The following speech was presented by Leonel Vivas, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela's ambassador to Australia, to the August 2 "Latin America: New Movements of Resistance and Transformation" conference in Sydney, organised by the Committees in Solidarity with Latin America and the Caribbean.
On behalf of the people and the government of Venezuela, I would like to express my deepest recognition to the organisers of this conference. I appreciate very much the friendship and solidarity shown by all of you, in respect to the revolutionary process that my government and, specially President Hugo Chavez, is today pushing ahead in Venezuela. Please accept my warmest greetings.
From 1958 until 1998, Venezuela was ruled alternatively by two main traditional political parties: one was social democratic and the other, social Christian. At the beginning of 1999, Hugo Chavez Frias was elected as president, supported by an emergent political party he founded two years earlier. Eighteen months later, Chavez won another national election, again beating the traditional political parties by an even greater majority.
It is very important to point out that Chavez was elected president of Venezuela twice, by means of democratic, popular and universal elections.
If Chavez is the legitimate president, if President Chavez is ruling his country in a democratic way, if he is not a dictator and respects the values of Western civilisation, then how do you explain the failed coup d'etat of April 11, 2002? Why has there been a brutal, and even terrorist, political campaign of opposition to Chavez throughout the time he has been in power?
This is very simple to explain. The fact is that today in Venezuela there is a struggle of the past against the future, and against hope. A struggle waged by those who have traditionally been privileged against those who have always been socially excluded. It is a struggle of ignominy against dignity, a battle for the rights of the peoples of our America. President Chavez and his revolutionary movement are the result of this struggle.
Venezuela's petroleum oligarchy, big entrepreneurs, owners of its private TV networks and other media, the bureaucrats of the corrupt and pro-management trade unions, the traitorous military chiefs and the representatives of Venezuela's political past allied in a perfidious pro-coup coalition intend to take power by any means possible.
This coalition intends to overthrow the legally elected government of President Hugo Chavez, and frustrate the dreams of social justice of the overwhelming majority of the Venezuelan people, who have witnessed the way in which those classes have squandered the resources of the country for more than 40 years.
Those who attempted to paralyse Venezuela and bring Chavez to his knees during the December "general lockout" are the same people who perpetrated the fascist and bloody coup in April last year. They are the same people who, in the very few hours they held power, dissolved the National Assembly and all state institutions, broke into private houses and humiliated several political and social figures involved in the Bolivarian process, unleashed unprecedented media terrorism and tried to wipe out in one fell swoop all the just laws adopted by the Bolivarian government. They are people of fascist ideology. They are saboteurs.
In despair, these coup plotters have tried new ways to attain their goals. In an attempt to stir up violence, they have organised demonstrations in which most of the participants come from the upper and middle classes. They have attempted to convene an illegal consultative referendum to force the president to resign. They have appealed to people not to pay their taxes, or their water, electricity and gas bills. They are trying to sabotage the beginning of the school year, a battle in which they are also doomed to lose. The opposition is doing everything in order to oust President Chavez and overthrow his government.
Private television networks and other media have been at the centre of the coup plot. Their owners, Gustavo Cisneros, Marcel Granier and Alberto Federico Ravel, who used to be the puppeteers of Venezuela's governments of yesterday, attack the Chavez government 24 hours a day. The private media call for disobedience, disseminate gross lies about the relations between Venezuela and Cuba, and broadcast appeals and instructions from the coup ring-leaders. This is media terrorism, something unprecedented in history.
What the coup plotters want is to take power away from the people. They want to reinstate the past, with its social exclusion and violation of people's rights. They are trying to overturn the social works carried out by the Bolivarian revolutionary process: 150,000 houses built during the last two years; 3000 schools opened, in which 1 million children receive quality education and adequate food; the university budget tripled; salary increases for teachers and professors; free treatment for all patients suffering from AIDS; more than 3000 Venezuelans given medical treatment in Cuba, free of charge; water supply systems built to provide fresh water to 2 million Venezuelans for the first time in their lives; benefits given to thousands of farmers; and the decision not to privatise the power, aluminium, water and oil industries, something that was attempted by the neoliberals in the past and is the aim of the coup plotters today.
Dreams and hopes
That is why the Venezuelan people have taken to the streets to defend their dreams and hopes. President Chavez is at the forefront of that battle of honour, courage and patriotic duty. He is determined not to give the power entrusted to him by the people to the fascist coup followers. His combative and philosophical words urge the Bolivarian forces into battle and are also a resounding denunciation of what the forces of internal reaction and their foreign allies want to do in Venezuela.
Today, we have in Venezuela many social and economic problems and difficulties, and also a very intense political confrontation. This has always been the case throughout history and throughout the world when one reality is dying and another one is in the process of being born. Political confrontations like the one happening in Venezuela today is the result of the struggle between the supporters of revolution, change and transformation and its opponents.
We in Venezuela face many political, social and economic difficulties. Nevertheless, I'm sure we will overcome them, inspired by the example and ideas of Simon Bolivar, our national hero, and under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez. Sooner rather than later, we will succeed.
Thank you to all of you.