In celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service on January 18, 2010, the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Washington, D.C. would like to recognize the continuing importance and global resonance of the messages and values expressed by Dr. King, Jr. – both in his words and actions – during his life.
Dr. King’s was a lifelong advocate of equality and social justice. He fought to end discrimination against African-Americans, but also labored to end poverty and bring peace to the United States and to the world. While most famous for his efforts to extend civil rights to minority groups in the U.S., prior to his assassination he was working tirelessly to promote economic justice for the poor.
Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, which in 2009 celebrated a decade of reform and results, continues in the spirit of Dr. King’s work and words. President Hugo Chavez and his government have pursued dramatic political, economic and social change in Venezuela, and have done so in peace and in democracy. The words of Dr. King in his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech speak to the project underway in Venezuela: “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”
With the guidance and endorsement of the Venezuelan people, a new Constitution outlining broad political, economic, social and cultural rights came into force in 1999. More than ever before, women, Afro descendents, indigenous communities and the poor have had a say in the function and form of their government. And despite a coup d’état and a sabotage of the oil industry in 2002 and 2003, innovative social programs have reached into Venezuela’s neediest communities to offer health, education, job training, housing, food security and culture.
In 2004, a school in the coastal state of Vargas was named in honor of Dr. King. The same year, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Venezuela, a photographic exhibit highlighting Dr. King’s work was put on display in Venezuela’s National Library in Caracas. Both were overseen by the then Minister of Education, Culture and Sports Aristóbulo Istúriz – the first Afro-descendent to hold that post.
Just this year, on January 15, the day that would have been Dr. King’s 81st birthday, the CITGO Corporation, in alignment with the solidarity principles endorsed by the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, kicked off the fifth season of the CITGO-Venezuela Heating Oil Program at Riverside Church in New York. Since 2005 the program has offered 143 million gallons of discounted heating oil to an average of 180,000 households per year, 248 indigenous tribes and 245 homeless shelters in 25 states and the District of Columbia. The program draws upon principles espoused by Dr. King – solidarity and social justice – and allows low-income families to not have to choose between heat, food, medicine and housing.
Dr. King was a visionary and a revolutionary, and he continues to inspire and motivate ordinary people and their governments around the world. Just as he sought a country free from discrimination, poverty and war, Venezuela continues seeking a brighter future for its people and the world at large.
Photo: Library of Congress
Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the U.S. Press and Communications Office / January 18, 2010