Chavez and Castro further health ties
August 21, 2005
The Daily Journal
Chavez and Cuban President Fidel Castro, together hosting Sunday's version of the program "Hello President," pledged to offer medical care to 6 million Latin Americans over the next 10 years under the auspices of the "Sandino Agreement." 300,000 patients outside of Venezuela and the Caribbean would also receive operations in the next year, they said.
The two presidents settled on the figures after experiencing "a little confusion" in their calculations.
President Chavez was in Cuba to attend the first graduation of medical students from the Latin American Medical Science School on Saturday. Of the 1,610 students from 28 countries who received degrees, 51 were Venezuelan.
Around 20 leaders from around the region attended the graduation, including Panamanian President Martin Torrijos.
Chavez said that the Venezuelan airline Conviasa would dedicate an aircraft to carrying patents from around Latin America to receive treatment in Cuba.
Venezuela would set up its own Latin American school of medicine, similar to the school in Havana, which would "educate an army of doctors to fight against disease," Chavez said. He dedicated the school to Castro and the Cuban revolution.
The two leaders also promised to graduate around 100,000 medical students in the next 10 years.
"An atomic bomb has exploded for the life of the people of Latin America and the Caribbean," Chavez said.
The "Mission Milagro," which brings Venezuelan patients to Cuba for medical attention, celebrated its 50,000th patient to receive an operation in Cuba on Sunday. The patient, Angel Quintero Gomez, thanked Chavez and Castro on the program after receiving an eye operation.
It's interesting to read Venezuela's military rhetoric about the U.S. back in 2005, in light of what's going on today.
Reservists to counteract US - Lopez Hidalgo
By Jens Erik Gould
Daily Journal Staff
"Fourth generation warfare" allegedly committed by the United States against Venezuela is behind the government's aggressive plan to expand its military reserves, said the Inspector General of the National Armed Forces (FAN) in an exclusive interview with The Daily Journal on Tuesday.
The reason? The world covets Venezuela's enormous petroleum reserves at a time when global supplies are dwindling, said Gen. Melvin LÛpez Hidalgo, who assumed his new post last week.
"It's not against the people of the United States, but specifically against the hostile attitude of President Bush," he said.
According LÛpez Hidalgo, this fourth generation conflict, which refers to decentralized modern war in which the lines between war and politics are blurred, has led Venezuela to boost its capacity for "asymmetric warfare," a conflict in which two belligerents are mismatched in their military capabilities.
When asked how Venezuela could stand up to the U.S.' military might in the case of action, he cited the Vietnam War and the current violence in Iraq as examples of successful asymmetric responses against Washington.
"They can come in here, embark, bomb us, et cetera, but the people can respond," he said. "That is the integration and union of a people so it can respond to aggression."
President Hugo Ch·vez' call earlier this year to boost the reserves to over 2 million men "created an expectation" that has propelled citizens across the country to register, the Inspector said.
While the Inspector declined to specify how many people were currently registered for the reserves, he said the government was shooting for a total of 2.5 million, or approximately 10 percent of the population, and aimed to enroll 1 million by the end of the year. When asked if the number had already reached 500,000 he said "we could talk about that number."
LÛpez Hidalgo called it a "fact" that "all the people that intervened in the coup d'Ètat" staged in April 2002 against President Hugo Ch·vez "were supported by the U.S. government." He said that the supposed US involvement "opened our eyes" to the nation's need for more men in arms.
The US government denies any participation in the coup. Yet the Inspector offered assurances that during the coup, a U.S. submarine was located off the Venezuelan coast, U.S. Black Hawk helicopters were in the country and that the U.S. coordinated exercises with personnel ready to join the coup. He added that Washington had requested that evidence of these actions be erased.
The Inspector also repeated claims made last month by President Hugo Ch·vez that the United States supported a strategic plan to invade Venezuela-called the Balboa Plan-which he said was simulated in Spain in 2001.
He insisted that the plan was backed by the United Nations and NATO, and was designed to cut the country in half, "destroy the military bases, ... bomb all the airports, ...destroy all the airplanes, ... and destroy bridges."
LÛpez Hidalgo even cited a recent amendment passed by the U.S. House of Representatives to counteract the Venezuela-backed television station Telesur as an example of fourth generation warfare. "They will try to intercept and neutralize the electromagnetic waves of our sovereign air space," he said. "That calls us to wake up and respond."
The Inspector would not say whether the recent acquisition of Russian rifles and Brazilian war planes was related to the plan to boost Venezuela's asymmetric capability. Nor did he reveal whether more purchases were in the works. He did, however, point out that the request to purchase the Russian rifles was made even before Ch·vez came to power in 1998.
He said that military force could come from neighboring Colombia, but only if it were supported by the United States. "We understand that (Colombia's alliance with the United States) is not a position of the Colombian people, but a foreign position that affects the Colombian and Venezuelan people," he said.
Ch·vez opponents have accused the government of boosting the reserves in order to counteract its supposed mistrust of the Armed Forces after the military participation in the 2002 coup d'etat. Yet LÛpez Hidalgo called these claims "completely false" and guaranteed that the government now had more confidence in the FAN than ever.
"There are admirals, colonels, et cetera, that participated in coup, and now regret it," LÛpez Hidalgo said. "Many people opened their eyes."
Also, a plan to "generate confidence" in the FAN, which the Inspector called one of his main projects, included efforts by the Attorney General and military courts to reopen investigations against officers who were accused of participating in the coup, which he called "fundamentally military." Some of the most important cases involved Commander Efrain Vasquez Velasco, Vice Admiral Hector RamÌrez PÈrez and General Enrique Medina Gomez, he said.
The Inspector repeated several times that these men and others were "still (living) at home," and said his goal was for these men and others "to assume responsibility." "The worst that can happen in this country is that impunity wins," he said.
LÛpez Hidalgo also claimed that the population "feels more relaxes with this (reserves) initiative." "Because it is not only the Armed Forces that will safeguard the security of nation, but the (1999) Constitution establishes co-responsibility for the defense of country. We are applying the Bolivarian Constitution, which is a willingness of people of Venezuela," he said.
The make-up of the reserves
The reserves do appear to be expanding upwards from the 60,000 men that the Inspector said were registered before Ch·vez' announcement. Lt. Col. Pablo Cabarga Mota, who manages the military's reserves unit in the Caracas suburb 23 de enero, told The Daily Journal last month that the number of people registered in his unit had increased from 1,500 to 6,000 since the start of the year.
The Inspector explained that some citizens have "taken the initiative" to begin training even though the Organic Law of the National Armed Forces - which establishes the organization and budget of the reserves - has not yet been passed. One program in the Caracas suburb of El Paraiso trains hundreds of citizens in civilian clothes every week.
Under the new law, the reserves budget will depend upon the Executive rather than the Ministry of Defense. He also mentioned that Ch·vez proposed paying reservists a subsidy of Bs. 16,000 per day, which he said was more than they received today.
Reserves units would also be developed within national industries and said various training operations had already been carried out within the petroleum industry.
But LÛpez Hidalgo assured that the reservists would only train with FAN arms, and would not have access to arms outside of training. He also said instead of taking up arms, some reservists would work in social development programs along with FAN soldiers. 3 years of training would be required to become official reservists.
A peaceful buildup?
Some consider the concept of a peaceful military buildup an oxymoron, and government opponents have gone as far as claiming that the government is creating a new military body to squash internal dissent.
Even so, the Inspector offered assurances that the movement was not "bellicose" and that Venezuela was "not preparing to invade anyone." "With that we don't want to worry anyone, nor any neighboring country. On the contrary, we want to show that we are ready to defend our territory until the end."
[[First published in 2005]]
Jens Erik Gould
Para La Voz de Nuevo México
CARACAS, Venezuela — Por la pantalla destellaban las imágenes de los manifestantes que marchaban por una ciudad latinoamericana no identificada. Unos de ellos levantaban una pancarta con una caricatura del Tío Sam que decía: “Aplastemos el imperialismo”. Luego la cámara enfocó a una mujer sonriendo detrás de las palabras, “Por fin nos vemos las caras”.
