From Belize Land Professionals

Belize Land Professionals

It seems that there is only fighting in Belize these days. No more unity and associating. All associations and societies that once held people of similar interest together have vanished or dwindled to the few who refuse to give up and still believe that in unity there is strength.
  In days gone by, several lodges were recruiting men and women for their international societies in which they were t
aught how to use available resources to improve their lives. These societies were well structured and their influence made them attractive worldwide. Today, lodges in Belize are down to a few with mostly dilapidated temples and generally no activities. Port Loyola residents once enjoyed the lodge hall on Caesar Ridge Road for Saturday night parties, children parties, Sunday bingo and just a place to meet friends. The location is now at the heart of street gang war and self-imposed curfew.
Liberty Hall on Barrack Road was the place to be on the weekends and any day in 50’s and 60’s. The facility, owned by the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and the organization conducted numerous activities for men, women and children. The Black Cross Nurses which still exists today in Belize was the provider of healing for the body and soul of affiliates. Collective bargaining and work was the order of the day and members knew exactly where to find support when necessary and knew how to support brothers or sisters when the tables were turned. This great organization became almost dormant worldwide and in Belize it died for a moment despite great effort and financial input from people like Isaiah Morter and Samuel Haynes. Thanks to those like Emerson Guild, the Liberty Hall is making a comeback and with changes in our society that encourages people to support in order to be supported, it may eventually be restored to or improve beyond what it was.
  It may seem nostalgic to think that societies like these are necessary to curb the mayhem that we are living in but we are social creatures and often when we are lacking outlets for our social callings we become frustrated and feel unfulfilled. Many of you may be thinking that churches offer such redress but most of them seem to be opened on Sundays only in Belize. Street Gangs are opened every day for their members who need to eat and provide for their families and so seem to be much more attractive offers for survival in this harsh economic driven society that we have created. Suppressing them with batons and bullets is not working and will not work because the primal need is not being addressed. They could better help themselves if society would stop trying to suppress them and instead help them to realize a better future without conditions that forces them to disband. The sense of security in togetherness will not be denied.
  Maybe not as bad as the fighting among the gangs and the police department but the NGO’s and most business people are always into some fight that usually drags on forever. UNIBAM, SATIM, OCEANA and the list goes on. While as a society these organizations play vital watchdog roles and any decision can never please everyone, mechanism for fair and decisive actions would make them more effective with their causes. The fighting extend to our communities where often there is no regard for elected officials who oftentimes abandon their post, are not willing to put in the work required to make tough decisions for the benefit of the majority or in some instances bent on serving themselves. It does not stop there and seems to have reached a new low with families fighting and sometimes killing each other. Not new you may say. Cain killed Abel. However, it is a reflection of the kind of society that we are living in today.
Associating with others is what most people want and it would make us more productive. We know that and our country would prosper from it but for some unknown reason, we are going just the opposite way. Even in our political parties who are to set the example of unity there is oftentimes fighting. Perhaps if we talk more with each other, it would bring about amicable solutions and there would be less fighting.



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The final analysis of the STOP (Straight Talk on Prison) program

The final analysis of the STOP (Straight Talk on Prison) program

The STOP program was a pilot educational program that was put to trial from June 2011- June 2012 at Wagners Youth Facility in Belize City prison. The program was essentially the re-socialization process of young men corrupted and hardened by the oppressive conditions in their realities.  The lessons were based on the knowledge of self, the real life experiences and needs of the inmates. With the re-evaluation of their experiences through our life skills lessons and practices, we were able to do many things that contributed to the betterment of their state of mind while at WYF. With the improved personal skills and knowledge of self- developed through our program- the young inmates were better prepared to re-enter the society as a more productive citizen.

Because food, shelter, clothing are such an integral part of our lifestyle, we had to look at a process that would fit the circumstances of the youth at WYF. We use agricultural program along with other technical and academic exercises to help the young inmates to be better prepared to take care of themselves once they go back to the society.  Our re-education program proved to be very successful and was the foundation to develop a high level of self-confidence and trust among the young inmates.

We expanded a garden that existed so as to encourage the idea of urban and rural gardens for food security as a real and honorable way of life.  This promotion of agriculture and self-knowledge gave the youth at WYF a reason to devote their time in something worthwhile.  Based on observation and the merit of the STOP program, the behavior and thought process of the young inmates began to change — the youth and the plants began to grow together.  The thought that urban youth could learn organic farming and develop a nursery for a rural program began to take effect.  We were able to see patience, care, and devotion growing in the hearts and minds of these young men. 

Planting and caring for food crops gave the young men the idea that they can be part of something creative and caring than something destructive. They could now better understand that there is a result to cultivating crops just like there is a result to cultivating good seed in their own minds.  As a result of the STOP Program at WYF, we were able to see profound changes in some of the young men.   We saw the influence of caring for plants on the psyche of these young men.

Furthermore, in the process growing fruits and vegetables in their own backyard, they also learned that farming is one of way they can become self-sufficient especially in country such as ours.  One young man said “I had learned that money doesn’t grow on trees but it does.”  Sweet pepper is $4.00 dollars a pound, cabbage is $2.00, tomato $2.50, corn is 3 for $1.00; I can grow sweet pepper or anything I choose and sell them and make money.

