Posts Tagged ‘Venezuela’

Winnipeg, Oct. 3, 2019 – Arnold August, speaking at the University of Manitoba about US and Canadian foreign policy regarding Cuba and Venezuela. Photo: Paul S. Graham

There is no doubt that Canadian foreign policy has taken a hard turn to the right, especially with regard to Latin America. Arnold August provides the context and details the US led attacks on Cuba and Venezuela that Canada has been supporting so vigorously.

August is a Montreal-based Canadian journalist and lecturer, the author of Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections, Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion and Cuba–U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond.

He was a member of the Canadian Delegation invited to the Sao Paulo Forum in Caracas last July. His articles are published regularly on many web sites in Latin America, Cuba, Europe, North America and the Middle East. He collaborates with television and radio broadcasts based in Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela, Canada and U.S. He is a member of the Québec Chapter of the Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defence of Humanity.

He gives conferences in Cuba, Canada, the UK and until recently the U.S., from which he was barred on March 16, 2019 for his political views and specifically his support for the Bolivarian Revolution.

Arnold August’s visit to Winnipeg was hosted by the Winnipeg Venezuela Peace Committee.

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Most Canadians imagine Canada to be a force for good on the world stage. Polite, reasonable, peace-loving and progressive. At least, that is how we like to imagine ourselves.

Winnipeg, July 20, 2019: Dr. Maria Páez Victor at the 14th Forum, World Association of Political Economy. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Sadly, it’s a myth. We helped oust the democratically elected Haitian government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. We helped turn Libya into a failed state. We helped invade Afghanistan and occupied part of it for over a decade. And these are just a few examples of Canada’s backwards foreign policy in this century.

And now, we’re meddling in Venezuela, where our government has joined with the United States to destabilize, undermine and crush the democratically elected, socialist government of Nicholas Maduro and the popular movement that supports it. Yves Engler has written several well researched articles on Canada’s attacks on Venezuela that I recommend you read. Yves’ articles are an effective antidote to the bullshit being passed of as news and analysis in our mainstream media, as is a recent speech by Dr. Maria Páez Victor.

Dr. Páez Victor is a Toronto-based, Venezuelan-born sociologist and activist on the board of the Canadian, Latin American and Caribbean Policy Centre. She speaks with authority and passion about what is at stake in the country of her birth. I recorded her presentation at the 14th Forum of the World Association for Political Economy, held at the University of Manitoba in July.

Returning to the title of this post, why should you care? Simply put, if you want Canada to be a force for good on the world stage, our government’s policies and actions must change. And if you allow our government to continue along its reactionary path without challenging it, you are complicit.

It’s election time in Canada. Ask your candidates where they stand on issues such as this. Make your support for them conditional on their support for a foreign policy that is peaceful, cooperative and supportive of international law. It’s not too much to ask.

Steve Ellner

Professor Steve Ellner. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Mainstream media and government sources in Canada and the United States have provided an extremely unbalanced picture of Venezuela, portraying it as a dictatorship when in fact the governing party has won re-election consistently over the past (almost) 20 years in contests deemed fair and democratic by international observers. Through crippling economic sanctions, financial support to anti-government forces, and public musings about the desirability of regime change, the US government has made it clear it wants to put a more reliable puppet in power in Venezuela. With its long history of overthrowing governments it cannot control, the US destabilization campaign is par for the course. As is usually the case, the Canadian government has been an enthusiastic partner.

Doing its part to address the one-sidedness of this situation, the Winnipeg Venezuela Peace Committee held a very well attended public forum on Oct. 19, 2018 entitled What is really happening in Venezuela? The forum featured Steve Ellner, professor of economics at the University of Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela and Carlos Ron, Venezuelas Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, responsible for North America, who participated via Skype.

Regrettably, the Skype connection was so poor that Ron’s presentation was largely incoherent. While I recorded the entire event, I have not included the Skype portion because of terrible audio quality.

On a more positive note, Professor Ellner provided a detailed, highly informative description of conditions in Venezuela and an accessible analysis of how the country arrived at the state it is in.

He is more than qualified to talk about this country. Ellner earned his Ph.D. in Latin American history at the University of New Mexico in 1980. Since 1977 he has taught economic history and political science at the Universidad de Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela and for ten years taught in the graduate school of law and political science of the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He has been a visiting professor at numerous schools in the United States and Latin America.

As Professor Ellner underlined, more than once, the problems faced by the Venezuelan people are complex and challenging; the situation is complicated and difficult to understand without considering many factors.

Opposition to the Chavistas by the Venezuelan oligarchs and their foreign backers began as soon as Hugo Chavez was elected in 1999. By fomenting coup attempts, violence and economic instability, these forces have undermined Chavista attempts to alleviate widespread poverty and have magnified the suffering of the Venezuelan people.

Not everyone in the audience would agree with the last paragraph; some were very critical of the Maduro government. Nonetheless, the discussion was wide ranging, open to all perspectives, respectful and civil.

Here is my video report.

Winnipeg, Dec. 6, 2017 – Professor Johnny Márquez, speaking at Winnipeg’s historic Ukrainian Labour Temple on the political and economic situation in Venezuela. Photo: Paul S. Graham

When it comes to Venezuela, the mainstream media is awash with lies and distortions and the Canadian government is complicit (with the United States) in an attempt to force the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Nicolás Maduro. One can easily imagine Trump and Trudeau agreeing that it would be a crime to leave the largest proven oil reserves in the world (about 297 billion barrels) under the control of a socialist government pledged to use this wealth on behalf of some of the poorest people in the world.

In Winnipeg, a group called the Venezuela Peace Committee has organized a number of educational events to encourage citizens to learn about Venezuela and the struggles of working people for a socialist society. The VPC has a petition on the House of Commons E-Petition web site that calls on the government to cease its sanctions campaign. Here is the text:

E-1353
Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:

On September 22, 2017, the Government of Canada imposed new sanctions against Venezuela, Venezuelan officials, and other individuals under the Special Economic Measures Act in violation of the sovereignty of Venezuela;
Such sanctions impede dialogue and peace-building in Venezuela and in the region more generally;
These sanctions impede the normal operation of Venezuela’s duly constituted political processes including elections;
The Government of Canada has supported the U.S. government’s sanctions against Venezuela
The Government of Canada has met with, supported, and continues to echo the demands of Venezuela’s violent anti-government opposition;
The Government of Canada refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Venezuela’s democratically elected government and falsely refers to it as dictatorial; and
The government of Canada seeks to promote foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to immediately lift all sanctions against Venezuela, Venezuelan officials, and other individuals, retract all statements in support of US sanctions against Venezuela, immediately cease its support for the efforts of the US and other right wing governments in the Organization of American States (OAS) that violate the sovereignty and self-determination of another member-state and immediately cease all intervention against Venezuela.

The VPC is asking Canadians and friends of Canada to sign the petition. Just sign here.

The petition arose out of a resolution approved by the attendees of a conference held at the University of Manitoba to mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. One of the keynote speakers at the conference was Julia Buxton, an internationally recognized expert on Venezuela. I recorded her talk.

Most recently, the VPC arranged for the visit of Professor Johnny Márquez to speak in Winnipeg. Professor Márquez is a Venezuelan lawyer, diplomat and scholar and president of the Latin American and Caribbean Center for Energy and Environment Studies. His first appearance was at the University of Manitoba on Dec. 5, 2017, where he discussed the history of Venezuela’s oil industry and its strategic importance. The following day he presented at Winnipeg’s historic Ukrainian Labour Temple on the current political situation in Venezuela. Both of these videos are linked below.