Hugo Chavez was the first president of Latin America to declare himself of African descent. In an interview with Democracy Now in 2005, Chavez reaffirmed the importance of his and Venezuelan peoples’ historic ties to the continent, stating:

"And one of the greatest motherlands of all is no doubt, Africa. We love Africa. And every day we are much more aware of the roots we have in Africa… Racism is very characteristic of imperialism. Racism is very characteristic of capitalism."

Why Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution matter to Africa

Hugo Chavez was the first president of Latin America to declare himself of African descent.

In an interview with Democracy Now in 2005, Chavez reaffirmed the importance of his and Venezuelan peoples’ historic ties to the continent, stating:

And one of the greatest motherlands of all is no doubt, Africa. We love Africa. And every day we are much more aware of the roots we have in Africa… Racism is very characteristic of imperialism. Racism is very characteristic of capitalism.  

image source

Very sober perspective on Venezuela. The real question is: whither the Bolivarian revolution? Right now the Chavista regime is caught between reform and revolution, capitalism and socialism. Will the right-wing and ruling classes be able to exploit the current economic problems and political uncertainty in order to turn back the progressive gains of Chavismo; or will the working classes respond by rising up and independently forcing the ‘revolutionary process’ to proceed well beyond that which the present government is either willing or able to engage in?

Either the large capitalists must be finally and decisively taken over and placed under the control of worker-consumer cooperatives — thus solving the problem of shortages and industrial stand-still, or the capitalists will continue to exercise their vast power in collaboration with Western interests until a situation of utter crisis prevails and they (or their right-wing political representatives) can step into the breach.

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Shortages, inflation and corruption are fueling frustrations with the government in Venezuela—and the hopes of the right.

Many on the left are convinced that the strategy they [the right-wing] are pursuing is the Media Luna option. The wealthy eastern states of Eastern Bolivia, the so-called Media Luna or Half Moon, attempted a strategy of secession a few years ago to undermine the government of Evo Morales.

They, too, mobilized around racism and pursued strategies of civil disorder, advised in that case by the U.S. ambassador at the time. The strategy failed, but at a cost. Had it succeeded, Bolivia would have been plunged into a civil war between a largely white Media Luna and an indigenous Highland Bolivia. A similar logic may be at work in Venezuela; all the leaders of the right-wing parties are white.

 … [Yet] the Chavista process is run from above by a bureaucracy that is building a state capitalist project in the name of revolution. The anti-imperialist rhetoric is reserved for Washington. The Chinese and the Russians, whose purposes in investing in Venezuela have nothing to do with socialism and a great deal to do with profit, are the new partners in the Venezuelan economy.

Chinese money is funding the house-building program, for example. Quite clearly neither of these allies is acting out of proletarian solidarity, and there is no reason why a private sector sharing government with the bureaucracy should have any difficulties with them. Business, after all, is business.

 … There is an overwhelming feeling in Venezuela, shared by many, of aimlessness, of decisions made on the spur of the moment. Thus, for example, the creation of new agencies to deal with the allocation of foreign currency has produced more confusion and a continuing outflow of dollars.

The reason for that becomes clear on a stroll around the city. The Venezuelan production system is at a standstill, and the gap has been filled by a rising tide of imports, paid for in dollars. The exchange rate reflects the fact that the Bolívar has nothing to sustain it—no production and shrinking reserves.

Venezuela is even importing oil in order to fulfill its international obligations. Yet it was oil revenues that were to fund and sustain the often very exciting social programs that did, undoubtedly, transform the lives of Venezuela’s poor in the early part of Chávez’s government. Those programs are now failing because oil finances are shrinking, or at least being diverted to sustain other areas of the national economy.

The result is the very real day-to-day difficulties. The fact that the opposition complains about shortages and price inflation that affect it less than the majority of the population does not detract from the realities.

 … the underlying frustrations and discontents that affect every sector of the society, and not just the middle class, are the consequences of shortages, inflation and centrally about corruption. There is a widely accepted figure that $2 billion has “disappeared” over the last year or so. And it is well known that speculation and black marketeering is common within both the private and the public sector.

 … Whatever the immediate future, these are the only forces that will carry the revolution forward. That is what people are proclaiming when they wear the fashionable caps bearing Chávez’s eyes, looking out into the future.

The alternative is one they already know, because the people leading the opposition have demonstrated where they want to take Venezuela—back to the poverty, the inequality, the corruption and the violence of the past. This was what they offered when they last attempted to seize power, and that is still the vision that drives them.

