Thursday, November 30, 2006

Day 3 (and a surprise request...)

Hello again to all. Well Thursday is with us, and day 3 of the international Hands Off Venezuela delegation to Caracas.

After a well deserved restful morning the three international groups headed to West Caracas to visit what is known as a nucleus of endogenous development. This is a community development on the site on an old petrol filling station that had been abandoned for 12 years. Roughly two years ago the site was adopted by the community and since then has undergone a massive transformation. This transformation is both physical and moral.

This flagship endogenous development centre has taken the name from ´Fabrico Ojeda´, who was a revolutionary fighter, and the people told us how proud they were to be carrying his name. One of the comments that stood out to us the most and showed the importance of what we are doing here came from one of the workers in the level 2 health clinic, based on site. Level 2 means that the clinic offers more than just basic primary health care. This dentistry practitioner stated how a lot of people, even in this country (Venezuela) don´t come here and therefore do not know what is really going on at this level. All the workers were enthused to see us and were proud to show us around.

There was a massive building program underway in order to further expand the projects already undertaken, but regardless of that, there was already so much happening and well under way. The list of projects included a shoe making co-operative, a farming co-op, a construction co-op, a textile co-op, the ´Mothers of the Barrios´ Misión, Barrio Adentro, work with handicapped people, sporting groups, a construction school and a baseball school for young people. All this as well as a Mercal store, where people from the community are able to buy food and basic supplies as newly affordable prices.

It is known that construction is one of the fastest growing industries in Venezuela today, so the impact of all of these projects is important, but the construction school is just another example of giving the people the skills that are vitally needed in the here and now.

This whole trip is our opportunity to listen to the people of Venezuela tell us their thoughts, views and ambitions. Our translator was stopped at one point by a group of workers who simply wanted to express to us and make sure that we knew that they fully supported President Chavez, and would be voting for him on Sunday. Another stated “Thanks to Chavez we now see things in a new way. We realise we have rights. Rights that were taken away from us in the past, and now we are reclaiming them again.” All were confident of a victory for Chavez saying “it´s clear he is going to win because he has shown us his love for the people.” We were then personally invited to spend Monday with them to celebrate the victory of President Chavez, and the parties lined up are going to be big!!

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, a number of our delegation had split to attend a film screening and discusión about the lies and basis of the illegal war in Iraq. This was held at the Celarg Fundacion of Latin American Studies, Romulo Gallegos. The film was titled El Fantasma De La Libertad (The Phantom of Liberty) and was made by Liliana Blazer and Lucia Lamanna. This Venezuelan made film detailed the anti-war campaign in the US as well as Venezuela and included the specific war crimes commited via the use of white phospherous and depleted uranium. At the discusión H.O.V were invited to speak along with the leaders of solidarity groups for Iraq and Palestine based in Venezuela. The film makers first talked about the making of the film before introducing Shaun and Shelia from the British delegation, who went on to explain about the Hands Off Venezuela campaign, why we are present here in Venezuela today and to draw the Stark paralells between the miss-use of the media in the build up to the occupation of Iraq and the current inaccurate media climate towards Venezuela.

It was also made clear during the general discusión that Hands Off Venezuela were immensly welcome in the country and the people were massivly enthused by the support given by the campaign and especiallyduring the interviews on both national and community television that have been seen by many all over the country. The main message from this meeting to Hands Off Venezuela from individuals was that they thought they were alone in defending their revolution. They are now clear that this is not the case at all. Many thanks were expressed to the campaign for all the efforts given.

The evening had arrived and some of the delegation joined a closing election rally in a middle-class district of Caracas, celebrating Chavismo and their support for the President. This was in an area not always supportive of Chavez, but whom had seen the progress the country has made under Chavez´ leadership and were now strong backers of the President.

And we thought that that would be it for another packed day defending the Bolivarian Revolution. That was untill a certain Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias stepped it up during a nationally televised press conference, and upon hearing that Hands Off Venezuela were in the country giving international support at this time, expressed his wish to meet with the delegation. We have not personally been able to keep a track of all the media over here for obvious reasons, but no matter. This news was passed on to us from a number of people whom we had made contact with and had seen Chavez say this on TV themselves.

