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US Snooping Makes It a Neighborhood Pariah page 7

Obama’s Betrayal of Honduras page 8

Friday, November 1, 2013 | Nº 181 | Caracas |

Venezuela fights economic sabotage Vice President for Economic Affairs, Rafael Ramirez, blamed the United States and the Venezuelan right-wing for being behind an economic war designed to bring down the government of socialist President Nicolas Maduro. Ramirez, who is also Oil Minister and President of the state oil company PDVSA, spoke with journalists from two private Venezuelan television channels, Televen and Venevision, and outlined the strategy being utilized by the country's opposition to create panic and destabilization in the population. page 2

ENGLISH EDITION/The artillery of ideas

International tourism growing in Venezuela


Subsidized fairs aid purchases State holiday fairs will ensure affordable prices for consumer products and festivities. page 4

With 58,869 visits, this year’s International Tourism Fair in Venezuela (Fitven) was declared the most successful ever. The Fair, organized by the Ministry for Tourism, was the eighth of its kind, and recorded a 58.66% increase in attendance on last year. It brought together visitors from the four corners of Venezuela, including the general public, workers of the national tourism sector, as well as international representatives from France, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Japan, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Nicaragua, Cuba, Spain, England, China, Germany and Russia. Pages 3-4

Social Justice

8 Years Without Illiteracy

Botanical Garden recovery

Venezuela celebrates 8th anniversary free of illiteracy due to social programs. page 5

The recuperation of the Botanical Garden of Caracas is being carried out through a series of cooperative works that range from replacing the fences at the entrance to the site, to remodeling the walkways and the pond, and fixing the vehicles used to move plants from one place to another. The president of the Botanical Garden Foundation of Caracas, Mario Gabaldon, told Correo del Orinoco: “In 15 days, we may have the motorized vehicles repaired, not just the truck, but also the two tractors.” The first phase of the recuperation involves improvements to the key sites of the garden, such as the cactus section and the pond. “The main pond requires some work, and needs to be filled in, because in the past they did a bad job and made it too deep, and so aquatic plants could be planted there”, Gabaldon said, indicating that the water should be less than a meter deep. “We have to fill that end, put in a geotextile fabric and then plant the species found in Venezuelan lagoons”, he explained.


Vigilance to fight crime A nationwide monitoring system hopes to reduce insecurity in Venezuela. page 6

INTERNATIONAL Over 5 Million Venezuelans Benefited from Simon Bolivar Satellite T/ Correo del Orinoco Tuesday, October 29, marked the 5th ] anniversary of the launch into orbit of the satellite known as Venesat-1 Simon Bolivar, a technological tool that has allowed for greater access to the Internet and faster data transmission in Venezuela so that citizens can enjoy telecommunications services, particularly in rural areas of the country. The satellite was the result of a 2008 cooperation agreement between the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and China. It was launched from China and orbits at 22,680 feet above the earth. The satellite weighs 5.1 tons, is 3.6 meters tall, and has a 15 year lifespan. The satellite program was carried out with an investment of $406 million by Venezuela’s Bolivarian Space Agency. In order to launch this satellite, 200 young Venezuelan scientists were trained in space technology as part of the agreement with China. The university students were equipped with special knowledge links to building of satellites, their technical control, and information management. Currently, Venezuelan professionals and technicians are in charge of the maintenance and operations of the Simon Bolivar satellite. As part of Venezuela’s policy of social inclusion, which is part of the legacy of the late President Hugo Chávez Frías, the satellite benefits the poorest communities through projects in medicine, education and social organization such as the “info centers” that have broadened access to technologies by offering free Internet access.

2 Impact | .ŽsFriday, November 1, 2013

The artillery of ideas

Ramirez: Venezuela has declared ‘a war to the death’ against economic sabotage T/ COI P/ Agencies


n a series of television interviews that took place last weekend, Vice President for Economic Affairs, Rafael Ramirez, blamed the United States and the Venezuelan right-wing for being behind an economic war designed to bring down the government of socialist President Nicolas Maduro. Ramirez, who is also Oil Minister and President of the state oil company Pdvsa, spoke with journalists from two private Venezuelan television channels, Televen and Venevision, and outlined the strategy being utilized by the country’s opposition to create panic and destabilization in the population. “They have been working with the idea that has been planted by the United States. The sectors of Venezuela’s extreme right-wing have been employing a strategy of total economic collapse, of the total collapse of our country. It is an objective which is clearly political and aimed at overthrowing our government in order to derail all that our revolution has achieved”, he said. The cabinet member cited the shortages of certain food products, the theft of governmentsupplied foreign exchange, rising inflation, and the prolif-

eration of contraband on the Venezuelan-Colombian border as consequences of the economic sabotage underway in the South American nation. To combat the conspiracy, Ramirez emphasized that the Maduro administration has declared “a war to the death against the offensive that the bourgeoisie has launched against our country”. This includes shielding Venezuelans against contrived food shortages through “massive importation” of staple products and taking greater measures to stave off the loss of foreign exchange occurring via fraudulent petitions for US dollars. “We are going to develop an offensive that will be headed by President Maduro in order

to respond with extraordinary measures to an extraordinary situation which the bourgeoisie is attempting to inflict on our country. We’re not going to allow for this to continue”, Ramirez stated.

