Maggie Alarcón

Posts Tagged ‘Venezuela’

La OEA y otras infamias

In Politics on July 10, 2017 at 11:50 am

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Por Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

Una vez más fracasó la OEA. Pese a las presiones de Washington y las febriles maniobras de Luis Almagro no pudieron condenar a la Venezuela bolivariana y chavista en su reunión en Cancún, México. Para ello había sido convocada en el balneario mexicano.

Para eso y nada más. Se le ordenó ejecutar un fratricidio y al mismo tiempo ignorar los problemas reales que laceran a los pueblos supuestamente representados en el exclusivo hotel.

Del encuentro no salió una palabra sobre los niños de Ayotzinapa, ni sobre los periodistas asesinados, o los desaparecidos, o los inmigrantes acorralados, o las poblaciones originarias explotadas y perseguidas desde el Río Bravo hasta la Araucania, ni los obreros y estudiantes reprimidos por todas partes. Nada acerca del golpe de estado en Brasil. Ni siquiera una queja por el infame muro de Trump. Se les exigió sólo apuñalar por la espalda a un estado que a nadie ha causado daño y algunos lo hicieron sin pestañear.

El Imperio consiguió el apoyo de un grupo impresentable en el que figuraban golpistas y pseudodemócratas, corruptos y represores que tienen en común el rechazo de sus pueblos. Todos los que se conjuraron para condenar a Venezuela deben afrontar al interior de sus fronteras la oposición creciente de los trabajadores, los jóvenes y muchas más víctimas del modelo neoliberal que es intrínsecamente injusto, antidemocrático y servil al dominio extranjero.

Ninguno de ellos ha sido capaz de censurar la abierta intervención imperialista ni de solidarizarse con un pueblo hermano. El Gobierno bolivariano, en contraste evidente, no sólo ha sacado de la miseria a millones de sus ciudadanos sino que además ha dado muestras de ejemplar solidaridad para con los demás pueblos de la región.

Lo ocurrido hace recordar los años Sesenta del pasado siglo cuando Estados Unidos empujó a una mayoría a convertirse en cómplices de la agresión militar y el bloqueo contra Cuba. Ahora la historia parecía repetirse, aunque con algunas diferencias que vale la pena destacar.

Salta a la vista ante todo la actitud del país anfitrión. Cuando se actuó contra Cuba la diplomacia mexicana mantuvo su rechazo solitario y digno. Ahora fue protagonista en la maniobra contra la Patria de Bolívar. Otros, hace medio siglo, tuvieron al menos la prudencia de abstenerse. Entre estos últimos estuvo Chile gobernado por Jorge Alessandri y la derecha conservadora y que hoy bajo una coalición que se dice democrática se sumó sin reparos al alevoso ataque.

La diferencia más notable, entre los dos resultados, sin embargo, estriba en que, pese a todo, los yanquis no pudieron alcanzar la mayoría requerida. No pudieron porque lo impidió un conjunto de países que no eran miembros de la OEA, pues aun estaban sometidos al colonialismo, cuando Cuba fue condenada en Punta del Este.

Los países caribeños, estados jóvenes y de territorios y recursos limitados, siguieron políticas verdaderamente autónomas desde el momento en que asumieron su soberanía. Cuando la obtuvieron establecieron vínculos de respeto y amistad con la Isla asediada y se negaron a plegarse a la política anticubana.

Ahora se unieron a otros que en el Continente siguen resistiendo la ofensiva imperial para evitar un nuevo crimen contra Venezuela.

En los años Sesenta Washington además del garrote ofrecía una zanahoria. Hablaban entonces de una pretendida nueva relación, que bautizaron como “Alianza para el Progreso” y que pronto se disolvió en la nada y desembocó en el agujero negro de las peores tiranías.

Es francamente patético el espectáculo denigrante de unos gobernantes, algunos sobrevivientes -herederos- de aquellas dictaduras, obedientes a la voz de mando de quien desde la Casa Blanca los humilla y desprecia y ya no les ofrece siquiera la olvidada zanahoria.

Pero resulta esperanzador ver a los más pequeños rebelarse y actuar con dignidad.

 

Especial para Por Esto!

Venezuela “almagrada”

In OAS/OEA, Politics, Venezuela on April 28, 2017 at 10:51 am

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Por Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

 

Según el Diccionario de la Lengua Española el vocablo “almagrar” equivale a “infamar” y en tiempos remotos aludía “entre rufianes y valentones” a “herir o lastimar de suerte que corra sangre.”

