In defense of independent governance

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

My message of support for Ms Machado has touched a nerve, most strongly amongst free software advocates who live in Venezuela.

Every country will have its own culture and way of doing things, and we should pay great respect to the choices and decisions of that country. It is a tragic thing to impose ones own cultural, religious or political views on people who see things differently. That tragedy has played out far too many times – from Apartheid, to the Holocaust, to the invasion of Iraq in recent history, to the acts of the Conquistadors centuries ago. It shows up when a new government renames the streets and cities of the old government, which renamed them from the previous government. We lose our own identity when we lose the voice of history, even if it is a history of which we are ashamed. It also shows up in the homogenization of global culture, with McDonalds and Disney turning the rich culture of the world into large swathes of barren desert. I am very sensitive to the beauty of the cultures that I’ve been privileged to experience in depth – South Africa, Russia, England, America. And I find it sad when one culture arrogantly suppresses another. I believe in letting people make their own choices. The future belongs to those who embrace global thinking without losing their identity and their culture.

At its largest, grandest level, “making choices” is what democracy is all about. However, sometimes the illusion of democracy is used to give legitimacy to choices that were not, at all, democratic.

In Zimbabwe, for example, we have a government that is in power “democratically” because of the systematic culture of fear that was created every time people expressed an interest in making a different choice. I cannot therefor pay much respect to the idea that the government of Zimbabwe is a true reflection of the cultural choices of Zimbabweans.

In such cases, we are obliged to question the decisions made by governments who claim to hold power by democratic mandate, when in fact they hold it by brute force. They may make some good claims and have some noble ideals, but the foundation of their authority is rotten, and it’s highly unlikely that much good will come of it for the long term.

I’m not going to comment directly on the policies of Mr Chavez. Frankly, I’m not qualified to speak on the details of his administration. But I will say that my experience of countries and governance, across continents and decades, has taught me the value of certain key principles:

First, that human nature is unchanging across the world and across time. This, as they say, is why history rhymes with itself. We make the same mistakes, we inspire ourselves to fix them, rinse and repeat. It’s human nature that makes absolute power corrupt absolutely. And its human nature to seek additional power. It’s rare to find someone who will create checks and balances on themselves. This is most eloquently described in the early writings of the American constitutional authors, who sought to “pit ambition against ambition”, and create checks and balances in society, so that neither the authorities, nor the judges, nor the media, could dominate the decisions we make for ourselves.

Second, that the presumption of innocence until the proof of guilt is a vital choice in the maintenance of a free society. In a world where even good countries can elect bad governments, we cannot let the unchallenged word of a government, any government, be sufficient to silence and stifle the lives of their citizens. I find it equally disturbing that American citizens can be locked up without access to attorneys in confidence, and that Zimbabwean opposition members can be arrested and held without charge for long periods. I also find it equally disturbing that residents of the United Kingdom can find themselves in Guantanamo Bay, on what is clearly flimsy or false evidence, without the UK fighting for their release or impartial trial. I am neither for Mr Bush, nor Mr Mugabe, nor Mr Blair, I am simply for the presumption of innocence until an impartial trial finds one guilty.

Third, that freedom of speech is essential for a healthy society. This is a freedom which we cannot take for granted. There is constantly a desire on the part of those in power to reduce the volume of criticism they must face. We have to constantly remind ourselves that those in authority have chosen to play a public role, and they must accept a level of public accountability and criticism, even from people who may have a personal agenda. Of course, not all speech is truth, and conspiracies often arise which seek to use the media to spread misinformation. But we are all better off when multiple viewpoints can be expressed. I’m no believe in media infallibility – we’ve seen very bad journalism from the biggest media networks in the world, for example when they get “embedded” in a controlled fashion into armies of war. But I’m a big believer in allowing calm voices to be heard, globally.

