Felix ElsnerFelix Elsner

Venezuela: Un país de múltiples facetas

I recently held this presentation in my Spanish class. It has been an exercise in depression learning about the various ailings that have befallen this once so hopeful nation. The tone of this is very biased, but I found it complicated to craft a balanced picture and also project optimism in under five minutes. The positive spin is a lie of course — Venezuela is utterly doomed. Attached are the presentation PDF and some reports for further study.

Me gustería contarle sobre Venezuela.

Yo he elegido el porque es un país con muchas facetas.

Está localizado en Sudamerica, entre Colombia y Brasil. Tiene cuatros regiones: Primero, los andes, que son montañosos. Segundo, la región Orinoco con el río orinoco. Tercero, la región Maraibo (y el lago Maracaibo, tambíen un ciudad llamado Maracaibo). En cuarto lugar, una region llamada Guayana venezolana, al lado del país Guyana.

El país tiene veintinueve mil habitantes. Se habla Castellano y lenguas indígenas variadas. La mayor parte de Venezuela es católico.

Los tres ciudades más grandes en Venezuela son: Caracas con dos millones habitantes, Maracaibo con un millón seiscientos mil habitantes, y Valencia con un millón habitantes.

Por deporte, les gustan más el Béisbal, el Fútbol y el Baloncesto. Para los aficionados al fútbol aquí: El mejor club del país es el FC Caracas; tienen un estadio que puede contener treinta mil personas

El clima es muy caliente, con temperaturas entre 30 y 35 grados.

Venezuela tiene mucha cultura, con muchas tradiciones. Se bailen, por ejemplo, el Joropo, el Sebucán y el baile del tambor. Esos bailes son mezclas de las culturas indígenas, la influencia europea y ritmos que se originaron en África.

Pero… no todo está bien.

Un país… en crisis

Mira el índice de criminalidad: La cantidad de delitos ha aumentado significativamente. El precio del petróleo ha caído masivamente, y la calidad del petróleo venezolano es mala. Hay una inflación severa, la gente no puede comprar las necesidades. No hay muchos abastecimientos, porque casi no se puede cambiar bolívares en dólares. Los suministros médicos son malos; los hospitales no tienen todos los medicamentos necesarios.

Como puede ver, hay problemas. Simple, ¿verdad?

Quien son las manifestantes? Qué quiere la oposición?

Los manifestantes no son hippies que están dando flores a la policía. Están protestando, si, pero los líderes más fuertes de la oposición consiste en narcotraficantes, paramilitares y contratistas militares privados. Ha habido asesinatos políticos en jueces, estudiantes y organizadores comunitarios. La mitad de los muertos fueron muertos por la oposición.

María Machado, una de los líderes de la oposición, estaba diciendo este abril:

“La meta no es hacer elecciones en el marco del régimen criminal de Maduro. […] El primer paso es deponer al régimen.”

Había una presentación sobre Colombia hace unas pocas semanas: Es un país muy alegre y hermoso, pero también hay mucha violencia. No solo a causa de los narcotraficantes, principalmente debido a la guerra del gobierno derechista bajo Álvaro Uribe con los FARC.

Los FARC-EP luchan por la tierra para cultivar en, por la medicina, y por su dignidad, porque el gobierno no los reconoce a sus derechos. Las fuerzas de seguridad de Colombia, con paramilitares, han ejecutado a más de 4000 civiles (civiles, sin contar guerrillas) durante el reinado del Uribe. Esa puede ser la razón de los militares venezolanos para apoyar Maduro y el Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela.

Las políticas de la oposición quieren prohibir los sindicatos, privatizar todo, disparar a cientos de miles de personas y reducir aún más el gasto en salud y educación.

Quizás… podría haber una guerra con Guyana sobre disputas territoriales, como la “Guerra de las Malvinas” entre Argentina y Gran Bretaña.

Y puede ser aún peor: Un montón de gente todavía recuerda los años de atrocidades en toda América del Sur.

Por esos razones, la gente de Venezuela tiene miedo de lo que podría suceder si falla Nicolás Maduro. Más o menos un tercio de la población son chavistas y un tercio son derechistas. El último tercio no apoya al gobierno sino que también sospecha de la oposición.

