Monday, December 31, 2007

DREAM AND ACT: A MESSAGE FOR 2008

The following is the Commencement speech that nobel-prize winning writer Toni Morrison gave at my university, Sarah Lawrence College, in 1993. It is my gift to you for the New Year.

"If you don't feed the poor, they will eat you. And the manner of their eating is as varied as it is ferocious. If you don't give them the help, them the courtesy, them the respect you had in becoming educated, then they will educate themselves. And the things they will teach, and the things they will learn, may destabilize all you know. And by education, I don't mean hobbling the mind, but liberating it. By education, I don't mean passing on monologues, but engaging in dialogue, listening sometimes, assuming sometimes that I have a history, that I have a language, a view, a specificity, assuming that what I know may be useful, may enhance what you know, may extend or even complete it.

My memory is as necessary to yours, as yours is to mine.

Before we look for a useable past, we ought to know all of it. Before we start reclaiming a legacy, we ought to know exactly what legacy is - all of it. And where it came from. In the business of education, there are no minorities, there is only minor thinking. Because if education requires tuition, but no meaning, it is going to be about NOTHING other than careers. If it's about NOTHING other than defining and husbanding beauty, isolating goods and making sure enrichment is the privilege of a few - then it can be stopped in the sixth grade - where everybody learned it. Or the Sixth century - where everybody had mastered it.

Well, what would it be like to live without that putrifying hatred that we have been told and taught was inevitable, natural among human beings? INEVITABLE, NATURAL, after a presence of what, five million years? After recording ourselves for four thousand years - we haven't thought of anything better than that? And which one of us was born that way? Which one of us prefers it that way? Hating or grabbing or despising. Racism is a scholarly pursuit. And it always has been. It's not gravity or the ocean tides. It's the invention of our minor thinkers. Our minor leaders. Our minor scholars. And our major entrepreneurs. And it can be uninvented. Deconstructed. It's annihilation begins with just dreaming about, visualizing it's absence. Lose it, and if it can't be lost at once or just by saying so - then BEHAVE as if it were. BEHAVE as if our free life depended on it. Because it does.

If I spend my life despising you because of your race, or your class, or your religion, then I have become your slave. If you spend yours hating me for similar reasons, it's because you have become my slave. I have your energy. I have your fear. I have your intellect. I can determine where you live. How you live. What your work is. I can determine your definition of excellence. And I can set the limits to your ability to love. Which means that I have shaped your life. That is the gift of your hatred. You are mine.

Well, now you may be asking yourselves - what is all this? I can't save the world. What about my life, you ask? I didn't come here for this. I didn't even ask to come here. I didn't ask to be born. You insisted on your life. That's why you are here. There is no other reason. It's too easy not to have been born. And now that you're here - you have to do something. Something you respect - don't you? Your parents may have wanted you. But they did not dream you up. You did that. I'm just urging you to continue the dream you started. Because dreaming is not irresponsible. It's first order - human business. It's not entertainment, you know. It's work. When Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "I have a dream," he wasn't playing. He was serious. When he imagined it, envisioned it, created it in his own mind - it began. Now - we have to dream too. And give it the heft and stretch and longevity it deserves. But don't let anybody convince you - this is the way the world IS and therefore must BE. Nobody prefers mindlessness. Appetites for self-murder can be erradicated. No addict or suicide wants to be one. Enemies, races, nations - they can live together. Anybody over eight years old has already witnessed the expedient, commecial, almost whimsical nature of national friendships.

I have seen resources commited to the disenfranchised, the discredited, the merely unlucky. And before we can reap the harvest of these resources, before legislation put in place could work, it was disassembled. That determined committment must be re-dreamed, re-thought, re-activated by me and you. Otherwise, as nationalisms and racisms solidify, as coasts and villages become and remain forces of turmoil and dispute, as eagles and doves hover over the remaining sources of the raw wealth of the earth - as guns and gold and cocaine topple grain, technology and medicine to win first place in world trade - if these things go on we will end up with a worth not worth sharing or even dreaming about.

What I mean to say is - we are already life. Chosen by ourselves - humans as far as we know - there aren't anymore - we are the moral inhabitants of the galaxy. Why trash that magnificent obligation after working so hard in the womb to assume it? You will be in positions that matter. Positions in which you can decide the nature and quality of other people's lives. Your errors may be irrevocable. So when you enter these places of trust and power - dream a little before you think and solve. So your thoughts, your solutions, your directions, your choices about who lives and who doesn't, who flourishes and who doesn't, will be worth the very sacred life that you already chose to live.

You're not helpless. And you're not heartless. And you / have / time."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas in Caracas

(Cartoon by Angél Boligan)

Caracas has been in a crazed consumer frenzy during the past 2 weeks. Finally, things are settling down since most people have left the City for vacation spots around the world and lots have gone to spend their holidays at the beach. The City, which normally is over-congested with traffic and madness, was in particular form after December 15 (payday). The traffic was un-mysteriously concentrated in huge jams around...the MALLS! Spend, spend, spend...buy, buy, buy...oh, and light of firecrackers day and night!!! The "bin ladens" and the "mother-in-law-killers", as the powerful cherry bombs are called, have been waking up the more peace-loving caraqueños in cold sweats since December 1, and probably won't stop until after the New Year.

But, despite those obstacles, Caracas is beautiful in Christmas time! Especially with most of the people gone from the City!!! Lots of lights and decorations and celebrations everywhere. Venezuelans are a happy people who love to party!

President Chavez hsn't stopped to rest since the December 2 referendum vote. He's been traveling throughout Latin America and just finished up overseeing the Petro-Caribe summit in Cuba, which further solidifies the discounted petroleum agreement Venezuela inaugurated last year along with a dozen Caribbean nations. Petro-Caribe will provide low cost oil to neighboring nations, particularly poor ones like Haiti, in return for payment through goods and services. This is yet another aspect of Venezuela's foreign policy based on cooperation and solidarity.

The ridiculous "maletin" scandal that has been filling up airwaves and newspaper front pages during the past 10 days will be brought to surface yet again on December 28, when supposedly the 4 men detained in South Florida will have a hearing. So far, no evidence has been produced that actually demonstrates that these individuals were acting with the "direction" and "authority" of the Venezuelan government, which is a necessary step in order for the US Department of Justice to prove their case that the guys were acting as "agents" of the Chavez administration. So far, looks like a bogus case since the only connection proven between the detainees and the Venezuelan government are some very legitimate business deals. Imagine if every single person who did some kind of business with a foreign nation was considered an agent of that government! Most corporations, multinationals and even small and medium size businesses would be in danger then of violating US laws. The Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) of which these men are accused of violating, only applies to those individuals who are acting as agents under the direction and authority of a foreign government on US soil, and they have to be engaging in work relating to the political sphere (political activism or lobbying). This generally refers to lobbyists, public relations representatives, consultants (lawyers are exempt from FARA) and spies. Seeing as how those 4 men implicated in this scandal appear to be none of the above, looks like the case is just another attempt to smear the reputation of the Chavez government. No surprise that such dirty work is being done in the hands of the Bush administration and its Justice Department.

Anyway, if Chavez really wanted to give Cristina some money for her campaign, he would have just brought it himself on his own plane, which would never have been subject to search because of diplomatic immunity. He certainly wouldn't have authorized some sketchy mafiosa businessman to carry a briefcase full of cash on a private plane to Argentina. Please!!!!

The revolution doesn't rest for Christmas, I'll be working on finally finishing up my next book over the next 2 weeks. 2008 should be a year full of progress and achievements! The best gift of all is the contribution we each can make to building a more just and peaceful world.
Happy Holidays to all!!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Reflection and Revolution!

President Chavez with his new grandson, Jorge.

After the loss by a narrow margin of the referendum on the Constitutional Reform last Sunday, things are getting back to normal here in Venezuela. President Chavez's very graceful acceptance of the results has been an extraordinary showing of dignity and integrity to the world community, which had gotten used to calling him a dictator. Had the SI vote won by such a narrow margin, the opposition surely would have cried fraud and taken to the streets in violence. In fact, those scenarios were ready to go on Sunday, and the "guarimbas" (street violence & destabilization) was starting to begin that afternoon as the opposition prepared for a defeat. Believe me, the government and people were ready to defend themselves against the violence the extremist right-wing opposition had prepared for Sunday night, but Chavez made the right decision. He even admitted that had his reform won by a slight margin, he would't have accepted it. He would rather have peace in the country than a reform approved by a slim majority. What other head of state in the world would act in such a dignified, mature way??? Probably none. Certainly not Bush in the US who has won all his elections by narrow, questionable margins. Anyway, now is time to reflect on the elections, the campaign, the proposed reform, and analyze where errors were made and what can be improved.

