|Crowd listening to ceremonies commemorating Simon|
Bolivar's birthday in Caracas, Venezuela.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
Global Exchange has organized these "Reality Tours" for about 20 years that "positively influence international affairs." Reality Tours provide individuals the opportunity to understand issues beyond what is communicated by the mass media and gain a new vantage point from which to view and affect US foreign policy. Reality Tours was founded on the principles of eyewitness education and are intended to educate people about how we, both individually and collectively, contribute to global problems. Global Exchange then suggests ways to contribute to and facilitate positive change. Reality Tours goes to about 30 different countries.
The theme of the study tour is "Media," which is timely with the recent closing of Radio Caracas TV (RCTV) in the news. As part of the Media theme, we will learn about the Venezuelan media landscape from grassroots, community and independent media groups, along with major media outlets and government opposition groups.
Each tour to Venezeula has a unique theme, but each trip has many common parts such as the following:
- Learn about Venezuela's educational and health care "missions" (social programs) in urban areas and dialogue with participants and community leaders.
- Find out about new programs for women under the new constitution, and perspectives of indigenous peoples and people of African descent in Venezuela.
- Visit sites of the Literacy Campaign and learn about its successes and challenges.
- Enjoy Afro-Venezuelan music and dance by young people who are reclaiming and celebrating their heritage.
Sadly, much of what Americans read about in the mainstream news demonizes Venezuela because of the statements of President Chavez. There will be 10 Americans (and one South African) on the tour with me to learn about Venezuelan social problems as we speak with a wide range of community groups, non-governmental organizations, government agencies and opposition groups. The tour will have three guides, all of which are fluent Spanish speakers.
Nothing can replace the first-hand experience, nothing really prepares you for the profound proverty in Latin America. I recall my trip to Nicaragua years ago, learning about their experience with literacy, land reform and other programs to transform the conditions for the majority. Why and how do people experiencing this deep poverty, choose a collective course of action to change their situation?