First published by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013
‘All of us here are Chávez, the people in the street are Chávez, the lady who cooks is Chávez, the soldier is Chávez…the farmer is Chávez, the worker is Chávez; we’re all Chávez.’
Elias Jaua, Minister of Foreign Relations, 10 January 2013
On 10 January, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez still recovering in Cuba from post-operative complications following surgery for cancer and unable to attend his inauguration ceremony, tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets in his place. With their symbolic tri-colour presidential sashes and rallying cries of ‘Yo soy Chavez!’ – ‘I am Chavez!’ and ‘Chavez is the people’, the vast crowd was proof once again that the power of the Bolivarian Revolution lies not in the hands of a single revolutionary but in the vast mass of that same Venezuelan working class which swept Chavez to a fourth presidential term in the elections of October 2012. SAM MCGILL reports.
Background information on this situation can be found here: Rene Gonzalez to be released
STATEMENT BY CUBA’S MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
René González Sehwerert, Hero of the Republic of Cuba, has been the subject of new arbitrary measures by the Government of the United States that is toughening the conditions of his supervised release, making it seem even more as prison conditions, with the aim of continuing to punish him after so many years of unfair and cruel treatment.
On 17 February, the Ecuadorian people re-elected Rafael Correa as their president with 56.7% of the vote and more than twice that of the runner-up banker Guillermo Lasso (23.3%). Correa’s governing PAIS alliance took 70% the 137 seats in the National Assembly. Rock around the Blockade here republish this interview with the re-elected president conducted by New Left Review
First published by Xinhua HAVANA, 26 February
Cuba is geared up to expand the application of biogas as part of a campaign to promote sustainable development, especially in the agricultural sector.
Experts with the Cuban Society for Promotion of Renewable Energy Sources and Environmental Protection (Cubasolar) convened on Tuesday to analyze the viability of some biogas projects presented at a national forum on biogas last week.
Interview with Aleida Guevara:
Despite the propaganda surrounding Che Guevara, the Latin leader was a true revolutionary, and modern-day circumstances would have made him even more zealous to unite Latin Americans against their common foe, daughter Aleida Guevara told RT.
by Pedro Martínez Pírez
25 February translated by Walter Lippmann
Photo: An election official gives a man ballot papers at a special polling station set up in Havana's main train station February 3, 2013. Cubans go to polls to elect National Assembly representatives.
Cuba on Monday woke up with a new Parliament, renewed by 67 percent and made up of 612 national deputies, which include workers, farmers, teachers, doctors, scientists, writers, artists, religious leaders, students, political leaders, businessmen, sportsmen and military, with an average of 48 years old.
About half of the deputies in the National Assembly of People's Power are women, more than 82 percent have college educations and 37 percent are black, among the latter the new Parliament President Esteban Lazo Hernandez, who replaced as president of the top legislature to Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, who held office for twenty years, and hereafter who will continue his talented work dedicated to the defense of the five Cuban prisoners of the empire.
Published in English on Palgrave blog: Helen Yaffe
These questions are addressed to international prize-winning Cuban 'blogger' Yoani Sanchez, who recently began a three-month international tour of the Americas and Europe. They were formulated by Salim Lamrani, a lecturer in France and specialist on relations between Cuba and the US, who, in early 2010 interviewed Yoani Sanchez in a hotel in central Havana. That important and sweeping interview can be found here
The questions were originally posted on Opera Mundi in French, then reposted in Spanish and translated from Spanish into English by Colin Brayton.
Yoani Sanchez is greeting by supporters of Cuba's revolutionary government in Brazil, first destination after leaving Cuba on 18 February 2013.
The world's most famous "secret annex" is tucked behind a bookcase where 13-year-old Anne Frank hid out during the Nazi occupation.
Lesser known is the secret annex to a report describing the U.S. government's Cuba strategy in the post-Castro era.
We are happy to report that president Hugo Chavez has today returned to Venezuela following his surgery in Cuba. We publish below a letter from Fidel Castro and send our solidarity wishes for his continued recovery.
I am extremely satisfied that you have been able to return to that piece of American land which you love so much, and to our brother people who support you so much.
A long and agonising wait, as well as your astonishing capacity for physical resistance and the total dedication of a team of doctors, as has been the case over the last 10 years, were necessary to achieve this objective.
It would be totally unfair not to mention the insurmountable dedication of your closest family members, your colleagues in the revolutionary leadership, the Bolivarian Armed Forces, who were re-armed and re-equipped by you, and the honest people of the world who have shown their support.
