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Analysis

Opinion

US says Iran’s presence in Latin America a threat page 7

Obama is the King of drones page 8

Friday, January 18, 2013 | Nº 142 | Caracas | www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve

Housing program advances

ENGLISH EDITION/The artillery of ideas

President Chavez plays key role in Colombian peace talks

After reaching it’s construction goal for 2012, The Venezuelan government renewed its pledge to provide affordable and dignified housing for all citizens during a special meeting held last Friday between state governors and members of the Executive branch. Since the birth of the social program Mission Housing Venezuela in 2011, the Chavez administration has been responsible for facilitating the construction of some 480 homes every day in Venezuela. page 6

The Venezuelan head of state is progressing favorably in his recover from cancer surgery. page 2 Politics

The Venezuelan President has been working intensely to help advance the peace process in Colombia. In 2007-2008 he helped secure the release of several hostages held by the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) and more recently, has been a principle figure in dialogue between the leftist guerrillas and the Colombian government. Colombian President Juan Manual Santos requested Chavez’s help during the past year to ensure the process would move forward. President Chavez’s role is seen as “cardinal” in helping Colombia end its more than half century old civil war. Page 3

Federal Council meets

Elias Jaua new Foreign Minister

Regional governors met with the national government to advance mutual goals. page 4

Opposition provokes instability Violent groups are protesting against Chavez’s absence. page 5

Venezuelan program helped over 24,000 homeless T/ AVN

Impact

Chavez health improving

INTERNATIONAL

On Tuesday, Venezuela’s Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced that President Hugo Chavez had named former Vice President Elias Jaua as Foreign Minister. The announcement was made during Maduro’s address to the nation presenting the Executive Branch’s annual report in Chavez’s absence. Though President Chavez is still recovering from cancer surgery and remains hospitalized in Cuba, the signed decree with his signature was released Wednesday to the public, affirming Jaua’s designation. Jaua, a former student activist and a loyal member of Chavez’s government, has previously held the positions of Agricultural Minister, Minister for Popular Economy and most recently, Vice President. He received numerous messages of support and solidarity from regional colleagues once his designation was made public. Jaua replaces Vice President Nicolas Maduro as the nation’s highest diplomat.

In seven years, the Venezuelan social program known as Negra Hipolita has provided comprehensive assistance to 24,000 people who were living on the street, according to statements Monday by the program’s director for research, Miguel Posani. This initiative was established on January 14, 2006 to ensure that homeless people are guaranteed the right to life, comprehensive social protection, employment, education, culture and social justice. Negra Hipolita, which is one of many government programs in Venezuela known as “social missions,” has steadily implemented more initiatives to help the homeless achieve family reintegration, employment and education. The numbers of participants have grown over time; 1,808 people joined the program in 2007, 2,109 joined in 2008, 2,542 joined in 2009, 3,390 joined in 2010, 6,112 joined in 2011, and 6,616 joined in 2012. Posani said that the picture of homelessness has changed in Venezuela under the current government due to poverty alleviation programs. While extreme poverty was once a main driver of homelessness, the main reasons are now drug addiction and mental problems. Negra Hipolita has opened up 39 shelters and resource centers for the homeless throughout Venezuela. Nine of them were inaugurated last year. One facility located in the San Bernadino neighborhood of Caracas is specifically designed to help transgendered people. The program also employs psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, social workers and nurses, who serve people at the centers and work to prevent homelessness.


2 Impact | .ŽsFriday, January 18, 2013 T/ COI P/ Presidential Press

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enezuelan government sources reported an improvement in the post-operative health status of President Hugo Chavez last Sunday when Communication Minister Ernesto Villegas read an official declaration informing the country of the leader’s “favorable” medical progress. Villegas reported that “the President is conscious, in communication with his family, his political team and the medical team that is providing his care. [He is ] being informed on all points of interest”. This information was corroborated by the head of state’s brother and Governor of the state of Barinas, Adan Chavez, who said the Venezuelan President is displaying an advancement in his recovery and all rumors to the contrary are fabrications. “The information that is circulating in social media and other outlets which allege that the President is in a coma and that the family is arguing over a supposed disconnection of medical equipment is totally false”, wrote Adan Chavez in a communiqué released last weekend. Such rumors, he said, “form part of the dirty war being undertaken by the necrophiliac opposition”. Adan Chavez’s statements were made last Friday as a delegation of high ranking officials including Vice President Nicolas Maduro, President of the National Assembly, Disodado Cabello, and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez arrived in Cuba to visit the President. Other South American leaders were also on hand to visit with the recovering Chavez including Ollanta Humala of Peru and Cristina Fernandez of Argentina. When asked by journalists for a description of the health status of the 58 year-old head of state, neither Humala nor Fernandez revealed any information beyond that already given by the Venezuelan government. President Fernandez, in particular, refused to provide additional comments before leaving Cuba on Saturday to begin a commercial tour of the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Vietnam. “I said all that I was going to say [on Friday]. I was very clear in the fact that I came here with an immense amount of solidarity and respect towards Chavez who has been a great friend to Argentina”, Fernandez said.

