Monday, June 30, 2014

"Why aren’t Nicaragua’s children fleeing to the U.S?"

2014-06-30  from "Nicaragua Network (NicaNet), a project of the Alliance for Global Justice, posted at []:
A supporter sent us a letter to the editor she had written to counter all the right-wing letters in her local paper commenting on the humanitarian crisis on the border caused by children fleeing Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Here's her answer to the question in the headline:
"We read that children are streaming across the Texas border from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador...but....not Nicaragua? Why aren't Nicaragua's children fleeing the left wing Sandinista government that the U.S. has been trying to crush ever since their revolution in 1979? Could it be that Nicaragua, despite its poverty, provides more security for its population than other Central American countries? Yes! Check out the stats: lowest homicide rate, no death squads, little gang activity: "least violent country in Central America and safest in all the hemisphere"!! Wow! Maybe Obama could shift gears, and, instead of sending military equipment to 'fight' the 'war' on drugs, and the 'war' on youth, he might support education, health, and small farmers in Central America, and repeal the disastrous free trade policies that are making the rich richer and the poor ready to head for the border. That might help convince young people to stay home."
We encourage you to write letters to the editor in your own words to try to bring some rationality to the immigration "debate." Letters below 200 words have the most chance of being published. Below are talking points that we hope are helpful:

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) presented in Nicaragua on May 19, 2014 its Regional Report on Human Development for 2013-2014 on security matters and classified Nicaragua as "atypical" because of its low rates of homicide and robbery. Juan Pablo Gordillo, adviser on security at the Latin American Regional Services Center of the UNDP, said that, "The case of Nicaragua is an important achievement at the regional level," adding that because Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, it breaks the myth that poverty causes violence. Nicaragua's homicide rate dropped to 8.7 per 100,000 inhabitants. Honduras, with 92 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, has the highest murder rate in the world. El Salvador has 69, Guatemala 39, Panama 14.9 and Costa Rica 10.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
Speaking in San Salvador at a regional conference on community policing, Nicaraguan National Police spokesman Commissioner Fernando Borge said that the proactive, preventative, community policing model of Nicaragua's police has helped make Nicaragua one of the safest countries in Latin America. He described "a model of shared responsibility, that of person-family-community" which shapes all the areas of police work. In 2013, out of each 100 cases reported to the police, they have been able to resolve 79. This compares to the almost complete impunity for crime, especially politically motivated crime, in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
The problem of the children migrants is blowback from U.S policy in the 1980s when our government trained and funded Salvadoran and Guatemalan military and police to prevent popular revolutions and more recently when the US supported the coup against President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. Those countries were left with brutal, corrupt armies and police forces whereas Nicaragua, with its successful 1979 revolution, got rid of Somoza's brutal National Guard and formed a new army and a new police made up of upstanding citizens.
Who consumes all those drugs that are causing all that violence and corruption in Latin America? Who has militarized the Drug War and is funding and training repressive militaries and police in the countries from which the children are fleeing? In both cases it is the United States.
Respected Latin American polling firm M&R Consultants polls show at the end of 2013, 72.5 percent of Nicaraguans approved of government economic management and President Daniel Ortega's personal popularity stands at 74.7 percent, the most popular in Central America. Why? According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Nicaragua ranks second in Latin America and the Caribbean after Venezuela as the country that most reduced the gap between rich and poor in recent years.
According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Nicaragua's predicted 2014 GDP growth rate will put it among the five fastest growing countries in Latin America. Why? Because Nicaragua invests in poverty reduction, education and health care.

Removing the reasons for migration -
During the past seven years, agricultural workers income and wages grew, showing the effectiveness of programs for the rural sector, which is where there are higher rates of poverty and malnutrition, and taking away the economic reason for migration.
Nicaragua is the only country in Central America that managed to return to the pace of economic growth that it had before the international crisis of 2008-2009. This not only has been recognized by ECLAC, but also by the International Monetary Fund in its latest assessment. Why? Because the Sandinista government forced the IMF to support its poverty reduction programs, and to like it!
