Published on 5 January 2016 by


Venezuela’s National Assembly for the 2016-2021 term was sworn in today at 11 AM, in a ceremony that marked a new political era for the legislative body. Two-thirds of the incoming legislators belong to the country’s rightwing opposition. 

At the start of the ceremony, Henry Ramos Allup was sworn in as National Assembly president. A key figure from the country’s neoliberal era that preceded Hugo Chavez and leader of the former governing party Democratic Action, Allup reiterated his determination today to find opposition unty on a procedure for “the exit” of the Maduro government within six months.

Led by former Assembly president Diosdado Cabello, 54 members of the United Socialist Party (PSUV) walked out in protest over a violation of the parliamentary procedures, which stipulate that the only topic of today's first session would be the election of the National Assembly leadership. Contrary to this rule, opposition lawmaker Julio Borges, who leads the opposition faction in parliament, had presented his faction's legislative plan for the coming year.

“We are 54 legislators of the country who are prepared to defend the Venezuelan people,” PSUV legislator Diosdado Cabello told press outside the assembly.

Published on 31 December 2015 by TeleSUR


A group of 231 students have graduated as farm assistants and caregivers for the elderly through a program funded by the ALBA bloc of Latin American and Caribbean countries. Educators say the trainees now possess internationally recognized certification.

The 2015 graduates are 49 young men and women who have gained employment as farm assistants and 182 individuals trained as caregivers for the elderly who will be employed under the National Home Care Program in 2016.

The training is part of the National Initiative to Create Employment Program, which has been funded with US$10 million by the ALBA Solidarity Fund to the over two years. The first disbursement of US$5 million was made in January 2015.

“So what does it mean for our graduates today? It means that they are graduating with a regionally recognized certificate and there is mobility for them to be able to work as qualified persons, not just in Saint Lucia but within Caricom (Caribbean Community),” said Estalita Renee of the island’s Ministry of Education.

​The NICE program expects to create 5,000 jobs for Saint Lucians. Graduates like Yanez Joseph say they are grateful for the program’s training component.

“We can assure you that the knowledge imparted onto us will never leave us and will be put to good use as we continue our journey,” she said, adding “there is nothing like teaching a man, or a woman, how to fish and seeing the results.

As part of the NICE Program, young people have gained employment as physical education and coaching assistants, sports administrators, peer counselors and caretakers.

The program was launched in 2012 and it is considered by the Saint Lucian government a crucial social initiative, which aims to make a dent in unemployment figures and enhance the capabilities of people to engage in trade and gain work experience.

During his first official visit to Saint Lucia in October, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro met with NICE workers and heard from the program’s coordinator on how his country’s cash funding has helped to alleviate unemployment.

Published on 1 January 2016 by TeleSUR

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Venezuela's "Great Housing Mission" has created one million homes since the housing miIn a major milestone for Venezuela’s social housing mission, President Nicolas Maduro delivered the program’s one millionth home to a Venezuelan family on Wednesday saving his mustache from being shaved off.

Last month, Maduro said he would shave his iconic mustache if the government failed to meet its goal of one million homes before 2016. Maduro promised in his television broadcast on Tuesday that “rain or shine,” the government would meet its goal of providing one million homes by the end of the year.

The “Great Housing Mission” aims to tackle housing shortages in the South American country by providing safe and dignified homes to low-income people at a low cost or free of charge, depending on the new owners’ means.

The one million homes have been created since the housing mission was launched by former President Hugo Chavez in 2011.The housing mission, one of the Venezuelan government's most popular social initiatives, expanded an emergency shelter program implemented in 2010 to help those who lost their homes in devastating floods. The program has prioritized providing low-cost housing to poor families. 

In 2011, Chavez said that the mission would be used to address the “social debt” left behind by former governments that failed to provide quality housing to all Venezuelans. Maduro has promised to continue to expand the mission with the goal of providing affordable housing to 40 percent of Venezuelans by the end of the decade.

