Socialism (and hope?) Reaches the U.S.: Kshama Sawant

I remember thinking at some point in time, while I wrote or said something in the same way I’m doing it now — off the cuff and improvising most of it — that the political state of things  was changing in real and tangible ways. Whomever I was with at the moment reminded me that I was delusional, or perhaps even drunk, to actually think that the Occupy movement could mean anything significant for the political landscape of the world – least of all in the U.S. of A. I didn’t budge, but I did see his point: the ‘alternatives’ that people, including the ones at Occupy, demanded were never really articulated in a determinant way, that’s at least what we could gather from the news; we always got a version where they were always danced around, and flowered with terms like “social reform,” “bridging the gap between the rich and the poor,” and other pretty but substantially empty phrases.

And while some of the protesters and occasional journalist, did admire the style of the late Bolivarian leader, Hugo Chavez, and  of other of the new-century Revolutionaries spreading through South America like wild-fire (some would say), they did so from a distance, never really wanting to drink the Kool-Aid themselves, but wanting to see what it did to the brave-ish-foolish ones that did. But today I found out that some — at least one — seems to have taken a step further, however brave or foolish it may be.

sawant2

Kshama Sawant, an economics teacher, former Occupy activist and self-denominated Socialist, according to Democracy Now, was elected to the Seattle City Council on Monday, January 6. Some articles on the net are estimating that this is the first Socialist elected to office in over 100 years. Wikipedia — for whatever it may be worth — says Anna Louise Strong, a radical progressive, was the last far-left person to be elected to office in Seattle in 1916 (School Board). I expect I’ll find out a little more when I get a chance to sit down and actually dig into it, because it’s early and I didn’t expect to get into any of this heavy stuff at this time, without at least preparing my nerves or even a morning coffee.

But so be it. It’s very clear to me that whatever this could actually mean in the future, it certainly got the Washington-crowd out of bed with a jolt this morning, like a cattle-prod to the testicles when you least expect it. And I don’t mean just the politicians — because if it is just another smoke-screen after all, as I suspect some others may be suspecting, then that type of human-machine-dog hybrid that inundates Capitol Hill certainly knew about it — but just the good ol’ civilians; the unsuspecting ones (that sounds like a good movie title). And if rednecks keep up with news, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were already up in arms, planning to ‘take back their country from the reds’ — though I would be surprised if they read the news. In any event, the point is that Kshama Sawant, the Seattle City Council wearing “the badge of Socialist with honour,” has certainly raised some eyebrows.

Now, the thing about it being a smoke-screen is not that farfetched, at least to jaded, or perhaps enlightened, or even unstable (depends where you look at it from) people like me. I wouldn’t put it that far past anyone in that state, or even remotely embroiled in politics, to concoct some bizarre plan to distract from the myriad other issues crumbling on top of them like a house of cards made of heavy and jagged marble (high unemployment rates, Guantanamo, drones, scandals, the overall stalemate in Congress, debt in the trillions, etc.). But it’s way too early to seriously assume that. And if I did, I’d be no better than that individual that was telling me Occupy and other such movements didn’t really mean anything.

I’ve met many people like that — hell, most people I meet are like that. At most, they sympathize with some ideas and call them well-intentioned and idealistic, but unrealistic at their core. These, I think, may very well be the same people that equate “conviction” with “stubbornness,” and “neutrality” or “objectivity” or “open mindedness” with being a fart in the wind, carrying the stench of an expulsed gas to whatever corner the stronger winds may carry them. I recall Thompson’s phrase in Fear and Loathing: “All energy flows to the whim of the Great Magnet…” I guess even a fart is energy, and the Great Magnet certainly doesn’t have to be benevolent, and often, as with most Gods in the religious/mystical history of the world, certainly not free of Greed, Insecurity and an ironically misplaced sense of Self-Importance.

In any case, I’ve always refused to be that person, and it’s always taken a bit more than wind to move me, even when it’s towards the warmth it’s moving me. Now it’s time to see what this Kshama Sawant can really do. She ran on a ticket to raise minimum wage to $15/hour, and Democracy Now reports that Seattle Mayor, Ed Murray, is planning to raise city employees’ wages to just that. “Meanwhile, voters in the nearby community of SeaTac recently increased the minimum wage for many local workers to $15,” the article continues. “The vote suffered a setback when a judge ruled last month that the raise does not apply to workers at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the area’s largest employer. That ruling has been appealed. Murray and Sawant are being sworn in today with record crowds expected at City Hall.”

In this excerpt from a transcript of the interview with Democracy Now, Sawant captures what I think is the bigger significance of all this to the average person, whatever the emerging truth may be down the road:

Today’s inauguration really is an absolutely historic moment for working-class politics, and to understand—to really feel the moment that this is a turning point in the history of the United States…. this is all an indication that the people in this country are extremely frustrated and angry and outraged at the status quo…the fact that we have been victorious in this grassroots campaign is really an indication that people are ready to start moving forward, moving into struggle. And so, the real question is: How are we, on the left—how are we going to take up this responsibility of organizing the vast numbers of people, especially young people, for whom there is no future? And how are we going to present those alternatives? (emphasis added).

