Category Archives: Latin America

Mexico: Culture of Peace Diploma initiated by CEDHJ, UdeG and the Institute of Alternative Justice

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

An article from UDG TV (translation by CPNN)

Guadalajara Jalisco. Taking advantage of the chaos to transform it into peace, that is the commitment of the Culture of Peace Diploma that was initiated this Saturday in the State Commission of Human Rights of Jalisco (CEDHJ) to train civil servants and agents of change of the civil society in the most effective strategies to promote peace in any public space, explained the president of the Committee for a Culture of Peace in Jalisco, Florencia Marón.


Questions for this article:

Where is peace education taking place?

She explained how it is especially during times of chaos and hostility between societies that one can see an opportunity to generate a culture of peace through dialogue, empathy and conciliation.

Peace cannot be achieved by decree, even though the president of Mexico has announced that the war against drug trafficking has ended, clarifies the president of Mesa for the Culture of Peace Jalisco.

She added that yes we will be able to be a society of peace to the extent that we are willing to listen to the other, to respect their rights and to demand that the mental health of the Jaliscians be addressed with clarity and punctuality by the state administration.

The University of Guadalajara, the Human Rights Commission and the Alternative Justice Institute are participating in this Culture of Peace diploma.

(Click here for the original article in Spanish)
 

Bolivia: Authorities present Carnival 2019 focused on promoting the culture of peace in Sucre

.. DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION ..

An article of La Razon (translation by CPNN)

The General Secretary of the Mayor of Sucre, Marcel Orgaz, presented on Wednesday [06 February] the ‘Sucrese Carnival 2019’, an event that will focus on promoting the culture of peace, with emphasis on the fight against violence against women.

(Click here for the Spanish original. . )

Questions for this article:

Can festivals help create peace at the community level?

“The ‘Sucrese Carnival 2019’ is launched, and since Sucre has been designated as ‘Ibero-American Capital of Peace’ by the Union of Ibero-American Capital Cities (UCCI), this carnival will focus on promoting the culture of peace and the fight against violence against women, “he said at a public ceremony.

Orgaz anticipated that the carnestolendas [3 days preceding Ash Wednesday] will begin tomorrow, Thursday, and will last until March 16 of this year, highlighted by the ‘Carnival of Antaño, with the Juventud de Siempre’, organized by radio La Plata.

For his part, the municipal secretary of Tourism and Culture, Pedro Salazar, said that another of the activities will be the Entrance of the Carnival Grande de Sucre, the Carnival of El Tejar and the Intercultural Entrance of Surapata.

Salazar warned that the prohibition of the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages will be strictly enforced, in addition to the control of drinking water to avoid waste.

What the Press Hides from You about Venezuela — A Case of News-Suppression

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article by Eric Zuesse in Transcend Media Service

8 Feb 2019 – This news-report is being submitted to all U.S. and allied news-media, and is being published by all honest ones, in order to inform you of crucial facts that the others — the dishonest ones, that hide such crucial facts — are hiding about Venezuela. These are facts that have received coverage only in one single British newspaper: the Independent, which published a summary account of them on January 26th. That newspaper’s account will be excerpted here at the end, but first will be highlights from its topic, the official report to the U.N. General Assembly in August of last year, which has been covered-up ever since. This is why that report’s author has now gone to the Independent, desperate to get the story out, finally, to the public.


Alfred de Zayas,  UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order (appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council)


The Covered-Up Document

On 3 August 2018, the U.N.’s General Assembly received  the report from the U.N.s Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, concerning his mission to Venezuela and Ecuador. His recent travel though both countries focused on “how best to enhance the enjoyment of all human rights by the populations of both countries.” He “noted the eradication of illiteracy, free education from primary school to university, and programmes to reduce extreme poverty, provide housing to the homeless and vulnerable, phase out privilege and discrimination, and extend medical care to everyone.” He noted “that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Ecuador, both devote around 70 per cent of their national budgets to social services.” However (and here, key paragraphs from the report are now quoted):
*****
22. Observers have identified errors committed by the Chávez and Maduro Governments, noting that there are too many ideologues and too few technocrats in public administration, resulting in government policies that lack coherence and professional management and discourage domestic investment, already crippled by inefficiency and corruption, which extend to government officials, transnational corporations and entrepreneurs. Critics warn about the undue influence of the military on government and on the running of enterprises like Petróleos de Venezuela. The lack of regular, publicly available data on nutrition, epidemiology and inflation are said to complicate efforts to provide humanitarian support.

23. Meanwhile, the Attorney General, Tarek Saab, has launched a vigorous anticorruption campaign, investigating the links between Venezuelan enterprises and tax havens, contracting scams, and deals by public officials with Odebrecht. It is estimated that corruption in the oil industry has cost the Government US$ 4.8 billion. The Attorney General’s Office informed the Independent Expert of pending investigations for embezzlement and extortion against 79 officials of Petróleos de Venezuela, including 22 senior managers. The Office also pointed to the arrest of two high-level oil executives, accused of money-laundering in Andorra. The Ministry of Justice estimates corruption losses at some US$ 15 billion. Other stakeholders, in contrast, assert that anti-corruption programmes are selective and have not sufficiently targeted State institutions, including the military. …

29. … Over the past sixty years, non-conventional economic wars have been waged against Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in order to make their economies fail, facilitate regime change and impose a neo-liberal socioeconomic model. In order to discredit selected governments, failures in the field of human rights are maximized so as to make violent overthrow more palatable. Human rights are being “weaponized” against rivals. Yet, human rights are the heritage of every human being and should never be instrumentalized as weapons of demonization. …

30. The principles of non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States belong to customary international law and have been reaffirmed in General Assembly resolutions, notably [a list is supplied]. …

31. In its judgment of 27 June 1986 concerning Nicaragua v. United States, the International Court of Justice quoted from [U.N.] resolution 2625 (XXV): “no State shall organize, assist, foment, finance, incite or tolerate subversive, terrorist or armed activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another State, or interfere in civil strife in another State”. …

36. The effects of sanctions imposed by Presidents Obama and Trump and unilateral measures by Canada and the European Union have directly and indirectly aggravated the shortages in medicines such as insulin and anti-retroviral drugs. To the extent that economic sanctions have caused delays in distribution and thus contributed to many deaths, sanctions contravene the human rights obligations of the countries imposing them.Moreover, sanctions can amount to crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. An investigation by that Court would be appropriate, but the geopolitical submissiveness of the Court may prevent this.

37. Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns with the intention of forcing them to surrender. Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees. A difference, perhaps, is that twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by the manipulation of public opinion through “fake news”, aggressive public relations and a pseudo-human rights rhetoric so as to give the impression that a human rights “end” justifies the criminal means. …

39. Economic asphyxiation policies are comparable to those already practised in Chile, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua and the Syrian Arab Republic. In January 2018, Middle East correspondent of The Financial Times and The Independent, Patrick Cockburn, wrote on the sanctions affecting Syria: There is usually a pretence that foodstuffs and medical equipment are being allowed through freely and no mention is made of the financial and other regulatory obstacles making it impossible to deliver them. An example of this is the draconian sanctions imposed on Syria by the US and EU which were meant to target President Bashar al-Assad and help remove him from power. They have wholly failed to do this, but a UN internal report leaked in 2016 shows all too convincingly the effect of the embargo in stopping the delivery of aid by international aid agencies. They cannot import the aid despite waivers because banks and commercial companies dare not risk being penalised for having anything to do with Syria. The report quotes a European doctor working in Syria as saying that “the indirect effect of sanctions … makes the import of the medical instruments and other medical supplies immensely difficult, near impossible”. In short: economic sanctions kill. …

41. Bearing in mind that Venezuelan society is polarized, what is most needed is dialogue between the Government and the opposition, and it would be a noble task on the part of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to offer his good offices for such a dialogue. Yet, opposition leaders Antonio Ledezma and Julio Borges, during a trip through Europe to denounce the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called for further sanctions as well as a military “humanitarian intervention”. …

44. Although the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has not yet reached the humanitarian crisis threshold, there is hunger, malnutrition, anxiety, anguish and emigration. What is crucial is to study the causes of the crisis, including neglected factors of sanctions, sabotage, hoarding, black market activities, induced inflation and contraband in food and medicines.

45. The “crisis” in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is an economic crisis, which cannot be compared with the humanitarian crises in Gaza, Yemen, Libya, the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, Haiti, Mali, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, or Myanmar, among others. It is significant that when, in 2017, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela requested medical aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the plea was rejected, because it ”is still a high-income country … and as such is not eligible”. …

(Article continued in the right column.)

Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

(Article continued from left column)

46. It is pertinent to recall the situation in the years prior to the election of Hugo Chávez. Corruption was ubiquitous and in 1993, President Carlos Pérez was removed because of embezzlement. The Chávez election in 1998 reflected despair with the corruption and neo-liberal policies of the 1980s and 1990s, and rejection of the gulf between the super-rich and the abject poor.

47. Participatory democracy in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called “protagónica”, is anchored in the Constitution of 1999 and relies on frequent elections and referendums. During the mission, the Independent Expert exchanged views with the Electoral Commission and learned that in the 19 years since Chávez, 25 elections and referendums had been conducted, 4 of them observed by the Carter Center. The Independent Expert met with the representative of the Carter Center in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, who recalled Carter’s positive assessment of the electoral system. They also discussed the constitutional objections raised by the opposition to the referendum held on 30 July 2017, resulting in the creation of a Constitutional Assembly. Over 8 million Venezuelans voted in the referendum, which was accompanied by international observers, including from the Council of Electoral Specialists of Latin America.

48. An atmosphere of intimidation accompanied the mission, attempting to pressure the Independent Expert into a predetermined matrix. He received letters from NGOs asking him not to proceed because he was not the “relevant” rapporteur, and almost dictating what should be in the report. Weeks before his arrival, some called the mission a “fake investigation”. Social media insults bordered on “hate speech” and “incitement”. Mobbing before, during and after the mission bore a resemblance to the experience of two American journalists who visited the country in July 2017. Utilizing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, critics questioned the Independent Expert’s integrity and accused him of bias, demonstrating a culture of intransigence and refusal to accept the duty of an independent expert to be neutral, objective, dispassionate and to apply his expertise free of external pressures. …

67. The Independent Expert recommends that the General Assembly: (g) Invoke article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations and refer the following questions to the International Court of Justice: Can unilateral coercive measures be compatible with international law? Can unilateral coercive measures amount to crimes against humanity when a large number of persons perish because of scarcity of food and medicines? What reparations are due to the victims of sanctions? Do sanctions and currency manipulations constitute geopolitical crimes? (h) Adopt a resolution along the lines of the resolutions on the United States embargo against Cuba, declaring the sanctions against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela contrary to international law and human rights law. …

70. The Independent Expert recommends that the International Criminal Court investigate the problem of unilateral coercive measures that cause death from malnutrition, lack of medicines and medical equipment. …

72. The Independent Expert recommends that, until the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court address the lethal outcomes of economic wars and sanctions regimes, the Permanent Peoples Tribunal, the Russell Tribunal and the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission undertake the task so as to facilitate future judicial pronouncements.

****

On January 26th, Britain’s Independent headlined “Venezuela crisis: Former UN rapporteur says US sanctions are killing citizens”, and Michael Selby-Green reported that:

The first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela for 21 years has told The Independent the US sanctions on the country are illegal and could amount to “crimes against humanity” under international law.

Former special rapporteur Alfred de Zayas, who finished his term at the UN in March, has criticized the US for engaging in “economic warfare” against Venezuela which he said is hurting the economy and killing Venezuelans.

The comments come amid worsening tensions in the country after the US and UK have backed Juan Guaidó, who appointed himself “interim president” of Venezuela as hundreds of thousands marched to support him. …

The US Treasury has not responded to a request for comment on Mr de Zayas’s allegations of the effects of the sanctions programme.

