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Spain’s press promotes anti-Chavez propaganda page 7

Western media distorts coverage on Venezuela page 8

Friday, October 19, 2012 | Nº 131 | Caracas |

Chavez shuffles cabinet After winning a landslide victory in last week’s presidential elections, President Hugo Chavez called for greater efficiency in his own government and swore in six new high level cabinet members, including a new Vice President. Some of the outgoing officials are heading off to run for governor of several Venezuelan states in the upcoming regional elections in December. Overall, Chavez pledged a revamping of his administration in order to improve government. page 3

ENGLISH EDITION/The artillery of ideas

Venezuelans revere indigenous goddess Maria Lionza


Former Union Leader New VP A man who once drove a bus and organized unions is now Venezuela’s Vice President. page 4 International

Venezuela calls for peace in Middle East The Chavez government condemned Israel’s aggression against Palestine. page 5

Fidel & Chavez play role in Colombian pact

Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s Chavez help negotiate an end to Colombia’s civil war. page 6

Thousands of Venezuelans make an annual pilgrimage to the high mountains in Yaracuy, in central Venezuela, to participate in rituals and spiritual ceremonies honoring Maria Lionza, an indigenous goddess of nature revered by millions. Lionza was born from a myth of an Indian princess with light eyes who became enchanted in the jungles of Yaracuy and takes refuge there. Believers say she offers miracles and “beautiful things for humanity”. page 2

Miranda satellite images On Tuesday, the Venezuelan government revealed the first images transmitted by its new satellite “Miranda”. The satellite was launched from China nearly three weeks ago. This terrestrial observation and remote imaging satellite will offer high-resolution pictures that provide scientific data used for planning in the areas of the environment, agriculture, industry, health, security, risk management and disaster prevention. Its images will also be used to help locate natural resources, monitor crops and border areas, and improve oil industry activities. Early next year a group of 54 Venezuelan scientists trained in China will take control of the satellite from the Captain Manuel Ríos Space Center in Guarico and the Simon Rodriguez Technological Complex in Caracas. The Venezuelan personnel received training from their Chinese counterparts regarding the processing, interpretation and use of satellite images of the national territory.

INTERNATIONAL Venezuela expels Paraguay’s diplomats after coup T/ Agencies Venezuela’s government has decided to expel Paraguay’s remaining diplomats from the country, the top envoy at the Paraguayan Embassy said Wednesday. Charge d’affaires Victor Casartelli said that he and three other Paraguayan diplomats in Caracas were told by Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry to leave within three days. Casartelli said that he received a call Tuesday from the Foreign Ministry informing him of the decision and that he met Wednesday with Venezuelan officials who confirmed that the four should go. The expulsion of Paraguay’s diplomats follows a bitter dispute between the countries that began in June with the congressional impeachment and ouster of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo – called by many a legislative coup d’etat -, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In July, the two governments withdrew their ambassadors amid rising tensions over Lugo’s removal. Chavez later said he had ordered his country’s military attaches to leave Paraguay, citing threats against diplomats. Casartelli said he was told by Venezuelan officials that when their government withdrew its diplomats, “they were waiting for Paraguay to do the same thing with us”. Since months passed and Paraguay didn’t follow suit, Venezuelan officials decided to expel the remaining diplomats, Casartelli said. He said in a phone interview that he and the other three diplomats had made plans to leave this week. One Paraguayan Embassy employee who is not a diplomat will be allowed to remain to perform consular duties, Casartelli said.

2 Impact | .ŽsFriday, October 19, 2012

The artillery of ideas

Maria Lionza:

The goddess of Venezuela T/ COI P/ COI


very October 12, the otherwise sleepy town of Chivacoa in the mid-western state of Yaracuy becomes the host to thousands of pilgrims making their way to nearby Sorte Mountain where devotees of the cult of Maria Lionza seek spiritual cleansing and favors from the indigenous goddess of nature revered by millions of Venezuelans. The majority of the practitioners are from humble backgrounds, as evidenced by the dilapidated buses that usher in the believers from around the country. While each traveller comes for their own reasons, the bulk of devotees arrive at the holy site looking for a solution to their problems, whether they be economic, romantic, or health related.

According to Aura Piscano, a 64 year-old practitioner of the cult, Maria Lionza is “a Holy Goddess who carries out miracles and does beautiful for things for humanity”. Piscano, who identifies herself as a “daughter of Maria Lionza”, recounts the myth of an Indian princess with light eyes who became enchanted in

the jungles of Yaracuy and who takes refuge in the dense vegetation of Sorte Mountain. Having been involved in the religion for 55 years, the native of the state of Barinas has seen the belief in the cult expand internationally, attracting more and more people every year. “Many people come for the necessity of help because the

