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Opinion: Study shows basic freedoms are thriving in Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution

Friday | July 13, 2012 | Nº 117 | Caracas

Eradicating tecnology illiteracy

One of the groundbreaking programs of Venezuela’s socialist government is the creation of a new laptop for children, made with Portuguese technology and manufactured in Venezuela. The “Canaima” computers, named after one of Venezuela’s breathtakingly beautiful landscapes in the southeastern part of the nation, are provided free by the Chavez government to elementary school children. The objective is to enable them with literacy skils for the twentyfirst century. | page 3

ENGLISH EDITION The artillery of ideas

Chavez pledges electoral victory, warns of opposition violence

The Venezuelan head of state gave a 4-hour long press conference to national and international media this week in Venezuela, his first this year after battling cancer. Chavez affirmed he was now “cancer-free” and ready to win the presidential elections in October. He received ample support from progressive academics, artists, intellectuals, activists and political party members from around the world during the Sao Paulo Forum, which was hosted in Caracas last weekend. Chavez also warned of increasing opposition violence in the presidential campaign. | page 2

CITGO to help 50,000 US families conserve energy C ITGO Petroleum Corporation, a US company owned by Venezuela, has launched the 3rd edition of its CITGO-Venezuela Energy Efficient Lighting Program. This social responsibility program will provide 500,000 energy efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs to qualifying households across 17 US

cities. It is expected that this year, the CITGO-Venezuela Energy Efficient Lighting Program, will help approximately 50,000 low-income households save energy. Launched in 2008 as a pilot program, the 2012 initiative begins at the start of the summer season, when electricity bills are expected to rise.

“CITGO is committed to environmental stewardship and we are pleased to offer assistance to help families in need save on their energy costs this summer”, said CITGO President and CEO Alejandro Granado. “CFL bulbs have clear environmental and economic benefits and in providing energy efficient lighting resources for families, we seek to encourage energy conservation in the community”. Over their lifetime, the CFLs distributed through

this program this year will save almost $18 million in energy costs, nearly 185 million kilowatt hours and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 271 million pounds; equivalent to removing more than 24,000 cars from the road. Program beneficiaries will also be provided with educational brochures about energy efficiency and conservation, as well as detailed information on the proper disposal of CFLs.

69 Venezuelans at Olympics

Venezuela will be represented at the 30th Olympic Games by 69 athletes, who will be accompanied at 2012 London Games by 61 technicians and trainers of the delegation. The goal of the Venezuelan Olympic Team during the 30th Olympic Games is to overcome the performance of Venezuelan athletes in Beijing 2008, where only one bronze medal was obtained in Taekwondo, by Dalia Contreras. At the 2012 London Olympics, Venezuela will have 13 competitors in aquatic sports, including 8 in swimming, 3 in diving and 2 in open waters. The team also includes 10 track and field athletes, 2 marathoners and one 20 km walker. Twelve Venezuelan athletes will also compete in cycling. The single group qualification by the Venezuelan delegation is beach volleyball, which achieved its first quota ever for the Olympic Games.


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2 | Impact

NoÊ££ÇÊUÊFriday, July 13, 2012

The artillery of ideas

São Paulo Forum expresses support for Chavez, plan of political action

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange also received backing from the global activists gathered in Caracas as they urged the Ecuadoran Embassy in London to grant the whistle-blower’s request for political asylum. Yet beyond these and other important topics, the main focus of the conference rested on participants’ support for the re-election campaign of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. “We finalized a plan of action that involves solidarity from all of our parties, organizations, and movements not only to back [the Chavez campaign] but also to sustain the victory and defeat the right”, said Forum Secretary Valter Pomar.

Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva affirmed his support for President Chavez in a video that was projected to the representatives assembled in Caracas’ Teresa Carreno Theater for the closure of the conference on Friday. “Chavez, count on me and count on the Brazilian Workers’ Party. Count on the solidarity and support of each activist on the left and of every democrat and every Latin American. Your victory will be our victory”, da Silva said. For his part, the Venezuelan head of state expressed his gratitude to the different organizations on hand for their backing while addres-

sing the crowd during the Forum’s closure. “I greatly appreciate the São Paulo Forum and its declaration of support for Venezuelan democracy because we need to remember that the opposition has a plan B that is destabilization”, Chavez said. Guaranteeing a “knockout” victory in the coming elections, The two-time incumbent also spoke about the necessity to put the declaration signed by the forum’s organizations into practice in the different countries represented last week in the Venezuelan capital. “The Caracas Declaration is like a global agenda and has the world contained in it. When we say farewell today and arrive home tomorrow, the important thing is what we are going to do to move forward with the fulfillment of these objectives”, President Chavez said. As part of the resolutions passed by the delegates, activities will be held around the world on July 24 to celebrate the 229th birthday of Venezuelan independence hero Simon Bolivar and link the commemoration to the international significance of Chavez’s coming re-election. The “Global Day of Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution and Comandante Hugo Chavez” will take place in capitals and cities and will include “events, meetings, press conferences and floral offerings to the Liberator Simon Bolivar”, the Caracas Declaration reads.

