2021 Latin America and the Caribbean in Review: The Pink Tide Rises Again

Photo: Bill Hackwell

Source: Internationalist 360

January 1 2022

By Roger D. Harris

US policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean continued in a seamless transition from Trump to Biden, but the terrain over which it operated shifted left. The balance between the US drive to dominate its “backyard” and its counterpart, the Bolivarian cause of regional independence and integration, continued to tip portside in 2021 with major popular electoral victories in Chile, Honduras, and Peru. These follow the previous year’s reversal of the coup in Bolivia.

Central has been the struggle of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) countries – particularly Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua – against the asphyxiating US blockade and other regime-change measures. Presidential candidate Biden pledged to review Trump’s policy of US sanctions against a third of humanity. The presumptive intention of the review was to ameliorate the human suffering caused by these unilateral coercive measures, considered illegal under international law. Following the review, Biden has instead tightened the screws, more effectively weaponizing the COVID crisis.

Andean Nations

The unrelenting US regime-change campaign against Venezuela has had a corrosive effect on Venezuela’s attempt to build socialism. With the economy de facto dollarized, among those hardest hit are government workers, the informal sector, and those without access to dollar remittances from abroad.

Nonetheless, Venezuela’s resistance to the continued US “maximum pressure” hybrid warfare is a triumph in itself. Recent economic indicators have shown an upturn with significant growth in national food and oil production and an end to hyperinflationFurther, the government has built 3.7 million housing units, distributed food to 7 million through the CLAP program, and adroitly handled the COVID pandemic.

When Trump recognized Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela in 2019, the then 35-year-old US security asset had never run for a nationwide office and was unknown to over 80% of the Venezuelans. Back then some 50 of the US’s closest allies recognized Guaidó; now barely a dozen does so. Contrary to campaign trail inuendoes that Biden would enter into dialogue with the democratically elected president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, Biden has continued the embarrassing Guaidó charade.

The November 21 municipal and regional elections were a double triumph for Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution: the ruling Socialist Party (PSUV) won significantly while the extreme right opposition (including Guaidó’s party) was compelled to participate, implicitly recognizing the Maduro government.

Venezuelan special envoy Alex Saab was extradited – really kidnapped – to the US on October 16 on the vague and difficult to disprove charge of “conspiracy” to money launder. Swiss authorities, after an exhaustive 3-year investigation, had found no evidence of money laundering. Saab’s real “crime” was trying to bring humanitarian aid to Venezuela via legal international trade but circumventing the illegal US blockade. This egregious example of US extra-territorial judicial overreach is being contested by Saab’s legal defense because, as a diplomat, he has absolute immunity from arrest under the Vienna Convention. His case has become a major cause in Venezuela and internationally.

Meanwhile, Colombia, chief regional US client state, the biggest recipient of US military aid in the hemisphere,  and the largest world source of cocaine, is a staging point for paramilitary attacks on Venezuela. President Iván Duque continues to disregard the 2016 peace agreement with the guerrilla FARC as Colombia endures a pandemic of rightwing violence especially against human rights defenders and former guerillas.

On April 28, Duque’s proposed neoliberal tax bill precipitated a national strike mobilizing a broad coalition of unions, members of indigenous and Afro-descendent communities, social activists, and campesinos. They carried out sustained actions across the country for nearly two months, followed by a renewed national strike wave, starting on August 26. The approaching 2022 presidential election could portend a sea change for the popular movement where leftist Senator Gustavo Petro is leading in the polls.

In Ecuador, Andrés Arauz won the first-round presidential election on February 7 with a 13-point lead over Guillermo Lasso, but short of the 40% or more needed to avoid the April 13 runoff, which he lost. A victim of a massive disinformation campaign, Arauz was a successor of former President Rafael Correa’s leftist Citizen Revolution, which still holds the largest bloc in the National Assembly. The “NGO left,” funded by the US and its European allies, contributed to the electoral reversal. Elements of the indigenous Pachakutik party have allied with the new president, a wealthy banker, to implement a neo-liberal agenda.

