Delegates issued a statement backing the radical social reforms which have transformed the lives of millions of Venezuelans, noting the fact that Venezuela has held more democratic elections than virtually any other country in the world in the last eight years and calling upon European governments to respect the outcome of the forthcoming referendum on constitutional reform in December this year.
A strong delegation of Venezuelan MPs, the Venezuelan Ambassadors to the European Union, London and Paris, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry and representatives of social movements explained the most important developments in Venezuela today.
The conference, said to be the most broad based meeting on Venezuela ever held in Europe, was opened by Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London.
Mr Livingstone said:
‘The breadth of representation at this conference is a sign of the extraordinary impact which President Chavez’ programme of radical social and democratic reform is having throughout the world’.
‘Anyone who suggests there is any kind of authoritarianism in Venezuela should just go to see the Venezuela Youth Orchestras which have turned hundreds of thousands of young people from the shanty towns into the most exciting classical music movement in the world today’.
‘As we meet Venezuela is debating a new series of constitutional reforms to strengthen democratic participation. I particularly welcome plans to transform the capital, Caracas.’
‘As part of London’s co-operation agreement with Venezuela, we put our own experience at the disposal of those seeking to improve the quality of life in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities.’
‘Today’s conference is a great opportunity for people across Europe to work together to build stronger links with the people of Venezuela and to explain the enormous progress they are making in improving life in their country.’
Temir Porras, Chief of Staff to the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said:
‘The conference was a qualitative leap forward in relations between the people of Venezuelan and Europe. It will be a big help to Venezuela’s goal of building international relation based on principles of solidarity and mutual respect’
The conference identified many areas where Europeans can work together to develop links with Venezuela – through cooperation agreements with cities and regions, debates in the European and national parliaments, fact-finding delegations to visit Venezuela and exchanges of experiences between groups including trade unions, ethnic minorities, students movements and lesbian and gay groups.
The conference established a European standing committee to support democracy and social progress in Venezuela and pledged to meet again next year
1. The conference was organised by Venezuela Information Centre, Labour Friends of Venezuela, Le Monde Diplomatique and Memoires des Luttes
2. Participants included:
Miguel Angel Martinez MEP, Vice-President, European Parliament
Francis Wurtz MEP, President, Confederal Group of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left in the European Parliament
Diane Abbott MP, Britain
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Britain
George Galloway MP, Britain
Giorgio Mele MP, Italy
Francesco Napoletano MP, Italy
Martina Anderson MLA, Ireland
Raymond McCartney MLA, Ireland
Francine Bavay, Vice-president, Région Ile de France, France.
Francois Auguste, Vice President, Region Rhone-Alpes, France
Spyridon Tzokas, Mayor of Kessariani, Athens
Raul Morodo, former Spanish ambassador to Venezuela
Walter Suter, former ambassador to Venezuela, Switzerland
Eva Bjorklund, Left Party, Sweden
Fran Perez, United Left, Spain
Fabio De Nardis, Rifondazione Comunista, Italy
Raquel Garrido, Pour La Republique Social, France
Paul-Emile Dupret, advisor in the European Parliament, Belguim
Roger Ferrari, National Secretary SNES-FSU, France
Keith Sonnett, Deputy General Secretary Unison
Francisco Braz, President STAL trade union, Portugal
Jose Oliveira, International Relations Officer, SNTCT trade union, Portugal
Adrian Kane, National Officer SIPTU, Ireland
Roland Sidler, Unia trade union, Switzerland,
Bernard Harbor, IMPACT trade union, Ireland,
Petteri Otajen, Toimihenkilounioni trade union, Finland,
Joni McDougall, International Officer, GMB
Bruno Julliard, President UNEF, France
Gemma Tumelty, President National Union of Students, Britain
Pelle Rodin, Vice-President, National Union of Students, Sweden
Bernard Cassen, Le Monde Diplomatique, France
Richard Gott, author
Maurice Lemoine, author
Rod Stoneman, Executive Producer, ‘Revolution Will Not Be Televised’,
Andrés Vázquez de Sol, Journalist
Julia Buxton, Centre for International Co-operation and Security, University of Bradford
Dimitris Kalsonis, Executive, World Peace Council
3. Venezuelan representatives included:
Modesto Antonio Ruiz MP, member of the Venezuelan National Assembly
Augusto Montiel MP, member of the Venezuelan National Assembly
Keli Silva, President of the Community Council of the Wayu indigenous community
Samuel Moncada, Venezuelan Ambassador to Britain
Jesus Arnaldo Perez, Venezuelan Ambassador to France and former Minister of the Environment
Alejandro Fleming, Venezuelan Ambassador to the European Union
Temir Porras, Chief of Staff to the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Thierry Deronne, Vice-president of Vive TV.
Carleslia Ascanio, Bolivarian Student’s Movement
Doris Acevedo, Representative of INAMUJER, the Venezuelan National Institute for Women.
Maria Lena Tovar, representative of Contranatura, Venezuelan lesbian and gay rights organisation.
Cesar Aponte, Venezuelan Ministry of the Environment
Professor Francisco Javier Velasco, campaigner on environmental issues in Venezuela.
Claudia Jardim, journalist in Venezuela for the Brazilian weekly Brazil de Fato
Gregory Wilpert, editor of Venezuelanalysis.com
4. The full text of the statement issued at the conference:
Support for social progress and democracy in Venezuela
We believe that the lives of millions of Venezuelans have been transformed by the progressive social and democratic policies of Hugo Chávez’s government.
Extreme poverty has been halved, illiteracy nearly eliminated, participation in education has more than doubled and free basic health care extended to nearly 20 million people, who had no access before. Unemployment has fallen to an historic low.
The constitution introduced by President Chavez, approved by Venezuelans in a popular referendum, is one of the most democratic in the world and enshrines rights of previously excluded and minority groups. An emphasis on social inclusion has improved the position of women and Venezuela’s black, mixed-race and indigenous majority.
Venezuela’s government has directly promoted participatory democracy through community councils, urban land committees and other local bodies.
President Chavez’ sweeping social, political and economic agenda, has been endorsed by Venezuelans in 11 democratic elections that have been consistently judged free and fair by international observers. On 2 December the Venezuelan people will once again be called on to vote, on a series of reforms to the 1999 constitution proposed by President Chavez.
Venezuela is one of the few countries in the world where both the constitution, and any revisions to it, must be approved by a majority of citizens in a national referendum. We call on the international community to respect the outcome of the coming referendum and support the sovereign and democratic right of the Venezuelan people to self-determination.
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