Hernani Da Silva, Ambassador for East Timor to Australia, speaks with Latin Radical's Warwick Fry about the independence day celebrations held last week for Timor Leste, what that day means to him and the people of East Timor, and his own personal experiences of a struggle that dates back to 1975.
Skype phone interview from Venezuela, Friday December 7 2007.
NATIONAL FILM PREMIERE
Now the people have awoken: Exploring Venezuela's revolution
A new film exploring the Venezuelan revolution from New Zealand film-makers Activo Productions.
PREMIERE SCREENING DETAILS
HOBART 6pm, Thursday, December 6, 225 Murray St, Hobart. Ph Mel 0423 978 518
MELBOURNE 4.30pm, Sat, December 8th, Old ETU Offices, Crn Swanston St and Queensberry St, Carlton Ph 0425 289 394 or 0438 447 063
SYDNEY Saturday December 8, 6.30pm Activist Centre, 23 Abercombie St, Chippendale
BLUE MOUNTAINS 7.30pm Mon Dec 10, Tris Elies Red Room, next to Katoomba Station, Katoomba, Ph 4787 7859 for more info.
NEWCASTLE 6.30pm Friday 14 Dec @ Resistance Centre, 472 Hunter St, Newcastle. Ph 4926 5328
Synopsis - Except for beauty queens and oil, Venezuela has never been on the international stage. Now Venezuela is at the center of international controversy: to some it has been stolen by a populist dictator, while for others Venezuela represents the centre of a continent-wide democratic revolution. There is much at stake: Venezuela sits atop the biggest oil reserves in the world and is successfully defiant of US foreign policy. This is a documentary about the Bolivarian Revolution, through the eyes of analysts, and the people who are changing their country and the Latinamerican continent as a whole.
Filmed during the 2006 presidential elections it includes interviews with Noam Chomsky, Eva Golinger, Paul Buchanan, Greg Wilpert and Michael Fox.
December 4, 2007
The December 2 referendum on 69 proposed changes to Venezuela’s constitution resulted in a narrow majority “No” vote. The result was immediately accepted by President Hugo Chavez, who said: “We have fulfilled our promise of respecting our institutions. The umpire has spoken… We declare that we recognise the decision that the people have made. For now we could not do it. …I congratulate my adversaries for their victory. We are prepared for a long battle.''
9,002,439 Venezuelans voted, of which 8,883,746 votes were valid. In the block A vote (the reforms proposed by Chavez), 50.7% voted against and 49.3% voted for. In the block B vote (the reforms proposed by the National Assembly), 51.1% voted against and 48.9% voted for.
This is the first time in 12 national polls since Chavez was elected in 1989 that the opposition has won. Had the proposed constitutional reforms been adopted, they would have significantly extended democracy and social justice in Venezuela. They included the constitutional recognition of new institutions of popular power based on direct democracy, such as the communal councils, and new measures to allow people to directly manage resources and decision-making in their communities. While respecting the right to private property, the reforms recognised new forms of "social property" run by and for the people themselves, and were to give further recognition to the growing number of cooperatives.
The rights of gay men and lesbians would have been recognised in the Constitution, and the voting age reduced to 16 years. The rights and culture of Afro-Venezuelans and indigenous people would also have been Constitutionally protected, and governments would have been obliged to ensure free university education to the entire population. As well, workers' rights would be significantly extended, including a reduction in the working week from 44 to 36 hours, and social security and pensions were guaranteed to approximately 5 million workers in the “informal” economy.
In the words of Robert Hernandez, vice-president of the Venezuelan legislature, the reforms aimed to “transfer greater powers to the people and that's precisely the first step towards socialism. It's not anything other than giving society functions that until now have been privileges of the State."
But the referendum result is far from a fatal blow to the Bolivarian revolution. The fact that 4.3 million people voted for this program of action is in many ways remarkable, a measure of the deepening revolutionary process. As Chavez said after the result was announced: “In the proposals there where some very audacious ideas without precedent.”