The STOP Program promoted a holistic approach in the re-education of the young men in prison.  Introducing some new information and agriculture to these young men created an opportunity for them to re-evaluate themselves , and through discipline, patience, devotion and trust to love themselves, to believe in themselves and to become aware of their unlimited abilities and capabilities! 

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Lula to Chavez: “Your Victory Will be our Victory”

Jul 9th 2012

Below is the complete message that Brazilian leader, Luiz Inacio  Lula da Silva, sent to the Sao Paulo Forum in Caracas.

Comrades, In 1990, when we created the Sao Paulo Forum, none of us  thought that in just two decades we would get to be where we are now. At that time, the Left was governing only in Cuba. Today, we  govern a large number of countries and even where we are in  opposition, parties belonging the Forum are gaining an increasing influence in  political and social life.

Progressive governments are changing the face of Latin America.  Thanks to them, our continent is developing rapidly, with economic  growth, job creation, distribution of wealth and social inclusion.  Today, we are an international reference point for a successful alternative to  neoliberalism.

Of course, we still have more work to do. Events which have taken place, in Honduras and Paraguay for instance, show why we have to keep struggling, so  that democracy prevails in our region. The existence of colonies in our  continent, as in the case of the Malvinas, which evidently belong to  Argentina, remind us how much we have to fight to maintain national  and regional sovereignty and for that we require more Latin American and  Caribbean integration.

Our countries are still marked by poverty and inequality. We require  more economic growth, social policies and structural reforms to build  the developed, fair and fraternal society we long for. In everything that we  have done up until now, which is a lot, the Forum and parties of the Forum have  played a significant role, which could be even more important if we maintain our main characteristic: unity in the face of adversity.

I would like to say good bye adding that I would really like to be  there. Not only to be part of the delegation, the Workers’  Party delegation, but also to give a warm embrace to comrade Hugo Chavez. With Chavez’s leadership, the venezuelan people has made extraordinary gains. The popular classes have never ever been treated with such respect,  love and dignity. Those conquests must be preserved and strengthened.

Chavez, count on me, count on the PT (Brazilian Workers’ Party), count on the solidarity and  support of each left-wing militant, each democrat and each Latin  American. Your victory will be ours. A strong embrace, a fraternal  embrace and thanks comrade for everything you have done for Latin  America.

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Education for Sustainable and Humane Development

Education for Sustainable and Humane Development
By Emerson Guild
Secretary for Education and Research
Central American Black Organization (CABO)
July 2012

The Central American Black Organization (CABO) recognizes that despite the progress achieved in various countries of Latin America to promote the rights of people of African descent, great challenges remain. Inspired by the principles of the inherent dignity of human beings and of equality between all people enshrined in international instruments designed to promote and protect human rights, we must commit ourselves to combat the social, economic, and political exclusion and marginalization of people of African descent. Moreover, we need to identify the root causes and aggravating factors behind the discrimination of which we are the primary victims.

We must be encouraged to do things that stress the great contributions of people of African descent to the social, cultural, religious, political, and economic formation of States throughout Central America. Beyond this, we want to teach our culture and history to give value to these contributions by people of African descent in the creation of States in the region.

We want to preserve and disseminate the rich culture and history of Africa and of people of African descent who have contributed to the development of the countries of Latin America. This story of our African contribution is underscored in the national identity of the countries of Latin America because of how we are educated.

Our social, cultural, political and environmental needs must be highlighted in our re-education program to prevent prejudice, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance brought on by poverty. To this end, we need support for the introduction of programs in educational systems to promote the full development of our humanity, to reinforce all human rights, democratic values, and fundamental freedoms.

We must establish activities that encourage all people of African descent to uphold the fundamentals enshrined in international instruments such as “The Durban Resolutions” from the Durban conference held in 2002 and the “Treaty of Indigenous Peoples” signed in 2007.
We must teach the importance of collecting statistical data for the formulation and implementation of effective public policies to increase equal opportunity for people of African descent in relation to indigenous citizenship.

We must never stop condemning the violence and intolerance against people of African ancestry. We must recognize that people in so-called multicultural, so-called multiracial societies and in so-called democratic states are experiencing a multitude of difficulties because of disrespect and the neglect of equal rights and responsibilities for all.

We must confront the high levels of victimization among young people, children and women of African descent by establishing security policies based on the rights of indigenous citizens, centered on protecting persons through the adoption of violence prevention measures and creation of safe zones where drugs and crime will not be tolerated.

We must be committed to work together to combat inequality, poverty, and social exclusion through cooperation and the exchange of experiences. To this end, we reaffirm our determination to implement a vigorous social, economic, and political agenda in line with internationally agreed commitments.
We must recognize the need for information technology to facilitate the mainstreaming of the unique perspectives that directly confront racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in our realities.

We must know the fundamental differences between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs). The strengthening of community-based organizations staffed by volunteers is vital in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, in particular the way we advocate to help governments develop regulations and strategies, in taking measures and action against such forms of discrimination and intolerance.

CABO has branches in every Central American country (except El Salvador). CABO was founded in August 1995 in Dangriga, Belize. The primary purpose of our organization is to make visible the African presence in Central America. CABO fights against racial discrimination and seeks to build and promote solidarity amongst Afro-descendants in Central America.

