by Hector Figarella
On November 12th, a group of constituents gathered with Congressman Jim McGovern (CD2-MA) outside of his Northampton office for the People’s Press Conference, organized by the Anti-Imperialist Action Committee, Massachusetts Peace Action (MPA), River Valley Democratic Socialist of America (DSA), Code Pink Western Massachusetts, and other local groups and constituents. The conference was an opportunity to thank the congressman for his recently published open letter to President Biden calling for the deadly sanctions against the people of Venezuela to be lifted as well as to ask the congressman to take further action to lift the sanctions. Additional demands included an end to the embargo against Cuba and to stop the funding of the Israeli military, which continues to violate the rights of the Palestinian people.
For over two years, activists from Western Massachusetts have been asking Rep. McGovern for more decisive action in regards to the killer sanctions against Venezuela. I spoke on the impacts that the sanctions have had on my own family and the need for more concrete action: “we’re calling this a hybrid war, the United States is engaged in a war against Venezuela, against the Veneuzlan people. … You don’t have to drop bombs – just subjugate an entire population. Squeeze them. Kill them – slowly and silently. But we’re here to let the world know that this has to stop. .. people are dying.” Figarella thanked Rep. McGovern for his “powerful letter” and for attending the event. But, he added, “we want to ask you, what next? What can you do moving forward to push this issue forward, to get people to talk about it, and to push some kind legislation that would have some kind of impact in lifting the sanctions?”
Cole Harrison, MAPA’s executive director, spoke on the need to protect the human rights of the Palestinian people. “Palestinians are living under occupation and living under oppression”, he said. “We’re supporting apartheid … When is our political leadership going to step forward?”
Harrison delivered a drafted letter to Rep. McGovern and asked that he will circulate it among representatives in congress and lead to further action.
Michael Kowalchuk, a member of the Anti-Imperialist Action Committee, spoke on how deadly and costly the US embargo against Cuba has been and the need to lift the embargo. “The world needs to know that, since day one, the blockade against Cuba is a crime, and it has been going on for 60 years. [We thank] Rep. McGovern for leading the charge in getting rid of the blockade.”
The crowd of over fifty people of all ages showed that, even in this small corner of the world, people care for human rights and they also understand that it is important to show up and speak up on behalf of those who can’t do it themselves. Imperialism rears its deadly head on all corners of the globe, and people suffer and die because of it.
MAPA’s assistant director, Brian Garvey, stressed that “we’re brothers and sisters, not just in this country, but across the entire world and that sanctions are killing thousands of people around the world and they’re an act of war.”
The speakers made it clear that more actions are needed on all of these issues. Sanctions have become normalized in the mainstream media and even among our political representatives in congress who fail to see over and over again just how deadly sanctions are. The people of Palestine also continued to be erased from the political spectrum and they continue to suffer under a brutal military occupation and apartheid state.
After listening to the other speakers, Congressman McGovern addressed the crowd. McGovern has a long history of working to lift the U.S. embargo imposed on Cuba, and stated: “On Cuba, the policy is evolving and his current efforts to address the sanctions on Cuba, and promised to continue to put pressure on this issue”. In regards to Venezuela, McGovern has met with Western Mass activists several times over the past two years and promised to do more, the congressman held a briefing in 2019 on the impact of the sanctions and continues to say that he’ll try to do more for the people of Venezuela.
“We need to have a discussion in Washington about what an appropriate policy should be on Venezuela, Cuba and other countries around the world. This is the time with the new administration to have a comprehensive conversation about what our foreig policy should be around the world,” he said.
We gave letters on Venezuela and Cuba to Rep. McGovern with the goal of getting the congressman to do more for the people of Venezuela, Cuba and Palestine. Rep. McGovern stated that he will review the letters and that he looks forward to continuing this conversation.
Actions like this one give you a sense that people care, and confirm to need to continue organizing and fighting for what is right and to speak up on behalf of those who can not do it themselves, because people care about the well being of others, even in faraway places they’ve never been to, and they care because it’s the right thing to do.
— Hector Figarella is a Venezuean-American activist with the Anti-Imperialist Action Committee. He is a first responder in Greenfield.