Teri Mattson: “The Opposition is Not one Solid Wealthy Block of Guaido Supporters They are a Minority of the Opposition” – Interview (Part 2 of 3)

In this second installment of our interview with Teri Mattson, we went into some questions prepared by the US activist, Stan Smith. More than an interview, it was a conversation between a US activist and a Chavista Venezuelan.

We highly encourage you to watch or listen to the interview carefully but below we highlight the statements we found most relevant:

  • “[I] arrived late March (2019) and it’s different, it’s better (in comparison with May 2018) and so you have an availability of products… (you) people have gotten through a really difficult time and I know it and you have some real sense of pride and nationality, pride of nationalism and (I) really feel it. . .”

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  • “Not all opposition people are hard right Guaido supporters, they are anti-US intervention, they are anti-civil war and they clearly understand what US-foreign policy is towards their country,” talking about people in the neighborhoods she is living in.
  • Referring to the same neighborhood and how politically mixed it is, she said: “It’s important to understand that the opposition is not one solid wealthy block of Guaido supporters – they are a minority of the opposition. . .”
  • Talking about the buying power of Venezuelans in a time of US-sanctions and economic war, she said: “. . . every time Venezuelan workers get a raise, the price of food gets increased as well, so that just because you get a raise does not …(necessarily mean you) improve your buying power, so no matter how big of a raise the Venezuelan government gives its workers, the private sector . . . (spoils it with the raise of prices affecting) buying power. . .” And she continues: “. . . workers may improve their (nominal) salary but their buying power does not improve and that is because -in my observations- of what the wealthy private sector is doing, they’re making food unapproachable, so it isn’t just these sanctions or this form of US warfare working externally, the external influence . . . affecting the accessibility of goods and services, but also in tandem with the US supporters here inside the country. . .”

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  • Asking her about chavismo and how regular Venezuelans connect with their communes and people’s organizations, she recalled an experience she had a few years back talking with a woman in the Bolivarian University that told her “I AM A CITIZEN NOW”: “. . . I said well, what does that mean to you, that you’re a citizen? And she answered, ‘I can fully participate in my society now, I can vote, I have access to health care, housing, education, I am a fully participatory citizen in my country which we never had before Chavez'”.

You can view the first part of the interview clicking here. Interview and transcript below:

Okay, here we go, we are on the second part of the interview and in this part we’re gonna ask some questions that were prepared, most of them, by Stan Smith from Chicago,

Hi Stan,

The first one says: how have the effects of the sanctions gotten worse, what became less available and less affordable and what has become more available and affordable in Venezuela?

This is interesting and something good for people back home to understand, my last visit, I was here in Venezuela March of 2018, and then again in May of 2018, prior to that I hadn’t been here since November of 2016, and I would say between November of 2016 and when I came up from the airport March 2018, it was shocking to me the change and the tension, so everything was like wow, it was so clear to me you guys were having some real “un año muy duro”, and I could see it, I didn’t even have to ask although everything was functioning and the people were fine, I could really tell that -you know- when did the sanctions really accelerate -August of 2017- and I’d say I hadn’t been here so – November 2016 and not 2018 – it was really obvious and I could really see the effects of the sanctions your country not having access . . .

So you are talking about when you came in March of 2018 and comparing it with 2016, November of 2016?

Yeah and the sanctions were accelerated very strongly since August 2017 and so between November my visit of November of 2016 and then returning until March of 2018, it was obvious.

There was scarcity, a lot during those days, there are like different moments, right? Because I came back from the US in April 2017 and there was scarcity but it was not, at least from my perspective, was not that hard as people say, like in 2015 or 2016.

Yeah, well I would agree and I think . . .

But right now is different, right?