US sanctions prohibit dealing in currencies issued by the Venezuelan government. They also target individuals, and stop US-based companies or people from buying and selling new debt issued by PDVSA or the government.

The US has previously defended its sanctions on Venezuela, with a senior US official saying in 2018: “The fact is that the greatest sanction on Venezuelan oil and oil production is called Nicolas Maduro, and PDVSA’s inefficiencies,” referring to the state-run oil body, Petroleos de Venezuela, SA.

Mr De Zayas’s findings are based on his late-2017 mission to the country and interviews with 12 Venezuelan government ministers, opposition politicians, 35 NGOs working in the country, academics, church officials, activists, chambers of commerce and regional UN agencies.

The US imposed new sanctions against Venezuela on 9 March 2015, when President Barack Obama issued executive order 13692, declaring the country a threat to national security.

The sanctions have since intensified under Donald Trump, who has also threatened military invasion and discussed a coup. …

Despite being the first UN official to visit and report from Venezuela in 21 years, Mr de Zayas said his research into the causes of the country’s economic crisis has so far largely been ignored by the UN and the media, and caused little debate within the Human Rights Council.

He believes his report has been ignored because it goes against the popular narrative that Venezuela needs regime change. …

The then UN high commissioner, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, reportedly refused to meet Mr de Zayas after the visit, and the Venezuela desk of the UN Human Rights Council also declined to help with his work after his return despite being obliged to do so, Mr de Zayas claimed. …

Ivan Briscoe, Latin America and Caribbean programme director for Crisis Group, an international NGO, told The Independent that Venezuela is a polarising subject. … Briscoe is critical of Mr de Zayas’ report because it highlights US economic warfare but in his view neglects to mention the impact of a difficult business environment in the country. … Briscoe acknowledged rising tensions and the likely presence of US personnel operating covertly in the country. …

Eugenia Russian, president of FUNDALATIN, one of the oldest human rights NGOs in Venezuela, founded in 1978 before the Chavez and Maduro governments and with special consultative status at the UN, spoke to The Independent on the significance of the sanctions.

“In contact with the popular communities, we consider that one of the fundamental causes of the economic crisis in the country is the effect that the unilateral coercive sanctions that are applied in the economy, especially by the government of the United States,” Ms Russian said.

She said there may also be causes from internal errors, but said probably few countries in the world have suffered an “economic siege” like the one Venezuelans are living under. …

In his report, Mr de Zayas expressed concern that those calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis” are trying to justify regime change and that human rights are being “weaponised” to discredit the government and make violent overthrow more “palatable”….

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world and an abundance of other natural resources including gold, bauxite and coltan. But under the Maduro government they’re not easily accessible to US and transnational corporations.

US oil companies had large investments in Venezuela in the early 20th century but were locked out after Venezuelans voted to nationalise the industry in 1973.

Other than readers of that single newspaper, where has the public been able to find these facts? If the public can have these facts hidden from them, then how much trust should the public reasonably have in the government, and in the news-media?

US Media Ignore—and Applaud—Economic War on Venezuela

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article by Gregory Shupak in Fair.org

The US media chorus supporting a US overthrow of the Venezuelan government has for years pointed to the country’s economic crisis as a justification for regime change, while whitewashing the ways in which the US has strangled the Venezuelan economy  (FAIR.org, 3/22/18).

Sister Eugenia Russian, president of Fundalatin, a Venezuelan human rights NGO that was established in 1978 and has special consultative status at the UN, told the Independent (1/26/19):

“In contact with the popular communities, we consider that one of the fundamental causes of the economic crisis in the country is the effect [of] the unilateral coercive sanctions that are applied in the economy, especially by the government of the United States.”

While internal errors also contributed to the nation’s problems, Russian said it’s likely that few countries in the world have ever suffered an “economic siege” like the one Venezuelans are living under.

While the New York Times and the Washington Post have lately professed profound (and definitely 100 percent sincere) concern for the welfare of Venezuelans, neither publication has ever referred to Fundalatin.

Alfred de Zayas, the first UN special rapporteur to visit Venezuela in 21 years, told the Independent(1/26/19) that US, Canadian and European Union “economic warfare” has killed Venezuelans, noting that the sanctions fall most heavily on the poorest people and demonstrably cause death through food and medicine shortages, lead to violations of human rights and are aimed at coercing economic change in a “sister democracy.”

De Zayas’ UN report  noted that sanctions “hind[er] the imports necessary to produce generic medicines and seeds to increase agricultural production.” De Zayas also cited Venezuelan economist Pasqualina Curcio, who reports that “the most effective strategy to disrupt the Venezuelan economy” has been the manipulation of the exchange rate. The rapporteur went on to suggest that the International Criminal Court investigate economic sanctions against Venezuela as possible crimes against humanity.

Given that de Zayas is the first UN special rapporteur to report on Venezuela in more than two decades, one might expect the media to regard his findings as an important part of the Venezuela narrative, but his name does not appear in a single article ever published in the Post; the Times has mentioned him once, but not in relation to Venezuela.

The economist Francisco Rodríguez points out  that the sanctions the Trump administration issued in August 2017 prohibited US banks from providing new financing to the Venezuelan government, a key part of the “toxification” of financial dealings with Venezuela. Rodríguez notes that, in August 2017, the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network warned financial institutions that “all Venezuelan government agencies and bodies…appear vulnerable to public corruption and money laundering,” and recommended that some transactions originating from Venezuela be flagged as potentially criminal. Many financial institutions then closed Venezuelan accounts, concerned about the risk of being accused of participating in money laundering.

Rodríguez says that this handcuffed Venezuela’s oil industry, the sector most crucial to its economy, with lost access to credit preventing the country from obtaining financial resources that could have been devoted to investment or maintenance. And whereas previously the Venezuelan government would raise production by signing joint venture agreements with foreign partners who would finance investment, Trump’s sanctions “effectively put an end to these loans.”

