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Archive for October, 2008

“West Side Story” is coming to Broadway, and it will do so with the help of Venezuelan performer George Akram.

Akram is cast as Bernardo, the gang member who leads the Sharks. The role was played by George Chakiris (pictured at right, center) in the original 1961 movie.

A very talented singer and dancer, Akram comes from an artistic family. His mother is the choreographer Anita Vivas, and his father, Antonio Drija, was in Cirque du Soleil. Akram’s brother, Victor Drija, is also a famous dancer in Venezuela.

Akram achieved success on the national stage in productions like “Visa para un sueño,” a musical based on the music of Juan Luis Guerra. He moved to the U.S. in 2001 and has since shared the stage with an impressive bunch: salsa singers Celia Cruz and Oscar d’León, pop phenoms Gloria Estefan and Paulina Rubio, and even reggaeton powerhouses Wisin y Yandel and Don Omar.

We look forward to seeing Venezuela represented among the cast of West Side Story in New York starting in March 2009!

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It’s official! Venezuela’s social revolution takes to the skies today with the launch of the satellite dubbed “Simon Bolivar” in remembrance of the independence leader.

The BBC reported that this telecommunications tool will cover all of Latin America and be used, ideally by many countries, “to enhance regional integration and also for social programmes such as tele-education and tele-medicine.” Click on the BBC link to watch an informative video.

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Called “one of Latin America’s Kinetic Art masters,” Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz Diez, age 85, works with the eye’s perception of color. His current exhibit at the Americas Society in New York is his first major solo show in the U.S.

The installation “Chromosaturation” features 3 white-walled rooms saturated with colored lights. The colors appear to change and blend as the viewer walks through the rooms and participates in a “direct chromatic experience.”

“Cruz Diez is considered a pioneer in the use of color as a participatory tool as well as a visionary who pushed the boundaries of art towards everyday life,” according to the website of the Americas Society.

The exhibit runs until January 2009.

Click here to read an artist profile, find out the location of the gallery, and get links to videos and a panel discussion about the work of Cruz Diez.

Check out this article from the Los Angeles Times with great photos!

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Today is an exciting and historic day for Venezuela, as it was elected a member of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. ECOSOC is a vitally important coordinating body of the United Nations and serves as a “central forum for the discussion of economic and social issues.”

Venezuela “will have the opportunity to show the world the importance of the social projects being implemented from the South”, said Ruben Dario Molina of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry.

Venezuela will begin its service in ECOSOC on January 1, 2009. During its 3 year term, Venezuela will work with the nations of the world to:

-promote higher standards of living, full employment, and economic and social progress

-identify solutions to international economic, social and health problems

-facilitate international cultural and educational cooperation

-encourage universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms

Venezuela has been leading by example for the last decade, and now has the chance to share that experience with the world.

Click here to learn more about ECOSOC and here for more information about Venezuela’s election to the Council.

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Last Tuesday, Venezuela’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Jorge Valero, signed an important piece of human rights legislation: the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

“Enforced disappearance” refers to “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State.”

It is a crime that is commonly associated with the “dirty wars” in South America’s Southern Cone in the 1970s and 80s, and that has been brought to the world’s attention by groups such as Argentina’s Madres de la Plaza de Mayo.

Now, Venezuela has joined 78 other countries around the world that vow to prevent disappearance and prosecute cases.

Venezuela ratified the OAS Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance a decade ago. This new convention is yet another commitment made by the Chavez government to ensuring respect for human rights and civil protections.

Read news in Spanish here or check out the full text of the convention in English here. Find out more about Venezuela’s Permanent Mission to the UN here.

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Venezuela’s Gustavo Dudamel is on his way to becoming a household name. He is credited with reviving classical music, and will surely gain more attention when he assumes his post as conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra in 2009.

It so happens that another Venezuelan conductor, Eduardo Marturet (pictured above), heads up the Miami Symphony Orchestra. Though Marturet honed his music skills abroad in Europe, he later returned to Venezuela and preceded Dudamel as director of Venezuela’s Youth Symphony Orchestra through 1995. More recently, in 2006, his “Encantamento” won a Latin Grammy for Best Classical Album.

The Miami Symphony Orchestra began its 20th season last Saturday. The first performance featured a star performer, the violinist Alexis Cardenas, who is a also Venezuelan. Watch him wow the crowd in the video below.

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On October 6, 1976, 73 people were killed in the bombing of Cubana Airlines flight 455. To mark the 22nd anniversary of this tragic loss of life, the New York University chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild staged a tribunal of the man accused of this and other acts of terrorism. Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA agent and current Miami resident, is wanted in several countries including Venezuela.

“Hopefully people will listen to this, and there will be more discussion about it,” said a student who watched the tribunal.

You be the judge:

Read coverage of the NYU event here and listen to historical evidence presented at the trial by Jane Franklin (about 32 minutes into this recording). If you want to read more, check out this L.A. Times editorial. Use the comments section to tell us what you think.

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