Nicaragua: El Güegüense – An Indigenous Satire of Colonialism

Source:  TeleSUR
26 November 2015

el gueguense nicaragua“El Güegüense o el Macho Ratón” is one of the oldest of the handful of literary works from popular indigenous culture that have survived from Latin America’s European dominated colonial era. Essentially a piece of street theater conceived in the indigenous Nahualt language, it combines music, dance, dialogue and masquerade portraying the interaction of an indigenous merchant with a Spanish colonial official. Written in Spanish and Nahuatl, the work has been passed on for over three centuries. The music of the piece was finally recorded in the 1940s.

Two interpretations

The dialogue allows two alternative interpretations of the storyline. From the perspective of the Spanish colonizers, the indigenous merchant is a fraud and scoundrel seeking to advance his family’s interests by fooling the Spanish official into betrothing his daughter to the merchant’s son. From the point of view of the resisting indigenous people, far from being a treacherous fraud, the merchant in fact expresses the legitimate resistance of indigenous people to arbitrary taxation by the Spanish occupiers.

Just a few years ago UNESCO wrote on its Intangible Cultural Heritage web site that “Despite its popularity, El Güegüense is in danger of declining in popularity, and possibly disappearing, due to the country’s difficult economic situation, insufficient support for performers and a diminishing interest among young people.”

The current Sandinista government has reversed that state of affairs, deliberately prioritizing the work’s propagation as an important part of recovering Nicaragua’s national cultural identity and resisting the facile, superficial homogeneity relentlessly promoted by powerful North American and European corporate media.(Photo: President Daniel Ortega)

Nicaragua’s institute of culture

Luis Morales Alonso nicaragua.jpgLuis Morales Alonso, Co-Director of Nicaragua’s Institute of Culture, explains, “El Güegüense is an icon of our nationality. It’s an ancient work of theater, a comedic dance, that dates from the end of the 17th Century or the early 18th century. The original versions were composed in a mixture of Spanish and Nahuatl. It’s theme is the rebellious reaction of our indigenous people against the dominion of the Spanish invasion. For us it represents a point of reference for our people’s resistance to the different kinds of invasion, colonialism and subjugation that have been imposed on us.

Its various characters and performance have persisted over the centuries, most currently in the city of Diriamba during the January religious feasts dedicated to the martyrdom of San Sebastian. el gueguense nicaragua 4.jpgIt is performed in the streets as a comedy ballet accompanied by music that mixes European or Spanish instruments with indigenous instruments, for example, the native whistle and drum with the violin and Spanish guitar. It includes masquerade using wooden masks, some representing Spanish characters but danced by indigenous players and others representing the work mules.

The story

It’s the story of a merchant selling his silks and cloths, his covers and hats, his slippers and shoes, a thousand items sold in Nicaragua. And he finds himself in a town with a Spanish governor and sees that the governor has a beautiful daughter and so the Güegüense wants to marry one of his two sons to the governor’s daughter. And the sequel plays out via dialogue in which the Güegüense – which in our country means the huehue, the wise old man – starts to mock the Spanish official, pretending to be deaf, answering at cross purposes, answering with double meaning and all that is very funny for us. It is satire. But it has a deep content in political and social terms and for that reason it represents one of the bastions of our indigenous people’s struggle.”

el gueguense nicaragua 3.jpgAltogether, El Güegüense has 14 characters, El Güegüense himself and his two sons, the Spanish governor, his sheriff, a clerk and an assistant; the governor’s daughter and two chaperones and the four mules, called machos. As can be seen in photographs or videos of the play, the costumes are very striking, colorful and ornate. As spectacle, El Güegüense combines not just dance and music but also the ornate craft work of its masks that give the piece powerful and picturesque plastic folkloric effects.

