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World Social Forum

All ten of us are back in the States, no worse for wear. Going to the World Social Forum was a very important thing for me. The last workshop I went to was an overview of the recent WTO meeting in Hong Kong, and what went wrong. It was hosted by the kindly Walden Bello, of Focus on the Global South.

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The day after the WTO talk, Jade, Jonah, Adam, a generous Venezuelan named Natalia, and I climbed a mountain named Avila. We walked from the center of the city to its peak. After making our way down in a jeep, Natalia took us to her home for a delicious meal of Pabellón, beers, then coffee.

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This is a picture of urban permaculture in Caracas that I failed to post previously.

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And a picture of a building at night. The top floors had a fire that we were told was caused by opposition to the Chavez governemnt. I am not sure that this is true now.

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This was the press room.

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In a comment posted earlier, someone asked who the Cuban Five were. On the subject of comments, I'm sorry that they were not anonymous, this was unintentional. On the subject of the Cuban Five, they are Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González. They were in Miami investigating possible anti-Castro terrorists, the kind the US protects. They are now serving four life sentences after being convicted in a shameful display of McCarthyist posturing. The Five never threatened the US, possessed weapons, or spied on the US government. They were simply trying to prevent terrorism that would otherwise go unpunished or unimpeded by the USA.


It's hard coming back to the states and being greeted by "information" like this.

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i have spent my time here walking around lost. not due to lack of personal awareness. simply due to language barriers and people being vague or just not knowing.

My complaint about WSF which i have heard a lot of people agreein, is the lack of organization. We went to one building for a workshop where there was supposed to be 13. There ended up only being 4. Delegates had not shown up and without warning. I am not blaming them. apparently though incomparison to past forums this one is terribly unorganized and all over the place. the workshops are all over the city, and so quite hard to find and get to on time.

The government also put a tremendous ammount of money into entertainment for the WSF and last minute withdrew the promise. Leaving artists and musicians at the airports wondering where their tickets were.

we are leaving tomorrow. so today we are walking around the city picking up memories and taking pictures and talking to as many people as possible.

as i have said before... and really i cant stress enough... everyone is so nice here. We met 3 youngsters on the subway, Daniela, annalee, and pedro. we were trying to get to a punk show. through our broken spanish and hand gestures we thought we were all going to the same place. when we got out of the subway we blindly followed these venezuelans. They took us to an open park right on the street where there was a reggae band playing. and lots of press. and i think every group of people were smoking pot in some form or another. The music was really good and it was such a warm scene to just run into. The band is from jamaica and calles red e band. pronounced red eye band. the press was from a local alternative media stations radio and tv (i think). We met a young man names Ceaser who spoke english very well, and portuguese and french. He studied language at the local university and wants to move to the states to teach. he was really nice and offered to show us where the punk show should be. as we had walked far from where the flier said. we declined his offer and walked off confident that we could find the place-- We ran into 3 punks\ anarchists who were looking for the same space. we tried to speak with them and joined them in the search. for some reason we were having a much harder time understanding them and found out later that they were actually from brazil. They told us that the anarchist scene in brazil is extremely strong and connected and even showed us photos of kids hanging out at a squat. Luckily we ran in alba and daniel who told us that the show had been canceled. of course it had. this is our luck in this country. We went with them and they told us how to get to the anarchist house where a lot of alternative forum events were taking place. and again we were lost when left alone to find the house. Bhav is writing about it so you can read from him.

i think i am done for now. i am sad to be leaving, i havent fallen in love with the city the way others in this group have... i am very happy here though, and still believe that i have a lot more to learn. I will learn spanish and come back with the ability to really talk to people. i am just craving tofu. and my cat. and some sound sleep.


I was finally able to register for a blogger account.
Today is pretty much our last day here. Our flight is tomorrow at 4:40, but we're hearing that the trip to the airport will now take 4 hours, instead of 2, due to the highway being broken. This is funny, because that highway is an alternative route that is being used due to the bridge being broken, which would have taken 45 minutes.
I'm pretty sad to be leaving. I really love Caracas and would love to spend a lot more time here, especially because the true character of the city has been blurred by all of the excitement and crowd and etc. due to the Forum. Someone we met yesterday said that as a fluent English-speaker, it is easy to find a nicely-paying job teaching English in Venezuela. Maybe that's something that I'd be interested in doing at some point in my life.}

Yesterday, Freya and I went to what we thought was an anarchist space in Caracas. It is indeed an anarchist space, but only for this week - it's being rented out for the Alternative Social Forum, from an artist by El Comision de Relaciones Anarquistas, the group that puts out El Libertario. It was a bit of a bummer to find out that this space was only temporary, because it's an amazing, space - big, and well-maintained. We were told by someone there that there is a radical space in Caracas though, called El Centro de Estudios Libertarios. We were unable to get decent directions to this place though, so unfortunately we're probably not going to be able to check it out.

I realize that I'm not writing very much about the World Social Forum itself. I think this is because there's just so much to say about it, and I feel somewhat rushed and unfocussed when I'm in the press office or an internet cafe, and I'd rather get my ideas together to create something more than the messy much of thoughts that are in my head right now. What I will say now is that I think this Forum was not very well organized. Many things about it were left quite vague, including location of workshops, translations, cancellations, etc. So that was disappointing. But at the same time, it's definitely been a good, exciting experience. I usually feel pretty excited at Bard to be surrounded by the amount of good ideas - but here it's on a completely different level, with so many thousands of leftist thinkers. A lot of it is the country of Venezuela and the city of Caracas themselves. For example, grafitti in this city is almost always a political expression.

Ok, we're off to see if we can see Chavez speak. The space will probably be too packed for us to get in, seeing that he's speaking in an hour, but we'll see what happens. Much love.
-Bhav



Gustavo, his wife, our translator, and a community leader.

Today we went to the barrio 23 Enero. I have mentioned it before on here, as it is spoken of often in Venezuela. It is spoken of with some sense of dread (the farthest part of the wrong side of the tracks) by the Caracas bourgeoisie. This is the reason that we were told, "be careful in Caracas, they kill white people there." This was merely, on reflection, more disinformation from the right wing of the opposition in Venezuela. The barrio 23 Enero is one of the poorest parts of the urban population in Venezuela, with its own military forces and a decidedly fervent attitude of self sufficiency. The military forces are not a mark of lawlessness (in fact we did not even see them), but more likely a home grown response to and replacement for the classist police that brutalized and tortured the population up until recently.

The entire barrio is the single greatest manifestation of postcapitalist society I have ever seen or even heard about. Cuban doctors live in the neighborhood, with the entire staff volunteering out of thanks for the service provided. Free dental, orthodontal, and vision care is provided through similar avenues. A community radio station now exists where a particularly brutal police station oce stood. Here is a picture of the space today.



Walking through the winding precipitous back alley stairways and navigating our ways through houses stacked upon houses in an almost Dr. Seussian fashion, we came upon a gentleman cooking soup for the community. I could have easily fit inside of this pot of nutritious and fresh food.


The volunteer community organizers have established gas lines for cooking in all the houses, and clean water for drinking. Transportation collectives provide mobility throughout the city and beyond. Impressive sanitation is provided on a volunteer basis. Education is provided day and night in Bolivarian schools that serve the citizens of the 40,000 person barrio. A mural brigade beautifies the walls of the neighborhood with heroes of the revolution and symbols of the struggle they wage. All of these task are done in addition to the day jobs of the people. As an organizer stated, "you might say that the community is our hobby."



There was a distict lack of anger amongst the community members. And they had a lot to be angry about. Recounting the events of the April coup (made popular in The Revolution will Not be Televised), our friend and guide Gustavo Borges said "the cops...they started shooting at us. But, we shot back." Police agression serving anti-popular interests, a historical marginalization of a community reknowned for the indefatiguable leftist spirit, and a lack of representation would be enough for rage to replace determination, but in this case it did not. Each issue was dealt with methodically, with painstaking detail and grave committment. The police, national guard, and militia still exist in the barrio, but under Chavez and thanks to the community, the problems have greatly lessened. The community now operates as a model of DIY Bolivarian Socialist spirit for many throughout the country and continent. And finally, the barrio has won representation.

