venezuela_under_threatThe launch of VENEZUELA UNDER THREAT: YES TO SOCIAL PROGRESS, NO TO US INTERVENTION was greeted with enthusiasm on Saturday when over 250 people attended two launch events. The initiative aims to not only celebrate Venezuela's social achievements, but also raise awareness of the new US militarization of Latin America, the counter-offensive against the shift to the left in the region and what this means for Venezuela.

Speakers included MPs Colin Burgon, Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry, plus a number of writers and experts on Venezuela including Hugh O'Shaugnessy, Rod Stoneman, Iain Bruce, Francisco Dominguez and Diana Raby. Fellow speaker H.E.Ambassador Samuel Moncada described the launch as the "best event since he moved to Britain." They spoke on a variety of issues including the proliferation of new US military bases in Latin America, the media’s role in discrediting the Venezuelan government and the need to strengthen international solidarity .

The US War on Democracy- The Historical and Regional Context of the Threat to Venezuela

An expert panel - chaired by CYWU/ Unite Vice-President Marie Taylor - opened the event with a discussion entitled The US War on Democracy.

Opening the conference, VSC Chair and Unite Assistant General Secretary Jennie Bremner said "Venezuela has been an inspiration to progressives around the world in the last 10 years, but just as we find it an inspiraton, others find it a threat. Now is the time to build the solidarity movement."

Colin Burgon MP, Chair of Labour Friends of Venezuela, then used his speech to call for more activism and solidarity with Venezuela, expressing his concern that “the external threat to Venezuela will intensify as the National Assembly elections draw closer" and illustrating the need to “raise awareness that Venezuela is the keystone to social progress in Latin America.”

Dr. Francisco Dominguez, secretary of VSC, then spoke on the US militarisation of Latin America and warned that “we don’t have to go back to the 80s to see what can happen; we just have to look at Honduras”.

He also spoke of the dangers that the many US military bases in Latin America pose under the pretence of working to combat drug trafficking and international terrorism, especially when considered alongside the reactivation of the US Fourth Fleet that is currently patrolling inside Latin American waters.  The fleet, under the command of the US navy, contains a nuclear submarine and aircraft carrier.  He concluded that the US has totally surrounded Venezuela so that they are in a position to “organise very serious provocations if things don’t go their way.”

Acclaimed writer and journalist Hugh O'Shaughnessy then went on outline the hypocrisy of US criticisms of progressive governments in the region, considering their own disdain for democracy and human rights historically and today.

Helen Yuill of the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign spoke of the support that Venezuela has given to progressive policies in Nicaragua and warned that “lies are just as important as guns in a war on democracy.”

Creating the Conditions for Intervention into Venezuela- the US, the media and the Venezuelan Opposition from the 2002 Coup to Today

The conditions that could pave the way for possible intervention into Venezuela were the outlined by the second session. The panel included former BBC Caracas correspondent Iain Bruce, H.E the Venezuelan Ambassador Samuel Moncada, author Diana Raby and producer of the 'Revolution Will Not Be Televised' Rod Stoneman. The session was chaired by Moz Greenshields of the UNISON NEC, who emphasised the need to counter the US offensive by raising further awareness of the social progress in Venezuela in recent years.

Keynote speaker Venezuelan Ambassador Samuel Moncada used his contribution to expose media manipulation in coverage of Venezuela, debunking many of the inaccurate assertions about Venezuela that have been published in the press. He also urged that press reports should be analysed and their sources checked to root out inaccuracies and misinformation.

The Ambassador revealed the truth behind the false allegations that Venezuela is supporting terrorism and trying to control the internet as well as the attempts of the US State Department to depict the Latin American country as a narco-state, adding that there was a constant campaign of misinformation with the intention of destabilising the Venezuelan government in the run up to the National Assembly elections.

The Ambassador concluded by expressed his concern that the US is funding opposition groups and NGOs in Venezuela.  He explained that the US has increased its funding to Venezuelan opposition groups two-fold, from 7.4 to 15 million US dollars a year, and rationalised that “if the funding has been doubled, it must mean that the US is expecting something in return.”

Rod Stoneman called on the public to write letters of complaint to media organisations who wilfully manipulate the facts and compromise objectivity. Iain Bruce then spoke of the key role that Telesur played in exposing the coup in Honduras.  He also lauded the pan-Latin American network for “covering stories that no other channel covers.”

Diana Raby, who had just returned from a conference on Venezuela in France, concluded the discussion by saying that “solidarity with Venezuela is spreading”.  However, this was despite the role of much of the media. Specifically, she criticised much of the Western media for their silence when a group of Telesur journalists were arbitrarily detained in Honduras and then expelled from the country.  The author added that there would have been “uproar” if this had happened in Iran or China due to the differing interests of the US in these situations.

Venezuela Under Threat – Defend Social Progress, Stop the New US Militarisation of the Region!

The event concluded with a powerful rally to call for the defence of social progress in Venezuela and the rejection of US military intervention.  The speakers included Jeremy Corbyn MP, Vice Chair of the Unite National Executive Council Steve Davison, Student Friends of Venezuela representative Cat Goss, Chair of the CND Kate Hudson and prominent campaigner Bruce Kent. The session was chaired by Karen Mitchell of Thompsons Solicitors who are a national partner in the VENEZUELA UNDER THREAT initiative.

Kate Hudson explained how the US Fourth Fleet was “violating the terms of the Latin America Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty” and that the US is also risking a nuclear arms race with China, which will have implications for Latin America and the world.

Jeremy Corbyn MP closed the event by calling for continued solidarity with Venezuela and warning that if the Conservatives win the General Election, they will “support the right-wing regimes in Latin America.”

The seminar was followed by an evening event to raise funds for the campaign, where special guest local Labour MP Emily Thornberry welcomed the advances in social progress in Venezuela in recent years in areas such as heath, education and poverty reduction, saying "the progressive government must be fully supported and we must counter all disinformation" aimed at discrediting and isolating the country.

The message of solidarity with Venezuela - and against the new US militarization of Latin America - is more important than ever. VENEZUELA UNDER THREAT will seek to bring together a broad alliance in defence of social progress and national sovereignty in this crucial period.