truth is that this mountain has a geomagnetic, spiritual, and scientific power. Regardless of their career or their level of study, people’s faith makes them come here”, Piscano said. Pablo Vazquez, President of the Venezuelan Spiritual Association, claims that the total number of believers in the cult of Maria Lionza has grown to approximately 15 million people in recent years, roughly half of the entire Venezuelan population. “Everything takes place here in Sorte Mountain... this whole area possesses a power where Maria Lionza, through her rivers, streams and nature provides positive energy for those who seek it, those seeking health and healing where perhaps scientific medicine has not been successful... Maria Lionza receives us if we don’t have money and independent of our race or ethnicity”, he said. Such is the character of this intrinsically grassroots religious expression, which involves members of the cult hiring spiritual advisers who through trance and possession offer their clients an answer to their troubles. These “works” form the basis for the rituals that occur at Sorte mountain, which blend a variety of spiritual practices culled from traditions associated with Christianity and the African diaspora such as Santeria and Palo. Various sects, known as courts, form part of the pantheon of which the indigenous princess Maria Lionza reins supreme. These divisions are comprised of a diversity of historical and spiritual personnel including Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan independence hero; Guaicapuro, the indigenous warrior who led revolts against the Spaniards; and even Erik the Red, the Viking. Other branches of this spiritual universe include the Corte Cale, which venerates Robin Hood style urban criminals. “Everybody has a space here because this is sacred territory where Maria Lionza as a great matriarch provides shelter and maternal support”, said Aura Piscano. Without a written canon, the rites carried out at Sorte Mountain display extreme variations. Some rituals are excessively bloody and involve practitioners possessed by Viking spirits slicing their tongue with razor blades and breaking bottles over their head to demonstrate their manliness. Pablo Vazquez attributes these practices to followers of the cult who are operating out-

side the traditional boundaries of the established courts and whose spiritual works are executed more as spectacle than as true curative ceremonies. Indeed, with the proliferation of such acts, many members of the international press have seized upon the cult’s sensationalist elements, exploiting the more outlandish occurrences at Sorte for the amusement of international readers. To combat the stereotypes being circulated as a result of fringe rites, Vazquez’s Spiritual Association is embarking on educational campaigns to raise awareness about the cult through community workshops and lectures. The organization of practitioners is also attempting to organize the seasoned members of the cult in order to set out guidelines involved in the worship of Maria Lionza. “We’re working towards rescuing the traditions and sowing greater respect for Maria Lionza and her environment... It’s time to unify criteria to stave off the distortions that are taking place”, he said. Such codification of the cult has been attempted before without luck and one could argue that the very idea of formulating rules goes against the syncretic fundamentals of the religion that are defined by the innovation and interpretation of followers. Yet regardless of its amorphous nature, the growth of the cult of Maria Lionza has not been met with open arms by the Catholic Church, which has outright rejected the belief as incompatible with its own teachings. Followers of Maria Lionza however, compare to their worship of the “The Queen” to the worship of Christian saints and fail to see how their faith in God is conflictive with their faith in the cult. “We all come from one God and God is here. God created Maria Lionza and her nature”, Aura Piscano relates. Vazquez, along with the great majority of practitioners at Sorte, also defines himself as Catholic despite his involvement in the cult for more than 40 years. “Above all we believe in God and Jesus Christ. Maria Lionza would have said that she is not a goddess but rather a queen that belongs to part of our culture... We go to church, read the bible, preach the gospel and pray to Our Father. But that doesn’t prevent us from taking part in the cult because it’s our culture”, Vazquez affirmed.

.ŽsFriday, October 19, 2012

The artillery of ideas

Venezuela’s Chavez reconfigures cabinet; calls for greater efficiency in government

T/ COI P/ Presidential Press


n a shuffling of his cabinet personnel following a robust election victory on October 7, Venezuelan head of state Hugo Chavez swore in six new ministers last Saturday during a ceremony held in the presidential palace of Miraflores. Nicolas Maduro, the country’s new Vice President, also

took an oath of office as the 49 year-old current Foreign Minister prepares to perform the duties of two offices simultaneously. Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader from the capital Caracas, will be replacing Vice President Elias Jaua who is running for Governor of the state of Miranda in the country’s upcoming local elections slated for December 16.

The other high officials confirmed on Saturday are Ernesto Villegas as Communication Minister; Nestor Reverol as Interior and Justice Minister; Juan Carlos Loyo as Minister of Agriculture and Land, Aloha Nuñez as Indigenous Affairs Minister; Cristobal Francisco Ortiz as Minister of Environment; and Admiral Carmen Teresa Melendez, the nation’s first female admiral, as Presidential

Venezuelan congress receives 2013 budget with ‘strong emphasis’ on social spending T/ COI


n preparations for the coming fiscal year, the Venezuelan Executive branch submitted its proposed budget for 2013 to the country’s legislative body, the National Assembly (AN), last Monday. The budget, which includes requests for the funding for a diversity social development projects, will be first discussed in the Assembly on October 23 after Finance and Planning Minister Jorge Giordani presents a series of related reports to congress. Once these annexing documents are received, the proposal will be examined in committee before being submitted to a larger debate on the legislator floor.

