In Los Angeles: ‘Hands Off Venezuela’

Photo: Scott Scheffer

There it was, projected on the big screen: all the answers about what is going on in Venezuela. And not from just anyone, but from a former consul general of Venezuela who was in Caracas and attending the Los Angeles meeting via video conferencing, allowing him to answer questions, which ranged from “How much support does the Venezuelan government have from the people?” to “What are the economic challenges and their effects, especially from U.S. imperialist policies?”

Jesús Rodríguez-Espinoza, former consul general of Venezuela in Chicago and representative of the Orinoco Tribune, gave those attending the “Hands Off Venezuela” forum at the Harriet Tubman Center on Feb. 9 an update on the situation and then took questions for almost two hours. The meeting went well past its planned ending time as Jesús graciously and enthusiastically continued providing clarity.

Maggie Vascassenno of the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice emceed the event. She explained that the center and the publication Struggle for Socialism-La Lucha por el Socialismo had called the forum to promote solidarity when the U.S. is hell bent on war.

Jefferson Azevedo, a revolutionary activist and writer for Struggle-La Lucha, gave background information on U.S. imperialism in Latin America from his unique perspective as an Afro-Brazilian migrant to the U.S. He was very critical of how Brazil and Colombia are being used against the people of Venezuela.

Countering U.S. propaganda

Azevedo let folks know that this forum’s presentations were about countering U.S. propaganda, unlike some left news hosts and organizations that echo that propaganda. “Every story has two sides,” said Azevedo, “but we’re only hearing the side of the U.S. — saying the government of Venezuela is criminal and killing its own people, that people have to leave, etc. We’re here to tell the other side of the story.”

Azevedo pointed out that one of the U.S. strategies to sabotage Venezuela economically is its use of sanctions to force Venezuela to default on its loans. Once they default, Azevedo said, it facilitates the acquisition of Venezuela’s assets.

Espinoza started his remarks with: “The position of Maduro inside Venezuela is very solid, in spite of what you are hearing in the media and in spite of U.S. war threats, in my opinion.” He said that the “Chavista” spirit is very high and it is partly a reaction to the threats from the U.S. and “lackey” countries in Latin America. “When that happens, we unite.”

He then began to take on the misconceptions and lies being manufactured by the U.S. to discredit the Venezuelan government and President Nicolás Maduro. “They try to create pressure inside of Venezuelan institutions to provoke a revolt.”

It is true, he said, that grocery stores don’t have enough food. “We have to get groceries and sometimes I want to stay at home. But,” he said, “if you listen to the right wing they will tell you that this is because the problem is Maduro. But the problem is not Maduro. It’s the U.S. and the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela.”

Espinoza explained that the situation in Venezuela is analogous to a situation where a killer is trying to murder someone and the victim is being blamed for getting killed. However, Espinoza made it clear that the support of the people and army for Maduro is too strong to allow any coup by the U.S.

In regards to Juan Guaidó’s self-proclaimed presidency, Espinoza said this is without any merit and a complete violation of any legality and the most basic rules of international law, “in spite of the efforts of the U.S. and its satellites in Europe and Latin America.”

He noted, “Maduro was elected by almost 6 million votes … and the fact that the opposition chose not to participate in the elections does not make the elections illegitimate.”

Why U.S. targets Venezuela

Azevedo pointed out some of the reasons why Washington is attempting regime change in Venezuela, including the $23 trillion U.S. debt. “The reason the U.S. can maintain that debt is because trade transactions are done in dollars.” Maduro, he said, kept the promise of the late Hugo Chávez by allowing trade transactions to be made in Japanese yen instead, creating a real crisis for the U.S. ruling class. In the imperialists’ eyes, that could not be allowed — so Maduro must go.

“Oil is another big reason, but not the only reason. Socialism, in my opinion, is the main reason … with the Venezuelan people saying we have another option than capitalism which allows the people to use the resources like oil for their needs.”

To hear the entirety of these informative talks and the wealth of information offered during the question and answer period, watch the video below: