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Archive for the ‘The Region’ Category

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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Venezuela defeated Colombia yesterday in the South American qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup. The game was played in Cachamay Stadium in Puerto Ordaz, located the eastern state of Bolivar.

Colombia was one player short at the end of the game, due to a yellow card. The Venezuelan team took advantage of their extra man to win the game 2 – 0.

Substitute striker Nicolas Fedor, seen at left, was the first to score. Left-footed midfielder Juan Arango delivered the second goal on a free kick late in the game. Venezuela is currently in 8th place, just behind Colombia.

The vinotinto is keeping the dream alive! Stay tuned as they play Bolivia in June. Read a New York Times article about yesterday’s game.

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Venezuela is the nation with the 10th-largest amount of biodiversity in the world. Efforts to protect that biodiversity are highlighted in a new study by RAISG, or La Red Amazónica de Información Socioambiental Georreferenciada.

According to the study, Venezuela has the second-highest proportion of its Amazon region protected. The Amazonian basin covers an astounding 3 million square miles in South America, overlapping several different countries and encompassing a population of perhaps 33 million. Venezuela has already protected 71.5% of its share — second only to Ecuador’s 79.7%, and far ahead of Colombia, Brazil, and Peru.

RAISG measured Indigenous territory and other protected lands, which are generally the best conserved. Venezuela has 43 national parks. A respect for nature is enshrined in the constitution of Venezuela under a chapter that guarantees all citizens the right to a safe and healthy environment.

Since the Amazon Rainforest is often called the “lungs” of South America, we can breathe a little easier thanks to Venezuela.

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The arepa is truly a food without borders. Though it is emblematic of Venezuela, the savory cornmeal snack has a presence abroad, too! Here are some suggestions for where to find arepas in the U.S.:

In New York, the Caracas Arepa Bar (pictured above) is located on 7th St. the East Village. Here, rumor has it you are nearly required to to try Venezuelan-style guacamole, called guasacaca. Rivals El Cocotero are over on West 18th St.

Lucky for folks in Boston, the up-and-coming Orinoco has two locations, one in the South End and another in Brookline.  They have a nice date-worthy ambiance and also sell t-shirts with funny slogans like “arepa boy” and “no se aceptan sifrinos!” (no snobs allowed!).

This may not be the policy at Coupa Cafe in Beverley Hills and Palo Alto, which claims to sell “the finest mountain grown single estate coffees from Venezuela.” It has an entire section of its menu dedicated to gourmet arepas.

Surely Miami is home to the highest density of Venezuelan eateries, but we recommend you try this one first: Caballo Viejo (named for a famous folkloric song by Simon Diaz ) has been described as a “hole-in-the-wall” and a “mom and pop” restaurant that is clean and simple.

Where else do you like to eat arepas? Let us know in the comments section.

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Bolivia’s President Evo Morales announced today that Bolivia will soon begin building recycled “petrocasas” with the help of Venezuela. These low-cost plastic dwellings are built with waste generated by oil refining, and are providing a solution to economic and environmental pressures. Tens of thousands have already been erected in Venezuela as well as Cuba and Peru. It was in Peru where Morales first saw the petrocasas and the role they played in the country’s recovery after a 2007 earthquake.

With an investment of $80 million, Bolivia will open a factory to produce petrocasas in Oruro. The first recipients will reportedly be the relatives of the victims of Bolivia’s “gas wars” of 2003. The eco-friendly houses will go up in low income areas, including El Alto and Trinidad. The project was announced at an event commemorating the 228th anniversary of the first uprising against the Spanish colonists.

See our last post on petrocasas here. For coverage in Spanish, see Reuters.

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09

The Caribbean World Series has been unfolding this week in Mexicali, Mexico. Venezuela’s Tigres de Aragua have remained undefeated, and could take the title if they beat Mexico tonight.

Yesterday, they defeated last year’s champions, the Dominican Republic’s Tigres de Licey. Venezuela used five different pitchers during the game, beating the opposing Tigres 3-2. For details, see the AP coverage.

Venezuela is a perennial powerhouse in professional baseball. The country’s Leones de Caracas won the Caribbean World Series in 2006.

UPDATE: They did it! The Tigres won the Caribbean Series again!

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The World Social Forum (WSF) concluded yesterday in Belém, Brazil. Over 130,000 grassroots activists and members of civil society groups from all over the globe gather each year to present alternatives to the concurrent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The WSF, which is based in a concept of social justice, hosted discussions on topics ranging from the global economic crisis to environmental preservation to Indigenous issues and even vegetarianism. Socially conscious people met to “coordinate strategies and build partnerships,” share in cultural events, and make their voices heard by the many leaders in attendance.

One participant said:

We’re pointing out things that the developed nations don’t want to see. This is a scream of hope from the bottom, to say that we’re here and we want to change things.

-Luiz Miguel Fernandez Vega, 28, León, Mexico

Several resolutions were adopted  to remedy current crises and advance the cause of social justice. These include:

- Nationalization of banks
– No reduction of salaries at enterprises hit by the economic crisis
– Energy and food sovereignty for the poor
– Withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and Afghanistan
– Sovereignty and autonomy for Indigenous peoples
– The right to land, decent work, education, and health for all
– Democratization of media and knowledge

The ambitious aims of the WSF seem to be coming into sharper focus as the world changes and old political and economic paradigms are shifting. Many participants came away from the Forum with a renewed sense of hope that “another world is possible,” and that they can help make it happen.

To read more, check out these articles from AFP, IPS, and the Washington Post

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