Regarding the fight for representation, the people of the barrio were long denied national ID cards for reasons almost identical to the anti-immigration sentiments in the USA. "Immigrants will just come and get free services if we give everyone ID cards!" Bullshit. Without ID cards, the people of the barrio could not vote or make use of national services. Now they finally exist in the eyes of the country, replete with the rights garanteed under the new constitution. An interesting aside, the new constitution REQUIRES half of the congress to be women. It also allots permanent seats to indiginous people to provide much needed representation (not to indicate indiginous people are ever treated as they should be, but it's a step.

There is no cynicism, no snarkiness, and no meta-programming via insidious media campaigns to taint the beautiful sentiments one experiences in the barrio 23 Enero. The socialist syndicalism taking place is not party politics, it simply makes the most sense for these people. It allows the greatest amount of good to be done for all. People helping people in a humble, methodical, and definitively human manner. Gustavo tried to convince us they were not "revolutionaries or guerillas, but rather just people." I have never seen anything more revolutionary than this worldview-crushing display of promise for the future. Gustavo and his wife are selfless servents to the spirit of their revolution, and two of the most beautiful people I have ever been priviledged to meet.

Please visit www.el23.net and learn more about this place. The web design is incredibly slick.


---this is an entry that Jade lost and now is found, reposted by me---

There is lot, in fact far too much, to say about tonight`s event with President Chavez, so I will try to keep it somewhat brief in order not to overwhelm myself or the reader. I believe that entries by others will fill in some of the blanks. That said...

He began unleasing his two-plus hour long word hoard with a series of salutes to the gone and current heroes of Latin American and Caribbean emancipatory, independence and anti-imperialist movements. A number of the names mentioned were more well known to me than others; Bolivar, Amaru, Zapata, Poncho Villa, Sandino, Marti, Fidel, Che and many more I cant recal or do not know were payed homage by Chavez and a roaring crowd of probably 5000. Chavez, as you may or may not know, is a very rousing speaker and as such his profound praise to revolutionaries and yelling rhetorical fits of excitment when denouncing Mr. Danger, the Empire and the yolk of capitalist imperialism is deeply moving, and simultaneously hilarious. In him is a charisma rarely seen in politicians from the U.S. that I have have any experience with. He is just the most refreshing sip drank in his context.
Later in the speach, departing from his pre-accepted and predictible praising and denouncing, came a riskier forray into the nature of humanity, impending biospherical collapse, and the systemic nature of the capitalist system and its urges toward death. It was here that he truely began rousing intense feelings of immenence and my ever-increasing perception that Venezuela may very well be some kind of true emerging vanguard of a broad revolutionary transformation of a neo-socialist orientation in Latin America and the Caribbean. Will Venezuela really live up to its ponential of bringing about some socialist version of Bolivar´s vision of a united and integrated southern counterweight to the Empire`s hemispheric hegemony? Those kind of thoughts, in conjunction with Chavez` penetrating rhetoric, were what brought me goosbumps and shivers of the spine off and on throught the speach. The bringing forth of a fundamentally critical insight of capitalism, which he focused on its utter illegitemacy and unworthiness in conducting the human species (with their special and uniquely unique consciousness) in its journey through history, was an overwhelmingly exciting thing to hear. The president even went so far as to uncover the inherrent and unacceptable eco-destructivity of the capitalist order, claiming that unless something drastic was done immediatly there would be no 22nd century because capitalist humans will have brought our whole species, as well as great swaths of the biosphere, to extinction. That`s an impressive thing to hear from a world leader, even if he might be contributing to global ecodestabilization through petroleum exports or allowing deforestation and srip mining to continue in his own nation to. The fact that he even laid bare the claim that capitalism (that taboo term and great unassailable pillar of political and economic discourse) is not an option for our common future and only socialism (that respects diversity, autonomy, justice, and democratic ideals) can achieve a society worthy of humanity was such an unfamiliar and astonishing thing to actually obsorb coming from a democratically elected legit head of state.

Though Chavez is an awesome speaker to watch and it was genuinly amazing to hear his claims, my scepticism of his rhetoric remains. Here I dont want to be taken as whiner criticizing what appears to be a resplendently significant emergence. I have to say I am not entirely sure that I believe that he is fully devoted to hist lofty goals and is willing to fully back his criticizems, though I want to believe it. He really is convincing and maybe I just dont want to get my hopes up to high and have them let down. Will Chavez live up to his wonderous mythology and dangerous denunciations? The proof of it all will lay wherever the puddingy substance of his actions and programs emerge, not in his incredible speaches.
More later, perhaps...


I have had a beehive on my butt for most of this trip. I can smell it now. I can smell myself. Now I can smell the city, but for real this time.

The sky is shifty and dark. The clouds have come and gone for a while like white swaying leaves. They wont be able to make me wet for much longer. I will still be wet, though.

We are getting in the taxi soon. Then things will move in dark flowing shapes, like when I have been asleep. Then, when I can not see any more and it is really too late, maybe, will smell the smell that I need to smell. I will still be awake, though.


Today was really positive.

I went from feeling like the world is crashing and I just want to sleep through it to realizing that community is everything. I will leave the multitude of details and stories about the barrio el 23 de enero to the others who can do it with much more interesting adjectives than me. But this special space in Caracas, this knitted zone, has figured It out, slowly and methodically, as Tim said.

I am leaving in a few minutes or hours for the airport with Bing. We have to leave early in the morning and a key road is closed due to a collapsed bridge. So we will travel through the mountains for a few hours and it will be very beautiful and dark.

Community is what I am interested in, I have been, but now there is more hope. I cant wait until I get old with gray hair and live in some town or city and work with local schools, local clinics, local food, friends, cats, and dogs. Hopefully our locals will be free for all, like here, with love and care of course.

I am going to miss the mud and rain, and plaintains and babies. And the amazing generous Caracans.

Love
SL


Hello. This is my first post. This is Bhav, by the way, using Freya's account, because I was somehow unable to create an account.
Soon before coming here for the World Social Forum, we heard about another forum taking place at the same time in Caracas called the Alternative Social Forum, which is a more radical, largely anarchist forum, challenging the government and the Forum it was putting on. Unfortunately I haven't been able to attend any Alternative Social Forum events yet, and I'm not so sure that I will, seeing that they are all in Spanish and the chances of there being English translation are slim. But anyway, I find opposition to Chavez very interesting. I'm not talking about opposition from the wealthy minority - there's nothing much to say about them other than they obviously oppose a government that is seemingly uninterested in protecting and increasing their wealth. I'm talking about opposition stemming from mistrust of Chavez in being truley and practically devoted to anticapitalism and anti-imperialism, and being truley able to liberate and help the people of Venezuela. This mistrust is understandable, given the history of corruption in Latin American governments. As Freya said in her post, we learned at the teach-in on Ecuadorean government toppling that in the history of Ecuador as well as in Latin America as a whole, there has been an unfortunately familiar pattern of leftist governments getting elected into office, and then after some time becoming completely right wing.

