Bolivian youth delegation from the 6 Federations of the Trópico of Cochabamba participate in the Bicentennial Congress in Caracas. Photo: ANSWER Coalition
“Welcome to your motherland” were the first words said at the closing session of the Bicentennial Congress of the Peoples of the World last week in Caracas, that celebrated the decisive battle of Carabobo that turned the tide in the independence struggles led by Simón Bolívar.
“We are here because we believe that other worlds can become a reality, and that this one is impossible,” said Adán Chávez, one of the principal organizers. The Congress took place in the spirit of deepening the commitment to unity among the peoples of the Global South, which was the dream of former president Hugo Chávez, Adán’s brother.
“Two proposals were extensively debated,” Adán recapped, “first, the training of cadre, carried out at a continental level.” The second proposal concerns questions of strategy and analysis.
“Our tasks include continuing to evaluate why coups have been successful. And, at the same time, we need to understand how the peoples have recuperated democracy. Bolivia teaches us great lessons. We need to study how they overturned a fascist coup government in less than one year.”
Conservatives call Venezuela part of a global axis of evil. “We are the axis of good,” Adán Chávez said, smiling. “We are an example of struggle. This is a very long and painful birthing process that we are going through.” Alongside the emergence of campesino and working-class socialism, “there’s no denying that capitalism is dying.”
Welcome to Your Motherland
Delegates at the Congress represented grassroots movements, unions, and leftist politicians from the five continents. “When the peoples join forces, empires tremble in their presence,” said Diosdado Cabello, a historic leader of Venezuela’s revolution and now a leading member of the National Assembly, as well as head of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). “You know, they assassinated Chávez. They thought that would end our process. The European Union doesn’t remember that two hundred years ago, we drove them out of here. They are sharpening all their knives against the people. We face a right-wing that is truly murderous but here in Venezuela we have a convergence between the government, the people, and the armed forces.”
Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia, Indigenous former President and campesino union leader, opened his comments at the last session of the People’s Congress as the leader of the Movement toward Socialism (MAS). He said, “Here we are, together in this small talk,” in a meeting hall packed with over 600 people as compared to the gatherings of hundreds of thousands that brought him victory by more than a ten percent margin in the presidential race of 2019, stolen by a coup d’etat.
“Why was there a coup in Bolivia? What did we do?” Evo asked. “We managed to pull together an Indigenous movement named the Movement Toward Socialism. It is not a party. All through the colonial era, during the republic, the force most hated by the elite were the Indigenous, who resisted relentlessly from one uprising to the next. We cannot allow ourselves to be demoralized.”
“If you’re not anti-imperialist, then you are not revolutionary,” Morales said. The statement has a certain force coming from a peasant leader of cocaleros—their resistance in the 1980s and 1990s was not armed—and they lost hundreds of lives in a war where scorched earth was unleashed by U.S. drug enforcement agents and a national army under the command of the narco-trafficking oligarchy. “Why was Cuba excluded from the Organization of American States? Because it was communist. When I went to the Summit of the Americas, I said to Barack Obama, I’m a communist, I’m a socialist! Expel me!”
“It is essential in the realm of politics that we give birth to a new politics, and in the realm of economics, that we redistribute the wealth. If we do not achieve economic liberation, everything is lost.”
“The motherland needs patriots. Not people who sell the motherland.” Morales explained recent histories: “We have seen how those who try to take a stance that is independent of the Left and the Right, always end up in the camp of the conservatives. In Bolivia, we have a middle class with dignity, but we also have a half-baked class without identity.” In 2019 before the coup, paramilitaries under the guidance of the U.S. Embassy and the Bolivian elite created a barrage of lies that generated mass marches of the middle class, followed by waves of beatings targeting Indigenous women, death threats, torched homes of MAS leaders, brutalization of journalists, and incitement by neoliberal politicians that led to the burning of state-level electoral tribunals on the day of the elections. The Right praises these actions as a peaceful mobilization of citizens.
Peruvian delegates at the Congress pointed out that the same false script of “fraud” is being applied in Peru, where rural teacher Pedro Castillo won in June elections despite unprecedented attacks against him by one of Latin America’s strongest and most corrupt oligarchies.
MAS won the 2019 elections according to a spectrum of international expert studies and, of course, according to Bolivia’s people, who gave an even greater number of votes to MAS in the 2020 elections. Last year’s elections were secured by hundreds of road blockades mounted by the poor in August, during the ferocious rule of the coup regime.