In Peru, Pedro Castillo, a rural school teacher and a Marxist, won the presidency in a June 6 runoff against hard-right Keiko Fujimori, daughter of now imprisoned and former president Alberto Fujimori. Castillo won by the slimmest of margins and now faces rightwing lawfare and the possibility of a coup. Just a few weeks into his presidency, he was forced to replace his leftist foreign Minister, Hector Béjar, with someone more favorable to the rightwing opposition and the military.

In Bolivia, a US-backed coup deposed leftist President Evo Morales in 2019 and temporarily installed a rightist. Evo’s Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party successor, Luis Arce, took back the presidency last year in a landslide election. With the rightwing still threatening, a massive weeklong March for the Homeland of Bolivian workers, campesinos, and indigenous rallied in support of the government in late November.

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Nicolas Maduro: Let’s Not Expect Anything Except From Ourselves

President Nicolas Maduro with journalist Ignacio Ramonet

Source: TeleSUR

January 1 2022

What awaits Venezuela in 2022? President Maduro explains in an exclusive interview with renowned journalist Ignacio Ramonet.

In what has become a tradition journalist Ignacio Ramonet sat down with Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro to touch on themes of importance to the nation

On Venezuela’s Covid situation

“Venezuela has had an exemplary control over the pandemic with the 7 plus 7 method, and when we started to make progress in vaccination and reached more than 40% of the vaccinated population, we restarted classes, we also allowed flexibility, this is how the country has been working… Venezuela has reached six cases per 100 thousand inhabitants… our vaccination goal is to reach 90%… the United States government has threatened all vaccine producers not to trade with us… by the end of the year, we have reached 89% vaccination rate.

On the last elections:

“They gave a sobering result, this election campaign was not easy. I said it several times to the campaign command. These elections are not easy because, well, the blockade has created problems of public services, problems in the daily life of the people, and part of the population does not understand that it is because of the sanctions. This has created dissatisfaction, discomfort in part of the population, and this is what US imperialism is looking for when it squeezes a country to crush it as it has done with Venezuela, it is looking for confusion, the protest of the people? the problem we have with public services such as water, the sabotage to the electrical system, there are problems that have remained… and they are real problems for the population… many of them are caused by the impossible access to spare parts, pieces, equipment, that any country in the world is renewing to maintain its public services… We have reached a moment in which we are persecuted worldwide… is this explained to the population? It is explained to them and a part of the people very heroic and stoic support the revolutionary process… but we won in spite of this, out of the 23 governorships the opposition won 3. In spite of these circumstances we won 80% of the governorships… This is victory number 27, we are for real…

And what is coming for the economy: 

“Venezuela has its own engines to face its economic needs…capable of replacing the old capitalist economy dependent on oil, the old rentier economy…the economic sanctions undoubtedly hit the economic life of the country terribly…the 440 coercive measures and sanctions were like an atomic bomb…we have been progressively implementing measures to free the productive forces in a scheme of war economy…from suffering we went to resistance and now to growth. …tax reforms…we made progress in reducing the fiscal deficit…a banking market was created…oil production and the production of the country’s refineries gradually recovered…the Venezuelan economy at this moment is in a clear period of recovery, I can tell you that we have recovered economic growth, in the second semester of the year 2021 the economic growth is 7.5%…Venezuela has already had 4 consecutive months with single-digit inflation…

On foreign policy:

Donald trump left but the empire remained, the empire is intact, Joe Biden arrived as a great promise of change, in relation to Venezuela everything has remained the same, the financial, monetary, oil, economic and commercial persecution, there has not been a single sign of rectification… Let us expect nothing except from ourselves… Who knows when and with whom the possibility of a direct dialogue will be opened, hopefully with the government of Joe Biden, and if it does not happen we will continue with our battle, this is our way…

Venezuelan Campesinos Receive Land Titles, Celebrate Historic Santa Inés Battle

Source:  venezuelanalysis.com

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

Venezuela Pushes for Stronger ALBA Economy at XX Summit

High-level delegations from the ten ALBA nations participate in the organization’s XX Summit in Cuba on Tuesday. (@RadioRelojCuba / Twitter)

Source: (venezuelanalysis.com)

December 12, 2021  –

The Venezuelan government has called on the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA-TCP) to draw up “commercial, financial and monetary plans” to strengthen post-pandemic economic development.