On the second day of being here, we ran into two anarchists who talked to us about the Alternative Social Forum. Here's a small paragraph from a personal journal that I've been keeping:
---
Yesterday we met 2 anarchists on the street, tabling for the Alternative Social Forum (Alba and Daniel). They were friendly and talked to us a lot and gave us lots of info, regarding the ASF and told us about a punk show happening this week, which I hope we go to. We picked up a pamphlet regarding the forum (El Libiertad). We notices that in the text, a's and o's were often replaced with @ signs, as a way of de-gendering Spanish words. Pretty fucking cool.
---
I think the name of the pamphlet is actually El Libertario, and apparently it has been a weekly anarchist publication since the early 1900's, which is pretty incredible. It has a website:
www.ellibertario.nodo50.org
That punk show that Alba told us about is happening tonight, at 4pm, and we'll probably go. I'm really looking forward to it. It's in Casa de las Nuevas Tendencias (House of New Tendencies), which is an anarchist organizing space. I'd really like to talk to some radicals and better understand their criticisms of Chavez.
On Monday we met three young anarchists near a WSF march. I asked them some things about the anarchist scene and how they felt about Chavez. Luis spoke the most English and also seemed to know the most about the scene and told us a lot. He said that under Chavez, things were definitely going in the right direction. They were very impressed with Chavez's accomplishments involving health care and improvement of housing in barrios. But the anarchists, Luis said, did not trust the state. He also said that many anarchists identified that way for purely fashion reasons, enjoying the label and the clothing fashion that goes along with it.
A few days later we talked to some radicals we met at a pasta shop, and they said that the anarchist scene was largely divided among those who were pro-chavez and those who opposed him. It's all pretty vague. Hopefully I can find translations of some articles in El Libertario and have some good conversations at the space tonight and learn a lot more.
I find the presence of a radical/anarchist scene intruiging and and extremely important in Venezuela. It's great that people have hope and something to look forward to with a leftist leader like Chavez, but placing too much trust in the hands of any state seems extremely dangerous, especially given Latin America's history of its governments buddying up with American imperialists and falling to the right. I have to say though, that the situation is very exciting, and seems hopeful. With so much attention on Iraq, it seems that the US has been unable to maintain its grip on Latin America, and things are beginning to head in a better direction.
Ok, well that{s all for now. We're off to a workshop: Overcoming Psychological and Cultural Obstacles to Post Capitalism. Much love.


i have snuck into the press office again so here is a quick personal take of caracas.

so far i have only made funny mistakes in spanish such as asking where the drunk is when wanting a liquor store and almost telling a man at a cafe that i loved him when i really wanted to say i want.

there is lots of political graffiti- beautiful murals. all over the city which is really exciting and stencils of indigenous folks. the murals tell the revolutionary history of venezuela. and there are always portraits of Simon Bolivar.

the food here is terrible (at least for a vegan). we have been surviving on lo mein , con vegatables, and arroz y platanos y yuca. and pizza and macaroni napole. and thats it. O and chick peas in a can. the black beans have meat in them and EVERYTHING comes with queso.
But i have laerned how to say what i want to eat. and the people here are very nice. we also are eating cachappas which is a corn pancake. and arrepas which are made from corn meal

the actual wsf is kind of hard for me as I dont speak spanish or portugeuse. most of the workshops are in spanish. so there are very few in english and they are hard to find. it is also extremely disorganized, when they say a workshop is in one sala at one time they ones we seem to want to go to have been moved or the delegates have not showed up. we have made good connections though. We met activists from NY who do Cuban solidarity work especially for the Cuban 5. When hearing that Bhav and I went to Bard the guy got really excited and said, that we should stay in touch and he would send speakers to Bard. so that is a plus. I doubt many people know about the Cuban 5.

we have met some anarchists on the street and talked with them about how they feel about chavez. there is a big divide yet we have still to meet the anarchists who are anti-chavez. most of them believe that he is at least a step in the right direction. i still would love to meet some people who are in opposition and learn about their beliefs. Chavez has a military background, every other president in south american history with a military background ended up more right than left, as far as i know, so it will be interesting to see where chavez takes this country.

we are at a new youth camp. one that is in the down town of the city. so it is very convenient. although the sleeping conditions are in a way a lot worse. there was a dance party (i think on the street) until about 7am this morning. which is crazy. and people here dont seem to sleep. the spanish people in the tents behind us were still drinking aguardiente at 7.

everyone is very friendly. bhav and i walked around last night, aguardiente in hand to go and here music. we ended up being stopped to talk to people, share drinks, stories. and learn what venezuelans think of the govt here, as well as abortion and homophobia. we never made it to the music.

today we are going to a workshop put on by michael alpert about the psychological affects of capitalism and how to counter the negative in a post-capitalist society. He is the guy who runs Zmag and Parecon.

its about 80 degrees here with the sun out, although it is raining a lot. we moved camps to escape the mud but it seems that now we are just going to be swimming in deep puddles. everything in the tent and all are clothes are either wet or damp. but i guess that is camping for you.

everyone here is so friendly, i said that to a venezuelan i met last night who doesnt live in the city. His name is Luis. He was very suprised that people were so nice to us. He also said that he didnt feel safe in the city at all. and that i should be very careful. I have been careful, not really going places alone but i still have not felt scared really. we have met a lot of folks from caracas. alot from quebec. one from chile. brazil. some from australia, and england.its hard to tell if people are nice and chatty because we are in the same space, working for similar goals, or because they are actually that genuinely nice.

anwyay. i shall go. I am not really looking forward to returning to Bard. I heard that it is cold and snowy. My body immediately adapted to the tropical weather and am even wearing jeans and a hoodie here when it drops into the 70s.

bye for now.




We have just returned from seeing Hugo Chavez address a crowd that filled a domed structure of comparable size to the old Philadelpia Spectrum. The speech was almost two hours long, with topics ranging from the applicability of Marx, Luxemburg, and Bolivar to the modern day, to the ecological crisis incurred by global capital. Mr. Chavez even sang a song in the middle of the speech.

One of the easily predicted main points of the speech concerned George Bush, who Chavez has nicknamed "Mr Danger." Chavez revealed to the crowd that the US plans to formally list Venezuela as a sympathizer with terrorists starting this year. After dicussing historical US imperialism in Latin America, Chavez discussed the current US empire and its similarity to empires past. Here is a paraphrased account:

"This is the most powerful, deceitful empire that has ever existed. The Romans, Alexander the Great...they operated all the while acknowledging that they were empires with the distinct goal of perpetuating their empires. The US operates as an empire, at the same time talking about human rights. Where are the human rights of the Cuba Five?"

After recognizing the amazing power and even the intelligence of the US, Chavez reminded the crowd of the landmark defeat of the FTAA at Mar del Plata. This, he said, portends an age in which the solidarity of South America (which will also extend to its historically linked brother Africa) will prevent the exploitation of the land and the people, while preserving the identity and dignity of a continent. ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative to the FTAA will unite the continent in a manner that will prevent hegemonic and imperialist interests by its very nature. The Bolivarian revolution will provide true democracy, democracy of the people, and the people will take the offense.

This was an incredibly empowering speech. Ever since seeing his speech to the United Nations, I have been constantly impressed by not only his rhetorical abilities, but the craft and sensitivity of his sentiments. Rather than vilify an entire country, he talks about the of hope he sees in the people of the United States as a force for cahnge from below. He appeals to the power of the Catholic faith in Latin America and the Bible's overriding sentiment of service to the poor, rather than damning his opponents with the same religion. Change is necessary, he claims, change that will allow the human species to carry on. He claimed that it is a romantic, but pessimistic notion to expect peace only when the human race has died out. A new, revitalized socialism can bring us into harmony with the environment, with each other, and our true humanity...all of these things are countered violently by capitalism and its insatiable urge to expand and the destruction of its own means of production. This is true in the long run for an ecosocialist endeavor, but his current oil exploration throughout Venezuela and the indiginous peoples it has displaced takes some of the green out of the rev.

After making the caveat that he respects the autonomy of all groups involved, he explained that he believes (and I am sure the overwhelming majority of us agreed) that the timetable for change must be shortened. The liberation struggles of Bolivar, Lenin, and Guevara never had to contend with assured destruction through climate change. This sounds oddly familiar to train of thought many people reading this may have encountered before.

Through eventually liberating the people of Venezuela from the predatory empire, and thus setting a standard for the future, he shares the vision of the World Social Forum that "Another World is Possible." We must however, act quickly to start making that change, for we're racing capital's expansion and the physical obstacel of dramatic climate change. If anyone fluent in Spanish is interested, I have a recording of the speech I can mail or hand to you upon my return to the states.

