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Venezuela under Chávez: exchanging perspectives

November 26, 2009 2 comments
Over the 10 years that Hugo Chávez has been in power the world has turned its attention to Venezuela. The “Bolivarian Revolution” that aims at establishing a “Socialism of the 21st century” is the subject of intense controversy among observers everywhere. Does the new turn in Venezuelan politics more accurately represent a drive to an “Authoritarianism of the 21st century” or is there a true democratic and economic revolution taking place? Are the redistributive policies undertaken a sharing of the country’s riches, or are they a form of vote-buying and clientelism? And do the other big investments and nationalisations by the government represent a “sowing of the oil” as is claimed, or are they just inefficient and corrupt projects? And what is happening to freedom of expression?Machiavelli, the association of Political Science students at the University of Amsterdam, invites the academic community and all others interested to join two prominent scholars on Venezuela and a journalist who was based in Caracas for three years in exchanging perspectives on contemporary developments in Venezuela.

Javier Corrales – associate professor and chair of political science at Amherst College, Massachusetts
Daniel Chávez – coordinator of the New Politics Programme at the Transnational Institute, Amsterdam
Tessa Marsman – freelance journalist and formerly working at the Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias in Caracas

Antoni Verger – sociologist, researcher and lecturer in International Development, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Date: tuesday december 1st 2009
Time: 20.00 – 21.30
Place: CREA: Turfdraagsterpad 17, Amsterdam
Entrance: free for students, others €5

Fotos van Piet den Blanken, Venezolaanse olieindustrie

Venezuela. Olieindustrie bij Puerto la Cruz.
Venezuela. Oil Industry in Puerto la Cruz.
Venezuela. Industria pertrolera cerca de Puerto la Cruz

Voor meer fotos zie:

Venezuela rejects unilateral anti drug plan

September 24, 2007 Leave a comment

Caracas, Sep 19, ABN.- Venezuela will no longer participate in anti drug plans that are imposed by other countries. This declared Rubén de Jesús Pirela Rodríguez, President of the National Anti Drugs Office (ONA- Spanish abbreviation), this Wednesday on the signing of the anti drugs agreement between the government of Miranda State and the National Anti drugs Office in Caracas.

Miranda is the first in line of the 23 Venezuelan states to sign an agreement with the ONA.
Foreign anti drug programs are focused mainly on international drug trafficking, according to the ONA President. The newly signed agreements include also national trafficking and national drug abuse.

‘We are a sovereign country and we will only participate in multilateral agreements that respect our independence’, he declared.

Venezuela participates in fifty multilateral anti drug agreements with thirty-five countries. One of the most significant agreements was signed in the nineties on the Latin American top in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It consists of 51 points that were implemented in the national procedures of the countries and “with cooperation and affirmation of the countries”, according to the ONA President.

In addition, there are recent agreements with Germany, United Kingdom and a French-Hispanic agreement is recently being signed.

Earlier this year the United Nations declared Venezuela responsible in the fight against drugs. It affirmed that the Caribbean country was the third in the world in drug confiscations.

The approach of the signed agreements is a new one. The 177 drug abuse prevention and treatment centers in Miranda State and later in the whole Venezuela will incorporate the communities.

This approach is in accordance with the national anti drug law and the socialist approach of the government of President Hugo Chávez, who promotes participation of its citizens. In December of this year, 4 thousand cooperatives must be ready to help the drug prevention and treatment centers.

The agreements signed today are part of the Sow Values for Life Mission, which is an overall government anti drug plan seeking to reinforce the third and fifth revolution motor that must lead to a conscious socialist society in which citizens participate.

Afro-Venezuelans support legal establishment of important racial recognition

September 22, 2007 2 comments

Caracas, Sep 20, ABN (Tessa Marsman)- Racism below the surface is strongly represented in Venezuela. Ask the everage Venezuelan about their forfathers and he will tell you about his Spanish abuela from Madrid or the Italian father of her great grand mother. But even the blackest person doesn´t make the efford to find out their African roots. But things are about to change now

As part of thirty two other changes, the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez proposed to recognize for the first time in the Venezuelan history and of the history of the South American continent its strong African roots. As is stated in the proposed change the Venezuelan State “recognizes the diversity in expresions and values indigenous, european and afrodesendence roots that gave us our origine”.