First published on 4 Feburary 2013 by www.revolutionarycommunist.org
On 7 December 2012 a 5-month consultation about a proposed highway to be built through Bolivia’s Isiboro Secure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS) came to an end. Of the territory’s 69 indigenous communities, 55 approved the highway, three communities rejected the proposal and 11 refused to participate in the consultation.
TIPNIS is an area of more than 1 million hectares of forest in the centre of Bolivia. It is home to 12,000 people living in 69 separate communities. In 2009 Evo Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) government designated it ‘indigenous territory’.
The proposed highway will cross north-south through TIPNIS for 32 miles of its 182-mile route. It will be the first paved road linking northwest Bolivia with the economic centre, Santa Cruz. It will mean greater access to health and education for the TIPNIS population and reduced barriers to economic development. In particular it will undermine the monopoly of Santa Cruz-based businesses in terms of access to processing goods and distributing them to the rest of the country. It is no coincidence that the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia (CIDOB), which supported protests against the highway, has strong links with the right-wing governor of Santa Cruz and signed an agreement guaranteeing CIDOB a place on the governership.
First published on www.politicker.com
Rising Republican star and Florida Senator Marco Rubio might have made up a dramatic story about his family immigrating to the U.S. to flee Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Documents indicate Mr. Rubio fabricated a compelling personal narrative to go with the other unique qualities that have earned him status as a top potential White House contender and prime Vice Presidential pick..
Documents obtained by the Washington Post show Mr. Rubio’s parents arrived in the United States on May 27, 1956. At the time, Mr. Castro was in Mexico plotting his revolutionary return to Cuba. Mr. Rubio has always said his parents arrived here after escaping Mr. Castro’s Communist revolution that took place in 1959. As the Washington Post notes, “the second sentence of the official biography on his Senate Web site … says that Mario and Oriales Rubio ‘came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover.’” Mr. Rubio has often referred to the story of his parent’s departure from Cuba in speeches.
First published 11 February 2013 the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five
The Los Angeles-based Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law has initiated several requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking access to records that may show (1) what the U.S. Government knew about the likelihood for a confrontation between Cuba and Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR) planes that were routinely taking off from Florida after filing false flight plans and penetrating Cuban airspace in 1995-96, and (2) what the U.S. Government could have done to prevent the February 24, 1996 incident in which a Cuban MiG shot down two Brothers to the Rescue planes that had illegally penetrated Cuban airspace.
This interview was conducted on February 8, 2013 by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 with Peter Schey, President of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and lead counsel in the FOIA cases.
www.peoplesworld.org 23 January 2013
Continuing with U.S. efforts to undermine Cuba's government from within, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2008 contracted with Development Alternatives Inc (DAI) of Maryland to send Alan Gross to Cuba.
Now in prison there with a 15-year sentence for espionage-type actions, Gross is widely viewed as the ideal candidate for an exchange that would return four Cuban anti-terrorists jailed in the United States to their homes. They, the "Cuban Five," include the paroled Rene Gonzalez.
In court proceedings January 15, DAI introduced documents outlining USAID objectives and describing Alan Gross's activities during five trips to Cuba between late 2008 and December 3, 2009, when he was arrested. The company seeks dismissal of Alan and wife Judy Gross' lawsuit alleging that DAI and USAID failed in preparing Alan Gross for dangers a foreign agent would face in Cuba.
In 2001 Gerardo Hernandez was condemned to two life sentences, one of them for conspiracy to commit murder for the shooting down of two planes of Brothers to the Rescue. Gerardo had nothing to do with the shooting down of these planes on February 24, 1996 and the U.S. Government could present no evidence to the contrary. That was a decision of the Cuban Government in defense of its sovereignty after 26 violations of Cuba's airspace by this group.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters joined the international media campaign of solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution, echoing the Venezuelan people who came out in their tens of thousands to proudly declare 'I am Chavez, Chavez is the people!'
First published on 12 January 2013 on www.vivavenezuela.co.uk
For fifteen years, since Hugo Chavez’s first presidential election in 1998, we have been witness to a popular struggle in Venezuela for political and economic power by working class people which has withstood every attempt by imperialism and its local allies to destroy it.
The Bolivarian Revolution and its leader have given hope to hundreds of millions of people in Latin America and have inspired movements throughout the continent and indeed throughout the world. With the support of Cuba and other countries in ALBA Venezuela has put the US completely on the back foot: no longer can it treat Latin America as its back yard. Such developments should be celebrated by every socialist wherever they are.
