Sunday 13 April 2014

The Procrastinator (some) Times Sunday 13th of April Edition


Hello everyone! In our News section there is an interesting article written by Moisés Naím in The Atlantic about why big protests generate so little achievements, another one about the inspiring collective project "Not A Bug Splat!", and we continue with our small coverage of the Venezuelan crisis. Google's robots and nano-organisms in video in our Science section. In our Design, Business & Innovation section we have a interesting article about consumption trends in China and the end of Facebook as we know it (and hate it). Good news in our Culture & Entertainment section: Milan Kundera and Mad Men are back! Finally In Dog We Trust share with us some dog's secrets and the tricks to handle anxiety.

Hope you have a great Sunday and a happy reading!


Photo via The Atlantic.

"A new project, initiated by a collective of artists from around the world including the French JR, has tried to reach the people pulling the trigger in America's drone wars—the drone operators themselves.
It’s called “Not A Bug Splat,” and its gets its name from the term drone operators use for a successful “kill,” because—in the pixelated grayscale of the drone camera—ending a human life looks like squashing a bug". Read full article by Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic. E.T.P. 5'

Photo via The Atlantic.

This week Moisés Naím published an article in The Atlantic with some interesting reflections about why street protests don't work or seem to achieve minor -and definitely insufficient- political reforms. "Street protests are in. From Bangkok to Caracas, and Madrid to Moscow, these days not a week goes by without news that a massive crowd has amassed in the streets of another of the world’s big cities. The reasons for the protests vary (bad and too-costly public transport or education, the plan to raze a park, police abuse, etc.). Often, the grievance quickly expands to include a repudiation of the government, or its head, or more general denunciations of corruption and economic inequality.
Aerial photos of the anti-government marches routinely show an intimidating sea of people furiously demanding change. And yet, it is surprising how little these crowds achieve." Read full article in The Atlantic. E.T.P. 7'

Opposition supporters held a rally late on Thursday as the talks began. Photo Reuters via BBC.

The most important thing that happened in Venezuela this past week was the meeting of some opposition leaders held with President Nicolás Maduro and other members of the Govermenment on Thursday in a possible first step toward ending two months of anti-government protests and street clashes, which have left at least 40 people dead.

The beginning of this 'dialogue' (yes, in inverted commas, removal pending) process between opposition and government, of course, raised a series of critics about the high political cost the opposition is paying by attending the 'dialogue'; the pertinence of some outdated arguments like the past presidential elections; the absence of representatives of the student movement; and more over about the inefficacy and doubtful authenticity of the 'dialogue' mechanism altogether, that for some is just another government charade to keep its (almost invisible) democratic mask.

I agree -we all do I guess- that the opposition's representation should had included students leaders, mostly because is thanks to them, to their determination, their bravery and their strength, that any hope of negotiation/dialogue with the government is possible (this point was addressed by Andrés Velasquez at the beginning of his intervention though). But I also think that the 'dialogue' can have a positive impact in the Venezuelan situation. After all, this is the first time in 10 years or more that something like this happens. Do I think that the Venezuelan government is a repressive and authoritarian dictatorship of some very weird hybrid nature? Yes. But maybe because of that precisely, this 'dialogue' (still in inverted commas) is even more important.

The following 3 points summarize my super personal, prone to change/evolve, humble opinion about the 'dialogue', in case someone cares. If not, you can just check the articles at the end ;)

- At the insistence of the opposition the meeting was broadcasted live on Venezuelan television and radio, and there were mediators from Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and the Vatican. That means that massive audience that usually don't have access to a version different than the official one, had the chance to listen to the opposition's point of view; their arguments, their concerns and their demands. This is relevant internationally of course, as the support of the region to the government allowed government's repression to escalate without consequences; but is also key for Venezuela, as the country is been suffering from a media blackout where most people don't have TV access to anything that the opposition says or do. Ever.

