Saturday, September 17, 2005

Seeing things clearly 

The list of Chavez’s social programs is getting to be quite long. After all, the programs are involved in everything from literacy campaigns, to health care, to housing, to higher education. So extensive and popular are they that a) even the opposition says they’d keep some of them if they were to win an election and b) they have been praised by international experts for improving the lives of the poor.

One Mission that hasn’t been played up much is Mision Milagro – or Mission Miracle. It is a program that sends low income Venezuelan’s needing eye surgery to Cuba. Without access to this program many of these people would undoutably be forced to live with vision problems the rest of their lives, possibly even losing their vision altogether. So it should come as no surprise that is has become a popular program as related in this article from Reuters (actually found on an anti-Castro blog no less):

HAVANA, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Venezuelans are flocking to Havana by the planeload for free eye operations under a medical program funded by their country that is helping Cuba pay for oil imports and keep its socialist economy afloat.
More than 70,000 Venezuelans have been operated on for cataracts and other eye ailments this year and the goal is 150,000 by the end of 2005, a Cuban health official said on Friday.
Operation Miracle, a new program cementing the alliance between the left-wing governments of communist Cuba and oil-producing Venezuela, is restoring the vision of poor Venezuelans.
It has turned Cuban hospitals into production lines for eye surgery, jamming corridors with patients awaiting their turn.
"It's so wonderful for us. We could not afford this in Venezuela," said Fabiola, who was accompanying her 75-year-old mother from the city of Maracaibo for a cataract operation.
"This is how (Venezuelan President Hugo) Chavez helps the poor," she said in a crowded waiting room at Havana's Pando Ferrer Eye Hospital. She declined to give her last name.
On Aug. 20, a record 1,648 eye operations at some 20 hospitals were performed in one day, the health official said.
Hotels and educational campuses have been taken over to house Venezuelan patients who get free air travel to Cuba, lodging and food while they are in Havana, courtesy of the Venezuelan state.
They are driven around in new buses from China, often escorted by police on motorcycles.
The VIP treatment underscores the priority President Fidel Castro has given to a program that is paying for vital shipments of 90,000 barrels a day of Venezuelan oil and gasoline, which represents an energy bill that exceeds $1.5 billion a year at today's high prices.

Its great that Venezuela is able to do this. Whats more, even some other countries are getting in on it for their poorer citizens. Kudos to both Venezuela and Cuba for this out of the box type thinking that helps improve the lives of people who are otherwise ignored and neglected.


Friday, September 16, 2005

Hugo Chavez before the United Nations 

Here is President Chavez's speech at the U.N. via Venezuelanalisis, translated by Nestor Sanchez:

Your Excellencies, friends, good afternoon:

The original purpose of this meeting has been completely distorted. The imposed center of debate has been a so-called reform process that overshadows the most urgent issues, what the peoples of the world claim with urgency: the adoption of measures that deal with the real problems that block and sabotage the efforts made by our countries for real development and life.

Five years after the Millennium Summit, the harsh reality is that the great majority of estimated goals- which were very modest indeed- will not be met.

We pretended reducing by half the 842 million hungry people by the year 2015. At the current rate that goal will be achieved by the year 2215. Who in this audience will be there to celebrate it? That is only if the human race is able to survive the destruction that threats our natural environment.

We had claimed the aspiration of achieving universal primary education by the year 2015. At the current rate that goal will be reached after the year 2100. Let us prepare, then, to celebrate it.

