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Fred Fuentes on the battle US citizens reject the Obama for food sovereignty in Venezuela administration’s sanctions against Venezuela

FRIDAY | May 27, 2011 | No. 65 | Bs 1 | C ARACAS

ENGLISH EDITION The artillery of ideas

Venezuela rejects US sanctions, could restrict oil supply Chavez increases social spending

In a big comeback after several weeks on medical rest due to a knee injury, President Hugo Chavez celebrated his Sunday program’s 12th anniversary by making major announcements regarding an increase in local governments’ budgets and a further investment in social programs, particularly attending to single, lowincome mothers and healthcare. After his regular broadcast, the Venezuelan President addressed a large crowd assembled outside the presidential palace, which gave him a warm welcome after missing his presence from the public light during the prior weeks. | page 4

In response to State Department sanctions against Venezuela, oil supply to the US could be affected

The Obama administration unilaterally, and in violation of international law, imposed sanctions against the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, this week, accusing the Chavez administration of aiding in developing Iran’s nuclear program. This far-fetched claim was soundly rejected by the South American nation and other allied countries in the region, who have deemed this latest hostility of Washington towards Venezuela as an “act of aggression”. The Chavez government announced it will reserve its right to respond accordingly and is evaluating the effects on its supply of oil to the US. | page 2

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Solidarity

Venezuela helps negotiate Honduras accord President Chavez aided Hondurans in reaching a path towards justice after the coup d’etat 2 years ago. | page 3

Politics

Journalists attacked by opposition governor Journalists from public TV were physically harrassed by anti-Chavez governor Henri Falcon. | page 5

Social Justice

Thousands of free laptops for school kids The Venezuelan government has distributed nearly one million free computers to children. | page 6

Venezuela scholarships to Caribbean

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Venezuela: No Oil Contracts with US Government

ince 2005, Venezuela has not had any type of oil contract with the US government, nor has it received financing from the US ExportImport Bank, noted Venezuela’s Minister of Energy and Oil, Rafael Ramirez, this week. As such, the scope of the sanctions imposed by Washington against state-owned oil company PDVSA are not clear. Nonetheless, Ramirez explained that export licenses, which were also included in the unilateral sanctions, are “undefined” until the situation is clarified. “We have to ask [the US] what

the scope of their measure is, because we have only received information from very-low-level authorities. We believe they are making a political point more than an economic one”, he stated. Additionally, Ramirez said that continuity of oil shipments to the US will be decided according to assessments made by the Venezuelan government. “Curiously, they say we can continue exporting oil to the US in spite of these sanctions, but they are wrong because that is a decision that will be made according to our own terms. They

hope to dictate what our response will be, but this is an issue concerning sovereignty”, he explained. The US government announced sanctions against PDVSA on Tuesday for its relations with Iran, but those sanctions would not disallow the sale of Venezuelan oil to the US. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said that the sanctions would prevent PDVSA from having access to contracts with the US government and financing imports and exports through US institutions. T/ AVN

rime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, announced his government has secured scholarships, which will enable Antiguan and Barbudan students to pursue degree studies in friendly nations. According to Spencer, the Venezuelan government has agreed to grant twenty full degree scholarships to students to pursue undergraduate studies in Community and Integral Medicine, Sports Management Technology, International Business Administration, Tourism, Water Transport and Agriculture. “The Government of President Hugo Chavez has once again demonstrated that they are committed to building the excellent relations that exist between both of our countries and it also demonstrates that we share the desire to ensure that the greatest good is provided for our people. One way of demonstrating this is to empower citizens through education in order to ensure that our nation remains on a sustainable path”, said Prime Minister Spencer.


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2 | Impact

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The artillery of ideas

Venezuela rejects US sanctions, evaluates oil supply to US Venezuela’s government strongly rejected the Obama administration’s attempt to sanction its state-owned oil industry, PDVSA, and interrupt its relations with other nations. Latin American nations and groups worldwide have expressed support for Venezuela’s defiant stance

the day. “We don’t just have the largest oil reserves in the world. We also have the most revolutionary oil company in the world!” In another tweet, he exclaimed, “So, they wanted to see and feel the flame of the people of Bolivar defending the independence of the Venezuelan homeland? Well, there you have it!” Venezuela’s legislative body also issued a firm declaration on Tuesday rejecting the US-imposed sanctions and warning the US to cease the hostilities against the South American country or Venezuela could stop its oil supply northward. The 40% opposition, antiChavez coalition in the Venezuelan parliament refused to adhere to the declaration, instead expressing approval for the US sanctions. Many Venezuelans saw this as a posture betraying their own sovereignty and national security.

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anctions against the homeland of Bolivar? Imposed by the US imperialist government”, declared Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Twitter this Tuesday (@chavezcandanga), “Bring it on, Mr. Obama. Do not forget that we are the children of Bolivar”, he exclaimed, reminding his more than one and a half million followers on the social network that “the true impact of this latest US aggression is the strengthening of our nationalistic and patriotic morale in Venezuela!” On Tuesday morning, the US State Department, announced it was imposing unilateral sanctions against seven international companies, including Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). This decision marks the first time the US government has taken direct hostile action against the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, which is one of the largest oil companies in the world. According to State Department releases, the sanctions fall under the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) of 1996, as amended by the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act (CISADA) of 2010, for alleged “activities in support of Iran’s energy sector”. In the case of Venezuela, the State Department claims PDVSA “violated” the US legislation by “selling at least two cargoes of reformate to Iran between December 2010 and March 2011”. Reformate is a blending component that improves the quality of gasoline, which somehow, the US government alleges, can help enable Iran to make nuclear bombs. The State Department clarified

that in the case of PDVSA, the sanctions “prohibit the company from competing for US government procurement contracts, from securing financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and from obtaining US export licenses”. The US sanctions do not affect Venezuela’s supply of oil to the United States, as clearly the Obama administration would not want to directly affect its own interests. Nor do the sanctions apply to PDVSA subsidiaries, such as CITGO, a US corporation owned by PDVSA which has seven oil refineries and over 10,000 gas stations throughout the United States. BRING IT ON The Venezuelan government reacted firmly to the unilaterally imposed sanctions, clearly stating it will no adhere to any decision made by the US government regarding its oil business, nor will it accept any US interference in its relations with other nations. Dur-

ing a joint press conference late Tuesday afternoon, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro, and PDVSA President and Oil Minister, Rafael Ramirez, labeled the US sanctions as a “hostile act of aggression” against the South American nation. They also announced that Venezuela is “thoroughly evaluating its response” and whether the US decision will “affect the supply of 1.2 million barrels of oil daily to the US”. On Wednesday, thousands of workers at PDVSA’s installations throughout Venezuela protested the US sanctions and stated they would “defend their oil sovereignty” in the face of “US aggression and interference”. “PDVSA is a sovereign, dignified company that no longer bows down to US agenda”, workers declared, rallying at the company’s headquarters in Caracas. President Chavez, who is recovering from a knee injury and has been forced to limit his public appearances, tweeted throughout

INCREASING AGGRESSION The US government, which supported a briefly successful coup d’etat against President Chavez in 2002 and has since been heavily funding anti-Chavez groups with millions of dollars in order to build an opposition movement in Venezuela, has been increasing its aggressive policies towards the Chavez administration during the past few years. In 2006, the State Department imposed its first sanction against Venezuela for allegedly “not fully cooperating with the war on terrorism”, and prohibited the sale of military equipment to the South American country from the US or any company in the world that uses US technology. In a clear attempt to leave Venezuela defenseless, this sanction has been renewed each year to the present date, though the Chavez government has found other suppliers of defense materials not subject to US pressures, such as Russia and China. In 2008, the Bush administration evaluated placing Venezuela on its unilateral “state sponors of terrorism” list, but concluded it wasn’t possible, due to US dependence on Venezuelan oil. This year, calls from ultra-conservative members of Congress, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Connie Mack, both Florida Republicans

who run the House Foreign Relations Committee, have vowed to take “direct actions against Hugo Chavez”. These latest sanctions are a clear result of their pressure, and that of the still influential anti-Castro Cuban-American lobby, on the Obama administration. In addition to the multi-million dollar US funding of anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela, which feeds an ongoing internal conflict and climate of destabilization, the US government has also been waging a severe demonization campaign against the Chavez government in international media. In 2010, the US Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI), labeled President Chavez as the regional “Anti-US Leader” in its annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment Report”. The Venezuelan President is also regularly referred to as authoritarian, dictatorial and anti-democratic in US media, despite his overwhelming victories in several elections and his oversight of Venezuela’s most vibrant democratic process in history. Ros-Lehtinen and Mack have again requested the White House place Venezuela on the list of state sponsors of terrorism this year. Though this is a far-fetched objective, this week’s sanctions pave the road towards an even more aggressive policy towards Venezuela, the country with the world’s largest oil reserves. Chavez faces reelection in 2012, and opposition candidates are bickering over who could unify their parties to challenge the overly-popular head of state. So far, Washington’s hostility is not aiding the opposition, but is actually unifying Venezuelans against foreign interference. Some fear the Obama administration could attempt a “Libya-esque” plan against Venezuela: demonizing the President, funding and supporting the opposition, building up military presence in the region and sanctioning the government, all with the goal of provoking regime change “by any means”. Meanwhile, Venezuelans stand strong against US efforts to undermine their democratic process. T/ Eva Golinger P/ Agencies