The proposal came during ALBA’s XX Summit in Havana, Cuba on Tuesday. The gathering likewise commemorated seventeen years since Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro founded the multilateral organization in 2004. It followed the XIX Summit held earlier this year in Caracas.

The latest summit was attended by the presidents of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia, respectively, as well as by high-level delegations from ALBA members Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Granada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia, which returned to the body this year after a left victory in its July elections. Delegations from non-members Haiti, Syria and Surinam were present as well.

The economy was top on the meeting’s agenda, with a number of representatives focusing on both the reactivation of their productive apparatus and debt relief after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I request that we make a new and stronger effort to articulate comprehensive plans for economic, commercial, financial, and monetary development between ALBA nations,” said Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro during the encounter. “We need to generate wealth in order to be able to distribute it,” he continued, encouraging “new investment to produce food, oil, gas, everything our peoples need.”

Equally, Bolivia’s president and economist Luis Arce, who brought 20 tons of humanitarian assistance to Havana, proposed creating two additional “gran-national” enterprises to produce food and medicine. Gran-national enterprises are mixed firms which operate under ALBA control across various countries. They are based on core values of solidarity and fair distribution instead of profit-making.

“It is time to push together, to sum up our forces. It is time to show solidarity, and Bolivia proposes and accepts the responsibility for drawing up a strategic plan to develop our economies,” Arce told those present, while also calling for the jumpstarting of ALBA financial arms such as the ALBA Bank and Sucre currency.

The summit’s final statement echoed the calls, as well as establishing “a more complete mechanism to alleviate foreign debt for developing countries, as well as the writing-off or refinancing of debt (and) the democratic transformation of international financial organizations.”

Similarly, the summit pledged to reactivate the ALBA Economic Zone project, as well as regional fisheries, agriculture and PetroCaribe projects.

PetroCaribe distributed crude and fuel to Caribbean nations under long-term and low-interest payment agreements. The project was halted in 2018 as US sanctions severely hit Venezuela’s struggling oil sector. On Tuesday, the Venezuelan president stated that the flagship initiative will “return stronger-than-ever sooner rather than later.” Maduro had previously promised the project would be relaunched in the first half of 2020.

Counter-Intervention Observatory established

The ALBA Summit went on to take aim at US intervention in the region, blasting the “genocidal” blockade against Cuba and the “massive, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights” through unilateral coercive measures against a number of the alliance’s members.

“Not even a thousand sanctions will defeat the dignity of the Venezuelan, Nicaraguan and Cuban people,” said Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel at the meeting.

From Cuba, ALBA Executive Secretary Sacha Llorenti unveiled a Counter-Intervention Observatory which will reportedly look to “periodically analyze the role of non-governmental organizations and funding in destabilizing efforts,” as well as study how the “neoliberal coercive measures” are being levied against member nations.

The observatory comes as a response to Washington’s Summit for Democracy last week, which unveiled over US $424 million of funding for the region. According to US President Joe Biden, the resources will be channeled into media projects, “defending free and fair elections and political processes,” fighting corruption, “bolstering democratic reformers” and “advancing technology for democracy.” Most ALBA nations were not invited to Washington’s virtual gathering, and Managua, Havana, La Paz and Caracas have all accused Washington of funding destabilization efforts in their countries of late.

ALBA fights the Covid-19 pandemic

The fight against the coronavirus pandemic was also high on the agenda in Havana, with member nations congratulating the island on developing its three vaccines, as well as recognizing the efforts of the ALBA Bank in creating a vaccine bank and Venezuela’s CONVIASA airline for setting up air-bridges between member states. Likewise, the summit saluted the region’s healthcare workers for their frontline work.