Friends of the world, this takes us to a sad conclusion: The United Nations has exhausted its model, and it is not all about reform. The XXI century claims deep changes that will only be possible if a new organization is founded. This UN does not work. We have to say it. It is the truth. These transformations – the ones Venezuela is referring to- have, according to us, two phases: The immediate phase and the aspiration phase, a utopia. The first is framed by the agreements that were signed in the old system. We do not run away from them. We even bring concrete proposals in that model for the short term. But the dream of an ever-lasting world peace, the dream of a world not ashamed by hunger, disease, illiteracy, extreme necessity, needs-apart from roots- to spread its wings to fly. We need to spread our wings and fly. We are aware of a frightening neoliberal globalization, but there is also the reality of an interconnected world that we have to face not as a problem but as a challenge. We could, on the basis of national realities, exchange knowledge, integrate markets, interconnect, but at the same time we must understand that there are problems that do not have a national solution: radioactive clouds, world oil prices, diseases, warming of the planet or the hole in the ozone layer. These are not domestic problems. As we stride toward a new United Nations model that includes all of us when they talk about the people, we are bringing four indispensable and urgent reform proposals to this Assembly: the first; the expansion of the Security Council in its permanent categories as well as the non permanent categories, thus allowing new developed and developing countries as new permanent and non permanent categories. The second; we need to assure the necessary improvement of the work methodology in order to increase transparency, not to diminish it. The third; we need to immediately suppress- we have said this repeatedly in Venezuela for the past six years- the veto in the decisions taken by the Security Council, that elitist trace is incompatible with democracy, incompatible with the principles of equality and democracy.
And the fourth; we need to strengthen the role of the Secretary General; his/her political functions regarding preventive diplomacy, that role must be consolidated. The seriousness of all problems calls for deep transformations. Mere reforms are not enough to recover that “we” all the peoples of the world are waiting for. More than just reforms we in Venezuela call for the foundation of a new United Nations, or as the teacher of Simón Bolívar, Simón Rodríguez said: “Either we invent or we err.”

At the Porto Alegre World Social Forum last January different personalities asked for the United Nations to move outside the United States if the repeated violations to international rule of law continue. Today we know that there were never any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The people of the United States have always been very rigorous in demanding the truth to their leaders; the people of the world demand the same thing. There were never any weapons of mass destruction; however, Iraq was bombed, occupied and it is still occupied. All this happened over the United Nations. That is why we propose this Assembly that the United Nations should leave a country that does not respect the resolutions taken by this same Assembly. Some proposals have pointed out to Jerusalem as an international city as an alternative. The proposal is generous enough to propose an answer to the current conflict affecting Palestine. Nonetheless, it may have some characteristics that could make it very difficult to become a reality. That is why we are bringing a proposal made by Simón Bolívar, the great Liberator of the South, in 1815. Bolívar proposed then the creation of an international city that would host the idea of unity.

We believe it is time to think about the creation of an international city with its own sovereignty, with its own strength and morality to represent all nations of the world. Such international city has to balance five centuries of unbalance. The headquarters of the United Nations must be in the South.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are facing an unprecedented energy crisis in which an unstoppable increase of energy is perilously reaching record highs, as well as the incapacity of increase oil supply and the perspective of a decline in the proven reserves of fuel worldwide. Oil is starting to become exhausted.

For the year 2020 the daily demand for oil will be 120 million barrels. Such demand, even without counting future increments- would consume in 20 years what humanity has used up to now. This means that more carbon dioxide will inevitably be increased, thus warming our planet even more.

Hurricane Katrina has been a painful example of the cost of ignoring such realities. The warming of the oceans is the fundamental factor behind the demolishing increase in the strength of the hurricanes we have witnessed in the last years. Let this occasion be an outlet to send our deepest condolences to the people of the United States. Their people are brothers and sisters of all of us in the Americas and the rest of the world.

It is unpractical and unethical to sacrifice the human race by appealing in an insane manner the validity of a socioeconomic model that has a galloping destructive capacity. It would be suicidal to spread it and impose it as an infallible remedy for the evils which are caused precisely by them.

Not too long ago the President of the United States went to an Organization of American States’ meeting to propose Latin America and the Caribbean to increase market-oriented policies, open market policies-that is neoliberalism- when it is precisely the fundamental cause of the great evils and the great tragedies currently suffered by our people. : The neoliberal capitalism, the Washington Consensus. All this has generated is a high degree of misery, inequality and infinite tragedy for all the peoples on his continent.

What we need now more than ever Mr. President is a new international order. Let us recall the United Nations General assembly in its sixth extraordinary session period in 1974, 31 years ago, where a new International Economic Order action plan was adopted, as well as the States Economic Rights and Duties Charter by an overwhelming majority, 120 votes for the motion, 6 against and 10 abstentions. This was the period when voting was possible at the United Nations. Now it is impossible to vote. Now they approve documents such as this one which I denounce on behalf of Venezuela as null, void and illegitimate. This document was approved violating the current laws of the United Nations. This document is invalid! This document should be discussed; the Venezuelan government will make it public. We cannot accept an open and shameless dictatorship in the United Nations. These matters should be discussed and that is why I petition my colleagues, heads of states and heads of governments, to discuss it.