The artillery of ideas

Venezuelan officials: Chavez’s health progress favorable

Despite this, Insulza agreed to meet with members of Venezuela’s right-wing Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition who referred to the OEA’s recent decision as “regrettable”. Days later, Insulza retracted the invitation and the opposition representatives cancelled their trip to Washington.

SUPPORT AND DISCIPLINE

When pressed by journalists for information regarding discussions that the Argentine President may have had with

relatives of the ailing leader, Fernandez demanded a greater degree of sensitivity by the international media. “It is not appropriate for me to repeat what the Chavez family and I have spoken about... I am asking [journalists] for respect and solidarity”, she commented. Chavez underwent cancer surgery on December 11 and suffered a respiratory complication at the end of the month, preventing the recently reelected President from attending his inauguration on January 10.

Venezuela’s VP says Chavez on the mend T/ EFE

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ust back from Cuba, Nicolas Maduro said he and other senior officials met with Chavez on Monday to update him on the latest developments in Venezuela. Venezuela’s Vice President said Tuesday that President Hugo Chavez is making progress in his recuperation in Cuba, where he remains hospitalized following a December 11 oper-

ation to remove a cancerous tumor. “We could say that our Comandante is ‘climbing the hill,’ he’s advancing and that fills us with joy from a purely human point of view, but it also signifies great happiness for our country”, Nicolas Maduro said at a session of Venezuela’s Federal Council. Just back from Cuba, Maduro said he and other senior officials met with Chavez on Monday to update him on the latest developments in Venezuela.

While members of the opposition have criticized the head of state’s absence, the Venezuelan Supreme Court upheld Chavez’s right to undergo medical treatment in Cuba and his ability be sworn in at a later date. On Saturday, the Organization of American States (OEA) declared its respect for the Supreme Court’s decision stating that “the topic has been resolved by the three constitutional powers of the Venezuelan State”, according to the organization’s Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza.

Since his departure for Cuba, numerous solidarity rallies and prayer sessions have been held in Venezuela and across Latin America, demonstrating the tremendous support that Chavez continues to enjoy around the continent. Domestically, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has been unified in its allegiance to the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution while the country’s armed forces have expressed their unquestionable loyalty to the current President during his recovery. On Saturday, Communication Minister Villegas reiterated the need for the progressive movements that back Chavez to resist provocations carried out by extremist elements of the nation’s opposition during this delicate period. Making reference to acts of violence perpetrated by masked delinquents last Friday in the border state of Tachira, Villegas made a call to Chavez supporters to “not fall for the provocations of a minority of irresponsible actors who are trying to put on a macabre show”. The Minister also called on “conscious parents and youth to not use violent demonstrations that are looking to portray a chaos that does not exist” in the country.

Chavez, 58, who won another six-year term in the October 7 election, has undergone four operations, chemotherapy and radiation since being diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. The President is progressing favorably, the Venezuelan government said in the latest bulletin on Chavez’s condition, but still requires “specific measures” for a respiratory insufficiency caused by a post-operative infection. Chavez had questions for all of the officials during Monday’s briefing in Havana, Maduro said. Besides Maduro and Chavez, the meeting included Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, National Assembly speaker Diosdado Ca-

bello, Attorney General Cilia Flores and Barinas state Governor Adan Chavez, the President’s brother. Maduro and the other Chavez confidants stayed in Cuba over the weekend and on Sunday met with brothers Fidel and Raul Castro, the respective former and current Presidents of the Communist island. Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled that Chavez, who first took office in 1999, could delay his swearing-in, set for last Thursday, without creating a constitutional vacuum and that Maduro may remain in charge during the president’s absence.


