Venezuela 31.08.2007 - 14.09.2007
From August 31 through September 14, 2007, we went on an intercultural trip, organized by IFIL.ch, to Venezuela. After experiencing a lively discussion between voices critical of the government and representatives of the roja rojita, we spent a memorable weekend in a camp together with 40 Venezuelan students. Following that, we spent two days of relaxation on the Caribbean beaches before leaving a lasting impression in Caracas with the opening of a photo exhibition.
At a national students meeting, we got some first hand experience in “Política en la calle” (Street Politics). The student movement views itself as a main opposition force against President Chavez’ planned constitutional amendment. During an afternoon we got to know a different side of Caracas by visiting the welfare programs ”Barrio Adentro,” ”Misiòn Rivas,” and ”Misiòn Villahermosa.”
>Our introduction to the political situation in Venezuala started with a visit to the Swiss Embassy in Venezuela. Ambassador ad interim Benedict Gubler and Consul Verena Mathis described their position as an interface between the two capitals Bern and Caracas and told us about the pros and cons of a life in the diplomatic service.
Later, we met assembly woman Iris Varela and assemblyman Luis Tascón of the Movimiento V Repùplica party in the parliament building to talk about socialism and its effects on the structure of private ownership.
Almost all of the directors of the food company Polar took the time to introduce their company to us. Polar the largest and most important privately owned business in Venezuela.
We learned about the financial instability of Venezuela the hard way. Exchanging US-Dollars for Venezuelan Bolìvares was quite an interesting experience: we received stacks of money at twice the official exchange rate. Veiwed macro-economically, it’s doubtful that the Bolìvar Fuerte, introduced in January 2008, will be able to stop further devaluation of the Venezuelan currency.
Rodrigo Ayala, founder and former director of the NGO Ciudadanìa Activa, gave a review of Venezuela’s democratic background following the overthrow of dicator Jiménez in 1958. Ayala also explained what circumstances have caused the ongoing polarization of the Venezuelan society. He then pointed out how Ciudadanìa Activa not only reacts to the constrains of civil rights, but also acts against it.
Alonso Moleiro, publisher of the periodical Contrabando, commented on the role and the importance of the media in view of the political situation and brought up the ongoing discussion about ”libertad de expression” (Freedom of Speech).
As a main player in this issue, we visited RCTV (RadioCaracasTelevisiòn), which was the largest and oldest TV station in Venezuela before their license was revoked in May 2007. Today, RCTV broadcasts via cable and satellite.
The weekend we spent together with 40 Venezuelan students in the context of the project Various Perspectives, Two Countries, One Picture! was certainly one of the highlights of the trip. Using the pictures we had brought along with us, we discussed everyday life at the university and on the job, family life, nature, etc. A few days later, we displayed the 15 best pictures in a photo exhibition and said goodbye to our new friends, not without inviting them to Swiss cheese fondue.
Equipped with tents, hammocks and cooler filled with beer, we went by boat to Cayo Sombrero in the natural preserve Morrocoy. We enjoyed two days on the uninhabited island with on a sandy beaches, a turquoise sea and breathtaking sunsets. We didn’t let the mosquitoes spoil the pleasure of our Robinson-like adventure.
Travelling by bus was part of the cultural program too! Not only because we spent many hours in traffic jams, but also because we passed the time listening to Latin-American Reggae…