[Democracy Now Interview]

And there it is. Like the old ‘proverb’ says — or perhaps just a dumb saying we say all the time — now we just have to wait. Of course, we won’t do it with our arms crossed or thumbs up whatever orifice we can first find. Hopefully, we will be ‘waiting’ while really we are moving forward with it all: Writing more about it in the mainstream news; exploring what makes the difference between one or another state, or country; supporting and growing grassroots movements; having real discussions, even (and particularly) in newsrooms, about sincerely exploring what results similar domestic and international movements have done and could do, etc. This is no time for being a fart in the wind, but a Bastion of Change!

¿Cáncer inoculado? (En Cubadebate, por Eleazar Díaz Rangel)

Articulo Original: ¿Cáncer inoculado?.

 

Julián Assange es hoy otro personaje invisibilizado. No se crean que sólo lo hacen con los pobres, como durante tantos años ocurrió aquí y sucede en países latinoamericanos.

También desaparecen de los medios a personajes que en algún momento estuvieron en el epicentro de la atención mediática de todo el mundo y, de pronto, “dejan de ser noticia”. En nuestro caso, Assange fue el hombre que entregó a cinco de los diarios más famosos del mundo centenares de miles de mensajes que enviaron las embajadas de EEUU al Departamento de Estado desde decenas de países, incluido Venezuela, pero hubo dos circunstancias que lo bajaron del pedestal: una, que cuando Assange observó que en esos diarios dejaban de publicar cables que afectaban determinados intereses, políticos y de empresas transnacionales, cortó sus relaciones con ellos y, la otra, que Estados Unidos comenzó a perseguirlo y debió asilarse en la Embajada de Ecuador en Londres, donde aún se encuentra.

Hace muy poco concedió una entrevista a Elizabeth Carvallo para Globo News y denunció que “la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional de EEUU, que es la principal agencia de espionaje electrónico de EEUU, admitió ante el Congreso que intercepta 1,6 mil millones de unidades de comunicación al día”, y fue más allá, dijo también que Internet es “la máquina de espionaje más importante que jamás se haya inventado” y que Google y Facebook “se ven parte del sistema”.

Un país con esa capacidad de nutrirse de información de todos los mortales sobre la Tierra y de interceptar casi todas las llamadas telefónicas que hacemos y los mensajes que enviamos o recibimos, es capaz de cosas mayores.

“…En el caso particular del cáncer, se conoce que, desde 1975, se ha empleado el Fuerte Detrick como instalación donde radica una sección especial dentro del Departamento Virus del Centro para la Investigación de Guerra Biológica, conocida como “Instalaciones Fredrick para la Investigación del Cáncer”, bajo supervisión del Departamento de Defensa, de la CIA y del Instituto Nacional del Cáncer.

“Las investigaciones ultrasecretas están encaminadas a desarrollar un programa especial del virus del cáncer, sumamente agresivo y letal, para el que existe inmunidad y fue identificado como Virus Humano de la célula T de Leucemia (Htlv). La insistencia de estos laboratorios de lograr los mecanismos para elaborar artificialmente células malignas o cancerígenas, sumamente invasivas y capaces de propagarse en el organismo desarrollando una metástasis incontenible, se ha mantenido a lo largo de más de cuatro décadas. De acuerdo con estos proyectos, las enfermedades cancerígenas serían capaces de inhibir cualquier defensa ante su ataque al organismo humano, diseminándose a través de la sangre o de la linfa luego de ser inoculadas en el mismo mediante diversas vías. La alteración del material genético de las células humanas que provoca el cáncer por vía artificial en estos laboratorios, son la premisa básica de esta arma desarrollada con la venia del Gobierno norteamericano. Para ello se elaboran células madres o stem cells, mediante mutaciones monitoreadas y preconcebidas, convirtiéndolas en un fenotipo maligno más heterogéneo de rápido desarrollo”, según escribió Percy Alvarado Godoy, luchador e investigador antiterrorista.

Ahora lean el comienzo de un informe escrito por Robert Burns en 2007, de la agencia AP: “En uno de los secretos más duraderos de la Guerra Fría, el Ejército de Estados Unidos exploró la posibilidad de utilizar venenos radioactivos para asesinar a ‘personas importantes’, como líderes militares o civiles, según documentos desclasificados obtenidos por The Associated Press”.

Seguramente el presidente Hugo Chávez no conocía esos informes cuando, a fines de 2011, expresó su extrañeza de que personalidades como Cristina Fernández, Dilma Rousseff, Fernando Lugo, Lula da Silva y él, hubiesen tenido cáncer, y señaló que no podía ser casual que algunos poderes foráneos pudiesen tener responsabilidad.

Muerto Chávez, enterado el alto gobierno de que muestras de la biopsia enviadas a laboratorios especializados de Brasil, China, Rusia, y con nombre supuesto, EEUU, coincidieron en que se trataba de células únicas, de un cáncer extremadamente agresivo, y aparentemente desconocido, es cuando el presidente encargado Nicolás Maduro, anunció que se designará una comisión de científicos de varios países del mundo para conocer del caso. Más recientemente, el ministro Rafael Ramírez declaró estar convencido de que Chávez fue víctima de un complot y fue asesinado. Dijo a BBC Mundo que “Estamos seguros de que el imperialismo y lo más oscuro de las agencias de inteligencia… tienen el manejo de tecnologías que nosotros desconocemos”, y le pidió al periodista que no le pidiera “que te demuestre en este momento la profunda convicción que tengo, lo estudiaremos y evaluaremos. No se ha podido demostrar cómo asesinaron a Yaser Arafat, pero a Yaser Arafat lo asesinaron”.