It’s hard to talk about that because, exactly, I think that is something that has been really inspirational for me, this visit because I could really see between November of 2016 and March of 2018, wow you know, people as you know, government but also all of you citizens, the sanctions are affecting all Venezuelans of course and so you could really see it, you have no access to foreign capital, you can’t pay, you can’t repatriate foreign earned profits, you can’t restructure your debt, you can’t repatriate your gold, I mean can’t use US dollars, it’s just so intense and I could just really see there is no, you can’t bring any of your money home to even water the plants in the park, so these were –

People might think that because of that the country should be paralyzed, right?

Right and it wasn’t! Yes it wasn’t, despite, and there was food, it’s strong enough of course, but let’s talk paralyzed – no, no. Then I was back in May of 2018, the presidential elections, and saw very similar, but I now arrived late March (2019) and it’s different, it’s better and so you have an availability of products. People have have gotten through a really difficult time and know it and have some real sense of pride and nationality, pride of nationality, and really feel it, people are friendly, people are open like Venezuelans are, yes and very resilient, very strong and a real sense of being Venezuelans, they want to defend the country, their nation, their people. So I see, I mussggive them one of the first things, some of the things I noticed from May-June of 2018 to this trip is that spirit among the people. When I first arrived from the airport into El centro, very first day’s trip, on this trip, when I first arrived March of 2019 the first thing I noticed and commented on to friends in the car, oh my gosh, look how clean the streets are and that has a lot of ramifications when you see a country with clean streets, one, you can tell there are financial resources to put into trash collection and clean running water and sewage but also the focus on health care, keeping the cities clean, and that for sure is what we all know and I suspect the Cuban doctors have had a big influence in that, and keeping sectors clean to prevent any sort of health –

You know that was a response to the guarimbas in 2017 right?


Somehow after that Maduro created this program, Venezuela Bella.

Yeah and they started cleaning up everything, this is a really important thing to understand about the current government, is that reinvestment into the communities because the streets here are clean and that is a sense of pride for people as individuals because, as a culture you’re very clean, the buses, you ride the Metro calmly, you could eat off the floors, there’s a lot of personal pride in keeping your public infrastructure clean and so the streets are clean, and it’s also a health care issue to prove you know to keep your communities clean and so that was the first thing I said driving into them, the streets are so clean and they are beautiful.

We still have garbage problems.

Of course who doesn’t,what country doesn’t, yes but its overt, here you know that it’s clean and there’s plants –

It was terrible before that program started, I mean, I’m talking in between the end of the guarimbas in 2017 and the start of that program called Venezuela Bella that was initiated by Maduro a few months passed and the streets of Caracas were a mess, full of garbage, and at some point Maduro realized that it needs to be addressed so he started with this program and you notice the difference right now.

Oh my gosh, it was a start I mean everybody’s, the streets, so the resources are there and it’s a matter of pride for citizens and their individual communities and it’s the healthcare ramifications of having clean streets and clean communities as well and I think it’s really important for your viewers to know that it is a program instituted by the government, yes.

Going back to the questions because Stan is gonna kill us –

I want to tell you the other thing I noticed, I do the grocery shopping for the house and go to the local markets. I’m in a working-class politically mixed neighborhood not far from Miraflores and so I do the grocery shopping. So I go to the street markets Sunday morning, and the main avenida has all the trucks from the countryside. Going to do the shopping one thing that is overt in addition to the Venezuela Bella project, is the fresh eggs everywhere, everywhere there are fresh eggs for sale, everywhere, they come in flats of 15 and you see them everywhere, they’re expensive but not unapproachably expensive, they are really good source of protein which was not available widely a year ago when I was here. So to see fresh eggs available everywhere at the street markets and in the more formal brick-and-mortar grocery stores, there is a good source of approachable affordable protein readily available everywhere, that’s a big change and the price of the current animal proteins like chicken and –

If you compare it with the U.S., it’s very cheap of course. If you compare it with the salaries right now in Venezuela, it might be hard for some families to get it but we have to talk about the CLAP program –

Okay so I’m staying in a politically mixed working-class community about a 20 minute walk from Miraflores and Casablanca and it’s a fabulous community, I am whiter than white living here and I know a lot, I’ve visited here a number of times, so I have a lot of familiar faces in the community and I will say they are all extraordinarily friendly, welcoming and embracing, I’m not sure that some of them would be equally as welcome on the east side of the city but they are extraordinarily welcoming of me and I love this community you’ve got in the –

Disregarding the political stuff right?

