Sept. 20 — The I Congreso Internacional de Mujeres — the first International Women’s Congress for Peace and Solidarity Among Peoples, organized by the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela — begins today. And what better place than Caracas in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for a meeting that is needed so much.
Although invited, I am not in the Venezuelan capital. This is the story of my attempted trip to Caracas.
The words “blockade” and “economic warfare” factually describe what the U.S. ruling class is doing to the Venezuelan people. No only medicine and food are denied for the people, but also access and travel.
As they say, though, the devil is in the details. On my way to the women’s congress in Caracas, I experienced and witnessed some of those details.
On Sept. 18, a long queue of passengers for the flight from Medellín, Colombia, to Caracas appeared to be for several airlines. But really it was only for my connecting flight, the one flight that day on the only airline that flies directly from Medellín to Caracas.
Getting bumped off a flight in the U.S. is not such a big deal. There is always another flight. But the privilege in an imperialist behemoth is nonexistent when traveling to Caracas.
The airline Avior refused to give me a boarding pass because I could not present a visa — a document from the Venezuelan government authorizing my entry. “Go reschedule your flight,” I was told. The next available flight was a week later — after the conference.
The travel authorization had been emailed to me, but somehow that document did not arrive. A picture of the letter sent by social media arrived too late.
No problem, right? In the U.S., the quick solution is to rent a car. But the Colombian government is a partner with the U.S. in its regime change plots. Over land was clearly not an option to waste time exploring.
In Medellín, with internet at the airport, surely another flight could be found.
But wait! This journey originated in Washington. Is Medellín really on the way? No, the route I had to take, when I wanted to arrive a day early for the conference, was: D.C. to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Panama City, Panama, to Medellín, and then Caracas.
There are no U.S. air carriers serving Venezuelan families and friends. Since 2014, every major U.S. airline has canceled its service to Venezuela. The “guarimba” right-wing destabilization and terror campaign began in 2014, too.
The last company offering direct flights to Venezuela, American Airlines, ended its Miami to Caracas and Maracaibo flights last March after the U.S intensified regime change operations and pulled all its diplomats out of Venezuela.
A Venezuelan living in Atlanta told me how hard and long the trip is just to visit family in Maracaibo.
Copa picked up the American Airlines routes. Yes! Copa has flights to Caracas from Medellín — they first go north to Panama, adding to the cost. But those flights were full, too. Copa could get me to the conference only by the end of the last day, if I spent three more days in Medellín.
Options were exhausted. So regretfully I rebooked my flight back to Washington.
Writing this article caused me to search for airlines flying to Venezuela. At the bottom of the list of airlines flying to Venezuela—from Madrid, Istanbul, Tehran, Barcelona, Paris and other places—Wingo flies from Bogotá to Caracas. It is only $34 to fly to Bogotá from Medellín! There’s hope. Lots of flights from Medellín to Bogotá!
So you thought I’d be writing this in Caracas? Nope. I tried four times to book flights from Bogotá. Maybe the website is wonky? Let’s try Kiwi, the site used for my original itinerary landing me in Medellín. Oddly, in Medellín, Kiwi no longer accepted Caracas’ Simón Bolívar Airport as a destination to search flights.
This minor setback is fuel to multiply U.S. solidarity with Venezuela and Cuba. Unity, solidarity and resistance to the U.S. regime change plans will block resurrection of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine.
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean People, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, and Petro Caribe mutual assistance economies have demonstrated the powerful alternative to imperialist domination and exploitation of the region. These examples resonate in U.S. communities resisting climate change, racism and austerity. It is why they don’t want us to see Venezuela and Cuba.
Cheryl LaBash is a co-chair of the National Network On Cuba. She was scheduled to represent Mujeres en Lucha / Women in Struggle at the I Congreso Internacional de Mujeres Sept. 20-21.