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The Bolivarian Revolution: Advances & Obstacles

by Susan Andres Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2005 at 2:59 PM
la@crossroadswomen.net 323-292-7405 PO Box 86681 Los Angles CA 90086

For those interested in looking beyond biased mainstream media news on Venezuela, there aren’t many better options than hearing about the nation’s ongoing social and political revolution from a key advisor to President Chavez.

The Bolivarian Revol...
08_sharmini_peries.jpg, image/jpeg, 600x450

International Relations Advisor to President Chavez Talks about the Real Venezuela



For those interested in looking beyond biased mainstream media news on Venezuela, there aren’t many better options than hearing about the nation’s ongoing social and political revolution from a key advisor to President Chavez. That’s why the presentation by Sharmini Peries, The Bolivarian Revolution: Advances and Obstacles, at an event coordinated by the Global Women’s Strike, was so compelling to the 200 + people who packed Immanuel Presbyterian Church Westminister Chapel in Los Angeles on June 6.



A Sri Lankan by birth, a distinguished journalist and human rights activist, Ms. Peries landed a reporter’s interview with President Chavez a few years ago. The interview led to a job as International Relations Advisor to the President.



Ms. Peries engaged the audience on how Venezuela is remaking itself as a socially just society. She integrated her own firsthand knowledge with Venezuela’s historic background, and explained its international concerns, as well as its new initiatives – literacy, healthcare, housing, land rights, and more, driven by 80% of its people, mainly people of color living in poverty, who elected President Chavez in 1998 and who reaffirmed their support for the revolution he is leading at the August 2004 referendum. US-backed attempts to overthrow Chavez, such as the coup and the oil lockout, she said, had strengthened him and the revolution he leads. She described how new bureaucracy-cutting Misiones, not funded by the state but by PDVSA, the state oil company, have successfully targeted hunger, illiteracy, pollution of the environment and lack of medical care.

With this approach, President Chavez’s government swiftly eliminated illiteracy in Venezuela over three years, an unheard of advance that shows the government’s commitment to giving all of its citizens the tools they need to actively build a new democracy. In the past, institutions like the World Bank had offered 15-year plans which 30 years later were shown to have increased rather than reduce poverty. And prioritizing free education for all contrasts with corrupt policies, which for decades had reserved these benefits exclusively for the wealthy elite.



Venezuela sells discounted oil to Cuba in exchange for the expertise of Cuban doctors, teachers and others who live and serve in Venezuela’s poorest areas, converting its PDVSA oil earnings into something of lasting value for the population that will have a revolutionary impact on Venezuela’s development. “It’s a beginning, to have a population that is literate,” she said.



Other Bolivarian educational programs, like Mision Ribas, have taught those who had been forced to drop out of high school, as well as women who were denied education under previous regimes. There are free Bolivarian universities ready for high school students, whereas before only the elite had access to university. Standard school curriculums have been revised to make students aware of their citizenship rights. They are taught Venezuelan history, Latin American history and national development. “It’s education as a long-term process,” she said.



Regarding land rights, 18,000 land titles have been handed out this year. It is so moving, she said, to see 75-yr olds, grandmothers and grandfathers, holding land titles in their hands, after so many years of struggle. And President Chavez has made dealing with corruption a priority, talking about it on a regular basis, recognizing it’s a slow process training people to carry out ethical business practices. Of the 20 top oil companies operating in Venezuela, 15 are U.S. companies most of whom haven’t paid taxes yet and understate their production levels. Chavez is doing everything possible to diversify so as not to be dependent on U.S. companies.

But the revolutionary advances seem to provoke the Bush administration into trying to stop the Chavez government, an example of social and economic justice they cannot tolerate. U.S. corporate media refer to Venezuela’s president as “America’s Nemesis” and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was recently in Latin America in a bid to gain support for U.S. efforts to destabilize the Bolivarian Revolution. She seems to have got no takers.



Venezuela has three issues of international concern, she said. The first is the effort to work with other countries in the Organization of American States (OAS) through the established principles of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries.



The second is Venezuela’s own efforts to end terrorism. Venezuela is demanding the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles, a known terrorist wanted on charges of blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976 that killed 83 people near Barbados. Posada is currently being held in the US on an immigration charge and the Bush administration has not handed him over. Venezuela is pressing the U.S. to practice the same international law it demands of others.



Third is U.S. efforts to destabilize Venezuela internally. At last week’s OAS meeting, the U.S. pushed for representation of an NGO group called Sumate that is currently facing charges of taking payoffs from the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy. The group, whose leaders supported the 2002 coup against President Chavez, took tens of thousands of U.S. dollars explicitly to make a new effort to unseat President Chavez in the August 2004 referendum.



Ms. Peries noted President Chavez’s growing influence in the world. While in the U.S. the corporate media beholden to the current administration vilify the Bolivarian Revolution, the rest of the world sees a different reality. The warm response Venezuela’s popular elected leader received as he traveled abroad matches his 70% popular approval rating inside Venezuela. President Chavez made triumphant visits to new countries never before visited by a Venezuelan president. These were not tarmac-and-hotel affairs but real efforts to reach out to people in the vast cities of India and Bangladesh, among others, where his message of social justice for all was greeted enthusiastically.



President Chavez focuses on different regions each year and is considering a focus on Africa for next year. Most Venezuelans have roots in Africa, and these exchanges aim to put people in touch with each other.

The evening’s program also included a film clip on Independent World Television, a huge world-wide viewer-sponsored television network to be launched next year, with Paul Jay, IWT’s chairman, and clips from a new film on Venezuela “Talking of Power” produced by the Global Women’s Strike. Both were warmly received. Copies of the film sold out, but are available (see below).

The event was co-sponsored by Danny Glover, Alexandria House, Eastside Café, El Sereno and San Gabriel Valley Neighbors for Peace and Justice, Office of the Americas, and endorsed by Action Resource Center, ANSWER-LA, Bolivarian Circle/LA “Ezequiel Zamora”, CISPES, Every Mother is a Working Mother Network, International Action

Center/LA. KPFK Radio 90.7 FM was the media sponsor for this event.

Ms. Peries also spoke to groups in Northern California and in East Los Angeles, at a Fandanguito at the Eastside Café in El Sereno. Appearing with her, marking the Venezuela-Haiti connection, was Lucie Tondreau, grassroots Haitian activist who also spoke at Holman United Methodist Church on June 16.

For more info or to order the film “Talking of Power” call 323-292-7405, la@crossroadswomen.net, www.globalwomenstrike.net

By Susan Andres





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Sharmini Peries speaking, with Margaret Prescod

by Susan Andres Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2005 at 2:59 PM
la@crossroadswomen.net 323-292-7405 PO Box 86681 Los Angles CA 90086

Sharmini Peries spea...
06_sharmini_peries_with_margaret_prescod.jpg, image/jpeg, 600x450

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