page 7 | Analysis
page 8 | Opinion
Opposition candidates for president “debated” empty promises
Award-winning filmmaker John Pilger on Mexico’s political climate
Friday | November 18, 2011 | Nº 89 | Caracas
Education for the people The Venezuelan government launched a new School for Human Rights Education this week, aimed at deconstructing the individualist view of human rights and providing students with an enduring culture of rights. The school of Human Rights accompanies the School for Strengthening People’s Power, founded last year, which is geared towards empowering communities and grassroots organizations and providing them with tools to bring about social transformations. These educational institutions form part of the Bolivarian Revolution’s focus on people’s power. page 2
ENGLISH EDITION The artillery of ideas
Grassroots coalition moves forward for 2012 victory Thousands rallied in support of the 2012 campaign to reelect President Chavez and advance the Bolivarian Revolution
asa Miranda, part of the Venezuelan Consulate located at 58 Grafton Way on Warren Street, will be completely refurbished and turned into an interactive museum, library and center for Latin American academic study and will open following during the 2012 London Olympics. Casa Miranda was the London residence of Venezuelan revolutionary Francisco de Miranda. Latin American intellectuals such as Simon Bolivar, Andres Bello and Luis Lopez Mendez, Jose de San Martin, Bernardo de O’Higgings and Carlos Maria de Alvear met there to exchange ideas and plan the liberation of their countries. The site has been referred to as “the most historic Venezuelan site outside Venezuela” and in 1942, the house was designated a “Historical Monument, Class A” by the British Government. The house was bought by the Venezuelan government in 1978 and continues to this day to be a meeting point for all Latin Americans and a platform for Latin American culture.
Poll: 56% would vote for president Chavez if elections were today
ches only 22 percent, divided among Henrique Capriles (8 percent), Pablo Perez (7 percent), Leopoldo Lopez (3 percent), Diego Arria (3 percent) and Maria Machado (1 percent). Support for opposition candidates is highest among the wealthier classes. The poll by GIS XXI is based in 2,500 interviews proportionally conducted throughout all the states in the country between October 29 and November 5, 2011. It has 95 percent reliability and a margin of error of +/- 2 percent.
Dramatic rescue of baseball player Wilson Ramos Venezuelan authorities rescued the Major Leaguer, kidnapped by Colombian paramilitaries. | page 3 Politics
Grassroots organizations helped draft, debate and turn the Renter’s bill into law. | page 4 Social Justice
Impunity for Venezuelan landowners The murder of hundreds of farmers & peasants has been silenced by media & the justice system. | page 6
Over thirty thousand organizations have signed on to a nationwide coalition to support the incumbent president’s reelection next October and ensure the continuance of the Bolivarian Revolution. The organizations range from cultural groups, unions, community organizations, journalist and professional guilds, artist coalitions, women’s rights and gender equality groups, political parties, farmer’s rights organizations and an array of other grassroots collectives. By diversifying their support for the 2012 reelection campaign, the coalition, called the Grand Patriotic Pole, evidences the widespread and varied base that comprises the Bolivarian Revolution led by President Hugo Chavez.| page 5
Tenant’s rights law passed
Casa Miranda to open in London 2012
ccording to a new poll conducted by the Group of Social Investigation XXI (GISXXI), 56 percent of Venezuelans say they would vote to reelect President Hugo Chavez if elections were held today.
The director of the polling ﬁrm, Jesse Chacon, presented the survey results Tuesday, which indicate that Chavez has twice the electoral support of all pro-opposition pre-candidates. According to the poll, Chavez is the ﬁrst choice among all ethnic groups, and his popularity is even higher among
lower-income groups (between 57.2 percent and 67.6 percent). Additionally, 62 percent of those polled approved of President Chavez’s performance in government, which represents an increase of 0.6 percent compared to October. Polls conducted since January show a progressive increase in the positive evaluation of Chavez, which had decreased to 37.7 percent early this year. Meanwhile, the sum of the electoral support for right-wing opposition pre-candidates rea-
2 | Impact
NoÊäÊUÊFriday, November 18, 2011
The artillery of ideas
Venezuela launches school for human rights & people’s power T/ COI P/ Agencies
Before Chavez was elected, INCE was well-known and often praised for providing technical training courses in textiles, tourism, construction, agriculture, commerce, and services. The Chavez government has carried on this tradition, but added a new element: Political training. Now, the institution – renamed the National Institute for Socialist Training and Education (INCES) – offers a broader variety of technical skills combined with “training of men and women with revolutionary consciousness and ideology, who assume work to be a tool for liberation, who are capable of transforming the traditional capitalist production model into a humanist, just, and egalitarian economic system”, according to an INCES press release.
ast week, the Venezuelan Public Defender’s Ofﬁce launched a school for human rights education that will be run by the state-funded Juan Vives Suria Foundation in Caracas and will carry out seminars in twelve of the country’s 23 states. The new school will aim to “dismantle the liberal, reductionist, and individualist vision of human rights”, said Gabriela Ramirez, Venezuela’s chief public defender, during a press conference at the foundation, which is named after a Catholic Priest famed for his activism in defense of human rights. “Our vision is not just to train the staff of the Public Defender’s Ofﬁce, but rather to build an enduring culture of human rights, just as our constitution calls for, and that it be the communities themselves that have the capacity and the competence to defend their rights”, said Ramirez. Social workers and community activists who have already been leading human rights campaigns or who have denounced human rights violations will be the initial participants in the school. While enrollment is free of charge, aspirant students must submit a proposal outlining a social problem in their community and how their human rights education will help them solve it. The school will also offer a certiﬁcate of training in the new Anti-Corruption Law for local advocates who can vigil the behavior of government institutions and of their own communal councils. POLITICAL EDUCATION & SOCIAL CHANGE The new human rights school is the latest of the government’s ongoing efforts to provide political education and skills training necessary for the success of its experiments in workplace democracy, local communal councils, land reform, judicial and penitentiary reform, and anti-poverty programs.