Yet throughout this time, the SWP has repeatedly attacked the Bolivarian Revolution and denigrated President Chavez. The latest issue of Socialist Worker (12 January 2013) continues in this reactionary vein, joining the international ‘campaign of psychological warfare’ denounced by the Venezuelan government (see our blog).
In an article which expresses no sympathy for the Venezuelan people let alone for Chavez, Dave Sewell parrots standard media views about the emergence of a leadership ‘crisis’ in the country with Chavez unable to attend the presidential inauguration ceremony on 10 January.
Sewell then succinctly summarises the SWP’s contempt for Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution. Damning the president with faint praise, Sewell admits that ‘at points he took radical measures’ such as placing the oil industry under direct state control and using the money to fund social programmes, and grudgingly concedes that as result, Chavez ‘became very popular with the workers and poor people.’
Yet it is his use of the past tense that is so revealing. Is Chavez no longer popular? Are we wrong to think that he won the presidential election with a landslide? It is in fact a sleight of hand, necessary because the SWP does not think that anything of historical significance has happened in Venezuela over the last 15 years, and whatever has happened is now dead. Thus, according to Sewell, although the masses rallied to Chavez during the 2002 coup and the bosses’ strike, ‘at the same time a new elite was emerging. This bureaucracy slowly stifled mass struggles.’ And there you have it. The mass struggles were choked, the new elite is in power. There is no more revolution. Now, Sewell says, ‘Venezuela will face a choice between a power struggle at the top, or a mass movement from below that could build a new kind of society.’ It is either one or the other because, as Sewell says, ‘the power of the state [has become] concentrated in Chavez himself.’ Chavez is just an elected dictator.
There is nothing new in what Sewell is saying. Back in 2002, just after the defeat of the coup, SWP leader Chris Harman had already doomed Chavez:
‘[Chavez] top-down approach has also led him to attack the wages and conditions of employed workers, even while talking about help to the unemployed, the semi-employed and the rural poor. It was this that enabled union leader Alfredo Ramos to back the employers' shutdown of industry. In this way, Chavez's own policies played into the hands of those who wanted to overthrow him.'
Ramos backed the bosses’ strike because he was a corrupt reactionary in the pocket of the ruling class. And the fiction, propagated at the time by the ruling class and avidly picked up by the SWP, that Chavez was attacking the workers has been disproved by the massive and thoroughly documented social gains made by the working class and oppressed before and since. Not that you would know the details from Socialist Worker.
Yes, Mike Gonzalez, another SWP leader, had to admit in October 2012 that Chavez’s third presidential victory was due to social programmes bringing ‘real improvements to Venezuela’s poor – local health programmes, free education, limited social housing, cheap food.’ But isn’t this part of what socialism should be? This praise is mealy-mouthed: ‘limited’ social housing is in reality, 250,000 units built between April 2011 and October 2012, and a further three million planned by 2019.
House building on such a scale today would require a revolution in Britain let alone in Venezuela. But even then Gonzalez has to get a further dig in, claiming (without any evidence) that ‘these services are deteriorating, largely because of deep and widespread corruption in the Venezuelan state.’ Every phrase discloses contempt for the revolution.
The SWP has never wanted to engage with what is happening on the ground in Venezuela. Their statements are fundamentally ignorant. Gonzalez tells us that the ‘immediate’ question is ‘the need to rebuild organisations on the ground that will be able to act independently of their rulers, whoever they are.’
This sounds radical – but then what are the communal councils and the factory councils that have sprung up across the country as part and parcel of the Bolivarian Revolution? These organisations exist and are multiplying – they do not have to be ‘rebuilt’. But both Gonzalez and Sewell do not want us to see them so they censor their existence.
At first sight there is a stark contrast between the SWP’s critique of the Bolivarian Revolution and its fawning attitude towards the Labour Party in Britain. But they are two sides of the same reactionary coin. Has anyone heard or read the SWP attacking Jeremy Corbyn or John MacDonnell for their continued membership of a racist, imperialist war-mongering party and all the compromises that entails? Or Tony Benn?
The SWP never places any demands or conditions on Labour politicians or councillors; indeed it would regard this as sectarianism and prefers toadying instead. What sort of socialist organisation is it that could support Ken Livingstone in the 2012 London mayoral election? Or Labour in the 2010 General Election? The SWP demands so little of itself and its allies, but so much of Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution.
