Page 1



The achievements of Hugo Chavez page 7

Venezuela’s uncertain future page 8

Friday, December 21, 2012 | Nº 140 | Caracas |

Social movements with Chavez Over the weekend, as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez began his difficult recovery from what has been described as “complex medical intervention”, social movements from across the country expressed their firm support for the Venezuelan President and his political program of Bolivarian Socialism. Numerous events have been held throughout the nation in support of the President, wishing for his successful recovery. Additional events have been held around the world in solidarity with Chavez. page 5

ENGLISH EDITION/The artillery of ideas

Chavez’s party sweeps elections, wins governor races


Opposition licks wounds The anti-Chavez opposition took a major blow in Sunday’s regional elections. page 3 Integration

ALBA turns 8 The Bolivarian Alliance celebrated eight years of trade based on solidarity and fairness. page 4 Culture

Bolivar Commemorated

Independence hero Simon Bolivar was remembered this week. page 6

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) affirmed its political dominance over the right-wing opposition last Sunday by winning 20 out of 23 gubernatorial races in the nation’s regional elections. The convincing electoral victories have solidified the platform of the Bolivarian Revolution and have left no doubt regarding the capacity of the PSUV to effectively organize despite the health problems of the party’s leader, President Hugo Chavez. Page 2

Chavez stable Minister of Communication and Information, Ernesto Villegas, read the latest official statement regarding the health of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, saying: “the general condition of the President is stable after having suffered a respiratory infection on Monday, December 17”. The statement is as follows: The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela addresses the nation once again to comply with its duty to offer timely information about the evolution of the health of President Hugo Chavez. The President’s general condition is now stable after he was diagnosed Monday, September 17, with a respiratory infection which his doctors treated immediately and were able to control. According to the doctors, this type of illness is among the most frequent afflictions suffered by patients after a complicated surgery like the one President Chavez underwent on December 11. Finally, the medical team has informed that President Chavez should maintain complete rest in the coming days and receive with the greatest rigorousness the prescribed medical treatment, in order to maintain the stability of his vital functions. Long live Chavez!


Venezuela among most positive countries, Gallup says A new survey by pollster Gallup finds that Latin Americans are the most positive people in the world, and Venezuela is tied for second place among all countries measured. The survey asked citizens of various countries to answer questions including: “Did you feel well-rested yesterday?” “Were you treated with respect?” and “Did you smile or laugh a lot?” In Venezuela, 84 percent of respondents answered “yes” to those questions, the same amount as in El Salvador, which tied with Venezuela for second place after Panama and Paraguay, which tied for first with 85 percent. According to Gallup, eight of the top ten most positive countries in the world are in Latin America, with Trinidad and Tobago coming in at number five (with 83 percent), followed by Thailand (83 percent), Guatemala (82 percent), Philippines (82 percent), Ecuador (81 percent), and Costa Rica (81 percent). At the low end, just 46 percent of respondents in Singapore answered “yes” to the questions. The implications, according to the analysis, are that a country’s overall economic prosperity does not correspond with the amount of positivity felt by its citizens. The report explains: “These data may surprise analysts and leaders who solely focus on traditional economic indicators. Residents of Panama, which ranks 90th in the world with respect to GDP per capita, are among the most likely to report positive emotions. Residents of Singapore, which ranks 5th in the world in terms of GDP per capita, are the least likely to report positive emotions”.

2 Impact | .ŽsFriday, December 21, 2012

The artillery of ideas

Chavez supporters bulldoze opposition in regional elections T/ COI P/ Agencies


he United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) affirmed its political dominance over the right-wing opposition last Sunday by winning 20 out of 23 gubernatorial races in the nation’s regional elections. The convincing electoral victories have solidified the platform of the Bolivarian Revolution and have left no doubt regarding the capacity of the PSUV to effectively organize despite the health problems of the party’s leader, President Hugo Chavez. Underscoring the PSUV’s ability to mobilize sympathizers was the defeat of incumbent opposition leaders in the states of Zulia, Tachira, Carabobo, Nueva Esparta and Monagas. “We congratulate the Venezuelan people for the immense victory of the homeland. It’s been an enormous victory in its scope - quantitatively as much as qualitatively”, said PSUV campaign director Jorge Rodriguez at a press conference after the release of the results. Key among the hotly contested opposition-controlled governorships was the state of Zulia, Venezuela’s most populous regional entity and formerly seen as a conservative stronghold. With the victory in Zulia, the PSUV has dealt a severe blow to the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition and has stripped the right-wing of one of its most important bases of political power. The same can be said of the Andean state of Tachira, another bastion of the opposition, which voted against President Chavez in last October’s presidential elections. With the victory of socialist candidate Jose Vielma Mora in Tachira, the PSUV now spearheads Venezuela’s western corridor and the entire border region with neighboring Colombia. “Zulia now has a patriotic governor and Tachira has Vielma Mora, who will work with Chavez for the length of the international border”, Rodriguez said. During a celebration rally in the Zulian capital of Maracaibo, PSUV supporters expressed their excitement over the changing of the guard in the border