These principles are not written in the laws of physics – we create them in society, and we must defend them. They cannot be taken for granted, even in countries like the USA, which have them written into their constitutional DNA. Since they are a choice that society makes, and since society is reborn in each generation, they are a choice that society must make, and remake, constantly. Sometimes, we fail. Usually, we fail for fear when we are confronted by a perceived threat to security, or for greed when we are presented with the opportunity to benefit ourselves at great cost to others. And it as at times like that, when there is great stress, noise, fear, anger and shouting, that it is most important for calm voices to be heard.

At times like these, we are our own worst enemy. We hear what we want to hear. It is painful to hear that one might be wrong, that one’s hero might have flaws, that one’s leaders might not be all that we wished them to be. The awful truth of the media is that it pays to tell people what they want to hear, much more than it pays to tell people what they need to hear, and so society can whip itself into a frenzy of mistaken greed or fear or anger, and make poor decisions.

It takes great courage to speak out, when these basic principles are at risk. In a free society, there is nevertheless pressure to conform, to stay with the herd. In a society that is not free, one speaks out at some considerable personal cost to life and liberty. I salute those who do.

66 comments:

  1. Scott Henson says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    I must say that I have a new found respect for you. Thank you for those words.

  2. prad says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    much of this is right on!

    however, human nature is neither omnipresent or definitive.
    nor should it be an excuse to commit atrocities or ‘culture’ be used to justify barbaric behaviours.

    only when we insist that human beings are humane beings first and racisms, sexisms and speciesisms are really grotesque anomalies will freedom be achieved.

  3. Marcio says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    Great words Mark!

    I’m a believer of the checks and balances system, and I must say that I can’t really see this going on in Venezuela.

    I admit that it looks like the majority of the population have given away that right in exchange for some faster growth. But is that democracy? Should a government even propose this kind of deal to his people?

  4. Michael Grinberg says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Human nature is the least clear point here (it seems that people do really change over time; I study medieval history and I cannot say for sure where this human nature is, although it must exist somewhere)…
    But that doesn’t matter. I completely agree with your political views.
    Media is really important; unfortunately it does really change the way people think and (sadly!) what they want. In a year or two you can change a whole nation if you control the TV. That’s disgusting. You can make people think that democracy is bad, and they will sincerely believe so and say ‘please limit our liberties’.
    Thank you for your words, it is very important that you express all those ideas together with thoughts on free software.

  5. Julia_1984 says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    I read both entrys about María Corina Machado and freedom. I also read the impressive ammount of comments about it. Both against, and pro- Chavez when they act, they think they are defending the same: freedom, democracy, human rights and so on and since “We hear what we want to hear”; when you live in Venezuela you are always doubting of the side you took, because unfortunaly you dont live in Venezuela, you live in one Venezuela and theres another completly different fighting against you and in my case, pretending to erase you from the map. So thanks about the words in both entrys, makes me think that I might be taking a good side; but at the same time its is healthy to think that one can be always wrong. In times of such a deep change in my country, your words about losing identity and losing history also touched me. And about this last paragraph “It takes great courage to speak out, when these basic principles are at risk. In a free society, there is nevertheless pressure to conform, to stay with the herd. In a society that is not free, one speaks out at some considerable personal cost to life and liberty. I salute those who do”- All I can say its that I know what its like.

    Therefore (you dont have to publish this part) I invite you to read my blog, and change thoughts and ideas. I’m curious about what you could think about it.

    PS: Sorry about the grammar and spelling mistakes on previous lines. I’m Venezuelan and the poor english I know I have learn it bymyself. So just like Celia Cruz used to say “my english is not very good looking” hehe..

  6. Graeme says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    I agree completely with you completely. All the more so as currently in Sri Lanka, where the slide away from democracy is far worse than in the US or the UK. Not only is freedom of speech compromised here, but so is the right to a fair trial, the rule of law, and the freedom of worship is under threat.

    However, are you the right person to say it? Linux is already portrayed as “communist”, surely having one of the most apparently business like of the major Linux advocates speaking out like this will play badly with governments in London or Washington, let alone Peking or Riyadh?

    Obviously you have a far better understanding of marketing and PR than I do, which is why I am asking the questions.

