London Indymedia

Venezuela Referendum Nears - Solidarity Week Starts In London

parts | 09.08.2004 12:03 | Venezuela | Free Spaces | Indymedia | London | World

This Sunday, Venezuelans will vote on whether to keep their controversial president, Hugo Chávez. Elected with a promise to redistribute Venezuela's enormous oil wealth (before Chávez it was the number one supplier to the US) this referendum will be a chance to find out if he still has the support of the people. Having failed to oust him with a traditional (US backed)coup in 2002, and a general "strike" (bosses lock-out) the following Christmas, the opposition's referendum might actually end up strengthening his legitimacy.

This week, groups in London held a week of solidarity with the Venezuelan people and their right to self-determination without US interference. Daily events (see programme) took place at the rampART creative centre in Whitechapel, starting on Monday 9th with the opening of a "Latinamerican Liberation" exhibition. The main event is a picket of the US Embassy on the day of the referendum, Sunday 15th, from 2pm; meet beforehand in Hyde Park near Speakers' Corner for a 'Bolivarian picnic'.

Final event at the rampART from 6pm sunday, party and what next, plus indymedia access point.

Check out: Latest programme details | Rampart venue website | MultiMap venue map |
opening night review, photos | day two | full week review

New topic created: See Venezuela 2004 for all related posts.


Monday 9th

Opening of Latinamerican Liberation exhibition at the RampART Creative Centre, Whitechapel.

6pm artists speak about their visions of a peaceful Latin America, followed by open discussion on the Bolivarian Movement in Venezuela, served up with Caracas-style veggie-hotdogs.

Tuesday 10th

Cuba & Venezuela: two countries the US thinks have "gone bad". Rock Around the Blockade host a day of joint-solidarity at the rampART.

2pm films: "Comandante" (Oliver Stone, 2003) plus rare footage of the Cuban revolution.

5pm discussion & debate on how Cuba & Venezuela have liberated themselves from US imperialism, and about the strengths & weaknesses of "democratic revolution".

8pm mixing it into a social evening with authentic food and drink, plus live jamming with Paradox, the Rub and drummers from Rhythms of Resistance. "It's not my revolution if I can't dance to it!"

Wednesday 11th

2pm-10pm Exhibition open at rampART all day, chilled-out reading room.

7pm-9.30pm "Creating a Caring Economy"@ the London School of Economics, with women from the Bolivarian Circle of the Global Women's Strike.

Venezuela has prioritised women and the poor with new banks, and is trading oil for doctors with Cuba and food with Argentina. Cuba's state run economy protects the vulnerable and promotes equality. Haiti has an economy the US is proud of: sweatshops and death-squads. Hear from speakers on all three countries.

This event takes place in room S75, St Clements building, LSE, Aldwych (Holborn tube).

Thursday 12th

2pm-10pm exhibition open all day, screenings in cinema room.

Networking evening for the emerging "Pachamerican" solidarity movement. Activists, campaigns and institutions come together for a joint-perspective on the regional issues of war and neo-imperialism (and Washington's attempts to "Africanise" Latin America).

7pm starting off with a report back from Colombia Solidarity Campaign on the flashpoint region of Arauca, the river border between Venezuela and Colombia. This area is known as the "laboratory of war" and with good reason; it is where the seeds of wider conflict are currently being sown.

Friday 13th

"Media-Coup" in Venezuela, front-line in the war of ideas. 2pm-10pm documentary and shorts screenings, including the seminal "Bolivarian Venezuela: the people and their struggle in the Fourth World War".

Debriefing from Tariq Ali, just back from Venezuela, and round-table with indymedia and the NUJ on the battle between community and corporate media world-wide, from 7pm.

Why is the news from Venezuela the opposite of what's really happening there? How did the internet, email & text messaging prove vital to defeating the 2-day coup in 2002 against Chávez? What language can the solidarity movement use to counter the right-wing propaganda, and what are they planning next?

