[News] Venezuela’s Afro Descendent Front Proposes Program of Action to Confront Racism and Fascism

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 14 13:03:23 EDT 2014


  Venezuela’s Afro Descendent Front Proposes Program of Action to
  Confront Racism and Fascism

By Arlene Eisen – Venezuelanalysis.com, May 12th 2014

http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10680

Caracas, 11^th May 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - On Saturday, May 10, 
ignoring the rain, more than 1000 African Descendant Venezuelans flooded 
the streets in a march from the Venezuelan Central Bank to Miraflores 
Presidential Palace in downtown Caracas. Members of drumming groups from 
each of the nation’s states, some in traditional costumes and some 
wearing t-shirts claiming membership in the /Frente Afrodescendientes/ 
(Afro descendent Front) had gathered to mark the official Day of 
/Afrovenezolanidad /(Afro-Venezuelaness). Although the marchers 
paralyzed the already-snarled traffic, the drumbeats seemed to pacify 
the usually-angry blare of car horns.

As they entered the Presidential Palace grounds, the loudspeaker blasted 
over the drums, “Cimarrones, AfroVenezuelans, welcome to Miraflores, the 
peoples’ palace,” and “All of Venezuela is Liberated Slave Territory”. A 
huge billboard with portraits of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro framed 
the slogan “/Día de Afrovenezolanidad/ Todo la Patria un Cumbe.”*[1]* 
<http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10680#_ftn1>/

The commemoration at Miraflores, part cultural celebration and part 
political rally, was the culmination of two days of activities that 
began Friday in the Rómulo Gallegos Center of Latin American Studies 
(CELARG). The educational/cultural conference called “Merienda de 
Negras”[2] <http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10680#_ftn2> at CELARG 
opened with a film paying homage to Argelia Laya, also known as 
Comandanta Jacinta. Laya, born in 1926, on a cocoa plantation in Rio 
Chico, became a teacher in the 1940s and militantly defended the rights 
of women to education and political participation. She was a Black woman 
who led struggles for reproductive rights long before most feminist 
activists. Eventually she became a communist and joined the guerrilla 
struggle against the dictatorship of the time, and was a founder of the 
National Organization of Women. Today the university in Barlovento, 
whose student body is mostly African Descendant, is named after her. Her 
portrait adorns the entrance of the National Institute for Women in 
downtown Caracas and many of the speakers at the Miraflores rally cited 
her heroism.

After the film at CELARG, Reinaldo Jose Bolivar, Vice-Minister of 
Foreign Affairs for Africa, formally opened the conference by noting the 
leadership of Black people in struggles for liberation beginning with 
the 1553 rebellion of “El Negro Miguel”. Hugo Chavez first declared the 
Día de AfroVenezolanidad be celebrated each year on May 10, the 
anniversary of the insurrection of enslaved people led by Jose Leonardo 
Chirino in 1795. Two of Argelia Laya’s sons also addressed the group. 
Coordinated by the Bolivarian University of Venezuela’s Center of 
African Studies’ Flor Márquez, panels on Saturday focused on the theme, 
“Women, Struggle, Study and Creativity.”

*Racism of the Anti-Government Right Repeatedly Denounced*

While celebration of the culture of African Descendant Venezuelans set 
the rhythm to and permeated the programs at CELARG and Miraflores,  a 
particular political urgency marked this year’s /Día de la 
Afrovenezolanidad/. Nirva Camacho, a spokesperson for the National 
Afro-Venezuelan Front, reiterated a theme of many of the speakers who 
denounced the racism and violence of the Venezuelan right – the 
Venezuelan allies of the United States who aim to recolonize Venezuela. 
She read from a manifesto that affirmed the Front’s commitment to the 
struggle against colonialism, capitalism and imperialism, in full 
support of President Maduro’s executive actions and the Bolivarian 
process. She drew attention to the fact that “there had not been, nor 
are there any, nor will there be any /guarimbas/ (rightist street 
barricades) in AfroVenezuelan communities.”

In a sort of call and response between speakers and drums representing 
the African Descendants and President Maduro, the president noted that 
“today’s fascist ideas that attack society and attempt to impose a 
racist model of society are the same that have always denied the 
liberation of the peoples.”  He added that the reasoning of the 
Venezuelan right today is the same as those who opposed the liberation 
of enslaved people. He also reminded the audience that in much the same 
way that communists are denounced today, 19^th century Venezuelan 
radical general Ezequiel Zamorra was accused of being a communist for 
advocating the abolition of slavery.