- It might not be the right time, the right crowd, or the perfect arguments the ones that are being exposed. But something is happening. As the previous Moisés Naím article points out it is a real danger of massive protests not being able to capitalize real achievements. The government might be, as some say a good old semi-military dictatorship, or a communist regime, or any kind of hybrid you want, but the opposition and a lot more than half the population of Venezuela is democratic and the resolution of this conflict has to be democratic too. Democracy is politics, and politics are slow,  and more often than not, exasperating and frustrating, not only in Venezuela, but everywhere, have a look! You won't find out a country that is not in a political crisis of some sort. But we have to play by the rules that we choose and that we champion... and move forward. If it doesn't work, so be it. We tried it. We will find another way to move on.

- Some people is afraid that the 'dialogue''s objective was to halt pacific protests, but it was said repeatedly that the 'dialogue' won't stop the street protests, that these are two sides of the same strategy. I think is important for the people that categorically rejects the 'dialogue' arguing that is useless under a dictatorial regime to think if that very same argument doesn't invalidate the streets protests. Or do they really think that the admirable, honorable effort of unarmed students alone will end the most corrupt oil-powered regime that controls with every single governmental institution, that counts with the support of every country in the region and of the military and their faithful and outrageously armed paramilitary? If so, they are a lot more optimistic and massively less cynic than me. I honestly don't see that happening, not in isolation at least, and that's why I don't think than any effort made towards improving the country's situation and promoting a national reconciliation (not political, but social), shouldn't be frowned upon, but supported. Even if it goes against what we -political analysts wannabe- believe is the best strategy. We should stand together, period.

If someone wants to share his/her opinion, please do so, I am open to the dialogue (no inverted commas). If you want to write something for the next edition, welcome!

Here (link in Spanish) are the videos of all the interventions made in this the first round of the 'dialogue'. And below a photograph of the setting of the debate, for those of you into semiotics and discourse analysis.

Photo: Santi Donaire / EFE via Prodavinci.

Related articles:

Reuters: Venezuela's Maduro meets opposition as death toll from protests rises
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro cautioned opposition leaders to keep their expectations modest on Thursday as he hosted them for mediated talks intended to stem two months of deadly political unrest.
Public Radio International: Venezuela's opposition gets talks with the government — on national TV "It was an interesting journey," says BBC Mundo's Daniel Pardo in Caracas. "It was a six-hour meeting between people who never met, and they used to insult each other almost every day."
While the meeting did not produce any concrete solutions to the South American country's many issues, it did signal the chance for change to come soon.

AlJazeera: Article and video Venezuela's Maduro hold talks with opposition

Business Week: Crime Hobbles Venezuela's Economy Venezuela says the country’s murder rate is 39 per 100,000 people, but the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a nongovernmental organization, says the official figure is too low; it estimates that 24,763 people were killed last year, or 79 per 100,000 people. Along with kidnappings, thefts, and extortions, that’s earned Venezuela the No. 3 spot, after Honduras and Guatemala, as the economy most damaged by violence, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014. The country is also the worst in the world for attracting talent and second worst after Myanmar for retaining it, according to the survey.

The Wall Street Journal (photos): In Venezuela, Youths Form the Backbone of Protests 

El Universal: On charges of "systematic" violation of the human rights of Venezuelan demonstrators against the Venezuelan government, a group of Latin American lawmakers has requested the International Court of Justice to sue President Nicolás Maduro.

En español:

Prodavinci: ¿Quién ganó el debate del #10A? “El viejo mundo se muere. El nuevo tarda en aparecer.
Y en este claroscuro es cuando surgen los monstruos” Antonio Gramsci
--Lectura recomendada.

El Universal: Vargas Llosa: "La resistencia en Venezuela es épica."

El País: La represión cabalga en Venezuela (Galería de fotos).

El Mundo: La Fiscalía del Tribunal Penal Internacional (TPI) tiene en sus manos una denuncia contra el presidente venezolano, Nicolás Maduro, por crímenes de lesa humanidad. Un total de 198 parlamentarios de ocho países de América Latina exigieron esta semana ante la Corte de La Haya la apertura de una investigación sobre "la represión masiva, generalizada y sistemática contra protestantes pacíficos y desarmados" en Venezuela.

On français:

Le Figaro: Venezuela opposition et gouvernement dialoguent

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