Nicaragua's successful poverty reduction programs have caused multilateral agencies and governments to become more interested in the effective implementation of programs that cater to the poor and allow more Nicaraguans to have free access to health and education.
The Vice-President of the World Bank for Latin America, Hasan Tuluy, called projects in Nicaragua one of the best run portfolios of projects in Latin America.
Pablo Mendeville, representative of the UN Development Program (UNDP), has said that Nicaragua is striving to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of social policies to halve global poverty and could achieve this by the end of 2015.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has recognized that Nicaragua is among countries that achieved ahead of time the goals set by the Zero Hunger Challenge and lowered the national poverty level. Official data from the Nicaraguan Institute of Development confirm this: in previous years, the level of "poverty was more than 40 percent, and that of extreme poverty was 17.2 percent; today we are calculating extreme poverty at 7.6 percent."
Nicaragua recorded indisputable achievements in terms of disease prevention and health promotion, with a program of immunization which is an example for Latin America, with coverage as high as one hundred percent in children under one year old, and more than 95 percent in general. It has an effective campaign to prevent 16 serious diseases that can affect the population, such as diarrhea and pneumonia.
The maternal mortality rate of 93 per 100,000 live births in 2006 was lowered to 50 per 100,000 live births in 2013.
Educational programs have resulted in a school retention rate of approximately 96 percent of the students enrolled. In addition, the government achieved 100 percent coverage of students receiving school meals, thus benefiting students of public preschools, community schools, and subsidized Catholic schools throughout the country.
Nicaragua is the country with the most gender equality in Latin America and the Caribbean and tenth worldwide, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). This means that Nicaragua is one of the countries where women have greater access to health and education, while they have more political participation and economic inclusion, said the study.
In the report Climatescope 2012, Nicaragua won second place after Brazil due to its policy of clean energy, the structure of its energy sector, low-carbon business activity, clean energy value chains, as well as the availability of green credits.
According to the Executive, investments from 2013 to 2016 will raise the national rate of electrification from 76 percent of households to a little over 87 percent, as part of efforts toward economic development with social inclusion. In 2006 electricity supply barely reached 54 percent and there were rolling blackouts averaging 14 hours a day.
The director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Jose Graziano da Silva, congratulated the government for the effectiveness of programs implemented against poverty and hunger at the end of a 2013 visit to the country and after visiting various locations to check the value of plans such as Zero Hunger, Family Gardens and the Production Packages, aimed at promoting the development of the agricultural sector and guaranteeing the security of national food consumption.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Venezuela: Thousands debate socialist congress proposals, construct Communard Council

"Venezuela: Thousands debate socialist congress proposals"2014-06-19 by Arlene Eisen from ""
Caracas –
On June 7, President Nicolas Maduro issued a call to each grassroots unit of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to submit 10 concrete proposals for ways to improve how the Bolivarian government functions. In response, throughout Venezuela, local units of PSUV militants, known as Battle Units Bolivar-Chavez (UBCh), devoted their weekly meetings to lively debates analysing political problems and attempting to reach consensus on solutions. There are some 13,500 UBChs.
Other Venezuelans joined the discussions through forums, meetings, editorial pages and social media.
A well-attended forum in Catia, a working-class district of western Caracas, set the tone for many other UBCh meetings. Catia is known and respected for being a centre of Chavista militancy. and other pro-revolution media repeatedly ran written and videotaped reports of the proposals made there by a Gonzalo Gomez, spokesperson from Marea Socialista (Socialist Tide), a leftist grouping within the PSUV, and by Manuel Sutherland, a Marxist economist who coordinates the Center of Worker Investigations and Education and teaches at the Bolivarian University of Caracas (UBC).
Sutherland demonstrated with charts and detailed narrative how government negotiations with the owning class have not stopped the bourgeoisie from amassing huge fortunes and from driving the economy into a deep ditch. He challenged the fantasy, held by some PSUV reformists, that business owners in Venezuela are patriotic and renounce super profits gained from fraudulent imports and currency speculation. Rather he showed how Venezuela’s 400,000 capitalists appropriate 60% of Venezuela’s gross domestic product (PIB) to the detriment of 13 million workers who receive the remaining 40%.