Modesto Ruiz, United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) deputy to the 
National Assembly from Barlovento and one of the lead authors of the 
Organic Law against Discrimination, received a standing ovation when he 
declared, “We’re not only drummers, we’re revolutionary political 
actors.” (In an interview he gave during last year’s May 10 Observance 
he explained that the image of AfroVenezuelans as simply drummers and 
forced laborers is a Eurocentric, colonizers’ image. The indigenous 
people of Venezuela and the Africans who resisted slavery, like José 
Leonardo Chirino, the leader of an insurrection of enslaved people on 
May 10, 1795, were the first anti-colonial and anti-imperial Venezuelans.)

General Jesus Rafael Suarez Chourio, who identifies himself as a 
descendant of the famous African warrior Shaka Zulu, also focused on 
African Descendants’ tradition of resistance. General Chourio, who had 
been the Chief of Chavez’s Personal Guard and is now the Commander of 
the Infantry Brigade of Paratroopers based in Maracay, reminded the 
crowd, “We must know our history and where we come from.” Then he 
proceeded to list the names and insurrectionary achievements of a host 
of AfroVenezuelans, including Argelia Laya and several other women. With 
the mention of each name, and especially the women, the audience 
applauded their approval.

*The Manifesto of the Frente Afrodescendientes*

But it was Nirva Camacho, reading the manifesto of the AfroDescendent 
National Front who reminded Maduro, the other officials present and the 
audience that the specific struggles of African Descendants in Venezuela 
call for a program of action. She declared, “Considering that the 
AfroVenezuelan and AfroDescendant population in general still confronts 
the lashes of racism and racial discrimination, which are incompatible 
with socialism and the revolution, we propose that together the state 
and social organizations undertake to:

   1. Incorporate racism as an element of analysis in the different
      forums dedicated to the construction of peace, since as an
      ideology it is present in part of Venezuelan society, especially
      in the ultra right’s close relation to fascism.
   2. Revise communication policies in public and private media to
      eliminate racist bias, which would contribute to respect for our
      ethnic diversity…
   3. Apply the organic Law against Racial Discrimination to persons
      and/or groups who incite hatred and violence through racist
      demonstrations, like those expressed in the terrorism that
      recently has plagued Venezuelan society.
   4. Design and execute a plan to identify and articulate the variable
      of Afrodescendant, considered in the Organic Law on Education as a
      necessary step towards the eradication of racial discrimination in
      the Venezuelan educational system in order to achieve equality for
      future generations.
   5. Encourage a cross-section of ethnic perspectives as state policy,
      in all public and private institutions that give attention to the
      people.
   6. Direct all levels of government and popular power from the
      Presidency of the Republic to those who administer government in
      the streets inside AfroVenezuelan communities, at regional,
      municipal and grassroots levels to evaluate and respond to
      specific needs (housing, health, education and roads) which
      historically are a product of structural racism.
   7. Implement an ambitious plan of constructing Camps for Peace and
      Life in AfroVenezuelan communities, especially in the communities
      where narcotraffickers have manipulated our youth.

President Maduro, Blanca Eekhout, the Second Vice President of the 
National Assembly and Coordinator of the Great Patriotic Pole (GPP), and 
all the other officials on stage joined the audience in applauding the 
Manifesto of the Afro Descendent Front. In his closing speech, Maduro 
enthusiastically praised the Haitian Revolution and the various 
Venezuelan insurrections led by enslaved people as decisive turning 
points in Venezuela’s anti-colonial, anti-imperial struggles. He 
declared the whole nation a “cumbe of equality, peace and love” and 
expressed admiration for culture of resistance and happiness bred in the 
struggles of Afrodescendants in the Caribbean, Latin America and North 
America, even citing the Blues. He announced that the government would 
invest an additional 550 million bolivars to strengthen systems of 
popular culture, especially in Afro and Indigenous communities. The 
commemoration ended with Maduro’s speech, which contained approval for 
the principles embodied in the manifesto but few specifics about how the 
manifesto’s proposed program might be implemented.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] <http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10680#_ftnref1> 
AfroVenezolanidad can only be loosely translated as 
African-Venezuelaness. Cimarron was the Spanish name for an enslaved 
person who had escaped. Communities of Cimarrones were called “cumbes” 
and today many African Descended cultural and political organizations 
call themselves cumbes.

[2] <http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10680#_ftnref2> Historically a 
derogatory expression of contempt for a gathering of Black people, some 
activists have appropriated the term to assert pride in their culture 
and survival.

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