Archive for the 'venezuela' Category

Progress for same-sex rights in Cuba

Today marked a great victory and the promise for substantial future progress for our gay brothers and lesbian sisters living in Cuba. reports that:

“Cuba‘s gay community celebrated unprecedented openness — and high-ranking political alliances — with a government-backed campaign against homophobia on Saturday.


“Cuban state television gave prime-time play Friday to the U.S. film “Brokeback Mountain,” which tells the story of two cowboys who conceal their homosexual affair.

“Prejudice against homosexuals remains deeply rooted in Cuban society, but the government has steadily moved away from the Puritanism of the 1960s and 1970s, when homosexuals hid their sexuality for fear of being ridiculed, fired from work or even imprisoned.

“Now Cuba’s parliament is studying proposals to legalize same-sex unions and give gay couples the benefits that people in traditional marriages enjoy.

“Parliament head Ricardo Alarcon said the government needs to do more to promote gay rights, but said many Cubans still need to be convinced.”

The significance of this move from a political perspective should not be overlooked. There is not a single Latin American country that recognizes same-sex marriages due to the high religiosity of the Latin American culture.

Thus, when we look at the recent good moves on this file in Cuba in concert with the multiple attempts by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to make Venezuela the first country on the face of the planet to explicitly recognize same-sex marriages in the text of the constitution, it is clear that socialism, when done right, is a way forward for everyone.

There’s still a lot of work to be done throughout Latin America for the GLBT community, and we should especially make sure not to let the governments — even allied socialist governments — guide the agenda. But, I think, there is very good reason for optimism given these developments.

Video: The War on Democracy [by John Pilger]

I recently came across this inspiring and fantastically-directed video is by the progressive Australian filmmaker John Pilger.  This documentary about Chavez and Venezuela features both impressive cinematography and depth of analysis which truly exceeded my expectations.


Video curtosy of the good comrades at Venezuela Analysis.


Tariq Ali on Chavez, Venezuela and the struggle against neoliberalism (audio)

socialist-podcast.pngEpisode #5 of the Paulitics Podcast has now been released. This episode features a talk by noted radical intellectual, Trotskyist and salient figure with the New Left Review publication, Tariq Ali.

Ali’s talk is loosely on the topic of his 2006 book entitled “Pirates Of The Caribbean: Axis Of Hope” and features a fantastic discussion of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela including both the challenges to the revolution  and the successes of the revolution.

venezuelan-flag.pngchavez-and-supporters.pngAlso in the episode, I take some time to despell some more myths regarding the constitutional reform package.  I despell the myth that the reform package was hugely centralizing or authoritarian by pointing out that several of the reforms were actually decentralizing and libertarian in nature.  In fact, some of the proposals, including the proposal to decrease of the central government’s share of taxation revenues so as to increase the share of the revenues for the various states, and the reform of the central bank are all things that the Ron Paul fanatics have been clamoring for in the United States.

To listen to Ali’s talk or to download the episode, click here.

To find out how to subscribe to the podcast and have episodes brought to you automatically, click here.

To view past episodes of the Paulitics Podcast, click here.





Propaganda in Action: An unfair referendum in Venezuela?

Whenever anything dramatic happens, one this is for certain, you can first expect a massive flurry of propaganda from the corporate media.

I’ve already been reporting on some of the ongoing propagandistic coverage of tonight’s Venezuela referendum here and here.

Here’s the latest morsel of propaganda, this time from the good folks at AFP:

“Unlike in past elections, there were no European Union or Organization of American States election monitors” (source)

Now, to be fair, the AFP article does point out that despite the lack of EU or OAS observers, ‘international observers invited by the government’ have overseen the referendum, but this is stated as if it is a consolation prize.

From this article, one would get the impression that there was only hand-picked, minimal election oversight from the international community.

In fact, the truth of the matter is radically different.

