Venezuela "human rights" talk in Edinburgh

On April 9, the ‘Venezuela Committee in Scotland’ hosted a discussion on human rights in light of the recent protests in Venezuela. Around 60 people were in attendance with speakers including members of the Edinburgh University Latin American society as well as a brief talk from the Amnesty International society representative who made points about human rights in general, citing breaches in the country.

Venezuela HR meeting
The other speakers essentially told stories of violence carried out by the police and government supporters, violent crime, gave confusing figures about the role of the state in media, inflation and shortages. Whilst of course some legitimate concerns were identified there was no context or analysis as to why there are problems with violent crime, inflation and scarcity and there were no evident intentions of ridding the country of such problems.

After the talks there was only enough time for three questions from the floor, two of which were asked by supporters of Socialist Appeal and Hands Off Venezuela. The first explained how in her experience fighting for free education in Chile they built a popular, democratically organized, political movement, which now has achieved representation in certain political structures. She asked if their movement had any political demands or if it was all spontaneous. One speaker retorted by explaining it was because ‘they wanted it all’ and couldn’t focus on particular demands.

Interestingly when confronted about the validity of the democratic elections which the PSUV had won, attendees actually agreed that it was democratically elected. This is in sharp contrast to the hysterical accusations made on a regular basis by the world’s mainstream media and shows how when actually confronted, face to face, their arguments have hold no water.

Another opposition supporter argued that dialogue wasn’t an appropriate method as people like Leopoldo Lopez were denied a political voice by the government (despite being covered extensively by the global media and being allowed to address his supporters when arrested for inciting violence, as well as his party only winning a solitary seat in the National Assembly).

The second supporter of Socialist Appeal and Hands Off Venezuela to speak highlighted the mass rallies held by supporters of the Bolivarian revolution which had been ignored in the talk, the huge support for the government in the majority of Venezuela, the vast gains made by the revolution in improving education, (eradicating illiteracy in 2005 and trebling the university population) fighting poverty, (reducing the rate of poverty from 48% to 27%) and in health care (increasing the number of doctors from 18 per 10,000 inhabitants to 58 per 10,000). In addition, he identified the violence carried out by opposition supporters especially on civilians, which they failed to mention including the killing of 11 PSUV members after the presidential election in April 2013 (unreported by the media), the fact that the opposition supporters had set fire to a government building, which had a children’s crèche (luckily all of whom were evacuated and survived ) and the killing of an unarmed civilian by masked gun wielders for simply trying to remove a road block. A number of people in the room were visibly agreeing with this point and an opposition supporter even said “although I’m 100% opposition there’s a lot of opposition violence which the media never reports”.

He also questioned why Amnesty International, a human rights organization are supporting a movement which has killed innocent trade unionists, blocked off roads for ordinary working class people to access their shops and workplaces, and is hell bent on reversing the gains of the Bolivarian revolution. The Amnesty International Speaker came back in to highlight their “neutrality”. She also condemned President Maduro’s “incitement of violence when he called for people to attack the opposition”. In reality what Maduro called for was for the masses of working class and poor people to get together organize and defend themselves against reactionary proto fascist gangs, against attacks, intimidation and extremely obstructive road blocks. This organized and direct struggle is a proud tradition of the revolution and which would not have survived one day without this initiative and will on behalf of the masses of Venezuela. Although we don’t doubt the good intention of many Amnesty International activists and supporters, this does reveal the limits of such charities and their supposed “neutrality” and we would recommend any advocates of human rights to have a serious look at what being “neutral” actually means.

After the discussion we spoke to some of the people who had attended, all of them were opposition supporters including one who works in the financial sector and claimed his family see him as a ‘capitalist pig’. His main concern was that because of government bureaucracy, him as a finance worker found it difficult to get economic facts and figures. It was clear that whilst this kind of people were in the majority at this meeting, in Venezuela they were the minority, which they acknowledged; some had family who all supported the Bolivarian revolution.

Additionally, no one we spoke to had any real political answers, there was no explanation of what kind of society they wanted but rather they were a broad, supposedly ‘non-political’ movement with speakers attempting to keep the discussion away from any real politics. One claimed that the reason they couldn’t answer our political points was because the Students Union warned them that they were not allowed to talk about politics. This is a bizarre claim since the Marxist Society along with many other political societies regularly hold discussions in the same room.

The legitimate concerns they do raise are done so in a cynical manner in order to justify their reactionary campaign against the revolution. Some of the supporters when confronted appeared to desert their own positions with one attendee deciding the “he didn’t actually agree with the opposition movement”. When HOV supporters made points, spontaneous remarks from the opposition were yelled out such as “before Chavez we had the best education system in the world!”, “our fight is for everything!” which was followed by very weak attempts at starting applause with a maximum three people joining in and stopping within seconds.

Their politics represent the interests of a tiny minority of capitalists and oligarchs. The campaigners on the ground seem to be mostly made up of a small layer of naïve, frenzied, economically privileged people who are taken in by the reactionary media but whose interests are not actually represented by the opposition movement, hence their vacillation upon mild polite confrontation with facts. However despite being politically weak these movements clearly have backing and funding by powerful imperialists and oligarchs and it must be treated for what it is, a reactionary movement which opposes the democratic will of the people and of the revolution.

The opposition and its supporters have no interest in solving such problems of scarcity, most of whom are barely affected by. The scarcity that exists in the country affects the layers of workers and poor people, who as explained elsewhere in HOV have overwhelmingly come out to defend the revolution time and time again. The explanation given by one of the opposition was that the Bolivarian movement are really good at “marketing” and went on to explain how those supporting it were the most ignorant and uneducated layers of society. This is a bare reflection of the complete contempt the opposition has for the masses of Venezuela, the working classes and rural masses who built the country and keep it running, through their determination and will and have gained huge advances in the country.

It is essential that whilst we must always acknowledge the problems in Venezuela and offer a sober analysis of their causes and how to fight them, we must defend the huge gains of the Bolivarian revolution tooth and nail. In the end the only way to fight this enemy is to complete the revolution and eradicate all the social conditions which they cynically thrive off.


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