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Venezuela calls for genuine dialogue and cooperation on human rights at UN

Caracas, 30 Jun. AVN.- Venezuela ratified on Monday before the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations (UN) its commitment to ensure respect for the fundamental rights of citizens while asked to ensure impartial debate on this issue at international fora.

Venezuela's General Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz submitted the report on progress on civil and political rights in Geneva, Switzerland, where she requested the issue be discussed "in a spirit of genuine dialogue, cooperation, in accordance with the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations."

She said Venezuelans "expect to endorse with members of this committee a rich, useful, fruitful interactive dialogue for the further self-evaluation and deepening of our ties with the universal system of human rights."

During her speech, she highlighted Venezuelan constitutional law on freedom of expression and right to demonstrate. "In Venezuela public demonstrations have become a common everyday fact, which are part of our political pluralism and ideological diversity. The work of police forces should be aimed at ensuring that right to peaceful demonstration does not result in the infringement of others' rights and violation of national laws," she said.

Prosecutor also talked about violent and criminal actions perpetrated by violent groups in the country since February 12, 2014, with the intention of fomenting instability and a coup against the constitutional government of President Nicolas Maduro and other legitimate authorities elected by the Venezuelan people.

She described this aggression, marked by blocked roads, extensive damage to public and private institutions, transportation systems and utilities, "actions that are clear violations of the rights and freedoms of the rest of the population."

Ortega Diaz stressed that these actions promoted by the far right, resulted in 878 injured, of which 278 were state security officers, along with 43 deaths, of which 10 were police officers, soldiers and a public prosecutor.

She recalled that faced with violence, the state therefore had to intervene through security bodies and those caught in flagrante delicto were referred to court "with all the guarantees of due process."

She called it as something extraordinary that some media outlets, politicians and even so-called human rights defenders have justified such crimes and consider its authors as "peaceful" demonstrators.

Given this account of events, prosecutor noted that the people of Venezuela has demonstrated its commitment to democracy, sovereignty and self-determination through the secret, free and universal suffrage in 19 national elections since 1999 confirming the transparent and auditable nature of the Venezuelan electoral system, recognized in the international community as one of the best in the world.

In her address, prosecutor recalled that in 2006 Venezuela undertook a process of police reform that has emerged as a breakthrough, based on a new civil, professional and preventive model that respects human rights, and the enactment of the law on police service which establishes progressive, differentiated use of force.

"The Venezuelan government does not endorse police actions that violate human rights, we rather condemn them," and in isolated cases where excesses have been committed authorities have been acting firmly," she said.

She said that from January to May 2015 the Public Prosecutor's Office has indicted 252 police officers, charged 110 more and 53 have been sentenced by court, of which 66 are deprived of their liberty.

Venezuelan prosecutor also highlighted the role of the Ombudsman and the Attorney's offices as mediating institutions among social and political actors, "encouraging meetings between different social sectors of the country."

Likewise, the Venezuelan government fully guarantees all rights of inmates, accelerates the proceedings and communication with their family members as well as their recreation and education.

"In order to expedite procedures there were set up mobile criminal courts. Also attorneys protecting fundamental rights and ombudsmen ensure the effective exercise of their rights and are constantly urging the competent institutions to comply with the implementation of measures that correspond," she said.

She recalled that for the first time in the country's history there is a system of protection for indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants and also for children and adolescents and especially women.

Ortega Diaz cited the partial reform adopted by the National Assembly of the Organic Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence, for including the crime of femicide, prohibiting human trafficking, slavery and forced labor.


Over 3 million people voted in PSUV primaries

Caracas, 29 Jun. AVN.- A total of 3,162,400 people voted on Sunday in the primaries of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), said first vice-president of the party, Diosdado Cabello, in a press conference in Caracas, where he announced the results of the elections.

Accompanied by members of the Electoral Commission of the PSUV, Cabello said that compared to the primary elections of the opposition coalition MUD –held in just 33 constituencies with a participation of 543,000 people– PSUV doubled the figure in the same number of constituencies, with nearly 1,300,000 votes.

He said the election held this Sunday featured "great participation of the people, across the country," and had no qualms in rating it as historic "because of the high political content and meaning it will have for the coming democratic history of our country."

He stressed this is the first time the party's grassroots choose candidates for parliamentary elections through direct elections in the 87 constituencies.

"Today, listening to the mandate of the people, a primary election was held and fills us with great satisfaction," said Cabello.

He also rejected attempts by the right to delegitimize the electoral process, "in which the party's grassroots took an active part, there are still some people voting". Mobilization of masses went beyond expectations.

In this regard, he apologized to the millions of Venezuelans who decided to participate in elections, "because the number of polling stations and voting tables was insufficient."

Due to the high turnout, the National Electoral Board (CNE) extended three times the closing time of the polls until 10:00 pm, when it was originally scheduled to be at 6 pm.

"We are organizing a political force to win an election and preserve peace of this country. The PSUV has done its part, now it's the turn of the Great Patriotic Pole (GPP) in a perfect alliance of the revolutionary forces, we are confident that there will not be any problem, which has been the case to date," he said.