.ŽsFriday, January 18, 2013

The artillery of ideas

Hugo Chavez and Colombia’s peace

T/ Constanza Vieira P/ Agencies

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olombia has suffered an internal armed conflict for so many decades that it almost amounts to a “forgotten crisis” for external donors. But the President of neighboring Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is well aware of the conflict, and understands that it destabilizes Latin America, where centerleft governments proliferate. “He is a man who is determined (to find) a political solution, and to bring peace to this country. He did not lose the sense that Colombia deserves a better fate”, a source familiar with the ongoing negotiations between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC guerrillas, told IPS on condition of anonymity. Chavez “has understood that this internal conflict causes tremendous damage to the country, but that it is also a destabilizing factor in the region”, he said. Amid the secrecy, the government and people familiar with the negotiations agree that the Venezuelan President has played a cardinal role in the current peace efforts. The outbreak of civil war in this country dates to 1946, and in its current phase persists between the state security forces and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia

(FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), both guerrilla groups that emerged in 1964. Apparently, Santos told Chavez about his intention to explore a peace agreement with the guerrillas in a meeting in August 2010, during the early days of Santos’ administration. The negotiations with FARC are no longer secret, but IPS has learned that separate talks with ELN are also moving forward. Inquiries by IPS found that, with great courage, Chavez encouraged FARC leaders to accept Santos’ gestures. The Venezuelan leader’s initiative was also endorsed by Cuban President Raul Castro. The proposal probably came as a surprise to FARC, whose leaders finally said “Yes” to the negotiations. The source close to the talks said that the decision was ap-

proved by all of the guerrilla leaders, though some had recorded their written reservations over secondary issues, such as whether the timing was right or if the guerrillas were contributing to the popularity of Santos, which was indeed what happened. Chavez not only approached the parties, but has acted decisively as the facilitator. The first contact between the Santos government and FARC took place in the Colombian territory of Catatumbo, on the border with Venezuela, according to Mauricio Jaramillo, the nom de guerre of Jaime Alberto Parra, one of the guerrilla leaders involved in the exploratory talks. Jaramillo is the current commander of the Bloque Oriental (Eastern Bloc), which operates in the giant bi-national valley of the Orinoco River

and especially along the border between Colombia and Venezuela. This meeting took place before the talks formally started, Jaramillo said in a letter on January 9. “The process was about to fail because of the difficulty of finding an agreed location for the negotiations”, he added. Santos also boldly began the rapprochement, without the army’s knowledge, as revealed in an article on December 29 in the Bogota newspaper ‘El Espectador’, written by the President’s brother, journalist Enrique Santos. But Santos rejected FARC’s proposal that the negotiations continue in Colombia. Venezuela also was ruled out as a venue to avoid accusations against Chavez’s government, according to IPS’ annonymous source. The Colombian military regularly warns that there are limits to Venezuela’s tolerance for FARC presence on its soil. Finally, Havana was chosen to host the exploratory talks: “We decided on Cuba for safety reasons and, above all, because it guaranteed confidentiality”, wrote Enrique Santos. This exploratory phase ended in August of 2012, leading to the formal negotiation stage, which opened last October in Oslo and since November has been taking place in Cuba.

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The process has involved much political arm-wrestling – just answering the question of how Jaramillo was going to be transported to Venezuela and then to Havana took almost a year, demonstrating the level of mistrust between the parties. The government wanted to arrange an overland journey, crossing three-quarters of Colombia’s territory to reach the border city of Cucuta in the northeast. According to Jaramillo, the government claimed that “the airlift transport was impossible because it violated the drug controls agreed with the USA”. Thus, Chavez also facilitated the transportation logistics for Jaramillo and other insurgents to Havana, which was a matter of “vital importance”, the source added without giving details, although these difficulties are “well known” by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Finally, Jaramillo was taken to Venezuela by helicopter and from there travelled to Cuba. The same operation was repeated for the other guerrilla fighters. The talks have had ups and downs, including a severe slump after the death of “Alfonso Cano”, the then commander of FARC and considered an expert negotiator, in a military operation in November 2011. According to Jaramillo, “Upon formal request of the Colombian government, the bedridden Chavez was kind enough to intervene at some difficult times, contributing to smoothening some rough edges with his enormous prestige”. Negotiations have moved behind closed doors in the middle of the war, since the government does not accept a truce. FARC, on the other hand, unilaterally decreed an offensive ceasefire for two months, starting last November and expiring on the 20th of this month. Meanwhile, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the National University of Colombia on Wednesday handed government negotiators in Bogota, and FARC representatives in Havana, the civilian proposals to resolve what has triggered the war: inequality in land ownership, which in the Gini index ranks 0.87. These propositions are contained in 11 volumes, compiling 546 proposals from 522 farmers and business organizations that participated in an agrarian forum held in Bogota last December.


4 Politics | .ŽsFriday, January 18, 2013

The artillery of ideas

National and local governments advance plans at Venezuela’s Federal Council T/ COI P/ Presidential Press

While the majority of the participants on hand belonged to the ruling socialist party, members of the Venezuelan opposition, including its leader Henrique Capriles, were also in attendance for the gathering. Capriles, who defeated PSUV candidate Elias Jaua to win a second term as the governor of Miranda State, was greeted cordially by Maduro in a symbolic demonstration of the willingness of the Chavez government to engage with the political opposition.

