February 28, 2008
More Colombian Hostages Freed | Venezuela Provides Free Eye Surgeries | Brown Sponsors Conference on Andes | Venezuela Present at Spring Training | Book Event on Hugo Chavez | Dudamel Featured on 60 Minutes

More Colombian Hostages Freed

Yesterday four Colombian hostages were handed over to the Venezuelan government by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC in Spanish) and flown to safety in Caracas, bringing to six the number of hostages Venezuela has helped free from captivity in 2008. The four hostages -- three men and one woman -- had been held by the FARC for the last six years. In a televised address, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe thanks Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for helping negotiate the release of the hostages, calling it a "moment of happiness for all Colombian people." Two other hostages were released in January 2008.

President Chavez and Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba have offered to help mediate negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC, both of which have been involved in a complex internal conflict for over 50 years. President Chavez has stressed Venezuela's longstanding position that no military solution exists to the Colombian conflict. Venezuela has a long history of participating in negotiations to end internal and regional conflicts. In the 1980s, Venezuela played a role as a founding member of the Contadora Group, a four-country group that helped negotiate an end to the conflicts in Central America.

Venezuela Provides Free Eye Surgeries

International Herald Tribune published a report on the Miracle Mission, a Venezuelan initiative to offer free eye surgeries to poor individuals from around Latin America. Started in 2004, the program has helped more than 400,000 people recover or improve their eyesight without having to pay the $1,000 cost usually charged by private hospitals. The program aligns with Venezuela's foreign policy principles, which include regional integration, solidarity, and cooperation. It also highlights Venezuela's drive to make vital social services from education to health to basic foodstuffs available to the poor through "social missions" placed in poor and isolated communities. The social missions have been identified as key factors in Venezuela's decreasing poverty rate -- according to the UN, from 2002-2006 poverty decreased by 18 percent and extreme poverty by 12 percent, the second highest drops in the region.

Brown Sponsors Conference on Andes

On February 12-13, 2008, Brown University sponsored a conference titled "Change in the Andes: Realities, Challenges, and Opportunities for Inter-American Relations." The conference, put on by the Center for Latin American Studies of the Watson Institute for International Studies, was the first of its kind to discuss the changes occurring in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia in a comparative and regional context. Over the course of five panels and a roundtable featuring the ambassadors of Venezuela and Ecuador and a representative of Bolivia, academics and policymakers were able to discuss the changing dynamics of democracy and participation, the role of natural resources, the promotion of sustainable economic growth, the importance of social justice, and the new approaches to foreign policy evident in the three countries. The conference concluded that the changes taking place are real and worth more study, include both similarities and differences, and will continue to demand creative and forward-thinking responses from the U.S.

Venezuela Present at Spring Training

As the majority of the U.S. suffers through the tail-end of winter, Major League Baseball teams have started gathering in Florida and Arizona for their annual spring training camps. Among those players are 130 Venezuelans, including stars such as Magglio Ordonez, Johan Santana, Miguel Cabrera, Bobby Abreu, Carlos Guillen and Felix Hernandez. The number of Venezuelans playing for Major League teams has continued to rise in recent years; 50 are currently active, while over 200 have played in the last two decades. The first Venezuelan to play for a Major League team was Alejandro "Alex" Carrasquel, who made his debut with the Washington Senators in 1939. As Venezuela's ambassador to the U.S. Bernardo Alvarez has noted, "Baseball is the center of our modern culture. It's part of our life. It expresses the synthesis of modern Venezuela."

Book Event on Hugo Chavez

If you live in the Washington area, journalist and author Bart Jones will be discussing his book "Hugo! From Mud Hut to Perpetual Revolution" at Busboys and Poets on Tuesday, March 4 at 6 p.m. In the book, Jones richly details the rise of President Hugo Chavez, the changes that have swept the country and the challenges that lay ahead. Busboys and Poets is located at the corner of 14th and V streets, NW, two blocks from the U Street/Cardozo/African American Civil War Memorial Metro station on the Green Line. The event is free and open to the public.

Dudamel Featured on 60 Minutes

Gustavo Dudamel, the 26-year-old Venezuelan musical prodigy who was recently tapped to lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic starting in 2009, was featured on 60 Minutes on February 17. Dudamel is the product of Venezuela's world-famous youth music education program, which serves close to 250,000 children in 246 teaching centers and sponsors more than 600 orchestras. In October 2007 President Hugo Chavez announced that he was increasing funding with the goal of quadrupling the size of the program to 1 million children.

Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
1099 30th Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20007
Tel: (202) 342-2214 | Fax: (202) 342-6820 | Website | Email
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