Yes, there’s a couple things I want to share with you about staying here. One is that it is a politically mixed community and something people back home need to understand is that not all opposition people are hard right Guaido supporters. They are anti US intervention, they are an anti civil war, and they clearly understand what US foreign policy is towards their country. And when we’ve lost power and water everyone in this community has come together to help. Who needs water? My household! We’ll go get it. Who needs the kids taken care of, who’s got food that they need to cook up here so it doesn’t spoil in their refrigerator – everybody’s come together. No banging on the pots and pans against the government, none of that.

That happened in my neighborhood but my neighborhood is a little bit more middle class.

So none of that here. That’s important to understand that the opposition is not one solid wealthy block of Guaido supporters. They are a minority of the opposition

That is true

That’s important to understand and I think maybe you know the State Department doesn’t understand that, and if they do understand it, they do not care.

So part of me staying here long term in this particular household is that I buy the groceries in lieu of paying rent and that is because I can shop in US dollars and US dollars, small denominations, ones and fives particularly, are pretty much accepted everywhere right now which is a huge change over my visit a year ago, that’s a big change, so the first day I went grocery shopping was Saturday -Holy Saturday- you know the Saturday before Easter Sunday, there wasn’t much open and so we found ourselves over in San Bernardino grocery shopping, there’s a great creamery there with fantastic Venezuelan milkshakes and ice cream so we ventured over there.

Crema Paraiso

Yes, that’s the place, one of my favorite places on the planet, definitely one of my favorite places here in Venezuela and it’s a wonderful community over there too, there was a grocery store open there across the street from the creamery and that grocery store would rival anything I would see in Cow Hollow or the Marina District in San Francisco, or that you would see Midtown Manhattan, beautiful grocery store, well-stocked, everything small but you know, I like those neighborhood grocery stores in San Francisco or Manhattan, and so that was the only thing we could find open that particular day, you know, a religious holiday and of course it was in the evening so we did some shopping there, and so this is what we bought:

We bought a whole chicken which we picked out and it was butchered there and so this is like this fabulous old Dylann delicatessen, Jewish delicatessens in midtown Manhattan or lower east and west side of Manhattan to pick out your meat and they butcher it so the chicken was butchered, so we got one whole chicken, we bought about a quarter pound of pork, it was like a shank we bought frozen, so the chicken was from here, fresh whole chicken that was raised in Venezuela, the pork was frozen and imported, we bought a quarter pound of sliced ham for sandwiches that was imported, we bought a quarter pound of fresh cheese sliced, cheese for sandwiches that was produced here in Venezuela, we had three different types of sandwich cheeses that could be sliced that they had to select, one was extraordinarily expensive and it was the important one, we chose one of the cheeses you produced here in Venezuela, we bought a flat of 15 eggs produced here in Venezuela, we brought all of our produce, fruits and vegetables produced here in Venezuela, we bought two loaves of fresh bread produced here in Venezuela, we bought a bottle of water –

That’s expensive –

It’s expensive and we bought I think a couple soft drinks again imported, expensive for Venezuela, so it is what for all of what we picked out, there are a few other things that I forget, $36 US, that included all that meat, $36 US for that, that’s a bargain, depending on where you lived in the States, approaching well over a hundred dollars. So 36 dollars bought for a household with a monthly income of ten equivalent of 10 US dollars. This is what people need to understand.