As part of the recocognición Presedent Cháves, partly afro decendant himself, proudly acknowledges his roots.

“African roots are part of being Venezuelan, without our origin we would not have the joy in our Venezuelality”, says Heiden Pirela, State deputy for the National Assemble and afro descendant, in an interview with the Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias on a gathering this Tuesday in Caracas in support of changes in the Venezuelan constitution that recognize African roots.

“An average Venezuelan is made up of three ethnics white European, indigenous and for an important part of black Africans”, states Pirela.

Erica Valentino, African Venezuelan student supports this: “As imported Africans we brought values and culture and on top of that we supported our country economically. We were the workforce that helped to built this country”.

“To understand our present we have to study our history”,adds Mayrin Margarita, employee of the Caracas Town Hall and member of the Afro Venezuelan Network (ADN). “The shipping of Africans to the Americas is one of the most intensive movements of humans and one of the biggest genocides of the history”.

Not everybody agrees with the singling out of the separate races though. Professor Thomas Palacios, Afro Venezuelan Social psychologist at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) claims that separating the races will provoke discrimination. “Studying separate races provokes discrimination where did not used to be”, he says.

Professor Hector Acosta, historian and political Scientist at the UCV disagrees with his colleague. He states that it is important to know about the history of the roots that all Venezuelans inherited. “In Venezuela races are mixed. There are not two excluding racial groups confronting because everybody has more or less black heritage, but, even though not absolute, social exclusion of the more blackest is reality”.

Afro descendants thought in school

The marching Afro-descendent groups were pleading this Wednesday for an involvement of their history, their art and their culture in the Venezuelan education.

Venezuelan afro-descendants were never recognised as being part of the Venezuelan history according to the marching groups.

“All levels of history classes leap from the colonization of Venezuela to the liberation of the country by Bolivar and his companions”, Heiden Pirela says. “Nobody mentions for example the battles of liberation of José Leonardo Chirino and other black fighters in 1795”.

Mentioning the black presence in society should be an intergrated part of education, he adds. “The black culture should not only be discussed in separate seminars and special events. Black writers for example should be part of our regular literature classes”, adds Pirela.“In daily life of the Venezuelans this must lead to a a raise of awareness of the black roots that many Venezuelans poses”.

“I never referred my colour to my background, until I learned about our rich cultural background”, says Mayrin Margarita

Erica Valentino experienced the lack of awareness about being black herself. ”In pre-school the other children told me I was a slave. Blacks are all slaves they said. But that is not true I had to tell them. My great grandfathers were slaves, but I am free”.

The only point of critics the afro Venezuelans raised on article 100 in the new constitution was a change of the word afro descendants into “African roots that gave us our origine”.

“Our origines are not the descendants but the continent of Africa”, says Pirela.

Six districts of the network of organizations of afro-Venezuelans were represented and besides Heiden Pirela State deputy for the National Assemble, Luis Bigott and the Education, Culture & Sports (MECD) Minister, Aristobulo Isturiz.

African Americans

Venezuela’s effort to uncover its African ancestry did not get unnoticed by other Africans on the continent.

“African-Americans are particularly receptive to Venezuela’s goals”, writes Gregory Stanford, African American reporter of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal quotes the Venezuelan ambassador Bernardo Alvarez.

“Under Chávez, Venezuela is rediscovering its African roots. About 40% of the population, Chávez included, can trace their ancestry back to Africa”, Stanford writes.

Roy Levy Williams writes in BlackpressUSA and NNPA news service an article on Chávez involvement of his black population. “The Bush administration should also learn that continuing a policy of hostility towards this Afro-Latino nation is a great mistake”, says.