Details on 2013’s request have yet to be released to the public but initial reports indicate that the budget will be based on a $50 per barrel price of crude, Venezuela’s main export. 2012’s budget consisted of a total of $69 billion for the Executive, also based on an average price of $50 per barrel to prevent fiscal shortfalls in the event of a drop in the commodity’s value on the international market. Forty percent of last year’s spending was requested, according to officials at the time, for an increase in social spending in areas such as education, social security, housing, and urban development. Congressman Ricardo Sanguino, socialist representative from the state of Tachira

and member of the legislator’s Economic Development and Finance Committe, said that this spending trend will continue as the new budget is designed to complement the Chavez government’s development plan for the years 2013-2019. Essential to this plan is increased investment in the social programs, or missions, which have characterized Venezuela over the past 14 years since Chavez first came to power. Greater resources will be dedicated, Congressman Sanguino explained, on housing construction, agricultural projects, and high profile public works. Opposition congressman and Finance Committee member, Alfonso Marquina, commented

| Politics


Chief of Staff also charged with follow-up and monitoring of government offices. Loyo will be taking the reins of the Agriculture and Land Ministry for the second time following an illness-related absence in January. He will be charged with continuing the country’s agrarian reform that seeks to break up large landholdings in favor of small farmers and democratize production through low credit loans and technical support. “Landlords beware! Loyo has come back! They were very pleased because you were not around”, President Chavez said of the return of his minister on Saturday. During the ceremony, the socialist head of state called on his new cabinet members to challenge themselves and work towards a more effective and responsive government over the next six years. The ministers must “increase the capacity and efficiency of our management to the highest degree”, Chavez insisted. “We’re giving a spiritual component to this swearing-in which is not in front of the head of state but rather in front of the people. You must have a strong

commitment and I’m sure that you are all up to this challenge”, Chavez said. As part of his first address as Vice President of the Republic, Nicolas Maduro spoke of the new era of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution following the electoral victory of Hugo Chavez and the strengthening of the nation’s “Socialism of the 21st Century”. “From this very moment, we are beginning a deep process of revision, renovation and the creation of something new. After 14 years of experience there are now sufficient theoretical, political and moral bases to begin deepening the Revolution with new methods”, he said. Saturday’s ceremony also saw Chavez thank ex-Vice President Elias Jaua for his years of service, expressing his confidence that the former second in command will defeat recent opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles for the governorship of Miranda state in December’s elections. “I’m sure that you in this new battle you will demonstrate just as equally your capacity to struggle and to win”, he said. Other outgoing officials who will be participating in gubernatorial races include Erika Farias, former Presidential Dispatch head and Tareck El Aissami, ex-Interior and Justice minster. Farias and El Aissami will be vying for the governorship of Cojedes and Aragua states respectively.

that much of the debate over the submitted budget would revolve around development projects that require various years to complete. “There are works that, for technical and financial reasons, cannot be executed in one year. For that reason previsions are made to establish commitments made in subsequent budgets”, Marquina said. Independent of the debate, the 2013 proposal “is going to have a strong emphasis” on social programs said Congressman Julio Chavez of the Assembly-controlling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Chavez explained that the goal of the spending is to “make our country the least unequal as possible”, citing the fact that Venezuela has achieved the highest equality rating in Latin America, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac).

During an interview on the private television station Venevision, the representative from the state of Lara also addressed the question of decentralization in Venezuela and the complaint by opposition governors and mayors that the National Assembly has systematically denied loans to local governments. “It’s not true that the Mayor’s and Governor’s Offices have been denied resources through the approval of credits... [One] cannot discriminate against any local government whether or not it be in the hands of the opposition... Credits are designated on an equal basis to all Governor’s Offices”, Chavez asserted. “I think that this argument [of not funding local governments] is being used a way to pressure and manipulate people, but the community is not buying it”, he added.

4 Politics | .ŽsFriday, October 19, 2012

The artillery of ideas

President Chavez names labor leader new Executive VP T/ COI P/ AFP


ust days after his landmark 2012 election victory, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez named Foreign Affairs Minister Nicolas Maduro to be the country’s new Executive Vice President. Maduro, a labor leader turned trusted confidant, replaced former Executive VP Elias Jaua who stepped aside to run for Governor of Miranda in elections set for mid-December. Re-elected last October 7 for the 2013-2019 term, President Chavez told reporters that Jaua and Maduro “are currently reviewing all of their tasks so as to allow for the successful handover of responsibilities”.

FROM LABOR LEADER TO TOP VP Born in Caracas on November 23, 1962, Nicolas Maduro Moros began his political involvement as a high school student activist. In the 1980’s and 90’s, at which time the country was living through several harmful experiments with neo-liberal economic policies promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Maduro worked and organized as a driver of the Caracas MetroBus, an aboveground bus system linking the city’s metro stations to bus routes. His leadership capacity within the transportation workers’ union got him elected president of the union, a commitment he maintained until joining Chavez’s first successful election campaign in 1998. Through his contacts in the labor movement, Maduro played an important role in launching the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR), a mass social movement that helped Chavez win the 1998 election. A year later, Maduro took part in the National Constitutional Assembly and advocated for workers’ rights. In 2000, he was elected to the country’s National Assembly and was re-elected in 2005. Maduro was also briefly President of the National Assembly until 2006 when President Chavez named him Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Successful with numerous efforts to advance Latin American unity and integration while Foreign Minister, Maduro has become one of the most widely-recognized voices of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. As Foreign Minister, he oversaw the expansion of the Bolivarian Alliance for the People’s of the Americas (ALBA), the consolidation of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), and the birth, in December 2011, of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac). Minister Maduro also firmly pushed for Venezuela’s acceptance into the Common Market of the South (Mercosur), a historical achievement approved by Mercsour earlier this year. A strong advocate of a “multipolar” world, in direct opposition to US imperialism and the Washington Consensus in Latin America, Maduro also worked tirelessly to strengthen ties between Venezuela and China, Russia, Belarus, Iran, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and Bolivia. A trusted member of President Chavez’s cabinet,

