So, THIS happened.

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Cuban students celebrating the release of the remaining three members of the Cuban Five — Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero — who were freed and arrived on the island today. They are now with their families, and according to all local reports, are well and enjoying an emotional reunion. Two others, René González and Fernando González (no relations), have already been released — the former in 2011, when he was paroled, and the latter in February of this year, when he completed his sentence.

All five men were accused and convicted of espionage, although none of them were what one could properly call spies; all were antiterrorist agents of the Cuban government, and had uncovered terrorist plotting on the part of right-wing anti-Castro organizations in Miami. Rather than receive their shared information with the gratitude it deserved, the FBI colluded with the wrong side, and sent them to prison instead. It was one of the worst miscarriages of justice in international history, and today it was finally put right. The US has straight-up admitted that its anti-communist Cuba policy has been an epic failure, and is now seeking normalized relations with its island neighbor. Hence the freeing of the three remaining members of the Five, in exchange for Cuba releasing USAID agent Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned there for five years. It’s a nice goodwill gesture on both parts, and one dares hope it will lead to a whole lot more in future. (I, for one, would really love to see the permanent closure of Gitmo. Get on it, you guys!)

Meanwhile, actual spies and terrorists who have never been punished are still walking free. Chief among them is an ugly old coot named Luis Posada Carriles, a.k.a. the CubanaBomber. Before September 11, 2001, he was the author of the worst airline terrorist incident in history, along with the late Orlando Bosch; together, they planted a bomb on a Cubana jetliner that killed 73 civilians. Posada is still stinking up the gutters of Miami, despite being in the US illegally. He remains a national embarrassment, and one that’s gone studiously unaddressed by at least two administrations. Will he now be handed over to Venezuela or Cuba, both of whom want him for crimes against humanity? No word yet; stay tuned. If His Barackness is smart, he’ll hand the old motherfucker over. Two countries have been waiting long enough to finally bring him to justice, so here’s hoping he picks one. (I’m guessing he’ll pick Cuba, since the current policy in Washington is still to punish Venezuela by isolation and sanctions for not selling all its oil to the Texas barons for a song. Venezuela is no more isolated than Cuba — in fact, it’s been THE key player in bringing Cuba back into the Latin American fold — so this is just way too fucking funny.)

Meanwhile, in Colombia, something even more momentous has happened: The FARC have announced a unilateral, indefinite ceasefire, following the news of this sudden thaw in US-Cuban relations. Given that they’ve been at war with various more or less right-wing governments there for over 60 years, pretty much ever since the Bogotazo, this is HUGE.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that they came to this decision, and made this announcement, during a peace summit in Havana? El Narco must be steaming like a well-brewed cup of coffee, having been denied his victory in office, and having failed at his repeated putsch attempts ever since. All those paramilitaries and peasant massacres and false positives for nothing, boooooo hooooooooo.

So yes, Cuba is the big winner today, and on multiple fronts. The US has admitted that its unnaturally prolonged Cold War isolationist policy has failed. The bulk of Latin America, with one or two shameful exceptions (ahem, Colombia and Peru) has pulled behind Cuba, offering solidarity and fair trade through the ALBA alliance, as well as Mercosur. The dire climate of the post-Soviet Special Period, which the Miami mafia terrorists were hoping to capitalize on at the time the Cuban Five infiltrated their various rats’ nests, is long gone. Cuba is still surviving and thriving, albeit on a modest scale. They’re exporting doctors and educators and locally-made medicaments, and receiving Venezuelan oil (and Venezuelan oil expertise, too, as Cuba is sitting on some very promising offshore deposits that it’s looking to tap into).

Moreover, they have the political support of all the key Latin American leaders, while those who have tried to isolate Cuba remain isolated themselves, and are looking increasingly foolish for having done so. The Cuban government remains as it is, despite all US talk of “freedom” and “democracy” and “change” (note the quotes, there for a reason). Not one elected Cuban leader has been sacrificed in the making of this deal…and yes, they are all elected! This island nation will not end up like Puerto Rico, annexed and stripped of rights in exchange for — what, exactly? Creeping gringoization? The privilege of housing US naval bases? The fun of having to clean up after them, as the Puerto Ricans have had to do with Vieques?

