A civil-military union to preserve democracy

With profound sorrow, we learned of the sudden passing of General Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro, Governor of La Guaira.  On April 13, 2002, during the heavy days of the coup, he stood on top of a tank at the gates of Fort Tiuna and spoke to the thousands of Venezuelans that had come to demand the restitution of President Hugo Chavez. He pledged loyalty to the Bolivarian Constitution of 1999 and the rule of Law, reminding the people that their presence at the fort was essential for maintaining democracy. The unity of the Bolivarian Revolution made up of civilians and the military, came into action to preserve democracy.

Garcia Carneiro was born in a working-class family in the popular sector of El Valle, in Caracas, and entered the Military Academy in 1971, where he met President Hugo Chavez. He rose in rank, and soon after the failed 2002 coup, Garcia Carneiro was named Minister of Defense. He also served the revolution as Minister for Social Development and Popular Participation, where he was tasked with the social mission (program) to combat homelessness called Negra Hipólita. Under his tenure, homelessness decreased and became a situation suffered by a few individuals but no longer by entire families. Garcia Carneiro was elected Governor of La Guaira in 2008 and later re-elected in 2012 and 2017. He passed away as one of the most popular Governors in Venezuela. 

After the failed coup, Garcia Carneiro supported adopting new perspectives on defense that would prepare the population to resist in the case of another imperialist aggression aimed at regime change. He promoted the concept of Comprehensive Defense, which acknowledged significant historical struggles. In his own words: “…that is a revolutionary concept. The President [Chavez] speaks of a new national defense concept that we also support. It is based on three ideas or essential axes: strengthening the Armed Forces, the civil-military union, and the people’s movement… It is the all-people’s defense, under the circumstances of the Venezuelan situation. Knowing the position that the United States has against Iraq, with an extremely powerful army, with very sophisticated weapons, we are taking precautions as well for a completely asymmetrical struggle, of the irregular type, in the case of a contingency. We do not have to see it from the perspective that every person will have a rifle. The concept of comprehensive defense recognizes the need to prepare the reserves, teach the people to defend themselves, and train them in the face of a difficult situation”.

Briefs

  • On May 19, the first meeting between the Simon Bolivar Institute and South Africa Solidarity Union of Venezuela (SASUVE) took place in Caracas. Both organizations agreed to strengthen ties and collaboration and will soon announce activities to be carried out in the spirit of friendship between the two countries.
  • On May 20, we held an event called “Palestine: An Ongoing Genocide,” where professors Mohammad Marandi and Ramon Grosfoguel discussed the current aggression from Israel onto Palestine. Grosfoguel argued: “Criticizing the State of Israel does not make you an anti-Semite, nor an anti-Jew racist; on the contrary, it makes you a dignified human being.”  Marandi, at the same time, stated: “The media not only created a reverse reality for the world about Latin America and the Arab world, about Islamic countries, but they also created a totally distorted reality about Palestine.”
  • On this coming May 25, we observe African Liberation Day and remember when in 1963, the Organization of African Unity was born in Ethiopia. From that gathering, we recall the words and leadership of Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, who issued a call for unity against colonialism and neo-colonialism as well:

“Unite we must. Without necessarily sacrificing our sovereignties, big or small, we can, here and now, forge a political union based on Defense, Foreign Affairs, and Diplomacy, and a common Citizenship, an African currency, an African Monetary Zone, and an African Central Bank. We must unite in order to achieve the full liberation of our continent…

So many blessings must flow from our unity; so many disasters must follow on our continued disunity, that our failure to unite today will not be attributed by posterity only to faulty reasoning and lack of courage, but to our capitulation before the forces of imperialism…”

Seeds for a new hope

On May 8, we participated in “Seeds for the Union,” the first communal exchange of seeds organized by the Che Guevara and El Maizal communes. This is a project being put forward by the Union of Communes (Unión Comunera). The event took place during the commemoration of the Che Guevara Commune’s 8th anniversary. Local organizations there have recovered the farming of cocoa and now are producing chocolate.  They contributed to this first seed exchange with cocoa and coffee seeds.  Members of El Maizal brought corn and black bean seeds from their production in the area where the states of Lara and Portuguesa meet.