Ante esos hechos y opiniones, hay razones para la duda y parece lógica la designación de esa comisión de científicos, y esperar sus resultados para despejar las dudas

AND DEATH SHALL HAVE NO DOMINION (POEM BY DYLAN THOMAS)

 

And death shall have no dominion. 
Dead men naked they shall be one 
With the man in the wind and the west moon; 
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone, 
They shall have stars at elbow and foot; 
Though they go mad and shall be sane, 
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again; 
Though lovers be lost love shall not; 
And death shall have no dominion. 

And death shall have no dominion. 
Under the windings of the sea 
They lying long shall not die windily; 
Twisting on racks when sinews gave way, 
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break; 
Faith in their hands shall snap in two, 
And the unicorn evils run them through; 
Split all ends up they shan't crack; 
And death shall have no dominion. 

And death shall have no dominion. 
No more may gulls cry at their ears 
Or waves break loud on the seashores; 
Where blew a flower may a flower no more 
Lift its head to the blows of the rain; 
Though they be mad and dead as nails, 
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies; 
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down, 
And death shall have no dominion. 

Dylan Thomas

MY ADVENTURE IN THE BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA (INTRO: ROUGH)

INTRO: A QUICK GLANCE AT THE PEOPLE, LAND AND SEA; FULL SPEED AHEAD AND NO WINDOWS; THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN MAKES A POETIC DEATH-BED

It was a dream-turned-reality from which I could not awake. Every day was a unique and surreal experience – it was like being in a roller-coaster that took me high up as often as it plunged me downwards. There was madness in all directions, and I constantly had the feeling that at any point something could happen – be it an unforeseen trip to the beach, a drunken all-nighter at the Local Bar, or a political protest overtaking the streets. And it is this volatility that made the experience unforgettable and something to be woven into the quilts of time immemorial.

The everyday life of Venezuelans seems, to me, to be lived in a constant kind of tension and movement, except on Sundays, when after three or four in the afternoon most streets look like ghosts-towns because everything closes. According to what I was told, this is due to something called La Ley Seca (the dry law), which forbids any booze being sold on Sundays and most commercial activity ends extremely early. As always, however, the reality is different, and knowing how to look you can find what you need at any-time, anywhere. In any case, the whole Chavez Phenomenon, for better or worse, has created a transcending energy that has everyone on their toes and ready to give this or that opinion, about anything! It’s easy to get narrowed into a political debate, but it won’t always end nicely. However, despite the obvious political tension, there is also a pulsating alertness in every Venezuelan:  No time for the slow-walker, no time for the car fumbling with the signal lights! You hurry to cross and avoid the old, blue Chevy speeding down the curve, or the barrage of motorcycle-taxis cutting-off the Chevy…Learning to cross the streets is perhaps one of the first things you have to learn as soon as you get there – that and how to get otra cerveza, if you are not a Spanish-speaker.

It was these kinds of small details that made the trip interesting and exhilarating. Every-day life was a curious and fantastic high-speed experiment.

I remember the first day that I decided to move around Barquisimeto alone, without the help of Gabo, the kid with whom I ended up bunking (him and his family) for about two weeks before I found my own apartment. By this time I had already been warned about what areas not to visit because of the danger and at what time to avoid going out altogether (around nighttime, so between 7 and 9 pm, it was advised that I not travel alone, and that if I must, that I do so by marked taxi only). By this time I had also ridden in the taxis and carreritas – larger dilapidated station wagons painted a faint and rusting blue or green and running on fumes and good will. There could be up to seven or eight people jammed in there, sometimes having to leave the trunk doors wide open so that the people could fit a little more comfortably – and I use that term very loosely.  I had also ridden in the rutas – buses just about one and a half times’ the size of a large van, in the same pitiful condition the carreritas were in, and jammed to the very balls nine of out 10 times.

