Venezuela Delegation/International Organizing Exchange FAQ
1. Why travel to Venezuela?
Since 1998, the Venezuelan people have consistently voted and organized in favor of the Bolivarian Revolution lead by former President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías. In the last 15 years, the Bolivarian Revolution has spearheaded Latin American integration, solidarity across the world through their nationalized oil industry and nationally improved access to education, housing and medical care among other services.
Since February 2014, the right wing opposition with support from anti-revolutionary Cubans exiled in the United States as well as the US government officials and government sponsored programs have organized a coup attempt against the democratically elected Chavista working class government of Nicolás Maduro Moros.
The presence of the international community contributes to informing and aiding in solidarity campaigns with the Bolivarian Revolution.
For US delegates, we will examine the role of US intervention in Venezuelan politics and how we may organize stateside for a more fair and just US Foreign Policy. We will also examine what lessons and models seen in the Bolivarian Revolution that we can bring and apply to our home communities.
2. What security measures will the delegation take?
The safety of the group and the security of the host communities are paramount considerations. Delegation organizers and on the ground partners take careful precautions when assessing where delegates will travel and where they will stay. There is always some measure of unpredictability, but with experienced leadership, the risks of danger to delegates are mitigated.
In Venezuela, we will meet with communities and people who are leading incredible social and political projects in the name of their national sovereignty.
As such, there may be underlying security issues involved in some of our meetings, we ask all delegates to trust the judgement and expertise of the leadership team.
We are greatly concerned for the people we meet with. Therefore, we require that delegates follow the security guidelines that are discussed in the delegate training once you arrive. We will do everything to ensure your safety, but you must conduct yourself responsibly and thoughtfully as well. Please also take seriously that your individual actions may also seriously impact the rest of the delegation group.
In light of this, we move as collective rarely allowing delegates to travel on their own (even within communities we are visiting) and strongly reinforce travelling as a group also regularly communicating with travel leaders and our partners.
Low profile, low visibility: Please do not share our delegation details to people you do not know or who are not delegation partners. If you find yourself in a conversation with someone who asks many questions you should refer them to your delegation coordinators.
Protect Important Documents: Please carry your passport, emergency contact information and all other important documents and materials (medicines) on your person at all times. Do not leave these belongings out of your sight or laying around away from you. Often times National Guard and Police as well as some institutions will ask you for your passport or other necessary documents while traveling.
Buddy System: Please stay with the group at all times and use the buddy system when going to the bathroom, corner store or in other circumstances. At night it is important to be in a larger group or more than (2) people. Use your common sense and also avoid dark allies or poorly lit streets.
Also remember to:
Not take out electronic equipment in public (including telephones)
Ask before taking pictures or recording audio from meetings or presentations
Communicate with your delegation leader(s) regarding any questions or concerns
Avoid speaking English in the streets or in public transport.
Keep US dollars hidden away, do not take out large amounts of cash in public.
Participate and enjoy the delegation!!!
3-What will the weather be like?
The weather in Venezuela will be anywhere from warm to hot during the day with slightly cooler nights that may require a light sweater. Rain is always possible, so remember a light raincoat and umbrella. Caracas is much cooler than the rest of the regions we will visit during the delegation. Bring mosquito repellent!
What clothes will I need?
During the delegation, you should plan on wearing comfortable and nice clothes, as you might for a casual work look. Shorts are not appropriate for our meetings, nor visits to state institutions but pack some for relaxing, hanging out time. Comfortable shoes are important for days where there is a lot of walking. Also, you may want to bring something a bit nicer/fancier for press conferences or University presentations. Please remember to not bring very fancy jewelry such as earrings, necklaces or rings made of materials such as gold or silver.
5-What shots will I need? Are there other health concerns to be aware of?
You should consult a healthcare provider about any shots that might be recommended; we cannot make those recommendations for you.
Other concerns about health usually relate to the possibility of travelers diarrhea, or dehydration. It is important to wash hands frequently, especially before eating (you may consider bringing hand sanitizer). It is also good to carry plenty of tissues or toilet paper with you, as some places don’t have any. Also, bring a water bottle and drink lots of water. We will provide clean drinking where we will be staying and at any other place we will be staying or visiting in the countryside as well. But, it is up to you to make sure you are drinking it! Sunscreen and bug repellant are always important as well. Let your delegation leader know if you are not feeling well, so s/he can be helpful and take good care of you!