He said in regards to the parliamentary elections to be held on 6 December, the perfect alliance "will be always thinking of Commander Chavez and his order of unity, struggle, battle and victory." 


Venezuela, China to expand bilateral cooperation over the next 10 years

Caracas, 29 Jun. AVN.- The 4th Technical Secretariat of China-Venezuela High-Level Joint Commission was set up this Monday, at the seat of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, also known as the Yellow House in Caracas, to assess the progress of projects being implemented under economic agreements in the infrastructure, telecommunications, industrial sectors among others, said vice president of planning and knowledge, Ricardo Menendez.

He said these meetings will run for three days and will be aimed at planning binational agenda over the next 10 years to comply with the objectives of Plan of the Nation 2013-2019.

"We will be working on the telecommunications issue, with the provision of the tablets, laptops for university, secondary and primary students. Besides, the installation of telecommunications facilities, configuration of this system in our country and submarine cables to link to the Caribbean," he said in statements to state media.

Another factor that will be paramount to the meeting will be the industrial subject, Menendez said, because both countries will address the progress of cement plants, iron, aluminum and paper industries.

Furthermore, the development of the national infrastructure will be present in these high-level sessions as well as the operation of ports and airports of the country.

Similarly, the two governments will discuss the electrical system and issues related to land transport systems of Venezuela.

"Subsequently, we will be working on oil cooperation and issues related to strategic alliance such as housing development, Barrio Nuevo, Barrio Tricolor (or New, Tricolor Neighborhood) –a social program aimed at the rehabilitation of infrastructure and services of popular areas– and its reach in the country, which is, in large part, due to cooperation with China" he said. 


The Case Against Manifest Destiny

Recent aggresions against Syria

Caracas, 18 Jun. AVN.- The disastrous consequences of the recent aggressions against Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Ukraine, to name just a few, show the urgent need to revive the principle of non-intervention into another state. This principle of international law includes, but is not limited to, the prohibition of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, according to Article 2.4 of the Charter of the United Nations.

The Swiss legal philosopher Emmerich de Vattel is credited with being the first to formulate the principle of non-intervention in his Droit de gens ou principles de la loi naturelle (The Law of Nations) published in 1758. Essentially, the principle establishes the right of territorial sovereignty possessed by each nation. The scope of the principle, however, has been subject to debate.

For example, what constitutes intervention in practical terms? Does it include only the use or threat of military force, or it also includes economic sanctions, cyber warfare or other kinds of non-military intervention such as propaganda campaigns or control of media messages to other countries?

According to Michael Wood, a member of the UN International Law Commission, one of the earliest treaty formulations of the principle was included in the Article 15 (8) of the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States of 1933, which precluded "interference with the freedom, the sovereignty or other internal affairs, or the processes of the Governments of other nations," together with the Additional Protocol on Non-Intervention of 1936.

Later on, the UN General Assembly issued a Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Domestic Affairs of States (UNGA resolution 2131 (XX) 1965). According to Oppenheim's International Law, the prohibition of intervention "is a corollary of every state's right to sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence."

A paradigmatic case in which this principle was applied was that of Nicaragua vs. United States, following the U.S. support for the "contras" fighting the Nicaraguan Government and the mining of Nicaraguan harbors. The case was decided n 1986 by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The ICJ ruled in favor of Nicaragua and against the United States, and awarded reparations to the Nicaraguan Government. According to the ICJ, the actions of the U.S. against Nicaragua violated international law. The U.S. refused to participate in the proceedings after the Court rejected its argument that the ICJ lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

In a move that did no honor to the country, the U.S. later blocked the enforcement of the judgment by the UN Security Council, thus preventing Nicaragua from obtaining any compensation. In 1992, under the government of Violeta Chamorro, the Nicaraguan government withdrew its complaint.

According to the Court's verdict, the U.S. was "in breach of its obligations under customary international law not to use force against another State", "not to intervene in its affairs", "not to violate its sovereignty", "not to interrupt peaceful maritime commerce", and "in breach of its obligations under Article XIX of the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation between the parties signed at Managua on 21 January 1956."

Furthermore, the ICJ determined that, "...the laying of mines in the waters of another State without any warning or notification is not only an unlawful act but also a breach of the principles of humanitarian law underlying the Hague Convention No. VIII of 1907."

The principle of non-intervention has obvious limits in case of grave violations of human rights. For this reason, a norm called Responsibility to Protect (R2P or RtoP) was developed. The origin of this norm was the international community's failure to respond to tragedies such as the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 and the Srebrenica massacre in 1995.

According to this norm, sovereignty is not an absolute right, and states forfeit aspects of their sovereignty when they fail to protect their populations from mass atrocities crimes and human rights violations. However, to avoid abuses of this principle, any international action to curb mass crimes should have the approval of the United Nations.

Although the principle of non-intervention is extremely difficult to enforce in today's complex world, its principles should be revived again. This is particularly pertinent if one considers the tremendous loss of lives due to the violations of international law that recent interventions into other States have caused.

*Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

Source: CounterPunch

Spanish: El caso contra el Destino Manifiesto

Bolivarian policies increased people's access to universities

Caracas, 27 May. AVN.- In the past 16 years, the Bolivarian Revolution has opened so many free study opportunities in Venezuela that university education is no longer a business. From 1999, the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution Hugo Chavez introduced a new conception of State, focusing on public policies in areas such as economy, health and education –by then in line for privatization. This reconstruction of the State prevented, as happened during the eighties, the proliferation of private universities and stagnation of public universities.

To make an analysis of the achievements that higher education has made in the country, Asalia Venegas, professor at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), provides an overview of the path that Venezuela has taken over the last 30 years, going from a neoliberal model –influenced by global currents of neoliberalism, specifically Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher, in England– to an inclusive model interested in reaching the majority.

In an interview with the Venezuelan News Agency, Venegas said that in the case of Latin America a process of mimesis of neoliberal currents took place in Venezuela, successive governments implemented a public education policy in line with those guidelines achieving a minimum state action in the public sphere in order to open the floodgates to large private groups; this is why some sectors of the bourgeoisie and the Opus Dei are the ones to play an important role in creating private universities.

Professor Venegas explains that it was necessary to rebuild what existed and convene a National Constituent Assembly, which was adopted by the majority and led to the promulgation of the new Constitution.

The result is a new rule of law and justice based on a democratic, participatory and protagonist model.

While the Venezuelan government is committed to providing free education to children and youth since the time of president Antonio Guzman Blanco (1870-1877), in the following years and more radically during the dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gomez the system gets weaker and the foundations of private education are laid and consolidated in the Fourth Republic, a period of 40 years (1958-1998) that in its last decade intensifies privatization that result in the creation of only five universities, in contrast to 42 created by the Bolivarian Revolution in its first 16 years.

Education for all

As a general reflection, Venegas, graduated from the School of Communication at the UCV, where she served as director (1999-2002 and 2002-2005), said that as stated in the Constitution, the Venezuelan State should guarantee public, free and compulsory education.

To fulfill this mandate, the Bolivarian Revolution since its beginnings in 1999, begins a series of changes in the public education system and opens different institutions of higher learning, including some specialized as the National Experimental University of Arts (UNEARTE) and the National Experimental University of Security (UNES).

Also, it undertakes the launch of educational missions: Robinson (literacy and primary education) Ribas (high school) and Sucre (university education) to expand opportunities to study and take learning possibilities to all corners of the country, why is which in 92% of Venezuelan municipalities there is at least one university.

For Venegas, this was instrumental in decreasing high school graduates without quotas that by 1999, as a result of privatization, amounted to more than 500,000 young people. This scenario, she said, is related to the limited availability of places offered by universities called autonomous and experimental, which turned out to reserve 100% of places. Subsequently, universities gave the State 30% of quotas and now they continue reserving the 70% that is granted via entrance exams, also created during previous governments.

"If it is the state who coordinates, supervises and controls education, endorsed by our Constitution and endorsed by the Education Law, and public universities are funded by the Venezuelan government and their whole budget is financed by the state, how it is possible that during the Fourth Republic universities established a quota for the State," she said.

In this regard, she said the State –from the philosophical, theoretical and legal point of view– is the one that manages everything that has to do with education, whether public or private, and it is for that reason some groups were allowed to create private universities. However, the State is obliged to monitor its operation.

Fairer access

As part of this policy of democratization, Venegas explained what has been done in the past 16 years to go from an enrollment of 700,000 students by 1999 to more than 2.7 million today, which places Venezuela as the fifth country in the world and second in Latin America with the highest college enrollment, according to figures from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

"The years preceding the rise to power of President Chavez, we had a fairly large percentage of students who were unable to enter universities, called bachelors without quota and such group of students that could not enter the system was captured, inasmuch as those parents could afford their children's education, by private universities," she explained.

Venegas said private education advanced so much in the country that statistically it was found that 80% of students who entered autonomous universities came from private schools and 20% of public institutions.

"In the case of so-called autonomous universities there are a number of lines with the quota system for admission. Given this large retaining wall government launches Mission Sucre because it has to, again, be consistent with its inclusive speech because there are people who graduated from high school but how they will enter college if they have no quota," she added.

Professor stressed that the policy of municipalization and territorialization of education, raised by Mission Sucre, is recognized today by the National System of College Entrance 2015, a platform created by the Venezuelan government to democratize entrance to universities.

The new system, which includes variables such as grade point average (50%), socioeconomic indicator (30%), territorialization (15%) and participation in previous college application processes and extracurricular activities (5%) ensures for the first time the massive entry into the country's universities, since in the past the system only had to consider the average, without assessing conditions involving student development.

The exclusion of university education system was such that in the 90s, 46% of university education in Venezuela was privately owned, while 16 years later only 20% is private and the rest is completely public and free.

"The growth in enrollment is vital because if the State does not open enrollment, admission to the university system would be closed. There is also a process of politicization and that sets us apart from neoliberal policies. One of the premises of neoliberalism is the issue of individuality: my goal is to study, graduate and I care very little about what happens around me, in the Bolivarian policy it is inclusive, bringing up what is the participatory democracy," she said.

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