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t’s after school at Hibbard Elementary in Albany Park, Chicago, and the crisp strains of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony reverberates so in the halls, that you wonder why a teacher would be playing a recording or movie so loud. It was just that perfect — the performance one afternoon of the talented YOURS orchestra of 8- to 13-year-olds at this Northwest Side school where 97 percent of students are low-income and a third are limited English learners. This three-year-old upstart orchestra built on a music methodology originating in Venezuela recently earned “honors superior” — a perfect score — at the 19th Annual Chicago Public Schools Elementary School Music Festival, from among some two dozen of the best orchestras. “I knew we were going to win”, said violinist and third-grader Emily Vazquez, the youngest member at age eight. “Compared to the other groups, there was no comparison”, agreed proud Hibbard orchestra director Milan Miskovic. What sets Hibbard’s apart from any other orchestra in any other school is that it is based on “El Sistema,” a music education method founded in Venezuela, promoted by the Chavez government, and now supporting at-risk children all over the world. “It’s different from traditional Western music education”, said Bob Fiedler, executive director of the People’s Music School, the

Solidarity

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Teaching music as team sport

renowned, uptown-based institution which brought the program to Hibbard in 2008. “In Western music education, a kid must gain a certain amount of proficiency with their instrument before they’re deemed good enough to make music with other people. El Sistema is the complete opposite”, said Fiedler, who runs what’s touted as the only totally free community music school in the country. “The El Sistema method takes a group of kids who are complete beginners, gives everyone an in-

strument, and they all learn together in an orchestra. It’s teaching music as a team sport rather than an individual sport”. The brainchild of People’s Music School instructor Deborah Dos Santos, the fledgling orchestra began with 35 students who blossomed at Hibbard,a school with a predominantly Hispanic student population. Hibbard staff started to see benefits away from the instruments, like special education teacher Shirley Shechtman, who saw self-esteem and academics improve significantly among her

learning disabled and emotionally troubled students. The program soon came to the attention of the Ravinia Women’s Board, long interested in exploring the method. Today, Ravinia provides major funding and other resources, with 170 kids involved in three levels of orchestras. It was the advanced YOURS orchestra that blew judges away at the all-city festival, with its rendition of the Beethoven piece and John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever. On a recent afternoon, if you closed your eyes,

3| you could see the marching band coming down Main Street as they played the latter. “It has been such a blessing”, said parent Mike Roman, whose 11-year-old daughter Eva is a member. “She used to listen to the radio all the time, but now she listens to classical music and gets excited everytime she learns a new composition. She is so much more motivated in other things. It’s been an amazing opportunity.” The kids have played everywhere from Harvard University to Turin, Italy, with Ravinia scheduled this summer. “I can’t say enough about the People’s Music School, or about Milan, who has poured his heart and soul into these kids”, said Principal Scott Ahlman. “They meet every day after school for two hours, an hour before school, and even on Saturdays. It’s a very intense program, but the kids love it, and it’s opened many doors for them”. “Before, I used to be a ‘C’ student, now I’m an ‘A’ an ‘B’ student, and I used to get distracted and get into trouble”, said oboist and seventh-grader Alejandro Luna, 13, who traveled to Turin last October to play in an international festival of the El Sistema movement. “It’s taught me discipline and responsibility, and I couldn’t believe I went to Italy! It’s changed my life”. T/ Maudlyne Ihejirika P/ Agencies

Venezuelan government helps successfully mediate Honduras agreement D

uring his weekly TV program, Venezuela’s President Chavez applauded the signing of an agreement in Colombia, which will allow ex President Manuel Zelaya, who was overthrown in a coup in 2009 and forced into exile, to return to his home country of Honduras. Zelaya and current president of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo, signed the agreement Sunday in Cartagena in the presence of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela and Colombia have spent the last few months in mediation, and in April Chavez, Santos, and Lobo met in Colombia to discuss the agreement, after Chavez had previously accorded with Zelaya during a meeting in Venezuela. Chavez said the agreement “for

national reconciliation and consolidation of the democratic system in Honduras includes four points demanded by Zelaya”. Among those are return of Zelaya to his country, and recognition of the National Resistance Front as a legal and legitimate political force. “We’re waiting to see if this is complied with, because we know there are internal and external forces who will try to boycott the agreement”, Chavez warned, adding that it will be necessary to ensure that “human rights are respected, and the current government ceases persecution against the resistance forces”. According to President Chavez, Honduras will hopefully be able to “open its doors up to democracy. We’re grateful to have been able to help towards that end”, he added.

Also, Chavez said Zelaya would continue “fighting for a constituent assembly in Honduras”. Zelaya’s attempt to hold a non-binding poll on a referendum for a constituent assembly was part of the reason for the

coup against him. At the signing of the agreement Sunday, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos highlighted the work carried about by Chavez, who, “without his participation and good will, this agreement signed today

wouldn’t have been possible... He would have liked to have been here, but he has just had a knee injury. He put his whole heart into this agreement”. Santos also announced that over the next few days the Organization of American States (OAS) will take measures for Honduras to rejoin the regional group. Honduras was expelled from the organization after the 2009 coup. Much of the international community also refuses to recognize Lobo, who won presidential elections in an environment of repression and violence. His government hopes the agreement will help normalize the situation in his country and its standing internationally. T/ Tamara Pearson www.venezuelanalysis.com


