#MejorDesnudosQue: Better Naked Than

Better naked than…

A woman with her breasts bare is an oracle in an ephemeral work of art. It is Havana in the eighties and the scandal caused by the exhibition “Nine Alchemists and a Blind Man” ends with its closing and the demonization of more than a few artists. The uncovered skin is a challenge, a protest, in a country where power, still today, sheathes itself in olive-green uniforms, long sleeves, hot outfits that hide, instead of display.

Authoritarians handle nudity badly. They feel impure, dirty, humiliated, when in reality it is the natural and primitive state of human beings. Totalitarians are prudish, prudish and timid. Any libertarian gesture frightens them, and they perceive too much exposed skin as a gesture of defiance. They think this because–deep down–they see the human body as something impure and obscene. Hence, undressing their opponents constitutes one of the repressive practices they most enjoy. They believe that by stripping them of their clothes they reduce them to simple animals. The same mental mechanism that leads them to call their critics “worms,” “vermin” or “cockroaches.”

In a windowless cell a guard forces a political prisoner to undress; in a room where no one can hear the screams, three women grope around under the clothes of a recently arrested citizen; in a dorm at a school in the countryside the showers don’t have curtains so no student can possess the territory of her own body; in a cold gray room the Jews were stripped of their clothes before entering the gas chambers. Undressing to humiliate, undressing to dehumanize, undressing to kill.

The images coming from Venezuela confirm that the practice of stripping people of their clothes as a moral punishment continues. A young man is stripped by a group seeking to degrade him by exposing every inch of his skin. However, they end up making him into a beautiful icon, pure, innocent. There is nothing dirty about the human body, there is nothing to be embarrassed about appearing before others as we came into this world.

What is shameful is these others, hiding behind their uniforms, trappings, the military ranks they awarded to themselves. They should be embarrassed to be hiding under the dishonorable garb of their fear.

37 thoughts on “#MejorDesnudosQue: Better Naked Than

  1. Pingback: Reports from Cuba: #MejorDesnudosQue: Better Naked Than | Babalú Blog

  2. Neutral Observer: Assuming your last post was not mythical, or some dastardly Neptunian ploy, would you be agreeable to putting up a few links to non-mythical websites for my perusal? As you say, this all runs deep – and dealing with the bats isn’t making things any easier . . .

    Here’s looking at you, kid.

  3. I didn’t reply to you, Mr. Blaine.

    Don’t believe it, It’s just a CIA conspiracy.

    As Lawrence said, it’s just an American myth.

    Or as Che said, a good Comrade must turn himself into a hate-filled cold-blooded killing machine.

  4. Neutral Observer: Easy man, for god’s sake. Don’t go spending your precious bodily fluids on my account.

    Quick. Somebody get that man a grain alcohol and rainwater!

  5. Mister Blaine,

    You can quote Lawrence in addition to crackpot conspiracy dot com?

    Of course it’s all an American myth.

    The internet doesn’t exist, it’s just an American myth.

    So is freedom of speech.

    You’re not really freely posting your opinions here, you’re just an American myth.

    Why do you bother replying to me, I’m just an American myth.

    Move to Cuba, where everything is real. Or go join in the rape, torture and murder fest in Venezuela.

    Don’t worry about the demonstrators, they aren’t real people, they’re just an American myth. Feel free to shoot them in the head or strip them naked as you please.

    Over and out, Comrade.

  6. Omar: Until fairly recently I would have agreed with your assessment of the “problem” in the US. Now, however, I find myself increasingly in accordance with D.H. Lawrence: “But you have there the myth of the essential white America. All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the flourishing into lust, is sort of a by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.” Sigh . . .

  7. Neutral Observer: Right. Gotcha. Thanks. They’re listening. No worries.

    I need to step away now for a shot or two of grain alcohol and rainwater. I’ll keep this channel open. Code word: ZunZuneo

    Right-ee-oh.

  8. Neutral observer: The U.S. is a contributor to the problems in Cuba and Venezuela…there is no issue to debate ….is well known and transparent ….the problem in the U.S. is the Right, inequality, the Rich, an unsustainable economic system compounded by rising Healthcare costs because the population is getting older and technological advances that is causing the need for major structural changes in governance, but, the Rich don’t want to change because they are doing too well in this environment….the other 67% of the population is the one suffering the entire pain of the malady the U.S. is afflicted with….

  9. AS FAR AS CUBA IS CONCERN (CHINA IS AN IMPORTANT TRADING PARTNER)

    BRICS will need to simultaneously deal with their capacity constraints, the inflation pressures and the effects of financial markets volatility on capital flows and the exchange rate. And as Blanchard made clear, “these countries will not grow at the rate they did before the (financial) crisis”.