Maduro has been Vice President of the Council of Ministers since November 2010. Naming Maduro his Executive Vice President last week, President Chavez thanked Jaua “for giving his all” while in office and explained that Maduro “has been an excellent public servant all these years”. Chavez asked the rest of his cabinet to “give Maduro all the support he needs” and congratulated the Foreign Minister for “taking on the new responsibilities”. Maduro responded to the designation by affirming, “today, you (Chavez) place me in a role with great responsibilities, a task that implies a lot of work, a job that is very demanding, and I thank you for that trust”.

SUCCESSION? Eager to spread divisive rumors in both Venezuela and abroad, corporate media responded to Chavez’s announcement by suggesting that Maduro is the President’s “most-likely successor”. Ignoring the fact that Venezuelan democracy continues to prove

itself in election after election, media focused their reporting on Maduro’s “close ties to Cuba” and “unwavering loyalty to Chavez”.

Through his contacts in the labor movement, Maduro played an important role in launching the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR), a mass social movement that helped Chavez win the 1998 election. The Associated Press (AP), for example, wrote, “Maduro, a burly former bus driver, is considered the member of Chavez’s government with the closest ties to Cuba’s Fidel and Raul Castro”. AP added that “the vice presidential job has assumed new importance because of Chavez’s recent struggle with cancer” and, providing no evidence to back its claims, affirmed that “ru-

mors have circulated that Maduro is being groomed as his (Chavez’s) successor”. As stipulated by the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (1999), the country’s Executive Vice President is responsible for the presidency if, for any reason, the President is unable to finish out his term. If this occurs during the first four years of the six-year term, the Executive VP holds office until a national presidential election can occur. If the President is unable to govern during the last two years of a period, the Executive VP holds office until the term comes to an end. Using this constitutionality as basis to produce speculations, EFE warned that Maduro “is now in a position with a great deal of power, in case of an emergency”. The media firm described Maduro as “a convinced leftist who began his political activism as a Maoist student leader in high school who, without attending the university, worked as a bus driver”. EFE went on to quote Vladimir Villegas, a former Chavez advocate turned opposition spokesman, who described Maduro as “the government’s political cadre with the greatest potential”. Using Chavez’s successful bout with cancer as cause for uncertainty, Villegas called Maduro “the government’s heavyweight, which is why the President (Chavez) chose him to be his number two while he attends to his ‘health issues’”. Meanwhile, Venezuelan political analyst Nicmer Evans explained, “Chavez must of course have a great deal of trust in someone to name them Executive Vice President… but that doesn’t mean people should begin to see phantoms nor successors”.

JAUA TO MIRANDA With some 2.6 million inhabitants, most of who work in and around the nation’s capital, Miranda is considered one of the most important states in Venezuelan politics. Before this year’s presidential election, it was governed by defeated opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, who now hopes to retake the governorship. His competitor, Elias Jaua, is a widely-respected socialist leader known for his dedication to the Bolivarian Revolution. Also recognized for his role in helping to build the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Jaua will face Capriles in gubernatorial elections scheduled for December 16.

.ŽsFriday, October 19, 2012

The artillery of ideas

Venezuelan ambassador to the UN Slams Israeli expansionism

an nuclear program, Valero drew a comparison with Israel, by highlighting that they continue to refuse to allow international nuclear inspectors into their nuclear sites, yet reserve the right to criticize other countries. Referring to the Middle East in a wider context, Valero con-

Chevron to preemptively block enforcement efforts in the United States. Earlier this year the plaintiffs filed lawsuits in Brazil and Canada in a bid to enforce the ruling. The plaintiffs accuse Texaco of causing illnesses among locals by dumping drilling waste in unlined pits. Chevron denies the accusations and says Texaco properly cleaned up all the pits for which it was responsible. The company claims that the judgment, imposed by an Ecuadorean court in 2011, was fraudulent and unenforceable. James Craig, a spokesman for Chevron, said the company intends to challenge the latest ruling, which was issued by a court in the Amazon town of Lago Agrio. “Today’s order is not surprising, since the plaintiffs have shown they are able to get any

order they wish granted by the Lago Agrio court. In the past the plaintiffs’ lawyers have been involved in ghostwriting orders for the court”, Craig said. Chevron is pursuing a racketeering suit against a New York attorney, Steven Donziger, a group of Ecuadoreans and environmental groups that helped win the judgment, accusing them of intimidation and extortion. It has also challenged the judgment before an international arbitration panel under a trade agreement between the United States and Ecuador. The panel is scheduled to begin hearing the dispute in November. Oil companies are watching the case closely because it may affect other cases accusing companies of polluting the areas where they operate.