The issue is: What are the leaders of the Chavista process offering? There have been campaigns against corruption, speculation and violence in the past, which have produced very few results; the few government members who took their role seriously and took on the speculators were soon removed. It is a moment to address, without rhetoric, the real problems that the majority of Venezuelans are facing, their causes and radical solutions.

Chavistas' love-hate relationship with Miami

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For all his anti-U.S. rhetoric, Hugo Chávez and his followers have made quite a habit of spending time (and money) in U.S. cities like Miami. (Flickr)

By CASTO OCANDO
Channel: Latin American Affairs

The following is an excerpt from Casto Ocando’s upcoming book Chavistas in the U.S.

Chavistas of all shapes and sizes, from President Hugo Chávez to ministers, magistrates, and down, have had a love-hate relationship with the United States — especially with Miami — since before the Bolivarian revolution came to power in February 1999.

During the 1998 presidential campaign, Chávez complained that he was not allowed to travel to Miami to hold a televised debate with then-contender Claudio Fermín, in a TV studio in Hialeah. The visa was not granted because the State Department in Washington kept Chávez blacklisted for his involvement in the 1992 coup d’etat.

It was not the first time Chávez had asked for a U.S. visa. In 1996, two years after receiving the presidential pardon from Rafael Caldera, the Lt. Col. applied on his own for a tourist visa, which was denied outright.

Chávez was finally able to visit the U.S. for the first time in early 1999, before taking office. His primary interest when he visited New York and Washington was to calm the unrest unleashed by his hidden intentions. According to reports, he was astonished to have met with the powers that be, including the heirs of such famous tycoons as Rockefeller and Hearst.

Chávez’s visit was only the first of a long list of Venezuelan revolutionary travelers taking delight in a way of life they publicly despised, but privately embraced.

Personalities such as former Attorney General Isaías Rodriguez and the current governor of Anzoategui — and “poet of the revolution” — Tarek William Saab, used to travel to Miami in the early 00s to defend the good faith of Chávez’s project.

Later on, Rodriguez would accuse Venezuelan residents in Miami of conspiring to assassinate the late public prosecutor Danilo Anderson, relying on evidence that eventually proved to be false.

As of Saab, he was stripped of his visa in 2002 after revelations surfaced that he met in Madrid with radical Islamic groups labeled as terrorists by the U.S.

In 2004, the then-president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Jorge Rodriguez, a prominent leftist that later became Venezuela’s Vice President, was discovered in an exclusive resort in Boca Raton, enjoying massages and VIP attention paid by electronic elections firm Smartmatic, with which CNE had previously signed a $100 million contract to organize the August 2004 recall referendum. At the time he was heavily criticized for what appeared to be an open conflict of interest.

The following year, in May 2005, senior magistrates of the Supreme Court, including the current president, Luisa Estela Morales, convened a press conference “to categorically reject” the cancellation of the American visa of the president’s court, Omar Mora.

The magistrate, who used to travel as a tourist to the very heart of the empire, tore his clothes because the U.S. Embassy in Caracas sent an email to all foreign and Venezuelan airlines to inform them that his visa had been cancelled.

“It has affected the dignity of the Venezuelan Judicial Power,” said the judge in a statement. “For if I would have needed to travel and they wouldn’t have let me board the plane, it was going to be an affront to the country,” said Mora.

At that time, the purchasing office of the Armed Forces of Venezuela, located four blocks from Walmart, in the city of Doral (or as it is known by many, “Doralzuela”), northwest of Miami, was an eloquent example of the chavistas’ taste for the American Way of Life.

C-130 Hercules aircrafts of the Venezuelan Air Force travelled every week from the Miami International Airport to the Palo Negro Air Force base, in Maracay, central Venezuela, fully-loaded with all kinds of products of the capitalismo salvaje, many of them to supply and entertain the higher ranks of the chavista military.

Although these flights ended in 2006 when Washington banned trade with Venezuela’s military, many of them managed to continue enjoying the benefits of the cursed empire.

A group of military officers, aided by a wealthy businessman who was well-connected within the Chávez government, acquired at least a dozen apartments in an exclusive area of Coral Gables.

“Everyone is trying to secure its future in case the chavista revolution fails,” a person familiar with the property deals told me at the time.