    China: Slowdown Threat to BRICS Growth
    For China, the second largest economy in the world,
    the days of double digit growth are over. In the second quarter, GDP rose by 7.5% on the year,
    down from 7.7% in the first quarter. The IMF estimated that China will grow 7.8% in 2013 and
    7.7% in 2014, while the government growth target for this year is 7.5%. While a growth rate higher than 7% is still healthy when compared to other developing nations, the China slowdown is already having an impact on these economies and the global economy. Moreover there are growing fears that the credit boom which has financed much of the investment which has propelled Chinese growth in recent years has the potential to burst, adding downside risks to
    the China outlook. ….This economic outlook should raise a red flag (no punt intended) for both Cuba and Venezuela. China and Japan already “dumped” a sizeable amount of dollars as a result of the U.S. Federal Reserve policy of reduction in Quantitive Easing because of the improving economic environment in the U.S.

  10. Mr. Blaine,

    We don’t agree at all.

    You will continue to find rape and murder amusing or pretend it is all a CIA conspiracy whenever you like the criminal or dislike the opinion of the victim.

    It’s all a conspiracy.

    Think of it this way, if you are capable. Every time there is a demonstration in the USA, is it because Castro and Maduro paid the demonstrators?

    Are the social and economic problems of the USA the result of an evil plot by Castro and Maduro?

    How ignorant and deluded do you have to be to believe the CIA has anything to do with the disasters of Cuba and Venezuela?

    If the US government wanted to discredit Socialism, they would support Castro and Maduro and pay for cheap flights to these cesspools of misery and corruption.

    Cuba and Venezuela are advertisements for the disaster of Socialism.

  11. Mister Blaine: from Forbes
    The “exorbitant benefit” of issuing the world’s reserve currency – as a former (presumably resentful) French leader once put it, is much debated. But most economists agree that there are significant advantages to issuing the dollar – in effect, a capital gains effect of between 1 percent and 6 percent. More simply, the price Americans pay for most commodities (oil, for instance, or food) is just a bit lower than the same commodity purchases with, say, Indian rupees.

    More importantly, because the Fed alone controls the number of dollars in circulation, America can sustain policies – like the near-zero federal funds rate that has prevailed since the financial crash – that would have global bond markets baying for the blood of any other nation. These low rates effectively lower the ultimate return-on-investment foreign creditors will receive for purchasing American debt through the sale of US Treasury bonds and other government securities.

    But these perks of global dominance will erode along with America’s hegemony, and erratic or insensitively propagated policy measures in Washington will speed the arrival of that day whether they emanate from Congress, the White House or the Fed.

    Already global markets are chirping, led by China and Russia, that the dollar be supplanted as the global reserve currency by something else. There has always been a good measure of resentment in these pronouncements, and people laughed aloud when then-President Dmitri Medvedev suggested the ruble as an option in 2010. But there are viable options, too – a basket of currencies, the IMF’s “special drawing rights” vehicle, or, God forbid, Bitcoin.

    Does issuing the reserve currency impose on the US certain responsibilities? Yes, but mostly these are consistent with self-interest (including the one that says, “Don’t run around threatening to default”).

    The fact is, no rulebook or international compact governs the responsibilities of the central bankers who happen to set policy for the world’s global reserve currency. If such a book existed, after all, it would have been torn up time and again – in 1931, when Britain ditched the gold standard, in 1944 when the Bretton Woods deal was sealed, and again in 1973, when the US finally followed Britain and embraced a floating, fiat currency. Yet another new print run would have followed the 2008-2009 crisis as central banks, led by America’s, embraced the unorthodox policies that unleashed the tidal wave known as quantitative easing that is only now beginning to diminish.

    BRICS leaders and others had their complaints then, too: Dilma Rousseff, for instance, complained repeatedly after taking office in 2011 that the “expansionist” Fed policies were hampering Brazilian growth and stoking inflation.

    So it is that calls for the US Federal Reserve to consider the effects of tapering on emerging markets tend to fall on deaf ears in the United States. But Americans should not kid themselves. Just as there is no rulebook for managing the global reserve currency, it is nowhere written in stone that the US dollar will remain in that position in perpetuity. As in so many other things since the turn of this century, America must balance its justifiable desire to pursue its own national interest against the burdens of its still unrivaled place in the global economy. To do otherwise will merely hasten the day when the desire for an alternative to the greenback moves from a mischievous outlier to a global consensus.

    Michael Moran is vice president of global risk analysis at Control Risks, an international political, integrity and security risk consultancy. He is also author of The Reckoning: Debt, Democracy and the Future of American Power. For more analysis, sign up for a free trial of our Country Risk Forecast.

    The Federal Reserve folks are too smart to ignore their responsibility to the Global economy…the worst scenario will be a basket of currencies for reserve….inflation in the U.S. is under control.