    One more thing from my own experience. The reassertion of a historically oppressed culture is itself often an extremely potent instrument of oppression.

  7. Varito says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Amen.

  8. Alexander Guillen says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    AAAAAmen!!!

  9. Carlos Blanquer Bogacz says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    Bravo, your text has “ubuntu”.
    I think your view is consistent with your acts. We must all gratulate ourselves that public persons like you match action and words influencing towards actual human progress, while others rime only progress to business.

  10. rhY says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    I agree with you pretty much across the board. However, there is a scientific way for us to have actual democracy:

    The internet, and thumb print scanners.

    Now granted, there are other flaws with this model (privacy, safety, security). However we could at least have the real scientific basis for actual democracy.

    Hey, btw, have you checked out my application to be QA for Ubuntu? I’m an ardent fan, and I’d love to see Ubuntu succeed to the next level.

    Much love, my bourgeois working class hero.
    rhY

  11. chemicalscum says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    Much of what you say I agree with. However firstly I agree with prad on human nature. The assumption of the fixity of human nature is a false premise. There may be a few limited number of simple “hard wired” behaviours that human social interactions are built upon, but the complexity and variation in cultural behaviour found in societies separated both geographically and temporally belies the idea of a fixed human nature.

    Secondly I am not to sure about the importance of the presumption of innocence. Like most anglo-saxons I grew up believing that this was a principle far superior to that used in continental countries that used code Napoleon based legal systems. The UK, US and Zimbabwe all have legal systems based on the common law presumption of innocence and these are the countries you rightly criticize in your blog. I think the principle used by counties that follow the code Napoleon where someone who is accused of a crime is a person under investigation and the purpose of the judicial system is to investigate and establish the truth works better than our adversarial system where crown/state prosecutors are out to get a conviction at all costs. Of course this all depends on having an incorruptible independent judiciary.

    Finally the democratic credentials of Ms Machado are clearly in doubt as she has been accused of supporting the 2002 failed military coup against the democratically elected government of Venezuela. Furthermore Their controversial role of Machado’s Sumate in conducting flawed exit polls during the referendum was specifically criticized by the Carter Centre and OAS observation missions in Venezuela as was their subsequent rejection of the referendum results in 2005.

    There is a due legal process being conducted against her in a democratic country where the President was elected under conditions that were approved by independent international observers. A country where there is free speech, indeed the majority of the press and media in general is controlled by anti government owners. Also unlike those in Guantanamo Bay, or indeed as Chavez supporters undoubtedly would have been had the 2002 coup been successful, in detention without prospect of a fair trial. She is I understand out on bail or its equivalent, in such circumstances in Britain, Canada or the US the courts have the right to impose travel restrictions. What is so different here.

  12. Luigino Bracci says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    Hi Mark,

    I agree with the principles in your post.

    I know that most of the things you read about President Chávez apparently are the same things that some dictators did in the past, buy also you should understand that some people is interested in making the world believe that Chavez is another dictator hungry of power.

    In fact, the things are very different of what you can see in London.

    For example, I dont’ think that a “dictator” will approve laws to make people take more and more decisions by themselves. The Chavez government approved a law of “Communal councils”, that gives a big portion of the city’s budget to the people so they can decide by themselves, in assembly, how they should invest it in enhacements to their neighbourhood. Pro-Chavez and anti-Chavez people is working together using this resources to build a better community, taking decisions that, in the past, were taken only by a person (the city’s major).

    In their 8 years of government, the Chavez goverment has made about 9 elections. Other “democratic” countries call themselves “democracies” just because their people chooses their first-minister once every 5 or 6 years; we had to choose Chavez (1998), then approve their intentions to make a new Constitution (1999); then choose the people that went to redact the new constitution (1999); then approve the proposed constitution (1999); then relegitimate all the public representatives (from President to majors and congressmen, 2000); then go again to elections of governators, majors, councels (2004, 2005); then go to the revocatory referendum against Chavez (2004); then, choose again the members of the congress (2005) and then go again to the presidential elections (2006)…

    That don’t count the activities in communal councils and other ways of participate in taking decisions, that every citizen had the right to do (we can choose the members of the communal council in assembly).