UNESCO recognizes El Güegüense

But all that spectacle is reinforced by a very beguiling plot with great resonance in Latin America and the Caribbean. It was this unique combination of spectacle with social and political significance that lead UNESCO in 2005 to name El Güegüense as a work belonging to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Luis Morales notes, “We feel very proud that 10 years ago the UN declared this foundational work of Nicaraguan literature, the comedic ballet, El Güegüense part of Intangible Cultural Patrimony of Humanity. That in itself constitutes a launch pad so that people around the world can become familiar with this cultural expression of our people, which is so rich culturally, combining literature, dance, music, theater, the skilled plastic art of the craft work, all those beautiful masks, the costumes, the choreography.

Representing the struggles of the Latin American people

“So it really makes us proud that UNESCO has given Nicaragua’s El Güegüense the status of being part of Humanity’s Patrimony. And we know that his work of ours has a similar importance to other foundational cultural works of peoples across North, Central and South America who also represent the struggle of our populations, of our indigenous peoples who stood up to Spanish domination and European domination in the centuries prior to the 19th Century.

And even still in the 20th Century we confronted new forms of domination and colonization and this has to be recognized in all of Latin America because this represents Latin America. The joy, the vivacity, the heroism of our peoples is all there in El Güegüense and we think it really does represent the feeling of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

A tradition of people’s street theatre

el gueguense nicaragua 2

That feeling itself is a fundamental impulse towards freedom and independence for which works like El Güegüense are absolutely indispensable reference points as part of the region’s cultural inheritance. Luis Morales Alonso points out that the characters of El Güegüense derive from “an ancient tradition of theater that commands our attention, a tradition of people’s street theater which can be found repeated among all the peoples of our America. We have incredible expressions of it in Bolivia, Peru, in Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, in Guatemala, each one with their masks, their ornate craft works, the beautiful, colorful costumes, and all that typifies our peoples.”

Nicaragua’s cultural heritage under President Ortega

daniel ortega 6Under President Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s Sandinista government has made a priority of teaching Nicaragua’s cultural heritage. In Managua, in the former National Assembly, now the Palace of Culture, the Institute of Culture has a very attractive permanent exhibition dedicated to El Güegüense containing related works of art, in particular works by the distinguished Nicaraguan artist Carlos Montenegro. The Institute of Culture works very closely with the Ministry of Education and sees that work as essential to reinforce the role of El Güegüense as part of Nicaragua’s cultural identity.

“We have a great many activities with our schools and in this way, our new generations, our young people in their centers of study get to know this work, study it and perform it. Our government of national unity and reconciliation gives tremendous importance to this through the Institute of Culture and the Ministry of Education to promote familiarity and enjoyment of this dance comedy El Güegüense…

“Because it’s a work in which a local native makes fun of foreign authority, in this case the authority of Spain and through its theater manages to embody the aspirations of our peoples to a better life. That is seen in the theme of the marriage to the Governor’s daughter, but also in the mockery of the Governor himself. It is a very attractive work best expressed in the verses where El Güegüense utters satirical contradictions in his own burlesque way. That’s attractive to us because we Latin Americans are very joyful. Despite all the difficulties, for example the natural disasters we suffer as a result of not taking care of our Mother Earth, we face things with stoicism, with heroism, with joyfulness, with music and with dance.”

Source:  El Güegüense – An Indigenous Satire of Empire

Evo Morales at COP21: Capitalism is the Biggest Climate Threat

Source:  TeleSUR
30 November 2015

evo morales at cop21.jpgBolivian President Evo Morales advocates for system change in order to effectively address climate change at the Paris Cop21 climate summit. | Photo: ‏@jmkarg

The Bolivian president brought with him to the Paris climate talks a plan written by social movements to save “Mother Earth.”

Bolivian President Evo Morales once again blamed capitalism for environmental destruction, during his speech during the opening plenary of the COP 21 Climate Change Conference in Paris, France.

Morales called capitalism “the formula that has destroyed our species” and delivered a manifesto to save Mother Earth and life.

“On behalf of the social movements, I came here to raise the proposals agreed to at the last Climate Summit II held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, last October.”

He added that “today we have a unique and historic responsibility with Mother Earth. Let us express our concern for the dramatic effects of climate change that threaten Pachamama.”

