Welcome all to this 2023 Annual General Meeting and its pleasure to be the opening speaker for the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign at this event today.
We are holding this event at an interesting stage for Latin America and Venezuela, with the next US Presidential elections approaching fast and political change on the agenda in a series of Latin American countries.
In terms of today’s agenda, it’s been eight years or so since the United States first imposed sanctions on Venezuela, absurdly declaring Venezuela “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”.
Under Trump those sanctions – which are illegal under international law – were ratcheted up to become a blockade of the sort that Cuba has endured for decades.
The impact has been devastating. A UN report earlier this decade described how these sanctions have completely debilitated the Venezuelan economy, massively degrading peoples’ living standards.
In the last few years, Venezuela has emerged from the pandemic with signs of economic recovery, but these harsh US and other sanctions are still a major concern.
There was perhaps a sliver of hope that when Biden took office there might be some relaxation of the blockade. But Biden dashed that hope initially by renewing the declaration of a state of national emergency regarding Venezuela. Whilst some minor relaxations have taken place, the bulk of these illegal sanctions remain in place.
In the VSC we are clear that dialogue and peace are the way forward, not sanctions and aggression.
Here in the UK we also need to keep talking about the ownership of Venezuela’s gold, held by the Bank of England, that rightfully belongs to the Bank of Venezuela. This is still an issue that VSC needs to keep campaigning on – boosted by the decision of Portugal to return assets to their rightful home of Venezuela.
To conclude, the overarching issue that we need to carry on campaigning on is the sanctions imposed by the US, with support from the British government, Canada and the EU.
This means raising it in our union branches and other organisations. We need to continue seeking support for our petition and explain why sanctions are unjust, illegal and so harmful to the Venezuelan people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable
Our solidarity is an important source of strength and comfort to the Venezuelan people – thanks to everyone for attending today.