In other words, the bourgeoisie still controls the bulk of the economy, and by implication, political power in Venezuela. With this power, the owning class has squandered Venezuela’s dollar reserve in order to make astronomical profits. They import goods paid for in petrodollars and then sell them for as much as 1500% profit at home. The result is devaluation, inflation and scarcity. Some call this “economic warfare” waged by the oligarchs. But, Sutherland insisted, the warfare metaphor implies that there can be peace and therefore underestimates the depth of the structural problem.
He proposed a major structural change for the governing PSUV: to nationalise all of Venezuela’s international trade. Sutherland pointed out that three years ago Hugo Chavez had made the same proposal. He quoted the revered PSUV founder: “Create a state corporation for imports and exports to end the bourgeoisie’s hegemony over imports. We look like pendejos (idiots, wimps) giving dollars to the bourgeoisie. They import, overcharge, buy whatever is desired for one dollar and charge five dollars here.”
Inside another UBCh meeting
Several days later, across town in the upscale neighbourhood of Baruta, UBCh militants took up Sutherland’s proposal in the context of a wide-ranging discussion of their own 10 proposals to send to President Maduro. They sat in a circle in the modern, airy cafeteria on the 11th floor of a PSUV office building. It was a small group: mostly women, many of them professionals, many retired. Through the surrounding windows, the US flag could be seen flying from a pole in front of the US Embassy, now closed to the public.
They began by talking about the problem of bureaucracy. A woman who dressed more humbly than the rest of the group suggested that the PSUV set up a storefront in every municipality to help people navigate the system. Another woman, a retired nurse, remarked that the Missions [government-funded social programs] had been set up to circumvent the problem of bureaucracy, but that in many cases, they too had become bureaucratised. A sociologist and film maker remarked how the state is still controlled by the capitalists and implied that only socialism would solve the problem of bureaucracy. Then she frowned and added, “with the threats from the coup-plotters (golpistas), the state has its back against the wall and has to make deals with the bourgeoisie.” The woman who began the conversation sighed, more from impatience than resignation and said, “How long are they going to be giving in to the opposition and not to us?”
Then, for a moment, people aired related complaints. “The private monopolies are thieves.” “The justice system is corrupt. They killed 400 campesinos and no one has ever been tried.”
A few debated about which famous official was corrupt and which was simply misguided. A retired physician began to speak about Sutherland’s proposal to nationalise the import/ export function, but got bogged down in economic details.
A blonde woman who had a laptop with her to keep a record of the meeting but hadn’t touched a key, brought order to the meeting. “The Venezuelan state, in every stage of history, has been corrupt and bureaucratic. Ours is a tremendous improvement. But if we’re ever going to get rid of corruption and bureaucracy we need to organise the base, so that everyone is prepared to press forward with their complaints. Now, when a grassroots person makes a grievance it doesn’t go anywhere. We have to organise to make government accountable. Accountability should be a theme of the 3rd Congress.” Everyone nodded.
They brainstormed other problems: the lack of food sovereignty; scarcity of dollars, bourgeois legalisms; too much individualism; and lack of pride in Venezuelan culture. They reached a consensus on the need for more political education, but did not formulate a specific proposal for implementation.
The spokesperson (vocero) for the Baruta UBCh, a computer expert and one of the only two men in the circle, launched into a history of the Bolivarian revolution because, “we need to understand the context before we finalise our proposals”. His narrative concluded with an analysis of the current tasks of PSUV: to struggle against US imperialism and its allies in the Venezuelan bourgeoisie and to define the Bolivarian process to build 21st century socialism.
However, he continued, three different currents inside the PSUV are vying for control to define strategies for carrying out those tasks.
(1) The reformists who use petro dollars to placate the masses to accept perpetuation of the current structures. He called them social democrats and included the “Bolibourgeoisie”, the opposition’s 5th column in this group.