Exposing as lies the persistent efforts of the international media to portray Chavez as a “dictator”, the December 2 referendum was thoroughly transparent and democratic. “We will accept the results no matter what they are”, Chavez said as he voted on December 2. “This process has been a gain for democracy in Venezuela. Everyone has the right to express themselves, even if it is done crudely sometimes … For most of Venezuela's history the people have been isolated from the political process. Here popular power will have its say.”
While the opposition can claim an electoral victory, it is not a decisive one. A defining feature of the December 2 poll was that participation (55.9% of the voting-age population) was considerably down from the December 2006 presidential election, in which 74% voted. The abstention rate of 44.4% in the constitution reform poll points to the real story of this referendum.
Compared to last year’s presidential elections, the opposition won very few people over, increasing their vote by less than 100,000. The pro-revolution vote dropped by around 2.8 million, but those votes did not go to the opposition, but to abstention. Commenting on this, Chavez said: “We need to work out what were the reasons for this … but I am convinced that the majority of these people are still with us. They did not vote for the opposition, they abstained due to doubts, fears, lack of time and due to lack of our ability to explain.
Confusion and fear were undoubtedly factors in the outcome. The fact that the proposed reforms aimed to provide a legal framework for significant advances in empowering Venezuela's poor majority was a direct threaten the political and economic power of Venezuelan and US corporate elites, who pulled out all stops in their campaign against the reforms.
Aided and abetted financially, politically and propagandistically by the US government and corporate media, Venezuela’s privileged elite ran a campaign of disinformation, intimidation and attempted destabilisation in the lead-up to the referendum.
A CIA memo uncovered the week before the referendum revealed that the opposition campaign was funded by the US embassy in Venezuela to the tune of US$8 million for propaganda alone. Contrary to international media portrayals of the Chavez government as restricting free speech, the opposition still controls the majority of media outlets in Venezuela and they used them to spread lies and rumours aimed at instilling fears about the proposed constitutional reforms. It was said, for example, that if the reforms were passed the state would be able to take your children and your home, and that small shops would be nationalised.
But the opposition campaign was not limited to propaganda. A month before the referendum, opposition leaders met with US officials who urged them to “organise acts of economic sabotage against infrastructure, destroy the food transport and delivery chain ... and organise a military coup with all means possible, including bloodshed by means of paramilitary force" to stop the constitutional reforms. (These same defenders of the old constitution carried out a short-lived coup in April 2002 that did away with the constitution altogether and dismissed all the freely elected state powers and institutions, including the congress, attorney-general, governors and mayors.)
In Caracas, two weeks before the referendum, anti-Chavez students violently attacked pro-reform students at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. Then, on November 26, anti-Chavez protesters blocking streets in the central Venezuelan state of Carabobo shot three times and killed a worker on a truck full of pro-Chavez workers from local factories who tried to pass the roadblock.
On November 30, the government publicly released a video (see ) revealing the opposition’s strategy of destabilization for the referendum, in which opposition leaders are seen calling on supporters assembled in a church in Caracas to not recognize the results of the referendum and take part in nation-wide protests to overturn the constitutional reforms by “generating a political crisis and crisis of instability”.
These events were consistently ignored or misreported by the international media, which continues to portray the opposition as peaceful “anti-dictatorship” protesters.
International media lies
Following the referendum result, the corporate media will of course be triumphant. Within minutes of the result being announced, Reuters was again pedalling its lies in an article that appeared almost simultaneously in online newspapers around the world, declaring: “Mr Chavez, 53, has said he wants to rule until he dies”. The reforms, said Reuters, would have allowed “Mr Chavez - who has been in office since 1999 - to run for re-election indefinitely, control foreign currency reserves, appoint loyalists over regional elected officials and censor the media if he declares an emergency … [and] boosted his powers to expropriate private property”. The fact that almost every western democracy empowers its government to declare states of emergency (US presidents can declare states of emergency that suspend citizens' normal rights and liberties for up to two years) and that, unlike in Australia and the US, the Venezuelan constitution grants people the ability to recall any elected official, including the president, before their term finishes, was not mentioned.