Further attacking both the United States and their allies, especially Israel, Valero presented an analysis about the political and economic interests of the imperialist powers. In comments which were backed up by a press release here in Venezuela, he explained how the

political-military industry in Western nations dominates policy decisions of the UN: “Those who today speak of peace, with cynicism, are those who have the most interest in wars of colonial expansion”. In light of such international outcry about the supposed Irani-

Ecuador Court deals Chevron fresh blow In pollution case T/ Reuters


cuadorean plaintiffs on Tuesday said an order issued by a court in the Andean country lets them seize some $200 million worth of assets belonging to Chevron in a new legal blow to the No. 2 US oil company. The plaintiffs from villages in the oil-rich Amazon won an $18.2 billion case against the oil giant over claims that Texaco, bought by Chevron in 2001, contaminated the area from 1964 to 1992. Damages were increased to $19 billion in July. Among the assets ordered turned over are $96.3 million that Ecuador’s government

owes Chevron, money held in Ecuadorean bank accounts by Chevron, and licensing fees generated by the use of the company’s trademarks in the country, the plaintiffs said. “This is a huge first step for the rainforest villagers on the road to collecting the entire $19 billion judgment”, Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the communities, said on Tuesday, a day after the order was issued. The battle between Chevron and the Ecuadorean plaintiffs has lasted for nearly two decades and is being fought in courts both inside and outside the Andean country. Last week the US Supreme Court rejected an attempt by


nected the expansionism of Israel in Palestine with the current struggle in Syria. He warned the delegates of the Security Council that “in the region of the Middle East, violence and volatility have increased in an alarming fashion, which is putting the peace of the whole world at risk”. He went on to denounce the financing and arming of mercenary and terrorist groups in Syria without any thoughts or care to the loss of thousands of civilian lives in the conflict which has been instigated and supported by the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and France. Reiterating the political line of the Venezuelan government, which expelled the Israeli ambassador and diplomatic team for exactly such aggressive expansionist attacks against Palestine and Lebanon, the Venezuelan ambassador claimed those forces are creating a type of “good terrorism”, which, he defines, aims to take over and control territories and natural resources and to throw out democratically elected leaders, and which will put in governments who are friendly to their interests and who will not resist the military-political elite of Israel. The Venezuelan government led by President Chavez continues to do all it can to help find a solution to the complex issue of peace in the Middle East while supporting the victimized peoples of Palestine and Syria through diplomatic measures and solidarity.

T/ Paul Dobson P/ Agencies n Monday, the Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations warned the Security Council of the consequences of Israeli expansionism into the Palestinian Occupied Territories, which, according to him, is “putting the peace of the whole world at risk”. His comments come amidst various violent attacks by the Israeli military into the Palestinian territories this week, killing over 10 people, including unarmed citizens, as violence, fuelled by foreign intervention in Syria, yet again re-sparks in the region. The Venezuelan ambassador to the UN, Jorge Valero, speaking at an open session of the Security Council in New York, which was scheduled to address Middle Eastern affairs, yet again carried the torch of anti-imperialist struggle from Venezuela into the heart of the United Nations, where Venezuela has repeatedly backed Palestinian calls for nationhood, calls for Palestine to be made a full member of the United Nations, and calls for peace in the region. Referring to recent air attacks, he stressed Venezuela’s “profound frustration about the inaction of the Council against the expansionism of Israel and the Occupying Forces in the Palestinian territories”. Valero went on to state, “This inaction is, as we all know, the product of the threat of veto (to any motion calling for intervention against the Israeli aggressions) from the government of the United States and its closest allies”. He went on to stress the threat that these aggressions pose to international law, by highlighting that “these warlike acts put in some doubt the institutionalism of the UN, the validity of the UN constitution, and of international rights”. Furthermore he drew wider conclusions about the continued attacks against the resistant peoples of Palestine, and declared that the attacks from the government of Israel are “evident threats to peace and international security”.

| International

6 International | .ŽsFriday, October 19, 2012

The artillery of ideas

Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez played role in Colombia’s peace talks with Farc T/ Peter Beaumont P/ Agencies


he elderly former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, together with Venezuela’s recently re-elected leader Hugo Chavez, played a critical role in bringing the Colombian government and the Farc guerrilla group together for peace talks that could end one of Latin America’s longestrunning civil wars. According to sources closely involved in the peace process, which saw historic talks opening in Oslo on Wednesday, the key breakthrough after almost four years of back-channel talks between the two sides came during a visit earlier this year by Colombia’s President, Juan Manuel Santos, to Cuba, where he met both Castro and Chavez, who was in Cuba being treated for cancer. That meeting was the first of many in Havana between the two sides, facilitated primarily by Cuba and Norway with the backing of Venezuela, which saw agreement on the detailed agenda for the first round of talks this week. “Officially President Santos went to Cuba to discuss the Americas summit”, said a source intimately involved in the peace negotiations. “But the purpose of that trip was to discuss the peace initiative”. The meetings earlier this year followed the decision last year by Santos to take the step of recognizing that an “armed conflict” existed in his country, an initiative encouraged by Chavez since 2008. Those contacts also came in the same period that Farc announced it was ending kidnapping, one of five preconditions for talks that had been set down by Santos as a gesture of goodwill. Farc and the government have been at war since 1964, with the group more recently accused of having taken a directing role in coca production

