It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light

Mwen se echantiyon yon ras kap boujonnen men ki poko donnen

Si vous voulez vous faire des ennemis essayer de changer les choses

Monday, June 25, 2007


Defining Electronic Government

What is it? Why is it important? What can it contribute to a nation’s economic development? Understanding it from a manager’s viewpoint
The advances made in wireless communications, computer systems technologies and infrastructure, and application software have made government more efficient and responsive. Coupled with the Internet's global reach, governments can move rapidly to deliver services to their constituencies more efficiently and cheaply. Governments are on a long journey toward becoming electronic governments. There are three key questions for managers embarking on this journey: What is an electronic government? Why is it important? And, what can it contribute to a nation's development? To elaborate, this paper will address the five phases of e-government development. ----------------

What is electronic government (e-gov)?

In practical terms, e-gov is the use of the Internet and related technologies to facilitate communication between government and the general public, provide government information and services to citizens and business, and coordinate business processes internally and with other governments. However, electronic government is best understood in terms of the benefits it can provide to nations and their citizens. An ideal electronic government is easy to use, available to those with Internet access, private and secure, innovative and results-oriented, collaborative, cost-effective, and transformational.

The general goals of electronic government in the U.S., as identified by the President Bush’s “Expanding Electronic Government” initiative, are to:

Make it easy for citizens to obtain service and interact with the federal government;
Improve government efficiency and effectiveness; and
Improve government’s responsiveness to citizens

In short, the goal of electronic government is to use the Internet to make government citizen-centric. ---------------------------

Why is e-gov important?

Citizens are becoming more accustomed to using online services from businesses and want the same online access to government information and services. Citizens see e-gov as a means to more accountability for government, greater public access to information, more efficient/cost effective government, and more convenient government services. E-gov also adds value. The E-Gov Strategy created by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) (see the U.S.E-Government Strategy Submission) identified some key value added functions for e-gov:

Simplifying delivery of services to citizens;
Eliminating layers of government management;
Making it possible for citizens, businesses, other levels of government and federal employees to easily find information and get service from the federal government;
Simplifying agencies' business processes and reducing costs through integrating and eliminating redundant systems;
• Enabling achievement of the other elements of the President’s Management Agenda; and
• Streamlining government operations to guarantee rapid response to citizen needs. ----------------------------------------------------------------

What can it contribute to a nation's development?

Simplifying and streamlining government processes through e-gov can increase the effectiveness and impact of social services and reduce the burden on businesses wishing to receive services or comply with regulatory requirements. Programs that make Internet access publicly available can reduce the digital divide and create a demand for e-gov services. Many countries are exploring ways to make computers and Internet access available from libraries, post offices, banks, hospitals and other public locations. Along with trade promotion policies, the adoption of e-gov itself can help spur industry development in a country by providing a market for e-gov solutions.

E-government offers countries a chance to make their governments more accessible, accountable, efficient and responsive to citizen's needs. E-government is more than automating existing processes. It is a chance to change the relationship between governments and the citizens they serve, a key challenge for governments, including many in the developing world. E-government, for example, can enhance opportunities for citizen participation in regulatory processes. E-government also can help strengthen the rule of law by making laws and regulations more accessible. In addition, e-government can play a useful role in combating petty corruption by automating processes and allowing citizens to access information, apply for licenses and file taxes directly. Developing countries also can help attract investment by posting information online about the country's legal and regulatory framework that will help investors understand the legal and regulatory context for their investment decisions. Finally, e-government can help governments catalyze the use of the Internet, especially by their business communities, and spur the development of local content. It should be recognized, however, that e-government is part of a broader process of transformation and that there are risks of technical failure and underutilization of specific applications and services. Governments, particularly those of developing countries with scarce resources, need to be careful about how best to use resources and should focus initial e-government investments on proven technologies and high-impact applications.

The Five Phases of E-Gov

E-gov is an evolution for governments. The five phases outlined below represent the progression of many countries, including the United States in implementing E-Government and can serve as benchmarks for countries in assessing how far along they are in the evolution. However, these phases should not be taken as instructive of the best progression, nor are they intended to suggest that countries should blindly leap into advancing the process of E-Government.

The first three phases of implementation involve quick and relatively cheap online solutions. These phases—Information, Forms, and Transactions—involve automating and web-enabling existing business processes and programs. Little reinvention or process reengineering takes place. The U.S. Government is just emerging from this period with many lessons learned. ---

Phase 1: Information
In phase one, governments disseminate information. Agencies implement applications on the Internet that make electronic information readily accessible. This is clearly the easiest, least technically complex application to migrate. From a managerial perspective, little reengineering takes place. Examples include sites that provide online guides, and regulations, online manuals, inventory forms, and informational videos. ----

Phase 2: Forms
In phase two, agencies provide downloadable electronic forms for popular government services. Former President Clinton, in his December 17, 1999, Memorandum on Electronic Government, directed that “agencies shall, to the maximum extent possible, make available online, by December 2000, the forms needed for the top 500 Government services used by the public.”

Phase 3: Transactions
Phase three represents a more complex implementation of e-gov. It supports end-to-end transaction processing. Examples of these types of initiatives include the submission of patent applications via the Internet, obtaining information about a student loan, or making inquiries about the status of an immigrant visa application.

Phases 1-3 seem relatively straightforward and simple, however, ensuring effective and efficient e-gov development requires analysis and coordination across government agencies and functions.

Merging Islands of Automation
Phase 4: Integrated Transactions and One-Stop Portals
As the U.S. emerged from the first three phases of e-gov development, it was plagued by redundant systems, along with cost and process inefficiencies. The automation of business processes was done within traditional bureaucratic boundaries, which led to disparately managed information technology systems and online services. The bureaucratic inefficiencies of government were exacerbated in on online environment. Citizens seeking online information and services were confused. Phase four consists of coordinating these disparate systems to reduce duplication and inefficiencies while providing security and protecting privacy.

As governments begin to merge disparate systems, citizens begin to see integrated transactions and one-stop portals. The U.S. Government is embarking on this phase right now. In Fall 2000, the U.S. Government launched, its online portal for the U.S. Government. FirstGov provides a single entry-point to over 35 million federally maintained web pages from approximately 22,000 sites. The site organizes federal online content by customer and service, rather than by organization.

Integrated transactions are also beginning to appear. The Electronic Government Strategy created by the Office of Management and Budget identified 24 e-gov initiatives that cross government agencies. For example, the Integrated Acquisition Environment Initiative (IAE) is building upon online portals to contracting opportunities already available to businesses at and other sites. IAE envisions using the Internet to create a simpler, common, integrated business process for government buyers and sellers that promote competition, transparency and integrity. Emerging web service technologies and standards make service integration even more possible, but only if governments agree to the standards, and establish trust relationships and common business processes with business and government partners. This brings us to phase five.

Rethinking the role of government
Phase 5: Transformational
Phase five involves the change management and process reengineering necessary to truly transform government. A rethinking of established bureaucracies, funding mechanisms, intergovernmental management, and methods of citizen interaction with government is necessary to transform e-gov.