Published on 1 January 2016 by Counterpunch



The National Assembly of Venezuela, in its final session before a neoliberal dominated opposition takes the helm of legislative power on January 5, passed one of the most progressive seed laws in the world on December 23, 2015; it was promptly signed into law by President Nicolas Maduro. On December 29, during his television show, “In Contact with Maduro, number 52,” Maduro said that the new seed law provides the conditions to produce food “under an agro-ecological model that respects the pacha mama (mother earth) and the right of our children to grow up healthy, eating healthy.” The law is a victory for the international movements for agroecology and food sovereignty because it bans transgenic (GMO) seed while protecting local seed from privatization. The law is also a product of direct participatory democracy –the people as legislator– in Venezuela, because it was hammered out through a deliberative partnership between members of the country’s National Assembly and a broad-based grassroots coalition of eco-socialist, peasant, and agroecological oriented organizations and institutions. This essay provides an overview of the phenomenon of people as legislator, a summary of the new Seed Law, and an appendix with an unofficial translation of some of the articles of the law.

Published on 22 December 2015 by

bolivia morales

Ten years of the Movement Toward Socialism in government

Led by the government of Evo Morales and the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), Bolivia has undergone a profound transformation in the past ten years. The change is not just in the economic sphere, but in the shift of political power away from the traditional elite, the mostly white owners of industry and agriculture, and towards the majority, the mostly indigenous workers and campesinos.

Evo Morales emerged as a leader of coca growers in Chaparé province, who were fighting against US-funded eradication of their crops. He first ran as presidential candidate for MAS in 2002, and narrowly lost. At the next election, on 18 December 2005, Morales and MAS won with 53.7% of the vote, a previously unheard of majority in Bolivia. The previous five years had seen six presidents come and go as a result of constant political crises. It was during this period that mass struggles against neoliberal austerity - the Water War and the Gas War - paved the way for the MAS victory. 

Water War 1999 - 2000

The Water War was sparked by a 1999 agreement by the government of Hugo Banzer to privatise the water supply in Cochabamba province. This was made in order to meet privatisation targets set by the World Bank in return for $600m debt relief. The new owner, a consortium run by US multinational Bechtel, was guaranteed an annual profit rate of 16% over 40-years.

Workers and campesino organisations came together to form a Coalition for Defence of Water and Life. Over a period of six months they organised strikes and blockades, regularly bringing Cochabamba to a standstill. Key decisions affecting the movement were approved at open-air meetings attended by up to 50,000 people. 

The cancellation of the water contract as a direct result of the protests marked a turning point for Bolivia’s anti-austerity movement, showing that popular forces could defeat neoliberalism.

Published on 17 December 2015 by


'Self-criticism is to correct, to rectify, not to continue doing everything in a vacuum ... either independence or nothing, either the commune or nothing!'

Hugo Chavez – 'Golpe de timon' (Strike at the Helm) speech, 20 October 2012

Venezuela's 6 December National Assembly elections represent the biggest electoral loss for the Bolivarian Revolution in its 17-year history. The Venezuelan right-wing have secured a two thirds 'super majority' with the Round-table of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition winning 109 seats, alongside the election of three opposition aligned indigenous national assembly legislators. This gives the Venezuelan opposition a massive majority over the coalition aligned with the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) which only won 55 seats. The death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, the prolonged economic war and the international campaign against Venezuela, coupled with the PSUV government’s reluctance to confront head on the private sector’s strangulation of the economy, pushed many to switch sides and vote for the MUD's undefined promise of 'change'.

This represents a major blow to the revolutionary forces in Venezuela, which since the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998 have counted on parliamentary electoral power to promote working class interests. The two-thirds majority gives the right-wing significant powers to block the government spending necessary for the continuation of Venezuela's extensive social missions, impose or remove government ministers, dismiss vice president Jorge Arreaza, call for a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution and seek to remove President Nicolas Maduro, either through initiating a recall referendum, or appointing Supreme Court judges to vote for his impeachment. From the moment the new assembly assumes power on 5 January 2016, the Bolivarian Chavista movement will cease to have legislative control over the country and the MUD will have the means to derail every attempt to pass new laws advancing the interests of the working class and poor.

Published on 15 December 2015 by Granma

victims deal

Representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Army of Colombia (FARC-EP) and the Colombian government forces signed an agreement this Tuesday on the issue of victims of armed conflict, within the framework of the peace talks.

The pact is the fourth major agreement between the parties during the peace negotiations in Havana since 2012. Other big deals covered land issues and rural development, political participation of the insurgency and drug trafficking.