Nope. Can’t happen. Won’t happen. The test of time has been stood. The Revolution has triumphed. Cuba is still Cuban, no matter what.

And that’s the way it’s going to stay, whatever comes next.

Venezuelan LGBTI rights activist murdered; activists seek equal rights under law

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Giniveth Soto and her spouse, Migdelis Miranda, holding their son. It will be a terribly hard holiday season now for Migdelis, as Giniveth was taken from her and their son most brutally on Saturday in the wee hours. The crime is still unsolved, and worse, it points to a lingering deficiency in Venezuelan law, too:

Giniveth Soto, lesbian, psychologist and Venezuelan activist for the human rights of the sex-diverse populatio, was brutally murdered in the early morning hours of Saturday, December 13, while working as a taxi driver to support her family.

Giniveth, who was also the niece of National Assembly deputy Fernando Soto Rojas, had married Migdelis Miranda a year and a half ago in Argentina. Together, they conceived a son with the help of artificial insemination, and he was born three and a half months ago, also in Argentina. The decision to marry, as well as to conceive a son who was born in a country other than their own were difficult decisions, but part of a clear and radical struggle for recognition of the dignity of loving relationships between persons of the same sex and/or gender, as well as legality and full inclusion for families formed by gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people, transsexuals, and intersex people (LGBTI) in Venezuela.

In Argentina, as of 2010, same-sex marriage is possible, for non-resident foreigners as well; also, Uruguay and Brazil, both members of Mercosur, have advanced significantly in the dignification of the citizenships and humanities of all persons, guaranteeing them equal rights, impacted by the leadership of Venezuela in a process of significant changes which has resulted in more than 15 years of full social inclusion.

The Bolivarian Revolution is based in the essential goal of defending and promoting the development of persons and respect for their dignity, guaranteeing the progressivity and pre-eminence of human rights, equality without discrimination, no subordination of any kind, social justice, and equality as basis for the construction of a just, egalitarian and peace-loving society. However, human rights for the LGBTI population have been rendered invisible by a system dominated by functionaries in service of a lay state, who use the Bible instead of the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela to make decisions and justify discrimination, for which reason they must be removed from office.

With great bravery and courage, Giniveth militated in AC Venezuela Igualitaria, which represented the struggle in which she, along with her beloved spouse, joined, demanding that Venezuela recognize the right to register their Argentine marriage, and that the birth of their son be registered recognizing the maternity of both women, as expressed by Argentine authorities upon the birth of the boy in their land, as well as legislation in favor of the right for any two people who love one another to marry freely and with consent and live together without regard for their sexual orientation or gender identity. And she believed, with revolutionary consciousness, that these changes would only be possible under a Bolivarian socialist doctrine which promotes decolonization and depatriarchalization as key motors of a cultural change which would permit the cultivation of a truly egalitarian and just society.

However, she was not able to see these changes become reality. Under the Bolivarian government, there was evidently a process of discrimination and of profound psychological and moral violence, as regards requests made for social protection for her family, across the silence which pervaded between the decisions of the institutions of the state and her demands, a situation which repeates itself for thousands of Venezuelan families who cannot access the rights which seem to be privileges for certain models of family.

It is important to emphasize that when the Principal Registry Office and the National Electoral Council do not give positive responses to the requests for registration of the marriage of Giniveth and Migdelis, or for the registration of the birth of their son, they are exposing the juridical non-recognition of the Venezuelan citizenry of their son, and the non-protection of her spouse by rights which the institution of marriage awards to married couples (such as community property), leaving them only the protection of the laws of the Republic of Argentina, a country where they are subjects of full rights.

Her spouse Migdelis, demoralized and in tears during the wake, said: “Giniveth was right, we homosexuals are second-class citizens. I’m painted on the wall here; nothing I think or decide matters to anyone.” Meanwhile, Giniveth’s family decided to cremate a body which was the victim of a murder, and take away the ashes without consulting her spouse, at the same time as they said they understood and completely respected the relationship between the two women.

It is urgent to solve the murder of our valiant and unstoppable activist. A crime may not remain unpunished, and more so still if it is a crime that painfully afflicts the bases of the struggle for the defence of human rights of the Venezuelan sex-diverse population. It is imperative to do justice, but also it is critical to strengthen our public powers to guarantee the effective exercise of the right to live in freedom and equality, without discrimination or stigmas based in atavistic Judeo-Christian prejudices, without psychological or moral violence as consequences of a heterosexist, sexist and machista culture, in order to thus begin in Venezuela the socio-cultural change so longed for by her, developing concrete public policies such as the approval of the Equal Civil Marriage Law.

Translation mine.

In recognition of the need for equal rights and protection under law for Venezuelan LGBTIs, there was a demonstration this morning at 9 a.m. Activists called together by Giniveth’s group, AC Venezuela Igualitaria, as well as the Ejército Emancipador, gathered before the Legislative Palace, where the National Assembly meets, to request that National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello and the PSUV assembly members work to pass laws to protect and grant equal rights to the sex/gender-diverse community, in accordance with the principles set out by sections 2.2.4.2, 2.2.4.3, and 2.2.4.4 of the Bolivarian Constitution.

Chavecito himself said that “gays have a place in the Revolution, too”. That place cannot be secured by anything other than full equality. Otherwise, we’ll only end up hearing more stories like this, in which a same-sex spouse was shoved aside by blood relations and never consulted in the most basic matters, while a murder remains unsolved and the killer, whose motives and identity are still unknown at this hour, remains unpunished.

UPDATE: La Iguana TV reports that three parliamentarians have been designated to take on the equal-marriage legal project proposed by the activists. They are Modesto Ruíz, Dinorah Figuera and Eduardo Piñate. A petition of more than 20,000 signatures was delivered to the National Assembly last January, and it looks as though now, things are starting to speed up. Meanwhile, the Public Ministry has assigned the 48th national prosecutor, Víctor Hugo Barreto, and Caracas prosecutor Susan Ferreira, to investigate the murder of Giniveth Soto. Here’s hoping there’s plenty of action on that front, too.

Two more accused in the Serra murder case

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Robert Serra, Venezuela’s youngest parliamentarian, and his girlfriend, María Herrera. Gone, but not forgotten…and justice will soon be served again in the case of their untimely deaths. This time, to two more individuals:

The Venezuelan Public Ministry has accused Danny Salinas and Wuadyd Pacheco for their suspected involvement in the deaths of National Assembly deputy Robert Serra, and María Herrera, on October 1 in the neighborhood of La Pastora, Libertador municipality, in the Capital District.

The 55th prosecutor of the Metropolitan Caracas Area, Miguel Ángel Hernández Salazar, accused Salinas of being a co-author in the crimes of aggravated homicide of the deputy, aggravated robbery, as well as homicide with malice aforethought for futile motives in the execution of an aggravated robbery against María Herrera, and association for the purpose of committing crimes.

In addition, the prosecutor presented the accusation against Pacheco as an unnecessary accomplice in the aforementioned crimes, and as author in the crime of associating for delinquent purposes.

Both crimes are listed in the Criminal Code and in the Organic Law Against Organized Crime and Financing of Terrorism.

In the writ presented before the 9th Control Tribunal of the Metropolitan Caracas Area, the representative of the Public Ministry requested admission of the accusation, ordered the trials of Salinas and Pacheco, and that they be held in custody in the headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), located in El Helicoide.

Aside from these two men, others recently accused are the Caracas municipal police officers Edwin Torres, Erick Romero and Raider Espinoza, as well as Carlos Enrique García.

Also tied to the double homicide and currently in jail are Jaime Padilla, Neira Palomino, Yusmelys Meregote, and Nadis Orozco, for their relations with the Colombian, Leiva Padilla Mendoza, who was apprehended in Cartagena, Colombia, on November 2, and who is currently awaiting extradition.

Translation mine.

So, it looks like El Colombia and his band of merry miscreants are going to have some sweating to do. Let’s hope that’s all of them.

Who’s your diplomatic guest there, Maricori?

Well, well. What have we here? US “diplomats” exercising their diplomatic impunity (no, not a typo, nor a misspelling) at a legal hearing for a disgraced Venezuelan right-wing politician? Sure looks like it…

“We have questions: What were you doing there, who invited him, why was the embassy of the United States watching us and giving orders to a mouthpiece?” asked the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, upon revealing a video that shows how a functionary of the US government was there as an observer during the appearance of María Corina Machado before the Public Ministry on December 3.