6. With whom does WFPSW partner with in Venezuela?
We partner with collectives, organizations and institutions aligned with the Bolivarian revolutionary process. Our partnerships with Venezuela are relatively recent and we anticipate that this delegation along with others will strengthen our ties with these movements. We will also likely include a meeting or two with representatives of the opposition movement in order to provide a variety of perspectives on the Venezuelan political climate.
7- Where will the delegation stay?
Our delegation to Venezuela will vary in accommodations. Some of our Venezuela delegations are lower priced for students. In these delegations most nights will be spent in homestays and community organized spaces like cultural centers. Public transportation options might be used as well. We will be in cities as well as smaller towns. Our more higher priced delegations are for mixed delegates of all ages where there might be more needs within the group. These delegations stay at hotels with single and double room options and we have our own driver and bus.
Members of the delegation should be patient and open–minded, and bear any discomforts with good humor and graciousness. Our partners are opening up their homes and hearts to us during our stay.
What kind of food will we eat?
If you have trouble adjusting to changes in diet, please bring snack foods (we suggest granola bars, dried fruit or nuts). In Venezuela a “plato tipico” (typical plate) for breakfast includes an arepa (corn patty with either cheese, meat, fish, chicken salad, etc.) or empanada (fried dough with either cheese or meat filling). Lunch typically includes rices, sweet plantains, salad and shredded beef, chicken or pork.
There will be lots of seafood in some regions along the coast but we also will be on a tight schedule and in some cases and will often buy fruits, crackers and vegetables from the local markets to eat on our travels.
There are also lots of fresh juices and fruit. The delegation will provide at least 2 meals per day, water and as many snacks as possible.
9- What about changing money?
We will help you to exchange your dollars for the Venezuelan Bolivar at the airport or local banks. International visitors cannot withdraw money from ATM machines.
You will transfer your delegation funds to the delegation leaders before you depart for the delegation. Your delegation leaders will take over and handle most of the delegation expenses for you so you wont need to carry large amounts of money. Bring with you only what you plan on using for your own personal expenses.
10- What is a typical delegation day like?
WFPSW plans a full slate of meetings and activities for the delegation. Each day will start with a fairly early breakfast (7:30-or earlier some days for early morning travel). After breakfast, there may be time for a group check-in or reflection. There may be one or two meetings before lunch. Afternoon meetings with some evenings planned. There will be a few days that are travel days where we are moving from one part of the country to another. We will be meeting with social organizations, community leaders, media outlets among others.
11- Can I make international phone calls? Will I have access to internet/email?
Access to internet and phones may not be always available or may be difficult to find time for. You will need to check with your cell phone service provider to see if your service will work in Venezuela and what additional costs you may incur. We suggest you tell your friends and family that no news is good news and they should not expect to hear from you daily. Because of the nature of this delegation we will be making efforts to prepare online reports/blogs during the delegation though not every delegate should expect to have internet access.
12. What kind of training will we receive?
A big reason why delegates have a positive and safe experience during delegations is because they are well prepared. And the reason the communities and people who we meet with continue to welcome our delegations is because the delegates are courteous, inquisitive, friendly, and, at the same time, serious about their mission.
In order to prepare delegates for their time in Venezuela, all participants are required to participate in a training session. This training will address safety, health, cultural and logistical issues, and will also help to establish cohesion between delegates and create a positive group dynamic. We will also receive a refresher once everyone arrives.
13. Do I need to speak Spanish?
It is not required to speak Spanish to participate in this delegation. If a delegate does not speak Spanish, his or her inability to communicate or understand what people are saying can be a source of frustration.
We will try to provide translation for every meeting, however there are moments when the translator may not be available. That is why it is important for each delegation to identify other delegates as possible translators.
Non–Spanish speakers may want to learn as many common Spanish words and phrases as possible prior to the delegation. In addition, delegation members from other countries speak Spanish and as such most of our time will be in Spanish though regularly translated.
14. Who are the delegation leaders?
The delegation will have several leaders who are on the ground in Venezuela. Witness for Peace Southwest has over 30 years of history accompanying social movements across the Americas and leading delegations to over half a dozen countries.