I just came from a meeting with President Néstor Kirchner and well, I was pulling this document out; this document was handed out five minutes before- and only in English- to our delegation. This document was approved by a dictatorial hammer which I am here denouncing as illegal, null, void and illegitimate.

Hear this, Mr. President: if we accept this, we are indeed lost. Let us turn off the lights, close all doors and windows! That would be unbelievable: us accepting a dictatorship here in this hall.

Now more than ever- we were saying- we need to retake ideas that were left on the road such as the proposal approved at this Assembly in 1974 regarding a New Economic International Order. Article 2 of that text confirms the right of states to nationalizing the property and natural resources that belonged to foreign investors. It also proposed to create cartels of raw material producers. In the Resolution 3021, May, 1974, the Assembly expressed its will to work with utmost urgency in the creation of a New Economic International Order based on- listen carefully, please- “the equity, sovereign equality, interdependence, common interest and cooperation among all states regardless of their economic and social systems, correcting the inequalities and repairing the injustices among developed and developing countries, thus assuring present and future generations, peace, justice and a social and economic development that grows at a sustainable rate.”

The main goal of the New Economic International Order was to modify the old economic order conceived at Breton Woods.

We the people now claim- this is the case of Venezuela- a new international economic order. But it is also urgent a new international political order. Let us not permit that a few countries try to reinterpret the principles of International Law in order to impose new doctrines such as “pre-emptive warfare.” Oh do they threaten us with that pre-emptive war! And what about the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine? We need to ask ourselves. Who is going to protect us? How are they going to protect us?

I believe one of the countries that require protection is precisely the United States. That was shown painfully with the tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina; they do not have a government that protects them from the announced nature disasters, if we are going to talk about protecting each other; these are very dangerous concepts that shape imperialism, interventionism as they try to legalize the violation of the national sovereignty. The full respect towards the principles of International Law and the United Nations Charter must be, Mr. President, the keystone for international relations in today’s world and the base for the new order we are currently proposing.

It is urgent to fight, in an efficient manner, international terrorism. Nonetheless, we must not use it as an excuse to launch unjustified military aggressions which violate international law. Such has been the doctrine following September 11. Only a true and close cooperation and the end of the double discourse that some countries of the North apply regarding terrorism, could end this terrible calamity.

In just seven years of Bolivarian Revolution, the people of Venezuela can claim important social and economic advances.

One million four hundred and six thousand Venezuelans learned to read and write. We are 25 million total. And the country will-in a few days- be declared illiteracy-free territory. And three million Venezuelans, who had always been excluded because of poverty, are now part of primary, secondary and higher studies.

Seventeen million Venezuelans-almost 70% of the population- are receiving, and for the first time, universal healthcare, including the medicine, and in a few years, all Venezuelans will have free access to an excellent healthcare service. More thatn a million seven hundred tons of food are channeled to over 12 million people at subsidized prices, almost half the population. One million gets them completely free, as they are in a transition period. More than 700 thousand new jobs have been created, thus reducing unemployment by 9 points. All of this amid internal and external aggressions, including a coup d’etat and an oil industry shutdown organized by Washington. Regardless of the conspiracies, the lies spread by powerful media outlets, and the permanent threat of the empire and its allies, they even call for the assassination of a president. The only country where a person is able to call for the assassination of a head of state is the United States. Such was the case of a Reverend called Pat Robertson, very close to the White House: He called for my assassination and he is a free person. That is international terrorism!

We will fight for Venezuela, for Latin American integration and the world. We reaffirm our infinite faith in humankind. We are thirsty for peace and justice in order to survive as species. Simón Bolívar, founding father of our country and guide of our revolution swore to never allow his hands to be idle or his soul to rest until he had broken the shackles which bound us to the empire. Now is the time to not allow our hands to be idle or our souls to rest until we save humanity.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

What are they smoking? 