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enezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro convened the first meeting of the Chavez administration’s new Federal Council after the United Socialist Party of Venezuela solidly defeated the nation’s opposition in December’s regional elections. The Council, comprised of the nation’s 23 governors as well as members of the Executive cabinet and community leaders, is the governmental structure designed to foster cooperation between local and national entities as well as designate budgets to the different states. “This is the first extraordinary session of the Federal Council, in this new period of government 2013 -19 which began last January 10”, VP Ma-

A SINGLE PLAN duro said in reference to the new term in office won by Hugo Chavez last October. During the meeting, a number of commissions were formed in

which government Ministers and newly elected governors will work together for the development of the nation’s diverse states and municipalities.

Addressing those gathered at the Federal Council’s first meeting, Maduro pointed out the need for local communities to assume greater responsibility in the day-to-day management of local affairs.

Venezuela’s VP gives annual address before Parliament T/ Agencies P/ Presidential Press

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enezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro gave a brief state of the nation address on Tuesday in place of his President Hugo Chavez, who is currently recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba and has been unable to travel home. Maduro stood in for Chavez with a 10-minute speech to Congress in which he defended the President’s decision to continue on with his recently re-elected mandate even in the face of his illness, despite opposition calls for him to step aside and name a temporary leader. “We are following the constitution in an impeccable manner”, Maduro, Chavez’s named political successor, told lawmakers, holding up a copy of the 1999 carta magna that was ratified by the people in a national referendum. The brevity of Maduro’s speech was in sharp contrast to Chavez’s nine-and-a-half-hour address last year, which broke historical records. During the address, Maduro informed that President Chavez

‘EXTREME RIGHT’

had named a former Vice President, Elias Jaua, as the new Foreign Minister, a move that supporters will likely point to as a sign that the President is in control of governance despite his prolonged absence.

OPPOSITION OUTRAGED Opposition leaders pounced on Maduro’s address claiming it to be a sign of institutional decay caused by the temporary physical absence of President Chavez. “We are facing an illegitimate government”, said opposition stalwart and recipient of US government funding, Maria Corina Machado. “We demand that decisions about Venezuela be made in Venezuela”. Ironically, Machado has been one of Washington’s closest allies in Venezuela, recieving hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from Usaid and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to support her efforts to undermine Chavez’s administration. In 2004, Machado received US government funding to run a recall campaign against Chavez. In 2010, she received more funding from abroad for her own electoral

This is in line with the Chavez government’s push to encourage a redistribution of political power through the creation of community councils and the growth of the Communes, a governmental structure that links the different councils together into regional umbrella organizations. To this end, the government must analyze and discuss the more than ten thousand proposals submitted by civil society and social organizations over the past year detailing ideas for the next six years of government. Reviewing and consolidating these proposals into a coherent scheme for local governance will be one of the challenges facing the Federal Council in the coming months, the Vice President remarked. “We need to have a single plan. [We’re dealing with] vital topics of economic development, security, transportation, and the communes as a democratizing and productive process that promotes inclusion and the overcoming of poverty”, the Vice President said.

campaign. She also met with former President George W. Bush in the White House in 2005 to discuss Venezuela’s “future”. Defeated opposition presidential candidate and now governor of the state of Miranda, Henrique Capriles, said Maduro’s informal announcement designating Jaua, a former student activist, as foreign minister was illegal. “The only way a minister can be named is through a decree by the President of the republic”, Capriles said in a statement. Jaua was tipped as a possible ambassador to Argentina in 2002, but rejected by the government there because of his radical past. In an update on Chavez’s health on Sunday, the govern-

ment said a lung infection had been controlled and that his condition was improving. It said he still needed help breathing, but was conscious. Maduro said earlier on Tuesday that senior members of the government visiting Havana had briefed Chavez on Monday. “He asked (Oil Minister) Rafael Ramirez about things ... we could say our commander is climbing the hill again, he is advancing”, Maduro told a meeting of state governors at which he shook hands with Capriles. The opposition called on the Washington-basedOrganization of American States this week to give it the chance to speak at a session about Chavez’s absence and what it said were developments that threatened democracy in Venezuela.