Venezuela’s National Bolivarian Police (PNB) intervened. According to Venezuelan Minister of Information and Communication Andres Izarra, “the prompt action of the PNB prevented the spread of opposition violence in La Vega”. Speaking to reporters after the incident, National PNB Director Luiz Fernandez confirmed reports that two weapons were found at the site of the opposition rally, one of which was concealed by an opposition activist currently being held for questioning. Fernandez reiterated Izarra’s assertions and said “greater violence was pre-

vented by the timely and professional intervention of the PNB”. In addition to the incidents in Caracas, right-wing militants in the state of Monagas also carried out an attack against supporters of President Chavez. On Sunday, opposition activists attacked a group of pro-Chavez organizers distributing leaflets in the municipality of Maturin. According to socialist activist Geraldin Lara, “four men paid by the opposition and dressed in t-shirts of rightwing party Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT)…approached our campaign tent and attacked us with knives and bottles”.

Lara explained that a total of 10 people were wounded in the attack. The unidentified culprits broke a bottle over the head of one victim, stabbed one man, and both kicked and punched the other eight. All 10 people were taken to a nearby medical clinic. Discussing the recent rise in opposition violence, President Chavez told voters, “wherever the opposition goes, violence follows”. He called on voters to “be prepared” as both a failed opposition election strategy and an increase in right-wing violence suggest “the opposition and the US are not going to recognize our victory on October 7”.

T/ COI P/ Presidential Press

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he XVIII São Paulo Forum of social movements and progressive political parties came to an end last Friday with a declaration outlining support for President Hugo Chavez’s re-election bid and an international call to defend Venezuelan democracy from extremist attacks in the wake of a socialist victory in October. “The central battle in the coming months is that of the Venezuelan elections of October 7.... With a few months to go, the right-wing already knows that Hugo Chavez will be victorious. For this reason, the opposition is participating in the electoral process but is preparing the conditions to not recognize the results”, read a joint declaration signed by the conference’s participants last week. The 3-day conference featured more than 800 representatives from leftist organizations around Latin America and the world, including former Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, and addressed a number of issues including the democratization of the media, environmental preservation, and food security.

A 42-point statement was released, referred to as The Caracas Declaration, outlining the objectives and strategies of the left in the coming months. Part of this plan, as expressed by members of the Forum, is to give electoral support for presidential candidates Xiomara Zelaya in Honduras and Rafael Correa in Ecuador, both of whom will be running in 2013. Additionally, the declaration upheld the refusal of progressive movements to recognize the de facto government of Paraguay, which ousted President Fernando Lugo from power last month via court proceedings that have been referred to as an “institutional coup”.

Opposition campaign employs violence T/ COI

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ith just 3 months to go before Venezuelans celebrate presidential elections, and with all polls indicating a sweeping reelection victory for President Hugo Chavez, opposition forces are attempting to campaign provocatively in hardcore pro-Chavez communities. While opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski claims he seeks only to “reach out”

to Venezuela’s majority, at this weekend’s event in the Caracas neighborhood of La Vega, a pro-Chavez hotspot, several of his supporters arrived armed and wearing facemasks so as to conceal their identities. Soon after Capriles’ campaigners entered La Vega, a large group of pro-Chavez residents flooded the streets to reject their presence. Fearing a violent clash between pro- and anti-Chavez forces,

BRAZIL’S LULA SUPPORTS CHAVEZ


NoÊ££ÇÊUÊFriday, July 13, 2012

The artillery of ideas

Social Justice | 3 |

Canaima computers: eradicating technological illiteracy

number of citizens who have benefitted by having access to this technology at around 6 million, or 1 out every 5 Venezuelans. This program has been complemented by other governmental programs to increase computer literacy in the poorer sectors of the population by introducing free info-centers in the barrios, and massively expanding the internet cafe network.