  12. Mr. Blaine: I agree…the end of the multiple currency by 2016 will be huge…

  13. STRATEGIC OUTLOOK FOR CUBA (2014 REPORT)

    Strategic Outlook
    President Raúl Castro has enacted a peaceful, uneventful political transition, replacing his brother in all leading state (2008) and party (2011) posts. His most challenging authoritarian regime-sustaining political task is to engineer the transition from his political generation to the next. Since his formal assumption of the presidency in 2008, he has shared power with a small group of gerontocrats. In February 2013, he finally appointed the 52-year-old Miguel Díaz-Canel as his first vice president and presumptive successor. However, Raúl Castro missed an opportunity at the 2011 party congress to reinvigorate the Political Bureau’s membership, and will likely replace the top leaders one by one as they retire, fall ill or die. No one in the top echelons of the party or the government advocates on behalf of democratizing political openings. One sign of lawful, peaceful political change has been the willingness to recognize the rise in nonconformist voting within the single-party National Assembly elections, with the share of such ballots rising from approximately 14% in 2008 to 24% in 2013.
    Cuba’s market-oriented economic reforms have picked up speed and significance since 2010. They seem likely to endure and expand. Raúl Castro’s reforms have been “worked through” the state’s relevant institutions, particularly the sixth party congress, making them structural goals rather than simply the expression of his personal preferences or short-term crisis management measures. Cuba’s economic reforms are still woefully limited, however. The capacity of the government to obtain compliance has decreased as compared to the Fidel Castro period, as bureaucrats continue to resist the implementation of market-oriented reforms. The Communist Party congress rolled back some of the economic reforms proposed by Raúl Castro. In addition, Venezuela’s new government is unlikely to have the will or capacity to bail out Cuba’s economy to the same extent as previously, thereby giving additional urgency to Raúl Castro’s reforms.
    Notwithstanding, elite consensus seems sufficiently high to assume that the current process of state-controlled, gradual, top-down economic reform will continue to be the dominant policy line over the next years. In particular, a more solid legal foundation for the new market actors and an equality of access should be supported. International actors can and should contribute know-how and material support for credit or supply markets, but measures aimed at achieving a sustainable social security system and countering the erosion of quality in the education and health care systems are also needed. The great unknown is whether the people’s reaction to this process will remain as passive as in the past. The substantial decline in state employment and subsidized welfare, combined with the new money-making options provided by the growing market sector, has already led to new dimensions of social inequality. Much will depend on the short- and medium-term economic success of the incipient reforms, and in particular their ability to bring tangible benefits and improved living conditions in compensation for the loss of old securities. As the new market actors will depend on the state’s goodwill, an alliance between the ruling state elite, the Communist Party, the military and the winners of the market-based reform process may
    become a feasible model enabling the retention of power. The demand for transparency will be a key concern if the consolidation of an “uncivil economy” is to be avoided.
    As long as the government feels it still is firmly in control, it is likely to continue a careful course of opening space for debate within official institutions, with exemplary yet occasional sanctions for those who cross the line. If these spaces for debate are fostered and secured, they could contribute to the eventual foundation of a more far-reaching democratization of the country at large. With regard to opposition groups, the state will seek to avoid heavy-handed repression that would cause international uproar, instead pursuing a strategy of authoritarian containment. The quest to expand citizen rights on the island, securing a more pluralist debate and access to information, will remain at the center of the political agenda. A key challenge for the current political leadership is the preparation for a generational change of guard. While Raúl Castro’s tenure can be seen as the transition from the “historic generation,” it is still uncertain what generation of leaders may follow. The question of the top leadership position will in all likelihood not be touched upon; however, it will inevitably return to the political agenda toward the end of Raúl’s formal five-year mandate as head of state in 2018.

  14. Neutral Observer: Ah good, then we’re agreed. Unless, of course, after a couple of hits of mescaline, we unmask the dissident as a Neptunian; at which point we whip out the cattle prod and run the slimy, lizard-tailed b******d out of town!

    Keep your head down. You can’t be too careful . . .

  15. Mr. Blaine,

    No, I don’t find rape or murder amusing.

    When a peaceful dissident is killed, I condemn it, whatever the political color.

  16. Omar: Thank you for the information you are posting. Very interesting and useful stuff.

    The emergence of BRIC, and the coming moves away from the US dollar as reserve currency, should make for an interesting, and hopefully opportune, global economic future.

  17. China, Cuba and Venezuela trading relationship

    Looking at the Facts
    No doubt, adjustments and readjustments of bilateral ties between these three countries have taken place over the past decade.

    1. China has its own policies and priorities, considered contradictory by some. But they are consistent with their goals. In general, they follow a pattern focused on trade, lending, and, only in third place, direct investment. It’s the pattern for Cuba, which means that areas for direct investment continue to be perceived by the Chinese as very limited in scope.