in areas it controls, an issue that will be on the agenda for the talks. But in what is being billed as the best chance to bring about a negotiated end to the longrunning conflict, the Colombian government delegation will sit down with Farc leaders whose Interpol arrest warrants have been suspended to allow them to travel to Oslo without fear of arrest. The government delegation, for the first time ever, will include retired generals with the trust of the country’s military and representatives of Colombia’s business elite, whose presence, it is hoped, will help sell any peace deal that emerges to those hostile to the process. After the failure of the last round of peace negotiations, which foundered 12 years ago, top of the agenda will be the issues of land reform – Farc’s key demand – political participation, the disarmament of the guerrilla group and the

issue of paramilitaries who have in the past sought to torpedo any deal. The disclosure of the key role of Cuba in organizing support for the peace process marked the culmination of a long period of back-channel talks first initiated by Santos’s predecessor as President, Alvaro Uribe, under whom Santos served as Minister of Defense. During those four years contacts continued despite the death during an army operation of Farc’s leader, Alfonso Cano, last year. Others credited with having created the conditions for the talks in Norway are unnamed former participants in the Northern Ireland peace process. The talks are due to begin amid warnings from both sides, as well as observers, that a serious threat exists from those on both sides of Colombia’s political divide who might attempt to use violence to derail the process.

The attempt to reach a negotiated peace settlement foundered over a decade ago as both sides accused the other of stalling and rebuilding their forces, a period, observers say, that saw a doubling of antiFarc paramilitaries. A senior Colombian government source described the chances for talks as the best ever, adding that the Santos government had already enacted a new law for land reform and victim restitution. “President Santos is a pragmatist. He has already presented to congress a framework for an agreement. Colombia was already moving into a post-conflict phase, in some respects, even as the conflict continues. It is the right moment. Farc have a historic opportunity – probably the last – to find a solution to this conflict with dignity. To go into history and say they fought for social justice. To say they fought for land reform. We want to see ‘Timochenko’ [Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri,

who took over command of Farc after Cano’s death in 2011] in Colombia’s congress just as we have seen Gerry Adams in the Northern Ireland assembly”. The sense of a guarded new optimism is shared by outside observers, including Marc Chernick, a US academic who has followed the history of Colombian peace negotiations and written The Farc at the Negotiating Table. Speaking from Colombia on Friday, Chernick said: “I’ve observed all the previous negotiations and I have been optimistic before, but this time I believe there is a real seriousness on both sides that has not been shown before. In the past Farc has always asked for a demilitarized zone as a precondition and this time it has not pressed for that. Four years ago it started to release prisoners, first civilians then military, and then renounced kidnapping. Clearly they want to talk. And they stayed at the table for the prenegotiations even though three senior leaders were killed, including Alfonso Cano”. “Santos is clear, too. He was former Minister of Defense under President Uribe. They pushed the war as hard as they could and killed leaders. Now he has recognized that it will go on indefinitely. So Santos has come to the conclusion that only a negotiated solution is possible”. Chernick – like the senior government source – warned of the risk of violence during the peace talks from those, particularly on the right, opposed to peace with Farc, not least, he says, from paramilitaries who, although officially “disbanded”, are still active and supported by elite sectors of society. “What is different this time”, added Chernick, “is that both sides have signed up to the idea that the intended end of the peace talks is the end of the conflict”.

.ŽsFriday, October 19, 2012

The artillery of ideas

T/ Javier Adler,


he corporate media in Spain can’t understand, don’t want to understand, nor do they want their readers to understand, what just happened in Venezuela. It can be no other way, since Chavez is a leader who openly defies global capitalism, the ecological niche within which the private media feeds. Let us begin by analyzing the example of Spain’s El Pais, looking at its editorial line, and then look on to other Spanish dailies.

EL PAIS Titling its editorial “More of Chavez”, Spanish daily El Pais recently affirmed that if Chavez governs through 2019 this will be “too many” years in office. Too many for who? It’s clearly not “too” many for Venezuelans, who just ratified him in office. For other interests, including those behind El Pais, it surely is. But in democracy, which opinion should prevail? The thoughts of media owners and foreign governments, or the will of a people expressed through free and fair elections? According to El Pais, Chavez has “used the powerful public media to stir up resentments”. Well yes, in the same way that the opposition has stirred up its resentments through the even more powerful private media. Or is it not the case that the means of communication in Venezuela continue to be mostly owned by private interests hostile to President Chavez? Or are we expected to keep believing the fable regarding the “independence” of the private media? El Pais is a case in point. In one example of an El Pais editorial filled with blatant disregard for the Venezuelan people, the paper writes, “it is not true that Capriles represents the comfortable classes. Instead, he is the candidate of a wide sector of society that rejects the way Chavez mistreats democracy, manages the economy terribly, worsens public safety, and aims to consolidate his so-called Bolivarian Revolution”. In other words, the majority of Venezuelans, those who support Chavez, are either idiots or masochists. If not, how do they explain that this majority continues

