Today is the 85th anniversary of the birth of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the American pastor and leader of the civil rights movement who fought to put an end to racial discrimination and poverty. Dr. King’s work and his speeches have been a great source of influence for Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. The government of President Nicolás Maduro – and Hugo Chávez before him – has focused on implementing social, political and economic policies to promote democracy, peace and equality.
Last year, on the 50th anniversary of the historic march on Washington at which Dr. King gave his famous speech, “I have a dream,” the then chargé d’affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy, Calixto Ortega, visited the Memorial to Dr. King and his statue in the U.S. Capitol Building to pay tribute to the civil rights leader.
Ortega said: “We want to highlight the important virtues of Dr. King, who many U.S. historians and serious media outlets consider a founding father, a category generally reserved for those who worked to achieve independence in the United States, including our own Francisco de Miranda played an important role. We want to salute all those people who have remembered Dr. King on this important day and the fact that there is now a monument to him in the center of Washington.”
The then head of the embassy wished to visit the Memorial and the Capitol to emphasize connections that exist between the people of Venezuela and the United States, and to highlight the lucidity of Dr. King who at such a young age gave a speech that opened the doors to great changes in society.
“We in Venezuela are… [working] to remove an enormous amount of Venezuelans from a situation of anonymity and invisibility with regard to nutrition, health care and education, and this is in total and perfect harmony with the speech that King gave, where basically, in addition to those elements, he countered the very grave issue of racial discrimination. Meanwhile, we must underline that Dr. King gave his magnificent speech at just 34 years of age, which is an extraordinary achievement,” Ortega said.
A school in the state of Vargas, Venezuela, was named after Dr. King in 2004. That same year, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Venezuela, a photo exhibit featuring the life of Dr. King was displayed at the National Library in Caracas. Participating in both events was the head of the former Education Minister Aristóbulo Isturiz, who was the first Afro-descendant to hold that position.
Press – Venezuelan Embassy to the US / January 15, 2014
Photo: AP-Charles Dharapak