The opposition here is still trying to say fraud was committed even though they won. They are beyond ridiculous. Extremists from the Un Nuevo Tiempo party are trying to claim the government committed fraud because the opposition exit polls and quick counts done by Sumate - a group funded by the USAID and NED - shows the opposition winning by 8 points instead of the 1.5 points that the official results show. So, when they lose, they cry fraud, and when they win, well, they also cry fraud. I think that Chavez's democratic credentials stand much stronger today than any member of the so-called opposition.

Be alert to happenings in Bolivia. Looks like the opposition there is heating up the streets and trying to overthrow Evo Morales' government. Tonight, Evo called for a recall referendum on his own presidency and that of the country's governors, most of whom are opposition. If that initiative takes place, things could get really ugly there. I may take a trip there soon to check out the scene and document some of the US intervention that is contributing to the destabilization of Evo's government.

It's December in Venezuela and Christmas is coming! The streets are full of decorations and lights and the traffic is unbearable. People are out spending their end-of-the-year bonuses and demonstrating that Venezuela is still as capitalist as ever, despite the opposition's constant whining about the imposition of a "castro-communist" state.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

VOTE CALM AND DEMOCRATIC IN VENEZUELA

Just a quick update. It's almost 6pm and the voting day is pretty much over. Most centers are beginning to tally up the figures and send them on to the National Elections Council (CNE) for final auditing and counting. We expect the first official report to be released within about 2 hours. I voted early this morning with little difficulties - there were some minor technical problems at the voting center where I voted, but CNE technicians quickly resolved everything and got the voting on track. There appears to have been a lot of participation- little abstention, despite what many polls had suggested. The Plan Republic, which is the defense and security operation that secures the electoral processes here, has detained approximately 50 people for electoral crimes (fraud primarily - voting with fake ID cards, usurping identities, etc.). But otherwise, there have been few incidents.

Venezuelans, as always, have spent the voting day peacefully in a joyful, festive environment.

Once results are in, the celebrations of victory will begin!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

OPERATION "PLIERS"


Last night CNN en Español aired the above image, which captions at the bottom "Who Killed him?" by "accident". The image of President Chavez with the caption about killing him below, which some could say subliminally incites to assassination, was a "production error" mistakenly made in the CNN en Español newsroom. The news anchor had been narrarating a story about the situation between Colombia and Venezuela and then switched to a story about an unsolved homicide but - oops - someone forgot to change the screen image and President Chavez was left with the killing statement below. Today they apologized and admitted it was a rather "unfortunate" and "regrettable" mistake. Yes, it was.

On a scarier note, an internal CIA memorandum has been obtained by Venezuelan counterintelligence from the US Embassy in Caracas that reveals a very sinister - almost fantastical, were it not true - plan to destabilize Venezuela during the coming days. The plan, titled "OPERATION PLIERS" was authored by CIA Officer Michael Middleton Steere and was addressed to CIA Director General Michael Hayden in Washington. Steere is stationed at the US Embassy in Caracas under the guise of a Regional Affairs Officer. The internal memorandum, dated November 20, 2007, references the "Advances of the Final Stage of Operation Pliers", and confirms that the operation is coordinated by the team of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) in Venezuela. The memo summarizes the different scenarios that the CIA has been working on in Venezuela for the upcoming referendum vote on December 2nd. The Electoral Scenario, as it's phrased, confirms that the voting tendencies will not change substantially before Sunday, December 2nd, and that the SI (YES) vote in favor of the constitutional reform has an advantage of about 10-13 points over the NO vote. The CIA estimates abstention around 60% and states in the memo that this voting tendency is irreversible before the elections.

Officer Steere emphasizes the importance and success of the public relations and propaganda campaign that the CIA has been funding with more than $8 million during the past month - funds that the CIA confirms are transfered through the USAID contracted company, Development Alternatives, Inc., which set up operations in June 2002 to run the USAID Office for Transition Initiatives that funds and advises opposition NGOs and political parties in Venezuela. The CIA memo specifically refers to these propaganda initiatives as "psychological operations" (PSYOPS), that include contracting polling companies to create fraudulent polls that show the NO vote with an advantage over the SI vote, which is false. The CIA also confirms in the memo that it is working with international press agencies to distort the data and information about the referendum, and that it coordinates in Venezuela with a team of journalists and media organized and directed by the President of Globovision, Alberto Federico Ravell.

CIA Officer Michael Steere recommends to General Michael Hayden two different strategies to work simultaneously: Impede the referendum and refuse to recognize the results once the SI vote wins. Though these strategies appear contradictory, Steere claims that they must be implemented together precisely to encourage activities that aim toward impeding the referendum and at the same time prepare the conditions for a rejection of the results.

How is this to be done?

In the memo, the CIA proposes the following tactics and actions:
*Take the streets and protest with violent, disruptive actions across the nation
*Generate a climate of ungovernability
*Provoke a general uprising in a substantial part of the population
*Engage in a "plan to implode" the voting centers on election day by encouraging opposition voters to "VOTE and REMAIN" in their centers to agitate others
*Start to release data during the early hours of the afternoon on Sunday that favor the NO vote (in clear violation of election regulations)
*Coordinate these activities with Ravell & Globovision and international press agencies
*Coordinate with ex-militar officers and coupsters Pena Esclusa and Guyon Cellis - this will be done by the Military Attache for Defense and Army at the US Embassy in Caracas, Office of Defense, Attack and Operations (DAO)

To encourage rejection of the results, the CIA proposes:
*Creating an acceptance in the public opinion that the NO vote will win for sure
*Using polling companies contracted by the CIA
*Criticize and discredit the National Elections Council
*Generate a sensation of fraud
*Use a team of experts from the universities that will talk about how the data from the Electoral Registry has been manipulated and will build distrust in the voting system

The CIA memo also talks about:
*Isolating Chavez in the international community
*Trying to achieve unity amongst the opposition
*Seek an aliance between those abstentionists and those who will vote "NO"
*Sustain firmly the propaganda against Chavez
*Execute military actions to support the opposition mobilizations and propagandistic occupations
*Finalize the operative preparations on the US military bases in Curacao and Colombia to provide support to actions in Venezuela
*Control a part of the country during the next 72-120 hours
*Encourage a military rebellion inside the National Guard forces and other components

Those involved in these actions as detailed in the CIA memo are:
*The CIA Office in Venezuela - Office of Regional Affairs, and Officer Michael Steere
*US Embassy in Venezuela, Ambassador Patrick Duddy
*Office of Defense, Attack and Operations (DAO) at the US Embassy in Caracas and Military Attache Richard Nazario
---Venezuelan Political Parties:
*Comando Nacional de la Resistencia
*Accion Democratica
*Primero Justicia
*Bandera Roja
-----Media:
*Alberto Federico Ravell & Globovision
*Interamerican Press Society (IAPA) or SIP in Spanish
*International Press Agencies
------Venezuelans:
**Pena Esclusa
*Guyon Cellis
*Dean of the Simon Bolivar University, Rudolph Benjamin Podolski
*Dean of the Andres Bello Catholic University, Ugalde
*Students: Yon Goicochea, Juan Mejias, Ronel Gaglio, Gabriel Gallo, Ricardo Sanchez

Operation Tenaza has the objective of encouraging an armed insurrection in Venezuela against the government of President Chavez that will justify an intervention of US forces, stationed on the military bases nearby in Curacao and Colombia. The Operation mentions two countries in code: as Blue and Green. These refer to Curacao and Colombia, where the US has operative, active and equipped bases that have been reinforced over the past year and a half in anticipation of a conflict with Venezuela.

The document confirms that psychological operations are the CIA's best and most effective weapon to date against Venezuela, and it will continue its efforts to influence international public opinion regarding President Chavez and the situation in the country.

Operation Tenaza is a very alarming plan that aims to destabilize Venezuela and overthrow (again) its legitimate and democratic (and very popularly support) president. The plan will fail, primarily because it has been discovered, but it must be denounced around the world as an unacceptable violation of Venezuela's sovereignty.

The original document in English will be available in the public sphere soon for viewing and authenticating purposes. And it also contains more information than has been revealed here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Festivals, Referendums and Revolution



Venezuela is just rockin' these days!! The Third Annual International Circus Festival is kicking off this week in Caracas, and folks can enjoy circus entertainment from Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Chile, the United Kingdom and France through Monday, December 3rd. There will be street performances, acrobatics, theatrical events, music and artistic expressions all over town. Who said we couldn't have fun during the referendum campaign?

In the meantime, the state of Zulia, where the opposition passion runs high, is hosting the First Annual Festival of the Earth, where lovers and artists of clay and rock are coming together to create brilliant earthy artworks.
Caracas is also hosting the annual Festival of Artesans in Parque del Este, which I hope to visit tomorrow in order to find some unusual local handmade Christmas presents for my family and friends!