There are approximately 20 million Afro-descendants in Central America. The majority of Afro-descendants in Central America live in a deplorable situation – one of poverty, exclusion and racial discrimination. We are affected seriously by illiteracy, unemployment, health, HIV/AIDS and forced displacement from our land and territory, with little or no participation in governmental power structures.

To date CABO has established programs and funding on behalf of the People of African Descent, based on voluntary contributions. In the new strategic plan for 2012-2015, CABO has identified a need to develop partnerships to finance projects and programs dedicated to preserving Afro-centric culture, memory, and traditions. The education projects and programs will be designed to foster social productivity. This includes the creation, circulation, protection, and dissemination of cultural goods, values and services of people of African descent, including the promotion of entrepreneurship.

We at CABO are planning this “re-education” with a view on the “Decade of People of African Descent in Latin America.” Our effort is to formally implement the re-education program in all member countries of CABO for the purpose of fostering cross-border complementary initiatives and promoting good practices in public policies.

Establishing the “People’s Universities without Walls” in Central American countries, as described below, is one of CABO’s key goals during the next decade to realize the empowerment of people of African descent.
Actions for change take many shapes. In our approach, we need to aim for holistic social, cultural, and economic change that embodies the spiritual awakening of our people and deep understanding of our collective history and culture.

As we encounter all the challenges of the past and present to develop a strategic plan to become a positive force through sustainable living in all aspects of our lives, we need to develop and advance our resources and manpower capabilities to achieve these goals.
In my country Belize, in the past fifty years there have been major disconnections in our spiritual, social, economic, and political realities that have been imposed upon us by colonial powers. In the past 15 years, our society has realized a new phenomenon- street gangs and killings! Joining a gang has become a means of economic survival for the portion of our society that has been marginalized through the denial of their social and economic needs.

Our collective, gradual acceptance of our inhumane conditions and our indifference to our cruel and unacceptable social, cultural, economic, and environmental situation has reached a point that we can no longer conceive that another way of living and conducting our business is possible. Our current condition and way of life has given us a new self-identity detached from our history, culture and traditions. We no longer know who we are!

Today’s media technology – Internet, TV, radio, newspapers, books, movies, music, etc. – projects the ideas of privileged citizens whose aim is creation of a Homogenous Global Culture with the stroke of a pen or the click of a mouse on a computer. It is in creation of this homogenous global culture, which at its core aims to desensitize us all from our innate sense of morality and humanity, that global control of the masses can be fully implemented! In this effort our traditional teachings and practices are being marginalized and our historical documents and artifacts are being removed or being destroyed. We are living in times when the enforcement of this homogenized global culture is reaching its final chapters. This is a cultural war, and we need to build our own purposeful institutions where we speak the truth and tell our story and preserve the knowledge and practices of our ancestors.

We cannot go about improving our economic and social conditions and liberating ourselves from imposed, unjust socio-economic circumstances if we have been desensitized and we have lost our moral direction. Therefore, before and above anything, we need to raise our individual and collective moral consciousness. We need to have a holistic approach in our actions for change which embodies both the spiritual awakening of our people (reaching a higher level of moral consciousness) and a deep understanding of our culture and history (having a sense of who we are). As we reflect on our struggle, we realize that it is a global struggle, so we must come together and become one force and focus on creating a Natural World Order that will impact our lives (an activity in harmony with nature) through our own holistic approach.

The powers that be have been controlling our lives for so long and have managed to create and enforce their own World Order through their global institutions and treaties and military might. But the world order that they have created no longer is practical; in fact, it is entering its final stage. The enforcement of their homogenous global culture through mass media and the digital world is the last straw in their effort to control and save their world order!

We have a big task ahead of us. To create our own Natural World Order that will serve humanity as a whole, we need to revitalize our Own Global Culture! To that end, we need to build our own educational institutions and create our own means of communication. That is the whole concept behind the idea of creating a People’s Universities Without Walls throughout Central America and the whole of Latin America. The curriculum for the People’s Universities Without Walls will be in direct relationship with the Natural World Order that we would like to create through a sustainable and humane, socio-economic plan.

These visionary ideas that seem impossible to achieve have to become reality. We have no other choice. Our survival and the survival of our planet depend on it. We need to change our mindset and understand that only through our collective efforts can we create our own natural order to preserve our humanity and life on this planet!
We need to create a world that everyone – that means every single human being on this planet – can practice his or her greatness and given right to a healthy, productive and enjoyable life. These visionary ideas can and shall become the reality of our lives if we only believe thatwe are not victims of our circumstances, but quite the contrary, we are the creators of our own reality!

The people who are currently in charge of our world affairs, which I remind you again are in the last phase of their World Empire, want us to believe that the World Order that they have created is the only one that is possible. So, I ask you, having millions of people all over the world in desperate and urgent need of food, clean water, shelter, and basic human needs – is this the best of all possible worlds? Are we to believe that we, who have been able to send gigantic satellites into the space and enormous spaceships to other planets, are still not capable of feeding ourselves and the entirety of our race? What is the problem here – a lack of resources, imagination, skills, labor, or technology? Or, is it a lack of will and determination? We hear all the time from the International NGOs and UN organizations about the Millennium Developmental Goals to eliminate world poverty, hunger, and diseases.

