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FRSO Wisconsin hosts reportback on recent trip to Venezuela

By Ryan Hamann

FRSO reportback on visit to Venezuela.

Milwaukee, WI – More than 20 people filled a room at the Urban Ecology Center in the Silver City neighborhood on April 29 to hear a report from Freedom Road Socialist Organization member Omar Flores on his recent trip to Venezuela. Flores was one part of a FRSO delegation that was invited to participate in a special conference that coincided with the tenth anniversary of the death of Comandante Hugo Chavez, the former Venezuelan president and one of the primary figures behind the ongoing Bolivarian Revolution.

Flores spoke broadly about his time in Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela. The differences between day to day life in Venezuela versus what his experiences have been living in Milwaukee are what stood out to him the most through his trip.

“I think something that was really substantial was getting to meet people from the FMLN, people that were held as political prisoners, people from radical organizations that have been painted as enemies by the United States, is that U.S. imperialism is what brought us all together in that space,” said Flores. “Imperialism is so wide-reaching, but getting to see it in a very tangible way, getting to meet people who’d be directly impacted by it, was impactful.”

“The first thing we saw when we arrived in the country was a person sitting behind a desk, and they’re wearing military garb, and we saw that they had a bunch of insignia that were in support of socialism and communism,” Flores continued. “We can be in that role, for those of us in Freedom Road, this is the future that we’re fighting for, for people that look like us, people we can identify with, being the ones that are running the show.”

“Walking through the city as an American was actually kind of unsettling. We saw thousands of murals that were in support of socialism, in support of communism, and [in support of] internationalism in general. What I didn’t see so much of was advertisements, just empowering revolutionary art,” Flores said. “We walked up to buildings to check them out and there were always people standing outside them telling us to come in. We were confused by this. We don’t have to pay for this, like, you’re not gonna yell at us for trespassing or tell us we can’t use the bathroom or any of that other weird stuff that we get in America? These beautiful places are all just public spaces and anybody can have access to them and they’re not really discriminatory about who could come in or out. That was something really notable, that everything seems to be a public space.”

More than the culture shock, Flores talked about the ways in which the Bolivarian Revolution has transformed society at all levels for people, whether it’s the community, the military, or the government itself.

“When the conference began, we got to hear a handful of speakers, and they were some of the most impactful. One of them, a woman – I can’t remember her name – told this story about how she lived in the slums and still does. The story here in the U.S. is, like, ‘Oh, I lived in the bad neighborhood, or the ghetto, and then I made it out,’ but in Venezuela it’s very different,” Flores said. “For them, it’s more like ‘Well, I lived in the slums and then I made the slums better with my community because we were given that opportunity by the government.’ This was a common story that we heard from a lot of the government officials because they’re all basically recruited from the barrios that they’re from.”

Flores went on: “Another speaker was dressed in military attire and kinda looked like what you might expect a right-winger to look like here in the U.S. so I was kinda unsettled. But then I heard him talk and what he was saying was that the military isn’t like in the U.S. They’re not a rich people’s army, they’re never gonna fight for the corporations; they’re working people in military clothing, and they’ll always operate with that in mind.”

“Delcy Rodriguez, the vice president of Venezuela, spoke about the need for something called a pluripolar world. What that means is we don’t just need different poles in the world challenging U.S. hegemony, but we need socialist poles, progressive poles, to move the world along,” Flores continued. “She said that while multipolarity is a good thing, we also need to be fighting for socialism. Multipolarity alone is not gonna take down imperialism, only socialism can. Hearing the vice president of a country saying that was really exceptional.”

Later in his presentation, Flores highlighted how many buildings that had previously belonged to the rich, like big high rises and corporate banking offices, had been appropriated and repurposed for the people for things like housing and the like.

Another focus of the trip and Flores's report was the case of imprisoned Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab. Saab was kidnapped during a diplomatic trip to Iran when his team stopped for fuel in Cabo Verde nearly three years ago. He has been languishing illegally in federal custody in Miami ever since. Saab is being denied critical medical attention. A court hearing in Miami earlier this year denied him his freedom on the grounds that the U.S. government doesn't recognize him as a diplomat because they don't recognize the Venezuelan government that issued him his credentials in the first place, a bogus argument that they're using to cover for the violation of established international law.

After the question-and-answer section, emcee Alan Chavoya promoted the ongoing spring fundraising campaign launched by FRSO several weeks before. Between all of the attendees, the FRSO Wisconsin managed to raise $800.

The evening ended with a special message from Chavoya, which was first delivered in English and then once more in Spanish:

“We’re gathered here today on April 29, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and others who are interested in expressing anti-imperialist solidarity with the people and government of Venezuela, led by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Specifically, we are demanding that President Joe Biden end the unjust sanctions against Venezuela. We’re also demanding an end to the unlawful detention of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab. And we demand all of this now! Free Alex Saab!”

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