(2) The Stalinists who think the state can solve every problem. They are bureaucrats, often members of the bourgeoisie who have been replaced. They protect their own power.
(3) The proletarian Chavistas, the heart of the revolution. They must build their power from below, independent of the state. According to his assessment, they are currently the weakest of the forces within the PSUV.
Then he made a number of specific proposals to address Venezuela’s economic problems. First, he said, the banking system should be consolidated. “We’re not ready to nationalise banking, but we don’t need 50 banks either.” Second, “it would be political suicide to raise the price of gasoline, but for the sake of economy and the environment, the price of fuel cannot stay so artificially low. We should strengthen the public transit system and convert vehicles from using gasoline to gas.” Third, the Agriculture Ministry and the Food Ministry should be combined to streamline programs for food sovereignty. Fourth, the only way to get rid of inflation is to institute massive production. “We don’t need to be totally dependent on petrodollars. We should develop our gold and coltan resources to earn new sources of currency. Also we must shut down the foreign sectors of the economy like car assembly. We can and must produce 100% of our cars here.” The retired physician raised Sutherland’s proposal to control imports, but by then, the time for adjournment had passed.
Before the meeting broke up, two of the women agreed to write up the vocero’s proposals, plus the ones about holding corrupt officials accountable to grassroots complaints and the need for more political education. Then they would email them to the address Maduro had tweeted. When asked if the group wasn’t going to review them again, she shook her head, “No, it’s not possible. In this revolution everything happens very fast. The proposals are due today.”
An open PSUV congress promised
In the most recent issue of Vanguardia, the periodic publication of the PSUV, Carolys Perez, the secretary of the Third Party Congress explained some of the measures they had taken to ensure a successful congress. The aim is for breadth: to receive suggestions, opinions, and contributions not only from PSUV membership but also from political organisations that are part of the Gran Polo Patriotico (GPP), an alliance of left-wing organisations of which PSUV is the largest. “We want to open the door to deepen the revolution and design policies to help construct socialism.” contacted a spokesperson for the Afrodescendant Front of the GPP and a number of other Afrodescendant organisations about their plans to submit proposals to the congress. So far there has been no response.
The Vanguardia article on the next page quoted Chavez’s 2011 self-criticism about the need to challenge “bureaucratism, opportunism, sectarianism, nepotism and gradual distancing from the base”. These problems, Chavez had explained, come from the persistence of capitalist culture—including capitalist culture within the PSUV. The Vanguardia author concluded that Chavez’s prescription for self-criticism/criticism was more relevant than ever.

"Venezuela: Activists form communard council"2014-06-23 by Ewan Robertson from "Green Left Weekly" [abridged from ""]:
(Photo by Ewan Robertson showing Venezuela Communards at national gathering vote on a proposal in June 14)

Activists from across Venezuela met this month to form the National Communard Council, which aims to coordinate the country’s commune movement and present its demands to the national government.
The council was formed in the western state of Lara during a three-day meeting of about 2000 communards (commune members) from around the country. Most represented a particular commune.
The meeting was the fifth national gathering of the independent National Communard Network since the organisation was founded in 2009.
The move is another step forward for Venezuela’s communards. They are seeking to replace the state’s representative political structures, particularly local and regional governing bodies, with direct participatory bodies such as communal councils and communes.
In Venezuela, communal councils are small neighbourhood groups where local residents organise to develop their local community and run community affairs. They can also receive public funds to undertake a variety of projects in their area.
Communes, meanwhile, are made up of groups of community councils. They are created when local residents hold an election to select spokespeople from each community council in a given area to form a communal parliament. This group then assigns different sub committees to cover community affairs over a larger territorial zone.
The commune can take on larger tasks and responsibilities than individual community councils. They can also register with the Ministry of Communes, which makes them eligible to apply for public funds to create productive, educational, cultural, infrastructure or other development projects.
During the meeting, communard Abraham Simenez explained some of the aims of the commune movement to
“The commune movement is a launching pad to consolidate this process of change toward socialism, to put people first,” he said.