The transformational phase coincides with phase four in many respects. As governments merge transactions through one-stop portals for users, managing business processes and resources becomes an intergovernmental proposition. Managing e-gov programs that cut across government boundaries requires a new set of leadership skills. These skills include the art of negotiation, a vast knowledge of the culture and environment of partnering agencies, and the ability to manage to a goal without direct authority over team members.

The transformation of government using e-gov is also characterized by adherence to enterprise architecture. Government services are viewed as components of a governmentwide architecture. Emerging technologies will enable even greater coordination across systems. OMB’s E-Gov Strategy establishes the current enterprise architecture for the United States.

A source of funding and authority is needed to support transformational e-gov initiatives. Most vertical, program specific funding models in use do not adequately support horizontal intergovernmental initiatives. Without dedicated sources of funding for these initiatives, governments will continue to build highly stove-piped, process centered applications that do not adequately serve citizens, and cause costly redundancy in government services.

As technology enables more seamless communication with all government agencies, and citizens become more comfortable with and have greater access to the Internet, and when concerns about privacy and security are alleviated, citizen participation and engagement with government will also be transformed.

The benefit of lessons learned and new technologies will make it possible for countries just beginning their investments in e-gov to bypass some of the earlier phases. In the United States, managers are dealing with established agency systems that are maintained independently and having to build solutions to integrate them. There may be an opportunity for other countries to address the enterprise architecture, management, and funding issues prior to major investments in e-gov, thereby avoiding the inefficiencies, overlap, and fragmentation that the United States is dealing with in implementing its e-gov strategy.

A quote from a recent report by the Council for Excellence in Government illustrates the ideal vision of a transformed electronic government:
“Imagine government truly of, by and for the people--where individuals and organizations no longer wait in line between eight and five on weekdays only, but where they can be online any time or place they wish. A place not only to get information but also to complete transactions with government, get services, talk with elected representatives--even to vote. A government that organizes and furnishes information and services around the needs of people while protecting their privacy.” (E-government - The Next American Revolution, “ Council for Excellence in Government, January 2001)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Call to Action: Caribbean Diaspora Need to Get Involved by Stanley Lucas

US-Caribbean relations have been strained in recent years. Events over the last few months, including the Guyana and Trinidad involvement in the alleged terrorist plot on JFK airport and the bumbled attempts of Haitian nationals to organize an attack on a Chicago tower, highlight the need to build some bridges with our neighboring region to address mutual challenges.

In the next two weeks, Caribbean leaders will meet in Washington, D.C. to discuss regional priorities. High on the list of topics will be institutionalizing mechanisms to work more closely with the US on terrorist-related issues. Despite its proximity to the U.S., however, the Caribbean is not a priority for the Administration. In addition to being spread thin internationally, there is no organized channel to provide regular, accurate, and useful information to the U.S. policy makers. --------------------------------------------------

Government-to-government dialogues are key, but to truly move U.S.-Caribbean relations onto the radar screens of U.S. policy makers, we need two tracks: government and private sector. To date, the Caribbean private sector has had limited interaction with the Washington policy community. Interaction has been ad hoc at best. It is time to bring some organization to the U.S.-Caribbean policy debate and engage the Diaspora community and the local business leaders, who could play a much larger role in shaping the policy debate. The Caribbean countries need a clear and compelling voice in Washington, D.C. to educate policy makers and the public.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Let us take a lesson from our colleagues in the Dominican Republic. Their private sector and prominent Diaspora community has been very engaged in promoting the DR. Notable people such as Sammy Sousa, Oscar de la Renta and private business leaders have taken on the task of promoting the DR among the US business community and on Capitol Hill. Partly as a result of their ongoing efforts, the Dominican Republic was actually included in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). It was subsequently renamed the CAFTA-DR agreement.
It is now more than ever important to build international allies for the Caribbean. The region is fragile. Historically, it has been colonized by the major powers, racked with political instability and endemic poverty, and more recently it has been a pawn in the Taiwan-China rivalry. There are now indications that the region is a target in Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's plans to roll back economic and political reforms in the region. This would be a tragedy. ------------------------------------------------------------------

For sure, the Caribbean leaders need to implement economic and political plans that advance their countries and ensure a productive role in an increasingly globalized economy. There is much work to be done at the policy level as many countries lag desperately behind international standards. In order to get the attention of key policy makers, however, the Caribbean leadership will need the support and active engagement of the Diaspora community and business leaders. ------------------------------------------

This is critical and those who will benefit from advancement must stand up and take ownership in this process as well. There are well established bilateral business councils -- Committees of 100, foundations and societies – that promote countries from Brazil to China to Russia. Where are the Caribbean societies and policy debates? They are sorely lagging behind. We need to take the opportunity presented by this forum and by our common goals against terrorism to build the strong links needed to create a brighter future for the Caribbean region.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Institutionalizing Caribbean Diaspora Efforts in the U.S. by Stanley Lucas Caribbean Diaspora account for a significant percentage of the GDP of many Caribbean countries. In Haiti alone, their annual remittances account for 40 percent of the country’s GDP. While they are playing a major role in their home countries’ economic development, to date there has been no systematic effort to harness the skills, knowledge and professional networks of the Caribbean Diaspora in addressing the regional development challenges and promoting and developing investment opportunities in the region. Additionally, the Diaspora, especially business leaders, often have great influence in their local communities in the U.S. This influence has not been tapped to elevate U.S.-Caribbean relations. ----------------------

What is truly lacking are institutionalized platforms to organize the Diaspora to leverage their collective talent and influence to address regional issues and bilateral issues. Other regions, such as Asia, have been very successful in leveraging their Diaspora communities and especially at creating ongoing bilateral business dialogues and various channels in to U.S. policy makers.

Clearly, U.S. priorities are focused on the Middle East region, anti-terrorism initiatives, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other political crises. Despite its proximity to the U.S., the Caribbean is not a priority for the Administration. Not because it should not be, but rather because in addition to being spread thin in foreign policy, there is no organized channel to funnel information into the U.S. policy makers, especially from the Diaspora community. Additionally, the Caribbean is perceived as a tourist destination, not an economic engine, as are China and India. Politically, the Caribbean is often associated with instability and trade disputes, to some degree. However, there are many interesting new initiatives taking shape in the Caribbean, notably in the energy sector where there are plans to turn the region into a hub for bio-fuels. Some countries, such as the Bahamas, are projecting record economic growth rates for 2007.

But the region is fragile. Historically, it has been colonized by the major powers, and more recently it has been a pawn in the Taiwan-China rivalry and in Venezuelan President Huga Chavez’s plans to roll back economic and political reforms in the region. The Caribbean countries need another voice in Washington, D.C. to educate policy makers and the public of the importance of the region and on the major issues challenging their governments.-------

The Diaspora community should play a key role in reinforcing Caribbean government’s efforts at home and abroad. One significant way they could support political and economic development in the region is to organize itself to address the key challenges of: local economic development and securing international attention and assistance.