But oh, let us not forget the crazy violent opposition that today actually killed an innocent 19-year old worker from PetroCasa, a government company that builds affordable housing for low income families in Venezuela. Yes, that unfortunate event occured this very morning in the State of Carabobo after the opposition decided to launch a series of violent "guarimbas" in the streets across the nation as part of what their extremist faction has named "the march with no return". Well, we hope they will never return with all their violence and destabilization. Actually, in Caracas, this "guarimba with no return" had little affect. Just a few private university students blocked traffic in the late morning hours, but were quickly (and peacefully) dispersed by authorities. However, in the states of Carabobo and Aragua, the groups got violent, and at least 80 were arrested by security forces. The assassin of the the 19-year old has been detained, identified and will be charged with murder. We do have a legal system and a state of justice here, despite what the opposition thinks. But the oppositional media showed and said nothing. They only seem to care when the one who is hurt or killed is from the middle or upper classes. Event the international media, like CNN en Español, which has religiously covered the opposition student marches all month, aired nothing about the tragic incident. So much for media objectivity.

This Sunday is the referendum vote on the Constitutional reform. The "SI" to approve Chavez's proposal will most likely win by a clear margin, but the opposition will not cease its tactics. They will probably increase their violent actions over the next few days and after the referendum is won in order to prevent the Chavez government from implementing the new laws and regulations that will bring social and economic justice, and power, to the people.

The Colombia situation is deteriorating by the minute. Now, relations between Venezuela and Colombia are frozen because President Uribe of Colombia cut off President Chavez's mediation efforts (which Uribe had originally approved), because of a very short telephone conversation held between Senator Piedad Cordoba from Colomba, who is the main mediator in the humanitarian peace process in Colombia, President Chavez, and the head of Colombia's armed forces, during which the discussion was about the detained members of the FARC. Chavez says the conversation was necessary and authorized by Uribe, since Chavez was charged with negotiating between the FARC and the Colombian Army that is holding members of the guerrilla group as prisoners. But Uribe claims the conversation violated the terms of the mediation efforts and therefore, not only did he terminate Chavez's role, but also Senator Cordoba's efforts, which date back months, if not years, and include several assassination attempts against her by right wing Colombian forces. And, to top it all off, the Colombian government is now charging the Senator with "betraying her country", and the government of France has offered her political asylum. So, she risked her life to bring peace to her country, with the authorization of her government, and now she is a traitor???? This situation between Colombia and Venezuela plays right into the hands of the United States government, which has been searching for a reason to create a conflict between the two neighbor nations in order to justify an international intervention. Lets hope things don't get any worse.

Just four days left of campaigning and tensions are running high. Be on the lookout for massive media manipulation and wacky opposition tactics to deceive and distort the mere reality on the ground here that gives every indication of a strong "SI" in favor of the reform this coming Sunday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

BOOKS, CULTURE AND REVOLUTION!



We just culminated the III Annual International Book Fair here in Caracas, sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and the National Book Center. This year's theme was "Is Revolution Possible in the United States?" and authors and long term activists such as Ward Churchill, Kathleen Cleaver, Amiri Baraka, Amina Baraka, amongst other important voices, gathered together for a week engaging in this very intriguing debate with the people of Venezuela. The event was extremely informative, inspiring and successful and led to the final determination that YES! revolution is possible in the USA, but it certainly needs a major push and some massive stimulation!!!!!

The Second Annual Festival with the Peoples of Africa is also taking place right now in Caracas. Cultural and political representatives from the Congo, Namibia, Benin and other African nations are meeting with high level members of the Venezuelan government and sharing cultural traditions with the people of Venezuela. These initiatives are part of the Chavez Government's foreign policy based on cooperation and integration with other people's around the world that share similar characteristics with Venezuela: poverty, rich natural resources, colonized past, developing status, immense potential for social and economic development.

In the meantime....the violent opposition students and political leaders are still trying to wreck havoc in the streets. Today is National Student Day in Venezuela and the streets are full of marches from all sides. We are expecting President Chavez to arrive in a few hours to address the crowd of tens of thousands of students that support the Bolivarian Revolution and the Constitutional Reform that will be voted on next December 2nd.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

MEDIA MANIPULATION OF VENEZUELA EVENTS

Giant "ROJA ROJITA"!!

This week has been pretty active in Venezuela, to say the least!! On the ground, things are heating up with the campaign for the referendum on the constitutional reform, which will take place on December 2, 2007. The pro-reform folks are the "SI" (YES) block and the anti-reform and opposition folks are "NO" this time around. On Sunday, we had a major march in favor of the reform. There were tens of thousands of pro-reform supporters in the streets of Caracas that marched 7 miles from Parque del Este to Avenida Bolivar to hear President Chavez speak. Most international media didn't report on that, but rather has spent its time reporting on the minor opposition student protests that continue to destabilize and provoke violence throughout the nation.

Today, Wednesday, November 7, there was an opposition student march to the Supreme Court in Caracas to symbolically hand over a document protesting the constitutional reform as unconstitutional to the members of Venezuela's highest court. The students marched relatively peacefully throughout the center of Caracas and a small commission of students entered the Supreme Court, were received by the judges and even had a chance to read a statement before the high court members that was broadcast live on national television. This event went without any violent incidents, unlike last week's opposition student march to the National Elections Council (CNE) that resulted in students trying to illegally chain themselves to the staircase inside the CNE headquarters. That incident did end in some violence and obvious reaction from state security forces, though no major injuries occurred.

After the march to the Supreme Court (TSJ), the oppositional students returned to the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and proceeded to kidnap a group of approximately 60 pro-reform and pro-Chavez students, including Libertad Velasco, one of the more well known leaders of the revolutionary student movement. Since public universities have autonomy over their security, state security forces were not able to enter immediately to resolve the situation and rescue the hostages. Private media, such as Globovision, reported that there was an "irregular situation" at the UCV, and later showed images of what they termed "pro-Chavez" supporters armed and firing at the oppositional students. What they did not tell their viewers was that those oppositional students had kidnapped a group of about 60 pro-Chavez students inside the Social Work school of the UCV and the "armed" individuals that entered the ground were members of Venezuela's Civil Protection unit, that entered the UCV after almost an hour had passed, to rescue the hostages. Images broadcast later on national television clearly show the hostages running out of the building on the UCV campus once rescued by the Civil Protection officers. Gunshots were fired up into the air to ward off the violent kidnappers, not to injure them in any way. Unfortunately, in the confrontations before the Civil Protection officers were able to enter the UCV grounds, 9 students were injured, one critically.

International media and wire services, such as Associated Press, published this photograph: and claimed that government forces are repressing students in Venezuela.

Take it from someone on the ground who is closely monitoring all events: The Venezuelan government is doing everything in its power to allow these students to freely enjoy their rights to protest without permitting them to destabilize the country, create chaos, and place in danger the lives of citizens. These types of protests that these students freely enjoy in Venezuela would NEVER, I repeat, NEVER be permitted in the United States. There is just no way the US Government or any city, state or county's police force would permit students to take the streets and public spaces almost daily, throwing molotov cocktails and bottles, as well as other debris, at the police, while damaging public property. In the US, thousands of them would be jailed and subjected to severe repression. Venezuela, on the other hand, is overly permissive with these protests and despite the ample freedom enjoyed by all sectors in this country, the international media distorts the scenario and attempts to paint a portrayal of the Venezuelan government as repressive. Repressive is the US government, permissive is the Venezuelan.

Stay alert to the media manipulation and the growing threat of a "colored revolution" (termed the "Marigold Revolution") in Venezuela (like Ukraine, Serbia, Georgia, etc).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Changing the Balance of Power



Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has won the Argentine presidency with 44.5% of the vote and almost double the amount of her closet opponent. The 54-year old senator was a shoe-in for the presidency and has now become Argentina's first woman president elected by the voters. The second place candidate who won 23% of the vote, was also a woman: Elisa Carrio, a former lawmaker and conservative. Cristina is a close ally of Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez and will likely continue to strengthen relations between the two nations. Argentina has been one of Venezuela's best friends in the process of Latin America integration and cooperation, and has leaned on Venezuela to help lessen its own dependency on the United States and its international financial institution, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Cristina will likely accompany her husband, current President Nestor Kirchner, on a visit to Caracas next week for the signing of the agreement to formalize the creation of the Banco del Sur (Bank of the South), an initiative proposed by President Chavez and widely lauded throughout Latin America as an alternative to the exploitative loan policies of the USA, World Bank and IMF. Heads of state from Bolivia, Ecuador, Brasil and Colombia will probably attend the event on November 3rd in Venezuela as well. Cristina will be sworn in as the President of Argentina on December 10th of this year.

Could this be a sign that finally power is shifting into more feminine hands? Last year Chileans elected Michelle Bachelet as the first woman president in that South American nation. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected last year as the first president of an African nation, Liberia. Other countries, like the Philippines have head women presidents on several occasions (current president Gloria Arroyo, previously Corazon Aquino in the late 1980s), and Nicaragua, Panama, Sri Lanka, Germany, Ireland, Finland, Guyana, Latvia and Iceland have also all had women presidents during the past several decades. Ecuador's new president, Rafael Correa, has named women to some of the most important cabinet positions, such as security and defense, and women foreign ministers are now a common sight for most nations. Is the US next?