“This is disrespect and interference in the affairs of this land, it is a provocation to the Venezuelan government, they think they can scare us,” commented Cabello during his weekly show, Con el Mazo Dando.

The revolutionary leader exhorted the US government to observe what is going on in Ferguson, “how their police are killing children because they don’t like the color of their skin. These are the godfathers the guarimberos have, we denounce them before the world for their interference…the US Embassy is the CIA, the Pentagon, the same who gave money to Gaby Arellano to finance violent actions,” Cabello added.

Translation mine.

I said diplomatic impunity, not immunity, for a reason. The reason is simply this: US diplomats have a long and storied history of interfering in the internal affairs of countries where they are stationed. Cabello isn’t talking out his ass here; he’s simply stating what every Latin American already knows, and what Venezuelans know all too well. Philip Agee made that clear decades ago when he revealed that the CIA operates out of US embassies and diplomatic installations all over the globe, influencing local politics by covertly “supporting” (really, bribing and influence-peddling) local political parties and NGOs. Not only are they immune from prosecution for what can only rightly be termed crimes, they will never be punished. After all, they’re just following orders…

Was Philip Goldberg punished for trying to balkanize Bolivia, by fomenting a coup aimed not only at unseating Evo Morales, but KILLING him? Nope. He just got reassigned. And promptly fell up when it was his time to get his sorry ass promoted. Once a Company man, always a Company man. The Company takes good care of its loyal employees.

And this unnamed flunkie, whoever he is? Betcha he’ll get a plummy new job too. Having his cover blown on Venezuelan national TV is just a feather in the ol’ fedora for him. They have so much chutzpah, they don’t even care that they’ve been caught red-handed feeding their local trolls, of which Maricori is just one of several. Look for him soon at a CIA station near you.

And it hardly serves to intimidate the Venezuelan government if the CIA’s men-in-country blatantly spy on legal hearings, either. After all, this hearing was a public matter, and was announced several days in advance in the local press. If they think they can paint Venezuelan justice as some kind of star chamber, lacking in transparency, they can think again. These proceedings are all aboveboard.

And in any case, the CIA and the US government have nothing to say about the way justice gets done in Venezuela. After all, it’s not their fucking backyard.

It never was.

Maricori charged with conspiracy to commit treason

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“Deputy colleagues, I propose that we eliminate ordinary parliamentary sessions because I don’t mix with ordinary people.” Well said, Maricori…because where you’re going, you won’t be mixing with anyone for a good long time.

Finally, after more than a decade of relentless putschist machinations, a poor little rich girl is getting her just deserts. Maricori, who was barred from her seat in the Venezuelan National Assembly earlier this year due to participation in yet another coup attempt against an elected head of state, is now facing some serious jail time…

On Wednesday, December 3, the Venezuelan Public Ministry charged former parliamentary deputy María Corina Machado Parisca, 47, with having ties to a plan to disturb the peace and assassinate the president of the republic, Nicolás Maduro Moros.

The charges were laid at the 20th national prosecutor’s office, under the charge Katherine Harington, located in the Public Ministry’s head office on Urdaneta Avenue.

During the proceeding, the prosecutor charged Machado with the crime of conspiracy, established and sanctioned in Article 132 of the Penal Code.

According to the article, “anyone who, within or outside of national territory, conspires to destroy the republican political form of the nation, shall be punished with imprisonment of eight to sixteen years.”

Furthermore, the same article explains that “the same penalty applies to any Venezuelan who solicits foreign intervention in the interior politics of Venezuela, or requests that it occur in order to disturb the peace of the Republic, or that before its functionaries, or through publications made in the foreign press, would incite civil war in the Republic or defame its president, or assail any diplomatic representative or consular functionaries of Venezuela, for reasons of their funtions, in the country in which the act is committed.”

With the charges, Machado acquires the rights contemplated in Article 49 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Article 125 of the Organic Penal Process Code, concerning due process and the rights of the accused.

For these same crimes there are also arrest orders out for Henrique Salas Römer, Diego Arria Salicetti, Ricardo Emilio Koesling Nava, Gustavo Terre Briceño, Pedro Mario Burelli Briceño, and Robert Alonso Bustillo.

