WHERE: Outside the Venezuelan Consulate at Bloor and Huntley.
WHAT: Hands Off Venezuela rally in solidarity with the Hugo Chavez government.
WHEN: Sunday, December 3, 1 pm In one of those rare occasions when activists rally in elation instead of dissent, Venezuelan solidarity activists headed to Bloor Street just hours before front-runner President Hugo Chavez won a landslide victory and a third term in office. Hands Off Venezuela folks want Chavez to continue using oil revenues to fund services for the poor, and hope to build political support so the U.S. and Canada stop trying to undermine his regime.
But they aren't the only ones here this evening. As I ask Chavez supporter Alberto Arzola, founder of the Bolivarian Circle Louis Riel , whether "socialist oil' could happen in Canada, a woman comes up behind me and whispers in my ear, "Ask him where he's from.'
Turns out she's a supporter of Chavez's opposition and is referring to the rumour that HOV members are not Venezuelan. Arzola, who's originally from Caracas, ignores her jeers.
Indeed, a number of people among the 450 expatriates lined up to vote at the consulate wear blue, the colour of Chavez's electoral enemies. They charge that the president intimidates those who campaign against him, not merely the rich.
"In Canada, there is no strong group for the regime, because [people here] were persecuted out of the country,' says Venezuelans for Democracy founder Eduardo Harari .
HOV members, however, say such talk represents hostility to the regime's social justice moves. "George Bush and Stephen Harper are afraid of what is happening in Venezuela,' says HOV's Alex Grant . "There, working people are taking power in their own hands.'