News and Analysis

Venezuela will no longer tolerate USA interference; draws the line at oil supply cuts

Venezuela's Foreign Minister (MRE) Ali Rodriguez Araque has warned that Venezuela will no longer tolerate any interference in its sovereign domestic political affairs by the United States of America.

Rodriguez Araque told reporters in Caracas that as far as Washington D.C. is concerned "it is intolerable that any foreign country should interfere in matters which are the exclusive responsibility of the government of Venezuela ... we want to have the best possible (commercial and diplomatic) relations the United States but when they make aggressive declarations against our country there will be consequences."

As far as crude oil supplies are concerned, former OPEC Secretary General Rodriguez Araque says Venezuela is diversifying to reach a greater number of clients "but this does not signify that we are reducing oil supplies to the United States."

The Foreign Minister maintains that Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) is increasing its production of crude oil and is looking ahead to a point where the state-owned oil conglomerate will produce as much as 5 million barrels per day (bpd) to supply "other markets."

In other news, the Foreign Minister says that he has received no explanation from Colombia with regard to the recent detention (allegedly in Caracas) of Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) international representative Rodrigo Granda. "As far as I am aware, we have received no observations from the Colombian government in this matter ... I do not have any more information (unconfirmed) reports that have appeared in the media."

Venezuela's opposition media has been cock-a-hoop over reports in Colombian newspapers Granda has been "intercepted" in Caracas and clandestinely removed to Colombia. Granda, Alias Ricardo Gonzalez or El Mago (The Magician), Granda is considered by Colombian authorities to be a member of an international committee of the FARC guerrilla which has waged war with Bogota for four decades and is seen as being the Foreign Minister of a Revolutionary Colombian government aiming to replace that of current President Alvaro Uribe Velez.

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The youth make up one of the most progressive, radical, and dynamic forces of society. Continuously they are the catalystic forces for social transformation and progress. The future of every country is shaped by the united efforts of its young people, making them one of the main targets of capitalist globalization and the ideological offensive of imperialism. Young people have played effective roles in the fight against these offensives. In each and every country there are resistance movements against imperialism, fighting for new social systems that reject the idea that capitalism is the only option and present the people's power as the real alternative against the neo-liberal policies. The massive, global mobilizations against the war in Iraq, FTAA and NATO were expressions of the resistance of youth and the people.

With the change in the balance of forces in the world, the imperialist powers have increased their aggression while becoming increasingly unified in their attacks against humanity and our natural resources. In order to preserve and deepen their hegemony, U.S. imperialism and its allies launched a military crusade against whomever stood in their way under the cover of the so-called "War on Terror" and the threat of weapons of mass destruction. This policy has resulted in the occupation of Iraq, continuous aggression against Palestine and the economic blockade and threats against Cuba, Venezuela, DPRK and Syria. It has further caused suffering in Africa in countries such as Western Sahara, Sudan and Zimbabwe by imposing sanctions and internal interference. The real face of aggression, injustice and barbarism has led to the militarization of societies and their economies against people's well being.

Young people around the world have been seriously victimized by the effects of imperialist and neo-liberal policies of international institutions such as the IMF, WTO, G-8, European Union and World Bank. At the same time the gap between the rich and the poor, the developed and undeveloped countries grows wider. Exploitation, hunger, unemployment, lack of health care, poverty, and misery continue to grow as a result of the imperialist economic, political and military policies, resulting in catastrophic effects for millions of people around the world.

In various forms, and throughout the world, youth have fought exploitation, blockades, embargos, sanctions, racial discrimination, and xenophobia. We struggle for peace, national sovereignty, independence, self-determination, democracy, security, international solidarity and a world free from nuclear weapons. We demand respect for and the defense of human and democratic rights, social justice, women's rights, sustainable development and the environment. We demand that everyone have access to employment with dignity, labor rights, education, health care, sport, culture and technology.

The World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS), initiated in 1947, is the biggest event organized by progressive and democratic youth and students around the world. The WFYS is one of the main expressions of anti-imperialist, anti-fascist and anti-colonialist struggles led by youth. After the successful 15th WFYS in Algeria in 2001, held for the first time on the African continent and Arab region, the 16th WFYS will take place in Caracas, Venezuela, from August 5 to 13, 2005.

The 16th WFYS in Venezuela affirms and reinforces the Festival's character and orientation as an international, anti-imperialist, political-cultural, and broad-based mass event of youth and students. This also provides an opportunity to extend our solidarity to the youth and people of Venezuela, its Bolivarian Revolution and all the people struggling all over the world.

The 16th WFYS should continue to reflect the diversity and richness of all the expressions of the international youth and student movements that are committed to the character and spirit of the Festival, as well as their struggles and demands. The Festival will be a space to exchange ideas and experiences and provide a platform to coordinate our efforts and intensify the struggles in our respective countries.

The 16th WFYS is a great moment to strengthen our efforts on the basis of a common cause and interests in the intensifying struggle against imperialism. We appeal to all youth and students to join in this struggle and work actively to participate in and strengthen the 16th WFYS.

For Peace and Solidarity, We struggle against Imperialism and War!

Let us work for a successful 16th World Festival of Youth and Students in Caracas, Venezuela.

Brasilia, Brazil, June 2004

U.S. Update - there will be a regional meeting of the NPC in Chicago on Feb.12 sign up for more information below.

Update for the 16th World Festival of Students and Youth to be held in Caracas Venezuela on August 5th-13th

The U.S. Preparatory Committee meeting for the 16th WFSY in NYC was a success, about 37 people attended with another 6 or 7 on a national phone hookup.

Many different groups were their and lots of issues were discussed.

An interim Steering Committee was setup consisting of:

Bolivarian Circle "Professor Alberto Lovera"
Hands Off Venezuela Campaign
Choice U.S.A.
United States Student Assoc.
Venceremos Brigade
SGAA- student government group at MBCC
Republic of New Africa

People and groups took up committees to work on Outreach/Education, Fundraising and logistics.

The group endorses the idea that it should be broad-based, inclusive, diverse and youth with many solidarity and other issues. One added item was since this event is taking place in Venezuela and that the deepening of the Bolivarian Revolution is taking place that its grassroots should be studied and supported not just in word.