    In 2004, it seemed that investment would become a top priority, as China was discussing plans worth more than $5 billion in nickel and a refinery with Cuba. None of these projects have been implemented, and no official explanation has been given. It seems that the Chinese do not perceive these projects as attractive enough in terms of potential and scale. Undeniably, there is a gray area of conflict between the two countries on this issue.

    Even so, since then China has made important investments in on-shore and off-shore oil drilling. In telecommunications, IT, automobiles and home appliances, Chinese companies play a decisive role. Chinese companies have also established biotechnology and pharmaceutical joint ventures with Cuba in China. In railroad, port and merchant fleet modernization, major cooperation projects have continued, Finally, China is a major trade partner, partly thanks to long-term soft loans, as well as grants and donations.

    Nevertheless, Cuba remains a minor trade partner, ranking 10th in China’s relations with Latin America.

    Mauro García Triana, a former Cuban ambassador in Bolivia, Vietnam and China, made an interesting observation in 2007. “The Chinese are very clear about one thing: They are not going to be benefactors for Cuba like the Soviets were,” García said. “I was once told in no uncertain terms by a Chinese diplomat that ‘Our relations with Cuba have to be mutually beneficial, or they will not work.’ “ A European expert put it this way last year: “The China-Cuba relationship is not based on socialist solidarity but on business.”

    Chinese academic Pin Zuo perceives Chinese interests beyond business, in the political and military realm. Indeed, over the last 15 years, political collaboration between the two has increased as never before, along with discreet military cooperation.

    Even so, none of these dimensions should be exaggerated. As academic Pin Zuo states, “China’s foreign policy towards Cuba will follow a path of moderate friendship” and, it should be added, limited economic scale, unless Beijing decides in the future to move into significant direct investment in Cuba.

    How China responds to Cuban top officials’ prodding to invest in the Mariel Zone will be a clear indicator of China’s short-term policies. Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca has insisted that Chinese companies producing in China for the Americas could perfectly settle and operate from Mariel. Although he doesn’t say so, he seems to suggest the Special Zone would be a great maquiladora location for Chinese exports to Latin America and, eventually, North America. Cuban officials have indicated that Chinese companies have so far been very receptive.

    “The Chinese government supports competent Chinese enterprises in seeking new initiatives for cooperation and investments in Cuba,” now-President Xi said when visiting Cuba in 2011. Even more encouraging is the fact that trade between the two countries has risen from a mere $314 million in 1999 to $2.7 billion by 2012. Nothing indicates a decline of any sort.

    2. As to Cuba-Venezuela relations, independent of political unrest or economic shortcomings, several big projects signed over the years with Chávez continue to wait for the resources and political will from Caracas to be implemented. Neither the expansion of the Cienfuegos petrochemical hub, nor the ferronickel plant in Holguín, nor the new refinery in Matanzas have materialized. No new projects have been announced. Not a word has been said publicly to explain this pattern.

    Most people in Havana will point at Venezuela’s economic setbacks in recent years and their need to prioritize urgent domestic projects to explain the shortcomings.

    In contrast, Cuban-American experts at the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) are gambling on an imminent collapse of the Venezuelan government, prompting “a deep contraction of the Cuban economy.”

    So is Venezuela’s collapse imminent? A greatly divided opposition, a decline of violent rioting, the absence of significant fractures within chavismo, a huge amount of wealth to support the government’s options, and its call for a national dialogue, do not support the downfall scenario. Continuity in Caracas, in turn, will bypass the predicted apocalypse for Cuba, though additional strain may affect the Cuban economy.

    And China is, in no way, backing off Venezuela. For them, it’s business as usual. In 1997, when Chávez was in prison, China was an important buyer of Venezuelan oil. Last September, China signed a $28 billion oil deal with Maduro’s government. So far, there is no evidence of a Chinese withdrawal, with or without chavistas in power.

    Finally, no one should think of the Cuban leadership as being unaware of the lessons from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. If faced with a worst-case scenario concerning Venezuela, Cuba’s situation is different today.

    a. The degree of dependency on the Soviet Union was much higher, representing 28.2% of Cuba’s GDP; Venezuela represents 18.3%, according to a recent analysis from Cuban economist Pavel Vidal Alejandro. These figures contradict those of ASCE economists who

    assert that today Venezuela provides a larger share of Cuba’s GDP than the former USSR.

    b. The Cuban economy is more resilient and diversified than in 1989-1993. Oil and gas production meets 50% of domestic demand, there’s a growing tourism and a fully recovered nickel industry, and a significant reform process is in place, growing the private sector. Cuba’s finances are in much better shape. And the opening of the Mariel Zone symbolizes a new approach to foreign capital.

    c. Cuba has diversified external relations as never before. The European Union is the biggest foreign investor, the second biggest trading partner, one-third of Cuba’s tourists come from the EU, and a normalization process is in the making. Russia and China have much broader relations with Cuba than in the 1990s. Brazil has risen to become a key partner. And Mexico seems to be ready to compete with Brazil in Cuba.