One of the government’s earliest training efforts was a series of workshops offered to start-up cooperative businesses that received government credits in 2005 and 2006. The workshops included techniques in group facilitation, practical skills for cooperative business administration, and an overview of leftist political thought including the origins of poverty, racism, the ownership of the means of production, and Marx’s concept of the original accumulation of capital. Following President Hugo Chavez’s landslide re-election at the end of 2006, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) was formed and a National Development Plan for 2007 -2013 was drawn up. The plan’s ﬁrst strategic guideline was “the development of a new socialist ethic”, which is considered the basis for subsequent strategic guidelines, including “the deepening of revolutionary participatory democracy” and “the establishment of a socialist development model”. The government also launched the “Morality and Enlightenment” program, which expanded the content of the training to be relevant to all so-
cial justice activists and government employees who sought to hone their skills and strengthen their role as change agents in their communities. Another objective of the program was “that people would un-learn the anti-values of the capitalist system such as individualism and selﬁshness, and cultivate solidarity and respect for human life”, in the words of Higher Education Minister Luis Acuña in a 2007 interview. The cultivation of new values through political education has been a central tenet of the PSUV’s ongoing “3Rs” campaign – referring to “revision, rectiﬁcation, and restart” – which aim to root out corruption, inefﬁciency, nepotism, and political opportunism from state bureaucracies, state-owned companies, and communal organizations. TRANSFORMING TRADITIONAL INSTITUTIONS In addition to the creation of new institutions to promote a transformation of values, the Chavez government has reformed pre-existing institutions, such as the National Institute for Educational Cooperation (INCE), which was founded more than 50 years ago.
SCHOOL FOR STRENGTHENING PEOPLE’S POWER The INCES hosts one of the government’s most recent and far-reaching political re-education programs, the School for Strengthening People’s Power, which has been allocated a 65 million bolivar ($15.1 million) budget for ﬁscal year 2012. The school’s facilitators use diverse pedagogical methods to guide students to empower themselves and bring about social transformation cooperatively with their communities. Workshops are tailored to serve different constituencies, such as communal council spokespersons in specialized housing, ﬁnance, and culture commissions. The school offers workshops to professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and engineers, as well as to traditional working class workers, with the stated goal of creating “socialist work brigades” that promote a new concept of work rooted in commitment to social well-being. The school also trains workers in state-run companies such as the telecommunications giant CANTV. “These companies are managing multi-million dollar budgets that are in some cases bigger than the budgets of municipalities, so we have to chan-
ge the mercantilist logic they operated by in the past”, said Sebastian Caldera, sub-director of political and ideological training at the school. A fundamental part of the curriculum is an alternative history of Venezuela from the independence struggle against the Spanish Empire to the struggle for sovereignty and resistance to US hegemony. The curriculum includes independence hero Simon Bolivar’s ideas about South American integration, as well. “Here in Venezuela, a large part of people’s history was hidden from us, and now we have the obligation and the duty to make these histories known”, said Caldera. Mauricio Jaramillo, a facilitator at the school, said learning in the workshops is often mutual. “More than teaching, we have learned a lot from the organized communities”, Jaramillo told COI. “We’ve also arrived to many communities where people do not know how to organize themselves, they do not know the new laws, or how to organize a commune – these are all things we teach them in the workshops”. The school’s workshops take place in the participants’ workplaces, in local schools, in public buildings, and in universities. They occupy 6 full 8-hour days, which may fall within one week or be spread out across two long weekends or three normal weekends. The school’s goal in 2012 is to train 175,000 communal council spokespeople, 60,000 socialist work brigade members, 16,400 professionals, 11,000 activists, 720 INCES staff facilitators, and 160,000 refugees living in camps, according to Caldera. “This army of people who are being trained to have digniﬁed employment will be an example for the world. Here in Venezuela, unprecedented movements are taking place”, said Caldera. “In the past, Latin America was a reference for bad policies, but now we see that in European countries and the US, the presidents and prime ministers are very low in the polls, and in contrast in Latin America we have [several presidents] winning reelection with more than 60% of the votes. So, let us do a comparison, which of the two systems is the better one? The capitalist one, or the progressive socialist one that is about people being subjects and not objects?”