Un país… con esperanza

Pero hay esperanza: Venezuela tiene buenas relacionas con sus vecinos, el comercio es bien, hay estrecha cooperación con Cuba y Ecuador. Venezuela no es una república bananera.

Habrá una asamblea constituyente el 30 de julio, hay una esperanza real de cambio y reformas. El tiempo dirá cómo se resolverá esta crisis. A pesar de la continua violencia y agitación, Venezuela sigue siendo uno de los países más felices del mundo.

¡Gracias por la atención!

Addendum

Grundgesetz – Article 9: Freedom of coalition

Article 9 concerns freedom of coalition.

It stipulates:

  1. Alle Deutschen haben das Recht, Vereine und Gesellschaften zu bilden.
  2. Vereinigungen, deren Zwecke oder deren Tätigkeit den Strafgesetzen zuwiderlaufen oder die sich gegen die verfassungsmäßige Ordnung oder den Gedanken der Völkerverständigung richten, sind verboten.
  3. Das Recht, zur Wahrung und Förderung der Arbeits- und Wirtschaftsbedingungen Vereinigungen zu bilden, ist für jedermann und alle Berufe gewährleistet. Abreden, die dieses Recht einschränken oder zu behindern suchen, sind nichtig, hierauf gerichtet Maßnahmen sind rechtswidrig.
    Maßnahmen nach den Artikeln 12 a, 35 Abs. 2 und 3, Artikel 87 a Abs. 4 und Artikel 91 dürfen sich nicht gegen Arbeitskämpfe richten, die zur Wahrung und Förderung der Arbeits- und Wirtschaftsbedingungen von Vereinigungen im Sinne des Satzes 1 geführt werden.

Let us dissect and translate this article by paragraph.

Paragraph 1 states:

All Germans have the right to found clubs and societies.

Nothing revolutionary.

Paragraph 2 states:

Associations whose purpose or whose activities run contrary to criminal law or who position themselves against the constitutional order or the thought of understanding among nations are forbidden.

This paragraph is an easy shortcut to getting rid of a good chunk of fascist bile. Invite an advocate for the law and order of Mussolini’s Neo-Roman empire? “Promoting a system that seeks to overthrow the constitutional order”. This is a powerful and underestimated paragraph. When there is no way to go after an individual, seeking to tarnish the image of their association is a lot easier.

Paragraph 3 states:

The right to form associations for the purpose of keeping and fostering the working and economical conditions is guaranteed for everyone and all professions. Agreements that seek to restrict or impede this right are void, measures aimed at this are illegal.
Measures in accordance with articles 12 a, 35 paragraph 2 and 3, Article 87 a paragraph 4 and Article 91 can not be directed against labour struggles which are conducted by associations for the purpose of keeping and fostering the labour and economical conditions in the spirit of paragraph 1.

The word that is implied but not explicitly stated is union. A contract that restricts workers’ rights to form unions is void, working to undermine that right is against the law. Reading this one strictly, there is basis to throw union busters into prison, even for the intent.

The second part, added in 1968, was introduced as a compromise to the strong protests against the German state’s resurgence of military might and out of fear for the dangers of unrestrained capitalism.

In conclusion, the labour union was recognized as a strong tool to introduce and foster democratic thinking not only every four years at the urns, but also every day at the workplace. They still form the backbone of every democratic socialist movement, and to ignore their voice even in the face of declining membership is to throw away elections.

The same article that sought to protect unions above a lot of other things also placed strong tools into the hands of union busters who would argue, sometimes rightfully, that the all too close friendship and mutual understanding between labour unions and the eastern bloc sought to introduce a socialist order to the young German state.
While socialist ideas do not have to endorse communism, those days, who could tell the difference?

Grundgesetz – Article 8: Freedom of association

Article 8 concerns freedom of association.

It stipulates:

  1. Alle Deutschen haben as Recht, sich ohne Anmeldung oder Erlaubnis friedlich und ohne Waffen zu versammeln.
  2. Für Versammlungen unter freiem Himmel kann dieses Recht durch Gesetz oder auf Grund eines Gesetzes beschränkt werden.