Yes there is a crisis in Venezuela. A revolution is made up of a succession of crises. What matters is the outcome of each – does the process move forward, are the revolutionary forces strengthened? Or do they face a set-back requiring a new approach? We are confident that with or without Huge Chavez, the Bolivarian Revolution will move forward. But the SWP has to want the revolution to fail to prove its political point.
We cannot mince words. The position of the SWP on the Bolivarian Revolution is thoroughly reactionary and chauvinist. It has no concept of a real struggle for socialism with all its problems and vicissitudes: instead it serves up a cocktail of idealist schema laced with borrowings from the imperialist media. Its position on the Labour Party is based on the same adaptation to imperialism. We have argued for a long time that it is impossible to remain a socialist and be a member of the Labour Party. Now we have to ask: how is it possible to be a socialist and remain in the SWP?
For more on the SWP and Venezuela see a review of a pamphlet by Joseph Choonara:
And on the SWP’s support for the Labour Party see: www.revolutionarycommunist.org/index.php/labourtrade-unions/1668-swp-tells-us-to-vote-for-imperialism-war-racism-and-repression
First published on 6 January 2013 on www.vivavenezuela.co.uk As Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez remains seriously ill in hospital in Cuba, following complicated surgery for cancer, the vultures of reaction are circling. Counter-revolutionary forces within Venezuela and their backers in the US, UK and Europe are conducting what National Assembly President and United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) leader Diosdado Cabello has described as ‘a psychological campaign of media warfare’ in an attempt to foment the destabilisation of the Bolivarian Revolution.
Despite a clear statement from Venezuela’s vice-president Nicolas Maduro, who recently visited Chavez in Cuba, that the president, although in a very delicate and serious condition, is walking and talking and indeed keen to discuss politics and the economy, Venezuela’s privately-owned newspapers and the international media have consistently exaggerated rumours of Chavez’s condition and accused the president of lying about his illness. They have also attempted to whip up uncertainty about what will happen if, as seems likely, Chavez is not well enough to travel back to Caracas in time to be sworn in for his fourth term as president on 10 January. Some leaders of the opposition group Mesa de Unidad Democratica are demanding that fresh presidential elections be held immediately.
In reality, as the governing party has made clear, Article 231 of the constitution provides for the swearing-in to be held before the Supreme Court at a later date.
But the big lie perpetrated by the bourgeois press is, as ever, that without Hugo Chavez there can be no Bolivarian Revolution – that it lives or dies with him. Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite Chavez’s definitive victory in the October Presidential elections and the mass popular support and admiration he enjoys as the living embodiment of the aspirations of the Venezuelan people, the Bolivarian Revolution has never been about just one man. It is a revolution being built from below, by the conscious organisation of the Venezuelan working class to transform society from one of neoliberal exploitation, hunger, sickness and poverty for the majority, to one built on the model of collective, socialist organisation and production. In the last ten years, Venezuela has achieved the lowest levels of inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient of any country in the region; it has wiped out illiteracy, brought infant mortality down from 25 per 1,000 to 13 per 1,000 live births, slashed levels of extreme poverty, provided free health care and education for all, built hundreds of thousands of units of social housing and ensured that – unlike in Britain – no child goes to school hungry in the morning.
The Venezuelan people will not allow these vital gains to be lost. The tremendous popularity of the governing PSUV was demonstrated again in December’s regional elections, where the party won 20 out of 23 states. On Saturday, the National Assembly will convene for its 2013 session and members of the new executive, chosen by Chavez immediately after the October elections, will take their seats, led by vice-president Nicolas Maduro. They will implement the Programa Patria manifesto on which Chavez was elected – step by step, task by task, with the Venezuelan people, ‘developing socialism beyond the point of no return’. Our task here is to combat the lies of the imperialist press and build solidarity with that process.
The RCG sends it solidarity greetings to Comrade President Hugo Chavez and wishes him a full recovery from his long and painful illness. Comandante, we salute you.
Bolivia nationalized two electricity distribution companies owned by Spanish utility Iberdrola on 29 December 2012, the latest move by leftist President Evo Morales to assert control over the country's resources.
First published in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
The new migration laws to be enacted on 14 January 2013 present a challenge to US imperialism and should bring political and economic benefits to Cuba. Announced in October 2012, the legislation removes the requirement of an exit visa, known as a ‘white card’, and letter of invitation for Cubans planning to travel overseas, and extends the period for which Cubans may stay overseas without losing citizenship rights. The measures also facilitate the return to Cuba, either permanently or for visits, of Cubans currently living overseas, including those who left illegally or who abandoned internationalist missions. HELEN YAFFE reports.