This paper will outline and examine some proposals for platforms that the Caribbean Diaspora should develop in order to elevate the region as a higher priority for the U.S. government and to participate in their region’s growth. Included in the paper will be a discussion of a: CARICOM-US Business Council, to elevate a bilateral dialogue between the business communities and develop an agenda that includes key trade issues; a Committee of 100, that could establish a high level policy dialogue across sectors and highlight Caribbean culture; a CARICOM Congressional Caucus, that would elevate the issues in the U.S. Congress; a CARICOM Society to highlight unique aspects of the Caribbean culture including art and entertainment; and a CARICOM Youth Leadership Program, supported by some of the above mentioned organizations and the regional governments to help build capacity in the future. The key will be to advocate bringing some structure to the CARICOM efforts with the Diaspora community. ----------------------------

Bilateral business council’s have been created around regional and country specific issues. There is a U.S.-Brazil Business Council, U.S.-China Business Council, U.S.-APEC Business Council, among others. They offer the opportunity to bring together the top business leaders in the region and U.S. and Diaspora business leaders with a big stake in the region. The Councils provide a strong, systematic platform for business leaders to funnel their priorities and challenges into the policy system, and they have a stronger voice than if tackling the issues separately. As the main engine of economic growth, the private sector usually has significant influence in shaping the trade and policy agendas.

U.S. trade and economic leaders have a multitude of priorities, including a series of Free Trade Agreements, a new Doha round at the World Trade Organization, energy policy, and ongoing strategy development related to the rise of India and China. Caribbean issues are relegated to the bottom of the priority list. However, with the growing influence of leaders such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the region, it is greatly in their interest to develop a more robust strategy to engage the region.

In order to attract the right level of attention from U.S. leaders, the Council should be comprised of senior level corporate representatives as well as some notable advisors from the region. The Council should have a clear, and focused agenda with an annual meeting, accompanied by the release of a white paper and a gala dinner. In addition, the Council should have a small staff to publish a regular newsletter for distribution among U.S. policy leaders and the membership. There are currently very few sources of information on Caribbean priorities and this would go a long way toward educating leaders on the issues.----------

In addition to building a business-to-business dialogue, the Diaspora community should also encourage a broader range of voices into the policy process and to highlight the region. There is the need for an organization that brings an Caribbean-American perspective to U.S. relations with the Caribbean and to address the concerns of Americans of Caribbean heritage. To address this need, a Committee of 100 Caribbean leaders should be developed to include all sectors, from business to sports to entertainment and art. To be most effective, the Committee should be an international non-partisan organization composed of American citizens of Caribbean descent, Caribbean citizens residing in the United States or prominent Caribbean citizens living in the Caribbean from a broad range of professions. With these diverse backgrounds, members will be able to collectively pool their strengths and experience to address important issues concerning the Caribbean-American community, as well as issues affecting U.S.-Caribbean relations.

The key functions of the Committee should be to serve as bridge between the cultures and systems of Caribbean and the U.S. and also, to provide a forum for those issues that Americans of Caribbean descent face in bettering their lives in the United States. The Committee will be dedicated to serve as "cultural ambassadors" and fostering the exchange of ideas and various perspective among their membership with those in the community and government.

The Committee of 100 will be a voice for the enhancement of relations between the U.S. and the Caribbean With an in-depth understanding of both cultures, the Committee can enhance America understanding of the Caribbean, as well as Caribbean’s understanding of the United States.

The Committee could also serve as the vehicle to develop charitable programs and donations by creating endowment funds for scholarships or recognition awards for significant contributions to promoting Caribbean culture. This would be less of an agenda drive organization and more of a profile raising group to encourage constructive relations between the Caribbean and United States. -------------------------------------------------------------------------

Many countries and regions, including Hong Kong, have encouraged the formation of a Congressional Caucus. Caucuses meet frequently and hear expert testimony on the key issues in the region. They conduct congressional delegations and fact-finding missions to the region and release white papers. Further, they can be helpful in pushing a legislative agenda that benefits the region.

Through various platforms, the CARICOM leaders should encourage the Congressional delegations, particularly from Florida and New York, to form a caucus around these issues. The potential Business Council and Committee of 100 would be excellent platforms to leverage to meet with a select list of Congressional leaders to advocate this caucus. In lieu of established platforms, Caribbean business leaders and Diaspora should form an ad hoc coalition and inform members of plans to put in place certain structures. In this way, the Congressional leaders will know that they will have partners to reach out to in order to support this initiative.-------------------------------

Another successful platform to put in place would be a CARICOM Society. This could be an organization that would promote cultural awareness through policy debates. A prominent example of such an organization is the Asia Society headquartered in New York. They are endowed in large part by private funding, including the Rockefellers. They undertake a range of activities promoting everything from Asian cooking to the spread of democracy throughout the region. In addition, they have a headquarters that can be used to host events. This is something that should be a longer term goal for the Caribbean nations, but certainly it would go a long way to promoting better understanding by beginning to set up such a structure.-------------------------------

Another important group to engage is the youth – both the youth in the Caribbean and the Caribbean-American youth. Education is the key to the future of the region and will better prepare the region to meet future competition and challenges. Many countries face a chronic shortage of skilled workers or a weak pool of candidates for government posts. In addition to promoting greater U.S.-Caribbean ties, the above mentioned groups should partner with the OAS and local governments to launch a program aimed at promoting youth education and development. Clearly for the Caribbean youth, a better understanding of how the United States operates in the arenas of economic, political and social issues can only strengthen future relationships between the Caribbean and the United States.

The Caribbean Youth Leadership Program should be created to facilitate exchange programs between the youth of the Caribbean and the youth of United States. Programs could include scholarships for Caribbean-American students, scholarships for students throughout the Caribbean to study in the United States, government exchanges between young civil servants in the Caribbean to do study programs in the U.S. The Program could also work with D.C. think tanks to develop internship programs. Further, the Diaspora in the U.S. could act as mentors for students serving as examples of being successful at home and abroad.---------------------

The combination of these initiatives will begin to address the lack of policy attention that the region is currently getting and is intended to put some shape and structure to the regions agenda by harnessing the power of the Diaspora community. Of course, the Diaspora should work closely with Caribbean governments as well in order to undertake a well coordinated effort. Therefore, in addition to the above mention activities in the U.S., several of these platforms should also consider hosting events and programs in the region or incorporating government into representatives into their initiatives by hosting them for programs in the U.S. While the Caribbean governments play an important advocacy role, their efforts will be greatly supported by Diaspora organization as well.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Role of Political Parties in a Democracy

What is a political party?

In democratic societies, people who share similar views and goals often join together to form political parties. They do this to strengthen their ability to influence the governmental decisions of the country. In forming political parties, party founders usually promote a common set of beliefs and values – called ideology – and develop a message which conveys to others their collective beliefs and values.

In order for people to be attracted to your party you must tell them what you stand for. How are you different from other parties? How will your party’s programs benefit the average citizen? What are your party’s plans for governing the country if elected? If the prospective party member and, later on, the voter cannot tell the difference between your party and other parties, then why should they join or vote for you?

Remember, when defining what your party stands for, try to reach out to as many groups as possible. For instance, develop party positions that appeal to various groups such as women, youth, labor, farmers, business people, etc. In order to remain healthy and successful, especially during elections, you must always be expanding your party’s message and appeal.

When this defining process is taking place, it must include input from all facets of the party. A party platform that comes down from the top is weak. The people who are closest to the issues that affect citizens are usually in more rural areas. These members must be a major part of the information and decision-making process.

