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Venezuela and Detroit


On 6/14/06, MWRO hosted a People's Meet and Greet Celebration for the Ambassador of Venezuela, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, and his delegation. The event was held at the International Institute in Detroit and was attended by nearly 300 guests from across Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Canada. Community speakers welcomed the Ambassador to Detroit and spoke of their admiration for the many social and economic initiatives to address poverty in Venezuela. This first meeting with Detroiters and Venezuelans is the beginning of a new dialogue between our communities to eradicate poverty and strengthen working families!


Read the 6/21/06 Metro Times story about the Venezuelan Ambassador's offer to provide free cataract surgery for Midwesterners!


Photos courtesy Daymon J. Hartley www.daymonjhartley.com     Place your mouse over photos for brief description.

Maureen Taylor presents NWRU/MWRO appreciation award for President Chavez to Ambassador Alvarez Herrera.Audience members listen to the Ambassador discuss Venezuela's heating oil and eye surgery international humanitarian programs for the poor. The audience welcomes former Detroit City Council President Maryanne Mahaffey.

Detroit senior community leader Mr. Harold Spence welcomes the Ambassador to Detroit.Detroit youth welcome the Venezuelan delegation.Community labor leader Elena Herrada thanks the Ambassador for President Chavez's invitation to the World Social Forum in Caracas 2006.Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez Herrera listens to the greetings from Detroiters.


Please join us for an unprecedented and historic visit to Detroit by the Ambassador of Venezuela, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera. We will be extending a warm welcome to the Ambassador and his delegation with a PEOPLE’S MEET & GREET CELEBRATION!


The Ambassador has expressly set aside time in his full Michigan schedule to meet with low-income and working people. We are honored to receive him and learn more about the Venezuelan people’s remarkable efforts to fight poverty in their country and around the world. Flyer (pdf) Spanish flyer (MS Word)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006
3:00-5:00 p.m.
International Institute, 111. E. Kirby (at John R; north of the DIA), Detroit.
Admission: A Potluck “Taste of Detroit” Dish. Let’s treat our guests to a variety of good Detroit favorites! Please bring something to share with others, preferably in a disposable dish. (No one turned away.)

Capacity is limited to approximately 300 people. Please help us prepare by calling in your RSVP to the MWRO office at (313) 964-2500 or e-mail at [email protected]

Parking: limited free parking is available at the International Institute and on the street. Additional parking is available across the street at the Detroit Science Center for $6.

By Bus: Take the 53 Woodward and exit at Kirby (at the Detroit Institute of Arts) and walk one block east toward John R.

Learn more about the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela—teach-in!

Want to understand more about Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez? Are you curious about why they want to work with Detroiters? Do you wonder why President Bush is trying to isolate that country? Join us for a people’s teach-in on Venezuela. Let’s get prepared for Ambassador Alvarez’s visit on June 14th by examining some of the tremendous changes that have taken place in Venezuela, and how we can learn from them.

Friday, June 9, 2006
5:30-7:30 p.m.
Central United Methodist Church (Woodward/Adams, near Grand Circus Park and Comerica Park)

mainlogoAlso, we will show, “The Revolution will not be Televised,” a great film about the 2002 coup attempt to remove President Chavez from office (Spanish with English subtitles). Click here for more information about the film. Hosted by MWRO. For more info call (313) 964-2500.


5/24/06: Metro Times News Hits

Well-oiled Irony

News Hits has been hoping for years to see a president with a highly developed sense of economic justice. Now that wish has been fulfilled, and Detroit could reap some benefits. The only thing is, it's not the Bushman coming to our aid, but Venezuela's prez who is trying to lend us a much-needed hand.

The Venezuelan government, via CITGO Petroleum Corporation, is offering deeply discounted heating fuel to low-income Americans. After hearing about the program in April, Detroit Councilmember JoAnn Watson asked the council's Research and Analysis Division to investigate how the city could take advantage of Venezuela's petrol largesse. Last week she got her reply.

"The majority of energy assistance provided to U.S. residents by CITGO has been in the form of heating oil," explains the report to council. Unfortunately, most homes in Detroit get their heat from burning natural gas.

But, the report adds, CITGO might still help the city save cash by providing low-cost diesel fuel for the Department of Transportation and other city departments. The Chicago Transit Authority discussed the same arrangement with CITGO in January, but dropped the plan when it became apparent the fuel offered wasn't compatible with their fleet's engines. Detroit will continue its study.

CITGO, based in Houston, is technically an American business. But its parent company, PDV America, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Venezuela's national oil company. In September 2005, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced that CITGO would provide discounted oil to poor U.S. communities. Some saw a truly populist move, while others saw it as a poke at U.S. President George Bush, who was essentially being vilified for not doing enough to assist his own country's lower classes. News Hits asks, can't both things be true at the same time? At least seven northeastern states have joined the program, receiving millions of barrels of oil discounted as much as 40 percent.

The relationship between the two national governments is strained. The White House has criticized Chávez's anti-Bush rhetoric and close relationship to Cuban President Fidel Castro. (And News Hits, for that matter, can't be completely gung-ho for Hugo after reading Amnesty International's take on his heavy-handed tendencies.) Meanwhile Chávez accused the U.S. government of "fighting terror with terror" in its recent wars — but the CITGO program has the U.S. government's blessing.

"We don't see this as a political issue," State Department spokesperson Adam Ereli told reporters at a press conference last year. "We see this as an issue of an American company helping American people, which is good and right and proper."

We thought about trying to get a statement from Bush himself last week, but then figured he was too busy signing into law an extension of tax breaks that primarily benefit America's wealthiest.

As The Christian Science Monitor pointed out, 80 percent of that $70 billion tax cut will go to the richest 10 percent of taxpayers. Consequently, as U.S. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak) noted during a news conference, that means households with incomes of $50,000 to $75,000 get a whopping $110 break while those making $1 million will net more than $41,000.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or [email protected].


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