100 observers from Antigua and Barbuda, Germany, Argentina, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Spain, The United States, The Philippines, Finland, France, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Holland, Honduras, England, Italy, Mali, Namibia, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Switzerland, Surinam and Uruguay were present to oversee the election results. (sources here and here).

Canada should implement many of the reforms proposed by Chavez

venezuelan-flag.pngIf, like me, you live in the Western, capitalist world, you likely haven’t heard anything about the revolutionary referendum that just occurred in Venezuela except the lie that it’s going to make Chavez “President for Life” (see: Fox News, Daily Telegraph) or that the referendum was likely going to be won by the “no” side

In actuality, the amendment to Article 230 merely removes the two-term limit on the Venezuelan president and allows him/her to continue serving so long as the public continues voting for him or her in regularly scheduled (7 years apart) elections. So, by this logic, it’s anti-democratic to let people democratically vote for whomever they wish. Also, by this logic, Canada isn’t a democracy because our former Prime Minister Mackenzie King was first elected in 1921 and served (with only shortchavez-and-supporters.png interruptions) until 1948.

So, since I imagine few people have taken the time to cut past the corporate media and find out what was actually proposed and adopted by the people of Venezuela (new exit polls now put the victory of the referendum in question. Stay tuned for more developments), here is a list of some of what I consider to be the best of the 69 constitutional reforms proposed. Canada should seriously take a look at this and consider implementing some of these reforms here.

The bolded items, I believe, are the best of the best and thus should be a first priority for Canada to catch up to Venezuela.

Block A

Art. 18 – Provides a new right, the right to the city, which says that all citizens have the right to equal access to the city’s services or benefits. Also names Caracas, the capital as the “Cradle of Simon Bolivar, the Liberator, and Queen of the Warairarepano” [an indigenous name for the mountain range surrounding Caracas].

Art. 64 – Lowers the minimum voting age from 18 to 16 years.

Art. 67 – Requires candidates for elected office to be set up in accordance with gender parity, reverses the prohibition against state financing of campaigns and parties, and prohibits foreign funding of political activity.

Art. 70 – Establishes that councils of popular power (of communities, workers, students, farmers, fishers, youth, women, etc.) are one of the main means for citizen participation in the government.

Art. 87 – Creates a social security fund for the self-employed, in order to guarantee them a pension, vacation pay, sick pay, etc.

Art. 90 – Reduction of the workweek from 44 hours to 36.

Art. 98 – Guarantees freedom for cultural creations, but without guaranteeing intellectual property.

Art. 100 – Recognition of Venezuelans of African descent, as part of Venezuelan culture to protect and promote (in addition to indigenous and European culture).

Art. 103 – Right to a free education expanded from high school to university.

Art. 112 – The state will promote a diversified and independent economic model, in which the interests of the community prevail over individual interests and that guarantee the social and material needs of the people. The state is no longer obliged to promote private enterprise.

Art. 113 – Monopolies are prohibited instead of merely being “not allowed.” The state has the right to “reserve” the exploitation of natural resources or provision of services that are considered by the constitution or by a separate law to be strategic to the nation. Concessions granted to private parties must provide adequate benefits to the public.

Art. 115 – Introduces new forms of property, in addition to private property. The new forms are (1) public property, belonging to state bodies, (2) direct and indirect social property, belonging to the society in general, where indirect social property is administered by the state and direct is administered by particular communities, (3) collective property, which belongs to particular groups, (4) mixed property, which can be a combination of ownership of any of the previous five forms.

Art. 136 – Creates the popular power, in addition to the municipal, state, and national powers. “The people are the depositories of sovereignty and exercise it directly via the popular power. This is not born of suffrage nor any election, but out of the condition of the human groups that are organized as the base of the population.” The popular power is organized via communal councils, workers’ councils, student councils, farmer councils, crafts councils, fisher councils, sports councils, youth councils, elderly councils, women’s councils, disables persons’ councils, and others indicated by law.

