PCASC-Global Exchange Labor Delegtion

Members of the Portland Central American Solidarity Committee (PCASC) in Conjunction with are on an historic labor Delegation to Venezuela and Colombia. We'll be posting their reflections here over the coming days.

Socios del PCASC y Global Exchange estan visitando Venezuela y Colombia en un delegacion sobre los medios y los sindicatos. Vamos a difundir sus refleciones aqui durante los dias que vienen.


Portland Solidarity Community,

A quick note from our first day in Venezuela.

Una mensaje de nuestro dia primero en Venezuela.

Our delegation arrived late last night at Simon Bolivar International Airport, just outside of Caracas. (We were delayed about an hour because Steven Toff left his cell phone on the plane!).

Nuestra delegacion llego anoche muy tarde en Simon Bolivar Aeropuerto Internacional, fuera de Caracas (estabamos parados una hora porque Steven Toff dejo su celular en el avion!)

We met our wonderful trip leader Leopoldo, a community activist who works with Radio Perola, a Caracas independent radio station that means "Radio Can,"a reference to the string can telephones that many of us know from childhood. In the context of Caracas, where five elite TV stations have long dominated the flow of information, Radio Perola is an example of how the grassroots, in picking up tin can and some string, can take back the media.

Encontremos con nuestro guia Leopoldo, un luchador social que trabaja con Radio Perola, una emisora de radio en Caracas que significa "Radio Lata", una referencia a los telefonos antiguos hecho con lata y cable que conocemos de nuestro crianza. En el contexto de Caracas, donde existen 5 estaciones de TV que controlan el movimiento de informacion, Radio Perola es un ejemplo que muestra como los bases pueden usar materiales sencillos para construir su propio medios.

So this morning, our first visit was with Radio Negro Primero, another Caracas community station. PCASC folks, myself included, visited the station in January when 23 Portland folks came down to the World Social Forum. We were shown around the station and then, in a wonderful suprise (that will stop being such a suprise to delegates in a day or two!) we were invited on the air, in the middle of a program that was already in process, to discuss our thoughts on the recent US congressional elections. The Afro-Venezuelan community organizer who was invited to discuss urban land committees in his neighborhood seemed totally unpreturbed at a bunch of gringos invading his interview spot.

Esta manyana, nuestra visita fue Radio Negro Primero, otro Medio Comunitaria de radio. Socios de PCASC, yo tambien, visitaron la estacion en Enero, 2006 cuando 23 personas que viven en Portland asistaron el Foro Social Mundial). Nos mostraron su estacion, entonces, con una sorpresa maravillosa (que creo no va a sorprendernos despues dos o tres dias mas) ellos nos invitaron en el aire durante el programa que estaba en proceso, para discutir las eleciones en los Estados Unidos. El dirigente Afro-Venezolano que estaba hablando sobre comites de tierra urbana no parece molestado que un grupo de gringo@s invadian su tema.

The two Afro-Venezuelans on the show (despite my comments somewhat to the contrary) seemed genuinely cheered about the Democratic victory in congress. For them, this week's elections at least signified that the American people didn't like Bush as much as they had and that, maybe, they realized that the war in Iraq was a big mistake. They also said that Democrats seemed more likely to engage in dialogue before taking military action. I said that while that might be the case, US social movements had to stay mobilized because it was Bill Clinton who invaded Kosovo and passed NAFTA. There was no disagreement here.

L@s afro-Venezolan@s en el programa (aunque intentaba expresar mi opinion al contrario) parecian alegre que los Democrats ganaron su victoria. Para ellos, las elecciones significa, por lo menos, l@s norteamericanos no les gusta Bush ahora, no como antes. Ellos dijeron que los Democrats parecen inclinado a participar en dialogo antes de tomando acciones militares. Estaba de acuerdo, pero, fue Bill Clinton, un Democrat, que invadio Kosovo y soporaba el TLC. No habia desacuerdo.

The conversation then turned to Katrina. The two Afro-Venezuelans present said that to them, Bush's greatest crime was the death sentence handed out en masse to the black residents of New Orleans solely by virtue of the color of their skin. Every time he said "because of their skin color", the Afro-Venezuelan host slapped his hand to indicate that he understood that the fact of blackness was real in both Venezuela and New Orleans.

