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The Big Day Looms....

Today is the 14th of August, it's pretty steamy here in Caracas, as usual, and the campaigns are wrapping up. In Sabana Grande, it's contested territory, posters and graffiti announcing the aims of both the opposition and Chavez supporters appear on every wall. So far, my favorite slogan is "No al Sí!". You can of course, expect the usual behavior by the corporate commercial media although toned down a bit for the elections observers.

Landless Movement Regional Leader Jailed

by Benjamin Maurice Melançon
with Vladimir Costés

2004 August 12, Thursday

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA - At 11:55 a.m. today a district judge further criminalized the social movements of Bolivia when he ordered that a regional leader of the landless movement be held in preventative detention for the killing of a mayor, despite the failure of prosecutors to offer any physical evidence connecting him to the crime. The national leader of the landless movement said his group would fight back.

Forero in Caracas: "It's Over" for the Opposition

CARACAS, VENEZUELA; AUGUST 12, 2004: Never mind what he says (or what they let him say) in print: New York Times Andean correspondent Juan Forero admitted today, in person, that he believes that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez will win the historic referendum vote scheduled for Sunday, August 15. For the Venezuelan opposition, Forero told two reporters today in Caracas: "It's over."

Kind reader: Are we living inside a dream? Juanito Forero - defender of coup-mongers and Plan Colombia mercenaries, simulator of the English-language news from South America to Broadway - chose to confess his secret opinion to none other than this Narco News reporter (who Forero also called "my great antagonist").  Bearing witness to this strange encounter, in the halls of the Miraflores presidential palace, was also Lee Sustar, Labor Editor of the international Socialist Worker.

Yes, to be in Venezuela on this historic week is to live inside a kind of dream… the inspirational dream that comes before the Great Awakening, when history is made anew again...

Rebellion in the J-School

“Charlie, can I speak with you?”  It was Natalia Viana.

“Sure,” I replied.

“In private.”

“In private?”  I wondered what it could be.  Was it possible that she wanted to confess her sins since she knew that I was formerly a Catholic priest?

This is What Democracy Looks Like

After some nine days in Cochabamba, Bolivia, participating in the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, I’m finally starting to get used to the thin moutain air here in the Andes. More importantly, I have gotten a glimpse of another culture, of a land that is experiencing democracy in a more vital way than I have seen play out in the canned elections we experience in the United States.

Here, it seems to me, the stakes of the game are very real, very much in front of the people. In my short time in this country in the heart of South America, I have heard about the struggle to change the country from the bottom up. Although divided at times over strategy, labor and farmers are unified in their quest to return control of the nation’s natural resources to the people in an effort to foster job creation, enhanced living conditions and a brighter future for Bolivia.

White House Anti-Drug Tsar Admits Plan Colombia's failure

In this BBC story, John Walters, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), is quoted as saying, "We have not yet seen in all these efforts what we're hoping for on the supply side, which is a reduction in availability." This flies in the face of all public statements and statistics released by his office so far, which always stick to the party line.

It must be said, however, that the candor of this admission is only partial since, according to the same story, Mr. Walters hopes to see a reduction in the drug supply during the next 12 months.

An interesting quote nonetheless.

Militar boliviano sostiene: La paz en el Chapare se debe a Evo Morales

Habla la voz de las fuerzas de lucha contra el narcotráfico: el Coronel Jaime Cruz Vera, comandante de la Unidad Móvil de Patrullaje Rural, UMOPAR, la fuerza de interdicción a las drogas y a las fábricas de cocaína. Cruz Vera también es comandante del cuartel central de las fuerzas de lucha contra el narcotráfico en Chimoré, en el Chapare, y por eso conoce todo lo que pasa en la lucha militar contra las drogas de esa región. Así, cuando nos recibió el 3 de agosto pensábamos escuchar las mismas respuestas que dan todos los militares y que ya conocemos de memoria.

Deconstructing the art of journalism

Every art has it's tools to shape content. Writing is no different.

The Narco News School of Authentic Journalism held a session earlier this week in Bolivia that addressed those tools. The session, hosted by journalists George Sánchez and Reed Lindsay, focused on several structural elements that are integral to a news or feature story. This essay on writing incorporates the topics covered in that session as well as a few other approaches that can be used in crafting a story.