Let us dissect and translate this article by paragraph.

Paragraph 1 states:

All Germans have the right to gather without the need for a registration or permit, peacefully and without weapons.

Indoors, this right may never be curtailed, as long as the attentees do not violate or intend to violate another article of the constitution.

Paragraph 2 states:

For assemblies outdoors, this right may be curtailed through or based on a law.

The mere assumption that there might be tensions is not reason to order the cancellation of the event. The police must protect the assembly and the expected parties from one another, exhausting all reasonably available manpower. Only if public order cannot be guaranteed even with a heavy police presence, measures may be taken to alter the event.

In conclusion, even if a whole town is opposed to the appearance of someone, their appearance, at least indoors, but often also outdoors, cannot be prevented legally.

This leads to all sorts of delicate tiptoeing when there are efforts to suppress an undesirable appearance of someone. Public halls suddenly have to close for ‘renovations’, bus service from the train station is regrettably out of service, the projection screen on which the Turkish prime minister is slated to appear poses a ‘security’ risk on account of being too large, you get the gist of it.

As with free speech laws, this is a delicate balancing act between public interest and individual freedom. The author would rather have the community come together to find innovative ways to curb annoyances than have laws which would end up being only selectively enforced to silence dissent.

Grundgesetz – Article 7: School System

Article 7 concerns the school system.

It stipulates:

  1. Das gesamte Schulwesen steht unter der Aufsicht des Staates.
  2. Die Erziehungsberechtigten haben das Recht, über die Teilnahme des Kindes am Religionsunterricht zu bestimmen.
  3. Der Religionsunterricht ist in den öffentlichen Schulen mit der Ausnahme der bekenntnisfreien Schulen ordentliches Lehrfach. Unbeschadet des staatlichen Aufsichtsrechtes wird der Religionsunterricht in Übereinstimmung mit den Grundsätzen der Religionsgemeinschaften erteilt. Kein Lehrer darf gegen seinen Willen verpflichtet werden, Religionsunterricht zu erteilen.
  4. Das Recht zur Errichtung von privaten Schulen wird gewährleistet. Private Schulen als Ersatz für öffentliche Schulen befürfen der Genehmigung des Staates und unterstehen den Landesgesetzen. Die Genehmigung ist zu erteilen, wenn die privaten Schulen in ihren Lehrzielen und Einrichtungen sowie in der wissenschaftlichen Ausbildung ihrer Lehrkräfte nicht hinter den öffentlichen Schulen zurückstehen und eine Sonderung der Schüler nach Besitzverhältnissen der Eltern nicht gefördert wird. Die Genehmigung ist zu versagen, wenn die wirtschaftliche und rechtliche Stellung der Lehrkräfte nicht genügend gesichert ist.
  5. Eine private Volksschule ist nur zuzulassen, wenn die Unterrichtsverwaltung ein besonderes pädagogisches Interesse anerkennt oder, auf Antrag von Erziehungsberechtigen, wenn sie als Gemeinschaftsschule, als Bekenntnis- oder Weltanschauungsschule errichtet werden soll und eine öffentliche Volksschule dieser Art in der Gemeinde nicht besteht.
  6. Vorschulen bleiben aufgehoben.

Let us dissect and translate this article by paragraph.

Paragraph 1 states:

The whole of the school system is under the supervision of the state.

The states govern most of school matters. The federal government mostly dishes out funding for big glossy initiatives while state legislators are free to shape the education in their state. This leads to the final exams, the ‘Abitur’, being much harder in Bavaria than in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Paragraph 2 states:

The legal guardians have the right to decide over the participation of the child in religion class.

Letting the child himself decide would have been too much of a reduction of the parents’ authority over their children.

Paragraph 3 states:

Religion class is a proper school subject in public schools, with exception of the non-denominational schools. Regardless of the state’s right to supervision, religions class will be taught in accordance with the tenets of the religious communities. No teacher may be compelled to give religion class against his will.

Due to several murky manifestations of the close intertwining of the Christian churches and the German state, teachers may very well be compelled, if not forced, to join and teach at religious schools. Because church law takes precedence over labour law, employees of the church even have to live their private lives in accordance with morality laws. This may lead to a teacher at a publicly funded denominational school to be let go over the cardinal sin of separating from their abusive husband.
More on the separation of church and state in a later article.