    Last year, we (the members of the free software communities) participed actively in the discussions of a law to choose the principles of the Information Systems in the public administration (“Law of Info-government”). The discussions were lidered by a congressman that was partisan of Microsoft and supporter of privative software, but the FOSS communities had a very big weight in the discussions and we had many, many victories against Microsoft and the privative enterprises. I don’t think that it could be possible in countries like USA or England… I feel that we, the people, have more power and influence in the government decisions that we had 10 or 20 years ago.

    Today, the FOSS communities are also fighting against many public employees that rejects Free and Open Source Software; the Presidente Chavez signed a decree in 2004 ordering to migrate the State-owned systems to FOSS, but many the public employees are against this… so the FOSS communities had to defend the decree signed by the President. Weeks ago, another sudamerican president (Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador and a supporter of Chavez) also signed a Decree taking the same decision: that the State-owned systems must migrate to FOSS.

    I don’t fall in the big miskate of believe that Mr. Chavez is perfect… I have a critical vision of their government and, when I disagree with their decisions, I say it publicly in my blog and in my workplace (but also I say publicly when I agree with him, and that happens most of the time).

    Fortunely, in Venezuela we have a very big freedom of speech: many TV channels and newspapers are openly against Chavez, and many other are supporters of Chavez, so you can see and read every kind of opinions about their government.

    The big problem we have here is that there are many radicalization :( Your post entitled “Support for Maria Corina Machado” increased the differences and divisions between pro- and anti-Chavez people in the FOSS community. And that post was done in the middle of a big conflict in Venezuela about a private TV channel that’s being affected by a decision of the Chavez government.

    What is happening today in Venezuela?

    Well, in May 27 2007 (next week), the 20-years permission for VHF broadcasting of the TV channel “RCTV” expires, and the government decided not to renew it. It means that, after that day, RCTV can broadcast using cable TV, satellite TV or Internet only, but NOT VHF.

    RCTV and other private mass media attack constantly to Hugo Chavez and their supporters, offending them, insulting them and radicalizing our differences. I think that it doesn’t matter if they insult the President (in every country of the world the people blames their president! ;) ), but when a TV channel offends to millions of president’s supporters calling them “worms”, “drunk crowds”, “hordes” and such… Hey! that is not freedom of speech, that is freedom for iniciate a CIVIL WAR!!!

    Today thousands of people rallied in Caracas against Chavez defending that TV channel. Many other minor rallies were made in the rest of the country, and I am happy they can express their differences with the government. In the next days, many thousand of people that supports the decisions against that TV channel will make rallies, too.

    Does that decision affects the freedom of speech? Yes. But the freedom of speech of another big group of venezuelans also was affected by this TV channel, that doesn’t let them express themselves in this channel but attacked and offend them constantly. The government is promissing that they will use the VHF frequency create a new channel that will let everyone express their thinks, including anti-Chavez people. I hope they accomplish.

    I hope you understand that your post was made in the middle of a conflict in Venezuela between Pro- and Anti-Chavez people… the anti-Chavez will see you as a supporter of their political cause, and the Pro-Chavez people will see you as an anti-Chavez leader.

    Anyway, it would be nice that, when the political radicalization diminishes, you can visit Venezuela, meet with the venezuelan Ubuntu and Debian Communities, the FOSS people and also visit some goverment buildings that are using Ubuntu today.

    It also would be very, very nice if you can come with us, visit the poor neighbourhoods in Venezuela and check their social progress, their advances in education, schools, medical and such. There are aprox. 800 public schools with informatical centers using Linux in all their machines, and about 500 State-owned Internet centers opened to everyone that uses Linux and FOSS.

    Also, there are many Departments, Ministeries and Public Offices that are using Ubuntu today, and they are happy of this! But are also worried that you will become a political anti-Chavez leader.

