Summary: Land belonging to Simón Bolívar UWC has been taken over by external groups. SB UWC has not yet started academic classes and only a skeletal number of students and staff are on campus. There has been competing claims over whether this is an issue at all. A twitter campaign will be run under #UWCSB to involve Hugo Chavez (@chavezcandanga). It seems that details of this twitter campaign will be released later once UWC SB and UWC IO have figured out the details.
Details from various sources reposted below including:
- Official UWC International office statement
- Unofficial summary of situation from Juan Carlos Soriano
- Unofficial Letter from the President of FUNDACEA
- Cautionary Response questioning the issue
Official UWC International statement.
The INTI (Land National Institute) has taken a legal measure to take land in the college’s farm. A part of the college’s farm has been marked and a group of people have been given the right to stay there. They are constructing a temporary shelter on the land. The board of the college are currently consulting their lawyers and taking the necessary steps within the legal framework available.
UWC International would like to thank everyone for their messages of support for Simón Bolívar UWC. The board of the college has now met and we have been able to discuss further with the college how best the UWC movement as a whole can lend its support.
The college has concluded that only the personal intervention of President Chavez can now help the college. Therefore a campaign utilising social media is being coordinated in order to exert maximum and timely pressure. We will communicate further about this campaign within the next 24 hours and give further background to the situation then. Until then, we would be grateful if everybody could hold off trying to reach the Venezuelan president or other government officials by Twitter or other means. We believe that it will have much more impact if these efforts take place within a defined window later this week.
Please keep checking our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/uwcio), we will keep you informed of further developments and actions as soon as we’re able to.
Unofficial summary of situation from Juan Carlos Soriano
FYI: FUNDACEA, to my knowledge, hasn’t issued an official statement. I got this information first in Spanish from a friend and fellow uwcer from Venezuela who is very familiar with this issue. I re-posted the English translation from Javier Mijares because some people felt this issue was being blown out of proportion and demanded everyone to inform themselves first. There is also an informal letter (in Spanish) from the president of FUNDACEA with more background info on the issue. Hope this helps clarify things. I would also suggest following the UWC Facebook page for official information. A Twitter campaign is in the works.
– Since March, the College has been under pressure from a young person associated with the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) who insists on the need of the people to rescue land conceded by the “Fourth Republic”. In fact, when the school was founded, the institute then ruling over matters of rural lands gave those terrains for the College to be established, first on loan and then they became property of the Foundation (FUNDACEA).
– Because of this, the National Land Institute (INTI) started a process and tried to make a first inspection that was thwarted by the Mayor of Pedraza in support of the College.
– Finally in July, the INTI conducted the inspection and declared its “NON-CONFORMITY WITH THE USE OF THE LAND”, the (non-legal) figure used to proceed with expropriation.
– Last week, INTI officer along with military forces and people from a cooperative organization presented themselves at the College to carry out the occupation of said terrains carrying with them a document enacting the “rescue” of the College’s lands. The coordinates that appear in the document cover the whole farm on which the school operates so it could be the beginning of an expropriation process.
– The cooperative in question fenced and occupied an area of 6 hectares.
– The College has 8 days to take legal action, which it is already doing. However, FUNDACEA has not had access to the file opened by the INTI.
– Unofficially it has been known that someone had made known the implications of the action taken by the INTI, given the character of the lands as part of an educational center. This could be delaying total occupation of the lands.
– Classes have not started yet so there are no students, with the exception of a few internationals. Unfortunately, due to the lack of scholarship funding sources, there are only 7 students (Haiti, Nepal, Cameroon, Sweden).
– The London Office is already aware and coordinating activities of the entire UWC network.
Unofficial Letter from the President of FUNDACEA
IUETA Simón Bolívar – FUNDACEA – United World College
On September 21st 2011, the National Land Institute of Venezuela (INTI) launched a procedure to rescue a portion of land owned by FUNDACEA, where the Institute of Technology and Agriculture Simón Bolívar (IUETA SB) – United World College operates in Pedraza, Barinas. This land, after being under a gratuitous bailment contract, was donated to FUNDACEA by the National Institute of Educational Cooperation (INCE) in 1993 with the condition of the establishment and development of the IUETA Simón Bolívar which nowadays remains fully active. The IUETA Simón Bolívar is an educational institute, not a commercial farm, based on a “learn by doing” experiential learning model that requires a rural development program. We are a Farm-School with diverse products (not a commercial farm) because we are educators, not farmers. As stated before, both the land and the farm were donated for educational purposes.