NoÊäÊUÊFriday, November 18, 2011
The artillery of ideas
Major leaguer thanks Chavez administration for rescue Wilson Ramos’ kidnapping highlighted the involvement of paramilitary forces in Venezuela’s crime problem T/ COI P/ Agencies
ajor league baseball player Wilson Ramos expressed his gratitude to the Venezuelan authorities last weekend after a dramatic rescue effort freed the professional athlete from kidnappers in the central state of Carabobo. During a press conference held after the successful rescue operation last Friday, Ramos reported to be feeling well and "grateful for the job that the police forces did for me". The 24 year-old rising star for the Washington Nationals also gave thanks to God, commenting that he had prayed for "the miracle of sending me these wonderful people who, thanks to them, I'm alive". Ramos was kidnapped on November 9 by a gang of organized criminals with connections to Colombian paramilitary groups while visiting his parents in the city of Valencia. According to police and witness reports, a group of men accosted the Venezuelan native, forced him into an SUV and sped off to a hidden location and no further contact was made with the family of the victim. Members of Venezuela's investigative police force and the Justice Ministry have informed that the masterminds behind the kidnapping plot were most likely Colombian citizens operating in collaboration with Venezuelans. "The investigation is pointing to the possibility that people linked to Colombian paramilitary groups could be behind the kidnapping of Wilson Ramos. In effect, one of the people who carried out the observations of Ramos' routine was of Colombian nationality", Interior and Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said. Subsequently several Colombian citizens were arrested for their involvement in the kidnapping. VENEZUELA, COLOMBIA & ORGANIZED CRIME Although international media coverage of the Ramos kidnapping has focused on the problem of insecurity in Venezuela, there has been little mention of the origins of organized crime and the current
efforts being undertaken by the Chavez administration to deal with a historically difﬁcult situation. The presence of foreign paramilitaries in Venezuela has been a problem in the OPEC-member state for years as disbanded mercenaries from Colombia's 40-year civil war as well as narco-gangsters seek to exploit business opportunities inside the national territory of their eastern neighbor. Lawless border areas and lax security measures emanating from oppositioncontrolled states such as Zulia and Tachira have facilitated the rise of illicit maﬁas and irregular security forces, something that has spread around the country and taken root in large urban centers. In the countryside, and especially in the border state of Zulia, large landowners continue to train paramilitaries and
hire assassins to murder indigenous activists and small farmers to stave off the encroachment of land rights' proponents on illegally attained and fallow estates. Kidnappings and other forms of extortion have also proliferated in many parts of the country as organized drug cartels moving product from Colombia, through Venezuela, to foreign markets like the United States and Europe have established networks of criminal activity, feeding a maﬁa culture and creating hundreds of gangster spin off organizations. For its part, the Chavez administration has been working with the Colombian government of Juan Manuel Santos to streamline border security measures through bi-lateral agreements while at the same time putting thousands of new community police ofﬁcers on the streets. A record number of 67 drug trafﬁcking
kingpins sought by INTERPOL have also been apprehended in Venezuela in the past 9 years. CLEAN & EFFICIENT OPERATION President Hugo Chavez congratulated the police operatives who successfully rescued the young athlete from the mountainous region of the central state after nearly 53 hours of captivity and what Justice and Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami called "a good amount of shots" exchanged between police and the kidnappers. "The moment that they found me was one of a lot of anxiety. There were a lot of shots and thanks to God, the police forces did a great job", Ramos said of the incident afterward. The successful rescue of the catcher, Minister El Aissami said on Friday, was a result of the efﬁcient and "rigorous" work done by Venezuelan intelligence agents who discovered the stolen SUV used to carry out the kidnapping. "After obtaining information [from the vehicle], we determined the possible location of the kidnapping and we decided to carry out an air operation with special forces in order to take control of the site where we believed Wilson could have been. The President was notiﬁed and authorized the operation", the Minister said during a press conference. Eleven suspects involved in the crime, 6 Venezuelan and 5 Colombian, have been detained by the police and are awaiting charges from the nation's Attorney General's ofﬁce. UNDETERRED & WILLING TO PLAY Despite the incident, Ramos has declared his desire to maintain his plans of playing in the Venezuelan winter baseball league for the Tigers of Aragua, a team with which he has won 2 national titles in the past 5 years. In 153 games with the Tigers, Ramos has batted for an average of .321 with 25 homeruns and 110 RBIs. "Venezuela is my home and I believe the fans who have supported me and prayed for me deserve to see me play", he stated, adding that the ﬁnal word on the matter will be had by the Washington Nationals baseball organization. In terms of security, the young catcher expressed his conﬁdence that there will be no recurrence of events like those that took place last week. "I know that the government has guaranteed my security and that of my family members so that something like this never happens again", he said. While Tigers coach Rafael Rodriguez reported to be "very pleased" with the catcher's decision to play, he afﬁrmed that "the most important thing" for the young star "is that he recovers and spends time for his family". Wilson Ramos is 1 of 87 Venezuelans currently playing professional baseball in the United States and Canada.