FIGHTING THE PARALLEL EXCHANGE RATE A major front of the Maduro administration’s battle against speculation and destabilization will lie in the fight to abolish the parallel exchange rate that has arisen in the OPEC member state. Since 2003, Venezuela has exercised a strict control on the flow of foreign exchange in the country. The measure, not unusual for many developing nations, was

originally enacted, Ramirez said, “to maintain our sovereignty over our national reserves” after the Venezuelan opposition employed a coup d’etat and an oil lockout in 2002 in attempts to bring down the government of then President Hugo Chavez. The currency control has also served to insulate the country against the possibility of capital flight - a pernicious side effect of free market currency policies that can severely damage fragile economies. A case in point is the 1997 Asian financial crisis in which a number of industrializing nations suffered major economic fallouts from currency speculation and the rapid withdraw of private investors. In Venezuela, the national currency, the bolivar, has had a fixed exchange rate determined by the national bank that is currently set at 6.3 to the dollar. The parallel, or illegal exchange rate of the dollar, however, is many times higher than the regulated price, leading to a distortion in the currency market, which affects both industry and the cost of products in the country. With the vast majority of Venezuela’s foreign exchange coming from the state oil company, PDVSA, citizens and importers alike have the right to petition the Foreign Exchange Admin-

istration (CADIVI) to receive a limited amount of dollars at the regulated, or “preferential” rate. The dollars are meant to provide for citizens travelling abroad as well as for the importation of industrial inputs and everyday commodities that are sold in Venezuela. But the means to solicit the exchange has been manipulated by private businesses and individuals who, after obtaining dollars from the national government at the fixed rate, sell the currency at the parallel price in Venezuela. The result has been a diversion of the nation’s foreign exchange from its intended target through a network riddled with corruption and profiteers, which, in the end, affects residents and impedes the development of the nation. “There has been a process in which the functioning of CADIVI has been compromised and the sectors to which foreign exchange has been given have not done their job. This has been transformed into a mechanism to capture dollars in order to feed the parallel market”, Ramirez said while calling for new control measures to fight the fraud. Last week, the head of Cadivi, Jose Khan, reported that at least 1,245 businesses had recently abused the system. “These companies are no longer receiving a single dollar from [Cadivi]”, he said. For his part, Ramirez singled out the country’s large business owners and organized mafias as those taking advantage of the system, rebuking them for “laughing at the mechanisms that we have created to distribute our oil income [to the people]”. “The ones who are able to distort the fundamental elements of our economy are in action. The parallel dollar is not coming about due to a worker, a housewife, or even a professional because they don’t have the quantity of dollars necessary to take to the market for speculation”, he said. Ramirez revealed that rather than devaluing the bolivar in the face of a ballooning parallel rate, the national government is planning to create “an alternative system for the disbursement of foreign exchange”. “It will be a revolutionary system that will help us to transform our economy into socialism. That is where we’re headed. We’ve moving towards socialism and we will resolve the economic problem by managing planning elements that will advance the production objectives that we want”, the official explained.

.ŽsFriday, November 1, 2013

The artillery of ideas

T/ Paul Dobson P/ Agencies


ith 58,869 visits, this year’s International Tourism Fair in Venezuela (Fitven) was declared the most successful ever, thanks to the efforts of all involved in the tourist hotspot of Merida. The Fair, organized by the Ministry for Tourism, was the eighth of its kind, and recorded a 58.66% increase in attendance on last year. It brought together visitors from the four corners of Venezuela, including the general public, workers of the national tourism sector, as well as international representatives from France, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Japan, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Nicaragua, Cuba, Spain, England, China, Germany and Russia. The reported increase in attendance, calculated by electronic turnstiles at the entrance, is even more significant considering that last year’s Fair was held in the capital Caracas (8 million inhabitants), whilst this year’s Fair was in Merida (250,000 inhabitants). Entrance lines of over two hours were reported at peak times. The Fair was held in the 7000 m2 of the sports complex ‘Five White Eagles’, itself a construction of the Hugo Chavez administration, and was open for the first two days to firms and providers of tourist services, and the last two days to the general public. Renovated to host the swarms of people that poured into Merida for the Fitven, the sports complex contained four huge centers that demonstrated the delights and fascinating opportunities of tourism on both a local, national, and international level. Visitors were greeted by expert staff from the tourism training college, the Hotel Escuela, before being guided towards the first of the four nuclei, which focused on Venezuela and its uncountable marvels and beauties. Visitors had the chance to observe photographic exhibits, receive maps, guides, and consult representatives from each of the regions of the country. Other areas exhibited international delegations, enabling them to present the attractions in their respective countries, with Colombian coffee on offer and Brazilian Samba dancing.