Yes, but some people, I mean it specifically of the opposition, they talk about that criticizing that the prices are cheap but people in Venezuela do not earn the same salary as people in the US. But they don’t talk about two things. The fact that a lot of Venezuelans right now are working freelancing and earning in dollars or receiving remittances from the US or abroad and the other most important one is the Clap program.

Yeah, exactly. So the household did the groceries that I bought that Saturday afternoon, supplementing the government subsidized basket of food (Clap) delivered and so on. I was able to go with members of the household and pick that bag up – which is subsidized by the government- came in this bag twice a month, and what we got was rice, beans which combined are a complete protein, flour for making arepas, pasta, pasta sauce, dried milk, and a number of other things. It’s almost free, so the government is subsidizing the food, and you talk about the opposition and how they criticize the price of food, but the Venezuelan economy is 80 percent privatized and a big part of that private industry is food production and food imports. What I have seen is that every time Venezuelan workers get a raise, the price of food gets increased as well so, just because you get a raise does notimprove your buying power. So no matter how big of a raise the Venezuelan government gives its workers, the private sector is in process, so the buying power

It is not in the same rhythm as the wage increase. I mean they multiply by two or three or something like that –

So it’s never, you know, workers never may improve their salary but their buying power does not improve and that is because -in my observations- because of what the wealthy private sector is doing, they’re making food unapproachable, so it isn’t just these sanctions or this form of US warfare working externally. The external influence affects the accessibility of goods and services, but also in tandem with the U.S – supporters here inside the country, many corporations, big companies. I really want you to understand, with this group’s first experience grocery shopping, was how many things we were able to buy this year as opposed to a year ago produced in Venezuela now. It’s not enough, it’s not enough volume but it’s improving, the volume is improving, it’s not still enough but the diversity of products being produced in Venezuela is far more than I have ever seen.

Sorry for interrupting but in recent days because of the sanctions, you see more Venezuelan products. You realize that we won’t starve to death if the sanctions get worse, right?

Right, right, you know, there’s food sovereignty. If we associate food sovereignty with national sovereignty, there is a direct correlation in understanding of that and we have been talking about that a lot lately, yeah, especially in the current –

Let’s go back to Stan questions because he will kill us.

Sorry Stan.

Ok let’s go to the second question, how are the every day people taking actions in their own hands with or without assistance from the government to improve the food situation both in supply and in equitable distribution?

Well the Clap program definitely is. Something that I just see within the community I’m living in, you know, households that say ‘I don’t need the dry milk’, they make sure that the households with young children get their dried milk. I think in this community it’s actually a bag, it’s a big plastic bag not a physical box, although I have seen the boxes coming from Mexico, I’ve seen that too because physical boxes are the ones that –

I’ve seen them also.

This community gets plastic bags and so, what each household doesn’t need –

They trade –

It gets traded or just given away, you know so that’s a really great community. I don’t need dry milk so it goes to the neighbor that has the young kids, that do need them and vice versa, so it’s really really great.

I’m rereading the question and trying to figure out what was in Stan’s mind. I believe that is important you know, going back to the question about what happened during the blackout, the people organizing themselves and that kind of stuff, right?

I arrived Saturday morning March 23rd and in advance of our delegation and Sunday morning, the lights went out and the water went out, the water pumps went out too, and so we had no electricity or running water for two and a half days, trying to button up the last details of the delegation, but what I saw, I wasn’t really quite sure what to expect (particularly after the five and a half days of each national outage) the next day. But the nice thing is what happened with this in a politically mixed neighborhood. The lights go out and they stay out and I’m thinking, I’m gonna start seeing some political action at this point. Nobody, nobody was banging on pots and pans, nobody was shouting anti-government statements when it happened in this community. Everybody came together to make the community work, some households went to get water even though there were people – it was really a profound thing for me to experience, to see people [organize], okay, what households gonna go get water for everybody, what house is gonna watch the kids, people cook up the that’s in the freezer and isn’t gonna hold and all. It was amazing, it brought tears to my eyes. It is something that people in the States do not understand. Activists understand.