state and articulated their loyalty to the revolutionary movement founded by Hugo Chavez. “It’s been more than 10 years [of opposition rule in Zulia] and during that time the state hadn’t advanced. This is one of the reasons why the state of Zulia is with Comandante Chavez”, said Joan Mavares, a Maracaibo resident and PSUV activist. “My vote for [Zulian Governor] Pancho Arias was accompanied by a prayer for my Comandante e Chavez to whom I dedicate thiss triumph”, said Manuel Antunezz another Chavez backer presentt at the victory rally. Venezuelan President Hugo o g Chavez is currently recovering from surgery performed lastt week in Havana, Cuba after the e e socialist leader informed the country of a new outbreak off cancer. For many followers, lastt f fweek’s vote was a necessary afe firmation of the strength of the movement built by the popularr e President, despite his absence from the country and his pre-carious health status. Venezuelan Vice Presidentt Nicolas Maduro spoke of the e importance of the sweeping g victories for the nation’s Boli-varian Revolution and for the e convalescing Chavez. “Today the people have given n preference to the truth and to o perseverance. In doing so they y have given a gift of love to Co-mandante Hugo Chavez. Today y the people did not let Chavezz down”, Maduro said.

NO-HITCH PROCESS Sunday’s election results were read a little after 9pm by Tibisay Lucena, President of Venezuela’s National Electoral Commission (CNE). According to officials, the voting process had taken place with complete normalcy and was marked by the kind of efficiency and professionalism that has made Venezuela’s democratic contests an international model.

“It has been a successful day. Once again, we can say that we have seen a very successful electoral contest”, said CNE official Sandra Oblitas at the close of the polls. While turnout did not come close to the astonishing 80 percent that voted in the nation’s presidential elections last October, security for the contests was nonetheless present to ensure the demo-

cratic right of every Venezuelan citizen. A total of 141,000 soldiers were on hand in over 12,000 polling place to provide safety and guard against any disruptions in the voting process. “This electoral process has been carried out with total professionalism and with the democratic consciousness that all of the Venezuelan people have demonstrated”, commented the head of the electoral security forces, Wilmer Barrientos.

According to Barrientos, Sunday’s elections took place with minimal security problems and all potential threats to the orderly operation of the polls were effectively dealt with by security personnel.

OPPOSITION KEEPS MIRANDA While the PSUV has emerged as the indisputable victor of last Sunday’s contest, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles defeated his socialist challenger Elias Jaua in an election that has kept the former presidential candidate in a leadership position of the Venezuelan right-wing. The race in the state of Miranda was one of the most closely watched contests as Capriles, defeated by Hugo Chavez in last October’s presidential race, faced off against former Vice President of the nation, Elias Jaua. With 50.37 percent of the vote, Capriles retained the governorship of Miranda and has set the stage for a possible electoral showdown with current Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro in the event that Hugo Chavez is unable to remain in office. While the election in Miranda was close, the PSUV leadership immediately recognized the vote outcome and vowed to keep working in the central state as well as the two other states won by the opposition to attain a complete victory in all regional entities. “Sooner rather than later [the states of] Lara, Miranda and Amazonas will once again be on the road of the homeland”, said Vice President Maduro of the three states won by the Venezuelan opposition.

.ŽsFriday, December 21, 2012

The artillery of ideas

Venezuela’s opposition evaluates another major defeat T/ Chris Carlson P/ AFP


s pro-Chavez candidates celebrated their victories in 20 of 23 states in Sunday’s regional elections, opposition leaders attempted to explain what led to such an overwhelming defeat for their gubernatorial candidates. Leaders of Hugo Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) immediately claimed an “immense victory” for their side after initial results were given late Sunday night. “This was an immense victory. The people responded faithfully to Chavez’s call to action”, said PSUV’s campaign head Jorge Rodriguez at a postelection press conference. The PSUV candidate for the western state of Zulia, Francisco Arias Cardenas, called it a “perfect victory” and directed his comments to President Chavez, saying, “President, we completed the mission”. Opposition leaders were much less enthusiastic about the results, despite having won their most important battle in the central state of Miranda, with opposition leader Henrique Capriles re-elected governor. “I am happy for Miranda, but I can’t be happy for Venezuela”, said Capriles during his victory speech Sunday night. Various opposition leaders pointed to low turnout as a reason for the results, while others claimed the government had used unfair campaign tactics such as inaugurating various public works and handing out gifts in the days before the election. Capriles also claimed in his victory speech that the government had used President Chavez’s health problems to their advantage. “They took advantage of the circumstances, and asked people to vote for Chavez’s health”, he said. The forty year-old governor of Miranda was solidified as the leader of Venezuela’s opposition after Sunday’s victory, something that may have been called into question had he lost his reelection bid.