(I'm not expressing support here for Hillary Clinton, particularly because her key strategist, Mark Penn, is one of the owners of Penn, Schoen & Berland, the polling firm that worked with opposition group Súmate to try and fraudulently contaiminate and/or discredit the recall referendum against President Chavez, and she has met with opposition leaders from Venezuela and endorsed anti-Chavez resolutions in Congress. But, whether or not the US will finally elect a woman president is a very important consideration).

On the note of changing power balances, we are almost ready here in Venezuela to kick off the campaign for the referendum on constitutional reform that will be held this coming December 2nd. The National Assembly is (supposedly) debating today the final articles that will be reformed, and then the entire package will be sent on to the National Elections Council for review and then made public so the campaign can start. In any case, both sides long ago began campaigning for and against the reform. Opposition marches led by student groups trained by the Serbian group OTPOR started up again last week and got violent, though only minor incidents were reported. The pro-reform folks are calling for a major march in Caracas with President Chavez on Sunday, November 4th.

Right now, it's still not 100% clear as to what all the proposed reforms will include. Some major changes include reducing the voting age to 16 and recognizing the rights and traditions of afro-venezuelans, as well as a ban on all discrimination for reasons of gender and sexuality. Venezuela may very well soon have the first constitution in the world that recognizes the rights of homosexuals and transgendered peoples.

The new US Ambassador here in Caracas, Patrick Duddy, was received personally by President Chavez last night in Miraflores Palace, in a ceremony to recognize and accept his "credentials" as the diplomatic representative of the US in Venezuela. Duddy was previously the Assistant sub-secretary of State for South America and the Caribbean, and has held prior posts in La Paz, Bolivia, Sao Paulo, Brasil and other locations in the hemisphere. He holds a Master's Degree in National Security Strategy from the National War College in the US and appears to be an expert in economic sabotage and subversion strategies. From Charles Shapiro to William Brownfield, each time a new US ambassador comes on board in Venezuela, the situation between the two nations only deteriorates. We will be on the look-out for what Duddy has in mind....

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rain, Stars and Parties

Scenes from the new film, "MIRANDA RETURNS"

It's raining so hard here in Caracas that the Avila mountains have disappeared before my eyes. The large quintas at the top of the hill have been absorbed by thick grey clouds spouting torrential tropical rains. Yesterday I got caught in the downpour just as I was coming out of the supermarket. Today, I made it back from Sunday's long run just in time. The rain is so fierce that my windows are shaking and the trees are dancing outside.

This is NOT typical for Caracas. We happen to have the fortune to be outside the line of tropical storms that plague the Caribbean islands and reach up their evil eyes into Florida, New Orleans and other unfortunate locations in their view. But these rains after the season has passed are just a mere glimpse into an unpredictable future of climatic change due to the abuses of humankind and capitlist exploitation of the Earth. No wonder Al Gore and his crew won the Noble Peace Prize. Global Warming is beyond war - nature's wrath to human abuse is much more powerful than any weapon the Pentagon can even dream of creating.

Luckily here in the capitol we won't be as affected in terms of human victims, but on the coast of Venezuela and other areas where people live in fragile houses on the mountainsides, there will be damage. Nicaragua is already suffering serious harm from this recent pool of rabid rains - Venezuela is sending help there.

On the topic of Earth and the powers beyond humans, Venezuela is hosting the XII Regional Latin American Meeting of the International Astronomy Union this week. The event will be held in Margarita Island, and more than 250 star-studded specialists will attend from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and of course, Venezuela. There will also be representatives from Germany, Spain, the United States, Italy and the UK, who will contribute to the 146 oral presentations focusing on topics such as: formation of galaxies, explosions of gamma rays, atomic processes in interstellar gas, how and when a star is born in our galaxy, amongst other exciting themes such as supernovas, neutron stars and the huge radiotelescope in Mexico.

During this conference, there will be discussions about the development of a massive telescope for the region, and the celebration of the International Year of Astronomy in 2009. Of course there will be a few side discussions about extraterrestrial life, science and pseudo-science, black holes, astrophysics, history of the Solar System and the cosmos.

Venezuela launched Mission Science two years ago with the objective of nurturing Venezuela's national science system and brilliant scientists. Every year, the Ministry of Science and Technology awards Venezuela's most innovative, creative and astute scientists with grants and aide to be able to continue contributing to the development of Venezuela's industries and those around the world.

See? The Bolivarian Revolution is not just about calling Bush the devil!!

Yesterday we had elections for the delegates to the founding congress of the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela). The process went smoothly and millions of folks aspiring to become party members came out and voted peacefully in the elections. Simultaneously, the National Assembly is engaging dutifully in the final debate for the Constitutional reform. They have added changes to more than 25 more articles in the reform package, in addition to those 33 proposed by President Chávez. I'll hold my comments on the reform until the legislature has concluded their debate, since more changes could come before then.

What is the best thing to do on a rainy Sunday? Go to the movies! I'm off to see the first film made in Venezuela's "Villa del Cine" (Cinema Village): Miranda Returns. The story of Francisco de Miranda, one of Venezuela's founding fathers and an internationalist who faught in the armies of the United States, France and others.
Danny Glover has a spot in the film. I'll give you my review tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bolivia Under Attack




From Chomsky in Boston to Evo in Bolivia, things have been a bit busy for me this month. Sorry for the slacking on the Blog, but duty calls!

Evo's government has been hard core against US imperialism from the beginning, but the situation is not so simple. Evo told me that when he won the presidency and assumed office in January 2006, the CIA actually had its headquarters inside the Bolivian presidential palace! Now that's interference!! Of course, Evo kicked them out of the palace, but getting them out of the country is not so easy. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the funding arm of the Department of State, has major investments in Bolivia. In fact, Bolivia is the recipient of more USAID funding than any other nation in Latin America. More than $120 million annually in US taxpayer dollars are being pumped into destabilizing Bolivia and its democratic (and indigenous) government. But the most incredulous part of it all is that approximately 70% of that $120 million doesn't even make it to Bolivia. Those US taxpayer dollars allegedly being used to fund "humanitarian" and "development" efforts in impoverished Bolivia are actually being used to finance inflated executive salaries and administrative costs of US corporation and military industrial complex player, CHEMONICS, INT'L.

WTF?

Yes, that's how US intervention works. It's a money-making scheme just like everything else involved in US capitalism. USAID figures, poor little Bolivian opposition groups are happy receiving $2,000 - $5,000 per month as salaries, so lets give the US executives in the corporation that administers those funds $25,000 per month wages. Yeah, I guess that's what it costs to convince a US executive to destabilize an impoverished Latin American nation. And Chemonics has a contract with USAID in Bolivia for that whopping $120/year until 2011. That's a nice $1.5 million per Chemonics executive to try and undermine and overthrow the Evo Morales government. Oh, and remember those are US taxpayer (hard-earned in most cases) dollars.

USAID-Chemonics in Bolivia are everywhere. They run 6 official programs in the areas of Democracy (HA!), Alternative Integral Development, Environmental Issues, Healthcare and Economic Opportunities (capitalism). On top of that, USAID set up an Office for Transition Initiatives (OTI), just like it did in Venezuela after the failed coup d'etat against Chávez in April 2002, that manages an additional $13.3 million budget and contracts military industrial complex corporation, Casals & Associates, to "promote democracy" and "stabilize" the nation.

At the end of August, Evo and his Minister of the Presidency, Juan Ramón Quintana, called the bluff on USAID and it's "official cooperation" in Bolivia. They told the US government that if they want to continue cooperating in Bolivia, they will have to abide by the rules. And these guys are not joking. Last week, on October 10, 2007, Evo had an Executive Supreme Decree approved by Bolivia's Supreme Court, that prohibits international funding of activities in Bolivia without state regulation. Furthermore, the Decree sets out strict guidelines for such funding and does away with "third party contractors". Bye bye Chemonics and Casals & Associates. Venezuela should take Bolivia's example and do the same. Maybe that way we could finally get rid of USAID's OTI and it's private contracter, Development Alternatives, Inc., and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and it's core groups that have been undermining Venezuela's democracy since 2001: International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI), Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS).

I'm not so naïve as to believe that the US will actually abide by the Supreme Decree 29308 passed on October 10, 2007 in Bolivia. But in any case, it is a step forward against US aggression and intervention.

The US has already reacted in a cynical and racist way by sending its Ambassador in Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, to make fun of Evo publicly. When Evo spoke before the UN General Assembly meeting in September in New York City, he reiterated declarations made by Chávez last year: the member nations of the UN should consider moving the official headquarters to another country besides the US. Why did Evo, like Chávez, make such remarks? Because the US denied visas to the members of his official delegation, impeded the arrival of his airplane to JFK airport and gave him and his functionaries a hard time. These guys really have a point. If the US is going to make it difficult for international delegations to attend UN functions than maybe the meetings should take place somewhere less hostile.