The Reuters coverage claimed that Chavez still “wields enormous power in a country he has pledged to turn into a socialist state. His supporters dominate Congress, the courts and election authorities … [and] Mr Chavez had tried to make the referendum vote a black-and-white plebiscite on his rule.” This media spin is almost surreal: a “dictator” defeated in an undisputedly democratic election called by his government who immediately accepts the vote just doesn't add up. In Chavez’s own words, the December 2 referendum “demonstrated the credibility of our constitution [adopted in 1999, after Chavez was first elected] and the institutions that it has created, in our political system and Bolivarian democracy. Venezuelan democracy has matured and every process that unfolds allows it to continue to mature.”
The revolution continues
The revolution has won every major battle with the opposition forces since 2002, until this referendum. But alongside the opposition’s recent electoral victory is genuinely mass support for – and increasingly mass “ownership” of – the social missions, the new democratic structures, the economy and all the concrete content of the developing revolution. The opposition have won this election, but it is quite another thing to confront and defeat the increasingly organised and armed working people in an all-out struggle for power.
That around 2.8 million people who voted for Chavez last year were not convinced of the reforms does not amount to a rejection of what is contained in the proposed reforms, but indicates that the revolutionary forces were unable to successfully counter the media offensive and convince millions of Chavez supporters why they should back the reforms. It is in this context that Chavez's statement, “This Bolivarian republic will keep getting stronger. This is not a loss; for me this is another `For now’”, should be understood. The battle of ideas continues.
“We have been a people under fire, a people that has faced an … artillery of lies and rumours”, Chavez said. “However, it has been a massive step forward politically that 49% have voted for a socialist project … We will continue in the battle to construct socialism within the framework of the constitution. The reform proposals will continue to be put forward. It continues to be alive. It will not die.”
The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network is organising public events in a number of cities in December to discuss the constitutional reforms and the outcomes of the referendum. Visit for details, and for links to further information about the Venezuelan revolution.
Roberto Perez is featured in the excellent documentary "The Power of Community - How Cuba Survived Peak Oil".from Robyn Francis
There has been a resounding response to Roberto Perez' visit to Australia in March-April 2008 with groups from NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland registering their interest to host Roberto. A very full draft itinerary has been developed to accommodate these and some additional potential stops factored in which will require local organisations or people to coordinate. The visit will feature 3 or 4 major conference presentations including the International Permaculture Convergence APC9 in Sydney over the Easter weekend.
This update includes information for hosts and convenors including a media kit.
CUBA-AUSTRALIA PERMACULTURE EXCHANGE (CAPE)
ROBERTO PEREZ - Australian Tour 2008
Update: December 1, 2007
First a big thank you for the resounding response to the news of Roberto's Oz tour to launch the first stage of the Cuba-Australia Permaculture Exhange. Australia is exceptionally privileged to have Roberto take so much time out of his busy life to come and share the Cuban experience with us as the first stage of the Cuba-Australia Permaculture Exchange.
The flights have been reserved and an itinerary drafted, and now it's time to settle some of the details before the summer holidays slow things down. This includes paying for the air tickets as these are required to get Roberto's visa application in process (this can take up to 6 weeks), also cheap seats on flights are booking out fast.
Background to CAPE - for those new to the list Cuban and Australian permaculturists have developed a special relationship over the years, from the initial Ozzies that went over to teach the first PDC there in the early ‘90's, a visit from Seed Savers and partnerships forged by ongoing volunteers like Pam Morgan. The Cuban's expressed deep gratitude to the Australian permaculture community and have requested support once again to send me over to work with them in developing integrated urban planning and ecovillage strategies. Such an undertaking would be on a completely volunteer basis and an honour to undertake. I have offered to donate 6 weeks of my time and skills to go to Cuba, if the cost of getting there and back can be assisted. In discussions with colleagues on my return from IPC8, Wadzy suggested to first bring Roberto out here for an Australian tour, to raise the funds to cover the full exchange costs - everyone liked the idea including Roberto.
The Cubans insist that I return with Roberto to complete the exchange. So in effect Roberto has agreed to come out here to help raise the money to get me over to Cuba-and I am working hard to get him out here!!! Seems like a fair exchange hey?!
