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Venezuela Bans 22 Media Editors and Executives from Leaving the Country

Over 20 members of three Venezuelan media groups, El Nacional and Tal Cual, as well as news site La Patilla, are now prohibited from leaving the country. Caracas judge María Eugenia Núñez ordered the restriction on the opposition media figures, who are “accused of ‘continuing aggravated defamation'”, according to broadcaster NTN24.

The court order was requested on April 28 by the National Assembly president, Diosdado Cabello, seen as one of president Nicolás Maduro’s closest allies in government and member of the ruling PSUV party. It was stated that these media organizations had affected the government's reputation by featuring “unscrupulous” publications from ABC, a Spanish daily newspaper.

The reports published in January alleged that Cabello was connected to drug trafficking in Venezuela.

As a result, Cabello sued for defamation everyone of importance at newspapers El Nacional, La Patilla and Tal Cual; as well as 22 members of the respective boards, including Miguel Henrique Otero, editor-in-chief of El Nacional, Teodoro Petkoff, from Tal Cual, and Alberto Ravell from La Patilla. 

Alberto Ravell and Miguel Henrique Otero found out about the court rulling while travelling outside the country. They declared, respectively, that they will return to Venezuela in a few days to face the charges, and that their editorial lines will not change.

Despite what it seems like a violation of freedom of speech, even international treaties exempt such reproductions of news items from legal liability, except for the source.

Teodoro Petkoff, director of TalCual, and one of Venezuela’s most outspoken government critics, has already been banned from leaving the country because of another defamation lawsuit filed by Cabello last year. Petkoff recently received a prestigious journalism award in Spain, but was unable to collect it in person. The award was instead received on his behalf by former Spanish president Felipe Gonzalez, who spoke about attacks to freedom against expression in Venezuela.

According to Venezuelan law, the Court needs to notify each of the defendants, something that has yet to be done. Also, under no circumstance can a judge rule this prohibition without having talked to them first.

This defamation case had a very timely consideration and resolution, something noticeable in a country where the average prisoner has not seen a Judge in the first few months after its detention, or has spent around two years in prison without sentence, something analyzed in the blog The Devil's Excrement.

Caracas #SmartCityHack Proposes Solutions to People's Problems

The Venezuelan edition of the Hackathon Smart Cities took place in Caracas from 6 to 8 March, 2015. Don't you know what a hackathon is? If so, read this post!

The #SmartCityHack event was simultaneously organized in 27 cities by Global Datafest.

5 histories from behind  #SmartCityHack Caracas showing that where there is a will, there is a way

The Venezuelan edition, organized by SDI Innovation and Wayra accelerator, yielded positive results, serving as inspiration for innovative projects aiming to improve citizens’ quality of life. Estefanía Salazar, a Global Voices contributor, wrote a review of the event for the Spanish-language website Komunumo, highlighting some of these projects:

- CCSMoveOn: es un “Waze” del transporte público. Permite al usuario generar rutas con su teléfono inteligente, con la posibilidad de enviar alertas por SMS sobre posibles eventualidades.

- Compártelo: es un sistema de referencias para Pequeñas y Medianas Empresas basadas en recomendaciones cara a cara.

- Caracas CityCare: Conecta problemas urbanos con propuestas de solución en una misma interfaz.

- Favor x Favor: sistema para favorecer el intercambio gratuito de servicios y bienes entre vecinos de una comunidad.

- Identidad en Línea: sistema de nube para facilitar la difusión encriptada de información y procesamiento de documentación de usuarios de servicios públicos o privados.

- Iniciativa Yokoima: comunidad de intercambio de información y servicios interesados en la recuperación del río Yokoima en la ciudad de Upata (estado Bolívar) […]

- CCSMoveOn: “Waze” for public transport, allowing the user to generate routes using a smartphone, with the ability to send SMS alerts about possible eventualities.

- Share it: a reference system for small and medium-size businesses based on face-to-face recommendations.

- Caracas CityCare: Connects urban issues with proposed solutions in a single interface.

- Favor x Favor: a system that encourages free exchange of goods and services between community members.

- Online Identity: a cloud system to facilitate the spread of encrypted information and process public or private user’s documentation.

