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Mark Weisbrot on Latin America’s Venezuela: An example of governing for growing independence from US power the people and prioritizing citizens’ needs
FRIDAY | April 15, 2011 | No. 60 | Bs 1 | C ARACAS
ENGLISH EDITION The artillery of ideas
Venezuelans celebrate democracy, despite threats
Sister nations strengthen ties
Commemorating 9 years since the failed coup d’etat that brieﬂy ousted President Chavez from power, Venezuelans reﬂected on democratic gains and ongoing threats
The days of April 11, 12 and 13 are remembered each year in Venezuela since the 2002 coup d’etat that overthrew the Chavez government and installed a short-lived dictatorship in the South American nation. The events remind Venezuelans of the continuing threats against their democracy and sovereignty. As the holder of the world’s largest oil reserves, powerful interests are constantly seeking to undermine the will of the Venezuelan people, who 9 years ago rose up against a US-backed coup executed by the nation’s elite and defeated the attempt to destroy their democracy and dignity. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela met with his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos this week in Cartagena, as part of an ongoing effort to reestablish bilateral relations and solidify cooperation between both nations. The two countries have suffered diplomatic spats during ths past few years, particulary during the previous administration of Alvaro Uribe in Colombia. Santos and Chavez signed several new agreements to increase commerce and security cooperation between their countries.
Venezuela in the Major Leagues
Improving agricultural production
Reviving the country’s agricultural industry is a top priority for the Chavez administration.
Major injustice in terrorist trial
A US court has freed CubanVenezuelan terrorist and former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles.
No FARC presence in Venezuela
Venezuela has been the focus of accusations in recent years for harboring the terrorist organization within its border, culminating in the ﬁling of a complaint before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) by former President Alvaro Uribe last August. Since Santos came to power however, there has been a signiﬁcant thawing in relations between the two countries, something the Colombian president praised his Venezuelan counterpart for on Tuesday. Santos said, “We are advancing each time on the different fronts [security, economy] we agreed upon eight months ago”, adding that Hugo Chavez has so far complied with everything he said he would and that he, Santos, acknowledges that. In the same interview, Santos reiterated that peaceful dialogue between his government and the FARC is very much an option. He warned however that it will be “very difﬁcult” to achieve if the group does not renounce its terrorist activities. T/ Edward Fox
Recovery on the horizon
Indicators show Venezuela will resume economic growth and reduce inﬂation this year.
resident Juan Manuel Santos told Spanish television on Tuesday he is conﬁdent that FARC encampments in Venezuela have been dismantled. “We are satisﬁed that the camps that we had previously located are no longer there”, the head of state said, adding that Venezuela had provided Colombia with details on Monday of two FARC guerrillas accused of killing two Colombian marines who had escaped across the border. This move, Santos stated, was an “unprecedented” gesture in relations between the neighboring countries, Terra reports.
he wait has ended. On March 31 a total of 30 baseball teams took to the ﬁeld for the 2011 Major League Baseball season. Last season, the San Francisco Giants ﬁnished off the Texas Rangers to win the World Series. Pablo Sandoval and Elvis Andrus participated in the ﬁnal game, giving some Venezuelan ﬂavor to one of the world’s most followed sport events. During the 2010 season, a total of 59 Venezuelan players started on MLB rosters, which set a record for the growing Venezuelan baseball. Fifty-eight Venezuelans played on opening day on Thursday, March 31, including eight who started on the list of injured. This season, several Venezuelans are expected to catch people’s attention, including, Miguel Cabrera on the Detroit Tigers; Felix Hernandez, last year’s Cy Young winner of the American League, now with the Seattle Mariners; Carlos Gonzalez with the Rockies; Bob Abreu with Anaheim; Elvis Andrus with the Rangers; Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod), one of the key players on the New York Mets; Omar Vizquel, with the Chicago White Sox; Magglio Ordonez with Detriot Tigers; and Freddy Garcia, who won a spot with the Yankees this season.
