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This is a Blog of my trip to Venezuela, August 5-16, 2003.

Friday, August 15, 2003

<Marc> Thursday afternoon we visited with Braulio Alvarez, the National Director of the Instituto Nacional de Tierras (INTI). He described the history of repression that peasants have lived in rural areas in Venezuela, and the triumphs that the Chavez government represents for them. In particular, he described the Plan Zamoras which has given one million hectares of land to 43,000 families so far this year, and the goal to double the reach of this agrarian reform program by the end of the year.

In our last meeting of the trip on Friday morning, we met with Deputy Ricardo Gutiérrez, the First Vicepresident of the National Assembly. He described a long history of popular exclusion from a political system and economy dominated by a small, powerful oligarchy. The elite resent their loss of privilege in Venezuela and are using any tools at their disposal to regain that advantage. One of those strategies is a proposed referendum to recall Chavez from office, but Gutiérrez is positive that Chavez' popular support will defeat any such recall attempt. </Marc> <!--3:45 PM-->

Thursday, August 14, 2003

<Marc> Today I went to several museums here in Caracas. All of them were free, which surprised me. With neoliberal economic policies privatizing everything around the world, it has been a while since I have seen public resources put into the cultural and educational sphere. It made me think that perhaps in small ways like this the Chavez government is making a difference in Venezuela. </Marc> <!--11:17 PM-->

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

<Marc> This morning we met with two deputies in the National Assembly, Adel El Zabayar Samara and Saúl Antonio Ortega Campos. El Zabayar Samara noted a problem of impunity in Venezuela. After the April 2002 coup there is not one political prisoner. Far from being a dictatorship, he emphasized how this demonstrates how open the Chavez government is. Ortega Campos discussed Venezuela's international relations and the importance of sovereignty.

Nicia Maldonad Yuluraweni is the Coordinadora General of Venezuela's national Indigenous organization Consejo Nacional Indio de Venezuela (CONIVE). She noted how the lives of Indigenous peoples have improved under Chavez. "We want respect and we support Chavez not because he is Black but because he represents the dignity of America, not only for Venezuela but for all of America," she said. "We are all human beings and he supports us." </Marc> <!--9:02 PM-->

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

<Marc> This afternoon Annette and I had an interview with Radio Nacional de Venezuela and tonite we met with a Comite de Tierra in the barrio Pinto Salinas. Guess there is not a lot more of significance to report right now. </Marc> <!--8:46 PM-->

Monday, August 11, 2003

<Marc> It looks like accent marks are not working very well in this blog, so I'll leave them out for now. Yesterday afternoon (Sunday) we went to the Abrebrecha cultural center which is run by El Tano, a Chilean exile. They work on revolutionary art, music, and other things. El Tano told us that "el pueblo es solo uno y tambien el enemigo," which generally has been the sentiments of people we meet. They make sure that we know that they are with the North American people, even though the Bush administration has adopted a policy against the Venezuelan government.

This morning (Monday) we visited the Instituto Nacional de la Mujer (INAMUJER), and in particular discussed their work in setting up a hotline for victims of domestic abuse and a shelter for battered women. They also told us about their work organizing international support for the revolutionary process in Venezuela.

This afternoon we once again met with the Comite de Tierra. Tomorrow morning we are going to the City Council to present a resolution that the Oakland City Council presented in support of Venezuela. </Marc> <!--10:42 PM-->

Saturday, August 09, 2003

<Marc> I haven't had a chance to get to an Internet cafe for a couple days to update this blog on what we are doing in Venzuela. Briefly, here is a chronological listing:

Thursday afternoon we went to visit a PDVSA cooperative that is working to rebuild the state oil industry after a crippling strike last December-January that was led by the oligarchy opposition.

Thursday nite we visited a Comité de Tierras meeting that is working to gain land titles for people in the city.

Friday morning we visited an adult literacy class in a senior citizen center. Most of the students were in their 80s and largely form a firm base of support for Chavez--people who were always ignored and abused by previous governments but whose lives have improved under the current one. This program is part of Plan Robinson, named after Simón Bolívar's teacher, and began on July 1. It is modeled after successful efforts in Cuba to eradicate illiteracy that have subsequently been used in 17 countries and has won 5 UNESCO awards.

We then visited a Cuban doctor in the Progreso neighborhood. Here is a story "Cuban Doctors Brave Venezuelan Slum" that describes the program.

We also visted the Instituto Nacional de Corporación Educativo (INCE) that works with the Plan Robinson literacy campaign (as well as other issues) as well as the Coordinación Nacional de Organización y Participación Social that works with the Bolivarian Circles.

Today (Saturday) we spent with the Coordinadora Simón Bolívar in the 23 de Enero neighborhood and watching people paint a mural of Miguel Vives, a martyer in the La Pastora neighborhood. The Coordinadora Simón Bolívar is a neighborhood organization that works on a variety of programs like sports, arts, literacy, health, housing, etc. in order to advance the concerns of marginal neighborhoods. It is an impressive and well-organized group.

I´ll try to put up some pictures when I get a chance. </Marc> <!--9:18 PM-->

Thursday, August 07, 2003

<Marc> I arrived in Caracas Tuesday nite only to have a National Guard steal $60 from me in the airport. Corruption is still a problem in Venezuela.

Yesterday (Wednesday) we had an interview with Isbemar Jimenéz on Rompiendo Heilo, a call-in program on the community radio station Radio Nacional de Venezuela (Canal Informativo, 630 AM). The interview and our comments were well received. We then met with a group called Clase Media en Positivo, a group of middle-class Venezuelans who support the Chavez government and its progressive initiatives. In the evening we attended a rally of international activists who are retracing a root from Colombian that Simon Bolivar took in 1813.

This morning (Thursday) we visited with a Cuban doctor who directs the Barrio Adentro program, a solidarity program from the Cuban government to provide medical attention to underserved populations in Venezuela.

A good site with information on Venzuela is </Marc> <!--2:01 PM-->

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