Human rights lesson from Venezuela to U.S.

01/06/12 Janelle Irwin
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Members of the Uhuru movement in St. Petersburg think the United States isn’t doing enough to help the poor. Last Friday the group held a reception for a Venezuelan representative who told them why the U.S. could learn a thing or two from his country’s social programs.

“Understand that the government can use the resource they have to solve the problem of people in term of health, in term of education, in term of housing. That’s the main concern they have.”

Marcos Garcia is the Venezuelan labor attaché. He told the fifty people in attendance that priorities in the U.S. don’t always put people first. For example Garcia talked about the increasing amount of outsourced jobs to other countries.

“No workers have to be outsourced. The tradition that corporations use to eliminate worker’s rights. Outsourcing. So you are working, for instance, in a factory getting a good wage with social security, everything. Then they say, ‘oh you know, you have to work right now with this other company outside our organization. You won’t have this protection and you will receive instead of $30 per hour, you will receive like $13 per hour.”

Venezuela also emphasizes equal representation for ethnic groups and minorities. Garcia said that practice is new to Venezuela, but guarantees the rights of those groups.

“In this country you just have two parties; like Venezuela in the past. We had a bipartisan system, two parties that have the control of almost everything. Right now we don’t have that system. We have a multi-system party. People from different sector come to participate. For instance, the indigenous people have the right to have free indigenous representative in the national assembly and the only people that vote to elect those representatives are indigenous.”

The Venezuela government tries to help people in other countries too. One Venezuelan owned oil company, Citgo, offers discounted heating fuel to those who can’t afford it. Venezuela offered aide to the U.S. after Hurricane Katrina but it wasn’t taken. One member of the Uhuru movement, Damon Reio, said he didn’t know the Latin American country was such a leader in human rights.

“Bush, so-called, rejected Venezuela and even other countries from helping out the poor African community in Louisiana so when Mr. Marco mentioned, ‘hey you know, we have a very strong connection with the impoverished community’; it just let me know that this is something that is true.”

But Reio said mainstream media sources don’t report on the good that comes from Venezuela.

“We always get, from the media, we get what the status quo wants us to know and it’s always, in my view, some type of one sided, pro-right type of perspective. To actually hear what’s coming from the horse’s mouth really enlightened me a lot in terms of what’s really going on in terms of trials, tribulations and what’s actually going on in Venezuela.”

During a question and answer session some Uhuru members asked Garcia about his opinion of the way the U.S. handles foreign affairs. He said he didn’t believe it was right to go into a country and tell them how they should govern their own people.

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