The next meeting of this group will be held in Chicago on Feb.12th and one of the Bolivarian comrades will be their to help put it together.

General Information and to get involved:

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Website: http://www.usnpc.net

To join the listserv to receive updates about the festival, learn about the application process and deadlines, receive newsletters; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

General Listserv; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Fundraising Committee; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Education and outreach: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We hope to bring 20,000 youth and students for this event.

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Almost one day after filing a complaint against Juan Fernández, Horacio Medina and Mireya Ripanti de Amaya for taking an active part in the bosses lock out and so called strike in December 2002, attorneys prosecuting the case asked for a petition for a bench warrant, the Public Prosecution Office has made another petition on the same charges for five more ex-PDVSA managers.

Attorneys José Benigno Rojas and Luis Abelardo Velásquez requested from the 40th Control Court, entrusted with the task of hearing the case, to issue a bench warrant against Gonzalo Feijoo, Edgar Quijano, Juan Luis Santana, Edgar Paredes and Juan Lino Carrillo, for the offences of civil rebellion, inducement to crime, inducement to defiance of law, eulogy of crime, complicity, undue interruption of gas supply and information technology spying.

In a press release, the representatives of the Public Prosecution Office provided a rationale for their petition by stating that none of the former managers previously summoned had appeared in court. Also, the attorneys fear that the defendants may evade justice or obstruct the investigation.

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[this article can be downloaded as a PDF file]

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"I bring greetings of solidarity to all the delegates here at the BC Federation of Labour Convention in the name of our sisters and brothers of the Venezuelan working class.

My organization, the National Union of Workers of Venezuela is very pleased with the honour of being able to share with you about our struggle in Venezuela to create a more democratic society with social justice during these outstanding moments in which our country and the workd in living.

For forty years, our country was marked by neo-liberal policies - a recipe imposed by the International Monetray Fund which for years created more poverty and exclusion, increased unemployment, decreased national productivity, increased the export market, privatization of state enterprises like the national airline, telecommunications and energy. This plan benefited the few who became richer while the majority became poorer.

During this time our governments and politicalparties were manipulated like marionettes by the IMF and capitalists who were making huge profits as a result of the privileges gratend them by the governments. The labour movement of which the CTV was the most representative body was complicit with the governments and the political parties had imposed leadership and received huge benefits from the state companies and financial institutions. These benenfits which were gained on the backs of the workers were given only to the leadership of the unions.

In 1995, the CTV agreed to democratize their electoral process but once again ignored this decision and made pacts to re-elect their own leadership. We are talking hre of a labour movement without any credibility amongst its members, suspected of enormous actso f corruption and implicated in the privatization of state companies - a labour movement who's legitimacy was in question.

In this Venezuela, the end result of failed democracy, and with institutions questions because of their involvement in the neo-liberal policies and with people desiring profound changes, and struggling against the corruption and the exclusionary model of governing, into all of this Hugo Chavez Frias assumed the presidency with the majority vote of the people including the Venezuelan workers.

The first reforms made were political, the most of these was the National Constituent Assembly which developed a plan of constitutional reform with the broad participation of all the sectors of society. The constitutional reform proposal was approved by a majority of the people in a national referendum. The constitution included a change in the model of representative democracy to a model of participatory and active democracy. It greatly improved the social and labour rights, prohibited the privatzations of state companies and promted social control over public spending.

IN 2000 union elections were called by the workers. Major changes to the way the elections would be held were developed with the participation of the leadership of the CTV, workers and the electaol commission. Nevertheless after elections at the base and federation level, 48% of the results were lost and never recognized by the leadership of the CTV. The new ledership of the CTV was formed from the very same political parties as always.

The reform of the state advances and in November of 2001 49 laws to regulate the base of the ecomony were brought forward, including the fisheries law which regulated commercial fishing and protected small fishers. And the land reform bill which promted land distribution to campesino and cooperatives designed to promote agricultural development. The new banking bill made financial institutes microcredit and created public lending institutes, a women's bank and a fund for small businesses. These changes affected the privileges of the business elite, FEDECAMARAS who with the CTV organized a work stoppage on December 9. the only time in the world that private sector workers with their salary.

Political actions against the reforms continued with FEDECAMARAS and the CTV at its head. On April 9, 2002 they convoked a total work stoppage which led to the coup d'etat on the 11 of April where they imposed a provisional president, the president of FEDECAMARAS and various ministers who were from the leadership of the CTV. Within hours the new government had revoked the new constitution, the National Assembly.

The Venezuelan people took to the streets and took over military bases and the principal highways and roads to demand a return of their democratically elected president. ON April 13 Chavez returned to the country and convoked a national dialogue with representatives of al sectors, including trade unions and three members of the CTV.

I had the honour of being part of the commission which allowed for important dialogue with the government, business leaders and workers from the base. It resulted in important agreements to reactivate the economy in sectors such as automobile manufacturing, textile production, transport and pharmaceuticals. The presence of President Chavez throughout this dialogue was key to its success.

The different poitical currents which supported changes in our country among them the Colivarian Workers Force, in which I am a member, discussed the necessity of creating a new union central in the face of traitorous acts by the CTV. Our ideas was the country needed workers to participate in its development. On September 6 2002 we organised a national meeting. We were not successful in reaching an agreement to form a new central because there still existed a desire for some to maintain untiy within the trade union movement. We developed a final statement which was presented to President Chavez at the end of the conference. As a result, the counter-revolution called for another work stoppage for December 9 of 2002. this led to complete economic sabotage - 20 billion dollars were lost thanks to the involvement of the management of the oil companies. This cause great difficulties for people as there were shortages of gas and cooking gas. People ined up for more than 24 hours to get gas and tyr to continue working. It is important to underline the people strong commitment although they were suffering, they stayed strong and kept fighting for the Bolivarian process and to prevent their President from being overthrown

During the sabotage the working class acted as a class, and our position was key in order to recover production. The oil workers replaced the managers and re-started production, at first manually and then at full production. Thousands of workers from the private sector gathered outside the gates of the factories and demanded that the bosses opened them.

The Presidents of the CTV and FEDECAMARAS transmitted through private television stations inciting the people to rebel against the president and to contiune with the work stoppage.

