Activists form Venezuela solidarity network

WASHINGTON — Greeting almost 500 people at a national Venezuela solidarity conference held here March 4, Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez set a tone for new beginnings.

“Hugo Chávez is not an accident,” he said. “What you see in the hemisphere, in this country, is a whole new debate.” He cited the election in Bolivia of President Evo Morales as an example. For the first time, he said, people believe they are in a position to realize their aspirations.

The Latin American Solidarity Coalition initiated the conference, and representatives of many of the 49 organizations who co-sponsored the event did the planning. The purpose was to establish a national network for political action aimed at blocking U.S. assaults on Venezuela and its revolution. Growing Bush administration hostility towards Venezuela provided the impetus.

Topics covered in 39 workshops included the social programs of the Bolivarian revolution, guidelines for making grassroots connections, aspects of Venezuelan history, and the record of past U.S. solidarity projects in Latin America. Conference participants attended two evenings of poetry readings and musical performances. They perused more than 25 displays of literature and other educational materials.

The conference resolved by acclamation to set up a national Venezuela solidarity network, an emergency response network and a calendar of upcoming events to serve as a tool for coordinated nationwide actions.

It unanimously resolved to reject the U.S.-backed “Plan Colombia,” which is designed to ensure Washington’s control of the region, and to support Venezuelan sovereignty. It also called for the extradition of terrorist Luis Posada, currently in U.S. custody, to Venezuela.

The conference formed an interim steering committee, which will be open to representatives of all sponsoring organizations plus new groups with similar objectives. The steering committee will soon decide upon a location for the permanent headquarters of the network.