What do political parties do?

Based on ideology, political parties develop policies and messages on how they believe the country should be governed. To do this, parties:

· identify the needs and concerns of the people by interacting with the public at different levels of society
· address these needs and concerns through the formulation of policies
· disseminate their policies and messages to the public
Political parties participate in elections; by winning elections, a party’s policy can be put into practice.

In summary, political parties provide the structure and organization to:
· bring people together
· formulate and develop policies for the governing of the nation
· identify and recruit candidates to participate in elections
· win elections
· empower people through elected representatives

What do political parties offer citizens in a democracy?

The answer is contained in three simple words:
· Voice
· Choice
· Continuity

In a democracy, everyone has the right to think and believe as he or she chooses. He or she also has the right to express these opinions. From taxi drivers to doctors and lawyers, political parties provide a strong and effective means of communicating these opinions, to other citizens as well as to the government. Parties give a voice to different elements of society, and provide a safe means of competing with other parties without threats of violence. Without a party, many people would not have a voice. The more ideas you have and articulate, the more people you may attract to your party.

One of democracy’s basic characteristics is that it provides people choices for how they want to live and be governed. Political parties offer a wide variety of choices to allow citizens to select among different ideas of governance. One characteristic shared by all democracies is that they have at least two or more strong political parties which offer voters a real choice in government. These parties differ in how they think the government should work, and what it should provide to its citizens.

Political parties are more effective when they are founded on a set of ideas for governance. This is because ideas live longer than people. If a political party has a strong grounding in ideology, it can keep its members and supporters together even if the leadership changes. Parties which are only centered around a dynamic leader are usually strong as long as their dynamic leader remains popular and alive.

Can political parties that do not hold elective office be influential?

Yes. In a democracy, parties that do not hold elected office continue to play a valuable role by serving as a voice for their members and supporters, and for other people who might oppose some of the policies and activities of the elected government. Those who are not chosen to govern have an opportunity to represent alternative views, and to make sure the government is acting responsibly, in accordance with the law and the peoples’ wishes.

Political parties have a responsibility to analyze the laws being considered and passed by the elected governmental body. Parties must then speak out on the pros and cons of these prospective laws before they are passed. Are they good or bad for the country? How do they affect everyday citizens? Should citizens contact elected representatives in support or opposition to the laws?

Parties have a responsibility to oppose bad legislation and help pass those laws that are consistent with their party platform. This strengthens a party by attracting public input and support and it also shows strong leadership. People will come to look favorably at a party that takes a stand for strong guidance and leadership.

Democratic political parties do not have to like or agree with their political opponents, but they must tolerate their right to hold their own opinions and beliefs. Elections are a competition between parties for the opportunity to serve the people – they should not be a violent fight for power.

What makes a political party democratic?

A democratic political party:
allows its members the right to think and believe as he or she chooses
· provides members an opportunity to express their views and to participate in the decision making process
· is open and transparent – it wants the public to know its policies and beliefs
· is committed to a democratic system of governance including free and fair elections and the alternation of power.

How to sustain a political party

"The foundation first" is a motto that party leaders and organizers should keep in mind when they seek to build a successful political party. Thomas P. O’Neil, former head of the United States Legislature from Boston, Massachusetts, often explained to his party colleagues that “all politics is local”.

A significant portion of a party's time, attention and money should be directed to the local level. Ultimately, the strength and stability of a national political party and the success of its candidates for elective office at every level are closely related to the number of active, enthusiastic party members and supporters at the local level.

The local base of a political party, just like the roots of a tree, must be strong if the party is to grow and succeed. Party leaders may understand the importance of local party building, but in practice many do not and often many work solely for their own self interests. The result is often a party that is uncompetitive and not able to assume control of government.

Party leaders and organizers cannot forget about the central importance of the individual member. Without members, a party's leaders, no matter how well spoken or smart they might be, are doomed to occupy the margins of their country's democratic political life. Moreover, party leaders cannot afford to forget that ultimate policy-making authority is and should always be the membership of the party if the party is going to be genuinely democratic.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Closure of Radio Caracas Televisión paves way for media hegemony

The most popular and one of the oldest of Venezuela’s news media, Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV), stopped broadcasting at midnight on 27 May, 53 years after it first went on the air. There were tears and anger at its Caracas headquarters. The last news programme was followed by farewell hymns and prayers. Outside, the Venezuelan capital shook to the rhythm of demonstrations by the many opponents and fewer supporters of what the former called a “closure” and the latter called “the end of a frequency concession.”--------------------

RCTV is no more. It had to surrender its broadcast channel to a new public TV station, Televisora Venezolana Social (Tves), on the orders of President Hugo Chávez. RCTV, whose mascot is the lion, was accused of supporting a coup five years ago, one that briefly ousted the president from 11 to 13 April 2002. Without waiting for RCTV to exhaust all of its appeal possibilities, Chávez signed the decree creating the new state-owned station on 11 May. At RCTV, employees and management had been hoping until the end for an 11th hour reprieve. But the game was lost and a new media landscape is emerging in which Globovisión, with a signal that reaches only Caracas and four nearby cities, is the only opposition TV station that survives - and it might not survive for much longer.-----------------------------

President Chávez likes to deliver long radio and TV addresses which all the broadcast media, including the privately-owned ones, simultaneously transmit in “cadena” whether they want to or not. He also has his own Sunday programme called “Aló Presidente” on the leading public TV channel. So he already has an impressive media apparatus at his disposal for getting his message across. ---------------------------------------------------------------------

Why did he need to take RCTV’s broadcast frequency and give it to another of his own stations? Why was RCTV’s management not charged and prosecuted at any point in the past five years for its “involvement” in the coup, especially as under the law this is a condition for refusing a TV station the right to broadcast for the next 20 years? Finally and above all, why did President Chávez go ahead with a measure that was so unpopular, even among his own supporters? Opinion polls says 70 per cent of Venezuelans disapprove of RCTV’s closure - this in a population in which four out of five get their news from television alone.-----------------

Reporters Without Borders went on a fact-finding trip to Venezuela from 24 to 28 May, meeting with national and foreign journalists, media owners, media specialists, human rights activists and political analysts. It was at RCTV on the day it stopped broadcasting. Its requests for meetings with government officials and representatives of public and pro-government media went unanswered. Their silence was as eloquent as the comments of the people it did meet, and tends to confirm that RCTV’s closure was not just an administrative measure. On the contrary, it was a political move, one that establishes government hegemony over the broadcast media and constitutes a grave danger for editorial pluralism. It also revealed a new aspect of this political system known as “Chavism” - one that could be called media hegemony.----------

Presidential addresses
Imagine yourself with a TV remote control, zapping between five or six TV stations all showing exactly the same images of the president giving a speech. This bizarre situation is the almost daily lot of Venezuelans. The president’s speeches rarely go on for less than three hours and some go for seven if he is feeling inspired. Far from limiting himself to cutting ribbons at openings, making the occasional formal address to the nation or praising the recipients of awards, Chávez delivers dissertations. Whenever the fancy takes him, he talks at length about contemporary geopolitics, about the works of independence hero Simón Bolívar, about his own works (what he has written and what he intends to write), about the Russian revolution and about what his own grandmother used to tell him.------------------------------