After this latest act of treason on the part of the CTV, various progressive political currents within the labour movement met and spurred on by the absolute rejection of working class ideals demonstrated by the CTV decided to call for antoher national assembly. On April 5, 2003 we founded the UNT with a horizontal leadership structure of 21 members respresenting all the fundamental sectors and regions. We developed a constitution and statutes. With the mandate of the unions, we developed proposals for regional and national structures. On August 1 and 2, 2003, we held the First Congress of the UNT and approved a Declaration of Principles, a Code of Labour Ethics, a Platform for Struggle and a shared analysis of the coutnry's context. As part of the discussion of the reform of the statues we decided to hold broader discussions on these reforms with the base of our unions.

The Regional sections of the UNT were formed all over the country as were national federations to discuss collective agreements. Our May Day march this year had as its theme No to Imperialist Interference in Venezuela. Our march had greater participation than the CTV march!

The UNT has maintained a clear position against the constant attacks by the US Department of State and other actors who want to continue generating a crisis in our country.

When the Presidnetial referendum was called for August 15, the UNT called its members to -vote no to neo-liberalism, no to the flexibilizacion of labour, no to union bureaucracy, no to social injustice, and to demonstrate their affirmation of our president Chavez.

We have attended conferences of the ILO to defend Venezuela against the charges of violations of trade union freedom brought by the CTV and FEDECAMARAS. Who is violating who's rights?

We are an union independent of international affiliation, we call ourselves autonomous, internationalists, democratic, accepting a plurality of views and commited to social justice.

We are preparing a new Congress in February 2005, to which many trade union organisations from all countries have asked us to be invited, amongst them the Canadian Labor Congress. This congress will ratify the reform of the statutes and the electoral rules and call a democratic and clear election, which will elect a new UNT election.

Venezuela lives a new process, outside of all established schemes, as an expression of real class struggle. We are building a new path, a path towards equality, social justice, a change of the model, against neoliberalism, against adjustment programmes, towards a sovereign nation, integrated with the other peoples of Latin America, as our Liberator Simon Bolivar dreamt.

Our autonomy and our class commitment leads us to take a position and to support this process because:

- it has lifted 80% of illiterate people out of illiteracy
- gives the opportunity to all to finish their primary and secondary education
- has extended basic primary health care to 60% of the population, so far, through health care centres in the poor neighbourhoods.
- offers basic foodstuffs at reduced prices to the poorest sections of the population
- has created the Bolivarian University, which aims to give all equal opportunity to access to higher education
- strengthens the education and professional training of workers, creating endogenous development nucleus which can generate high quality jobs
- the minimum waged is revised according to inflation on a yearly basis
- bosses are legally prevented from conducting mass lay offs
- collective bargaining agreements are being discussed in all sectors.
- pensions are raised to the level of the minimum wage.
- promotes the participation of workers in the management of the state.
- we are living through the best ever period of trade union freedom.

Canadian brothers! the enemy of the working class is one, is homogeneous, and all our strength is concentrated in deepening the peaceful and democratic bolivarian revolution. This invitation by the British Columbia Workers Federation and the Canadian Labour Congress is a gesture of solidarity. Thank you for listening to our thruth, thank you for spreading it and giving us support.

However, the shwadow of our common enemy still haunts us, we need to your help to prevent in Venezuela what hapenned in Chile. We need you to be vigilant of the movements of the US empire, so that it does not trample on us.

The world trade union movement has a fundamental challenge thrown by a process which goes beyond the borders of Venezuela, of America, and that might become a key pillar in the building of a world with more humanity, more social justice and more democracy.

The working class united will never be defeated!"

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Before I arrived here in Venezuela, I had planned to work with the Bolivarian Circle Abrebrecha (part of the Collective Carlos Reina of El 23 de Enero) as part of a field study project in my studies at the University of California. Looking back then, I didn't know too much about the actual structure of the Bolivarian circles; how could I have when the mainstream information that we receive in the US is that Bolivarian circles are micro-terrorist organizations that infiltrate community democracy? Nonetheless, I arrived here with a vision of Venezuelan democracy that sought reinforcement from what I had read in the alternative media, and with an open palate that yearned to taste what "freedom" really was all about, to learn about the ways in which the community designed, constructed, and achieved their own avenues of empowerment and sovereignty. I couldn't have chosen a better place to arrive than El 23 de Enero, ejemplo de combate.

I arrived in the hands of Gustavo Borges, whose revolutionary ideology, bonds of solidarity, and openness immediately called my attention and impressed upon me even more the lies and propaganda that we are told in the US about the whole world hating us, the people of the United States. In my first week here, I remained wide-eyed everywhere we went, 24-7, as my dream of witnessing and experiencing the people's revolutionary organizing projects came true before me. Everywhere I went even just in my first afternoon reaffirmed this dream; as throughout El 23 de Enero groups of students gathered on the sidewalks singing along to the lyrics of Ali Primera in celebration of the Liberator Simon Bolivar's birthday, the UBEs gathering during lunchtime to watch the latest news analysis and then to discuss their own strategies for implementing their vision within their own communities. Yup, I have come to the right spot, I knew in this moment upon arrival.

Having arrived in late June of 2004, the notorious referendum of August 15th was rapidly nearing upon the Venezuelan people and the rest of the world, eagerly presenting itself as the reaffirmation of the hopes, dreams, achievements, and power of the Venezuelan people along with their leader, Hugo Chavez Frias. Before I even left the airport, I met an escualido with European roots who informed me that "only the ignorant support Chavez" and that in reference to the referendum, that Chavez was "already gone". This fragmented and segregated perception of reality also revealed itself when Gustavo took me to El Recreo, an upscale, 7-story escualido mall where young women walk about with nose job band aids and just about everyone is decked out in the latest expensive fashions, distinctly unaware of the revolutionary process that lies outside of this plastic playground and within the communities that have never had access to the same luxuries that this oblivious class enjoys. Likewise, the people of the revolution have now found and co-created access to a life these escualidos will most likely never enjoy; a life full of and dedicated to the celebration of the affirmation of life itself, of the foundations of community that are woven into the process of empowerment and collective participation, of becoming more fully-human by sharing in the light and sacredness, along with the pain and suffering, of other fellow human beings. This process of political enfranchisement, discovery of the capacities and potentials we all hold when we work together, the magic in being the pioneers of our own future.