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4 | Politics

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The artillery of ideas

Chavez returns to spotlight, celebrates program anniversary with announcements After a month of absence from the country’s airwaves, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s weekly television show Alo Presidente resumed its broadcast last Sunday from the presidential palace of Miraflores amidst throngs of supporters applauding the injured leader’s re-appearance and wishing him a speedy recovery

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hank you so much for all the solidarity, for being who you are - a beautiful and heroic people. I’ll never stop serving the Venezuelan people”, Chavez said raising his crutches and greeting the enthusiastic crowd from the palace’s balcony on Sunday. The President of the OPEC member state sustained a knee injury earlier this month forcing him to cancel a planned South American tour and confining him to the presidential residence for the past two weeks. His weekly television program, in light of the injury, has ceded its space recently, allowing the government to focus its attention on enrolling residents in its massive new public housing program which seeks to construct two million new homes in the country over the next 7 years. Last Sunday’s program marks the 374th edition of the president’s broadcast as well as the twelve-year anniversary since he began to go on air in May, 1999. Although Chavez’s wound has lessened his physical mobility, the head of state appeared to be in high spirits, even singing along with a traditional Venezuelan music group assembled outside the palace’s balcony. “In spite of the pain that comes and goes, I’m here with you fighting the fight for justice and peace”, he exclaimed. INTEGRATION Part of this fight, the Presi-

by the national government to purchase medical equipment and supplies for use in the country’s expansive public health care system. “Thanks to our collaboration with China”, the head of state said, the money will be used to construct a factory for surgical supplies as well as acquire materials to better equip the continually growing network of public health facilities. “Health Minister Eugenia Sader has been inaugurating clinics, diagnostic centers and reconstructed areas in many hospitals throughout the nation”, Chavez declared of the network’s expansion. Through increased spending and its collaboration with nations such as China and Cuba, Venezuela has been able to amplify its access to public health care, providing free and universal coverage to all residents. Currently, some 30 thousand Cuban health professionals are working in Venezuela as part of an international agreement signed between the two nations in 2005.

dent commented, involves convening the inaugural meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) slated for the 5th of July in Caracas. CELAC, part of the Chavez administration’s effort to strengthen regional integration and build South-South relations, seeks to counterbalance the US-dominated Organization of American States (OAS) in the hemisphere. “We can’t miss this opportunity”, he said of the new regional alliance on Sunday. “It’s now or never”. MONEY TO REGIONS During his broadcast on Sunday, Chavez also announced the disbursement of over 3 billion bolivars ($697 million) in government collected tax surpluses to go to the country’s 24 state governments, mayorships and grassroots organizations. Owing to “an efficient policy of tax collection” as well as rising oil prices, the federal government is able to provide states and popular organizations with additional resources for local administration and the execution of regional projects in accordance with the country’s constitution, the Venezuelan President remarked. Vice President Elias Jaua, accompanying Chavez during his program, informed that the resources represent a surplus of 10 percent over and above the tax income budgeted for 2011. The Eastern state of Zulia, headed by opposition governor, Pablo Pérez, will be one of the largest beneficiaries of the surplus, receiving an allocation of 319 million bolivars ($74.1 million). The states of Miranda and Carabobo will likewise receive 258 and 218 million bolivars ($60 and $50.6 million) respectively as part of the measure. “Thanks to God, the people, the government and the workers, the economy has begun to grow again and, in addition to this, tax collection has been positive”, Chavez commented on Sunday. During the broadcast, the Venezuelan head of state called on regional officials and gover-

nors, many of whom belong to the country’s conservative opposition, to put the new funds to good use through the responsible allocation of the additional resources. “There are governors who say that the [national] government does not provide them with resources, that Chavez is taking away resources. That’s completely false”, he said. “To the governors, including those who walk around saying whatever they feel like saying, I’m making a call to administer these funds well and to be responsible”.

of the Slums, provides a stipend to unemployed women in particularly challenging economic conditions, recognizing the work carried out in the home as part of socially valuable labor deserving remuneration. The social welfare program, Chavez informed during his broadcast, will receive an additional 153 million bolivars ($35.5 million) in funding this year, benefiting nearly 100 thousand women who receive an income equal to 80 percent of the country’s minimum wage as a result of the mission.

MADRES DEL BARRIO One of the most important social programs for economically disadvantaged women will also see an increase in its budget, Chavez announced on Sunday. Founded in 2006, the mission Madres del Barrio, or Mothers

INCREASED HEALTH SPENDING In addition to the funding for Mission Madres del Barrio, Chavez also informed of budget increases for public health care initiatives. Nearly $837 million, the leader reported, has been allocated

TOWARDS 2012 The funding boosts announced by the Venezuelan President last weekend follow on the heels of recent raises in the nation’s minimum wage of 25 percent and salary increases for public employees of up to 40 percent. All form part, Chavez declared, of his government’s commitment to the well-being of the Venezuelan people - something that the leader plans to continue as he prepares for his re-election bid in 2012. As the Bolivarian Revolution moves forward, Chavez declared on Sunday, the country will see “more democracy every day and more social justice, which will translate into more peace”. Recent polls reflect the current Venezuelan President’s continued popularity, predicting victory for the socialist leader if elections were to be held today. T/ COI P/ Presidential Press