The Public Ministry has been conducting this investigation since March of this year, following denunciations by several parliamentarians of the National Assembly and one particular, who called for the opening of an investigation to determine penal responsibilities with respect to a plan to assassinate the President.

Translation mine.

Notice, too, that there’s a veritable rogues’ gallery of other leading opposition figures listed here. All of them are well-known far-right putschists who have openly called for the murders of two elected presidents. They are long overdue for criminal charges and trial. But first, they are all long overdue for confiscation of their passports. After all, we wouldn’t want to see them end up in Bogotá or Miami, would we?

Venezuela has free treatment for HIV/AIDS. Do you?

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Via Aporrea, some more good news you won’t hear from your mainstream media about Venezuela and its evil, evil socialist government. For the tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have contracted HIV or are ill with AIDS, the government is taking care of them all the way:

In Venezuela there is the political will to protect persons with HIV/AIDS throughout the land, said Asdrúbal González, co-ordinator of the National Human Rights Network, on VTV’s breakfast-hour program, El Desayuno.

González stated that in Venezuela, 43,000 persons with AIDS get free anti-retroviral medication and integral attention in general, thanks to the National Public Health System.

González emphasized the actions of public institutions, such as the People’s Ombud, in defence of those living with AIDS, and the Law for the Promotion and Protection of Right to Equality of Persons with HIV/AIDS and their Families, approved by the National Assembly this year.

This law condemns all forms of discrimination against this population, with an eye to assuring that they get to exercise all their rights, duties and responsibilities without any discrimination.

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a date chosen, says González, due to the first [known] case of the disease being diagnosed on this date in 1981.

[…]

González was emphatic in expressing to the public that they must leave behind fear and taboos, and seek information related to this illness, in order to avoid discrimination. He also emphasized the importance of any person at risk of contracting the virus to get the ELISA test, one of the most effective at detecting HIV.

González explained that HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through vaginal or anal sex, contaminated blood transfusions, contact with needles, syringes or other sharp objects, as well as from mother to fetus during pregnancy or childbirth.

He added that in the Hugo Chávez Frías Maternity and Children’s Hospital, located in the Caracas district of El Valle, the National Human Rights Network has its head office, where they are holding days of information, prevention and awareness about the disease.

“Our message is: Protect yourself, always use condoms, HIV does not discriminate, and we call upon you to become more aware every day of the persons who live with this condition,” González said.

Translation mine.

It’s important to note that AIDS has in fact been around much longer than initially thought. The first cases of a mysterious wasting illness, then known as “cachexie de Mayombe” in French, were seen in the Congo region of western-central Africa during the 1930s. Since the disease, as doctors now know, has a long lag time, of as many as 10 or 15 years between initial infection and outbreak of full-blown AIDS, it is suspected that the disease first spread from chimps to humans around 1915, when the Trans-Congo Railroad was being built through the region. The importation of rifles, which coincided with the building of the railway, made hunting of simians for bushmeat easier, and it is likely that a hunter butchering a chimp got SIV-contaminated blood in a cut, becoming the first human casualty of what until then was only a mildly infectious monkey virus. Since prostitution accompanied the railroad work camps, the virus was soon spread to women, who in turn passed it along heterosexually to other men. Poor sanitation in hospitals and clinics, and the common practice of recycling used needles, also contributed to the spread of the virus. The dark, purplish skin lesions of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer previously afflicting only elderly men, eventually became a common sight in the Congo region among younger adults.

The first European cases of the disease occurred as early as the 1950s, when sailors coming ashore in western Africa visited local brothels. At least one man is known to have passed the disease along to his wife, who then passed the virus along to their daughter during pregnancy. All died of a mysterious wasting illness whose symptoms match those of AIDS. The girl was just nine years old.

In 1976, a Danish doctor doing charity work in what was then called Zaire became the first known European non-sexually-transmitted casualty of the disease herself. Due to poor conditions in local hospitals, she was forced to operate without gloves. A needle-stick or a small scalpel nick was all it took for a patient’s infected blood to transmit the virus directly to her. Ironically, considering how AIDS later became known as the “gay plague”, the doctor was herself a lesbian — but her life partner, a nurse who stayed in Denmark, remained uninfected. It may now be regarded as a classic example of how this African disease favors blood-to-blood contact.

