Last month, a delegation from Hands Off Venezuela/Bolivarian Society of Quebec had a meeting with Elio Vitriago, the Venezuelan consul-general in Montreal.

The delegation, consisting of a few young Canadian HOV/SBQ activists and Jorge Martín, International Secretary of HOV, was warmly welcomed by the entire staff of the Venezuelan consulate, and by Mr. Vitriago himself.

We were there for about two hours and had an opportunity to discuss a range of issues with the representative of Venezuela’s Bolivarian government. Most importantly, the importance of advancing the efforts of our international campaign in Canada was stressed. Mr. Vitriago was pleased to learn about recent successes of our campaign and HOV’s merger with Bolivarian Circle “Louis Riel” in Toronto. It was discussed that at a later stage, we may be able to produce an English version of Bolivarien, the French-Spanish paper of the Consulate which is currently being published in Montreal.

We did discuss some of our disagreements with Chávez and the Bolivarian government and their stance toward the Iranian regime which, unlike the Venezuelan revolutionary government, is a vicious anti-worker and reactionary theocracy. We stressed the fact that we understand the natural needs of the Bolivarian government to have trade partnerships with every possible country (and this is an absolute right for Venezuela), but that there is a big difference between diplomatic relations and calling the Ahmadinejad regime “anti-imperialist” and “revolutionary”. In the final analysis, the real friends of the Venezuelan revolution are the Iranian masses.

What was most interesting was the extremely friendly and down-to-earth attitude of the Consul General and all of the other people at the Consulate. They were incredibly hospitable and we were not only given a warm welcome but some wonderful Venezuelan coffee, cookies, and a disc of Venezuelan music produced by the Consulate. Unlike all the capitalist statesmen and diplomats, the attitude of Consulate staff was one of comradeship toward us as young workers and activists. This fundamental difference, I believe, is not because of some sort of cultural difference, but because of the fact that in Venezuela, there is a revolution taking place in which even President Chávez has opened the debate about socialism. Many amongst the new diplomatic staff appointed by Chávez are committed revolutionaries and therefore see us as their international comrades.