When we entered the building, after having two socialist bottles of water forced upon each of us, we were frisked and stripped of any weapons. Adam and I had our multitools taken and placed in a community bin with the assurances that they would remain there until we exited the building. The bummer is, they weren't... but I did run into Scott Beiben from the Lost Film Fest almost immediately upon leaving the building. This assuaged my ire I had been projecting towards the Venezuelan Military, with whom I had an entirely unremarkable relationship prior to this evening.


This night was a possible singularity in the narrative overlay of our time here in Caracas, of my time on this planet. Shivers in my limbs tonight in reaction not to the massive spectacle that constituted Chavez`s impassioned speech before a crowd of perhaps cinco mil venezolanos, cubans, bolivians, peruvians, etc. Punctuated by both ample anecdotes and a song, he spoke for approximately 3 hours in front of a massive cornucopia and a table filled with special guests including Cindy Sheehan. It felt a great deal like other political spectacles, and there was great cognitive tension between the throngs of screaming fans and the totally legit things they were screaming about. The revolution has been institutionalized here, but not reified, thus there is no sense of coercion or trixie-ness in the tenacity of the propaganda, just a man (modestly dressed in an untucked red button down shirt and pants) speaking with way more truth and reason than I had been prepared for, that I have ever seen in politics in the US. Opening acts included a dude on pan pipes and a popular Brazillian 12 string guitarist. The people, now ready to hear Chavez, were very excited and loud and it took a few minutes for them to calm their chants enough to let Chavez complete a sentence.

I dont know exactly how what is happening here went unnoticed by myself for so long, but the evidence indicates overwhelmingly that something deep and important is going on, a genuinely alternative worldview, completely different from how politics is done in the US and the western world, and also from the way socialist revolutions have been conducted in the past. Constant references are made to the heroes of previous latin american revolutions, Che Guevara, Emiliano Zapata, Farabundo Martí, but this process is on an entirely different and ultimately much more pragmatic scale than both the failed socialist experiments of the developed world and the guerilla communist model of 3rd world emancipation. Venezuela is and remains an industrialized nation rich in resources, especially oil and natural gas. Chavez has chosen (and based his career on) resistence to what is considered western (and especially US) imperialism, imposed throughout the americas in the form of trade agreements and coercively structured foreign debt, and there was no shortage of direct criticism and overt name calling during this speech. Harsh and compelling critiques were made of the war in Iraq, noting the billions spent (and funnelled to private US companies) while 40 million live in poverty with a failing public education system. President Bush was referred to repeatedly as Mr. Danger.

Chavez described his plan for a more particpatory alternative to the current attempts at economic integration of the americas. ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America, stands in contrast to ALCA, (known in english as the FTAA - free trade area of the americas) in its focus on fair trade, right of nation states to protect and encourage endogenous industries, the diversity and autonomy of indigenous peoples and protection of the environment.

The overhwhelming affect of the speech was one of rationality over polemics, awareness over blindness, honesty over glib cynicism. The importance of time really got through to me tonight, the feeling that this is happening now. He paraphrased a scientist saying that human beings are the only species imbued with such a seemingly pronounced capacity for self-destruction. There was an innate sense of history, that this could only happen now, and that it cannot be put off or discredited because we really are at a turning point in our narrative and history may not allow us the luxury of preparing for a socialism for the 22nd century.

Imperialism is not a word we here very often in the US outside of certain slightly insulated leftist circles, but latin americans have grown bold in their critique of U.S. foreign policy. Chavez compared it to Rome, but called ours the cynical empire, in that we are not always aware of the extent to which our actions constitute imperialism: invasion in the name of democracy, forced neocolonial economic relations, failing media and educational systems and a nearly non-functional electoral system. He posed the question: what if the US government decided to stand for peace in the world? To admit mistakes of the past and declare itself a government for the people instead of of over it?

Whether we personally see value in Bolivarian Socialism for the 21st century or not, his criticisms are well founded and prescient. We have seen what doesn´t work in Latin America and in the world and it is our responsibility to come up with radical and practical alternatives that are so obviously better that they do not require propaganda to be disseminated, media monopolies to be protected, massive militaries to be defended, or excessive resources to be accomplished. Alternative networks and institutions must be created that simply outmode the old, sweep power out from under itself and restore balance and sobriety and community to a cancerous and aberrant world.


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


Tommorrow in the morning time- We get to visit the poorest neighborhood in Venezuela with a gentleman from there.

Presently- There are three young women rapping with staggering speed and annunciation over pirated beats at a stage in the street in the rain.

A few hours ago - Before Chavez spoke to raring crowds of Cubans and Venezuelans at the gigantic geodesic dome a Catholic priest told this story:
"A few minutes ago, before I came on stage, a young man asked me if I am the priest who will bless this new revolution. I told him, no, that the revolutin does not need any blessing. I told him that the revolution blesses all of us, and creates a new era of love. That is the blessing."

When I come home I am going to do some reading (or at least check wikipedia) on Latin American history, especially these topics: the history of the American cowboys that tried to take over Central America, Simon Bolivar, Fidel Castro and the history of imperialism by United States fruit corporations.


Sorry this is the 1st blog, i snuck into the press office to do this for free. I want to report back about the 2 good events i have been to. Bhav and I finally managed to find a workshop in english and it was amazing.it was about gov´t toppling in equador. this was on weds. at the central university of venezuela. we went to the door to ask if there would be an english translation and one of the co-hosts for the workshop excitedly dragged us in. He made us make a circle with the chairs so that it was a much more relaxed atmosphere and had us all introduce ourselves, making funny jokes with everyone. The workshop focussed on the recent govt of 2005. A leftist ex-military, president was elected and within the 1st month of his term managed to change his politics towards the right, while still maintaining a seemingly left position. When the indigenous people of Equador began to realize that they were being oppressed by his new agenda they began to stir up. In order to keep them quiet this president Lucio, sorry didn catch the last name, took food out of a food fund for children and gave it to the indigenous people. A radio station exposed this and other various forms of his trickery and called for a rebellion. People gathered and organized, and marched on the palace to oust Lucio. He was helicoptered out to a plane. Thanks to cell phone technology and text messages people were able to stop him from getting on the plane. he was then taken to Brazil and Lula kept him safe. He would have been killed by the enraged people had he stayed. To date there has been no election but one has been scheduled for this year, at the moment the vice pres. is in power. This has happened every 2 years for a very long time in Equador and similar stories have been told of countries all across South America, Lula, right now in Brazil is up to the same trickery. Venezeula is the 1st country to have broken this pattern with Chavez. Though chavez still comes from a military background so who can be sure what he is up to? Gregori mentioned a manifesto that he and others have written, it is establishing the desire for a new form of govt as it has been proven that democracy does not work in South America. Chavez paid for free copies of this to be printed but unfortunately we were not able to find them.

Today we went to a talk about the struggles of women under patriarchal neo-liberalism. It was interesting. There was a woman from El Salvador speaking about women workers, and how they are oppressed and mistreated. Then a woman from the US who spoke about how the reaction or war oppresses women, and women fighting against US imperialism. The next woman was Cindy Sheehan, this was great that she spoke though she didnt have that much to say just emphasizing how war, especially the iraq was, is causing a great amount of suffering in women across the world not just the US and Iraq. Then a Palestinian woman spoke, she told us about being a refugee her whole life in lebanon, and how she has never been to Palestine. As well as the strong US involvement in the occupation of Palestine, as well as the how the occupation makes it difficult for women to have access to education. There is a big struggle for Palestinian women to keep their dignigty and identity. Next was a woman from Colombia, who spoke about women being battered by IMF policies and how war is especially destructive for women, giving the ex. of how the female body is a bounty for soldiers. Then an american from ANSWER as well as the Cuban 5 solidarity group. She was all over the place speaking of 13 yrs of sanctions on Iraq are responsible for the degradation of the country. She spoke about the poverty in the US and the racism that is hand in hand with Katrina relief. Then was a realllly strange documentary trying to tell the story of a cuban girl who is the daughter of one of the cuban 5 and who has only seen her father one time, as he has been in jail for 7 years in Miami, for being a spy. There was lots of strange links to John Lennon which was funny. After this her older sister spoke. She stressed how hard it has been for her family. Her sisters growing up without a father. And how even her mother has been arrested, She also talked a bit about how hard it is for Cubans to go back and forth to the US to see their families, sometimes unable to get visas for over a year.
O and the most exciting part was at the end. Obsession- a cuban Hip Hop duo performed a song about the Cuban struggle, with really funny translations through our headphones.
k bye!