- Yokoima Initiative: an information and service exchange community aiming to recover the Yokoima River in the city of Upata (Bolivar state) […]

Smart Cities Hackathon in Venezuela

Global Datafest is organizing the Smart Cities Hackathon, held simultaneously in 27 different cities around the world. The Venezuelan edition of the Smart Cities Hackathon calls on programmers, big data experts, urbanists, public officers and communications specialists who have an interest in developing technological solutions for issues related with the security, mobility, services, e-government, environment and sustainability of Venezuelan cities.

We are a week away of meeting us at the Smart Cities Hackathon!

How can you participate?

Puedes participar de dos maneras:

1. VOTA POR UN RETO
El Instituto Metropolitano de Urbanismo Taller Caracas, el Instituto de Estudios Urbanos de la USB y la Facultad de Urbanismo de la UCV propusieron los desafíos en los que se debería trabajar.

Estamos consultando a los ciudadanos para que voten por alguno de estos retos y así validen los que consideran necesarios. Entra ya a El Nacional y su programa Caracas, Cómo Vamos Y participa en la encuesta!

2. VEN A TRABAJAR EN UN PROYECTO
Durante una intensa jornada, únete a urbanistas, programadores, expertos en data, coach de emprendimiento, periodistas y diseñadores, para crear una solución digital.

There are two ways to participate:

1. VOTE FOR A CHALLENGE
El Metropolitan Urbanism Institute Taller Caracas, the USB Urban Studies Institute and the UCV Urban Planing School proposed the challenges we should be working on.

We are surveying citizens to vote for any of these challenges to figure out which ones they consider necessary. Go visit El Nacional y su programa Caracas, Cómo Vamos and take the survey!

2. COME WORK ON A PROJECT
During an intense work day, join urban planners, programmers, data, experts, entrepreneur coaches, journalists and designers to create a digital solution.

When?
From 5:00 pm, March 6, 2015
To 7:00 pm, March 8, 2015

Where?
Academia Wayra, Torre Xerox, Av Ávila with Av Libertador, Caracas.

The Smart Cities Hackaton organization is sponsored by developers community 4Geeks and the firms Vikua Grupo Intech and EstoEs.co. Besides that, it was supported by Caracas en un Click, Regional and Urban Studies Institute (Simón Bolivar University), El Nacional, RunRunes, Center of Studies for Bicycle Mobility (CEMBI) and Forum Media.

Under the hashtag #SmartCityHack, you can find out everything about the Smart Cities Hackathon on Twitter.

Educating Girls Today, Empowering Women Tomorrow

Marita Seara, who blogs for Voces Visibles (Visibles voices), invites us to reflect on the discrimination that affects girls and teenagers — access to education — and the need of educating our girls today so they can be the empowered women of the future.

FotografÍa extraída del blog Voces Visibles, utilizada con autorización.

Photo from the blog Voces Visibles, used with permission.

According to data backed up by Amenisty International, 41 million girls can't even access elementary education. Illiteracy, child marriage, teen pregnancy are part of a vicious cycle that especially affects our girls. Thus, Latina America isn't exempted from this global issue, mainly about teen pregnancy:

Venezuela ostenta el primer lugar en Suramérica y el tercer lugar en América Latina al ser el país con mayor cantidad de embarazos precoces. De cada 100 mujeres venezolanas que quedan embarazadas anualmente, 25 son adolescentes, de acuerdo al programa de Telemedicina de la Universidad Central de Venezuela.

Venezuela is top of the list in South America and third place in Latin America with the highest rate of early pregnancy. Out of 100 Venezuelan women that get pregnant each year, 25 are teenagers, according to Telemedicine program at the Central University of Venezuela.

Among the causes of teen pregnancy, it's worth mentioning that one-third of unwanted pregnancies are a result of not using protection, and half of the girls affected didn't receive proper sexual and reproductive education before getting pregnant.

So, education is the only way. By educating our girls today, we are empowering women of tomorrow, and therefore, their families and communities.

You can follow Marita Seara on Twitter.

This post was part of the twenty seventh #LunesDeBlogsGV (Monday of blogs on GV) on November 3, 2014.

Venezuela Clears the Tower of David, the “World's Tallest Slum,” of Squatters

The Venezuelan government has finished evacuating thousands of squatters from the Tower of David, which overlooks Caracas’ slums, and is the tallest and most distinct building in the capital city's skyline. 