Opposition forces see Capriles as their most likely chance of winning the presidency if President Hugo Chavez is unable to recover from cancer and continue as President. “Here we’ve already beaten two vice-presidents”, said

Capriles, referring to his 2008 victory over then Vice President Diosdado Cabello, and Sunday’s victory over former Vice President Elías Jaua. However, some opposition voices called on the opposition to reflect on the reasons for

their defeat and make changes for future electoral battles. Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma said that it was time for the opposition to “reinvent ourselves”, whereas Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) head Ramon Aveledo said the op-

Venezuela’s public housing program nears annual construction goal T/ COI


ission Housing Venezuela delivered over two thousand homes in three different states last Friday as part of the government’s plan to end 2012 with 200,000 new living spaces provided to low-income and needy residents. “As part of the our end-ofthe-year plan, all the institutions of the state and the organizations of the people are working to reach the goal and begin 2013 on the right foot in order to continue to meet the needs of the Venezuelan people”, said Housing and Habitat Minister Ricardo Molina at a ceremony marking the delivery of 57 new homes to residents of Cumanacoa in the Eastern state of Sucre.

In the Andean state of Merida, a further 664 homes were handed over while one thousand families in the state of Miranda received the keys to their new residences, as did 420 additional families in the capital of Caracas. In total, the mission seeks to deliver more than 34,000 other homes by the end of the year to meet its established goal. “This is the best gift that my President has given us on my daughter’s birthday. Now we live in a dignified home”, said Maria Henriquez from the state of Miranda upon receiving her keys last week. Mission Housing Venezuela was first inaugurated by President Hugo Chavez in 2011 in response to coastal flooding at the end of 2010 that left

many poor and working class residents without a home. The ambitious program, above and beyond providing housing only for flood victims, has taken up the challenge of constructing a dignified home for all Venezuelans currently in need. As such, the Chavez administration has set as a goal the erection of 3 million new residences by 2019. To date, the mission has succeeded in building just under 312,000 units. Minister Molina emphasized last Friday the tireless work being done by the employees of the program to make sure that all Venezuelans, especially those left homeless by torrential rains, have a dignified living space as soon as possible. “We’re working day and night, Saturday, Sunday and

| Politics


position “must make profound changes”. Despite having retained control of the opposition-stronghold of Miranda, the opposition lost control of five states that they had previously held. In addition, the other two states claimed by the opposition this time around, Lara and Amazonas, were both due to the re-election formerly proChavez candidates who went over to the opposition during their last term. Some analysts saw the defeat as the result of fundamental problems with the opposition parties, such as their leadership and political project. “We have long maintained that the opposition lacks identity, vision, and proposals”, said Oscar Schemel, head of the private pollster Hinterlaces. Pro-Chavez electoral analyst Hector Davila assured that the opposition will continue to lose if they do not make changes to their political project. “They haven’t been able to comprehend that the majority of Venezuelans want a political project that makes social programs and social spending a priority”, he said. “If they can’t understand that, the results are going to be the same in future elections”, he said. High abstention seemed to adversely affect opposition candidates as well. Initial results showed turnout of 54% compared to 65.5% in the 2008 state elections.

everyday because we understand that the families that are in shelters are in a situation of extreme need. That’s why we’re working hard and fast with an eminently social purpose which is to satisfy the needs of everyone, not to benefit the few”, the cabinet member said. One of the unique features of the housing program, Molina said, is the way that community members have participated in the design and construction of their own homes. In order to stimulate grassroots democracy and achieve higher levels of efficiency, the national government has been encouraging organized residents, through their community councils, to actively lead the process of home construction. “This advance in the capacity to build homes has become something normal for Venezuelans but we need to highlight it as something extraordinary”, the minister asserted.

4 Integration | .ŽsFriday, December 21, 2012

The artillery of ideas

ALBA celebrates 8th anniversary, Chavez leadership

T/ COI P/ Presidential Press


ver the weekend, high-ranking delegates of the countries that make up the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) gathered in Caracas to commemorate eight years of what Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro called “a true brotherhood of integration”. President Evo Morales, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, and former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, among others, joined Maduro in commemorating the regional bloc’s growth and consolidation. First elaborated by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro back in 2001, the regional alliance tasked with integrating the peoples and economies of the Americas was formally launched in 2004. Since then, it has grown to include eight Latin American and Caribbean countries representing some 70 million inhabitants across Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Earlier this year, Suriname and Saint Lucia also joined as guest nations.