2 | Impact
Friday, April 15, 2011
The artillery of ideas
Venezuelans celebrate rescue of democracy as threats continue
This week, Venezuelans commemorated the 9-year anniversary of the failed coup d’etat that brieﬂy ousted President Chavez from power and dissolved the nation’s democracy, installing a US-backed dictatorship. In an extraordinary turn of events, a popular uprising crushed the coup just hours later
Wednesday, President Chavez, speaking before a volumunious crowd that marched to the presidential palace grounds, reafﬁrmed that “Nobody can topple our Revolution again”, warning those who continue with destabilization plans that they will be “swept away” and “never return”. As the crowds chanted “The people united will never be defeated”, the Venezuelan President, reﬂected on the events 9 years ago, “They came at us with a coup backed by powerful interests, the US government and the elite, but they were met but something even more powerful: the people of Venezuela and our real soldiers”. Nonetheless, the majority of those involved in the coup remain present in Venezuelan politics today, still aiming to oust Chavez’s government and put an end to the Bolivarian Revolution. During the 9 years since the coup, US government funding for opposition groups and parties in Venezuela has increased exponentially, reaching nearly $15 million annually from State Department agencies alone. Several of the key members of the coup, who were given amnesty by President Chavez in 2007 in an attempt to promote national dialogue, today hold positions in regional governments (governors and mayors), and in the nation’s National Assembly. From these legitimate platforms, they continue to conspire against the Chavez administration. Ironically, during this week’s coup anniversary, one participant in the April 2002 events, Maria Corina Machado, now a member of the National Assembly, was invited by the Department of State to dictate several conferences in the US, including one in Miami titled “600 Days to Eradicate Authoritarianism: Transforming Venezuela”. While in Miami, Machado “celebrated” with a community of self-exiled Venezuelans, many of whom played key roles in the coup. Machado is slated to be an opposition contender in Venezuela’s presidential elections in 2012. T/ Eva Golinger P/ Presidential Press
his Wednesday, April 13, thousands of Venezuelans marched on the nation’s capital, celebrating what has come to be known as the “Day of CivilMilitary Strength and Dignity”. It was nine years ago on this day that millions of Caracas residents, together with loyal armed forces and the Presidential Guard, defeated a US-backed coup d’etat that had forcefully taken power just 48 hours prior. The coup, executed by business leaders, corrupt union ofﬁcials, private media owners, powerhungry military ofﬁcers, former ruling-party politicians and “civil society” organizations – all ﬁnancially and politically supported by US government agencies, the State Department and the White House (see “The Chavez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela” by Eva Golinger, Olive Branch Press 2006) – succeeded brieﬂy in ousting President Chavez and his government from power on April 11, 2002. Utilizing images manipulated by private television station, Venevision, the coup forces justiﬁed their actions by blaming the violence and deaths that occured that day on the Venezuelan head of state. In reality, as top secret Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents have revealed, the coup was planned in the days and weeks prior to its execution. The objective was to use an anti-Chavez protest to provoke violence and unrest in the capital, Caracas, putting into action a detailed plot using snipers to ﬁre on the crowds, causing deaths and
injuries, which would be blamed on the government, justifying its ouster. As one top secret, now partially-declassifed CIA document from April 6, 2002 (5 days before the coup took place) outlines, after the violence was provoked by coup forces, “President Chavez and other top members in his cabinet...would be arrested” and a “transitional government” would be installed. Chavez was detained by force on the evening of April 11, 2002, and kidnapped by dissident military ofﬁcers, on the orders of the coup leaders. Meanwhile, the US ambassador in Caracas, Charles Shapiro, was coordinating the actions on the ground with media owners, metropolitan police forces involved in the sniper shootings, and of course the business and political leaders that forcefully took over the government. Documentary evidence proves that Shapiro held several meetings and conversations during the events of April 11, 2002, with the metropolitan police commissioner, Henry Vivas, as well as with Gustavo Cisneros, owner of Venevision, and Pedro Carmona, who subsequently took over the presidency and declared himself head of state. PEOPLE’S POWER As the coup unfolded and Carmona, then head of Venezuela’s chamber of commerce, Fedecamaras, unilaterally and illegally swore himself into ofﬁce as president, the constitutional president,
Hugo Chavez, was held hostage and incomunicado on a small island military base off Venezuela’s coast. The only non-private national television station, state-owned VTV, was taken off the air by then governor of the state of Miranda, Enrique Mendoza, in an effort to silence pro-Chavez forces and conceal information and events from the people. Private media – all involved in the coup – broadcast cartoons, old movies and soap operas, while print media published articles justifying and supporting the “transition government”. Before an audience of about 400 people in the presidential palace, Miraﬂores, Pedro Carmona issued a decree dissolving all of the nation’s democratic institutions: the Supreme Court, the National Assembly (Congress), the Attorney General, Public Defender, Comptroller, the Executive cabinet, and even the national Constitution. Police forces, under the control of the coup regime, repressed proChavez protestors in the streets, killing and injuring over 100 people during those hours. But despite the media blackout on the real events that were taking place, millions of Venezuelans, unwilling to accept the disappearance of their constitutionally-elected president and the imposition of a dictatorship that openly dissolved their democracy, took to the streets in protest. Armed forces loyal to President Chavez began taking over military barracks and urging people to come out in the streets to express
their popular will. Within hours, the presidential palace was ﬂooded with demonstrators, demanding the return of President Chavez and the ouster of the coup government. Meanwhile, a low-ranking soldier guarding Chavez, urged the Venezuelan chief to write a note saying he was alive and still President of Venezuela, pledging he would ﬁnd a way to get the letter into the public light. He succeeded. The famous letter, written in Chavez’s unmistakable handwriting, declaring the Venezuelan president had never “renounced the legitimate power given to him by the people”, made it into the hands of military forces loyal to their Commander in Chief. A rescue mission was immediately activated and Chavez was ﬂown back in a helicopter to the presidential palace right around midnight on April 13. The millions that surrounded the palace, together with the loyal presidential guard, were able to force out the coup leaders, who incredulously emptied the presidential safes and stole as much as they could before escaping. As Chavez descended from the helicopter, cries and cheers were heard from the crowd. An extraordinary feeling of community power, justice and love eminated from those who had risked their lives to rescue their democracy, their constitution, their president, and most of all, their dignity. THREATS CONTINUE During the celebration this