Ramirez dismissed those allegations, saying a group of 14 opposition lawmakers who walked out of Maduro’s speech had also played an active role in a brief coup against Chavez in 2002. “They are the most extreme of the Venezuelan right”, the oil minister told reporters at parliament. “They’re left isolated”. Opposition leaders say a caretaker president should be appointed and new elections held within 30 days once Chavez’s absence is made formal, as called for in the constitution. However, there are no signs such absence will be declared in the near future. Chavez’s planned inauguration on January 11 was postponed, but the government says he remains president and that the ceremony can be performed later before the Supreme Court. Raising the risk of a confrontation, both the opposition and the ruling Socialist Party (PSUV) are planning marches in the capital next Wednesday, January 23. The date is an emotive one for Venezuelans, recalling the day in 1958 when military dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez fled the country amid widespread rioting and a coup by rebel soldiers.


The artillery of ideas

Opposition provokes violent destabilization efforts T/ Paul Dobson P/ Agencies

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n the Andean city of San Cristobal extremist right-wing youths based around the conservative universities, and numbering no more than 50, held violent protests this week in response to calls from opposition leaders for “action on the streets”. The calls for street action from the opposition, amounting to destabilizing the country, were proclaimed to demonstrate their lack of recognition of the decision of the Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which proclaimed President Chavez’s inauguration for his new term could be constitutionally suspended until his return from hospitalization in Cuba. Students of the Universidad de Los Andes, and the Catholic University in the border state of Tachira, both well known hotbeds for extreme right-wing militancy, smashed windows and played out running battles with security forces in acts which have been denounced by government spokespersons. Recently elected socialist Governor, Jose Gregorio Vilma Mora, denounced the violence, and highlighted the role of international right-wing groups in the destructive acts.

.ŽsFriday, January 18, 2013

“It’s about organized groups which are coordinated and paid in US dollars. We have photos of them being paid within the hallways of the Universities”, he stated. “Underneath the violence and the spite there is a scheme, planned from outside of Venezuela, to generate violence… They had 9mm pistols in their hands, with munitions, to create chaos…they have mortars, armaments, munitions, and guns, to hurt the people of Tachira”. The youth involved vandalized various private institutions that work alongside the local government, such as the Foundation for the Family of Tachira and the Tachira Institute for Women, as well as inflicting infrastructural damage to various buildings and the attempted burning of an ambulance. The governance of Tachira was lost by opposition forces in December’s local elections when pro-Chavez Vilma Mora won a solid victory, ousting the opposition governor in office since 2008. Tachira was previously considered a center for anti-Chavez sentiment. In the violence in Tachira six members of the National Guard were injured. Governor Mora called on citizens to “have a clear head” and to not “be induced by the terrorists”. He went on to guarantee security and stability in the state. He explained that he expected those responsible to be brought to justice for their acts: “The security forces have all of those involved identified through photographs. We are not going to allow violence to take place in Tachira”.

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The protests, Mora claimed, had been specifically planned to disrupt two important events this week: the arrival of the Vuelta de Tachira, the internationally acclaimed cycling competition; and the International Festival of San Sebastian, which is held every year in this month. “They want to sabotage the arrival of the 3rd stage of the Vuelta de Tachira, a show of pride for Venezuela in the world… and they chased off the tourists who came to enjoy the starts of the International Festival of San Sebastian”. Venezuela’s Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas also called on the country not to “respond to the provocations of irresponsible minorities”. He went on to call on certain sectors of the opposition, who have recently talked of opening dialogue and negotiation, to reject the armed, violent minority within their own ranks. “Rational sectors of the opposition, be clear, emphatically oppose the irresponsible minority which use violence”. Vice Minister of University Education for Student Politics, Jehyson Guzman, went further and claimed that the violence was part of a wider plan by international right-wing forces to destabilize the country. He claimed that it was a pre-planned action, carried out by the most extremist forces present in the border state of Tachira, which, in certain sectors, suffers from the infiltration of Colombian paramilitaries and drug lords. Many have blamed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, himself famously involved in violence during the failed 2002 rightwing coup against Chavez, for the recent violent protests. Lopez, speaking against the ruling of the Supreme Court last week, stated that the opposition are planning a demonstration for January 23, and “will encounter each other in the streets, with actions”. “We need to do things differently, not just go to the march then return home, no”, stated Lopez, suggesting a change in tactics. Students who belong to the revolutionary student movement ‘Country and University’ denounced Lopez and the violent student group ‘White Hands’, considered responsible for the instability in Tachira, and called for students not to let themselves get caught up in these destabilization plans. Interior and Justice Minister Nestor Reverol spoke out last week making it very clear that, whilerespecting the right to protest peacefully, the security forces “will not permit even an inch of destabilization”.