Estos pasajes formaban parte de la señal de prueba de Telesur, un nuevo canal de televisión latinoamericano que inició transmisiones el domingo.
Fundado por los gobiernos de Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba y Uruguay, el canal pretende ser una alternativa a los grandes medios de comunicación internacionales como CNN.
“Las producciones que vienen de (los grandes medios) son una visión de Latinoamérica en blanco y negro, normalmente en negro cuando hay desastre y nada más”, dijo el director de Telesur, Aram Aharonian.
Un tercio de la programación del canal consistirá de noticias recogidas por nueve corresponsalías en las Américas. El resto será programación cultural latinoamericana, como películas, documentales y conciertos.
Un programa promete poner al descubierto las acciones de los soldados estadounidenses supuestamente implicados en el tráfico de drogas en Colombia. Otra serie llamada “Memorias del Fuego” presentará eventos históricos latinoamericanos que Flor de Maria Oliva 7/25/05 según los ejecutivos del canal se han olvidado.
No obstante, la semana pasada la Cámara de Representantes de EE. UU. aprobó una enmienda impulsada por Connie Mack, Republicano de Florida, que autoriza transmisiones de radio y televisión estadounidenses Flor de Maria Oliva 7/25/05 para bloquear el alcance de Telesur.
Mack, junto con críticos de Telesur, acusan al nuevo canal de ser un portavoz para la política del presidente de Venezuela Hugo Chávez. Se preocupan porque Andrés Izarra, el Ministro de Comunicaciones venezolano es el presidente de Telesur, y también porque Venezuela posee el 51 por ciento del canal y es su sede.
“Hoy (EE. UU.) envió un mensaje que no se hará de la vista gorda mientras que Hugo Chávez sigue borrando la libertad y secuestrando Venezuela de sus ciudadanos”, dice Mack, según AFP.
Pero aunque Izarra respondió el domingo que Telesur sería un canal “en contra del imperialismo cultural”, también dijo: “Esto no debe interpretarse como una iniciativa en contra del pueblo estadounidense”.
El congresista demócrata por Arizona Raúl Grijalva rechazó la iniciativa de Mack.
“Los dueños de los medios privados en Venezuela son inmensamente ricos, y son probablemente las últimas personas sobre faz de la tierra que necesitarán ayuda de EE. UU. para transmitir sus opiniones”, dijo Grijalva.
Chris Crommett, vicepresidente de CNN en Español, dijo en una entrevista el mes pasado que no quería prejuzgar Telesur, y señaló que hay quienes suelen acusar a CNN de tener afiliaciones políticas.
El canal se puede ver por satélite en todo el hemisferio y está en negociaciones con estaciones de cable para transmitir en EE. UU.
On eve of vote, Venezuelan president accuses Washington of backing rival
Dec. 2, 2006. 01:00 AM
JENS ERIK GOULD
CARACAS—Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says his real opponent when he goes up for re-election tomorrow won't be main opposition candidate Manuel Rosales. Rather, it will be the United States.
Chavez, who famously called U.S. President George W. Bush "the devil" at the United Nations in September, is convinced that Washington is behind Rosales' effort to unseat him.
He told hundreds of thousands of supporters at a campaign rally that his true rival was the "imperialist government of the United States."
Chavez's anti-Bush rhetoric resonates in Latin America, where opposition is growing to the free-market capitalist reforms urged by Washington. With Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador all electing leftist presidents in the past year, the Venezuelan leader sees the region's leftward shift as an opportunity to rebuff U.S. influence.
But Chavez's supporters offer another explanation for his commanding lead in most public opinion polls: a legacy of generous social development programs bankrolled by windfall oil profits to provide cheaper food, free education and free health care for the poor.
"President Chavez has confronted the problem of poverty and the social problems that have been serious in our country," said lawmaker William Querales, who is on the foreign policy committee at the legislature. "Foreign policy has an effect, but obviously a leader grows stronger through the solution of internal problems."
