Would Bolivar have Toppled the Columbus Statue? Are the Venezuelan O12 prisoners principled peaceful protesters or provocative property-damaging vandals? Decide for yourself on Monday 25th October, at the Long Island University-Friends World Program, 403a Holloway Road, London N7 (between Odeon cinema on junction with Parkhurst Road, nearest tube Holloway Rd). Starts 5pm, refreshments and social after. This is the first in a series of open debates on issues concerning the emerging "Latinamerican Solidarity" movement here in London.
Last week in Caracas, on October 12th 2004, several hundred protesters held a "trial" of Christopher Columbus in Plaza Venezuela, at the end of which he was found guilty of facilitating genocide against the indigenous people of the American continent. His statue had a rope was attached around its neck, and together over a hundred activists toppled it to the sounds of samba drumming and loud cheering. The statue was painted red, dragged down the street, and dropped from a tree.
Police then intervened by firing rubber-bullets at the crowd and tear-gassing them. Three protesters were arrested and charged with destruction of public and private property and resisting arrest, for which they can face up to four years in prison. They all have been refused bail, and it has been pointed out that President Chávez himself only served two years for leading a coup against the hated and corrupt Carlos Andres Perez.
It is clear the solidarity movement here wholeheartedly supports the Bolivarian government in Venezuela and the incredible advances they have made, not only in the fields of health, education, land and housing, but also the huge increases in human-rights, especially those of indigenous people. October 12th (which is traditionally celebrated internationally as "Columbus Day") was renamed "Day of Indigenous Resistance" three years ago in Venezuela, and Chávez himself has stated that Columbus was "worse than Hitler".
On Monday we shall be discussing the pros and cons of tearing down parts of the "national heritage", as well as the significance and effect of the original action and its aftermath. Will this divide the Bolivarian Movement, or strengthen it? What does this say about the power relationship between the leadership and its grassroots? Is this what "participatory democracy" really looks like, and how can international solidarity remain consistent in our support for the entire people in their fight against repression, exploitation and corruption across this whole rebellious continent? Join us in this debate to explore these issues deeper and help shape the grassroots solidarity agenda worldwide.