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Advisor to late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaks in 3 Wisconsin cities

By Ryan Hamann

Wisconsin event featuring Dozthor Zurlent, advisor to the late Venezuelan Presid

Milwaukee, WI – Dozthor Zurlent, a lifelong political activist and one-time advisor to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has been touring the U.S. since mid-October talking about the achievements and the struggles of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. His trip has also raised the call to free Alex Saab, a Venezuelan diplomat being held as a political prisoner in the U.S. After beginning his travels in Florida and then moving on to Michigan, Zurlent made three separate stops across the state of Wisconsin, engaging enthusiastic activists in each place.

He made his first stop in Wisconsin on October 29, visiting the campus at Lawrence University in Appleton. After a three-day stint that saw him travel to both Chicago and Minneapolis, Zurlent returned to Wisconsin for a presentation in Madison on November 2 and finally a talk in Milwaukee on November 3. These events were all hosted by the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) with co-hosts from the Appleton and Milwaukee branches of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in their respective cities.

Zurlent’s presentations focused primarily on a few specific examples of the gains made by the working and oppressed peoples of Venezuela as a result of the process that continues through the Bolivarian Revolution.

“What’s happening now in Venezuela, any student, any graduated student from high school, has the opportunity, not only to go to higher education, but those who didn’t have access to education before, now have special plans, and they can go to university now. Those who were working in menial jobs and stuff, now they have university degrees, they have masters, they have doctorates,” said Zurlent of the construction of new universities that led to more than 200,000 new college students and the elimination of illiteracy in the country.

Zurlent continued, “That’s what you get when you have a government that is really concerned with the well-being of the people. That’s what you get when you have a government that really works hard to provide for people, and to make people involved in the resolution of problems.”

Since 2012, when then-president Hugo Chavez launched the Great Mission Housing Venezuela, millions of homes have been built for the most impoverished in the country.

“Two days ago, we reached 4.2 million houses built. And it is the house for the family that was very poor, and they get it for free. 4.2 million free housing units for people in the country. If you multiply that by four, the average family in Venezuela, you have 16 million people who have benefited from the housing,” Zurlent explained.

“And they don’t have to pay taxes on those houses – we think that mortgage and taxes are a second form of slavery. Because you are now paying off your mortgage for your whole life, to a wealthy bank owner, and if some reason, you get sick or you get an emergency and you can’t continue paying, they take your house away, you lose everything. And on top of that, let’s say that you pay off the mortgage and everything, you still have to pay taxes every year,” Zurlent continued. “In Venezuela, you don’t have to pay taxes on your house. And if someone, let’s say for some reason you ask for a loan, and you lost your job or something happens and you can’t pay the loan, the bank can’t take your house. It’s your house! [If] it's your primary house, no one can take it away from you. It’s a right. Your house is a right.”

Other points Zurlent highlighted include the overwhelming leadership of women in the development and carrying out of the revolutionary policies, particularly regarding the local control over production and resolving issues at the grassroots level. He spoke in some detail about this local structure, discussing the different units of organization from the “street council” to the “commune” to the “communal city”, and how the people in the communities have a direct say over what is produced and why.

Similarly, Zurlent spoke about the evolution of law enforcement and policing in Venezuela since the start of the Bolivarian Revolution. Revolutionary education and training of the police has transformed them from an institution that existed previously to uphold the interests of the rich and powerful into a body that protects the people’s interests and the laws that benefit the majority. Most police, especially at the local level, do not even carry weapons let alone guns. Zurlent shared an experience about when he got lunch in Milwaukee and was shocked when an officer sat nearby with an assortment of weapons on his person.

He also explained the different approach to simple criminal charges, using the anecdotal example of a person who broke into a home and stole some electronics. “In Venezuela, instead of being taken to jail, this person is brought before a local assembly and asked about why they did what they did,” Zurlent said. This practice is in sharp contrast to the way alleged crimes are handled in the U.S. with many people who are accused of violations serving time in jails and prisons when in fact they’re innocent.

Zurlent closed his presentations at each of his stops with a reminder about the resiliency of the Venezuelan people. He called for strengthening international solidarity between Venezuelans and the people of the U.S., and for advancing the struggle to take down imperialism once and for all.

“In spite of all the attempts of U.S. imperialism, but also from Europe, to subjugate and dominate and to overthrow our government, and to destroy our revolution, we are able to unite our struggle and fight back and defeat all their attempts, and not only defeat their attempts, but in resilience, and in resisting and advancing, we were able to keep some of our most wonderful programs working,” he said. “We kept building new houses. We kept providing people with free healthcare, with access to university. With all the limitations that the sanctions and blockades and COVID brought upon us, we didn’t give up.”

Zurlent continued, “And history has told us that the Venezuelan people are people who are willing to struggle. It was Venezuelan people who went to Colombia and liberated Colombia and Panama. It was the Venezuelan people who went to Ecuador and liberated Ecuador. It was the Venezuelan people who went to Peru to free Peru and Bolivia. And it is the Venezuelan people who are, right now, trying to open a new path for the rest of the people of the world, to tell them to count on us, we are there to struggle with you. It is only one struggle, and we can be a certain distance [apart], but distance doesn't matter if we are united, if we are willing to fight together, and if we are willing to build a new future.”

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