Another African American news and review site, Seeing Black,publishes articles with titles like “Chavez Pledges to Help Bolivia’s Energy Sector” or “Venezuela Gives Bronx Groups $3.3 Million” and articles stating The voting is over in Venezuela, and the U.S.-supported right wing lost – badly”. Additionaly unlike many other conventional medias, they published the complete speech of Chávez in the United Nations last year in which he referred to President Bush as “The Devil”.

Reporters of Bay View a Black newspaper of San Francisco even took the efford to interview representatives of the Venezuelan black community Chucho Garcia. And in conclusion of their article they mention another link between Afro Venezuela and Afro America. “It has been said that some of the credit for these changes should go to noted African Americans such as Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte, who have urged an honest grappling with the racial question”, they conclude.

Dutch Antilles want to be the bridge between Europe and Latin America

Caracas, Aug 07, ABN (Tessa Marsman).-The Dutch Antilles want to make use of its position at the coastline of the Latin American continent and its political position as part of the Dutch kingdom in order to form an economical and political bridge between Europe and Latin America.

«We are part of the Carribean, but we are also part of European constallations», said Glenn Sulvaran, President of the Antillian governing party PAR and a member of the Antillian parliament, in an interview with the Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias

«We can participate in the Latin American economical block the Mercosur but also in the European Union. This position is unique», he explained in the interview last Friday on the the sixth Latin American and Carribean Social Forum helt in Caracas

For a while now, a fundamental discussion is going on between the Antilles and the Netherlands on the way the Antilles can participate in the Latin American blocks and Holland can take advantage of this participation. One of the obstacles is the anti globalization movement from the socialist Latin American countries.

Sulivan does not see this idiology as a problem. «If there are developments within our region, I think we should participate, just like when there are developments within Europe.»

Even though Antilles foreign affairs and defence are following the line of the Dutch kingdom, «at the same time we are also trying to enter Caricom and the OAS (Organization of American States)», says the Antillian member of Parliament. Caricon is a cooperation treaty between most of the carribean islands.

«With an Antillian participation in Mercosur and the Alba, Dutch and industies or services from other European countries can start a seat on the Antilles and trade their products against the internal trait fares».

The Mescosur as well as the Alba are economiscal and political blocks between several South American countries.

Economical and political participation
«Cooperation, however, does not only evolves around economy», says Sulvaran. «It also deals with the behaviour of people, about the socialization process. A participation also takes place on the political level».

The Antilles deal with an increasing polution. It is one of the biggest menaces of tourism, the mayor sources of income. By participating in the cooperation in Latin Americas treaties it hopes to find a solution to this transbordering problem

«We have to make a choice on how to manage natural recources and how to make the people of the Antilles participate in finding a solution», says Sulvaren. «It is an important discussion. Changes can only be carried through if the initiative comes from the people».

Venezuela needs to develop culture to fight corruption

Caracas, Aug 02, ABN- Venezuela needs to develop a new ethics through the expression of culture. This is essential to fight corruption in society.

This says Alla Glinchikova, allied to the Russian institute of glaobalization studies and studies on social movements in an interview with the Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias on the sixth summit of the Latin American and Caribbean Union.

“I noticed that the Venezuelan people consider art and culture as an elitist thing”, Glinchikova said. “But it is important to use art to change the ethics that provoke corruption within the society”.

“Corruption is not only due to a corrupt bureaucracy, it is a attitude that functions within the whole society”, she explains referring to her experiences in Russia.

“Russia after the fall of communism changed. It works in favor of the high oligargy in favor of rich people” .

“The Venezuelan state is result of a revolution, the change came from below, from within the society, and that is why it has a bigger chance to fight corruption from within the society”.

Africa and Latin America move from engagement into marriage

Caracas, 19 Jul, ABN (Tessa Marsman)- A discreet breakthrough has been reached, this week at the reunion of the coordinators of the second Latin America- Africa summit that will be held in 2008 in Caracas. Seven themes of negotiation and a series of organizational agreements must pave the road that leads from loose negotiations between the two continents to an economical, social and cultural union.

It was a modest reunion in the luxurious Melia Hotel where the Ghanese, Brazilian, Bolivian, Venezuelan and the delegation of the African Union met, in preparation of the second summit between the two continents.

