On May 24 the U.S. government announced sanctions against PDVSA and other smaller companies in Jersey, Monaco, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Singapore. Venezuela will continue selling oil to the U.S. but PDVSA will be prohibited from competing for US government procurement contracts, from securing ﬁnancing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and from obtaining US export licenses. The sanctions do not apply to PDVSA’s U.S. based subsidiary, CITGO.
The marchers, including many PDVSA workers from around the country, rallied in three main plazas in Caracas, calling for the defence of national sovereignty against foreign interference.
President Hugo Chavez congratulated the people on the protest via his Twitter account, saying, “There you have it, the Venezuelan people, the workers, showing what they are capable of when the motherland is threatened. We will overcome!”
“The women and heroic mothers of Venezuela are there… All those who feel Venezuelan, join with us in the defence of motherland sovereignty,” he said.
The foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, put out the call for the protest last Friday. “We call on the people, in the name of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela [PSUV], the revolutionary movement, and the Bolivarian government, to come out into the streets on Sunday,” he said at the time.
Minister for Energy and Petroleum, Rafael Ramirez, spoke at the protest, saying, “Now petroleum builds health, education, housing, it brings justice to all our people.”
“Our brother countries in OPEC [Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries], under the undisputable leadership of Venezuela, have strengthened an instrument in defence of our national interests. That’s why imperialism invaded Iraq, besieges Iran, bombs Libya, and for the same reason, it harasses the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” Ramirez said.
The vice-president of the National Assembly, Aristobulo Isturiz, sang and chanted at the rally, and the president of the assembly, Fernando Soto said “national and popular sovereignty” was in danger.
Niurka Perdomo, a participant in the Mothers of the Barrio mission, told AVN she was marching to “respond to the threats against PDVSA and the social missions.”
Author and lawyer, Eva Golinger, addressed the protest, along with Cindy Sheehan, outspoken U.S anti-war activist whose son was killed in Iraq. Sheehan talked about how Citgo has been the only company “in the world, including from the United States” to help low income U.S citizens. “Thank you Venezuela” she said.
A delegation from the U.S. read out a declaration signed by thousands of people, rejecting the sanctions that the “president of the United States put in place unilaterally”.Solidarity with Venezuela Apart from the solidarity expressed with Venezuela over the last week by a range of governments and regional organisations including the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), member countries of Petrocaribe, Ecuador’s foreign ministry, the Cuban government, a group of Chilean lawmakers, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Amazonian Parliament, and the Latin American Parliament, a number of grassroots organisations internationally have also rejected the sanctions.
These include the U.S based University and College Union (UCU), which passed aunanimous resolution condemning the sanctions. The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network released a detailed statement demanding an “immediate end to this latest attempt by the U.S. administration to demonise and undermine the democratically elected government of President Hugo Chavez and weaken the Venezuelan people’s Bolivarian revolution.” The Alliance for Global Justice (U.S.) and Hands off Venezuela also condemned the sanctions.
Following the announcement last Tuesday by U.S. Vice Secretary of State James Steinberg , who said the sanctions were to send a “clear message” to companies which continue to “irresponsibly support Iran…they will suffer serious consequences”, on Wednesday PDVSA workers around the country held a day of action in defence of their company, including holding demonstrations, cultural activities, and assemblies. That day there was also a march in Caracas, and small marches and rallies in other cities around the country.