Es obvio que el actual Secretario General de la OEA, cabecilla de una institución de tan ingrata memoria en la historia continental, parece convencido de que es posible regresar al pasado y revivir los fueros perdidos. Guarda extraño apego al ya desusado sentido de su nombre. En su delirante empeño lo acompaña una banda de caínes dispuestos a hacer lo que ordene el Imperio que inventó la OEA y la ha empleado siempre como herramienta favorita. Un Imperio que, para colmo, está ahora en manos de la más descocada arrogancia.

Se valen de la colosal maquinaria para engañar y denigrar que se hace llamar “medios de comunicación” aunque no son otra cosa que instrumentos para mantener la dominación sobre nuestros pueblos.

Es así como silencian los desmanes que contra el pueblo cometen día y noche sus pandillas tarifadas al tiempo que calumnian y promueven el odio contra el gobierno del Presidente Nicolás Maduro, el obrero que fue elegido democráticamente por los venezolanos.

Hace más de medio siglo intentaron hacer lo mismo contra Cuba y fracasaron estrepitosamente.

Ahora serán derrotados otra vez. No podrán contra el noble pueblo de Bolívar y Chávez que resiste y lucha para salvar la obra revolucionaria que dio a millones, por primera vez, educación, salud, vivienda y empleo y rescató para siempre la dignidad nacional.

Pero ese pueblo sufre una agresión criminal que lo hiere y hace sangrar. Cruzarnos de brazos sería indecente. No vivimos en el Medioevo. América Latina y el Caribe tienen que rebelarse contra la infamia. Es la hora de “desalmagrar.”

Tomado de Por Esto!

Salvar a Venezuela

In CELAC, History, Politics, Politics on April 21, 2017 at 2:03 pm

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Por Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

La hostilidad del imperialismo estadounidense hacia la Revolución Bolivariana ha sido permanente y multiforme desde que Hugo Chávez resultó electo Presidente. Según avanzaba el proceso de transformaciones sociales promovido por Chávez, siempre respetando las normas constitucionales y la legalidad, el Imperio ensayaba nuevas acciones agresivas violatorias del Derecho Internacional.

La obra revolucionaria rescató a millones de venezolanos de la pobreza absoluta y la miseria, puso fin al analfabetismo, garantizó a todos y todas el acceso a la educación y la atención médica gratuita, les devolvió, en fin, la plena soberanía.

Venezuela ha cambiado sustancialmente. Sus grandes riquezas naturales, por primera vez en la historia, no son para el disfrute exclusivo de una minoría, sino que han sido y son redistribuidas para beneficio de las amplias masas. Pero ha sido una marcha cuesta arriba sorteando obstáculos de todo tipo.

Defender lo mucho que ha logrado y seguir conquistando mayores cotas de justicia constituye un perenne desafío para el pueblo del Libertador. Intentos de golpe de estado, “huelga” petrolera, sabotajes, sanciones económicas, diplomáticas y políticas, amenazas militares y una descomunal, multimillonaria, propaganda para aislarla y pretender justificar la intervención foránea, han sido el pan de cada día impuesto a un pueblo que, en contraste, no sólo no ha atacado ni dañado a nadie sino que se convirtió, al mismo tiempo, en ejemplo de fraternidad para con los otros pueblos del Continente.

Porque si Venezuela ha cambiado mucho, el Imperio no ha cambiado nada. Ayer, Obama, sin temor al ridículo, determinó que Venezuela es “una amenaza inusual y extraordinaria para la seguridad nacional de Estados Unidos”. Ahora Trump blande contra ella la llamada Carta Democrática Interamericana, cuyo texto debemos suponer que no ha leído pues, como se ufana en proclamarlo, el actual mandatario detesta la lectura.

La muerte de Hugo Chávez fue un golpe doloroso que estremeció a su país y al mundo. Desde Bolívar nadie hizo tanto como él por la emancipación de su pueblo, nadie supo hacer de Venezuela paradigma de solidaridad humana y auténtica democracia. Dedicado a su causa hasta el último aliento, antes de despedirse, Chávez propuso como a su sustituto y continuador a Nicolás Maduro, su mejor discípulo, un joven obrero y cercano colaborador, quien, en aquellas dramáticas circunstancias y enfrentando a una poderosa maquinaria de difamación y odio en su contra, resultó vencedor en las elecciones generales.

El gobierno de Maduro no ha conocido un instante de respiro. A la drástica caída en los precios del petróleo en el mercado internacional se ha unido la guerra económica desatada por Washington y en la que participa abiertamente la oligarquía local que especula con las limitaciones materiales y provoca escaseces y malestar. Estos fueron los factores principales que permitieron a la oposición obtener una mayoría de escaños en la Asamblea Nacional.