    Being dismissive of these new circumstances makes it impossible to understand current Cuban developments.

    Former Cuban intelligence officer Domingo Amuchastegui has lived in Miami since 1994. He writes regularly for CubaNews and Cuba Standard on the Communist Party, Cuba’s internal politics, economic reform, and South Florida’s Cuban community.

  18. Neutral Observer:

    Why would you suggest that I would find an assassination amusing? Conversely, are there possible assassinations that you would consider amusing?

  19. China
    In June 2011, then-Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping made an official visit to Havana and concluded the meeting by signing thirteen new cooperation agreements with President Raul Castro. The agreements included a memorandum of understanding for bilateral economic relations over the next five years and stipulate that China will provide interest free loans, economic aid and equipment to repair irrigation projects. [21] China is one of Cuba’s largest trading partners after Venezuela and over the past decade, bilateral trade increased from $440 million USD in 2001 to $1.83 billion USD in 2010.[22]

    Moreover, this past November 2013 marked the 31st annual Havana International Fair (FIHAV), which is the largest multi-sector trade fair in Cuba and a key venue for new businesses to make their mark in emerging markets.[23] Cuba’s Foreign Trade and Investment Minister, Rodrigo Malmierca, made a special appearance at the Chinese pavilion, which gathered 65 Chinese companies.[24] Furthermore, Malmierca traveled to Beijing this past September to encourage China to invest in Cuba’s new Mariel Special Development Zone. The minister stated that “China is our first leg in international promotion, as Cuba and China boast long-term friendship and good cooperation.”[25] The first phase of the port opened this past January and its regional location could, according to Cuban economist Pedro Monreal, accommodate Asian vessels where they could transship their goods via smaller ships to their final destination.[26]

    The aforementioned examples barely scratch the surface of China’s most recent investment endeavors involving Cuba. As noted above, in 2011 thirteen Sino-Cuban cooperation agreements were signed, each of which could warrant its own in-depth analysis of potential economic benefits. In addition to interest-free-loans and economic aid, the agreements also cover cooperation in digital television and telecommunications, banking supervision and financing for public health projects, as well as an oil refinery expansion project and a liquefied natural gas project.[27]

    China’s recent investments come in the wake of Washington’s vocal economic policy of the “Asian pivot,” all the while it seems that China has been making its own pivot towards Latin American and Caribbean markets.[28] This is exemplified by the creation of a CELAC-China forum at the recent summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Havana. The U.S. should be more strategic than to shun the developing economy of its 90-mile-away neighbor to the benefit of its fiercest economic competitor.

    Non-EU Countries Warming to Cuba As Well

    Several other countries outside of the EU have also made efforts to engage with Cuba recently. While all the engagements may not have the potential to expand Cuba’s export market to include 500 million European consumers, the interactions still demonstrate the propensity of countries like Canada, several African nations, and China to aggressively seek a warmer stance towards Cuba.

    Canada

    The “rarest cruise opportunity of 2014” is being offered by a Canadian-based company, Cuba Cruise. The 1,200 passenger cruise ship, LV Louis Cristal, departs Mondays from Havana, Cuba and Fridays from Montego Bay, Jamaica, and completely circumnavigates Cuba in just seven days. The Miami Herald reported in January that several previous attempts to establish Cuba as a regular cruise destination have failed, in large part because of economic sanctions emanating from the United States. Such sanctions forbid U.S. tourism in Cuba and bar any ship that docks at Cuban ports from entering the U.S. for six months thereafter. In 2013 the highest percentage of tourists in Cuba came from Canada, and the creation of Cuba Cruise demonstrates that the trend is likely to continue throughout 2014.

  20. Mr. Blaine,

    Thanks for the compliments, but I don’t know how high you have to be to read a site like global research and actually believe what they write about Cuba, Venezuela and the CIA.

    Maybe you can channel Hunter Thompson and find out. I don’t think he was ever demented enough to read global research or Neptune conspiracy dot org, but maybe I’m wrong.

  21. The KKK and Other Grassroots Movements
    Apr 7th 2014, by BHASKAR SUNKARA
    THERE IS NO BIPARTISAN SOLUTION IN VENEZUELA POSSIBLE. THE SOLUTION IS FOR THE ORGANIZATIONS OF WORKERS TO FULFILL THEIR FULL POTENTIAL.

    An anti-government protester shouts at police officers during a march against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas on
    An anti-government protester shouts at police officers during a march against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas on March 29. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)
    There is no red Venezuela; there is no blue Venezuela; there is only Venezuela.

    Achy Obejas’ “Ending the Pain in Venezuela,” which ran in the April issue of In These Times, made an Obama-esque anguished call for civility in the protest-rocked country. Obejas rightly notes the untenability of the current situation. Inflation, food shortages and rising crime have fostered an opposition movement that is too strong to be vanquished by the narrow pro-government majority, but also too fractured to unseat President Nicolás Maduro’s administration. Her solution to the impasse is dialogue: sitting down both sides to agree to some sort of negotiated settlement.

