Monday, May 15, 2006

Why We Should March to Demand: US Hands Off Venezuela & Cuba

Castro y Chávez
Originally uploaded by molares.
Why We Should March to Demand

"US Hands Off Venezuela and Cuba" on May 20

by Ike Nahem

For details on Detroit area transportation to the May 20 Mobilization in Washington, D.C. visit the MECAWI web site at

On May 20 there will be significant demonstrations in the US cities of Washington, DC and Los Angeles demanding "US Hands Off Venezuela and Cuba." The actions were called by a broad coalition of Venezuela, Cuba, and Latin America-oriented solidarity groups; national and community-based anti-war, labor, Black rights, Latino rights, immigrant workers, women's rights, civil liberties, and progressive organizations; as well as prominent individuals including Noam Chomsky, Danny Glover, and Cindy Sheehan.

There will also be international solidarity actions on that day in a number of countries, including Venezuela, Cuba, Colombia, Australia, and Canada. (For a complete list of the demands of the protest, the Official Call for the demonstration in English and Spanish, and a continually updated list of endorsers see the Web Site of the May 20 Hands Off Venezuela and Cuba Coalition at:

While the size of these actions will likely be modest compared to the recent massive explosions of protests by immigrant workers, or the largest protests against Washington's invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq, nevertheless the May 20 actions will be historic. Why is this? Because May 20 will be the first national action that highlights and focuses on what is going to become a central issue in US and thereby world politics in the coming years, with huge stakes for Washington, and the greatest danger of conflagration on a massive hemispheric scale: the growing confrontation between Washington and the resurgent popular anti-imperialist struggles in Latin America, Central America, and the Caribbean. May 20 will unite forces inside the US that will be a determined and committed obstacle to Washington's aggressive plans against Cuba and Venezuela.

It has been obvious for nearly a decade that historic transformations are taking place in what the Cuban patriot Jose Marti called "Our America." Popular struggles are becoming generalized and permanent, are throwing up governments that are responding to one degree or another to the demands of the oppressed and exploited majority, and are coming into conflict with the regressive and socially devastating policies pushed by Washington and the Latin American oligarchies which are subservient to US and European capital. The unfolding events are engendering a major crisis in US foreign policy.

At the center of this crisis is the survival and now accumulating economic, social, and political progress and strength of the Cuban Revolution, and the rise of the unfolding Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela which is capturing the heart and imagination of a new generation of revolutionary-minded youth and others throughout the Americas. We can also add the inspiring example and policies of progressive and revolutionary changes now taking place in Bolivia since the election of Evo Morales as President. The Bush Administration, with bipartisan support in the US Congress, has campaigned unrelentingly, if so far ineffectively, against the governments of Cuba and Venezuela as the leading wedge of Washington and Wall Street's frustrated,
but very serious, campaign against the mounting popular struggles in Latin America and the Caribbean.

May 20 is the day when the Bush Administration releases another lengthy report of its so-called "Commission for Assistance for a Free Cuba." Bush is scheduled to announce new policy sanctions against the revolutionary government and people of Cuba wrapped with the usual anti-Cuba boilerplate. The report, in great detail, completely oblivious to the actual reality inside Cuba, will huff and puff with the usual smug arrogance that assigns Washington the right to determine the economic, social, and political system in Cuba.

Similarly, top Washington spokespeople, from Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, throughout 2006 have been ratcheting up a campaign of disinformation and provocations against the government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, which is supported by the overwhelming majority of the Venezuelan people, especially workers and peasants who have greatly benefited from the social and economic policies of the Bolivarian government.

Washington particularly finds unacceptable the collaboration between Venezuela and Cuba in programs that have combined Venezuelan resources with Cuban "human capital" in amazing programs, called misiones in Venezuela, where tens of thousands of Cuban doctors, nurses, teachers, and athletic professionals have wiped out illiteracy and provided 10 million working-class and other Venezuelans with access to quality and effective medical care. These programs are now being extended to Bolivia where the first wave of Cuban doctors have been dispatched to the poorest Bolivian communities since the stunning electoral victory of Evo Morales in December 2005. These are dangerous examples that eloquently-in practice-show that dependence on the charity of Washington and obeisance to the dictates of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the "invisible hand" of the "free market" is the road to ruin for working people and that there is an alternative to imperialist domination.