Both communes are examples of what can be achieved through popular organization and political consciousness. This is an agro-ecological exchange in the spirit of solidarity that guides the purpose of the communes.  In a time of severe blockade, the communards have shown that our native seeds can be recovered and that through solidarity, communes can help each other grow when resources are scarce.  Furthermore, their cooperation transcends just the component of production. Political education is also part of this cooperation, a necessary element for strengthening social relations and understanding the current conjuncture.

There was also an important internationalist presence at the event.  The Landless Rural Workers Movement of Brazil (MST) shared a donation of their agro-ecological seeds for this exchange in a display of solidarity and commitment to the common cause of people’s emancipation. 

Briefs

  • On May 10, we participated in the first historic meeting between the Secretariat of ALBA-TCP and 19 critical thinking institutions from the Global South, with the aim of establishing a working relationship and constructing a document with post-pandemic policy proposals that offer real solutions to the current crisis. Together with the Simon Bolivar Institute, participants included Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, the Samuel Robinson Institute (Venezuela), ALAI, the Center for Research on the Congo, the Chris Hani Institute (South Africa), the World Economy Research Center (Cuba), the Center for State Reform (Italy), the International Policy Research Center (Cuba), the Patria Institute (Argentina), the Patria Grande Institute (Bolivia), the Andres Bello International Research Institute (Bolivia), the Consultation and Research Institute (Lebanon), the Foundation for Education in Social Transformation and Progress (Kenya), the International Research Center DDR (Germany), the Marx Memorial Library (UK), the Global South Observatory (Argentina), the Research Group of the Popular Education Initiative (Ghana), the Society for Social and Economic Research (India), and the Uralungal Labor Contract Co-operative Society Research Institute (India).
  • The current situation in Palestine demands our solidarity, awareness, and action. For seven decades now, the Israeli government has been escalating their aggression against the Palestinian people and the integrity of Palestinian territories.  Under the Trump Administration, the Israeli government was further emboldened. As Netanyahu’s political future remains uncertain, he is carrying out more actions aimed at rallying extremists and suppressing Palestinian presence, life, and sovereignty even further. The displacement of Palestinians in the area of Sheik Jarrah and the attack on the al-Aqsa mosque raise the level of aggression.  The death toll in Gaza has already risen to 119, 31 of them minors, after the Israeli military offensive. We call out these attacks and ask for active solidarity in defense of Palestine and its people and respect for international law, which condemns the illegal Israeli settlement policy.
  • Colombians continue to face brutal repression from the right-wing government since the April 28 national strike against new tax laws began.  The Duque government has since retracted its original legislation proposal, and even cabinet members have resigned. The country is practically militarized against the demonstrations, and some government spokespersons have encouraged armed paramilitary violence.  Together with the Colombian police, these armed civilians have opened fire against Indigenous leaders, seriously injuring 9 of them. Likewise, social movements report the assassination of 47 persons, 2,000 cases of police violence, and 12 victims of sexual violence. We remain in steadfast solidarity with the Colombian people.
  • We are saddened by the death of Juan Jose Bautista Segales, a friend of Venezuela and a Bolivian decolonial thinker who fused Marxism with the philosophies of our Indigenous peoples. His necessary philosophy, committed to social transformation, will continue to guide us towards building a society of “Buen Vivir” (Good Living). On the question of modernity, he wrote: “…when we ingeniously depart from the modern worldview of history, science and technology, what we automatically deduced is our supposedly innate, inferior historical and cultural character. Thus, what we again deduce is that the only way for us to develop ourselves, or that we can exit this state of inferiority and ‘underdevelopment’, is to seek, at all cost, the modernization of all of our relations. But what we do not realize is that precisely within this type of procedure, hides the conundrum of our ‘underdevelopment’, when desiring to be what we are not (‘developed’), we end up denying what we were in order to be what we are not”.

Weekly Editorial: Pachamama

On April 22, people around the world celebrated the International Day of Mother Earth. Bolivia’s return to democracy has also meant a return to its leadership in the movement to protect Mother Earth. On April 21-23, a gathering called a Re-Encounter with Mother Earth took place in La Paz, Bolivia. At the same time, the U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was hosting another international climate summit. The messages, though, were quite different.

