Venezuela offers help to Detroit
Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor of the Pan-African News Wire at Ambassador Alvarez Speech
Originally uploaded by panafnewswire.
Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor of the Pan-African News Wire at Ambassador Alvarez Speech
Originally uploaded by panafnewswire.
By Bankole Thompson
The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Ambassador Bernado Alvarez Herrera, Venezuela’s envoy to the United States, said his country wants to provide heating assistance and free eye surgery to needy Detroiters.
During a June 14 visit to Detroit, Alvarez met with several city officials, including council members JoAnn Watson, Brenda Jones, Kwame Kenyatta and Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to discuss how to expand his country’s programs that help the poor.
The visit, facilitated by State Rep. Lamar Lemmons III, provided Alvarez a platform to discuss recent developments within Venezuela and its relationship with Washington.
“Our priority is to fight against poverty and social exclusion,” Alvarez said during a presentation at city council. “We have so many ties that we better start to have a protracted dialogue.”
Alvarez said the government in Caracas may have disagreements with Washington but his country, under President Hugo Chavez, is committed to helping African American communities.
“We gave assistance to more than 200,000 families in the U.S.,” Alvarez said. “We want Detroit to start working with our people, looking at the needs you have here. I don’t know how [much] heating oil you have here. I would like you to look at the numbers and we would help.”
Recently several African American civil rights leaders, including Harry Belafonte and Dr. Cornel West, visited Caracas saying they want to see for themselves firsthand what is happening in Venezuela instead of relying on mainstream media reports.
Alvarez said visits such as those are integral. They provide a catalyst to the assistance his country is now offering to low-income families and help foster the relationship it wants to build with Blacks in America.
“Thank you for broadening our international connection,” said Watson, who presented the Spirit of Detroit award to Alvarez.
Kenyatta added, “We are a city on a waterfront. We are interested in broadening our perspective.”
“We have unimaginable ties with African American leaders like [Harry Belafonte],” Alvarez said. “We now have started a very important dialogue. We really need to connect on the humanitarian side because that helps to solve very complicated political problems.”
Alvarez said the government in Caracas stands ready to provide help to Detroit.
One of those offers is free eye surgery to Detroiters with no healthcare insurance, Alvarez told the mayor during a brief meeting. He told Kilpatrick to put together a team that will work on the eye surgery project in terms of identifying patients with cataracts to undergo surgery in Caracas.
“We have a plan to operate [on] people with eye problem[s] for free,” Alvarez said. “We will start with Chicago and Milwaukee and come here to Detroit.”
Alvarez said nearly 2,300 Venezuelans undergo eye surgery daily.
“This is just a pilot program. We need to partner with [Detroit] health systems to identify a place where people can be diagnosed with eye problems like cataract[s].”
He said the Venezuelan government will bear the cost of transporting the patients.
“Forty-eight percent of our people have no health insurance,” Kilpatrick said in response to the health offer. “We would love to see what you are doing. The problem we have here is that doctors don’t want to go into the neighborhood.”
Kilpatrick said Lucius Vassar, the city’s chief administrative officer, will work with the ambassador’s office to see such projects come to fruition.
“We are serious,” Kilpatrick said. “We want to engage with your country.”
Maureen Taylor, head of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, hosted a community reception for Alvarez, during which members of activist groups talked about the need for Detroit to begin to connect its struggles to what is happening in other countries.
Many at the reception said Venezuela is a paragon of what democracy means, where the government uses its resources for the welfare of its people. Venezuela is the second largest importer of U.S. goods in Latin America and one of America’s major oil suppliers.
“Venezuela is an important trading partner,” said African American business mogul John James, who runs and operates the OJ Group on Fort street.
Alvarez said he was happy to see Black business executives like James whose transportation company does business with Venezuela.
Free Eye Surgery, Heating-oil for Detroiter Venezuela Ambassador Announces
By Kenneth Snodgrass
Yes, this is what Venezuela Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez Herrera and his Consulate said when visiting Detroit recently, thank to the efforts of Reps. LaMar Lemmons III.
Why would they do this, you may ask? President Chavez felt he wanted to help the victim of Katrina and the victims of poverty in the U.S., and President Chavez said “he was committed to helping the African community in the USA.”
These fuel programs are a part of Venezuela’s social actions program to help the U.S. cope with energy crisis created by Katrina and the poverty. Ambassador Alvarez said their “priority was to fight against poverty and social discrimination.”
Have you ever ran into an old friend you haven’t seen in years and just find yourself having a tremendous discussion with them? This is how I felt meeting the Ambassador and his Consulate General Martin E. Sanchez of Chicago. They came right into the meeting place and just started talking to me, and everyone as if they had known us for years.
They talk of helping the elderly, the poor so to renewed there spirit and commitment to struggling, to empower themselves, people around the world, and to struggle to rid the world of oppression, and neo-liberalism.
The Ambassador and his Consulate met with the Legislative Black Caucus in Lansing, with City Council members, JoAnn Watson, welcome the Consulate to Detroit, Kwame Kenyatta, Brenda Jones, and Martha Reeves, some local businessman, and Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Finally, they went to a very impressive community reception hosted by Michigan Welfare Right Organization where over 150 people came.
Since the election of Hugo Chavez, Venezuelans have taken their state own oil company and used its profits to benefit all of the people of Venezuela including the 54 percent of the Venezuela population that is poor.