Mark Weisbrot (The Nation, 9/7/17) , also an economist, raised a related issue:

“If we step back and look at Venezuela from a bird’s-eye view, how does a country with 500 billion barrels of oil and hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of minerals in the ground go broke? The only way that can happen is if the country is cut off from the international financial system. Otherwise, Venezuela could sell or even collateralize some of its resources in order to get the necessary dollars. The $7.7 billion in goldheld in Central Bank reserves could be quickly collateralized for a loan; in past years, the US Treasury department used its clout to make sure that banks who wanted to finance a swap, such as JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, did not do so.”

Sanctions have kept the Venezuelan government from accessing financing and dealing with its debt while hamstringing its most important industry. Given that US media are writing for a principally US audience, the damage done by Washington and its partners’ sanctions should be front and center in their coverage. Exactly the opposite is the case.

Virginia Lopez-Glass of the New York Times (1/25/19) uses 920 words to describe the challenges facing Venezuelans, but “sanctions” isn’t one of them, even as she writes about matters to which, as I’ve shown above, sanctions are directly relevant: “Food and medicine shortages are widespread. Hundreds have died from malnutrition and illnesses that are easily curable with the appropriate treatment.”

Weaponizing hunger in Venezuela in this manner is dishonest and misleading. Christina M. Schiavoni, a doctoral researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, and Ana Felicien and Liccia Romero, both of whom are Venezuelan scholars, wrote in Monthly Review(6/1/18) on “overt US aggression toward Venezuela” in the form of

“the intensifying economic sanctions imposed by the Obama and Trump administrations, as well as an all-out economic blockade that has made it extremely difficult for the government to make payments on food imports and manage its debt.”

(Article continued in the right column.)

Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

(Article continued from left column)

Bret Stephens’ column in the Times (1/28/19) only mentions the word “sanctions” to complain that the media supposedly isn’t blaming “socialism” for the crisis in Venezuela, alleging that

“what you’re likelier to read is that the crisis is the product of corruption, cronyism, populism, authoritarianism, resource-dependency, US sanctions and trickery, even the residues of capitalism itself.”

After dismissing the idea that the sanctions are a key part of the problems in Venezuela, Stephens went on to advocate using them to bring about regime change in the country, writing that the Trump administration

“should enhance [Guaidó]’s political standing by providing access to funds that can help him establish an alternative government and entice wavering figures in the Maduro camp to switch sides. It can put Venezuela on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.”

These “funds” presumably refer the money that the US has seized from Venezuela, and adding the country to list of “state sponsors of terrorism” automatically entails hitting it with further sanctions.

The editorial board of the Washington Post (1/24/19) alleged that Venezuela’s government has “subject[ed] the country’s 32 million people to a humanitarian catastrophe,” without referring to what scholars whose research and writing focuses on Latin America—such as Laura Carlsen, Sujatha Fernandes, Greg Grandin, Francisco Dominguez, Noam Chomsky, Aviva Chomsky, Gabriel Hetland and Venezuelan-born historian Miguel Tinker Salas—describe (Common Dreams, 1/24/19) as sanctions

“cut[ting] off the means by which the Venezuelan government could escape from its economic recession, while causing a dramatic falloff in oil production and worsening the economic crisis, and causing many people to die because they can’t get access to life-saving medicines.”

Later, the editorial said that “a US boycott of Venezuelan oil could endanger ordinary Venezuelans already coping with critical shortages of food, power and medicine,” an absurd remark given that the sanctions they are occluding have had precisely these effects.

Henry Olsen in the Post (1/24/19) wrote as if sanctions are a benign tool that can be used to usher in a brighter future for Venezuelans, rather than a key reason that so many of them find themselves in such a grim condition:

“Trump has many levers to pull short of military intervention to topple Maduro. He could use US pressure on the global financial system to cut off regime access to international banks, freezing access to any secret accounts that the regime — and, probably, its highest-ranking leaders — established offshore. He can, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has suggested, work with American oil companies that purchase Venezuelan oil to provide the profits from those purchases to accounts controlled by Guaidó’s National Assembly. He can also pressure China, which has a far more valuable relationship with the United States than it does with Venezuela, to withdraw its support. Any or all of these measures would ratchet up pressure directly on the regime, decreasing its ability to finance itself and buy support from security and military figures….

Odds are that increasing financial pressure on the regime will finally bring about its collapse.”

Even if one momentarily sets aside that the sanctions are illegal under international law  and violate the charter of the Organization of American States, and that the US has no right whatsoever to decide who governs Venezuela, these measures don’t just “ratchet up pressure” on “the regime,” they also kill and immiserate ordinary Venezuelans.A

The Post’s Charles Lane (1/28/19) wrote:

“Apologists for the regime blame US sanctions and destabilization for Venezuela’s problems. The truth is that, with the exception of the George W. Bush administration’s brief, halfhearted support for a coup attempt in 2002, Washington—learning the lessons of ill-fated Cold War interventions—has shown restraint in dealing with the Caracas regime.”

He went on to write that, until the Trump administration announced limitations on imports of Venezuelan oil that day, “the United States had traded with Venezuela and focused economic pressure on regime leaders and key institutions,” which suggests that the sanctions exclusively harm the “regime”—again, even if that were true, it would still be illegal—and amounts to a lie, given the evidence that the sanctions are crushing the Venezuelan masses.

Unlike Lane and the rest of the media’s regime change choir, the US government has acknowledged what it’s doing to Venezuela. Schiavoni, Felicien and Romero point to a telling remark  that a senior State Department official made last year:

“The financial sanctions we have placed on the Venezuelan Government has forced it to begin becoming in default, both on sovereign and PDVSA, its oil company’s debt. And what we are seeing because of the bad choices of the Maduro regime is a total economic collapse in Venezuela. So our policy is working, our strategy is working and we’re going to keep it on the Venezuelans.”

Thus, the US government acknowledges that it is knowingly, consciously driving the Venezuelan economy into the ground, but US media make no such acknowledgment, which sends the message that the problems in Venezuela are entirely the fault of the government, and that the US is a neutral arbiter that wants to help Venezuelans.

