8 Jan 2009

The Real Venezuela?

Hi Everyone and Happy New Year!

Hands Off Venezuela and Pluto Books invite you to the book launch of "The Real Venezuela" by Iain Bruce, a British journalist and film-maker who has worked extensively in Latin America, at Bolivar Hall, 54 Grafton Way,London W1T 5DL on Wednesday January 14th at 7.30pm, free entry. T

he author will be presenting his book, with additional speakers to be confirmed. Iain Bruce has made documentaries for Channel Four and the BBC and hasworked as a BBC correspondent in Brazil and in Venezuela. He is currently an adviser at Telesur, the Latin American news channel based in Caracas.His previous book for Pluto, The Porto Alegre Alternative, looked at experiences of direct democracy in Brazil. The Real Venezuela aims to grasp the significance of the political changes underway in Venezuela, by listening to the stories of the ordinary Venezuelans most directly affected. The book focuses on developments since the August 2004 referendum – the period described by President Hugo Chavez as “the revolution within the revolution”, intended to prepare the way for“a socialism of the 21st century”.

It starts from the grass-roots investigations carried out by the author when he was the BBC correspondent in Venezuela in 2004 and 2005. But it goes beyond these journalistic beginnings, returning to many of the same people and places over subsequent years. By following up the experiences of a these individuals and communities,most of them poor, The Real Venezuela tracks most of the key areas of change: oil-funded health and education programmes in the barrios;co-operatives and the plans for self-sufficient development; land reform;participatory democracy in workplaces and the beginnings of popular power in the neighbourhoods. How far have the changes announced in these areas really been carried through? Have the expectations of the revolution’s own core supporters been met? What is the balance between policies from above and initiatives from below? Is this indeed a novel path towards a new kind of socialism, or a reversion to earlier forms of paternalism? The result is a unique insight into where the political process in Venezuela is heading – and what exactly ‘socialism in the 21st century’might look like.

Best Bolivarian Wishes HOV London

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From all the brutal dictators of the NEW era President Hugo Chávez takes the lead.

In its efforts to counter political opposition and consolidate power, the government of President Hugo Chávez has weakened democratic institutions and human rights guarantees in Venezuela, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 230-page report, “A Decade Under Chávez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela,” examines the impact of the Chávez presidency on institutions that are essential for ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law: the courts, the media, organized labor, and civil society.
The courts
Another defining feature of the Chávez presidency has been its open disregard for the principle of separation of powers – and, specifically, the notion that an independent judiciary is indispensable for protecting fundamental rights in a democratic society. After the 2002 coup, the most damaging blow to the rule of law in Venezuela was the political takeover of the Supreme Court by Chávez and his supporters in 2004, which effectively neutralized the judiciary as an independent branch of government. Since the 2004 takeover, the court has repeatedly failed to fulfill its role as a check on arbitrary state action and safeguard of fundamental rights.

The media
The Chávez government has undermined freedom of expression through a variety of measures aimed at reshaping media control and content. Venezuela still enjoys a vibrant public debate in which anti-government and pro-government media are equally vocal in their criticism and defense of Chávez. However, by expanding and toughening the penalties for speech and broadcasting offenses, Chávez and his legislative supporters have strengthened the state’s capacity to limit free speech, and created powerful incentives for critics to engage in self-censorship. It has also abused the state’s control of broadcasting frequencies to intimidate and discriminate against stations with overtly critical programming.

Organized labor
The Chávez government has sought to remake the country’s labor movement in ways that violate basic principles of freedom of association. It has fired workers who exercise their right to strike, denied workers their right to bargain collectively and discriminated against workers because of their political beliefs. Through its systematic violation of workers’ right to organize, the Chávez government has undercut established unions and favored new, parallel unions that support its political agenda.

Civil society
The Chávez government has pursued an aggressively adversarial approach to local rights advocates and civil society organizations. During the Chávez presidency, rights advocates have faced prosecutorial harassment, unsubstantiated allegations aimed at discrediting their work, and efforts to exclude them from international forums and restrict their access to international funding.

The report provides detailed recommendations to the Venezuelan government to reverse the damage done by its policies and to strengthen the country’s human rights protections. These include seeking to restore the credibility of the Supreme Court through a ratification process for all justices who were appointed after the 2004 court-packing law and establishing a new autonomous agency to administer broadcasting frequencies.

“Chávez has actively sought to project himself as a champion of democracy, not only in Venezuela, but throughout the region,” the report observes. However, “Venezuela will not achieve real and sustained progress toward strengthening its democracy – nor serve as a useful model for other countries in the region – so long as its government continues to flout the human rights principles enshrined in its own constitution.”