Monday, December 31, 2007


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,, 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


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!!!