The British Hands Off Venezuela campaign, held its national conference 2011 on May 21st in London. These are the resolutions which were discussed and passed unanimously and also the list of the elected steering committee.
1. On Libya and misinformation
The Hands Off Venezuela campaign condemns the recent smear campaign against Venezuela by Conservative politicians, especially William Hague, and certain media outlets in the UK, consisting of spreading false information that Colonel Gaddafi had fled from Libya to Venezuela. The cynical purpose of this lie was to label President Chavez “guilty by association” with Gaddafi.
It is very revealing that the right-wing media and politicians in Britain which denigrate Venezuela as a “dictatorship” hardly had a word of criticism of the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt until their overthrow was imminent. Even worse, Gaddafi’s forces are now killing fellow Libyans with weapons sold to them by the UK and other western countries just as did Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia.
We reiterate that far from being a “dictatorship” President Chavez and the Bolivarian movement have consistently demonstrated that in one election after another they have had majority support from the people of Venezuela.
Hands Off Venezuela applauds and welcomes the recent and continuing uprising of the masses in many countries in North Africa and the Middle East against corrupt and dictatorial governments which have been tied politically and economically to multinational corporations and Imperialism.
We welcome the overthrow of Ben Ali and Mubarak in Tunisia and Egypt respectively. We believe that these developments run parallel with the Bolivarian revolution. Indeed they are part of the same worldwide struggle for a fairer and better society as the demands of the masses in the Arab world have been both political; freedom of organisation, speech, assembly and elections and economic; for jobs, lower food prices and equality.
Just as Hands Off Venezuela stands against imperialist intervention in Venezuela and Latin America, we are also against such intervention in Libya and elsewhere.
2. On the visit of Alvaro Uribe to London
This Hands Off Venezuela conference notes that former Colombian president Uribe has been invited to speak in London by the London School of Business and the London School of Economics.
The Uribe government presided over numerous abuses of human rights and attacks on trade union, peasant, student and community activists in Colombia. A common grave with 2,000 bodies was discovered at La Macarena, most likely, victims of the “false positive” police of the Colombian Army of killing innocent civilians and passing them as “guerrillas”. More than three thousand extra-judicial killings by the official state ‘security forces’ took place under Uribe.
Uribe was a key player in all the Washington-organized provocations against the Venezuelan revolution during his presidency. He has given refuge to the leader of the 2002 Venezuelan coup against President Chavez, Pedro Carmona Estanga. In 2004, 130 Colombian paramilitaries were discovered in Venezuela plotting another coup attempt. In 2005 Colombian security forces illegally entered Venezuela and kidnapped Colombian national Rodrigo Granda in Caracas. According to Wikileaks cables, Uribe authorized the illegal infiltration of Colombian security forces into Venezuelan territory.
For all these and many other reasons:
3. On the arrest of Joaquín Pérez Becerra
This Hands Off Venezuela conference notes that Joaquín Pérez Becerra was detained in Caracas by the Venezuelan security forces on April 23 and then handed over to the Colombian authorities as there was an Interpol red note against him.
Pérez Becerra is a Colombian political refugee in Sweden who subsequently renounced to his Colombian nationality and acquired Swedish citizenship. He fled Colombia in fear of his life in the 1990s, when he was a local councillor for the Union Patriotica party. Two UP presidential candidates, eight UP congressmen, 11 UP mayors, 13 UP deputies, 70 UP councilmen, and up to 5,000 UP activists were killed in the 1990s in Colombia in an attempt to eradicate the party.
In Sweden, Pérez Becerra became the editor of the ANNCOL news agency and website.
The Colombian government is well known for its violations of human rights, persecution and extra judicial killing of political opponents, etc. The alleged proof of Perez Becerra’s role in the FARC guerrillas which is the basis for the case against him was obtained from the laptop computer of FARC leader Raul Reyes. An expert report by the Interpol itself recognized that "Access to the data contained in the eight FARC computer exhibits...did not conform to internationally recognized principles for handling electronic evidence by law enforcement."The killing of Raul Reyes and seizure of the said laptop took place during an illegal incursion of Colombian armed forces into Ecuadorean territory. The Colombian Supreme Court has now ruled that all evidence obtained as a result is “inadmissible in court”.