Source:  Evo Morales at COP21: Capitalism is the Biggest Climate Threat

UN conference on climate change begins in France

France will chair and host the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11), from 30 November to 11 December 2015. The conference is crucial because the expected outcome is a new international agreement on climate change, applicable to all, to keep global warming below 2°C.

world leaders at cop21.jpg
French President Francois Hollande (centre) poses for a photo with fellow world leaders during the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, on Monday. | Photo: Reuters

Civil society, relegated largely to the sidelines, is stressing the urgency of reaching a meaningful, just, and binding deal. Several high-profile delegates began addressing the audience at the COP21 conference in the town of Le Bourget, about 65 miles north of Paris Monday morning. And in the meantime, amid intense security measures coming just two and half weeks after the deadly terror attacks in Paris that claimed the lives of 130 people, the 147 world leaders began addressing the plenary.

The opening follows huge marches around the world demanding that leaders take concrete steps to combat climate change. While 40,000 people will be in attendance with some 3,000 journalists, along with scientists and exhibitors.




World Bank: Climate change could push 100 million into extreme poverty

Source:  Independent
November 9 2015

climate change 2.jpgClimate change could push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030 by disrupting agriculture and fueling the spread of malaria and other diseases, the World Bank has said in a report.

UN climate summit in Paris

Released just weeks ahead of a UN climate summit in Paris, the report highlighted how the impact of global warming is borne unevenly, with the world’s poor woefully unprepared to deal with climate shocks such as rising seas or severe droughts.

“They have fewer resources and receive less support from family, community, the financial system, and even social safety nets to prevent, cope and adapt,” the Washington-based World Bank said.

How to help poor countries — and poor communities within countries — deal with climate change is one of the crunch issues in talks on a global climate accord that’s supposed to be adopted next month in Paris.

The demand for climate finance to developing countries

Those who say that rich countries aren’t doing enough to help the poor said the report added emphasis to demands for billions of dollars in so-called climate finance to developing countries.

“The statistics in the World Bank report are suitably shocking and I hope they force world leaders to sit up and take notice,” said Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid.

“The Paris deal needs to support the poor and vulnerable communities to cope with unavoidable climate crises better, and to be more resilient to a changed climate.”

Emissions of global warming gases

Despite pledges to rein in emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases, climate change isn’t likely to stop anytime soon.

Carbon emissions are expected to rise for many years as China, India and other developing countries expand the use of fossil fuels to power their economies.

But efforts to protect the poor, such as generally improving access to health care and social safety nets, and targeted measures to upgrade flood defences and deploy more heat-tolerant crops could prevent most of the negative consequences of climate change on poverty, the bank said.

With the absence of  such good developments, “climate change could result in an additional 100 million people living in extreme poverty by 2030,” the report said.

Stephane Hallegatte, one of the authors, told The Associated Press that one of the unique features of the report was that instead of analysing the macro-economic impact of climate change it was based in part on surveys of 1.4 million people in 92 countries.

Three major factors that push people into poverty

“When we ask people why they fall into poverty there are three major factors,” he said. “Agricultural shocks, including an increase in food prices; natural disasters such as floods, droughts, storms; and health issues, including malaria, diarrhoea.”

The report referred to studies showing climate change could result in global crop yield losses as large as five percent by 2030 and 30 percent by 2080. It also referenced studies showing warming temperatures could increase the number of people at risk for malaria by 150 million.

Mr Hallegatte said the “hotspots” for climate impacts on poor people were sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The US and other countries have collectively pledged to scale up climate financing to developed countries to $100 billion annually by 2020 to help them adapt to climate change and reduce their emissions.

Developing countries are calling for commitments beyond 2020 in the Paris agreement but rich nations are reluctant to make firm promises, in part due to budget uncertainties.

A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated climate finance flows to developing countries reached $62 billion in 2014.