Also in 2006, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro’s shopping trip to South Florida was to be postponed after being detained by immigration officials at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The arrest, denounced by Maduro as a violation of diplomatic rules, came after the minister took out a thick bundle of cash to purchase three first class tickets to Miami at the American Airlines counter. The wad of cash alarmed the airline employees and the federal authorities. Maduro was detained for half an hour and then released after efforts of United Nations ambassador, Francisco Arias Cardenas. Maduro had to suspend his spending spree in his well-cherished Aventura and Dadeland Malls and departed directly to Caracas, where he was received by his frustrated spouse, Congresswoman Cilia Flores, president of the National Assembly, and a big fan of shopping in Miami.

Five days before this episode, on September 21, 2006, President Chavez had characterized U.S. president George W. Bush as “a devil, a liar, and imperialist dictator,” in a now famous (or infamous) address to the United Nations.

Even relatives of anti-American former Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel, did not hesitated to settle in Uncle Sam’s paradise to do business, as his daughter-in-law Gabriela Chacón, a fashion designer who until recently operated a shop in exclusive Coconut Grove.

From financial officers to public prosecutors, to ministers and even blood relatives of the Venezuelan president, they have not hidden their obsession with the virtues of Miami.

Chavistas have been caught in Miami, not only spending lots of money on properties and high-end goods, but extorting and spying.

General Henry Rangel Silva, the new Venezuelan Defense Minister and a prominent member of the Venezuelan nationals list designated as kingpins by the Department of the Treasury, was tapped by the FBI while discussing ways to cover a scandalous espionage episode in 2007.

Venezuelan financial officer Rafael Ramos de la Rosa was closely followed by federal agents in Miami while extorting several Venezuelan businessmen in South Florida in 2010. He finally was apprehended with a $750,000 check in his pocket and sentenced to 27 months of prison.

Several of Ramos de la Rosa’s supervisors have been tracked while in Miami living la vida loca. One of them spent last Christmas in luxurious locations in South Beach, Orlando, and Vail, Colorado, the exclusive winter resort that’s become a favorite destination for the chavista elite.

Perhaps the reason behind the chavistas enchantment with the powerful myth of the American dream is cultural. It is no wonder Venezuelans have been coming to South Florida since the mid 1920s, first in the ancient seaplanes of German-Colombian airline Scadta, and later through Aeropostal and Viasa airline.

But of no less importance is the economic reason.

Despite the anti-imperialist rhetoric, Chávez's government has promoted a more active economic relationship with the U.S. than previous Venezuelan governments.

For instance, for the first grand plan to distribute food at reasonable prices through government-controlled stores in 2008, chavistas could think of no better way to import food than through the purchasing office in Miami of Bariven, a subsidiary of oil conglomerate Pdvsa. The rice and beans that are part of the staple Venezuelan diet came at that time from rice fields in Texas and Arkansas, and black bean crops in Idaho.

In 12 years, the Chávez administration doubled imports from the United States, most of which comes to Venezuela from Miami. According to U.S. Census Bureau trade figures, Venezuela imported $11.24 billion in goods from the U.S., more than double than the $5.35 billion it imported in 1999, when Chávez took office.

From Miami alone, exports to Venezuela were close to $3 billion in 2010. Most U.S. exports to Venezuela departed from the Miami International Airport, a total of $2.19 billion, according to the Miami-Dade Aviation Department. The rest, about $680 million in goods, was shipped through the Port of Miami.

Behind this prosperous economic activity are very powerful economic groups controlled by the Bolivarian Revolution elite, with deeper pockets than anyone else in the country’s recent history.

Chávez’s order to close the Venezuelan consulate in Miami can not be seen but as another episode in this long love-hate relationship that has marked relations with the United States and the flamboyant Chavistas.


September 16, 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Around eight million pre-and primary school children began the new Venezuelan school year today, with the government announcing the distribution of free textbooks and laptops to educational centres.

This year the government will distribute 35 million textbooks to state primary and high schools from its Bicentenary Collection, which covers the national curriculum. This marks an increase from last year when 30.75 million books were distributed under the system, and 12 million in 2011.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro lauded the government’s preparations for the school year, stating on Saturday that policies were designed to provide “quality” education to all.

“To begin classes on Monday and take children to school, we’re going to begin handing out 35 million textbooks so that classes start with the best quality,” he said at an official event.

The government is also planning to distribute 5 million copies of the National Constitution to schools this term in order to raise awareness of the constitution’s contents and promote the values defended in its articles.

