Apparently the U.S. is developing (officially or unofficially) a dress code that proscribes T-shirts with Arabic lettering. I hadn’t heard about this story until this morning when a friend sent me the link to a BBC News article. He told me that he heard about it when he saw this video on CNN’s website. I must say what happened to Raed Jarrar is a little disturbing. שָׁלוֹם
After 3 blog posts describing conversations with Chávez opponents (or at least skeptics), its about time to offer a different perspective. Fortuantely, yesterday we arrived at the home of Andrés, a long-time friend of Charletta and a devoted Chávez supporter.
But before I get into more big picture politics, I’ll share my first-hand experience with the Venezuelan public healthcare system, the target of Chávez’s Mission Barrio Adentro (I hadn’t heard of it till I found this wikipedia entry). I went to a Integrated Diagnostic Centers (CDI in Spanish) in a poor neighborhood just outside of Maracaibo to have a throat infection looked at. Andrés explained that this was a level 3 clinic (level 1 being a doctor treating people in his or her own home). The system seemed fairly informal, but efficient. There were 20 people waiting in the lobby when we arrived. With no receptionist, Andrés simply went up to a doctor and asked her if they could examine me. She said yes and we sat and waited for 10 minutes. In that time, most of the people in the waiting room were moved through. And nobody paid any one or even talked to a receptionist. (more…)
On Tuesday we took a tour of the area around Merida with our guide named Alberto. Alberto was born up the valley from Merida in the Andean foothills and for the last 7 years has been a guide for tourists. He told us stories of mountain rescues and handling Anacondas. When I asked him what he thought of Chavez, he said that he liked Chavez, but not the people he works with. Specifically, Alberto likes what Chavez has done to protect Venezuelan culture. He grew up watching Dawson’s Creek on television, but now television stations must also carry some Venezuelan content. In the same way radio stations must regularly air an hour of Venezuelan music. Alberto felt this was a good way to protect Venezuelan culture from being lost.
When I asked Alberto what he didn’t like about the people who worked with Chavez he talked about the corruption he witnessed first hand at an organisation he worked for. He said they recieved government money, but didn’t do anything to show for it.
Chavez has good ideas Alberto said, but they aren’t always carried out well.
In addition to this event that Lora pointed out a few days ago is another event that y’all should consider if you are Mennonite*. I went to the Young Adult Fellowship retreat last year in Ontario and it was pretty cool. This year it is near South Bend, IN and is happening the weekend of October 20. Check it out. I think I’ll be there (along with all the other cool kids) so you should too.
I don’t think that I’ll be able to go to the Hesston thing but would love to hear from those who go. These would both be good places to hype our awesome blog.
*Sorry to those of you who aren’t Mennonite but Anabaptist in the non-Mennonite sense that most of my stuff is rather Menno-centric. That is my connection to the Anabaptist thing and, yeah, sorry. I am also sorry for the run-on sentences and poor grammer that you will see from me as I continue to post.
So today I had another opportunity to get a skewed sampling of Venezuelan opinions on Merida´s cable car, the highest and longest in the world. In one of the stations on the way up, Charletta and I struck up a conversation with an professor of computation (accountancy?) and her husband an economics professor. Not surprisingly, they don´t like Chavez. They described his government as violent and polarizing and they said that freedom of press is gradually being eroded and they are worried for the future of democracy in Venezuela. When we asked about all the projects that Chavez is doing to help people (more on this in a later post), she said that they were good ideas, but badly executed and claimed that they were so corrupt that very little of the money actually helped people.
All this was quite interesting, but then some warning lights went off for me when I shared about working in Colombia and they said “Oh, they have a much better government over there”. For those of you who haven’t been following Colombian politics, the country is currently governed by Álvaro Uribe who has promised to end the civil war by beating the guerillas militarily. While I was there working with CPT last year there was a massacre in the peace community of San Jose de Apartado that was likely carried out by the Colombian military. In response, Uribe accused the community of collaborating with the guerillas. Nuff said. (more…)
Yesterday my wife (!) Charletta arrived in Venezuela for our honeymoon. We decided its the first time for both of us that we´ve been in a Latin American country as purely a tourist (previously it was studying, volunteering or CPTing). Venezuela seemed like a great place to go to see beautiful countryside and do some political sight seeing as well. We´ve been reading about Chavez for the past 8 years so it was about time we saw what it was all about first hand.
First impressions so far have been mixed. Our first political opinions on Chavez were from Emilio and Samuel on the bus ride from the airport into Caracas (tell you something about their economic status). Emilio is a student from the Southeast of Venezuela studying optometry. He used to go to St. George´s on Grenada but transferred to the Caracas campas after the Reggae culture of too much Ganja and Cocaine got to him. He was travelling with his cousin Samuel who is a professor teaching physical therapy. Neither of them had a particularly good view of Chavez. They said that he has been a polarizing force in the country, turning families against one another (sound familiar). They described his ideology as a mix of socialism, communism and anti-capitalism. These accusations weren´t new to me. However, they also said that in order to get a job with government or even to get a government contract “you have to have the right opinions.”
So that´s the first portrait. Over the next 2 weeks I´ll occasionally post other perspectives and reflections on the the politics and culture here in Venezuela. Hasta Luego!