Paragraph 4 states:

The right to erect private schools is guaranteed. Private schools, as a substitute for public schools, need the permission of the state and are governed by state laws. Permission is to be granted when private schools are not lagging behind public schools in matters of learning goals and their institutions as well as the scientific education of the teaching personnel, and if a segregation of the pupils by parent income is not encouraged. Permission is to be refused if the economic and legal standing of teaching personnel is not sufficiently guaranteed.

Paragraph 5 states:

A private elementary school is only to be permitted if the school administration recognizes a special pedagogic interest, or if it, with the legal guardians’ initiative, is to be erected as a denominational or ideological school and a public school of that kind does not already exist in the area.

Paragraph 6 states:

Preschools stay abolished.

Parents of course are still free to send their children to Mandarin-as-a-second-language-, my-kid-plays-the-violin- kind of preparatory kindergardens and private quasi-preschools to give them that crucial competitive edge over the other toddlers. This paragraph only confirms the abolishment of mandatory preschools.

In conclusion, the parents’ right to instill their belief system’s values into their offspring not only at home, but also at school, is upheld.

Grundgesetz – Article 6: Marriage, Family and Children

Article 6 concerns marriage, family and children.

It stipulates:

  1. Ehe und Familie stehen unter dem besonderen Schutze der staatlichen Ordnung.
  2. Pflege und Erziehung der Kinder sind das natürliche Recht der Eltern und die zuvörderst ihnen obliegende Pflicht. Über ihre Betätigung wacht die staatliche Gemeinschaft.
  3. Gegen den Willen der Erziehungsberechtigten dürfen Kinder nur auf Grund eines Gesetzes von der Familie getrennt werden, wenn die Erziehungsberechtigten versagen oder wenn die Kinder aus anderen Gründen zu verwahrlosen drohen.
  4. Jede Mutter hat Anspruch auf den Schutz und die Fürsorge der Gemeinschaft.
  5. Den unehelichen Kindern sind durch die Gesetzgebung die gleichen Bedingungen für ihre leibliche und seelische Entwicklung und ihre Stellung in der Gesellschaft zu schaffen wie den ehelichen Kindern.

Let us dissect and translate this article by paragraph.

Paragraph 1 states:

Marriage and family enjoy the special protection of the stately order.

Paragraph 2 states:

Care and education of the children are the natural right of the parents and first and foremost their duty. The stately community watches over their fulfilment.

Paragraph 3 states:

Children may only be separated from their family in accordance with a law, against the will of the legal guardians, when the legal guardians fail to fulfil their duty or the children are at risk of falling into neglect for other reasons.

Paragraph 4 states:

Every mother is entitled to the protection and care of the community.

Paragraph 5 states:

Children born out of wedlock are to be afforded, through legislation, the same conditions for their physical and emotional development and their status in society as those born in wedlock.

No commentary or conclusion for now, it’s late already.

Grundgesetz – Article 5: Freedom of expression

Article 5 concerns freedom of expression.

It stipulates:

  1. Jeder hat das Recht, seine Meinung in Wort, Schrift und Bild frei zu äußern und zu verbreiten und sich aus allgemein zugänglichen Quellen ungehindert zu unterrichten. Die Pressefreiheit und die Freiheit der Berichterstattung durch Rundfunk und Film werden gewährleistet. Eine Zensur findet nicht statt.
  2. Diese Rechte finden ihre Schranken in den Vorschriften der allgemeinen Gesetze, den gesetzlichen Bestimmungen zum Schutze der Jugend und in dem Recht der persönlichen Ehre.
  3. Kunst und Wissenschaft, Forschung und Lehre sind frei. Die Freiheit der Lehre entbindet nicht von der Treue zur Verfassung.

Let us dissect and translate this article by paragraph.

Paragraph 1 states:

Everyone has the right to express and disseminate his opinion in speech, writing and picture, as well as to educate himself from publicly available sources without hindrance. The freedom of the press and the freedom of reporting through radio and film is being guaranteed. A censorship does not take place.