  13. R. R. Diaz says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    Just to say thank you for your words!

  14. Weeber says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    “First, that human nature is unchanging across the world and across time. This, as they say, is why history rhymes with itself. We make the same mistakes, we inspire ourselves to fix them, rinse and repeat. It’s human nature that makes absolute power corrupt absolutely. And its human nature to seek additional power.”

    I think so every single moment I watch/read the news…

  15. paul cutler’s blog » Blog Archive » Mark Shuttleworth: In defense of independent governance says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    [...] Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical and Ubuntu Linux, has a stirring blog post up titled In defense of independent governance. [...]

  16. Pascal Hos says: (permalink)
    May 19th, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    It seems that Mark is really starting to put his stature in the world to good use. I’m very impressed to find a post of this importance in the midst of a technology aggregator, since these are the kind of discussions usually sparked by great publications like the economist.

    What’s even more impressive is the well formed and rationally dictated response from Luigino Bracci. It would be nice to hear a similar rhetoric from an “anti-Chavista”. I have visited Venezuela a few times for my job and every time I’m more and more impressed with the people. No matter what the status of the country’s economy or political direction, these people generally embrace the concept of “joye de vivre”. They always seem happy and easy going, no matter if they are pro- or anti-Chavez.

    In my personal view, I think the Venezuelan people would be better served if Mr Chavez would spend less time offending the world’s “democratic” (I share Mark’s views on this) countries and devote more time explaining in a transparent matter, the ways he intends to transform Venezuela for the better.

    Keep this up Mark. Perhaps people like yourself can make a difference in your part of the world. Let’s keep up the international pressure on Mr. Mugabe!

  17. James’ Blag » Blog Archive » Media bias related to Venezuela says: (permalink)
    May 20th, 2007 at 2:01 am

    [...] Today I read a blog by Mark Shuttleworth – founder of Ubuntu linux – to do with free speech, etc. It started because of something happening in Venezuela. Now, the actual blog post didn’t interest me terribly, but one of the comments, and some subsequent research, did. If you feel like reading something interesting, read this (the comment of Mark’s blog), and then this (a BBC news article on a similar topic). [...]

  18. MB says: (permalink)
    May 20th, 2007 at 3:21 am

    I like the way you think and I fully agree with you, I just want to make clear that the ones you call “Americans” are citizens of just one country (USA) of the whole continent that goes from Canada to Argentina, and we, the people that live in those countries, are also americans, here there is a link to enlighten you about this topic:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adjectives_for_U.S._citizens

  19. Jason Quintana says: (permalink)
    May 20th, 2007 at 6:52 am

    Mr. Shuttleworth, I respect you and what you have accomplished but I think you ought to direct your comments directly at Chavez and his government, which violates private property rights and uses various absurd (yet cherished and readily accepted) nationalistic/socialist rhetorical maneuvers to justify its/his actions. His defenders are wishful thinkers with delusional, irrational ideas about politics. Whether they have ties to Ubuntu or not, their opinions do not deserve any special consideration. Their ideas and opinions are garbage.

    – Jason

  20. Peteris Krisjanis says: (permalink)
    May 20th, 2007 at 9:18 am

    I guess that is why Mark we respect you so much. This is definitely best words I ever heard to describe situation in our world these days.

    Jason Quintana: I feel lot of hate against Chavez and their supporters in you. This is what we must get out of – it is important at some level respect your enemy, just because it thinks differently doesn’t mean he is wrong. Or that you are right. Or vice versa. Yes, even if they are wrong, understanding their reasoning is very insightful. And while doing it, you can compare your feelings – why you feel what you feel – in the first place.

    We must learn to doubt and prove ourselves again and again. Never be too arrogant to doubt yourself.

  21. Vincent says: (permalink)
    May 20th, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    I do sincerely hope that one of the powers of an open source (or perhaps just non-profit?) is that the fact that a government is a large user won’t influence one’s opinion. However, as you said, directly attacking Chavez without being an insider is quite the opposite.