Saturday 14th

Proper Propaganda @ the European Creative Forum. 1pm-1am, Project 142, 142 Lea Bridge Rd, E5.

Prop-making for Sunday's demo: banners and puppets, screen-printing stickers & posters, software skill-sharing and more. Case-study: "Boycott Coca-Killa" campaign with the International Caravan who've just returned from Colombia, where Coke hires right-wing death-squads to assassinate trade unionists.

Get your message across ethically with No Sweat and Funky Gandhi printing T-shirts on demand. Premiere of new GWS documentary on the oil workers of Venezuela.

Sunday 15th

Day of Referendum

Worldwide US Embassy picket to tell Washington: Keep your hands off Venezuela! In London, we shall be ranting and raving from 1pm at Speakers' Corner (come early for a picnic in Hyde Park) then 2pm we take our message to the embassy in Grosvenor Sq. Speeches and an open mic, followed by the presentation of a letter from victims of US imperialism in Latin America.

6pm exhibition closing party at the RampART with plenty of good food, music & information. Plus what to do next, after the result...

Venue for the week unless specified: the rampART Creative Centre, 15-17 Rampart St, E1 (off Commercial Rd, nearest tubes Whitechapel & Aldgate East, buses 15, 25, 67, 100, 115, 205, 254).

All events are free.



Hide the following 4 comments


09.08.2004 13:51

I am overjoyed to hear that all this is happening. A few months ago I was upset that anti-Chavez groups were regularly demonstrating in London without any visible opposition. It is really good to see these solidarity activities now.

I'll be coming along..



The real truth behind Venezuela! INDYMEDIA is corrupt this is pure propaganda

13.08.2004 15:27


I am writing in regard to the article published in the Guardian on Saturday the seventh of August 2004. The article is in the section of Comments & Letters; called “Loathed by the Rich” by Richard Gott.

My comment is long and I will touch on the subject of Venezuela’s reality in economic terms, the very severe alerts that Human Rights Watch has given the International community in relation to Hugo Chavez’s regime, the new laws that will be approved in an arbitrary manner to benefit the Venezuelan government, and in general why I believe this article is very biased and mistaken. The publication of it is discrediting the struggle of millions of Venezuelans and turning our life into an international joke.

I have taken my time to write since I respect the critical position The Guardian has about international and national events, but this time I am absolutely dismayed by quality of this article.

Hope you will have the time to read it.

I have to address this editorial filled with shame and repulsion for publishing an article that lacks everything that is needed to constitute serious Journalism.

This article is nothing more than proselytised PROPAGANDA for Mr. Hugo Chavez Frias, the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

First of all, only starting with the title of the article you are promoting derogatory positions towards the political movement in Venezuela, contriving a very false impression that in Venezuela only a minimal elite is unhappy with the political, economic and social situation in Venezuela. This is absolutely false and if your journalists would do a little bit more research and were not blinded by there political romanticisms or by close links they might have with people in the in the Venezuelan government; this argument of poor against rich would easily be deconstructed. This argument is only rhetorical blabber that Mr. Chavez uses to justify his situation to the world, and in doing so he breeds hatred among Venezuelans; a hatred that does not arise from social class but from political inclinations. And of course it is true that in Venezuela 70% of the population can be considered poor.

I am a Venezuelan economist, I do not favour right wing policies, and I consider myself to be centre left. But Chavez is running the government of Venezuela without any tendency; it is just as he calls it “a Revolutionary government.”

I wonder why in recent months there has been no mention of the serious problems that have been plaguing Venezuela. Why the Guardian has never mentioned the fact that the Government of Chavez came in to power in 1998 with the support of all the biggest national businesses and media companies? How in 6 years poverty has grown dramatically, unemployment has risen to 22 % plus the existence of an informal sector as big as 50 % of the working population; this indicates that in Venezuela unemployment is as high as 70%. Why is there no mention that tens of thousands of small and medium size companies have gone bankrupt since Chavez came to government? Better yet, how come you do not mention that the amount of murders per year has risen from 7.000 in 1998 to 14.000 in 2003!! This is according to official numbers; and it does not stop there, 93% of these criminals are still in the street; as you will probably realise these numbers are outstanding and give a very good idea of how effective law has been since Chavez came into power.