Wouldn’t one TV station be enough for such a verbose speaker? No at all. President Chávez prefers speeches in full to extracts, and he imposes them on all the TV and radio stations, including the privately-owned ones, as he is entitled to do under article 10 of the Radio and Television Social Responsibility Law of November 2004. The system of “cadenas” (obligatory simultaneous broadcasts) is one of the key levers of a regime that largely governs for and by communication. There have been 1,542 Chávez “cadenas” in all since 1999, with a total of 922 hours of airtime. In the same period, there have also been 1,000 hours of his personal programme “Aló Presidente,” broadcast on Sundays by the state-owned Venezolana de Televisión (VTV). One the recent “cadenas” in particular, on 28 December 2006, caught the public’s attention.----------------------------------------------------------

Three weeks after his reelection as president by a very large margin, Chávez gave a speech to the armed forces at the Caracas Military Academy in which he unexpectedly commented towards the end: “There will no longer be any [frequency] concession for that TV station that was an accomplice to the coup, the station called Radio Caracas Televisión.” The threat at first met with incredulity. Six years before he was democratically elected in 1998, Lt. Col. Hugo Chávez had also tried to stage a coup - the 15th anniversary of which he marked with a military parade on 4 February. So he did not seem to be an position to use “coup-mongering” as a charge to bring against his detractors.---------------------------------------------------

Despite its 42 per cent average viewer rating, far ahead of any of its public or commercial rivals, RCTV and its viewers soon realised the president was not joking. Communication and information minister William Lara said on 2 January that RCTV’s broadcasting licence had been renewed for 20 years by a 1987 decree and expired on 27 May 2007, and that three options were being studies for replacing RCTV as terrestrial broadcast Channel 2. There were moral and political charges as well as administrative ground for not renewing its licence – RCTV was accused of broadcasting pornography and, above all, of playing a leading role in the April 2002 coup and the petroleum industry strikes in 2003 and 2004. Let us go back and look at all of this.
11 April 2002… then TV silence
Headed by Marcel Granier and with a markedly right-wing editorial line, RCTV had the occasional problem with previous governments as well. It was suspended for periods ranging from 24 to 72 hours in 1976, 1980 and 1981, long before Chávez came to power, because of “sensationalist” content or, in the last instance, an “enticing and erotic” ad. In 1987, when social-democrat Jaime Lusinchi was president, the government decreed that broadcast frequencies were conceded for a period of 20 years. Until then. there had been no limit. The measure was above all targeted at RCTV, which was being critical of what was called “government omnipotency,” said Carlos Ayala, a lawyer and former president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The commercial TV stations and the state-owned Venezolana de Televisión were all suspended for 24 hours in 1989 for broadcasting a cigarette ad.-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chávez’s election as president was hailed for a while by some of the privately-owned news media but RCTV maintained its same editorial line and continued until the end to criticise violent crime, corruption and the cost of certain government measures and to always refer to “Lt. Col. Hugo Chávez” instead of “President Hugo Chávez.” Like the other opposition media, the events of 11 April 2002 gave RCTV the chance to sound the charge against the Chávez government. “11 April 2002 was initially a demonstration against government policy,” said Antonio Pasquali, a former Central University of Venezuela professor and specialist in communication. “The privately-owned media, especially the big TV stations, gave it the dimensions of a coup. Unlike the media owners, most of the demonstrators did not know Pedro Carmona, the Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce president who briefly replaced Hugo Chávez.”
The 11 April clashes left 17 dead. Splitting their screens in two, Venevisión (owned by media mogul Gustavo Cisneros), Televen, RCTV and Globovisión simultaneously broadcast the speech Chávez gave before leaving the Miraflores presidential palace and the exchanges of gunfire taking place during the demonstration. “There was complete confusion,” said an independent journalist. “You did not know who was firing on whom, but what you could see on the screens reinforced the idea that the government had given orders for shots to be fired at the crowd.” Globovisión director Alberto Federico Ravell said: “The only reliable source at that moment would have been the defence ministry, but we had no access to it. No one knew until the end of the day whether or not Hugo Chávez had left the country.” Ravell denied inciting the coup: “I willingly admit that I was not unhappy to see Hugo Chávez go, but there is a big difference between that and saying I organised a coup.”-------------------------------------------

Carlos Correa, the head of the watchdog Espacio Público, said: “You have to know that on the evening of 11 April, Pedro Carmona, the short-lived interim president, was invited on to the Venevisión set until two o’clock in the morning. If you accuse RCTV of coup-mongering, you have to accuse all the other privately-owned TV stations as well.” Carmona announced on 13 April that he wanted to dissolve parliament and rescind the mandates of governors and mayors. The coup appeared to be a fait accompli, but the public got angry and the military ousted Carmona. Chávez then resumed control as president but all the privately-owned TV stations except Globovisión concealed this by broadcasting entertainment programmes and soap operas. Chávez has not forgotten this silence.-----------------------------------------------------

Tiger submits, lion rebels
“If Chávez had been really Bolivarian, he would have had all the privately-owned TV stations closed down after the coup or he could at the very least have brought criminal prosecutions against each of their managements,” said Pasquali, who regards Cisneros, the owner of Venevisión (whose mascot is a tiger) as “one of the masterminds of the events in 2002.” None of the TV stations accused of supporting or participating in the 2002 coup has even been the target of any prosecution, summons or judicial report. The legal controversy about the non-renewal of the lion’s licence stems from this. ----------------------------------------

“If you accept that RCTV was guilty of a coup, a legal problem immediately ensues,” said Ayala, the lawyer. “Under the 1987 decree that has been invoked by the current government, a broadcaster may request the renewal of its concession if it has not been found guilty of any ‘serious misconduct.’ In the absence of any judicial proceedings against it, RCTV therefore had a right to request and presumably obtain the renewal of its broadcast concession. Furthermore, the telecommunications law of 2000 stated that, from the moment it took effect, the government had two years to update the frequency registers and renew the frequencies for another 20 years.”----------------------------------------------------------------

On the basis of these laws, RCTV maintained that its licence expired in June 2022, not May 2007 and it filed some 20 appeals with the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) and the supreme court. Although it is normally supposed to issue a ruling within four days, the supreme court took five months before it finally rejected RCTV’s appeals as “inadmissible.” But the court only took 24 hours to order that RCTV equipment (including 58 transmitters throughout the country) be made available at no cost to the new station Tves, at the risk of jeopardising RCTV’s cable transmission.------------------------------------------------

“Legally both RCTV and the government were right,” said Silvia Alegrett, the publisher of a local newspaper and co-director of Expresión Libre, a journalists’ collective created a month after the coup. “The licence did end on 27 May but RCTV could under the law request its renewal. Venevisión, whose licence expired on the same date, succeeded [on 23 May, the same day that the supreme court’s constitutional division rejected RCTV’s appeal] in being able to continue to broadcast for another five years.” What is the reason for this different treatment?
“It is very simple,” said Hugo Díaz Milano of Expresión Libre. “Venevisión negotiated its survival after the coup. The president succeeding it getting it to withdraw its political analysis programmes and to fall in line with the government’s information. Televen, the other national commercial TV station, did the same.” Pasquali added: “Gustavo Cisneros is a powerful man and close friend of George Bush Sr., but that did not prevent him from reaching a deal with Hugo Chávez. He has been able to continue to run his businesses in exchange for his media support.”
Ayala pointed out: “This is a violation of the article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights. Forcing a news media to change its editorial line is a free speech violation.” But business is business. Several sources said the government buried the hatchet with the two stations, Venevisión and Televen, shortly before the 2004 recall referendum on Chávez’s continuing in office, which he won with 70 per cent of the vote.--------------------------------------