Call this elision what it is: war propaganda.

Cuba: International Conference for Peace and “World Balance” Supports Venezuela

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article by Roger Harris in the Transcend Media Service

 Close to 700 conferees from 65 countries convened in Havana, Cuba from January 28-31, for peace and “world balance.” This, the fourth such conference, was dedicated to honoring the ideals of Cuban national hero José Martí who died in 1895 at the age of 42 fighting for independence from colonial Spain. The event was organized by the José Martí Project of International Solidarity, which is sponsored by UNESCO.


Photo: Yaimi Ravelo

An overarching theme of the conference was the urgency for international solidarity with the democratically elected Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro who is under attack by the US and its minions. Another prominent issue was the struggle to free the unjustly imprisoned former President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The wide-ranging conference addressed the “most pressing issues that have an impact on humanity” from global warming, to feminism, to cyber democracy, to sustainability. Well known personalities from all over the world included Spanish intellectual Ignacio Ramonet, Brazilian liberation theologian Frei Betto, historian of Havana Eusebio Leal, and a representative of the Vatican. Aleida Guevara, daughter of Che, spoke during the panel on solidarity along with Puerto Rican fighter for independence Oscar López Rivera.

The first plenary session was attended by newly elected Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and leading members of the Cuban government and Communist Party. They sat on the mainstage without fanfare or even significant security, other than a few unarmed men in guayabera shirts standing in the background; considerably less security, say, than the average US high school student must pass to get to class.

(Article continued in the right column.)

(Click here for an article in Spanish about this conference.)

Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

(Article continued from left column)

Yuri Afonin of the Russian Federation Communist Party observed that the open colonialism of Martí’s time has been replaced by today’s neo-colonialism. With the collapse of the USSR/Eastern Europe, imperialism was given a green light. The planet has gone back to the 19th century as capitalism tries to impose its neoliberal hegemony.

Yeidckol Polevnsky of the newly triumphant MORENA Party in Mexico advocated strongly for respecting sovereignty and self-determination among nations, denouncing US interference in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Likewise, the representative of the ruling Chinese Communist Party called for non-interference. Venezuelan Minister of Culture Ernesto Villegas warned: “The US has unleashed a culture of war.”

Adán Chávez Frias of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and brother of Hugo Chávez spoke of the 2002 US-backed coup that lasted less than three days because the people rose up against it. Today, he reported, the civic-military union is stronger than in 2002 and will defend the process towards socialism.

Rene González of the Cuban 5 and Vice President of the Martiano Program Office observed that many internationals, some of whom were at the conference, fought with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua against the US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza and many more would now do the same if Venezuela must defend itself.

Fellow Cuban 5 hero Fernando González, who is the current President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), summed up the conference: “we must unite to defend these causes because the enemy is the same…yanqui imperialism.”

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla closed the conference saying: “We inhabit a planet that is unequal as never before. We live in a world of enormous and growing imbalances, which cause great threats to international peace and security, to justice, and to the dignity of human beings.”  He stressed that US imperialism is clinging to a unipolar order, which is historically discarded and unsustainable.

The international conference adjourned, dedicated to an inclusive multi-polar world where, in the words of José Martí, patria es humanidad (homeland is humanity).

Venezuela: An Open Letter to the People of the United States from President Nicolás Maduro

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

Published by Transcend News Service

7 Feb 2019 – If I know anything, it is about people, such as you, I am a man of the people. I was born and raised in a poor neighborhood of Caracas. I forged myself in the heat of popular and union struggles in a Venezuela submerged in exclusion and inequality.

I am not a tycoon, I am a worker of reason and heart, today I have the great privilege of presiding over the new Venezuela, rooted in a model of inclusive development and social equality, which was forged by Commander Hugo Chávez since 1998 inspired by the Bolivarian legacy.

We live today a historical trance. There are days that will define the future of our countries between war and peace. Your national representatives of Washington want to bring to their borders the same hatred that they planted in Vietnam. They want to invade and intervene in Venezuela – they say, as they said then – in the name of democracy and freedom. But it’s not like that. The history of the usurpation of power in Venezuela is as false as the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It is a false case, but it can have dramatic consequences for our entire region.

Venezuela is a country that, by virtue of its 1999 Constitution, has broadly expanded the participatory and protagonist democracy of the people and that is unprecedented today, as one of the countries with the largest number of electoral processes in its last 20 years. You might not like our ideology, or our appearance, but we exist and we are millions.

I address these words to the people of the United States of America to warn of the gravity and danger that intend some sectors in the White House to invade Venezuela with unpredictable consequences for my country and for the entire American region. President Donald Trump also intends to disturb noble dialogue initiatives promoted by Uruguay and Mexico with the support of CARICOM for a peaceful solution and dialogue in favour of Venezuela. We know that for the good of Venezuela we have to sit down and talk, because to refuse to dialogue is to choose strength as a way. Keep in mind the words of John F. Kennedy: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate”.

(Article continued in the right column.)

(Click here for the letter in Spanish or click here for the letter in French.)

Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

(Article continued from left column)

Are those who do not want to dialogue afraid of the truth?

The political intolerance towards the Venezuelan Bolivarian model and the desires for our immense oil resources, minerals and other great riches has prompted an international coalition headed by the US government to commit the serious insanity of militarily attacking Venezuela under the false excuse of a non-existent humanitarian crisis.

The people of Venezuela have suffered painfully social wounds caused by a criminal commercial and financial blockade, which has been aggravated by the dispossession and robbery of our financial resources and assets in countries aligned with this demented onslaught.

And yet, thanks to a new system of social protection, of direct attention to the most vulnerable sectors, we proudly continue to be a country with a high human development index and low inequality in the Americas.

The American people must know that this complex multiform aggression is carried out with total impunity and in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations, which expressly outlaws the threat or use of force, among other principles and purposes for the sake of peace and the friendly relations between Nations.

We want to continue being business partners of the people of the United States, as we have been throughout our history. Their politicians in Washington, on the other hand, are willing to send their sons and daughters to die in an absurd war, instead of respecting the sacred right of the Venezuelan people to self-determination and safeguarding their sovereignty.

