Self-Government in Times of Blockade: Luisa Cáceres Commune (Part I)


Despite sanctions, a commune finds novel ways to survive through collecting and recycling waste in one of Venezuela’s coastal cities.

Communal Resistance Series

Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi communards. (Voces Urgentes)

Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi communards. (Voces Urgentes)

Eastern Venezuela is home to extensive petroleum extraction and processing operations which have their hub in the cities of Barcelona and Puerto la Cruz in Anzoátegui state. The Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi Commune, one of the most advanced communes in the country, grew up in the shadow of this multibillion-dollar business in one of Barcelona’s working-class neighborhoods. This is a rapidly-growing commune – remarkable because of its success in an urban context – which focuses on recycling and waste disposal to maintain itself. In Part I of this two-part series, Luisa Caceres’ communards explain the challenges of building a commune in a country besieged by US imperialism.

History, Productive Projects & Organization

The Luisa Cáceres Commune has its headquarters in an abandoned lot that was cleaned up by the communards and put at the service of the community. It is a multi-space that serves as the epicenter of the commune’s recycling work, the home to a communal garden, and a site for meetings and assemblies. Near a splendid mural showing independence heroin Luisa Caceres and renowned 20th-century writer Aquiles Nazoa, the communards met with us to explain the history of their organization.

Carlos Herrera is a parliamentarian, a member of the commune’s executive committee, and the coordinator of the recycling company. Ingrid Arcila is the commune’s parliamentarian for public services. Arturo Aguache is a communal parliamentarian. Johann Tovar is a communal parliamentarian and part of the Communard Union’s direction. Rosa Cáceres is the public services spokesperson for her communal council; she is in charge of the Pablo Characo Nursery. Manuel Cherema is the commune's security coordinator and Chief Supervisor of the Bolivarian Police in Anzoátegui. (Voces Urgentes)

Carlos Herrera is a parliamentarian, a member of the commune’s executive committee, and the coordinator of the recycling company. Ingrid Arcila is the commune’s parliamentarian for public services. Arturo Aguache is a communal parliamentarian. Johann Tovar is a communal parliamentarian and part of the Communard Union’s direction. Rosa Cáceres is the public services spokesperson for her communal council; she is in charge of the Pablo Characo Nursery. Manuel Cherema is the commune’s security coordinator and Chief Supervisor of the Bolivarian Police in Anzoátegui. (Voces Urgentes)


Carlos Herrera: We began laying the basis for the commune some eight years ago, but the process really picked up steam in the past four years. We are advancing in the right direction – I think – and that means moving toward popular self-government.

Of course, this is not easy. As a dear comrade says, “If it is hard to agree about things at home, then we shouldn’t be surprised to find communal organizing to be hard.” This is even more true in a capitalist society in crisis, where individual interests tend to impede collective goals.

Little by little, however, we are building a space where the collective is center stage and the commune becomes the base for the construction of the new society. The construction process involves a great deal of work and sacrifice

Arturo Aguache: It was in 2018 that we fully registered the commune in legal terms. Since then, we have been advancing through trial and error, with some moments more marked by institutional cooperation, and others by friction with the state institutions.

In the past few years, with the sanctions weighing hard on us, we discovered that, as an urban commune, our focus should be services: that is what we have done. But our goal is not just to solve problems. Our real aim is popular empowerment through self-government, in a democratic manner, and outside the logic of capital.

Johan Tovar: The commune has the name “Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi” in honor of a great patriot. During the Independence Wars, the royalists killed her husband and imprisoned her. In the dungeons, Caceres was offered her life if she would appeal for royal clemency, pledge allegiance to the king, and abide by the law. Unwilling to do that, she took a gun from one of the officers and shot him. Of course, she was locked down after that, but Luisa Caceres never bowed down to them. She was a true patriot, who stood by her principles. That is why our commune bears her name.


Herrera: Our commune is in the middle of an urban center, in what Rubén Blades called “the concrete jungle” [selva de cemento]. That location, of course, brought some challenges with it, since there are no communal lands here and what “grows” here are shops and alienation. So in its early days, the commune had a hard time finding ways to produce.

Around 2018 or 2019, the crisis and the sanctions began to hit us hard. All the powers that be were aligned against the Venezuelan people and its government. [Lorenzo] Mendoza, the owner of the Polar food conglomerate, was also battling against our people: Harina PAN [Polar cornmeal] was hard to get and people were going hungry.

So we decided to build a small cornflour processing plant. Our dream was to supply our community with it. The plant worked for a while, but eventually the price of corn skyrocketed, fuel was nowhere to be found, and we were not able to keep the plant going.

While this project failed, we learned about supply chains and about the need to plan our production. We kept on dreaming… Now there are two Communal Property Enterprises [EPS]: one for trash collection and another for recycling.

Tovar: Chávez always emphasized the importance of science and technology to solve the problems that our society faces. Our experience shows that he was right: we need commitment and organization, but we also need to acquire knowledge and organize production efficiently.

Chávez also taught us that a communal society comes with a new geometry of power and a new organization in both the economic and the political spheres. Self-government is at the core of that proposal.

Here at the Luisa Cáceres Commune, we are advancing in that direction. Our highest governing body is the assembly, which is a space of deliberation and collective control of the accounts: the assembly is the seed of self-government.

Meeting at the Luisa Cáceres Commune. (Voces Urgentes)

Meeting at the Luisa Cáceres Commune. (Voces Urgentes)


Herrera: When it comes to the organization of the Luisa Cáceres Commune, we basically follow what is laid out in the Organic Law for Communes. Let’s walk through it step by step: our first organ for deliberation is the Communal Parliament. That parliament is made up of one spokesperson per communal council [there are 24] and three parliamentarians representing the communal enterprises, plus the Communal Bank’s spokesperson.

The parliament meets on the first Saturday of every month to talk about operative and organizational issues, review planning and resources, etc.

The commune also has an Executive Council made up of three spokespeople as well as Economic, Comptroller, Planning, and Administration councils. The latter coordinates issues such as public services, healthcare, housing, culture and education, and territorial defense among other responsibilities.

Tovar: We hope that our commune will give birth to a new material reality and a new consciousness. Following Chávez, we understand the commune as the key to solving the contradictions and problems in our society, and we think that we are inching forward in that direction.

Gas distribution at the Luisa Cáceres Commune. (Voces Urgentes)

Gas distribution at the Luisa Cáceres Commune. (Voces Urgentes)

Impact of the Blockade vs. Communal Solutions

Far from being passive during the crisis, the Luisa Cáceres Commune has developed a range of creative responses to difficulties as they emerge. In this way, they are demonstrating that communes can provide a popular, sovereign solution to the crisis.

Herrera: The impact of the blockade has been enormous, and it has also hurt grassroots organizations, particularly in the early days of the crisis. When people struggle to get enough food on the table for their families, it is very difficult to maintain grassroots organizations active.

During the worst of the crisis, many had to walk kilometers to get to work because they had no money to pay for bus fare, while others, particularly younger people, left the country. Others simply died because they couldn’t afford to buy the medicines they needed. This was all very painful.

The blockade affects everyone, from the young to the old. It is a criminal policy.

Manuel Cherema: The early days of the blockade were very hard for everyone, including the commune, but we didn’t sit still. In fact, our first communal enterprise was a small cornflour-making processing plant, and we were able to sell the cornflour at an accessible price. That enterprise is not active right now, but we learned a lot with the project.

Tovar: The blockade hit us hard, but the truth is that the hardest years of the crisis have been when we began to expand as a commune.. Interestingly, this also happened at El Maizal Commune and Che Guevara Commune. El Maizal took over productive spaces, the Che Guevara built industrial plants and greenhouses, and we took over waste collection and began the recycling work.

In our case, this all happened while the institutions were dormant during the pandemic. The commune was able to give an efficient response to people’s needs regarding a growing public health problem due to trash accumulation.

Herrera: Indeed, we were able to expand as an organization during the crisis. Why? Because we went on working and couldn’t count on getting economic support from the state. In fact, the state’s lack of attention served as a kick in the pants to communal organization.


Ingrid Arcila: We soon felt the impact of the sanctions and the blockade in our very bodies. Around 2016 food became scarce: we had to stand in lines for hours on end. Then came the medicine shortages: basic drugs such as diazepam were hard to get.

Now medicines and food are available, but prices are exorbitant. This situation becomes particularly complex when a loved one has to get an operation. Hospitals are short on supplies, so families have to get everything from gauze and latex gloves to sterilizers and antibiotics.

That is where the commune comes in: we often work to open institutional channels so that people with low resources will get support from the municipality or from another public office. This helps, but unfortunately, we have lost many people in the commune due to this situation.

In the future, when the commune’s means of production are consolidated, a part of our surplus will be earmarked for such emergencies.

Tovar: Here in the commune, the sanctions, the blockade, and the crisis limited our access to healthcare. The local CDIs [a community-based medical system begun under Chávez] started to collapse during the worst times.

When we saw that this was happening, the community got organized to better administer the medical personnel and the limited resources available. We started communal voluntary work days to paint and sanitize the spaces of the local CDI. However, we also organized so that the institutions would fix problems such as broken air conditioners. This was very important because many operating rooms had no AC, which made them useless.

The community likewise organized successfully to stop the theft of medicines. This may surprise you, but in situations of crisis, contradictions become more visible. That is why the community itself worked to supervise, introduce complaints, and establish strict monitoring of healthcare.

The blockade took many lives, and that was very painful. But it is even more painful when the situation is compounded by problems among us. Individualism takes control of a part of society when things get really hard. When that happens, there is one way forward: more organization, more communalization.

Luisa Caceres Commune Headquarters

Luisa Cáceres Commune headquarters. (Voces Urgentes)

Luisa Cáceres Commune headquarters. (Voces Urgentes)


Herrera: The sanctions on [state oil company] PDVSA had a devastating impact on society as a whole: production and distribution became a problem, and people had difficulties getting to work and even to the hospital.

For the commune, when the diesel shortages began, we faced an additional problem: we could not proceed with our trash collection schedule, and garbage piled up in the streets.

Tovar: When the fuel shortages were at their worst, another contradiction emerged: large capitalist enterprises had favorable agreements and would get very generous gas rations, whereas the commune would get a very small monthly allowance that was far below what was needed to do waste collection in the territory.

That is why we had to begin a public campaign: we let it be known that the Commune’s truck was not doing garbage collection because we had no fuel. Eventually, local cadres of the [PSUV] party heard us, and we reached an agreement.

Rosa Cáceres: About two years ago, getting cooking gas became a very serious problem as well. Since we are in an urban area where cooking with firewood is not an option, we had real problems. After a few months, we organized and reached an agreement with PDVSA Gas. Now the commune coordinates gas distribution, and it is working very well.

Here, at the commune, we look for collective solutions to our collective problems… and we have learned that popular power is very efficient in solving the day-to-day problems of the community. Of course, institutions also have a role in solving the problems that the pueblo faces day-to-day.

Arcila: The blockade had a huge impact on public services, particularly electricity, water, gas, and transportation. Lack of maintenance led to blackouts, irregular water supply, and poor public transportation.

For example, the water processing plant here often comes to a halt because it’s not possible for the state to acquire replacement parts. That means that we have sometimes gone up to seven days without running water here.

Another problem that we face is the telephone service. Phone cables are very expensive and theft is common, but CANTV [national phone company] cannot purchase replacements due to the blockade. Right now, more than 70% of the people in the commune have no telephone service.

Finding solutions to all these problems isn’t easy, but the commune has a Public Services Committee that works with public institutions to tend to the problems we have.

We have also organized “brigades.” A very active one is the Water Brigade which works on problems such as broken pipes, so that the water supply will be a bit more regular.

Tovar: Transferring city services to communes is viable. The Water Brigade is solving many problems at a local level. In the past, when we had a problem such as a broken water main, we would have to wait for the city to send a professional. That could last days, weeks, or even months.

Now, when there is a problem in the commune, we activate the brigade. The brigade is a communal initiative, but it is financed by the regional office of the Water Ministry. That institution provides the salaries, but the commune autonomously organizes the work. We have found this to be a very efficient method.

The communal project has been empowering people, through initiatives such as this. The fact that we can solve problems stimulates organization and gives people hope. Although we don’t have financial autonomy, we are moving toward self-government in the commune’s territory.

Aguache: Because ours is an urban commune, deteriorating public services due to the blockade became an enormous problem. However, that situation led us to organize and look for solutions. In so doing, the commune became a beacon or model in the community. It also became clear to us that communal organization could – if responsibilities and resources are transferred to it – solve our own problems.

We cannot celebrate the sanctions in any way, shape, or form, but we have learned a few things along the way: as an urban commune, when we take over services originally assigned to the state, we can do it efficiently and in a self-organized way.

Cáceres: Organization has been key to solving some of our problems, but there is still a lot to do. I should add, however, that the CLAP [subsidized food distribution] structure, which is alive and well in our region, has been a very useful tool. It has allowed us to reach those in the community who are not necessarily committed to self-organization.


Arcila: Any crisis will bring social problems with it. When the crisis here was at its height, theft went up and other social problems intensified, so we began to think about what to do.

That is why we are promoting the creation of Security Brigades in the communal councils here. Our idea is not to police each other, but to strengthen our commune: to build a society where peace and solidarity prevail.

Cherema: We are participating in a communal security pilot plan that former mayor [and current Anzoátegui governor] Luis José Marcano has proposed. Four communes in total are participating in this plan, which is a step toward building the communal city. The aim of the initiative is to rethink and implement a security plan from the grassroots. In fact, this is a legacy from Chávez: he talked about the need to move towards a communal police system that would not come from the outside.

New conceptions of peace and security should replace the old policing practices. Chávez also said that the police should be closer to the people, it should not be an external force. Following his guidelines, we are setting up communal brigades to learn about security, popular intelligence, and defense of what is held in common in the territory.

The communal security plan goes hand in hand with the National Bolivarian Police [PNB] but it is not an appendix of that governmental body. Each security brigade will have a spokesperson that coordinates its activity and, if needed, can work with the PNB. There will also be people in charge of intelligence, and we will establish the figure of the peace mediator. Our communal security plan is not punitive but rather conciliatory.

Creative Tensions in the Communal Project: A Conversation with Hernán Vargas (Part I)

Recently named Vice-minister of Communal Economy, Hernán Vargas is a longstanding activist of the Pobladores movement in defense of the right to housing. In this two-part interview, Vargas reflects on a variety of themes including the tensions that have emerged between the state and grassroots groups, the exhaustion of the rentier economic model, and the Communes Ministry’s role in the project of communalizing society.

In a process of transformation, contradictions are destined to emerge. However, in the Bolivarian Revolution, some of the contradictions between the state and the grassroots movements might be seen as “creative tensions” [a term coined by Álvaro García Linera]. As a person who comes from a grassroots movement but now has a role in the ministry, what creative tensions do you see operating in Venezuela today?

Although it has been transformed at many levels over the past twenty years, the Venezuelan state continues to carry an institutional baggage inherited from the colonial model based on looting and dispossession. This contradiction operates in all Latin American countries where there are progressive processes of transformation.

When the communalization of society – the emergence of grassroots democracy, self-government, and new social relations centered on life – began to take shape, a clash between the old state and the emerging model could not be avoided. This situation can become more or less acute depending on the correlation of forces.

The Venezuelan state has different spheres of action, from the local to the national, and certain class interests may enter into contradiction with communal initiatives at the regional level. At the end of the day, we are talking about a struggle between the old and new model. Such a struggle will emerge in any revolution.

However, it’s also worth highlighting that the Bolivarian Process has long been characterized by the transformative power of its creative tensions. In fact, creative tensions are at the very origin of the Chavista project, and I would even dare to say that they are the root of the communal model. As such, many of the contradictions that emerge should not be interpreted as a limit or a barrier, but as a spark.

From my point of view, what looms over us today is the absence of a debate to get rid of false contradictions. This debate is necessary so that Chavismo can turn its internal contradictions into productive, creative tensions.


A communal assembly at El Maizal Commune. (VTV)

A communal assembly at El Maizal Commune. (VTV)

What are the policies that you are currently promoting from the Ministry of Communes?

The ministry’s orientation now is a line of work aimed at triggering the reactivation of popular power. In 2006 Chávez talked about the “explosion [flourishing] of popular power.” In so doing, he initiated a new era where communal councils (and later communes) were at the center of the political sphere. That is not to say that there weren’t grassroots organizations before 2006, but most of those developed and intermingled with the new communal project.

The main challenge of the Ministry of Communes is to promote communal power in the current conditions, marked by a blockade and exhaustion of the rentier model. We cannot attempt to mechanically duplicate what Chávez did in his time. With his 3R.nets [an initiative to address the pressing problems in Venezuela], President Nicolás Maduro is pointing to a new era with radically different material conditions, but with the same historical objective.

The end of rentierism [overreliance on oil profits] is becoming a reality in Venezuela, but the rentier “model” is alive and well. That is, the majority of the people hope for a recomposition of rentierism and the same can be said for the political class. Indeed the country should aim toward the recovery of some of our oil exploitation – as it does – but the old rentier model is not viable.

In the midst of this sea-change, [Communes Minister Jorge] Arreaza has been calling for the renovation of communal councils while pushing for the activation of citizens’ assemblies [the governing body in communal councils]. In so doing, we are wagering on socialism. However, beyond activating the communal model on a political level, we are working to activate the communal economy. In the next few months, our plan is to go to the communes, listen to the people, and see what is going on there. Based on that research, we will build a comprehensive plan.

For the communal project to develop, there has to be a life-centered economic project to sustain it. In other words, the economic model for the communes cannot reproduce the logic of capital.

We are exploring mechanisms to encourage the emergence of an economic model based on life. Of course, there will be contradictions and some will try to get a “good deal” out of it, but we see our role in the ministry as accompanying the communes and other communal organizations, and fostering channels so that conditions for the reproduction of life outside of the logic of capital can flourish.


Renacer de Chávez, formerly known as Arreboles de Barinas, is an indirect communal social property enterprise. (Vive TV)

Renacer de Chávez, formerly known as Arreboles de Barinas, is an indirect communal social property enterprise. (Vive TV)

These aims are admirable, but what are your concrete plans?

Chávez talked about social property and also economic forms that would be steps in that direction, including Indirect Communal Social Property Enterprises [EPSIC for its initials in Spanish]. Over the years, the Ministry of Communes has registered over 300 EPSICs. EPSICs are a hybrid between state and communal property.

We have begun to survey these EPSICs to learn about their current situation. We do all this to reactivate a transition model.

One such case is Arreboles de Barinas, a lumber mill that was recently reorganized and renamed “Renacer de Chávez” [Chávez Reborn]. When we visited it, we discovered that it was privately managed. This is actually illegal, but things like this do happen in times of crisis.

The idea is that those EPSICs should be provisionally co-managed by the state and the people, but eventually the community – organized in communal councils or communes – will take control of the administration of these enterprises.

When the crisis was most intense, the state had almost no capacity to manage such companies. A lumber mill requires raw materials and a variety of inputs, and when the country’s oil profits dropped from 50 billion US dollars a year to 700 million, the resources to keep the mill operative disappeared.

Our objective now is to reorganize the administration of the EPSICs, to bring them in line with the law. In so doing, the state and the organized communities will be direct participants in administering the enterprises. There, the enterprises’ income will be administered so that it is destined for wages, maintenance, and raw material purchases, but a social investment fund will also be established. This fund will be oriented towards communal development – or, as I said before, towards life.

Going back to the Renacer de Chávez lumber mill, the “surplus” will be distributed among the local communes so that they are able to solve infrastructure problems in the community. This is a virtuous cycle because, due to the exhaustion of the rentier model, the state has no resources. In such circumstances, companies like Renacer de Chávez can be the solution to the local problems.

We are also financing communal crops on a small scale and promoting “Economic Communal Circuits.” Our idea is that the production should enter a distribution circuit that ensures that the crops go to the people directly, without intermediaries. In the current cycle, we are focusing on supplying food to school canteens, popular kitchens [casas de alimentación], and communal markets.

In other words, we are aiming to promote the production of use values that will be distributed outside the capitalist market.

60 years of the criminal US imperialist blockade against the Cuban Revolution


by Jorge Martin 09 February 2022

On 3 February 1962, US president Kennedy signed proclamation 3447, decreeing an embargo on all trade with Cuba, which was to enter into effect on 7 February. This marked the official beginning of a 60-year blockade (though the imperialist assault had started earlier), which has progressively been strengthened and tightened.

The aims of this campaign of imperialist bullying were openly declared in an April 1960 secret memorandum by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Lestor Mallory. The memorandum, optimistically entitled “The Decline and Fall of Castro”, starts by establishing the following fact: “the majority of Cubans support Castro”. What’s the problem, one would think? There is a government in Cuba that has the overwhelming support of the population. Why should this worry the US? Ah, but, as Mallory points out: “Fidel Castro and other members of the Cuban Government espouse or condone communist influence.”


Image: National Archives

That is the problem. “We cannot allow a country go Communist just because the population supports it!”, is what he seems to be saying. This line of reasoning sums up the total worth of Washington’s references to the US defending “democracy” in its dealings with Cuba. The Cuban people can give itself any government it wants… as long as that is the government US corporations want.

Punishing Cuba with hunger

Incidentally, at the time of writing this secret memorandum, 6 April 1960, the Cuban Revolution had not yet made any statement nor taken any measure which could be described as socialist or communist. It had implemented agrarian reform and had taken steps to reassert its national sovereignty (both national democratic measures). It was only later that same year and in response to US provocations (the refusal to purchase an agreed sugar quota, and the refusal to refine oil at US-owned refineries) that the Cuban Revolution proceeded to expropriate US property on the island, moving very quickly towards the abolition of capitalism. And it was not until a year later, on the eve of the US-sponsored Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) invasion, that Fidel Castro talked of the socialist character of the revolution.

But let’s return to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mallory and his memorandum. Not only is Castro’s government extremely popular and has communist leanings, he says, furthermore “there is no effective opposition”. He then considers the question of foreign intervention, which he seems to discard: “militant opposition to Castro from without Cuba would only serve his and the communist cause.” This is, of course, a sharp insight, but also a piece of cynicism. By this time, the US was already working closely with reactionary forces in Cuba and in Miami, sponsoring a campaign of terrorism, sabotage, aerial bombardment and counter-revolutionary insurgency in Cuba. Perhaps what Mallory was trying to say was that these methods were proving counter-productive, which is true.

Not that this appraisal would prevent the US imperialism from organising the counter-revolutionary disembarkment at Playa Girón in April 1961, which was swiftly defeated by the armed workers and peasants of Cuba.

What conclusion does Mallory draw from his observations? He writes: “The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.” To achieve that, he then proposes “a line of action which… makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation, and overthrow of government” (my emphasis).

So, there you have it in black and white, from the horse’s mouth. If the Cuban people have the temerity to overwhelmingly support a government that “condones Communist influence”, then they should be punished, by bringing hunger and desperation until they change their minds and overthrow the government. This is the reasoning behind the policy of aggression US imperialism has followed for 60 years towards the Cuban Revolution. It is a criminal policy based on punishing a whole people for having dared to free themselves from imperialist domination and abolished capitalism.

The refusal of US-owned refineries to process oil bought from the Soviet Union led to their state intervention of Texaco, Shell and Standard Oil refineries between 28 June and 1 July 1960. To this, the US replied with a cut in the sugar quota they had agreed to purchase from Cuba, in what was known in Cuba as the “Ley Puñal” (“Dagger Law”, as it was stabbing the revolution in the back). But the Cuban Revolution did not retreat in the face of economic blackmail. On the contrary, it responded by nationalising (between July and October 1960) all US owned corporations On the island. US president Eisenhower then imposed a ban on all US exports to Cuba, except food and medicine.

The 1962 presidential proclamation by Kennedy, imposing “an embargo on all trade with Cuba,” was therefore not the first measure of economic aggression against Cuba, but it represented a qualitative turning point in the campaign of US imperialism against the Cuban Revolution. It imposed a blanket ban on all US imports from and exports to Cuba, which Washington had earlier calculated would deprive Cuba of hard currency earnings of 60 to 70 million US dollars (about US$650 million in today’s currency).

The decision was also informed by the complete disaster of the attempted Playa Girón invasion the previous year and was part of a broader programme of sabotage and paramilitary attacks launched from the United States, organised and coordinated by the CIA, aimed at regime change. These activities, under the name of Operation Mongoose, included the infiltration of armed counter-revolutionaries in the island, saw funding of several million dollars, were coordinated at the highest level, by presidential authority, and were supposed to culminate in the overthrow and assassination of Fidel Castro by October 1962.

Kennedy had wanted economic action against Cuba to be taken jointly by the Organisation of American States (OAS). At the January 1962 OAS summit in Punta del Este, Uruguay, Washington put pressure on all countries to expel Cuba from the body and subject it to an economic blockade, but did not get unanimity. When it realised it would not get unanimity, it then settled for a two-thirds majority of 14 votes and a watered-down resolution. In order to achieve the necessary 14 votes, Washington agreed to resume aid to Haiti, then ruled by the brutal dictator François Duvalier in exchange for a favourable vote at the OAS. The whole operation, clearly, had nothing to do with “democracy” nor “human rights”, but rather with containing “communism” and revolution throughout the continent. There was not even a pretence that it was about anything else.

Under instructions from their masters in Washington, the OAS countries expelled Cuba, and 14 of them also agreed to different measures of economic sanctions. It was not until 1964 that the OAS as a whole, under pressure from the US and with the excuse of Cuba’s support for guerrilla struggle in Venezuela, agreed to a trade blockade against Cuba, with only Mexico voting against. The resolution talks of Cuba having put itself outside the “Christian and democratic traditions of the American peoples” (!!) But of course, no such action was ever taken by the OAS against ruthless dictatorships in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua (which was ruled by Somoza at the time of agreeing the Cuba blockade), etc. Perhaps these dictatorships did not violate the “Christian principles of the American peoples” …

While European countries did not formally join the US blockade, they also sharply curtailed trade with Cuba.

It is significant to note that the blockade was originally put into law under the Democratic administration of Kennedy. The failed military invasion of Playa Girón was also carried out under his watch. This should be enough to dispel any illusions that the Democrats in power have a somehow more “humane” foreign policy. The foreign imperialist policy of the US is bipartisan, as both parties defend the interests of the ruling class.

The Cuban revolution responded to Kennedy’s blockade on 4 April 1962, with a mass rally at which Fidel Castro proclaimed the Second Declaration of Havana, expressing continued defiance against US imperialism and calling for revolution across Latin America.

Resilience of the revolution as embargo tightens

It is a testament to the resilience of the Cuban Revolution that the blockade has failed to destroy it. There was a short period of time in the 1970s when there was an attempt at normalising relations between Cuba and the US, and there was a partial easing of economic measures, but that came to nothing, and under the Reagan administration in the 1980s the blockade was tightened again.

For a whole period of time, the close alliance with the USSR propped up the Cuban economy, though that came with strings attached. But after the collapse of Stalinism in the Soviet Union, the Cuban Revolution was left on its own, suffering a massive economic collapse.

It was precisely at this time that new pieces of legislation were introduced by US imperialism, widening the scope of the blockade. The 1992 Torricelli Act, sponsored by a Democrat, backed by Bill Clinton and signed by George W Bush, reintroduced the blockade for subsidiaries of US-based companies and prevented ships that had docked in Cuban harbours from docking in US ports for 180 days.

Donald Trump Signs The Pledge 18 Image Michael VadonTrump introduced 243 separate measures to tighten the blockade on Cuba, and Biden has continued this policy / Image: Michael Vadon

Then came the even-worse Helms-Burton Act of 1996, initiated by Republican representatives and signed by Bill Clinton, which made the US blockade extraterritorial by threatening non-US companies with legal action in the US if they traded or invested in Cuban assets confiscated by the revolution.

Later on, particularly between 2002 and 2014, the Venezuelan Revolution provided both a political and an economic lifeline to Cuba, proving the point that, ultimately, the fate of the Cuban Revolution will be resolved in the arena of world class struggle. But the economic crisis in Venezuela has also had a negative knock-on effect on Cuba.

60 years later, a section of the US ruling class has admitted that this policy has not worked and has not achieved its aims. The Obama thaw represented an attempt to pursue the same objectives (to smash the revolution) by different means (through the battering ram of world capitalism).

Trump put an end to that policy and introduced 243 separate measures to tighten the blockade, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which had been left in suspension. These had a catastrophic impact on Cuba. It is calculated that, in 2020 alone, the blockade has caused US$9bn worth of damages. It should be noted that not a single one of these measures has been repealed by Biden.

The US blockade is a criminal policy, which is designed, as clearly explained in the 1960 Memorandum, to punish the Cuban people with hunger for having dared to defy imperialism and having abolished capitalism.

The blockade has been consistently condemned by the United Nations General Assembly for the last 30 years. In 2020, only two countries voted against a motion condemning the blockade, the US and Israel. In its report to the United Nations, Cuba estimated the cumulative cost of the embargo over six decades at $148 billion dollars.

However, 30 years of UN votes have not changed the position of the US one single inch. This is a demonstration of how toothless of a talking shop this body is. The UN can pass any resolutions it wants. If US imperialism doesn’t agree, nothing will be done. On the other hand, if US imperialism thinks it can use the UN as a fig leaf for imperialist intervention, then it will; as in the case of the Congo in the 1960s, the first Gulf War in 1991, or more recently the UN intervention in Haiti.

Not all the problems the Cuban Revolution faces stem from the blockade. The isolation of the revolution on a small island with limited economic resources and the existence of a bureaucracy in the state are serious obstacles to building socialism. But certainly, the blockade is a factor of the first order of importance.

It is the duty of all revolutionaries, but also all consistent democrats, to wage a consistent struggle against this criminal imperialist blockade and unconditionally defend the Cuban Revolution.

Venezuelan Campesinos Receive Land Titles, Celebrate Historic Santa Inés Battle


December 11 2021

The Venezuelan government handed 69 land titles comprising 1,817 hectares to campesinos in Santa Inés, Barinas state.

Under the slogan “Free land, men and women!” campesinos received the land titles during a large popular assembly on Friday in the remote area. The event marked the 162 anniversary of the emblematic Battle of Santa Inés and 20 years since the approval of Hugo Chávez’ Land Law.

Grassroots movements especially celebrated a Supreme Court ruling in favor of 40 campesino families in the 4800 hectare Los Tramojos land stead in Guárico state after a protracted legal battle.

The Battle of Santa Inés took place on December 10, 1859, during Venezuela’s Federal War (1859-1863). Venezuelan hero Ezequiel Zamora and his mostly peasant army defeated the conservative government’s troops under the banner of “Free Men and Liberated Land.” While the XIX century countryside rebellion was frustrated, the Hugo Chávez government reclaimed the fight under the Bolivarian Revolution in 1999.

A number of government officials praised the Santa Inés people for upholding food production and promised more support. “We have set up a permanent technical table with the campesino sector to reinvigorate the agro-productive activities in the area,” announced Agriculture Minister Wilmar Castro Soteldo.

The president of the National Land Institute (INTI), David Hernández, likewise pledged to continue working with rural movements. “The best way to honor the Land Law is together with the people. In Santa Inés, we listen and advance alongside the campesino movement, more committed than ever to defend national production,” he wrote on Twitter.

Hernández added that the Nicolás Maduro government would continue democratizing the land, a process that began 20 years ago when former president Chávez launched the Land Law. The historic 2001 legislation laid conditions for campesinos to rescue over 60 percent of large idle estates and receive land titles, with small and midsize producers currently accounting for an estimated 70 percent of food production. The land redistribution process slowed down in recent years, with campesino organizations staging several high profile demonstrations to oppose policies favoring landowning interests.

Former Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza also attended the Santa Inés commemorative event, where he delivered the land titles and visited different areas. On Monday, the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) announced that the high-profile official would be the candidate for the re-run of the Barinas governor election on January 9, 2022.

“It is a privilege to hear criticism, to be interpellated and feel the love of these giants of resistance and dignity. With the people’s wisdom, we will find definitive solutions [to rural issues],” Arreaza wrote on social media.

Additionally, Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab opened an agrarian prosecutor’s office to address campesino struggles and demands. The announcement comes after rural populations have staged several rallies in recent months to denounce a “landowner offensive.” The Campesino Struggle Platform celebrated the decision, stating it is a step towards “justice in the countryside.”

