Solidarity campaigners rallied on Tuesday March 4th to defend Venezuela's oil resources from greedy transnational ExxonMobil at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.
Scores of protesters waved placards and chanted slogans behind barriers decorated with the Venezuelan flag at the demonstration, which was organised by the Venezuela Information Centre (VIC). Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA is fighting a court order to freeze its assets in England and Wales at the behest of ExxonMobil.
The rapacious oil giant has waged a worldwide campaign against Venezuela since the nation's socialist government took a majority stake in its massive oil reserves last year in order to fund extensive social welfare and development programmes.
PDVSA successfully negotiated new contracts and compensation deals with 30 of the 32 transnationals extracting oil from Venezuela.
Venezuela has proposed arbitration of the row with ExxonMobil by the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.
But the petroleum giant chose legal channels over diplomacy in seeking to maintain its grip on the South American nation's natural wealth.
A delegation of MPs and trade unionists led by Labour Friends of Venezuela chairman Colin Burgon and secretary Jon Cruddas presented a statement in support of PDVSA and the Venezuelan government to Venezuelan diplomat Felix Plasencia.
VIC secretary Gordon Hutchinson said: "This event indicates the strong feeling in many different sections of British society that ExxonMobil's hostile action must be opposed."
Protesters were puzzled as to why Exxon would attempt to seize the limited PDVSA assets in Britain. But UNISON national chairman Keith Sonnet pointed out: "Other companies have reached an amicable settlement. ExxonMobil have a political motivation in this. "It's disgraceful that PDVSA's assets are being frozen on behalf of a global corporation like ExxonMobil, trying to prevent Venezuela using its resources for the benefit of its people."
Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price said: "This is a very provocative move by ExxonMobil. It strikes me as ironic that the neocons who claimed they were bringing democracy to the Middle East are undermining it in Latin America. The common thread here is oil."
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn stressed: "Venezuela has an elected government and a chosen path of public ownership of its oil and extractive industries. It's not up to the British courts to take money from the Venezuelan people and hand it to ExxonMobil."
TSSA president Andy Bain said: "This is an example of one of the world's largest transnational companies holding to ransom a democratically elected government acting on the wishes of its people."
Green Party international co-ordinator Dr Joseph Healy added: "I'm here to see that Venezuela's resources remain in the hands of the Venezuelan people and are not exploited by international corporations."