We are awaiting your call, Señor Presidente.

Untill tomorrow, adios!!

Matt (for the HOV British delegation - using Espe´s login)

Second day of the delegation

Dear all!

Today, was again an excelent and busy day!

All the sections of the delegation met at plaza Bolivar...

We started by visiting the headquarters of UPV (Unidad Popular Venezolana)
There we were welcomed by some of the organisers who explained to us the traditions of the movement and why they decided to participate in the electoral process and the reasons why they fully support the campaign of Hugo Chavez.

Then we visited the National Assembly. The delgation had a guided tour while some of us got interviewed for the National Assembly TV chanel. John from the USA delegaion, Espe and Shaun from the British and Joan from the Swedish were the lucky ones. It was great cause we had around 16 minutes each to speak about the campaign and what the revoltion and the electoral process means for Hands Off Venezuela.

After the TV programe we had a very interesting chat over a beer with some of the people working there. They told us about the importance of the revolution and of how they cued for 13 hours to vote at the referendum and the need to deepen the revolution and fight against buraucracy and the false Chavistas.

Then we traveled to Catia TVe where we were interviewed by the programme "Militant Voices". Again it was an excelent oportunity to explain what the delegation is doing here, and what Hands off Venezuela has been doing to support the Venezuelan revolution.

So much more to say... but is late and tomorrow we have a long day ahead, so we'll leave it there!
All the best!

All of our media coverage must be getting the message out there because we were recognized in the streets! People came up to us and said we saw you on the tele, and thank you for your support!

Hasta Manana!

Espe, for the International HOV delegation

PS. Again, problems with the photos... Hopefully we will have a photo gallery soon, cos they are building up and it would be nice to post them so you can have a flavour of what is going on over here!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

HOV media frenzy

Hey all!

This is Shane Jones from the US HOV delegation, I'm just making a brief report about today and yesterday’s events events using John's blog account. We had a rather hard time with the Internet connection here last night so much of this report is one day old.

First off let me say, this was my first day in Venezuela, we arrived late last night and drove through Caracas. Every block of the city is plastered with electoral (and extra-electoral) propaganda mostly for Chavez but there is also a lot for the opposition candidate Rosales, however the vast bulk of the "do it your self" (homemade signs, graffiti etc.) is for Chavez.

This morning the US and British HOV delegations met up and traveled to the independent media center COTRIAN, which was the only media outlet to show the world the events of the Caracaso in 1989, and produced the film "Keys to a Massacre: the Battle for LIaguno Bridge" a film that with empirical evidence exposes the murderous conspiracy of the April 4th 02 coup. we were introduced to Lilian Blaser, who has been active in independent media in Venezuela since the 1970's. Lilian explained that while she voted for Chavez in his first term she had some reservations about him since he came from a military background. However, after several years of keenly observing the Chavez government, she said she found no reason to believe that his government would curtail the rights of free speech and the media.

After the visit to the COTRAIN headquarters the HOV delegation had a planned tour of Radio Libre Negro Primero, a community radio station that reaches a third of Caracas ( Caracas). the station started four years ago after a change in the laws that restricted radio to the wealthy and kept it out of the hands of the community. Negro Primero is a non-government, non-commercial community funded and run station. As Carlos Lugo, the director, of the station explained to the delegation, Negro Primero is not just a radio station for the community, but it is actually the community which his reflected in the nature of the programing, for instance there is a children's program where it is not adults who make a regular show for children but the children them selves who run the program (and quite professionally as an in house documentary show, such is the power of a revolution to give voice to even the weakest and normally most powerless!)

Carlos and the rest of Negro Primero, who will be acting as corespondents during the presidential election which is rapidly approaching, warmly invited the HOV delegation to join with them and act as international corespondents for the Bolivarian election.
After a short break in the evening, we were off again. The HOV delegation had been asked to appear on VT, the state TV station, for an hour long interview!