ALBA IN CARACAS Gathered in Caracas’ central Plaza Bolivar, one of the city’s most bustling public squares, the delegation of top ALBA representatives expressed their firm commitment to regional integration while praising the leadership of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Speaking to reporters and members of the public

gathered Saturday evening, Venezuelan express their support for, and revoluVice President and Foreign Minister tionary energy with, Hugo Chavez”. Nicolas Maduro provided context to the ECONOMIC ALTERNATIVE eighth anniversary celebration. Referring to concrete steps taken to “Our peoples have walked a path of build ALBA as an economic alternative many victories”, he said, “and when to the US-backed Free Trade Area of we consulted the ALBA nations on the the Americas (FTAA), the Ecuadorian possibility of hosting this modest comForeign Minister explained, “having memoration, Evo Morales, for example, a monetary system controlled by the said he’d join us right away, told us he United States and Europe is like having wanted to be here to accompany his an artificial respirator that you leave brother Chavez and the Venezuelan peoin someone else’s hands”. ple...Manuel Zelaya, with his permanent Patiño was referring spark, intelligence, and to the Unified System perseverance, traveled “Bolivian President for Regional Compensato Caracas to represent Evo Morales told those tion (SUCRE), an online the Honduran people”. trade mechanism creSpeaking alongside gathered at Plaza Bolivar ated by the ALBA block Venezuela’s Maduro, Boto conduct trade without livian President Evo Mo- that “no one will be able using US dollars. Memrales told those gathered to defeat the peoples ber nations Ecuador and at Plaza Bolivar that “no Venezuela, for example, one will be able to de- of Latin America” are currently carrying feat the peoples of Latin out significant financial transactions America”, calling for “unity” in what he using the SUCRE. described as “the struggle to continue According to ALBA Secretary Gendefeating imperialism and its lackeys”. eral Rodolfo Sanz, the regional alliance According to Ecuadorian Foreign traded goods and services worth 700 milMinister Ricarco Patiño, his country lion SUCRE in 2012 alone, an equivalent “stands firm with Venezuela and Presito $800 million. dent Chavez because we hold a shared Venezuela’s Maduro explained, “On view of the world, because together we February 4 (2013) ALBA is set to celare fighting imperialism”. ebrate a year since we decided to cre“ALBA’s greatest strength is our comate our own economic trade zone, and mitment to struggle”, Patiño affirmed, we’ve advanced greatly in strengthen“our collective principles, and that’s ing the tools associated with this prowhy we are proud to join in these celcess. One of these mechanisms is the ebrations today”. definitive consolidation of the SUCRE... “We are also here”, he said, “because and our goal is to conduct a minimum the people of Ecuador have asked us to

30% of all inter-ALBA trade using the SUCRE”. “In 2013, ALBA’s development is set to continue at an even greater rate”, Maduro said, “and we’ll continue to consolidate efforts at economic integration”.

CHAVEZ’S VOICE With Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez currently recovering from surgery in Havana, many of those present at the ALBA commemorations spoke to his role in the struggle for social and economic justice in the Americas. “Independent of pressures from Washington”, said Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, “Chavez has become the voice of the voiceless” and “the time has come for the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to build our own way forward”. Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya agreed, stating, “Venezuela is just like its President Chavez – both are a symbol of inspiration of the democratic revolution”. In August 2008, before he was forcefully removed from the presidency, Zelaya had Honduras sign on to the ALBA accord. Two years later, US-backed de facto President Roberto Micheletti pulled the country from the regional alliance. “We share the ideals of this process of integration”, Zelaya said, “and no one can hold back the people of Venezuela, nor stop the advance of socialism in the Americas. Commander Chavez will never die because he is immortal in the hearts of the people”, he affirmed. During the event, Venezuela’s Maduro also read a letter sent to him by Cuba’s Fidel Castro, dated December 15, in which the revolutionary leader emphasized that “Hugo Chavez’s name is admired and respected around the world”. “Everyone, even many of his adversaries, wish him a prompt recovery”, wrote Castro, “and his doctors are working with great optimism to achieve that objective”. “I for one”, Castro said, “am certain that all of you, with him, and even in his painful absence, are capable of carrying out his life’s work”. Miguel Diaz Canal, Cuba’s delegate to the ALBA event and Vice President of the Cuban National Assembly, told those convened in central Caracas, “ALBA is about unity – unity, unity, and more unity, which is what makes it the greatest weapon in the struggles of our peoples”. Canal added that Cuba, its people, and revolutionary leaders “say to Chavez that no one can take away the gains made by the Bolivarian Revolution!” Referring to the over 30,000 Cuban professionals currently in Venezuela supporting public efforts to improve health, education, sports, and agriculture, Canal also affirmed that “all of us await his (Chavez’s) return so as to continue this battle for independence, so as to continue receiving his guidance in this struggle”. Closing his remarks, Nicolas Maduro thanked “all those present for the generosity and love shared among us”. “Today, more than ever”, he affirmed, “we feel the true brotherhood of integration”.

.ŽsFriday, December 21, 2012

The artillery of ideas

Social movements stand with Chavez, bolivarian socialism

T/ COI P/ Agencies


ver the weekend, as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez began his difficult recovery from what has been described as “complex medical intervention”, social movements from across the country expressed their firm support for the Venezuelan President and his political program of bolivarian socialism. At a press conference held in downtown Caracas, grassroots organizations representing rural communities, urban collectives, student movements, and the LGBT community, among others, promised “Chavez, the leader of this Revolution…can dedicate himself to his recovery because the people are now Chavez, and now understand our role in history”.