4 | Politics
NoÊäÊUÊFriday, November 18, 2011
The artillery of ideas
Venezuela: Grassroots campaign gets approval for rent control law T/ COI P/ Presidential Press
n a move designed to further advance affordable housing in the South American country, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez signed into law last Saturday a series of popular proposals drafted to limit real estate speculation and lessen the burden of exorbitant rents in large urban centers. The Law for the Regulation and Control of Rents is the ﬁrst legislation of its kind to be produced by the People's Legislature, a constitutional initiative created to strengthen participatory democracy by giving grassroots activists the opportunity to directly engage in the formulation of speciﬁc laws. The result of more than one thousand consultations, meetings and assemblies with communities members around the national territory, the new law has the backing of over 400,000 co-signers who have advocated putting an end to the unjust speculation that has made renting in major cities like Caracas increasingly difﬁcult. For Rigel Sergent, a spokesperson for the Residents' Movement (Movimiento de Pobladores), the legislation marks a signiﬁcant victory in the democratization of living spaces in the country. "All the organizations that make up the Residents' Movement are ﬁghting to carry out an urban revolution towards the construction of socialism with
an organized citizenry", Sergent said on Saturday. Demanding outlandish deposits of up to three months and charging prices well beyond the reach of ordinary citizens, large property owners in many parts of Venezuela have taken advantage for years of a lack of regulation and oversight to systematically exploit renters. The new law has been conceived by community activists precisely to ﬁght these abusive practices, setting the conditions and prices of rental properties as well as establishing a tenant's right to buy a living unit that has been under lease for more than 20 years. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez afﬁrmed that the new law, passed by the country's National Assembly last week, "was not born from hate nor resentment" but rather from the very real need to protect tenants and small property owners from dubious real estate dealers. "Applause for all the congressmen and congresswomen that worked on this law... we're going to enact it immediately", Chavez said during the signing ceremony in Venezuela's Teresa Carreno National Theater in Caracas. To ﬁnance the purchase of rental properties the socialist leader also signed off on the creation of a new Rental Homes Financing Fund that will form part of the nation's public banking system and provide small credits for renters and tenants.
Approximately 350 million bolivars have been allocated as seed money for the new ﬁnancial agency through an assortment of institutions including the nation's Treasury, Bicentennial and Industrial Banks. In order to ensure the enforcement of the new law, two new state agencies have also been created. The National Superintendent of Housing, to be headed by Carmen Morantes, will be in charge with determining just rental practices between landlords and tenants while a new public real estate company, known in Spanish as the Immobilaria Nacional, which will be assigned with "the acquisition, transfer, leasing, adjudication and rehabilitation [of properties] among other functions", Chavez explained.
Tenant’s law bolsters citizen’s right to housing T/ Agencies
he Venezuelan government is taking one more step to guarantee the right to housing. The newly enacted Tenant’s Rights Law is a vindication of the right to housing as
a fundamental right. Creating a law from the grassroots is only possible in a revolution”, said Ana Maria Rodriguez, a member of the Tenant’s Network, one of the organizations that submitted proposals for the law.
Rodriguez said that owners of houses and rooms for rent must register at the Ofﬁce of the National Superintendent for Rentals to jointly determine the rent payment and cost of the real estate, according to methods and calculations proposed by social move-
livarian Tenants, expressed her support for the new state agencies and afﬁrmed the backing of all those who struggled to bring them and the new law into effect. "All of the social movements are going to participate in this from the capital district to the rest of the country because it is through this legislation that we're going to be able to know the number of properties that are unoccupied and are apt to be rented", the activist stated.
During the ceremony on Saturday, the head of state made a call to efﬁciently implement the new legislation and for citizens to be on the guard against potential sabotage of the law emanating from the opposition and bureaucratic elements within the government. "We have to make the mechanisms of justice work because we're going to be facing resistance from all sides... from the bourgeoisie and even from some sectors of the state still in transition and where outdated elements that want to block the implementation of just laws still linger. We have to identify this, ﬁght and overcome it under the mandate of the constitution", the Venezuelan President said. Maglene Sierralta, a member of the Association of Bo-
OPPOSITION UP IN ARMS Members of Venezuela's Urban Real Estate Association APIUR expressed their discontent with last Saturday's measures, describing the series of new laws as "the worst blow against the right to own private property in the history of Venezuela". As such, the organization has pledged to solicit the nulliﬁcation of the law through the nation's Supreme Court as well as the possible launching of a referendum campaign to revoke the legislation. APIUR has also requested the intervention of various international organizations such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States to condemn the law as a violation of international treaties dealing with human and economic rights. Chavez expressed his willingness to meet with representatives of APIUR to listen to their concerns but afﬁrmed last weekend that "the law is the law and must be respected". "I'm sure that you won't be poisoned by the attacks of the bourgeoisie", the President said to the audience during the act on Saturday. "This law is to protect you and give you judicial security", he afﬁrmed.
ments that participated in creating the Tenant’s Rights Law. The Ofﬁce of the Superintendent for Rentals will prevent speculation of housing prices and protect citizens’ rights under the newly-enacted Law for the Regulation and Control of Renting and Housing, Rodriguez said. In a televised interview, Rodriguez said those landlords that do not register their real estate with the Ofﬁce of the Superintendent will be penalized. She added that creating a national
registry of all real estate for rent will help gather information on topics such as properties, landlords, tenants, the date of rental agreements. Rodriguez said that claims by pro-opposition sectors that the law would allow tenants to avoid paying rent are totally false and reﬂect a deep ignorance about the scope of the law, which establishes rights and obligations for tenants. “One of the obligations is that the tenants must pay their rent”, she stressed.
NoÊäÊUÊFriday, November 18, 2011
The artillery of ideas
Grassroots coalition kicks off 2012 Chavez campaign
GRASSROOTS PARTICIPATION For Demetrios Sierra, a university student participating in the march , the need to expand the ranks of the Bolivarian Revolution outside the established
PHASES The President commended the progress of the Madres del Barrio Mission, which began in 2006. "I have ample evidence of the consolidation of this mission and its advances. Sometimes things have f laws that you have to overcome, but this program is working", he said. In phase one of this social program, women receive a temporary stipend equivalent to 80% of the minimum wage. In the second stage, participants are provided aid for education, healthcare and food, given by other state agencies. In the third phase, mothers
are grouped into committees to develop projects and in the fourth phase, women's groups are oriented towards the consolidation of the project. Once their projects become productive and generate income, the 80% stipend is withdrawn and provided to new participants. President Chavez stressed the importance of further expanding opportunities for people in low-income communities. "We have reduced extreme poverty from 25% in 1999 to 7% today. This is a significant reduction in a decade, but we have to eliminate all poverty in the country", he affirmed.
