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!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


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
*Alberto Federico Ravell & Globovision
*Interamerican Press Society (IAPA) or SIP in Spanish
*International Press Agencies
**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


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



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.