You know something, when you are politically active like you and me, when you see a blackout like the ones that we suffered, yeah I’m talking especially about the first one, the one on March the 7th, yeah you were not here –

I was trying to get down there, I was stuck in San Francisco airport trying to get help to get here –

The first thing that came to my mind was, wow, this is premeditated, they are trying to organize a coup d’etat, there might be a mobilization or maybe they (anti-chavistas) want people to go to the street and create riots – and that happens everywhere with a blackout – this might happen, but nothing like that happened and that’s something that people abroad do not understand, and did not realize because we haven’t talked too much about that.

No. I think that’s the biggest thing, I think before you and I started this interview it was the biggest thing to me, why I keep coming back and the biggest thing, the biggest story that is left untold in the United States is the strength of power and the resilience of the Venezuelan people, that story really needs to be shared back home because that’s why external forces are not being successful here.

Okay let’s go to a Stan question: Has the people’s buying power steadily gone down, have there been fluctuations in these over the years you have been here, has any buying power gone up?

Well I think we discussed that to a certain point, what the whole paradigm is, yeah but so it just needs to be more volume of products produced here in Venezuela, there’s a wide variety of things but more volume is needed, so that the supply and demand is more equitable and what –

The government has been trying to encourage it lately. I hope that that will help. I mean, realizing the fact that we might be worse off in terms of US sanctions might force us to produce more. People are talking about that in neighborhoods, in buildings, everywhere. We need to produce because if we get invaded or things get worse, we need to have food, right?

And we need to produce it, you see this is why all the farm subsidies in the United States are couched under national security, yes, continually get money for farm subsidies because it is sold to the American public as a national security issue –

But going back to Stan’s question, yes, the prices in terms of dollars are going up. If I compare for example what I pay for groceries, vegetables and fruit and that kind of stuff every week in one of those camiones, every week I do that and when I first came back from the US I paid like $6 for the same thing that I’m buying right now for $12, so in terms of dollars, a lot of stuff has been going up, but you have to take into consideration that we have programs like Clap.

Okay, so we just want to make sure that those Clap bags and boxes have a mix of Venezuelan produce food products and imported products and most of the food products are imported from Mexico and Turkey also, so we want to make sure that the sanctions the US sanctions against Venezuela don’t prevent the continued importation of foods from Mexico and Turkey but also it’s important for people to understan that more and more of the products in those Clap bags and boxes are produced right here.

Let’s go to the next question. Are the people taking more action to resolve their collective situation themselves or are they still waiting for those above them, for the government to do it for them? How do you see it ?

I think it’s a combination of both. I think it’s always been a combination of both, part of the Bolivarian Revolution, Bolivarian project was to empower communities to have access to resources to improve themselves in their communities and I think you know you’re still seeing it. You asked me that in recent weeks, we were talking about what happened with the blackout, you see more people trying to work up more collectively first, Venezuelans first and they’re making their communities work first, it’s profound, it’s very strong and you feel it on the streets. If this was a country on the verge of civil war, you would feel that anger and hostility walking down the street, in the Metro. That’s something we should say, speaking of the Metro, going back about the differences between last year and this year, we talked about the eggs, the clean street. When I was here last summer the Metro was running but I was discouraged from using it last summer. I do know how to use it throughout the city, but I was discouraged from using it because you were having a hard time importing repair parts and those parts included fixing lights inside the trains and the air conditioning system inside the trains but more specifically because of the absence of good lighting inside but not in the stations,inside the trains themselves, I was discouraged from using the metro system –

For security reasons.

I live a 10-minute walk from a metro station and I am highly encouraged to just go out and explore the city on my own during this trip, the lights are working inside the trains, the air conditioning system on the trains is working, it’s a completely different experience using the subway this year versus last year.