We had a conversation last night. It started with a long, confused discussion about the activists dillemma of information versus action. Somebody brought up the topic of beleif. Some people want, simply, to allign their beleifs with their actions. I contested this. So, of course we all effaced the right and wrong binary order again for a little while. But I guess even if you do not say right and you do not say wrong, another value of good like community or something and another value for bad like neoliberalism or something will probably replace it. We have not talked about that stuff since last night but I feel like the conversation is still definately going on in our heads, little outside of time even.

Time is really weird here. Theres a lot of futurism, and the dreaming there implied, and a equal lot of history, with its grey, alliterated insensitivities. That couple confligrates more weirdly with my unrelenting sense of the rigid contemporariness that comes from this personal experience that I am having as a de facto imperialist on a strange continent, constantly reflexive; expounding and devouring ideas and representations of this relationship as it manifests in different configurations. On top of this time confusion, I only speak spanish in the present tense.

Today the global studies academics from North American held a poorly translated lecture (in English) about how we must go farther than the Twentieth century revolutionaries and erase any preference about trying to contain capital, and how we must must seek only to obliterate, replace and erase it. This is an ahistorical idea. That is not something that specifically makes me intellectually or practically uncomfortable, however, it hits me in a way that is more magic and confusion than precisely literal.
Everything that I am familiar with, in so many ways, even emotionally, is deeply enmeshed in imperialism and the neoliberal capitalist system. And im trying to replace it. I have no idea of how to visualize this in a literal way. That dreaming that I talked about a minute ago, even though it is certainly not literal either, might be a start for me. Except that even dreaming up an answer seems difficult right now, as I realize both the absurdity of the tableau of power in the word and that currently in global politics you may say so many different things so many different ways. This is politics unhinged from history and time.

When i was a democrat i never had to deal with this shit.


The mudpit of a youth camp in the misty mountains at Vinicio Adames park has shown a steady stream of abandonment in favor of the drier, though less secure, youth camp in Caobos park in the center of Caracas. We have recently decided to follow suit.

Last night after a an excelent panel on media activism and reform (as elucidated by Tim) a group of us got some expensive indian food in a richish area of Caracas known as Altamira, which we all agreed was not that legit. During dinner we had a good conversation that brought up a number of questions about what we should be doing in our lives and in the world in order to bring about the change that we all know is necessary in this disturbed global moment in which we find ourselves. Ideas on the moral (we also speculated on the existence of morality) necessity of action in the face of ever mounting atrocities and the unnumbered tears that accompany them were layed on the table. The conversation reached no clear conclusion on what exactly must be done by each actor, but the basic list generated from the debate seemed to me to emphasize that in order to act one must feel, I mean really feel the pain of much what is going on around you and love, like be in love with, what you are acting to save, etc. Also, working to build fuctional and inclusive alternatives is a necessary method for semi-passively confronting the anthropocentric White patriarchal hegemonic ecocidal civilized culture of death that we are all working against. And in doing this one must become part of a community and be entrenched in the love, interaction and intercommunication that emerges from communal associations. Additionally, in working against the industrial doom bringer the activist or whatever may behave in a way that is selfish, in that what acts they undertake bring them happiness and resolve. We decided that that is important and acceptable also...I think. While also realizing that whatever one is doing is a reaction based on the interface between emotion, intellect and the spirit of realty-nature-environmental influence and thus our means take precedent in many ways over our ends, for the end and the bright future it represents is so uncertain, unplannable and unpredictable that it is in the emotive reactions and the action and work that they spur us towards which will take center stage in the dance of the individuals life. I am not sure where we all stand in regard to the imperratives of revolutionary transformation, the strategy toward bringing forth the coming Age of Light, or the specific role that each of us privilaged estadounidenses must take in this work of galactic proportions.

So after that dinner it was getting late and we heard tell that transportation to the youth camp was not available. Due to the disorganization factor of this whole event, that turned out to be not true an we ended up getting back to the muddy Vinicio camp in time to get down with a dub-reggae-roots chill fest scene. However, as a group we decided that this youth camp was starting to run out of energy and was losing the somewhat compelling edge it originally possessed...i.e. mad peeps were evacuating and transit infrastructure was supposedly being dismantled. So we all moved to Parque los Caobos youth campe this morning and set up our little 5-tent community in the Peace Camp. The Peace Camp is a sub-camp of the youth camp and, from my experience last year in a similarly themed space, it is overrun with Mayan calender devotees awaiting 2012 and the transcendental object at the end of history. They are heads fo' real.

Presidente de la Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela, Hugo Chavez Frias speaks tonight at what we have termed the "Thunderdome" (el Poliedro). We all suspect that he will most definatly take us beyond Thunderdome.


Yesterday a few of us attended a workshop on urban permaculture, rooftop gardening, and how it relates to social ecology conducted by a group aptly titled "Rooftop Gardens" that operates out of French Canadia. We had hoped for a practical workshop but were pleased enough to talk about why gardens make us feel good with others. The basic premise of social ecology as presented in this workshop was to view human interaction and society in general as an externalized part of the ecosystem. Since humans make up the largest part of the biomass of urban areas (save perhaps trees) the energetic properties generated by systems of social exchange have very tangible effects on the overall movement of energy within the system. How do the use of automobiles and factories, or the food transport infrastructure relate to ideas of entropy, homeostasis, complexity, diversity, etc. ... In addition, seemingly abstract concepts such as freedom and equality, happiness and community begin to take on more physical meanings. We talked for a while about the idea of the garden as a place of power, or as a generator, fostering a sense of community, independence security, increased sense of time and connection to the physical body, connection to the earth, as a neutral or safe space, or a space of nonconsumption, rare in the city, as a sanctuary or refuge, as a form of therapy, as a source of food, as a way to relieve the economic burdens of caring for a family, as a way for working people to eat cheap abundant organic food on a consistent basis, as a way to wean ourselves off the transportation infrastructure based on the oil economy and exploitative systems of trade.

These discussions culminated in a killer bilingual skit, performed by our group, in which Adam played a punk with a closed heart who could see people working in the garden but could not participate because he was too busy fronting. A righteous dude named Achmed (of Ethiopian descent but haveing recently completed a degree in forestry in Montana and representing crucially snowboarding culture) suggested that we have someone play a seed, and that the said should grow. He volunteered to be that seed. Ask Tim to narrate this hilarious conversation for you at a later date. I played the narrator and the sun and was bashful but did a good job. Is "totalmente whack" an acceptable phrase in spanglish? Achmed freestyled a rad little dancehall style ditty as he grew, and eventually Adam saw how awesome seeds are and we had a dance party in the street.

Life is what you make of it
try to make the best of it
the seeds you sow
the fruit that grows
why would you ever go around it


We recieved a standing ovation.
Check out

http://www.rooftopgardens.ca/


The first day I have been able to even put into words the questions that have been lingering, and now squeezing in a pithy chillon blunt blurp to pass the time till dead prez play in parque central, surprise surprize, and after the first day in which we actually found black beans (muchisso carne, nada mas). Thoughts being to materiarilize when we ask questions of the world, and every time a question has been posed, an answer has been given, within the hour.

Today the questions posed were:

Are cars part of nature?
Is it better to organize or inform?
What is first?
Is it possible to be part of everything righteous, or do we need specialized righteousness?
Who do we love?
Where are my friends?
Should we move to the other youth camp?
Which is muddier?
Is there an ideal world beyond that which we can see with our senses?
Can I get that without ham in it?

