‘Hands of Venezuela!’ March and Rally in Downtown LA
On Saturday March 16th thousands of people gathered in MacArthur Park to protest U.S. government intervention in Venezuela. The march was coordinated as part of the ‘World in Solidarity with Venezuela Day’, which drew even larger crowds from Argentina to South Africa, Malaysia to Peru, New Zealand to Canada and Washington D.C.
After the rally hundreds of protesters convened in Pershing Square to march through downtown to City Hall where they held a second rally to decry U.S. government intervention in Venezuela, which also happens to have the world’s largest supply of crude oil. The marchers, who included members of local activist groups such as The Answer Coalition, the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), Workers World, Code Pink, and the Peace and Freedom Party, chanted, “No more sanctions, no more lies, Venezuela’s unified,” “What do we want? U.S. out! When do we want it? Now!” and, “Venezuela is under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!”
Once they reached City Hall, longtime activists and journalists took the stage; amongst them was Margaret Prescod, host of the show Sojourner Truth, which airs on 90.7FM (KPFK) locally in Los Angeles. She drew the connection between what’s going on today in Venezuela and what is also going on right now in Haiti, by noting that, ‘There are massacres that took place yesterday, there are massacres that are taking place today, there’s a reason that you’re not seeing anything about Haiti in the corporate media but nearly everyday you hear the propaganda about Venezuela, because when the United States is interested in regime change; that’s what they do! They’re propping up a brutal, corrupt regime in Haiti and so they’re not going to talk about that, they’re not going to talk about all the lives that are lost in Haiti but they’re going to spread lies about what’s going on in Venezuela.’
Next, journalist Abbie Martin of RT, who has recent on the ground experience in Venezuela, had this to say, ‘We’re supposed to believe that this coup attempt is for human rights, to save people, to give them food and medicine. Just like the U.S. claimed it was invading Iraq to liberate Iraqi’s, just like they said they were bombing Libya to the stone age to liberate them, all of the sudden we’re supposed to believe that this time it’s different, right? That Donald Trump, a racist, sexist, xenophobic bigot extraordinaire- alongside his gaggle of war criminals- just want to save people, guys! They just want to help Venezuela. John Bolton is a war criminal, Elliot Abrams is a war criminal, Trump is a war criminal, these people need to be tried for crimes against humanity at the Hague!’
Meanwhile, behind the small crowd that was gathered in support of the event, a handful of opposition supporters showed up to conduct a counter-protest. This is where things got a bit dicey and the LAPD stepped in and formed a sort of human barricade between the agitators and the peaceful protesters who were part of the march.
Steve Brothers, an volunteer with the event said, “The U.S. has no grounds to dictate terms to Venezuela. The fact is, Maduro was elected and objective observers concede the election was fair. The bottom line is that this is an internal Venezuelan matter and the people of Venezuela are perfectly capable of resolving it on their own. There is no possible justification for any outside meddling.” Reports going back to 2002, when the U.S. first attempted a coup on Chavez and actually backtracked because of the massive public outcry by the Venezuelan people, look very similar to the kind of things being reported today. And again, 12 years later, under Maduro in 2014, the same kind of talk was in the air.
But it is an unavoidable reality that, by and large, Venezuelan’s support their democratically elected Presidents, first Chavez; now Maduro. If you look at the actual numbers it is difficult to argue persuasively that these two Presidents have not been good for Venezuela. Under their Bolivarian rule poverty has been cut in half, education has been made nearly universal and overall, Venezuelans are better off than they were under austerity measures that were put in place in the 90s under neoliberalism.
The word on the street, and according to journalists like BBC’s Greg Palast, The Guardian, and Empire Files’ Abbie Martin and Mike Prysner; is that the real ‘crisis’ in Venezuela stems from two things, U.S. imposed sanctions and Venezuelan billionaire’s who disagree with Bolivarian policies. It is these two factors that have created the so-called shortages. In 2014, it was reported that certain individuals were exporting 50 tons of ‘staple’ food supplies across the border to Colombia. Now in 2019, some of these same individuals have been caught warehousing staple food supplies, which just so happen to be manufactured by one single company, Empresas Polar, owned by Venezuelan billionaire, Lorenzo Mendoza, who also has a history of trying to overthrow the government.
So yes, this is a messy situation to say the least, but it is not a humanitarian crisis on the scale of what is taking place in Haiti, in Yemen or in Palestine. So, the world is asking the question, ‘Why does the U.S. care so much about Venezuela?’; cue Dr. Evil’s laugh track, John Bolton, the current U.S. National Security Advisor, said it best himself on Fox News, “Venezuela is one of the three countries I call the troika of tyranny. It would make a difference if we could have American companies produce the oil in Venezuela. It would be good for Venezuela and the people of the United States.” That is what makes this conflict different from past international conflicts, this time the U.S. has basically admitted the real motives behind the ‘concern’ for the plight of the Venezuelan people. Now it’s up to the public and the international community to take a stand against the next coup attempt.