Hay que recordar que desde la primera elección de Chávez como Presidente en Venezuela se han realizado más elecciones, plebiscitos y otras consultas populares que las que hayan podido efectuarse en los países del Hemisferio que cínicamente quieren erigirse en jueces de la situación venezolana. En la mayoría de esos ejercicios democráticos vencieron las fuerzas del chavismo y cuando no fue así los resultados fueron aceptados por Chávez y por Maduro.

Conviene recordar asimismo que ganar o perder transitoriamente la mayoría de los miembros del órgano legislativo no significa ganar o perder el gobierno en los países de América Latina. Tampoco lo es en Estados Unidos: si tal cosa rigiera en el vecino del Norte la lista de Presidentes despojados de sus cargos sería interminable: por ejemplo Clinton, Bush y Obama, para sólo mencionar los más recientes en una bicentenaria tradición en la que resulta normal ejercer la jefatura del Estado contando con una minoría parlamentaria. Para no hablar de Trump cuya presidencia no es cuestionada -aunque Hillary Clinton lo superó por más de tres millones de votos- y ostenta el mayor índice de desaprobación del que haya memoria en aquel país.

No debe olvidarse, sobre todo, el carácter subversivo, anticonstitucional, proclamado sin ambages por Henry Ramos Allup cuando, al asumir la dirección de la Asamblea, anunció un plan para expulsar de la jefatura del Estado a Nicolás Maduro en seis meses. No formuló un programa legislativo, anunció un golpe de estado. Desde entonces no ha hecho otra cosa que alentar el caos y la inestabilidad institucional.

La OEA en cueros

La conducta ilegítima e irresponsable de la oposición lejos de sumarle apoyo interno ha generado la creciente resistencia de un pueblo que, más allá de las ideologías, necesita y desea la paz y la convivencia frente a la agresión externa. Para derrocar al Gobierno legítimo había que recurrir al exterior y buscar en Washington lo que no pueden encontrar en Caracas.

Entonces aparece, nada más y nada menos, que la llamada Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) y su insólito Secretario General, Luis Almagro.

La historia del “ministerio de colonias yanquis” es sobradamente conocida. Hace más de un siglo, ante los primeros pasos para crear el “panamericanismo”, José Martí advirtió el peligro y llamó a pelear por la independencia verdadera de Nuestra América.

Para Almagro –o sea para el Imperio- el único problema en el Hemisferio es Venezuela. Su enfermiza obsesión antibolivariana los ha arrastrado al punto increíble de dar una suerte de golpe de estado dentro de la propia institución, desconociendo a sus propias autoridades –al representante de Bolivia, Presidente del Consejo Permanente y Decano de sus embajadores y al Vicepresidente que es el representante de Haití- para imponer su estrategia antivenezolana.

Si la OEA tuviese un mínimo de seriedad no le alcanzaría el tiempo para ocuparse de los problemas reales del Continente.

La represión masiva contra los latinoamericanos en Estados Unidos; el infame muro de Trump y sus medidas de proteccionismo comercial; la vergonzosa destitución de Dilma Roussef; la constante aparición de cementerios clandestinos en México y otros lugares; los asesinatos cotidianos de periodistas; los muchachos desaparecidos de Ayotzinapa, las niñas muertas en Guatemala, el incendio del Parlamento paraguayo; las huelgas y protestas populares en Argentina, Brasil y otros países, son parte del largo temario que interesa a los pueblos pero que no existen para Almagro ni para el dócil rebaño que lo sigue.

Porque la OEA no fue creada para bregar con la realidad. Nunca ha sido otra cosa que instrumento para la dominación imperial. Que a estas alturas echen mano a la vieja y desprestigiada herramienta, pisoteando incluso sus reglas y procedimientos, es un llamado de alerta. La agresión imperialista está en marcha y debemos detenerla.

El crimen se está cometiendo a la luz del día, a la vista de todos y contemplarlo en calma sería una complicidad imperdonable.

Urge multiplicar la solidaridad. Hay que salvar a Venezuela.

 

Publicado originalmente en Punto Final

We are all Diosdado

In Politics, US, Venezuela on June 2, 2015 at 1:10 pm

by Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

Issued on March 9, President Obama’s Executive Order tagging Venezuela as “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the US national security” and declaring “a national emergency to deal with this threat” caused justified alarm and widespread rejection throughout the Continent and beyond. It was not the first time that Washington used a language as arrogant as it is irrational. History is brimming with examples of how the Empire has made use of such accusations to launch military attacks and break international law in various ways. They used similar words to justify their brutal armed invasions of Panama and the tiny island of Granada, among other outrageous acts which crushed defenseless populations and brought death and destruction to nations stripped of their independence as a result.