Its official, the U.S. has "decertified" Venezuela when it comes to drugs. This means that the U.S. government thinks that Venezuela isn't cooperating in the "drug war".

The implications of this are...bascially nothing. The U.S. could cut off aid to Venezuela which amounted to a grand total $500,000. But then it realized most all of that aid was going to organizations trying to undermine the Chavez government and thought better of it. So the prostitutes at SUMATE still get their $107,000.

The U.S. could also have organizations like the I.M.F. cut off funding. But given that Chavez revatilized OPEC and now has plenty of oil money the effect of that would be nil.

So there isn't really anything to this other than the U.S. government again gets to look arrogant and stupid at the same time. They look stupid not only because it is a meaningless gesture but because in their declartation they actually said:

Despite an increase in drug seizures during the past four years, it is our assessment that the government of Venezuela has not addressed the increasing use of Venezuelan territory to transport drugs to the United States

Ok that makes a lot of sense - a country confiscates more drugs than before yet somehow they are not cooperating. It take the Bush Administration craft such an assinine statement.

As to the arrogance - who is the U.S. to certify anyone on anything? Maybe Venezuela should decertify the U.S. in, among other things, the war on poverty, the war against racism (defnitely after what just happened in N.O.), and the quest for international peace.

Last but not least, why can't the U.S. just deal with its own potheads? I mean really, millions of U.S. citizens use drugs that are illegal in that country and who gets blamed, people in South America. Talk about an infantile refusal to accept responsibility for your own actions. Even the Venezuelan opposition isn't THAT bad. So here is an idea Mr. Bush. Maybe you should put the blame right where it belongs - on the American public. Thats what you should really do - decertify yourselves. Let the people who are snorting the cocaine or puffing the weed, and those who look away while others do, take the blame. But I guess that's too rational and makes too much sense - so it will never happen.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sadly predictable 

Another day, another Katrina type disaster in Bahgdad. Its really quite horrific. And I guess this idea didn’t work out.


The money just keeps flowing in 

Remember SUMATE? The opposition electoral "watchdog"? You know, the people who came out with the bogus exit poll on the August 15 2004 presidential referendum, who screamed fraud but had all of their evidence debunked, and who for their efforts got money from the U.S. government and a trip to meet W in the White House.

Now that I've jogged your memory I thought I'd let you know they are back to raking in the money. According to Panorama Newspaper today they just got another $107,000 from the U.S. funded National Endowment for Democracy, plus $16,000 from the Canadian embassy to update their computers, and $9,300 from the German foundation Konrad Adenauer. All this in spite of the fact that it illegal in Venezuela for electoral groups to recieve foreign funding. And please keep in mind this is only what is above board - god only knows what they get from the U.S. government under the table.

So either some people never learn or, more likely, they are trying to taunt the Venezuelan government into enforcing its own laws so they can then scream repression. Hopefully, the Venezuelan government will pay no mind to these cheap propaganda ploys and just enforce the law. If a certain fashion maven has to spend some time cooling her heals so be it.

PS, this blogger does need a better computer. Not to mention paid time to blog would be great! So if anyone wants to put in a good word for me to the U.S., Canadian or German governments that would be greatly appreciated. You don't think they'd hold it against me that I support Chavez and oppose the occupation of Iraq do you?

Another thought

Should we wager on how long it will take the opposition apologists to say it was "only" $107,000? That was their defense last time. I guess when you are as well to do as most opposition supporters are you can use "only" and $100,000 in the same sentance. I, like most people, have never known that luxury. But even that assertion begs several questions. Like, if $100,000 is so insignificant then why take the money? Seeing as it is illegal and makes you look like puppets of the U.S. why would you accept it if you didn't really need it? And again this is not to mention that this is only what is declared publically - we probably won't find out for 20 or 30 years what covert funding there may have been. And lastly, for those not living in Venezuela trust me, $100,000 is indeed a lot of money in a country where most people who have jobs only make a couple hundred bucks a month. But, all of this notwithstanding, I'm sure they'll be quick to trot out the "only" arguement.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Connecting the dots. 

There was an interesting article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on Monday. It was about an “opinion maker”, John Yoo, and his ideas on how to fight “terrorism”. But before getting to those ideas you may be thinking who in the world is John Loo.