The artillery of ideas
Friday, April 15, 2011
when they should be punished”, Fuentes said. Monday’s march ended at the ofﬁces of the Public Attorney, the government institution in charge of investigating and prosecuting in the courts, where a document was presented to the Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz. “I am receiving this document with much love and I promise that I will continue with the investigation. But it has to be remembered that the state granted amnesty in December of 2007 [to some of those accused of perpetrating the coup]”, Diaz said. Although the main political and military actors behind the events of April 11, 2002 have remained free, 9 members of the recently disbanded Caracas Metropolitan Police were convicted in 2009 for their role in carrying out the massacre. MEDIA RESPONSIBILITY A recent lawsuit in the state of Aragua, where the members of the Metropolitan Police were convicted, may also see proceedings carried out against private media outlets that colluded with the Venezuelan opposition to deliberately mislead the public on the events taking place between April 11th – 13th. Hamos Ramos Allup, leader of the opposition party Democratic Action (AD) and a key player in the coup, afﬁrmed during a recent interview with the newspaper Ciudad CCS that private television, print and radio outlets had been involved in the planning of the coup for weeks before its execution. With reference to the events in the lead up to April 11th, Allup stated that “there had not been a single important event that didn’t have the participation of the owners of the [private] media”. The 4th Tribunal Court in the State of Aragua, the Venezuelan News Agency reports, will continue with its investigations of the media’s role in the coup and Attorney General Diaz announced the creation of a special commission to receive and process complaints of human rights violations that occurred as a result of the violence on April 11th. T/ COI P/ Agencies
Victims of 2002 coup in Venezuela seek justice
A coup d’etat 9 years ago in Venezuela backed by the US government cost the lives of dozens and injured innocent residents who today are still struggling to bring the truth to light and ensure justice reigns on those responsible
emanding justice for the families and friends of those murdered during the Venezuelan opposition’s attempted overthrow of President Hugo Chavez nine years ago, thousands of residents took to the streets last Monday to commemorate lives lost and celebrate the popular uprising that derailed a right-wing dictatorship in the country. The march began at the Llaguna bridge where more than a dozen people were killed on April 11, 2002 by snipers stationed in the high rise buildings that surround the streets near the presidential palace of Miraﬂores in the capital of Caracas. The deaths, part of a calculated plan to fabricate a violent government crackdown on peaceful marchers, provided the impetus for the Venezuelan private media to incite a rebellion against the democratically elected Chavez administration and lend legitimacy to the coup leaders. Although the opposition succeeded in occupying the presidential palace for some 24 hours, the efforts to mislead the public eventually failed as thousands of ordinary Venezuelans descended upon Miraﬂores, demanding Chavez’s return to power. Through a combination of street and military action, the ousted president was re-installed as the nation’s head of state on April 13th, in a turn of events unparalleled in Latin American history. Yet, despite the Venezuelan people’s victory over the repressive and authoritarian opposition supported and ﬁnanced by Washington, the deaths that occurred on April 11 have yet to see closure. INJUSTICE PREVAILS The Association of Victims of the Coup D’Etat of A-11 (ASOVIC), has headed up the efforts
of family members and friends of those killed and injured to seek justice for the murders that have remained unpunished. “Nine years ago we were here defending the revolutionary process and today we commemorate the fallen and ask for justice for them”, said ASOVIC spokesperson Yessica Fuentes from the Llaguna Bridge on Monday. According to some residents, the violence that took place on Llaguna Bridge also extended to other areas of the capital and lasted for a number of days. “The repression wasn’t just the 11th of April, but it also went on until the 14th in [the Caracas] sectors of Catia, Petare, Agua Salud, 23 de Enero. The security forces repressed demonstrations of citizens who were demanding the restitution of President Chavez”, said Jorge Rodriguez, resident of the 23 de Enero neighborhood. During Monday’s march, organized by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) under the banner “Against Impunity and Forgetting”, members of ASOVIC presented their demands to the Venezuelan National Assembly where they were received by Assembly President, Fernando Soto Rojas. “We are asking that [the National Assembly] discuss article 30 of the constitution so that family members of the dead can have
a better quality of life”, Fuentes, who was also shot during the coup attempt in 2002, told Rojas. Article 30 of Venezuela’s constitution obliges the state to indemnify victims of human rights abuses, including payment for damages and suffering. AGAINST IMPUNITY In their ﬁght against impunity, members of ASOVIC have also demanded the prosecution of current opposition legislators who were involved in the planning and carrying out of the actions of April 11th. “The opposition constantly talks about the violation of human rights in the country when it’s they who have violated con-
stitutional order like what happened in 2002 and continues to happen in the country”, said Antonio Molina, lawyer of the victims’ association. As such, an appeal has been made to indict National Assembly representatives who not only walk freely on the streets but are carrying out the functions of lawmakers in the country’s highest legislative body. “We can’t allow for people like [congress members] Enrique Mendoza, Maria Corina Machado, Julio Borges, and Miguel Angel Rodriguez, who actively participated in the coup d’etat where innocent people lost their lives, not to be in prison. They are enjoying parliamentary immunity
4 | Politics
Friday, April 15, 2011
The artillery of ideas
Venezuela’s agricultural industry: from fallow to productive
Increasing agricultural production is a top priority for the Chavez Administration
enezuela’s Land and Agriculture Minister Juan Carlos Loyo reported last Tuesday an increase of 49 percent in the amount of land currently being cultivated for the nation’s food production since president Hugo Chavez came to ofﬁce in 1999. As of last year, the surface area being utilized for crops has reached nearly 2.5 million hectares (6.1 million acres) and the amount of food being produced has risen 44 percent from 17.1 million tons in 1998 to 24.6 million in 2010. “These results correspond to a large series of public policies that have permitted the incrementation of national agricultural production”, the Minister said, adding that although the growth is positive, “we want more and our country has a lot more to offer”. A LAW TO PRODUCE Loyo cited Venezuela’s Land Law, ﬁrst passed by presidential
decree in 2001, for the nation’s success in turning once fallow farmlands into productive communal estates for the country’s people. The Land Law establishes the legal basis for the government to redistribute unused lands occupied by wealthy elites to small
farmers and represents the cornerstone of Venezuela’s wide ranging agrarian reform program. In addition to land, the Venezuelan government is also providing machinery, technical assistance, and low credit loans to small farmers in efforts to create