To do this, they started over 7,000 state-financed cooperatives employing over 200,000 people. They carried out literacy complains to end illiteracy. Because of their eye campaign, they now carry out 2,300 cataract operations a day, and have completed over 230,000 surgeries so far. They pointed out that African American leaders like Harry Belafonte had come to Caracas to see the progress their country had made in reorganizing itself to fight social poverty.
They have builder hospitals, clinics for the poor, and homes for their citizens and created jobs. There was also an area where they developed special jobs training, specifically for women who had never worked, were pregnant, and or had children. They developed co-op grocery stores, radio stations, neighborhoods, factory, etc.
And with the greatness of the Venezuela peoples and their Constitution, they were able to overturn a USA, CIA coupdetat (take over)!
Then they started eye care program including cataract operations in 24 Latin American countries and now they’re expanding the program into the U.S.
Already CITGO oil has seven US communities it’s working with: Massachusetts, New York Harlem and Queens, Chicago, Connecticut, Maine, Philadelphia, Delaware, Vermont, which they have already helped over 200,000 families. For example, in Delaware their goal was to aid 5,000 families by distributing subsidized oil at a discount and free fuel to 20 homeless shelters. Basically these programs are being carried out by community organization. CITGO has already started subsidizing 1.15 million gallons of fuel for the poor communities. Now they want to work with Detroiters. Philadelphia has received 19 million liters of fuel oil for heating costing some $50 million. They are targeting the poor communities, and in Maine the Indian reservations. In Chicago they work out an exchange of the use of diesel fuel with the Transit Authority for a lower price fare for low-income family.
All of the discussion with the City Counsel, the Mayor, and the committee prove to be very positive and promising. During the discussion with the Mayor, Mayor Kilpatrick said, “there was a high lever of Detroiters who had no health insurance, 48%, and we could use the help”. He also said he saw “Caracas as an sister city to the city of Detroit, and his mother U.S. Rep. Carolyn C. Kilpatrick had visit Venezuela.
Also, Ambassador Alvarez, after seeing the photos I had took in Venezuela in January, asked me if I could arrange to display them in the embassy in Washington D.C., and I said, I would be very happy to do so.
Meeting the Ambassador, and his Consulate has been a powerful experience, and I felt a need to share this awesome experience to help empowerment others.
If you would like to travel to Venezuela, There are trips being organized by the US/Cuba Labor Exchange email contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Struggle, Kenneth Snodgrass
Kenneth Snodgrass is a writer, NNPA correspondent, activist from Detroit MI.
Venezuelan ambassador discusses ‘offensive against poverty’
By Cheryl LaBash
Published Jun 30, 2006 6:35 AM
Standing ovations greeted Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez at a Community Meet and Greet Reception in Detroit June 14. Organized by Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, the packed grassroots potluck was supported by U.S./ Cuba Labor Exchange, Justice for Cuba Coalition, Latinos Unidos, International Action Center, Call ‘em Out and more.
The community reception capped a daylong visit to Michigan by the ambassador and representatives from the Venezuelan Consulate in Chicago facilitated by Michigan State Rep. LaMar Lemmons III.
Ambassador Alvarez explained how the home heating oil program that assisted 200,000 people in nine U.S. states last winter grew from needs exposed by the Katrina hurricane disaster. Bolivarian Venezuela organized immediate aid, including opening CITGO’s Lake Charles oil refinery for emergency shelter, funding housing for evacuees in Houston and even bringing buses from Miami to transport stranded people to safety. But Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez predicted that the skyrocketing oil prices from the hurricanes compounding the invasion of Iraq would create even more hardships in poor communities inside the United States.
“Then we started thinking that the most vulnerable, the weak sectors of society were the low-income families who use heating oil,” Alvarez said.
The crowd, many of whom are veteran fighters for affordable water, erupted in applause when Alvarez quoted President Chávez: “You know that we always talk about the North and the South. He said what is key here for me is that the South exists in the North. All these struggles we have had against neoliberalism and this idea of an inhuman form of capitalism is not only affecting us, it is affecting people in the U.S.”
In addition to the social exclusion of the African American communities exposed by Katrina, Alvarez observed personally through heating oil deliveries that in Vermont and other Northeastern states many white people are also very poor. Alvarez described the condition of one oil recipient on a fixed income whose husband is unemployed and suffering from severe diabetes: “For her it is as simple as whether she heats her house or pays for medicine. As simple as that! It is incredible.”
Alvarez commented that perhaps the most advanced societies are in Africa and among the indigenous in Latin America because although there is poverty no one is left behind.
As many in Detroit fear anti-immigrant deportation raids, a special note hit home with the crowd. Alvarez described how the Bolivarian government found 3 million people in Venezuela with no official identification documents. Nearly 1 million of them were immigrants from Haiti, Colom bia, Ecuador and other countries. All have received Venezuelan citizenship and the right to maintain dual citizenship.
Alvarez announced a new program to extend the free eye surgery program begun by Cuba to the U.S. Midwest. He also told of plans to transform the value of the oil discount into a social development fund.
Alvarez summed up his message saying: “The only way to fight poverty is through empowering the poor people. Be part of this offensive against poverty and exclusion.
Again, we are not going to solve all the problems. But together we can show that another world is possible, with a little resources and a lot of solidarity.”
While in Michigan, Ambassador Alvarez and the Chicago Consulate delegation met with the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus in Lansing, and in Detroit with city council members and the mayor.
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