Despite worldwide disapproval, the number of media campaigns against Venezuela has increased since then through a US-led propaganda apparatus that is now especially concentrating its attacks on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello. They are accusing him of being linked to international drug trafficking, a slanderous and yet unproved charge rapidly echoed by hundreds of newspapers and other media from all over the world.

Who is Diosdado Cabello and why is he under attack?

Ever since he was a young officer, he joined Hugo Chavez in the struggle against the abuse and corruption that marked the Fourth Republic and after that, in the peaceful transformation conducted by the Bolivarian Revolution. He played a key role in the popular movement of resistance that thwarted the fascist coup in 2002 and returned Chavez back being head of State for which he had been democratically-elected by most Venezuelans.

In a clumsy maneuver to divide Chavismo, and following Chavez’s unfortunate death, the same hardcore right-wingers who are now vilifying him tried to make him President of the Republic, but he adamantly refused. Diosdado Cabello gave a remarkable example of revolutionary firmness and spirit of unity, proving that he is moved by flattery no more than he is by threats.

Neither the conservative right nor imperialism forgives his attitude, as it embodies the will of a people bent on remaining independent and sovereign. To defend Diosdado Cabello is to defend Venezuela, it is to pay back the great excusable debt of  solidarity to all of Latin America. Because we are all Diosdado!


A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
http://www.walterlippmann.com/docs4382.html

Diosdado somos todos

In Politics, US, Venezuela on May 29, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

 

La Orden Ejecutiva del Presidente Obama definiendo a Venezuela como “una inusual y extraordinaria amenaza a la seguridad nacional de los Estados Unidos” y declarando “una emergencia nacional para tratar con esta amenaza” el pasado 9 de marzo provocó la alarma justificada y el rechazo unánime en todo el Continente y más allá. No era la primera vez que Washington empleaba un lenguaje tan arrogante como irracional. La historia está repleta de agresiones militares y otras violaciones al derecho internacional cometidas por el Imperio valiéndose de semejante formulación. Con esas palabras justificaron brutales invasiones armadas contra Panamá y la diminuta isla de Granada entre otros atropellos con los que aplastaron pueblos inermes y causaron muerte y destrucción en naciones que fueron despojadas de su independencia.

Pese a la desaprobación universal, desde esa fecha se ha intensificado la campaña mediática contra Venezuela. El aparato propagandístico dirigido por Estados Unidos concentra ahora sus ataques especialmente contra Diosdado Cabello, Presidente de la Asamblea Nacional de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela a quien acusan calumniosamente de vínculos con el narcotráfico internacional. Sin presentar prueba alguna el infundio es repetido rápidamente por centenares de periódicos y otros medios de comunicación en todo el mundo.

¿Quién es Diosdado Cabello y por qué lo atacan?

Unido a Hugo Chávez desde que era un joven oficial lo acompañó en su lucha contra los desmanes y la corrupción de la Cuarta República y después en la obra transformadora y pacífica de la Revolución Bolivariana. Fue pieza clave en la resistencia popular que en 2002 derrotó al golpe fascista y reinstauró a Chávez en la jefatura del Estado para la que había sido elegido democráticamente con el voto de la mayoría de los venezolanos.

Cuando se produjo la desgraciada desaparición física de Chávez y la misma derecha ultramontana que ahora lo denigra quiso, en una torpe maniobra para dividir al chavismo, que Diosdado asumiera la Presidencia de la República encontró en él el rechazo más vigoroso. Diosdado Cabello dio un ejemplo extraordinario de firmeza revolucionaria y espíritu unitario. Demostró que no lo doblegan las lisonjas ni las amenazas.

La derecha reaccionaria y el imperialismo no le perdonaron una conducta que lo hace hoy sintetizar la voluntad de un pueblo dispuesto a preservar la independencia y la soberanía. Defender a Diosdado Cabello es defender a Venezuela, es cumplir un deber de solidaridad inexcusable para todo latinoamericano. Porque Diosdado somos todos.

Spring is in the air

In Alan Gross, CAFE, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5 on April 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

Spring is in the air. It is a constant much like Pi, happens every March 21st whether it’s snowing or raining or bright and sunny.  Its striking  that on this same date,  March 21st, was also the birth of Benito Juarez, known as the Benemerito of the Americas, title bestowed on him by the people and government of Colombia on May 1st of the year 1865, because of his unrelenting struggle to free Mexico and gain independence.