International Tourism Fair sees record visits

Passing through to the Products and Services area, visitors were able to browse tourist firms, who presented their products, offers, and services to both the public and other visiting businesses, with thousands of flyers and pamphlets being taken away. Finally, visitors arrived at the gastronomy and handicraft nucleus, where representatives from the Amazon to the Coast presented the fruits of their labors to the population. The Fitven presented a ‘clean energy’ sector, where energy trapping gymnastic style park games were mounted, allowing children to play and at the same time create electricity. There was also a demonstration of the increasingly used solar panels, and a large skate and bike complex mounted in the shadows of the scaling stadium. Throughout the Fitven, visitors were witness to the Venezuelan spirit and love of life, which makes tourism so inviting here, with music blaring

from every corner, and cultural displays at almost every 20 meters along the two hour long route. From the feet stamping dancers of the flatlands, to the giant Mucuchies dogs of the Andes, flamboyantly dressed traditional performers, modern sculptures, and costumed historic personalities, the at-

mosphere of the Fair was one of celebration, enjoyment, and joy, with a very clear recognition of the founder of the Tourism Fairs: Hugo Chavez. The Fitven closed with an enormous concert that defied the Andean rain and marveled spectators with presentations from the National Symphonic

| Economy


Orchestra, Venezuelan Salsa legend Oscar D’Leon, singer Roque Valero, and the grouping Malanga. Entrance both to the concert as well as the Fair was entirely free. In the restricted areas of the Fitven, pre-organized meetings between the 400 firms established links, exchanging information, promoting packages, and developing both local and national tourism. There were also numerous workshops held by experts, and training programs established for those working in tourism. In exit polls, 92% of the general public categorized the Fitven as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, however numerous representatives of the tourist firms present at the event reported certain organizational problems, which they emphasized should be overcome in future fairs. Venezuela’s internal tourism sector has been flourishing in recent years, with numbers of national tourists increasing exponentially thanks to greater investment from the government in infrastructure, such as airlines, new bus stations, and training programs for tourist promoters. There is an impetus on sustainable eco-tourism, based in the communities, and running in harmony with nature. However the country has suffered stagnation in foreign visitors, due to the capitalist recession in other parts of the world, and problems of promotion and reputation of Venezuela. Minister for Tourism, Andres Izarra, explained that the wave of violence instigated by the opposition in April damaged Venezuela’s reputation as a holiday destination. Despite an increase in the international presence at this year’s Fitven, workers in the tourism sector had hoped for an even greater presence still, with unofficial reports suggesting that only 28 of the 60 reported foreign firms registered actually arriving at the Fair. The following Fitven will be held in 2014 in the city of Barinas, which is considered the doorway to the flatlands of Venezuela, rich as they are in fauna. The city also offers some of the best white water rafting in the country, combining flatlands with stunning Andean landscapes.

4 Economy | .ŽsFriday, November 1, 2013

The artillery of ideas

Tourism fair promotes Venezuela as international destination, sees spike in business opportunities

The general public also benefited from the event as thousands of Merida residents attended the variety of cultural and culinary expositions that took place over the weekend. “It’s all very beautiful”, said local resident and fair goer Mariela Valbuena. “I loved it. I think that it’s definitely going to help increase tourism in the country and the city”, she added

Famous for being home to the highest and longest cable car in the world, Merida was chosen as this year’s FITVEN destination for its stunning mountain landscapes, quaint towns, and unique Andean culture. On Sunday, Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Arreaza visited the Cinco Aguilas sports complex where the fair was held and expressed his contentment at the advances being made in the tourist industry in the country. “It gives me great pride to be here and to see that our country is turning into a power due to what the revolution has achieved. We are going to be a power in tourism. All Venezuelans can be sure that we are not going to rest until we achieve this”, the Vice President said. Last year, Venezuela saw a 20 percent increase in tourism with more than 78,000 foreigners visiting the country and more than 17.3 million local residents engaging in some form of domestic tourism. “The objective it to develop tourism in Venezuela. We are committed to diversifying the economy and one of the sectors that has great potential is tourism. Wherever you look in Venezuela - the mountains, the jungles, the beaches, the plains - you see that it is a country blessed in every sense”, Arreaza said.

wealthy allies of the conservative opposition. With the country experiencing shortages in certain foodstuffs and the dollar worth seven times the official rate on the black market, authorities have accused the opposition of seeking to destabilize the economy and create discontent through hoarding, deviation of supply chains, and price speculation. Throughout the Christmas season state consumer agency inspectors will increase visits to commercial establishments to ensure compliance with price controls and that retailers are not taking advantage of

increased demand to engage in price speculation. “We’re not going to allow our people to be exploited, not just in the area of toys, but in all sectors which sell goods that the population traditionally consumes in the December season”, said Commerce Minister Fleming. Fines for price speculation could range between $40,000 and $200,000, the minister added. As a result of the implementation of these strategies officials have stated that despite the “economic war” they are confident that Venezuelans will enjoy a “happy Christmas”.