But the US reaction was much less rational. Ambassador Goldberg responded by declaring he wouldn't be surprised if Evo also proposed to move the headquarters of Disneyland to a country outside the US. When Evo got rightfully pissed off, Goldberg said he was just trying to "break the ice" between the two nations. We know from William Brownfield's (August 2004-August 2007) and Charles Shapiro's (March 2002-July 2004) behavior as ambassadors in Venezuela that the US Department of State is in desperate need of an expert teacher in "tactiful diplomatic behavior". Evo and Minister Juan Ramón Quintana have announced Goldberg will soon be a "persona non grata" if he doesn't apologize to the people of Bolivia and their elected government.

Beware of an increase in US agression towards Bolivia. President Chavez has said that Venezuela will respond with full force if the US moves against Evo Morales and the people of Bolivia. All people around the world should take the same stance.

Hasta pronto.

Friday, September 28, 2007

CONVERSATIONS WITH CHOMSKY


Photograph: Juan Carlos Yegres "Chomsky and Don Quijote". Chomsky reading the Don Quijote that was distributed by the Venezuelan government to more than 10 million people across the nation, for free.


On September 21, 2007, I had the extraordinary opportunity to interview Noam Chomsky in his office at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The interview will be aired on Venezuelan and Latin American television as part of the promotion for the III International Book Fair in Venezuela, which this year focuses on the theme: "United States: Is Revolution Possible?" The transcription of the interview follows.


EVA: I read a quote of yours which said power is always illegitimate unless it proves itself to be legitimate. So in Venezuela right now we are in the process of Constitutional reform. And within that reform the People's Power is going to gain Constitutional rank, above in fact all the other state powers, the executive, legislative and judicial powers, and in Venezuela we also have the electoral and the citizen's power. Would this be an example of power becoming legitimate? A people’s power? And could this change the way power is viewed? And change the face of Latin America considering that the Bolivarian Revolution is having such an influence over other countries in the region?

CHOMSKY: Your word, the word "could", is the right word. Yes it "could" , but it depends how it is implemented. In principle it seems to be a very powerful and persuasive conception, but everything always depends on implementation. If there is really authentic popular participation in the decision-making and the free association of communities, yeah, that could be tremendously important. In fact that's essentially the traditional anarchist ideal. That's what was realized the only time for about a year in Spain in 1936 before it was crushed by outside forces, in fact all outside forces, Stalinst Russia, Hitler in Germany, Mussilini's fascism and the Western democracies cooperated in crushing it. They were all afraid of it. But that was something like what you are describing, and if it can function and survive and really disperse power down to participants and their communities, it could be extremely important.

EVA: Do you think it's just an idealist illusion or can it really be manifested?

CHOMSKY: I think it can. It's usually crushed by outside force because it's considered so dangerous...

EVA: But in this case when it's the government who's promoting it? The state who's promoting it?

CHOMSKY: That's what going to be the crucial question. Is it coming from the State or is it coming from the people? Now, maybe it can be initiated from the State, but unless the energy is really coming from the population itself, it's very likely to fall into some sort of top-down directed pattern, and that's the real question. In Spain in 1936, the reason for the very substantial success is because it was popular - it's a quite different situation from Venezuela. In Spain, the anarchist tradition was very deeply rooted. There had been 50 years of education, experiments, efforts which were crushed, I mean it was in people's minds. So when the opportunity came they were developing what was already in their minds, what they had tried to do many times, it wasn't spontaneous, it was the result of decades of education, organizing and activism on the ground. Now Venezuela is a different situation, it's being initiated from above, and the question is can that lead to direct popular participation and innovative and energy and so on. That's a real historical experiment, I don't know the answer.

EVA: I think it's a combination because the reason that the coup against Chávez was overthrown was because of the people's power...

CHOMSKY: That's right

EVA: It's just been unstructured and very spontaneous, so the idea behind this is to somehow structure that, and I question from that same anarchist perspective, if you structure that power will it....

CHOMSKY: Take off...

EVA: or become corrupted or illegitimate? Or will it Take off?

CHOMSKY: Take off...That's why the comparison with Spain is so interesting because there it was coming from below, nothing coming from above and it was there because people had been committed to it for decades and had tried it out, organized and so on. There was a live anarchist tradition, actually there is a live anarchist tradition in Latin America but it's been repeatedly crushed, in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, all over, actually I have a book right over there on the desk on the history of Anarchism in Chile which is not very well known, so it's been there, it's hidden, but I don't think these ideas are very far below consciousness almost anywhere, including the United States. If you talk to working class people they understand the notions. If fact it's not too well known but in the United States, there was never a powerful organized left, but in many ways it's one of the most leftist societies in the world. In the mid-19th century for example, right in the beginning of the industrialist revolution right around here in Boston, there was a rich literature of working class people, what were called factory girls, young women coming from the farms to work in the mills, or Irish artesians, immigrants in Boston, very rich literature, it was the period of the freest press ever in the country and it was very radical. They had no connection with European radicalism, they had never heard of Marx or anything else, and it was simply taken for granted that wage labor is not much different from slavery, and if you rent yourself to somebody that's not different from selling yourself. Actually in the Civil War in the United States, a lot of the northern workers actually fought under that banner, were against chattel slavery and they were against wage slavery. And the standard slogan of the people was "the people who work in the mills ought to own them and run them". It took a long time to drive that out of people's heads. In the 1890s there were cities, like Homestead, Pennsylvania, that were taken over by working class people with these ideas, and they're still there. You know it's kind of suppressed by lots of propaganda and repression and so on, but it's just below the surface and I would imagine that may be the same in Venezuela. These are natural beliefs and there's a possibility they might spring into fruition given the right circumstances.

EVA: That's actually included in the constitutional reform as well, the concept of creating communal cities, communes, that are worker-run, and including the companies. It will be very interesting to see how it develops.

CHOMSKY: It's very interesting

EVA: And how it then would change the force of power in the region

CHOMSKY: If it can carry out. In the past it has happened but it's been crushed by force and even here in the United States it was crushed by State violence.

EVA: On the notion of "crushed by force and state violence", thinking of Latin America and the changes occurring, the influences of Venezuela, right now President Chávez is mediating the peace process in Colombia. One, how do you view his role as the mediator? And two, do you think that the US is really going to allow for peace in Colombia when there has been an expansion of Plan Colombia and Colombia remains the stronghold of the United States and its military force in South America? Would they react in a more sort of aggressive way?

CHOMSKY: I think the US will do what it can to make sure Colombia remains more or less a client state. But I don't think the US has a commitment to the internal war in Colombia. They do want to see FARC destroyed. The US does not really want paramilitaries running the country and the drug trade, I mean that's not optimal from the point of view of an imperial power, you don't want to have para-powers carrying out State activities. They were useful, and the US not only supported them but in fact, they initiated them. If you go back to the early sixties in Venezuela, in fact in 1962, President Kennedy sent a military mission to Colombia, headed by a Special Forces General, General Yarborough, to advise Colombia on how to deal with its internal problems and they recommended paramilitary terror. That was their phrase: they recommend "paramilitary power against known communist adherents." Well, in the Latin American context, "known communist adherents" means human rights activists, labor organizers, priests working with peasants, I don't have to explain to you, and yeah, they recommended paramilitary terror. You can look back and say that Colombia has a violent history, but that changed it, that's really the initiation of the massive state and paramilitary terror that turned into a total monstrosity in the last couple of decades. But although the United States did implement it and support it right through Plan Colombia, it's not really in US interests and the interests of US power systems for that to continue. They'd rather have an orderly, obedient society, exporting raw materials, a place where US manufacturers can have cheap labor and so on and so forth, but without the internal violence. So I think there might be toleration at least of mediation efforts that could curb the level of internal violence and control the paramilitaries who will be and are in fact being absorbed into the state.

EVA: But Chávez doing it?

