quarta-feira, 26 de junho de 2013

Women and Chavismo: An Interview with Yanahir Reyes

From NACLA Report on the Americas

Summer 2013

The passing of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez on March 5 was a great blow to Venezuelans in the Bolivarian Process, but particularly to women, who have been some of the major beneficiaries of Venezuela’s social programs and legislation over the last 14 years.

Perhaps this is part of the reason that women have played such a substantial role in the Bolivarian process. Seventy percent of the people participating in the Venezuela government missions are women. And they are at the heart of the communal councils, the committees, various grassroots movements, and feminist collectives working across the country. Despite all of this, machismo, patriarchy, and individualism maintain a powerful grip over the country.

Yanahir Reyes is a young Venezuelan feminist and activist from the Caracas barrio of Caricuao. She is a founder of the feminist radio program Millennium Women’s Word on the Caracas community radio station Radio Perola and she worked for many years with Women’s First Steps, a community group in the low-income Caracas barrio of la Pedrera that focused on empowering women through education and action. She currently works as a community educator for children and families for the National Institute for Nutrition, but, as she says, “always with a gender vision.”

Read the complete article.

sexta-feira, 29 de março de 2013

Remembering Hugo Chávez

From NACLA Report on the Americas

Spring 2013
The news poured down like a hard Venezuelan rain—Hugo Chávez had passed. After a two-year-long battle with cancer, we should have been prepared. But we weren’t. Like a surreal dream we read the reports from afar. We fielded media calls, listened to Ali Primera, and dialed distant friends, searching for familiar voices; grasping for something elusive that was slipping through our fingers. Comments, cries, gritos rolled in through social media, as we were glued—transfixed—to Facebook and Twitter.
1661Photo Credit: Silvia Leindecker
For Chávez supporters, unbelief and grief: “In the center of Caracas, all is peace and quiet, but it breathes pain,” wrote one friend shortly after the news was announced. “I have no words,” wrote another, “just tears of anguish.” “Chávez lives on in each of us,” wrote a solidarity activist from abroad.
Across the ether friends posted their pictures of the Venezuelan president or tweeted #Chavez with comments and links to memorable moments, like Chávez’s 2006 UN General Assembly speech when he called president George W. Bush the Devil. Meanwhile, the opposition celebrated and mainstream editorials continued their media spin, decrying Chávez as a despot who led the country to ruin amid marginal gains for the poor.
Those gains, however, were substantial. Chávez’s revolution offered universal access to free health care. It built schools, abolished illiteracy, and reduced poverty by half and extreme poverty by more than 70%.
For members of Venezuela’s grassroots movements, Chávez meant the hope of a better life and the means to organize to accomplish it. “Chávez is like a guide. Chávez is a door—the door for the struggles that we want to carry out,” said Iraida Morocoima, of Venezuela’s Urban Land Committees in 2009. “But on the other side of that door are the people.”
Chávez attempted to empower communities and promote participatory democracy throughout his presidency. He called on workers to occupy their factories and supported the formation of tens of thousands of cooperatives. Chávez’s government called for the community to organize locally outside of bureaucratic channels and gave the people the tools to do it. Over 30,000 communal councils were created by neighborhood residents to make decisions about their own communities. These new councils could (and still can) receive funds directly from the national government to carry out their projects.
These moves were not flawless, but they empowered, inspired, and handed everyday folks the tools to dream for a better world together and make it happen. “I think that the most beautiful thing is the collective work—that we respect each other and join together and change. We have to change,” said María Vicenta Dávila of the Mixteque communal council in the mountainous state of Mérida. “I think that’s what’s being created here in Venezuela. With or without Chávez, Venezuela is no longer the same, and this is Chávez’s great challenge, to change the mentality of the people.”
For these movements, Chávez will be missed, but the Bolivarian process continues. Vice President Nicolás Maduro is set to take on opposition challenger Henrique Capriles in a new election. There is little doubt that if elected he will carry on in Chávez’s legacy.
There are, of course, many questions. Perhaps more than ever, since Chávez came to power 14 years ago, the future will rest on the collective and the union of the Bolivarian process. As Gonzalo Gómez, co-founder of the Aporrea website, said in an interview in January 2012: “The post-Chávez era will not depend on individual figures but rather on our capacity to continue developing, deepening, and advancing the Bolivarian revolution once that leadership is no longer there.”
Only time will tell.

