From Socialist Voice, January–February 2009

Latin American news

Guatemalans march for peace

On Saturday 10 January, Guatemalan social, humanitarian and religious groups organised a march for peace and against poverty. The march, which was called for by the Catholic Church, was described by the director of the Human Rights Legal Action Centre, Mario Minera, as an opportunity to call for an end to domestic violence and insecurity. “The call exceeds all barriers of beliefs, and brings everyone to the same height because of the urgent need for state action to respect the right to life.”
     The national march, which culminated in a rally at the Constitution Plaza, called for action to deal with the high poverty levels in Guatemala. Demonstrators also demanded action to stop the violence that led to an average of eighteen murders a day in 2008.

Venezuela expels Israeli Ambassador

On Tuesday 6 January, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela expelled Israel’s ambassador from the country, in response to the Israeli military offensive in Gaza. The decision of Chávez is the strongest by any country with official relations with Israel.
     On Venezuelan state television, just before the expulsion, Chávez posed the question, “How far will this barbarism go?” while adding that “the President of Israel should be taken before an international court, together with the President of the United States, if the world had any conscience.”
     Chávez has long supported the Palestinian people and their right to sovereignty, while being critical of Israeli policies in the Middle East. He has been especially critical during this present conflict, going as far as to call the Israeli government a “genocidal government.” The Venezuelan Minister for Justice, Tarek El Aissami, said, “Our revolution is also a revolution for a free Palestine!”

Bolivian socialists hold seventh congress

In the city of Oruro in Bolivia on 10 January almost five thousand delegates from the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) held their seventh congress, to discuss and debate strategies for consolidating and continuing the social transformations being implemented in Bolivia over the last three years.
     Attending the Congress were Evo Morales, social leaders, and legislators. Being discussed were the country’s present political situation and the new constitution that was expected to be approved by referendum on 25 January (as it was).
     A MAS deputy, Jorge Silva, said that one of the main issues of the forum would be the struggle against corruption and bureaucracy. Another delegate, Alberto Luis Aguilar, hoped that the three-day congress would establish actions to boost the economy, continue the projects in motion. and increase the political awareness of the people. He also stated that when the congress closed, its delegates would boost, “with wisdom and dedication, the Revolution started in January 2006.”

Sandinistas continue social projects in Nicaragua

In Nicaragua the Sandinista government has announced that it is nearing its target of complete freedom from illiteracy by 2009. According to the Minister for Education, Miguel de Castilla, the plan is to declare all the country’s departments to be illiteracy- free by late July. Once Nicaragua has achieved this goal, the country will be the fourth member of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) to be declared illiteracy-free (after Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia). At present Nicaragua has only 7 per cent illiteracy, which is a record for the region. This is thanks to the implementation of the National “From Martí to Fidel” Literacy Campaign, alongside other initiatives based on the Cuban method of Yo Si Puedo (Yes, I Can).

Guatemala holds Non-Aligned meeting on women

From 21 to 24 January, Guatemala hosted the Second Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on women. The meeting followed up compliance with the UN Millennium Development Goals on the eradication of poverty, access to education, gender equality, and the improvement of mothers’ health. Sandra Moran, a representative of the Collective of Social Organisations, said: “It is very important that a group such as NAM analyses women’s issues at the world and regional levels.” She also noted that the peace agreements signed twelve years ago gave Guatemalan women political grounds for organising, defending their rights, and demanding respect for them. However, violence, injustice and discrimination against indigenous people persists in the country.
     According to Norma Cruz of Fundación Sobrevivientes, the country is nowhere close to complying with the Millennium Development Goals, especially because of the high levels of poverty and violence. For these reasons it is very important that Guatemala was chosen to host this meeting.

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