Riding these beasts is quite an experience for anyone who has never been in a Latin American country, or in any poor country around the world, for that matter. I’m not one of those people, but even I had to get used to it. If you sit at the back you will surely be breathing in fumes that will leave you disorientated by the time you get out; and that is if you manage to muddle through the sea of sweaty and noisy people that sway from side to side as the ruta violently avoids traffic jams by cutting in through wedges between cars and motorcycles that the regular, cautious and prudent motorist of even the smallest vehicle would avoid at once to wait instead for a clear and safe opening. The movements are brisk and violent, but even the oldest Venezuelan grandmother gracefully sways her body with the car without the remotest effort, all the while talking to whomever is beside her about this or that, whether they know each other or not. Even sitting down is an ordeal because you are so close to each other, that you can feel the fucking bowel movements of the fool in front of you holding on to the bars above him…Venezuela is, among the Latin American countries which are already known for their beautiful women, one of the most prestigious for having women that to us, regular folk, seem like they were chiselled directly by the hand of god; having them rub up against you isn’t the problem…the problem comes when the sweaty, 200+pound mastodon keeps shifting around and trying to get himself comfortable in the one place he is sure to sweat the most, perhaps develop a rash…But nothing, not even the looming possibility of being mugged, beats the candor and freedom that a bus ride is in Venezuela, with every window opened wide, the warm but powerful breeze hitting your dampen face and neck while in the background the bus dances to the beat of the streets, the constant chattering of the people, and the booming Latin music blasting out of the radio all the way up front but audible even at the back. (Almost everyone I met, Leftist, Rightist and the odd one that didn’t give a shit about politics, told me that mugging is a very real issue, but their accounts of the frequency and real level of danger all differed. Those who were against Chavez painted a picture of a Sodom or Gomorrah – I remember one day one of the kids I was traveling with quickly told the rest of the group and myself, who was lost in the scenery outside my window, to quickly get out of the bus; once outside he told us that he had seen that one of the two kids that had gotten inside the bus was wearing a gun under his belt, which became barely visible as he sat down. At the moment I was alarmed and relieved that we had escaped an ugly situation. But in retrospect, after everything I can now say I know or at least have a better, more personal understanding of, I wouldn’t put it far past them to have told me something like that to scare me and try to convince me of the hell they said they lived through because of the president; but I just don’t know either way.)

Anyway, the first time that I traveled alone was therefore obviously quite an experience, almost as exhilarating and frightening as the first day of junior high or high-school, when the voice hasn’t quite fully developed and the acne hasn’t fully cleared, but despite all the odds you are hell-bent on leaving your goddamn mark.  I had all my directions and numbers to contact in case of an emergency written down and tucked safely, as was the copy of my passport and money. I had a breakfast of arepas, a very traditional flour-based tortilla that Venezuelans seem to eat almost as frequently as they breathe. They were good but never my favourite out of the plethora of dishes that the best doñas, family-restaurants and sidewalk vendors had to offer. And unless they were fully stuffed with some kind of cheese, rice, meat, vegetable or all of the above, they weren’t that filling either. So I topped it off with a couple of beers and a smoke and went on my way to the corner to grab the carrerita whose number I now forget. Well, there isn’t much to be said about the experience itself; it was not much different than what I finished describing in detail above, but for the fact that it was the first time I went alone. It isn’t a big deal to the experienced traveller, and though I consider myself having some personal world experience to back my talk and walk, the first time that you get in the back of a taxi with only two working doors that have to be violently pushed open from the inside while the driver fumbles with the clutch to keep the car going, your very first thought isn’t comfort or safety. Though later, as you zoom at 130 km per hour down the highway with the back doors wide open at the top and bottom, your legs hanging outside and the car behind you coming so close before he switches lanes that you can almost touch; the music in the ambience so alive that you couldn’t believe it is 7 in the morning and that the sun could be this bright; the individuals in the car talking among themselves and including you in the conversation despite the fact that no one knows each other; the driver tapping his arm to the music and joining the conversation from time to time, if not with opinions then with obscene and hilarious jokes that relax the political tension behind the radio messages from the President or the Opposition parties interrupting the music; with the range of mountains adorning the side…With all this going on, you just tend to forget you are in a foreign country, supposedly at the whim of the criminal, one of which could be sitting beside you and you just…Let Go…

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Work was work and will always be work anywhere in the world. Other than over-stringent rules – most of which were broken daily – and occasional run-ins with the directors for a few minor infractions, work was enjoyable. So I did it with enthusiasm where it mattered, but at certain points every emotion ceases, and sometimes it was hard to draw more enthusiasm from a dry well.

Teaching English takes a real teacher – or teaching anything, for that matter. Someone who has a real gift for it, who has the patience and the charisma to get through to young and sometimes obtuse minds, and I wasn’t one of those persons. I enjoyed many of my conversations with the students. It was refreshing to see many people put in their hardest efforts to learn another language, something which I dare not do.  People of all ages, genders and professions – from young secondary students to Business men and women and absolutely everything in between – showed off their skills admirably…Yet, the job was simply far better done and enjoyed by other Profesores, both Venezuelan and interns alike, who seemed to have a better grasp on things of this matter and who seemed to excel at it. At first, almost with a cynical idealism, I was determined to get through to all these people, particularly because they were being duped, in my opinion, into paying ridiculous amounts of money for their kids or themselves to learn English, and they did it happily and on time because it was a private enterprise and therefore had to be efficient and worth it. When I came across the first stubborn minds I did not weaken in faith; I was resolute in getting through. I tried being as approachable as possible, as direct and articulate, and when I did not know the best way to explain something, I asked one of the better teachers. But alas, sometimes you need a bulldozer to crack open a peanut, and I refused to learn to drive one. I quickly found out that I did not have the patience to try to teach something to somebody who either doesn’t want to learn or simply cannot understand quickly; the same cynicism (or naiveté?), I believe, that fueled me at the beginning burned me out. So I learned teaching is not my thing and that if these people couldn’t learn – especially if they didn’t want to learn – then I wasn’t going to lose sleep over it, and that’s when I began having more fun at work, enjoying every second I wasn’t in those small rooms that looked like the interrogation rooms in the movies, with mirrors and everything. It would damage my reputation to go into detail regarding how I and the other Professionals enjoyed that free time…but imagination was always a better thing than reality…