ALBA’S SOCIAL MOVEMENTS In the context of President Chavez’s renewed bout with cancer and his repeated calls for “unity, unity, and more unity” among his diverse array of militant supporters, the social movements that make up Venezuela’s chapter of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of the Americas (ALBA) held a joint press conference on Friday. Speaking to reporters gathered

in downtown Caracas, the coalition of ALBA Social Movements affirmed that “the ties that bind our people with our leader, Hugo Chavez…fill us with the courage to express, alongside millions of others, our unscathed commitment to deepen the process of change” led by Venezuela’s first socialist President. Published online and made available to the press, the statement issued by the nation-wide network of grassroots social movements read, “Chavez opened the doors of history, gave us hope, gave faces to the faceless, a voice to the poor”. “As such”, it continued, “we call together all the forces, energies of the world, to serve as the material and spiritual strength needed to preserve the life of our Comandante while at the same time we want him to know that he can rest, he can dedicate himself to his recovery, because the people are now Chavez, and now understand our role in history”. “People’s Power exists to consolidate all that has been achieved – homeland, sovereignty, and national dignity – and we reiterate our commitment, as social movements, to continue deepening the socialist transformations underway”.

Signatories to the document, titled “The Revolution Won’t Stop!”, include, among others, the Popular Revolutionary Alliance, a coalition of grassroots organizations that includes the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current, Movement of Urban Dwellers, National Association of Free, Alternative, and Community Media, Socialists for Revolutionary Unity towards Communism, Socialist Tide, and Revolutionary Alliance of Sexual Diversity.

PEOPLE’S POWER WITH CHAVEZ Of the movements that signed on to the aforementioned statement, perhaps the largest and most organized is the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ) – an active political current within Venezuela’s United Socialist Party (PSUV) comprised of the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (Fncez), the Simon Bolivar National Communal Front (Fncsb), the Bolivarian Popular Workers’ Movement (MPBO) and the Simon Rodriguez Center for Political Education and Social Studies (Cefes). In their own statement calling for unity in support of Chavez, the CRBZ explained that Venezuela “finds itself in a sad and

complicated moment, difficult to assimilate” in which “our Commander-in-Chief is engaged in a decisive battle for his life in very adverse conditions”. “Hugo Chavez is a father, comrade, brother, and son”, the statement read, “Hugo Chavez is the dream, the homeland, the people, the poor, the representation of everything we are today. His dream of a just, free, and sovereign homeland is our dream, a dream that became a man, an individual that later became an entire people”. “But beyond the pain and sadness, the angst and uncertainty”, the CRBZ affirmed, “we must think and act as he would, focusing our sights on the most important thing of all – the revolution that must continue no matter what happens, and the revolutionaries that must be capable of handling the most difficult of circumstances”. “With loving prayers we await the recovery of our Commander President”, the statement continued, “while at the same time we take on and prepare ourselves for a new period of struggle filled with threats and risks to the revolution”. “The first thing we must do is contribute to revolutionary unity within Chavismo, con-

| Social Justice


duct ourselves with great maturity and discipline, starting with the instructions given by Comandante Chavez which include the designation of comrade Nicolas Maduro as his eventual political successor. If the President says it’s Nicolas Maduro, then it’s Nicolas Maduro to whom we give our total support”. “What we must not do”, the statement concluded, “is act with political infantilism and false radicalism, a conduct which contribute solely to the possible return to power of the oligarchy, a fatal scenario for our revolution...In these 14 years of President Chavez’s popular and revolutionary government, the people have not only accumulated important historical gains in their quality of life – the most important thing they’ve accumulated is political consciousness, historical consciousness, an understanding of the strength they have when they stand up”. Venezuela’s CRBZ is largely responsible for establishing the country’s first communal city – the Ciudad Comunal Simon Bolívar (CCCS-SB) – made up of 39 community councils, organized first into 10 communes, and later into the country’s pioneering communal city. Located in Apure state, the CCCS-SB encompasses roughly 115,000 hectares of land, or 46,500 acres, and is considered the country’s most concrete example of People’s Power.

LATIN AMERICAN MOVEMENTS The Social Movements towards ALBA, a continental coalition that brings together similar grassroots organizations from across Latin America and the Caribbean, also affirmed its steadfast support for President Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution. In a statement released over the internet, the coalition affirmed that “the People of Venezuela and their Commander Hugo Chavez Frias demonstrate, on a daily basis, what the path towards an emancipatory project looks like, a project based on sovereignty and popular protagonism that strives towards socialism”. “The social movements of Our America understand the significance of the role played by the Bolivarian Revolution in our continent, in the world”, the statement read, “and the People of Latin America have chosen to build the path towards our second and definitive independence, a task in which, together with President Chavez, Venezuela holds a fundamental place”.

