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Venezuela's President Maduro: 'No one dares to ask us to abandon Palestine'

Venezuela’s President Maduro [NicolasMaduro/twitter]
Venezuela’s President Maduro [NicolasMaduro/twitter]

Under the presidencies of Hugo Chavez (1999-2013) and now Nicolas Maduro (2013-present), Venezuela has expressed strong solidarity with the Palestinian cause. It was the first country in Latin America to recognise the State of Palestine on the 1967 nominal borders. In 2009, Venezuela and the Palestinian Authority established diplomatic relations and announced the opening of a Palestinian embassy in Caracas. Diplomatic ties remain close, and Venezuela has supported the Palestinian cause at the UN.

They have also established and economic ties, including oil deals, emergency aid and scholarships for Palestinian medical students. Venezuela was the first country to grant free travel and movement to the Palestinians without a prior visa, and grants residence rights to Palestinians. According to President Maduro, his country would "like to give more" for Palestine. His support is solid.

"No one dares to ask us to abandon Palestine," explained the Venezuelan president during an interview with Al Mayadeen, which was broadcast on his country's state television. "We cannot accept such demands. It is a sin to simply think about abandoning Palestine or leaving it by itself."

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Maduro pointed out that Palestine is humanity's holy land, which is held in high regard. "We hear the name 'Palestine' loud and clear." He condemned the crimes of the Israeli occupation and insisted that the settler-colonial state will pay for them one day.

These crimes include the situation in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied Jerusalem and Israel's military offensive against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in May last year. "The occupation's crimes, violations and abuses were indescribable, and are unmatched in the world."

The Venezuelan leader expressed his conviction that Palestine deserves unwavering and fearless support from all world leaders, who he addressed directly: "Palestine is crying out for help; Palestine is asking for your support, crimes are committed against it every day, and its youth are killed every day."

Venezuela always takes the lead in condemning any aggression on Gaza. During the 2014 Israeli military offensive, Maduro was adamant that his government "vigorously condemns the unfair and disproportionate military response by the illegal state of Israel against the heroic Palestinian people." After the 2008-9 bombardment of Gaza, the then Venezuelan President Chávez broke off diplomatic ties with Israel, expelled the Israeli ambassador and his staff and closed the Israeli embassy in Caracas.

Speaking to MEMO, Venezuelan deputy Julio Chavez backed Maduro's statements on Al-Mayadeen."We confirm Venezuela's steadfast and unrestricted support for the cause of Palestine and the struggle of the Palestinian people," he said. "This has been the case since the arrival of Supreme Leader Hugo Chavez as president 21 years ago." The parliamentarian added that the right to self-determination is "a fundamental right of the Palestinian people."

As many as 15,000 Palestinians live in Venezuela, most of them in Valencia and the capital, Caracas. Despite the challenges they faced with the differences in language, culture and customs, they have been able to integrate with Venezuelan society in which they are respected. The community supported the government and President Maduro during last year's presidential crisis, condemning the "coup attempt" by the US-backed right-wing in Venezuela. The Palestinians rejected US interference in the South American country's internal affairs.

The physical distance between Palestine and Venezuela may limit the Palestinians' knowledge of their great supporters in Latin America to what they see on television. They should rest assured, though, that the solidarity is both strong and very real.

"We salute those who have resisted decades of siege and oppression with dignity and determination," tweeted President Nicolas Maduro on the International Day of Solidarity with Palestinians in November. "From Venezuela, we reiterate our support for their noble and just cause."

READ: Brazil renews support for the Palestinian people on International Day of Solidarity

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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ArticleAsia & AmericasIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestineVenezuela
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