Like you, people of the United States, we Venezuelans are patriots. And we shall defend our homeland with all the pieces of our soul.

Today Venezuela is united in a single clamor: we demand the cessation of the aggression that seeks to suffocate our economy and socially suffocate our people, as well as the cessation of the serious and dangerous threats of military intervention against Venezuela.

We appeal to the good soul of American society, victim of its own leaders, to join our call for peace, let us be all one people against warmongering and war.

Long live the peoples of America!
Nicolás Maduro

President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Lajeado, Brazil: City Hall Launches Peace Pact

. . DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION . .

An article from Informativo (translation by CPNN)

Lajeado will promote a pact for peace. The project, still without a defined name, involves several secretariats, including Health, Education, Security, Social Assistance and Sport and Leisure. They will formulate a set of strategies to reduce crime and promote a culture of peace, based on actions throughout society. The initiative is inspired by similar action already developed in the city of Pelotas, in the southern part of the state.


Mayor Marcelo Caumo. Foto by Lidiane Mallmann/arquivo O Informativo do Vale

According to Mayor Marcelo Caumo, the Department of Labor, Housing and Social Welfare made a diagnosis on several points during 2018. “The diagnosis addressed youth learning, aggression against women, drug use and violence in general. Besides investing in repression, which we have been doing with great constancy, we must invest in prevention,” he says.

Caumo explains that, based on the data compiled, we sought methodologies that have already been applied in other municipalities combining both repression and prevention and producing positive results.” We got information from Pelotas where the response was very positive.” The first phase of the project is the internal survey that will be done by several municipal secretariats. “After the beginning of the work, other entities will be involved, such as federal, state and municipal police forces, prosecutors, judiciary, business entities and the community in general,” said the mayor.

Today is an internal work meeting, in which the team will make a presentation to the City Hall about the pact. On that occasion, the municipality will review projects that already exist related to the promotion of peace and reduction of violence.

(Article continued in right column)

(Click here for a Portuguese version of this article)

Questions related to this article:

 

How can culture of peace be developed at the municipal level?

(Article continued from left column)

Culture of peace

Mayor Marcelo Caumo points out that the objective is to implement strategies capable of promoting an environment of peace, preventing violent and criminal attitudes and actions in the municipality. “We will make a comprehensive diagnosis of the situation of violence in Lajeado, including perceptions and indications not reported in criminal statistics, such as petty thefts or bullying, which do not always appear in official indicators.”

According to the head of the municipal Executive, the objective is to point out alternatives to solve issues of violence. For this, the integration of various organizations will be sought, to make their action more effective. “We will measure violence in the municipality, including previously unreported situations, and then we will identify and prioritize coping strategies.”

Results in the city of Pelotas

Recently, the municipality of Pelotas, which implemented the project 16 months ago, presented the results in reducing crime rates. Since the creation of the program, there has been a 36% reduction in homicides, 38% in vehicle thefts and 33% in robberies.

“These are very positive numbers that we want to see happen in Lajeado too,” comments Marcelo Caumo. “It is important to emphasize that the methodology of this project is to act to prevent violence, which involves health, education, culture and social assistance. In the medium and long term we hope to reduce the need to repress violence.

The creation of the peace pact in Lajeado has a contract of R $ 230 thousand, with an expected duration of 12 months with the support of consultants. The contract includes bi-weekly meetings for follow-up, in addition to permanent contact with the working group. The draft includes the values ​​of travel, travel, food and lodging.

To know more

On November 21, 2018, the consultant and executive director of the Instituto Ciudad Segura, Alberto Kopittke, was in Lajeado to present the project “Pact for Peace”, developed in cities like Pelotas, Niterói, Fortaleza and 20 other municipalities in the metropolitan region of Ceará. The methodology, based on evidence (evidence of effects and outcome of actions), is concerned with preventing violence from the gestation of the child to actions aimed at young people with violent behavior. The goal is to act early to prevent more serious problems in the future.

Guatemala: Two key elements to overcome the crisis

. .DISARMAMENT & SECURITY. .

Excerpts from a document by Bernardo Arévalo in Nomada (translation by CPNN)

A peace agreement was signed, but nothing changed

The empty shell that is the Guatemalan State and its lack of agency for peace, has meant that our country lacks a comprehensive political strategy for reconciliation. Therefore it is necessary to navigate the ambiguities, complications and paradoxes generated by the unsatisfactory transactions that may be found in any negotiating process.


FOTO: IMAGENESMY.COM

The recommendations of the Commission of Historical Clarification (CEH) [in 1999] would have been a good starting point. It was based on a social process for justice, memory, reparation and non-repetition that could facilitate a social dialogue on the interpretation of history. It provided hope for reconciliation, a new imaginary of coexistence and unity. However, within five years after its presentation, it had become clear that the political will necessary for such an effort did not exist.

The United Nations verification report of 2005 urged the political authorities and state institutions to “… sincerely commit themselves to comply with the recommendations of the CEH and with the commitments contained in the Peace Agreements that are still pending. . ” It was a diplomatic way of declaring that the necesssary sincerity was absent. . . It was acknowledged that
“… despite all the efforts made over the last few years to build a culture of peace, the culture of violence continues to be part of daily life” . . .

The document [of 2005], conceived as a strategy to return the spirit of the Peace Accords and its objectives a decade after its signing, included a long list of concrete actions and mechanisms to address issues ranging from the construction of participatory citizenship, strengthening of the rights of women and indigenous peoples and the use of the educational system to promote knowledge and understanding of the armed conflict and its consequences. It was an operational strategy that simultaneously addressed the past and intended to transform the future.

Without well-defined political actions, there is no reconciliation

But, nevertheless, the result was again disappointing. The Secretariat of Peace was allowed only a marginal role in successive government cabinets, which showed, despite the rhetoric, the low priority assigned to the implementation of the Agreements. The ambitious reparations program, although well designed, did not produce clear results due to quarrels between civil society groups and recurrent personnel changes with each new government. . . .