T/ COI P/ Prensa Presidencial


fter four days of meetings, cultural acts, and photographic displays showcasing breathtaking landscapes and overwhelming natural beauty, Venezuela’s International Tourism Fair (Fitven) came to a close last Sunday in the Andean state of Merida. The event saw the participation of 395 firms and the sealing of more than 142 million bolivars ($22.5 million) in business, 134 million bolivars ($22 million) of which was achieved by the state-owned tourist agency Venetur. “The fair has been a total success”, said Venezuelan Tourism Minister Andres Izarra during a press conference on Monday. “This investment speaks to the dynamic nature of tourism, the confidence and the expectations that exist in the sector”, he added. Tourist operators from Germany, Ecuador, Spain, Bolivia, China, France, Japan and Russia were on hand for the event, which began last week

Thursday and ran through the weekend. Over 450 meetings business exchanges took place and Izarra reported that more than 1 billion bolivars ($158 million) had been solicited in government credits to carry out tourist activities as a result of the fair. Important for small businesses, the exhibits gave a chance for operators at all levels to seek new opportunities and network

with other professionals in the industry. Carlos Revilla, the owner of a start-up tourist agency in the beach town of Choroni in the central state of Aragua commented that by attending FITVEN, he believes his business will “increase by 100 percent”. “Right now I’m looking for more personnel and people with whom to work to meet this new challenge”, Revilla said.

Venezuelan Government implements strategy to ensure plentiful Christmas season T/ Ewan Robertson P/ Agencies


he Venezuelan government is implementing a range of measures to ensure that all citizens are able to enjoy a plentiful Christmas season, especially those on lower incomes. Beginning on Friday November 1st and running to December 15th, government-run Christmas fairs will be opened to the public in every regional state, where toys and other seasonal goods will be sold to citizens at “fair prices”. Meanwhile, mobile fairs will travel around all municipalities to make sure that Venezuelans living in more far flung areas also benefit from the program. In an interview with public channel VTV on Tuesday, Commerce Minister Alejandro Fleming said that the Christmas fairs would help the population avoid overpricing and speculation during the Christmas season. “Our prices re-

spond to a cost structure…it’s possible for a speculator to sell the same toys with [overpricing of] 300 or 400%”, he said. The minister also mentioned that this year the government hopes that the Christmas fairs will serve around 17% of the population, distributing 1.5 million toys. This is a large expansion on the government’s fairs last year, which served 4% of the population, distributing toys to 200,000 children. In addition to toys imported from other countries, around 1,700 national producers of toys, jewelry, clothing, shoes and artisanal products will participate in the fairs. State run food distribution companies Mercal and Pdval will also sell affordably-priced food items used to make popular Christmas dishes such as roast pork and bread stuffed with ham and olives. The fairs are a key part of the government’s strategy to ensure that all items associated

with the Christmas season are in plentiful supply this December. Authorities are in the process of importing 400,000 tons of food from neighboring countries ahead of the vacations, while over $46 million have been granted to the private sector for the importation of toys. “There are already 35 million toys in the country, plus those which are yet to arrive. It’s possible that in Venezuela we’ll have close to 50 million toys [for distribution and sale]”, said Fleming. According to the 2011 census, there are 7.35 million people in Venezuela aged between 0 and 14 years of age, around 27% of the population.

SANCTIONS Officials consider efforts to ensure the adequate supply of Christmas goods as part of the struggle against the “economic war” the government says is being waged against it by

.ŽsFriday, November 1, 2013

The artillery of ideas

Venezuela’s Maduro Creates Social Happiness Vice Ministry T/ Ewan Robertson


enezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has created a new government agency to coordinate social programs and further reduce poverty. The new Vice Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness will coordinate the government’s social programs, known as “missions”, to improve their reach and efficiency in order to move towards social goals such as the elimination of poverty. The vice ministry will work in particular with missions addressing the needs of the disabled, the homeless, families living in extreme poverty, old-age pensioners, and those from deprived backgrounds requiring special medical attention. “All these missions are part of the great system of socialist revolution that transcends the criteria of the welfare state”, declared President Maduro last Thursday while announcing the vice ministry’s creation. The Venezuelan head of state appointed former lawmaker Rafael Rios to preside over the new body, describing him as an “expert in social security”. The name of the new vice ministry, “supreme social happiness”, is a phrase introduced into modern Venezuelan political discourse by late President Hugo Chavez. It refers to the effort to create the greatest level of social wellbeing possible through reducing poverty and exclusion while meeting the population’s needs in areas such as education, health and culture. The phrase is used to evoke the political vision of Venezuela’s 19th century founder, Simon Bolivar, who argued that, “The most perfect system of government is that which produces the greatest possible sum of happiness, the greatest sum of social security and the greatest sum of political stability”. The pursuit of “social happiness” also forms part of the government’s plan for social and economic development from 2013 – 2019, including concrete goals such as the eradication of poverty and hunger.

