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Accomplishments of Venezuela hailed on International Women’s Day

By staff

Sarah Martin

Fight Back News Service is circulating the following speech by Sarah Martin. Martin is a member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO).

Happy Women’s Day everyone. Our sisters in Venezuela have a lot to celebrate. Just over 20 years ago Hugo Chavez was swept into power on the backs of powerful movements fighting for a better way of life for the vast majority of Venezuelans. The wealth from this oil and mineral rich country was lining the pockets of the oligarchs inside and outside the country while the vast majority of people, mostly black and brown were desperately poor.

Venezuelan women fought in that liberation struggle.

They then became a part of the vanguard in the Bolivarian revolution which has made a radical change in the economic, civic and social life of the country.

One of the first actions of the Bolivarian Revolution was to write a constitution by means of a constituent process based on the principle of equality, prohibiting any discrimination “based on race, sex, creed or social standing.” Millions of women mobilized to draft proposals which expanded economic and social rights for women which recognized that housework generates value and wealth; housewives are eligible for social security. The state guarantees equality and equity between men and women in the exercise of their right to work. Pensions are available for poor women.

A women’s ministry was created in the national government. Tribunals were formed which deal specifically with violent crimes against women. Laws were written expanding women’s health care including 26 weeks of paid maternity leave and childcare in the workplace.

The percentage of women who have completed high school has increased by more than 52%. Over 50% of university students are women. Education through college is free.

Women hold 35% of formal and elected positions in the government. Women play a central role in the popular sectors – organizing government-funded food distribution, building solidarity networks, participating in the Bolivarian Militia, mobilizing for electoral campaigns and in local governments, communal councils and communes.

Legislation is written in gender-inclusive language.

The Bolivarian revolution has made other great gains. Abject poverty has been eliminated and poverty cut in half. Illiteracy has been eradicated and life expectancy has risen to 74 years. In the past few years 3 million affordable housing units have been built.

Because of all of this, for being pro-socialist, and because of the oil of course, for the past 20 years Venezuela has been in the crosshairs of U.S. regime change. Since the death of Chavez in 2013, when Nicholas Maduro, Chavez’ protégé, became president, the U.S. has ratcheted up the pressure and threats by increasing the draconian sanctions, economic war and attempted repeated failed coups. Despite these criminal measures which have cut the Venezuela economy by 50%, the Venezuelans have stood firm and resisted U.S. imperialism. When President Maduro was asked by a reporter from the Washington Post how he has survived, he said, “Ask the people. They have done it. They have marched by the hundreds of millions at least every month.”

Today I think of the heroic revolutionary women of Venezuela I was so lucky to meet.

Tibisay Lucena who was the Minister of Elections for over 20 years built of one of, if not the, fairest and most open electoral system in the world, according to even [former U.S. president] Jimmy Carter. At least 40% of candidates must be women.

Erika Farias, the fiery mayor of Caracas, who is young and queer.

Gladys Requena – a tireless Vice President of the Constituent Assembly and Vice President of the Women Commission of PSUV.

The doctors, nurses and dentists who deliver care despite the hardship of the sanctions. Because of the U.S. blockade and sanctions, essential, lifesaving medicines have been cut off. And according to the latest reports, tens of thousands have died because of the great shortage of chemotherapy, AIDS drugs, and medicines for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

I think of the students in a class we spoke to at the Bolivarian University who are committed revolutionaries.

And of course, the women from the Bolivarian militias. The Bolivarian Militia was created in 2005 in response to U.S. intervention. There are now over 3 million members. When asked about the role of the Militia in resisting the recent attacks by U.S. imperialism, First Lieutenant Marisol Lira said it was “basically, the perfection of the civic-military union for the defense of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. And for women, of course, they can incorporate themselves into the Militia and become a member. We know they’re criminals. We give our lives here and they want to choke us. They want to control us, to dominant us. But us women, we are involved because we are defenders of peace.”

On this International Women’s Day, from the belly of the beast, we stand with the women of Venezuela and say no to war, no to sanctions and yes to The Venezuelan government, President Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution.

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