Yet another bizarre week in Venezuela. When President Hugo Chavez isnt busy uncovering assassination plots against him, hes having to deal with a disaffected bunch of plaza liberators.
Territory liberated by the institutional armed forces, was the description given this week to a Caracas square by General Enrique Medina Gomez and thirteen senior army officers. The square is located in the well-to-do district of Altamira not exactly Chavez country, and now virtually an independent state.
The peaceful military take-over of the square was described by one diplomat as the vegetarian revolution. Translation: no blood.
Medina and his posse appealed to the rest of the military to join them in not recognising Chavez as President. The aim, says the government, is another coup. The officers are currently suspended from duty for their alleged role in the strange April coup that dislodged Chavez for a mere forty-eight hours. They are, by all reckoning, unhappy men.
In a move described by the Financial Times as worthy of Monty Python, the rebels invoked an article in the constitution allowing citizens to refuse to recognise any regime which contradicts their democratic values and principles, and declared themselves in civil disobedience. Several hundred or several thousand supporters (depending on who you read) joined them in the Caracas plaza.
Vice President José Vicente Rangel was not impressed, calling the generals clowns who commanded neither troops nor loyalty within the military.
We are not coup plotters, one of the generals insisted in his defence, we are democrats abiding by the constitution.
The last the Diary heard, the stand-off continues
Black and white all over
To Libya, where Colonel Gaddafi has been welcoming Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi for a one-day visit. Friendly talks between the two humble men took place for an hour and a half in a tent at Bab al-Azizya. Berlusconi is described by the BBC as the most senior European official to visit [Gaddafis] country for two decades.
The trip comes thirteen years since the UN imposed sanctions on Libya, five years since Italy apologised for the suffering caused by its colonisation of the North African state, and only forty-eight hours after a day of mourning in Libya marking the anniversary of mass deportations of Libyans in 1911 which followed the Italian occupation.
On Saturday, Libya closed its airports and severed phone links with the outside world, demanding compensation from Italy for its colonial occupation. If you happened to phone Libya on that day, you will have heard the following message: As part of the mourning over the victims of the savage crimes committed by the Italian fascists against the Libyan people, all international telecommunications are to be halted today.
The people wore black. Black banners were said to be fluttering over homes, government buildings, buses and cars. TV programmes on Saturday were broadcast in black and white.
Libya is still on Washingtons rogue states list. In February, Libyas official newspapers rejected a Berlusconi offer to build a hospital as compensation.
Still, Berlusconi is one of Libyas most vocal supporters. Despite the days of mourning, relations with Italy are considered very good. Libya is the biggest supplier of oil and natural gas to Italy. And, as the BBC reports, the trip coincides with the news that Saadi Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader, has joined the board of Juventus football club, Italys Grand Old Lady. Gaddafi Jnr. is representing the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company which holds a 7.3% share in the Turin giants.
Truth vs. Chastity
And so to Rome, where this week a pair of bare-breasted sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini have seen the light of day for the first time in one hundred and fifty years.
The Bernini sculptures represent the virtues of truth and chastity. Since their completion in 1663, they have been in the chapel of Portuguese aristocrat Roderigo de Sylva, part of the St. Isodore Church. But two centuries after their completion, religious leaders saw too much truth and not enough chastity in the sculptures, and were so offended that they had them concealed beneath bronze covers.
BBC Online quotes Angela Negro of Romes Culture Superintendency: The figures were particularly feminine in their faces, in their nudity, and very voluptuous. Religious authorities thought they were not quite suitable for a church.
The figures have emerged perfectly intact, which is said to have surprised restorers. However, a third statue of a marble cherub was also found covered in the chapel. Apparently, certain offensive parts of this figure had been removed.
Which parts, the Diary can only guess at.
And speaking of religious offence, on to Pakistan, where this week, divisions have appeared in the hardline Islamic alliance. The choice of one Akram Khan Durrani as nominee for chief minister of North-West Frontier has sparked controversy due to a lack of facial hair.
Thats right, opponents are lining up against Durrani as he is without beard. Jamiat-e-Islami released a statement saying that the central council of the alliance had not been consulted and insisting that the grooming of the chief minister must comply with Shariah law.
Following the recent elections, the Islamic alliance is now the third biggest political force in Pakistan. The religious parties gained forty-five seats in the national assembly, previously holding only two. The five-party Muttahida Majils-e-Amal (MMA) immediately declared its united support for the Taliban and opposition to the United States.
But is this beard business a sign of an emerging (hairline) crack?
Durrani is a member of the Jamiat-Ulema-Islam (Fazal) group, which has called the Jamiat-e-Islami statement unfortunate. However, he seems to have backed down. A spokesman told the AFP, Durrani is an honest Muslim and has started growing a beard.
That should cover it
A strange tale out of Kinshasa has appeared on oneworld.net. UNICEF are reported to have sent clothing to fourteen thousand people who have been hiding in forests around Businga four-hundred and fifty kilometres northeast of the town in Mbandaka in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Fighting ceased in the region two years ago. But the people have not left the forests for over two years, apparently through fear of embarrassment. Naked people sometimes venture out from the forest, but prefer to avoid public areas because of their nudity, said Doudou Lwemba Luvungu, UNICEFs deputy emergency administrator in the Congo.
It was during a mission in July that UNICEF found the two thousand families hiding in the forest, nude. Their clothing had deteriorated to shreds, literally falling from their bodies.
Some were better off and made it to nearest town Bundinga, even though, in the words of Sizanne Katajunga of UNICEF, they have only enough clothing to cover their private parts.
If a man leaves the village to run errands with his bit of clothing, others have to await his return so they can go out in public with that same little piece of clothing, Katajunga said. It is an indescribable situation.