Also ironically, the real “Patient Zero” of the North American AIDS epidemic was not that infamous bathhouse-cruising gay flight attendant, as was commonly reported, but more likely a prostituted heterosexual woman in San Francisco, who was also addicted to heroin. Needle-sharing was extremely common in those days, the late 1960s to mid-1970s; it was typical to see junkies with various strains of viral hepatitis, which they had caught the same way. It seems likely that the AIDS virus initially spread much like Hepatitis B and C in North America among city-dwelling junkies, who, if prostituted, later passed it along to johns, who in turn spread it to others, much as in the railroad camps of the Congo. Since junkies can be of any sexual orientation, it’s not much of a stretch to assume that a gay junkie may have carried the virus, initially contracted through needle-sharing, to his own community, where it later spread via the sexual-transmission route. Unfortunately, that man’s name may never be known; junkies tended to die very unregarded deaths, and still do.

And while it’s no longer talked about very much, Haiti was another early western centre of AIDS transmission. The explanation? After Belgium gave up its colonial claim on the Congo, and Belgian colonial officials left the land, their empty offices had to be filled by French-speaking blacks as a condition of decolonization. Enter the Haitians, who were substantially more educated than the locals, and more capable of filling those public service offices. They, too, undoubtedly had liaisons with locals infected with the virus, and wound up carrying it back home to Haiti, or across the water to Florida and New York. Haitian immigrants were an early “risk group” that is no longer being singled out, as the broader North American epidemic has eclipsed that of tiny Haiti.

AIDS does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you are gay or straight, use drugs or don’t, are black or white, or anything else. AIDS is not a “gay plague”, but a disease with African roots dating back to the colonial era. Its global transmission demands global action, and Venezuela is stepping up to the challenge by making it a true public health issue, and providing free medication, with no discrimination between those who can afford to pay and those who cannot.

We could all learn from Venezuela’s good example.

Calle 13: Shut out at the Latin Grammys for political involvement?

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Did this t-shirt cost René Pérez (at left) a TV appearance? If his remarks are any indication, then the answer may well be yes:

“They asked me not to talk about Ayotzinapa,” said René Pérez, vocalist of Calle 13, last Thursday morning, after receiving a Latin Grammy award. Although he didn’t indicate anyone in particular, he added: “It seems they suspected it, it seems to me irresponsible that they would have told me that.”

Calle 13 was nominated for nine Grammies, but lost in all the categories that were televised. In the event that he had won, René thought he would use the moment of his acceptance speech to speak of the 43 vanished students of Iguala (Mexico), nearly two months ago.

Since he didn’t win, “El Residente” posted to social networks a screen capture from his cellphone of the rough draft, complete with annotations for improvisation, of the speech he wanted to give during the awards ceremony, transmitted by TNT.

“Above all, I want to give my support to the families and friends of the 43 students who disappeared in Mexico. We are fed up with things like this going on.” And he followed up with an annotation for improvisation: “Maybe ask other artists to join the cause, to demonstrate.”

On the same network, René shared a photo of Rubén Blades, who had joined the call for justice wearing the same black t-shirt René Pérez had also worn, with the slogan: “Ayotzinapa is missing 43″.

“El Residente” was also thinking of devoting some time to the unity as a nation of Puerto Rico, and a short message to US President Obama in favor of freedom for Óscar López Rivera.

In the draft of the speech, one could also read: “Today, November 20, there is a demonstration in Madrid for Ayotzinapa, concerning state crimes and disappearances in Mexico. There was also a demonstration in Mexico, and other places.”

Calle 13 did not win any prizes that night. However, although it did not win in any of the televised categories, it took two awards in the previous ceremony.

Translation mine.

René Pérez’s political activism is turning him into one helluva big rock in the well-polished shoes of the Latin music industry. He’s the most popular rapper in all of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the most outspoken. He’s turned out, musically and personally, for Puerto Rican independence, against the FBI (for its brutal execution of Puerto Rican independence activist Filiberto Ojeda Ríos), in favor of the late Hugo Chávez, and against the mad materialism of the 21st century. He’s not shy about using public appearances to promote political causes; he has often worn his politics on his t-shirt at concerts and award ceremonies. And now this…a shirt reminding everyone, most inconveniently, of the 43 Mexican students who are still missing, presumed dead, and the protests still going on over this.