In fact, twenty years after the signing of the Peace Accords, Guatemalan society had not yet been reconciled. In 2015, the country arrived at a crisis of accumulated political and social tensions: government policies -or their absence- were destroying the few advances in social development indicators that had been registered after the agreements were signed. . . .

From an absent state to a participatory state of corruption

The judicial processes for corruption opened by the Public Ministry [following The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala – CICIG – in 2015], against the corruption networks that involved politicians and entrepreneurs of all levels marked a new stage: the State was no longer simply responsible for omission, but now for commission as well (i.e. corruption).

After the trial of the then President Otto Pérez Molina, the then Vice-President Roxana Baldetti and a good number of officials of his government, Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre assumed the Presidency of the Republic in an interim management marked by two minimum objectives: to allow the electoral elections that were already programmed, and to maintain the functioning of the administration while a new popularly elected president assumed office.

The elections, marked by the political crisis and the fight against impunity and corruption, were characterized by a strong rejection of traditional political parties. The political order established after 1996 was overtaken by a citizen spirit of repudiation of the “traditional politicians” that, together with a judicial dynamic that began to reveal its corrupt compromises, paved the way to victory for a newly created, unknown political party, and the election to the presidency of an improbable candidate whose only merit was his political anonymity, and his only virtue (self-proclaimed) was not to be “… neither corrupt nor thief”.

The new presidential term began with a new president duly elected as a results of the wave of anti-corruption and anti-impunity social protest. The preceding political class, largely corrupt, was rejected by an active citizenship. A judicial system was emerging; despite its limitations and deficiencies, it finally began to show signs of being able to function properly in a democratic state of law. The fight against corruption and impunity seemed to become a new space of convergence within society: a new ‘moral consensus’ beyond ideological, social and cultural positions, emerging as a vector for a conciliation / reconciliation hitherto elusive .

Like the crab: back to authoritarianism

Unfortunately, events moved in the opposite direction. A blanket of impunity covered the structures, modalities and arrangements of widespread corruption that had involved actors in the different spheres of society and that it had been ‘normalized’ by decades of customary practice.

Instead of applauding the punishment of the corrupt and shameless political class during the days of 2015, business actors who had been its partners began to consider the judicial zeal to be excessive, when it began to reveal their own involvement in corruption.

Within the Executive, the situation was no better. At first, President Jimmy Morales had seemed to support collaboration between the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the CICIG [the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala]. However, he explicitly refused to investigate the involvement of his brother and son in an operation which was not large in scope, but which received enormous media coverage. This was a costly political blow to the President, and it was badly handled by his advisors.

A civic coalition emerged around the anti-corruption effort but many
political and business actors migrated towards the constitution of what public opinion has called a “Pact of Corruption.” This included those actors who refused assume the consequences of past acts and others determined to use corruption as a mechanism of cooptation and capture of the State.

This perverse coalition poses new obstacles to the emergence of the ‘moral consensus’ necessary to develop peaceful coexistence in the society. And even worse, it intentionally and maliciously fosters social and political polarization. It attempts to overturn the struggle against impunity by claiming that the CICIG is an instrument of obscure ‘international interests’, that seek to undermine national sovereignty. . .

Political authorities in the Executive and Legislative bodies have taken up the ‘anti-CICIG’ struggle and its polarizing narrative, deploying a campaign aimed at expelling, or blocking the Commission’s capacity for action and resorting to to arbitrary actions that often border on illegality.

(Continued in right column)

(Click here for the Spanish version of this article)

Question related to this article:

Can a culture of peace be achieved in guatemala?

(Continued from left column)

In parallel, they have begun to implement authoritarian actions, claiming that they are needed to restore imaginary threats to national security. They are dismantling the institutional transformations that, within the framework of Democratic Security conceptions, had been taking place in the country prior to the signing of the Peace Accords. . .

In sum, Guatemalan society has not find its way to peaceful co-existence and reconciliation due to the absence of a State that assumes the responsibility to mediate between the different needs, interests and perceptions that are inherent in every society The absence of a State that facilitates the emergence of a shared and inclusive vision that cements peaceful coexistence and allows the permanent closure of the cycles of violence and coercion that have characterized our history. For two decades, this situation was explained by the combination of disinterest and inability of the political elites. Today, the highest authorities are actively defending impunity and corruption. Reconciliation, previously an elusive aspiration, has become a goal that is moving further away.

There is light at the end of the tunnel: leadership networks and State rescue

In these conditions, restoring peaceful coexistence to Guatemalan society will require strengthening the social agency for reconciliation, through the establishment of cross-sectoral “coalitions” that cut across the divisions among the various social groups and sectors and between the political system and the society, integrating them into networks capable of building consensus and mobilizing the system into effective transforming action.

These abilities that are not totally alien to us. Despite their insufficiencies and limitations, the transformations within the framework of the processes of democratization and peace of the last three decades have allowed the emergence of new social leaderships.

Facing the incompetence of the political system and state institutions, these initiatives of civil society have spurred state action leading to advances in security, in health, in the rights of women, in community development, etc.

This explains how, in the absence of a capable and determined state, we Guatemalans have managed to avoid, even in the context of a crisis of profound governability such as the Black Thursday in 2003 and the civic protest days of 2015, the recourse to violence that would have restored the cycles of repressive violence / vindictive violence that have been recurrent in our history.

But the capacities we have achieved to advance despite the weaknesses and contradictions of the “absent state” are insufficient to confront the “dissociative state”.

The ability to prevent the political and social deterioration that arises today from the cooptation of the State by the ‘Pact of Corrupts’ requires two developments.

The first is the development of leaders with the capacity to build bridges across social, cultural and political divisions and to unify efforts in the pursuit of shared objectives. This leadership must be able to of transcend the dissociative discourse and the artificial polarization that has been created around the fight against impunity and corruption, and the dynamics of fragmentation and distrust that have divided civil society, limiting their capacity for joint action.

