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Venezuela: 15 Years of Solitude

“The democratic Venezuela that so often received exiles from neighboring countries and gave asylum to political refugees fleeing military governments is once again alone.” Maruja Tarre, a Venezuelan journalist, reflects on the violent situation in her home country. Previously: “Snowden and Venezuela: My bizarre experience in the surveillance state,” an essay on Boing Boing by her daughter Isabel Lara, about the experience of being spied upon in Venezuela.

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Venezuela: 'After being promised paradise we are living in a nightmare.'

A first-person account of the current chaos in Venezuela from Guido Núñez-Mujica, a Boing Boing reader and biotech entrepreneur who calls the South American country his homeland.

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Venezuela may be offering Snowden asylum, but "it can’t handle the truth"


Nelson Bocaranda.

A Washington Post editorial out today details one of the more bizarre attacks by Venezuela against reporters and truth-exposers within its own borders: the trumped-up charges against one of Venezuela's best-known journalists, Nelson Bocaranda.

He's a newspaper columnist and radio presenter, followed by about 1.5 million on Twitter. In mid-2011, he broke the news that President Hugo Chávez had cancer, which the state had kept secret from the public. A few days later, the state was forced to fess up: a “baseball-sized” tumor had just been removed from the president's abdomen.

Based on a tweet in April 2013 by Bocaranda about voting irregularities in one Venezuelan city, the post-Chávez government says he's “the intellectual author” of alleged crimes that amount to domestic terrorism. Should he be found guilty, the consequences under Venezuelan law are grave.

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Snowden and Venezuela: My bizarre experience in the surveillance state

In 2009, a private call placed from the US by Isabel Lara to her mother was broadcast on Venezuelan state TV. Secretly taped calls are routinely used there to disgrace political enemies—or worse. To locals, the South American surveillance state is an odd place for government transparency advocate and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to end up.

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Snowden offered asylum in Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been offered asylum in three latinamerican nations: Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Bolivian president Evo Morales made it clear that his country's offer was directly inspired by the grounding of his presidential jet on the way back from a meeting in Russia (the US authorities and several European nations collaborated to force a landing and search of the president's jet in Austria, on the belief that Snowden was aboard). There has been no public response from Snowden. Cory 26

Edward Snowden is on the move: headed Moscow -> Havana -> [Quito|Caracas]

The Guardian and South China Morning Post report that NSA leaker Edward Snowden has left Hong Kong on an Aeroflot jet heading for Moscow, aiming for Havana, and then, eventually, either Quito, Ecuador, or Havana, Cuba.

The US had asked Hong Kong authorities to arrest Snowden on secret charges (a leak has it that he's been charged with Espionage, Theft, and Converting Government Property). HK says the request was malformed and could not be acted upon.

Why, you may ask yourself, is Snowden going to all these countries that have such rotten human rights records [ed: excepting Ecuador, which has been very good on asylum seekers lately]? My bet is on the fact that these countries are all somewhat hostile to US interest and unlikely to cooperate with extradition requests. However, it's possible that he just wanted the chance to pick out his own bunk at Gitmo ahead of time.

"As the HKSAR government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.

"The HKSAR government has already informed the US government of Mr Snowden's departure.

"Meanwhile, the HKSAR government has formally written to the US government requesting clarification on earlier reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies. The HKSAR government will continue to follow up on the matter so as to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong."

According to the South China Morning Post, Snowden boarded an Aeroflot flight to Moscow, although the newspaper said Russia was not his ultimate destination. It suggested he might go to Ecuador or Iceland – having cited the latter as a possible refuge in an interview with the Guardian.

However, reports from Moscow indicate that Havana would be his next port of call, with the ultimate destination either Caracas in Venezuela or Quito in Ecuador.

The South China Morning Post claimed he took off from the airport at 10.55am on flight SU213 on Sunday morning and was due to arrive at Moscow's Shermetyevo International Airport at 5.15pm [local times].

The Icelandic government has not yet made a statement about whether Snowden could get asylum in Iceland.

Edward Snowden leaves Hong Kong for Moscow [Tania Branigan and Miriam Elder/Guardian]

Update: He's in Moscow

AP: Chavez made "meager" gains, only reduced poverty, didn't build the world's tallest building

Associated Press business reporter Pamela Simpson wrote a terrible obit for Huge Chavez, writing

Chavez invested Venezuela’s oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world’s tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi.

Jim Naureckas has an appropriately scathing response:

In case you're curious about what kind of results this kooky agenda had, here's a chart (NACLA, 10/8/12) based on World Bank poverty stats–showing the proportion of Venezuelans living on less than $2 a day falling from 35 percent to 13 percent over three years. (For comparison purposes, there's a similar stat for Brazil, which made substantial but less dramatic progress against poverty over the same time period.)

Of course, during this time, the number of Venezuelans living in the world's tallest building went from 0 percent to 0 percent, while the number of copies of the Mona Lisa remained flat, at none. So you have to say that Chavez's presidency was overall pretty disappointing–at least by AP's standards.

AP: Chavez Wasted His Money on Healthcare When He Could Have Built Gigantic Skyscrapers (via Making Light)

Mule-based bookmobiles for remote Venezuelan communities


Proyecto Bibliomulas is a Venezuelan initiative to improve literacy in remote and rural areas, by turning mules into travelling bookmobiles. Srsly. And how awesome is that?

Anyone who was not out working the fields - tending the celery that is the main crop here - was waiting for our arrival. The 23 children at the little school were very excited.

"Bibilomu-u-u-u-las," they shouted as the bags of books were unstrapped. They dived in eagerly, keen to grab the best titles and within minutes were being read to by Christina and Juana, two of the project leaders.

BLOG OFICIAL DEL "PROYECTO BIBLIOMULAS"

Venezuela's four-legged mobile libraries (BBC)

(via Bookshelf)

Meet Mexican tattoo diva "La Mujer Vampira," Maria Jose Cristerna

Mexican tattoo star Maria Jose Cristerna, better known as "La Mujer Vampiro" (Female Vampire), poses during the Venezuela Tattoo Expo in Caracas, January 27, 2012.

She is a 35-year-old attorney. 98 percent of her body is covered in tattoos. She also has prosthetic fangs, and platinum implants in her forehead.

"The 'Vampire Woman' was not something I thought of, it was a name that one of Mexico's major television stations baptized me with," she tells ABC News in one interview from the tattoo expo. "It doesn't necessarily bother me because it has helped me transcend to a new level. Yes, I do like vampires but they are only a dream, a fantasy."

She says the body modification project was a form of self-expression she sought after being the victim of domestic violence in a former marriage.

There's a fun video interview with her on Telegraph TV here, ABC News has another here, and ITN News has a segment from the con here.

(REUTERS/Jorge Silva)