employment opportunities and lessen the country’s dependence on foreign food imports. A new social program launched earlier this year, known as Mission Agro Venezuela, seeks to continue this trend by accelerating food production strategies in
the wake of lost harvests caused by torrential rains in late 2010. Thus far, the results of Venezuela’s land reform initiatives have been measurable. Loyo reported that use of agricultural machinery has increased by 42 percent and the implementation of irrigation systems has also risen by 39 percent. Agreements signed with countries such as Iran, Argentina and Brazil have strengthened the transfer of agricultural technology and have aided in the production and processing of important Venezuelan staples such as corn, black beans, and rice. Loyo also pointed out that in terms of animal agriculture, poultry has risen by 106 percent in the last 11 years as has milk production, reaching 2.4 billion liters, an increase of 68 percent. The numbers presented by the Minister on Tuesday were the outcome of Venezuela’s agricultural census carried out in collaboration with the National Institute of Statistics. T/ COI P/ Agencies
Injustice in Luis Posada Carriles trial in US
fter a trial over three months long in the Federal Court of El Paso, Texas, the jury took less than three hours to ﬁnd Luis Posada Carriles not guilty, in a process in which he was not charged for terrorism, but rather for lying to the US immigration authorities. Posada Carriles was found not guilty of the 11 charges of perjury, fraud and obstruction ﬁled against him, according to a verdict of a jury formed by seven women and ﬁve men, most of them of Hispanic heritage. At 11:57am, El Paso, judge Kathleen Cardone received a note from the jury – which had been deliberating in private – letting her know that they had reached a unanimous verdict: meaning all twelve agreed. In a statement through the phone from El Paso, lawyer Jose Pertierra, who represents Venezuela’s extradition request for Posada Carriles, commented that the judge summoned lawyers and prosecutors, and the members of the jury entered the courtroom. Judge Cardone asked Posada to stand and she read the charges and each verdict. Eleven times she announced “Not guilty”. The only charges pending are the 73 charges of murder ﬁled in Caracas for the bombing of a commercial aircraft on October 6, 1976, added Pertierra. “The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will continue ﬁghting for justice to be served in this case, and for the US to fulﬁll its international obligations and extradite Posada Carriles”, assured Pertierra, the lawyer who will continue to represent the Venezuelan government for the extradition of the terrorist. “The verdict in El Paso proves that the US courts gives more importance to the circus than to the of being the author of the worst terrorist action in Latin America, as well as of various terrorist attacks against Cuba, the coordinator of illegal war actions in Central America, and an outed agent of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), faced charges in a case that included for the ﬁrst time in the United States evidence of his illegal activities and terrorist acts. However, despite the thousands of pieces of documental evidence and several witnesses who testiﬁed about his terrorist activities, in a country that claims to be a world enemy of terrorism, Posada Carriles has enjoyed life as a free man and has even been celebrated as a hero in Miami during the past several years. Although he is wanted on criminal charges in other countries, has a pending request for extradition by Venezuela, is sought by Interpol and has been identiﬁed as a dangerous terrorist by several US authorities that even have placed him on a list of people who are not allowed to travel by plane, Posada Carriles was not incarcerated in El Paso, nor did he face a process similar to those carried out against terrorist suspects in that country or in Guantanamo. The charges of perjury he faced in Texas were centered in his illegal incursion in the US in 2005 and the subsequent lies to several authorities about his role in some cases of terrorism. Now, the man guilty of plotting and executing bombings in Latin America that have caused the deaths of 74 people and imposed a reign of terror on the region, will live free in Miami with the protection of the US government he has served for decades. T/ Cubadebate P/ Agencies
evidence”, said the attorney, who has been publishing a daily diary of the trial on the websites Counterpunch and CubaDebate. LATIN AMERICAN “OSAMA BIN LADEN” Luis Posada Carriles, accused
The artillery of ideas
Friday, April 15, 2011
Venezuela and Colombia solidify relations
Since last year’s brief break in relations, Venezuela and Colombia have been working hard to strengthen cooperation and ease diplomatic tensions
HONDURAS A good part of the discussions held on Saturday dealt directly with the question of Honduras and the Central American nation’s re-admittance into the Organization of American States after its expulsion in 2009 following a coup d’etat carried out against it’s democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya. In attempts to normalize relations between the ostracized country and the rest of Latin America, Porﬁrio Lobo, winner of Honduran presidential elections carried out by the coup government in 2009, attended the talks last weekend in Cartagena at the request of Manuel Santos. Venezuela, along with Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, has refused to recognize Lobo’s presidential victory given the anti-democratic circumstances under which the elections were held. This refusal to consent to Lobo’s mandate may change, however, as Colombia and Venezuela discuss an initiative to permit Honduras’ re-integration into the OAS and a plan for reconciliation between the current government and the ousted president Manuel Zelaya. Zelaya, whose return to Honduras has been a key question of the talks, has been living in the Dominican Republic as a Guest of Honor and spoke with the three leaders via telephone on Saturday. According to Chavez, Saturday’s discussion was the ﬁrst step towards a promising future for Latin America - Honduras relations. “The results of the conversation were very positive and we’re sure that there will be even better results in the coming weeks and months…For us, it’s a great pleasure to be useful in this process of harmonization, unity, friendship and integration”. he declared. The next general assembly of the OAS will take place in El Salvador on June 5-7 where the issue of Honduras will be further addressed. T/ COI P/ Presidential Press
orking together to reconcile differences and increase economic cooperation between two neighboring countries, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met with his counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos in the Colombian city of Cartagena last weekend, signing a range of agreements targeting different social and economic interests. “Increasing bi-national commerce once again is our short term objective and we’ve committed ourselves to continue pushing for this exchange, in order to reach the same level that we had just a short time ago”, President Chavez said last Saturday during the encounter. Sixteen accords were signed between the two presidents during their third formal meeting since Santos took ofﬁce last Summer amidst tensions provoked by ex-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe regarding Venezuela’s alleged harboring of Colombian guerillas in its national territory. Although Uribe’s allegations were never proven, the accusations led to a severing of diplomatic relations between the countries and threatened the prosperity of the heavy economic and social ties that bind the two neighbors.