In Spain, anti-Chavez propaganda continues to vote on behalf of someone who mistreats democracy, mismanages the economy, etc.? While it’s true that public safety worries most Venezuelans, and that Chavez has not been able to resolve this grave problem, it is also true that the rise in violent crime began in the 1980’s, tripling before Chavez was first elected President (1998). As a result, it is also highly unlikely that Venezuelans trust a return of neoliberalism would somehow fix the problem. El Pais says more, making a comparison that can only seem viable to its most avid readers. On the one hand, it describes Chavez as “the ex coup monger” – citing the failed coup of some 20 years ago (1992) – while it predicts the opposition’s Capriles would demonstrate “a greater respect for the rules of the democratic game”. Certainly El Pais was referring to Capriles’ time as Mayor of Baruta, during the 2002 coup against Chavez, when the opposition candidate allowed a group of people to lay siege on the Cuban Embassy (located in

Baruta), destroying embassy vehicles and cutting its access to both water and electricity. When the Cuban Ambassador asked then Mayor Capriles for assistance, not only did he do nothing to stop the assault, but he forced his way into the embassy using a ladder over the wall and insisted on “inspecting” the premises for any Venezuelans possibly hiding in fear of opposition violence. This is Capriles’ “respect” for “democratic rules”, which through ideological affinity, El Pais must share. And finally, let’s see what El Pais has to say about the Chavez government’s social programs. “The single greatest factor in his (Chavez’s) favor has been social programs, carried out with the invaluable support of oil income. This is not a policy that establishes solid bases for future wealth creation and distribution, but it has reached many people – a captive electoral audience”. Or, in other words, Chavez has bribed the majority of Venezuelans with “his” social programs. Oh, what fools! Fourteen

years and they haven’t realized the trick! If we really want to discuss “solid bases”, then the entire aforementioned paragraph is clearly in short supply. This is something most critical readers already know – when it comes to Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, etc., the private media can say anything they want, without limitations on inventiveness, without any restraints on the production of fantasies and lies. If they want to say that Chavez has plunged Venezuela into total misery, they do so, and that’s it. No problem. If they want to call Chavez a dictator, they go right ahead. No one stops them with a fact-based audit.

REALITY CHECK Facts, however, are a problem for the corporate press. If we look at redistribution, Venezuela is the country in Latin America that has reduced inequality the most during the last decade. In the words of Alicia Barcena, President of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Carib-

| Analysis


bean (CEPAL), “what is interesting is that Venezuela’s policy of redistribution has been sustained over time. I believe the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has made a clear commitment, definition, and orientation of policy aimed at reducing the income gap and achieving social equality”. Poverty reduction, for example, is a major success of the Chavez government. In 1998, 48% of Venezuelans lived in poverty while another 21% lived in extreme poverty. By 2010, these figures were reduced to 27% and 7%, respectively. But this doesn’t seem to matter to El Pais or to its evaluation of “solid bases for wealth creation”. What about university enrollment? This has tripled during Chavez’s time in office, placing Venezuela second in Latin America – after Cuba – with respect to percent of the populace enrolled in higher education. This is also irrelevant for El Pais, which doesn’t bother to back any of its wildest assertions. Other Spanish dailies including El Periodico, La Vanguardia, La Razon, and ABC differ very little from the El Pais editorial line. They cite oil as the only reason for Chavez’s success at the polls and repeatedly mention baseless “symptoms of fatigue” within the Venezuelan populace. In short, within Spain’s corporate media it is difficult to find any sort of selfevaluation or rectification as it relates to Venezuela. For 14 years they’ve repeated the same baseless discourse that has lost all credibility. How do they explain that after years and years of what they define “disastrous governance”, support for Chavez continues to grow? Can that many people be fooled for that long? How long can the press ignore objective facts and still pretend to be objective media? How do they find peace between their own perception of themselves as ‘democrats’ while publishing an open disregard for the people’s will? Perhaps the answer to these questions can be found in the words of a former El Pais owner who, after earning 11 million euros in 2011, fired 25% of the El Pais workforce in a letter stating, simply, “we cannot continue living this well”.