Venezuela (PSUV) drew attention to the need to articulate political parties with independent grassroots organizations, allowing for tolerance and respect for different points of view. "Just as the political parties should not try to be the bosses of the GPP at the local level, the intellectual leadership from the grassroots which are arising from the social movements shouldn't exclude the parties. The Patriotic Assemblies shouldn't be turned into places of confrontation but ra-
ther of debating contradictions through dialectics - the unity of opposites which makes us stronger", he declared. The head of state also drew attention to the international character of the Bolivarian Revolution as it plays a greater role in the imagination of activists around the world ﬁghting for a more just and equal society. "We cannot disconnect our struggle from the world. Our ﬁght plays a very important role in a universal battle. The Venezuelan Revolution has al-
State grants zero interest loans to low-income mothers T/ COI
he loans granted to women in the Madres del Barrio Mission (Mothers of the Neighborhood), aimed at reducing gender poverty in poor areas through the development of productive activities, include 6-month grace periods and 0% interest, payable in 5 years. On Tuesday, the program’s directors gave out credits for 460
new projects across the country. President Hugo Chavez led the formal ceremony, issuing the credits to the single mother, low-income households. In total, the credits amounted to 19.9 million bolivars. These 460 projects bring together 2,374 women across the country, who work in collectives and committees and have undertaken the development of different activities with techni-
cal support from the staff of the Mission and other state institutions. Their projects include bakeries, clothing and footwear manufacturing, concrete block manufacture, and livestock care, among others. Chavez called on the program’s authorities to supervise and accompany the participating women in the proper use of resources. Each project receives between 55,000 and 95,000 bolivars.
5| political realm is an important step that will help widen the base of the movement. "Its very important that the organization of the popular movement goes beyond political parties. These [grassroots] organizations are where the people really feel represented, where there are debates and a search for solutions to the problems at hand", he said. Sunday's march was a testament to this outreach as thousands of representatives from labor unions, women's groups, community councils, and student organizations turned out to express their support for the government of Hugo Chavez. Even associations of hard rock musicians were present at the rally, demonstrating the wide appeal that the socialist leader has attained over the past 12 years. "In the 80s and 90s it was very difﬁcult for us to have a presence in the media. We were censored and were the victims of prejudice. Now we have the chance to show that there exists revolutionary rock with consciousness", said Henry Uzcategui, one of the "rockeros" at the demonstration. Another musician, Paul Gilman, commented that during previous governments, hard rock artists and enthusiasts were characterized as slackers and criminals, many times facing repression at the hands of authorities. "This cannot happen again", Gilman said, adding that different collectives of musicians have come together in order to support the 2012 campaign for Chavez’s reelection.
T/ COI P/ Presidential Press urring a mass rally last Sunday in Caracas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stressed the need to go beyond his country's current political structure en route to a truly revolutionary transformation of society. The rally was the ﬁrst major mobilization of the Great Patriotic Pole (GPP), a coalition of more than 32,000 local organizations formed in October to support the socialist leader in his bid for a third presidential term next year. It was also the ﬁrst public appearance that Chavez has made at a street event since being diagnosed with cancer in mid June. "We're not just focused on winning the elections on October 7, 2012. That's just one of the tactics. We need to go beyond the political parties and achieve a mutual space where there is a complement to political, social, moral, economic and all revolutionary elements. It's the conﬂuence of all of us who want to continue transforming Venezuela on the road to a socialist and democratic revolution", the Venezuelan President told the thousands gathered in O'Leary Plaza in the capital. During his speech, the leader of the United Socialist Party of
ready been around for a little while. Many governments and movements are watching with enthusiasm and hope the advances that we've had in the past decade. We need to recognize those advances and the fact that we still have a long way to go to reach our goal", he said.
