Saturday 12 April 2008


Venezuelan diplomat's NZ tour An outstanding success - that's the general opinion of the week-long tour of Aotearoa by Nelson Davila, Venezuela's top diplomat for the Pacific region, who is based in Canberra. At short notice, many dozens of local activists helped to organise Nelson's visits to Wellington, Christchurch, Ruatoki, Rotorua, Hamilton and Auckland. As Nelson's tour manager, I know how these activists were crucial to the success of the tour. So - "Gracias!" Many hundreds of people attended Nelson's meetings to hear how:
  • Hugo Chavez's Venezuela is putting human beings at the centre of government policy, not the "almighty dollar".
  • Mass illiteracy has been eliminated in just nine years.
  • Free quality medical care now reaches everyone in the poor areas who, before Chavez became president in 1999, had never seen a doctor.
  • Venezuela's indigenous peoples have seen their stolen lands returned and now get state funding for sustainable co-operatives.
  • "Workers management" and "socialism of the 21st century" are central themes of government policy.
  • 20,000 state-funded communal councils have been elected to take control of their localities in a major power shift from the elites to the grassroots.
  • Venezuela is becoming a global pole of grassroots opposition to the US world order.

In short, the democratic, socialist revolution led by Hugo Chavez is not only boosting the living standards and human rights of the vast majority of Venezuelans, but also changing the unjust power relationships of the old society. There is still serious inequality in Venezuela, though the number living below the poverty line has fallen from 60% of total population to less than 30% during the term of the Chavez government. There is still a long way to go, but the direction is positive and the pace is accelerating. As Nelson Davila put it "Think of the Venezuelan Revolution as a climb of 20 steps, and we are now on step four." Setting up a solidarity network Growing out of Nelson's tour, over 200 people in towns around the country have indicated their willingness to help establish a NZ-wide Venezuelan solidarity network. The general aims of a solidarity network include:

  • Share and spread information about the ongoing revolution in Venezuela.
  • Set up a common solidarity website.
  • Mobilise public opinion against attempts by the US state to destabilise and destroy the popularly elected Chavez government.
  • Branches of the network will organise in whatever ways are logical for their own locality. For instance, Wellington has a pre-existing Latin American Committee, so activists there see the Venezuela solidarity network as being part of LAC. Christchurch activists are setting up a stand-alone committee which aims to build good links with other networks. Activists in Rotorua and Tauranga are keen to form a twin-city committee to maximise their outreach. It doesn't matter how we do it in our own localities so long as we do it.

Things are starting to roll:

Christchurch activists have already held their first planning meeting. Contact Dave in Christchurch -

Wellington activists will be holding their first meeting within days. Contact Julie in Wellington -

In Auckland on 15 April, there will be a film screening and an organising meeting.

Do you want to set up a solidarity group in your locality? The rule is - there are no rules. Just get together with other locals and do it. Let me know what you're doing so it can be advertised in a future newsletter. If you need help to make contact with other like-minded people in your region, email me back.

To promote the networking, I am issuing this first newsletter. As sympathisers of the Venezuelan revolution get organised around Aotearoa, we will need to collectively decide on:

1) A common name for our NZ-wide Venezuela solidarity network. One suggestion has been VAST - Venezuela Aotearoa Solidarity Team. Any other suggestions?

2) A common website to share information about Venezuela and news about branches of our solidarity network. Any volunteer(s) to set up and maintain a site?

Auckland film screening/organising meeting

John Pilger's latest film "The War on Democracy" is his best yet. It exposes the decades of US coups and imperial bullying in Latin America. It features a recently-retired senior CIA thug in Latin America who candidly admits that the US state will kill untold thousands of Latinos in the name of "democracy" if it's in "our national interests".

It includes an in-depth interview with Hugo Chavez. Best of all, it contains wonderful scenes of grassroots activists in Venezuela and Bolivia organising for a new society fit for human beings.

Pilger's film will be screened ahead of an organising meeting to start up an Auckland branch of the Venezuela solidarity network. Here are the details:

WHEN: Tuesday 15 April WHERE: Latin American Centre, 37 Selwyn St, Onehunga 7pm: Film - The War on Democracy 8.30pm: Organising meeting for solidarity network

All sympathisers with the Venezuelan revolution are welcome. Spread the word to your family and friends. Hope to see you there. Solidarity, Grant Morgan

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