Monday, October 25, 2010

Buenos Aires slum for LeMonde

Photos of Buenos Aires slum for a feature written by Nicolas Bourcier of Le Monde about Catholic priest, Father Hector Marquez, 35, who despite being stabbed last year by one of the slum's residents, is working to unite the residents of Buenos Aires through community councils and projects aimed toward making the slum a safer place to live.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Political Flavor Infuses Venezuela’s New Cafes

The menu at a Café Venezuela in Caracas. Each entry shows two prices, the “market price” and the cafe’s lower “fair price.”

Published: September 25, 2010
CARACAS, Venezuela — On the eve of parliamentary elections on Sunday, a litmus test of President Hugo Chávez’s 12-year rule, one way to gauge the sentiment within his political movement is to wander through the streets of this city’s old center before slipping into a new state-owned cafe.

Along the way, peddlers sell copies of Correo del Orinoco, the new state newspaper. Soldiers in red berets patrol streets once overrun by informal vendors. Murals defiantly declare Caracas an “insurgent city.”

Tucked into a corner on Plaza Bolívar is Café Venezuela, part of a chain of open-air restaurants established by the government this year. The cafe serves Venezuela-grown coffee and Venezuelan snacks like cassava bread at so-called solidarity prices, half or less than what customers would pay elsewhere.

Ideology is also on the menu. The cafes were created by Comerso, a state holding company for socialist enterprises, which also manages stores that sell everything from subsidized arepas, the crispy corn cakes that are the staple of the Venezuelan diet, to inexpensive Chinese cars. The branch in Plaza Bolívar replaced a clothing store that once occupied the same spot and was expropriated live on television by Mr. Chávez.

The planners behind the cafes have multiple objectives: to provide food and conviviality at democratic prices, to serve as commercial linchpins to renew some of the city’s most run-down districts and, not incidentally, to remind satisfied patrons of the government’s populist program in an election year.

Judging by the long lines that snake from the counter onto the sidewalk on most days, they are a hit. CONTINUE READING

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hugo Chávez's hold on Venezuelan assembly in the balance

By Rory Carroll in Caracas
The Guardian, Thursday 23 September 2010

It looked like a 1950s TV commercial: an avuncular man in a shiny kitchen explaining to a housewife the wonders of a new fridge. "Feel the lines on it. Nice, eh? And wait till I tell you about the discount."

The price was not just a bargain, it was a socialist bargain, for this was a live broadcast from Venezuela's presidential palace, Miraflores, and Hugo Chávez was selling more than just a fridge. The kitchen was a set to launch a new social campaign, "My well-equipped house", on the eve of an election that could shape the fate of Chávez's socialist revolution.

The president is not on the ballot but on Sunday voters will decide whether to maintain or loosen his grip over the national assembly, a constitutionally powerful body that has been dominated by "chavistas" since 2005. Polls suggest a close fight with a resurgent opposition that boycotted elections last time round.

"Both sides are evenly balanced," said Luis Vicente Leon, director of polling firm Datanalisis. "The country is divided into two practically equal parts." Recent polls have given a slight edge to Chávez's PSUV party.

After 12 years in power, the leftist leader remains popular with many of the poor, but his government is facing bad news: recession, high inflation, creaking public services, a scandal over rotting food, and horrific crime rates that have made Caracas a murder capital.

Analysts say the election will hinge on the government's formidable "red machine" overcoming voter discontent and mobilising its base through the use of oil revenues, control of state institutions and Chávez's charisma. CONTINUE READING

Multimedia piece: Hugo Chávez Woos Discontented Voters

Friday, October 1, 2010

Left Behind in Venezuela to Piece Lives Together

Published: September 18, 2010

CIUDAD GUAYANA, Venezuela — The first scavengers one sees in Cambalache, a sprawling trash dump on this city’s edge, are the vultures. Hundreds drift through the veil of smoke that rises from the refuse each day at dawn.
The carrion birds vie with children and their parents for scraps of meat discarded by Ciudad Guayana’s more fortunate residents. Those toiling under the vultures’ wake mutter to one another in Warao, an indigenous language spoken in the nearby delta where the Orinoco, one of the world’s mightiest rivers, meets the Atlantic.
“I’m hungry, and my children are hungry,” said Raisa Beria, 25, a Warao who came here to scavenge for clothes and food. CONTINUE READING

NY Times slideshow: Stitching a Life From the Scraps of Others
Full Edit on Plight of the Warao