Enroute to the VT station we ran into a group of reservists of mixed age, we greeted them with cheers of “viva las reservas!” Outside the Metro station were we spoke with them we explained to them what HOV is and one woman reservist said to us “that’s right! We (Venezuelans) have our right to national self determination!” the reservists were also very excited to hear that in the US there are regular people who are working to defend the revolutionary process in Venezuela.

As we made our to the VT station, there was a journalist from the daily paper Ulitmas Noticias who had found out about the delegation, he interviewed three delegates. The report should be in the Saturday edition of the paper in a special edition insert that goes in on that days run of the paper. This paper is the most widely read paper in Caracas.

In side the VT station we were promptly brought into a dressing room and explained the set up of the show. The program took place on a rather hip set, and was set up in a host guest format (with three simultaneous guests). The show ran for one full hour with only a small break in the middle. Afterwards everyone agreed the interview went very good, the crew of the station all took an interest as well and were given HOV pins.

After a busy but productive first day, we got some food at a sit down restaurant, after chatting with the waiter for a while he told us “I have three heroes: Jesus, Bolivar and Che” we asked what bout Chavez to which he replied “of course Chavez!”


we started our morning early with plans to visit Inveval, the nationalized valve manufacturing plant, however because of the hectic nature of the pre-election period here and also because the workers of Inveval are preparing for the pan-American conference on occupied factories, the workers were not able to have us at the plant today.

After a quick tour of Bolivar plaza, where many people who saw the delegation members on live TV ( the VT program) last night came up to express their support of our international delegation, we were invited by the UPV (Unidad Popular Venezolana). The UPV has been singled out by the US military since they defend the revolution not just in words but are prepared to defend it by arms as well. A spokes-person of the UPV said “we must be armed and ready to defend the gains made, because the right wing is armed and is ready to erase the gains made, and they have proven their willingness to attack as they have organized shook troops and killed many”. This statement underscores the danger the revolution still faces.

After a very warm and comradely meeting with the members of the UPV, we directly proceeded to the National Asemblea for more interviews and a historic tour. Several HOV members from various countries, the US, England, Sweden gave interviews, and plans were made for more interviews later in the week. The interviews aired on ANTV (Canal a la Asemblea)

From this TV appearance we then quickly made our way to CUTV, an alternative media and community center. Several of the delegates participated in a round-table type of show that lasted 45 minutes. The topics covered were: how to counter the corporate media’s misinformation, how we (as HOV members) build our international campaign, the importance of the elections on the 3rd, and the importance of the revolution in Venezuela in general, and the need to defend the revolution by deepening it.

On our way back from the interview, around 9 pm, we ran into a group of workers/organizers who a delegate recognized. We spoke about HOV to them, and they immediately recognized it and one gentleman of the group remarked “I have met Alan Woods before, he is a good Marxist thinker for us Workers to know, I hope he comes back here again.”

In two days, millions of Venezuelans have found out about the international campaign that works to defend and deepen their living revolutionary process, truly this has been a very productive trip (and just the beginning!)

However we can not emphasise the need for total solidarity on the 3rd and 4th since it has not been ruled out that the opposition could attack like they did in 2002. In the next few days we ask all those who read this to prepare emergency solidarity pickets and be ready to respond in the case of an attack.

in solidarity from Caracas
Shane Jones for the US HOV delegation

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

5 Days Before the Elections...

Hi all - another very busy day! The British delegation has already posted part of our activities, and Shane from HOV in Rhode Island is writting as well, so I'll focus on a few observations and some additional photos.

First of all, it really hit home today that for all the talk and enthusiasm for "deepening the revolution" after the elections, there are no really concrete proposals for doing so. Everyone is talking about it, but there is nothing solid, no plan of action to put it into effect. The general mood is one of yearning for real change, but no one in the leadership is offering a path forward. Unless the light at the end of the tunnel gets closer and brighter, pessimism can set in...

This only further highlights the importance of the occupied factory movement - it is the key to the situation!

Capitalism is a system in which there is social production, but private appropriation of the surplus wealth produced the working class - a minority enjoys the riches produced by others. Under socialism, we will have social appropriation of that surplus wealth produced by social production - in the interests of all. So far in Venezuela, despite all the marvellous advances and the beginnings of a redistribution of wealth, the system's fundamentals remain the same. Despite all the quantitatively important reforms and the magnificent rise in consciousness and participation of the masses, that qualitative change from private to social appropriation has yet to take place.