Entonces, el dialogo cambia hacia la huracan Katrina. L@s dos Afro-Venezolan@s dijeron que, para ell@s, el crimen mayor de Bush era la castiga de muerte el dio a los negros en New Orleans, practicamente porque ellos tienen piel de marron. Cada vez el dijo "el color de su piel", el Afro-Venezolano indico su piel negro para mostrar que el conoce bien que racismo existe en Venezuela y New Orleans.

Next, we met with Gregorio Salazar, an opposition member and Secretary-General of the journalists union. This is a story that I'll have to think about in greater detail later on, but I will say that the opportunity to meet with the opposition is really crucial for our delegation. In our discussion, it wasn't so much that he expressed outright contempt for the poor, because he didn't, but that his educated and privliged background had seemed to engrain in him an absolute disregard for the suffering and perspective of the poor majority. While the poor majority claims that the greatest benefit of the Bolivarian process is the expansion of democratic rights and the deepening access to and ability to produce information, the opposition journalists' union leader claimed that it was Chavez rolling back these very things. While briefly admitting that the former two-party system of Accion Democratica and COPEI had problems, he chose not to linger on the total exclusion that most Venezuelans suffered under the previous democracy. While admitting that the mass media had made serious errors, he neglected to mention that all most Venezuelans--many dark skinned and poor--see on TV are rich, white Venezuelans. That the corporate media here played a truly instrumental--nay, leading--role in the 2002 coup. Many, many things weren't mentioned.

Entonces, encontremos con Gregorio Salazar, un miembro de la oposicion y Secretary-General del sindicato de periodistas. Es una historia que necesito considerar mas, pero quiero decir que la oportunidad a conocer miembros de la oposicion es muy importante para nuestra delegacion. No es exactamente que el expreso negacion de l@s pobres, porque no lo hizo - pero, su crianza de privilegio y educacion lo hizo a negar totalmente la sufrimiento y perspectivo de la mayoria pobre. Mientras la gente pobre dice que el beneficio mas importante del Proceso Bolivariano es la expansion de los derechos democraticos y el la abilidad a crear y difundir informacion... el senyor de la oposicion dijo que es Chavez que esta bloqueando estas cosas. El admito que el sistema de dos partidos politicos de Accion Democratica y COPEI tuvo problemas, el no podia ver la exculusion que la mayoria de l@s Venezolan@s sufrio. El admito que los medios de comunicacion hizo errores, pero ignoro que la gente que podemos ver en la televsion estan totalmente blanco, y refleja la vida de privilegio. Ni tampoco el rol fundamental que los medios tomaban durante el golpe de 2002. Muchas cosas, no el no menciono.

He also depicted the National Workers' Union (UNT), started after the 2002 coup because of the CTV's role in Chavez's brief ouster, as a mere tool of the government. Oddly, he cited the fact the UNT's pro-independence majority is being toyed with by UNT currents more servile to Chavez as a demonstration that the UNT is government controlled. This is a complicated, dynamic and conflict-ridden process (the revolution is here dubbed "el processo"). Rather than a cause for despair, this open inter-movement debate and conflict is what makes Venezuela so special and so many people so hopeful that other models of social change (and socialism?) are possible.

Tambien, el describio la UNT (Union Nacional de Trabajadores), que empezo despues del golpe de 2002 porque el sindicato se llama CTV apoyo el golpe contra Chavez - solo es un herramiento del gobierno, no es autonomo. Un poco raro es que el analizo los diferencias dentro el sindicato demonstro que el sindicato no es autonomo. Es un dinamico muy complicado, un processo con contradicciones (aqui, se conoce la Revolucion como "el proceso"). Este dialogo es un senyal de un democracia muy fuerte, no de debilidad. Muchas otras personas en el munodo esperan que otros modelos de justicia social (y socialismo) existe y estan posibles.

From Caracas,
Dan Denvir

ps: other delegates will be posting in the coming days. most are currently napping!
Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC)
and Cross Border Labor Organizing Council (CBLOC)
311 N. Ivy St., Portland, Oregon 97227
Tel: 503-236-7916 Cell: 971-227-3527
E-mail: info@pcasc.net www.pcasc.net

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey