly controversial. The previous head of the OAS, former Uruguayan president José Mujica (MOO Ji CA), condemned Almagro’s bias against the Venezuelan government.
Laverdière has also cozied up to pro-Israel groups. Last year she spoke to the notorious anti-Palestinian lobby organization American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Months after AIPAC paid for her to speak at their conference in Washington, Laverdière visited Israel with Canada’s governor general, even participating in a ceremony hosted by the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund.
The only Quebec MP to endorse Jagmeet Singh as next NDP leader, Laverdière has attended other events put on by groups aligned with Washington. She publicized and spoke to the weirdly themed “Demonstration for human and democratic rights in Venezuela, in solidarity with Ukraine and Syria.”
Laverdière supports deploying troops to the Russian border and repeatedly called for more sanctions on that country. She said the plan to send military trainers to the Ukraine “sounds good in principle” and only called for a debate in Parliament about sending 450 Canadians to head up a 1,000-strong NATO force in Latvia.”
Since 2014 Laverdière has repeatedly called for stronger sanctions on Russia, threatening to turn the Cold War into a Hot nuclear confrontation.
For all of these reasons, we call for her removal as NDP Foreign Affairs Critic. We call on the four NDP leadership candidates to speak out and demand the same.
We say: Stop the lies! Stop U.S. interference in Venezuela! End Canadian Complicity! CBC: Tell the Truth! Self-determination for Venezuela!
Socialist Action speech to August 29 protest rally at the CBC (The remarks below were presented in Spanish.)
Hello. My name is Javier Pineda. I am a member of CUPE Local 416, and I bring a message of solidarity from Socialist Action / Liga por l’Action Socialista en Canada.
Clearly, a new chapter in the history of Venezuela is opening. Big challenges and tests lay ahead. For revolutionary change, there must be confrontation and class struggle. This we know very well.
Nicolas Maduro in a recent speech told the rulers of the American Empire that he “will not be taken for a sucker.” In other words, this is no time to put faith in conciliation, or the OAS or any third party. It’s time for the Venezuelan working class to settle accounts with the exploiters, the hoarders, the drug smugglers, and the banksters. It is time for the workers to put an end to the violent thugs who would burn, not only Chavistas, but every leftist, every union member, every person who benefits from social housing, public medicine and education.
We condemn the aggression of Washington and its imperialist ally in Ottawa. They claim that there is starvation, chaos and repression in Venezuela. Lies and exaggerations! If they were really concerned about hunger, they would look to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala where tens of thousands are fleeing to El Norte in search of food. If the imperialists were really concerned about democracy, they would stop backing repressive regimes, like the one in my country, Colombia, where so many have been killed by the army and right wing death squads just for organizing a workers’ union. Why don’t the imperialists complain about the parliamentary coup in Brazil that removed Dilma Rousseff, the elected President, over trumped-up corruption charges? Why don’t they complain about the brutal, authoritarian monarchy of Saudi Arabia, instead of selling it mobile weapons to be used against the people of Yemen, as well as in Saudi?
Support for Venezuela is crucial as the hour of reckoning approaches. The road forward is workers’ power. The road forward is socialist revolution, the road Russia took 100 years ago under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, the road traveled by Cuba in 1959, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Haydee Santamaria and Vilma Espin. As Che said, “The revolution will be a socialist revolution, or it will be a caricature of a revolution.”
Naturally, we have concerns about the Bolivarian process in recent years. Of course bureaucracy and corruption are not new problems in the underdeveloped countries. But efforts to collaborate with sectors of the bourgeoisie, to delay expropriation of the commanding heights of the economy, especially the big banks, giant landlords and foreign capital, only emboldened the right wing to disrupt the economy and to organize for counter-revolution. Workers everywhere have reason to fear imperialism and domestic reactionaries. We remember 1973.
There must not be a repeat of the tragedy of Chile in September 1973. That was when Salvador Allende applied the brakes and brought General Pinochet into his cabinet, hoping to appease the bourgeoisie. The direction today should be clear. Forward to socialism! And our task here is clear. We need to work together in the Toronto Venezuela Solidarity Committee, and to build solidarity across Canada. We need to hold many more rallies, marches, sit-ins, concerts and petition drives to confront media lies and government villainy. We should ask all working class and progressive organizations to build, with us, a united, anti-war, anti-intervention movement based on the following demands: “Self-determination for Venezuela. Respect the July 30 vote. Ottawa, Washington, Hands Off Venezuela!”
That is what Socialist Action will be doing, with our partners, with all our energy, in the coming days and weeks. If you agree, we ask you to join us tonight.
Hasta la Victoria siempre! Venceremos!