Michael Fox is a former editor of NACLA Report on the Americas and a member of the NACLA Multimedia Team. He is co-author of Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions: The Future of 21st Century Socialism (Zed Books, 2013). To order the book, see futuresocialism.org.

sexta-feira, 6 de abril de 2012

The U.S. Border War on Easter Eggs

From NACLA Report on the Americas (blog)

April 6, 2012

“Got any beer, liquor?” said the big U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) guard, stepping off the curb and toward the car.
“Yea, we bought some beer in Quebec.” I responded.
“How much? 12-pack? Case?” he asked.
891U.S. border officer (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)“Yeah, no problem,” he said waving his hand and walking to the back of the car. “Open your trunk, please.”
We were stopped at the Armstrong-Jackman Border Crossing, returning from a week-long trip to Canada. A chilly wind swept across the barren road. Ours was the only car.
“The beer’s OK. But this egg here… this could be a problem,” he said pulling a jumbo-sized chocolate Easter egg from our trunk and walking beside the car.
My wife and I looked at each other and laughed at the joke.
“I’ll have them check inside to confirm. I’ve never seen one this big, but if it’s like the Kinder eggs, we’re going to have to confiscate it. Unfortunately, this could take a while,” he said.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“Yeah, Kinder eggs are banned in the United States, because children could choke on the little toy inside.”
The idea seemed ridiculous. During Easter in Brazil, where my wife is from, and from where we had recently moved, these popular football-sized chocolate eggs line whole aisles of supermarkets. They hang above your heads like massive grapes dangling from a wooden vine. Everyone, who has the means, gives and receives at least one for Easter. When we saw a stock of even larger-than-normal eggs in a supermarket outside of Lévis, Quebec, we couldn’t resist. We had never seen one of these in the United States. We were now learning why.
“When were they banned?” I asked.
“Longer than I’ve been here.” He responded and asked us to move the car up, park, hand him the keys, and head inside. They would be searching my vehicle, he told me, and I had paper work to fill out. Hopefully they wouldn’t fine me.
892Although Kinder eggs are sold around the world, I quickly learned that they were, in fact, banned in the United States. The 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits embedding "non-nutritive items" in food. The Consumer Product Safety Commission additionally issued a recall on the eggs in 1997. But the U.S. war on these chocolate treats is reaching ridiculous proportions. According to a CBP advisory issued this week, last year “CBP seized more than 60,000 Kinder Eggs from travelers’ baggage and from international mail shipments,” more than double the previous year.
Ours was the second chocolate egg confiscated that day at this tiny crossing on the Northwest border of Maine. The CBP officers told us they often seize several eggs a day, especially around Easter.
The increase in chocolate egg interdiction coincides with an unprecedented build-up of the border patrol apparatus along the northern U.S. border. In the name of securing borders and fighting terrorism, in less than a decade the U.S. government has quintupled the number of Border Patrol agents on the U.S.-Canadian border to currently about 2,000. As Joseph Nevins wrote in this blog in December, “Given the very low number of unauthorized crossing of the northern U.S. boundary, the agents need something to do.” Some officers have turned to interior policing—boarding trains along New York’s east-west Amtrak rail route, questioning passengers about their place of birth and citizenship, and arresting and detaining suspected undocumented individuals. Other officers, it appears, are left with the duty of seizing chocolate Easter eggs.
“This is going to take a while. There is a lot of paperwork,” said the officer behind the counter, once we were inside. He asked for our identification, car registration, and my parent’s telephone number, since we had borrowed their car for the trip. He grilled us on the immigration status of my wife, who is a legal resident, and had me fill out what appeared to be an endless stream of paperwork, which relinquished our right to the chocolate egg.
“That is the biggest one of those eggs I have ever seen!” joked an officer as he walked past the counter.
“Who’s going home with the egg?” I asked. “We’d like to know what toy we missed out on.”
“No. This is going to be destroyed,” responded the officer without looking up from the stack of papers in front of him.
While we waited, a truck driver came and went. The officer attending to us slapped on plastic gloves and walked to our car where he searched our belongings, opening suitcases and ruffling through bags. He soon returned empty-handed. Two hours passed. The sun sank lower in the sky. I should call my aunt, I thought, to let her know that we will be arriving several hours late. What a waste of time, energy, and resources.
If you figure that at least two hours is spent on the paperwork, processing, and destruction of every confiscated chocolate egg, that means that in 2011 alone the CBP spent 120,000 work-hours fighting Easter. That is equal to 15,000 work-days. In the middle of an economic crisis, while budgets are being slashed, CBP officers are wasting taxpayer money, their time, and our time, seizing Easter eggs. Sadly, even the officers know it.
“I just have to keep telling myself that I am confiscating something that could potentially hurt a child,” said the officer before us, shaking his head, as he worked on what I hoped was the last of the paperwork. “I just have to keep telling myself that.” 

