Solidarity Brigade to Caracas

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Celebrating revolution while in a revolution!

Tuesday July 26 - Viva la Cubana y Venezuela revolucions!

Our first full day in Venezuela, and the anniversary of the start of the Cuban revolution (July 26 attack on Moncada Barracks, 1953) - a potent combination, reflected in an amazingly revolutionary experience.
it was ¨supposed¨ to be our only ¨sightseeing¨ day before the brigade begins - it WAS that, but in a revolution, everything takes on the flavour of change and possibility. As one placard read at a pro-revolution demonstration we stumbled across, urging the revolution forward ¨inventamos o erramos¨ - ¨we invent or we err¨ - and Venezuelans are certainly inventing, on a daily basis.

Starting with pleasant brekky in the Gran Cafe near our hotel, we ended up inviting 2 locals too our table. They had wanted to clean our shoes, but instead we shared brekky and discussions with them, and they told us of the improvements under Chavez, and the problems of the police (many of whom are corrupt and anti-revolution, coming from the old order).

First we got the obligatory shot of comrades in front of pro-Chavez graffiti - one of seemingly squillions around the city...then Aaron and I metroed to the area around Plaza Bolivar, which pays tribute to the great independence leader whose inspiration pumps through the Bolivarian revolution.

Arriving near the Plaza, we ducked into a library for a quick peek, came across a woman and her daughter and baby, wearing a Youth festival shirt - speaking to her it turned out she was helping organise the festival, and insisted that she be our guide a for time, showing us a nearby church, where we met a pro-revolution nun! We came across huge Bolivar statues and signs, masses of pro-Chavez posters ¨Mr Bush, if you are against Chavez you are against the people¨, before Susan left us to do some festival organising.

Before long, we stumbled upon a protest at the national assembly, with Chavez supporters urging the end to police killings and corruption (the police is one of the biggest problems of the revolution, mostly old order and very corrupt - several of our comrades have been robbed by police. Chavez govt is considering abolishing the current police and setting up popular militias, or other measures, to combat the problem).

The protest was led by women, many of whom had loved ones killed by the cops, and carried photos and names and details of those the police killed, plus a long list of those killed in recent years, over 100 people, including students and campesinos (some striking photos of this). Placards read ¨Bolivar against corruption¨. Here Aaron held conversation with several of the women, with protesters thoroughly excited that Australian lefties were here supporting the revolution.

Here i met an amazing guy named Donatello, about 50 years old, who saw my Che shirt, and more or less adopted me. For his part, he wore a shirt with the Cuban and Venezuelan flags and Chavez and Fidel, which read ¨Our America changing for ever¨ - he even got me to put on his shirt for a photo, and then gave me 2 Venezuelan cigars, one of which was later smoked in honour of the Cuban revolution! We also met a great woman named Jessica who invited Aaron and i to visit in Maracay, about 1 hour from Caracas, and see the work they are doing there. Another guy there who was filming, was a pro-Chavez member of the military. The protesters made it clear that the military are on side with the reovlution, but the police needs drastic changing.

Leaving the protest and walking up plaza Bolivar, we come to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - according to lonely planet, closed to the public....but the revolution changes things....we were invited inside, and ended up meeting the director of forreign affairs, who told us in english how the revolution is very democratic, and is opneing up to the people ¨this place used to be for the elite only, now we want the people here.¨ As a striking black man, he noted that before Chavez there was no way someone black could get his position. We say lush rooms and paintings of bolivar, before continuing.....

Only a few minutes away we came across an exhibition that was half Japanese art, and half a tribute to assassinated socialist leader Jorge Rodriguez, who founded the Liga socialista, and was killed in 1976(?) It was an amazing exhibiiton which showed how the government is clearly trying to promote socialist ideas and appreciation of socialist history...the shot of ROdriguez´son, all of about 6, leading a protest rally after his death with a face full of determination, was particularly striking...

After grabbing lunch, it was getting late so we decided to head for Miaflores Palace, the presidential residence where the dramatic events of the coup took place....yet on our way there, we stumbled across a guy painting a mural that turned out to be for a newish organisation called the national foundation of those without roofs - Chavez has given the organisation buildings that are not being used, and this organisation, very conscious of capitalism´s misuse or nonuse of resources, is turning the situation on its head and making use of unused buildings. Inside the place was a hive of activity, and the leaders eagerly tolked to us about there project....we ended up having 2 of the leaders, Bryan and his wife, come along to our dinner and drinks that night! Outside the building they had a street stall with fantastic Che bandanas and headbands, and the side of their building had beautful revolutionary murals (see photos).

Pushing on, we reached the bridge just before Miaflores that is shown in the film ¨The revolution will not be televised¨, which has masses of murals and tributes to those that fell during that right wing orchestrated coup.....forward to Miaflores, and into our second protest of our day of ¨sightseeing¨! Mission Sucre, which coordinates the Bolivarian University, was urging greater importance and priority on education - they had a letter to Chavez, agreeing weith the push toward socialism and greater battle of ideas, and noting educations important role in this, in particular the need for more/better teachers, and cleaning out of the beuacracy. Its clear that Chavez and the masses are together in seeing the need to push forward, clean out the bureaucracy, police etc - the people are playing there role in actively showing their support for the revolution but not relaxing with the gains to date.

At the demo the colour was amazing, venezuelan flags, chavez and che shirts, berets and plenty of pאssion (see photos)... i met a guy in a beret from the MVR (movement for the 5th republic, chavez´party) who ended up giving me a regalo (gift) of a Chavez badge - my second gift received for the day, as if the re volutionary experience was not enough! Again, the people were amazingly friendly when they heard we were Con Chavez (with Chavez) and were going to the youth festival.

Finally we got back to our hotel area around 6:30, grabbed an amazing and desperately needed heladero (ice cream) returned briefly to the hotel, before joining comrades for a celebratory dinner and drinks for the cuban revolution. We ended up with perhaps 60-80 people, mostly brigadistas but also Alvaro and others from the youth institute, plus comrades we had met during the day....a few drinks, a quick salsa attempt, a good feed, and back to the hotel for a serious nights sleep.....

All i can say is that im truly honoured to get the chance to experience such a process, and as i keep telling people ¨queremos la revolucion en Australia y por todos en el mundo¨ - we want the revolution in australia and for everyone in the world!

hast la victoria siempre


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