“It’s a way for us to end the state as it is currently constituted, with regional state governments and mayors, and for us to arrive at a communal state with constituent power [direct participatory bodies], the base of which are the communes.
“It’s through the communes and organised communities that we can propose projects [to the national government] to acquire public funds and carry them out ourselves for the good of the community.”
The driving force behind the creation of the National Communard Council was the National Communard Network, which groups together many of the country’s communes.
The council aims to present the commune movement’s demands directly to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro via the Presidential Council of Communal Governance.
It will also work to strengthen grassroots and regional communal organising. It seeks to take on certain state powers itself, such as some functions now performed by the Ministry of Communes.
The National Communard Council is composed of communal spokespeople from each regional state. It has sub-councils on communal economy, political organisation, communication, education, security and defence, and youth.
The specific characteristics and functions of each council were decided after communards met for a day of discussion. The conclusions reached were presented at a final plenary session.
The demands to be put to the national government include taking over management of the national commune registry from the Ministry of Communes, and taking control of public TV channel Tves.
Other proposals agreed to were to strengthen the communal economy, found new institutions of higher education, create a communal newspaper and form a communal intelligence agency and strengthen the communal militia.
Commune minister Reinaldo Iturriza told “The National Communard Council is a very valuable initiative because it aims to coordinate the diverse efforts of communes in the country.
“There are parallel (complementary) experiences in this regard, with the formation of territorial groupings of communes and communal cities. There are about 60 experiences of this under way in the country.
“I understand this initiative as a unified political platform, about which the Bolivarian government doesn’t have to say if it’s good or bad.
“The government observes how the people’s movement, in this case the commune movement, decides how to organise itself. Our job is to accompany this experience.”
Many communards described their experiences of communal organising. A coffee grower, Jorge Franco, said farmers in his area were organising to develop their own coffee processing capacity and cut out the private sector from the processing, distribution and sales chain.
He said to do this, the farmers had organised themselves into communes and were receiving public funds to aid them in this task.
Many communards said during the meeting that although they were able to work with “allied” governmental figures and state institutions to further their aims, there was also institutional opposition to their project.
The coordinator of one discussion group said: “We must be clear that this National Communard Council is the start of a new struggle. There are those who are going to come and try to take this down, and we need to overcome that situation.”
Jasmy Quintana, a communard activist from the eastern Anzoategui state, said that, in particular, mayors and governors would lose autonomy and responsibilities if the commune movement were to grow. This means many were opposed to the move towards what activists call a “communal state”.
She said: “We still have people who say they are revolutionaries and belong to the Bolivarian process, but they don’t support people’s power. That’s why we, independently of whether they speak to us nicely, have to be vigilant that these nice words are translated into practice.
“We don’t want sugar coated words, we want action. We are just beginning. We have to consolidate our base from below, to go for a constitutional reform … to take autonomy away from the mayoralties and state governments.”
The communard said growing people’s consciousness and the desire to self-manage the country’s resources was the reason the United States government was “afraid” of Venezuela’s political process.
Communards discussed differences in strategy at the meeting. One point of debate was whether the commune movement should seek a gradual “transition” of powers from representative to communal structures, or whether these powers should be “taken” more quickly.
In a national register of community groups undertaken last September, it was found that there were 40,000 communal councils and that 1400 communes had been formed or were developing.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Overcome The US Falsehoods About Venezuela

2014-06-01 from []:
There is a lot of hot air spewed in the US corporate press crying wolf on the supposedly worsening economic hardships of Venezuela’s citizens. The reported cause of their supposed economic woes? Maduro’s “authoritarian regime’s” socializing of the economy.
Venezuela’s (more accurately descibed) profoundly democratic government, disagrees. And why shouldn’t they? On top of the global capitalist economic system having serious turmoil, Venezuela is under economic attack. The rich of Venezuela (colluding certainly with rich allies in the US and the service of US spy agencies) are intentionally destabilizing their economy in a dirty class war since having been removed from governmental power by democratic elections.