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Journalists & activists assaulted by anti-Chavez governor Workers from a Venezuelan public television station denounced last Saturday acts of sabotage reportedly carried out against their production team by the security forces of opposition Governor Henri Falcon in the state of Lara

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ournalists from Vive TV, a news and public broadcasting channel, filed a report with the Public Attorney’s Office denouncing what they claim to be aggressions that have left their news production vehicle as well as audio and visual equipment either damaged or stolen. “They flattened the tires, damaged the engine [of our truck] and stole all of our production equipment except for the camera that we were using”, said Leonardo Fernandez during a press conference. The incident took place during Vive TV’s coverage of a community takeover of a water treatment facility in the city of Barquisim-

eto last Friday. The occupation, led by members of the Ataroa community council in the zone of Carucieña, was the neighborhood’s response to the company HidroLara’s unwillingness to resolve the area’s long-standing broken sewer system. On Friday afternoon, grassroots activists from the neighborhood’s

community council, entered the company’s facilities and refused to leave until they were given answers to the sewage problem. “They didn’t want to assist us and they haven’t given any answers to the problems of the sewer system that we’ve had for over 2 years in 19 sectors of Carucieña”, said David Diaz, community spokesperson.

Activists present during the takeover report that local undercover officers and other supporters of Governor Falcon then entered the facility on Friday evening, using violence and threats in attempts to clear the building of the activists. According to Fernando, all those participating in the action including the media covering the event were subjected to the aggressive behavior of what they called “the governor’s thugs”. “Supporters of the governor of Lara and of [the opposition political alliance Homeland for All], arrived outside the Hidrolara building and began to throw rocks and bottles at the facility. They knocked down the door, entered and began striking members of the community while attacking the equipment of Vive TV. They were accompanied by the Lara police and the state’s Security Director, Jose Maldonado”, Fernando declared on Saturday. Contrary to private media’s claims that the community members were holding workers hostage during the occupation, Diaz affirmed the police “blocked the

entrance and exits of the building in order to say that we kidnapped the workers inside, something we categorically reject”. Although the Venezuelan government has made strides in creating a new National Bolivarian Police force, many local security forces continue to operate at the behest of regional power players. In the case of the opposition, conservative governors have been known to use local police forces as their personal attack dogs, intimidating and coercing community members who attempt to carry out the policies and laws enacted by the Chavez administration on the federal level. In some situations, especially those involving land occupations, local police forces have gone as far as actively participating in the assassination of political activists. For David Diaz, such actions will not be tolerated by the organized members of his community. “We will not put up with more humiliations by the police. We are tired of police that act against the people”, he said. T/ COI P/ Agencies

Venezuela: food sovereignty advances The Venezuelan Ministry of Land and Agriculture reported last Monday a 23 percent increase in national meat production in the first 4 months of 2011, marking an important advance in the country’s efforts to lessen its reliance on imports and strengthen food sovereignty. When comparing meat production with the same period last year, the number of domestic cattle making its way to the marketplace has risen by over 100,000, while the number of imported species has fallen by nearly 50,000. All told, over 200,000 tons of meat have been made available to the Venezuelan people this year in private shops as well as the government’s growing number of state-owned food distribution outlets.

According to Land and Agriculture Vice Minister Yvan Gil, the increase bodes well for the rest of 2011. “This year, we can safely say to the Venezuelan people that national meat production will close at over 600,000 tons. This is a national record”, he said on Monday. The growth in domestic meat production represents another important step in the Chavez administration’s efforts to ensure that Venezuela is free from the visceral price fluctuations affecting food products on the international market. Along with meat, the Ministry of Land and Agriculture also announced earlier this year other gains in important products including milk, chicken, white corn, black beans and rice. Gil credits the Chavez admin-

istration’s holistic agricultural policy as key in achieving the increases. Such a policy has prioritized redistributing fallow lands to small producers, providing low interest loans and technical

assistance as well as signing international agreements grounded in the transfer of agricultural skills and technology . Earlier this year, the government also launched a new social

program called Mission AgroVenezuela in efforts to further strengthen the country’s agricultural sector. Since January, the mission has been carrying out a census of producers and available land in order to systematize its agricultural strategy for the coming years. Distribution has also played a key role in the Chavez administration’s food sovereignty initiatives. The government’s subsidized food market, Mercal, as well as PDVAL and the stateowned Bicentennial Markets provide consumers with reduced prices and now account for over 30 percent of the country’s food outlets in the country, assuring access to essential staples. T/ COI P/ Agencies