I quickly became immersed in the every day life of the barrio, as Gustavo immediately introduced me to the various co-members of the circle, most of who are involved in facilitating and supporting the missions, such as Misión Robinson 2, and Misión Ribas. The miracles and magic I experienced and saw within these classrooms were enough to fill my heart with love and inspiration for a lifetime. I also spent time with various organizers in the community who work with the urban land and health committees, urban restoration projects, and Misión Vuelvan Caras, all which offered itself to me as an excellent prototype for a political analysis of community organizing structure, one which offers hope, affirmation, collectivism, and an example of the ways in which communities can organize to obtain resources from institutional structures without compromising their sovereignty.

Gustavo brought me not only around various facets of organizing in El 23 de Enero, but also opened doors for me to experience the bonds of solidarity the collective builds within the rural sectors of the countryside. There I found groups that are embarking on the process of empowerment and economic justice in a crusade to liberate themselves from their oppressive local governments; now thanks to their democratic organizing efforts, they have gained a tremendous step in their triumph of the elections of October 31. We spent time in the southern zone of Miranda State, with the agricultural cooperative CAFECAO, who has organized itself, with the solidarity efforts of Gustavo and his son Maikol, into cooperative cells as well as UBEs and the missions. Thanks to the organizing anchor of the cooperative, communities throughout this sector of Miranda were able to mobilize for the August 15th and October 31st elections and achieve their own victory.

Thus above provides a preliminary framework for my experience working in Venezuela and specifically within the community here in El 23. What follows below is a modest attempt to illustrate the world that has been opened up to me by the people of Venezuela, who in turn, have opened up their doors and their hearts and shared with me their heroic tales. Because of them, I have been offered a glimpse into what economic, political, social, and human justice and peace mean, how people here organize around it, and what my understanding of my role within its process is.

The Missions

Many people I have talked with who aren't with the process criticize the missions for not being a useful way to redirect national resources back into the country itself. Most of this misguided analysis either includes an inherent racist or classist perspective, as anyone who fails to recognize the importance and revolutionary significance of this project most definitely carries an interest to benefit by the oppression of others. Most fundamentally, the structure of the missions carries with it a profound sense of human dignity and basic social justice, as well as bearing in its foundation the basic premise and stronghold of democracy. It is an enabler of empowerment and a key tool the community may use in facilitating its own liberation and development, the basic principles of Simon Bolivar. Without this crucial step, neither social justice nor any kind of real development will ever be achieved.

Not only are the missions themselves a direct tool for empowerment and community development, but also act as a radical example for shifting ideologies and paradigm transformation within the educational system, thus acting as a microcosm for the Bolivarian Revolution itself. As the educational missions practice radical education in their content as well as shifting social structures to enable the masses that before had remained without access to the traditional education structure, the health mission Barrio Adentro provides free access to professional medical doctors, a service to which the poor have never had access, the community markets mission Mercal provides an avenue for economic justice by providing low cost food in poor neighborhoods, and the employment mission Vuelvan Caras becomes an essential part of the endogenous development strategy in which the country is moving, it is obvious that the missions have become the heart, engine, and backbone of the social change process.

In each of the educational missions in which I was blessed to participate, Robinson, Ribas, and Sucre, what I encountered there was magically revolutionary and revolutionarily magical. The students are bright eyed, fully engaged, and full of passion, and are living examples of community in action. I was so impressed and inspired by the dedication of each section of students as well as their facilitators, who are also living examples of revolutionary dedication and participatory democracy in action; in Misión Robinson by the students eagerness to learn and participate, often arriving to class an hour or more early, with obvious love and admiration for their "profe", in Misión Ribas by the students dedication and discipline, often meeting outside of designated class time to make up work or starting class by their own initiative if the facilitator had not yet arrived, in Misión Sucre by the fierce questioning and analysis, tackling complex issues, and always applying a revolutionary framework in the dialogues we shared during my visit to their classes. They are all beyond prepared to serve- and already do serve- as living models of the revolution and as agents and leaders of profound revolutionary change in their communities.

Bolivarian Circles

Using the Bolivarian Circle Abrebrecha as the model for my understanding of the Bolivarian Circle structure, I was able to catch a glimpse into the world of organized leadership developed in the community through a purely grass roots model. After my arrival here, and some explanation by Gustavo and other circle members, I was able to see that the central framework for the Bolivarian Circles has changed into one of adopting the line of the missions as their main form of support in the revolutionary process. Seeing this structure take shape mirrored to me the ways in which grass roots community organizers and organizations can in fact, work in harmony with institutional structures when working for a common cause with a common vision. But what's more, is that the leadership lived and developed through this process ensures that the community will never be forced to remain dependent on any type of institutional structure for their livelihood or to support them in their struggle for revolution. The gracefulness of this leadership in its navigation of the development of its community is a shining star for those around them to follow in its path and has indicated to the rest of society a platform for struggle that rests solely upon the efforts of the community itself.

Aside from the missions themselves, a central tenet of the Bolivarian Circles is also planted in directly supporting, creating, and facilitating all sorts of community projects, from murals and art to community media to social movements and direct democracy campaigns to simply acting as social vigilantes and assuming the responsibility as social leaders within their community. Thus, the Bolivarian Circles are the anchor of community participation, mobilization, and grass roots political consciousness.

Bolivarian Schools

Possibly one of the most inspiring parts of the process here for me, the Bolivarian Schools are a ray of light, hope, and foundational instruments of social change that lies within the revolutionary process. I have seen examples of Bolivarian Schools across the spectrum, but when I see and experience the ones that are working in the positive, there is nothing more hopeful or beautiful or inspiring than to see this transformation in action. The schools are a vehicle for the wisdom of Bolivar and the ideals of the revolutionary process to come alive and to be lived, not only for the children as students, but for the teachers and for the entire community. There is an intrinsic happiness and joy in the students' and teachers' faces as new material is explored, new relationships solidified, and social contracts strengthened. When asked how they feel in being a part of the process within their particular role, there are teachers who shed tears of happiness as they express the joy and beauty they find in the Bolivarian Schools, saying that it is there that families are formed, community found, and purpose realized. The bonds of solidarity among one another thus begin at an early age as the pedagogy of liberation is taught and practiced in every relationship. Within this sphere of consciousness of our connection to and love among one another, the seeds for the future generation are planted and nurtured, a process which strengthens and ensures the life of the revolution every day.