For his part, recently re-elected Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega used the opportunity to blast “US imperialism,” claiming that in addition to the Covid-19 pandemic, “savage capitalism and imperialism is the worst pandemic the world has suffered.”

Other issues discussed included backing the Caribbean’s historic claims to compensation for the “genocide” and “horrors” of the slave trade; pushing for “more ambitious” commitments on climate change after a “disappointing” COP26 Summit in Glasgow; and congratulating recent leftwing electoral victories in Bolivia, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia, Venezuela and Honduras.

Chile: The double standard in human rights and the ‘nice’ left

Source: aporrea.org

December 21 2021

Amid the joy of many Chileans who celebrate Boric’s victory against the neo-fascist Kast, and as a memorable response to some who, exaggerating a lot about the president-elect, come to compare him with Salvador Allende, Pablo Neruda or with Other icons of the world left, throughout yesterday, some of the statements made by deputy Gabriel Boric circulated on the networks some time ago.

There was also a response written by Allende’s grandson, “Pablo Sepúlveda Allende”:

Pablo Sepúlveda Allende

Dr. Pablo Allende, grandson of former President of Chile Salvador Allende

Deputy, I dare to answer you because I see the danger that it means that important leaders like you, young referents of that “new left” that has emerged in the Frente Amplio, make simplistic, absurd and misinformed comparisons on issues as delicate as human rights .

It is very biased and rude that you equate – without the slightest argument – the supposed “weakening of the basic conditions of democracy in Venezuela”, the “permanent restriction of freedoms in Cuba” and “the repression of the Ortega government in Nicaragua” with the proven atrocities of the military dictatorship in Chile, the evident criminal interventionism of the United States around the world and the terrorism of the State of Israel against the People of Palestine.

The fact that you write such nonsense does not “mean to become a pseudo CIA agent” but it does denote an important irresponsibility and political immaturity that can transform you into a useful element for the right, or worse, end up being that “left” than the right craving; a dumb, ambiguous left, a harmless left that prefers to appear “politically correct” because of opportunism, that left that is “neither chicha nor lemonade”, that one that does not want to look bad with anyone.

Such a left is confusing, because it does not dare to point out and courageously confront the true enemies of the peoples. There is the danger of issuing politically immature opinions. Have you ever wondered why Venezuela is being so vilified and attacked in the media? Why is it news every day in practically every country in the Western world where the mass media dominate? Why is it attacked from all sides and in a gang? Why do those big newscasts keep quiet about the continuous massacres in Colombia and Mexico? Why don’t those who tear their clothes worrying about a Venezuelan deputy, who confessed to participating in an assassination attempt, have the courage to demand that Israel stop the genocide against the Palestinian people?

The world upside down. That is the world of politics without heart and without courage. Margarita Labarca Goddard has already argued clearly and forcefully why you are wrong in your judgments towards Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. I will only add that Venezuela has a much healthier and more transparent democracy than the one in Chile, whenever you want I can argue it to you and we can debate it, if you are interested.

It is also easy to argue why the “permanent restriction of liberties in Cuba” is a fallacy. Not to mention that the word “freedom” is so cluttered that by now its true meaning is ambiguous, and a sensible definition requires even a philosophical debate. Or tell me, what is freedom?

I name these two countries because I know them quite well. I lived in Cuba for 9 years and in Venezuela I have been living for another 9 years. I do not know Nicaragua first-hand, but I invite you to ask yourself what the reaction of a right-wing government would have been to the action of paid and heavily armed criminal gangs, who come to take over sectors of the most important cities in the country; and where, in addition, said mercenary gangs are installed to commit abominable acts such as kidnapping, torturing, maiming, raping and even burning alive, dozens of human beings, for the mere fact of being militants of a cause -in this case, Sandinista militants- , where the persecution reached the point of murdering entire families in their own homes.

The legitimately elected government in Nicaragua, even having the resources, the legal framework, and the strength to take immediate forceful action against such a fascist destabilization, was quite contained. Do you think that the right wing in power would have had that peaceful vision and a call for dialogue to resolve the conflict? History answers us.