6 | Social Justice
NoÊäÊUÊFriday, November 18, 2011
The artillery of ideas
Impunity for Venezuela's big landowners T/ Joe Emersberger and Jeb Sprague
or close to a decade, Venezuela has been the focus and the target of mainstream news coverage, as the scene of a heated political struggle over control of the country's destiny. But the parade of pundits eager to criticize the country's elected president and simplify the country's political conﬂict as a rule ignore the deep socio-economic inequality that propelled President Chavez to power. The Bolivarian Revolution has made signiﬁcant strides in improving the conditions for the country's popular classes and promoting an alternative regional bloc, while at the same time pioneering a unique form of participatory democracy. Still, the Bolivarian Revolution is struggling both from its own contradictions and against a long history of deeply entrenched social inequality, intensiﬁed by capitalist globalization. This is nowhere more clear than in the rural countryside of Venezuela, where vast tracts of land remain in the hands of a tiny grouping of extremely wealthy families. Tierras Libres, a documentary released this year, tells a story that has been virtually blacked out by the international press - the murders of hundreds of Venezuelan peasants by hired gunmen and right wing paramilitaries. The peasants have been murdered for attempting to implement the Chavez government's land reform policy. The crimes strongly implicate wealthy landowners who vehemently oppose land reform. In one scene from the documentary, we see a middle-aged woman, Doneila, whose husband, Hermes Escalona, was murdered in 2003 by gunmen as he was beginning to work some fallow land on a huge plantation. Speaking directly to President Chavez on his weekly Alo Presidente television program, she looks hopeful as Chavez promises to "heat up" efforts to bring her husband's killers to justice. NO JUSTICE FOR THE POOR In fact, as the documentary shows, Chavez ordered his per-
sonal lawyer to come to her aid. However, the ﬁlm next provides an update on Doneila's story years after her appearance with Chavez on national TV. While she continues to support the Venezuelan President, she says, tearfully, that she has come to conclude that, for poor people in Venezuela, there simply is no justice. Her son explains that, after years of effort, even with the support they received, the time and resources required to pursue justice in the case of his father is too great an emotional and ﬁnancial burden for them to bear. In other words, the justice system remains rigged in favor of the Venezuelan one per cent who constructed it. As the ﬁlmmaker, Edward Ellis, described the situation: "The legal system in Venezuela, despite the international media's misinterpretations, is still, in many cases, very much in the hands of the middle and upper classes. Most of these people have their roots in the power structures of Punto Fijismo - that's to say, the ancien regime”. "The majority of lawyers and judges share the same cultural background and class origins as the landowners and latifun-
distas. They went to the same schools and universities, visit the same clubs and drink the same whisky, regardless of whether or not they don a red hat at a rally. So what you have is a system run and controlled by money". The peasant killings have been so completely disregarded by the international press that in August a petition was sent to the UK Guardian newspaper - widely hailed as one of the world's ﬁnest "left leaning" newspapers. The petition, signed by Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and others, asked the Guardian why, despite having a correspondent based in Caracas for years, the issue has been completely ignored. For example, the Guardian, which has relentlessly reported criticism of the Chavez government, neither reported on the killings nor on demonstrations highlighting the issue, such as the June 8, 2011, march on the National Assembly of 10,000 people, which was organized by peasant collectives to demand justice. Several weeks after the petition was sent, after receiving even more complaints, the Guardian allowed Edward Ellis to write a comment piece about the
issue. Ellis wrote that the impunity enjoyed by wealthy landowners in Venezuela "challenges the contemporary human rights discourse, which portrays the country's judiciary as captive to the whims of a power-hungry 'strongman' bent on stamping out political dissent". A good example of the "contemporary human rights discourse" that Ellis mentioned was a report issued in August by the International Crisis Group (ICG) about the problem of violent crime in Venezuela ("Violence and politics in Venezuela"). In its conclusion, the ICG stated: "Violence, or its threat, has become inherent to President Chavez's political project". ASSASSINATIONS BY WEALTHY LANDOWNERS Never mind that, according to the ﬁgures provided in ICG's own report, the vast majority of people killed in political violence since 1999 have been Chavez supporters. Hundreds of peasants such as Hermes Escalona were murdered for attempting to implement a policy that is high priority for a government eager to end Venezuela's dependence on food imports. The fact that wealthy landowners have, with impunity, been able to as-
sassinate hundreds of Chavistas speaks volumes about the power of the rich and their capacity for violence. Chavez opponents are well positioned - as state governors, mayors, legislators, judges and police chiefs - to exacerbate violent crime in general. The former Caracas Metropolitan police, for example, openly collaborated with the shortlived coup that brieﬂy deposed Chavez in 2002. Despite these dramatically revealing facts, it is inconceivable that a prominent, well-funded NGO such as the ICG would ever write: "Violence, or its threat, has become inherent to the elite opposition's political project in Venezuela" even though it would be far closer to the truth. Ignoring key facts and the unequal social relations that underpin the political conﬂict in Venezuela, media and NGO professionals invariably reduce a diverse and broad movement from below to the alleged machinations of the country's president. In US embassy cables leaked by WikiLeaks, US ofﬁcials have stated how important it is to them that NGOs take up their propaganda war against the Chavez government. It would appear that various NGOs and institutions - Human Rights Watch, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the ICG - require no prodding from the US government to write voluminously about Venezuela in a way that whitewashes the US-funded political opposition or the role of other local and transnational elites. Many among the international press and prominent NGOs appear to share the assumptions of some in the often-corrupted Venezuelan legal system about whose lives matter and whose don't. While it has become normal to read media reports critical of Venezuela's elected authorities, little is said of the murky world of elite networks and the violence they propel. Less is said of inequality or of the brave efforts made to slowly eradicate it. For these stories we must go to the Venezuelan poor and hear their testimonials - as Edward Ellis did to make his vivid documentary.
