Celebrate Cuba's Revolution and Independence

Venezuela Celebrates 'Week of Cuban Culture' with Film, Music and Dance

Merida, January 21st 2011-- Yesterday Venezuela began a weeklong celebration of Cuban culture by commemorating the 130th anniversary of Cuban independence hero Jose Marti's arrival and extended stay in Caracas from 21 January 1881 to 27 July 1881.

Organized by Venezuela's Ministry of Culture, the '"Week of Cuban Culture" will include numerous film, music, dance, and performance art exhibitions in Caracas as well as the release of recently published books on the historical ties between Venezuela and Cuba.

"Marti left with his heart filled with Caracas," said Venezuela's Minister of Women's Affairs, Nancy Perez, during opening ceremonies yesterday.
"But now Jose Marti has returned in the millions, and thousands of Cubans are in Venezuela doing what Marti professed, they are here in the Missions helping Venezuelans," she said. Marti is renowned for having said, "Doing is the best way of saying".

"It is significant that we are here together today, Cubans and Venezuelans, in this homeland that belongs to everyone," said Cuban ambassador to Venezuela Rogelio Polanco."Now, today, we have a Bolivarian Alliance for the People of the Americas (ALBA). Now, today, we have a Bolivarian Revolution that is paving the way for the union of the great homeland. How pleased would Marti be today seeing this [Bolivarian] Revolution and seeing our people fraternally united."

The Venezuelan and Cuban governments are expected to approve over 200 projects of cooperation in the coming weeks. The projects were to be agreed upon in late 2010, but a second intergovernmental session to finalize details between the two countries was postponed due to record-setting rains in Venezuela.

Apart from yesterday's opening ceremony, plans for the weeklong event include: a poetic recital entitled 'Poets Sing to Marti'; the presentation by Doctor Edmundo Aray of the book, Venezuela in Marti, written by Mirla Alcibiades; free screenings of Cuban films for children and adults; as well as the laying of floral arrangements at Caracas's Plaza Bolivar and Plaza Marti by representatives of the Venezuelan and Cuban governments, including, for example Humberto Gonzalez, president of Venezuela's Casa de Nuestra America Jose Marti and director of Venezuela's National Library; as well as numerous theatre performances.

The closing event will be held at the Casa de Nuestra America Jose Marti on January 29, celebrating the 120th anniversary of the publication "Our America," one of Marti's most famous essays.

According to Fidel Barbarito, Director of International Relations at Venezuela's Ministry of Culture, the celebrations are part of a newly launched program by the ministry designed to celebrate the culture of friendly nations."[The new program] is a way to bring the Venezuelan people closer to the way of life lived in brotherly countries, closer to the historical processes lived by those who share geographical spaces, dreams, ideals of liberty, solidarity, fraternity," said Barbarito.

During the first quarter of 2011, Venezuela will host weeklong celebrations of a number of countries and cultures, beginning with Caribbean nations, then Bolivia, Ecuador, Russia, Vietnam and Iran, in that order.

Chavez Welcomes Opposition in Parliament to Maintain Dialogue and Respect the People

Venezuela’s Chavez Outlines Government’s Achievements in Annual Speech
By Tamara Pearson

Mérida, January 17th 2011 – In the National Assembly and around the country on Saturday people in their homes and in plazas listened to president Hugo Chavez’s 7 hour annual speech summarising the government’s management, achievements, and obstacles in 2010 and making projections for this year.

The Venezuelan constitution states in article 237 that the president of the country, within ten days of the installment of the National Assembly, must personally address the assembly about the achievement of national objectives and account for the government’s administration for the past year.

Speaking to the legislators, with the opposition having a substantial number of seats in the new national assembly, Chavez asked them to “maintain dialogue and respect with the people” and said he was happy to see the opposition in parliament again.During the 2006-2010 National Assembly session the opposition was practically not represented at all because they had boycotted the 2005 legislative elections.
Enabling law could be withdrawn by 1 May.

In response to international mainstream media and opposition criticism, Chavez argued that the Enabling law passed last month by the outgoing National Assembly is justified and that the opposition criticises everything and “don’t consider reason...I need ...to be able to act quickly to the... rains and housing [situation],” he said.

“[The opposition] goes around saying [the government] is a dictatorship, in five months we can create the laws to deal with all the emergencies, we have almost 120,000 people still in refuges.” “We could be finished by 1 May, so that nobody feels limited, I could withdraw the enabling law, I’m going to work harder and quicker,” he said. The outgoing National Assembly had given Chavez an enabling law that allows him to pass laws by decree for 18 months.

The economy
Looking back on 2010 the president remembered that bank fraud “obliged” the state to intervene in four private banks, and that the government created the Bicentenary bank.

Following the recession over the last two years, Chavez said there were encouraging indications for this year and a predicted economic growth of 2%.

“I thank the private sector. Most of the private sector works hard...[we should] work together and increase national production,” he said.

Also last year external debt was reduced. According to Chavez it was 20.17% of GDP, compared to in 1988 when it was 80%.

Housing is a priority this year for the government, “I accept that we’ve been held back by the historical problem of housing in Venezuela, so we’re going to take measures, because housing isn’t merchandise but rather a right of all Venezuelans,” Chavez said.“We’re far from the goal but we’re heading towards it... in Fuerte Tiuna we’re going to create a big city with at least 40,000 apartments, and in the centre of Caracas we’re constructing another 20,000 apartments.”

He also announced the government’s commitment to constructing 150,000 houses this year and 200,000 in 2012.

Technology and communications
In 2010 over a million people were trained in computing in the internet Infocentros, Chavez said. Domestic access to the internet increased by 242,993 homes last year, for a total of 1,351,269 connections, an increase of 22%. This translates to 33% of the population with access to internet in their homes, compared to 3% before Chavez was elected.

The “Canaima” plan of providing school children with mini laptops saw 875,000 computers given to first and second grade students, and the Venezuelan president said that this year the government is projecting to hand out 500,000 laptops to third grade students.

In 2010 the government expanded the state’s satellite network, installing 728 satellite antennas. “The antennas are being produced thanks to a project presented by some university students,” Chavez said.

Landline phone installations increased by 20%, and Chavez argued that this “democratisation” of access to telecommunications was thanks to the nationalisation of the communication company CANTV.

“CANTV is a company that continues to be efficient and provide better service than before it was nationalised,” he said.

Further, the state mobile phone manufacturing company Vetelca produced 160,000 phones in 2010. The production aim for this year is 1.5 million phones, through the creation of two more production lines.

Last year there was also the electrical crisis, mostly due to severe drought in 2009Chavez said that as a result, the government replaced 70 million light bulbs with the electricity saving kind, allowing for a total savings of over 1000 megawatts.

Chavez announced the approval of a food plan to increase national production. He said the country currently has two months of basic foods in reserve and the state is supplying 32% of the national food network, with an aim of increasing that to 50-60% this year.“This is because the distribution of food can’t be a big profit business, it just can’t be,” Chavez said.

He also said nationalised companies had been producing better results, with Pronutrico producing 748 tonnes per month of precooked cornmeal before the state intervened in December 2009, and now it produces 4,791 tonnes per month. The production of Diana oil increased from 1,535 tonnes in July 2008 to 4,756 tonnes in November last year.

The government also built 13 of the 16 milk plants it had agreed to build with Iran, and 8 of the 10 corn plants. Also, in an agreement with Belarus, the government invested $55 million in a truck and tractor factor, which Chavez said should be in operation by the second half of this year, and producing 10,000 trucks and 5,000 tractors annually.

Crime and other issues
Chavez said that in its first year of existence last year, the National Bolivarian Police “together with organised communities achieved a reduction of 44% of murders”. The police force began with 952 officers, and now, in a year, it has grown to 4,222 officers, according to Chavez.

“The Bolivarian National Police is a new, serious, and human policing model,” he said.

He also recognised the solid waste problem and the need to increase rubbish collection capacity. “I assume my responsibility for [this] but it’s really a problem of the local governments,” he said.

It's No Wonder: U.S. Government Hates Hugo Chavez

Why Washington Hates Chavez: Venezuela vs. the Banks
Jan 5th 2011, by Mike Whitney

In late November, Venezuela was hammered by torrential rains and flooding that left 35 people dead and roughly 130,000 homeless. If George Bush had been president, instead of Hugo Chavez, the displaced people would have been shunted off at gunpoint to makeshift prison camps--like the Superdome--as they were following Hurricane Katrina. But that's not the way that Chavez works. The Venezuelan president quickly passed "enabling laws" which gave him special powers to provide emergency aid and housing to flood victims. Chavez then cleared out the presidential palace and turned it into living quarters for 60 people, which is the equivalent of turning the White House into a homeless shelter. The disaster victims are now being fed and taken care of by the state until they can get back on their feet and return to work.

The details of Chavez's efforts have been largely omitted in the US media where he is regularly demonized as a "leftist strongman" or a dictator. The media refuses to acknowledge that Chavez has narrowed the income gap, eliminated illiteracy, provided health care for all Venezuelans, reduced inequality, and raised living standards across he board. While Bush and Obama were expanding their foreign wars and pushing through tax cuts for the rich, Chavez was busy improving the lives of the poor and needy while fending off the latest wave of US aggression.Washington despises Chavez because he is unwilling to hand over Venezuela's vast resources to corporate elites and bankers. That's why the Bush administration tried to depose Chavez in a failed coup attempt in 2002, and that's why the smooth-talking Obama continues to launch covert attacks on Chavez today. Washington wants regime change so it can install a puppet who will hand over Venezuela's reserves to big oil while making life hell for working people.

Recently released documents from Wikileaks show that the Obama administration has stepped up its meddling in Venezuela's internal affairs. Here's an excerpt from a recent post by attorney and author, Eva Golinger:

"In a secret document authored by current Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Craig Kelly, and sent by the US Embassy in Santiago in June 2007 to the Secretary of State, CIA and Southern Command of the Pentagon, along with a series of other US embassies in the region, Kelly proposed "six main areas of action for the US government (USG) to limit Chavez's influence" and "reassert US leadership in the region".

Kelly, who played a primary role as "mediator" during last year's coup d'etat in Honduras against President Manuel Zelaya, classifies President Hugo Chavez as an "enemy" in his report.

Chavez: "Formidable Foe"
"Know the enemy: We have to better understand how Chavez thinks and what he intends... To effectively counter the threat he represents, we need to know better his objectives and how he intends to pursue them. This requires better intelligence in all of our countries". Further on in the memo, Kelly confesses that President Chavez is a "formidable foe", but, he adds, "he certainly can be taken". (Wikileaks: Documents Confirm US Plans Against Venezuela, Eva Golinger, Postcards from the Revolution)

The State Department cables show that Washington has been funding anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that pretend to be working for civil liberties, human rights or democracy promotion. These groups hide behind a facade of legitimacy, but their real purpose is to topple the democratically elected Chavez government. Obama supports this type of subversion just as enthusiastically as did Bush. The only difference is the Obama team is more discreet. Here's another clip from Golinger with some of the details on the money-trail:

"In Venezuela, the US has been supporting anti-Chavez groups for over 8 years, including those that executed the coup d'etat against President Chavez in April 2002.
Since then, the funding has increased substantially. A May 2010 report evaluating foreign assistance to political groups in Venezuela, commissioned by the National Endowment for Democracy, revealed that more than $40 million USD annually is channeled to anti-Chavez groups, the majority from US agencies....

Venezuela stands out as the Latin American nation where NED has most invested funding in opposition groups during 2009, with $1,818,473 USD, more than double from the year before.... Allen Weinstein, one of NED's original founders, revealed once to the Washington Post, "What we do today was done clandestinely 25 years ago by the CIA…" (America's Covert "Civil Society Operations": US Interference in Venezuela Keeps Growing", Eva Golinger, Global Research)

Obama revokes Visa to Punish VenezuelaOn Monday, the Obama administration revoked the visa of Venezuela's ambassador to Washington in retaliation for Chavez's rejection of nominee Larry Palmer as American ambassador in Caracas. Palmer has been openly critical of Chavez saying there were clear ties between members of the Chavez administration and leftist guerrillas in neighboring Colombia. It's a roundabout way of accusing Chavez of terrorism. Even worse, Palmer's background and personal history suggest that his appointment might pose a threat to Venezuela's national security. Consider the comments of James Suggett of Venezuelanalysis on Axis of Logic: "Take a look at Palmer's history, working with the U.S.-backed oligarchs in the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Sierra Leone, South Korea, Honduras, "promoting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)." Just as the U.S. ruling class appointed an African-American, Barack Obama to replace George W. Bush with everything else intact, Obama in turn, appoints Palmer to replace Patrick Duddy who was involved in the attempted coup against President Chavez in 2002 and an enemy of Venezuelans throughout his term as U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela."