I understand that you may be confused by the great “media” that were in charge of victimizing the perpetrators; just like they did a year ago in Venezuela during the so-called guarimbas.

Therefore, Gabriel, objectively speaking, with serious arguments -without opinions formed and shaped by the media based on misrepresentations and lies repeated daily-, there is no double standard in which we defend Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

We do not have disappeared or tortured, we do not imprison those who think or think differently, yes criminals; be these deputies, politicians or supposed students. Rather, it seems to me to see that “double standard” in yourself, by making comfortable value judgments from manipulation and ignorance.

On the media, democracy and freedoms, we can discuss comparing Chile with these countries. I assure you that unfortunately Chile would not fare very well, even more so, if we include human rights, economic and social, which there are nothing more than merchandise.

“A person reaches his highest level of ignorance when he rejects something of which he knows nothing.”

Health.

* Doctor, Coordinator of the Network of Intellectuals in Defense of Humanity, grandson of President Salvador Allende Gossens.

Venezuela: How the Che Guevara Commune Confronts the Harsh US Blockade

Source: venezuelanalysis.com

December 10 2021

By Cira Pascual Marquina and Chris Gilbert – Venezuelanalysis.com

First-hand accounts of the impact of the US sanctions on a coffee and cocoa growing commune in the Venezuelan Andes.

The Che Guevara Commune lies on the fertile hillsides that rise up from the shores of Lake Maracaibo in western Venezuela. Historically this has been a cocoa-growing region but in more recent years coffee, sugar cane, and pineapple have also become important cash crops. It is a region of much domestic and international migration, and many of the communards have roots in neighboring Colombia, belonging to families that fled political persecution or simply sought a better life in Venezuela.

Through hard work, focused on two productive activities – a lowland cocoa-processing plant (the Che Guevara EPS) and a highland coffee cooperative called Colinas del Mirador (Colimir) – these communards have built a sociopolitical project that has survived all kinds of adversity.

A short flight to Merida’s El Vigia airport and a two-hour drive along the Panamerican Highway brought us to this well-kept commune centered in the village of Mesa Julia (Tucaní township). Our main interest was to see how this commune, with a far-reaching reputation worthy of the revolutionary name it bears, has dealt with the US sanctions and the overall crisis that Venezuela is facing. However, we also wanted to know about their approach to communal construction in general and the longstanding project of a socialist transition in the besieged country.

In the first of this three-part series, we look at the Che Guevara Commune’s creative responses to the challenges thrown up by the sanctions, which include the application of a new fuel-saving technology and developing their own currency.

History of the Che Guevara Commune

Sited on lower foothills of the Andes, the Che Guevara Commune has become well-known for its resilience and productive capacity. Here two committed communards outline the commune’s history, structure, and its key projects.

Ernesto Cruz: We began to work on building the Che Guevara Commune around 2010-2011. At that time, there were ten communal councils involved. After the death of Comandante Chávez in 2013, we managed to register the commune through Fundacomunal [state institution that administers communes].

My aunt, Olga Veracruz, who was politically formed in the midst of the war in Colombia, was the one who proposed calling the commune “Che Guevara.” She is now rather old, but for many years she was very active here. She promoted the organization of communal councils and later the commune.

Olga was a student of Marxism, arranging study groups with local women, and was the force behind a local newspaper with a leftist vision. She left her mark on this commune, proposing that Che Guevara’s conception of solidarity should be a guiding principle for us. That is why we call ourselves the “Che Guevara” Commune.

When the commune was finally registered, we developed several projects, including housing construction. During those early years, we also began to design the project that would become the Che Guevara EPS [EPS means Social Property Enterprise], which is a cocoa processing plant.

Zulai Montilla: The Che Guevara Commune is located in the highlands of the Tucaní municipality, in the Sur del Lago region [Mérida state]. The area has a farming tradition: coffee and cocoa are the main crops grown here, but people also grow plantain and pineapple.