6 Social Justice | .ŽsFriday, January 18, 2013

The artillery of ideas

Venezuelan government continues push for dignified housing

T/ COI P/ Presidential Press

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fter reaching it’s construction goal for 2012, The Venezuelan government renewed its pledge to provide affordable and dignified housing for all citizens during a special meeting held last Friday between state governors and members of the Executive branch. The encounter, lead by Vice President Nicolas Maduro and the Chair of the nation’s Housing Commission, Rafael Ramirez, took place in the capital of Caracas and addressed the government’s strategy to meet the ambitious goal of building three million homes in the South American country by 2019. Such a goal, Ramirez affirmed, can and will be met if the community and the government work together. “In the years 2011 and 2012, the Bolivarian government together with the people reached the goal of building 350,000 homes... This year, we have an extraordinary goal of 380,000 homes”, said the Commission Chair and also Venezuelan Oil Minister. Since the birth of the social program Mission Housing Venezuela in 2011, the Chavez administration has been re-

sponsible for facilitating the construction of some 480 homes every day in Venezuela. “That’s to say, 20 homes per hour and three per minute”, Ramirez stated. But to guarantee that the housing efforts continue to reach established targets, government officials expressed the necessity for greater regional coordination. As such, Friday’s meeting focused on how to better articulate local organizations and governing bodies with national policies. A timeline to meet targets is also being created. “This will permit us to plan in detail, state by state and municipality by municipality, the distribution of these

380 thousand homes that will benefit thousands of Venezuelans”, Ramirez said during the meeting.

MASSIVE INVESTMENT In total, Mission Housing Venezuela has seen an investment of more than 98 billion bolivars ($22 billion) over the past two years and represents one of the boldest initiatives of the Chavez government to date. Over three million tons of cement, a million tons of steel and 753 million concrete and brick blocks have been used for the program, prompting a growth in the nation’s construction sector from 5 percent to 16.8 percent of Venezuela’s GDP. “It’s important to point out the amount of resources that

have been invested in this mission by the revolution and President Chavez”, Minister Ramirez said. Key to the mission’s success has been the work carried out by community members who through local councils have organized themselves to build 36 percent of the 350,000 homes constructed since 2011. Housing and Habitat Minister Ricardo Molina is expecting to see that percentage rise significantly in the coming year. “This year, people are going to be responsible for the completion of 62 percent. This is an enormous jump and we’re sure that we’re going to be able to attain it due to the level of organization that has been developing in the country”, Molina said during Friday’s meeting. One of the most organized states has been that of Yaracuy where grassroots community councils have built over five thousand new homes in the past year and a half. One of the residents who participated in the mission is Griselda Mendoza, mother of two, who registered for the program once the original housing census was carried out in 2011. “When the people get organized, the results are extraordinary. I have my home thanks to the fact that the people are now

managing the policies of the state. That’s something that didn’t happen before because those who governed played with supply and demand to the benefit of certain groups”, Mendoza said during the delivery of 34 new living units in the mid western state. Maria Yovera, another beneficiary from the same state, echoed Mendoza’s sentiments. “I have two little girls who live with me in a shack that used to get drenched when it rains and we didn’t have anywhere to go. With the help of the community council, I was able to secure my home through Mission Housing Venezuela. Today has changed my life and the lives of my children”, Yovera said. While thousands of ordinary Venezuelans have benefited from the government’s program, Minister Molina highlighted the fact that families affected by coastal flooding and heavy rains are being given priority in the housing construction. “[There are] 11,500 families that entered into shelters at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 and that are still there. But by April this year, they all should be in their new homes”, Molina said. Vice President Nicolas Maduro reiterated this point in a speech given to the participants of last week’s plenary where he explained the need to “work twice as hard” for the program initiated by President Hugo Chavez. “Doing this for [Chavez] is the same as doing it for the people”, Maduro said. The VP also explained that the mission is available for all Venezuelans, including the middle class who the second-incommand said can “count on the Bolivarian government”. Maduro encouraged residents to communicate housing deficits through an 800 number established by the government to receive and classify the population’s needs. Residents must also “go to the large cities such as Caracas where people are living in mountain precipices and in poor conditions” in order to better plan the next steps of the program for the coming years. Outreach efforts such as these, the Vice President affirmed, is why the government will reach its overall goal by 2019. “We are fulfilling the commitment of Mission Housing Venezuela... We have established a powerful machine in which we work together with the people”, he confirmed.


