THE LAST PAGE: Chavez Had Creative Link With A US Organisation

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Photo credit: Joe-4-OilBy Ernest Corea*

WASHINGTON DC - The death of President Hugo Chavez, after a drawn-out battle with cancer, brought out huge crowds of grieving Venezuelans onto the country’s streets. Their grief suggested that he had been a more effective ruler than many of his critics allowed .


His visceral reaction to most things American was unfortunate, standing in the way of expanded economic relations which could have benefitted both countries, while each remained faithful to its internal political imperatives. In one area, however, he was personally responsible for a strong and beneficial link with the US.

Among those to whom it was known, it sometimes became cause for concern, and for denunciation of his American partner, the Citizens Energy Corporation, which was founded by former Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts. The corporation is popularly referred to as “Joe-4-Oil,” a formulation derived from its phone number.

The facts of the collaboration, as reported by the New York Times on Sept. 6, 2009, are that “since 2005, Citizens’ 877-JOE-4-OIL campaign has been sustained by the oil fields of Venezuela. Chávez, who controls the industry there, has delivered crude oil at no charge to a Citizens affiliate, which has resold it and used the money to pay for oil deliveries to America’s poor. In the past two years, Citizens has been given 83 million gallons of crude by Chávez and sold it for $164 million – money used to fund almost its entire philanthropic mission.”

Revenues derived from the sale of oil supplies from Venezuela enable Joe-4-Oil to provide low cost heating in the winter months to 200,000 families a year in 23 states. Supplies are assured through the end of 2013.

No Pause Button

John Kerry, the 68th American Secretary of State, chose to launch his new career at a site closely associated with the country’s first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson. Kerry delivered his opening policy address at the University of Virginia which was founded by Jefferson in 1819.  (Kerry is an alumnus of Yale.)

Given the controversial nature of some of the foreign policies inherited by the Obama administration, many observers expected a mixture of political analysis and polemics, in keeping with Kerry’s experience in the Senate (1985-2013), particularly his most recent responsibilities there as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Kerry, however, took an approach that would have pleased Jefferson who believed that the greatest boon one nation could grant another was a new, food-bearing plant. Kerry pointed out that diplomats, academics and others interested in the study and practice of international relations “have always understood that bad things happening over there threaten us right here.

“Knowing that, the question is this: How do we, together, make clear that the opposite is just as true; that if we do the right things, the good things, the smart things over there, it will strengthen us here at home?” He pointed out with facts and figures that this process is already happening “….in Cameroon and Bosnia and other surprising places.” He added that eleven of America’s top 15 trading partners were formerly “beneficiaries of U.S. foreign assistance.

“Now, some may say not now,” Kerry continued, “not while we have our budget; it’s too expensive. Well, believe me, my friends, these challenges will not get easier with time. There is no pause button on the future.”

Violence Against Women

Some 70 percent of women the world over will be “beaten, raped, abused or mutilated in their lifetimes,” UN officials pointed out on March 8, International Women’s Day. Over 125 countries classify domestic violence as crime. Yet, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not a crime.

Against this background, governments and citizens were exhorted to “take action to end violence against women in all its forms and in all its contents.” In a special message for International Women’s Day, UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon said that 2012 was marked by “shocking” crimes of violence against women and girls.

For example: “One young woman was gang-raped to death. Another committed suicide out of a sense of shame that should have been attached to the perpetrators. Young teens were shot at close range for daring to seek an education.”

Ban added that “these activities, which rightly sparked global outrage, were part of a much larger problem that pervades virtually every society and every realm of life.”  He emphasized the view that “there is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: Violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable."

Extending the importance of International Women’s Day beyond the immediate impact of gender-based violence, Helen Clark, Administrator of UNDP (UN Development Programme) said that “violence has a long-term impact on women and girls ranging from education to employment and economic status, to participation in politics.”

Short Take

The US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor is seeking proposals for programs that will strengthen the capacity of independent media in the area of investigative journalism and increase safety and support for journalists in Sri Lanka.  The country is ranked 163 out of 179 countries in the press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. [IDN-InDepthNews – March13, 2013]

*This article appears as a periodic report on global news and views on the Last Page of Global Perspectives’ first quarterly issue. The writer has served as Sri Lanka's ambassador to Canada, Cuba, Mexico, and the USA. He was Chairman of the Commonwealth Select Committee on the media and development, Editor of the Ceylon 'Daily News' and the Ceylon 'Observer', and was for a time Features Editor and Foreign Affairs columnist of the Singapore 'Straits Times'. He is Global Editor of and Editorial Adviser to IDN-InDepthNews as well as President of the Media Task Force of Global Cooperation Council.

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