 However, and with all due respect, despite all their scientific analysis, data gathering and strategic planning, they have not yet been able to solve any of our problems and eliminate anything. This is the case because they shy away from addressing our socio-economic global problems and ecological crisis in the context of a global political and economic order that only serves the interests of the corporate rulers and their political allies.
We the people need to solve our problems. We the people need to have a grassroots approach in addressing our problems. We the people need to understand that our future lies in our own hands.

If we need roads in our communities, we need to build them ourselves. If we don’t have skilled labor to build roads, then we have to find a way to train enough young people learn how to build roads. If we need a hospital in our neighborhood, then we need to build one, and if we need doctors, then we need to train a group of our young people to become doctors. There is no shortage of ideas and ways we can build our communities. The impossible is possible only if we decide to take charge of our own lives, our own communities.

We need to train our children to become farmers, fisherman, builders, teachers, doctors, engineers, healers, historians, artisans, craftsmen. We need to become self-sufficient in every aspect of our lives, write our own history and spread our own culture and create our own world – a world in which 3 billion people don’t have to live on less than $2.50 a day, where 1 billion children don’t have to live in extreme poverty, where 640 million people don’t have to live without adequate shelter, where 400 million people don’t have to live with no access to safe water, and where 270 million don’t have to live with no access to health services.

Our purpose has to be reflected in our pathways, crystallizing our new direction and commitment for empowerment. Education for sustainable and humane development will be directed to obtaining wisdom, knowledge, and skills needed to create just and humane societies with respect to our natural environment. Our teachings and trainings should encourage our children to become caring world citizens who exercise their rights and responsibilities locally, nationally and globally. We should no longer see our citizenship and stewardship within the boundaries of our national border.

In the People’s Universities Without Walls, we will address our developmental problems in the context of a Global Natural World Order. In our view, another world is possible, a world in which our developmental goals and strategies exist in harmony with the natural world order and its limited resources.

The word “university” is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which roughly means “community of teachers and scholars,” and that is exactly what we are trying to create- a COMMUNITY of teachers and scholars. The People’s Universities Without Walls will have community-based educational trainings and programs. Our educational process will be a collective effort with a high degree of participation from everyone – local members of our communities and our international allies and partners.

Education for sustainable and humane development will serve us all. It will prepare us along with our children with sustainable solutions to the many present-day economic, environmental and social challenges we face, and in turn, we will become the change we all want to see.

Organize Community Planning Councils

“The community planning councils are basic units of planning where the people form, execute, control, and evaluate public policies,”
~Jorge Luís García Carneiro, head of the Ministry of Popular Participation and Social Development –Venezuela, 2006

In Venezuela, these councils are highly autonomous although they are often required to coordinate with municipal administrations and receive funds from various levels of government. Chávez, calls these councils “popular power”.
We need to organize similar Community Planning Councils in Belize and other parts of Central America.

Basic Structure of Community Planning Councils in Venezuela
Basically, Communal Councils are a group of elected persons from a self-defined residential neighborhood of about 150 to 400 families in urban areas, or closer to 20 families in rural areas, and potentially 10 in indigenous communities. All council members are people within the community elected by the citizens’ assembly for a period of 2 years. No person can occupy positions in more than one unit at time. All members within the defined communities above the age of 15 can participate in the citizens’ assemblies, and will have the power to elect and revoke community spokespeople to the communal council, as well as approve projects and development plans for the community. Quorum for the first election is 20% of the community. Other assemblies require 10% of the community to achieve the required quorum. Assembly elections are done directly and in secret. Other decisions are generally made by majority of raised hands.
I think we can basically adopt the similar structure for our Community Council with some moderation. It will be the job of the Community Planning Councils to assess – periodically and through appropriate methods- the socio-economic and environmental condition of their communities and come up with practical plans of action to go about creating sustainable & humane communities.

The areas for assessment as follows for our urban and rural development:

Transportation (Air, Land, Water)
Water and Sanitation
Information and Communication Technology

Food processing

Natural Recourses:
Biodiversity, Geodiversity and the Ecosystems.

Science & Technology:
Traditional & Modern

Human Resource:
Education (Traditional & Modern Knowledge and Skills)
Health (Traditional and Modern Medicine for Physical and Mental wellbeing)
Notorious Diet
Recreational Activities
Creative Expression

It is in our People’s Universities without Walls that we will create needed programs and projects to generate skilled and knowledgeable labor force needed for our projects. But we are not islands on our own. Some of these trainings will take place in our countries.-our allies, our partner countries.

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Democracy from Below in Bolivia: An Interview with Oscar Olivera

Democracy from Below in Bolivia: An Interview with Oscar Olivera  
Written by Peter Lackowski and Sharyl Green  

Oscar Olivera is an activist, thinker, and writer based in Cochabamba, Bolivia. He was a leader during the uprising in 2000 in Cochabamba in which the people of the city threw out Bechtel, the multinational corporation that had privatized all the water in the city – even the rain that people collected. (His book on that process is listed in the bibliography at the end of this interview.) This interview was conducted in Cochabamba, Bolivia on January 27, 2012.