The time away from work, however, the few hours we had to ourselves, were far better spent. No snow-blizzards like the one roaring outside my window [when I originally wrote this] stopped you from going to a party here or there, at this or that person’s house, in this or that park, at absolutely anytime and with no specific half-life. I met young minds like mine from all over the place, and a certain special thanks go to all those special ones who listened to more than I actually said, and who know who they are. Some of my most memorable and perhaps even criminal memories are of the many wild nights that were spent in hazy dances of Friendship and Lust, fueled by strong drink, powerful marijuana and an intoxicating sense of Freedom that left everyone feeling vulnerable and trapped in a state of Trust – in a Trance you could not shake yourself awake from…at least until the Music finally stopped. It seemed like the world was literally a phone call or a Facebook message away, always ready to enjoy Rum, Noise and an invisible but pervading Energy that seemed to emanate from the intestines of the City and inebriate everyone. These were definitely places to let loose and lose control – if only for as long as the moon stayed bright.

But there is so much more to Venezuela than its wonderful parties and invigorated and wild youth. There is a world to explore in this vast and mountainous land. Everything from the morning walks to work, stopping to eat Empanadas at any kiosk or small establishment, to trips to the beach early in the morning and back before the Sun hid as you enjoyed that last trace of a fiery and melancholic sky, to trips that took all night and half the next day, through mountains and valleys and dilapidated towns, to arrive at a place that looks like a postcard…every action and any opportunity sparked flames in all directions and you had a feeling that Freedom was something tangible, something to be held and clutched into Gold, or to see Glowing in the Night-Sky…

One of the most beautiful places I visited was a great canvas of golden sand as far as your eyes could stretch your imagination, only interrupted sporadically by what a dear friend told me was something she’d never seen in other deserts that she’d visited in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt – shrubs and small trees propping up from within the sand like slender fingers. Now this was a real desert: we walked a good hour or so into the bowels of the sandy oasis with no way of anticipating the end. There were huge sand hills erected like breasts of a Giant Golden Goddess lying naked on the ground, and every time we reached the top of we rejoiced as if we were discoverers…but there were many goddesses. About 45 minutes (North?) of the desert was a beach called Pedicora (pedicoda?). The water was a deep blue and amazingly tepid, and the sand white as paper. The Caribbean Sea, at that very moment and under that very Sun, became, to me, a monument to the Freedom and Fear I simultaneously felt; its seemingly endless waters were menacing but inviting, and I would not have cared if I had made a bed at the bottom of the Ocean for the rest of my days.

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“Lies, Half Truths and Bias: The World’s Media and the Venezuelan Election” – AN ARTICLE BY JORGE MARTIN

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.handsoffvenezuela.org/media_venezuela_election.htm

“THE MASS MEDIA INTERNATIONALLY ARE OWNED AND CONTROLLED BY A FEW MONOPOLY GROUPS, WHICH ARE IN TURNED LINKED TO MAJOR BUSINESS CONGLOMERATES. THEY HAVE CHOSEN THEIR SIDE IN THIS BATTLE.WE HAVE CHOSEN OURS.”    [EMPHASIS ADDED].

Once again there has been a remarkably well coordinated campaign of disinformation regarding the Venezuelan presidential elections on Sunday October 7.

The whole of the world’s media has more or less followed the same script: A tired, sick autocratic caudillo (military dictator), Chavez, is facing the young, dynamic, democratic, centre-left candidate of the united opposition. While Chavez is squandering the country’s oil money, Capriles would maintain the social programs but bring efficiency to them. While there is no scope for fraud, the campaign has not been free and fair. Chavez commands hysterical support from the mobs in few big rallies, while Capriles has criss-crossed the country getting his message across to a population thirsty for change. The opinion polls are allegedly showing a technical draw, while some in the last week have shown Capriles to be ahead. Capriles supporters have faced violence from the chavista mob, but the opposition candidate has kept his cool. Chavez has threatened civil war if he loses, while Capriles is the candidate of peace.

Every single one of these sentences, which are taken literally from the appalling media coverage of the Venezuelan elections, is either completely false (a straight lie), extremely one-sided, or a biased comment passing as information.

The “autocratic caudillo” (The Economist headline was “The Autocrat and the Ballot Box”) has been elected and ratified in over a dozen electoral contests in the last 14 years. The “young centre-left democratic and dynamic” candidate of the opposition participated in the April 2002 coup against democracy (as did all of the parties in his MUD coalition), fainted twice at the beginning of the campaign, and when elected governor of Miranda launched an assault on the very social programs he know claims to support. He is not even really that young, at 40 years of age.

Several journalists from state-owned and community media have been assaulted at meetings of the “democratic” and “peaceful” opposition, though you will not hear about that in the world’s leading newspapers.

Of the 18 opinion polls carried out in September, 14 give Chavez as a victor and his average lead is 12 percentage points over Capriles (UK Academics Call for End to Media Misrepresentation about Polls in Venezuela’s Election). How this can be presented as a “technical draw” is anybody’s guess.

When Chavez said that the real plan of the opposition (as revealed by a number of high profile opposition figures) was a neoliberal austerity package and that its implementation would lead to a civil war, he was just basing himself on the historical precedent of the Caracazo uprising in 1989. The media decided to present the comment as “Chavez threatens civil war if he loses election”.