Answers:
Yes, but they still make us feel bad.
It is better to do both.
Earth.
Specialize in righteousness.
The sun.
They are all around you.
They are both muddy so we should stay here.
Inherently no, but practically yes.
No.

Adam and I talked for a long time about the problem of sympathizing with and wanting to be a part of all social movements, things being so obviously fucked, especially when they are all collected and advertized before you, and, being inherently wary of posturing and coded elitism of leftist politics, and the tendency for social struggles to become a collection of bumper stickers and pins, or in our case patches and places traveled, how can we know about everything, how can we participate, when there is so much that is fucked up? Is there something dishonest, something that still smells beneath the butcher paper of missionary ideology of progress and salvation, of the good in doing good because it feels good for americans to travel to paradise to help save the environment, or to flock to the sexiest, bandanaed insurrections, to collect these struggles like pokemon, but cynicism aside, there are practical problems with being involved in every struggle, and a unified radical left does not mean that every person must know everything, nor that one must know everything about a thing to act in a righteous manner, that this humbleness may be the paralyzing force that keeps us from speaking out in a righteous manner. We talked also about the ur project of the world social forum in collecting all such dignified struggles under one single roof, leaky as it is, and what the implications of this funneling are. The workshops themselves seem to hover on a frustratingly general level, too political to address the big questions (time and history, language, the relevance of politics itslef and how it is changing) and too vague and strategic to illustrate local examples. Conservatives have long harangued the left, with their protest and paraphernalia, for their insistence on multi-dangled causes, but the revolution turns out to be a lot slower than everyone was prepared for, and here in caracas we see that it is only about change in consciousness. The project of the WSF is thus to experientally link the struggles of andean llama herders with open source software with generic aids drugs with canadian strip mining with global warming etc. It is precisely the logic of capital which demands that we respond only to what we can separate out into sections of the newspaper, only ratify those portions of reality which can be assigned conveniently a 4 minute fox 5 spot or a 2 page z magazine editorial. the ideas we are dealing with here are covertly metaphysical and require not so much the attendance of poorly organized lectures (of which there are literally hundreds) but the energy generated when people stop being crybabies and start sending sparks out between them. Biggest lesson so far: talk to everyone. awareness is a revolution in itself, all else follows directly.


Yesterday I ended up at a meeting of deputies from the Venezuelan National Assembly who were discussing the possibility of Latin American integration along the lines of a Bolivarian alternative to the neoliberal Free Trade Area of the Americas-style economic integration. The event also focused on the efficability of the Latin American Parliment, a supranational organization devoted to the Bolivarian integration of the region, including the oft ostracized Cuba. This wasnt some boring CSPAN South America style get together folks. Instead of a slew of disconnected politicians speaking at length in the abstract, the meeting allowed for audience members to give their input by making proposals, asking questions, outright debating the deputies or just sharing their thoughts in general. There was actually legitemate dialogue occuring between the people and the deputies who discussed and argued at length about the nature of Bolivarianism in Venezuela and its potential in the rest of Latin America. The deputies actually listened to what the people were saying and responded to their words in what seemed to be a truely heartfelt and honest manner. It was truely an amazing thing to witness.

And get this. A crippled Colmbo-Venezolano man was appointed to the Latin American Parliment by popular demand after giving and amazing speach! He basicaly said "I am communist. I was born into the communist party. And I will die a communist. Look at me. I have become disabled, but once I was a professor of philosophy here in Caracas and also in Colombia. I spoke multiple languages and lived in Russia. But now I have become debilitated by epilepsy and other accidents and cannot work or teach." Now he`s getting teary and I start to get that tingly thing happening in my nose. He continues "The government takes care of me so I can live with dignity. Everybody in Venezuela and Colombia deserve thise treatment and care. No, all of Latin America and the entire hemisphere must have these opportunities. All the world and its people deserve the treatment and care that I have recieved. That is communism. That is Bolivarianism!" By this point a couple of droplets have formed in my eyes. Then a little later he was offered an honorary position on the Parliment. That´s participatory democracy.

More was said about the prospect for integration. But the bus is leaving now so I am out.

Jade



April Howard (Bard BA, MFA) translating for Tereza Valdez

Many issues raised during the forum focus around media reform. A ubiquitous sentiment among the press is the power of the internet to democratize means of publication and allow a worldwide audience access. A worldwide audience that can afford access to the internet, that is. (One way around this would be Nicholas Negroponte's much talked about $100 laptop for the developing world. This product has always chafed me in a wierd way) After seeing a speech today by the man who runs the incredible http://www.el23.net/ I was reminded of the overwhelming power of a media that can broadcast the goings-on of a barrio in Caracas that had been ignored for all of recent history, and feed/create an audience that cares. The internet is so incredibly powerful, and should never be taken for granted, or for normal at that.

Today, Bard alumns Ben Dangl and April Howard moderated and translated a panel called "The Crisis in US and World Media and the Growing Movement for Media Democracy." THe panelists were Eva Golinger (whose FOIA request revealed the US involvement in the recent coup against Chavez), Michael Albert (Editor of Z Magazine and author of Parecon), Greg Wilpert (runs the blog www.venezuelanalysis.com, and broke the media silence during the coup), Ben Dupuy (Haitian free presser and wonderful speaker), and Thereza Valdez (runs community radio stations in Cuba). This was a wonderful panel that we will have a complete video recording of soon after returning to the states.

We interviewed Michael Albert after the panel in a brief but content-rich five minutes. He stressed the importance of thinking of media institutions in the same mindset as we would think of any labor institution. Lose the hierarchy, make sure there is no owner, and make sure that there is no discrimination, and you have a truly alternative media organization, car company, or any business you would like to form. He also stressed the importance of including the mainstream media in change, and not simply creating alternative alcoves that can serve only those involved or an interest group. It was nice to hear the editor of such a well regarded magazine be so critical of the nature of its success, and its failings as an institution for change.


I enter this experience with a predisposition of hope and positivism. I fly a flag of high expectations and wish not to be let down. However, things here at the WSF are not quite as I assumed. The forum seems to be plagued by a prevalent sense of disorganization and convolusion. I do not write this to whine, or to entirely criticize this ambitious and noble project. Without this massive convergence of people from spots all over the world, I would not have stumbled across the dozens of inspired and inspiring youths with whom I have conversed about everything from politics to psychedelic transcendental experiences to the shortage of vegetarian food. I value this greatly. Nonetheless, the notable lack of organization here is undeniable. Firstly, as mentioned earlier, there is an extended and tangential debate currently transpiring over the possible relocation of the youth camp. Two locations currently exist and there seems to be a bit of a competition for primary youth camp status. This means that, in the relentless rain and troublesome mud, we may have to move down into the stuffy exhaust of the city, out of the luxuriant green of the mountains surrounding caracas. All I really want is a coherent and reasonably centralized place in which to converse with people from countries far and wide, a place conducive to the kinds of interactions I came here for. Hopefully things will settle down a bit, and the vivacity of the youth camps will emerge from its timid and troubled hiding place.

Today was the first day of the actual forum. I went to three lectures, one of which was in spanish, despite the programs indication that is would be translated. This, of course, hindered my ability to comprehend the depths of its offerings. I left early. On to a small school room with undersized chair-desk units and windows lining its eastern wall, overlooking the giant red fiberglass coffee cup which rests on the roof of the Nestle headquarters. A short, neanderthalic man from Canada conducted a slow and monotonous lecture on the necessary relationship between urban and rural permaculture (sustainable agriculture and environmental engagement) and political activism. He maintained that the two could not be separated. However, after two hours of typical disenfranchised conspiracy theorist talk he had still not uttered the word permaculture once. So I left that as well.