The poor are patiently waiting for things to continue to get better - but they cannot wait forever. So far the revolution has navigated a "middle course" - and due to a peculiar concactenation of circumstances it has been able to maintain this slow rhythm for an extended period of time. But the developing tensions and extreme social polarization cannot remain in this limbo for much longer - something has to break. For the masses, the elections represent that breaking point.

This is where struggles like Sanitarios de Maracay come in - it can be the "tipping point" that marks the qualitative change, unleashing a flood of similar actions that can truly set the revolution on an invincible course. We will give a full report on our visit to Sanitarios when we go there in a few days' time...

A few more pictures of interest:

Former PDVSA "Nerve Center" - After the bosses' lockout, it was converted into the Bolivarian University

With the Reservas on the streets of Caracas "10 Million Votes!"

Stay tuned for a report on our visit to Venezuelan State Television (the famous "Channel 8" of "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised") - three of us and HOV in general were featured on an hour long show at 9 pm - peak viewing time!

A preview pic:

All the best,

John P.

First day of the delegation

Wilco speaking to the HOV delegation about the work of "Radio Libre Negro Primero"

Hi all, The official delegation has started today but it has already been a packed and revolutionary schedule for the previous few days as you have seen in reports by the previous logs! We have been through some weird and wonderful adventures,experiences and downright crazy situations but instead of taking all the space up in the blog we can tell you the details down the pub in London when we are back!

This morning we met up with the American delegation and we headed to the alternative media coop Cotrain that has produced amongst others Llaguno Bridge Keys Of a Massacre. In there Lillian,the head of the project, explained the origins of Cotrain with it starting in the 70´s working with the people of the barrios. Lillian studied as a sociologist but through this she soon discovered that we through being one she would be patching up the capitalist system that creates so much inequality but what we should do is go to the root of the problem. Then we watched Llaguno Bridge Keys To A Massacre and we bought some DVD´s which will be useful to spread the message back in London.

Lliam explaining the importance of working with the communities

Then we took a bus a we went to the North of Caracas, to the Parroquia La Candelaria.

We visited the independent radio station "Radio Libre Negro Primero". In there we watched a short film explaining the way in which the radio works hand in hand with the community.

The co-ordinator of the radio gave us a short talk telling us about all the activities that the radio is involved. It is not only a radio, they organise activities for the children, adults, health programs, social work, and all that is decided and planned in a democratic way.

They told us how important the elections are going to be. They have links with other alternative media to have a coverage of Caracas and also nationally to report the electoral process and they want HOV to be involved with this important event. Of course we accepted the invitation and we will help as much as we can.
We have been trying to put some photos to give you a flavour of the atmosphere, but haven't manage to do so! We are in an internet cafe, we are running out of time, plus in one hour we have to rush out to be interviewed live on television in a programme of "Venezuela de Television"... so we will be on the tele at 11 o´clock, Venezuelan time.

PS. 5 minutes left, we will give the pictures another go to !

HOV delegation mentioned on VHeadline

"Hands Off Venezuela" internationalists to observe electoral process till December 7: Members of the International "Hands of Venezuela" group are in Venezuela to observe presidential elections. British member, Alan Woods has already given several talks in Merida and Caracas as part of the organization's attempt to set up a section of the Hands Off Venezuela. Woods has written extensively about the achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution and has been instrumental in getting the work of " Hands off Venezuela" known in Europe. The group will remain in Venezuela until December 7.
Also Dan (HOV Norwich) points out to the BBC News photoblog of the Venezuelan election:
In light of the usual torrent of hysterical nonsense from the mainstream media outlets regarding Venezuela, in particular Phil Gunson's latest assault, I was wondering if anyone had checked out the photo diary on Venezuela on BBC's main news page? It is genuinely good - honest, enlightening and it actually gives the perspective of ordinary Venezuelans.
Plus it's on the main page. A welcome change

Liam (HOV East London) has added to his blog a video with a news clip from Al Jazeera talking about the arming of the people in Venezuela.