While president of Mexico, Juarez had a maxim that lives on today in the Mexican nation: “Among individuals and nations alike, respect for the rights of other people is what constitutes peace”. This statement always comes to mind when I think of the place Cuba has held in the region since its independence from Spain in the XIX century.

Cuba’s rights as a nation have never been respected by other nations or individuals, ever.  After the island garnered its independence from Spain the Paris Treaty left the island at the bequest of the Government of the United States and it remained so till 1959 when the Revolution of Fidel Castro triumphed establishing a socialist government in the country. Although the Cuban Revolution brought about much needed change on a social level, educating the uneducated, bettering conditions outside of the capital and establishing universal health care as the main government strategies to help its people, the country still depended because of an embargo imposed by the US on the next best option, the Soviet Union, and again, Cuba depended on someone else and much of its sovereignty was put on hold. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union as a country and a concept, Cuba was left stranded economically, politically and even socially.

Those were very difficult times, but the social benefits that still existed on the island were still stronger than the hardship and the Cuban people continued in their strife to advance, even if alone. The embargo against the island continued as it does today, but the rest of the world began to slowly open up to Cuba, and not just because of His Holiness John Paul II desire that this be so.  Cuba had proven over the years that it had something to offer and that sovereignty and independence were not to be gambled with. Cuba has never been a satellite of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution, although the relationship with it  and with Hugo Chavez was strong. The difference between the two moments in time is simple: during the first forty some years of the Revolution the country had to build itself up from scratch, by the time Chavez and his oil and social justice powered revolution came to power, Cuba already had sufficient bargaining chips to stand on its own and level the playing field. No longer were the stakes as lopsided as they had been in the past.

The Soviet Union is no longer around, neither is Chavez,  and his Revolution looks to be walking on unsteady ground, which is sad not only for Cuba on a personal and national note, it is also sad for the rest of Latin America as a whole. For no matter what one may opine on President Chavez, he did put the continent on the forefront and he did bring much needed changes to both the nation of Bolivar and the rest of the region. Yet the one thing that has not changed, the one thing that remains the same, is not just spring on the 21st of March. The one thing that remains the same is that on April 30th, well into spring, the secretary of state of the United States will have to submit his recommendation to the president on whether to keep Cuba on the list of terrorist nations or not.  Keeping Cuba on the list means no chance on earth of giving the president even the slightest chance of moving forward on bettering relations. Relations which if were to compare to a tennis ball, are now, and have been on the White House´s court for a number of years now.

More recently during the last Congressional visit to the island when President Raul Castro told US Congress members that a sit down with all cards on the table was in the offer.

It is true, Cuba has Alan Gross in jail. But he is being detained because he came down with an agenda to help undermine the Cuban government or regime, however you want to put it. Cuba has the same although slightly different situation in the US. Five Cuban intelligence agents are still in prison in the US. But their crime was never trying to undermine the US government to which they not only had no access, they also had no intention of doing, and quite frankly it would have been the most foolish of intentions.

The Cuban Five were in the US collecting information from US based paramilitary terrorist organizations in Miami which have been plotting, conspiring and bringing about terrorist acts against the Cuban people for over 50 years. They not only plot against Cuba and its people on the island, they also plot and have achieved to harm, destroy, terrorize and kill those who, whether Cuban or not, have the interest in forging better more rational relations with the island.  These terrorist groups have names, Omega 7, Alpha 66, Vigilia Mambisa, Brothers to the Rescue  and others. They have henchmen and they have leaders, one of which is infamously well known in Miami as one of the cities proud citizens, Luis Posada Carriles, a man who has more blood on his hands than most have running through their veins.  The Cuban Five infiltrated the US under false identities, this is true. They also infiltrated these terrorist organizations under false pretenses  But they did all of this in order to protect Cuba and those who want a normal life between Cuba and the US. News flash: they also, did most if not all of this, with the acquiescence of both the US government and the FBI.

Exchanging them for Alan Gross may not seem like the logical thing to do, but not on the US side, after all, Gross was accused of something he did do and something which is illegal not only in Cuba and the rest of the world, it is also illegal in the US: in theory, you are not allowed to openly try to topple foreign regimes in the United States of America. Heck, even Alan Gross accepts responsibility for his actions and recommends he be exchanged for the Cuban Five.

Now,  Secretary John Kerry has to decide if Cuba, an island that has never committed a terrorist act against the US or any other nation for that matter, should remain on an infamous obscene list.  Cuba deserves to be treated with the same respect it does its neighbors and colleagues in the world arena, it doesn’t set standards, it doesn’t disrespect others rights to decide, it thus, should be commended for its desire, as put by Juarez , to establish peace.