A delegation composed of 10 representatives affected by the armed conflict left for Havana on Monday to sign the agreement on Tuesday, which touches on truth, reparation and guarantees to not repeat violence, as well as a system of transitional justice.

Before signing the final deal on the peace dialogue, the talks will entered their final stage aimed to cement the end the conflict. Both parties will also discuss mechanisms to ratify, implement and ascertain a possible final consensus.

The representative delegation of the FARC-EP presented a 10-point proposal on Monday to ensure an end to the war and make a significant contribution to building a stable and lasting peace.

The text, published on the website of the insurgency group, detailed initiatives on two agenda items currently discussed with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos, including a bilateral ceasefire and the disarmament of the rebels and the end of armed operations against them.

Last September, the two parties signed a preliminary 13-point agreement to achieve an end to the conflict that has gripped the country for over 50 years.

One of the most important points for the FARC-EP has been recognition as a political movement in Colombia, as well as an end to paramilitarism, which has led to thousands of internal displacements, especially in the countryside.

The parties aim to sign the final peace agreement before March 23, 2016.

Published on 13 December 2015 by Washington Post


The big news out of Venezuela’s Dec. 6 legislative elections is the victory of the opposition United Democratic Roundtable (MUD) over the incumbent United Socialist Party (PSUV) of President Nicolás Maduro. Shockingly, the MUD achieved a two-thirds supermajority in the National Assembly, which, according to the constitution, could allow it to remove Supreme Court judges (Art.265), appoint key officials such as an independent attorney general and a national comptroller (Art.279), and approve amendments to the constitution itself, subject to ratification by referendum (Art.348).

That supermajority is razor-thin. The MUD claims 112 seats out of 167 — exactly two-thirds. Anything less than perfect unity and the list of powers available to the MUD diminishes considerably. But how did the MUD achieve this landslide win in an electoral environment widely regarded as stacked in favor of the PSUV? A variety of factors were at play, and the MUD caught some remarkable breaks.

First, the most important element of the Venezuelan electoral system was not stacked toward the PSUV, per se, but toward whichever alliance is the largest. That is, the system is set to deliver to the largest party or coalition a greater share of seats than its votes might suggest. At the time the electoral law was crafted, no one imagined that the largest party could be any other than the PSUV. That bit of hubris came back to bite the incumbents.

Sixty-eight percent of the Assembly seats are allocated in winner-take-all contests, in districts with one, two, or three seats available. Voters in these districts can cast as many votes as there are seats. As long as voters cast all their votes for candidates of the same party or alliance, the team with the most supporters in a given district can take all its seats. Venezuelan voters did just that, and every district produced a sweep for either the MUD or the PSUV. Most of these, of course, went to the MUD, which captured 81 of these seats to the PSUV’s 32.

The second tier of the electoral system, accounting for 30 percent of the Assembly’s seats, provides party-list competition in Venezuela’s 23 states plus the Capital District. There, the MUD’s win — 28 seats to the PSUV’s 23 — was more in keeping with its overall vote share of 55 percent to 40 percent (with 5 percent going to other lists). So far, then, the seat tally is 109 to 55, three short of the 112 needed for the MUD to transform Venezuelan politics. So where did those last three seats come from?

By Mark Weisbrot. Published on 3 December by Huffington Post

sos cnn

The campaign for Venezuela's Dec. 6 National Assembly election is only three weeks long, but in the United States it started about six months ago with leaks by anonymous U.S. officials making unsubstantiated allegations that Venezuelan officials were running a "cartel." More recently, relatives of Venezuela's first lady Cilia Flores were arrested and taken (not extradited) to the U.S. after being lured by DEA agents to Haiti. Then last week, when an opposition politician was shot and killed, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, immediately joined Washington in trying to make it look like a political murder. Within a day, evidence from investigations appeared to show that the victim was likely a gang member killed by a rival gang. 

To understand the strategy of the U.S. government and its allies -- including Almagro and now the president-elect of Argentina -- we have to look at what happened in the 2013 Venezuelan presidential election. In 2013, President Maduro won by 1.5 percentage points, but there was absolutely no doubt about the result. Because of the extensive safeguards in the voting process -- including an immediate audit, with witnesses, of a random sample of 54 percent of voting stations -- former U.S. president and election expert Jimmy Carter called Venezuela's election system "the best in the world."