30 October 2008 Edition
Call for Europe to back Venezuela
BY JAYNE FISHER
Around 200 people representing political parties and organisations from across Europe met in Paris on 25 October for the second international conference in support of the democratic and social advances in Venezuela. The key focus of the conference was to work towards an independent European policy on the Latin American country.
Organised by Memoires Des Luttes, the Venezuela Information Centre and Labour Friends of Venezuela, the event outlined the remarkable progress in economic, social, cultural and environmental terms taken place since the election of President Hugo Chavez, in particular the huge reduction of poverty, near elimination of illiteracy and free access to healthcare and education. Many speakers argued that Europe must not align itself with the current US government’s policy towards Venezuela, which has seen destabilisation attempts, and called for self-determination and democracy to prevail and co-operative and friendly relations to be developed between Europe and Latin America on the basis of mutual esteem and solidarity.
Former Spanish Ambassador to Venezuela, Raul Morodo, called for a ‘greater independent’ policy towards Latin America from within Europe and said that independence for Latin America meant economic sovereignty.
Maximillien Arvelaiz, diplomatic advisor to President Chavez, said that a new world was emerging, and that Europe must adapt to this changing world, in the context of greater South/South co-operation. The current economic crisis underlined the need to step away from the neo-liberal failures and to “build a different world”.
Former Portuguese president, Mario Soares, echoed the need for Europe to display solidarity with Latin America. Venezuelan Ambassador to Britain and Ireland, Samuel Moncada, stressed the importance of alternative means of co-operation, such as the Bank of the South proposed by the Venezuelan government. He said the poor should not be made to pay for the current crisis and the banks bail out, and outlined the international co-operation which Venezuela was pursuing, in Latin America, but also wider afield including with South Africa and China.
Other speakers included British Labour MP Colin Burgon, French socialist MP Jean Luc Melenchon, Belgian Green MP Celine Delforge, Miguel Angel Martinez, vice President of the European Union and representing the Spanish Socialist Party and Andros Kyprianous MP from governing party AKEL in Cyprus. Die Linke from Germany and Italy’s Rifondazione also were represented, alongside diplomatic leaders from across Latin America. Sinn Féin was represented by a delegation from the European and International departments.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Nicholas Maduro, flew in from Caracas to address the conference along with a number of senior representatives from the government, including the Vice Minister for Indigenous people, the women’s organisation Inamujer and Venezuelan student organisations.
Minister Nicholas Maduro brought greetings from President Chavez and thanked the conference for its solidarity and energy. He said it was extremely useful to have the conference – the second one, following last November’s conference in London – in order to exchange ideas with people “who so passionately wish to improve the fate of humankind”.
Some recent initiatives internationally have seen Venezuela develop a joint fund with China of some $12 billion dollars to enable poor countries to have access to capital to fund public investments, without having to rely on private capital. Maduro said this “test scheme” could prove an alternative international finance resource for the future. He said the current financial crisis was an “historical moment” and that the world was changing, seeing the end of one particular form of capitalism. It was necessary to replace this with “a more humane model for the future”. Venezuela wanted to move forward towards a “socialism of the 21st century” based on the best universal human values. He said each country had the right to develop its own path, independent of outside interference, in which democracy, equality and social progress could flourish.
The organisers, and European committee which came out of the London conference last year, will be continuing efforts to put pressure on governments to develop positive relations with Venezuela, co-operation and independent policies in relation to Latin America.