Witness to attempted U.S.-orchestrated Venezuela coup speaks in Minneapolis
Minneapolis, MN – “The area we were in was an opposition neighborhood, but nobody’s leaving their houses. The news in the U.S. is saying people are flocking to the streets because they’re ‘being liberated’, but no one’s leaving their houses. It was so untrue it was shocking,” said Tracy Molm, to about 40 community members gathered to hear her firsthand account of the events of April 30 in Caracas, Venezuela.
That day saw unelected presidential pretender Juan Guaido appear outside an airbase in Caracas, claiming a military uprising to oust elected President Nicolás Maduro was about to take place. Despite heavy promotion by the U.S. State Department and much of the media, no uprising occurred. By the end of the day, its handful of participants had fled to the diplomatic compounds of Spain and Brazil.
Molm explained, “We had been there for a day and a half. Tuesday morning, we wake up, and we’re a mile and a half from it, witnessing nothing. We hear people banging pots, but nobody leaves their houses.”
Instead, Molm described seeing tens of thousands of Venezuelans flock to the seat of the presidency at the Miraflores Palace to defend President Maduro. “The vice president called for the people of Venezuela, the workers of Venezuela, to be in the streets and to defend their president. That’s what we saw,” she said.
Molm, a member of the Twin Cities-based Anti-War Committee, was in Venezuela with a delegation of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO). Her report-back event in Minneapolis, which featured a slideshow of photos and an extensive Q&A, took place on May 18.
“It’s really important to start with the history of Venezuela, one of the things that’s really missing from the conversation that people get in the news,” she began. “In 1499, Venezuela was invaded by the Spanish, colonized, and they created a monocrop slave state. A lot of the issues that Venezuela is grappling with are basically rooted in being a colonized country, with very little infrastructure, and a single export that they were reliant on.”
“Hugo Chávez and Simon Bolivar are really thought of as liberators of this country that was ravaged by colonization, and then by neo-colonial policies,” explained Molm. “When Chávez was elected, Venezuela was considered one of the most unequal countries in Latin America. Now it’s considered one of the most equal societies. That makes a big impression on people.”
Molm showed the audience photos of banners that anti-imperialist student groups displayed around Caracas on April 30 in response to Guaido’s failed putsch. “The coup attempt happened really early in the morning. Before 9:30, they’ve got banners up,” she said. “People are ready to fight, ready to be in the streets to defend their government.”
The following day, May 1, the delegation attended a mass rally commemorating International Workers Day, a national holiday in Venezuela. Over 400,000 people attended, many alongside their labor unions, to hear President Maduro speak. “Every time we saw something anti-Trump, people were like, ‘come take pictures with us!’ It was great,” Molm said.
Molm also addressed the widespread reports of food shortages in Venezuela, saying, “There’s a lot of food production, and one of the things that they’re working really hard to do is understand where food is being produced, and where it’s going. Because they’ve had all these initiatives that include urban farming and taking back productive parts of the land around the country, so that people can be producing food – and not relying on big businesses that shutter their doors because they decide they’re not making enough profit.”
Despite the challenges, Molm reported that food was still widely available. The delegation witnessed many boxes of free food assembled by the Local Committees for Supply and Production – known by their Spanish-language acronym, CLAP – being distributed around Caracas.
The delegation and met with revolutionary leaders to learn about popular struggles to bring about social equality in Venezuela.
“Venezuela is not currently a socialist country. Their leaders, including Maduro, believe that’s the direction they want to bring their society,” Molm explained. “They want to fundamentally change their government to be about people, to be about fulfilling people’s needs, and not about profit.”
In particular, Molm recounted the delegation’s tour of new public housing built as part of the Gran Misión Vivienda, an initiative of Hugo Chávez that has led to 2.6 million high-quality homes being built over eight years. “People pay what they can. If you can pay, say, the equivalent of $100 dollars in rent, that’s what you pay. If you can’t, you pay less,” Molm explained. “It makes you realize how far away from that we are in the US, when people are getting evicted on a daily basis because they can’t afford rent.”
“There are almost no people living on the streets in Venezuela,” she added. Privatization of the homes built under the Gran Misión Vivienda, along with the nationalized oil funding it, has long been a stated objective of the Venezuelan opposition now led by Guaido. Last week, it was revealed that Guaido, in the aftermath of the attempted coup’s failure to garner mass support, was formally requesting U.S. military backing for the overthrow of President Maduro.
“People are very clear in Venezuela. They know who the enemy is,” Molm concluded. “They know who is instigating the attacks. They know who is trying to destabilize their country.”