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World Social Forum

For some reason my usernname does not work so I am hollerin at yall under Bings name. The apostrophe key does not exist.

I just got back from hearing Chavez speak for a good hour or two. It was uncomfortable being a part of someones media spectacle, feeling disrespectful if I didnt participate in every standing ovation. But people like him... A lot. A lot. and Bolivarian Socialism, the new Socialist Revolution, a lot a lot. I feel like it is pretty hard to get some sort of handle on Chavez...he is either glorified or demonized. Interestingly enough, though, the few people I met this week who I felt were keepin it real and exposed Chavez and the Rev. on some pretty crucial hidden issues were women. I started that last sentence with (interestingly enough) because in a land, similar to home, where popular historical heroes and praised revolutionaries are all men, its refreshing and inspiring to see women in other areas of the world who are seeking truth and justice admidst historical oppression and contemporary popular political opinions.

While Chavez liked to drop the word [indigenous] to his campaneros and companeras, it is the indigenous people and women of this country, that I feel I have learned after this week at the Forum, continue to suffer the most. Obviously centuries of patriarchal, colonial, and now neocolonial-neoliberal oppression are not going to be erased after a few years under a Socialist leader, even one whos words aligns himself with those struggles. However,
two current situations in particular, that Chavez does have considerable influence over, stand in stark contradiction to his passionate, and I hope sincere, beliefs against Imperialism "no matter the word" as he stated tonight.

One: There are four tribes located in Western Venezuela at the border of Columbia. They live amongst four different rivers that feed into two reservoirs and out into the gulf. These reservoirs provide all of their drinking water, along with much of the bottled drinking water that is found so frequently around Caracas. These tribes have lived a traditional lifestyle, gathering together on Sundays for markets to sell and trade their livestock, crops, and wares. However, they also happen to be living amongst over 60 billion cubic tons of coal reserves (carbon as they say here) in the mountains. Two coal mines have already been opened along the Guasare and Socuy Rivers, and five new mines are planned amongst the other rivers, along with a railroad, and military camps to oversee the transport of reserves, to forcibly move populations, and to keep Columbian guerrillas out of the miners hair. The Wayuu people who have been the first effected by the two already existing mines, are already feeling the ecological repercussions of subsurface mining. Their reservoir is collecting sediment, their river is contaminated by heavy metals (including but not limited to lead and mercury from mining waste) which has caused fish populations to exhibit deformaties, and are probably no longer safe to eat. Even some of their livestock have shown irregular deformaties at birth. All the classic consequences that come to a fragile ecosystem at mining sites. It happens all over the mountains of Virginia where I live, most likely if you live in the South or the West in the US, you too have experienced the loss of life that is inherent to the processes of coal miners. I could go on about how tribes that are displaced are now forced to live on government handouts of water and food and many of the men are coerced into working in the mines, and when they become sick are fired and not medically treated or aided by the govt. The story goes on and on, the Wayuu woman who spoke to us was courageous and did not stumble amongst the lists of atrocities she relayed to us. Her tribe, and many others, along with ecologists are tired of waiting for Chavez and the Ministry of Development to listen to their warnings against opening any new mines. They are committed to using their bodies and their own weapons against the new mines. Whatever it takes to protect their land and their culture.

"The land is our mother, what will my people do, what will my children to when their mother is gone"

The second woman I met was an artisan who was born in Trinidad and Tobago but has lived in Venezuela for a very long time. She is a sculptor and makes jewelry, its heavy. She has dreams about the pieces before she makes them, and uses copper, bones, hair, tar, leather, scraps that she finds along the way. She told me that no one is better than anyone else because we were all born under the same sky and above the same earth. She says there are no such thing as evil people. Except Presidents, she claims, are all evil everywhere. Power, that is the only evil.

Ah, I am writing way too much. But last and mos def not least is Abortion. In this quasi-theocratic state the Roman Catholic church does not believe women are competent enough to have autonomy over their own bodies. And the government is obviously not convinced enough to change that. So women here, when they need an abortion, have two options a d.i.y. approach that could end in hemmoraging and death, or they can call on one of the few womens groups that perform well educated and sanitary abortions outside of the law. The goverment turns their head to these rings, and luckily they are not actively shut down. Pretty positive response to the attempted control over their bodies, and I wish more womens gynecological groups (like Jane in Chicago back in the mid to late 20th century...readthat zine!!) were still an influential force in the States...I did not do that topic justice. But it is way late.

Sorry it is so long, I have to leave tomorrow night to get back to Bard. I am grateful to be where I am.

love, Saralee

posted by Luke on Friday, January 27, 2006