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6 | Social Justice

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Venezuela: one million free laptops distributed to school children N

early one million laptop computers (960,000) will be freely distributed to elementary school students throughout the country during the coming 2011-2012 school year, informed Minister of Education, Maryann Hanson. The distribution of these Venezuelan-made mini-laptops, created especially for primary school, will begin in September and progressively continue until they are all delivered, she added. Hanson explained that the Bolivarian Foundation of Information Technology and Telematics (FUNDABIT) will update the portable computers with educational content for the students. Of the total number of laptops to be distributed starting in September, 480,000 will be delivered to second-grade students, and the same amount for fourth-grade children. To date, the Venezuelan government has distributed a total of 759,000 free laptops for school kids throughout the country. The program’s goal is to reach students from elementary, middle and high school by September 2012, when about 880,000 laptops are expected to be distributed, including 450,000 for fifth-grade

Before being installed on the laptops, the content must be checked by personnel responsible for the project. The laptops have to undergo seven validation phases that include the participation of students and communities.

students and another 430,000 for sixth-grade students. EDUCATIONAL CONTENT 100 PERCENT VENEZUELAN The educational content included in the laptops has been created by Venezuelan teachers and technicians in the 25 National Production Development Cen-

ters established for this purpose, explained Hanson. “We have a huge team. Over 1,000 teachers have participated in the process in content development centers that we have in Caracas and in the different states throughout the country”, she said. So far, 189 educational modules for first-grade students have been developed,

266 for second-grade students and 330 for third-grade students, totaling 1,115 modules. “Absolutely everything is created by Venezuelan teachers, even the design and diagraming is created by Venezuelan personnel. The only foreign element is the equipment we purchased originally from Portugal”, she added.

CANAIMA IMPACT ON FAMILIES The Venezuelan Ministry of Education is currently working on a mechanism to evaluate the impact of this project in Venezuelan high schools. According to Hanson, one of the aspects that has impacted the implementation of the Canaima project has been the children’s school performance. “We have signs that school performance significantly increases in children participating in the Canaima project. It has had a positive impact because the influence has been on the children’s motivation for learning”. The Canaima program began in mid-2009 as part of an oil-trade agreement between Venezuela and Portugal. The laptop computers run on the open source operating system Linux. T/ AVN P/ Agencies

Venezuelan workers recover access to their company W

orkers at the state-run bauxite and aluminium company Bauxilum in Ciudad Guayana, southeastern Venezuela, peacefully recovered control over the main access doors at the plant after it was violently and illegally closed by a right-wing union last Thursday Bauxilum workers accompanied by other employees from Ferrominera del Orinoco, Norpro, the construction sector and other primary industries in Guayana, recovered control of Bauxilum after a rally in defense of the company took place on Saturday morning. The workers were also accompanied by other social organizations including communal councils and youth and women’s groups. Worker and president of Bauxilum, Jose China, explained that “most of the workers support the process to develop a new social

management model within the company, which began a year and a half ago when the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, decreed that the management of the company should be controlled by workers”. He also pointed out that employees at Bauxilum had reached a high-level of political awareness and created a culture of participa-

tion and protagonism with regards to the management of their company. In addition, he highlighted that the act of closing the company’s gates - ordered by Sutralumina on Friday - was totally illegal and broke with agreements reached that same day between the board of directors, unions and workers in favor of control of the company.

“We had discussed twelve points ranging from managerial complaints to transport issues, food, payment for bank holidays, daily wages, security, base elections for worker control, housing grants, holidays and collective bargaining”, he explained. Friday afternoon, the work agenda was broken by Sitralumina when they locked the gates and blocked access routes, preventing workers from entering or leaving in the plant. “We recognize the worker’s struggle, the right to protest and freedom of trade union organizations as part of the revolutionary government’s policy - but we also demand respect for the right to work for the majority of workers, who want to reactivate the company after it had been affected over the past two years by a decrease in aluminium prices on the international market

and by a drought which affected the electrical supply to national industry”, Jose China declared. He also added that these illegal strikes affected the operative and financial stability of Bauxilum. “With the support of the Chinese Fund, we are about to initiate important projects in order to return to maximum productivity - like it was before the crisis”, said China. Jose China also urged unions to remain open to dialogue and to continue fighting for their objectives, but without affecting the productivity of the company. Bauxilum is expected to form part of the new National Aluminium Corporation, which will constitute one of the main pillars in the consolidation of the ‘nonoil’ industry in the country. T/ AVN P/ Agencies


