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Disney’s animated movie “Up!”, featuring the striking landscapes of southeastern Venezuela, has opened in many theaters around the U.S. In an interview to the Associated Press, the film’s director and story supervisor discussed the trip they took to Angel Falls and the tepuis (a table-top mountain) of Venezuela and Brazil during the making of the film. They described it as “the most magnificent trip that most of us would take in our lifetime” and called on tourists to be “respectful of the locations” and not “ruin them ’cause they are really beautiful places.” Watch the trailer featuring Angel Falls below.

Coca Cola ZeroWell, looks like Venezuela has done what many consumer advocacy groups and medical experts have been hoping the US would do for some time.

One of the many diet soft drinks known to contain potentially carcinogenic ingredients like aspartame and acesulfame potassium has been taken off of Venezuelan store shelves and will no longer be available for purchase. It’s a start health experts say.

Yesterday, the Venezuelan Health Ministry made the announcement that “Coke Zero” would not be sold while health authorities investigate its ingredients for potentially unsafe substances.

Venezuelans can now buy cell phones for the equivalent of just US $13.95, thanks to a new state-run company that put its first 5,000 units on the market yesterday in Caracas.

Eager shoppers snapped up the first bunch, and the AP reports that another 5,000 will be in stores soon.

The tiny phone, dubbed “El Vergatario,” is equipped with a camera, radio, and mp3 player.

The firm that makes them, a joint venture by the governments of Venezuela and China, is known as Vetelca. This is not an isolated effort, but rather, part of a broader plan to promote affordable technology (you may recall the “Bolivarian Computer,” and the adoption of open-source Linux operating systems).

“El Vergatario” is only sold on the domestic market right now, but depending on its success, it could eventually become an export. And because it is literally the cheapest cell phone in the world, it is likely to be quite competitive.

capypiccr

Venezuela’s plains region is home to the capybara (in Spanish, chigüire), which is the world’s largest rodent. These herbivores can weigh up to 100 pounds and live most of their lives in water. When they are born, they actually swim better than they walk, according to a zookeeper in Parque del Este in Caracas.

Sadly, chigüires are sometimes hunted and eaten for Easter dinner despite the fact that, during Lent, there is a religious prohibition against eating meat. During the time of colonization, the native chigüire was misrepresented to the Catholic church by the Spanish conquistadors, who wrote to the church officials for permission to eat the animal, which was unknown in Europe. The Spaniards said that chigüis lived in the water and resembled fish, conveniently leaving the hair and four feet out of the description.

By and large, chigüires are friends, not food, and people in the llanos keep them as pets. Recently,  the chigüire has become a subject for popular art, and can be found on t-shirts and logos everywhere in Venezuela.

Spanish-speakers will enjoy a popular sytirical news blog in Venezuela known as El Chigüire Bipolar.

gx-study-abroad1

Want to study in Venezuela and learn some Spanish? Since you can’t find everything on the internet, we recommend traveling to Venezuela. We promise you won’t find an opportunity like this one anywhere else.

Global Exchange provides a unique opportunity to English-speaking students to get to know Venezuela in a beautiful town located at the foot of Andes.  Mérida is a popular tourist destination and home to the Universidad de Los Andes.

The fall and spring semester academic programs are designed to increase students’ knowledge of contemporary Venezuelan society. The goal is to create links and build bridges between advocates of social justice in the global North and like-minded people in Latin America. Global’s motto is “building people to people ties”, and you’ll leave Venezuela with lots of new friends.

The 12-week program is built around intensive Spanish language training, essential for anyone serious about getting to know the people of the patria querida. Courses focus on Venezuelan history, culture, and politics. You can earn 15 undergraduate or graduate credits while engaging with contemporary and alternative development issues inside and outside the classroom.

Frequent exchanges with community leaders involved in social change on the ground make this a truly one-of-a-kind experience. The people at Global Exchange have worked within the communities of Mérida for many years. They know the terrain, and can’t wait to show you around!

Here’s the link to learn more.

TRINIDAD-AMERICAS-SUMMIT-CHAVEZ-OBAMA

It finally happened…the moment we’d all been waiting for! After years of strained relations in which George Bush would scarcely say his name, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at last got the respect he deserves from a US president.

Those of you who’ve hoped for improved US – Venezuela relations all these years no doubt smiled all day Saturday after seeing the photos. Maybe a few of you were even a little misty-eyed. The now-famous handshake even made the front page of the Saturday New York Times and has since been the subject of endless television, radio and print commentary.

The two leaders were friendly and gregarious, and Chavez presented Obama with a seminal work by Eduardo Galeano, The Open Veins of Latin America. The book has since enjoyed a meteoric rise in sales on the internet. It may not be easy to find in the library for a while, but is worth a read if you can get your hands on a copy.

It appears that the Summit of the Americas was a monumental step forward. From easing restrictions on Cuba to greeting leaders with an air of mutual respect and equality, things seem to be changing for the better.

Since the handshake, both the US and Venezuela are now considering the return of ambassadors. It remains to be seen how bilateral relations will play out, but prospects for respect and cooperation seem a bit brighter this Monday morning.

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According to Billboard Music, the band Mongrel is “genre smashing”. The supergroup promotes peace and political consciousness in their lyrics.

Comprised of  members from several bands, including Reverend & the Makers, Poisonous Poets, Arctic Monkeys, and Babyshambles, Mongrel is set to put some Venezuelan flavor in their tunes.

This month they’ll travel to Venezuela to launch a musical program and give a free show.

Mongrel is dedicated to sharing music and will give away thousands of CDs when they arrive in Caracas later this month. 400,000 copies of their last album “Better than Heavy” were distributed for free throughout Britain.

They’ll also make an appearance on the President Chavez’s weekly television show Aló Presidente. Plans are in the works to do a new album based on Jamaican reggae and Venezuela folk music, hopefully featuring Damian Marley.

Watch this video of their song “The Menace”.

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