Peter Lackowski: People have criticized the government of Evo Morales in two ways. They say that it is neo-liberalism without privatization, and that it is excessively confrontational. Can you provide examples of these?
Oscar Olivera: The government of Evo Morales is a government that did not come from above.  It didn’t come from propaganda or electoral competition.  It has risen from the base, from a process of popular struggles of indigenous people.  It took its legal form through a popular vote.  Evo Morales came to the government with two mandates.  One is a substantial change in the economic model, the model of development that has been imposed for many years.  The historical model was established in Potosi, development that was simply looting, without benefiting our people.  This history of plunder and expropriation of our natural resources was forcefully rejected by our people in the water war of 2000 and the gas war of 2003. So the mandate is clear:  we want another model and we want a model fundamentally based on respect and complete harmony with nature.  This is a clear mandate of the people, simple but very profound.  We are going from a model where everything–trees, animals, water–is converted into merchandise or commodities to another model of where these things belong to everyone.
The other clear mandate is that we don’t believe in a democracy of parties, where just a few leaders make all the decisions.  We want a democracy of participation, a democracy where the people can make decisions about their own future.  In 2005 the government of Morales came to power with those two main ideas.  I believe that these two mandates have not been accomplished by the government.  We have an economic model that is continuing with the extractivist model that hands over our territory to transnationals, a model of plunder–a model that has absolutely not changed.  We cannot deny that the government has been able to negotiate better terms, especially with the oil companies; the Bolivian state gets better royalties.  But what happened on May first of 2006 was in no way a real nationalization or taking over by the state of our hydrocarbons.  And it is the same with the government’s discourse about respecting the rights of mother earth and and harmony with nature.  A clear example is the giving away of extensive tracts of land for oil and mining exploration.  A pathetic example of the process of plundering and destruction of the natural environment of Bolivia is San Cristobal mine near the salt flats of Uyuni.  The Japanese enterprise running that mine is taking out over a billion dollars per year, and it just pays a few million in taxes–it’s nothing.  That mine consumes as much water as all of Cochabamba.  They mine silver and lead–the biggest open face mine in the world.  And more recently there is the highway through the TIPNIS national park, destroying a natural area and an indigenous territory simply because Brazilian transnationals want it.  We could go on with many more examples.
As to the other subject, a more participatory democracy, an institutional model that would allow us to have real participation in making decisions in this country, that doesn’t exist either.  Even though a new constitution was put in place three years ago, this constitution was not made in the way people wanted to write it.  What people wanted was a new form for living together in this country for the next fifty years without political parties, without the monopoly of the political parties.  But that is what happened.  The convocation for the constituent assembly that wrote the constitution was decided upon by four people, and the final result was determined by the chiefs of the four parliamentary parties.
There are two other things.  One is an attitude of the MAS toward structure of the state, an attitude that goes from the president down to the last functionary of the state, an arrogant attitude of defamation, criminalization, of any criticism from civil society.
The other issue is the narcotraffic.  At this time in Bolivia we are living with a tremendous level of narcotrafficking.  It is observed and tolerated by the state structure, the government knows about this expansive activity, the production as well as the traffic.  I think that this force of narcotraffic will exert a lot of pressure distorting not just the economy of the country but also it will be felt in the content of the government’s decisions.
So, the conditions of life for the people, particularly in the city, have not changed much, they have gotten worse in many sectors.  However, in rural areas the situation has changed.  Government policies have led in improvements in peoples’ lives.  But from the perspective of promoting productive communitarian processes that have long term sustainability? There have been services–water systems, schools, hospitals.  But there has been little done to promote productivity in rural areas.
Thus, people feel disenchanted, they expected things from the government, but they see that the situation doesn’t change.  I think that a year ago people were afraid to talk about what they were feeling about what was happening, but now there are more sectors of Bolivian society that are speaking up more bravely and firmly.  There is in Bolivia a very vigorous and hopeful process of articulation to recapture those two agendas that were so important in 2000 and 2003.
TIPNIS–the march for TIPNIS has been a key point, for two reasons.  People went after what they wanted with absolute certainty.  They did not want the development model that the government was planning, or that it was continuing.  They did not want a political model substantially based on decisions made by a few without the participation of the population.  And the other is that people were going to change things and not depend on a caudillo; the people themselves like in 2000, 2003, 2010 and then in 2011, that only a process of mobilization of the people is what will change things, not the will or the power of any political party.
So these are things that provoke conflicts with the people.  There is the discourse of the government and a reality that is very different.  There is an external image, but it does not correspond to the concrete reality.
PL: The gasolinazo (massive demonstrations in response to a big increase in fuel prices in December 2010) was a spontaneous reaction to a government action.  Since then has any coherent organization emerged that can systematically confront the government?
OO:  That’s a good question, because Bolivia and the world in general is in a very profound process of questioning all that is going on.  In the United States, in Spain, in Egypt a year ago, generally in Arab countries, in Europe, in Greece.  It is series of popular uprisings that is not so spontaneous but rather organized, the product of a kind of suffering of the population from economic policies of the authoritarian governments all over.  Here it happened in 2000 and 2003.  The policies of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, authoritarian governments, privatization–exactly like what is happening now in Europe.  People want to construct something different.  What we were proposing in 2000 and 2003, a new kind of economy, a way to recover politics for the people.  I think that people in Europe and the United States and here in 2000 and 2003 did not fight for a political party.  They fought to get back politics not understood as a form in which someone rules over other people, but politics as a form to establish a type of relationship, a way of living together.  A new way of living together not based on competition, individualism, but rather on solidarity, equality, complementarity.
Political parties or caudillos like Morales, like Correa, like the Peronists in Argentina, that are governments that are the result of an upsurge of a social movement, like in Egypt today, for example, these caudillos and the system they are part of have the remarkable ability to expropriate that social force, that constructive energy, they are very good at taking up this new discourse while the people are once again left waiting with just their hope.  Curiously, in every society after any big change there are two institutions that survive no matter what: political parties and religions.  So in Egypt the Muslims have taken 75 per cent of the state apparatus, of the Egyptian congress and the other quarter are from Mubarak’s party.
So here people don’t want to make any party. I think that in Egypt and in Europe and in the United States it’s the same: the same people who don’t want to form a party they don’t want to be part of a church either.  So I think people are looking for what we want that form to be. So we won’t be a political party that doesn’t last long, followed by the comeback, and so they go on cheating the people and all that. Nor do people want a religion, a church like in the old days. I think that people are looking for a form of political organization that provides a way to effectively change their lives.
So I think the great challenge today is what form of political organization gives us the means to change our conditions of life. Parties don’t work and neither do religions. Now what?