.ŽsFriday, January 18, 2013

The artillery of ideas

Iran’s presence in the region a threat to US, according to Congress and Obama T/ Alex Main P/ Agencies

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hile Congress struggled to approve legislation to avert the much-hyped “fiscal cliff”, a bill addressing “Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere” quietly and smoothly swept through both houses before the end of the legislative session. The bill, which requires the State Department to develop a strategy to address the Iranian regional “threat”, was signed into law by President Obama on December 28. If you haven’t heard of the “Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012” (H.R. 3783), that may be because you aren’t a faithful reader of the neoconservative Commentary Magazine, which urged President Obama to sign the bill; or of the web page of the Heritage Foundation. Nor did you receive the press release of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) that applauded the bill’s passage and noted that it would help “turn back Iranian attempts to establish bases, subvert the economic relationships between the US and Latin America, and the establishment of covert abilities to promote terrorism in countries close to our own US borders”. The ZOA is an organization with links to Israel’s far right and counts among its members rightwing billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Irving Moskowitz, best known for their hardline prosettlement and anti-Iran positions and their generous donations to Republican super Pacs during the 2012 presidential campaign. Indeed, though the bill was approved nearly unanimously in both chambers, only far right organizations appear to have openly supported it. There is little doubt that Iran has sought to increase its diplomatic and economic presence in Latin America in recent years, as have China and Russia. The Iranian government has opened up new embassies in the region and President Ahmadinejad has gone on several trips to Latin America. But H.R. 3783, in its “findings”, alleges that Iran is involved in far more nefarious activities in the region.

The bill asserts that operatives belonging to the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, considered a terrorist group by the US government, “have witnessed an increased presence in Latin America” and alleges “direct Iranian government support of Hezbollah activities in the Tri-Border Area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay”. It also claims that: “Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies with a presence in Latin America have raised revenues through illicit activities, including drug and arms trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, forging travel documents, pirating software and music, and providing haven and assistance to other terrorists transiting the region”. These allegations sound serious, but where do they come from? The US government hasn’t produced evidence of Iran carrying out these types of illicit activities in the region. So, what are the sources that the bill’s authors relied on? Again, no need to look further than the Beltway’s far right think tanks. For example, the American Enterprise Institute’s Roger Noriega and Jose Cardenas published a report in October 2011 entitled “The Mounting Hezbollah Threat in Latin America”. Noriega and Cardenas, both former George

W. Bush State Department officials, have adopted extreme positions in the past. When he was US ambassador to the Organization of American States in 2002, Noriega supported the short-lived coup against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. In 2009, both Noriega and Cardenas lobbied in favor of the military coup d’etat that took place in Honduras in June of that year. Noriega, over the years, has gained a reputation for outlandish and extreme conspiracy mongering. Noriega and Cardenas’ report contains claims that are eerily similar to those found in the bill: “Hezbollah’s presence in Latin America dates to the mid1980s, when it began sending operatives into the notoriously lawless region known as the triborder area (TBA)—where the borders of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay meet—to use it as a principal safe haven for fundraising, money laundering, recruitment, training, plotting, and other terrorist-related activities. Their resulting proselytizing has led to the creation of numerous Hezbollah cells, with an estimated 460 operatives in the TBA by mid-2000”. The report’s main source for these assertions is a 2003 paper by Rex A. Hudson that, in turn, relies primarily on dubious media sources that offer specula-

tive comment rather than hard facts. Hudson’s previous works have focused on Cuba’s alleged sponsorship of terrorist activities in the region. Douglas Farah, Senior Fellow of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, is another rightwing “expert” from the Beltway who has accused Iran of fomenting antiUS terror plots allegedly in collaboration with left-leaning Latin American governments. Farah, who previously claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood was infiltrating the Obama administration, recently told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Iran and several left Latin American governments: “bring a significant and dangerous new set of threats to the region as they work together with TOCs (transnational organized crime enterprises) and terrorist groups. This threat includes not only traditional TOC activities such as drug trafficking and human trafficking, but also the potential for WMD-related trafficking. These activities are carried out with the participation of regional and extra regional state actors whose leaders are deeply enmeshed in criminal activities. These same leaders have a publicly articulated doctrine of asymmetrical warfare against the United States and its allies that explicitly en-