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Analysis | 7 |

Venezuela’s battle for food sovereignty W

hen I asked Alfredo, a dairy farmer and president of the Prolesa milk processing cooperative in Tachira state, what food sovereignty meant to him, he said: “Food sovereignty is not only about being able to produce enough food to feed ourselves, it also means getting to a point where we can export food to other countries”. “There’s a global food crisis, and each day more and more people are going hungry. As Venezuelan campesinos [peasants] we need to realize that we have an obligation to the people of the world”. This sentiment was shared by many of the campesinos I met during a recent 3-week visit, together with a delegation from the Venezuela Food Sovereignty project, to rural communities. Alfredo told us how he was contributing his “grain of sand” towards Venezuela’s food sovereignty. Thanks to Prolesa, local milk farmers now have an alternative source to sell their milk to rather than being at the mercy of prices set by profit hungry multinationals that often exported the product for higher profits. Instead, local farmers can now earn more for their milk and also produce quality products at fair prices for the local community and surrounding areas. In an effort to keep prices as low as possible for consumers, Prolesa members work with other farmers, communal councils and workers at the local Ministry of Agriculture and Land (MAT) office to promote a campesino market. This allows producers to sell their produce directly to the consumer, cutting out intermediaries. Venezuelan campesinos like Alfredo are in an almost unique position of counting on the support of their government in this struggle for food sovereignty. The goal of food sovereignty is enshrined in Venezuela’s constitution, which was adopted in a 1999 referendum. Article 305 of the constitution states food security can only be achieved through “developing and privileging internal agricultural production”. The constitution entrusts the state to “generate employment and guarantee the peasant population an adequate level of well-

being”. It deems latifundios (large privately-owned land estates) to be “contrary to social interest”. The constitution establishes the need to “transform them into productive economic units”. When President Hugo Chavez was first elected in 1998 on a pro-poor platform, Venezuela was heading in the opposite direction. Campesinos told us that pre-Chavez governments had converted Venezuela into a “port economy”. As we were taken around Yaracuay by Fray, a member of the 3Rs cooperative, I asked why everyone we met kept repeating this phase. “Chavez is like a teacher. They try and say he is crazy because he spends so much time talking on television. But every time he speaks, he is giving a class in history, economics, geography and politics. All this has contributed to raising the consciousness of the people”. Fray said the growth of the oil industry, which began in the 1940s, changed Venezuela’s economy. Venezuela’s upper class shifted its focus away from the export-orientated agricultural sector towards finding ways to extract a share of the oil rent. As agricultural production fell, they imported produce via the same ports the oil tankers left from. This had a dramatic warping effect on the economy. Its effects on campesinos devastating. People were uprooted from the rural south, leaving fertile lands

uninhabited to seek jobs in the rapidly expanding coastal cities clumped around oil fields and ports. National Institute of Statistics (INE) figures trace a fall in the rural population from 68.6% in 1941 to only 12.3% in 2001. Neoliberal policies in the 1990s resulted in the area of cultivated land falling from more than 2.3 million hectares in 1988 to about 1.6 million by 1998, according to figures from the old agricultural ministry. Not only did those working in the agricultural sector earn only 20-30% of the average wage of workers in other sectors, government figures show that between 1984 and 1997 their average real income fell by 73% (compared to 61% in the cities). In November 2001, Chavez issued a package of 49 decrees, including a new land law aimed to start implementing the constitution’s principles. The law allowed large landholdings left idle to be expropriated and redistributed to campesinos for productive purposes, as per the constitution. The large landowning oligarchy responded by seeking to overthrow the government. The law was, in large part, shelved over the next few years as the government concentrated on defeating destabliszation attempts by its opponents. These included a coup attempt in April 2002, a sabotage of the oil industry in December

2002-January 2003, and a recall referendum in August 2004. The Chavez government survived, but the destablization threw the economy into crisis. Government figures show that by the end of 2003, per capita food consumption was the lowest it had been since the 1960s. As large landowners and agribusinesses sabotaged food production and distribution, dependency on food imports rose. Imports accounted for almost 50% of calories consumed by 2003. However, the right-wing attempts to bring down the government were defeated by the mass mobilization of the poor majority. The government came out strengthened. In December 2003, Chavez kick-started his “war on latifundios”, launching Mission Zamora. The aim of the mission was to target latifundios for land redistribution and provide technical and financial support to farming cooperatives. By 2005, government figures show that of the six million hectares identified as latifundios, less than 650,000 hectares had been recuperated. On the other hand, 2 million hectares of state-owned land had been redistributed by the end of 2004. Over the next three years, 1.3 million hectares of latifundio were recuperated by the government. Agricultural funding was also dramatically raised. Funding was directed to agroindustrial projects, machinery, subsidies to producers, expansion of infrastructure in rural areas, and low-credit agricultural loans, among other areas. Cultivated land increased from 1.6 million hectares in 1998 to more than 2 million in 2006. However, domestic agricultural production was unable to keep up with the increased consumption levels generated by the rising purchasing power of the poor thanks to the government’s propoor policies. To compensate, Venezuela escalated food imports. In 2004, Mission Mercal was established to counter capital’s control over food distribution and tackle rising food prices. The state-subsidized chain of food outlets soon accounted for 40% of food distribution. At the same time, a huge boom