“On the question of ideology,” said Evo, “and likewise on the question of anti-imperialism, among our heroes are the Katari brothers of Potosí who rose up even before the great rebellions of Tupak Katari, Tupak Amaru, Bartolina Sisa, and Micaela Bastidas” that almost drove out the Spaniards, ten years before the Haitian people drove out the French.
“Hugo Chávez would always say, Our unity will spell the defeat of imperialism.” Morales added, “You have to eat plátano maduro to be anti-imperialist.”
You have to eat plátano maduro to be anti-imperialist
“We have been in struggle in these lands for the last fifteen thousand years,” said Héctor Rodríguez to explain the quality of resistance in Venezuela. The lands of original peoples of the lowland regions reaching from the Amazon into the Caribbean have yielded the oldest archaeological sites in the hemisphere, and also the most profoundly democratic societies. Rodríguez is among the youngest socialist leaders at the national level, and governor of the state of Miranda that was the epicenter of the paramilitary assaults led by “guarimbas,” which terrorized Venezuela in 2017.
“When the people unite, there is no going backwards. We cannot be naïve. We have to stand strong against the police of the world,” insisted Rodríguez, who represents a historically Black region and is himself Afro-Venezuelan. As governor, addressing Afro-Venezuela, he has launched the challenge, “We cannot allow ourselves to merely resist, we must go out to do battle, win spaces of power and build the world that we envision.”
Among the historic resolutions of the Congress, the assembled delegates pledged to “make the struggle of the people of Haiti our own,” where tens and hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken the streets time and again, risking their lives to achieve democracy.
At the concluding session of the Congress, the sector representing people with disabilities sent a message to protestors across the Americas, “You lost your sight, but we will not permit that you lose your vision.”
The sector of environmental activists said, “The U.S. Department of State is the worst ecological offender thanks to its promotion of wars.” The Indigenous sector reported that original peoples stand in greatest danger wherever neoliberal regimes hold national power.
Jaime Vargas, leader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), who led the grassroots mobilizations in Ecuador in 2019, delivered the report for the Indigenous sector at the closing session of the Congress. Unlike other groups, everyone in that sector joined Vargas on stage. They celebrated the creation of RUNASUR, “a project of revolutionaries of the Left” that weaves unity among Latin American Indigenous, campesinos, workers and social movements.
In Ecuador’s presidential elections of April, this year, Jaime Vargas broke with Pachakutik figures who supported the neoliberal Right. Those forces were galvanized by Yaku Pérez – who is a long-time critic of MAS and Evo Morales, as well as the Left more broadly. At the closing of the Congress of the Peoples of the World, the Indigenous statement said, “We proclaim our opposition to the unending efforts of imperialism to create, then finance Indigenous leaders.”
Diosdado Cabello summarized other lessons learned by Latin American revolutionaries. “When the Organization of American States raises its head on the scene, it never appears alone. Behind it is the United Nations and we need to protect ourselves from them, too. What have they done for Chile? Nothing. What have they done for Ecuador? Nothing. They are an instrument of empires to impose their will. Two years ago, a new wind was stirring across Latin America but the pandemic hit and practically stopped us in our tracks. Yet now, the people of Colombia have been fearless. It’s incredible how elites underestimate their own peoples.”
“We are confronting the most powerful empire of all time, the United States. We won against Trump! Nicolás Maduro won the presidency in 2018 with 68% of the people. Our socialism strives towards equality put into practice,” said Diosdado Cabello. Socialists confront the “Venezuelan Right that hates each other. It’s impossible for them to even carry out a meeting together. They need to ask, who are the people of Venezuela, who are the poor who went from the searing heat of Apure, left their homes two hundred years ago and had the strength to cross the Andes as a liberation army, all the way to Peru?”
In the rural communities of Bolivia, Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico, in the emerging communes of Venezuela that aim to replace political bureaucracies, in the working-class neighborhoods of the cities and among the poorest sectors of millions of immigrants forced out of their countries by the ravages of capitalism, Venezuela’s Congress of the Peoples of the World is expanding its conversations.
By Cindy Forster of Chiapas Support Committee of Los Angeles who participated as a delegate at the Bicentennial Congress of Peoples of the World and edited by Camila Escalante