Venezuelans of African descent have made gains during Chavez presidency

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Sat Sep 28 19:20:37 MDT 2002

San Francisco BayView
September 25, 2002

African Venezuelans fear new U.S. coup against President
Chavez (excerpt selected by Fred Feldman)
By Professor Alejandro Correa and Professor Emeritus Willie

This month, for the first time in history, Venezuelan people
of African descent have total control of their historic
Black university, the Instituto Universitario Barlovento.
They are already planning a university administered hotel
and a restaurant for students, faculty and the community.
This is an achievement of a lifetime, and the people of
Barlovento gather around their seat of higher learning to
reflect on their success.

Another topic on their minds and hearts is the fate of
President Hugo Chavez. He is Venezuela's first multiracial
president and is called Negro" (nigger) by his detractors
because of his African-Indigenous features. Behind the
enemies of Venezuela and Hugo Chavez are very large sums of
money being spent to destroy the dreams of the people who
historically have been discriminated against because of
race, economic ideas, etc.

These dreams of the African Venezuelan people may be
deferred if the United States replaces Chavez with a
rightwing businessman as president. Currently, three Blacks
are state governors elected by the people; the secretary of
education is black; two Indigenous Venezuelans are
congresspersons elected directly by the people; Indigenous
Venezuelans have the complete right to claim their historic
lands; land is protected and available to Black and
Indigenous Venezuelan farmers so that they can now engage in
farming for the first time in generations; and Venezuelans
of African descent are participating in conferences against
racism around the world and establishing strategic
relationships with international organizations.

They have attended Congressional Black Caucus conferences in
2000, 2001 and 2002; the pre-conference against racism in
Chile in 2000; and the United Nations World Conference
Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. The African
Venezuelan community in Barlovento also hosted the Second
International Reunion of the African Latin Family in 1999.

Sixty percent of the population of Venezuela are people of
African descent. The others are Mestizos of Indigenous and
European descent and Indigenous. The support of the people
of African descent in the United States is one of the most
strategic factors in helping the people of African descent
survive and prosper in Venezuela.

President Hugo Chavez was elected in a democratic election
with more than 70 percent of the 11 million votes cast. One
of his first actions was to call for an election of a
National Constituency Assembly whose mission was to reform
the 1969 national Constitution. During 40 years of democracy
this Constitution was used to avoid empowering the people.
The election of the National Constituency Assembly allowed
the participation of students, business related
organizations, community representatives and parties opposed
to the president in the Assembly.

The entire society had its opportunity in the Assembly.

The National Constituency Assembly designed a new national
constitution, which was widely discussed all around the
country. Then a national election was called to consider the
acceptance of the new constitution. The Venezuelan people,
in direct election, said, We do accept the new constitution"
in 1999. New national elections were called at all levels of
government to test the acceptance of the new constitution
and renegotiate the public powers.

President Hugo Chavez, again, won the election with over one
million votes more than his closest opponent. The party
supporting Chavez also won, as did several state governors
who belonged to the party.

During his three years in place - the complete term is six
years - President Chavez has been an advocate for the
education of the poor. After 50 years of being eliminated,
schools were created with full schedules from 8 a.m. to 4
p.m., allowing children to stay longer in recreational
programs and special classes.

Never before have small businesses flourished with the full
support of the government at the local and national levels.
Chavez has opened the doors for the participation of those
who have long been excluded.

When President Chavez came to power, 80 percent of the
population lived below poverty. Overcoming this difficult
obstacle requires a joint effort at all levels of society.
Unfortunately, the support has not echoed in the upper
economic brackets of Venezuelan society.

What have they done? Organizing a coup is not the way to
support the government.

Venezuela is the fourth largest oil producer in the world
and the second largest oil exporter to the United States.
President Chavez has never threatened the export of oil to
the U.S. He has visited the U.S. about five times, holding
meetings with businesspersons, seeking to stimulate foreign
investment in Venezuela in order to raise the level of
employment and mitigate the conditions of the poor.

Unfortunately, the sectors of society wanting to reverse
these important advances decided to violate Venezuelan
democracy. A group of renegade military generals formed a
coalition with businessmen" -  land owners whose ancestors
stole it from Indigenous Venezuelans and used enslaved
African labor to build the Venezuelan economy and society.

Some members of the press also belong to the business
establishment. Three main private TV stations led a campaign
against the evolution of democratic change in the same style
Hitler used against the Jews: Say a lie a thousand times and
everybody will believe it as a truth."

These forces formed a coup to destroy freedom in Venezuela.
For three days they controlled the government and instituted
practices not seen in Venezuela since the '50s, during the
days of the military rulers. Venezuelans in their 60s were
astonished to see such violations of civil rights.

Leaders of the coup imprisoned President Chavez, isolating
him from any public contact, lying about a presidential
resignation, dissolving all legitimate national powers at
all levels. Then they started hunting down the legitimate
member of Congress and of the president's cabinet.

Even the Supreme Court was forced to resign. They did all
that in a period of three days. Further, they derogated the
1999 constitution.

In response, however, people of all races and backgrounds
took to the streets, the military bases and public buildings
to liberate President Chavez. He is in control again.

Writer's note: Africans and people of African descent are
beginning to tell our own story. Most other people have no
vested interest in telling the truth about us.

Professor Correa of Barloyento University is an African
Venezuelan, and he tells the story of the achievements of
African Venezuelans, the United States's participation in
the failed attempt to overthrow President Chavez, and the
certain reversal of the social, economic, cultural and
psychological gains to African Venezuelans if President
Chavez is overthrown.

He pleads with us to 1) discuss in open forums, churches and
community organizations the U.S. attacks on Venezuela and
the conditions there, and 2) write letters to the U.S.
Congress asking that the U.S. respect the Venezuelan
government and follow the rule of law and international
treaties in dealing with Venezuela. You can trust his advice
and act on it.

I can be reached at Willliemackthompson_22335 at .

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