IUETA Simón Bolívar was founded by Luis Marcano Coello, an agricultural expert from Venezuela who in 1981 designed a practical teaching model in Agriculture and Rural Development that allows the student to actively take part in the productive activities of the Farm-School while learning to execute said tasks as well as diagnosing problems; keeping track of the registry; planning, administering and commercializing products; making diverse decisions and technically managing several crops. This teaching model is further complimented by a weekly morning of student volunteer work in the surrounding communities through which the student can become acquainted with the realities of the rural environment. Upon completion of their studies, these students not only possess technical experience but also are incredibly motivated and interested in social change in rural areas. This model, adapted to our circumstances more than 30 years ago, continues to be innovative and has been praised and widely recognized in Venezuela and other developing countries. This Institute is one of thirteen colleges that make up the United World College network, an international organization that is dedicated to the promotion of peace, solidarity and intercultural understanding that has more than 40,000 graduates coming from more than 170 countries around the world. Its Honorary President is Mr. Nelson Mandela, an eminent supporter of peace and justice.
IUETA Simón Bolívar has more than 1,000 graduates coming from all regions of Venezuela and more than 50 countries, including Germany, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Bolivia, Botswana, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ecuador, the Philippines, Ghana, Granada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Slovakia, Suriname, Swaziland, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and Uruguay.
For each of these students there is a Pedrazeño that learnt how to read and write because our students taught them as part of our student volunteer programs. We were pioneers in what is known today as Student Community Service through our community internship program that has been running since 1986. The National Government, convinced of the benefits of this program, then made it an official law 20 years later. More than 2,000 children in grades 5 and 6 have received ESL lessons taught by trained students who are native speakers; with the assistance of our students, more than 1200 rural micro-credit loans have been granted by FUNDACEA to independent farmers. Under a newly developed tree adoption system, we have developed a forest of more than 64,000 trees with environmental, educational, scientific and philanthropic purposes. With the rational exploitation of wood, we are generating scholarships for Venezuelan farmers to study at our Institute. IUETA Simón Bolívar is a private College in which the education is basically gratuitous, this only being possible due to the fundraising activities that FUNDACEA undertakes in order to provide educational scholarships for its students. All students live in the College, as well as a big part of faculty members. Furthermore and as part of our “learn by doing” model, the farm that is today being intervened produces more than 120 metric tons of food for our own consumption and the local market, therefore ensuring food security in our region and contributing at a national level. It must also be noted that any surplus we experience also goes towards our scholarship fund. The document provided by the INTI expressly notes that measures are being taken against the IUETA Simón Bolívar because of its “non-conformity with the use of the land as it is only being used for educational and self-supporting activities.”
I also want to point out that opposite the farm and just across the road one can observe thousands of hectares of unused land. We only possess 676 hectares, out of which 150 are designated for the protection of local wildlife and natural water sources. Not a single hectare in our farm is unused.
Luis Marcano González
President of FUNDACEA
Pedraza, September 23rd 2011
Hugo Cervantes questionning the severity of the issue
See Hugo’s response in the comments below
Dear and beloved UWC people: before posting and reposting about UWC Simon Bolivar, INFORM YOURSELVES. The government is NOT expropriating UWC SB. Nor is it ” tak(ing) away the college and all its possessions”. Actually, LESS THAN 1.5% is being taken for use by another cooperative (rural development, anyone?). And “both parties have reached an agreement”. (info? here: http://bit.ly/od5y9l)
By refowarding posts just for the sake of it, rather than rational agents of change, you look like agents of panic. PLUS, what are you expecting? To start a revolution from your university-bubbles through Facebook? C’mon… ps: feel free to repost this 🙂