Having an opinion means assessing a fact, it is the result of a thought process. Compound statements of opinion and factual assertions are protected as well, even if the assertion may be proven false, because the compound statement may be aiding in the formation of an opinion.

In addition to individuals, this paragraph also protects publishers and editors. Unimpaired access to information is ensured, which is interesting: Internet access already enjoys status as a basic right, as declared by the Bundesgerichtshof in 2013. After all, information on the internet still consists of word, picture and sound.

Forcing an opinion on someone is not protected by this article. Just as there exists a freedom to disseminate an opinion, there exists the right to choose to ignore it.

Paragraph 2 states:

These rights find their barriers in the provisions of the general laws and regulations, statutory provisions for the protection of the youth and the right of personal honour.

Very important to note, Article 5 is not a magic protection spell to absolve one from a lack of decency or responsibility. It leaves room for strong provisions in the penal code.

Germany has comparatively weak libel laws and provides strong backing for satire and criticism. The Landesmedienanstalten however are zealous in their quests to protect German youth from harm, including depictions of violence and indecency. Featuring insignia of the Third Reich is only allowed in a non-glorifying context.

Freedom of speech in the Federal Republic of Germany is effectively governed by several laws and bodies.

  • Article 5 makes freedom of opinion, of the press and of reporting, and freedom from censorship constitutional principles.
  • Protection of the free and democratic basic order mandates the prohibition of the following: Volksverhetzung, Glorification of National Socialism, use of symbols of the reign of National Socialism, and denial of the Shoah.
  • Article 2 ensures personal rights are strongly protected. Slander and defamation encroach upon these rights. The right to privacy is strongly protected. Personal data may be broadcast or sold only with strong reservations.
  • Article 3 ensures freedom from discrimination, advocating a position irreconcilable with that principle is not protected.
  • Security laws forbid treason.
  • Protection of the youth is governed by the Youth Protection Act and the Jugendmedien-Staatsvertrag.
  • Decency and religious freedom laws. Germany has been a republic for some time now, that does not stop us from having Lèse majesté laws, just for foreign rulers. One must be cautious of hurt feelings, especially if the subject is well connected.
  • Endorsement of criminal actions is forbidden per the penal code.
  • The copyright to Mein Kampf was held by the Free State of Bavaria until 2016. Owing to numerous trade deals, there is strong copyright protection in Germany.

All these factors mean that while Germany enjoys a vibrant and free press landscape, certain items are off limits:
One could, for example, call Donald Rumsfeld a lizard in jest, but calling him a lizard based on the claim that all persons of U.S. American heritage are lizards out to consume human flesh would be indictable, as that would constitute Volksverhetzung per Chapter 7 § 130 of the penal code.

Denying something that happened in the antique is permissible, as sources are not entirely verifiable. The events of the Third Reich however are not to be disputed, as the constitution hinges on preventing them from ever befalling the world again. We’ll get to how this is translated into the education system later.

Paragraph 3 states:

Art and science, research and teaching are free. The freedom of academic teaching does not release one from loyalty to the constitution.

Loyalty to the constitution does not mean a scientific complaint against the constitution may not be leveled. Teaching of course is bound by curriculum, which is set by the federal states.

In conclusion, this article, often misinterpreted, ensures public life and communication may develop in peace and bloom. Not only distribution of, but also access to information is protected.

Addendum

Normally, the biggest issue with freedom of speech are lies told about someone. Yet in Germany it is not permissible to lie about something that happened. The state has a monopoly on what constitutes a falsehood, on what is true and what is not.

Adding to that, the state of independence of the regulatory bodies from the government is somewhat murky; the ranks of the Rundfunkrat are littered with party functionaries.

In practice only useless knuckleheads dispute events of the past that are provably true. The German state provides a sense of calm for the German people as they do not have to tolerate blatant and malicious lies and can prosecute neo-fascist Pied Pipers with solid legal standing.

But also instills a sense of unease. It just does not feel right. Having to fight for temporary injunctions against virulent degenerates as is practice in other countries, as laborious as it is, is preferable to codifying state power over the truth into law. The current state of affairs keeps people honest, at a cost, with mighty force, not persuasion.

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