Social worker in the barrios
‘I am a former guerrilla who fought in the Nicaraguan mountains in the 1960s. Today I work in the barrios to defend the Venezuelan revolution.
Contrary to what the right wing opponents of Chavez are saying, there is no totalitarianism here. Chavez has even allowed those who tried to violently overthrow his government to go free.
The ones being repressed here are the poor – repressed by the right wing opposition who threaten to kill us. But it is the poor who are winning, and that is because we have a dream, just like Martin Luther King, and we are making our dream come true.
Our dream is to escape from hundreds of years of slavery and oppression. The revolution means that today the poor are living with dignity, with education, health and food. And we thank our president for this. However, we have a long way to go. This is a project for a new society – for a new socialism.’
Luis Carlos Figueroa Alcala
Minister for housing and habitat
‘We have always defined what is happening here as a revolutionary process – within a framework of peace and democracy.
The government has the power to initiate massive programmes of housing construction, and we are trying to get 30 percent of the new housing built by the people themselves. We give the money directly to the people as an example of democratic expression – but the private construction companies and banks are still involved. It shows the Bolivarian government believes in private investment and private property.
Why do we have such confidence in this revolutionary process? Well, we have got two million people out of illiteracy – they can now read and write. We have given free medical consultations and free food programmes. Last year we built 41,500 homes, and this year we are hoping to reach 100,000. No matter what the right wing opposition say, the majority are benefiting from this process.
We know that the US government has a history of destabilisation of foreign governments that don’t follow their rules. And we can foresee potential US intervention in Venezuela. After all, they have already destabilised governments in Nicaragua, Chile, El Salvador, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.
It is obvious that the US is financing the opposition in this country, and that they are trying to turn international opinion against our country. Our weapons of resistance include events like the World Social Forum where we can defend ourselves in the eyes of the international community.
The challenge for socialism in the 21st century is to create an alternative to capitalism, imperialism and neo-liberalism. The key values should be solidarity, and wiping out poverty, misery and hunger.
Global capitalism means that a large part of the population are dying of hunger, while a few have all the wealth. Venezuela is presenting itself as a country where people can get solidarity, and promote values of peace and solidarity.’
Peasant and landless people’s activist
‘I am from the movement in the state of Yaracuy, Venezuela. We have been fighting to regain our lands that were taken over by the big business interests of the previous government. Unfortunately, big business still has its tentacles within the current government.
Some government officials accuse us of being ‘invaders of land’ – in reality, the invaders are the large latifundios [big estates]. Landlords to own our land, and they assassinate our compañeros [comrades]. And, through their wealth and corruption, they continue to have a lot of influence – they are holding the revolution back.
We want to help Chavez to beat back the parts of the old government that remain in this one.’
Activists from the indigenous Wayuu, Yukpa and Bari people
‘In Wayuu, thousands of families are in danger of being displaced by multinational firms that were granted concessions by Chavez. We demand that Chavez cancel those concessions.
As part of our campaign, we have organised marches with thousands of people demanding that these multinationals are not given access to our lands. In areas like Sierra de Perija, mining will destroy our environment and our livelihoods. Before the election in 2000, Chavez promised that the mining would not go ahead. But last year he went to our region and met with the bosses of mining companies. We demanded to be allowed into these meetings, but instead they threw us out.
The minister for the environment says he is studying our demands, but any day now the mining will start. Of course we will confront them, and we aim to stop them, but what will the National Guard do? In our area, they are controlled by an ex-general from the previous government.’
For information (in Spanish) see www.soberania.org
Peasant and landless people’s activist
‘The revolution has permitted us to sit down and debate the importance of uniting all our struggles together. If imperialism attacks us, it will do so while trying to divide our struggles.
However, sectors of the state are being infiltrated by reformists and pawns of imperialism, whose role is to destabilise the revolutionary process. But the people have had their eyes opened, and they understand that popular power must defend this revolution – as the poor, they are its primary beneficiaries.’
Student and feminist activist
‘I am from Chile and studying public health in the Bolivarian University of Venezuela. I am with the Pachamama feminist collective – our slogan is ‘Women and men together fighting for popular power’.
It is true that a space has been opened up for us by the revolution. But what is still lacking are laws that demand complete equality.
In many countries in Latin America women have no space – they are oppressed and discriminated against. Here in Venezuela, we have a space in which we can struggle. I believe that women need to get organised, alongside men, if we are to win equality.’
Rory Hearne is the editor of Socialist Worker in Ireland