As the Iguala police have literally gallons of blood on their hands (they handed the politically active university students over to drug traffickers, who executed them and disposed of their bodies, allegedly in a huge bonfire and mass graves), this sort of thing would have been a major downer, at least for those who like to pretend that Latino music is only about celebrating life, with a peppering of ay-ay-ay and cha-cha-cha. The fact that it is also intensely political, and has been for centuries, is something no music industry honcho wants to be reminded of anymore. All they want is to rake in the Yanqui dinero, undisturbed by so much as a peep about the contentious politics of a very fractious region.

Little wonder, then, that El Residente didn’t win in any category that would have allowed him to get up in front of the TV cameras and actually open his big, badass mouth.

The ironies of the Venezuelan opposition, part 55

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“All set for the Caracas Music Festival!” (Note the old seven-star flag, being held upside down. The current Venezuelan flag has eight stars. What decade is this, again? With the oppos, it’s always yesterday once more. Shooby-doo-lang-lang.)

Good evening, world, and welcome to yet another fine edition of VenOpIronía. Today’s installment: How to commit auto-suicide. Sounds a bit redundant, yes? Yes, it is — but it’s the only word that fits when this happens:

Hooded protesters gathered on Sunday afternoon at Plaza Francia, Caracas, causing security forces to appear on site and suspend the 6th annual Reading Festival.

The protest was organized by United Active Youth of Venezuela (JAVU), who informed of their activity on Twitter.

The municipal police tried to prevent the demonstrators from blocking Francisco de Miranda Avenue and decided to temporarily suspend the Reading Festival in order to prevent that.

The demonstration was criticized by [opposition] personages such as Leonardo Padrón, Sumito Estevez and Ibéyise Pacheco, generating controversy on the social network.

Leonardo Padrón tweeted: “The protest at Plaza Altamira ruined the close of the Reading Festival, it’s an exercise in sovereign stupidity.”

Sumito “El Cheff” Estevez wrote: “Don’t try to paint the stupidity of these little kids forcing the closure of the fair a few minutes ago as heroic.

“Don’t go to the book fair at Altamira. They just advised me that the guarimberos closed it. Obviously, my two events are suspended.”

Ibéyise Pacheco wrote: “This protest today looks just like an ‘auto-suicide’.”

Clearly, these personages protested because their interests are under attack. They should have screamed to high heaven when 43 Venezuelans fell dead at the hands of these same guarimberos.

Translation mine.

I can’t imagine why a book fair located in an upscale, mostly opposition sector of Caracas could have brought these right-wing hoodlums out to “protest”. Maybe they were hoping to kill their own cultural stars and fob the blame off on Chavistas, as usual?

Oh, probably. Only problem is, they wound up alienating their own.

Suddenly, all the right-wing media figures are scrambling to distance themselves from JAVU. The same who were silent about JAVU’s violence in recent months, when 43 Venezuelans died, are now squealing like piggies because they got their little literary shindig shut down…by JAVU. It’s especially rich that Ibéyise Pacheco, who made something of a name for herself in 2002, calling for a future “without Chávez, of course” every night on the TV news right before the April coup went down, finally got a taste of her own putschist medicine.

And I…cannot stop laughing at the stupidity and ineptitude of them all.

Terrorism strikes again in Táchira

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A truck belonging to the national electric company was set on fire this afternoon in San Cristóbal, capital of the Venezuelan state of Táchira, by hooded vandals. Here’s the story, via Aporrea:

A vehicle registered to the Venezuelan national electric company, Corpoelec, which was at the Catholic University of Táchira in San Cristóbal to serve the student community, was hijacked and burned in front of the university’s main building, located in the La Guayana sector of the city.

According to Major-General Efraín Velasco Lugo, Commandant of the Strategic Integral Development Region of Los Andes, the terrorist act was carried out by a group of approximately 40 hooded individuals, who at around 1:00 p.m. tried to cut off the neighboring roadways to the university and attacked persons passing through the sector with rocks and firecrackers.

Velasco Lugo said that when security officers arrived at the scene to re-establish order, the hooded men hid in the office building, taking advantage of the respect for university autonomy that exists in the land.