Source:  World Bank: Climate change could push 100 million into extreme poverty

Extreme Poverty Down to Just 4.9 Percent in Venezuela

Source:  TeleSUR
17 November 2015

Under the PSUV socialist party government, extreme poverty in Venezuela has been reduced from 21% in 1998 to the resent level of 4.9% .  In the region extreme poverty varies with a high of 53 percent.

maduro 700000th home.jpg
In April 2015, President Nicolas Maduro (2ndR) gave away the 700,000th home built by the Bolivarian Revolution. Now over 800,000 have been built. | Photo: AVN

In spite of Venezuela’s economic turbulence in 2015, the government has managed to reduce extreme poverty to 4.9 percent thanks to social investment and initiatives, the vice president for social development, Gladys Requena, announced Monday.

IN DEPTH: The Truth Behind Shortages in Venezuela

hugo chavez 30When former President Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998, 21 percent of Venezuelans lived in extreme poverty. Since then, under Chavez’s same PSUV socialist party government, a variety of government “missions,” or initiatives, have bolstered living conditions for millions.

IN DEPTH: Chavez’s Legacy

The housing mission, for example, between 2011 and 2015 has provided 800,000 low-income families with new homes, while it was reported that the 12-year-old health mission has completed over 700 million free appointments to date.

Social projects

The spending on social projects has continued in spite of international opponents to the wealth redistribution project of the PSUV’s “Bolivarian Revolution” waging an economic war on Venezuela, which has driven up inflation and smuggling.

venezuela extreme poverty vs inflation.jpgThe vice president of planning, Ricardo Menendez, highlights that the Bolivarian Revolution has achieved a reduction in extreme poverty (orange bars) in spite of the inflation (blue bars) caused by the economic war. | Photo: AVN

Poverty eradication 

Speaking at a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) ministers meeting, Venezuela’s vice president, Jorge Arreaza, said that his government’s goal is to eradicate extreme poverty within the coming years.

The continuation of this trend under the PSUV will depend, in part, on Venezuelan parliamentary elections Dec. 6.

World Bank statistics from 2012 show that the regional average for those living under US$1.90 per day stood at 5.6 percent. However, individual country statistics varied greatly from over 53 percent in Haiti to almost 19 percent in Honduras to 0.3 percent in Uruguay. At that time the World Bank and the Venezuelan national statistics agency put Venezuelans living in extreme poverty at 9.2 percent.

Source:  Extreme Poverty Down to Just 4.9 Percent in Venezuela

Ecuador: Correa Calls for International Climate Justice Court

Source:  TeleSUR
27 November 2015

The Ecuadorean president said he would also stress the concept of “climate justice” at the upcoming COP21 climate summit.

rafael correa climate justice.jpgEcuadorean President Rafael during a speech at the University of Poitiers, France, Nov. 27. 2015. | Photo: Ecuadorean Presidency

Ecological debt

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa called Friday for the creation of an international climate justice court where developing countries would be able to hold wealthy countries accountable for what Correa described as an “ecological debt.”

Correa said lower-income countries that are rich in biodiversity and forests, such as Ecuador, should receive compensation from polluting countries for mitigating the impact of climate change by preserving the environment.

RELATED: Ecuadoreans Tackle Effects of Climate Change

​“Generally, countries that pollute are the rich and strong countries,” said Correa during a speech at the University of Poitiers, in France. Before becoming president, Correa was a distinguished university professor.

This is not the first time Correa has championed the concept of an “ecological debt” from rich to poorer countries.

Shortly after first arriving to power, the government of President Rafael Correa asked the international community to contribute 50 percent of the value of a portion of the oil reserves in Ecuadorean Amazon, an estimated US$3.6 billion, to refrain from extracting the oil. Ultimately, though, just over US$100 million was pledged. Of that only US$13.3 million was actually donated, forcing the government to abandon its plan not to extract oil from the Amazon.

RELATED: Ecuadorean State Oil Company Wins Environmental Prize

Climate justice

Correa is in Paris ahead of the COP21 climate change summit, where, in addition to representing his country, he will also speak on behalf of the 33 countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in his capacity as the president pro-tempore of the bloc known as CELAC.

“If we fail to achieve binding agreements, this could be the beginning of the burial of our civilization,” warned Correa.

The Ecuadorean president said that in addition to the creation of a new climate court, he will stress the concept of “climate justice.”