So that responds, that’s a response to the sanctions, right? I’m just trying to connect that with what happened. When you know that you are threatened and the country realized that we don’t have the dollars, we are blocked, we need to fix that ourselves the best way we could. That’s what happened with the Metro right?

Exactly, subway goes, working people get around the city and in volume, I mean it’s voluminous.

And that reminds me of what happened with these incubators around the country, did you hear about that, I mean there was a program launched by the government with technicians that didn’t know exactly how those machine works, we’re talking about kids, we were having that problem for several years because of the lack of money to pay for the Argentineans that initially started, you know, provided those incubators and the government and the people itself, public servants decided to fix them and actually right now there’s this program that I believe, according to what I read, fixed most of the incubators in the country without buying imported parts and things like that so I believe that that’s important, right?

Okay, and that’s specifically because that news about the failing incubators for newborns was a story that was horrifically propagandized in the United States against Venezuela.

The next question: Are these community organizations making connections with neighboring community organizations? I believe that Stan wants to know about the communes and that kind of stuff.

Well okay if the question is about communes I can’t say – I’m not exactly sure what the question is –

Let me keep reading it. The long-term survival and advancement of any revolution depends in large part on how more and more people are involved in this local organization and how they be a larger regional and national organization

I’m not sure here about the neighborhood I’m living in, it’s one of the things I hope to experience while I’m still here, but I can tell you about our March-April delegation. We went to Lara, the estado Lara in the west of the country, we had two experiences; we experienced a rural farming commune and an urban commune. The rural farming commune was made up of 18 community councils and they are producing food locally and distributing it locally. They used to distribute with a farther radius but because of the sanctions they can’t get tires, batteries for their trucks to transport any distance outside of Barquisimeto. They are now producing for their local community pretty heavily.

That’s comuna el maizal, right?

No we didn’t go there. It was a Sunday and they wanted us to come out one Monday and we were returning to Caracas on Monday, but we’ll do it next time, we’ll definitely have it on our itinerary. I’ll have to get the name for you, it was small. There those eighteen community councils were raising produce and small amounts of livestock. Livestock is very hard to raise because feed is imported and they are now starting to manufacture their own animal feed, so that was a small commune, I would say small in terms of what US would consider it, and animal production but that commune was made up of 18 community councils producing produce and animals.

What about the urban one?

The urban one was in a barrio in Barquisimeto that was producing not just food products but community goods and services as well and that was very large. I want to say they were like 30 community councils that made up that commune. One thing that happened visiting that coming from we were at, we went to their community center which was a large public building, we met at one on a Sunday afternoon, it was a fabulous group of people. Unfortunately there were a lot of anti-government protesters in the street in that neighborhood, we could hear the banging on the pots and pans as we arrived, by a few people and as our meeting with this community council progressed it got louder. We were traveling with security which advised us to leave as the crowd outside grew and got louder, so then this goes back to visas something I want to talk about, visa procurement for US citizens, don’t want to forget that. Okay it’s important thing to share so anyway we were told that we should leave now, so we didn’t get to finish that meeting with the urban commune

So you were threatened by right-wingers?

Well we’re not sure of what happened in the communities, that they saw the bus pull up and thought maybe that we were some sort of official government people visiting or if we were, we don’t know what their perception of us or understanding of us was but we were highly welcomed within all those 30 community councils that form the commune,that was outside that agenda and so this group, it got very large and very loud and that was when we left.

So here’s – I mentioned – that we had been suggested by our security personnel to leave at that point and one of the things that was really fantastic about this march delegation was that we were allowed to bring US people on the delegation, which I think people need to understand, because there’s no formal diplomatic relations between the US and Venezuela right now, there’s no diplomatic staff here in Venezuela so no US embassy to go to, but maybe you don’t want to go anyway, but it was a risk for the Venezuelan government to have us come but nevertheless they issued us visas anyway, understanding that we wanted to share this experience back home among our own citizens and with our own government representatives, but you really have to understand it was a risk to allow us to come and we all clearly understood that we in no way wanted to be the excuse for a US invasion like those students were years ago in Grenada and so we were all very sensitive to that and so we did hire a security attache to travel with us just to keep us informed, alert to what we shouldn’t do, we were very very aware that we did not want to cause any sort of incident that the US State Department would propagandize, so I will say it was a big risk to issue us visas bu at the same time, it was also really important for us to come to share the experience.

