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Solidarity In Action


St Vincent and the Grenadines this week hosted a visit by leading officials of the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The visit by Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Arreaza and his wife Rosa, who incidentally is the daughter of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, along with Bernard Alvarez, President of Petrocaribe and of the ALBA bank (see stories elsewhere in this edition), marked two more milestones in regional cooperation.{{more}}

The Venezuelan officials attended the official opening of the Hugo Chavez National Storage facility at Lowmans Bay, a project, which by massively increasing national fuel storage capacity, has significantly strengthened our energy security. This was made possible through the generous assistance rendered through Petrocaribe.

There was also a second reason for Vincentians to be grateful to the distinguished guests, for it was announced that a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between both countries for the famous “Vision Now” programme, under which over 2000 Vincentians were able to travel to Cuba with the support of Venezuela, for treatment of various eye ailments. This programme would now be facilitated directly by Venezuela, free of cost to Vincentians.

These are but two more very tangible expressions of solidarity by the Government and people of Venezuela for which we, as recipients, owe a debt of gratitude. Unfortunately, given the political situation in Venezuela, with the Government accusing the Opposition of trying to overthrow it (allegedly with foreign backing), and the focus in some sectors of the media on negative aspects of developments in Venezuela, such solidarity is often not fully appreciated or understood.

Every citizen has a right to his or her own views about political processes in any country. Thus there are those for whom the very name Venezuela invokes images of human rights violations. Others take a different view, blaming the unrest in Venezuela and the economic difficulties there, on economic sabotage instigated from outside.

Whatever one’s views, one should not be blinded to the many benefits that have accrued to our people and millions more throughout this hemisphere from Venezuelan solidarity through Petrocaribe and Alba. That solidarity is a fundamental part of the philosophy of the late President Chavez’s ‘Bolivarian Revolution’. The Venezuelan Vice President himself put it this way, “…a small part of Chavez’s dream for the people of Latin America and the Caribbean.” Our own Prime Minister Gonsalves described the “Vision Now” programme as an act “of extraordinary selflessness by the Government of Venezuela.”

Yet persistent critics seek to ignore the benefits. They question how long will Venezuela be able to render such assistance to the people of the region and regularly predict, sometimes with glee, the demise of the programme. This comes from a failure to understand the principles of solidarity between people. It would do us well to recall that similar predictions of economic collapse have hovered over Cuba for more than half a century. It has not happened yet.

By all means, we must be free to discuss and form opinions of internal processes anywhere, to agree or disagree, but we must never let it cloud our appreciation for such tangible development assistance nor blunt our expressions of gratitude.