Art. 152 – Venezuela’s foreign policy is directed towards creating a pluri-polar world, free of hegemonies of any imperialist, colonial, or neo-colonial power.

Art. 153 – Strengthening of the mandate to unify Latin America, so as to achieve what Simon Bolivar called, “A Nation of Republics.”

Art. 167 – States’ incomes are increased from 20% to 25% of the national budget, where 5% is to be dedicated to the financing of each state’s communal councils.

Art. 230 – Presidential term is extended from six to seven years. The two consecutive term limit on presidential reelection is removed.

Art. 272 – Removal of the requirement for the state to create an autonomous penitentiary system and places the entire system under the administration of a ministry instead of states and municipalities. Also, removes the option of privatizing the country’s penitentiary system.

Art. 299 – The socio-economic regimen of the country is based on socialist (among other) principles. Instead of stipulating that the state promotes development with the help of private initiative, it is to do so with community, social, and personal initiative.

Art. 303 – Removal of the permission to privatize subsidiaries of the country’s state oil industry that operate within the country.

Art. 307 – Strengthening of the prohibition against latifundios (large and idle landed estates) and creation of a tax on productive agricultural land that is idle. Landowners who engage in the ecological destruction of their land may be expropriated.

Art. 318 – Removal of the Central Bank’s autonomy and foreign reserves to be administrated by the Central Bank together with the President.

Art. 328 – Armed forces of Venezuela renamed to “Bolivarian Armed Force.” Specification that the military is “patriotic, popular, and anti-imperialist” at the service of the Venezuelan people and never at the service of an oligarchy or of a foreign imperial power, whose professionals are not activists in any political party (modified from the prohibition against all political activity by members of the military).

Block B

Art. 21 – Inclusion of prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation and on health.

Art. 82 – Protection of primary home from confiscation due to bankruptcy or other legal proceedings.

Art. 109 – Equal voting rights for professors, students, and employees in the election of university authorities.

(source here, or here)

May our Venezuelan comrade’s fidelity to the blood-stained banner of social justice continue to be an inspiration to us all in victory and defeat.


Correction: Since posting this, new exit polls have come in which put the victory of the referendum in question.

See Also:

Propaganda in Action: So, who’s going to win the election in Venezuela?

How to distort economic data 101

The difference between the NDP and the Communist Party…

Our entire existence summed up in one cartoon

Che Guevara: Cuban revolutionary or puppy-eating serial murderer?

Why capitalism can’t continue forever and why socialism will prevail

Peace is overrated

Propaganda in Action: So, who’s going to win the election in Venezuela?

If one were to get one’s information from the media one would think that today’s referendum to reform the constitution in Venezuela wasn’t even a close competition.

Here are all polls on the Venezeuala referendum that were released.

Polling Company:


Yes side

No side



Sept. 12





Oct. 5





Nov. 16





Nov. 21




Keller & Associates

Nov. 23





Nov. 24





Nov. 26





Nov. 27




Consultants 30.11

Nov. 28





Nov. 29




Wow, doesn’t even look close does it?

Let’s take another look at those last two polls again, shall we.

Consultants 30.11

Nov. 28





Nov. 29




Those two polls were conducted during the same time period and yet showed almost the exact opposite results.

It’s clear that one of those two polling firms is going to look very very stupid once all the votes are cast in the election. So, with the polling stations now closed and exit polls rolling in, which polling company got shown up to be making results up?

Answer: the anti-Chavez Hinterlaces.

Exit polls have begun rolling in and it looks as though Chavez is headed to a victory in the neighbourhood of 56-58%.

The latest exit polls now show that the Chavez is headed for a narrow defeat in the referendum.

Al-Jazeera English is now giving reports of conflicting exit polls and is listing the election as too close to call.

But, it is still worth asking how the media been spinning this? Well, by re-writing history of course.