Unlike the unvarying Cherry Blossoms in DC and Pi, let’s hope Mr Kerry’s decision breaks one constant this Spring.

Latin America After Chávez

In CAFE, CELAC, Latin America, Social Justice on March 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm

 

By LUIZ INÁCIO LULA da SILVA

 

HISTORY will affirm, justifiably, the role Hugo Chávez played in the integration of Latin America, and the significance of his 14-year presidency to the poor people of Venezuela, where he died on Tuesday after a long struggle with cancer.

However, before history is allowed to dictate our interpretation of the past, we must first have a clear understanding of Mr. Chávez’s significance, in both the domestic and international political contexts. Only then can the leaders and peoples of South America, arguably the world’s most dynamic continent today, clearly define the tasks ahead of us so that we might consolidate the advances toward international unity achieved in the past decade. Those tasks have gained new importance now that we are without the help of Mr. Chávez’s boundless energy; his deep belief in the potential for the integration of the nations of Latin America; and his commitment to the social transformations needed to ameliorate the misery of his people.

Mr. Chávez’s social campaigns, especially in the areas of public health, housing and education, succeeded in improving the standard of living of tens of millions of Venezuelans.

One need not agree with everything Mr. Chávez said or did. There is no denying that he was a controversial, often polarizing, figure, one who never fled from debate and for whom no topic was taboo. I must admit I often felt that it would have been more prudent for Mr. Chávez not to have said all that he did. But this was a personal characteristic of his that should not, even from afar, discredit his qualities.

One might also disagree with Mr. Chávez’s ideology, and a political style that his critics viewed as autocratic. He did not make easy political choices and he never wavered in his decisions.

However, no remotely honest person, not even his fiercest opponent, can deny the level of camaraderie, of trust and even of love that Mr. Chávez felt for the poor of Venezuela and for the cause of Latin American integration. Of the many power brokers and political leaders I have met in my life, few have believed so much in the unity of our continent and its diverse peoples — indigenous Indians, descendants of Europeans and Africans, recent immigrants — as he did.

Mr. Chávez was instrumental in the 2008 treaty that established the Union of South American Nations, a 12-member intergovernmental organization that might someday move the continent toward the model of the European Union. In 2010, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States lept from theory to practice, providing a political forum alongside the Organization of American States. (It does not include the United States and Canada, as the O.A.S. does.) The Bank of the South, a new lending institution, independent of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, also would not have been possible without Mr. Chávez’s leadership. Finally, he was vitally interested in fostering closer Latin American ties with Africa and the Arab world.

If a public figure dies without leaving ideas, his legacy and his spirit come to an end as well. This was not the case for Mr. Chávez, a strong, dynamic and unforgettable figure whose ideas will be discussed for decades in universities, labor unions, political parties and anyplace where people are concerned with social justice, the alleviation of misery and the fairer distribution of power among the peoples of the world. Perhaps his ideas will come to inspire young people in the future, much as the life of Simón Bolívar, the great liberator of Latin America, inspired Mr. Chávez himself.

Mr. Chávez’s legacy in the realm of ideas will need further work if they are to become a reality in the messy world of politics, where ideas are debated and contested. A world without him will require other leaders to display the effort and force of will he did, so that his dreams will not be remembered only on paper.

To maintain his legacy, Mr. Chávez’s sympathizers in Venezuela have much work ahead of them to construct and strengthen democratic institutions. They will have to help make the political system more organic and transparent; to make political participation more accessible; to enhance dialogue with opposition parties; and to strengthen unions and civil society groups. Venezuelan unity, and the survival of Mr. Chávez’s hard-won achievements, will require this.

It is without a doubt the aspiration of all Venezuelans — whether aligned with or opposed to Mr. Chávez, whether soldier or civilian, Catholic or evangelical, rich or poor — to realize the potential of a nation as promising as theirs. Only peace and democracy can make those aspirations a reality.

The multilateral institutions Mr. Chávez helped create will also help ensure the consecration of South American unity. He will no longer be present at South American summit meetings, but his ideals, and the Venezuelan government, will continue to be represented. Democratic camaraderie among the leaders of Latin America and the Caribbean is the best guarantee of the political, economic, social and cultural unity that our peoples want and need.

In moving toward unity, we are at a point of no return. But however steadfast we are, we must be even more so in negotiating our nations’ participation in international forums like the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These institutions, born from the ashes of World War II, have not been sufficiently responsive to the realities of today’s multipolar world.