Sorry this is so discouraging. In the end, it is not. I had a day long, fragmented conversation with Jonah about the relationship between nature and humans, spirituality and technology, empirical perceptions and the Platonic notion of ideal natural forms, drug-altered mental states and our sober ability to perceive and make sense of the world. And moreover, we have just come from a truly inspiring talk on the Earth First movement, a 25 year old decentralized movement which employs illegal direct action tactics in order to protect and preserve biodiversity and ecosystems from the onslaught of capitalism and an intentionally disposable culture. And I realized that it is simply not enough to acknowledge the problems and dangers in the world, to only understand that the Earth, the very entity responsible for our entire existence, is under attack with a reckless desire to make human life more convenient and luxurious. No, it is not enough to simply understand, we must act on our understandings. Without direct, immediate action--without actually preventing the destruction of our host by facing it directing--we concede to self-aware apathy and indifference, something much more dangerous in the end than the destructive institutions of capitalism themselves. I as a person must, to the best of my ability of personal health, attempt to blocade ecological slaughter and the reckless exploitation of definitively limited resources on which life itself depends.

-ADAM BAZ


If one looks out on Caracas with a superficial eye the Bolivarian Process is not at all apperent, in fact it is quite invisible. Superficially Caracas carries many of the similarities of all of the cities that i have seen in developing Latin America; poverty, pollution, trash and disorganized urban sprawl development. That said, the Process--the shorthand term used by most by Venevolanos for the revolutionary Bolivarian Process--is transforming the nation, at least at the level of millions of individuals who have had the opportunity to become part of las misiones-the missions, which are basically a series of social programs ranging from education (Ribas as explained by Tim, Robinson--combatting illiteracy, and Sucre--finishing high school for free) to health care (barrio adentro-inside the neighborhood: also known as oil for cuban doctors, who operate small state funded free health clinics in poor neighborhoods) to indigenous programs to workers cooperatives to the as of yet unachieved land reform. Unless you know exactely what to look for or talk extensively to people involved, it is not apperent that another world is being constructed right before your eyes.

According to my interactions with people in the last two days, its all about el Processo here in Venezuela. Yesterday, after searching in vein for the ASF, we ended up at the new Bolivarian University. The ex-petrolero complex (it used to house petroleum industry related offices and buisnesses) is now a free university opened in 2004 that gives priority to the lowest income applicants (if they can even be called that...if they have the space you get in) for education in a variety of alternative subjects devoted toward furthering the Bolivarian revolution.

Much of what i just mentioned was learned from an impassioned women we met who talked to us for over an hour about a variety of subjects related to the Process. First on the list was her profound personal self-transformation from an uneducated consumptive capitalist oriented individualist to an anti-egoist blivarian socialist devoted to furthering her education and fully participating in the revolutionary Process. How did this transformation happen you ask? Well, she heard President Hugo Chavez Frias speak and her world was forever altered by his wisdom and passion...thats her words, more or less, not mine folks. At age 52, she then enrolled in the Bolivarian university, her only option as she was too old to attend the Central University, an older, better funded and more prestigious institution, though she wouldnt have been able to afford it even if she was the right age. She now studies radical politics, yet continues to sell cheese as she did before the chance to be educated. That is the Process at work at the level of the individual. The women also helped us understand in more detail the substance of the aforementioned missions.

My other impressions of the Process are centered around its decentralized nature and early phase nature. Chavez has been very tactical in making changes that wont send the elites of the country into a flurry of fury, although there is plenty of vehement anti-Chavez folks (in fact the opposition to the Forum and the chavista governement has supposedly taken the stance that the location of the youth camp is unsafe and therefor all campers must relocate into another park in the city!...maybe more on that later) around. What I mean to say is that instead of overtly taking over or nationalizing sectors of the economy, he is, with the participation and initiation of the people (this is the key to the Process) constructing an alternative socio-economic reality. This allows people and communities to participate in creating a system that is livable and humane, while not attacking too directly the private or opposition sectors of the country. For example, instead of taking over the relatively exclusive Central University, another entirely different university devoted to an alternative approach to education was opened. Instead of taking over privetly run hospitals, small free clinics are opened in areas where people cant afford medical care. Markedly improve millions of peoples lives, while not confronting too directly reactionary powers that would halt the Process if they could. Thats the basic idea as far as I can tell, at least for now...
The woman who we spoke to at the Bolivarian University made it quite clear that the Process is in its infancy, trying to get a solid foot hold, and, while she is directly benefiting from the Chavez government, it is her grandchildren who will be the ture beneficiaries of Bolivarianismo. The Process only needs to continue.


Yesterday we arrived at the World Social Forum Youth Camp after an extremely frustrating registration process that took place among many locations scattered throughout Caracas. The camp is of a higher altitude that provides a nice break from the hectic streets where we spent the first four nights of our journey. It is extremely encouraging to see people from all over the world be put in such a living situation and lose the apprehension and separation that results from differences in language and culture. Being at the camp also provides a better idea of what the coming days may have in store for us as far as what kind of people we will be sharing ideas with. The scheduled events for the forum officially begin tomorrow and we will divide up to most efficiently cover what is going on at the WSF. It will be interesting to see what perspectives will become dominant among discourse considering the wide array of people who are here. I suspect that the days ahead will bring great amounts of content to this website.


In the International Youth Camp discussed by Jade, I had the pleasure of interviewing four leaders of a Communist Movement in Education. The interview took place in the camp, not far from a lively celebration of the 23rd of January. An incredibly generous Venezuelan translated the entire ordeal in an amazing feat of mental stamina (he also asked that I do not give his name, in fear of US retribution...more on this later). The interview lasted about 40 minutes, but was part of a longer two hour discussion of US Foreign Policy in Latin America, the activism and (international) political savvy of the American public, and a long session of fielding questions from all four of the interviewees, the transaltor, and other campers that happened to be walking by.

The interviewees were from a poor section of a city in Venezuela (the name escapes me now, but the interview will be transcribed for publication in college newspapers). Their ages ranged from 25 to 40, and were able to attend college part time thanks to Chavez's Mision Ribas. The Misions are socio-educational projects to benefit the poor that have until now been entirely left out of the Venezuelan educational system. The government sees these programs as a step towards the eradication of the former system of education that marginalized the poor and rural peoples. In 2004, 1.4 million people were enrolled in the Misions, either attending higher education financed entirely by the state, learning English as a foreign language, learning to read, or attending elementary or high school. The Mision takes its name from Jose Felix Ribas, one of the much beloved Simon Bolivar's generals. Ribas once said “We cannot choose between victory and death. Victory is essential.” This imperitive sentiment carries over to the education of the poor, which is intended to prepare those who have never taken part in the democratic process to join in head-on.

They also explained initiative in farming, such as the encouragement of urban permaculture, organic farming and breeding to mimic Argentina's famed beef, and the the self-sufficiency the food production of Venezuela hopes to achieve. Tuna fish, rice, different types of vegetables, beef, and chicken are all intended to be entirely produced in the country, for consumption within the country. This change is already taking place. The "heche en Venezuela" that adorns much of the food and goods remnids me of the long-dead "Made in America" tags that disappeared entirely with the advent of inexpensive and attractive globalized trade and the foriegn exploitation that it entails.

Culture is not left out of the revolution either. For every one foriegn song played on the state radio stations, two songs produced by Venezuelans must be played. The state run TV stations. I was told that rather than leading to repetitive programming, this initiative has encouraged art production at a rapid clip, leading to a surge in home-grown creativity. Also, television shows from the US that vilify blacks and hispanics as "the bad guy" cannot be shown anymore. The racism works for white America, but not for Black and Latino Venezuela.

The four students were shocked by the sterilized media of the United States, in so much as the overwhelming majority of the US population has never heard of Plan Columbia, the Endowment for Democracy, or the real substance to the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. They asked about censorship and spying, and I explained the matter of the recently revealed NSA and FBI domestic spying horrors, at which time they all agreed that I cannot reveal their names in print for fear of retaliation. They did however invite the NSA to trek down to Venezuela to try and find them, and meet whatever fate they will find.

