Amid the ongoing right-wing induced crisis in Venezuela, a coalition of labor groups and activists in Canada have urged the federal government to rethink its policy towards the socialist South American country.
Raul Burbano, the program director of Common Frontiers, expressed opposition to neoliberal attacks against Venezuela. His organization is a left-wing umbrella group born out of the opposition to the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
Slamming Ottawa’s policy on Venezuela, Burbano said Canada needs to be fair and play an even-handed role in resolving the political impasse in Venezuela.
“In Venezuela, we have an opposition that doesn’t play the traditional role that we would think of in Canada or other countries, of an opposition that is actually trying to challenge the government in a political, democratic way to better the situation but rather is trying to destabilize the government and the economic situation,” Burbano said, according to Radio Canada International, RCI.
“I think the government of Canada should make clear its support for the constitutional government, electoral democracy and rule of law in Venezuela, and support mediation by organizations that are neutral, for example, the Union of South American States.”
By challenging Venezuela’s democracy and aligning itself with the right-wing governments of Colombia, Mexico, and Honduras, Canada is ignoring the grave civil unrest in these countries fueled by human rights abuses, Burbano added. He claimed Canada is one of the main countries spearheading the antagonist campaign against the Chavista government in Venezuela with the support of U.S.-led Organization of American States.
After the election of Hugo Chavez in 1999, Venezuela made significant gains in health care, education, reducing poverty — all while wrestling for economic and political control from the country’s right-wing elite who were not interested in social gains or programs designed for the public.
“These gains have come at a cost to local elites, which means they’ve lost power, revenue from oil in Venezuela has gone towards social programs as opposed to corporate profits and I think this has created an element of contradictions of power within Venezuela,” Burbano added.
Calling out mainstream media’s lopsided narrative about the situation in Venezuela, Burbano said the media has been diligently perpetuating the narrative woven by the opposition that demonizes President Nicolas Maduro’s government, deeming the administration as a “dictatorship.” This narrative is largely responsible for ongoing civil unrest and violence against the peaceful pro-government protesters.
The protests instigated by the opposition continue to intensify, including violent clashes with state security forces, attacks against government supporters, the setting of government food-storage buildings on fire with Molotov cocktails, as well as attacks on maternity hospitals.
And very little information is available about the murder of two government workers who were shot dead by sniper fire while participating in pro-government rallies, and the assassination of labor leader Rexol Alexander Acevedo Navas, a member of United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
Burbano added that Venezuela has one of the strongest and most active democracies in the region as it has carried out 20 elections in 17 years. He attributed part of the challenging situation in Venezuela to “bachaqueros,” black market operatives, who resell price-controlled items at hugely inflated prices on the black market, along with oil dependency of the economy.