Velasco Lugo also mentioned that they tried several times to exit the university to provoke chaos and that they were unable to do so in the face of the effective response of the police and military officers. They then opted to hijack the Corpoelec vehicle which was there, take it out in front of the university, and burn it, around 5:00 p.m.

Velasco Lugo stated that the way these hooded men acted follows the same pattern of the violent, terrorist acts which occurred during March and April of this year, when there were guarimbas in Táchira, which affected all of the local residents.

Major-General Velasco Lugo doubts that students were the ones responsible for promoting these actions, saying that these were infiltrators, and for that reason, he invited the university community to join in the eradication of violence in their schools, and to denounce those who try to use the image of the university to generate chaos.

The commandant reiterated that he would not allow these disturbing actions to occur, and ratified his commitment to guarantee peace and order to benefit all the people of Táchira.

Translation mine.

Ah yes, that ever-peaceful and democratic Venezuelan opposition. Yet again, when confronted with their own failure, they reach for the ol’ guarimba. Will they stop at nothing to achieve their peaceful, democratic, public-spirited goals?

Another defeat for guarimbas in Venezuela

Hey! Remember all those useless idiots and their dumb little #SOS Venezuela hashtag from February? Remember how they all thought it was such a “game-changer”, and that the “tyrant” Maduro would go down in defeat because of some stupid tweets, and even stupider violence?

Well, today they got served another big slice of humble pie by none other than Madurito himself:

And here’s the story, from Aporrea:

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro announced the formation of the Committee of Families of Victims of the Guarimbas to demand justice and punishment for those responsible for staining the streets of the land with blood for months in their attempt to bring down the Bolivarian government.

“Spouses and children of the men and women of our land, civilians and militaries, who were murdered or suffered injuries during the guarimbas”, said the president from Miranda on Thursday, where he took part in another inauguration of public works and housing as part of the Territorial Socialism program.

“I call upon this committee of family members to activate so that there will be justice in the land and in the world, and that fascists will be recognized and denounced,” Maduro added.

Maduro recalled that on February 12, when right-wing militants destroyed the façade of the Public Ministry and the Carabobo Park square in Caracas, it marked the beginning of violence programmed by opposition directors, with international support.

“No one imagined that on that day, five months of violence would begin, with 40-odd dead at the hands of fascist groups who began the destruction with guarimbas,” Maduro said. He recalled the strangulations with wires on the barricades, the murders of members of the Bolivarian National Guard, and of civilians who were cleaning up the streets, and the intemperate threats from politicians who believed themselves to be superior.

“They underestimated the civilian-military power of the Bolivarian Revolution, the power of the conscience of the people. 2014 will be the year we defeated the fascist guarimba that tried to set fire to the land and subjugate the people with violence and foreign interference.”

He commented that the recuperation of Carabobo Park, which the Mayoralty of Caracas opened to the public on Thursday, is a triumph of peace and of the Venezuelan people.

He also recalled that international campaign in which local artists and foreigners screamed and wrote signs with the phrase “SOS VENEZUELA”.

“Where were they, how much were some of them paid for that?” asked Maduro. He contrasted that hypocritical manipulative attempt with the silence those same groups demonstrated when Israel massacred the people of Gaza.

“Why didn’t they say ‘SOS Palestine’? Millions said ‘SOS Palestine’, but not those paid-off groups, some of them deceived, but who later recognized their error.”

Maduro said that the defeated believed that this world-wide manipulative media operation would pay off. He confirmed that all the fighting to confront the lie had been worth it.

“And thank you, a thousand and one times, to the Venezuelan people, their conscience, their gigantic strength, which has passed all the tests we have had to stand, and let us go on overcoming them.”

Translation mine.

You may have noticed that Madurito is wearing a keffiyeh in the video. That’s because something else is happening in Venezuela, something very special: A hundred medical students from Palestine have arrived to begin their studies at the Dr. Salvador Allende School of Medicine. They will be taking home that training to a land that sorely needs it — especially in Gaza, which Madurito referenced in his speech. Here is the Palestinian ambassador to Venezuela, Linda Sabeh Ali, thanking Madurito and Venezuela for the free education they are about to receive:

Great news indeed, and it could not come at a time of greater need.

¡Viva Venezuela!