Lets go to the next question: Are people organizing themselves more locally, realizing that what is needed is not just local self organization to combat scarcity but realizing that their own political action is necessary. I mean politically, in a political party running elections, taking more control of the PSUV?

I believe we already talked about that, that’s part of the Bolivarian project I think. Let me share something very personal, one of my early, well one of my mid visits here was about people working together as communities people being involved in the political process. I was here a number of years ago and one of our events was an exchange with students who were attending the Bolivarian University and one of the comments made was: “I’m a citizen”. Well my response you know as a US-born, well of course you’re citizen, you’re born and raised here, you are Venezuelan. No! she said – that was more of Aristotle, Platonic, Socratic definition coming from this person. I’m a citizen now, meaning now. I said well, what do you mean? I said well of course you are citizen! No, she said. I said, well what does that mean to you, that you’re a citizen? And she answered, I can fully participate in my society now, I can vote, I have access to health care, housing, education, I am a fully participatory citizen in my country which we never had before Chavez.

You know maybe 12% of the population had access to that, that 12% that wants their country back, so that is, people still feel that way, they’re citizens, they’re full participatory citizens, they still are in their local communities and through their communes. I have to say, it’s been 20 years now of that – it’s not going away, no one can undo that.

Well what you just said reminds me of what we were talking about, on the discussions and the debates that we have. We were talking about the comunas, the problem with the comunas in Portuguesa state and that debate that waa raised because some comuneros were put in jail a few months ago and that raised some questions about the politics, the agro politics. That is happening right now in Venezuela because some property that was handed initially to comuneros was mixed up with social property given back to some private corporations, and that’s a debate that is happening right now in Venezuela and that can only happen if people feel empowered, right? You know what I mean?

Exactly and the key word being debate you know, not killing each other over it, debating, which is a great, great Venezuelan tradition in politics and –

Pushing. You don’t have to enroll in the PSUV to do that, what I mean is that sometimes you just push enough, you know, you make a lot of noise defending your ideas or something and you will be heard and that takes us to what we were talking before about the recent activities that the government is organizing trying to collect inputs from the grassroots organization right now. Actually yesterday, before yesterday there were masive activities organized by the government trying to get those inputs from the grassroots organizations (to improve and rectify the course) –

And which is so different than the US supported governments in Honduras and Colombia. They’re looking at both of those, you know, or Honduras specifically in my opinion, and experiences like the tradition from massive privatization.

Maybe you can talk about the Colombian work that James Jordan is doing.

Well James Jordan has a blog right now and he’s looking at what’s happening with activists comparing what happened in Colombia with what happens in Venezuela, with the environmental activists, the political activists, the social movements in Colombia. So many of those people who have large presence and large voices are being assassinated there so, here we’re talking about the president of Venezuela empowering the grassroots and social movements in Venezuela. I mean the complete antithesis of what’s happening in Colombia and Honduras both and it’s quite powerful. I was invited here to two things that I’ve been invited to do since finishing the delegation; one, I was invited to a women’s activists event called “cinco hojas” or five leaves, five different levels of female empowerment I think it’s cinco, the number five, cinco hojas dot org (5hojas.org). I believe I’ll give you the name for activists to check out. So that was put on by the Foreign Ministry, the Solidarity Movement within the Foreign Ministry, it was a fabulous afternoon of music and film and lecture about the different stages of female empowerment in society and that this fifth wave, fifth leaf level, is about embracing all forms of femininity and empowering women.

(to be continued)