SHARED INTERESTS Since Santos’ swearing-in as the new head of state last year, relations have been restored as both parties have worked to ensure commercial activity, join forces in the ﬁght against drug-trafﬁcking and respect each other’s differences in terms of political orientation. The pacts signed between the two presidents last Saturday reﬂect this willingness to work together and focus on issues of technology, infrastructure and security. Speciﬁcally, the new accords include a commitment to strengthen both agricultural and security in-
vestment in border areas through development programs aimed at improving the quality of life for residents in both countries. Two agreements were created to coordinate the ﬁght against drugtrafﬁcking through the sharing of information and increasing communication between Venezuelan and Colombian security forces. A factory for the manufacture of steel and aluminum construction materials has also resulted from the talks as well as pacts designed to further Venezuela’s push to increase affordable housing in the country through its new social program, Mission Housing. Three agreements were also signed regarding trade of medical supplies and discussions were continued on the construction of an oil pipeline that would link Venezuela with Colombia’s paciﬁc coast. ANDEAN COMMUNITY In addition to the accords signed last weekend, the two presidents also discussed creating a new commercial pact which would replace current regulations covering trade between Colombia and Venezuela as stipulated by the Andean Community of Nations (CAN).
Venezuela decided to leave the CAN in 2006 after Colombia and Peru signed free trade agreements with the United States, thereby undermining, according to President Chavez, the purpose and integrity of the regional organization. Despite Venezuela’s stated departure, certain commercial activity continues to be legally bound to the country’s participation in the trade block and is set to expire in little more than a week. On Saturday, the two presidents agreed to extend the current legal arrangements until a new trade accord can be deﬁned in the coming months. “We have some legal umbrellas under the CAN, but as of April 21, Venezuela will cease to be a part of the CAN. We’re studying the situation so that there will be no interruption [of commercial activity], but as we have not arrived at a new agreement, we’ve decided to extend the rules of the game which today bind commerce between Venezuela and Colombia for three months so that our teams can continue to negotiate”, Santos informed after the talks.
UNASUR In the continued effort to mend diplomatic relations, Chavez and Santos also spoke last weekend of strengthening the Union of South American States (UNASUR) as a mechanism for integration and peace on the continent. UNASUR, previously led by former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, was fundamental in the overcoming of the recent diplomatic row between Venezuela and Colombia. Kirchner passed away unexpectedly last October and former Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Emma Mejia has now assumed the Secretary General position of the regional alliance. “We had a very important meeting with the Secretary General of UNASUR, Maria Emma Mejia, preparing ourselves so that this supreme mission gets going and the new South American architecture takes shape. Dr. Mejia has all of South America’s support”, Chavez said. Ali Rodriguez Araque, Venezuela’s current Energy Minister, will take over as the organization’s head upon Mejia’s completion of her term in 2012.