The opposition counters by pointing to studies showing that Chavez, 52, has failed to put a major dent in poverty and that violent crime has worsened.
Freddy Linarez, 48, a construction worker from the dangerous Caracas neighbourhood of Petare, said the government was not doing enough to fight crime.
"You have to be more afraid of the police than the actual thieves," Linarez said. "People steal here in Petare and neither the National Guard nor the police do anything. And the mayor doesn't even show his face."
But many in the poor neighbourhoods, called barrios, on the outskirts of Caracas say they are better off since Chavez was elected in 1998.
Tacagua is a barrio where many homes are made of scraps of tin pieced together. Here, gang violence and drug use are part of everyday life, and the government has been slow to provide new housing for families whose homes are in danger of collapsing in mudslides.
Even so, posters and graffiti praising Chavez permeate the neighbourhood.
Yris Machado, 41, a widow, could feed her four children only one meal a day until a Chavez-backed program began supplying her with food staples. Now, she and her children, one of whom has Down syndrome, eat three meals a day.
"Thanks to my president, now I can say that I'm going to buy a new mattress for my daughter and I'm going to give her a better way of living," Machado said.
Across town in the low-income area of El Valle, Gladys Garcia is thrilled with the Chavez government. After being denied treatment by a private hospital because she couldn't pay, Garcia is now getting attention at a free government-sponsored health-care clinic.
The program called Barrio Adentro, Spanish for "inside the neighbourhood," brings tens of thousands of Cuban doctors to work in Venezuela in exchange for Venezuelan oil under preferential terms. Since 2003, thousands of red-brick clinics have sprung up across the country, giving the poor 24-hour-a-day treatment closer to home.
It is voters like Garcia and Machado that Rosales' campaign is failing to win over, although he has promised to tackle Venezuela's growing problems with crime and corruption, as well as putting an end to Chavez's generous aid to allies like Cuba.
Rosales also accuses the government of politicizing state entities. His campaign released a video earlier this month showing Chavez's energy minister Rafael Ramirez threatening to lay off state oil company workers who didn't support the president.
This article was first published in 2014 in The Financialist
Want to buy a home in Australia? You’ll need to compete with the Chinese. Wealthy Chinese are pouring more than $5 billion a year into the Australian property market, accounting for 12 percent of the new housing supply per year, according to a Credit Suisse report entitled “The Chinese Property Boom Down Under.”
And it looks as if they’ll be accounting for even more: Chinese spending in Australia’s residential market totaled $24 billion over the past seven years; Credit Suisse estimates a near-doubling to $44 billion over the next seven.
It’s not just Australia’s cleaner air or beautiful beaches that are attracting Chinese money. Chinese investors are scouring the globe for compelling investment opportunities since their banks are offering low or negative real interest on deposits and Beijing is restricting property purchases.
The boom is jacking up property prices in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities to among the highest in the world.
By Jens Gould
The Albuquerque Tribune
March 24, 2005
Varsity softball teams from around the state face off today in a tournament honoring former Rio Rancho softball player Kristin Griego.
The annual Kristin Griego Memorial Varsity Softball tournament provides an opportunity for some rare matchups as teams warm up for district play next week.
The finals are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday at Rio Rancho High School.
Rio Rancho coach Paul Kohman, who coached Griego for four seasons, said the school renamed the tournament because Griego was a high caliber player who was well respected.
"She always gave to others and worked very hard," said Kohman.
Griego died of a diabetic seizure in November 2003.
The tournament features some of the state's best teams and promises to be competitive. "I think there could be some upsets this year," said Kohman, who also manages the tournament.
The bracket matches up teams who do not normally play each other in the regular season and allows teams to see styles of play from other districts.
"Besides coaching your own team, it's fun to watch other teams play," said Kohman. "We're all a little different in everything we do."
Coaches also use the tournament as an indicator of how teams might perform during the rest of the season.
Highland coach Ron Thomas said the tournament will help his team gear up for its first district game next week.