The one-time office tower is a symbol of how prosperous Venezuela once was and its current dilapidated state reflects growing inflation and poverty problems in the country. Some of the squatters were people seeking refuge from growing daily violence in the sprawling city.

“This is not an eviction, this is a coordinate operation, harmoniously carried out with the community of the Confinanzas towers, that implies moving from here to units in Misión Vivienda”, stated Ernesto Villegas, minister for the Transformation of Gran Caracas, to a local TV station. Those units are located in Valles del Tuy.

On Twitter, users are posting some images from the so called skyscraper-favela of Caracas:

Know why the famous Tower of David is being evicted (PHOTOS).

CARACAS: Since last night, the “Tower of David” is being evicted. Since 2007 the building was invaded by squatters.

One of the seasons of TV show Homeland was set in the Tower of David. On this report, we watch.

‘Nappies in Adolescence': Alarming Number of Pregnant Teens in Venezuela

Desireé Lozano, blogging for Voces Visibles, urges attention be paid to the extremely high rate of teenage pregnancies in Venezuela, where 25% of the pregnancies are among young people, and the lack of an appropriate public policy to counter this phenomenon and its repercussions. Venezuelan statistics are the highest in South America and remains in first place from two years ago.

Maternal mortality is an issue directly related to teen pregnancy. Desiree cited Venezuelan deputy Dinorah Figuera, president of the Family Committee of the Venezuelan National Assembly, who said the state's responsibility is to provide prevention:

“Una de esas consecuencias es que las madres adolescentes son mujeres que pierden oportunidades para desarrollarse desde el punto de vista profesional y aceptan cualquier tipo de trabajo para tener algún tipo de ingresos. Por esta razón el Estado debe aplicar una gigantesca campaña de concientización para la prevención del embarazo adolescente”, señala la diputada venezolana

“One consequence of teen mothers is woman lose development opportunities from a professional viewpoint, take any job in order to make some income. For this reason, the state should mount a massive campaign to prevent teenage pregnancy,” the Venezuelan deputy says.

Additionally, teenage pregnancy contributes to an already established trend, the feminization of poverty. Furthermore, the phenomenon embodies a risk for the mother’s health, running a greater danger than the average. In her article, the writer collects interesting expert statements on the subject providing an overview of the problem.

Continue reading Desireé Lozano‘s and Voces Visibles‘ work here or on Twitter.

This post was part of the 46th #LunesDeBlogsGV  (Monday of blogs on GV) on April 13, 2015.

Bolivia to Host First International Community Radio and Free Software Conference

The first international conference on community radio and free software will be held in Cochabama, Bolivia from June 11-13, 2015. So far, the community radio stations from Spanish-speaking countries that have confirmed their assistance are: Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela, and of course, the host, Bolivia. 

The preliminary agenda includes a forum discussing the advances taking place in Latin America regarding free software, telecommunication legislation, and a migration plan. There will also be workshops and simultaneous talks on free software tools such as Shamatari, Ardour, Audacity, and Creative Commons, amongst others. 

Several websites, such as Radios Libres (Free Radio Stations) and Corresponsales del Pueblo (The People's Correspondents), have helped to spread the information found on the official site, liberaturadio.org, while others have stepped up to the task of getting communities to attend the event, such as the Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones de Venezuela, Conatel (National Commission of Telecommunications of Venezuela), which in addition underlines its support for these initiatives: 

En Venezuela las emisoras de radio comunitarias también cuentan con apoyo para su independencia. En enero de 2015 fue lanzada otra aplicación libre ideal para medios comunitarios: Shatamari 15.01., que tiene 260 aplicaciones preinstaladas y configuradas para trabajar en medios digitales, audiovisuales, automatización de emisoras radiales y medios impresos.

Twitter users also began to spread the word of the event to others as well as to motivate internet users and community radio stations to meet up at the conference. 

