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Posts Tagged ‘Cuba’

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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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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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copia-de-mision-sucre-1UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics says that Venezuela has the second-highest rate of university enrollment in Latin America. At 83% enrollment, Venezuela is second only to Cuba, and far above the regional average of just 30%, Radio Nacional de Venezuela reports.

To keep up the momentum, Venezuela is opening several new institutions of higher education this year.

Last Tuesday, President Chavez announced that the following five new public universities would soon open their doors: The University of Hydrocarbons, National University of Security Studies, University of the Peoples of the South, School of Telecommunications and Computer Science, and University Institute of Civil Aviation.

Venezuela’s National Council of Universities has also approved 22 new majors in everything ranging from tourism to nursing to petroleum and sugar engineering.

Much of the progress made on education in Venezuela can be attributed to the country’s social missions, which have helped change the lives of millions of citizens. “Mission Alma Mater” builds new universities and learning spaces to meet the needs of the increasing number of students seeking higher education. “Mission Sucre” has greatly expanded the country’s higher education system, with the goal of granting universal access to public universities.

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Representatives from 33 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean just finished meeting in Brazil. By all accounts, the atmosphere was convivial.

Believe it or not, this “Rio Group” summit marked first time that such a large regional event has occurred without the presence of the United States. So what does this mean for the hemisphere? It depends on who you ask.

The AP reports that President Lula da Silva of Brazil said:

In the middle of an unprecedented global crisis, our countries are discovering that they aren’t part of the problem,” Mr. da Silva said. “They can and should be fundamental players in the solution […]

There was a time when our friend Chavez was all alone. Who would have imagined 10 years ago our beloved Evo Morales as president? Would would have thought that a liberation theology bishop could become Paraguay’s president?

President Chavez said:

The important thing is that we are here together, without the patronage of the empire. The way is beginning, a new way – our way from the South.

And of course, Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington had this commentary to add:

This is a healthy development and should not be seen as a rejection of the U.S. On the contrary, Latin America wants to deal with the U.S. and other major world powers, but it wants to do so on more equal terms than in the past.

Read more about the Latin American summit from the AFP and the New York Times, and use the comments section to tell us what you think about the events.

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Another Venezuelan film participating in the Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana escaped our notice yesterday: Cyrano Fernandez by director Alberto Arvelo.

The movie is a modern-day version of the French drama Cyrano de Bergerac that takes place in the Caracas barrios. This love story features music by the popular Venezuelan rap group Tres Dueños. Check out their song “La Mala Vida,” and watch the trailer for Cyrano Fernandez with English subtitles below.

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The 30th annual International Festival of New Latin American Cinema starts today in Havana, Cuba. Venezuela has nine entries in the festival. Of these, three feature films are in the running to win the festival’s crowning “Coral” Prizes:

  • 1, 2 y 3 mujeres by Andrea Catalán, Anabel Rodríguez and Silvia Andrea Ríos Goncalves (trailer)
  • El tinte de la fama by Alejandro Bellame Palacios (trailer)
  • Macuro, la fuerza de un pueblo by Hernán Jabes (trailer)

Currently making headlines are two Steven Soderbergh films about the life of Ernesto “Che” Guevara starring Benicio del Toro. A staggering 500 entries will be aired at the festival, which runs through December 12th.

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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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