CHOMSKY: Well, that's going to be interesting. In fact, it's rarely discussed here. In fact right now there are also negotiations and discussions going on between Brazil and Venezuela about joint projects, the Orinoco River project, a gas pipeline, and so on. Try to find some report about that here. People are afraid of it. The conception, or if you like "party line" on Latin America, has had to shift. Latin America has changed a lot, it's not what it was in the 1960s. For the first time since the Spanish invasion the countries are beginning to face some of the internal problems in Latin America. One of the problems is just disintegration. The countries have very little relationship to one another. They typically were related to the outside imperial power not to each other. You can even see it in the transportation systems. But there is also internal disintegration, tremendous inequality, the worst in the world; small elites and huge massive impoverished people, and the elites were Europe-oriented or US-oriented later - that's where their second homes were, that's where their capital went to, that's where their children went to school. They didn't have anything to do with the population. The elites in Latin America had very little responsibility for the countries. And these two forms of disintegration and slowly being overcome. So there is more integration among the societies, and there are several countries taking steps to deal with the horrible problem of elite domination, which has a racial component to it also of course, there is a pretty close correlation between wealth and whiteness all over the continent. It's one of the reasons for the antagonism to Chávez, it's because he doesn't look white. But steps are being taken towards that, and that is significant. The US doctrinal system, and I don't mean the government, I mean the press, the intellectuals and so on, have shifted their description of Latin America. It's no longer the democrats versus the communists - Pinochet the democrat versus.... It's shifted, now it's conceded that there is a move to the left, but there are the good leftists and the bad leftists. The bad leftists are Chávez and Morales, maybe Kirchner, maybe Ecuador - they haven't decided yet, but those are the bad leftists. The good ones are Brazil, maybe Chile and so on. In order to maintain that picture it's been necessary to do some pretty careful control of historical facts. For example, when Lula the good leftist was reelected his first act was to go to Caracas where he and Chávez built a joint bridge over the Orinoco...it wasn't even reported here, because you can't report things like that, it contradicts the party line - the good guys and the bad guys. And the same is true in this very moment with the Brazil-Venezuela negotiations. I think they are very important. Colombia is significant. If Chávez can carry it off that's great for Colombia, but these other things are much broader in significance. If Brazil and Venezuela can cooperate on major projects, joint projects, maybe ultimately the gas pipeline through Latin America. That's a step towards regional integration, which is a real prerequisite for defense against outside intervention. You can't have defense against intervention if the countries are separated from one another and if they are separated internally from elites and general populations, so I think these are extremely important developments. Colombia as well, if it can be done, fine, reduce the level of violence, maybe take some steps forward for the people of Colombia, but I think these other negotiations and discussions proceeding at the same time have a deeper and longer term significance.

EVA: Right now Chávez is in Manaus, just yesterday and today...

CHOMSKY: Right

EVA: Well, one of the tactics of US aggression against Venezuela and against the rise of a new leftism or socialism in Latin America is precisely to divide and counteract what Venezuela under Chávez has been leading throughout the region which is now resulting in sovereignty and Latin American integration. I guess to focus that question on a media angle, one of the other tactics of aggression against Venezuela and other countries in the region is obviously psychological warfare, on an internal level in Venezuela, but also internationally to prevent the people around the world from knowing really what's happening. Within Venezuela under Chávez hundreds of new community media outlets have been created. This has helped us internally to combat media manipulation from corporate media in Venezuela, but on an international level, we haven't had much advance fighting the war against the media empire. How can we do that?

CHOMSKY: Well, the history of media in the west is interesting. I mentioned that the period of the freest press in the US and England was the mid-19th century, and it was rather like what you were describing. There were hundreds of newspapers of all kinds, working class, ethnic, communities of all kinds, with direct active participation, real participation. People read in those days, working people. Like a blacksmith in Boston would pay a 16 year old kid to read to him while he was working. These factory girls coming from the farms had a high culture, they were reading contemporary literature. And part of their bitter condemnation of the industrial system was because it was taking their culture away from them. They did run extremely interesting newspapers and it was lively, exciting and a period of a really very free vibrant press, and it was overcome slowly, most true in England and the United States, which were then the freest countries in the world. In England they tried censorship, it didn't work, there were too many ways around it. They tried repressive taxation, again it didn't work very well, similarly in the US. What did work finally was two things: concentration of capital and advertiser reliance. First the concentration of capital is obvious then you can do all kinds of things that smaller newspapers can't do. But advertiser reliance means really the newspapers are being run by the advertisers. If the source of income is advertising, the main source, well that's of course going to have an inordenent influence. And by now it's close to 100%. If you turn on television, CBS doesn't make any money from the fact that you turned on the television set, they make money from the advertisers. The advertisers are in effect, the corporation that owns it is selling audiences to advertisers, so of course the news product reflects overwhelming the interests of the corporation and the buyers and the market, which is advertisers. So yeah, and that over time, along with concentration of capital, has essentially eliminated or sharply reduced the diverse, lively and independent locally based media. And that's pretty serious. In the United States, which has had no really organized socialist movement, nevertheless, as recently as the 1950s, there were about 800 labor newspapers which probably reached maybe 30 million people a week, which by our standards were pretty radical, condemning corporate power, condemning what they called the bought priesthood, mainly those who run the media - the priesthood that was bought by the corporate system offering a different picture to the world. In England, it lasted into the 1960s. In the 1960s the tabloids - which are now hideous if you look at them - they were labor-based newspapers in the 1960s, pretty leftist in their orientation. The major newspaper in England that had the largest circulation, more than any other, was The Daily Herald, which was a kind of social-democratic labor-based paper giving a very different picture of the world. It collapsed, not because of lack of reader interest, in fact it had probably the largest reader interest of any, but because it couldn't get advertisers and couldn't bring in capital. So what you're describing today is part of the history of the west, which has been overcome slowly by the standard processes of concentration of capital and of course advertiser reliance is another form of it. But it's beginning to revive in the west as well through the Internet and through cheap publishing techniques. Computers, desktop publishing is now much cheaper than big publishing, and of course the internet. So the new technologies are giving opportunities to overcome the effects of capital concentration, which has a severe impact on the nature of media and the nature of schools and everything else. So, there's revival, and actually the major battle that's going on right now is crucial, as to who is going to control the Internet. The Internet was developed in places like this, MIT, that's the state sector of the economy, most of the new economy comes out of the state sector, it's not a free market economy. The Internet is a case in point; it was developed in the state sector like here, actually with Pentagon funding, and it was in the state sector for about 30 years before it was handed over to private corporations in 1995 under Clinton. And right now there's a struggle going on as to whether it will be free or not. So there's a major effort being made by the major corporate centers to figure out some ways to control it, to prevent the wrong kinds of things from their point of view from being accessible, and there are now grassroots movements, significant ones struggling against it, so these are ongoing live battles. There is nothing inherent in capitalist democracy to the idea that the media have to be run by corporations. It would have shocked the founding fathers of the United States. They believed that the media had to be publicly run. If you go back to the...it’s hard to believe now…

EVA: Well, that's why the airwaves are public

CHOMSKY: That's right, that's why the airwaves are kept public and it's a gift to the corporations to allow them to be used. But if you go back to Jefferson, even Hamilton, Madison and the rest of them, they were in favor of public subsidies to newspapers to enable them to survive as independent sources of information. Postal rates were set by the government in such a way as to give advantages to the newspapers so that the public would be able to have access to the widest possible range of diverse information and so on. The Bill of Rights, which technically established freedom of press, we can talk about whether that works, but technically said nothing about whether the government could intervene to support the media. In fact, it's not only a possibility but it's what the framers of the Constitution had in mind. Over the years, attitudes, the dominant culture, the hegemonic culture as Gramsci would have called it, has changed so that the idea of the corporatization of the media is sort of assumed kind of like the air you breathe, but it's not, it's a creation of capitalist concentration and the doctrinal system that goes with it...…It doesn’t have to exist

EVA: So, in that sense a couple of months ago the Venezuelan government decided not to renew the concession of one of the corporate media outlets for many reasons, tax violations, not paying social security for workers as well as being involved in the coup. Do you think that is a demonstration of the State assuring that those airwaves remain in the public sphere? And that is something that could be replicated in other countries or even in the United States, they didn't revoke the concession, they just didn't renew it.

CHOMSKY: You're talking about the RCTV case. Well, my own view of that is kind of mixed. Formally I think it was a tactical mistake, and for another I think you need a heavy burden of proof to close down any form of media so in that sense my attitude is critical...

EVA: But should corporations have a stronghold on the concessions?

CHOMSKY: Yeah, I know, that's the other side. The question is what replaces it. However, let me say that I agree with the western criticism in one crucial respect. When they say nothing like that could ever happen here, that's correct. But the reason, which is not stated, is that if there had been anything like RCTV in the United States or England or Western Europe the owners and the managers would have been brought to trial and executed – In the United States executed, in Europe sent to prison permanently, right away, in 2002. You can't imagine the New York Times or CBS News supporting a military coup that overthrew the government even for a day. The reaction would be "send them to a firing squad" . So yeah, it wouldn't have happened in the west because it would never have gotten this far. It seems to me that there should be more focus on that. But as to the removal of the license I think you just have to ask what's replacing it. In Venezuela, you know better than I, my impression is that it was not a popular move. And the population should have a voice in this, big voice, major voice, so I think there are many sides to it. But it kind of depends how it works itself out. Are you really going to get popular media, for example?


EVA: Should the concessions be in the hands of the people to decide?