Since the launch of the first mission programs a decade ago, these have formed an important role in the improvement of social and health indicators in the country such as the reduction of poverty from 50.4% in 1998 to 25.4% in 2012.

| Social Justice


Venezuela celebrates 8th anniversary of eliminating illiteracy

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA CRITICISMS International media outlets have mocked the creation of the Vice Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness, focusing on the body’s name and contrasting this with Venezuela’s current economic problems. While the economy has continued to gradually grow this year and unemployment remains low, the country is currently experiencing annual inflation of nearly 50%, shortages in a few basic goods, and a dollar worth seven times more on the black market than the government’s official rate. The government argues that these problems are due to an “economic war” being waged by wealthy allies of the conservative opposition, while the opposition blames “government mismanagement” for the situation. Fox News covered the new vice ministry’s creation with the headline “No Joke: Venezuela President Creates A New Cabinet Post Called Ministry Of Supreme Happiness” and claimed that citizens met the news with “outrage, sarcasm and utter disbelief”. International press widely re-posted an AP article with headlines such as “Venezuela Fights Shortage Blues with Happiness Ministry”, which led with the tagline, “At first, many Venezuelans thought it was a joke”. The head of the new vice ministry, Rafael Rios, has since responded to the criticisms, arguing that “What they demonstrate is stupidity and bad intention”. The vice minister argued that the ministry’s name and work “have to do with our historical roots and one of the greatest men in the world, the Liberator Simon Bolivar”. “This [the concept of social happiness] commits us to our society more, fundamentally with the poor, the excluded, the disabled, [and] those who are in conditions of misery and necessity,” the official said.

T/ COI P/ Agencies


s a testament to the social gains achieved by the Bolivarian Revolution spearheaded by the late Hugo Chavez, Venezuela celebrated the 8-year anniversary of being declared a Territory Free of Illiteracy by the United Nations last Monday. “Only in Revolution with Comandante Chavez could Venezuela be converted into a territory free of illiteracy”, current Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro wrote via his Twitter account in commemoration of the date. On October 28, 2005 Venezuela was officially deemed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) to have eradicated illiteracy in the country after a social program founded by Hugo Chavez, Mission Robinson, succeeded in teaching 1.5 million people to read and write. The initiative, founded in 2003 and inspired by a similar program developed by Cuban specialists, has been a pillar of Venezuela’s educational reforms and is part of a triad of missions created by Chavez to expand educational opportunities to previously excluded populations.

The other programs include Mission Ribas, which provides high school classes to those who were unable to finish their studies, and Mission Sucre, which has opened the door to university education for hundreds of thousands. Last Monday, Education Minister Maryann Hanson spoke of the gains made under the socialist government founded by Chavez and affirmed that the work of Mission Robinson continues to reach out those who still may not have enrolled in the initiative. “In the country, there are nearly 23,000 volunteer facilitators of this mission. We are continuing the process of training those who don’t know how to read and write”, Hansen said during a literacy conference in the capital Caracas. In addition to the literacy campaign, the minister explained that a second phase of the program continues to operate, called Mission Robinson II, which provides students, mainly seniors, with the opportunity to complete grammar school. A third phase of the program has also been created to facilitate study groups for community members with the aim of promoting reading and maintaining residents informed on important social issues.

Marisol Calzadilla, head of the mission, commented that the overall goal of the government’s educational policy is to promote “learning for a democratic, just, and values-oriented citizen who has new opportunities for socio-productive development”. During an interview earlier this week, Calzadilla reminded viewers that an international branch of the program was started in 2006, seeking to work in solidarity with other Latin American nations in ending illiteracy. “Venezuela, accompanied by Cuba, has been able to support and assist our sister countries Bolivia and Nicaragua so that they too were declared Territories Free of Illiteracy”, she said. For Hector Rodriguez, Vice President for Social Affairs, the kind of educational advances that have taken place in Venezuela demonstrated the redistributive policies of the socialist government and should in no way be taken for granted. “The things that are happening in Venezuelan may seem quotidian but they’re not. They are beautiful, extraordinary things. We’re changing reality with social justice and we’re going to continue changing it”, the cabinet member said on Monday.