However, whereas in the US we’ve seen soaring income inequality as a result of the rich controling our government, in Venezuela an economic offensive against the rich’s control has served the interests of the 99% and especially the poorest.
“One of the largest hauls was found in Distruibor El Nonno in Lara State, where 812 tons of food products were being kept from the shelves by the firm’s owner as part of the economic war against the population which aims to, through falsely creating shortages and inflation, generate enough social discontent to topple the elected government of Nicolas Maduro. Of the seizure, only 690 tons were resold in the public network of supermarkets at regulated prices, as 122 tons were past their use-by-date. The owner of the firm has been arrested.”
Wouldn’t it be great to see some Wall Street Bankers arrested here?
In our second story, we find Venezuela moving forward on another public service that is sure to benefit their country’s future. In a move, that could be seen as very European but really just makes sense, Venezuela has been building a free nationwide wireless service.
““The “Wireless for All” project, deployed by the Venezuelan government has reached 1,479 locations, including schools, universities, villages, plazas and parks in the country, representing a 26% improvement over the goal to connect the signal to 5,774 free internet public spaces,” said the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Manuel Fernandez.”
Now rich college students can quickly upload selfies at the barricades on their brand new iphones without wasting their mobile internet wireless plan. (Only joking, those kids are definately suffering at the hands of an oppressive authoritarian regime. Hopefully vacation shopping sprees in Florida will calm their rage in time away from the poor people using their free university and free healthcare system.)
Finally, Venezuela pushes further towards direct democratic control.
“Another announcement was that authorities will distribute 980 cargo trucks to communes in order to support their productive and agricultural activities. This will help local farmers transport their goods to markets without expensive private sector middlemen charging speculative rates for the service, which drives up the prices of food and reduces farmers’ incomes.”
Shucks, all those valueless middlemen jobs are being lost in Venezuela because the communal councils are directly organizing their community against being cheated. What will they think of next?

Full articles below!

"Economic Offensive Continues To Stabilize Venezuela"
2014-05-23 by Paul Dobson from "Correo de Orinoco":
The second phase of the government-led economic offensive continued this week, with numerous arrests being made for the crimes of usury, hoarding, smuggling, and price speculation. Copious amounts of goods were seized and resold at regulated prices.
Vice President Jorge Arreaza explained that since the second phase began on April 22, 3,068 businesses have been inspected in joint actions by communities, the armed forces, and government. Major seizures were televised live.
The aim, Arreaza explained, is to “construct a new economic order which allows us to overcome the oil-dependent model,” and defeat the economic war waged by the business classes which has left the country with high inflation, shortages, and low production levels.
Arreaza explained that of the inspections carried out so far, “27% of the businesses have incurred the crimes of hoarding, speculation, and smuggling”. Also, he specified, “36% of the inspections have been in the food sector, 27% in commerce, 11% in construction, 10% in textile and clothing, 6% in vehicles, and 5% in health and medicine.”
In the border states of Tachira and Zulia, where large quantities of subsidized goods are smuggled to Colombia for enormous profit margins, 155 tons of rice and sugar were found in the warehouses of the firm Arrocera Chispa, whilst over-pricing of 82% was found in the supermarket Exito.
In Zulia State, 50,000 liters of lactose products were found hoarded in the warehouses of Merilac Corporation, which was also found to be reselling some goods with profit margins of 96%. In the meat firm A Que Ramon, overpricing of 90% was discovered, and in Revinca Corporation, a tube supplier, overpricing of 443% was found. The new Law of Fair Prices and Costs restricts allowed profit margins to 30%, and grants the authorities powers to penalize the non-compliance of the law with up to 10 years of prison and $500,000 in fines. Profit margins on vehicles and other goods are further limited to 10%.