6 | Economy
Friday, April 15, 2011
The artillery of ideas
Venezuela to resume economic growth and reduce inﬂation in 2011
This year, Venezuela will resume economic growth and reduce inﬂation, explained Minister of Planning and Finances Jorge Giordani on Monday. A reorientation of industries to provide an integral approach to social needs has also aided in the creation of a more dynamic economy in the country
iordani attributed the positive economic perspectives to the social policies implemented by the Venezuelan government and the private sector’s boost to the development of the non-oil economy and national production. “The growth of the construction sector is important, because it will advance other sectors, including industrial factories, wood, cement, aluminum, etc.”, he added. Additionally, the minister highlighted that Venezuela’s economy will be dynamized through the housing program Gran Mision Vivienda Venezuela (Venezuela’s Great Mission Housing), through which 150,000 new homes will be built this year and about two million more will be completed by 2017. “With this increase in construction, especially in the housing sector, an important social problem will be solved and additionally the economic apparatus will be activated. We will have growth, reduction of inﬂation rates and maintenance of unemployment rates way below other countries’ ﬁgures”, he remarked. The high-level cabinet member explained that there are signs in almost every sector that the economic growth tendency will continue in the ﬁrst trimester of 2011, according to ﬁgures by the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV). The goal of 2-percent increase in the GDP estimated in the budget will be exceeded. Additionally, Giordani highlighted that the country is entering into a new phase of inﬂation new education methods. They are also high consumers of services, materials and consumables produced in the country. Therefore, they create positive productive economic chains”, he stressed. In addition, the microindustry sector always ensures jobs for the highly skilled, trained and educated, and dynamizes social security, he commented. PUBLIC INDUSTRY SUPPORT Moreover, the director of the BCV highlighted the importance of goods and services from companies that have been nationalized over the past few years, which are now contributing to Venezuela’s growing economy. “We have to prove that the new system of services and attention to citizens is better than we had before, which is evidenced through our improved socially oriented industries”, he emphasized. In this regard, he mentioned the state-owned telephone company CANTV, re-nationalized by the Chavez administration in 2007, as an emblematic case proving that a public company can be efﬁcient and improve its attention to citizens. CANTV, which is the nation’s leading telephone and communications company, provides low-cost cellular and land-line services, as well as high-speed Internet to customers. The company has dramatically improved its outreach and attention to clients, as well as its services and coverage during the past three years. Previously, residents in remote areas or poorer communities had little or no access to telephone services, and no access to Internet at all. After nationalization, CANTV has made it a key policy to ensure that all Venezuelans are able to acquire telephone and Internet services, at affordable rates. The state-owned company also regularly hosts and funds social events and projects that contribute to cultural and community development in the country, as part of the new vision of “socialist companies” in Venezuela. T/ AVN P/ Agencies
reduction. In the ﬁrst trimester of 2011, according to ﬁgures of the National Consumer Price Index Rate (CPI), which adds 6 percent including the 1.4 percent registered in March, inﬂation reached its lowest ﬁgure in the last six months. Giordani explained that the estimated inﬂation in the 2011 budget is between 23 to 25 percent. “We were prudent regarding the budget, expending resources and in estimations of inﬂation and growth”, he revealed. LONG CYCLE GROWTH Also discussing issues relating to the nation’s economic situation, Armando Leon, director of the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV in Spanish), considers that the recovery of Venezuela’s economy could be in the framework of the new long growth cycle, involving all productive sectors. “What trends show is that almost all sectors of the economy should grow this year”, he said and highlighted that this recovery began during the last trimester of 2010. “Venezuela’s economy was affected by foreign and domestic factors. As these issues were overcome, the economy began recov-
ering. The connection between the private and public sector has improved”, he explained. Leon highlighted that the main signs of economic growth can be evidenced in the areas of telecommunications, food, chemical, petrochemicals, trade, manufacturing and services. “There is an industry that has not stopped its growing impetus, which is essential because is the key for our human and social development: education and health services”, he underscored. Likewise, Leon mentioned the progress achieved in the manufacturing sector due to an increase in the arrival of raw materials and consumables used for production. In this regard, he made reference to the economic recovery and an increase in production in the country’s basic companies, particularly the iron and steel industries. “These heavy metal industries have been improving signiﬁcantly. They are placing their products at an important level and efﬁciency in foreign markets and supplying domestic market without any inconveniences. This creates a positive chain of production, because these companies are
sending their products to the construction sector and other heavy industries that then use them for further economic activies”, he pointed out. This year, other industries will join in the recovery of economic activities, such as publishing houses and printing presses. “In the past years, these sectors have been very dynamic thanks to government policies, which have ﬁnancially subsidized and aided everything related to editorials, publishing and the distribution of publications, helping them grow and expand nationwide. These industries have now become emerging economic sectors with substantial growth potential”, he stated. Likewise, Leon said that the food and beverage industries have also registered a signiﬁcant upturn as a consequence of new production plants built by the state and the joint work of public and private companies operating in the country. In Leon’s opinion, strengthening the microindustry sector and family businesses has been essential in the past ﬁve years. “They both generate a good number of jobs and are likely to include new technologies and
The artillery of ideas
Friday, April 15, 2011
Analysis | 7 |
Latin America shakes off the US yoke
ast Thursday, the US expelled the ambassador from Ecuador, in retaliation for last Wednesday’s expulsion of the US ambassador from Ecuador. This now leaves the United States without ambassadorial relations in three South American countries – Bolivia and Venezuela being the other two – thus surpassing the Bush administration in its diplomatic problems in the region. US Ambassador Heather Hodges was declared “persona non grata” and asked to leave Ecuador “as soon as possible”, after a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks showed her saying some disparaging things about Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa. In the cable, she alleges that President Correa had knowledge of corruption by a former head of the national police. Although the Bush administration intervened in the internal affairs of countries such as Bolivia and even Brazil, it was somewhat better at keeping its “eyes on the prize” and avoiding ﬁghts that would distract from its main goal. The prize, of course, is Venezuela – home to the largest oil reserves in the world, estimated by the US Geological Survey at 500bn barrels. Washington’s goal there for the last decade has been regime change. The Bush team understood that the more they fought with other countries in the region, the less credible would be their public relations story that Venezuela was the problem. It’s nothing personal, really – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez could have chosen to be the perfect diplomat and he would still be treated in much the same manner