Ken Livingston, Mayor of London

City of London hosts European conference on Venezuela

LONDON, England (Venezuela Information Centre, UK) — More than two hundred delegates from 12 European countries met at a conference in London on Saturday 10 November to support democracy and social progress in Venezuela.

Both Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, and Miguel Angel Martinez, Vice President European Parliament, took part in the conference.

Delegates included other members of the European Parliament, national parliaments, mayors, trade union leaders and representatives of social movements from Belgium, Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Delegates issued a statement backing the radical social reforms that have transformed the lives of millions of Venezuelans, noting the fact that Venezuela has held more democratic elections than virtually any other country in the world in the last eight years and calling upon European governments to respect the outcome of the forthcoming referendum on constitutional reform on December 2 this year.

A strong delegation of Venezuelan MPs, the Venezuelan Ambassadors to the European Union, London and Paris, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry and representatives of social movements explained the most important developments in Venezuela today.

The conference, said to be the broadest-based meeting on Venezuela ever held in Europe, was opened by Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London. Mr Livingstone said,”The breadth of representation at this conference is a sign of the extraordinary impact that President Chavez’ program of radical social and democratic reform is having throughout the world.

 “Anyone who suggests there is any kind of authoritarianism in Venezuela should just go to see the Venezuela Youth Orchestras which have turned hundreds of thousands of young people from the shanty towns into the most exciting classical music movement in the world today.

“As we meet Venezuela is debating a new series of constitutional reforms to strengthen democratic participation. I particularly welcome plans to transform the capital, Caracas.

“As part of London’s co-operation agreement with Venezuela, we put our own experience at the disposal of those seeking to improve the quality of life in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities.

“Today’s conference is a great opportunity for people across Europe to work together to build stronger links with the people of Venezuela and to explain the enormous progress they are making in improving life in their country,” said Mr. Livingston.

A statement issued by the Venezuela Information Centre, UK, said:

“The constitution introduced by President Chavez, for approval by Venezuelans in a popular referendum, is one of the most democratic in the world and enshrines rights of previously excluded minority groups. An emphasis on social inclusion has improved the position of women and Venezuela’s black, mixed-race and indigenous majority.

“Venezuela’s government has directly promoted participatory democracy through community councils, urban land committees and other local bodies.

“President Chavez’ sweeping social, political and economic agenda, has been endorsed by Venezuelans in 11 democratic elections that have been consistently judged free and fair by international observers. On 2 December the Venezuelan people will once again be called on to vote, on a series of reforms to the 1999 constitution proposed by President Chavez.

“Venezuela is one of the few countries in the world where both the constitution, and any revisions to it, must be approved by a majority of citizens in a national referendum. We call on the international community to respect the outcome of the coming referendum and support the sovereign and democratic right of the Venezuelan people to self-determination.”