6 Culture | .ŽsFriday, December 21, 2012

The artillery of ideas

Venezuela commemorates 182 anniversary of Bolivar’s death


T/ COI P/ Presidential Press


enezuelans paid homage to their nation’s most important historical figure, Simon Bolivar, last Monday during a ceremony held at the National Pantheon in the capital of Caracas. The event, attended by the Executive Cabinet of President Hugo Chavez and Vice President Nicolas Maduro, saw the commemoration of the 182nd anniversary since the death of the Venezuelan Independence hero responsible for the liberation of no less than five contemporary South American nations. Also on hand to honor Bolivar during the ceremony was the Venezuelan youth orchestra, led by internationally renowned composer Gustavo Dudamel. According to historian Alexander Torres, Simon Bolivar is “without a doubt, one of the greatest men” to ever live in the Americas. “He was the most prominent Latin American of the 19th century, not only for his struggle but also for the reverbera-

tion of the idea that he had for the region. He is a motivating symbol that is alive today in the collective conscience of the continent”, Torres said during a television interview on Monday. Also known in South America as “the Liberator”, Bolivar was born in Caracas in 1783 and commanded the anti-colonial armies responsible for the liberation of contemporary Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Throughout his military and political career, the native Venezuelan fought to unite all of Latin America under the banner of one “Great Colombia” which would link together the various struggles against the Spanish empire in the Americas and create a world power that could compete with the US in the hemisphere. Bolivar was eventually betrayed by a host of sectarian interests and forced to abandon his life-long project, claiming just before his death in 1830 that he had “plowed in the sea”, a metaphor for failure. Yet, the Liberator’s legacy as an anti-imperial freedom

fighter has been strengthened in Venezuela in recent years as the political movement founded by Hugo Chavez has adopted the figure of the Independence hero as a key inspiration for the nation’s “Bolivarian Revolution”. Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro spoke to the resurgence of Bolivar in the imagination of the people during Monday’s ceremony. “182 years ago, our father ‘the Liberator’ left us physically and after his passing, his ideal and his work was betrayed and left in pieces until our people rose up... Our Bolivarian Revolution has signified the waking of the ideal of this great Latin American: Simon Bolivar”, the Vice President said. This has included a renewed sense of regional integration in the spirit of Bolivar’s aspirations of the “Great Colombia” which has been a cornerstone of the multi-lateral foreign policy of the Chavez administration. While addressing the nation on Monday, Maduro drew attention to Sunday’s sweeping regional election victories of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) as indicative of the resonance of the Bolivarian ideal, not only in Venezuelan, but around Latin America. “The people are happy. The victory of the Bolivarians is being celebrated like the victory of millions of women and men around the world who believe that another, better world is possible”, he said.

nary way, our words are always going to be full of so much love, of so much care”. On the same day, events were held in other parts of the continent. In Peru, a vigil was held to support President Chavez. The event, which was organized mainly by feminist groups in the Andean Nation, sent all of its best wishes and positive energy to Caracas and Havana

where Chavez continues his slow recovery. In neighboring Colombia there was also a 12 hour vigil held in the capital, Bogota. Following recent comments made by conservative Colombian President Santos, describing Chavez as “necessary” to the continent, the people of Bogota occupied the main square in solidarity with the Venezuelan head of state. Daniel Porras, one of the organizers of the event in the Colombian capital, explained that in a symbolic manner, Chavez can be considered as “the oldest son of Simon Bolivar, who physically disappeared on this day, December 17”. Similar statements of solidarity and best wishes have come in from the fellow nations which make up the ALBA alliance, celebrating its anniversary in Caracas this past week, as well as from the Mercosur countries, and from further afield.

Chavez: “The oldest Son of Bolivar” T/ Paul Dobson


olidarity events were held this week in many South American cities to send positive energy and best wishes to the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on his road to recovery from cancer surgery he underwent last week in Cuba. In Managua, Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, the President of Nicaragua, led a concert entitled ‘Celebrating Chavez: Songs, Life, and Hope’ in the Plaza of the Revolution in the capital. Ortega paid tribute to his colleague Hugo Chavez in his recovery against cancer: “Chavez is the soul of our peoples, of poetry, of revolution, of freedom”. Referring to the regional elections last Sunday, in

which pro-Chavez forces won in 20 of the 23 States, Ortega proclaimed that “today, the 182th anniversary of the passing into immortality of Simon Bolivar, we tell President Hugo Chavez, accompanied by Fidel and Raul (Castro), the peoples of the world, we send them all our happiness at the victory which was achieved yesterday (Sunday)”. He went on to describe the electoral results in Venezuela as “a historic victory which can be added to the great victories which the Venezuelan people have achieved”. The concert was also addressed by First Lady Rosario Murillo, coordinator of the Council of Communication and Citizenship in Nicaragua. She described the event as being

held “with all our love”. She explained that the Nicaraguan people had attended the event due to “the need to continue spiritually strengthening ourselves, all of us who love President Chavez”. Venezuela’s Ambassador in Managua, Maria Alejandra Avila also attended the concert in solidarity with President Chavez, stating that “we value him (Chavez) in an extraordi-