In the central States of Vargas, Aragua, and Carabobo, illegal profit margins of 664% were discovered at Frenos Sun Corp., a distributor of car parts, while in 1731 Corp., which supplies motorbike parts, illegal profit margins of 380% were found. In Mi Auto Motors 82, illegal profit margins of 300% were disclosed, while in Inversiones Villa de Arauca, 2958kg of hoarded coffee was seized. In the eastern state of Bolivar, the marble firm Marmolia Canaima was also found to be overpricing with profit margins of 305%. In the same entity, the hardware firm Ferreksa was found to be over-pricing by 407%. One of the largest hauls was found in Distruibor El Nonno in Lara State, where 812 tons of food products were being kept from the shelves by the firm’s owner as part of the economic war against the population which aims to, through falsely creating shortages and inflation, generate enough social discontent to topple the elected government of Nicolas Maduro. Of the seizure, only 690 tons were resold in the public network of supermarkets at regulated prices, as 122 tons were past their use-by-date. The owner of the firm has been arrested. The economic offensive is due to continue, focusing this week on car dealers and parts supplies. The offensive is also expected to initiate inspections at the production level, in factories and the countryside, with the objective of facilitating loans and resolving particular problems production so as to increase production levels across the country.

“'Wireless for All Plan' In Venezuelan Schools and Public Areas"
2014-05-16 from "Correo de Orinoco":
The “Wireless for All” project, deployed by the Venezuelan government has reached 1,479 locations, including schools, universities, villages, plazas and parks in the country, representing a 26% improvement over the goal to connect the signal to 5,774 free internet public spaces, said the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Manuel Fernandez.
Fernandez explained that to date they have connected 215 of the 547 plazas that will be a part of the project; 14 of the 25 parks; 788 of the 3,589 colleges, and 462 of the more than 1,600 villages and universities raised in the plan.
“This wireless project is for everyone to have free Wifi access connections in four types of spaces. Colleges and universities, these two were instructed by President Nicolas Maduro during Learner’s Week in November 2013 and before that he asked us to think of a solution to install free Wifi in recreational areas,” he said.
He noted that this project is done for educational purposes in places of study and public schools as well as for recreational purposes in parks and public areas around the country.
The scope of the project, Minister Fernandez said, in the last three days has managed to connect 70 spaces with free Wifi each day. He explained that the bandwidth for these spaces is 10 megabits per second and will be able to connect to 128 users simultaneously. By the end of June it is estimated that they will have 3,000 new Internet spaces.

"Venezuelan Government and Activists Seek to Advance toward Communal State”
2014-05-29 by Ewan Robertson []:
Mérida – The Venezuelan government and commune movement are taking steps to move towards the creation of what is referred to as a “communal state”, which involves community organisations assuming collective control of local production and decision making.
Communes in Venezuela are formed out of groups of community councils, which are small neighbourhood organisations representing 250-400 families – where local residents organise to develop their local community and run community affairs. They can also receive public funds to undertake a variety of projects in their area.
Communes themselves are created when an election of local residents is held to select spokespeople from each community council in a given area to form a communal parliament, which has different sub committees and covers community affairs over a larger territorial zone. The commune can then take on larger scale tasks and responsibilities than individual community councils. They can also register with the Ministry of Communes, which makes them eligible to apply for public funding for productive, educational, cultural, infrastructure or other development projects.
There are currently around 40,000 communal councils and 600 communes registered in the country, with more communes currently in the process of formation.
Over the past year and a half the Bolivarian government has stepped up efforts to encourage citizens to organise themselves into communes. This coincided with a speech that late former president Hugo Chavez made in October 2012, criticising the lack of progress in establishing communes in the country, and the appointment of Reinaldo Iturriza as minister of communes by President Nicolas Maduro last April.
Some of the main ideas behind the creation of communes expressed by activists and commune ministry figures are for local communities to play a greater role in productive activities such as agriculture, and for communities to play a greater role in local decision-making and administration.
Earlier this month, President Maduro created a Presidential Council of Communal Governance to act as a direct link between the government and communes and to receive proposals from communes on how government policy can better support communal development.
“You make the proposals, I’ll articulate them with policies, and you send me the criticisms about the shortcomings of the Bolivarian government. Long live grassroots criticism, let’s learn to grow from criticism, let’s not fear the truth, that’s Hugo Chavez’s method,” said Maduro to 10,000 communards (commune members) in Caracas upon making the announcement.