The commune’s territory is home to 1562 families, distributed among fourteen communal councils. Each council chooses a spokesperson who will participate in the commune’s parliament. The parliament monitors the commune’s initiatives and projects. Above the parliament is the assembly, which is the commune’s highest self-government body and the space for making the most fundamental decisions. Anyone who lives in the commune’s territory can participate in the assembly, with equal voice and vote.

There are two active production units in the commune’s territory: the Che Guevara EPS, where cocoa is processed, and the Colinas del Mirador Cooperative [Colimir], to process coffee. Both units have a spokesperson in the communal parliament.Impact of the imperialist blockade and the crisis of capitalism

The US-imposed financial sanctions on Venezuela (2017) and the oil embargo (2019) have had a devastating impact on Venezuelan society. The workers at the Che Guevara Commune explain the blockade’s effects on their lives and on their productive projects.

Douglas Mendoza: The blockade has been hard on us. Here, in the highlands, access to fuel is fundamental. How can a coffee or cocoa farmer take the crop to market if there is no gasoline or if it costs three dollars a liter? Fuel shortages have hurt campesinos very much.

In the last few years, numerous people migrated to Colombia to find work: many sold everything and left the country. Often the older family members remain here and receive a small remittance from relatives abroad. Some people also travel for seasonal work and then come back.

Ernesto Cruz: In the last few months commerce in Tucaní is recovering a little, but there is still not enough work for everybody. At the moment we are seeing a new wave of migration. People are moving toward Caracas, where the service economy is recovering: young people from the area are going to the capital to work in restaurants or retail.

The migration situation should not be surprising: a small cocoa farmer can earn about $500 from a harvest and that is hardly enough to live on. There are few incentives for young people to stay in the area. This has an impact on the population, which is getting more sparse and older.

Zulai Montilla: The commercialization of chocolate is very difficult these days. Selling our production is not easy, due to the pandemic and the gas shortages. Two years ago we had customers coming from Trujillo and Táchira [neighboring states] to buy chocolate, but the fuel shortages mean this is no longer profitable.

As for supplies, fortunately, we have been able to get what we need: cocoa, powdered milk, and sugar. However, it has been hard to get packaging materials to offer a good presentation of our products. We are now working on that angle, and I’m sure that we will improve little by little.

The main problem we have is power outages, because molded chocolate needs refrigeration. If the temperature rises a bonbon or chocolate bar loses its shine and texture, and we have to restart the process. We have to put the chocolate in a bain-marie, then we take it to the mill, and finally we mold it again.

All this impacts our production. Still, we have not stopped: we go through hell and high water to meet our commitments, but we manage. We are fighting to stay on our feet, and we hope to come out stronger.

Ernesto Cruz: We face many challenges on a daily basis as a result of the blockade, the general economic crisis, and the sanctions. Our main obstacles are blackouts and fuel shortages.

Fuel shortages were a major problem until the beginning of this year. Only smuggled gasoline was available, and it cost as much as four dollars a liter. Then things got a little better, and now we can buy gasoline for 90 cents a liter.

The fuel situation has a strong impact on the Che Guevara EPS: it is very difficult for campesinos to bring their cocoa crops to us and private intermediaries take advantage of this. They go directly to a plot of land and offer the campesino a payment that is below the market value… Between losing the crop altogether and selling it cheaply, the producers go for the second option.

On the other hand, here at the processing unit gas scarcity means that getting orders to their destination is difficult. The truth is that there isn’t one single producer who hasn’t been hurt by the fuel shortages.

Electricity is also a bottleneck. In this area, we sometimes have blackouts lasting three days in a row. When the power goes out, mechanized processing stops. That is a problem for us, but there is an added problem: molded chocolate in the refrigeration chamber loses its shine, and we are forced to restart the process.

While there is no denying that the sanctions have been tough on us, we continue to produce, showing that it’s possible to build an alternative from below.

Douglas Mendoza: Many people here have been forced to sell their jeeps, which they used to bring down their harvests of ten or twenty bushels of coffee. Some people have returned to using mules, or carry coffee or cocoa on their motorcycles, two bushels at a time. Others simply have to pay to have their harvest brought down or are forced to sell to unscrupulous middlemen… Still others have simply left the country!

Just today I had to buy five liters of gasoline – at one dollar per liter – for the brush cutter. That’s expensive, but when things were tougher, fuel went as high as four dollars per liter!

The problem is that we depend so much on fuel, especially for the transportation of the crops. So when fuel prices spike, a campesino can go bankrupt.

The US war against Venezuela is terrible. However, we also see problems with the local government. Here we are authentic Chavistas. We are very loyal and will never vote for the opposition, but that doesn’t mean that we applaud our representatives when they do things badly.

Nonetheless, in spite of the war, the contradictions, and other difficulties, we are committed to staying in this beautiful land, working for the family and in the Colimir cooperative, where we also work for the community as a whole.

See full article here

US blockade against Cuba, the worst violation of human rights

Beijing, Dec 5 (Prensa Latina) China today described the US blockade against Cuba as the worst example of the continuous and serious violation of human rights, denouncing Washington’s disregard for democracy.

The Foreign Ministry criticized in a document the persistence of that hostile stance kept for decades and the application of unilateral sanctions that infringe on the freedoms of the peoples of both countries.

“For more than 60 years, overlooking the multiple resolutions of the UN General Assembly, the United States kept intact its blockade against Cuba, based on embargo policies and domestic laws such as Torricelli and Helms-Burton,” it added.

He also remarked that it is the “longest and cruelest trade embargo, economic blockade and financial sanctions in modern history”, since they seriously obstruct development on the island and caused losses of more than 100 billion dollars.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s text in three chapters listed several facts, figures and opinions of experts and international organizations about the flaws of democracy in the United States, in reaction to a summit on the subject to be held by Washington this week.

He criticized the disadvantages of the American democratic system, as well as the overexploitation of the issue to meddle in the internal affairs of other nations.

He denounced the predominance of money in politics, the abuse of power by the elites, the invisibilization of ethnic minorities and the injustice in the rules of the electoral process there.

He emphasized that the crisis in democratic practices led to the unprecedented assault on the Capitol, exacerbated racism, contributed to the mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic, widened the gap between rich and poor, and undermined the freedom of speech.

He also cited as other consequences of the imposition of the American model the outbreak of “color revolutions” to undermine stability in countries and regions of the world, humanitarian tragedies and abuse of sanctions also against Syria, Venezuela, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that violate international regulations

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.

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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

Argentina Asks to End Blockades Against Cuba and Venezuela

Source: TeleSUR

July 13 2021

President Alberto Fernandez at a press conference, Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 12, 2021. | Photo: Twitter/ @AgenciaElVigia

“There is nothing more inhuman during a pandemic than to block a country”, President Alberto Fernandez pointed out. 

On Monday, Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez addressed the economic and social situation of Cuba and Venezuela and ratified his position in favor of ending the U.S. economic blockades against these nations.

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“This policy has prevented Cuba and Venezuela from accessing artificial respirators. Realize what that means”, Fernandez said, stressing that those who suffer the consequences of the blockades are not governments but the peoples.

Regarding Cuba, where the authorities are victims of a U.S.-promoted smear campaign, the Argentine president commented that the internal affairs of each country must be resolved without the intervention of third parties.

“Although we must promote dialogue and peace among the peoples, neither Argentina nor any country should tell a nation what it has to do or not to do”, Fernandez said, adding that if the international community is so concerned about what happens in Cuba and Venezuela, it should end the blockades.

In Venezuela, the U.S. blockade have caused a 99 percent fall in foreign exchange earnings since 2018. This illegal coercive measure have also affected the country’s access to medicines and food amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cuba have suffered the consequences of this policy for over 60 years. On June, the United Nations General Assembly almost unanimously approved a resolution demanding the end of this coercive measure.

On Monday, Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel assured that the United States has supported transnational actions to discredit the revolutionary government and fracture the unity of the Cuban people.

Venezuela Immunizes Its Population Against COVID-19 with Cuban Vaccine

Venezuela Immunizes Its Population Against COVID-19 with Cuban Vaccine

Source: Black Agenda Report

Venezuela signed an agreement with Cuba for the purchase of 12 million doses of Abdal after the country announced and celebrated the success of its locally developed anti-COVID-19 vaccine.

Both Cuba and Venezuela have announced to vaccinate their entire population of over 11 million and 28 million people, respectively, for free.”

Venezuela began immunizing its population against COVID-19 with Cuba’s Abdala vaccine on June 28. The first batch of 30,000 doses of the vaccine arrived in the country’s capital, Caracas, on June 24. The same day, during the XIX Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – People’s Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP) , President Nicolas Maduro reported that his government signed a contract with the Cuban government for the purchase of 12 million doses of Abdala.

Abdala, one of Cuba’s five anti-COVID-19 vaccine candidates, showed 92.28% efficacy  during the third phase of clinical trials, which is the fourth highest efficacy in vaccines developed worldwide so far. Abdala requires three doses per person, which are administered at an interval of two weeks. It induces maximum immunity within 42 days after the application of the first dose. The vaccine also showed efficacy against the mutant strains of the coronavirus that are spreading across the Latin American and Caribbean region.

The immunization of 4 million Venezuelans

The agreement between the two nations will facilitate the immunization of 4 million Venezuelans. The vaccine will be gradually delivered to the country between July and October.

Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, while receiving the first batch of vaccines, thanked  Cuba, its government and its people for their support in the tough times. “Venezuela, from the depths of its soul, thank the people of Cuba, its president Miguel Díaz-Canel, his government and our comrades who accompany us in this daily battle against COVID-19,” she said.

“The vaccine showed efficacy against the mutant strains of the coronavirus that are spreading across the Latin American.”

Cuban ambassador to Venezuela, Dagoberto Rodríguez, ratified the cooperation of his country in the face of the pandemic. “We continue in the struggle for the health of our people and have a deep political will to do more every day to strengthen these ties between Venezuela and Cuba,” he said.

Venezuela began inoculating  its healthcare workers and other priority sectors against COVID-19 on February 18 with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. In February, the Bolivarian government purchased 10 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine. On June 1, it launched a mass vaccination campaign for the rest of the population with Sputnik V vaccines and 100,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines received in donation from China. On June 5, the government signed a deal to buy 10 million doses of Russia’s EpiVacCorona vaccine.

The government also bought 11 million doses of vaccine through the WHO’s COVAX initiative. However, the delivery of those vaccines was blocked due to the commercial, economic and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Venezuela.

On June 12, the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) blocked the last four installments of the payment  made by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela towards the COVAX mechanism, due to the US coercive measures. After a global outcry, on June 17, the US government suspended part of the sanctions  against Venezuela and lifted the penalties to companies that carry out transactions with the Venezuelan state related to combatting COVID-19.

US criminal sanctions

Despite the US criminal sanctions against Venezuela and decades long embargo against Cuba, and the losses of billions of USD, both the socialist countries are successfully fighting the pandemic.

According to the official data, Cuba  maintains a recovery rate of 91.2%, with a total of 190,993 cases and 1,284 deaths from the disease. Likewise, Venezuela  has a recovery rate of 93.1%, with 272,721 cases and 3,119 deaths.

Both Cuba and Venezuela have announced to vaccinate their entire population of over 11 million and 28 million people, respectively, for free. Cuba aims to inoculate 100% of its population and Venezuela hopes to vaccinate 70% of its population by the end of the year.

Cuba began its vaccination drive on May 12. According to the Cuban Public Health Minister, as of June 29 , 2,758,893 Cubans have received at least one dose of one of its vaccines. Meanwhile, 2,060,212 people have received a second dose and 1,169,638 people have received a third dose. Similarly, according to the Venezuelan Ministry of Health, about 11%  of the Venezuelan population has been vaccinated.