The main issue to be agreed upon in the coming summit will be energy. Both continents are big suppliers of energy and with the shift of the United Stated, the biggest energy consumer in the world, away from the Middle East, an economical tie between the two oil-producing continents will give them a stronger negotiating position.

Additionally in Africa the production of an alternative fuel, ethanol, is taking off in full speed. Latin America with Brazil ahead, is already advanced in the ethanol crop production. Consequently among other African countries, Tanzania has showed its interest in Brazilian help to develop bio fuel fields. This said the ambassador and chief of the Delegation of Brazil Fernando Jaques Magalhaes, in an interview to the Bolivarian News Agency.

Ethanol is a product made out of agricultural products. Agriculture and environment will be another item on the agenda.

However, despite its energy production, Africa is suffering from a severe energy crisis. Due to the high energy prices despite Africa’s abundant energy resources, it currently has the world’s lowest rate of access to modern energy.

“Countries such as Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo among others are in dire need of energy”, writes the newspaper the Ghanaian Chronicle.

In a speech on the reunion in Caracas the President of the Commission of the African Union and Chief of delegation, Alpha Oumar Konaré comments on this issue that “Africa has many natural resources but is not in charge of their own resources. It consumes what cannot be produced and sells what is needed for itself”.

Konoré sees the solution in the connection between Africa and Latin America. “Through this connection we want to try to free ourselves from the domination and ultimately from hunger”.

Latin American investments

Fortunately the affection between Africa and Latin America is mutual. Besides a number of social programs that are run currently by Latin America in the African continent like health and education programs, economically Latin America is very present and ready to formalize these loose projects in an African-Latin American cooperation.

Venezuela for example imports textiles from Mali and is looking with interest at the sweet water production in South Africa. “We import marble from the north of Africa and interchange seeds with Egypt”, says Venezuela‘s deputy foreign minister for Africa, Reinaldo Bolívar in an interview with the Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias.

“The Egyptian eat Venezuelan water melon”, says Bolívar, “While Venezuelan lubricant is used in almost all Africa”.

Venezuela is observer in the African Union.

Brazil is, up till now, even more present on the overseas continent. Together with other southern economic powerhouses including India, South Africa and China, are largely responsible for a dramatic surge in trade and investments among the 132 developing nations in the global South. South-South trade was 562 billion dollars in 2004, wrote the press agency Inter Press Service at the end of last year.

Brazil invests, just like the Chinese, not only in energy, but also in infrastructure, something the west has hardly been doing.

“While the West is talking about good governance in Africa, China, India and south Corea are building infrastructures: roads, power generation and railway” commends Hakeen Baba-Ahmed, ambassador and secretary of the ministry of foreign relations of Nigeria in an interview with the Bolivarian Press Agency.

The Brazilian ambassador sees the development of an infrastructure as a mere opportunity. “Africa will be a big consuming market and a big labor market as well, but what we need to is provide the proper conditions to the continent. We need to give them the conditions to manage their own development”, he says.

Besides infrastructure, Brazil invests in coal from Mozambique. Through its company Companhia Vale de Rio Doce, one of the biggest metal and mining companies of the world, it exploits the region of Moatize. And it opened up an research center in Accra, Ghana. This Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation’s (EMBRAPA) improved its coffee production with the knowledge of their African brothers.

Bolivia restricted their proposals for the agenda of 2008 mainly to a cultural and social exchange “between the indigenous people of Africa and Bolivia”, said the representative of Bolivia. The only economical theme they the gas producing country was interested to participate in the reunion of UNASUR-AFREC held by the ministers of energy in Algeria, the first trimester of 2008

Follow up

Further meetings will be a reunion of experts in Ethiopia and a reunion of the ministers of commerce in Rabat, Morocco. The dates are not made public yet.

Social programs that are proposed and partly initiated are the installation of Radio of the South and a University of the South. Venezuela will continue it contribution to a food program of the UN, Program Mundial de Alimentos. Furthermore they are investing in education programs in Kenya and Somalia.