TORONTO – A packed room gathered in the Larkin building of the University of Toronto to discuss the process of Latin American integration, the role of social movements and in particular the place of Venezuela.
Under the leadership of former President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela and Cuba initiated the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Treaty of Peoples Commerce (ALBA -TCP), which looked to provide a new paradigm for regional integration and trade based on solidarity and social development. Since its founding in 2004, the ALBA -TCP has grown to include 9 countries as well as numerous socio-economic intiatives with municipalities in the hemisphere.
Dr. Roberta Rice, Professor in the department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, addressed the crowd stating that ALBA “reflects the return of the development agenda, the return of the state, the quest to achieve autonomy away from the market towards an agenda for South-South cooperation on issues such as energy security, financial security, cooperation in infrastructure development, as well as in social and human development”, said Professor Rice.
Importantly, ALBA-TCP is the only multi-lateral agreement that has included space for social movements and civil society to actively participate.
Ruben Pereira, Coordinator of Social Movements of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Treaty of Peoples Commerce (ALBA -TCP) addressed the gathering to speak about the role of social movements in ALBA, which today also includes a continental initiative by social movements themselves independent of but in solidarity with ALBA.
Pereira also took to opportunity to speak about the reality occurring in Venezuela today.
“What is happening in Venezuela is similar to what they did in Chile. In Venezuela there is no economic crisis – in Venezuela there is an economic war, which is different. An economic war with shortages and artificial inflation caused by hoarders, speculators, usurers and those looking to starve the the people, all assembled under an agenda for a coup d’etat”, said Pereira referring to the campaign of economic sabotage by sectors of the Venezuelan business class. “The rancid ultra-right, in partnership with the U.S. State Department, oligopolies and monopolies, know that they will never be able to come to power through a vote”.
Since February 12th, violent demonstrations have resulted in hundreds injured and claimed the lives of 31 people, including 6 members of the Bolivarian Guard.
The afternoon session focused on providing participants with some tools and tips to engage in social media in order to counter the misinformation being spread about what is taking place in Venezuela. Co-organizers of the event, the Hugo Chavez Peoples Defense Front, plan on organizing further workshops in order to build a large, participatory ‘media team’ to counter the share factual information about the processes of social transformation happening in Latin America and elsewhere.