By Cheryl LeBash
The I Congreso Internacional de Mujeres – the first International Women’s Congress for peace and solidarity between the people organized by the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela — begins today September 20. And what better place than Caracas in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for a meeting needed so much. Although invited, I am not in Caracas. This is the story of my trip to Caracas.
The words “blockade” and “economic warfare” describe factually what the U.S. ruling class is doing to the Venezuelan people. Medicine and food are denied for the people, but also access and travel. As they say, though, the devil is in the details. On my way to the I Congreso Internacional de Mujeres in Caracas Venezuela Sept 20 and 21, I experienced and witnessed some of those details.
On April 18 the long queue of passengers for the flight to Caracas appeared to be for several airlines. But really it was only for my flight, one flight that day on the only airline that flies directly to Caracas from Medellin, Colombia.
Getting bumped off a flight in the U.S. is not such a big deal. There is another flight. But the privilege in an imperialist behemoth is non existent when traveling to Caracas, Venezuela.
The airline Avior refused to give me a boarding pass because I could not present a visa – a document from the Venezuelan government authorizing my entry. Go reschedule your flight, I was told. The next available flight was a week later – after the conference. The travel authorization had been emailed to me, but somehow that document did not arrive. A picture of the letter sent by social media, arrived too late.
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No problem. In the U.S. the quick solution is to rent a car. The Colombian government is partner with the U.S. in its regime change plots. Over land was clearly not an option to waste time exploring. Even in Medellin, Colombia with internet at the airport surely another flight can be found.
But wait! This journey originated in Washington, DC. Is Medellin really on the way? No, the route when I wanted to travel, a day early for the conference: DC to Fort Lauderdale, to Panama City, Panama to Medellin, then Caracas.
There are no U.S. air carriers serving Venezuela and Venezuelan families and friends. Since 2014, every major U.S. airline canceled its service to Venezuela. The ‘guarimba’ destabilization terror campaign began in 2014, too. American Airlines ended Miami to Caracas and Maracaibo flights in March after the U.S intensified regime change operations and pulled all its diplomats out of Venezuela.
Copa picked up American airlines routes. Yes! Copa has flights to Caracas from Medellin – they go first north to Panama, adding to the cost. But those flights are full, too. A Venezuelan living in Atlanta told me how hard and long the trip is just to visit family in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Copa could get me to the Conference at the end of the last day, if I spent three more days in Medellin.
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Options were exhausted. So regretfully I rebooked my flights back to Washington. Writing this article caused me to search for airlines flying to Venezuela. At the bottom of the list of airlines flying to Venezuela – from Madrid, Istanbul, Tehran, Barcelona, Paris and other places – Wingo flies from Bogota to Caracas. It is only $34 to fly to Bogota from Medellin! There’s hope. Lots of flights from Medellin to Bogota!
So you thought I’d be writing this in Caracas? Nope. I tried four times to book flights from Bogota. Maybe the website is wonky? Let’s try Kiwi, the site used for my original itinerary landing me in Medellin. Oddly, in Medellin, Kiwi no longer accepted Caracas’ Simon Bolivar airport as a destination to search flights.
This minor setback is fuel to multiply U.S. solidarity with Venezuela and Cuba. Unity, solidarity and resistance to the U.S. regime change plans will block resurrection of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine.
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean People, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, and Petro Caribe mutual assistance economies demonstrated the powerful alternative to imperialist domination and exploitation of the region. These examples resonate in U.S. communities resisting climate change, racism and austerity. It is why they don’t want us to see Venezuela and Cuba.
Cheryl LaBash is Co-Chair of National Network on Cuba, activist and writer
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