CHOMSKY: I think they should, yes, in fact in a technical sense they are, even in the United States. Take the airwaves again, that's public property. Corporations have no right to it, It's given to them as a gift by the taxpayer and the taxpayer doesn't know it. The culture has reached the point where the people assume that's the natural order of things. It's not, it's a major gift from the public. In fact if you look at the history of telecommunications, radio and television, it's quite interesting. Radio came along in the 1920s and in most of the world, it just became public. The United States is an interesting case, it's almost the only major case in which radio was privatized. And there was a struggle about it. The labor unions, the educational institutions, the churches, they wanted it to be public, the corporations wanted it to be privatized. There was a big battle, and the United States is very much a business-run society, and uniquely, business won, and it was privatized. When television came along, in most of the world it was public, without question. In the United states it wasn't even an issue, it was just private because the business-dominated culture by then had achieved a level of dominance so that people didn't think of what was obvious, that this was public space that we're giving away to them. Finally, public radio and public television were permitted in the United States in a very small corner, because there had been public pressure to compel the corporate media to meet some level or public responsibility, like to run a few educational programs for children and things like that. And the corporations didn't like it, they didn't want to have any commitment to public responsibility, so they were willing to allow a small public, side operation, so they could then claim, well, we don't have to have any responsibility anymore because they can do it, and they don't do much of, they are also corporate-funded, but that's a striking difference between the United States and even other similar societies. It's a very free country, the United States, maybe the freest in the world, but it's also uniquely business-run, and that has enormous effects on everything.

EVA: On that note, the theme of the Book Fair in Venezuela this year is "United States: Is a Revolution Possible?" Is it?

CHOMSKY: I think it's just below the surface. I mean there is tremendous discontent. A large majority of the population for years has felt that the government doesn't represent them, that it represents special interests. In the Reagan years this went up to about 80% of the population. If you look at public attitudes and public policy, there is a huge gulf between them. Both political parties are far to the right of the population on a host of major issues. Just to take some examples; Read in this morning's New York Times, September 21st, there's a column by Paul Krugmann, who's sort of far left of the media, sort of a left, liberal commentator, a very good economist, who's been talking for some time about the horrible health system in the United States, it's a disaster, twice the per capita expenses of any other country and some of the industrial companies and some of the worst outcomes in the industrial world. And he has a column this morning that starts out by saying, hopefully, well now it turns out that maybe universal health care is becoming politically possible. Now that's a very interesting comment, particularly when it's coming from the left end of the media. What does it mean for it to become politically possible? For decades it's been supported by an overwhelming majority of the population but it was never politically possible. Now it's becoming politically possible. Why? He doesn't say why, but the reason is that manufacturing corporations are being severely harmed by the hopelessly inefficient and costly healthcare system in the United States. It's like how it costs a lot more to produce a car in Detroit than a couple of miles north in Windsor Canada because they have an efficient, functioning healthcare system. So by now there is corporate pressure from the manufacturing sector to do something to fix up the outrageous healthcare system. So it's becoming politically possible. When it's just the large majority of the population, it's not politically possible. The assumptions behind that should be obvious, but they're interesting. Politically possible does not mean the population supports it. What politically possible means is that some sectors of concentrated capital support it. So if the pharmeceutical industries and the financial institutions are against it, it's not politically possible. But if manufacturing industries come out in favor of it, well then maybe it begins to become politically possible. Those are the general assumptions, we're not talking about the left liberal commentary. I'm not talking about the editorials in the Wall Street Journal, that's the spectrum of opinion. Something is politically possible if it's support by major concentrations of capital. It doesn't matter what the public thinks, and you see this on international issues too. Like take what may be the major international issue right now: Is the United States going to invade Iran? That could be an utter monstrosity. Every viable presidential candidate - not Dennis Kucinich, but the ones that are really viable, has come out and said yeah, we have the right to invade Iran. The way they say it is, "all options are on the table", meaning, "we want to attack them, we can attack them." That's almost the entire political spectrum, but what does the population think? Well, about 75% of the population is opposed to any threats against Iran and wants to enter into diplomatic relations with them. But that's off the spectrum, in fact, it isn't even reported. But it's not part of the discussion. It's the same way with Cuba. Every since polls began in the 1970s, a considerable amount of the population wants to enter into normal diplomatic relations with Cuba and end the economic strangulation and the terror, which they don't know about, but they would be against that too. It's not an option, because state interests won't allow it. And that's separate from the population, and it's not discussed. Do a search of media and journals, including left journals and you just don't find it. Well, it's a very free country but also very much business controlled.

EVA: But how could that change come about?

CHOMSKY: It can come about by the kind of organization that will take public opinion - that will take the public and turn it into an organized force. Which has happened...

EVA: So in the end you need media control?

CHOMSKY: Well, that's part of it, but media control is in part a consequence of popular organization. So the media, take the Vietnam era, the media did turn into moderate critics of the war, but that was the result of popular mass movements. I could tell you explicit cases, one case I know very well was one of the major newspapers in the country, the editor happened to be a personal friend who was pretty conservative and became the first newspaper in the United States to call for withdrawal. It was largely under the influence of his son who was in the resistance, who I knew through the resistance activities, and who influenced his father. That's an individual case, but it was happening all over. The shift in the popular movements and popular attitudes led to a shift in the media, not a major shift, but a significant one. For one reason because the journalists are human beings and they live in the culture, and if they're coming out of a culture of criticism and questioning and challenging and so on, well, that's going to affect them. So there has been a change in many respects. Take say aggression. There is a lot of comparison now of the reaction to the Iraq war with the reaction to the Vietnam war - it's almost all wrong, there was almost no opposition to the Vietnam war. When the Vietnam war was at the level of the Iraq war today there was almost no opposition. Public protest of the Iraq war is far beyond that of the Vietnam war at any comparable stage. People have just forgotten. There was protest against the Vietnam war by 1968, lets say, but by that time there were half a million troops in Vietnam. The US had invaded...and it was seven, six or seven years after they had invaded South Vietnam and it had been practically wiped out and the word spread to the rest of Indochina. It was way beyond Iraq today - then there was protest. The first call for withdrawal from Vietnam in the major media was fall of 1969. That's seven years after the war began. Now you get it in the New York Times, they don't mean it, but at least you get it. These are changes, and the same changes have taken place in many other domains. Take say women's rights, it's pretty important, it's half the population. Well, the circumstances are very different now than the 1960s. You can see it right at this institution. Take a walk down the halls and you'll see about half women, about a third minorities, casual dress, easy interchanges among the people and so on. When I got here 50 years ago it was totally different. White males, well dressed, obedient - do your work and don't ask any questions. And it's indicative of changes throughout the whole society. Well, those are...the solidarity movements are the same. When you have popular movements, they change the society. If they reach a sufficient scale I think they can challenge fundamental matters of class domination and economic control.

EVA: Do you think the revolution in Venezuela serves as an example for people in the United States? That change is possible from the ground up?

CHOMSKY: It will if two things happen: One, if it's successful and two, if you can break through the media distortion of what's happening. Two things have to happen, ok? So, I mentioned that I was in Chile last October. The picture of Venezuela that is presented by the media, say in El Mercurio is about the same as it would have been in the old El Mercurio under Pinochet. So as long as that's the picture, that's the prism through which events are perceived, you can't have much of an effect. But if you can change the prism so that things are reported more or less accurately, and if what's happening in fact does constitute a possible model, if those two achievements can be reached, then yes, it could be.

EVA: Would you give a message to the people of Venezuela? Anything?

CHOMSKY: Yeah, make it succeed. The task for the people of Venezuela or for Latin America all together is to carry forth the programs of integration, of overcoming repression, inequality, poverty. lack of democracy, which is happening in various ways in different countries. Carry it through to success, and in collaboration and solidarity with people of the rich powers. Make it reach the point where it is understood there as well, that requires both sides, and they interact. Take liberation theology, it was mostly Latin America, and it had an influence in the United States, a big influence in the church and in the society, and the same can be true of other developments. There is a lot of interaction possible. More so now than before because of the existence of intercommunications and solidarity movements and so on.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

CHOMSKY ON VENEZUELA


Photograph: Juan Carlos Yegres "Chomsky & Eva" September 21, 2007

Back again to tierra venezolana!! I had the honor to interview Noam Chomsky for the Feria Internacional del Libro in Venezuela (international book fair) which will be held in all 23 states of the nation beginning in mid-October and lasting through November 19th. The Caracas part of the book fair, FILVEN, will be from November 8-18, and a great delegation from the United States will be participating as part of this year's theme: "United States, Is Revolution Possible?" Chomsky unfortunately can't accompany us in person but agreed to do this wonderful interview to later screen at the book fair and on national and international television. The entire interview for publication is not yet ready, but here are a view quotes:

Chomsky on the People's Power: "In principle it seems to be a very powerful and persuasive conception, but everything always depends on implementation. If there is really authentic popular participation in the decision-making and the free association of communities that could be tremendously important. In fact that's centrally the traditional anarchist ideal. That's what was realized the only time for about a year in Spain in 1936 before it was crushed by outside forces, but in fact all outside forces, Stalinst Russia, Hitler in Germany, Mussilini's fascism and the Western democracies cooperated in crushing it. They were all afraid of it. But that was something like what you are describing, and if it can function and survive and really disperse power down to participants and their communities, it could be extremely important."