Aporrea has published a picture gallery and a video of what they call the "red tsunami", the massive rally of the closing of the Chavez campaign on Sunday. Particularly impressive is this pic where you can see the three parallel avenues (Mexico-Universidad, Bolivar and Lecuna) complete full of people (click on the pic for a bigger size version)

Finally, Higher Education Minister Samuel Moncada, revealed press cuttings from the day of the coup in which opposition candidate Manuel Rosales enthusiastically endorses the coup (he now claims he did not know what he was doing, he was confused and he only signed an attendance list). A full size version of the press cutting with a nice pic of Rosales sorrounded by generals can be seen here.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Six Days Before the Elections...

This morning the HOV delegation attended a rally at Plaza Bolivar in support of TeleSur journalist Freddy Muñoz who has been detained and is being accused of supporting terrorist. There is some background information available here.

The heart of Plaza Bolivar: A Statue of El Libertador

Several of us from the HOV delegation were interviewed by Venezuelan State Television (Channel 8), the Bolivarian (State) News Agency (ABN), ViveTV, Aporrea, and the newspaper VEA. We extended a message of support for Freddy, and also connected these kinds of attacks on independent journalists with provocations against Venezuela in general, and with as the murder of Brad Will in Oaxaca.

Interviewed in Plaza Bolivar

I was asked to speak from the stage, and I made some unprepared remarks which were well received with quite a lot of enthusastic applause. [It is a bit awkward to report on one's own speech, but I guess that's how blogs work!]

I sent a message of solidarity from the international HOV campaign, and from the people of the U.S. I explained that the HOV is an international campaign active in over 30 countries. I reminded them that in the U.S. we have been ruled for decades by government that don't really represent the people, just as had been the case in Venezuela for decades before Chavez. I emphasized (and people nodded their heads in agreement) that working Americans are not the same as George Bush.

I also explained that the U.S. has revolutionary and militant traditions: that even before Simon Bolivar had liberated Venezuela from Spanish rule, the U.S. had waged a revolutionary war of liberation from British imperialism. I also pointed out the militant labor traditions of the U.S. working class.

I then explained that the many Venezuelan brothers and sisters that have come to the U.S. always tell us that the best way to solidarize with the Bolivarian revolution is to fight for and win the socialist revolution in the U.S. (this was met with applause). But I explained that the U.S. working class also needs the solidarity of the people of Venezuela, and that the best way to do that was to complete the revolution, to deepen the revolution towards genuine socialism here in Venezuela. This was also met with applause.

I then thanked everyone, and invited them to get involved in HOV here in Venezuela, and to come to some of the activities we have planned for the next few days. Several people came up to ask questions and get more information afterwards.

We then went to a book premiere by Eva Gollinger, of her new book "Bush vs. Chavez - Washington's War Against Venezuela". On the way, we passed Simon Bolivar's house:
"Simon Bolivar was Born here on July 24, 1783"

Some general observations on the day after the massive demo. The mood is not super tense, but things are definitely polarized. The mood among the pro-Chavez masses is very confident - but they already have an eye on the tasks to come after the election. As I noted yesterday, it is not a naive joy and enthusiasm.

Unlike the mood at the time of the August 15, 2004 referendum, when there was a general unity of the Bolivarian movement as a whole, now, more than 2 years later, the divisions within the "chavista" movement are becoming clear. The infamous "closet escualidos" - who speak of socialism and revolution and wear red berets, but who are in reality conservative reformists moving might and main to paralyze and hold back the revolution from within - are much hated by the workers and the poor. The masses are still with Chavez, but vehemently against the increasingly openly counter-revolutionary clique that surrounds him.

This is already having an effect on certain layers. On the metro we had a lively conversation with several people (packed like sardines at rush hour!). It was mostly chavistas, with a few escualidos (more on that below). But one woman, from Petare, told us that she is simply going to abstain. She has voted for Chavez on every other occasion, but she feels that little has really been accomplished. Her local mayor (son of the Vice President Rangel!), is known for corruption, etc. She is already disillusioned. This is precisely the danger of not completing the socialist revolution! The biggest danger to the revolution is within.