    But this high-mindedness is coming from a problematic place: a centrism unwilling to take sides in a battle between forces starkly polarized along class and ideological lines. Too many progressives reflexively honor any and all protests instead of critically evaluating their content. Today in Latin America, those radicals out of power and seething with resentment are often on the Right.

    Among Venezuelan workers, still overwhelmingly supportive of the Bolivarian Revolution, the mood is less Obejas’ “we are all Venezuelans” and more “they will never come back.” Theybeing such scions of privilege as Leopoldo López Mendoza, María Corina Machado, and Henrique Capriles Radonski, whose class had a stranglehold on the nation’s future until the rise of Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian movement in the late 1990s, and who have been struggling ever since to regain their advantage.

    The years of left-wing activity that followed were hardly without setbacks or failures, but they witnessed the politicization of many who were previously neglected. Though unevenly implemented, assembly councils and worker cooperatives were constructed, representing a depth of democratic participation rarely seen in human history. Materially, poverty fell by well over a third during Chávez’s tenure, and extreme poverty by 58 percent. Quality healthcare and education became accessible to ordinary people.

    It should be of little surprise, then, to find that every block in Venezuela is not the scene of anti-state unrest. Even the New York Times headlined a piece, “Slum Dwellers in Caracas Ask, What Protests?” In working-class communities across Venezuela, the grassroots demonstrations thriving elsewhere provoke only fear that the social and economic gains of the last decade will be rolled back and the old neoliberal regime, along with its daily humiliations of poverty and powerlessness, restored.

    Yes, grassroots. Among a certain type of progressive, “grassroots” is used to describe a platonic ideal. Some who both hold that view and want to defend the Venezuelan government are keen to portray the right-wing opposition movement’s protests as inauthentic: the work of CIA pawns or a media event manufactured in Miami studios.

    But a recent look to U.S. history shows how much genuine popular activity can be mustered on the Right. The Christian Coalition in the 1980s had little corporate money to start with, nor did the insurgent campaigns of Barry Goldwater decades prior. And though depicted by some as “Astroturf,” the Tea Party Movement today boasts a base of energetic middle-class supporters. From school board elections to letter-writing campaigns, these people have a lot of time and a participatory spirit. Much the same for one of the largest community movements in American history—the Klu Klux Klan of the 1920s.

    Which is to say, especially in the global context of right-wing movements brewing in the Ukraine, Venezuela and elsewhere—many of them using the same combination of social media savvy and boots on the ground that characterized the Arab Spring—progressives should be less concerned about how people are protesting and more concerned about who is mobilizing andwhat they’re fighting for.

    The unrest in Venezuela may be impossible to ignore. Chavista elements have indeed supported concessions and a “government of national unity.” The best of them, however, view this as a tactical maneuver, halting the political and economic instability for long enough to allow the government to reconsolidate its position and rally its supporters.

    But Obejas proposes not retreat, but surrender. And what she denounces is not just Chavista failings, but the fruits of their success.

    A sign of a real revolution is its knack for conjuring a counter-revolution. To the extent that the Bolivarian Revolution has problems, the solution to them won’t come from chats with those looking to overthrow it, but rather the organization of workers trying to fulfill its potential. There can be no neutral ground between those two positions.

  22. You’re most welcome, Neutral Observer.

    I find your postings to be quite entertaining. They’re especially enjoyable if I read them as if they were being voiced by Johnny Depp channeling Hunter S. Thompson – after he’d done a few hits of acid.

    So, carry on. You’re doing a great job. We’re all counting on you kid. And careful! This is BAT country . . .

  23. Thank you Mister Blaine,

    I think you’re onto them. Watch yourself. They’re after you. They can see you now. The energy beam satellite is targeting you right now.

    You can’t imagine how deep this conspiracy runs.

    If you read the Reflections of Fidel, you know the conspiracy to destabilize the toilet paper free zone of Venezuela is actually being directed by the Neptunians.

    The Neptunian masters are afraid of the successful Socialist model of government, which could lead to a planetary humanoid uprising.

    They must keep us enslaved in the Matrix.

  24. …of course, with the U.S. expansion of interest in Mexico’s oil industry, the U.S. can use Mexican oil production as a tool of foreign policy. U.S. sources of oil consumption are mainly from North America. Leaving Venezuela to sale their oil to China, PetroCaribe countries and Latin American States. Europe buys oil and gas from Russia and diesel fuel from the U.S. The Ukraine crisis may alter the flow of crude and gas from Russia to Europe making it more expensive and therefore competitive with North America produced crude and gas. The U.S. can increase the sale of natural gas and oil from the Mexican subsidies to Europe to compensate. The result is more dollars flowing into the U.S. leaving Russia and Venezuela scrambling to keep their margins because they have to sale their products in smaller quantities to more consumers with the exception of China…and in all likelihood at a higher cost to produce.