6 Security | .ŽsFriday, November 1, 2013

The artillery of ideas

Major investment in security cameras to help fight against crime

T/ Paul Dobson P/ Agencies


enezuela’s Minister for Interior Relations, Justice and Peace, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, unveiled a brand new national system of security cameras this week which, he claimed, will produce “an important result in the reduction of crime”. As crime continues to be the most pertinent topic to both the pro- and anti-government electorate, the high technology cameras, which have been brought to Venezuela thanks to the international agreements signed by Maduro in China last month, are a welcome addition to the weaponry of the security forces to protect the population against those looking to distort social peace. The ‘Integrated System of Monitoring with Cameras and Assistance (SIMA)’ is “a robust system with the most advanced technology in the world for the monitoring of the principal cities of the country”, according to Rodriguez Torres, who unveiled the system from Bolivar State which working as part of the Government of the Streets. The 30,000 cameras will function 24 hours a day, and will be installed in the 16 cities with the highest crime levels. The first

cameras have been installed in Petare, Miranda State, which is currently governed by both an opposition mayor and state governor, and suffers from the worst crime levels in the country. The cameras can store up to 1,000 hours of imaging, and will be connected to a sophisticated Control System, consisting of one National Command Center, seven Regional Command Centers, 16 Municipal Command Centers, and 16 Parish Command Centers, with the first center due to be ready within 20 days. Apart from the 30,000 cameras, the system will be also be connected to intelligent terminals, which can be activated by ordinary citizens to request immediate police attention and even relay live video streams to the Control Centers. There will be 500 intelligent terminals built in the communities; 10,000 intelligent terminals for families; 10,000 intelligent terminals in public transport; and 2,000 alarm buttons, all of which will be further connected directly to 1,600 police vehicles, and over 200 police stations, all using a high speed technological platform and communications network. In the case of individuals or vehicles sought by the police, their details can be uploaded to the system, which will auto-ac-

tivate an alarm if such individuals or number plates show up on their recognition software. Minister Torres explained that he expects the system to reduce response times to a mere 3-5 minutes. The system will also assist in the task of city planning, geospatial awareness and the organization of cities, as well as the management of police resources in accordance with peak places and times for crime. “It’s an integrated system” explained Minister Rodriguez Torres, which, apart from the obvious benefits of identifying and capturing criminals, “can also help in the planning and ordering of the cities, because disorder implies chaos, and in chaos there is insecurity”. Rodriguez Torres further underlined that SIMA forms just a part of a much greater plan

by the government to make Venezuela a secure and safe nation for its citizens, an objective sought after by President Chavez before his death, which indicated the need to reach the highest possible level of happiness for citizens. “The SIMA project is the concretion of a systematic vision which is being developed by President Maduro in the theme of security. Since the President was elected, last April, he has started a process of analysis of how to give consistency to the Great Mission ‘A Life for All’ of Venezuela, and he started to develop a series of strategic work programs alongside the program Secure Nation, with the Armed Forces, the bodies of citizen security, and hand in hand with the people, to reduce the indices of crime”, explained Rodriguez Torres.

SIMA “is the most advanced in the world in the theme of security, with an investment of $2.06 billion, which is already authorized by President Maduro”, he manifested. The System will be implemented in three stages, with the initial phrase already underway; the deployment stage to be achieved in 2014; and the integration of the system to be completed in 2015 and 2016. “By the middle of 2014 we hope to have the SIMA in four cities and at the end of the year achieve its installation in 7 or 8 cities”, explained Rodriguez Torres. “In two years, Venezuela can be a model for the world in the material of organization and citizen’s security”, projected the Minister. The technology will be installed by the Chinese Security firm Ceiec. Vice-President of the firm, Xin Zhou, explained that “in the next three years, thousands of Chinese engineers and technicians will, along with their Venezuelan colleagues, participate in the construction of this system”, which, he stressed, has “already shown important results in China” since its installation. Rodriguez Torres reminded the public that such technology has arrived to Venezuelan shores thanks to international relations which focuses on a pluri-polar world, and strengthening regional blocs and strategic alliances between nations. “Today is an important day for Venezuela”, stated the Minister. “Today we are seeing the fruits of what President Chavez sewed, with his vision of international relations seen from the perspective of a multi-central, multipolar world. From this perspective of relations and strategic alliances with countries which respect our sovereignty and independence, and who are willing- as part of a relationship of equals- to help us with the necessary technological transfer and to construct a platform for the our development”. Technological transfer refers to a movement away from the necessity to import know-how, and towards training locals in the construction, maintenance, and use of high level technology, with the objective of medium term technological self-sufficiency. Technological transfer has been included in the contracts of projects built with foreign expertise such as large scale infrastructure projects, including the world’s longest Cable Car, as well as the showcase Canaima computer program, which is now 100% constructed in Venezuela by Venezuelans.