Generally speaking, the masses are happy with the changes so far, but there is still far to go - and already for some, tirednes is setting in. The proposal by a left-wing member of the National Assembly that ALL politicians should re-legitimize their positions right now gets a good echo. After all, if Chavez needs to be religitimized, why not all of them? The dream of this layer is chavismo - but without Chavez and his pesky penchant for feeling the pressure of the masses. Those elected a year or more ago reflect an earlier stage of the revolution - but the slogans and aims of that earlier stage are now turning into their opposite.

For example, the 1999 Constitution was a tremendous step forward after decades of virtual dictatorship. But now the reformists are seizing on its often vague formulations to give the idea of "socialism" their own reformist content - above all, the defense of private property of the means of production. For all the talk of participatory democracy (and it is far more democratic and participatory than before), it is still in essence a representative democracy, and with that, all the old evils are re-emerging in a different form. The same goes for other formerly dynamic and revolutionary initiatives - the sclerosis of bureaucratism is setting in and threatens the revolution with a fatal heart attack.

Another anecdote. Once the waiter at the place we ate lunch at realized we were supporters of the process, he warmed to us and opened up to us. He explained: "what people don't understand is that Chavez is taking power from above, and re-distributing it below." He illustrated this in detail with his hands. He agreed that effectively, the revolution has just begun, that there is a lot more to do. He was enthusiastic about our presence and wanted more information on the campaign.

The bottom line is the following (and the masses know this deep down): the two main tasks confronting the social revolution remain: to expropriate the capitalists economically and to smash the old 4th republican capitalist state apparatus, replacing it with a regime of workers democracy based on popular assemblies, linked up nationally. Only this can qualitatively change the situation. The elections are a vital turning point, and the working and poor masses are acutely aware of it. But as of yet they lack a clear way forward.

A clear example and lead from the working class is needed. The factory occupation of Sanitarios de Maracay could well be the spark that shows the way forward. It is vital that we mobilize the labor movement internationally to raise awareness and pressure the government to expropriate the factory under workers' control. The reformists here in Venezuela and even elements in the state media is not letting this story out.

In the end, the escualidos did end up with quite a large demo on Saturday (the largest in some time), but it paled in comparison with the sea of red that englufed Caracas on Sunday - a clear response by the Bolivarian masses that they are still energeized and prepared for anything the opposition cares to dish up.

The escualidos appear to be in a bit of a depressed mood today. Already they are preparing for their loss (what is being called "Plan B"). Today they discovered 30,000 - 40,000 black shirts with the word "Fraud!" on them - in preparation to not accept the results of the elections - they know they can't win and are already preparing to try and destablize the country...

Generally speaking, they are more aggressive and loud about their views. The chavistas - although the majority - are much more circumspect about their political orietation. On the metro (mostly filled with chavistas), a lone supporter of Rosales was yelling loudly and aggressively against everyone else. The chavistas yelled back good-naturedly and in a funny way, turning the tables creatively and causing raucous laghter. But it is clear that when push comes to shove, things won't be this calm and friendly. Remember: "no volveran!" ["they will not return!"] was a popular slogan on Sunday - and the masses mean it.

Also, we've seen many reserve soldiers (many women!) on the streets, and they confidently say that everything is prepared to keep things calm and safe this coming weekend.

We're happy to report that the delegates from HOV in Sweden have also arrived, we ran into them by chance at the above-mentioned restaurant, and we will be coordinating our activities. This is truly an international delegation!

Finally, we are very concerned to hear that events in Oaxaca have taken a turn for the worse. The counter-revolution is openly seeking to decapitate the movement - literally. Arrests, beatings, disappearances, etc. are being stepped up. Oaxaca is surrounded, and we must mobilize around the world to break the siege. We will do our part here in Venezuela to let people know what is happening!

Until tomorrow!


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Largest Demonstration in the History of the Bolivarian Revolution?

Whether it was or not, this was something else. If you've never been on a demonstration of an estimated 2 million-plus, I highly recommend it!

