Caracas, July 17, 2021 (OrinocoTribune.com)—In this new episode of Chavista Chronicles from Caracas, we had the pleasure to interview Jen McKinney and Luisa Herrera of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). They were part of a larger delegation that visited Venezuela to participate in the Bicentennial Congress of the Peoples of the World, held from June 22 to June 24.
Jen McKinney is a full-time mom and chair of DSA’s National Political Committee. She has devoted most of her time to building mutual aid efforts within the organization. And Luisa Herrera is a community activist on the board of the DSA International Committee. She helped found Hands Off Venezuela! Portland and devotes her time to international socialist solidarity and labor movements.
We asked Jen and Luisa four questions, and at the end they were able to ask us a couple of questions that allowed us to rethink how to approach US audiences on progressive/socialist issues but also helped us reflect on the most oppressive effects of the US blockade that we as regular Venezuelans have to endure in our daily life.
Our questions were:
1- Please give us your impressions on your visit to Venezuela. I mean, on the interactions with government officials, but also your interactions with social movements (national and international) and local organizations in Venezuela and also your interaction with Venezuela “outside 5 star hotels” as some critics say?
Jen and Luisa were amazed by the level of responsible approach of Venezuelans towards COVID-19 in terms of bio-safety measures, and testing and prevention to avoid the spread of the virus. The level of work within the Bicentennial Congress of the Peoples of the World kept them very busy along with interactions with delegations from all over the world.
Jen highlighted her positive impressions of the sense of community embedded in the communal initiatives they visited. Luisa told us about their contacts outside the Congress and interaction with government officials, letting us know that she had kept two days to visit various individuals while in Venezuela with the same goal. She also informed us of her unsuccessful attempts to contact the leadership of the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV).
2- Did your impression about US unilateral sanctions and how they affect ordinary people change after your visit to Venezuela? What is the DSA position on unilateral sanctions?
Jen McKinney read an official statement by DSA in regards to the illegal US sanctions against the Venezuelan people:
”Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) categorically opposes any and all efforts by the US government to intervene in the domestic politics of Venezuela. The US has a long and bloody track record of actions to overthrow democratically elected governments, stop the spread of socialism, and maintain US imperial dominance in the region. This includes the US government’s support of the 2002 Venezuelan coup that led to the temporary ouster of the legitimately-elected president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. These imperial interventions must stop immediately; the future of the Venezuelan people, and the broader prosperity of Latin America depend on it.”
She added how the delegation realized first-hand how the US blockade affects Venezuelans at all levels and especially at the level of public health, affecting the lives of youth and children in the country. Luisa Herrera added that the prohibitive prices of basic things like medicines or even contraceptives have a huge impact on the lives and quality of life of millions of Venezuelans.
3- What is your opinion about the criticism on the delegation coming from extreme right individuals but also from extreme left ones?
Jen’s perspective on this issue is that effectively there was a group that criticized the delegation, but clarified that such groups are very small but vocal groups on each extreme of the political spectrum. However, the overall evaluation of DSA to the delegation was very positive. Regarding Elliot Abrams’ criticism, Herrera commented that she was actually happy for it, and added jokingly that she is not expecting Abrams to join DSA.
4- Can you tell us about the political conformation within DSA and how it empowers or delays the achievement of real socialist objectives within the US? What do you expect from the upcoming DSA Convention in August?
McKinney stressed that DSA is a member-driven and member-funded organization. She recognized that the organization is a huge tent in terms of ideology on the left political spectrum, and she values that as a strength to move forward on the push for socialist change. Luisa Herrera added that there are both positive and negative aspects on the big tent issue. She added that the growth in DSA membership and the increased visibility of the organization might be the result of the visibility of Bernie Sanders or Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, but this fact also imposes certain restraints on the organization, limiting the imagination and creation of new proposals, and that is where the charters within the DSA, separating themselves from electoralism, are so important.
They did not want to publicly explain in detail their position in terms of their expectations for the Convention, but they let us know about their excitement on the forty proposals to be addressed in the Convention that is going to be held online for the first time. Luisa added that the space for debate within DSA is more challenging and enriching than debating socialism with five compañeros in a basement, and for that she is very exited about being in the organization and debating ideas within the convention.
At the end of the interview Luisa and Jen asked us the following questions:
1- What message would you give to the DSA audience?
We let them know that for us the most important message that we would like to transmit to DSA audiences is that mainstream media will never present to them real truth, and that they need to compare and contrast anything presented to them with different sources in order to have a better understanding about what is happening in the world and also around them at the local level. We added that for our experience of life in the US, we believe that the seed of community building is there and that just with a small push a change in that country might be possible.
2- How is the daily life of Venezuelans affected by the illegal US-imposed blockade?
We explained to Luisa and Jen that at the level of daily life in Venezuela, sanctions have affected us heavily in the quality of utility services like internet, electricity, water, cooking gas, and also lead to long lines to get gasoline for our cars, and the shortage of diesel that is basic for transporting merchandise and food within the country. Supply and availability of important things like medicines and COVID-19 vaccines have also been negatively affected by the US and European blockade.
Featured image: Poster for a DSA educational event in Detroit. Photo courtesy of DSA Detroit.
Special for Orinoco Tribune by Jesús Rodríguez-Espinoza