The Global North sees this crisis as another profit-making opportunity. While in Blinken’s summit, the likes of Bill Gates – the largest private owner of farmland in the United States – spoke of clean energy as an investment opportunity, the gathering in La Paz made an urgent appeal to change the current model of depredatory consumption and to take decisive actions against ecocide and in defense of the rights of Mother Earth.

If we take a comprehensive look at today’s climate crisis, we see that modern capitalist system is at its root. First, it imposed a system of consumption based on practices that weaken our ecosystems, such as the constant use of fossil fuels and deforestation. This, in turn, has led to rising temperatures and, therefore, to more climate disasters: floods, wildfires, heatwaves, droughts, and others. At the same time, the capitalist model of consumption also leads to social policies that weaken our capacity to respond in the face of climate challenges. The current consumption model has led to unequal development worldwide and the exploitation of some countries by others. Land accumulation, weak public institutions, and policies, the extreme dependence and burden on foreign debt, among others, reproduce poverty and make people even more vulnerable to confront natural disasters. Finally, the impact of war must also be considered. For example, from the beginning of the U.S. campaign against Afghanistan in 2001 until approximately 2019, the U.S. military must have released nearly 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The business of war must also be drastically reduced if we hope for fundamental changes in the planet.

Therefore, the only way to address this climate catastrophe must address the effects of capitalism at its root. Bill Gates and the World Bank may recognize that change is needed, but neither will ever question capitalist consumption. Can we expect magical solutions from the same individuals and institutions that have thrived under this economic model at the expense of most of the humanity? “We need to place the life of the human being and the life of nature above profit,” said João Pedro Stédile from the International People’s Assembly at the Nature of the Crisis and Mother Earth panel in La Paz. Indeed, new technologies that decrease emissions are welcomed and needed, but access to them must be democratized, not imposed through unpayable loans and dependency-making development models. During his intervention in the Mother Earth summit, President Maduro stated: “Access to financing is necessary so that what happened with the vaccines does not happen with access to technology – they’ve been hoarded by few in the world.”

Finally, addressing climate change must indeed be a shared responsibility and not a new competition. During the conference, professor Sandew Hira warned that “Climate change is now part of the political struggle that America wages against China and Russia.” The peoples of the world cannot allow climate solutions to be dictated by the U.S. geopolitical agenda.

Briefs


• This week, a key leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Aristóbulo Istúriz, passed away, leaving us a legacy of commitment to defending Venezuelan socialism. A schoolteacher and union leader, he was known for his steadfast defense of workers during the days of neoliberalism and calling out the crumbling corrupt bipartisan democracy in Venezuela of the 1990s. He became the mayor of Caracas, and later under President Chavez, he led the campaign that, using the Cuban model, overcame illiteracy in Venezuela. He was also a key figure in the Afro-Venezuelan movement. He held important government positions during his life – among them, Executive Vice President, Governor of Anzoátegui, and Minister of Education, a position he had at the time of his passing. On February 4, 1992, hours after the military rebellion that would mark the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution, Aristóbulo said in Congress something he embodied throughout his life: “we conceive democracy without violence, but for democracy to not have violence, it must guarantee social justice, it must guarantee rights….”

• May Day celebrations remind us of the need for a stronger and more united internationalist working class. We commit to this struggle and remember the eight martyrs of Haymarket Square in Chicago in 1886, to whom we owe this commemoration: 3 journalists: Adolph Fisher, Albert Parsons, and August Spies; 2 typists: George Engel, Michael Schwab; 1 carpenter: Louis Lingg; 1 Textile Worker: Samuel Fielden; and one salesman: Oscar Neebe.

• On April 30, Venezuela’s “Doctor of the Poor”, José Gregorio Hernández, was beatified by Pope Francis. Long held as a popular saint, Hernández has become a symbol of kindness, selflessness, and caring for many Venezuelans. He helped poor patients during the pandemic known as the “Spanish Flu” in 1918. When Venezuela was blockaded by foreign powers at the onset of the 20th Century, Hernández was the first man in the Parish of Altagracia in Caracas to join the militia against the threat of foreign invasion.

• The Simon Bolivar Institute for Peace and Solidarity Among Peoples expresses its solidarity with the Colombian popular movements as they have been engaging in a national strike for several days and face the criminal repression of the Duque Administration. We hope that Colombians may soon lead their nation down a path of real peace and social justice.