.ŽsFriday, November 1, 2013

The artillery of ideas

| Analysis



US snooping makes it a neighborhood pariah T/ Carey L. Biron - IPS


s the first formal probe by an international rights body into allegations of US mass surveillance began on Monday, privacy advocates from throughout the Americas accused Washington of violating international covenants and endangering civil society. Monday’s hearing took place before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an arm of the 35-member Organization of American States (OAS), which includes the United States. The heads of Brazil and Mexico are among the 35 world leaders on whose personal calls the NSA has reportedly been eavesdropping, according to new information made public last week but leaked earlier this year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Indeed, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has offered perhaps the most strident diplomatic response yet, cancelling a state visit to Washington in September upon being notified of US snooping into Brazilian official affairs, including monitoring of the state oil company. Brazil is also leading a push to institute a new international agreement on privacy.

“I was in Brazil right after these revelations came out, and my sense is that this goes back to this idea of US exceptionalism – that it operates by one standard and everyone else operates by another. Other countries are increasingly less willing to accept that this is how the US functions in the world”, Joy Olson, executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a watchdog group here, told IPS. “Further, the unofficial response from Washington – ‘Grow up, everybody does this kind of spying’ – was very unappreciated by many in the region. That just served as confirmation that the US doesn’t understand its evolving relationship with Latin America”. The IACHR investigation could now indicate a more concerted reaction from Latin American countries, joining new opprobrium from European and other world leaders as well as an ongoing national discussion here over the scope of US spying on private citizens. “While the United States is having a huge debate over the legality or constitutionality of domestic mass surveillance, there’s been very little discussion of the legality of international mass surveillance”,

Danny O’Brien, international director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital privacy advocacy group, said. “The worrying truth is that we have almost no safeguards in place regarding the surveillance of anyone outside of the US That’s problematic because domestic laws were written with the assumption that the people we targeted were agents of a foreign power, spies or even major political figures abroad – not, say, everyone in a particular country”. For its part, the US National Security Agency (NSA) has maintained that its surveillance programs, which could be gathering data on the phone or online activities of upwards of a billion people, follow US law and do not violate the privacy of US citizens or foreigners within the United States. In fact, increasing evidence suggests that regular exceptions have been made to these guidelines, but globally activists are increasingly frustrated with the US refusal even to indicate that it is adhering to the spirit of international human rights norms. The Washington-based IACHR, for instance, oversees the American Convention on Hu-

man Rights, adopted in 1969, which explicitly guarantees the right to privacy. (While the United States has not ratified the American Convention, it did sign it in 1977.) Critics now want the IACHR to censure the United States for violation of this and other international norms. “According to the US explanations, all measures have supposedly been taken to respect the privacy of American citizens and those in US territories, however no legal protections apply to foreign nationals”, the Brazilian office of Article 19, an anti-censorship group, wrote in a statement. “By basing its justifications and actions solely on domestic law … the US government has shown disregard for the universality of human rights and the fact that international human rights standards on privacy and freedom of expression and information apply to all, irrespective of borders”. The United States was represented by four officials at Monday’s session, but none offered any formal response. Stating that the recent 16-day shutdown of the US federal government had halted preparations for the hearing, the officials only promised a written response within a month. While President Obama himself has suggested that politically sensitive spying on allied leaders would stop, on Tuesday two bills were slated to be proposed on Congress to rein in broader aspects of the NSA’s surveillance activities. Neither of those, however, would offer additional safeguards for those outside of US territory.

In a formal submission made to the IACHR on Monday, EFF, Article 19 and several Latin American civil society groups warned that several countries in the region were already struggling under heavy-handed government surveillance tactics, and expressed concern over the ramifications of the new US revelations. “For many individuals throughout the Americas region, especially journalists and dissidents, the Internet and mobile telephony have been transformed into a threat. The use of these mediums is difficult or almost impossible without the risk of state interference”, the submission states. “Even if no single person is actually listening, the chilling effects of surveillance are felt, as the risk of revealing a journalistic source or legal client, for example, may be too high … Freedom of expression and freedom of information allow human rights defenders to challenge abuses to human rights; without the privacy to conduct investigations and communications away from the prying eyes of the state, this becomes impossible”. It is unclear whether Washington’s spying could now embolden government surveillance in parts of Latin America. Yet even in the current climate, in which governments and civil society together are decrying US snooping, EFF’s O’Brien warns that the focus on the United States could divert some important focus. “Given the United States’ previous involvement in Latin American politics”, he says, “one of the biggest consequences could be that any surveillance discussion is going to emphasize US surveillance, while potentially underplaying the future risk of more local surveillance”. The IACHR commissioners could now take a range of actions. Either way, the commission will publish a report on its findings, yet advocates are hoping that the commission will also refer the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in Costa Rica. Although the United States does not recognise the InterAmerican Court, more than 30 other countries do. A decision against the US there would be damaging and could do much to influence the decisions of other human rights institutions as well as the roiling diplomatic atmosphere surrounding the surveillance allegations.