El Pais in Spain has been particularly vicious in its attacks on Chavez whom they describe as a “Mesiah”, a “TV preacher” and a “rock star”. It even offered an open editorial space to Capriles to explain his program (Quiero hablares del futuro). We wonder whether the same space was offered to the other candidate, in the interest of fairness and balance. Somehow I fear that was not the case. We should not be surprised though, as this is the paper which on April 13, 2002 showed its true colours with an editorial comment in favour of the oligarchic coup which briefly removed president Chavez (Golpe a un caudillo).

A special prize must go to The Independent in Britain who, on the day after the huge final election rally of Chavez (which filled 7 enormous avenues in Caracas), had the headline “Chavez finally meets his match“, illustrated with pictures of Henrique Capriles and not a single reference to Chavez’s rally. This is the same paper that on August 16 2004 announced Chavez was “losing his grip on power” as “mid-morning polls” showed him losing the recall referendum (Venezuela’s Chavez on brink of referendum defeat), when in fact Chavez won by 59% to 41%.

Of course, it is perhaps The Guardian / Observer reporter Rory Carroll who wins the overall prize for the most biased article with his Chavez: people’s hero in final showdown. Just to quote the opening paragraph: “The ailing Venezuelan leader still commands hysterical devotion from his supporters, but Henrique Capriles, his younger, healthier opponent in next Sunday’s election, is snapping hard at his heels.” He continues in the same vein: “Huge crowds mob the presidential candidate… They surround his bus, chanting his name … they scream and surge forward, desperate to embrace him.”

The only impression one can get from reading Carroll’s article is that those who support Chavez are mad and ignorant. There is a subtle arrogant dismissal of the ability of poor and working class people to have informed political views that is combined with a very British upper class dismissal of the genuine enthusiasm people feel for the political process in Venezuela. Carroll, of course, has a long track record of distorting the news about Venezuela.

The reason why a majority of the Venezuelans, and particularly amongst those from the working class and the poor, support Chavez enthusiastically (not hysterically), is easy to understand. He has challenged the powerful ruling class and imperialism and has delivered tangible, concrete improvement in their living conditions. The poor do not support Chavez because they are crazy, as one would think from the Carroll’s choice of words, but because unemployment has halved, GDP per capita doubled, infant mortality halved, poverty decreased by two thirds, illiteracy been eradicated and hundreds of thousands have gained access to the education system, amongst other things (as even the Guardian is forced toreluctantly admit).

This is why they are enthusiastic. For the first time in their lives they can see that direct participation in politics does change something. They feel that the future is in their own hands and not in the hands of professional politicians, lawyers, judges and learnt journalists.

All of this has been achieved despite the repeated attempts of the ruling class and the so-called “democratic” opposition to overthrow the democratically elected government by all means at their disposal (military coups, oil lock out, sabotage of the economy, hoarding of basic products, rioting in the streets, Colombian paramilitaries, etc).

True, there are many shortcomings of the Bolivarian revolution. Yes, there is a bureaucracy at all levels which acts as a break to the revolutionary enthusiasm of the masses and this constitutes a real threat to the revolution itself. However, particularly in the second part of the election campaign, the Bolivarian masses have been mobilized on the clear understanding that a victory for the opposition would mean the destruction of all the gains of the revolution.

A victory for Chavez will necessarily have to be followed by a very critical appraisal of what remains to be done and how to accomplish it. The activists of the Bolivarian movement, particularly amongst the working class, will be at the forefront of trying to complete the revolution brushing aside all the obstacles which stand in their way, including the “Bolivarian” bureaucracy itself.

The campaign of the media ignores all these facts, or brushes them aside as irrelevant. It conveniently ignores the track record of the opposition, uncritically accepts and fosters its claim to be democratic and even center-left.

The aim of this concerted media campaign is clear: to mould the world’s public opinion. To create the impression that Chavez will not and cannot win the election. To imply therefore that if he wins then it must have been through by foul means. The idea is to delegitimize the October 7 elections as a true expression of the will of the Venezuelan people. This is not just a question of manipulating public opinion though. There have been many indications, open and veiled, that the real plan of the opposition on October 7, knowing they will not win the election, is to cry fraud and create chaos in the streets. The world’s biggest media outlets are clearly part of this campaign.

None of this should really surprise us though. What we are witnessing in Venezuela is, at bottom, the struggle between irreconcilable class interests. On the one hand are the rich and powerful, the oligarchy, the owners of the means of production, the banks, the land, the food production and distribution chain and the mass media. On the other, the workers, the urban poor, the peasants.

Capriles’ article in El Pais was very revealing in this respect. It reads like a sales brochure for Venezuela. He is in fact selling the country to potential EU investors and particularly Spanish companies which have powerful interests in Latin America. “No more expropriations, no more confiscations,” he says in bold and he promises to “guarantee an environment of confidence for national and international investors”. If he wins the election, he promises, he will “deepen economic relations with the EU” and “guarantee the safety of investors”. This is his real program, as opposed to the “centre-left” promises which the mass media is highlighting. He is the candidate of the Venezuelan and foreign capitalists and in this article he was speaking to his real target audience, the people whose interests he would serve if elected.