NoÊäÊUÊFriday, November 18, 2011
The artillery of ideas T/ COI P/ Agencies
n Monday, Venezuela’s anti-Chavez minority remained skeptical as a proposed “debate” between their pre-presidential candidates went no further than a series of grand promises each candidate would implement if he or she somehow beats Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in next year’s presidential elections. Scheduled for October 7, 2012, the Bolivarian Revolution’s Chavez is expected to easily defeat any one of the US-backed opposition candidates. Chavez current has an over 60% popularity rating. Held at the private Andres Bello Catholic University in Caracas, the “debate” between members of the opposition’s Democratic Unity Roundtable included lengthy commercial breaks and a narrow range of unspeciﬁc assurances by the ﬁve candidates: Maria Corina Machado, Leopoldo Lopez, Pablo Perez, Henrique Capriles Radonski, and Diego Arria. While the opposition coalition originally had twice the number of presidential hopefuls, the ﬁve present at Monday’s event were the only ones able to pay the US$122,000 required to participate in their coalition’s presidential primaries. All ﬁve are now positioning among antiChavez forces and ﬁnanciers in the run up to internal primaries scheduled for February 12, 2012. Though participating in a public election in Venezuela comes at no cost to candidates or their parties, the cost of internal elections (primaries) are the responsibility of each organization. THE GREAT “DEBATE” Limited by the largely effective policies of socialist President Hugo Chavez, the pool of opposition candidates dedicated most of their time to attacking the Venezuelan President and blaming him for the social and economic ills accumulated during decades of pro-capital, anti-people governments. The ﬁrst segment of the “debate” provided each pre-presidential candidate a minute to present themselves, with Diego Arria, former Venezuelan Ambassador to the United Nations during the neo-liberal presidency of Carlos Andres Perez, kicking things off.
Opposition presidential candidates offer promises from the past
Arria opened the “debate” by declaring that he is “fearful” because he knows “very well the possible consequences of the violence and hatred unleashed by this regime on society”. By “regime” he was referring to the democratically-elected Chavez government. Asked only to present himself and explain why he wants to be president, Arria limited his response to “I know how to do it” and added his promise “to end all violence, rescue the peace, the security and the hope” within “just two or three years”. Arria, who later surprised everyone when he said he would take Chavez to court for “crimes against humanity”, provoked widespread condemnation in 2009 after he blamed ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya for the violence that rocked the Central American nation after members of the armed forces and business community forcefully removed Zelaya from power and implemented a brutal dictatorship. Last to present himself was Leopoldo Lopez, the opposition politician barred from holding public ofﬁce for having committed acts of corruption while he was mayor of Chacao. Lopez, who presents himself as the victim of judicial bias, promised to “build a safe Venezuela, a Venezuela ﬁlled with employment, and above all else, a Venezuela in which all rights belong to all Venezuelans”.
Found to have misappropriated over $100,000 in public funds in order to ﬁnance his own personal political party, Lopez is barred from holding ofﬁce through 2013 though he can legally participate in any political event or election of his choosing, including next year’s the presidential election. Following ﬁve minutes of introductory presentations, the “debate” paused for a three-minute commercial break, a pattern that repeated itself throughout the evening’s event. The next segment of the event included a series of questions regarding personal safety/security, found to be a strong concern for Venezuelans in a recent survey conducted by Chilean NGO Latinobarometer. Calling the violence a “national tragedy” and blaming the government of Hugo Chavez for what is truly the result of decades of social exclusion, exploitation and mismanagement of public funds, each candidate was asked to provide their solutions to associated social ills. Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, one of the candidates most likely to win the opposition primaries, promised “education and employment” as a solution to violence and added that Venezuela “needs a government which understands that the problem of security is not a problem of political colors (positions)”.
At the time of the April 2002 coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Radonski, mayor of the Caracas municipality of Baruta, was ﬁlmed outside the Cuban embassy as a mob of men cut water and electricity to the diplomatic premises and threatened to attack those inside. Radonski also climbed over the wall of the Cuban embassy and attempted to force a search of the premises, in clear violation of international law. He was later charged and brieﬂy imprisoned for his actions. The next participant was Pablo Perez, an opposition governor from the state of Zulia. To combat violence Perez vowed to implement an unspeciﬁed “policy of disarmament” and “to be a president who promotes a culture of peace, a culture of life and not a culture of death and violence”. Both Miranda and Zulia are the states with the highest incidences of crime and violence in the country. POPULAR CAPITALISM After another commercial break, the candidates were asked for solutions to the “problems” of economic growth, jobs and education. In response, all ﬁve candidates issued blanket criticisms of the Chavez government’s community-based social programs and proposed pro-business alternatives. Their solutions, including “stimulating private investment” and “ending government
interventions,” sit much more comfortably with their Venezuelan and US ﬁnanciers than the socialist policies of the Bolivarian Revolution. Maria Corina Machado, a far right-wing candidate campaigning on a platform of ‘popular capitalism,’ said it was important “for no one to fool themselves” about public policies, because “you can’t have jobs, not for young people, not for anyone, if there isn’t respect for (private) property”. Founder of SUMATE, a USﬁnanced NGO dedicated to “democracy promotion”, Machado reiterated that Venezuela needs “private investment” and, above all else, a respect “for private property, which is sacred”. POLLS The day after the opposition “debate”, Venezuela’s Social Investigation Group XXI (GIS) released poll results that found 56% of Venezuelans plan to vote for Chavez in next year’s presidential election. Chavez, who has called on supporters to aim for a landslide 60 to 70% victory, recently joked off a possible opposition win by afﬁrming, “It is easier for a donkey to pass through the eye of a needle than for the opposition to win that election”. Faced with the high likelihood of a Chavez re-election, the United States government has allotted over $20 million to help ﬁnance the opposition through 2012.
ENGLISH EDITION The artillery of ideas
Friday | November 18, 2011 | Nº 90 | Caracas | www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve
A publication of the Fundacion Correo del OrinocoÊUÊ `ÌÀ ivÊEva GolingerÊUÊÀ>« VÊ iÃ}ÊAlexander Uzcátegui, Jameson JiménezÊUÊ*ÀiÃÃÊFundación Imprenta de la Cultura
Paramilitary policing from Seattle to occupy Wall Street ÀÊ-Ì>«iÀÊ ÀÊ-Ì>«iÀÊÃÊvÀiÀÊ*ViÊ ivÊvÊ Ì iÊ-i>ÌÌiÊ*ViÊ i«>ÀÌiÌ°
hey came from all over, tens of thousands of demonstrators from around the world, protesting the economic and moral pitfalls of globalization. Our mission as members of the Seattle Police Department? To safeguard people and property—in that order. Things went well the ﬁrst day. We were praised for our friendliness and restraint—though some politicians were apoplectic at our refusal to make mass arrests for the actions of a few. Then came day two. Early in the morning, large contingents of demonstrators began to converge at a key downtown intersection. They sat down and refused to budge. Their numbers grew. A labor march would soon add additional thousands to the mix. “We have to clear the intersection”, said the ﬁeld commander. “We have to clear the intersection”, the operations commander agreed, from his bunker in the Public Safety Building. Standing alone on the edge of the crowd, I, the chief of police, said to myself, “We have to clear the intersection”. Why? Because of all the what-ifs. What if a ﬁre breaks out in the Sheraton across the street? What if a woman goes into labor on the 17th ﬂoor of the hotel? What if a heart patient goes into cardiac arrest in the high-rise on the corner? What if there’s a stabbing, a shooting, a seriousinjury trafﬁc accident? How would an aid car, ﬁre engine or police cruiser get through that sea of people? The cop in me supported the decision to clear the intersection. But the chief in me should have vetoed it. And he certainly should have forbidden the indiscriminate use of tear gas to accomplish it, no matter
how many warnings we barked through the bullhorn. My support for a militaristic solution caused all hell to break loose. Rocks, bottles and newspaper racks went ﬂying. Windows were smashed, stores were looted, ﬁres lighted; and more gas ﬁlled the streets, with some cops clearly overreacting, escalating and prolonging the conﬂict. The “Battle in Seattle”, as the WTO protests and their aftermath came to be known, was a huge setback—for the protesters, my cops, the community. More than a decade later, the police response to the Occupy movement, most disturbingly visible in Oakland—where scenes resembled a war zone and where a marine remains in serious condition from a police projectile—brings into sharp relief the acute and chronic problems of US law enforcement. Seattle might have served as a cautionary tale, but instead, US police forces have become increasingly militarized, and it’s
showing in cities everywhere: the NYPD “white shirt” coating innocent people with pepper spray, the arrests of two student journalists at Occupy Atlanta, the declaration of public property as off-limits and the arrests of protesters for “trespassing”. The paramilitary bureaucracy and the culture it engenders—a black-and-white world in which police unions serve above all to protect the brotherhood—is worse today than it was in the 1990s. Such agencies inevitably view protesters as the enemy. And young people, poor people and people of color will forever experience the institution as an abusive, militaristic force—not just during demonstrations but every day, in neighborhoods across the country. Much of the problem is rooted in a rigid command-andcontrol hierarchy based on the military model. US police forces are beholden to archaic internal systems of authority whose rules emphasize bureaucratic
regulations over conduct on the streets. An ofﬁcer’s hair length, the shine on his shoes and the condition of his car are more important than whether he treats a burglary victim or a sex worker with dignity and respect. It is ironic that those police ofﬁcers who are busting up the Occupy protesters are themselves victims of the same social ills the demonstrators are combating: corporate greed; the slackening of essential regulatory systems; and the abject failure of all three branches of government to safeguard civil liberties and to protect, if not provide, basic human needs like health, housing, education and more. With cities and states struggling to balance the budget while continuing to deliver public safety, many cops are ﬁnding themselves out of work. And, as many Occupy protesters have pointed out, even as police ofﬁcers help to safeguard the power and proﬁts of the 1 percent, police ofﬁcers are part of the 99 percent.
There will always be situations—an armed and barricaded suspect, a man with a knife to his wife’s throat, a school-shooting rampage—that require disciplined, militarylike operations. But most of what police are called upon to do, day in and day out, requires patience, diplomacy and interpersonal skills. I’m convinced it is possible to create a smart organizational alternative to the paramilitary bureaucracy that is US policing. But that will not happen unless, even as we cull “bad apples” from our police forces, we recognize that the barrel itself is rotten. Assuming the necessity of radical structural reform, how do we proceed? By building a progressive police organization, created by rank-and-ﬁle ofﬁcers, “civilian” employees and community representatives. Such an effort would include plans to ﬂatten hierarchies; create a true citizen review board with investigative and subpoena powers; and ensure community participation in all operations, including policy-making, program development, priority-setting and crisis management. In short, cops and citizens would forge an authentic partnership in policing the city. It will not be easy. In fact, failure is assured if we lack the political will to win the support of police chiefs and their elected bosses, if we are unable to inﬂuence or neutralize police unions, if we don’t have the courage to move beyond the endless justiﬁcations for maintaining the status quo. But imagine the community and its cops united in the effort to responsibly “police” the Occupy movement. Picture thousands of people gathered to press grievances against their government and the corporations, under the watchful, sympathetic protection of their partners in blue.
Published on Nov 18, 2011
Published on Nov 18, 2011
Grassroots coalition moves forward for 2012 victory. Thousands rallied in support of the 2012 campaign to reelect President Chavez and advan...