It was in this interview, and not in the relatively wealthy sections of Caracas that I saw Bolivarian socialism. It is a process, and not anything of a quick fix. People who were critical of Chavez, but tirelessly committed to the revolution they have been working towards for decades. They said that in Venezuela, socialism cannot die, it will just flee to the hills to return another day. This sobering, passionate committment to change left me speechless and made me realize how far consciousness has to change in the US to achieve meaningful, large-scale change. These four people thought in such a wide scope, from the bare necessities of day to day life in Venezuela and how to provide them, to the acute dissection of American capitalism and neoliberalism in both systemic and specific terms.

The interview was very comprehensive, and I cannot do it justice here. It will be uploaded for play on the internet as soon as possible, which may be in a week or more.


Last night we spent our first night in the international youth camp, which was marked by percussive celebrations long into the night. The celebratory music seemed to have been initiated by a large group of Colombians who sang, danced and drummed out some traditional typical songs of the north andean nation and yelled out protest chants against northamerican imperialsim, while paying homage to past revolutionary guerilla warriors. Eventually the fun fell into the hands of some Brazilians who dropped some energetic samba on the crowd bringing me back to the 24 hour a day samba that marked last years youth camp in porto alegre.

As it turns out, the youth campe is located in a park south of caracas that requires a 20 min. bus ride to get to and from. This is a significant departure from the orientation of last years camp which was situated within the autonomous space of the forum and was significantly more expansive, offering a variety of themed camps, music venues and many food options. Perhaps some of this will change here, as the camp is still early in its unfolding. The park is quite beautiful, located in the mountains and surrounded by mid-elevation tropical wet-forests. The weather has been a bit different then expected. Supposedly it is the dry season, yet we were hit with rain much of last night and also this morning. I was personally quite cold the whole night, not having brought a legitamate sleeping bag or pad.

Today we all headed into caracas proper to take care of some buisness. The forum officially begins today with opening ceremonies, though the workshops, seminars, discussions, etc. dont start until wednesday. Most of the group has decided to skip the opening ceremonies (which will likely consist of music all day and some speaches and orientations) in favor of attending the anarchist organized Alternative Social Forum. Let the games begin.
To be continued...
Jade


we are moving to the youth camp today (monday). it has changed locations and is a short bus ride from the main forum area, which is a bit of a bummer. nonetheless they are expecting more than 20,000 youngsters. well, we´ll comprise 10 of them, and hopefully we will have the chance to meet a significant portion of the rest.

more to come.
adambaz


If you walk around Caracas and use the slightest bit of imagination, you are in Philadelphia, New York, or Trenton. The city itself seems to have kept on its same track with no break for the movement toward Bolivarian Socialism. In short, the city is getting ready to get ready to change it seems. This may be very ill informed, but the impression I have recieved from a few citizens (with various levels of help in translating) is that the change in worldview and operating guidelines that would accompany a socialist revolution has not hit the people in the city. This does not sway the possibility of a true and profound change taking place.

Chavez´s detractors (not nearly as ubiquitous as the signs of his supporters) seem to come from two camps, both equally predictable. The first camp is the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, made popular in the fine film ¨The Revolution will not be Televised.¨ The second camp is the seemingly robust contingent of anarchists living in the country. They are not simply knee-jerk reactionaries to any form of the state, but intelligent, informed, and passionate young people who are presenting the Alternative Social Forum this year. The ASF starts on 23 January, the date the last dictator fled the country, and also the name of a particularly active barrio popular. I plan to participate, but am sure that my decidely poor spanish will prevent me from fully experiencing what the event has to offer.

Yesterday we took a trip to the beach, spending our time in another local that it was blatently clear that gringo tourists rarely go to. The beach itself was the most polluted I have ever seen, with the bay acting as a de facto garbage can. This was surprising, because Caracas is relatively clean, and I have observed several people cleaning up public sidewalks and such. Anyhow, the locals were enjoying the warm Carribean on a misty 80 degree day, so we followed suit. We were greeted warmly by all those who came up and talked to us, offering us drinks and other kindness. After a romp in the waves, we supped and returned to the bus corral to catch another 3 hour ride through the country. We ended up waiting for more or less 4 hours, then found an opportunistic driver charging 10,000 Bolivars for the ride (about $ 5US). We are about to check into the International Youth Camp and leave the Hotel Waldorf and the comforts that 20,000 Bolivars a night can affort (not that Waldorf).

Expect some media in the near future, as we hope to consumate our press registrations and gain access to higher speed computers reserved for the press people.


3 things have stood out in mind from the last two days:
1) on a casual stroll around the city, about to enter the central park of caracas, we ran into two spanish anarchists, who came to venezuela to help organize the alternative social forum. They were incredibly informative and generous, and have invited us to a punk show next weekend. It seems that we will check out both the world social forum and the alternative anti-authoritarian forum, time depending.

2) We visited a food cooperative, which kiernan recommended we see. We spoke at length with the owners, all of which were young and affable. Since meat is in popular demand here, they deal primarily with it. Worthy good vegetarian food is hard to come by. However, they were all very nice and we laughed about our friend in common. They gave us some info regarding the beach which we hope to visit tomorrow, with hopes of tropical turquoise waters and swaying palms.

3) Today, just now in fact, we went to the Biblioteca Nacional, a collasal modern building that seems to serve as a town center of sorts. We poked around a while a eventually found our destination: vive tv, one of the governments two state run television programs. We got a private tour from two of the many young and friendly workers there. The youth seem to have taken over the country´s media, at least in the state run programs. They gave us more info than we knew had to swallow, including an invite to a informational meeting slash party for the journalists at the forum, which i guess we are. the office, lined with pictures of famous indigenous leaders, pro-palestinian imagery, and more pictures of chavez and che than ive seen in one place before), buzzes with energy and the prevalent sentiment of hope.

-adam baz


Yesterday, our plane descended into the coastal mountains of Venezuela, just before the sun. We landed on a walk'off runway, lined with plants that upstate NY has never seen before. And as the heat of Venezuela engulfed us, we tried to stay remotely on task. That task was to get from the airport to Caracas, a trip which usually takes 45 minutes thanks to a land-splicing highway, but which took us 3 hours. A bridge collapsed along the main route which sent us on a meandering road, which spent most of its effort climbing the mountains dividing caracas from the coast, winding through small suburban towns all the way. These busy towns, flooded with people, stray dogs, and handmade stands selling water, coffee, and sweets to the passersby, were the first glimpse of venezuelan life I had. The buildings, made of hand packed cement and scraps of tin roofing, are stacked vertically, reaching upwards along the hills. They nestle into every nook, creating a near constant fabric of synthetic material, which blankets the hillsides and the valley below. Rooftops become patios, and windows become perches for the people who sit with their families and friends, observing the unbroken flow of traffic below. And above the busy streets, which were overtaken by ambiguous military police figures riding unmuffled dirtbikes, ribbons of clothing hung drying in the hot air. clothes lines stretched at criss crossing angles from verticle building to verticle building, billowing in the high winds as if flags proclaiming the residency of those below.

-Adam Baz


Six of us have landed safely in Caracas. After a harrowing but beautiful taxi ride through the mountains, we found our reservations at the Hotel New Jersey nonexistent. After a little worry, we found other room, and have since been wandering the streets and enjoying the people and atmosphere. It is a fast paced city, with nice nooks of quietude in the many parks. More later.





The majority of us are setting out on Thursday the 19th. This gets us to Caracas a few days before the forum in which to explore and learn about the city, the country, the people. However, I do not know what kind of internet access there will be, so regular posting should begin on the 24th.

In other news, The main viaduct that serves to transpot people from the airport and elsewhere to Caracas has been closed due to seismic activity that has compromised safety. The (borrowed) gratuitous animation above depicts a likely collapse. This means that travellers will be treated to a more scenic route through the mountains. The Venezuelan government has opened a route specifically for passenger vehicles during specific hours of the day in order to accomodate the large number of WSF participants.