Do you recall the delegation of Chicago Teacher Union members going to Venezuela in a demonstration of support? Many of us were highly critical of Richard Berg (Organizer), strike captains Sarah Chambers (Special Education Educator), Valeria Vargas (Math Educator) and Fabiana Casas (English Educator) for the trip to show solidarity with a blood-soaked regime that has denied free speech, free press and other fundamental rights to Venezuelans. Chambers even expressed approval in a tweet saying “While staying in #Venezuela, we didn’t see a single homeless person.” Another thing Chambers probably did not see were the thousands of murdered Venezuelans just documented by the United Nations in a report of the extrajudicial killings ordered by the Maduro regime. Actually, between the millions that have fled, the thousands murdered, the thousands in jail, and the thousand in hiding, I am surprised Chambers saw many people at all on the streets of Venezuela.
Nicolás Maduro has been condemned around the world for its campaign of killings, arrests, and torture with the help of hundreds of Cuban intelligence officers. What was so incredible for me was that educators would go to a country to support a regime that has purged, tortured, and killed other teachers as well as thousands of other people.
According to the the Chicago Tribune, the GoFundMe page featured Chicago Teacher’s Union organizer, Richard Berg, with the title “Send CTU Strikers to Venezuela.” While saying that this was not a sponsored trip, CTU President Jesse Sharkey did not object to the crowdfunding effort based on being CTU members. Not only is Berg a CTU organizer but Sarah Chambers is reportedly on the CTU Executive Board. Chambers tied her trip directly to efforts by the local union. They met with high-ranking Venezuelan officials and represented the CTU. The trip was a propaganda bonanza for Maduro.
The Union passed a resolution criticizing U.S. sanctions and intervention in Venezuela while saying nothing about Maduro’s murderous regime or the denial of basic human rights.
Chambers reportedly was defiant after the trip was criticized, including the referral of people to the official resolution to “oppose the invasion of Venezuela.” She added in a tweet: “Have you visited Venezuela & spoke to 100s there? As a teacher, I teach my students to be critical thinkers, to get primary sources, listen to ppl’s stories & do research before just believing any news. I suggest you do the same.”
So all of those human rights organizations condemning the murders and torture were not reliable sources? It does not appear that Chambers had her Maduro contacts let her interview the 1000s being held in prisons for speaking out against the authoritarian regime.
How about this for “research”? According to the United Nations, Venezuelan special forces murdered thousands while fabricating evidence. Death squads called the “Special Action Forces” killed 5,287 people in 2018 and another 1,569 by mid-May of this year.
However, Sarah Chambers wants you to know that there were no homeless people on the street.