.ŽsFriday, December D 21, 2012

The artillery of ideas

T/ Charles Muntaner, Joan Benach, Maria Paez Victor


hile Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is fighting for his life in Cuba, the liberal press of both sides of the Atlantic has not stopped trashing his government. The significance of his victory (11 points ahead of his contender) has yet to be analyzed properly, with evidence. It is remarkable that Chavez would win, sick with cancer, outgunned by the local and international media and, rarely acknowledged, an electoral map extremely biased towards the middle and upper classes. One of the main factors for the popularity of the Chavez Government and its landslide victory in this re-election results of October 2012, is the reduction of poverty, made possible because the government took back control of the national petroleum company Pdvsa, and has used the abundant oil revenues, not for benefit of a small class of renters as previous governments had done, but to build needed infrastructure and invest in the social services that Venezuelans so sorely needed. During the last ten years, the government has increased social spending by 60.6%, a total of $772 billion. Poverty is not defined solely by lack of income nor is health defined as the lack of illness. Both are correlated and both are multi-factorial, that is, determined by a series of social processes. To make a more objective assessment of the real progress achieved by the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela during the last 13 years it is essential to review some of the key available data on the social determinants of health and poverty: education, inequality, jobs and income, health care, food security and social support and services. With regard to these social determinants of health indicators, Venezuela is now the country in the region with the lowest inequality level (measured by the Gini Coefficient) having reduced inequality by 54%, poverty by 44%. Poverty has been reduced from 70.8% (1996) to 21% (2010). And extreme poverty reduced from 40% (1996) to a very low level of 7.3% (2010). About 20 million people have benefited from anti-poverty programs, called “Misiones” (Up to now, 2.1 million elderly people have received old-age pensions – that is 66% of the population while only 387,000 received pensions before the current government.

The achievements of Hugo Chavez Education is a key determinant of both health and poverty and the Bolivarian government has placed a particular emphasis on education allotting it more than 6% of GDP. Unesco has recognized that illiteracy been eliminated furthermore, Venezuela is the 3rd county in the region whose population reads the most. There is tuition free education from daycare to university; 72% of children attend public daycares and 85% of school age children attend school. There are thousands of new or refurbished schools, including 10 new universities. The country places 2nd in Latin America and 5th in the world with the greatest proportions of university students. In fact, 1 out of every 3 Venezuelans are enrolled in some educational program. It is also a great achievement that Venezuela is now tied with Finland as the 5th country with the happiest population in the world. Before the Chavez government in 1998, 21% of the population was malnourished. Venezuela now has established a network of subsidized food distribution including grocery stores and supermarkets. While

90% of the food was imported in 1980, today this is less than 30%. Mision Agro-Venezuela has given out 454,238 credits to rural producers and 39,000 rural producers have received credit in 2012 alone. Five million Venezuelan receive free food, four million of them are children in schools and 6,000 food kitchens feed 900,000 people. The agrarian reform and policies to help agricultural producers have increased domestic food supply. The results of all these food security measures is that today malnourishment is only 5%, and child malnutrition which was 7.7% in 1990 today is at 2.9%. This is an impressive health achievement by any standards. The Venezuelan economy has low debts, high petroleum reserves and high savings, yet Western economists that oppose President Chavez repeat ad nauseam that the Venezuelan economy is not “sustainable” and predict its demise when the oil revenues stop. Ironically they do not hurl these dire predictions to other oil economies such as Canada or Saudi Arabia. They conveniently ignore that Venezuela’s oil reservoir of 500 billion barrels of oil is

the largest in the world and consider the social investment of oil revenues a waste or futile endeavor. However these past 13 years, the Bolivarian government has been building up an industrial and agricultural infrastructure that 40 years of previous governments had neglected and its economy continues to get stronger even in the face of a global financial crisis. Economic milestones these last ten years include reduction in unemployment from 11.3% to 7.7%; doubling the amount of people receiving social insurance benefits, and the public debt has been reduced from 20.7% to 14.3% of GNP and the flourishing of cooperatives has strengthen local endogenous economies. In general, the Venezuelan economy has grown 47.4% in ten years, that is, 4.3% per annum. Hugo Chavez’s victory had an impact around the world as he is recognized as having spearheaded radical change not only in his own country but in all Latin America where progressive governments have also been elected, thereby reshaping the global order. The victory was even more significant con-