Historical injustices

Underpinning the idea of climate justice is that efforts to address climate change must take into consideration historical injustices.

Lower-income and developing countries find themselves in the difficult position of working to develop their economies while facing pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, developed countries were able to freely contaminate the environment as they became industrialized economies.

In addition, the countries of the global South are seen as those more likely to be forced to confront the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and changing weather patterns.

ANALYSIS: COP21 – A Climate Summit Without Marches

Before departing for Paris, the Ecuadorean president said he was skeptical a deal could be brokered at COP21.

“We don’t have great expectations, because at the end of the day everything is a question of (who wields) power. The world is governed by power, not justice,” said Correa on Wednesday.

COP21 is set to begin on Nov. 29, one day earlier than previously scheduled. President Correa is scheduled to speak on Nov. 30.

Source:  Ecuador’s Correa Calls for International Climate Justice Court

Panama: First Indigenous Poetry Anthology, A Weapon of Struggle

Source: TeleSUR
16 November 2015

panama indigenous people.jpgIndigenous writers and poets hope the new anthology will prompt Panama’s Culture Ministry to allocate more funds to preserve indigenous heritage. | Photo: EFE

The new anthology contains ode to revolutions, ancestors and heroes, lands and struggles.

Using art as a way to reclaim their identity

The first anthology of indigenous poetry was launched in Panama on Sunday in what the authors say is using art as a way to reclaim their identity and redefine Panama.

In a country where well-over 90 percent of the indigenous population lives in conditions of poverty or extreme poverty, the “First Anthology of Indigenous Poetry” is seen as part of a larger struggle for dignity and cultural survival, according to the poets.

“For us it is very important to preserve culture, identity, the struggle for the land, territory, natural resources. All of this is very important to us. This is why we have to mention it in everything; be it in poetry, in oratory, drawings, paintings,” Mani Gueuigdinapi, the book’s editor told HispanTV.

Odes to revolutions, ancestors and heroes

As such, the anthology contains odes to revolutions, ancestors and heroes, land and struggles authored by 14 different poets from the Indigenous Guna and Ngäbe-Buglé communities.

ANALYSIS: Dignifying the Indigenous Figure through Performing Arts

“Never has there been a compilation of so many poets like this. It is important for the history of Panama, and it is important for Guna youth to see that they also have poets,” said writer and poet Aristides Turpana.

Indigenous heritage

Meanwhile, the indigenous writers and poets hope the book launch can turn into an opportunity to push Panama’s Culture Ministry to allocate more funds to preserve and diffuse its indigenous heritage.

Panama’s indigenous populations have historically been displaced from their lands and subjected to conditions of mass poverty as a result of systemic racism. In 2010, a U.N. report said that “the persistence of racial discrimination and its historical causes have led to the marginalization, poverty and vulnerability of Afro-Panamanians and Indigenous peoples,” adding that “there is no general provision prohibiting discrimination based on race or the criminalization of acts of racial discrimination.”

Source: Panama: First Indigenous Poetry Anthology, A Weapon of Struggle

Latin America Launches Documentary Highlighting Diversity

Source:  TeleSUR
November 27 2015

Cultural identities should unite us and strengthen the feeling of unity and peace, said UNASUR leader Ernesto Samper.

latam cultural diversity.jpg

Aymara women in La Paz, Bolivia dancing and playing bells at a fiesta. | Photo: Reuters

Latin America has long been known as a region of great cultural diversity, with unique festivals celebrated in almost every city. Now the Union of South American Nations, known as UNASUR, has launched a special documentary series to showcase and celebrate this diversity, with organizers saying they hope it promotes regional integration and peace.

“Folklore, music, gastronomy, ancestral customs … these are the most relevant aspects of the Latin American identity. And these identities should unite us, to strengthen the feeling of peace which is central for UNASUR,” said UNASUR Secretary-General Ernesto Samper at a special launch for the documentary series Friday.

IN DEPTH: UNASUR: Integrating South America

Different festival from around Latin America

The documentary series, titled “Expreso Sur” (South Express), includes 42 episodes, each one featuring and exploring in-depth a different festival from around Latin America, particularly the 12 UNASUR nations: Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay.