So getting back to your question: I think that in Bolivia the interesting thing is that Bolivia is an extensive territory in permanent deliberation, I would say. In other words, people are always waiting to see what’s going on, and I think that’s a big problem for any government. This is not subordinate, submissive people; it’s not a people who are indifferent to what is going on. It’s a people who are always…you go to a beauty shop, stand in line at the market, people are talking politics, about what’s going on. So I think the good thing is that people are searching here in Bolivia, and in the world, I would say: what do we want to be? I think that the great challenge is, as the companeros here say, to be in the opposition. I think it is a process of structuring a social base that is looking for what to do in the long term. Not only for elections. Elections can be a step, but I think people have gone beyond this kind of democracy that doesn’t work.
PL It’s clear that you have decided not to take part in the machinery or the political circling. But government is a daily reality. So if you won’t decide to get involved in the politics of the state, who should it be?
OO: Look, I believe that in the whole world there is a kind of breakdown of the connection between the social base–the population–and the state apparatus. In other words, the parties don’t work, religions aren’t working…and why? I would say that it’s a question whether here or in the United States with Obama, in Egypt with Mubarak, in the Arab countries, in Spain, in Greece… Why don’t people see a response from their state, from their government, from state organizations in general? Because the states have given up acting as such. How shall we say this? It is no longer a struggle as in the past, that perhaps very simple analysis that was made between the workers and the bosses, between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, as we say. These are not the contradictions in themselves. I would say that the contradictions are hardly between the peoples and the governments. Like here, with Evo, no? It’s not a problem between the people and Evo because Evo wants to construct a highway though the TIPNIS [the Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park]. I would say rather that in the whole world a conglomeration of social organizations, a social framework stands against the policies of a group of transnationals that use the states as vehicles to continue plundering.
So it is not a struggle between parties or leaders. That is, who defines the economic policies of Greece? Not the Greek government. It’s the bankers, the transnationals. And here, who defines where the highway goes through the TIPNIS? Evo Morales? The government? No, it is the Brazilian transnationals who are interested in having a route for exporting iron to China. So the states have left off being nation states as such.
And this is leading to extremes, as in the case of Greece, which to me is emblematic. Greece at this moment [January 2012] has a president who was chosen not by the electoral route, he was appointed, I don’t know by whom, but he is a banker. in other words, Greece doesn’t exist anymore. So I think that this new world-wide reality is showing us that the battles now are not in each nation, between parties, between caudillos, between social sectors, between rich and poor. It is this group of transnationals who already have everything and their plan of plunder and destruction versus the people who are organizing a platform to confront these powers. So there are the movements of the “indignados” [indignant ones], like here in 2000 when the people came out against the sale of gas to Chile. It is these policies of the transnationals that start a rapid process of articulation of society to confront these policies of plunder and destruction and of ignoring that people exist. Because for these guys people don’t exist, that is, we don’t exist. That fact, that attitude of considering that you don’t exist, and making all the decisions–“Here is where the highway will go, or we’ll construct a tunnel or build a dam,” as if the people didn’t exist– it’s this that produces, I would say, a process of articulation of indignation. That is what is happening in the world, facing the destruction.
Sharyl Green:  I’m wondering about any initiatives you are working on now. Are you watching what is going on in the world in order to take action, or are you involved in things that respond to this situation?
OO:  I think that one of the particularities of this government, the major crime that it has committed is that a government that rose up out of a series a popular rebellions, this social base that was strong, autonomous, vigorous, very horizontal, very participative, a really strong social base that succeeded in throwing out transnationals, succeeded in throwing out presidents, and brought to this government that came afterwards its strength and its autonomy–that was destroyed by this government.  It cut down those important, fundamentally rural social movements.  Cut them down–bought them off, we say. Afterwards they discredited those social movements who said, “We will maintain our autonomy in relation to any government.
I think that the social fabric, the social base that was so strong and autonomous, and that brought Evo Morales into the government does not exist today. Rather, they are following a process of confrontation, they have policies that are totally discriminatory between sectors.  In other words, there is a disintegration, I would say, of the social fabric that we constructed so laboriously starting in 2000, here in Bolivia. So I think that many people are starting over what we started twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years ago.  We’re doing it again. We are in a process of organization, gaining space from meeting, analysis, proposals, so as to see farther than the parties, farther than the state. That is to say, we are gathering our forces. We are informing people about what is happening–confronting the discourse of the government with what is really going on.
For example, we have got together a group of people, some of whom were in the MAS government, people who supported the MAS electoral process, people who have maintained their autonomy. We have worked in different ways. We’ve written articles that sometimes turn into books, in magazines of every type, answering the false policies of the government and also informing the population about what is really happening.
These are two books that have come out in recent months. [See bibliography below.] This [book is by] a group of writers from Mexico to Argentina who are journalists, activists, social scientists, sociologists…Some are well known, like Raul Zibechi and Raquel Gutierrez. And this one that we have recently published is more about internal problems. Its title is very suggestive, isn’t it? [Shows us a mask resembling the face of Evo Morales, the same mask which is used as an illustration on the cover of the book La MAScarada del Poder.] It’s a mask of Evo’s indigenous face, but behind it is a government that has neatly accommodated itself all over again to these neo-liberal economic policies, and a kind of democracy that we call authoritarian, exclusionary, and discriminatory. That’s the process we are in.
PL: Is there a risk that things might get worse, like a strong uprising of the right against the government, a coup d’etat, or a military coup? In other words, how real is the possibility that things could get worse?
OO: I don’t think there would be any such regressive process. I have an absolute confidence in the people who paid for this process with so much sacrifice and without knowing how to do it. I believe that it would be very difficult for the rightists to return, or a military coup. I think that the people are not going to defend Evo Morales, either.
The important thing is to think beyond Evo Morales, beyond an electoral process. That is, how are we going to maintain this process that cost the people so much, and how will we press on? What a big thing it is to do!
PL: Is another constitutional constituent assembly needed?
OO: I think so. But a constituent assembly without the involvement of parties. Without parties. That’s what I said in the beginning [before the assembly that wrote the current constitution.]
SG: Are women very involved in this social framework? Are they active?
OO: I think that at the social base, yes, there is a participative process that is very ascendant. In the state, even though there is an important presence of women, I think their presence is decorative, but quite subordinate.
SG: At this level, not at the level of the government, but rather in the social base, is there gender equity?
OO: Yes.
[At this point Olivera had other commitments and the interview ended.]
Cochabamba: Water War in Bolivia , by Oscar Olivera in Colaboration with Tom Lewis, South End Press, 2004
La MAScarada del Poder, by Alejandro Almaraz, Omar Fernandez, Roberto Fernandez, Jorge Komadina, Pablo Mamani, Oscar Olivera, Pablo Regalski, and Gustavo Soto, Textos Rebeldes, Cochabamba, 2012
Palabras para tejernos, resistir y transformar en la epoca que estamos viviendo , by Raquel Gutierrez, Raul Zibechi, Natalia Sierra, Pablo Davalos, Pablo Mamani, Oscar Olivera, Hector Mondragon, Vilma Almendra and Emmanuel Rozental, Textos Rebeldes, Cochabamba, 2011

