A major trade union initiative in solidarity with Venezuela has been launched by the Hands Off Venezuela campaign. Coinciding with the celebration of International Workers' day, Hands Off Venezuela is promoting an "Open letter to US trade unionists". The appeal comes after the recent belligerent statements and attacks on President Chavez on the part of the representatives of the Bush Administration, which, according to Jorge Martin, HOV international secretary, "pose a direct threat to the working people of Venezuela".
The aim of this campaign is to raise awareness within the labour movement in the United States about what is really happening in Venezuela and particularly about the threat posed by the aggressive stance of the US administration. "Such aggressive statements from the White House are of the same kind of language that was used to prepare the ground for US intervention in Vietnam, Cuba, Chile, Iraq and elsewhere," said Jorge. "The democratically elected government of Hugo Chavez has been accused of everything, from linking up with North Korea, supplying arms to the Colombian FARC guerrillas and funding the ‘subversive’ MAS in Bolivia, to forming an axis of evil with Cuba's Castro, starting an arms race in Latin America, and harbouring Al-Qaeda terrorists" he added, "but there is not a single shred of evidence for any of these accusations".
For this reason the campaign will be participating in May Day marches in more than 20 countries in three continents to highlight the achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and collecting signatures of trade union activists and leaders for the "Open Letter to US trade unionists".
"We think that the only force that can stop intervention against Venezuela is the US labour movement, together with the youth, students and intellectuals and artists," Jorge explained. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has always stressed that the Bolivarian movement has nothing against the people of the US, only against the aggressive policies pursued by the Bush administration.
The Hands Off Venezuela campaign, active in more than 30 countries around the world, has been campaigning to defend the Venezuelan revolution for more than two and a half years. The campaign has been publicly backed by President Chavez, and more recently by Adan Chavez, the Venezuelan ambassador to Cuba who said, "I recognise the invaluable work of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign. I appeal to you to go forward, be sure that this work will give important fruits in the end".
Orlando Chirinos, national coordinator of the UNT (National Workers Union) in Venezuela recognised the campaign as "an extraordinary initiative. It is the only significant campaign that is taking place internationally." In an interview with Alan Woods, who was in Venezuela attending the 3rd World Gathering in Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution, he said that he "considers the links between the UNT and the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign as very important". The campaign has been fighting to get recognition for the newly created UNT within the trade union movement in Europe.
It was in discussions with leading figures in the Bolivarian movement and the Venezuelan trade unions during Alan Woods’ visit, that the idea of the campaign was raised. "Revolutionary activists in Venezuela are very keen to reach ordinary working people in the US so that they can break the campaign of lies and propaganda of the mass media about what is really going on in Venezuela," said Alan Woods. The struggle in Venezuela is, amongst other things, against privatisation and for free health care and education for all. The labour movement in the United States surely can relate to these issues.
Hands Off Venezuela has also given material and moral support to the struggle of the workers in the occupied factories in Venezuela, particularly the Venepal paper mill and the valve making CNV factory. These companies were closed down by their owners as part of the campaign of sabotage against the democratically elected government of Hugo Chavez. The workers decided to occupy them, and after a long struggle the companies were expropriated and are now run under joint management of the state and the workers. At a meeting to discuss the role of the workers in the economy, which took place at the Caracas Central University (UCV), representatives of the workers in both factories thanked the Hands Off Venezuela campaign for the role played by international solidarity in their victories.