The government will also distribute 650,000 free “Canaima” laptops to children from 1st to 6th grade this school term. A further 1.4 million will be handed out in 2014, bringing the total distributed since 2008 to 4 million.

Assembled in Venezuela, the Canaima laptops are manufactured as part of a cooperation agreement with Portugal.

Further, under the government social program “A Drop of Love for My School”, repairs were made to 1000 educational centres over the summer holidays.

Arriba a la Izquierda
  • Arriba a la Izquierda
  • Lloviznando Cantos
  • El Pueblo Pa' la Asamblea
Play

LLOVIZNANDO CANTOS - ARRIBA A LA IZQUIERDA [VENEZUELA, 2010]

"Consolidando el poder popular, en la comuna y la patria nueva
Por Venezuela y mi comandante, con el PSUV pa’ la asamblea!”

For the most part, I post songs related to some historical revolutionary movement in Latin America; so far, we’ve covered a good number of countries on the continent. What I haven’t done enough of, however, is share with you examples of contemporary music from living people’s movements, such as that which exists in Venezuela today.

If there is any one individual or group leading this new cultural wave in radical folk music, it would have to be Lloviznando Cantos, the duo of Vilma Garce and Wilson Barba (pictured) who are both members of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela. They perform regularly at PSUV campaign rallies and events, including recording this song for the Party’s album of songs for the 2010 National Assembly elections. Vilma even ran on the party slate for the Capital District of Caracas in that election, but lost to the candidate of the MUD (‘Democratic’ Unity Roundtable). In addition to playing songs glorifying the PSUV, Lloviznando Cantos (which means Drizzling Songs, literally) has also played internationalist compositions for the people of El Salvador, including a homage to Mariposa, the voice of the FMLN’s Radio Venceremos, and classic Venezuelan songs like Ali Primera’s Tin Marin.

The goal of this song and others was to motivate the people to vote for Hugo Chavez’s PSUV, in what ultimately was a close election resulting in a PSUV majority of less than 2/3, after a number of years with a monopoly on electoral power after the 2005 boycott by opposition parties. A number of pro-Chavez Venezuela experts I have spoken with have suggested that this less-than-convincing victory is a good thing for the PSUV, forcing its newer legislators to practice arguing for their positions after 5 years of not needing to and bringing to light many of the opportunists in the party who took anti-people positions during their time in power. One only has to look at the stark contrast between Chavez’s strong majority in Anzoategui state in 2006 and the crushing defeat of the PSUV there four years later to see that something was going wrong; in this situation, the regional PSUV government had sided with corporate interests during an auto workers strike, resulting in many otherwise radical Venezuelans staying home on election day.

Anyway let’s get to it, here are the lyrics in the original Spanish with an English translation below. Enjoy!

SPANISH:

Ayo…… Votamos PSUV!

Arriba a la izquierda por el socialismo
Los Bolivarianos revolucionarios votamos PSUV

Somo millones, una sola voz
vivimos en paz, en tierra de amor
a los oligarcas, oido el tambor
que mi Venezuela ya se libero!

Consolidando el poder popular
en la comuna y la patria nueva
Por Venezuela y mi comandante
con el PSUV pa’ la asamblea

El pueblo escribe su historia,
el pueblo escribe sus leyes
El pueblo legislador,
el pueblo pa’ la asamblea!

Los estudiantes… pa’ la asamblea!
Artistas cultores… pa’ la asamblea!
Los indigenas… pa’ la asamblea!
Afro-descendientes … pa’ la asamblea!
Madres del barrio… pa’ la asamblea!
Los pescadores… pa’ la asamblea!
Los campesinos… pa’ la asamblea!
Los obreros… pa’ la asamblea!

ENGLISH:

Ayo……. Let’s vote for the PSUV!

Forward with the left for socialism
The revolutionary Bolivarians vote for the PSUV

We are millions, one single voice
we live in peace, in a land of love
to the oligarchs, hear our noise
because my Venezuela has freed itself!

Consolidating people’s power
in the commune and in our new homeland
For Venezuela and my commander,
with the PSUV to the assembly!

The people writes its history,
the people writes its laws,
the people is its legislator,
the people to the assembly!

Students… to the assembly!
Cultural artists… to the assembly!
Indigenous people… to the assembly!
Afro-descendents… to the assembly!
Mothers of the neighborhood… to the assembly!
Fishermen… to the assembly!
Peasants… to the assembly!
Workers… to the assembly!

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