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Labor, anti-war movements unite to protest U.S. aggression against Venezuela

By Wyatt Miller |
February 24, 2019
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Minneapolis protest opposes U.S. war on Venezuela.
Minneapolis protest opposes U.S. war on Venezuela. (Kim DeFranco)

Minneapolis, MN – The streets were full of working-class solidarity on Saturday, February 23, when well over 100 people, including trade unionists, Latin America solidarity groups and anti-war activists gathered under the banner “U.S. hands off Venezuela!”

The event was part of a global day of action to protest the ongoing U.S.-backed coup attempt against the democratically elected President Nicolás Maduro. Protesters occupied multiple intersections in the high-density Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, distributing fliers and speaking with pedestrians about the situation in Venezuela.

The demonstration took place as the coup attempt took a turn closer to an invasion, involving a high-profile attempt to storm the Venezuelan border from Colombia. U.S. and U.K. media spent much of the day highlighting groups seeking Maduro’s overthrow, who claim to bring U.S.-sponsored ‘humanitarian aid’ into Venezuela from Colombia.

In a speech, Gerardo Cajamarca, an organizer with SEIU who is an asylee trade unionist from Colombia, rejected that narrative, saying, “Right now what is happening on the border of Colombia and Venezuela is coordinated by an interventionist group. It is very important that you, as United States citizens, tell your government not to go forward with this intervention. Latin Americans have the right to choose autonomy, to choose solidarity, to choose our own economic system.”

In recent weeks, the International Red Cross and the United Nations had refused to participate in the U.S. plan to storm the Venezuelan border with so-called ‘aid.’ Both organizations explicitly rejected the ‘humanitarian’ label for the plan touted by U.S. officials, instead calling it politicized and concealing military objectives.

At the Minneapolis event, Cajamarca also noted the hypocrisy of Colombian President Ivan Duque’s invocation of ‘humanitarian aid’ as cover for the coup attempt in Venezuela. “Yes, there is humanitarian need; yes, there is genocide – in Colombia!” he said. “They are murdering social leaders every day in Colombia. Corporations like Coca-Cola and Chiquita sponsor paramilitary groups. This is a model that is linked with narco-trafficking and with corporate power.”

“Using aid as a political weapon is nothing new,” stated April Knutson of Haiti Justice Committee of Minnesota. “In fact, there is an organization that is very much involved in the Venezuela situation right now called USAID. And they are an arm of the U.S. government, the U.S. military, and the CIA. They are often involved in regime change around the world, and in the Caribbean, and in Central America and South America. In fact, they toppled the democratically elected president of Haiti twice. President [Jean-Bertrand] Aristide was toppled by the CIA and USAID.”

Stephanie Taylor, vice president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3800, said, “As workers in the United States we are here today to stand with you all and oppose any U.S. intervention in Venezuela. First, because we know the brutal history of U.S. intervention and colonialism in Latin America. It has propped up dictators, overthrown democratically-elected leaders, illegally funneled drug money and weapons into war-torn regions, and trained death squads and despots at the U.S. School of the Americas. Second, because Maduro, a former unionized bus driver and union activist, is carrying forward Hugo Chavez’s intentions of putting the working class at the steering wheel of governing the country.”

On February 19, AFSCME Local 3800 passed a resolution to denounce any U.S. sanctions, support for a coup, or other interference in Venezuela, mirroring similar moves by labor groups around the country and the world, including the San Francisco Labor Council, U.S. Labor Against the War, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Canadian Labor Congress, and the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).

The anti-war movement was out in force as well. “We must dispel State Department lies about Venezuela,” said CJ McCormick of the Anti-War Committee. “Maduro's election was fair until the United States saw a window for intervention. It's the U.S. that installs dictators, not the Bolivarian Revolution, and no country which has suffered U.S. regime change has ever become more democratic. It's the CIA's playbook to falsely claim a foreign leader is un-democratic in order to justify invasion.” McCormick added, “And this isn't even about democracy. It's about oil!”

The action was organized by the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition and endorsed by a long list of progressive groups.

The coalition plans to hold an emergency response protest if the U.S. sends in troops. In the meantime, the next protest has been called for by the MN Anti-War Committee for March 15 at 5:30 p.m. in front of Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office, 1200 S. Washington Avenue in Minneapolis, to draw attention to that presidential candidate’s support for the Trump administration’s coordination of the coup in Venezuela.

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