Although there is not one right way to write a story, you still have to learn how to swing the bat before you can play the game. The formulas outlined below, if applied, should get you up to the plate in the writing game. Where you take your writing from there is all about heart.

Ecological Debt Campaign: the next great social movement

"One of the greatest lies that the mass media feeds you today, maybe the worst lie, is the theory of development," Giuseppe de Marzo told a small and engaged crowd tonight.  A campaign about ecological debt will help expose this flawed concept of development and the other great lie of third world debt, de Marzo argued in his talk.  Charlie Hardy, with help from bilingual audience participants, translated de Marzo's remarks to English, which this journalist relied on.

"Are the Polls Credible in Venezuela? Vote NO"

Currently in Venezuela a variety of information is being released by national and international polling groups in an attempt to predict the results of the Referendum coming up in two short weeks.  Unfortunately, the impartiality of these polling groups has proved to be virtually non-existent. It has become a routine practice of the opposition to blatantly report information from groups of their choice that have strong interests in the removal of Chávez from power.  These “facts” are then being distributed to press throughout the world.  

Monitoring the Washington Post: Democracy in Venezuela

In reference to the upcoming recall referendum vote on President Hugo Chávez, a July 30th editorial by the Washington Post titled “Monitoring Venezuela” alleges the Venezuelan opposition group Súmate is leading the charge for democracy in Venezuela.

"The vote itself will have a greater chance of being staged and judged fairly thanks to Sumate..." says the Post. In fact, Súmate is a partisan group in oppostion to the government whose sole mission since being founded in 2002 has been to collect signatures and promote a referendum to unseat the president. The more than one million dollars the NED in 2003 funneled to Venezuela went overwhelmingy to opposition groups.

Referendo: "Ainda não temos nem idéia do tamanho da interferência estadunidense"

Não dá para medir o tamanho da interfêrencia estadunidense no referendo na Venezuela. A constatação é de Jeremy Bigwood, jornalista free-lance que em janeiro deste ano revelou a ajuda financeira do governo estadunidense a entidades oposicionistas da Venezuela através da NED – National Endowment for Democracy, instituição privada sem fins lucrativos que recebe verbas do Congresso e do Departamento de Estado.

Live from Cochabamba, Narco News ¡Presente!

They arrived via the airports of Sao Paulo, of Buenos Aires, of Bogotá, of Mexico City, of Miami, of Detroit, of New York, of Washington DC, of La Paz and Santa Cruz... Some took all night "flota" buses... but by the six o'clock hour last night, 58 of 61 Narco News School of Authentic Journalism scholars and professors had arrived on our campus in Cochabamba.

Every single one, bar none, made sacrifices to get here. This is a rare school where professors are unpaid, and come at their own expense... where no tuition is charged to any student... And where with every word spoken, with every glance in any direction, all the beaming, smiling, faces of journalists - not a profession known for its glee nor sense of humor - it is evident that the Authentic Journalism renaissance, more than alive and well, has grown by leaps and bounds since the last time we met 17 months ago in Mexico...

Journalists interview journalists about journalism

The only objective reporting on the Internet: a Spanish-ignorant gringo's dispatches from Bolivia

2004 July 30, COCHABAMBA - Reporters reported on reporters reporting on reporters reporting on reporting this morning in an upstairs room in downtown Cochabamba.  Print, radio, and television reporters, commercial and authentic, nearly filled the room as they interviewed each other on the topic of journalism.  They recorded one another, took notes on one another, filmed one another, and took pictures of one another.

This scene resulted from the start of the 2004 session of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, held near Cochabamba and in the Chapare region of Bolivia.  Reporters from much of the Cochabamba media came to a press conference organized by Alex Contreras Baspineiro, a professor of the School.

En Vísperas de una Revolución Social Continental en Venezuela

Érase una vez un monje extraño que apuradamente cruzó la plaza de Wittenberg (Alemania) hacia la catedral. En todas partes habían campesinos ociosos, discutiendo sobre sus cosechas, sus confesiones, la Iglesia y sus maravillosos amos, observando el espectáculo insólito. Poco después se escuchó un fuerte ruido proveniente del portal de la iglesia; como loco, „lleno de amor y consideración por la verdad” el extraño estaba clavando pedazos de papel sobre el portal gigante, sus famosas 95 tesis. Después desapareció igual cómo había llegado. Desde entonces nadie de los espectadores hablaba más del asunto.