Although participation in the revolutionary process or even the experience of life in Venezuela is enough to politicize and mobilize millions, the fact still remains that we must create a space for transforming the mentalities of self-centeredness, individuality, and brutal capitalism that are often beaten into us from early on. The Bolivarian Schools serve society as an excellent framework to teach revolutionary and transformative values while the children of today's understanding of themselves and of their world is still being formed. The example of the teacher as well as the content and manner of presentation of the material are extremely crucial in indicating values of cooperation, peace, collectivism, justice, and respect. As the children spend practically all day in school, where they receive their meals as well, there is a tremendous opportunity to reflect these values onto the youth.

If the values and vision of a society are to truly change in a direction of more social awareness and compassion for each and every person, we must stretch ourselves beyond the rhetoric we talk of in the streets and commit ourselves to practice and live these beliefs and ideals. Che talked about the "new [hu]man" within the context of revolution. The Bolivarian Schools provide an excellent arena to facilitate the ideals of this process, as they provide a context for shaping our social beings so that we may grow to be participatory, caring, compassionate actors in society.

Urban Land and Health Committees

Time and time again in my reflection upon and analysis of successful community organizing, I return to the structure upon which organizing strategies are based in El 23 de Enero. This is a blueprint which not only constructs an avenue down which resources may trickle, bringing benefits to the community, but also acts as a larger mechanism through which the community implements its own ways of uniting to solve common problems and empowers itself to steer its own course. It appears to be the only real way in which the sovereignty of the community may be achieved or long-term development of a community may come about, as it requires the organization and initiative of the community itself. Whatever type of government may enter the political spectrum in years to come, this organizational structure ensures that the community will always have a collective model to fall back on in case the tune of the government changes.

I learned something very important from the work I saw within the urban land committees. The concept of economic justice is more than gaining resources or fair income; at its most basic level lies the concept of human dignity. The solidarity process in helping people gain resources to repair and if necessary, rebuild their homes so that they may live in dignity is one of the most fundamental pieces of the process, and it is a process that begins at the grass roots level. Without the participation of the people on the ground and building of bridges between institutions, leaders, and the people within the community, government resources that trickle down from institutional orgs such as Fundabarrios and Fundacomun would not be nearly as effective or at all serve as a window for the community to organize itself in an independent and sovereign manner.

The health committees comprise a similar structure that exemplifies the way in which bottom-up organizing creates a foundation upon which communities may build their unity and search out avenues for internal support. Once again, this bridge of support between the community and the mission Barrio Adentro creates a link within the community, through which the people, organizers, and Cuban doctors are connected. Similarly to the structure of the urban land committees, without this organizing on the ground by the people themselves, the efforts of the Cuban doctors who have arrived in the barrios to work with the poor would not be nearly as effective.


As I ventured outside of the Caracas organizing bubble, I encountered a sphere of contradictions within the revolutionary process itself- empty promises, revolutionarily-principled organizers lacking methodological structure necessary to organize communities, and escualidos using "Bolivarian" institutional frameworks. Not to say that there aren't those who are quite organized, principled, and successful in engineering social change in their communities; for example those working in Acarigua for ongoing social change as well as for the Chavista primary elections held October 10, but what I saw was the absence of a domineering culture of community organizing structure that is so present in historically revolutionary communities such as El 23 de Enero, or even Caracas itself. The Portuguesa government claims to be Bolivarian in nature, came out strongly in condemning the 2002 coup, and has put many programs in place for the rehabilitation of homes, among other programs. So how is it different? Why do people there trying to improve their communities insist on hopelessly smashing their heads against institutional structures that operate so beauracratically and in an ideological sense offer no alternative to the Fourth Republic structure? I understand it as a fundamental lacking in the example of a paradigm of self-mobilizing culture that people can implement in their own communities to work for their own liberation. In attending a conference given by the state governor, Antonia Muñoz, I listened to her as she repeatedly to her constituencies in what should have been a talk solidifying her campaign apologized for the lack of community projects put forth by the government, saying "there's no money, there's no money". The next day, in conversing with a member of a poor community about organizing strategies, I listened as he said, "but we don't have any money, how can we organize?" It was only too easy to see the framework mirrored to the community by the institutional structure. The government has not yet indicated to its people the struggle that takes shape by collectively organizing in a democratically participatory manner amongst themselves in their own communities, developing an ideology that only they themselves can work for their own liberation; to remain dependent on an institution to give them what they need, no matter how "revolutionary" the institution claims to be, will never give way to sustained revolution. It is not a question of money, it is about coming together and creating outlines for projects with the resources that they share. If they (the government leaders) aren't careful, there is the potential threat of moving people to the right when they perceive that the "Bolivarian government" doesn't practice what it preaches, or even if what it preaches often fails to formulate a truly revolutionary foundation for its constituencies.

What was especially powerful about this visit was in gaining a better understanding of what it means to talk about the "revolutionary process" instead of coining the Bolivarian Revolution as one event or associating it simply with the Chavez national government. Those who claim to be agents of the process but arrive with no more than hollow rhetoric will most certainly ensure the stagnancy of the process in many parts of the country and the ability of the opposition to remain alive and active.


The ecological paradise which Merida boasts is likewise a mixed bag, with the politics of the ULA acting as a penetrative force to the spreading of revolutionary movements. Before I arrived, I had always envisioned that Merida was another organizing stronghold, largely in part due to the massive student population that resides there. The lesson learned from Merida, specifically the ULA? Don't equate student organizing with Chavismo necessarily. Although I met all sorts of professionals and students alike organizing in accordance with the revolutionary process, I as well encountered escualido student groups who took on "revolutionary" rhetoric, but as nothing more than an empty shell.