Today, November 26. 2006 was the "closing of the electoral campaign" for Chavez. The Venezuelan people poured into the streets by the millions, completely filling Avenida Bolivar (the widest and most important thoroughfare), as well as dozens of neighboring streets and avenues. The place was totally jam packed. The mood was electric, joyous, confident, and determined.

From before 9 am, the sea of red poured into downtown Caracas:

"For Socialism and Against Imperialism"

By 11 am, you could hardly move. It was like being at a gigantic concert, spanning several football fields. Despite the crowds and difficulty in getting around, everyone was friendly, in a great mood, happy to see HOV at the demo, and very interested in our opinion of the demo and the revolution in general. When we said we were in full support - and that we felt the process had to accelerate and deepen - everyone was extremely adamant that yes, after the elections, things should and must go forward.

Raucus cheers swept the crowd for hours on end, live bands and DJs played music and people danced in the street. While Chavez spoke (transmitted live on several large screens and across speakers set up all over), people listened with attention, cheering, and yelled back at him, encouraging him to go forward, to deepen the revolution.

Victory is assured on December 3rd, and the vast majority are ready for the revolutionary process to charge ahead. "No Volveran!" ("They Will not Return!") was a common and determined slogan raised by tens of thousands.

Some images of the heart of the revolution - the people of Simon Bolivar - the front line of the Latin American Revolution (though Mexic, Bolivia, Ecuador, etc. are fast catching up!):

Youth Members of the Territorial Guard

"10 Million" [Votes for Chavez]

From the state of Amazonas

The "10 Million Votes" Dance

The Infamous "Talking Chavez" Doll

"Venezuela Taming the Devil"

The Future of the Bolivarian Revolution

Colombians in Venezuela for Chavez

Massive Crowds Listening to Chavez

Chavez Speaking (he was closer than it looks!)

The joy and confidence at today's concentration is impossible to convey - the confidence of a revolutionary people aware of and sure of their upcoming victory. As Chavez put it, the people are not really re-electing him, they are re-electing themselves, and this is what the people really feel, and why they see in Chavez all their hopes and aspirations.

But at the same time, it wasn't a naive confidence. The Venezuelan workers, peasants, youth, and urban poor have learned a lot in the last few years. They have survived several serious tests, and emerged strengthened. They are acutely aware that these elections will mark a turning point, that the revolution has not been completed, that there will be very sharp struggles in the coming period. But for the moment, they were happy to let loose for a day, to enjoy their collective strength and optimism in the revolutionary future of Venezuela.

Hopefully these images and the video convey a bit of that mood. We'll get asub-titled translation of Rosy Peralt's song as soon as we get a chance.

John P.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

First impressions

Hi everyone, John Peterson here with the U.S. HOV delegation.

Just some first impressions of my first morning ever in Venezuela (November 25, 2006), which will mostly be photographs with a little commentary.

Wow - Venezuela - the front line of the world revolution! Excited to be here to say the least! The contradictions are everywhere...

The airport is modern and clean, full of European-style shops, and most of the travellers are escualidos, as one would imagine. But as soon as you head out over the mountains, past the famous "viaducto Caracas-La Guaira"*, it's another story. There are signs everywhere of improvement, but the scars of neglect and poverty are apparent everywhere. No wonder the Latin American revolution really took off here first.

A first view of the famous cerros:

Here's a look at one of the Barrio Adentro houses where the Cuban doctors live and provide basic medical care:

Here's a very militant barrio, the 23 de Enero:

"Vote for Chavez"

Today is the "closing of the campaign" for the opposition candidate Manuel Rosales, and there is a rally taking place as we speak. Unfortunately for them, it would appear that the numbers will be relatively tiny, despite busing people in from all over. The media will of course play it up. According to one person I spoke to, the escualidos have been encouraged to carry only Venezuelan flags (the old seven-star variety) on the demo so that if the numbers are small, they can use video footage of previous opposition marches where they only carried the flag!

We passed a couple of the mini marches that were gathering at strategic locations to go to the main rally. Here's the first one:

And here's another escualido demo we passed:

So while I can't give any definitive account of how their main rally turned out, it didn't look like the buildup was very intense. The rich seemed more interested in holiday shopping or a weekend stroll than their final pre-electoral demo!