Over 350 campesinos have been killed over the past 20 years, reportedly by hired assassins sent by powerful landowners. Campesino organizations have pointed the finger at the Cattle Ranchers Federation (FEDENAGA), a powerful guild pushing to reform the 2001 Land Law. However, the Maduro administration has promised to leave the legislation untouched.

In recent months, the country’s rural sector has emphasized that the majority of the targeted killings have gone unpunished, accusing local judicial authorities of working in complicity with powerful landowners to criminalize campesinos.

Venezuela’s rural communities have also been affected by fuel shortages that severely worsened in 2020 due to US sanctions. Campesino producers need diesel to power tractors and transport crops. The scarcity has led to fuel price hikes and reduced agricultural output.

Edited and with additional reporting by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas

Cuba: Return of fallen internationalists commemorated

Source: Granma

Thirty-two years have passed, but Cuba has not forgotten. On December 7, 1989, the remains of 2,289 combatants who gave their lives on internationalist missions in Africa were returned to the arms of the homeland

Author: Pedro Ríoseco |

december 7, 2021 11:12:53

All the country’s cities received the remains of their prodigal sons, and honored to them in Pantheons of the Fallen established in all municipalities. Photo: Liborio Noval

Thirty-two years have passed, but Cuba has not forgotten. On December 7, 1989, the remains of 2,289 combatants who gave their lives on internationalist missions in Africa were returned to the arms of the homeland, in an effort entitled Operation Tribute.
All the country’s cities received the remains of their prodigal sons, and honored to them in Pantheons of the Fallen established in all municipalities.
General Antonio Maceo’s mausoleum, in El Cacahual, hosted the symbolic national ceremony with the remains of 16 internationalists, one from each provinces and the Isle of Youth special municipality, on the date when the Titan and his faithful assistant Panchito Gomez Toro fell in battle against the Spanish colonialists.
“These men and women, to whom we give an honorable burial today, in the warm land where they were born, died for the most sacred values, they died fighting against colonialism and neocolonialism, racism and apartheid, plundering and exploitation of the peoples of the Third World, for independence and sovereignty, for the right to wellbeing and development of all peoples, for socialism, for internationalism, for the revolutionary and dignified homeland that Cuba is today,” said Fidel at that time, reaffirming the commitment follow their example.
Of these internationalists, 2,085 were participating in military missions in the defense of the nascent independence of the People’s Republic of Angola, and 204 took on civilian tasks, as part of the 377,033 Cuban volunteers who fought in that country during the 15 and a half years of Operation Carlota.
The Cuban government always informed families of the death of each internationalist (in combat, due to accidents or illness), but it was impossible, in the middle of the war, to repatriate their corpses and bury them in their hometowns. But the Revolution did not forget any of its sons and daughters, and to fulfill that humanitarian commitment, Operation Tribute was organized.
As Army General Raul Castro Ruz said on December 12, 1976, “From Angola we will take with us only the intimate friendship that unites us to that heroic nation, the gratitude of its people and the mortal remains of our dear brothers and sisters who fell in the line of duty.” And so it was.

Mass vaccination drive in Cuba shows power of socialist revolution

Source: The Militant

December 3 2021


With over 80% of the island’s population fully vaccinated as of Nov. 20, Cuba is on course to reach 90% before the end of the year. This striking progress is based on highly effective vaccines developed and produced in Cuba. This is despite stepped-up sanctions that are part of Washington’s more than 60-year long economic war against Cuba’s socialist revolution. 

People wait to be vaccinated for COVID-19 outside a doctors’ office in Alamar on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba,

Cuba is the only country in the world that has extended vaccinations to children between the ages of 2 and 5 years old. In Cuba vaccination is voluntary. Their unprecedented success — which makes Cuba one of the top three countries in the world in vaccination rates, way ahead of the U.S. — shows what is possible when working people are convinced the government is theirs, not an enemy, and health care is a right, not a commodity to profit capitalist bosses. 

With deaths from COVID now three or less a day — on some days it has been zero — Cuba has begun once again to welcome solidarity brigades and tourists from around the world, with no quarantine; hold broader public events and political activities; and reopen schools and factories.  

The Joseph Biden administration has maintained all the economic and financial restrictions imposed by previous administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, and added more. The U.S. embargo “affects every aspect of life in our country,” Olga Lidia Jacobo-Casanueva, director of Cuba’s Center for State Control of Medicines and Medical Devices, told MEDICC Review earlier this year. 

Chemicals needed for testing are difficult to procure, she said, as are spare parts and new equipment. Even paper and toner have been “dangerously low,” she said. That’s not a small question for records essential to modern health care. “This gives you an idea of the comprehensiveness” of the U.S. embargo, she said. “Something as simple as paper is hard for Cuba to purchase on the international market.” 

Unlike Moderna and Pfizer, none of Cuba’s vaccines need storage at extreme cold temperatures, making them more suitable for rural areas and large parts of the semicolonial world. Cuba has already sent millions of vaccine doses to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Vietnam. With Cuba’s aid, the Iranian government is producing the vaccine there. 

Working people’s increased confidence

Young people joined in making millions of daily visits to people’s homes during the peak of the pandemic to make sure everyone who needed medical treatment got it. Many joined volunteer agricultural brigades to alleviate food shortages exacerbated by the embargo. They were deeply impacted by the experience. 

Alejandro López Rodríguez, a student at Havana’s CUJAE technology university, volunteered in the fields, in health centers and door to door. “It was a fantastic adventure, which has allowed me to learn about everything and grow as a human being,” he told the campus media. 

