Earlier this month, the Organization of American States’ VIII Summit of the Americas was held in Lima, Peru. Convened every three years, the event was supposed to bring together the governments of all of the countries in the hemisphere.
However, Venezuela boycotted the meeting after the country’s formal invitation was suspended by Peruvian ex-President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in a move paralleling similar Washington-led efforts to internationally isolate Caracas. In a symbolic gesture of regional exclusion reminiscent of the years when Cuba was excluded from the summit, Venezuela’s flag was not flown at the opening ceremony.
International media outlets have poured over the implications of Venezuela’s absence from the regional gathering, but little has been said about the parallel summit which was going on at the same time in Lima, at which Venezuela was very present.
The Summit of the Peoples can be considered a grassroots-based mirror to the official summit that brings together grassroots organizations, pressure groups, and social movements from throughout the region.
One of the numerous Venezuelan representatives attending the Summit of the Peoples was local political leader Guillermo Altamar representing the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). In an exclusive interview for Venezuelanalysis.com, Paul Dobson talked to him about the workings of the summit, solidarity with Venezuela, and how the continent’s social movements view the Bolivarian process.
Thanks for joining us, Guillermo. Firstly, can you tell us how were Venezuela and its people represented at the Summit of the Peoples?
Well, from Venezuela there was participation from comrades from the Communist Party, the [faction of the PSUV] Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current, cultural movements linked to the Canto Necesario (the Necessary Song), organizations of the revolutionary youth, the sexual diversity movement, a delegation from the National Constituent Assembly, as well as an important blocs of youths, student leaders, and other revolutionaries who are active in the different universities of the country. Also there were groups linked to alternative media here in Venezuela.
This diverse range of people, movements, collectives, and organizations attempted [in Lima] to defend the reality of what is going on in Venezuela which the world’s corporate media doesn’t want to cover.
In this context, the government of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who resigned [from the presidency of Peru] for acts of corruption this March, withdrew Venezuela’s formal invitation to the Summit of the Americas in clear violation of rules which govern it. Kuczynski had to resign for being immersed in acts of corruption such as buying or trying to buy influence, bribing deputies of the Peruvian Congress, and accepting money from dodgy sources such as [Brazilian construction firm] Odebrecht. Ironically, one of the points which was on the agenda of the Summit of the Americas was the struggle against corruption.
We have seen the final declaration of the Summit of the Peoples and it contains important elements of solidarity with Venezuela. But how was the atmosphere on the ground regarding Venezuela?
The atmosphere that we saw in the Summit of the Peoples included a permanent and constant exchange of information between social movements from other countries with our delegation so as to find out firsthand about central aspects of the aggressions of transnational financial capital against Venezuela. These aggressions have compromised the way we handle of our national economy with an eye to overthrowing the legitimate government of Nicolas Maduro.
The [Venezuelan] revolutionary intellectual Luis Britto Garcia was also in Lima and held a very important conference for all of the delegations in which he presented evidence showing the capitalist aggression which our country is suffering from right now. One example of this is international commercial transactions in which Venezuela finds itself financially blocked off and we can’t do dealings with certain countries because the financial banking monopolies, which revolve around the permanently aggressive policies of the US government, have barred our country from acquiring the products that we need to satisfy the needs of our people. Solidarity with Venezuela in light of these attacks was one of the central elements of the Summit of the Peoples.
Likewise, there were a number of arguments given [at the summit] which leads us to believe that imperialism has taken a turn towards neoliberalism, specifically in the imposition of governments with pro-imperialist policies and whose logic leads them to be colonial puppets. Here we can see the real causes behind the coup d’état against [Brazilian ex-President] Dilma Rousseff and also the arrest of our comrade [Brazilian presidential candidate] Lula da Silva.
Above and beyond talking about the reality in Venezuela and declarations of solidarity, what were the concrete results of the summit for Venezuela?
One of the concrete results that I would highlight which obviously won’t be mentioned by the world’s mainstream media is that we were able to achieve a vital and highly important mobilization of all of the peoples of Latin America in solidarity with Venezuela, in solidarity with Cuba, demanding Bolivia’s right to sea access, and in solidarity with Lula da Silva after his unjustified imprisonment.
This mobilization to Lima, which included women’s organizations, workers’ organizations, miners, students, and ecologists demonstrated the strength of the peoples of Latin America and showed solidarity in a concrete way.
Another issue which was proposed in the discussions was the necessity to push for a continental platform for mobilization and solidarity with Venezuela due to the situation of the economic siege which we are living under. This platform will try to bring together media initiatives which popular movements are working on at a continental level and will look to conform continental networks where the reality of Venezuela can be divulged and which amplify the denouncements of the Venezuelan people.