However, with UNICEFs delivery of clothing, soap, waxed cloth, medicine and fuel, the naked exile should now be over.
And finally in the week that Giscard dEstaing unveiled his architecture for a European Union constitution, the integration of Europes citizens took a giant leap forward with the news that German condom manufacturer Condomi plans to recruit British and Irish students to road test its products.
One hundred lucky students will be paid £100 a term for a full academic year. The brief is to assess the comfort, pleasure and all round performance of each type of condom.
Explains Victoria Wells, Condomi marketing manager, Using the feedback from eager consumers seems an ideal opportunity of testing every aspect of our performance.
Recruitment advertisments are set to appear in university newspapers and on student radio stations. Successful applicants will already be in a relationship. According to the BBC, an estimated ten billion condoms are used worldwide every year.
Said a confident Ms. Wells, I dont think we will have to look far for our new employees.
Quotes of the week
You have been very rude and I have never been spoken to like this before.
President Jacques Chirac of France to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain at the European summit in Brussels. France has reportedly postponed an Anglo-French Summit scheduled for December.
A strong willingness to compromise.
What Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark claims to have experienced as chairman of the Brussels summit.
I am sure, I have no doubts, that at the final stage we will carry out a more unique, similar kind of jihad.
Aslan Maskhadov, leader of the Chechen rebels.
For those hostages who stayed alive, we are going to be heroes. For those whose relatives died, they have every right to criticize.
Sergei Goncharov, head of the Alpha team Russian commandoes who led the raid on the Moscow theatre in which over seven hundred hostages were being held. At least one-hundred and seventeen hostages died from inhaling the mysterious gas used in the raid.
This will give Zionism and America the chance to undermine Islam and the Muslims.
Saddam Hussein, condemning the Moscow hostage-taking.
The Brazilian people know that all that was not done in ten years cannot be solved with a stroke of magic. Lula, President-elect of Brazil.
Figure of the week
The amount spent so far in the electoral race for Governor of New York. Reader Michael McCarthy writes on Democracy and the EU
In response to Kirsty Hughes A constitution for Europe: where is the real debate?:
I think it is slightly misleading to refer to the putative positions on a EU constitution of the UK, Germany, France etc. What you mean, of course, are the positions of the governments of these countries, all of which claim a bogus mandate for policies such as expanding the EU or vetoing the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, whereas the reality is that none of these policies is ever submitted to the electorate in any meaningful and democratic way which enables choices to be made.
Even in Ireland a political fix was achieved by the deeply undemocratic method of allowing far more money to be spent by the side in the referendum campaign which the political class favoured, than by the opponents of the Nice Treaty. (I note in passing that the Irish Times journalist who also contributes to the current openDemocracy issue finds it convenient to omit any reference to this.)
What is lacking is a European public sphere (see Habermas) where these kinds of issues can be publicly debated, without the wealthy and the powerful being allowed both to set the terms of the debate and to skew the result (see Gramsci on hegemony). Until we have satisfied conditions like these, all talk of democratic deficits misses the point.
The main problem for democrats, both in terms of the EU and national politics, is decoupling wealth from power. No constitution which fails to address this problem can be worth a great deal.
Reader Jay Janson in the United States seconds Paul Rogers After Bali, The Need to Understand
The inner subtitle Dont just condemn, understand in Paul Rogers After Bali, The Need to Understand was a rarely heard wisdom.
I congratulate openDemocracy for helping pose the question of what is the meaning of the Bali horror.
Some openDemocracy readers will remember the slogan Kill Whitey! from the early American civil rights violence period of the late 1950s. I being white, remember holding my breath as I was struck by my own inclusion within the meaning of this slogan. The fact that it was proclaimed by only a fanatical group on the fringe was little consolation, as I recollected how many times I had, as a youth been cowed into submission and listened to unkind racist jokes and threatening nigger lover asides. In that restaurant in Kansas City, where my friend had to take out the coffee instead of sit down with me, how I was quiet and still fitted in with the inhuman behaviour rather than make a scene of even the lightest criticism of segregation. Even had I had more courage, fear of putting my friend in danger, provoking some brutal putting us both in our places, kept me conforming to the racial status quo. Seems I could not extricate myself from being one with the segregators, the Apartheiters.
How do these remembrances compare with the bombing deaths in a Bali discotec a half-century later? Well, those Afro-Americans, enraged beyond control over the continuing lynchings, and other realities of Black life in post- war America, they could not reach the lynchers, protected by the courts; they could not reach the perpetrators of crimes of all sorts against a relatively weaker minority; they could not reach the bullies who were usually so well armed and numerous; they could not reach for justice and peace through the government, especially local, for it was ridden with antipathy towards Negroes. But as an object lesson for all the whites who allowed and participated even less than enthusiastically in the racist injustice and in a spirit of do unto those as they have done unto you, they could, these disenfranchised, seemingly powerless young hate-taught activists, they could get at some unparticular white person, just as some black person had become an arbitrary target for a white insanity.
Could Bali mean that all Westerners, or all the populations of the industrialised nations are now held responsible for the travesties of colonial and post-colonial plunder and immiseration of the third world through finance and trade policies backed by military interventions in the weaker non-white nations? Western nations have all profited some from the plundering policies of the greater industrial powers. Are the new terrorists targeting the acquiescing citizens in North America, Europe, Australia proclaimed for their complacent complicity in the sufferings of the third world peoples? The all- powerful US military can protect its financial and trading hegemony, but it cannot protect all of us enjoying our selective prosperity everywhere at all times. So
Dont just condemn, understand, wrote Paul Rogers, and we should all second his proposal. When, in the mid-1960s, the civil rights movement began getting some attention beyond the mere condemnation of black counter-violence, the original violence was curbed. All violence became less popular.
Peace and brotherhood,
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