Canaima laptops are designed specifically and strategically for educational purposes by the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Science and Technology and organized communities. A national network for maintenance and repair is also in place, as well as training programs for the supervising teachers. The laptops come with free software LINUX and they are equipped with web browsers and WIFI abilities, as well as office suite programs and educative games such as memory games and ones to solve anagrams, as well as geographical based games. Depending on the grade of the child, the computers come equipped with 1GB RAM, between 40GB and 250GB of hard disk, webcams, USB ports, and INTEL ATOM N270 or N455 processors. Last month, President Chavez gave the 1,700,000th Canaima laptop to Genesis Guerrero, from Petare, a poor neighborhood in Caracas. Jorge Arreaza, Minister for Science and Technology, recently described the program of the computers as a program that follows the policies of the Revolution to democratize and incorporate into the educative process information and communication technology, designed completely by Venezuelan programmers and educators.

operated on patients in private clinics and if the patients didn’t have the money to pay for it, they ended up losing their vision”, said Carlos Padilla, Director of the center. Through its increased investment in public health care and its signing of cooperative, international accords with nations such as Cuba, the Chavez administration has been able change this situation and provide greater access to free quality care for all Venezuelan residents. The same is true of the government’s flagship health program, Mission Barrio Adentro which, through collaboration with Cuba, has established free clinics, hospitals, and high-technology diagnostic centers throughout the South American nation.

In the Vargas center alone, more than 33,000 patients from countries such as El Salvador, Colombia, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Portugal have benefited from the mission. During the event on Sunday, the health minister praised the program for its success and honored those workers who through dedication and commitment have contributed to a higher quality of life for the nation’s people. “There is not a mission that has a more appropriate name than that of Mission Miracle because it has been a miracle for the patients that have been able to see and it gives hope to those who have been excluded for centuries”, Minister Sader said.

T/ Paul Dobson P/ Presidential Press

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hanks to the revolutionary policies of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has been declared an illiteracy-free zone since 2005. Education missions Robinson, Ribas, and Sucre have allowed millions to “come out from the darkness” and learn to read and write. In Venezuela there are 2 types of illiteracy, one of which has been wiped out, but another that remains to be tackled: technological illiteracy or computer illiteracy. The eradication of this type of illiteracy is the driving force behind a landmark program whereby millions of new laptop computers are being given into school children. The program of Canaima laptops, named after an indigenous village close to the tourist landmark of Angel Falls, started in 2009 through an agreement with the government of Portugal. Portugal produced and sold Venezuela 350,000 comple-

ted mini-laptops, and, under the terms of the agreement, they transferred the technical know-how to Venezuela to enable the production of future mini-laptops in Venezuelan factories. Now in its third stage, the Canaima program started with students in 1st grade (5-6yrs old), and has been expanded to now include students in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th grades (5-10yrs). In 2013 they

plan to expand the program to middle school students. The program is only for public schools, and is completely without cost either for the student or the school. The laptops are not rented nor leased, but given to students to use for homework assignments or personal activities. Families and friends are also encouraged to use the technology at home, which makes approximations of the

Mission Miracle celebrates 8 years of free eye care for Venezuela and the world T/ COI

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ealth Minister Eugenia Sader informed last Sunday that more than 1.5 million people have received free vision-related surgery in Venezuela as the result of the Chavez administration’s heightened investment in health care. Sader’s remarks came during a public act held to celebrate the 8th anniversary of the government’s groundbreaking public eye care program, Mission Miracle. “Today is a glorious day for our people because we’re celebrating the 8th anniver-

sary of an exemplary mission of the Venezuelan government that has already been extended to other countries on our continent”, Sader said during a commemorative act held in the Ophthalmological Center of Vargas. Founded on July 8, 2004 as a collaborative initiative between the Cuban and Venezuelan governments, Mission Miracle is currently operating in 18 states around the nation and providing surgeries at no cost to patients. Of the 54 hospitals where the program is up and running, the Ophthalmological Center of Vargas is the most

active, performing an average of 20 medical procedures per day. The majority of operations address common conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma, something that was previously left untreated by many in the OPEC member state due to the lack of services and high costs of private health care. “Before Mission Miracle, eye care was a luxury. Many people ended up blind because they didn’t have money... Public services had vision specialists but they didn’t have the equipment. So what happened was that the doctors


ENGLISH EDITION The artillery of ideas

Friday | July 13, 2012 | Nº 117 | Caracas | www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve A publication of the Fundacion Correo del OrinocoÊUÊ `ˆÌœÀ‡ˆ˜‡ …ˆivÊEva GolingerÊUÊÀ>«…ˆVÊ iÈ}˜ÊAimara Aguilera

New report underscores thriving freedoms in Venezuela /ÉÊ "