Chomsky on Language: "Every time a language disappears that means the disappearance of the historical tradition, of cultural wealth, of an aural literary tradition, of a way of life, a piece of humanity is gone. It's not just the words. Languages are part of a living society. So a large part of humanity is being destroyed. It's tradition and it's cultural wealth. It's happening all over, people are not too aware of it. "

Chomsky on Intellectuals in Latin America: "Latin American countries are now resisting international intervention in a way that hasn't been true for 500 years, and impediments in the imperial societies well there are windows of opportunity for the intellectual classes as well. They don't live in a vacuum. They live in a society. They can't do anything if the society is not receptive to them and if they don't contribute to the society."

Chomsky on Latin American Integration: "If Brazil and Venezuela can cooperate on major projects, joint projects, maybe ultimately the gas pipeline through Latin America. That's a step towards regional integration, which is a real prerequisite for defense against outside intervention. You can't have defense against intervention if the countries are separated from one another and if they are separated internally from elites and general populations, so I think these are extremely important developments."

Chomsky on RCTV: "However, let me say that I agree with the western criticism in one crucial respect. When they say nothing like that could ever happen here, that's correct. But the reason, which is not stated, is that if there had been anything like RCTV in the United States or England or Western Europe the owners and the managers would have been brought to trial and executed – In the United States executed, in Europe sent to prison permanently, right away, in 2002. You can't imagine the New York Times or CBS News supporting a military coup that overthrew the government even for a day. The reaction would be "send them to a firing squad" . So yeah, it wouldn't have happened in the west because it would never have gotten this far. It seems to me that there should be more focus on that."


So folks, I'll leave it at that for now. The full interview will be available soon for publication and on television. Chomsky is my new hero.

On the ground here in Venezuela things are as active as ever. President Chávez will not be attending the 62nd General Assembly session at the United Nations in New York this year (I didn't think he would). I think it's best to give at least a one year gap between those intense visits. Anyway, Evo Morales is making his first major appearance in the United States and at the United Nations (heard he would appear on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart), and it's important that no attention be taken away from Bolivia this year, since the internal situation is quite delicate. A coup is in the works against the government of Evo Morales and the international community must take steps to prevent it.

Kevin Spacey, award-winning actor, is visiting Venezuela. The headline in El Universal, Venezuela's largest opposition daily newspaper says the following: "Chávez Meets with Lex Luther." Of course, the opposition media had to pick the most evil character Spacey has every played and use that for the reason to meet with Chávez. It was a meeting of the bad, evil guys, obviously!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Congressional Madness

Sorry folks, blogging is slow this week! I am preparing a trip and will be out until Sunday. In the meantime, check out and spread the word about how the crazies in the United States Congress are producing videos demonizing President Chávez, distorting facts, and trying to justify some kind of further direct aggression against Venezuela. Don't let them get away with it.

The ultra-right wing American Security Council Foundation, a Reaganite NGO (?) has decided to dedicate its resources and focus on President Hugo Chávez. Their wackeroonie website contains a made-up version of Chávez's life story (much better reading and more accurate would be Bart Jones' Hugo! The Hugo Chávez Story: From Mud Hut to Perpetual Revolution). These nuts claim responsibility for the US National Security Strategy, which has justified US imperialism around the world in the name of "protecting US interests" and the all-famous "promoting freedom and democracy" crap. These neocons claim to promote "peace" but actually are a bunch of insatiatible war-mongers.

Here's the list of Congressional crazies using US taxpayer dollars to make shabby war propaganda videos against peaceful Venezuela:

Congressional Advisory Board of the American Security Council Foundation:
(in alphabetical order)
Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN)
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA)
Rep. Thelma Drake (R-VA)
Rep. David Drier (R-CA)
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL)
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX)
Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-NY)
Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL)
Rep. Colin Peterson (D-MN)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ)
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO)
Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS)
Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL)
Rep. Bill Young (R-FL)


GET THE FACTS ON VENEZUELA STRAIGHT SO YOU CAN BLOW THESE REPS AWAY WITH SHARP SHOOTING KNOWLEDGE BASED ON REALITY. GREG WILPERT'S NEW BOOK, CHANGING VENEZUELA BY TAKING POWER, WILL GIVE YOU THE AMMO YOU NEED TO PROVE THESE RIDICULOUS CONGRESSIONAL AGGRESSORS WRONG. CHECK IT OUT!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Class is in Session & Soup's ON!


Today President Chávez was up bright and early to inaugurate on national television (en cadena nacional) the start of the 2007-2008 school year! Live from the city of El Tigre en eastern State of Anzoátegui, President Chávez launched 15 new Bolivarian schools nationwide and shared the first day of school with 526 new students at the recently built José María Vargas Bolivarian School. This particular elementary school was designed to service 3,527 families that were victims of the massive flooding and mudslides that occured in the State of Vargas in December 1999, and who were subsequently relocated to Anzoátegui after losing their homes in the natural disaster.

Today in Venezuela, 60% of the population is actively incorporated in the formal education sector. There are 9 million schoolchildren and adolescents that encompass 32% of that total; 4.2 million young, middle-aged and senior adults involved in the social education missions (Mission Robinson (basic literacy); Mission Ribas (continuing secondary education); Mission Sucre (university-level education)), which is another 18%, and another 10% studying in the nation's private and public universities and higher education institutes. Venezuela is one of the only countries in the world where 60 out of every 100 inhabitants participates in the education sector.

Venezuela may make the Guinness Book of World Records for the World's Largest Stew! This past Saturday the Food Ministry led by General Rafael Oropeza oversaw the cooking of a 3,960 gallon "sancocho" (that's stew en español), containing 6,600 pounds of chicken, 4,400 pounds of beef and lots more veggies. So much for all those opposition crazies claiming there is no chicken or meat in the country! This giant stew serves 60,000 to 70,000 people, and a few thousand were out and about all afternoon on Avenida Bolivar eating their share. Looks like we kicked Mexico's ass as the reigning Guinness World Record for a pot of 1,413 gallons of spicy soup made in Durango last July. And we left all those fancy supermarket chains throughout Caracas looking like fools with their economic sabotage scare tactics and constant hording of basic food staples (like limiting the amount of meat, chicken, sugar or other products you can buy to one per shopper). If they won't sell it, Chávez will give it away. Yeah baby, STEW YOU!



Yes, I did say "give it away". And that's just what the Food Ministry did on Saturday. Along with plates of giant world-record-breaking sancocho, the Ministry gave out 2 million bags containing 15 kilos of vegetables and 2 million kilos of sugar for free during Saturday's MegaMarket on Avenue Bolivar to the thousands of weekend shoppers and families that came out for the occasion. The Ministry also offered a special discount package for schoolkids: a backpack, pencils, pens, notebooks, markers, pencil sharpeners and other items for a mere 24.000 Bolivares (that's about $10 US on the official market and $6 on the black market).

On a more evil note, the Bush White House has once again certified Venezuela as "Major Drug Transit" country that has "failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to [its] obligations under international counternarcotics agreements..." This nonsense began in 2005 when the Chávez government caught the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) involved in acts of espionage, sabotage and illegal activity in the country instead of helping Venezuela's drug enforcement agencies to do their jobs. My second book, Bush vs. Chávez, has a chapter dedicated to this topic with reference to documents given to me by Venezuela's leading generals and officials who ran the anti-drug command in the National Guard and compiled one hell of a file demonstrating DEA sabotage and irregular activity. Since the DEA collaboration was formally suspended by the Venezuelan government in September 2005, the White House has tried to bully its way back on the scene by labeling Venezuela a "drug transit" and "noncomplicit" collaborater with counternarcotics activities. But in reality, Venezuela's counternarcotics efforts have only gotten better without the DEA slipping kilos of cocaine into their own briefcases and "fixing" the paperwork.

The most ridiculous part about this White House certification is that the sanction for Venezuela for "failing demostrably" to help the DEA deal drugs, is supposed to be a suspension of all economic aid to the country from the USA. But this is what George W. has to say about that: "I have also determined, in accordance with the provisions of section 706(3)(A) of the FRAA, that support for programs to aid Venezuela's democratic institutions is vital to the national interests of the United States." (See here) That means that the millions of US taxpayer dollars flooding into opposition groups in Venezuela through USAID, NED, Freedom House and other sketchy "democracy subverters" will continue in full force.

My hair is much shorter in this video that was filmed last year by Dateline in Canada, but it's still worth watching!! It's actually pretty good. Thanks to Aaron and his crew for their hard work and for getting this out there!

Oh, I almost forgot to mention my major opposition and dissent to the now official 1/2 time change that will take place on Monday, September 24, 2007. Like Venezuelans need another 1/2 to be late. I just think the whole thing is a waste of...time!