Miranda, CAFECAO

Thanks to the collective Carlos Reina, specifically Gustavo and son Maikol Borges, I was granted access to another organized, revolutionary front in the mountains of the southern zone of Miranda, bordering Guarico State. As I arrived in June, the entire community was undergoing political organizing formation and strategies, and several of our trips up to the mountain consisted of attending UBE meetings and the like instead of focusing on the economic functionality of the cooperative. What I realized, though, is that a cooperative is not just an alternative economic entity- it has the potential to act as an organizing prototype for an entire community, a mobilizing agent through which community members may instrument social change. Within the Bolivarian Revolutionary process, this is the intended course for all of the cooperatives; to form a platform upon which all community projects and organizing may be mounted and a collective paradigm formed.

Probably the most impressionable aspect of this community was its fierce organizing efforts and solidarity with the process in the face of such fascist economic and political repression and campaigns of violence led by the notorious Mendoza government. This government has changed since the victorious elections of October 31, but many legacies of the former system of inequality still linger. The solidarity efforts orchestrated between the mountain towns such as Macania, Los Rosales, and El Jovito and the Guarico pueblo San Francisco de Macaira have in fact been a great source of hope and also living examples of what organized people can accomplish, even under the darkest of circumstances. For years the two community zones have organized transportation of agricultural products by means of a make-shift highway, often unnavigable after heavy rains. The main route consists of a three to four hour trip one way; after rains, considerable additional time is needed to basically reconstruct parts of the road using picks and humanpower of pushing the trucks over large mud deposits. Day in and day out the youth and workers of the region make these trips not only for economic survival but also in hope that the dream of a viable highway will one day reach their community. In the kinds of organizational strategies that have surfaced here in the mountains echoes the type of organizing structure found in the revolutionary barrios such as El 23 de Enero. With the knowledge that no change will ever truly form for the long term without the grass roots organization and empowerment of the people themselves, the community here has aggressively taken it upon itself to organize into cells, not only for the functionality of the cooperative CAFECAO, but also in a search to construct a framework for problem-solving and conflict transformation within the community as well as a grass roots political platform from which a revolutionary campesino movement may spring. These cells act as mobilizers and active vigilantes of the efforts of the community, much like the Bolivarian Circles. In this way, a solid base of participatory, community organization has taken place, in whereas these cells are now able to act as bridges between the community and the types of institutional structures that can provide funding for projects such as the construction of a real highway.

With sustained efforts by community members as well as with the recent election of the new Miranda governor Diosdado, the dream of a highway is coming true. In and of itself this achievement is an inspirational example of what is possible within an organized community, one that has for long been forgotten and without available resources. Because of sustained community efforts in the mountains of Miranda, the people have gained access to programs such as Misión Robinson, Ribas, and Barrio Adentro.

As I have seen countless cooperatives that function as "empty shells"- borrowing a cooperative structure often times simply to gain access to funding, I have come to understand the essentiality of ideology building and construction of a profound revolutionary change that begins with each individual yet built by community. The missions and Bolivarian schools play a tremendous role in this construction, but its birth also lies within collective community projects, where step by step, people learn what collectivism is all about and how its magic can begin to not only profoundly change economic, social, and political structures and transform barriers, but also in our relation to one another as human beings.

Sucre en Comunidad

There is not a single better example that I have seen that illustrates this capacity of social transformation than the community newspaper here in El 23 de Enero, Sucre en Comunidad. This breathtaking, fascinating project has succeeded in mobilizing a poor community, all through completely grass roots means, to collective, animated participation in a project that highlights the efforts, problems, organizing, and cultural events of the community, lending itself as an instrument for furthering the unity of the community, self-reflection, and a space created for possible solutions to problems. Its articles and photos bring to light community events, urban culture, projects of community groups such as the Bolivarian Circles and urban land and health committees, and local celebrations organized and supported by community members. Its strict adherence to community and refusal to give itself in to empty cooperative structures for funding gives it a unique flavor and the ability to remain independent in its reporting and political analysis of events as well as political figureheads. It is a project that has spearheaded a collective participation in El 23 de Enero and a passion of every day community members to get involved in a project that they feel represents them.

Sucre en Comunidad acts not only as a microcosm for the kinds of organizing processes developed by the people and alliance building between revolutionary actors and other community members, but also as a macrocosm as it is a project which itself mobilizes a community and is in fact a product of their own mobilization. It is indeed an inspiring example of what is possible when people unite for their own empowerment and the improvement in the quality of life in their community, and a living example and manifestation of what the community, when organized, is capable of producing. It then lends itself as a tool through which the community can begin to fine-tune its organizing efforts and work on solving its own problems. Its publication through the collaboration of many members of the community- not just a few here and there- demonstrates that organized communities have the distinct capability of solving problems such as crime or delinquency by creating a participatory environment for its members. Thus, the newspaper provides an avenue for social change itself- both in the micro organizing strategies such as putting together the paper itself and also in the larger ways in which a community can embark on its own process of solving its own problems.

So really, community media is not just about highlighting community projects and having members of the community participate- although this is a tremendously important piece of community empowerment and sovereignty, but it is also about remaining independent from the type of institutional structures that potentially infringe on expression of the community. Even the alternative media cooperative structure here in Caracas remains incapable of bringing the justice of sovereign expression to the barrio, as a contingency for funding lies in publishing propaganda that supports government programs like FIDES or specific leaders such as Freddy Bernal. Thus, part of the community's expression is potentially censored, if for example, the need for critique becomes necessary. This is an example of "institutionalized" revolution- part of the process which corrupts the idea of what a cooperative is in the name of gaining access to available funds.

Thus, this project of Sucre IS the community, a manifestation of the collective participation of reclaiming one's community for itself and more, a celebration of urban culture...of course a culture with deep roots in revolution. It is about people being excited and passionate about participating, about animating them to collective action. As the vision began as a project just within Barrio Sucre, but little by little the idea is that it becomes a newspaper of all of El 23 de Enero, as El 23 doesn't have its own newspaper.

By contributing and participating, the community ensures the life of the paper, as it is not a project of Gustavo; rather he is a facilitator of its publication and organization. It is a project of the people, where they can hold their paper and point to their collaboration and identify with the project, a project which inspires people to collective action and collaboration, where they become co-creators in the ideology that shapes their lives in the barrio and springs them to action.