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dorses as legitimate the use of weapons of mass destruction in that struggle”. It is unclear where Farah uncovered all the evidence for these terrifying plans, but one of the sources he cites is an amateurish documentary called the Iranian Threat that was produced by the Miami-based Univision Spanish-language network. Touted by the neoconservative Hudson Institute and far right Cuban-American legislators, the documentary alleges that Iran, various Latin-American countries and a group of Mexican students were plotting to wage cyber warfare on the US, based mainly on the testimony of one of the students. Over the last year, Farah, Noriega and former Reagan and Bush officials Otto Reich and Norman Bailey have been part of a joint offensive to get Congress and the Obama administration to clamp down on Iran’s alleged hostile, covert activities in Latin America. Their efforts have been supported by rightwing advocacy organizations, like ZOA which deployed “two hundred of our activists” to lobby for passage of H.R. 3783. It is not surprising, therefore, that the bill was introduced in January 2012 by a far-right Republican, Representative Jeff Duncan, a strong supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. More puzzling, and troubling, is the fact that the bill passed in the House with only six dissenting votes. A few progressive Democrats abstained from voting, but only one Democratic representative, outgoing Congressman Dennis Kucinich, voted against it. In the Senate, the bill apparently encountered no resistance and was approved by “unanimous consent”. Over the last four years, the Obama administration has essentially recycled the Latin America policy espoused by George W. Bush during his second term in office. By approving H.R. 3787, both Congress and the administration are ceding even more terrain to the far right. In doing so, they contribute to further perpetuating the hawkish Cold War era vision of the region that links independent, left-wing political movements and governments in Latin America to distant perceived enemies, whether they be the Soviet Union or Iran. It’s time for cooler heads in Washington, and throughout the country, to take action to prevent US policy in the region from sinking into a toxic morass similar to that of the 1980s.


Friday, January 18, 2013 | Nº 142 | Caracas | www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve

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T/ Norman Solomon

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simple twist of fate has set President Obama’s second Inaugural Address for January 21, the same day as the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday. Obama made no mention of King during the Inauguration four years ago -- but since then, in word and deed, the President has done much to distinguish himself from the man who said “I have a dream”. After his speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963, King went on to take great risks as a passionate advocate for peace. After his Inaugural speech in January 2009, Obama has pursued policies that epitomize King’s grim warning in 1967: “When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men”. But Obama has not ignored King’s anti-war legacy. On the contrary, the president has gone out of his way to distort and belittle it. In his eleventh month as President –while escalating the US war effort in Afghanistan, a process that tripled the American troop levels there– Obama traveled to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. In his speech, he cast aspersions on the peace advocacy of another Nobel Peace laureate: Martin Luther King Jr. The President struck a respectful tone as he whetted the rhetorical knife before twisting. “I know there’s nothing weak – nothing passive – nothing naive – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King”, he said, just before swiftly implying that those two advocates of nonviolent direct action were, in fact, passive and naive. “I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people”, Obama added. Moments later, he was straining to justify United States warfare: past,

Opinion

King: I have a dream. Obama: I have a drone present, future. “To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason,” Obama said. “I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of the United States of America, the world’s sole military superpower”. Then came the jingo pitch: “Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms”. Crowing about the moral virtues of making war while accepting a peace prize might seem a bit odd, but Obama’s rhetoric was in sync with a key dictum from Orwell: “Who controls the past controls the future;

who controls the present controls the past”. Laboring to denigrate King’s antiwar past while boasting about Uncle Sam’s past (albeit acknowledging “mistakes,” a classic retrospective euphemism for carnage from the vantage point of perpetrators), Obama marshaled his oratory to foreshadow and justify the killing yet to come under his authority. Two weeks before the start of Obama’s second term, the British daily The Guardian noted that “US use of drones has soared during Obama’s time in office, with the White House authorizing attacks in at least four countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It is estimated that the CIA and the US military have undertaken more than 300 drone strikes and killed about 2,500 people”. The newspaper reported that a former member of Obama’s “counterterrorism group” during the 2008 campaign, Michael Boyle, says the

White House is now understating the number of civilian deaths due to the drone strikes, with loosened standards for when and where to attack: “The consequences can be seen in the targeting of mosques or funeral processions that kill non-combatants and tear at the social fabric of the regions where they occur. No one really knows the number of deaths caused by drones in these distant, sometimes ungoverned, lands”. Although Obama criticized the Bush-era “war on terror” several years ago, Boyle points out, President Obama “has been just as ruthless and indifferent to the rule of law as his predecessor”. Boyle’s assessment –consistent with the conclusions of many other policy analysts– found the Obama administration’s use of drones is “encouraging a new arms race that will empower current and future rivals and lay the foundations for an international system that is increasingly violent”. In recent weeks, more than 50,000 Americans have signed a petition to Ban Weaponized Drones from the World. The petition says that “weaponized drones are no more acceptable than land mines, cluster bombs or chemical weapons”. It calls for President Obama “to abandon the use of weaponized drones, and to abandon his ‘kill list’ program regardless of the technology employed”. Count on lofty rhetoric from the Inaugural podium. The spirit of Dr. King will be elsewhere.

Norman Solomon is founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org. e co-chairs the national Healthcare Not Warfare campaign organized by Progressive Democrats of America. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death and Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State.

English Edition Nº 142  

President Chavez plays key role in Colombian peace talks

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