No mention of the fact that the Venezuelan Bolivar has depreciated 300% since Chavez came to power; plus the currency is blocked and controlled by the Government, and a black market is now the norm; public national debt has more than doubled, plus with the rising price of oil, this year Venezuela has had an incredible rise in national income that is only obvious in all the populist propaganda that the government is financing inside and outside the country. In the meantime, Chavez has the good life with his brand new jet plane, his expensive designer suits that cost thousands of pound each, plus his very brave rhetoric when he goes to international meetings, but what does he have to show for his results in Venezuela?? Just squalor and corruption!

I wonder why you do not mention the serious criticisms that Human rights watch have made about the Venezuelan government; they have made and international alert towards the loss of independence of public Institutions in Venezuela. Today the Judicial, electoral, and legislative power are all in hands of the executive, Mr. Chavez, plus he has control of the armed forces.

But still you wish and have great pride in portraying Mr. Chavez as a little lamb that is helpless when confronted with the Venezuelan opposition!!! What type of journalism is so perfunctory as to create such false images to Britain’s readers about a situation that is delicate, and can probably have devastating effects on the life of Millions of Venezuelans and possibly in other parts of Latin America?

According to Human rights watch Venezuela is one of the countries with most impingements against Human Rights in the world, but of course, no mention of such sad truths are voiced in any of your articles. You prefer to emphasize how other Latin American leaders trample on top of each other to take pictures with Chavez! This is pathetic!!

Then the article dares to make a comparison between Chavez’s issuance of ID cards to illegal foreigners and other citizens who have probably been waiting since 1998 when it was promised by the government,;and depicts it as a victory similar to the authorisation of black Americans to vote in the United States in the early 1960’s. What is this idolization about?

Besides Mr. Gott could not even get the correct year in which the Venezuelan oil industry was nationalised, it was 1976 and not 1975 as Mr. Gott so wrongfully pointed out!

In the article it is praised how Chavez has been using his petrol-dollars to finance social programs, this is good surely; but have you explained that the mechanism he has used is completely illegal and arbitrary? He has taken the money directly from the reserves of the National Oil Industry; PDVSA, without any respect for the position the Central Bank as an independent institution should have as absolute guarantor of the National income and foreign reserves. Plus most of his emphasis in social programs have been a product of his populist propaganda to secure votes in the referendum, these programs of course have no sustainability and in reality are very poor in terms of achieving what had been planned!!

Would you praise such an action here in the UK, if Tony Blair decided to invent Cromwelian missions and take tax money without even specifying what he will use it for?? I think not.

There is a very serious situation in Venezuela and you just belittle it and make it a comedic representation of what it means to be a social reformist in a poor country; but in reality the VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN THE MOST DESPOTIC AND AUTOCRATIC regime that has been in power since our last dictatorship, which came to an end in 1958.

There are serious news stories in Venezuela, for example, are you aware that the National assembly has already approved in first discussion a reform on the Venezuelan penal code that will ensure many changes in every Venezuelans normal life; as an example here are a few: It becomes illegal to dissent from the government of Mr. Hugo Chavez! Any type of protest will be penalised with prison sentence; banging pots (a common method of peaceful but loud protest) merits 6 years in prison, protests on the street will be punished with 10 years in jail, any attempt physical or verbal against the State will be sentenced with up to 20 years in prison, to extract foreign currency from the country without the authorisation from the government will be penalised with up to 6 years in prison or a fine of up to 5 times the amount of money in question, there is a law that is planning to tie young professionals to work for the Venezuelan fatherland for 10 years before they are allowed to leave the country even as tourists; These are some of the examples of how delicate the political position of Mr. Chavez is, and what will await the Venezuelan population if the referendum is not able to push Chavez out of power.

