No war on Venezuela rally in London, 31 January 2019. Photo: Shabbir Lakha No war on Venezuela rally in London, 31 January 2019. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Over a hundred people packed out a rally in London at short notice to oppose Trump’s push for regime change in Venezuela and Britain’s role in it, reports Shabbir Lakha

A rally organised by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign was packed out on Thursday evening in a huge show of solidarity with the people of Venezuela. It was one of a number of rallies and public meetings defending Venezuela happening around the country this week and next.

Matt Willgress, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

In the last week, the UK has joined Trump, Bolsonaro, Trudeau and European heads of state to call for regime change in Venezuela. The European Parliament called on EU countries to recognise the self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, and Theresa May joined Macron and Merkel to tell Maduro he had to call a general election by next week or they’d recognise Guaido as President.

The irony that Theresa May, the Prime Minister without a majority, who just faced the biggest historic defeat in Parliament on her party’s flagship policy, and who refuses to call a general election despite there being no majority in Parliament for her Brexit deal or any alternative, but is calling for an election in Venezuela, was not lost on anyone. Neither was the fact that Macron is currently France’s most unpopular President with the most favourable polls giving him an approval rating of 27%, while his country has been wrought with 3 months of consecutive weekly protests of tens and hundreds of thousands of people and is gearing up for a general strike next week. That May and Macron think they can give ultimatums to leaders of other countries shows just how farcical this is.

Tariq Ali was clear in saying that mistakes had been made by the Chavez and Maduro administrations, particularly on failing to diversify the economy and challenging private capital’s hold of it. But, he pointed out, other countries facing economic turmoil were able to navigate out of crises – an opportunity Venezuela hasn’t gotten thanks to the crippling US sanctions and the deliberate destabilisation of the country through years of systematically corrupting state institutions from the outside.

Tariq Ali, renowned historian and author. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Other speakers talked about Juan Guaido’s training in the US, his involvement in groups funded by the US government, and participation in inciting brutal street violence that killed civilians in Caracas. Huda Elmi pointed out that the apparent saviours of democracy in Venezuela, are Trump and his special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, whose credentials include covering up a US Army massacre in El Salvador and being convicted for his role in the Nicaragua Contras scandal.

Huda Elmi, Labour NEC, Momentum NCG. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

It’s clear that Trump and his allies have no regard for democracy or the wellbeing of Venezuelans. The push for regime change in Venezuela is part of a coordinated attempt to roll back the progressive gains of the Bolivarian revolution and ‘pink tide’ and usher in right wing neoliberal governments across the region in the US’ ‘backyard’. Indeed, John Bolton has already said in clear terms that one of their goals is to privatise Venezuela’s oil and put it under the control of US companies; and Juan Guaido has indicated he would welcome US military intervention.

Kate Hudson, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

The rally was an impressive show of solidarity with Venezuela, and a reminder that the British labour movement which was instrumental in the international campaign against the coup in Chile and apartheid in South Africa, is prepared to defend Venezuela.

There will be many more rallies and protests in the days and weeks to follow to ramp up the pressure against Theresa May’s support for Trump’s imperialist attack on Venezuela.

Shabbir Lakha

Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.