Túlio Hernández, a sociologist and El Nacional columnist who for a while supported the government, is not fooled by the reasons given for silencing the RCTV. “It was a unilateral decision, taken without any consultation or any serious thought about television as a public service,” he said. “It is true that RCTV had the lion’s share of the advertising market, in a country where a lot of money is spent media advertising. And you can question, as I do, Marcel Granier’s concept of news and information. But as a remedy, closing RCTV is worse than the disease. The coup was just a pretext, and the ‘pornography’ charge does not stand up.”
As evidence, Hernández points to “La Hojilla” (The Razor Blade), one of the leading programmes on the state-owned Venezolana de Televisión. “It has a very simple premise – to demolish everything the competition does,” he said. “It is a collection of insults, calumnies, smutty comments and vulgarities.” A screening confirms that “La Hojilla” hardly conforms to the accepted requirements of public service broadcasting. If RCTV broadcasts a cartoon in which a white youth mistreats a black youth, “La Hojilla” says it proves that RCTV “incites young people to racism.” If RCTV screens Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, it is guilty of “exalting the American army and the atrocities committed by the Empire.” And “La Hojilla” concludes: “This is the transculturalism that RCTV has been vomiting on the air for 53 years.”---------------

Opposition media - a useful pretext?
Six days before the supreme court’s constitutional division approved RCTV’s closure, the court’s political-administrative division issued a similar ruling. Granier immediately realised that the fate of RCTV and its 3,000 employees was sealed, although its previous appeals had been received favourably by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. President Chávez does not care about international law and has already let it be known that, if need be, he would withdraw from the Organisation of American States. The supreme court’s ruling on the day of the closure was the coup de grâce.
“OAS jurisprudence takes precedence over national law and as an OAS member state, Venezuela has to comply,” Granier explained to Reporters Without Borders in his office on the fateful day. “We obtained favourable rulings on the approximately 100 physical attacks against our journalists, but the government ignored the decisions of both the commission and court. The IACHR also ordered protective measures for RCTV employees and equipment, but again, nothing. At the time of our closing down, the judge who was supposed to implement the international decisions has been fired by the supreme court.” Now it is over. And now Venezuela has only one privately-owned opposition TV station – Globovisión. But for how much longer?
“Created 12 years ago, the station has 400 employees,” said Ravell, Globovisión’s director. “According to the government, our licence expires in 2015. Nonetheless, we are the target of about 50 judicial and administrative procedures with charges ranging from ‘insults’ to ‘unpaid taxes.’ The recent nationalisation of the main telephone and Internet operator, CANTV, has deprived us and all of the privately-owned opposition press of a major advertiser.” Like RCTV, Globovisión has appealed to OAS bodies about 70 cases of violence against its journalists since 2001. “No investigation has ever been carried out and no one has ever been convicted, although the people involved were identified,” Ravell added. “Whenever the president makes an aggressive speech about us in a ‘cadena,’ we are immediately the target of violence.”
Two days before RCTV’s closure, Globovisión’s headquarters were vandalised by a group of pro-government activists. Footage of the attack was broadcast by all the TV stations and those responsible made no attempt to hide. On 29 May, two days after RCTV’s closure, Globovisión was accused by Hugo Chávez of “calling for his murder” although yet again there was no sign of any formal judicial complaint. Nonetheless, Ravell and the Leopoldo Castillo, the host of the discussion programme “Aló Ciudadano,” now face the possible of criminal prosecution. Before this new development, Ravell said: “The government has the means to silence us. But it could also decide to use us as pretext for saying that an opposition press, and therefore press freedom, still exist in Venezuela.” The concern is shared by the owners of the leading opposition dailies El Nacional (with print run of 100,000 copies) El Universal (130,000) and Tal Cual (25,000).
“RCTV’s closure has made us fear the possible closure of other opposition media, one after another, even if the print media are less influential than the broadcast media,” said El Universal editor Elides Rojas. “As soon as we utter the least criticism, we become the enemy. For example, an editorial about the judiciary in June 2005 led to our being accused of ‘insulting a professional body and harming the reputation of a public institution’ under the new criminal code which had been promulgated two months before. The case was finally closed the following August by the supreme court but the government’s constant recourse to threats forces us to censor ourselves.” Miguel Henrique Otero, the chairman of El Nacional’s board and son of its founder, said: “The ‘cadenas’ and the programme ‘La Hojilla’ are used to identify this or that journalist for condemnation. It is an excellent method of harassment, even if I don’t think the print media has been completely weakened, because it is not the leading target.”------------------------

Media hegemony and political plans
What exactly was Hugo Chávez trying to achieve by pressing ahead with RCTV’s closure although it was widely condemned by the Venezuelan public and the international community? Why did a president who is so concerned about his image as the Third World’s new leader allow himself to be criticised by a European Parliamentary resolution on 24 May, by virtually all human rights and press freedom groups, by the governments and parliaments of many Latin American countries including Brazil, Mexico and Chile, and even by his Bolivian counterpart and ally Evo Morales, who said he was “determined not to so the same.”-----------------------

A guerrilla leader in the 1960s and now editor of the daily newspaper Tal Cual, Teodoro Petkoff has tried to rally a divided opposition with no parliamentary representation and, during last year’s presidential election, acted as campaign manager for Chávez’s main rival, the social democratic governor of the western oil state of Zulia, Manuel Rosales. As such, Petkoff is one of the few public figures Chávez dares not attack in public. In Petkoff’s view, RCTV’s closure can only be understood as part of the overall political and media context. “It is more sophisticated that a mere act of censorship,” he said. “This is not Cuba or the former Soviet Union, and it is not a dictatorship. But it is a personal and almost total takeover of the public arena.” --------

Like Hernández, the sociologist, Petkoff points to the president’s plans for the future. “Chávez wants the constitution amended in 2008 so that he can be reelected indefinitely,” Petkoff said. “The constitutional reform would include an institutional overhaul that would weaken the state’s federal structure and the status of the governors as counter-weights [two of the current ones are Chávez opponents]. Also under discussion is a so-called enabling law that would endorse government by decree, which already exists in practice. A state takeover of sports, involving a merger of the Venezuelan Olympic Committee and the ministry of sports, is in the works. And the culture ministry’s role would be refocused on mass education.”-------------------------------

According to Petkoff, there are also plans for the creation of a United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) - although this is for the time being opposed by the centre-left Podemos, the left-wing Patria para Todos and the Communist Party – as well as a reduction in university autonomy and “complete government control over the armed forces, with the president becoming their military commander in chief as well as their constitutional head.”--------------