in cooperatives was occurring. The number of cooperatives rose from 10,000 in 2003 to 74,200 by mid-2005. INE census figures recorded 121,000 people as working in agricultural-based co-operatives, 14% of all workers in the sector. Leonardo, one of the founders of Prolesa, said the decision by Nestle and Leche Tachira to refuse to buy milk from local producers during the economic sabotage was the catalyse to create the co-operative. “They drove into the middle of town and simply poured the unprocessed milk onto the road”, he said. “Meanwhile mothers were unable to get milk for their children.” With an initial loan from the government, savings from some cooperative members, and the commitment of some local dairy farmers to sell their milk to the cooperative, Prolesa was born in 2004. To assist the creation of cooperatives, the government created Mission Vuelvan Caras (“About Face”). In the mission, 50% of scholarships offered to 650,000 participants were for agricultural training with an emphasis on cooperation. Government social programs helped dramatically reduce extreme poverty in the countryside, falling to less than 20%. The huge increase in funding was not matched by a similar rise in production, but agricultural production nonetheless rose 18% between 2003 and 2008. But the even greater surge in consumption increased Venezuela’s dependency on food imports. Moreover, a combination of price and currency controls acted as a disincentive for local production at the same time as importing became cheaper. Falling oil prices and rising international food prices forced the government to begin taking more radical measures. These have included nationalization of food distribution companies found violating the law and increasing the take over of the unproductive land of large landowners. This has set the stage for a new phase in the struggle for food sovereignty in Venezuela. T/ Federico Fuentes P/ Agencies


FRIDAY | May 27, 2011 | No. 65 Bs 1 | C ARACAS

ENGLISH EDITION The artillery of ideas

A publication of the Fundacion Correo del Orinoco • Editor-in-Chief | Eva Golinger • Graphic Design | Alexander Uzcátegui, Jameson Jiménez • Press | Fundación Imprenta de la Cultura

OPINION

Rejecting United States sanctions against Venezuela A

rtists, actors, academics, activists and diverse citizens of the United States expressed their outrage and rejection of the US government’s unilateral sanctions against Venezuela and its stateowned oil company, PDVSA, this week. Calling on the US government to “immediately suspend” the sanctions against Venezuela, the concerned citizens highlighted the important achievements of the Chavez administration in securing social justice for the people of the South American nation and questioned how the Obama administration could target the “one country” that has demonstrated its solidarity with the US people. Venezuela’s oil company, PDVSA, owns the CTIGO corporation in the US, which oversees thousands of gas stations and seven oil refinaries throughout the country. CITGO has provided discounted, subsidized and/ or free heating oil to low income neighborhoods, indigenous communities and homeless shelters in 25 states through the US since 2005, as part of Venezuela’s policies of social justice, at home and abroad. More than 250,000 people in the US have benefited from this program. Many have expressed concern over why the Obama administration has chosen to directly target the Chavez government by imposing unilateral sanctions and attempting to interfere in Venezuela’s foreign and domestic policies. For many in the US, it’s high time Washington stopped meddling in other nations’ affairs and starting taking care of the problems at home. The declaration rejecting US sanctions against Venezuela follows: “On Tuesday, May 24, 2011, the United States Department of State unilaterally imposed sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), for its alleged relations with the government of

Iran. The sanctions are a desperate and weak attempt to link Venezuela to Iran’s nuclear energy program as part of an ongoing campaign to justify further aggressive action against the South American oil producing nation. As citizens of the United States, we unequivocally reject this latest attempt of our administration to demonize the Venezuelan government and undermine the vibrant democracy of the Venezuelan people. The Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez has already been victim of a coup d’etat in 2002, backed by Washington, which briefly ousted the President from power. Fortunately for the health of Venezuela’s democracy, the people fought back, rescued their President, and reinstated constitutional order. Then, as now, the United States stood alone in its support for hostilities against

Venezuela’s democratically-elected government. The government of Hugo Chavez has used its oil wealth to invest heavily in improving the wellbeing of its people. Currently, more than 60% of oil industry profits are directed towards social programs in Venezuela, including free healthcare, education, job training, community media, grassroots organizations and subsidized food and housing. The results are notable. Poverty in Venezuela has been reduced by over 50% during the Chavez administration, illiteracy has been eradicated and free, universal healthcare and education are available and accessible to all. These policies of social justice have extended well beyond the borders of Venezuela to the United States though programs that supply free,

discounted or subsidized heating oil and fuel to low income neighborhoods, indigenous peoples’ communities and homeless shelters throughout the nation. More than 250,000 US citizens in 25 states and the District of Columbia have benefited to date from the Venezuelan government’s subsidized heating oil program, which is run through PDVSA’s subsidiary in the United States, CITGO. No other oil company in the world - including US companies - has offered to help low in-

come families suffering from the inflated cost of heating oil during the past six years, except for CITGO. Venezuela’s solidarity with the people of the United States has enabled thousands of families to survive through these difficult economic times. We find it outrageous that the United States government would attempt to demonize the one company, and country, that has been there for our neighbors, putting people before profits. And we call on our representatives in Washington to suspend these sanctions against Venezuela immediately”. Friends of Venezuela

English Edition Nº 65  

Venezuela rejects US sanctions, could restrict oil supply. In response to State Department sanctions against Venezuela, oil supply to the US...

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