Tony Burke : Speech at VSC AGM October 9th

It’s been six years or so since the United States first imposed sanctions on Venezuela, absurdly declaringVenezuela “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. 

The interim report earlier this year by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights described how these sanctions have completely debilitated the Venezuelan economy, massively degrading the quality of life of the population.

On top of that, Venezuela has had to deal with the pandemic while the US sanctions have severely restricted its ability to buy the full range of necessary medical supplies.

But while Venezuela is emerging from the pandemic with less than 5,000 deaths, US 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 in March by renewing the declaration of a state of national emergency regarding Venezuela.

And in June the US, with the EU and Canada, laid out a number of conditions that Venezuela must meet in order for them to “review” their sanctions regimes.

Yet nonetheless, the talks between some of the right-wing opposition and the Maduro government have looked promising.

After the first round of talks, there was a published agreement that sanctions should lifted and there should be no more violent coup attempts.  

And some right wing opposition parties have announced they will take part in the regional and local elections taking place on 21 November, instead of boycotting them.

But we need to be cautious about the final outcome. Other talks in previous years between the government and the opposition have looked promising, only for the hidden hand of the US to be waved and break them up.

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.

The overarching issue, though, 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 trade 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.

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