We need leaders capable of cooperatively undertaking the construction of a truly shared agenda for change, . . . . the construction of an authentic “social contract”, which goes beyond institutional and legalistic formalities to forge, participatively and inclusively, the great social consensus necessary to build the construction of a nation of justice and solidarity.

The second is the political rescue of the State by these new leaders, through democratic mechanisms and strategies that are viable within the framework of the rule of law.

A rescue that:

– can expel corrupt and criminal networks from the spaces of political control over state institutions,

– can prevent the dismantling of the incipient advances that the country has made in terms of democratization in the last thirty years.

– can transcend the weaknesses and incapacities that marked the will of the political class that assumed the leadership of the State in the framework of the peace process,

– can encourage the emergence of a new political class that allows the State to become the effective manager of well-being and coexistence in society, and that synergizes the efforts of different social and political sectors to promote the establishment of conditions for peaceful coexistence.

Infrastructure power: collaborative relationships between society and authorities

The state that we need does not correspond to the rational-bureaucratic machinery of the Western liberal paradigm of Weberian roots, and certainly not of a State that rests on the capacity to use resources of force to impose the will of those who control it. It is a State that operates fundamentally from what Michael Mann has called “infrastructural power”: the ability to foster and take advantage of the development of collaborative relationships within society and between society and political authorities, as an instrument for the effective fulfillment of its functions.

We need a State conceived as

– the convergence between political and social leadership that works in concert towards common goals,

– that integrates them through an institutional framework, developed and legitimated collectively,

– that takes advantage of the agency capacity of the different social actors -groups, individuals, communities, sectors- coordinating them for common benefit

– a State whose strength does not depend on its ability to act out of society, but on acting with society.

[As of today], reconciliation, as a national process, can not depend exclusively on the political and material resources of the State when its highest political authorities are part of the Pact of Corruption.

Without the will and agency capacity of civil society and communities, the State is not in a position to generate the conditions that make peaceful coexistence viable.

In this sense, a social leadership for reconciliation is a sine-qua-non condition for the effective transformation of horizontal and vertical trust relationships in society.

[In the long run,] however, only the State is in a position to generate the normative and institutional capacities necessary to mediate among the multiple contradictory forces of the different sectors of society and to promote an inclusive society with the preconditions of peace: equality, justice, respect, dignity and a genuine democracy functioning within the rule of law.

The rescue of the State by a political leadership that is capable and democratic is therefore the most important task if we are to create a society of reconciliation in which the different social, political and cultural interests are no longer an obstacle to harmonious coexistence.

Note: This text is part of the document “From the post-conflict to the restoration of authoritariansm: the difficult road towards coexistece in Guatemala”, written by Bernardo Arévalo for FLACSO.

Mexico: Government of AMLO will include new subjects in schools

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

An article from Nacion 321

Esteban Moctezuma, Secretary of Public Education [SEP] , said that the subject of civics will be taught in Mexican schools and other changes will be implemented in the curriculum to “include the promotion of values, civility, the culture of peace, international solidarity, respect for human rights, history, culture, art, especially, the music, sports and respect for the environment ”


Video: Presentation of education reform initiative

During the working meeting that took place on January 28 with the United commissions for Education and Constitutional Issues, the head of the SEP said that the union of these matters is what they call “an integral education”.

(Article continued in right column)

(Click here for the original article in Spanish)

Questions for this article:

Where is peace education taking place?

(continued from left column)

In addition, he pointed out that if you want a country without violence and a culture of peace, the initiative to reform education presented by the federal government “will create that new Mexican school.” The work is yet to be done, but the law is the framework that will allow us to do it”.

He insisted that the Education Reform approved in the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto did not signify any significant progress, for which he asked the legislators to repeal the reform and “give a new channel to the educational project.”

He indicated that universality, integrality, equity and excellence as basic postulates of public education are added to the traditional principles of education.

ENGLISH STILL WITHOUT PROFESSORS WHO SPEAK IT

In an interview with Javier Solórzano, Moctezuma said that they will teach English even before the normal teachers learn that language.

“Obviously you have to teach English in the normal, but we thought and we have been studying a method, in which through a very powerful platform can enable a teacher who does not know English, to coordinate a group that is working with the platform, “the secretary told Solórzano.

He explained that in this way, they could have the ability to teach the language almost immediately, while if “you wait for the normal teachers to learn English” it would take longer to be able to “provide that tool to Mexican children”.
 

Mexico: Cuernavaca unites for ‘Peace Accord’

.. DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION ..

An article by Carlos Soberanes in Diario de Morelos

The mayor of Cuernavaca, Antonio Villalobos Adán, has signed the “Peace Accord”, to launch the program Silla Rosa [Rosa’s Chair], headed by the Secretariat of Social Welfare and Values.

“The purpose of the program, presented to civil society, business representatives, human rights defenders and leaders of the city, is to reduce rates of violence against women,” said the mayor.

After recognizing that one of the priorities for the municipal government is to develop an environment without violence and peace, Antonio Villalobos Adán urged all sectors to join in these preventive actions.

(continued in right column)

(Click here for the Spanish version of this article.)

Questions for this article:

How can culture of peace be developed at the municipal level?

(continued from left column)

The “Peace Accord” was signed by municipal authorities, representatives of the United Nations (UN) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Speaking at the City Museum, the mayor stressed the importance of joining the campaign “The culture of peace”, promoted by international organizations so that all families have the right to live within a just and lasting peace, in a state of tranquility and balance.

Meanwhile, peace ambassador Larissa Navarro said that the Silla Rosa program is a symbol of women’s rights and obligations, how to instruct children and their families in peace, with the engagement of men.

In her speech, the Secretary of Social Welfare and Values, Cynthia Pérez Suero, reported that during these 30 days a thorough work has been done to find out the real situation, in order to implement projects and programs in favor of the society.

During the working meeting the representatives of the UN, UNESCO, Mayor Antonio Villalobos Adam and civil society inaugurated the Itinerant Book and signed the “Peace Accordt”.

It should be noted that the document was symbolically signed with “white gloves”, as a rejection of violence.