by the US government. And it’s not the oil itself, since Venezuela still sells the US more than 1m barrels a day and there is a world market for oil, in any case. It’s just that any country with that much oil is going to have regional inﬂuence; and Washington just doesn’t want to deal with someone who has regional inﬂuence and doesn’t line up with its own goals for the region – not if it can get rid of them. And they have come closet o getting rid of Chavez, in the 2002 coup – so they are not giving up. But Washington is losing ground there, too. A big blow was the change in Colombia’s foreign policy last summer, when Presiis so important to the State Department, one has to look behind ofﬁcial pronouncements about Makled getting “a fair trial” in Venezuela and other nonsense repeated with charming innocence by the major media. Venezuela has a presidential election next year. For every important election or referendum in Venezuela – and there are many, but none more important to Washington than this one – there is an international media campaign, with the participation of the US government. Makled has already offered to sing about alleged corruption of Venezuelan ofﬁcials, but only if he is extradited to the US. So, if they could only get him to Miami, they could have a splendid show trial that would be better than any international media campaign that the state department could organise. If all that seems like it’s not worth the trouble, it’s exactly what happened in 2008. US authorities used a sketchy show trial of a Venezuelan slapped with dubious “failing to register as a foreign agent”– but not with actual espionage – in order to broadcast allegations of corruption at the “highest levels” of the Venezuelan government. The allegations made headlines throughout the hemisphere and, of course, were a mainstay of the Venezuelan opposition-dominated media. Just think what the Makled trial could do: no one would ask what the witnesses were offered for their testimony, or whether there was any corroborating evidence for their allegations. It would be one big free-for-all smear-fest, with reporters gobbling it all up. But Santos is not co-operating, despite enormous pressure and, of course, the currently pending “free trade” agreement between the US and Colombia. Perhaps Washington wants this agreement more than he does. In any case, the Obama administration – like its predecessor – is ﬁghting a losing battle. President Obama’s recent trip to Latin America was hardly more successful than those of Bush. He gets better press, but every president and foreign minister there can see that US policies haven’t changed one bit. T/ Mark Weisbrot
- The Guardian
dent Juan Manuel Santos took ofﬁce. An important part of Washington’s strategy in Venezuela is to maintain tension between Colombia and Venezuela. They have a head start on this project since the 2,000km border between the two countries has been plagued by paramilitary and guerrilla violence for decades. Conﬂict between Venezuela and Colombia is also important to Washington’s electoral strategy in Venezuela. When there is trouble between the two countries, as in 2009, when Venezuela cut off bilateral trade in response to the US effort to expand its military presence in Colombia, it has a negative impact on a lot of Venezuelans in border states. This helps garner some anti-Chavez votes in border states, as in last year’s congressional election in Venezuela. And accusations of Venezuelan support for the FARC for the Farc guerrillas in Colombia – despite Washington’s failure to offer any evidence – are a key element of bringing its antiVenezuela efforts under the “war on terror” umbrella. Although Colombia’s previous president, Álvaro Uribe, was – in recent years – very much allied with the US strategy toward Venezuela, Santos immediately rejected it and decided to make peace with Chavez. This turned out to be quite easy to do, despite their past ﬁghts when Santos was Uribe’s defence minister. As
anyone who follows Venezuela knows, Chavez is friendly to any head of state or government that is friendly to Venezuela. Santos’s U-turn towards Venezuela is very interesting for several reasons. First, it shows how important regional economic integration is as a force for peace and stability in the area. The attempt by Washington and Santos’ predecessor to expand the US military presence in Colombia led to a cutoff of $2.3bn of Colombia’s exports to what had recently become their second most important trading partner, Venezuela. This was more than 11% of Colombia’s exports, and the bulk of it was in livestock and textile products for which replacement markets were not so readily available. Venezuela also has very close relations with Brazil and most of the rest of South America, and they all felt the same way about Colombia’s foreign policy. They were especially concerned about the US military expansion in Colombia – and even more opposed after US Air Force documents made it clear that this expansion was for “mobility operations … on the South American continent” and against the “constant threat” from “anti-US governments”. Santos was basically faced with a choice of continuing to do Washington’s bidding or being part of South America. He chose South America. The key role of
commerce here, as South America continues to integrate economically, illustrates some of the most important “gains from trade”. These are far greater than the neoclassical “efﬁciency gains”, often exaggerated by advocates of “free trade” agreements. Also, Santos’ choice to rejoin South America shows how geopolitical changes led by the left governments of the region have now encompassed even rightwing governments. This is a result of changes in institutions (foreign ministries, multilateral organizations such as UNASUR, the Rio Group), ideas, and norms that have taken place over the last decade. Now comes Washington, demanding that Colombia extradite one Walid Makled, an accused Venezuelan drug-trafﬁcker arrested in Colombia, to the US. No, thank you, says President Santos – this guy goes to Venezuela. Santos cites Colombian law, stating that, ﬁrst, Colombia has an extradition treaty with Venezuela, not with the US; second, Venezuela got their extradition request in ﬁrst; and third, Makled is wanted for more serious crimes (including murder) in Venezuela than in the US (drug-trafﬁcking). All of these are facts that legally require extradition of Makled to Venezuela. This is most infuriating to Washington. To understand why this
FRIDAY | April 15, 2011 | No. 60 | 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
Venezuela: Putting people ﬁrst
he deep global recession of recent years has been used as a political excuse by the current Government in Britain, supported by large sections of the media, to ruthlessly and heartlessly drive through savage cuts to public services and welfare spending. Such pain, it is argued, is 100% necessary, and similar arguments can be heard globally from those again proposing the ‘solutions’ of neo-liberalism. But the actions of many governments in Latin America of countries considerably poorer including Venezuela - show that a different choice can be made. They have instead chosen the path of building a fairer and more equal society through investing in people and public services. In the case of Venezuela this is despite the fact the economy has, primarily as a result of falling oil prices, faced recession for two years. For those of us campaigning for social justice and against inequality and poverty, 2 key things stand out. First, that poverty fell during both years of recession, and second, that the government has protected – and in some areas even expanded – social spending, including on key areas such as health and education. EDUCATION The charge sheet against the British Governments’ record on education in less than a year is stark. Overall education expenditure is being cut by an average of 11%; some universities are facing an 80% cut in public funding and higher education students will now have to pay up to £9000 a year. The ladder for the poorest is also being kicked away - the Education Maintenance Allowance and ‘Aim Higher’ have been scrapped. Instead, the Government’s sentiment appears to be to ‘aim lower’. In contrast, despite the recession, Chavez’s government in Venezuela has continued to reach out to include the poorest in education, for example by providing free school meals and discounts on school supplies.