Read background articles about CAPE at http://www.permaculture.com.au
Thanks for your support - Roberto's visit has huge potential to bring communities together and promote the solutions permaculture has to offer in the transition to a low-carbon future.
4-6 March Auckland NZ
8-18 March: Nthn NSW
Djanbung Gardens Public presentation Fri 14
1-day Workshop Sat 15
Lismore - SCU Date TBC
Other NC presentations e.g. Byron,
19 March: Travel to Sydney - arrive 20th
20-25 Mar APC-9 , Sydney - Penny Pyatt
26-29 Mar Other Sydney and region presentations
e.g. Latin Club?, UWS?, other...
30 Mar NSW Sth Coast - Bega - John Champagne
1 April NE Vic - Dave Arnold
3 April Ballarat/Hepburn - Steve Burns
5 April Melbourne - Petra
7 April Geelong/SW Vic - Fern
9 April Adelaide
11-13 April International Climate Conference (location TBC: Melb/Syd)
14 April Fly to Gold Coast/Nimbin for R&R
16 April Brisbane?
17-20 April Sunshine Coast
Followed by a few days to relax, visit World heritage rainforests etc before returning to Cuba
Havana-Sydney return flight, $3550
Visa and other core travel costs $1000
Domestic travel within Australia approx $1300
Travel Allowance for Roberto $1000
NB Roberto will have limited cash resources and this is the
minimum remuneration for his sundry and personal costs within Australia
Reciprocal exchange visit- flight only $3550
Total Exchange cost: $10,400
(Wadsy was right when he said $10,000 needed to be raised for the whole project) Any funds raised in excess of the basic costs above will go towards sending resources and funds to Cuba to support the permaculture initiatives there.
Sponsorships and Fundraising
Funds are urgently required to secure the flight bookings. Sponsors depositing funds of $500 or more into the CAPE account before Dec 20 may choose to be listed as sponsors on the official tour promotional materials. The purchase
costs for the flight tickets has been temporarily covered through a personal loan which needs to be re-embursed as soon as possible. Funds and donations by cheque/money order payable to ‘CAPE" , mail to PO Box 379, Nimbin NSW 2480. Electronic transfers: Bank: Summerland Credit Union, Cullen St Nimbin; BSB 802-222; Account Number 22267099; Name: Erda Institute Incorporated
Hosts & Convenors
Groups hosting Roberto and convening presentations will need to organise all local transport, accommodation/billeting and take care of any sundry expenses. Each event will need to contribute to the CAPE fund. We recommend convenors budget for $5 per person attending public presentations to be paid into the CAPE fund. Convenors will be responsible for all costs associated with events they are organising, including venue and local promotion.
A media kit will be sent to each convenor with a poster and flyer template/master for local printing and a sample press release for promotion.
All engagements will be promoted on the www.permaculture.com.au. The site will have a download folder containing each event's posters and promotional materials for easy download and distribution. There is a forum now on the site for communications about the visit and CAPE in general. To make postings or contributions to the forum you have to sign up.
CUBA-AUSTRALIA PERMACULTURE EXCHANGE (CAPE)
Erda institute Inc and Permaculture Education
Djanbung Gardens, PO Box 359 Nimbin 2480 Ph 02-6689 1755 '
in association with the Foundation for Nature and Humanity, Havana, Cuba.
proudly sponsored by:
Permaculture North Inc •
Nelson D'Avila, the Venezuelan Charge d'Affaires to Australia and Oceania addresses the Greenleft Weekly dinner in November descibing Venezuela's leadership role in resisting US pressures to eliminate socialism on the planet.
Glebe Coroner's Court handed down a finding last month that the 5 journalists killed at Balibo in Timor Leste in 1975 were murdered by an invading Indonesian force which both the Australian and Indonesian governments at the time were denying was in progress, or even planned. The Coroner recommended that there should be further investigation to establish whether this act constituted a war crime.
Jim Dunn, who was the Australian Consul about that time, and who has since been active in the United Nations and Human Rights bodies to claim justice for the East Timorese people talks about the significance of this finding, and what it means for the Timorese, the Australian and Indonesian governments, and the families of the murdered newsmen.