The Financial Times, while repeating the same script as the rest of the media (to the point of calling Chavez garrulous), is also more frank in the interests it defends. Its target audience is not the mass of the population, but those who count: managers and directors of big companies, investors and speculators. They describe Capriles as a “business friendly law graduate,” and crucially analyse how a victory for the opposition would bring lower oil prices (The Venezuelan solution for oil prices). One of the achievements of Chavez’s policies has been to strengthen OPEC and thus bring higher oil prices which benefit producing countries with higher revenues. In the case of Venezuela, this has been used to fund social programs which even the FT is forced to admit have benefited the poor majority. Imperialism would like to break up or weaken the cartel of producing countries. This in itself is a powerful reason why imperialism would like to see Chavez gone.

The mass media internationally are owned and controlled by a few monopoly groups, which are in turned linked to major business conglomerates. They have chosen their side in this battle. We have chosen ours. The scandalous way in which they abandon any pretence at fair and balanced reporting shows that they understand a lot is at stake in this election. We should actively denounce them and uncover their lies, because in that way we are also advancing our own interests.

Todo lo que quería saber sobre Venezuela

ARTÍCULO ORIGINAL: Todo lo que quería saber sobre Venezuela.

Todo lo que quería saber sobre Venezuela

¿Qué son más interesantes, las conferencias o las preguntas que se plantean después de ellas? Reproduzco algunas que me formularon durante una gira por Europa, con las respuestas.

En todas partes me inquieren: -¿Y la salud del Presidente?

-Lo veo en plena posesión de sus facultades físicas y mentales.

Cuando indagan sobre el sistema electoral venezolano, les leo la declaración donde el ex presidente Carter afirma que es uno de los más perfectos del mundo, mientras que el de Estados Unidos es uno de los menos perfectos del planeta.

En Frankfurt, capital financiera de Europa, camino por calles donde se suceden los comercios en quiebra. En la Casa Sindical DGB Haus un sindicalista inquiere: -¿Ha hecho algo Venezuela para romper la dependencia hacia los hidrocarburos?

-Culminó una campaña nacional para sustituir bombillos fotovoltaicos por fluorescentes. Tenemos dos represas hidroeléctricas gigantescas, la del Guri y la de Caroachi, y desde 2002 estamos construyendo la Manuel Piar, que ahorrará unos 25 millones de barriles de petróleo por año. Como en el resto del mundo, apenas empezamos la sustitución por energías renovables, pero empezamos bien.

En el aeropuerto de Estocolmo un retrato mural glorifica a Ingmar Bergman, a quien las autoridades suecas persiguieron, humillaron públicamente y escarnecieron por una insignificante deuda de impuestos. En el II Seminario Nórdico de Medios de Comunicación y América Latina en el ABF-Huset, me inquieren sobre las medidas para frenar la agresión de los monopolios mediáticos contra las democracias.

-Legislación, para obligar a informar en forma veraz, imparcial y oportuna, limitar la emisión de publicidad, evitar la incitación al racismo y la discriminación racial y establecer la responsabilidad de los comunicadores. Emisoras alternativas, de servicio público o comunitarias, para equilibrar el abrumador predominio numérico de los medios privados. Educación del público, para enseñarle a descifrar los códigos mediáticos y advertir sus engaños.

En el Centrum fur Marxistica Samballstudien un provocador con acento antillano me pregunta si estoy de acuerdo con implantar un sistema tipo cubano en Estocolmo.

-Estoy de acuerdo en que haya un sistema tipo cubano en Cuba.

En Belgrado recorro avenidas donde todavía edificios públicos bombardeados permanecen como amasijos de cabillas y cascote incinerado, hasta la Academia Megatrends, donde un estudiante se queja: -Nos cobran matrículas educativas altísimas.

-En Venezuela mucho más del 80% de los educandos cursan en institutos públicos, gratuitos en todos los niveles, salvo en algunos postgrados. Dedicamos mucho más del 6% del Producto Interno Bruto a la Educación; entre 2009 y 2011 la inversión educativa creció 1.800%. En la última década el gobierno ha creado 20 casas de educación universitaria, cuatro institutos universitarios de tecnología, 6 universidades politécnicas y 10 nuevas universidades; la matrícula en educación superior se duplicó de 894.418 educandos en 2000 a 2.109.331 en 2009. Estudian 9.329.703 personas: uno de cada tres venezolanos.

También en Belgrado me preguntan: -¿Algunos movimientos derechistas que operaron en Serbia exportan sus tácticas a Venezuela?

-Nuestra derecha importa tanto su ideología como sus símbolos. Algunos estudiantes acomodados usaron disfraces de manitas blancas, lucieron camisetas con el puño de Otpor, se bajaron los pantalones para enseñar el trasero. Pero el hábito no hace al gobernante.

En el Foro convocado por nuestra Misión en La Haya un diplomático inquiere:-¿Recibe la oposición financiamientos externos?

-La investigadora Eva Golinger ha demostrado que fondos de la USAID, del National Endowment for Democracy y de ONG foráneas mantienen a la oposición. En Wikileaks consta que varios opositores fueron a pedir dinero a la embajada de Estados Unidos, y como no les contestaron de inmediato, repitieron la petición en inglés.