addresses the extreme poverty faced by women working in the home whilst caring for children. Since its launch in March 2006 over 225,000 women have received a basic wage from this program. Additionally, more than 300,000 children aged from 0 to 6 are now receiving high quality daycare, including meals and health checks, thanks to ‘Simoncito’ centers, while childcare faces cuts in the UK which will force women to give up work. Furthermore, Initiatives such as Banmujer and ‘Madres del Barrio’ are now run under the new ‘Ministry for Women and Gender Equality’, with such a revolutionary approach meaning that Venezuela has now achieved the most positive gender equality index in the region. Indeed, in Venezuela today free education is now a constitutional right, illiteracy has been eradicated and support for the disadvantaged now institutionalized. This has included educational provision for adults without an educational background, indigenous communities, disabled people, and many others through social programs known as ‘missions’, such as Mission Robinson and Mission Ribas which allow people who fell out of education to complete it at any age. Additionally, the country now boasts 83% enrollment in Higher Education, second only to Cuba, and the ﬁfth highest in the world. HEALTH AND NUTRITION As we ﬁght against cuts and privatization in the UK, we can take inspiration from the Venezuelan advances in health, which include the provision- for the ﬁrst time in the county’s history - of universal public health coverage. This has led to new community doctors in most neighborhoods; a drop in the infant mortality rate from 19 per 1,000 live births in 1999 to 13.9 per 1,000 in 2008; and a 1.5 year increase in life expectancy in just 9 years (from 72.4 years in 2000 to 73.9 in 2009). Alongside the amazing achievement of creating a national health service, the food and nutritional intake of Venezuelans has vastly improved, meaning the most important human right – the right to life – is being respected more than ever. The government’s support for people’s right to food is another inspiring example of putting people’s needs ahead of those of private proﬁt. State-subsidized food networks and stores across the country have been developed and since 1999, agricultural production has surged by 44 percent in the country. This has dramatically improved the quantity and cost of food. The combination of these production efforts, with the subsidized food measures and initiatives such as free school and nursery meals, have meant that the average yearly calorie intake has increased by nearly 1 thousand kilocalories over the past 12 years. This, combined with other health and social measures, has meant that Venezuelan children have grown taller, as well as now having longer life expectancy, From 1998 to 2009, there was an increase of 1.8 cm in the height of children aged 7 years. In contrast the increase in the 8 years preceding the Chavez-led government was only 8 mm; a remarkable change attributed to the huge increases in access to clean water, food and healthcare, and another example of how progressive choices can make a real difference to people’s lives. WOMEN As women face the brunt of the cuts here, including in health, it is an inspiration to see women at the forefront of leading progressive change in Venezuela, supported by numerous speciﬁc social policies. Banmujer, Venezuela’s Women’s Development Bank, for example, is the only state development bank of its kind in the world. Recently celebrating its 10th Anniversary it has helped more than 2.4 million women through offering low interest loans to set up small enterprises and co-operatives with nearly half a million jobs having been directly or indirectly created. Other social programs also focus speciﬁcally on women, such as ‘Mission Madres del Barrio’ which SOLIDARITY Of course, this social progress has many enemies across the world and in Venezuela, including those worried about ‘the threat of a good example’. Despite massive popular support and a democratic mandate, as evidenced by winning14 out of 15 national votes, Venezuela’s government is still under constant attack from the former ruling elite who previously ran the country into the ground, and their allies on the hard right in the US who, following recent electoral gains, have regained conﬁdence in calling for intervention and ‘regime change.’ Additionally, allies of the Venezuelan Opposition in the international media continue to propagate disinformation in an attempt to isolate the government internationally and prevent the truth about social progress from reaching a wider audience. It is therefore vitally important in the run-up to 2012’s presidential elections in Venezuela that we continue to spread the truth about these enormous social gains and counter media misrepresentations. T/ Jennie Bremner
- Red Pepper
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