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Venezuela is trailblazing with its demonstration of People Power

Venezuela’s Chavez Signs Series of Laws Giving More Power to Communities


Liverpool, June 18th 2012 ( – Communities organised into communal councils and communes are to be given increased power and access to funding under new legislation approved last Friday by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Making use of the enabling law power granted to him by the National Assembly in December 2010 in the wake of heavy flooding, Chavez approved a series of 11 far-reaching laws relating to communal government, tourism and housing. The laws were signed just 2 days before the enabling law was due to expire on Sunday June 17 in a Presidential Ministers’ Meeting in Caracas.

In an interview following the announcement, Vice-president Elias Jaua said that the new laws had been passed “for the people, for life and for the productive economic development of the nation”.

Communal Power

One of the new laws, entitled “Law for Community Management of Functions, Services and other Powers,” will open the door for organised communities to have greater responsibility in the running of local life and access to more direct funding from the government.

The new law comes under Article 184 of the 1999 Venezuelan Constitution, which states that local and national government must progressively start delegating their responsibilities to Venezuela’s various local bodies of communal power.

Commenting on the new law, Venezuela’s Commune and Social Protection Minister, Isis Ochoa, said that communities would have increased control over the management of local services, as well as more input into Venezuela’s “changing” productive model.

“In this law, mechanisms are established through which community participation can take on functions such as the maintenance of public infrastructure, such as schools,” said Ochoa.

Legislating for People

The other laws passed include modifications to the country’s housing legislation to guarantee that all Venezuelans have access to mortgages in order to buy their homes, as well as the establishment of legal guidelines for state purchase of land for the government’s mass house building programme.

Changes were also made to national tourism legislation to make it easier for the government to invest in the country’s growing tourist industry, and the country’s agricultural laws were also modified in order to facilitate the granting of credit to small and medium sized producers.

Although already underway, the government’s “Knowledge and Work mission” which is hoping to see 3 million out of work Venezuelans trained and employed by 2018 was also officially written into law.

