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Archive for June, 2008

A favorite Venezuelan baseball player, Magglio Ordonez, will be out of the game for 2 weeks after he pulled a muscle.

The injury occurred on Saturday, when his team, the Detroit Tigers, beat the Colorado Rockies 7-6.

He told the press, “I’ll be back when I’m ready.” Get well soon, Magglio!

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Venezuelans know their history. This fact is emphasized in a Florida Times-Union column today that describes a guided visit to a mural in Caracas that depicts many aspects of the past. The author was hosted by Global Exchange, which does “reality tours” in Latin America.

Here is an excerpt: “It begins with pictures of its original inhabitants, the Arawak, Carib and Chibcha Indians, to depictions of Spanish conquistadors and African slaves. There were depictions of icons like Simon Bolivar, who led Venezuela in gaining its independence from Spain, as well as scenes of poverty and other modern day challenges. … What got to me, though, was how the art drew so many people off the streets and into a conversation.”

Does the mural sound familiar? It can be seen outside of the Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas. Or just look closer — its beautiful imagery is pictured on the header of this blog.

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By now, you’ve surely heard of Venezuela’s renowned music program “El Sistema,” which gives young children from poor families an opportunity to learn how to play classical music. The program is 30 years old, and currently reaches quarter of a million students. It is also having a big impact around the world.

Here is a roundup of articles you may have missed:

The Associated Press writes that Venezuela’s youth orchestra program has turned the country into “a powerhouse for producing talented musicians.” The prime example is conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who will head the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra in 2009. “‘El Sistema’ has given me everything. It gave me the possibility of having a path in life with music,” he said.

Reuters notes that rich countries like the U.S. and and UK are “lining up” to imitate the Venezuelan program. Hundreds of thousands of children in Venezuela have sidestepped a life of poverty and crime through the free education, so why not try it elsewhere? L.A. and Baltimore are developing similar youth orchestras.

Wired Magazine opines that, regardless of what people think about President Chavez, nothing can touch the shining example of his state-funded music education program. The heavy investments in poverty relief and human development indeed show that Venezuela has its priorities straight.

The New York Times reports that Venezuela is testing the peaceful techniques of “El Sistema” in prisons across the country. Here, “budding musicians include murderers, kidnappers, thieves and… dozens of “narcomulas,” or drug mules, as small-scale drug smugglers are called.” If the attempt to humanize jails works out, prison reform in Venezuela may also set the standard for other nations.

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We love petrocasas, the eco-friendly houses that are taking poor families out of the crumbling barrios in Venezuela and also in Cuba.

That’s why this new coverage from BBC News is so exciting!

The petrocasas program is setting new standards for how developing countries can address poverty and related housing issues in a way that is affordable and effective. Not only that, but petrocasas are far better for the environment than hodgepodge slums are. They are made from recycled waste generated by oil refining!

BBC correspondent James Ingham reports. Click here to watch.

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Now here is something that is good for the economy and the environment.

Idle estates in rural Venezuela are being used for small-scale agricultural production by local farming cooperatives. This is a result of a program of land reform that has benefited over 100,000 families. The cooperatives have helped poor and previously landless communities become powerful producers of items such as beef, dairy products, grains, and vegetables.

Many cooperative members are aware that their work is helping offset a food crisis that threatens poor communities all around the world. They know how much Venezuela relies on imported goods, and have taken an active role in ensuring that local supples are available. Read a great IPS article here.

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Paraguay’s President elect, former Bishop Fernando Lugo, visited Caracas yesterday to meet with President Chavez. We can probably expect to see lots of cooperation between Venezuela and Paraguay once Lugo is sworn in in August.

Amazingly, Paraguay spent the last 60 years under one-party rule. With the election of Lugo last April 20th, the country voted to renew democracy.

Read about yesterday’s meeting between Chavez and Lugo here (in English) or here (Spanish).

Oh — and did you hear? Venezuela will produce more oil.

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In Venezuela, going to the bank is getting easier for people who live in low-income neighborhoods.

The government is pushing financial institutions nationwide to open up in areas that historically lacked access to banking. Small loans are being given out in these areas, which are hotbeds of entrepreneurship.

The technique of microfinance, as it is known in development lingo, has for many years been practiced by government lending agencies such as the Banco de Desarrollo (the development bank known as BANDES) and Banco de la Mujer (the women’s bank, BANMUJER). Micro-lending has been an important part of Venezuela’s anti-poverty effort.

Venezuela continues to experience high rates of economic growth and consumer activity. Small businesses open up every day. Now, the poor may stand to benefit more as the private banks catch on and capture the market for financial services. Read more here.

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