Venezuelan president meets with New York unionists

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela took advantage of his recent visit to the United Nations to meet a group of workers in New York City on Sept. 23. A large group of labor unionists came, including a five-person delegation representing workers at the Stella D'Oro Co., who have been fighting for their jobs for more than a year.

After spending some time walking around the room
and greeting everyone, Chávez made remarks to the group, which were broadcast
to many countries via the network Telesur. What follows is an unofficial
translation of some of his remarks, noted down at that meeting.

Chávez talked about the current "tumultuous
developments in Latin America" as a "hurricane" into which he had been tossed
and is trying to navigate.

Washington's plans in South America have failed,
said the Venezuelan president. He told the workers that capitalism has failed
and that while the Soviet Union fell apart, it was never a threat. The U.S. and
European powers were the threat. "They fought against socialism," he said and
pointed out that since its inception, the Soviet Union had gone through many
wars and that "socialism got lost along the way."

"Imperialism fought against the workers' dream
of building a new world," he said, "but "the only way to save the world is
socialism. Obama talks change, change, change. Tell me how, within the
framework of capitalism?"

Once the Soviet Union was gone, Chávez said,
"The neoliberals were able to impose themselves." Neoliberal proposals became
stronger and "the free market has messed everything up. What is labor
flexibility for them becomes hungry children."

Why are the imperialists fighting Honduras,
Chávez asked. Because, "It was expanding the hurricane in Latin America to
further north." He noted that workers in the United States come from every part
of the world. The bosses "want to stop it from coming all the way up here."
Referring to a demonstration that day near the United Nations supporting Manuel
Zelaya, the deposed president of Honduras, he said, "I congratulate the
protesters. I drove by them." There was much applause from the assembled
workers for this act of solidarity.

He called the U.S. "a great country-the people,
not imperialism. We have great hope in the U.S. Latin American workers come
here, make it their home. You, the workers here, can save the world. I have
great faith."

He referred to a discussion he had with Evo
Morales, the embattled president of Bolivia. "We are not the enemies of the
U.S., we are the enemies of imperialism, of starvation, exploitation. We are
brothers of the people of this country. Their slogan is even more true now than
in 1848, when Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto: Workers of the
world, unite!" And he added that today, "Imperialism subjects its own people,
colonizes its own workers after it has colonized elsewhere."

"Today is a great opportunity," Chávez pointed
out. "When Obama won it caused great expectations. Who can deny it? But there
are two Obamas. One speaks and the other makes decisions that contradict his
speeches. He gave a big speech about peace. But there are seven [U.S.] military
bases in Colombia. The U.S. Fourth Fleet is in the Caribbean. This is not a
fleet of peace. To create peace is to fight hunger.

"[In his U.N. speech] Obama didn't mention
Honduras. Despite this criticism I hope all this will enlighten him to fight
for social justice. We want good relations. The extreme right attacks him. Why
don't all the unemployed, who need social security, the poor, make a call and
challenge him? Help save the world.

"You fight in your factories, your labor
struggles. But you cannot fight just there. It is also political. I believe a
united world working class is possible. We must embrace this choice-for
socialism, for life to save the world."

In response to a question on the role of women
from Estela Vasquez of 1199 United Healthcare Workers, Chávez said most members
of the Venezuelan cabinet are women, as are the chief justice and the president
of the assembly. "Women should step forward and take control and not wait," he
added, stressing the importance of making social changes that affect poor

Chávez also spoke of an initiative Venezuela was
taking while in New York to host a meeting with African leaders.

Eddie Molina, an activist who has organized much
labor solidarity with the Stella D'Oro workers, asked if the Venezuelan oil
company Citgo could buy the plant and keep it in the Bronx. Chávez responded
with great seriousness and very specific questions. He asked the leading
representatives of Citgo, who were present, to meet the workers for a
feasibility study.

The next day, in his speech to the U.N. General
Assembly, Chávez took time to formally asked President Obama's permission to
buy the plant in order to keep it open in the Bronx.

article was originally published on October 10th 2009 by Workers
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