Currently he is a professor of law at Berkeley. But before that he worked for the U.S. Department of Justice from 2001 to 2003 writing, in the Wall Street Journal’s works, “some of the most controversial internal legal opinions justifying the Bush administration’s aggressive approach to detaining and interrogating suspected terrorists.” You know, the ones where the President has unlimited powers to wage war, where as long as it doesn’t cause organ failure its not torture, and where the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to the “War on Terror”. Before writing these opinions for John Ashcroft in the Department of Justice he worked for Orrin Hatch who was Chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee, and before that he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Clearly his ideas are not those of a fringe player – rather they are front and center in the thinking of the Bush administration, which also probably explains how they found their way onto the front page of the WSJ.

So what is his idea for combating “terrorism”. Here it is straight from the article:

In June, about 100 people gathered at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank, to hear a lecture by John Yoo on “fighting the new terrorism.” Mr. Yoo recommended an unusual idea: assassinating more suspected terrorists.

A law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, he said his proposal would require “a change in the way we think about the executive order banning assassination, which has been with us since the 1970s.” Such a change is needed, he said, because it is wartime: “A nation at war may use force against members of the enemy at any time, regardless of their proximity to hostilities of their activity at the time of the attack.”


At the Department of Justice Mr. Loo crafted the legal arguments for the presidents power to launch pre-emptive strikes against terrorists and their supporters

So just as the idea is floated that maybe it would be good to assassinate an inconvenient South American President now the idea is floated that maybe it would be a good to legalize assassination again. Coincidence? Maybe. Then again, maybe the path is being prepared for something.

And please note how broadly everything is defined. Would Chavez be considered a terrorist? Certainly not by any rational person but in their very expansive way of thinking anything is possible. Further, one doesn’t have to be an actual “terrorist”, it is enough to be “their supporters” to justify using “pre-emptive” force against you. So lets see, the U.S. considers the FARC to be a terrorist organization and it has repeatedly asserted that Chavez supports them (albeit without evidence). So by this rational pre-emptive attacks on Chavez would be justified.

And do note that under this legal doctrine the U.S. government “may use force against members of the enemy at any time, regardless of their proximity to hostilities of their activity at the time of the attack.” So Chavez needn’t actually DO anything. They can simply claim he was thinking of doing something (not selling oil to the U.S. maybe?) and can use that as their excuse for his pre-emptive assassination. Such are the ideas peddled on the front pages of some of the most learned and respected newspapers in the United States.

So lets see where this leaves us:

Prominent members of the Venezuelan opposition want Chavez assasinated.

Some friends of people in high places in the U.S. government have called for his assassination.

Prominent and well connected think tanks in the U.S. call for regime change.

And now prominent “opinion makers” in the U.S. are calling for the return of assassination as a tool of U.S. policy.

Connecting all the dots here I think Chavez needs to make sure his security detail is up to snuff.


Rising in the East 

Over at American Leftist Richard Estes is doing an excellent series on the trade union devolopments in the Venzezuelan heavy industries located in the Guyana region of the country. He has the first two installments up. Be sure to check it out.

Part one is here.

Part two is here.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Critical Point, And Its Aftermath 

Last Wednesday the United Nations released its Millenium Goals, Human Development Report for 2005, prompting criticism by some opposition over the the decline in standig in some indices of human development. This in turn prompted a closer look at the time period the report encompasses. Education minister Aristóbulo Istúriz cited that the figures were from 2002, and that these figures did not take into account the devastating strike that crippled the nation and its society along with it and Venezuelas decline in the Millenium Goals standing:

"Education Minister Aristóbulo Istúriz, the head of the ministerial cabinet's social team, noted that the 2002 infant mortality rate of 17.3 per 1,000 live births was cited "without mentioning the political events that had an impact on that statistic."

In April 2002, Chávez was removed from office for two days by a short-lived coup d'etat, and in December of that year, the opposition movement began a two-month general strike that brought the oil industry - the backbone of the Venezuelan economy - to its knees and caused economic losses of more than 10 billion dollars.

