Pictured above: President of the Central of Bolivarian Socialist Workers Jacobo Torres (top row, second from left, and the amazing team of electricians who helped restore the electrical grid after the attack in March of this year.

Yesterday, we had the amazing opportunity to meet with Jacobo Torres de León, the president of the Central of Bolivarian Socialist Workers. In his compelling interview, he spoke about his journey alongside President Maduro, his union brother and now Venezuelan President, and how they worked together to improve the rights of workers and unions. Torres de León played an important role in starting collectives for unions to have more voice in the government. He also spoke of Maduro’s struggle to establish himself as a reputable and credible president in the wake of former President Hugo Chavez’s death, which, like everyone else we have met here, affected him deeply. A rough translation of his account is as follows:

The USA thought they could crush us when Chavez died by starting economic war. Chavez was family to all of us. Usually, you need time to mourn family. We had no room, no time to mourn him. We couldn’t because the USA attacked us immediately. We couldn’t mourn in peace. The USA’s economic war first went after feminine products and diapers. Then when that didn’t work, they went after hygienic products like soap and toothpaste.  When that didn’t work, they started to gouge the prices of food.
It’s hard to be Maduro, constantly being compared to Chavez. We said, ‘You are Maduro, start finding your own vision.’ Luckily, having a leader like Maduro, who was a worker, a union leader, and a lefty his whole life, you know the direction the country is going in.” 

Jacobo Torres de León

Torres de León also spoke about the struggles they faced restoring the power grid after the US sabotaged the electrical system on March 5th, 2019. Dozthor Zurlent recounted listening to the cheers of the opposition and seeing the richest neighborhood in Caracas still glowing with power, while the rest of the country sat in darkness. After assessing the damage, they estimated that restoring power to the entire country would take two full months. He described the story of their fight to repair the damages, being attacked while they were trying to salvage as much as they could from the remains of the first assault. It took them five days to fully restore power to the country. They admit that the power wasn’t constant and that blackouts were occurring, but at the very least, the entire country had access to some kind of power. They are still working to restore power to its full capacity, but are proud of the work they have done in the face of extreme adversity and despite the economic war.

These men are heroes, but they wouldn’t accept the compliment. They still thanked us for helping tell their story. Torres de León said, proudly, the true leaders and heroes of the revolution have and always will be women.

A full audio recording of the interview will be posted as soon as it is transcribed. We are so excited to share more of this story with you.