Friday, October 19, 2012 | Nº 131 | Caracas |


!PUBLICATIONOFTHE&UNDACION#ORREODEL/RINOCOsEditor-in-Chief%VA'OLINGERsGraphic Design Pablo Valduciel L. - Aimara Aguilera


How Western press distorts Venezuela T/ Aaron Benedek - Green Left Weekly


enezuela Elections ‘Free, But Not Fair’”, was Germany’s Spiegel Online headline on a piece about Venezuela’s October 7 presidential elections, won by socialist President Hugo Chavez by more than 55% of the vote. “Chavismo wins, Venezuela loses”, was The Wall Street Journal’s take. Compared with such headlines, the Sydney Morning Herald’s reprint of a New York Times article “Socialist Chavez hangs onto Power in Venezuela” by William Neuman might seem a reasonably balanced report. It is not. Note that politicians in Australia or the US get reelected, but if you’re a socialist in Latin America you “hold onto power”. Then there is the article’s very first clause, where we learn that Chavez is a “fiery foe of Washington”. Although no doubt a badge of honor for many, this language still paints Chavez as impassioned rather than considered. This, along with the article’s other main Chavez descriptor of “polarizing”, g”, conveys an image of him beeing unreasonably confronn tational and divisive in a way that the also accurate “a democratic leader who has withstood Washington orchestrated violence and sabotage” does not. And then there is the assumption that the first thing to mention in an article about a Venezuelan election is Washington. The pitfalls of your reportage coming from the New York Times perhaps. The article does convey a sense of joy on the street following Chavez’s re-election, but it’s always “his ... revolution”, “his version of socialism”. That a large section of the population feel some kind of ownership over the process

of social transformation in Venezuela is never acknowledged. The Venezuelan people have agency in Neuman’s writing only if they’re part of the opposition. Moreover, in selecting quotes and comments about Chavez “reigning forever”, “guns being fired into the air” and Chavez being a “former soldier”, some sense of violence and dicta-

re-elected for a third full presidential term by 11 percentage points and holding a majority in the National Assembly. It is said the opposition “raised the possibility that an upset victory was within reach”. To what extent the opposition relied on reprints of biased NYT articles about Venezuela to raise this sense of “possibility” is difficult to quantify.

We are informed, as always, that Chavez’s “health is a question mark”. Maybe he is going to die soon! And maybe the mainstream media will start showing some human decency and ease up on the celebrations when an elected leader gets cancer, but I would not hold my breath for either. “Facing pressure from Mr Capriles”, Neuman says,

torship is still conveyed. conveyed This comes straight after Chavez and his supporters once again peacefully won what in any other Western country would be referred to as a landslide electoral victory. By contrast, we are informed of the opposition’s “democratic temperament” via the one full quote the re-elected president is afforded in the article. What about a quote interpreting the election result and the future for Venezuela? Well there is one, just not from Chavez. It’s from Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate who was resoundingly defeated. After the election, we’re told Chavez is “ailing and politically weakened”, despite being

Chavez, told, will now Chavez we’re told move forward “even more aggressively ... although his pledges were short on specifics”. For Neuman, the specifics detailed in the million or so copies of the 39-page plan for deepening popular participation and humancentered development over the next six years that were distributed for mass discussion, amendment and ratification by the Venezuelan National Assembly early next year do not count. And how specific was the opposition’s plan? Capriles’ pledge to maintain the Chavez government’s social programs the same ones the opposition have violently opposed for a decade, but now pledge to improve.

“[Chavez] pledged to ... pay more attention to the quality of government programs such as education”. In reality, the popularity of the government’s social programs is such that Capriles had to publicly say the opposition was in favor of them, but leaked opposition documents revealed his plan to dismantle them. Capriles had to pitch himself as a leftist and the opposition was forced to accept the election results due to the painstaking efforts to institute a transparent electoral system with unprecedented international supervision. But we are told it was Capriles who pressured Chavez. And better still, the same opposition that denigrated the

literacy and other mass education campaigns of the past decade is said to have forced the government “to pay attention to quality education”. We are told Chavez spent much of the year insulting “Capriles and his followers” as “squalid good-for-nothings, little Yankees and fascists”. Left out is the opposition’s regular jibes about Chavez’s African facial features, his “common” way of speaking or his hilarious cancer-induced baldness. And anyway, was it really the “Yankee and fascist” credentials of the opposition (that is, organizing a fascist coup and getting funding a from Washington) that “represented nearly “re half hal the electorate” as Neuman claimed? Or Neu did those that voted for Capriles do so for a rrange of other reasons, son not least among them the that the private media sold him as a med progressive left-wing pro candidate? can At A any rate, Chavez’s insults, we’re told, insu “seemed to lose their “see sting” stin as the campaign went wen on (he can’t even insult insu effectively!) under the weight of the opposition’s growing opp “momentum”. The “mo Chavez campaign fillCha ing Caracas’s seven major avenues with maj almost certainly the alm largest demonstration larg in V Venezuela’s history three days before the vote clearly does not constitute d momentum worth mentionmomentu ing for Neuman. Ne Through selection of evidence, bias language, omission, and unsubstantiated claims, Neuman paints a false picture and this is an article that, by comparison with other Western media coverage, is relatively generous towards the Bolivarian process that has halved poverty in Venezuela. Serious journalism regarding Venezuela requires covering the significant social achievements of the revolution and an informed discussion of its many shortcomings. Unfortunately, if Neuman’s article is anything to go by, the liberal corporate media will not provide you with either.

English Edition Nº 131  

Venezuelans revere indigenous goddess Maria Lionza

English Edition Nº 131  

Venezuelans revere indigenous goddess Maria Lionza