On Nov. 21, the first Cuban plane since June landed in Argentina, reinitiating weekly air travel between the two countries. Argentina is historically a major source of tourism to Cuba. That same day, thousands across the island took part in a day of volunteer labor, preparing fields for planting and building homes. 

Success in beating back COVID made possible the first national Day of Defense since the start of the pandemic. Workplace, campus, farm and neighborhood militias are a central part of Cuba’s revolutionary strategy of the “war of the entire people.” Thousands of volunteers refreshed their military skills while sending a message to Washington that it would pay a huge price if it tried to invade. 

The mobilizations of popular support for the revolution and willingness to defend it arms in hands, in the face of hardships imposed by the U.S. imperialist rulers’ economic and political war, are no small factor in preventing Washington from attempting a repeat of its failed April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. That’s also why threatened Nov. 15 disruptions against the revolution instigated by Washington fizzled. 

Working people and youth in Cuba are proud of what they have accomplished over the last year. At the same time, they’re aware that the worldwide capitalist economic crisis and the tightening of the U.S. embargo guarantee that shortages of essential goods and other challenges will remain. “There is a lot to do in Cuba, a lot to transform to overcome the challenges of so many external limitations and those of our own doing,” wrote Iroel Sánchez in the Nov. 21 Granma. “But we have good reason to celebrate one more victory against the most powerful empire in history

Venezuela: Chavismo Wins Governorships in 20 of 23 States

A man casts his vote, Caracas, Venezuela, Nov. 21, 2021. | Photo: Twitter/ @ALBATCP

“It is a victory for the humble people, the noble people of Venezuela, who have endured a brutal war,” President Nicolas Maduro stressed.

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) President Pedro Calzadilla reported a 41.80 percent turnout in Sunday’s Subnational elections.

RELATED: ‘We Do Not Renounce the Transition to Socialism’, Maduro Says

Having counted 90.21 percent of the ballots cast in the elections, Calzadilla reaffirmed that the elections took place in a peaceful environment. 

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) candidates hold leads in 20 out of 23 states for the governor’s race.

Meanwhile, the opposition coalition United Democratic Table (MUD) candidates secured a lead in the Cojedes and Zulia states. Neighbors Force (FV) party secured the other governor post for opposition sectors in the Nueva Esparta State.

“Nothing disturbed the electoral process … International observers move freely throughout the country to verify the electoral process… It is a victory for the humble people, the noble people of Venezuela, who have endured a brutal war,” President Nicolas Maduro stressed.

Over 21,000,000 Venezuelans were called to cast the ballots to elect 23 governors, 335 mayors, 253 lawmakers, and 2,471 councilors.

The CNE delivered credentials to over 300 international observers from 55 countries and institutions such as the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN), and the Carter Center.

Nearly 70,000 candidates from all political forces in the South American nation contested the elections. They represented 37 national political parties and 43 regional organizations

The War on Cuba – Episode 3


Belly of The Beast is a media outlet that counters parachute journalism by providing stories directly from the island. The documentary series, The War on Cuba, gives an inside look on the effects of U.S. sanctions on Cuban people. Episode 3 explores Cuba’s healthcare program and medical brigades. We talk to doctors who served in Brazil, Bolivia and Italy, and of course the ones who held it down in Cuba during COVID-19.

Related: Why the Cuban Doctors should receive the Nobel Peace Prize

In Bolivia, MAS is more

Source: Granma

October 20 2020

The Movement Toward Socialism’s Presidential candidate, Luis Arce, defeated his closest rival, October 19, by more than 20 percentage points

Author: Elson Concepción |

The Bolivian people demonstrated that truth, dignity and struggle were not lost with the military coup, nor with the atrocities committed by the de facto government installed last year.

The overwhelming victory of the Movement Toward Socialism’s (MAS) Presidential candidate, Luis Arce, who defeated his closest rival, October 19, by more than 20 percentage points, shattered the right wing illusion that they could join forces to win in a second round.

“Congratulations to MAS, which has recovered, at the polls, the power that was usurped by the oligarchy, with the complicity of the OAS and imperialist guidance,” tweeted Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, early on Election Day, welcoming the news, and emphasizing: “Cuba shares the joy for Luis Arce’s victory… the Bolivarian ideal is reborn.”

Toward the end of the afternoon, the winner responded with heartfelt thanks: “Thank you President Miguel Díaz-Canel. The united people decided, with the vote, the return of economic, social and political stability. Today we share the same joy, because our people have regained hope.”

The results of the vote expose the farce mounted after the 2019 elections by the Organization of American States (OAS), the Lima Group and the United States, which led to the military coup, the departure of Evo Morales and repression that cost the lives of more than 30 Bolivians.

So forceful was the will of the people that de facto President, Jeanine Áñez, had no choice but to recognize MAS. Arce, in his first public comments after the victory, emphasized that he intends to construct a government of national unity, and redirect the process of change without hatred, learning from and overcoming past errors.

Along with his running mate, David Choquehuanca, he has the moral authority and experience to reverse the neo-liberal nightmare imposed following the military coup. The economic disaster protected by Áñez, aggravated by poor management of the pandemic, widespread corruption, and the handing over of natural resources and factories to large corporations injured the dignity of the people who opted for the peace of the ballot box.

Once in office – but attentive to the shadowy plans with which enemies will surely react, inside and outside the country – the new government will face the complex, challenging task of uniting political forces; strengthening the people’s confidence; charting the course for economic and social development; correcting the response to COVID-19, to control outbreaks and deaths; and restoring sovereignty and the international relations destroyed by the coup plotters.