Venezuelas revolution reaches across continents

Chavez, Morales cause stir in Europe

Revolutionary struggles moved onto the world stage as Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela went to Vienna, Austria, on May 11 for the Fourth European Union/Latin American Summit. They joined leaders of 58 nations in the largest diplomatic gathering there since the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

The EU is the leading source of investment capital for Latin America and the region’s second largest trading partner after the United States.

960.jpg “Investment security” had top billing at the summit. Morales, who nationalized Bolivia’s natural gas and oil reserves on May 1, drew some flak for reiterating Bolivia’s refusal to compensate foreign oil companies that had exploited it for so long, and his statement that contracts with the Brazilian company Petrobas are illegal.

Bolivia and Venezuela expressed sharp criticism of U.S.-backed “free trade” agreements at the summit.

In response, President Vicente Fox of Mexico and Austrian Premier Wolfgang Schuesal joined with UN General Secretary Kofi Annan and Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo in denouncing Venezuela for threatening to withdraw from the Andean Community of Nations trade bloc because of its U.S. ties.

The summit authorized the EU to negotiate with six Central American nations for a free trade zone.

Hugo Chavez was politicking elsewhere. On May 13 he and Morales attended an “Alternative Summit.” That evening in Vienna, 5,000 young people heard Chavez talk about the future of humanity. “I am convinced that people of my generation must spend every day, every hour … fighting for a better world,” he said. “That world is called socialism. I believe that only the youth have the necessary enthusiasm, the passion, the fire, to make the revolution.”

Chavez spent May 14 and 15 in London where he joined hundreds of trade unionists, members of Parliament and businessmen in tumultuous meetings. London Major Ken Livingston hosted a large gathering at the Camden Town Hall. Writing in Counterpunch, Hugh O’Shaughnessy said, “London hadn’t seen such a demonstration of popular participation in politics for years and years. … Chavez courted, charmed and won the Town Hall audience with a discourse of Third World hope.”

Before leaving London for Libya and Algeria, Hugo Chavez repeated an offer he had made in Vienna to provide low-income Europeans with cheap heating oil.

U.S. patients to get free eye surgery

U.S. citizens afflicted with a variety of eye diseases will be leaving for Venezuela on July 4 for free ophthalmologic care, the Venezuelan government announced May 19. The North Americans are enrolled in the so-called Mission Miracle (“Misión Milagro”) project launched by Venezuela and Cuba as part of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), a cooperative trade pact.

President Hugo Chavez announced some time ago, “We are going to bring U.S. citizens [to the Venezuelan state of Lara] to operate on them for their vision, because there is nobody there to take care of poor people in North America.” The announcement appears to bring that pledge closer to fulfillment.

Mission Miracle is part of a program in which Venezuela and Cuba expect to care for 600,000 Latin American people with eye problems every year. Already teams of Cuban and Venezuelan ophthalmologists and health workers, working mostly in Barquisimeto, the capital of Lara state, are operating on patients from El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala, Colombia, Chile and the Dominican Republic. The most common diagnoses are cataracts and eyelid tumors, said a report from the Havana-based news agency Prensa Latina.

Washington blocks arms sales to Venezuela

The U.S. State Department announced a ban on sales of weapons and military equipment to Venezuela on May 15. The rationale was that Venezuela shares intelligence with Iran and Cuba, thereby interfering with the U.S. “war on terrorism” and threatening U.S. security.

Venezuelans criticized the U.S. action as part of a growing campaign of hostility toward their Bolivarian Revolution.

In a statement published May 19, Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez accused Washington of “continuing its long campaign to de-legitimize and undermine my country’s democratic government.”

Caracas accused the U.S. government of imposing the ban on military sales in order to weaken Venezuela’s defenses at a time when the country is preparing for a possible U.S. invasion.

The ban will reportedly have little effect because Venezuela depends very little upon the United States for military equipment. However, the U.S. move is clearly calculated to suggest that Venezuela somehow abets terrorism, a charge it vehemently denies.

Caracas took pains to spotlight U.S. hypocrisy on this score. Ali Rodriguez, the country’s foreign minister, said, “To tie Venezuela to its particular vision of international terrorism [represents] new heights of cynicism and shamelessness.” In his May 15 statement, he noted that President Bush had said, “He who shelters terrorists is a terrorist,” yet the U.S. is sheltering one of “the most criminal of terrorists in the Western Hemisphere, Luis Posada Carriles, a well- known assassin in the pay of the CIA.”