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Venezuala's Revolution Explained To New Zealand

28 September 2004

Venezuala's Revolution Explained To New Zealand

Resisting international pressures has allowed Venezuela’s wealth to be directed towards the poor majority in forms such as food and healthcare, said Leonel Vivas, the Venezuelan ambassador to Australia.

Mr Vivas was in Wellington to promote Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, which is changing “political and socio-economic trends”. He spoke at an Alliance Party-sponsored public reception at St John’s Hall on Saturday night.

President Chavez, in power since 1998, has been accused of violating human rights and being anti-democratic. Opposition factions arrested him during a coup in 2002, but he was reinstated following massive street protests in his support.

Mr Vivas highlighted the economic progress President Chavez has made despite foreign intervention.

The Bush administration is indirectly trying to unseat President Chavez by means such as funding the opposition, Mr Vivas said. Ninety-eight per cent of private media is American-directed anti-Chavez propaganda, he added.

He said the “neo-liberal economic model implanted by foreign powers” is a main reason for the corruption and poverty that plagued the country when the Chavez Government came into power.

Despite Venezuela’s abundant resources, and oil in particular, 70 per cent of the population are living in poverty. Mr Vivas said: “We are a rich country, but a poor nation.”

The Chavez Government has tried to redistribute wealth to the poor: “The main goal of the Bolivarian Revolution is to fight poverty and give the people a better way of life ... the only way to fight poverty is by giving power to the poor.”

Over the last five years, the government’s economic policies have reduced Venezuela’s external debt to the lowest level in Latin America, from US$35 billion to US$19 billion, he said.

Venezuela now trades oil for meat and dairy products with Argentina, and for doctors with Cuba because Venezuelan doctors are reluctant to work in poor areas. “Two years ago, that would have been impossible because the decisions were being made somewhere else, like London,” Mr Vivas said.

The Venezuelan people confirmed their support for President Chavez this year when the government won 58 per cent of the vote in a recall referendum on August 15. International observers confirmed the elections were fair.

Mr Vivas said: “The result was not only a resounding victory for Chavez, but also for democracy and the Bolivarian Revolution.

“Venezuela is now a model of participatory democracy … this is one of the most important achievements of the Chavez government.”

About 50 people attended the reception. Afterwards, Mr Vivas said it was important for people to know the situation in Venezuela

“By promoting international solidarity through meetings like this and informing the people of what is happening – that’s the best way for New Zealanders to support the Venezuelan people.”

ENDS

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