Venezuela is already crawling with US spies and saboteurs. They don't need any help from agents working inside the embassy. Chavez did the right thing by giving Palmer the thumbs down. Besides, Chavez disproved Palmer's spurious accusations just last week when he extradited ELN commander Nilson Albian Teran Ferreira, alias "Tulio" to Colombia, "the first extradition of a Colombian guerrilla to his home country." (Colombia Reports) The story appeared NOWHERE in the western media. (because it proves that Chavez is not supporting paramilitary groups operating in Colombia.)U.S. Plans of "More of the Same"
The Palmer nomination is just "more of the same"; more interference, more subversion, more trouble-making. The State Dept was largely responsible for all of the so-called color-coded revolutions in Ukraine, Lebanon, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan etc; all of which were cookie cutter, made-for-TV events that pitted the interests of wealthy capitalists against those of the elected government. Now Hillary's throng want to try the same strategy in Venezuela. It's up to Chavez to stop them, which is why he's pushed through laws that "regulate, control or prohibit foreign funding for political activities". Cracking down on NGOs is the only way he can defend against US meddling and protect Venezuelan sovereignty.

Chavez is also using his new powers to reform the financial sector. Here's an excerpt from an article titled "Venezuelan National Assembly Passes Law Making Banking a "Public Service":

"Venezuela's National Assembly on Friday approved new legislation that defines banking as an industry "of public service," requiring banks in Venezuela to contribute more to social programs, housing construction efforts, and other social needs while making government intervention easier when banks fail to comply with national priorities."...
The new law protects bank customers' assets in the event of irregularities on the part of owners... and stipulates that the Superintendent of Banking Institutions take into account the best interest of bank customers -- and not only stockholders... when making any decisions that affect a bank's operations."

So why isn't Obama doing the same thing? Is he too afraid of real change or is he just Wall Street's lackey? Here's more from the same article:

"In an attempt to control speculation, the law limits the amount of credit that can be made available to individuals or private entities by making 20% the maximum amount of capital a bank can have out as credit. The law also limits the formation of financial groups and prohibits banks from having an interest in brokerage firms and insurance companies.

The law also stipulates that 5% of pre-tax profits of all banks be dedicated solely to projects elaborated by communal councils. 10% of a bank´s capital must also be put into a fund to pay for wages and pensions in case of bankruptcy.

According to 2009 figures provided by Softline Consultores, 5% of pre-tax profits in Venezuela's banking industry last year would have meant an additional 314 million bolivars, or $73.1 million dollars, for social programs to attend the needs of Venezuela's poor majority."

Chavez Protects the Public on Speculations
"Control speculation"? Now there's a novel idea. Naturally, opposition leaders are calling the new laws "an attack on economic liberty", but that's pure baloney. Chavez is merely protecting the public from the predatory practices of bloodthirsty bankers. Most Americans wish that Obama would do the same thing.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "Chavez has threatened to expropriate large banks in the past if they don't increase loans to small-business owners and prospective home buyers, this time he is increasing the pressure publicly to show his concern for the lack of sufficient housing for Venezuela's 28 million people."

Caracas suffers from a massive housing shortage that's gotten much worse because of the flooding. Tens of thousands of people need shelter now, which is why Chavez is putting pressure on the banks to lend a hand. Of course, the banks don't want to help so they've slipped into crybaby mode. But Chavez has shrugged off their whining and put them "on notice". In fact, on Tuesday, he issued this terse warning:

"Any bank that slips up…I'm going to expropriate it, whether it's Banco Provincial, or Banesco or Banco Nacional de Credito."

Bravo, Hugo. In Chavez's Venezuela the basic needs of ordinary working people take precedent over the profiteering of cutthroat banksters. Is it any wonder why Washington hates him?