Michael Fox is the editor of the NACLA Report on the Americas. Despite the hype and the multi-million dollar Kinder Egg business, it appears that over the last two decades only a handful of people across the globe have actually choked to death on Kinder Eggs. 

segunda-feira, 27 de fevereiro de 2012

Central American Solidarity, Then and Now: An Interview With Jenny Atlee

From NACLA Report on the Americas

January/February 2012

In the 1980s, as the U.S. government under President Ronald Reagan supported repressive governments and covert wars across Central America, U.S. citizens responded, refusing to allow their tax dollars to fund violence and U.S. intervention. Churches played an integral role as a new Latin America solidarity movement grew. Groups like Witness for Peace were born, bringing over 10,000 people to Nicaragua during the 1980s.

The Central American wars were eventually resolved, but two decades later, the region is again covered in violence. Among the most disturbing cases is Honduras, which in June 2009 suffered Central America’s first coup d’état of the 21st century and now has the highest homicide rate in the world. Jenny Atlee worked for Witness for Peace in the 1980s, leading delegations and documenting the impact of the U.S.-backed war in Nicaragua. She has lived and done solidarity work in Central America ever since. With the 2009 coup, Atlee and other solidarity activists began to lead delegations to Honduras to learn, as they had in Nicaragua, from the realities on the ground and to address U.S. policy in the region. She currently works for the Nicaragua-U.S. Friendship Office, coordinating the Honduras Accompaniment Project (friendshipamericas.org).

Read the complete article.

terça-feira, 20 de dezembro de 2011

Demanding the Right to Education: Student Voices From Chile and Puerto Rico

From NACLA Report on the Americas

November/December 2011

Faced with the world financial crisis, budget cuts, and tuition hikes, students across the hemisphere are increasingly standing up for their right to education. In Chile, students have been in the streets since May, calling for an end to Pinochet-era policies that prioritize private profit over education.

The following interview with José Ancalao Gavilán, spokesperson for the Chilean Mapuche Federation of Students (FEMAE), and Giovanni Roberto, spokesperson for the UPR students’ National Negotiation Committee during the 2010 strikes, took place on November 3.

Read the complete article.

segunda-feira, 19 de dezembro de 2011

Nostalgia, Memory, and Revolution: An Interview With Patricio Guzmán (video)


December 19, 2011

By Sílvia Leindecker and Michael Fox

In Patricio Guzmán's most recent film, Nostalgia for the Light (Icarus Films, 2011), the Chilean filmmaker points his camera toward Chile's Atacama desert, where astronomers, archeologists, and the relatives of Augusto Pinochet's disappeared intertwine in a search for the past and the present. In this interview, Guzmán speaks about his new movie, nostalgia, Chile, the Latin American "pink tide," filmmaking, and the need for an audio-visual revolution. NACLA published a review of Nostalgia for the Light in the May/June issue of the NACLA Report on the Americas, "Chile and the Traps of Memory," by Steven S. Volk.

Sílvia Leindecker is a Brazilian photographer, philosopher, researcher, and documentary filmmaker. Michael Fox is the Editor of NACLA. Their latest film, Crossing the American Crises: From Collapse to Action, was released in April by PM Press.

segunda-feira, 21 de novembro de 2011

Occupy Wall Street Protests—November 2011 Slideshow

On November 17, 2011, the 2-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, thousands took to the streets to shut down lower Manhattan. Three hundred protesters were arrested. Only days before, the occupation at Zuccotti Park had been raided and the occupiers expelled or arrested. These actions have only further inspired the movement.

Photos taken by Michael Fox
Estreito Meios Production
For more images, visit flickr.com/photos/estreitomeios.