Washington-Democrats and Republicans, liberal and conservative politicians-correctly see a threat to their continued domination in Venezuela's calls for increased solidarity and integration in Latin America. Latin America, Central America, and the Caribbean have for centuries been a primary source of wealth for European and US imperialism based on the super-exploitation, backed up by ruthless military force, of the oppressed peoples of the Americas. The list of US-organized and sustained military dictatorships put in power to protect Wall Street's economic prerogatives is a long one. But Washington failed in its attempt to repeat this wretched history in Venezuela in April 2004.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the "Cold War," and the economic crisis and political isolation of revolutionary Cuba during the so-called "Special Period" of the 1990s, Washington expected the "Cuban virus" to be eliminated. Instead Cuba has not only survived, but with the victory of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and the wave of popular and anti-imperialist struggle throughout the southern Hemisphere, is undergoing a full economic recovery, with some of the highest growth rates in the world, and greater political confidence and resonance throughout the world than ever.

In reality the end of the "Cold War"-which never ended in Washington-Havana relations-has actually left Washington relatively weaker politically to apply military force and decisive violence through proxy forces in Latin America.

For the first time ever, when Washington organized a military coup in Venezuela in April 2002 it was defeated by mass counter-mobilizations and Washington was forced to retreat and pathetically hasten to cover up its tracks. A concerted effort at economic sabotage and disruption in Venezuela the following year was also decisively defeated by the production workers in the crucial oil industry and the entire working class. Finally, an attempt to win a recall referendum vote on the continuation of the Chavez government, also went down in blazing defeat when Chavez won 60% of the vote. Washington backed all these efforts at "regime change" and each failure further radicalized the unfolding revolutionary process in Venezuela.

Of course Washington has not and can not give up. The stakes are too high for Wall Street profits and the stability and viability of the entire structure of imperialist domination and rule. What Cuba and Venezuela represent, the positive example of putting the interests and power of working people first, the alternative to imperialist domination, must be destroyed. Everything they do aims to create the conditions for aggression. Washington understands, however, that these conditions do not exist at the present time.

Events over the past few days have underscored why it is crucial to build May 20. On May 1 Bolivian President Evo Morales dramatically announced that Bolivia's energy industry would be nationalized, fullfilling a longstanding demand of the overwhelming majority of the Bolivian people, who since the Spanish conquerers looted Bolivian silver mines from the 17th Century, have seen their country's vast natural and mineral wealth exploited by imperialist looters while the indigenous, working-class, and peasant majority has been impoverished and oppressed. The new government of President Morales, who had just returned from Havana, where, in a ceremony with Cuban President Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Bolivia joined the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), has give a clear signal that the days of servitute and labor for the obscene wealth of a handful of bankers and bosses in the imperialist countries is over, and that Bolivia is going to become, along with Cuba and Venezuela, part of the vanguard for revolutionary change and social transformation in "our America." Of course this has not sit well with Washington and the European imperialist powers who, along with the big-business media, have emitted howls of cynical and arrogant protest at the measures of the Morales government, as they did a few weeks ago when the Chavez government took similar measures against Spanish and French oil monopolies operating in Venezuela.

Washington and its lackeys in Latin America are starting to pull out all the stops to prevent electoral victories of forces in Peru and Mexico they deem to be part of the pattern of anti-imperialist upsurge sweeping the South American continent. The neoliberal candidates in Peru and Mexico seem to be running more against Hugo Chavez and now Evo Morales that their opponents on the ballot. In recent days, European imperialist pressure, at the IV Summit of the European Union, Latin America, and the Caribbean, was intensified against President Morales, who vigorously defended the recent gas and energy nationalizations. Strong pressure has been exerted to divide the Latin American states, especially on Brazil, as a way to press the Morales government.

All of this underscores the importance of the May 20 demonstrations. The importance of the May 20 demonstrations is that it is the first step, the beginning, the marking and turning point for building a national, mass movement that will be able to mobilize tens of thousands and millions inside the United States. Such a movement will not only oppose US policies but will also inform and educate North American working people and young people who will be attracted to the revolutionary struggles for historic change.

Struggles inside the US to defend our living standards and rights which are under assault by US big business and its two-party system of corrupt rule that drives working people out of politics, will be consciously linked to the struggle of our sisters and brothers throughout the Americas. The growing presence in the US working class of millions of immigrant workers from Latin America, who bring with them the combatitive traditions of class consciousness and struggle from their native lands will make this task easier not harder. The explosion of immigrant workers protests inside the US is directly connected to what is happening politically in Latin America.

May 20 is an anticipation and gathering of forces for the coming dangerous period ahead. We can be sure that these epochal issues and struggles are not going away and can only intensify.

All Out for May 20!
Ike Nahem was one of the initiators of the May 20 Hands Off Venezuela and Cuba Coalition. He is the co-ordinator of Cuba Solidarity New York, a member of the National Network on Cuba. Nahem is a locomotive engineer in New York City and a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive engineers and Trainmen, which is a division of theTeamsters Union. The views expressed here are his personal opinions.

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