Like Sucre, el23.net functions as a network of grass roots community empowerment projects that illustrate direct social change movements within a community as well as connecting these efforts to international events and issues and larger networks of information. Its user-friendly layout gives way to involvement in community struggle through collective creative imagination and construction of alternatives, suggesting that the neither internet nor web design are the exclusive property of an elite class. El23.net also plays a part in animating much of the community to use computers and the internet, which when used in this way is a tremendously powerful tool in coordinating collective action and movements and in building links of support. This webpage has not only succeeded in developing these bridges of communication, participation, and support within the Caracas area itself, but has served as an instrumental force in connecting communities worldwide and also is a great source of pride for the community of El 23 de Enero in having a website they can call their own.

Community Radio

As a US citizen, the vast numbers of community radio stations and projects here in Venezuela continue to inspire me and are just an incredible result of the process itself which carries with it a mandate for people to take charge of their own media, and thus, community expression. This is one of the most powerful ways in which a community can reclaim what is theirs, the power of representation. The different projects I have seen and participated in, from community radio in Los Teques (Radio Comunitaria Carrizal), to programs Polémicas and Bolivarians Without Borders in headquarters YVKE Mundial, have shown me the different ways in which different nations and international communities as well as the local nucleus of a people may interact, communicate, and forge merging struggles and paths into one united front. As community radio is practically outlawed by the "forces of the market" in the United States, while stations are one by one snatched up by huge corporate right-wing structures in collaboration with the FBI who raids pirate and community stations, thus forcing them off the air and out of public consciousness, the hope for a collective, communal voice becomes rarer and rarer. This hope dims even more as even independent internet sites are being shut down internationally, such as indymedia.org in some countries. There is an imminent, global emergency for community voice and expression through the air ways, a movement that Venezuela pioneers, a beacon of light within these dark times.


The August 15th referendum was a triumph on so many different levels, and a firm affirmation of the direction of the country as well as the efforts and ties of solidarity among the people themselves. Like Sucre, August 15th serves as a mirror for the micro and macrocosms in effect that are reflected in this movement, those towards economic and political sovereignty of the Venezuelan people as well as community empowerment and the building of a collectivist mentality.

The crucial precedent was also set in terms of a "defeat for the NED" (National Endowment for Democracy, a right-wing private institution in the US used as a tool for destabilization campaigns). After years of contributing millions to opposition groups in Venezuela, providing not only an economic support base as well as a political momentum for the opposition, one of the lessons of the historic recall was that this type of instrument of which the US is so fond of using, no longer will succeed in Venezuela; the masses of society have assumed control and power over the direction of their own country.

Without repeating everything that has been published in mass since the historic victory not only for Venezuela, but for Latin America in its entirety, what now follows in the aftermath is equally important. The Venezuelan masses, who after 40 years living in a two-party, falsely painted democracy, have been mobilized once again to come out to the polls and participate in electoral politics, something which the majority had given up on after countless false promises, now in a new hope and faith that their chosen leaders will respond to their needs and their trust. It is crucial, thus, that these leaders- not only Chavez but all of the Chavista mayors and governors that were elected in the October 31 elections- comply with the word of the people. The masses have opened up to them their dreams and their faith in the Fifth Republic system...if they are failed not only is it likely they will never believe in electoral politics again, but that a new opening for the opposition will expand.

Being present here for this historic and magical moment and day was more than I could ever have dreamed. Seeing, hearing, and feeling the energy of the people as they patiently waited in line to cast their vote, as they anxiously awaited Chavez' arrival in El 23 de Enero, or observing the vast differences that appeared between not only the Chavista and opposition media channels but also the differences (and similarities) between the (opposition) Venezuelan and US news (thus revealing the quite obvious connection between local struggles for power and against imperialism). It was a day (and night) filled with light, love, and celebration, Venezuelan-style with a people and their leader, which I can only describe as a divine pleasure and profound inspiration to which have been a part. Thank you to the Venezuelan people for showing me and filling me with hope to continue on in the struggles that lie for us in the United States and in the world.

In a humble attempt to thank all of here who have made my experience so memorable and who have subsequently knowingly or not politicized me through their incredible revolutionary example, I realize that this space is small; know that the space I hold for you all in my heart is great, and will not shrink with time. To Gustavo- someone who has been a supervisor, friend, comrade, and mentor to me over these six months- has been there through thick and thin, and has been a guide and inspiration throughout. To all the members of Bolivarian Circle Abrebrecha and Collective Carlos Reina- Iliana and Marjorie Villalobos, Mari Reina, Alexander, Gustavito, Maikol- you have all been so wonderful, fun, beautiful, amazing revolutionaries and friends. Your dedication and devotion to your work, to your people, to the Revolution most certainly will never die, Patrulleros, Patrulleras! To all of the beautiful and inspiring students in Misión Robinson, Ribas, Sucre, Vuelvan Caras- here in Caracas and El 23 de Enero, as well as Macaira, Amazona, and communities throughout Venezuela, it has truly been a pleasure. I look forward to the next time. To Eduardo, another cooperative organizer here in Venezuela, thank you for the laughs, wisdom, and support. Magaly, Freddy, and all the folks who have given me shout outs and space on their radio programs, it was a blast and an honor, and I'll keep my dial tuned your way in the States. Thank you! To the commie family and Boris and friends in Portuguesa and Merida, the colorful and joyous folks in Amazonas, friends in Sucre...keep shining, and thank you for all you have given me. I love you all.

For more info, visit:



PDF files of community newspaper Sucre en Comunidad available at el23.net, link Prensa Comunitaria

Previous letters from Katie (published by the Cybercircle.org)

Katherine Lahey

Correspondent el23.net
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German HOV Supporters visit Venezuelan Consulate to hand over Petitions calling for the nationalisation of Venepal

Well over 1,000 signatures collected by German HOV supporters in recent weeks and months were handed over by a delegation of eight activists to the Venezuelan General Consulate in Frankfurt last Thursday. The signatures on the sheets included those of several euro MPs, regional MPs, shop stewards and union full timers, student activists and artists. Those signatures that had been collected only in recent weeks referred to the occupation of the Venepal factory in Morón (Carabobo), demanding that the enterprise should nationalised by the Venezuelan government and placed under workers' control.