According to the new legislation, the mission is aimed at both women and the unemployed in particular, and is seeking to alter socio-productive relations in the country based around a “new organisational model” constructed through workers’ councils.

A law allowing the government to restructure and re-found the country’s criminal investigation body, the CICPC, was also passed as part of the 11 laws.

Penal Code Reform

In a previous Ministers’ Meeting on Tuesday, President Chavez also gave the go ahead for reform of the country’s penal code, which was passed to the National Assembly for approval last week.

Reform to the country’s penal code has been in discussion for years, with the country’s National Assembly approving reform of the law as early as 2004. Although the law was subsequently reformed in March 2005, provoking backlash from Venezuela’s opposition and human rights organisations, the reform law was then vetoed by President Chavez in August of the same year. According to the government, reforms to the law will mean that justice is carried out more efficiently.

Venezuelan Minister of Prison Services, Iris Varela, said that although reforming the law was not “the whole solution,” it would still act as a “fundamental tool” for combating weaknesses in the Venezuelan judicial system, as required by Venezuela’s Constitution.

Reforms to the law will prioritise ending delays in the national judiciary and the rehabilitation of prisoners. Municipal courts will also be created in a bid to end hold-ups in the judicial process.

The Republic’s Attorney General, Cilia Flores, also commented on the reform, saying that the government was responding to the population’s demands to “end impunity” and change a judicial model that was “accusatory” in nature and “crushed human rights”.

“The president is acting and working by obeying the people, who are screaming for this justice system to be transformed in order to end impunity,” commented Flores on the National Assembly’s radio station.

The new penal code is due to come into effect on January 1st 2013.

Opposition backlash

Venezuela’s political opposition has rejected both the new laws approved by decree and reforms to the country’s penal code, accusing the President of “smashing the State of law into smithereens” and the opposition presidential candidate, Capriles Radonski, charged Chavez with “burying participatory democracy” through his “imposition” of the laws.

Opposition sources also claim that the President is using the laws “unconstitutionally” to turn himself into a “dictator” and that changes to the penal code violate international human rights treaties.

The government has dismissed the claims as “lies,” pointing out that all laws by decree have been approved for the social benefit and increased political participation of the Venezuelan people, and not the centralisation of power in the Executive.

“No legislation took power away from official public institutions or violated the Constitution. All of the laws have been for the Venezuelan people,” responded Vice-president Elias Jaua.


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June 19, 2012 · 10:09 am

Reflections on …

Reflections on the Influence of the World Political Economy on People.

Greetings Brothers and Sisters

Thanks to all the people and governments for all your critical insight and assistance. When we Belizeans of African Ancestry can better understand the reason for our condition we will be able to better identify the problem we are experiencing in our current reality. We will see that most major so called advances in Belize or development as it has been called, has been done on the advice of some elitist industrial group and has all but wrecked this Belizean society. We now live in a level of crime, violence, and disease which reflects the state of our social and spiritual well being. The current condition we live in is justified by a false majority status assumed and promoted by those who currently dominate the global political economy including Belize. We all see and hear Belize is now being described as “impoverished dump by the world by international media”, there is some truth in their statement because we continue to allow the international investors to dump it’s trash on us. A visit to some of these abundant stores all over Belize owned by foreign investors reveal a lot of trash sold as items for human consumption. There is a Mouth Wash, named “Sweet talk” that has no manufacturer information, and is just Soap with water and a drop of mint. There are numerous amounts of expired goods, old rotting tennis shoes which breaks as soon as you wear them a few times, and then you have to fight to get your money or another pair of shoes, A condensed milk being sold that is either made of sugar, chalk and elephant milk we are not sure what the ingredients are. These goods are sold without any restriction or control and because it is POOR PEOPLE who are in need of these cheap goods and services to stretch their dollars. This is called dumping trash on a poor third world country so it is in a country that is yet to elect a vigilant and protective government of Belize guided by the mandate of the people. As a result in this democratic society we are the majority and remain the major discriminated and subordinated, with negative social and economic outcomes. We must all personally, and as a community begin to take responsibility for ourselves, as black, and as grassroot people of African ancestry. Before our very eyes we can see, that the programming on TV is geared to reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence’s, in other words make us consumers, in every aspect of our social and personal lives. We must reconsider and reevaluate the thought processes we use as rational for the activities and all the institutions we have formally taken for granted as working for our Belizean welfare. We the Belizean people must work diligently to put to action, an emergency plan for belize and all Belizeans. As an example for our purposes we can research Durban Plan of Action accepted by the United Nations as a mechanism for social, economical, cultural, and environmental justice for the re-humanization of ourselves and our children.
It is said that society is shaped by the nature of the media by which we communicate. What is our message? How do we communicate the message? Where are our schools which tell our story, teach our history, Where are the books we have published for the benefit of the masses, so that our children may know that we are not the lazy, worthless good for nothing criminals that is projected on the media in so many cases.

We are calling on all our brothers and sisters to join us as we build the” Peoples University without Walls to re-educate ourselves for this change where all Belizean may enjoy a better life and circumstance.

Love, Truth, Peace, Freedom, Justice and Equality

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May 27, 2012 · 8:17 pm