The South American union was created in 2007 for the purpose of promoting regional integration and sovereignty – politically, economically, socially and culturally. The documentary series is one of the bloc’s first major cultural integration initiatives, to increase social awareness and attain social inclusion. And it hopes to do more, said Samper.

The series will feature three festivals across Ecuador to show the diversity within the nation itself, which is home to many different indigenous communities. This will include the San Pedro and San Pablo festival in the coastal province of Manabi, the Punjili festival in the Andes and the Fiesta de los Chontas in the jungle region.

Filmmakers across the region were asked to participate in a competition, whereby the winner won US$25,000 to develop their documentary.

The importance of cultural integration

Samper emphasized the importance of cultural integration, pointing out the various conflicts around the world that have been sparked, or aggravated, by discrimination and intolerance of differences.

“You can see in the news today that people are killing each other over ethnic or religious reasons, for ideological conflicts. We have a much greater diversity than exists in other regions … but we’re not killing each other for them,” said Samper. “We want this diversity to change into a source of identity and that identity has a name and that name is Peace.”

OPINION: On Western Racism, Islamophobia

Quito, Ecuador

Samper launched the series at the UNASUR headquarters in Quito, Ecuador, along with the Ecuadorean Minister of Culture Guillaume Long, and Public Communications Minister Marcelo del Pozo.

The documentaries aim to encourage people in South America to enjoy both their local and regional cultures, in addition to, not at the expense of, western cultural products. In Ecuador, for example, some 100,000 to 200,000 people will go see Ecuadorean films in the cinema each year, but 8 to 9 million Ecuadoreans will go to see Hollywood movies, said Long.

Increased regional and cultural integration “is a process in defense of our identity and sovereignty,” Long told teleSUR at a press conference prior to Friday’s event.

“There could not be Latin American integration without cultural integration,” he said.

The documentary series will first be aired on regional public television stations, with the potential for international distribution in the future.

Source:  Latin America Launches Documentary Highlighting Diversity



Yes I can: A great effort by Cuban teachers

Source: Granma
November 26 2015

by Yenia Silva Correa |

Thanks to the ‘Yo, sí puedo’ (Yes, I can) literacy program, more than nine million people, primarily in Africa and Latin America, have learned to read and write

yo si puedo 5Over nine million people have learned to read and write with ‘Yes, I can.’ Photo: Ricardo López Hevia

Over 1,000 Cuban collaborators offer technical assistance in the sphere of education in more than 18 countries.

Thanks to the ‘Yo, sí puedo’ (Yes, I can) literacy program, more than nine million people, primarily in Africa and Latin America, have learned to read and write, while another million have completed the ‘Yo sí puedo seguir’ (Yes, I can continue) post-literacy initiative.

The country has also developed a goods and services export strategy linked to the education sector, which features among its various projects, comprehensive early childhood education, special education training, and student learning assessments.

Experts from the Ministry of Education’s (Mined) Collaboration department spoke with Granma International about the services they export.

What opportunities exist to increase the number of countries where the Cuban literacy and post-literacy programs are offered?

– Dr. Moraima Orozco Delgado (MO), director of International Relations: In regards to literacy we don’t currently have any (requests), but we do for technical assistance. For example, at present, Technical Vocational (TVE), Special and Early Childhood Education are the areas which are experiencing the greatest development.

We will potentially be undertaking collaborative TVE efforts in Namibia, South Africa, the Congo and Angola in the coming months.

What is the Ministry of Education’s strategy in regards to ensuring teaching coverage in the country and educational collaboration in other nations?

– MO: That’s an interesting question which is related to Mined’s collaboration selection procedure. We focus on the fact that the availability of teachers is different in every province, a situation we take into account during the selection process, without denying professionals from the capital or province of Matanzas – where the main difficulties lie – the chance to participate in a collaboration program.
We give those professionals the opportunity to participate, but we choose the largest number of educators from provinces with a better teaching coverage situation. When selecting we always look for excellent professionals with experience, while remaining conscious of the limitations this could produce for teacher coverage in the country’s municipalities and provinces. What we do is try to find a balance between national needs and cooperation efforts with other countries.

yo si puedo 6.jpgMany Haitians have learned to read and write through the Cuban literacy program. Photo: Amelia Duarte de la Rosa.