Farmington won last year's tournament with an extra-innings victory over Rio Rancho in the finals. The Scorpions went on to win the 4A State Championship.
Alamogordo enters the tournament as defending 5A State champions.
Kohman said one player to watch this weekend is Aztec's hard-throwing pitcher Cassidy Nee.
The tournament, formerly known as the Rio Rancho Invitational, is in its sixth year. It is open to teams of all classifications and does not draw brackets by seed.
Play begins at 11 a.m. on Thursday and continues until Saturday. All games will take place on four fields at Rio Rancho High School.
This was one of the first stories I ever published, while I was an intern at the Albuquerque Journal in 2005.
Low-key player takes singles title
The Albuquerque Tribune
March 15, 2005
His coach says he’s humble.
His Mom says he’s soft spoken.
But Tyler Krzykowski’s surprising performance on Saturday was far from quiet. In fact, it has a lot of people talking.
Valley’s Krzykowski, No. 4 seed in the top boys bracket, defeated favorite Chris Beach of La Cueva in straight sets to capture the Albuquerque Public Schools singles championship on Saturday.
Top seed Anna Surviladze of Sandia took the girls title with a win in straight sets over La Cueva’s Marianna Varela.
True to form, Tyler kept his comments short and sweet. “I just did my best,” he said.
Others were ecstatic. “I’m just in shock, to tell you the truth,” said Valley coach Juan Martinez.
Martinez said Krzykowski’s subdued demeanor is part of his strong mental game. “Tyler’s the hardest person to read during a match,” he said. “You look at him and it looks like he’s losing. But he really just won the first set.”
Krzykowski, who won 6-2, 6-2, had never beaten Beach in his three previous tries. He said the win was one of the biggest of his high school career. He also said it will give him more experience for the upcoming season.
Martinez said the win was important for Valley’s program, which is not traditionally a big name in high school tennis.
The girls final pitted two best friends against each other. Anna Surviladze, a native of the Republic of Georgia, defeated Marianna Varela, 6-0, 6-3.
Surviladze said this weekend’s tournament helped her gear up for the season. “It’s good to see the flavor of the competition this year,” she said.
Both players have their sights set on going to the State tournament this year.
“I’ll be disappointed if we don’t take State,” said Surviladze of her Sandia team. “I think we’re pretty much equal though,” said Varela of La Cueva. “We’re hungry for it.”
Surviladze said there is more pressure this year without her sister, Nina, on the team. Anna used to practice every day with Nina, who is now playing at the collegiate level.
The Sandia girls team has won the State championship the past three consecutive years.
Surviladze and Varela wanted to be interviewed together following the match.
“We get used to it,” said Surviladze when asked about playing against her best friend.
“You forget who you’re playing,” said Varela.
The boys finals match was peppered with hard-fought rallies. Beach displayed his strong net game and powerful serve. But, he ultimately caved under the more consistent play of Krzykowski.
Betsy Kryzkowski, Tyler’s Mom, said that the win was especially exciting because it was rare to beat La Cueva.
“No accolades. No limelight,” said Betsy about her son’s approach to tennis.
“[The limelight’s] okay,” said Tyler after hearing his Mom’s comments. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Education Eliminates Ignorance
The Santa Fe New Mexican
October 19, 2003
Extremism is borne of ignorance. As Congress and the public focus on the budget for Iraq this month, we could miss a chance to mend a major rift between the United States and fundamentalists.
The President’s budget request includes $345 million to expand cultural and educational exchange programs, especially in countries with Muslim majorities. These programs are not only educational; they are an unconventional way to combat terrorism. Their effect can be difficult to assess, but they challenge the ignorance and hatred that lead to terrorism, and may be critical to future U.S. diplomacy in an unconvinced world.
Every American can take part in this often overlooked brand of diplomacy.
International education can also improve the American public’s limited knowledge of the outside world.
According to National Geographic’s 2002 Global Geographic Literacy Survey, only one out of eight young Americans could locate Iraq on a map, and two out of three could not find England
Not surprisingly, respondents who had traveled internationally and who spoke more than one language scored much higher on the test.