Reuters reported that

Most pre-vote opinion surveys predicted a close vote on the package of constitutional changes that the opposition and even some former longtime allies say is authoritarian.” (source)

Really? Show me the poll up there that pointed to a close vote? I see two groups of polls: Those that were right on the money, and then the bourgeois polls which I think have now more or less been revealed to be complete works of propaganda.

The Daily Telegraph in the UK wrote a short wherein they wrote that

“last-minute opinion polls looked to narrowly favour the No vote.” (source)

So when the capitalist media’s own considerable propaganda proves inaccurate, they can always re-wright history to avoid any embarrassments.

“Day by day, almost minute by minute, the past was brought up to date.”
-George Orwell, 1984

~ Viva La Revolución ~

See Also:

The Propaganda in Action Series

One of these things is not like the others…

More pro-conservative opinion manipulation at Angus-Reid

How to distort economic data 101

From the fantastic folks at

“All statistics, including economic statistics, can be manipulated, or only partially revealed, so that they demonstrate a foregone ideological conclusion rather than reality.


“By 2006 and 2007, it was impossible to hide the evidence that the Venezuelan economy had been growing at a tremendous rate for four years running, and that income was being redistributed to the poorer classes in an unprecedented fashion. Some of the relevant economic numbers appeared in a 2007 report generated by two private consulting firms, AC Nielson and Datos, for VenAmCham (The Venezuelan American Chamber of Commerce and Industry). They showed that the poorest economic class, Level E, had more than doubled its income in three years, but their interpretation was still tinged with an anti-government bias.

“For example, the title over the table of figures provided in the AC Nielsen/Datos report sounded discouraging, “In the last three years, only the income of Level E has grown in real terms.” Since there are 6 household income levels customarily used in Venezuela — A,B,C+, C-, D, and E — this doesn’t sound like much of an achievement. That is, until the reader learns that level E consisted of a solid majority, or 58% of the population in 2003. Level E’s income grew by a whopping 130%, after being corrected for inflation. [emphasis added]” (source)

Of course, distorting economic data is by no means a phenomenon of only the developing world.

The manner in which even agreed upon economic data is presented in the West is highly ideological and, one could charge, intentionally misleading.

First off, the standard practice economists use to measure per capita economic wealth is to use average GDP per capita. It is important to dwell for a second on the fact that this isn’t just something that a lot of economists do by coincidence, this is considered the standard measure with, by extension, all other measures being heterodox or in some other way subaltern.

When you don’t want to give all three measures of mean (average), median and mode in mathematics and statistics, it is widely acknowledged that if you’re going to use only the measure of ‘average’, it is by far the most informative on linear trends such as this:


This is hugely important due to the fact that all economic wealth distributions under global capitalism, by definition, do not look like the graph above. Rather, all existing patters of economic wealth distribution under global capitalism are more or less exponential (in fact, this is the very predictable result of capitalism).

Whenever you have exponential data and you intentionally and conscientiously only give the average indicator, you are likely skewing your analysis dramatically.

Here’s an example of a fictional global distribution of wealth which nevertheless more accurately approximates reality. As you can see, if readers were to be given only the average income for this graph, the reader would likely develop a highly skewed view of the economic realities.


Note that the orthodox approach of giving only the average measure gives a more than 10 times more favourable view than if one were to give only the median measure.

Now this isn’t to say that economists themselves don’t recognize these limitations. Indeed highly technical economic documents often contain data using medians instead of means. Moreover, in defense of economists, it is often more difficult to calculate the median income than it is to calculate the mean income due to the fact that less data is required to calculate the mean (average) income.

But even if the ‘median’ indicator finds its way into some technical documents, it is almost impossible to find it anywhere in any news report, or think tank research paper — the two sources that are most predominantly fed to the public.

For an especially bad example of utter and sheer ideological and propagandistic distortion of this median/mean practice, see this ABC news report on “Tax Freedom Day”.

Given this, is it really still tenable to continue to ignore the possibility that the very language we use to express economics to the populace is itself so hopelessly entrenched in a capitalist ideology?


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