Istúriz and Health Minister Francisco Armada visited ECLAC headquarters in Chile in July to protest the U.N. regional body's evaluation of Venezuela's compliance with the MDGs."

Is there any truth to claim that the period of time in question was a turning point in Venezuelan Society? it is important for the reader to understand the time frames involved. Therefore we will resort to an unbiased online encyclopedia outlining the events.

In November 2000, Chávez backed a bill through the legislature allowing him to rule by decree for one year. In November 2001, Chávez passed a set of 49 laws by decree, shortly before the enabling law expired, including the Hydrocarbons Law (about oil) and the Land Law. (For more on these laws, see policy below.) Business federation Fedecámaras vehemently opposed the 49 laws and called for a general business strike on December 10, 2001.

In December 2000, Chávez put a referendum on the ballot to force Venezuela's labor unions to hold state-monitored elections. (For more, see below.)

Coup attempt against Chávez

On April 9, 2002, Venezuela's largest union federation, the Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CTV), led by Carlos Ortega Carvajal, called for a two-day general strike. Fedecámaras joined the strike and called on all of its affiliated businesses to close for 48 hours. (Footage available via Edonkey p2p network [2]).

On Thursday, April 11, an estimated half million people marched to the headquarters of Venezuela's oil company, PDVSA, in defense of its fired management. The organizers decided to re-route the march to Miraflores, the presidential palace, where a pro-government demonstration was taking place.

With that done lets take a look at the outcome of those actions:

Infant Mortality Rates 98'-03'


1998 =18.86
1999= 18.52
2000= 18.18
2001= 17.84
2002= 17.50
2003 =17.16

Poverty Rates Reporte Social pg. 5

All numbers 2nd semester of respective year:

Poor %

1997= 48.1
1998 = 43.9
1999 = 42
2000= 40.4
2001 = 39
2002= 48.6

2003 = 55.1

Non poor %

1997 = 51.9
1998 = 56.1
1999 = 58
2000 = 59.5
2001= 61
2002 = 51.4
2003 = 44.9

Poor Extreme %

1997 = 19.3
1998 = 17.1
1999 = 16.9
2000 = 14.9
2001 = 14
2002 = 21
2003 = 25

It is my opinion that these numbers speak for themselves, but a brief analysis may be warranted. The trend prior to the current Venezuelan administration was for a decrease in poverty. Upon taking control in 1999 the governement followed through on the prevalaent current that was leading to improvement in poverty reduction. This is highlighted by the rise on non-poor and a decrease in poor during the time periods 97'-00'. The numbers show a dramtic shift in the following years incorporating the years 01'-03'. In this time period the incidence of poverty(incorporating poor and extreme poor) rose siginifcantly. Concurrently the incidence of non poor dropped significantly. It is not mere coincidence that the drop in poverty and the rise in non poor coincide directly with the general strike. Its effects ripple on the social indices, with its impact much more devastating on those who cannot recover as easily as those who have access to resources. As shown by the numbers above regarding to non-poor they are the first to recover, those who have a social network that can alleviate the stresses of poverty. The same cannot be said for the poor or, extreme poor, who in the ensuing years only feel the effects harder. These numbers tell the tale of the devastation of the strike. Those who had access to resources could absrob the incoming shock, helping family members in the act. Those who had nothing, who had no one to turn to for help, suffered the most and in many cases are still suffering. Given this reality the government has sought to right the wrongs after being vindicated in the recall referendum. Yet there are still opposition elements that seek to take away what little these survivors have gained when they argue against the social programs that specifically target the poor. Of course there is outcry over the presentation of data that does not portray the situation as it truly is. All the parameters that make up the equation have not been presented fully.

Can the governemnt do more? Yes it can, there is no doubt about it. Particuarly when it comes to the housing it promised. BUT when it comes to taking all the factors into account in making good solid judgements of the condition of the Venezuelan state the strike and the coup are sorely missing among governemnt detractors. It is as if it never occurred or they never had a hand in the condition of the state. so when taking into account the medias portrayal of the Un report remember the factors that brought this condition forward and to who it is owed to. You, the reader, be the judge.


Here are some graphs which may better illustrate the above points. Again, notice the clear positive trends until the coup and strike attempts. Only now is this being recovered from.


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