Although the visit was of a rather spontaneous character and had not been coordinated with the consulate beforehand, César Osvelio Méndez González, the Consul General, gave us a warm welcome and spent well over an hour discussing with the delegation on the development in Venezuela in recent years.

"We have been following events in your country since the failed coup in 2002 with sympathy and solidarity", said Hans-Gerd Öfinger as he handed over the pile of sheets to César Osvelio Méndez González: "Whereas elsewhere in the world governments are busy attacking the rights and living standards of working people, in Venezuela real social reforms in the interest of the poor are on the order of the day. The revolutionary process in Venezuela shows that another road is possible".

The Consul General who proudly confessed his commitment to the Bolivarian movement appreciated our solidarity and outlined the development in Venezuela since the early 1990es. He emphasised how president Chávez had been repeatedly strengthened by democratic elections and handed over a copies of the new Venezuelan constitution. He vividly described the events in April, 2002, when a conspiracy of employers, opposition parties, some military men and the U.S. and the right-wing Spanish government tried to establish a right wing dictatorship.

Hans-Gerd Öfinger explained that HOV in Germany was fighting for the recognition of the new militant union federation, UNT, and for the building of direct links between German unions and the UNT.

See photos here:


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One month on from the assassination of Danilo Anderson; blown to smithereens by 250 grams of C4 explosive placed underneath his vehicle.

VHeadline commentarist Carlos Herrera writes: It's now one month to the day since Public Prosecutor Danilo Anderson was assassinated in Los Chaguaramos (Caracas) ... blown to smithereens by 250 grams of C4 explosive placed underneath his vehicle ...all that remained of him were his feet.

The investigating authorities have identified the material authors of this abominable crime; discovered caches of arms and explosives and according to a statement from Attorney General, Isaias Rodriguez (yesterday) in front of the National Pantheon, are not to far off identifying the intellectual authors either ... based on "crossed-sourced information" from telephone calls ... all of which are under investigation. In fact, Rodriguez asked for an extension of two weeks to complete the investigation.

The opposition press has thrown up a smokescreen in the last month, by criticizing the investigation efforts as "being incompetent" ... and even accused the police of "liquidating" suspects in order to throw "human rights violations" at the government.

The facts are that, based on forensic tests, the two people killed in shootouts had in fact fired their weapons ... leading one to believe that these people were desperate, when the police tried to apprehend them.

The key is to find the intellectual authors and the financiers, and I'm sure the authorities would not want key actors eliminated, as it makes the investigation even more tortuous.

Patience is the key at the moment.

Danilo can never come back ... but he's in the hearts and minds of the "pueblo" (people) who knew that he would eventually bring the coupsters of April 12, 2002 to justice.

As a tribute to Danilo Anderson, we at VHeadline are not going to waste more words, simply we are going to play a song by the "pueblo's" singer-song writer, Ali Primera, entitled: "Los que mueren por la vida, (no pueden llamarse muertos) -- " Those who die for the sake of life, (have not died at all), which is a fitting anthem for this patriot, so vilely murdered fighting for the cause of justice, and therefore lasting peace in Venezuela.

"Sin justicia, no habrá paz" ­ Hugo Chávez Frías

Carlos Herrera
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Caracas, December 13, 2004—Caracas metropolitan police officers say they were ordered to fire at Chavista demonstrators on the day of the coup against President Chavez, on April 11, 2002 at Puente Llaguno. The four officers who testified before the Fourth Court of Aragua coincided in their accusations against the ex-directors of the metropolitan police, Henry Vivas and Lázaro Forero.

The Fourth Court of Aragua is currently investigating the actions of Henry Vivas, the former Caracas Metropolitan Police Commander, and Lázaro Forero, the former Chief of Security for Caracas’ oppositional former Metropolitan Mayor, Alfredo Peña, as well as other police officers during the march that preceded the temporary overthrow of President Hugo Chávez.

The shots that the police fired at pro-Chavez demonstrators that day caused some of these to fire back. Venezuela’s private mass media captured the Chavista gunfire and falsely claimed that these were firing at unarmed opposition demonstrators, not at the metropolitan police, who had started shooting at them first, according to many eyewitnesses. These images of Chavistas shooting were a crucial element in the April 2002 coup attempt, as these were used to justify the coup on the grounds that Chavez had issued an order for his supporters to fire at opposition demonstrators.

A series of radio conversations between police officials presumed to be recorded on April 11, 2002 were turned in to Metropolitan Police Inspector Leonardo Navas from an unidentified source last year. The tapes implicate the commanders of the Metropolitan Police as having given orders to fire on the pro-Chavez demonstrators, which resulted in the deaths of about seven civilians.

In his testimony before the Judge, a metropolitan police officer recounted the events of April 11, 2002, “I heard over the radio when the Superintendent Forero gave the order to fire on the Chavistas.” “I do not know why Superintendents Vivas, Iván Simonovis and Forero did not give the order to break up the march,” testified another of the police officers in front of the judge.

“If superintendent Forero issued the order to drive back the demonstrators in support of the government, why did he not also order us to the same with the opposition?” asked another police officer. All four officers expressed regret for not having stopped the march.

Another of the police officers remembers that the Operations Chief, Emigdio Delgado, ordered the withdrawal of the Metropolitan Police from the center of Caracas due to the magnitude of the events and in order to make room for the National Guard.

“We never tried to deter the march. It never should have been permitted,” said one of the police officers. Later on he added, “The command to try to achieve public order through chemical tactics or negotiation was never given.” His testimony was in direct contradiction to the declarations by Vivas and Forero made last Saturday.

In a statement issued by Navas on November 26, 2004, he said that these tapes prove that, “The actions by Police Inspectors Forero, Vivas, and Delgado, far from restoring public order, they were subverting it instead.”

Vivas and Forero were charged for their alleged participation in the coup d’état by former State Prosecutor Danilo Anderson on November 3, 2004. Anderson was assassinated in a terrorist act slightly over two weeks later.

In the interim, Vivas and Forero sought political asylum in the Embassy of El Salvador in Caracas. After deliberations, the Salvadoran government denied the request. “El Salvador should not interfere in the internal affairs of Venezuela,” said Salvadoran Congressman Miguel Bennett in a statement issued last month.

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