– Mijail Benavides Lezcaide (MB), head of the Collaboration department: It’s also linked to the education level in question. It could be that we have a situation at the high school or elementary level but the request isn’t focused on any of these levels. It might simply be a request for technical assistance to design a course curriculum at a teaching university, which would have no impact at the classroom level. There are very few countries in which our professionals actually teach classes. Our collaborative efforts are primarily focused on providing assistance in designing curriculum; which means that these efforts don’t really affect teaching coverage on the island.

Has any graduate of the ‘Yes, I can’ or ‘Yes I can continue’ programs gone on to study at a high school level here or in their country?

– MB: That depends on the priorities the beneficiary government may haveHow that student progresses depends on their social context. In general these are alternative programs which feature in the adult education system and benefit individuals from the most disadvantaged communities. They are offered to people over the age of 15 who can neither read nor write – and are also often a solution for school-age students who have no access to education.

In academic terms, according to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), these people are not illiterate, but rather lack access to education. Not every country provides universal elementary education. As we all know, the failure to offer primary education for all is the natural cause of illiteracy.

Is it possible to take the ‘Yes, I can continue’ program to nations where the ‘Yes, I can’ initiative has already been applied?

– MO: We are willing. It depends of the request. Governments, mayors, and decisions-makers are forever changing. Ensuring the continuation of what has been achieved depends on their political will.

– MB: There are also the social priorities. There are countries where literacy isn’t a priority on their educational agendas. It depends on the request. You also have to bear in mind that it’s not the only literacy program. It’s an alternative which aims to, in a short period of time, bring someone who has recently learn to read an write up to a basic elementary level.

How have these collaborative missions benefited Cuba?

– MO: We learn about the different contexts in which we work. In general, all the programs have been undertaken in extremely difficult areas. They haven’t taken place in super developed cities. Our collaborators have had to adapt in order to create an effective work environment under a tree with just a blackboard, with the ‘Yes, I can’ workbooks, or in a church.

We have learned to assess and appreciate what we possess as professionals. I believe that participating in a collaborative mission is a great opportunity for Cuban teachers, given the potential for their professional development – improving their day to day practices – as well as the personal.

I believe the benefit lies in these two aspects: personal and professional growth, because the conditions in which collaborators work are far from ideal. From a personal point of view, learning about a new culture and dealing with different systems often makes you appreciate what you have. This effort carries with it the sacrifice, determination and willingness which characterize Cuban educators.

Source:  A great effort by Cuban teachers

Elections in Venezuela: A struggle for the National Assembly

Source:  Granma
November 26 2015

by Dilbert Reyes Rodríguez |

In a few days, Venezuela will again have the eyes of the world looking its way. On December 3, more than 19 million voters are eligible to choose 167 deputies for a new National Assembly, to chart the country’s course

venezuela's national assembly

It will be the 20th electoral process to be held since Chavista forces assumed government power, and although the record shows that these 19 votes confirmed support for the Bolivarian Revolution, with 18 victories and one loss, the coming election is expected to be the most difficult to date.

At stake is mathematical control of the legislative body, which will be won by whoever captures the largest number of seats. The country is highly polarized with the two blocs, the revolutionary Chavista and the opposition oligarchy, both intent upon winning the important ‘50% plus one’ in the elections.

The outcome will quickly bring consequences for the future of the country. On the one hand, a majority in the hands of Chavistas offers the assurance that the Bolivarian Revolution, and its response to the demands of the poor, will continue.

On the other, if the right wing gains government power, this will lead to the launching of an open attack, a boycott of any action taken by President Nicolás Maduro, as the first step in a parliamentary coup to remove him from office, to create the conditions for the dismantling of the current government’s social project.

