Report on Venezuela forum at Canterbury University

Byron Clark

On March 17 Nelson Davila, Venezuela’s charge d’Affaires for Australia and the Pacific, spoke at a student forum at the University of Canterbury. Organised at short notice the meeting was attended by a small but highly interested group of people.

A day earlier Davila had also spoken at a public meeting in the inner city which some 20-25 socialist and trade union activists attended. Following on from that meeting a decision was made to establish a Venezuela solidarity group in Christchurch.

At the UC student forum Davila spoke of the revolutionary process currently unfolding in the Latin American country, where modes of participatory democracy such as community councils and worker run factories are being developed. He also talked of the “Missions” that the government of Hugo Chávez is carrying out; social programs financed by revenue from Venezuela’s nationalised oil industry that have drastically improved the situation for people in the country’s poor barrios, alleviating poverty and improving literacy rates. Venezuela has made education free, from kindergarten though university, and is also building a free health care system with help from Cuba which has supplied many trained doctors. Davila stated that Venezuela was “not paradise” but they were working to build a human alternative to neoliberal capitalism.

When asked what activists in New Zealand could do to support the revolution in Venezuela, Davila said that Venezuela what needs most is political support; activists should publish information on the situation there, and show the many documentary films that have been made about Venezuela. This is important to counter the misinformation coming from the US administration and repeated in most corporate media. He also encouraged us to visit Venezuela ourselves, something which several Australian activists have already done recently.

The Workers Party will be showing a documentary about the recent Venezuelan election, at the University of Canterbury on April 2. Email byroncclark(at)gmail.com for more information.

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