  25. A CALL FOR PEACE IN VENEZUELA

    The opposition is fracturing over tactical differences in seeking regime change and the Chavista base is becoming more unified. Some news reports suggest that a second more violent phase of the counter revolution is in the works that could include the entry of paramilitary forces from Colombia to assist in a coup attempt.xvii While it is difficult to verify the details of these reports, there are precedents for the entry of paramilitaries from Colombia into Venezuela even as late as April 3, 2014.xviii The participation of forces connected to Colombian paramilitary groups or any other mercenaries in the counter revolution would no doubt provoke a direct confrontation with the Venezuelan civic-military alliance. The consequences of such a conflagration would have serious regional security implications. From the Bolivarian point of view, surrender to empire is not an option. Meanwhile the Maduro administration is extending an olive branch to Washington. In a New York Times Op Ed (April 1, 2014) by Nicolas Maduro, “Venezuela: A Call For Peace,” Maduro urges that “now is the time for dialogue and diplomacy” and states “My government has also reached out to President Obama, expressing our desire to again exchange ambassadors. We hope his administration will respond in kind.” Washington can make a difference between war and peace in Venezuela by directly condemning the violent anti-government protests and supporting dialogue rather than threatening to impose sanctions on the government, an action that would probably, in practice, only embolden the perpetrators of low intensity warfare. Venezuela is at a crossroads. At stake is the independence of the nation, the organized expressions of popular power, and whether deep ideological differences will be settled at the ballot box or on the battlefield.

    Frederick B. Mills is a Professor of Philosophy at Bowie State University.

  26. Why the U.S. helped overthrow the elected socialist government in Mexico a few years ago makes sense today to me with the reforms approved by the Mexican government regarding foreign investments in PetroMex. Two U.S. oil giants are going to go into the Mexican oil industry to expand production. In the mean time China has purchased or partner up with Canada to develop the tar sands in Canada and expand oil trade with Venezuela to secure their oil needs for the World’s, to be, largest economy, the Chinese economy…..

  27. TWO OIL GIANTS WITH THE SAME PROBLEM: GLOBAL CONTRACTION IN OIL DEMAND AND LACK OF HUMAN CAPITAL…TWO DIFFERENT SOLUTIONS THAT WORK
    By Global Risk Insights | Tue, 01 April 2014 23:13

    The politics of oil in the two largest Latin American oil exporters—Venezuela and Mexico—have recently diverged. While Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) is now politically closer to the state than ever before, the Mexican Senate passed a landmark constitutional amendment allowing for private investors to partner with Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the national oil and gas company.

    Although both PDVSA and Pemex have taken opposite approaches to corporate governance, they are both reacting to the same problem: lower productivity levels and gradually decreasing revenues.

    Where is the unique relationship between oil and the state in Latin America headed in this period of low productivity and decreasing oil prices? As was shown by socialist Hugo Chavez in 2003 and market liberal Enrique Peña Nieto in 2013, governments define how their oil mammoths operate in the global market.

    Chavista PDVSA is less productive, more political

    PDVSA has two connected problems: (1) lagging production against a backdrop of decreasing world prices for oil (expected to dip to $90 per barrel due to excess supply) and (2) politicization. If these issues are not resolved, it is difficult to see how Venezuela will overcome its macroeconomic woes, considering it is a one-dimensional economy based on oil extraction and exportation.

    Since the PDVSA strike in 2002-2003, production has steadily decreased from 3 million barrels a day to 2.4 million barrels a day. Professor George Philip, a Venezuela and Mexico expert at the London School of Economics, notes, “Decreasing production is the main problem facing PDVSA.”

    Despite lower production levels, do not expect for PDVSA to liberalize or reform under a Chavista governing party. According to Philip, a more viable option would be to restructure to the company as a fully nationalized entity and “change the whole employment structure.” Reforming the PDVSA labour force and bringing in qualified employees is a daunting task, as it “takes years to completely restructure a state company,” comments Philip.

    The production problem with PDVSA is directly tied to a lack of human capital. Until human capital is developed, PDVSA will have to rely on short-term financing via external partners to even keep up with the current production levels.

    The implications of the Chavez overhaul of PDVSA’s labour structure have been pervasive. Chavez turned PDVSA into a massive political entity strongly aligned with Bolivarian ideology. PDVSA workers and management alike are against liberalizing the oil company and opening up fully to foreign investment. Professor Philip states that there would be a political legitimacy problem in Venezuela if it were liberalized because Venezuelans and Latin Americans in general “do not like their oil controlled by foreigners.”