Sign up starts on April 1; for more information, visit the event's official page at liberaturadio.org

The Political Apartheid Against Women in Venezuela

Desireé Lozano, a blogger for the Spanish-language website Voces Visibles (Visible Voices), reflects on the existing limitations on women’s political participation in Venezuela. According to the sociologist Evangelina García Prince, a kind of political apartheid that excludes women from decision-making reigns in the Venezuelan parties:

En los partidos venezolanos, el discurso oficial no incluye una perspectiva de género ni una propuesta de las mujeres sobre las mujeres o de la organización sobre sus frentes internos o externos. Estos esconden la exclusión efectiva de la consideración del tema de la igualdad y la atención a las diferencias de género

In the Venezuelan parties, the official discourse does not include a gender perspective or any proposal from women about women, or a perspective on the organization of their internal and external fronts. These hide the effective exclusion from considering the issue of equality and focus on gender differences.

On the other hand, Sonia Sgambatti, a lawyer and professor at the Central University of Venezuela, explains that there is still a long way to go in this matter. For example, the Chamber of Deputies of the National Assembly of Venezuela consists of 167 deputies, out of which only 31 are women, representing 18.6% of the total:

Con la mirada en el futuro, Sgambatti indica que las mujeres venezolanas deben, con valentía y tenacidad, participar activamente de la vida política y social del país. “Por la tanto debemos exigir a la Asamblea Nacional reformar la Ley Orgánica de Procesos Electorales para incorporar la cuota electoral femenina o promulgar una Ley Orgánica de Cuotas Electorales Femeninas, con el objetivo de lograr la igualdad de género en esta materia”.

Looking ahead, Sgambatti indicates that Venezuelan women must, with courage and tenacity, actively participate in the political and social life of the country. “Therefore, we must demand the National Assembly to reform the Organic Law on Electoral Processes to incorporate a female electoral quota or to enact an Organic Law of Women's Electoral Quotas, with the goal of achieving gender equality in this matter.”

You can follow Desireé Lozano and Voces Visibles on Twitter.

This post was part of the 44th #LunesDeBlogsGV (Monday of blogs on GV) on February 23, 2015.

Venezuela Suspends -and Brings Back- Flights to Netherlands Antilles

On Friday June 25, 2015, Venezuela government announced the suspension of all flights between Venezuela and the Netherlands Antilles (Aruba, Curazao, Bonaire, Saint Marteen and other islands).

According to Venezuelan newspaper El Universal, the action would be a consequence of the detention of Venezuelan Army general Hugo Carvajal –former director of intelligence between 2004 and 2009– by request of the American government, due to Carvajal's alleged ties with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known as FARC) and with drug trafficking. Carvajal was appointed as consul in Aruba, but he didn't have the blessing of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, that is in charge of Aruba's foreign affairs.

Note: later, the decision was revoked, and flights between the two countries were resumed.

Biofortified Bananas for Beta Carotene Deficiency

Félix Moronta Barrios is a Venezuelan biologist who spreads scientific culture among Spanih speaking community. He recently explained the researches and biotechnologic findongs about transgenic bananas in Uganda and the United States.

The banane cultivated in Uganda has no A vitamin. That's why its modification is necessary. Moronta Barrios warns the skeptical:

Antes de que piensen cosas como “natural es mejor”, “otra vez los científicos jugando a ser dios”, “lo modificado genéticamente es malo malísimo”, etc, etc, etc. sepan que la transgénesis también ocurre naturalmente, como expliqué aquí. Que el plátano, banana o cambur que consumimos hoy en día es un invento humano, tal como explica Ciencia de Sofá en “El oscuro pasado de los plátanos“. Y para que no termine ahí la sorpresa, les cuento que es un alimento radiactivo por su alto contenido en potasio; tanto, que camiones cargados de plátanos hacen saltar las alarmas en algunas aduanas. Incluso hay una unidad de medida al respecto, la dosis equivalente a un plátano.

Before you think of things such as “natural is best”, “again scientists playing God”, “genetically modified is not good”, etc, you better know that transgenesis goes on naturally, as explained here. The bananas we eat are human creation, as stated by Ciencia de Sofá on “The dark past of bananas“. And for more surprises, let me tell you this is a radiactive fruit, due to its high content of potasium. So much that banana trucks start the alarms in some customs control. There even is a measuring unit about that, the dose equivalent to a banana.

For updates about biology and biotechnology by an expert written in Spanish with a simple language, visit the blog by Felix Moronta or follow his tweets on morontafelix.

This post was part of the eleventh #LunesDeBlogsGV (Monday of blogs on GV) on July 14, 2014.

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