Friday, November 1, 2013 | Nº 181 | Caracas |


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Opinion South American governments should support Hondurans’ rights to sovereignty and free elections

Obama’s betrayal of Honduras

T/ Mark Weisbrot


o the people of Honduras have the right to elect their own president and congress? That depends on whom you talk to. In 2009, the country’s left-of-center President Mel Zelaya was overthrown in a military coup that was heavily supported (and according to Zelaya, organized) by the United States government. After six months and a lot of political repression, the coup government was re-established with an election that almost the entire hemisphere – except, you guessed it, the United States – rejected as illegitimate. Four years later – on November 24 – Honduran voters will go to the polls again in a contest between the pro-democracy LIBRE party, formed by people who opposed the coup; and the ruling National Party, whose standard-bearer will be Juan Orlando Hernandez, the president of the National Congress who supported the 2009 military coup. If it were a fair fight, it is very likely that LIBRE, whose presi-

dential candidate is Xiomara Castro, the wife of Mel Zelaya, would win. The economy plays a large role in most elections, and a government that has presided over a deterioration in living standards for the majority is generally not returned to office. Polling data shows that 80 percent of Hondurans think they are worse off than they were four years ago, and the data backs them up. The top 10 percent got over 100 percent of all income gains in the two years after Zelaya was overthrown, sharply reversing a strong trend toward more equality during the Zelaya years. The number of people involuntarily working part time has increased by 176 percent. Poverty has also increased, whereas it had been reduced significantly under Zelaya, who raised the minimum wage by nearly 100 percent in real terms during his 3.5 years in office. Even private investment, despite the complaints of businesspeople who supported the coup, grew much faster under Zelaya than under the current regime. But as you can imagine, this election will not be contested on

a level playing field. In the past six months both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives have sent letters to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing deep concerns about political repression and its implications for next month’s election in Honduras. The Senate letter called attention to a “pattern of violence and threats against journalists, human rights defenders, members of the clergy, union leaders, opposition figures, students, small farmers, and LGBT activists …” as well as “extrajudicial killings”. The October 15 House of Representatives letter noted that “at least sixteen activists and candidates from LIBRE have been assassinated since June of 2012” and that “the Honduras government has failed to effectively investigate and prosecute those responsible for these assassinations…” “[H]uman rights abuses under the existing government continue to threaten basic civil liberties, opposition candidates do not enjoy a level playing field, and state security forces are taking on an increasingly cen-

tral, and ominous role in context of the election. We are particularly alarmed to learn that the ruling party, and its presidential candidate Mr. Juan Orlando Hernandez, now dominates all the key institutions of the government, including the country’s electoral authority and the military, which distributes the ballots– leaving scarce recourse for Honduran citizens should fraud be committed in the electoral process, or human rights violations continue to threaten open debate”. The problem is that the Obama administration does not respect either the right to free elections or basic human rights in Honduras. They went through a lot of trouble in 2009 to get rid of a democratically elected president, and paid a significant political cost in the hemisphere: at the time, all of South America’s governments were hoping that Obama would be different from his predecessor and took his word that Washington would not back the coup. They were more than disappointed; the Obama administration’s support for the

coup and its manipulation of the Organization of American States for this purpose led to the formation of a new hemispheric organization, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which excludes the US and Canada. What then can be done? The governments of South America need to speak out forcefully on behalf of free elections and human rights in Honduras. Because the Latin American left has a deeply-rooted concern for national sovereignty, progressive governments have been reluctant to take any actions that look like interference in other countries’ internal affairs. This puts them at a disadvantage against Washington, which has no such scruples and is intervening with millions of dollars in the current election. But South America has often rallied behind governments threatened or harassed by the United States: most recently Venezuela after the April presidential elections and Bolivia when Evo Morales’ plane was forced down in Europe this past July. And they intervened in 2009 to stop Washington from expanding its military presence in Colombia, which they saw as a threat to the region. As President Rafael Correa of Ecuador pointed out in 2009, Washington’s coup in Honduras was also a threat to the region, and so is its collaboration with the resulting government to prevent democratic elections. And so is the militarization of Honduras, with the US expanding its bases there. This is part of Washington’s response to the election of left governments throughout most of the hemisphere: to increase its military presence and solidify its control in the few places where, thanks to the snuffing out of democracy, it still reigns supreme. South American leaders need to remind the world that this is a struggle for self-determination – that Hondurans do not forfeit their national and civil rights just because the US has military bases in their country and thinks that this is more important than free elections. Mark Weisbrot is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.


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