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Tune into Venezuela

Daily Staff Report
Vail, CO, Colorado

Did you know that the United States gets roughly 15 percent of its oil from Venezuela? How about that 30 percent of Venezuelan GDP is attributed to oil exports? Or, did you know that Venezuela is one of the oldest democracies in South America? Did you know that Venezuela is officially called the “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, it might be time for you to tune into Venezuela.

The Vail Symposium’s Active Minds series continues on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. with a serious look at U.S. and global relations with Venezuela. With the re-election of President Hugo Chavez, who despite a failed coup in 2002 is currently serving his eighth year as President, Venezuela is becoming increasingly at odds with the United States. While both countries share a mutual interest in Venezuela’s oil reserves, Chavez opposes U.S. foreign policy efforts, a point underscored by his recent efforts to strengthen relations with Iran.

Instructor Sasha Breger will guide an exploration of the origins of this escalating conflict.



“Discussing Venezuela’s current political and economic climate, and its relations with the United States, seems very timely for a number of reasons,” said Breger, a Ph.D graduate from The School of International Studies at DU. “First, discussions of U.S. foreign policy and energy security tend to be dominated by talk of the Middle East, and a discussion of Venezuela refocuses this debate more globally via a focus on Latin America.”

Breger continues, “Second, Hugo Chavez’s political and economic agenda are not only gaining ground in Venezuela. Other countries, like Bolivia and Ecuador, also illustrate this political turn to the left and to populist politics.”



Some observers have spoken of a future Latin American political revolution in this context. President Chavez, who started his newest six-year term as President of Venezuela in January of 2007, was named to Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. Chavez is lauded by some as a social liberator, praised for reducing Venezuela’s poverty while fighting imperialism and neoliberalism. His opponents, however, see him as an authoritarian leader, who violated fundamental human rights, threatened Venezuela’s economy and democracy, and destabilized global oil prices.

“Third, even outside of Latin America, some developing countries have sought closer ties with Venezuela, seeing Chavez and the country in general as central to a global challenge to U.S. global dominance,” Breger said.

In an increasingly interdependent world, these are important relationships to note. Breger offers, “Iran, for example, has sought closer ties with Venezuela, with both countries committing to pose such a challenge.”



While the goal of this series is to reach senior members of the community, these programs are engaging and open to attendees of all ages. The talk on Venezuela is Wednesday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The program is free, thanks to generous underwriting for the 2007 Active Minds Series from the Vail Valley Motorcycle Foundation, United Way of Eagle River Valley, Wells Fargo Bank Community Fund and Eagle County Health and Human Services.

Directions to the Golden Eagle Community Center: From I-70, take exit 147 (Eagle). Proceed south and turn left onto Eby Creek Rd. Turn right onto Grand Ave. / US 6 at the roundabout. Turn left at Capitol and right at East 6th Street. Turn left on Broadway. The Center is at the dead end.

The Vail Symposium is a non-profit organization that has been part of Vail Valley life since 1971. Nicknamed the “Gurus on Non-traditional Learning,” the Symposium’s mission is to promote continued learning to residents and visitors of the Valley. The organization now offers over 60 thought-provoking, diverse, and affordable programs annually. For more information, please visit http://www.vailsymposium.org or call 476-0954.


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