A self-appointed "delegation" from the Chicago Teachers Union has caused quite a stir, after taking a trip to Venezuela — while promoting socialist policies and dictator Nicolas Maduro — in what critics are calling a "propaganda tour."
What are the details?
Last month, a CTU organizer and three members took a crowd-funded tour of the economically crippled country, calling themselves a delegation of the union, the Chicago Tribune reported. The trip followed a formal CTU resolution condemning the United States for interfering with Venezuela's disputed regime and calling for America to lift its sanctions against the country.
While on the trip, the group blogged about their experiences on the site Radical Educator Collective, praising the country's "free social programs" which "began under Hugo Chavez, and continue to operate under Nicolas Maduro."
The U.S. government no longer considers Maduro to be Venezuela's leader, but formerly recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's president.
Although CTU has since tried to distance itself from the group's controversial charade, the union promoted the delegation's trip on Twitter, even retweeting a message from one of the travelers, Sarah Chambers, who wrote, "While staying in #Venezuela, we didn't see a single homeless person. USA is the richest country in the world; yet, there are homeless people everywhere. Over 17k CPS students are homeless...This is why @CTULocal1 is fighting for fair housing #CTUAgainstVezIntervention."
One follower responded, "What the Delegation fails to acknowledge is they used the CTU name to raise the funds, to set up meetings, to blog their 'findings.' This was never voted on. They don't get it. Irresponsible and reckless."
Not every member of the union is happy about the trip, either. One CTU teacher told the Tribune, "I am appalled a delegation representing themselves as CTU went to Venezuela, not to support striking teachers, not to object to human rights violations, but to go on what appears to be a state-chaperoned propaganda tour."
After the Chicago Tribune's story broke, Sarah Chambers went on attack against not only the delegation's critics, but the paper. The teacher wrote on Twitter, "It's absurd that the racist Trib, attacks rank&file teachers 4 traveling to Venezuela, w/a former CPS sub tour guide (not the gov), to hear their stories and learn about the consequences of USA's economic war. Trib has never supported black/brown self-determination in Chi or abroad."
Chambers added in follow-up posts, "Ppl here who have never been to countries attacked by the USA sure have a lot of opinions. We wanted 1st hand stories," explaining how the group not only visited schools but "worker owned factories, 50k ppl protests" and unions. She added, "Why do ppl believe the USA propaganda news before these ppl?"