Another announcement was that authorities will distribute 980 cargo trucks to communes in order to support their productive and agricultural activities. This will help local farmers transport their goods to markets without expensive private sector middlemen charging speculative rates for the service, which drives up the prices of food and reduces farmers’ incomes.
Press also reported that Maduro agreed to a meeting with communards to examine difficulties for communal enterprises in issues such as investments and sales, in order to resolve these issues with presidential law-making powers.
Various other commune meetings are planned for June such as a national communal productive fair. There is also a proposal to be debated soon in the Federal Government Council for the transfer of some competencies of local government to the communes.
Dameris Herrera, a spokesperson of the Orinoquia commune in eastern Venezuela, told media her impression of the announcements. “He [Maduro] is saying that yes we can, especially in the transfer of powers, because we can be the administrators of many things that are being done at the level of the constituted power [local representative governance], and as the constituent power [direct participatory governance]; we have this responsibility,” she said.

Commune movement organising around the country -
Meanwhile, communards have been meeting around the country on an independent basis to better organise their movement and present the government with their proposals and requirements for development.
In the Andean town of Mesa Bolivar, Mérida state, some 600 communards representing over 50 communes in the region gathered last weekend to discuss how communes can combat what they describe as an on-going “economic war” against the country’s Bolivarian revolution.
“The aim of this meeting is to reflect, debate and design actions against the economic war, in the areas of supply and revolutionary auditing [of distribution and sales], and in the area of production and socio economic projects,” said Alonso Rua, a member of the Communard Council of Mérida, to
The gathered activists, displaying a range of ages and backgrounds, many of whom were rural workers, met for an open air assembly in the town centre. They then held working groups on security, the economy, communication, and political education. Youth activists met in a separate meeting to discuss issues specific to them.
The more general aim of the meeting, the seventh of its kind over the past year, was to tighten links between commune activists and to advance the organisation of their movement toward goals of local self-management and production.
“What do we want with all this? First, self government, so that we are our own governors. That is to say, truly realise what the constitution says, which is a true democracy,” said Luis Pimental, a high school teacher and member of a commune near Lake Maracaibo, to
The communard continued, “When talk began about communes, I was skeptical, and I asked myself, ‘Are we really prepared for this?’ Yet with what I’ve seen, I’ve realised that yes, there are a lot of people [in the commune movement] with a lot of knowledge, who have been making a valuable contribution”.
However, some communards warn that beyond the presidency and ministry of communes, many public institutions and figures have been resistant to recognising the growth and potential of the country’s commune movement.
“We continue coming up against a bureaucracy that is present within state institutions, that on many occasions doesn’t allow the community’s proposals to be attended,” said Betty Vargas of a commune in the city of Mérida. Her commune is currently planning to establish a new community run higher education centre in a semi-rural zone near the city.
Nevertheless the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) governor of Mérida state, two local mayors, and representatives of the national government and state institutions were present at the meeting in Mesa Bolivar.
During the open air assembly, the National Land Institute handed three communes new land titles as part of a policy to transfer land to communal organisations for the development of their productive and agricultural projects. One of the communes, India Caribay, plans to plant crops, fruits, and construct a fruit processing plant with public financing.
Liskeila Gonzalez, a youth member of the commune, told of the importance of such projects for the community. “I want the commune to achieve the creation of the farm and fruit processor. In the end, it’s the communities around India Caribay that will benefit, and if a person is in need, the fund [from production] will be there to help them,” she said.
She added, “In the commune we all take part in decision-making. There aren’t bosses, a president, anything like that. We’re all equal and we all work the same”.
A similar meeting of communards was held on the same weekend in the eastern state of Monagas, where reportedly hundreds of communards from 39 communes met.
Further, a national meeting of the independent National Communard Network is set to take place this weekend in Lara state in the west of the country. At least 3,000 are expected to attend, where discussions will take place to further advance communal organisation.