    However, stalling oil production has been so remarkably detrimental to the state budget that in 2013 PDVSA began seeking external partners for joint ventures—the company has secured $10 billion since last year. These external partnerships could be seen as an emergency measure or at least a suboptimal decision for Chavistas. If anything, these partnerships demonstrate the deteriorated production capacity of PDVSA in the post-2003 period.

    Mexico is eager for investment
    Like PDVSA, Pemex is struggling with decreasing production. By August 2013, Pemex production levels had reached the lowest point in 18 years. In 2013, Pemex consistently failed to meet monthly expectations of oil production, thus prompting the governing party to call for the oil reform that was passed in December 2013.

    Unlike Venezuela, there seems to be more optimism about the future of oil in Mexico. According to Emilio Lozoya Austin, the young CEO of Pemex, multinationals oil giants such as Chevron and Exxon will bring appropriate technology and human capital to Mexico.

    These multinationals will use Pemex knowledge of the Mexican landscape to create a strategic partnership, which will strengthen the company while expanding private industry in a country that is trying to stay competitive in international markets.

    Of course, this is the message that Pemex executives and the central government have told the press since August 2013. In reality, there needs to be oil for the government message to become a reality. If there is no easily extractable oil, there will not be as much foreign investment as expected, and the status quo of low production levels will remain.

    For now, Pemex is still at the negotiation table with other oil companies, which Lozoya calls having “discussions with players” (meaning foreign players), to explore harder-to-reach oil reserves. Until a deal with a foreign company is signed, Pemex will have to continue picking the low-hanging fruits.

    Two different paths to oil production
    Pemex and PDVSA are examples of the two alternative trajectories for oil in Latin America. At this point, the main objective for both companies is to increase production and improve human capital. For now, Pemex has chosen liberalization as its route.

    PDVSA is still firmly within the political status quo of the Chavez decade and as long as Chavistas stay in power, it is doubtful that there will be oil reform. The demonstrations in Venezuelan cities are unlikely to impede oil production further, as oil and gas companies are accustomed to working in unfavourable political environments. Since PDVSA is pro-government, it is doubtful that its employees will side with protesters and take collective action measures to impede production any further.

    Regardless of Mexico’s liberalization of oil and Venezuela’s need for a more competitive national oil company, the conditions in these countries are not expected to change much in coming years. Pemex will try to aggressively attract much needed foreign investment on the service and operational sides.

    Still, no foreign company can legally take projects from Pemex and, no matter what, Pemex would be allowed to keep all of its current production assets. Under a “round zero allocation,” Pemex will remain the strongest oil player in Mexico.

    PDVSA, however, will probably keep its governance structure and deep rooted political alignment. At this point, PDVSA might as well be the best-oiled part of the United Socialist Party machine.

    A special thanks to Dr. Professor George Philip of the London School of Economics Department of Government, who provided valuable insight on the relationship between oil and the state in Venezuela and Mexico.

  28. neutral observer: The Venezuelan protests were supposed to be peaceful…guess who threw the first “punch” …the peaceful demonstrators….no where in the World have I seen a protest where the participants start to foment violence and not have a response from the authorities…I personally think that in Venezuela the demonstrations have lasted so long, is because they are inspired by the events in Ukraine. But, the situation is different in Venezuela. But, most demonstrators are young and don’t have the experience to assess their situation and don’t realize that they need an exit strategy. Their leaders are in jail, Capriles is not making too many waves and the military is behind Maduro….the average Venezuelan is by now wondering about when all these young people are going to go home…

  29. People who cry about the sexually degrading treatment of prisoners in Iraq, but make jokes about the same treatment handed out to Venezuelan students.

    Every post from the pro-Castro brigade reeks of the same hypocrisy.

  30. Omar,

    And here you are trying to justify sexual abuse by Leftists.

    A previous poster thought it was amusing also.

    I think if you were prison guards for Castro, you’d all enjoy the abuse.

    Whether it’s mass murder or rape, you’ll always support your man, as long as he accuses the CIA of kidnapping all of Venezuela’s toilet paper.

  31. I believe in Afghanistan U.S. soldiers urinated on naked muslim suspect in Abudal Prison. This even though it is forbidden in their religion. A clear violation of treatment on prisoners.They made them do unspeakable things. The soldiers were eventually punished, but, only because of Wiikileaks …the power of the Media to expose oppression and abuse of power….This is a Mankind problem that is not monopolized by the Right or the Left….by the way…if people are going to take pictures of themselves naked, they shouldn’t make you gag when you see them….:) :)

  32. No apparent problem with nudity in the US. The USAID just got caught with its pants down. “Los Talibanes”? Kind of a catchy name for a band, don’t you think?

  33. Sexual degradation and violence was very much a part of Castro’s repudiation and jail system.

    I bet if New York cops stripped student demonstrators naked in public, there would be some sort of outcry from the “left”

    It’s OK if you work for Maduro though. he’s really a great guy.

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