Government power

The conclusion is clear. Winning the Assembly means controlling the legislative branch, which is key to government power. It is the legal body which can legitimize or frustrate the President’s intentions.

The particular complexity of this process lies not only in the parliamentary majority at stake, but in the circumstances which surround the campaign, beyond what is customary in this type of election.


For some time now, a strategy of destabilization has been developed and implemented in Venezuela, directed toward undermining its economy and encouraging dissatisfaction within the population. The private sector, financed from abroad, has created shortages of food, toiletries, consumer goods and a wave of speculation-driven price increases which have rapidly and drastically raised the cost of living.

Moreover, a sudden drop in the international price of oil, the nation’s principal export, has impacted the availability of hard currency for the stable development of the country, and limited the government’s options in efforts to effectively respond to the economic war being waged by the local oligarchy and its foreign accomplices.


The revolutionary government has organized resistance to these attempts at destabilization in an exemplary fashion, continuing the implementation of its Plan for the Homeland. Priority has been given to social investment with the consolidation and expansion of social missions; construction and reparation of housing; increasing pensions and the number of beneficiaries; improving public transportation; and other programs serving the people.

Also undertaken, and moving forward, is strong action to address citizen insecurity and the paramilitary threat, and to advance in the development of productive means to assure the country’s economic sovereignty and self-sufficiency, and reduce its vulnerability to boycotts by private corporate monopolies.


Nevertheless, it cannot be ruled out that the discontent of an important part of the electorate could have an impact on the elections, and put a brake on revolutionary forces, which in response have resorted to an alliance, the Great Patriotic Front, to build as much unity as possible and maintain support for the Bolivarian government in the National Assembly.

Led by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the bloc includes within its ranks candidates and members of 18 progressive political organizations. The motivation of supporters is critical since the opposition Democratic Unity Board (MUD) is hoping for a low voter turn-out that could be advantageous to its candidates.

As far as the opposition’s expectations go – despite internal disagreements, the departure of several leaders and the arbitrary selection of candidates – the goal is not so much to increase the number of votes they have traditionally received, but to reduce the Bolivarian margin of victory.

The same script

In any event, given the 18 lost elections, the right wing is not banking on a fair victory at the polls, and is prepared to follow the same script used previously to denounce the results as fraudulent, and organize a violent response, as they did in 2014.

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President Maduro condemned the opposition’s refusal to pledge its respect for election results.  Photo:  AVNEnter a caption

This is an attitude which they do not even attempt to hide. Previously, the opposition simply ignored the National Electoral Council (CNE) document in which candidates pledged to peacefully honor results. Now they refuse to sign, even with the new modification including Unasur accompaniment.

“On alert, people,” said President Nicolas Maduro with good reason, on November 24, when he condemned the posture taken by the opposition coalition, insisting, “We must work for the electoral victory and we must work for the victory of peace,” in a clear appeal to caution, given the sad lessons learned last year when streets were barricaded and lives lost. He reiterated that the government will not allow the peace to de disturbed, the people hurt, or the democratic exercise of one’s vote impaired.


For now, the electoral campaign continues, with the Patriotic Front actively mobilizing its ranks, while the opposition enjoys the not so subtle support of the media, with anemic public displays of support.

CNE leaders are busy, preparing and checking the registers and technical mechanisms – all thoroughly audited, with no problems noted; conducting fairs and publicity to ensure understanding of the voting process; and supervising campaign activities to enforce strict adherence to established norms.

Also working in several locations around the country is the first contingent of the Unasur mission, to be completed on the 27th, with 50 observers from 12 countries – impartial, experienced and prestigious experts, from a variety of ideological and philosophical backgrounds, but without the interventionist attitude of those preferred by MUD.

Campaigning will continue through December 3, followed by a silent period, until the people make the legitimate decision on December 6.

Many are anxious for the date to arrive, but we may be obliged to wait a few more days, since despite the revolutionary government’s commitment to democracy, and the country’s world class electoral system, Venezuela knows the opposition is desperate, and without the slightest justification, is already shouting, “Fraud!” and surreptitiously making other plans.

Source:  Venezuela’s future in the balance