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ast week, a brief and rather scantily detailed report was released from the Venezuelan Social Conflict Observatory (OVCS) documenting the number of protests that have occurred in the South American nation in the first semester of this year. According to the NGO, more than 2,400 protests have taken place around the nation from January to June, ranging from citizen discontent over labor issues to demands linked to housing, prison conditions, and education. Apart from the publication’s excessive use of incendiary and alarmist language -including the very use of the word “conflict” to describe a protest or demonstration- the report has been used to attack the government of Hugo Chavez for its alleged unresponsiveness to residents’ outcries. But more revealing in this report is that it demonstrates the proliferation of free speech in the country, something that contrasts starkly with previous, US-backed Venezuelan governments who sent security forces to hunt down and assassinate political dissidents from the 1960s through the 1990s. Interestingly, the OVCS report is unable to cite a single case of government repression against the freedom of expression or the right to protest in any of the four areas it mentions in its publication. This is especially notable because the NGO does make special reference to the violence that continues to plague certain sectors of organized labor in Venezuela. “In the fist semester of 2012, the murder of at least 48 union members was regis-

tered. The rise in labor conflicts coincides with the rise in union violence, mainly in the construction sector”, the report states. In order to understand this number, however, it is important to realize that the bulk of labor violence in Venezuela is attributable to inter-union conflicts that include organized mafias and the selling of government contracts at the local level. It is not, however, the consequence of a national, authoritarian regime clamping down on the freedoms of organized labor in the country. The OVCS’ failure to make this point explicit in its report is a reminder of how the majority of non-governmental organizations operating both in Venezuela and abroad are unwilling to come to terms with the flourishing environment of free expression in the South American country. Of course, the death of union activist is a grave matter and must be addressed. One could indeed argue that the impunity that surrounds the murder of such activists is a major shortcoming of the Venezuelan judicial system. This is true. Yet it also true that the overall problem of impunity in the country has been used, and perhaps to a greater extent, to protect right-wing opposition sectors. It must not be forgotten that since the passage of the nation’s Land Law in 2001, more than 300 small farmers have been assassinated by the hired guns of opposition landowners who have used violence in their attempts to halt the Chavez administration’s redistributive land policies. Yet, this fact has also been omitted by the Conflict Observatory in its report.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE But where the OVCS has been silent in pointing out the death of farmers or commending the greater exercise of freedom in the country, it has taken advantage of the publication to take a pot shot at the Chavez government, criticizing the “deficits” and “absence of effective responses” to citizen protests on behalf of the Venezuelan authorities. This allegation is patently false. While the Chavez administration, like any administration, exhibits its share of “deficits”, it is categorically untrue that it has ignored the demands of its citizenry. This is clear with respect to at least three of the four categories of protests that the OVCS has created to classify the demonstrations that have occurred around the country. With labor demands representing the greatest portion of protests (41 percent), the-

re is little doubt that a large percentage of this number is tied to the passage of the nation’s new Labor Law, signed by Chavez at the end of April this year. The new law provides a level of employment protection and benefits unseen in Venezuelan history and was vociferously advocated for by a majority of unions, many of who had taken to the streets to urge the passage of the measure in the first months of 2012. Since it’s signing in April, the new law has also spurred a number of protests by workers who are demanding that employers, both public and private, comply with the new mandate. In terms of housing rights which form the second largest category of protest at 32 percent, the socialist administration of Hugo Chavez has made its public housing program the centerpiece of its government for the past

2 years. This means working to deliver 3 million new homes to residents by 2019, more than 200 thousand of which have already been handed over. In fact, the OVCS report even contradicts itself with respect to housing, stating that “the progressive delivery of homes...is allowing the government to manage the conflict effectively”. The same is true with respect to the category entitled “Citizen security, justice and prisons” which represents 22 percent of the OVCS’ figures. At the end of June, the Chavez government launched a new social program to address the question of violent crime while in 2011, the Executive created a new ministry to deal specifically with the question of prison reform. The final category of “Educational Needs” is not explained in the report other than mentioning that it represents 5 percent of demonstrations. Regardless of the category’s lack of elaboration, it is easy to point out the many educational programs created by the Chavez government to provide free textbooks, laptop computers, and scholarships to students around the country. In the end, the OVCS report is poorly written, researched and referenced. Indeed, it does not even specify what constitutes a “protest”. Is one individual standing outside a government building with an angry sign equivalent to a march of, say, a thousand people? With such low academic standards, this latest publication, while intending to champion the hackneyed notion that Venezuela is somehow teetering on the brink of civil war, really only highlights the high levels of freedom that exist in the country. There is little doubt that this high level of freedom has contributed, at least in part, to Venezuela’s consistent top ranking in all recent international “Happiness Polls” which mark the nation for the satisfaction and optimism exhibited by its citizenry.


Correo del Orinoco | No. 117| Year 3