Charismatic and idiosyncratic, capable of building friendships, communicating to the masses as few other leaders ever have, Mr. Chávez will be missed. I will always cherish the friendship and partnership that, during the eight years in which we worked together as presidents, produced such benefits for Brazil and for Venezuela and our peoples.

 

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the president of Brazil from 2003 through 2010, is the honorary president of the Instituto Lula, which focuses on Brazil’s relations with Africa. This essay was translated by Benjamin Legg and Robert M. Sarwark from the Portuguese.

 

The Post-Castro Era Is Today

In Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, CAFE, Fidel Castro Ruz, Politics, US on January 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm

 

By Julia E. Sweig 

First published in Portuguese in Folha de Sao Paulo.

 

The post-Castro era in Cuba has arrived. But its main architect is Raul Castro. His reform agenda does not have the formulaic recitations of a political science textbook or the guidelines of an IMF structural adjustment program. No multiparty elections. No Starbucks, Walmart, or Burger King. Not much independent media. But little by little Cuba is undergoing a significant transformation in the basic expectations Cuban citizens have of the state, and vice versa. Lula’s visit this week may focus on Venezuela, but all around him Cuba is becoming a freer, more open, and yes, more democratic society.

Earlier this month, a new law took effect that eliminates restrictions on travel for almost everyone: Cubans no longer need pay exorbitant fees or await the “tarjeta blanca”—state permission—to travel. Now, they need only a visa, like the rest of the world. And if they want to live and work abroad, Cubans will no longer lose their property or residence status: a big step forward for freedom and human rights, and a potential economic boon as well.

Business and profit are no longer dirty words. Senior officials project that with new laws and regulations empowering small businesses, within five years fully 50 percent of the economy will be in private, non-state hands. Under the new rules, individuals and cooperatives can now hire employees, obtain bank financing, procure inputs from wholesale markets, and turn a profit. There are myriad problems for sure: but these are increasingly of a practical, not ideological nature, more about the need to build capacity and experience, whereas before the private sector was viewed as a necessary evil. Now this new space has legitimacy and legality.

A progressive tax system is also taking shape. This is not a mere technical adjustment. With the new decentralization, state and municipal government will raise and spend their budgets from tax revenue collected at the base, with the federal government paying a much reduced slate of costs—mainly education, health and defense. Cubans are used to getting everything for free. The notion that they will work, pay taxes, and receive health, education and a pension but not much more, represents a radical political shift.

Next month Raul Castro begins his second and very likely final five-year term as president of the Cuban republic. The slate of candidates represents a big demographic and political step forward. Some 67 percent of the candidates for 612 seats are completely new picks, and of these, more than 70 percent were born after 1959. Women comprise 49 percent of the candidates and Afro descendants 37 percent. Cuban voters will be asked to check yea or nay from this new list, so it’s not a direct competition. But if you want to understand where the successors to the post post-Castro era may come from, I’d look at this new group.

President Hugo Chavez, a Non-MSM Primer

In Politics, Press, Social Justice, US on January 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm

 

By Vivien Lesnik Weisman

 

Originally published in the Huffington Post

In order to understand the media coverage of the situation in Venezuela one must look at the antecedents. It is instructive to revisit this NYTeditorial on the occasion of the 2002 coup.

April 13, 2002 “Hugo Chavez Departs”
With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.

 

The U.S. quickly recognized the coup leaders as the legitimate government of Venezuela in spite of the fact that their first acts where to dissolve the legislature and judiciary and suspend the Constitution. After all, the perpetrator of the coup was not a charismatic self-proclaimed socialist mestizo but a “respected business leader” who was also not incidentally of European extraction and a member of the ruling oligarchy. The constitution in question had recently been created by a Constitutional Assembly which the people had called for with a 92 percent mandate and ratified by popular referendum with 71.8 percent of the vote; not exactly an undemocratic document.

Leaving aside the substantial evidence that the coup was U.S. hatched with ample evidence hereand here, what crimes did the democratically elected president of Venezuela commit to deserve such a description and the ire of the U.S.?

Well for one, Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, Saudi Arabia has the second and it is the fourth most important U.S. supplier. Yes, largest reserves in the world. And Venezuela is not far away in the Middle East, but in our hemisphere, in what has traditionally been considered our “sphere of influence” (read: with a government and an oligarchy that puts the interests of the United States and the U.S. corporations before that of their people).

Put simply, oil rich Venezuela under Chavez refused to conform to the Latin American model of the client state. No matter how many times President Chavez is elected and re-elected and given mandates by popular referendums, refusing to bow down to U.S. interests is his capital crime and that crime is never forgiven; Cuba being a case in point.