We'll see how this compares to the Chavez "closing of the campaign" rally tomorrow, which by all accounts will be massive.

To finish, just a couple more photos:

The skyscrapers of Caracas (note the corporate logos - as if you could miss them!)

Here's some funny grafitti from an escualido neighborhood:

"Bolivar wasn't a communist"

That's all for now!


* The viaduct was a bridge across a valley that reduced the time necessary to go to and from the airport. It collapsed roughly a year and a half ago, and the opposition makes a huge stink about the fact that it hasn't yet been repaired. But they fail to note that it was left to rot under pre-Chavez governments, that the damage was an offshoot of the terrible landslide that hit the state of Vargas in 1999, and that it will be rebuilt by early next year - well-ahead of schedule. Here's a pic:

Friday, November 24, 2006

delegation off to Venezuela

Hi all,

The first HOV activists to go to Venezuela for the delegation are alrady on a plane over the Atlantic and will be soon meeting with others who have gone there early to prepare the logistics. Others will leave between today and Monday. Good luck to you all, and keep watching this space where they will be reporting on the elections, their impressions, the revolutionary activists they meet and hopefully sharing video clips and pictures.

in solidarity


British Hands Off Venezuela Electoral Delegation 2006

Dear Friends,

The December 3rd Presidential elections in Venezuela are already the target of a mass campaign of lies and deception sponsored by the U.S. State Department and its allies. The revolutionary movement in Venezuela, with massive health and education programmes funded by the democratically elected Chavez government, has succeeded in providing free health care for millions, in eradicating illiteracy, and in redistributing land and wealth to the poor. But in so doing the people of Venezuela have challenged the interests of the local and foreign business elite, especially in the United States, who have responded with a vicious and illegal campaign of sabotage. This campaign will only intensify, as we get closer to the election.

We therefore call on all those who support the social movements in Venezuela, and oppose the U.S. backed acts of sabotage, to help present the truth about the Bolivarian Revolution to the people of Britain.

The British Hands Off Venezuela (HOV) campaign has organised hundreds of public events around the country over the last three years to help build links between the workers in Venezuela and the workers here in Britain, and to counter the disinformation circulated by our right-wing press.

We are now pleased to announce that we are sending a delegation to Venezuela to coincide with the Presidential elections. The weeklong tour will begin on Monday, November 27th and finish on Sunday December 3rd - election day. We have arranged low cost accommodation in Caracas, and encourage people to stay longer if they can, as there are sure to be mass rallies with President Hugo Chavez speaking before and after the December 3rd elections, as well as many other opportunities to see the Bolivarian Revolution up close.

We will be part of an international HOV delegation, working with HOV Venezuela and we hope to link up with other similar delegations from Australia and Ireland. We will be bringing our message of opposition to U.S. intervention, while building stronger ties between British and Venezuelan working people and activists.

We will focus our delegation on meeting with state and community media representatives (ViveTV, CatiaTV, Radio Ali Primera and the recently established AvilaTV), labour activists, and workers in the occupied factories of Inveval and SelFex, and the Calle y Media collective, whose films "Venezuela Bolivariana" and "The Old Man and Jesus" have helped educate tens of thousands around the world.

However, we will not be visiting Venezuela as "revolutionary tourists" - we will be building solidarity with Venezuela before and after the delegation itself, through a series of educational events, fundraisers, and report-backs across the UK. All those joining this delegation must be dedicated defenders of the Venezuelan revolution, and committed to building solidarity.

Following on from the successful visit of Orlando Chirino to London, and more recently by Hugo Chavez himself, we will be making connections for other prominent Bolivarian Revolutionary activists to visit throughout 2007.

We ask our supporters to help make this delegation a success. Keep an eye out for local events and activities, or consider hosting a local educational event or fundraiser for the campaign yourself. We have several films available which make it easy to organise even a small gathering to discuss events in Venezuela.

Please consider making a donation to Hands Off Venezuela in order to make this delegation possible. Donations of any amount are greatly appreciated.

If you would like to arrange for a member of HOV to speak at your local event, please get in touch.