Fewer than one in five Americans have a passport and only one percent of our college students study abroad.
Do our insular habits allow us to have a true understanding of the Muslim world and make informed decisions on foreign policy?
We know that international opinions of the United States have crumbled.
The Pew Research Center’s most recent survey polled 20 nations and found that the war in Iraq has “widened the rift between Americans and Western Europeans, further enflamed the Muslim world,” and “softened support for the war on terrorism.”
Teaching as a Fulbright scholar this past year, I saw how personal contact is a weapon against anti-Americanism, especially in schools.
We were privileged to build personal relationships in class, and my students offered me a view into their reasons for protesting America’s involvement in Iraq.
Most of these students, who did not know any Americans, were suddenly able to talk to one about everything from The Simpsons to foreign aid.
A student of mine told me after class that he now looks at the United States as a group of individual people with different cultural backgrounds rather than as a faceless government with muscle.
He said that his impression of Americans had mostly come from television, which broadcast Americans smashing French wine bottles in protest over France’s position on Iraq.
To paint a more accurate picture of who we are, let’s allow American citizens to build our image. We have to tell our own story.
Personal contact will not do much to change opinion of U.S. foreign policy.
Yet foreign publics will see Americans as real people, and may be less quick to accuse us as a nation on an imperialistic binge. American students, professors and other civilians do this work best, not trained diplomats.
Foreign scholars who have benefited from educational exchange in the United States echo my experience.
After giving a lecture at a university in Pennsylvania, Fulbright scholar Dr. Rachida El-Diwani of Egypt was told by a student that some people in her audience had never met a Muslim and that, thanks to her, they were now beginning to understand Islam.
Although the budget is expected to pass Congress, funding is not enough. Educational programs and other aspects of “public diplomacy” are still a very small part of the overall budget.
So, while President Bush requests $87 billion for Iraq—250 times the amount proposed for educational programs—let us remember to reserve an adequate piece of the budget for educational and cultural programs.
Jens Erik Gould was a J. William Fulbright scholar in Gent, Belgium last year. He received a B.A. in English from the University of Michigan in 2002.
Atomic batteries to power! Turbines to speed! Batman fans can now utter those classic lines in style before jetting around an imaginary Gotham City. It’ll only cost them $1 million – the price tag on a replica of Bruce Wayne’s Tumbler, which served as the Batmobile in the Dark Knight trilogy.
One of just five versions that exist in the world, the vehicle is being sold by Florida-based J & S World Wide Holdings, which specializes in “hard-to-find items.” The near facsimile features an LS1 V8 engine, automatic transmission and monster 44-inch super swamper tires with custom rims.
It also comes with GPS navigation technology and five driver-assist cameras to avoid accidental scrapes. The vehicle is “street legal,” meaning it probably doesn’t come with forward-firing machine guns, rocket launchers or an integrated machine-gun-mounted escape vehicle otherwise known as the Batpod. But what it lacks in weaponry it makes up for in sheer coolness.
The Chinese Housing Boom Down Under
Want to buy a home in Australia? You’ll need to compete with the Chinese. Wealthy Chinese are pouring more than $5 billion a year into the Australian property market, accounting for 12 percent of the new housing supply per year, according to a Credit Suisse report entitled “The Chinese Property Boom Down Under.” And it looks as if they’ll be accounting for even more: Chinese spending in Australia’s residential market totaled $24 billion over the past seven years; Credit Suisse estimates a near-doubling to $44 billion over the next seven. It’s not just Australia’s cleaner air or beautiful beaches that are attracting Chinese money. Chinese investors are scouring the globe for compelling investment opportunities since their banks are offering low or negative real interest on deposits and Beijing is restricting property purchases. The boom is jacking up property prices in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities to among the highest in the world.
Articles first published in 2014 in The Financialist
JENS ERIK GOULD
Jens Erik Gould is a political, business and entertainment writer and editor who has reported from a dozen countries for media outlets including The New York Times, National Public Radio and Bloomberg News.