The fact that Joaquín Pérez Becerra was allowed to board a plane from Frankfurt to Caracas despite the fact that there was an Interpol red note against him suggests that the whole operation was designed to cause maximum embarrassment for the Venezuelan government and accuse it of “supporting FARC terrorists”.
However, we think it was a serious mistake for the Venezuelan authorities to hand him over to the Colombian authorities, particularly considering the appalling record in regard to human rights. This has damaged the image of the Venezuelan revolution amongst its supporters in Venezuela and abroad and will not serve to prevent the continuation of the campaign of lies and slanders against the Bolivarian revolution. This has been clearly shown by the publication of Raul Reyes laptop files by the London based International Institute of Strategic Studies.
- We reject the constant campaign of provocations on the part of the Colombian authorities against the Venezuelan revolution
- We reject the handing over of Pérez Becerra to the Colombian authorities
- We call on the Venezuelan authorities to put pressure on Colombia to guarantee that Perez Becerra’s rights are respected
- We call on the Swedish authorities to provide full help and legal assistance to Perez Becerra as a Swedish national and to put pressure on the Colombian authorities to achieve his release
- We reject the renewed campaign of lies against the Bolivarian revolution around the so-called “Raul Reyes laptop files”
- We demand the release of Pérez Becerra
- We reaffirm our solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution
4. On building solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution
This Hands Off Venezuela conference condemns the continued hostility towards Venezuela from the United States, and condemns the illegal US government funding for opposition groups and parties in Venezuela, which has increased exponentially, reaching nearly $15 million annually from State Department agencies alone in the 9 years since the 2002 coup.
Conference also notes with alarm the increasingly aggressive and hysterical tone of attacks coming from the US Congress and Senate, including declarations that President Chávez is a terrorist and is seeking to obtain nuclear weapons. We do not believe the fact that presidential elections are approaching is a coincidence.
Conference also condemns the report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the think tank behind the infamous Iraq dossier on weapons of mass destruction, that claims links between the Bolivarian government and FARC guerrillas, based on laptops from a FARC camp in Ecuadorian territory, when an Interpol report proved that thousands of files had been modified or deleted by the Colombian authorities.
With Presidential elections next year, solidarity is urgently needed more than ever, and Conference calls upon everyone to increase their efforts to counter the lies and propaganda constantly thrown at the government of President Chávez and the Bolivarian revolution.
5. On the struggle against cuts in Britain and work with COLACOR
The Hands off Venezuela conference is outraged by the vicious cuts being implemented by the ConDem government. This is the worst attack on the working class in living memory, decimating jobs and services. We note that this is in complete contrast with the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, where increased investment in health, education, housing, and much more has transformed the lives of the country’s poor.
We pledge to fight against these cuts and continue working within the Latin American Coalition Against Cuts (COLACOR). We note that whilst in Venezuela the most vulnerable in society have been empowered by the Bolivarian revolution, in Britain these cuts will hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest - women, the disabled, children, the elderly and immigrants. The effect on immigrants is likely to be compounded as they become victims of scape goating. We believe that we must avoid all attempts to divide us and that the British and immigrant working class must unite and fight these cuts.
We note that the cuts and privatisations being forced upon us in Britain are part of a “neoliberal” agenda that was first tested on Latin America to disastrous consequences, creating extreme poverty and oppression for millions. We have seen in Latin America the affects of austerity, capitalism, privatisation, exploitation and enforced poverty, but we have also seen how popular uprising can bring down governments, defeat corporations and restore power to the people. Those who refuse to forget are compelled to support the new revolutionary governments in Latin America and to fight the destructive policies of the current British government
This is only the beginning. We will continue to mobilise against the cuts, alongside the other members of COLACOR, by building a movement that not only challenges the cuts but defeats them. We must organize, resist, unite, and fight. We have to throw everything we have at this government of the rich, including a general strike. We will fight hasta la victoria siempre!
Hands Off Venezuela Steering Committee
Charley Allan, Katerina Annis, Amancay Colque, Darral Cozens, Brie Finegold, Jorge Martin, Rodrigo Trompiz, Will Roche Rob Sewell, Julian Sharpe, Matt Stevenson, Ronnie Turus, Rob Walsh – honorary presidents: John McDonnell and Jeremy Dear