Various journalists and analysts said there was little agreement on these grand plans, even in the corridors of power. “Indefinite reelection is not popular,” Petkoff said. “Nor is the enabling law. Nearly 200 recall referendums have been convened by the people against governors or mayors, including Chavist ones. The unions and NGOs are reacting particularly badly to the state’s takeover attempts. But where is the political opposition?”--------------------------

Gregorio Salazar, the secretary-general of the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP), which represents 20,000 journalists, including 16,000 who are affiliated to the National College of Journalists, endorsed this view. “Hugo Chávez’s presidential project cannot accommodate the presence of social intermediaries such as the media, professional or humanitarian organisations or even unions likely to criticise him,” Salazar said. “RCTV’s closure is a way of silencing any comments about, for example, violent crime or shortages of essential products. The 2002 coup became an argument for justifying this takeover of the means of expression and public structures. The government tried for a while to take advantage of broad support in the journalist community. It has turned journalists against it by announcing RCTV’s closure, even those who did not like this station. Now we are all in an impasse.”------------------------------

The Foreign Press Association (APEX), which groups more than 90 correspondents of about 50 news media, took an equally pessimistic view, stressing the climate of mistrust between the press and government (a problem also reported in certain diplomatic circles). “A decree in January confirmed a situation that had existed since 2002,” said one of the APEX’s foreign representatives. “Information is now entirely centralised within the communication and information ministry (MINCI). The press offices of the other ministries are no longer of any use. Officials are no longer allowed or no longer dare to say anything, except to the official press which just asks easy questions.” The Venezuelan correspondent of a foreign newspaper concurred: “As the 28 ministers are totally subservient to the president, we have to content ourselves with anonymous sources within the ministries. Some officials told me they disagreed with RCTV’s closure but begged me not to quote them by name for fear of seeming like ‘coup supporters’.”-------------------------------------------------------------------

Bereft of many of its advertisers, the regional press has to cope with competition from new local newspapers with direct state funding. No fewer that 63 newspapers have seen the light of day since January, all reporting the official news.------------------------------------------

No more NGOs?
Forum for Life, a coalition of 20 NGOs founded in 1997, has reason to worry. A draft law on international cooperation that passed on its first reading in June 2006 aims to limit “foreign influence” over NGOs by restricting their funding. “Similar initiatives were tried in Colombia and Peru,”said Humberto Prado, the coordinator of an NGO that monitors Venezuela’s prisons. “In this case, the aim is also to restrict the NGOs’ room for manoeuvre and independence as much as possible, especially those that intervene in sensitive areas such as prisons, abuse of authority by the army and police, and human rights in general. My NGO, for example, is no longer able to go as a ‘visitor’ into prisons where violence is endemic. Venezuela has 18,500 detainees, of whom 133 died in their cells in the first quarter of 2007, 18 of them on the same day in the same prison. This situation did not begin under Chávez, but it bothers them because it has not been resolved since he took office.”

At the same time, the 204 NGOs that used to get subsidies from CANTV are waiting to see what will happen now that it has been nationalised.

In the wait for the law’s final adoption, the government does not lack ways to put pressure on journalists and NGO activists who are too talkative or obstructive. “The 2004 recall referendum that Hugo Chávez won was requested by the opposition,” said Prado. “At the time, deputy Luis Tascón produced a list of all the signatories to the petition demanding the referendum – 12 million names with their political leaning, their ID card number and so on. It caused a scandal because it was unconstitutional to do this. The government denied it at first. Finally Chávez ordered the government not to use the list any more.”------------------------------------

The RCTV affair has seen this kind practice revived under the aegis of Eva Golinger, a Venezuelan-American lawyer based in New York and author of a book entitled the “El Código Chávez” (The Chávez Code) about US involvement in the 2002 coup and the recipients of US funding in Venezuela. On 25 May, she produced a blacklist of Venezuelan journalists who have travelled to the United States. It included the Reporters Without Borders correspondent.

Does Chavism dissolve in freedom of expression?
Let us sum up. Complete control of the state, government and armed forces. No opponents in parliament, as the opposition boycotted the 2005 legislative elections. A ruling party that is virtually the only party. Twenty-two out of twenty-four state governors who are entirely loyal. And soon, a largely neutralised civil society.----------------------------------------------

By closing RCTV and above all by taking its equipment for Tves, Chávez has tightened his grip on the last bastion that was holding out – the media. The media under his control now include the main national daily, Últimas Noticias (with a print-run of 200,000 copies), a score of radio stations (and many of the community radio stations), the public TV stations Venezolana de Televisión (with its programmes “La Hojilla” and “Aló Presidente”), Telesur, Vive TV, Asamblea Nacional and now Tves, the commercial TV stations Televen and Venevisión, and the telecommunications and Internet operator CANTV. --------------------------------------
With all these media, the president no longer a longer needs a law to impose his “cadenas,” which his opponents hail by honking car horns and beating pots and pans. “On the radio, we have to put up with the noise of tanks when Chávez insists on military parades being broadcast,” a journalist complained. Two more public TV stations are soon to be launched – a cable Canal de Noticias and a terrestrial Canal I. Is there no limit to this voracious appetite?

It is the appetite of “a man whose own country is not big enough,” says Hernández, the sociologist. “Venezuela is too small in his eyes. For Chávez, the cult of the military and the almost religious cult of Simón Bolívar are linked. His regime is based on an army-caudillo-people triptych with Third World leader ambitions.” Among the foreigners who have inspired the future constitutional reform are such different people as Spanish academic Juan Carlos Monedero, Le Monde Diplomatique editor Ignacio Ramonet and Argentine political scientist Norberto Ceresole, former éminence grise of the “carapintadas,” an far-right military faction that staged uprisings during Raúl Alfonsín’s presidency. -----------------------------------

So, does Chavism mean dictatorship? “No,” replied Hernández, “it is more of an authoritarian mix of different discourses, including the discourse of a dispenser of justice and revenge, anti-Americanism, calculated references to Cuba, militarism and primitive religion in the form of the dream of a new man. But all the while with guarantees, promises of democracy.”

One democratic guarantee has perhaps gone with RCTV’s closure. Street demonstrators of all political tendencies spoke of a “first step towards a dictatorship.” The reality is much more nuanced, but the deed is there. President Chávez may believe he has put an end to a media war that had gone on for five years, but he certainly has not pacified an extremely polarised society.

- As “the participation of Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) in the coup of 11 April 2002” was not legally established (and this was essential in order to have grounds for not renewing its licence);

- As the supreme court ruling of 25 May ordering the seizure of RCTV’s equipment for the new TV station, Televisora Venezolana Social (Tves), clearly violates the telecommunications law of 12 June 2000, which recognizes that the media own their equipment;

- As this seizure not only deprives RCTV of its terrestrial broadcast outlet but also jeopardizes its ability to broadcast by cable;

- As the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuelan, a member of the Organisation of American States (OAS), violated the American Convention on Human Rights, to which it is bound, by failing to comply with the injunctions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding the protection of RCTV’s personnel and equipment;

- As the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuelan decided unilaterally to close RCTV;
Reporters Without Borders intends to refer the case of RCTV to the United Nations Human Rights Council, whose next session will be in Geneva from 11 to 18 June, to the UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression and to the Council of Europe. The press freedom organisation also intends to refer the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights IACHR) and to its special rapporteur for freedom of expression and information. Referring the case to the IACHR obliges the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to cooperate with the commission and attend any hearing it convenes.