Speaking of capital, what did President Chavez do with all that oil money? Surely he did the traditional thing and divided it up nicely between his friends and cronies and sent the rest to Citibank. Wrong. First he payed back the Venezuelan debt to the IMF and asked them to get out of town, and next he helped pay down his friend’s debt, Argentina. Next he helped Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador pay down their debt. Thanks to Chavez the IMF’s portfolio is down in the region to less than 1 percent from 80 percent in 2005. With no IMF and its partner institution, the World Bank, in the region the sway of policies such as unfettered markets with limited government spending greatly restricting social programs is kept to a minimum. In other words, the policies of the Washington Consensus that has been so detrimental to the economies and the people of developing nations in Latin America and so lucrative for the U.S. and transnational corporations is no more.

He also set up a regional exchange — Banco del Sur or Bank of the South — where partner nations can borrow money for social projects and infrastructure development funded by Venezuela, and the member countries. And of course there is the all important Mercosur, a kind of Latin American European Union to integrate the markets and work together rather than in isolation like in the past, making it easier to be pressured by external forces, i.e. the U.S. Oh, and the discounted oil to Cuba alleviating the sting of the 50-year-old U.S. embargo really rubs us the wrong way. WTF, this guy is really messing with the world order now.

But, the most capital of his offenses is his innovative social experiment, that goes by the name of the Bolivarian Revolution. God we hate that R word. You see this has a transcendence beyond their borders, beyond the region, right smack to our front yard; or should I say Zuccotti Park? A charismatic leader is in many ways the antithesis of the horizontal anarchic structure of the Occupy movement, but still the experiment in collectivization and citizen participation, direct democracy, and worker and neighborhood councils that many in the Occupy movement are working toward and that we find so very difficult to organize in the U.S. is being lived in Venezuela.

rally of hundreds of thousands is easily mobilized, as was in evidence on January 10th as Vice President Nicolas Maduro and officials from around the world, including several presidents of Latin America, turned out. The people wore the presidential sash and chanted “We are all Chavez now” in solidarity with their absent president. This degree of participation and engagement is not unusual in Venezuela where voting is usually in the 90 percent range. And they don’t vote every four years and go home as is often the case here with our low voter turnout and where many of us feel we are voting for the lesser of two evils. The opposition party, the party of the oligarchy, offers a clear political and economic alternative but there seems to be no turning back this social revolution.

Venezuelan civil society is not only highly politicized but the people feel that they are participants in the decision-making process and in the affairs that concern their lives.

MSM fueled ignorance of this exciting and innovative social justice oriented society that is being created in Venezuela as well as other Latin American countries seems purposeful and targeted at keeping us tethered not only to cruel but failed economic models. The lack of accurate information on alternatives to market capitalism — or whatever this unfair, un-engaging, unfriendly system is called — keeps us in despair, balkanized and directionless, anesthetized by junk culture and television; spectators rather than participants in our own lives.

The Venezuelan example of bringing resources under public control and using the revenue for the betterment of all offers a model that cannot be replicated everywhere. But it is seen as a dangerous model because one of the places it can be replicated is in the United States. We too have vast oil and gas reserves and vast natural resources. We too could have free higher education and health care, not to mention student debt forgiveness. How about a truly democratic form of government where the citizenry decides not just whether to vote for Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee, but whether to go to war or live in peace and go to college; whether to have clean air and water and non-GMO pesticide free foods and sustainable agriculture or Big Agra.

Hmmm… I’m liking this. Develop alternative forms of energy and ban fracking forever? Stimulate the economy by building new roads and cool schools, music centers, hospitals, theatre, animation and computer clubs, relaxation centers, urban gardens, water parks, beach clubs and fun centers rather than stimulating the economy by making war and selling weapons? How about meaningful work and leisurely time rather than wage slavery? I can hear all the detractors screaming idealist, dreamer. I’ll take that. But really, if ordinary Venezuelans can displace the ruling oligarchy and be the architects of their own destiny then why can’t we too overturn the oligarchical structures of the corporate state? Why are we the only significant oil producing country that does not own the oil and gas on our land? Nationalization of natural resources such as oil and natural gas is not only just; it’s practical. If Venezuela can cut poverty in half and offer higher education gratis and healthcare for all, imagine what we can do with all that oil in Texas.

______This post focused on the astonishing expansion of economic rights, citizen participation and the democratization of Venezuela under President Hugo Chavez; his effects on the region and what we can learn from it. Venezuela is a society in the throes of transformation and factors contributing toward centralization rather than evolving into decentralization are said to be undermining the independence of separate branches of government and the media. Here too there is much disinformation and will be the subject of separate posts.