| Analysis


sidering the enormous financial and strategic help that the USA agencies and allies gave to the opposition parties and media. Since 2002, Washington channeled $100 million to opposition groups in Venezuela and this election year alone, distributed US$ 40-50 million there. But the Venezuelan people disregarded the barrage of propaganda unleashed against the president by the media that is 95% privately owned and antiChavez. The tide of progressive change in the region has started to build the infrastructure for the first truly independent South America with political integration organizations such as Bank of the South, Celac, ALBA, Petrosur, Petrocaribe, Unasur, Mercosur, Telesur and thus have demonstrated to the rest of the world that there are, after all, economic and social alternatives in the 21st century. Following a different model of development from that of global capitalism in sharp contrast to Europe, debt levels across Latin America are low and falling. The changes in Venezuela are not abstract. The government of President Chavez has significantly improved the living conditions of Venezuelans and engaged them in dynamic political participation to achieve it. This new model of socialist development has had a phenomenal impact all over Latin America, including Colombia of late, and the progressive left of centre governments that are now the majority in the region see in Venezuela the catalyst that that has brought more democracy, national sovereignty and economic and social progress to the region. Dozens of opinionated experts can go on forever on whether the Bolivarian Revolution is or is not socialist, whether it is revolutionary or reformist, yet at the end of the day these substantial achievements remain. This is what infuriates its opponents the most both inside Venezuela and most notable, from neocolonialist countries. The “objective” and “empiricist” The Economist will not publicize this data, preferring to predict once again the imminent collapse of the Venezuelan economy. But none of them can dispute that the UN Human Development Index situates Venezuela in place #61 out of 176 countries having increased 7 places in 10 years. And that is one more reason why Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution will survive Venezuela’s Socialist leader.

Friday, December 21, 2012 | Nº 140 | Caracas |


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


Venezuela’s uncertain future

T/ Gregory Wilpert


ith President Hugo Chavez having completed his fourth and most difficult operation in 18 months, the whole world is asking, “What now?” Chavez’s opponents want to know because they eagerly hope that this development means that Chavez will finally leave the political stage and his supporters want to know because they worry what it means for the future of the Bolivarian socialist project. The only two things we can say with certainty about Venezuela’s future is, first, that its future is uncertain and, second, that it will never go back to the way it was before Chavez’s first election almost exactly 14 years ago, in December of 1998. Despite this uncertainty we can perhaps identify a few possible scenarios of what might happen in the near future. First, if Chavez survives and overcomes this latest bout with cancer, personally he will have been humbled, having faced mortality in this way, but he would be like the Phoe-

nix that rises from the ashes, stronger than before - a feat that he already managed to perform following the 2002 coup attempt and 2003 oil industry shutdown. All indications, though, given the somberness of his closest advisers and Chavez’s own symbolic passing of the baton, when, in his last televised broadcast before leaving for treatment in Cuba, he handed Vice President Nicolas Maduro the sword of the Liberator, Simon Bolivar, is that Chavez will leave office sooner rather than later. Venezuela’s National Assembly could, in theory, extend Chavez’s temporary absence for up to six months--if he survives the cancer--before having to declare his separation from the presidency. Once Chavez leaves office, either because he lost the battle with cancer, or due to his need to recover, new presidential elections must be called within thirty days. This is an extremely short period of time given the complicated logistics of organizing a national election, but could be facilitated if Chavez’s departure from office takes a little bit more time and can thus be scheduled.

Since Chavez has already designated his party’s candidate for the presidency, a new presidential election would be relatively straight-forward for the Bolivarian movement. However, for the opposition, the situation is more complicated. Most likely it would run its presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, again--who last October 7 lost against Chavez by 11 percentage points. The opposition faces the added complication, though, that some factions within the opposition could challenge this scenario. Finding a new viable candidate in a rush will be difficult for the fractious opposition. If Maduro wins the election, which is quite possible, given his humble union organizer roots and his ability to connect with the country’s working classes, he would probably faithfully follow in Chavez’s footsteps, implementing the second socialist plan, which is currently being worked out by supporters throughout the country. His main challenge, though, would come after his honeymoon ends, when he has to keep the different factions within the Bolivar-

ian movement together. The reason no one else came close to taking Chavez’s place in all of these years is that Chavez seemed to be only one on whom everyone within the movement could agree upon. Where Maduro might have an easier time than Chavez is with the opposition. No doubt, the opposition would try to undermine Maduro at every opportunity, just as it did with Chavez, but these efforts would be moderated by the fact that Maduro is less likely to offend in his public pronouncements than Chavez. Also, given his role as a loyal civilian soldier under Chavez, he is less likely to be confrontational. There is a possibility that Maduro would lose an election against an opposition candidate, however. There are many unresolved problems in Venezuela, among which the greatest are insecurity, crime and state inefficiency. In his last campaign Chavez promised to resolve these issues in his next term and most Venezuelans believed him. It could be, though, that many Chavez-voters will not give Maduro this benefit of

the doubt because Chavez was always more popular than the people around him, who many blame for poorly implemented policies. This risk that Maduro does not inherit all of the support that Venezuelans gave to Chavez could give the opposition a false sense of optimism. That is, the opposition ignores Chavez’s most recent pronouncement at its own peril, when he said, in reference to his presidency, “Venezuela has changed forever”. There are many ways in which Venezuela has changed during the Chavez presidency, but one of the most important of these changes is that now there is a politically active working class, one that is more conscious and more organized than ever before and that will actively resist any return to a status quo ante. This, as I said in the beginning, is one of the few certainties we have of Venezuela’s future. Gregory Wilpert is a founder of and teaches political science at Brooklyn College in New York City.

English Edition Nº 140  

Chavez’s party sweeps elections, wins governor races

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