Report by Andres Cañizalez, Robert Ménard and Benoît Hervieu

5 rue Geoffroy-Marie - 75009 Paris (France)
Tel: 331-4483-8468 / Fax: 331-4523-1151 – Read more å

Saturday, June 2, 2007


Recruiting qualified candidates is one of the primary responsibilities of your party. Obviously, the better your candidates, the more likely you are to win.----------------------------------------------------------------
What are the basic steps in candidate recruitment?
Research: Decide what type of person would be an ideal candidate for the race
Support: Get the support of the community for this candidate to run
Resources: Use the party and community resources to identify good candidates
Convince: Your party needs to show the candidate that the seat is winnable and that running is worth their effort. Explain that running and holding office will be difficult, but why it is worth the effort
Money: the candidate must understand the party will help raise the necessary funds to help them win
Honesty: be sure to only make promises, both to the candidate and the community, that you can keep-----------

Area Analyses
When running candidates for National Assembly, you should do some analyses of the Constituency. In order to select an ideal candidate and convince them to run, you need to understand the characteristics of the area, such as how most citizens there make a living.---------------------------------------------------------------

Why is this important?
Again, one of the most important elements in recruiting is convincing your candidate he or she can win. Research showing someone likeminded has won in the past, or that the area is ready for change, can go a long way in selling the idea to your candidate
Understanding how people make a living in that area may help the party identify attractive local candidates
Through your research, you may be able to identify attractive potential leaders you hadn’t thought of otherwise. These people may be leaders in the community who are not already involved in politics

Opposition Analyses
You will need to decide and then demonstrate that your opponent is vulnerable. To do this, the party will need to decide exactly what your candidate can draw on to beat the opponent.------------------------------------------------------------

What can you look for?
Abuse of perks in office
Promises not kept
Person who is not “home-grown”
No action on an issue of particular importance --------------

Characteristics of a strong candidate

1. Confidence. Both campaigning and running for office are difficult. Your candidate should demonstrate both the commitment and endurance needed to run for office.
2. Motivational Ability: Can your candidate lead and inspire. Will your candidate be able to pull together the people and resources necessary to win the seat?
3. Ability to source for funds: does you candidate have contacts to generate funds
4. A base: does your contact have a base of support, or is he/she popular in the community?
5. Desire: does your candidate truly want to win. Is this seat so important that she or he will withstand bad press, long hours, management problems and scarce funds?------------------

Other elements to consider:
1. Family: Does the candidate’s family support the decision to run?
2. Personal Finance: Can the candidate afford to run
3. Background: Are there aspects of the candidate’s life that could hurt the campaign? -------

Compiling a list:
1. Create a profile of your parties ideal candidate
2. Ask your colleagues, financial and community leaders for their advice
3. Draw on your candidate profile and some of the questions listed above to begin thinking about potential candidates.--

Who to look at:
Keep a list of those already in office who would be willing to support your party. Would they be a good candidate for a higher seat?
Consider those who have run and lost in the past. Would they stand a better chance this time around?
Consider community leaders or community heroes that are not yet involved in politics.---------------------------------------------------------

Developing support:
You need to have community support for the candidate throughout the recruiting process.
Your perspective candidate is likely to seek the advice of other party officials and community leaders before deciding to run. If they think your candidate cannot win, he or she is not likely to run. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

The party should compile material showing that the campaign is winnable and how. The material should be updated after meetings with people in the area. Not only will this give you a good source of feedback on your top candidate picks, it will generate more names to consider if your original choices do not work out.-------------------------------------------

Inform your candidates
Be sure your candidates are well versed in both the party selection process and electoral regulations
Be clear on ways the party will be of assistance to your candidate
Develop a list of services your party is willing to provide for the candidate
Let them know what levels of the party hierarchy are willing to help
Be prepared to show that your party can raise money or help the candidate raise money for the election. Promising to make a contribution yourself would drive this message home.
Know the limits of your party’s financial contribution. Be sure you are not promising more than the party is willing to provide. Also be careful not to promise to fully fund the candidate, as your candidate needs to be able to actively source for funds.-----------

Meet with the candidate:
When you go to see each potential candidate on your list, tell them frankly what you are doing. For example: "I am part of a party recruitment team that is trying to find a woman to run for (name of the office). We have talked to several leaders in this community and your name was mentioned frequently."------------------------------------------------------------

Then, you want to ask some questions that will help you evaluate that person's potential, without encouraging either a "yes" or "no" on this visit.----------------------------------

People love flattery and they love to talk about themselves with sympathetic listeners. You will learn a great deal about each of the potential candidates whom your committee interviews if you are interested, ask good questions, and listen.-------------------------------------------

You may want to start talking about how the candidate views the incumbent to move the conversation toward the issue of campaigns.--------------------------------------------

At this meeting, your prospects might ask some questions about the office you want him or her to seek. Be ready to provide information such as the date of the election, what the job pays and how much time it takes.----------------

Recruiting the Prospect:You should go back to your prospect and ask him or her to run. Hold this meeting some place where you will have their full attention and they will have yours. This is a serious conversation - don't try to do it during the middle of the Independence Day celebration. Let your candidate know that he or she can make a difference, and you personally want this person to run.------------------------------------------------------------------------

The prospect will have questions that you can answer if you have done your research.
1. Have information about the office you want the candidate to run for: what it involves, how much it pays, is it full time or part time.
2. Review the selection process you used to come to them
3. Explain why you think this would be a good candidate. This should mainly be things about her personally.
4. If you are recruiting a woman, mention that public perceptions in Malawi are slowly changing in favour of women's participation in politics; that both survey data and election results show that women can be strong candidates even in a traditional culture. Present a bright outlook for women, but do not overwhelm the reasons you like her personally.
5. Talk about the specific race and why you think it is winnable.
6. Talk about the filing deadline and qualifications, and make it clear when he or she must commit.
7. Let your candidate know that he or she is qualified.
8. Answer the questions that you can, and get back to the recruit with information on the others.---------------------------------------

Getting a commitment: You may not get a commitment at this point, but you could at least get a timeframe for the candidate’s final answer. When closing the meeting, you should recognize that certain difficult issues (how will the family react, what will this mean for his or her career), will probably require more reflection on the part of the candidate. Since these issues are harder to address, you should focus on the things you can influence before you leave.
1. Be sure to sell the merits of running for office before leaving your meeting
2. Explain why it is important to the party
3. Defend your candidate’s ability to win
4. Remind you candidate of broad support in the community.-------------------------------------------------------------

Closing the Deal
Let's double check the list before we have the next meeting with the potential candidate.
1. He or she is flattered by the attention from the party, local officials and other community leaders.
2. Your candidate understands how he can make a difference in the race and why the race is winnable.
3. The candidate’s circle of friends and network has been informed, so they can give good advice.
4. Any questions brought up at the first meeting have either been answered by the party already, or you will address them now.-------------------------------------------------------

Now, return to your prospect, talk with him or her and get the final decision.