Alguien se preocupa por el retiro de Venezuela de la Comisión y la Corte Interamericana de los Derechos Humanos de la Organización de Estados Americanos.

-La OEA ha legitimado todas las intervenciones armadas de Estados Unidos contra América Latina y el Caribe; su Comisión de Derechos Humanos reconoció de facto la dictadura surgida del golpe de Estado del 2012 en Venezuela y no tomó medidas a favor del presidente legítimo, que se encontraba secuestrado. Ni Estados Unidos ni Canadá se han sometido nunca a esos organismos. Tampoco tenemos que someternos nosotros, sobre todo cuando intentan suplantar a nuestros tribunales y sentenciar en cuestiones que afectan el orden constitucional interno.

Largo rato tardo en convencer a una periodista de que no, el Consejo de Estado no decidirá la sucesión presidencial, de que el orden de suceder está en la Constitución Bolivariana, sancionada en referendo por la abrumadora mayoría de la población.

En Hamburgo, durante un siglo destino de nuestras exportaciones de café y cacao, paso horas embriagadoras en el Museo Naval fotografiando modelos de carabelas, navíos de línea, acorazados: todas las flotas con las cuales Europa irrumpió al asalto del mundo. En el Spanisches Kulturinstitut Cervantes una dama se inquieta por la inseguridad.

-Hasta 2008 el Instituto Nacional de Estadística registraba unos mil homicidios por año. El año inmediato el INE hace una Encuesta sobre Percepción Ciudadana de Inseguridad entre 5.000 personas, las cuales opinan que en Venezuela habrá unos 19.000 homicidios anuales. Pero una opinión no es un homicidio. Por el contrario, la suma total de delitos bajó de 155.080 en 2009, a 143,774 en 2010 y 129.210 en 2012. Todos los que hoy delinquen se formaron cuando mandaba la oposición. En ese entonces se podía enviar a un ciudadano a cumplir trabajos forzados durante años mediante un simple memorando que lo acusara de no tener oficio o profesión conocida. También, se detenía ilegalmente a barrios completos, y se los liberaba a capricho. Las mayores tasas delictivas se registran en estados donde la oposición gobierna: Zulia, Táchira, Carabobo, Miranda. El proceso bolivariano ha creado una Policía Nacional, una Universidad Experimental de la Seguridad y un Ministerio de Asuntos Penitenciarios.

Un obrero se refiere al generalizado desempleo, falta de habitaciones e irrespeto a los derechos del trabajador en Europa, que entre otras formas se manifiesta por la tercerización laboral.

-En Venezuela está en marcha un ambicioso plan para construir dos millones de viviendas para los trabajadores. El año 2011 las lluvias dejaron cien mil compatriotas sin hogar: se los ha alojado en ministerios, en edificios públicos, hasta en hoteles de lujo mientras se los provee de techo. A mediados de los noventa, un acuerdo entre el gremio patronal, la cúpula sindical y el gobierno privó a los trabajadores de sus prestaciones sociales, que la nueva Ley del Trabajo les ha restituido. Esta norma también prohíbe categóricamente la tercerización, vale decir, la contratación de los trabajadores a través de entes ficticios para negarles el reclamo de sus derechos. La tasa de desempleo en Venezuela es de 6%, en contraste con la desocupación de 25% en España.

En la Universidad Friedrich Schiller de Jena un estudiante me pregunta: -¿De verdad sienten los latinoamericanos la necesidad de unirse?

-Alemania fue hasta el siglo XIX una diversidad de principados antagónicos ¿Sintieron los alemanes la necesidad de unirse como una sola nación? Alemania fue hasta finales del siglo XX dos Alemanias ¿Será que sintieron los alemanes la necesidad de unificarse? ¿Y por qué los latinoamericanos no?

¿Sobre cuántas cosas más no me preguntan en todas partes? Acerca de las repercusiones de la decisión electoral en Venezuela en los procesos de integración latinoamericana, que serían significativas. Con respecto al Socialismo del Siglo XXI. Sobre las compras de armamentos, explicables cuando Estados Unidos eleva a 47 sus bases en la región y un país vecino tiene medio millón de hombres en su presupuesto militar. Acerca de una supuesta masacre de indígenas por mineros ilegales, que recorre los medios del mundo a pesar de que por ninguna parte aparece ni una sola prueba de que haya ocurrido, ni un solo desmentido ante la falta de pruebas. Acerca de las semejanzas y diferencias entre los movimientos sociales de Venezuela y América Latina y los de Europa. Los latinoamericanos también preguntamos muchísimo antes de comprender que sólo nosotros podíamos darnos nuestras propias respuestas.

Salto a Weimar, eludo la casa del cortesano Goethe y doy una larga caminata hasta el archivo del recalcitrante Nietzsche. Su marmórea mascarilla mortuoria me interroga si el Reino de la Libertad no será el paso necesario para la transmutación de todos los valores.

En el helado crepúsculo de Frankfurt, entre edificios que parecen frascos de perfume las grúas terminan el rascacielos del Banco Europeo mientras el euro se derrumba. Una señora me pregunta si es verdad que los bolivarianos preparan una ley para prohibir la minifalda.

-Sí, pero sólo a las damas suficientemente ingenuas para creerlo.

brittoluis@gmail.com