For example I have to remind you that in February Mr. Chavez gave a replica of Bolivar’s sword (Bolivar is the liberator of Venezuela, Colombia, panama and Ecuador from the Spanish crown) to Mr. Robert Mugabe the president of Zimbabwe, this is the most magnificent honour a person can have from Venezuela; Mr Chavez congratulated Mr. Mugabe as a freedom fighter. How about that? I did not know that the Guardian had so much respect for Mr. Mugabi.

Returning to the article, I think it is incredibly unscrupulous to favour Chavez with a victory in the referendum, especially when the national polls are very close, actually giving a slight superiority of votes to the opposition, 49% support YES and 45% support NO. This is so tight that it demonstrates how apocryphal this article really is, and it creates in my mind very serious doubts about the quality of your editorial and the professionalism of The Guardian’s journalists that have international posts.

I say goodbye hoping my comment will be heard! And that other opinions about Venezuela start making the scene, because this is not a one handed affair, this is the struggle of people’s independence, people’s right to be free, informed and not intimidated and mandated by a pseudo democratic-militaristic regime that becomes each day closer to restricting and regulating Venezuelan’s life in the arbitrary manner Mr. Chavez has decided, so he can maintain power till 2021 as he so proudly vocalises every time he has the chance.

I have plenty of more information and if you are interested I am willing to write an article form my perspective on the events in Venezuela. To be honest, if you are capable of publishing the opinion of Mr. Gott, you should be a little more discrete on your political interests and accept the point of view of more critical, objective citizens that really have to live with the consequences of Mr. Chavez’s decisions.

I leave you with the latest slogan of the Venezuelan Government, in its attempt to intimidate the Venezuelan population (Remember that the NO favours Mr. Chavez):

“ La revolucion NO cuenta votos”

The Revolution does not count Votes.

Thank you.

Best regards,

Rafael Urdaneta
mail e-mail:

Chavez has won. Do you accept democracy?

16.08.2004 12:38

The aspects of life in Venezuela which detiorated as the above correspondent can in huge part be attributed to the vicious campaign of econonomic sabotage launched by the business classes in venezuela against their own people in a squalid attempt to crush democracy.

Unforunately for them, they have failed. It has taken Chavez a long time to put his public spending campaigns into motion, largely as result of this sabotage, but now he has and the poor of Venezuela are seeing massive benefits.

Unemployment is starting to drop, more money is coming back into working-class communities, spending projects helping people's lives are booming. Most tellingly of all, the horrific rate of child mortality has dropped hugely.

"This is because of oil prices going up" comes the cry. In part, yes. But the key question is, would Chavez's opponents have spend this oil revenue on improving the lives of the working-class and the poor. No. They would have showered it on their rich pals like before, and screw the diseased kids.

Indeed their was a huge campaign against Chavez. When your country's entire business class and media are aginst you its very easy to face a mass revolt.

And yet despite these huge forces of opposition, Chavez has won the popular vote, won it more decisively than most other democratic rulers. It seems the real poor and working-classd people do not recognise the above correspondent's rdescription of Mr Chavez's rule, despite having it shoved down their throat by their press every day.

The reason is simple. They know what his rule is achieving for their own lives, on real, bread and butter issues. Chavez is not perfect, but the oppostion are far, FAR worse.

The question is now will people like the above correspondent accept Chavez's democratic mandate.

If not, they will prove that their real concern was only ever defending the rights of the rich, and all talk of "threatened democracy" was so much self-serving cant.

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Chavez has won - a postscript

16.08.2004 13:14

PS: I apologise for the shoddy spelling, punctuation and grammar in the above message! I`m writing in a rush!

One last thing, a cliche'd point perhaps but.....

Chavez has now won a popular general election vote, been returned to power on a popular wave following a US-backed coup, and has now won a popular referendum vote; all convincingly, all in the face of overwhelming media hostility.

Contrast that to a certain other President a few miles north, with massive media backing and who has many popular elections was that again?

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