This platform of solidarity with Venezuela will look to unite the different social movements, organizations and political parties which are active in Latin America so as to protest the constant criminalization which Venezuela is subject to. It will also seek to break the media blockade and inform the peoples of America about the reality of the regrettable tragedy, [all of] which implies the exercising of the legitimate right to be free. Our country is currently paying the bill for its legitimate right to be free and this means attacks against our economy, attacks against our institutions, our political system, and efforts to break the democratic order. All of these are elements which appear in the manuals developed by the security organisms of the USA of how to bring about a “smooth” coup d’état.
Amongst the continental social movements, do you consider that the Venezuelan movements hold some sort of leadership due to their history of struggle?
Well the fact that we attended the summit shows good initiative from the Venezuelan social movements, and we can also talk about the conformation of the social movements of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of the Americas (ALBA).
In ALBA movements, Venezuelan social movements actively look to create spaces of exchange of experiences, unity, and generate a common agenda of struggle which looks to bring together the demands of the people of the Americas who struggle both in theory and in practice but also to make sure that the mechanisms are in place through which our people can exercise government.
Venezuela, Cuba, the revolutionary progressive organizations of Ecuador, Brazil, the companions of Bolivia all form part of this organism which looks to develop the fight against neoliberalism and against the attacks of imperialist hegemony in concrete ways.
At the summit of the peoples was there space for criticisms and debate from revolutionary positions about the direction the Venezuelan government is taking?
The majority of the social organizations and movements which are active in Latin America and which attended the Summit of the Peoples understand that as in every process there are particularities, contradictions, and differences.
However, they look on us from the point of view of stability, democracy, peace, and the possibility [of progressive advance] which Venezuela’s revolutionary process offers for Latin America. The regional social movements also find common ground in the principals of non-intervention in internal affairs, respect for self-determination, and of unity with a recognition of diversity.
The peoples of America understand that Venezuela is a point of resistance, it is a possibility of struggle against Latin American neoliberalism. Despite the criticisms and the ideological or theoretical differences that might exist with the Bolivarian process, there is total and absolute loyalty to the Venezuelan process because it is understood that the victory of the Venezuelan people, of the Venezuelan revolutionary movement, means an important step forward in the construction of socialism in Latin America. This is the spirit of unity and solidarity [which I saw in the Summit of the Peoples] which looks to sustain the Bolivarian revolution as an alternative to capitalism and neoliberalism in Latin America.
We have seen that some opposition leaders were present at the Summit of the Americas, and how they met with high-level officials from Washington such as US Vice President Mike Pence and USAID administrator Mark Green. Did you have any contact with the US social movements there?
We were only able to find some US alternative journalists to whom we talked and gave declarations but unfortunately we weren’t able to locate the US social movements who were present. This would have been very important in developing solidarity and also to explain the reality of what is going on in our country.
We have deep solidarity with the US people who suffer from inequality, from a government which has privatized even the federal reserves which should belong to the people. These are the type of contradictions which we would really have loved to talk about with the US social movements.
Many Venezuelanalysis readers are active in solidarity movements across the world. For these readers what is your number one request for solidarity with Venezuela?
My request from this heroic Venezuela, this Venezuela which resists, which dreams about the possibility of constructing a new world, would be to ask all the peoples of the world to resist. I would ask them to work to put in place of mechanisms which are able to expose the manipulation orchestrated in the media laboratories of the world’s large media companies.
Venezuela is resisting the attacks against its economy which are stopping it from developing its policies with dignity, independence, and sovereignty. Today, 200 years on from our day of independence, we can ratify that the absolute independence of our people will never be bargained away.
We want those people of the world who are in solidarity with our country to fly the flag of truth, to hold forums, debates, talks, to design pamphlets, and to divulge through social media the elements which show that Venezuela is the victim of a sophisticated blockade, which has been improved upon and which implies the participation of financial capital. The blockade is very different from the blockade against our beautiful and brotherly people of Cuba. [Solidarity movements] should ratify that we are not a divided people, that we share common struggle, and we call on the peoples to organize themselves and to prepare for the coming good weather in which our people will be victorious.
Finally, it has been rumored that the US will try to hold the next Summit of the Americas. If this is the case, do you think there will be a parallel Summit of the Peoples and would Venezuela send a delegation?
Yes, of course. If the international team which organizes the Summit of the Peoples is able to achieve a series of guarantees which would allow the people from Latin America and the Caribbean to mobilize to the US, Venezuela will be there alongside Cuba, Bolivia, and Brazil.
If the next summit is in the USA, we will participate with the deep conviction that we would be visiting a sister people, a people who also live in misery, in injustice, in capitalism, and we would meet with them to interchange and create mechanisms which allow us to articulate common struggle. We will participate because our diplomacy is a peaceful diplomacy which looks to build multi-plurality, to break the conceptions of hegemony, and to propitiate dialogue and respect of sovereignty and self-determination.