  22. Luigino Bracci says: (permalink)
    May 20th, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    Quoting:

    “(Chavez defenders) are wishful thinkers with delusional, irrational ideas about politics. Whether they have ties to Ubuntu or not, their opinions do not deserve any special consideration. Their ideas and opinions are garbage.”

    This is the kind of radical debate that we see everyday in every place in Venezuela, between pro- and anti-Chavez people. Fortunely, the FOSS communities had keep out of the politics, but I insist: when a international figure like Mark Shuttleworth involves in the internal venezuelan politics, he is making the FOSS communities confront themselves, with many flames, fights and divisions.

    Another thing: What “violations” to the private property has done Mr. Chavez?

    His government approved laws against large estates, cultivateable but not in production (or in partial production). The government made expropriations of the not-in-production lands, paying to their owner their value, and the Institute of Lands determined what is their better use and assigned the land to new farmers.

    I don’t see what is wrong with this, Mark surely knows that most european countries have similar policies since many decades ago, and normally they are very stricts with their accomplishment. Many European countries have far less cultivateable lands that Venezuela, but they have more population. And in the winter they can’t work in their lands, so they created many policies for the efficient control and use of cultivateable lands.

    In Venezuela, we had very large estates (in some cases, hundred of thousands of ha. in hands of a single owner) that weren’t being worked or produced, and our country had (and still has) to bring most of their food from other countries. When the Chavez’ government confront this problem, it was called “communist” (the lands owners, in some cases, were also media owners) and accused of “being attacking the private property” in the mass media.

  23. sandra parra says: (permalink)
    May 20th, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    Mark, you expressed an opinion based on a single vision of the problem, you have not been impartial. Only listen to the comfortable rich minority of Venezuela, that becoming the heroes, they try to illegitimate a social process that it has been hard to conquer, where the poor people, always pressed by this minority, finally it has voice and it is beginning to occupy spaces, before usurped by the great economic power, of that María Corina is spokeswoman.

    What power of defense you have given the poor people of Venezuela, that believe in the goverment?, You have emitted partial judgments and you have made a great damage to the free software Bolivarian comunity that believe in Chávez and believed in Ubuntu. :-(

    Maria Corina represents the death rattles in free fall of this small group to privileges people that it dominated Venezuela, who refuse to accept that now the power does not belong to them, that it happened to hands of poor people. You Think that you can detect its strategies and not to leave to manipulate by them in your next judgments?

  24. evanc says: (permalink)
    May 20th, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    You are right Mark. Unfortunately there is too big of a difference between theory and practice in our ‘contemporary society’. I am still an optimist, when I do not watch the news on day to day basis but look at history over time – I would like to think it’s an upward slope for human rights and humanity in general. But its slow speed and the zig zags in between might reach a point when they are not as affordable as they used to be in comparison with the ever faster speed of everything else.

    Everyone’s little effort, or word, in this DOES make a big difference.

  25. orvtech says: (permalink)
    May 21st, 2007 at 1:20 am

    all this commotion has driven me to ask my self about if it is worth to express you political opinion on Free Software related communities, should one avoid problems, aggressions and just look the other way? In my case they will never silence me.

    “A communist is like a crocodile: when it opens its mouth you cannot tell whether it is trying to smile or preparing to eat you up. ” Winston Churchill.

  26. Camilo Telles says: (permalink)
    May 21st, 2007 at 3:43 am

    Thanks Mark for this post. I really think that what Chavez is doing in Caracas canceling the RCTV is wrong. If Chavez doesn´t like to be called “worms”, “drunk crowds”, “hordes” he have to see what David Letterman call´s Bush everyday in his TV Show. I don´t think that Bush want´s to cancel that show.
    As Luigino said, Chaves has won 9 elections, If he is doing a good job for the Venezuelian people, the people will get behind him and vote again in his ideas, but, without the RCTV will be any contrary opinion of mass scale in Venezuela?

  27. Seán says: (permalink)
    May 21st, 2007 at 10:18 am

    RCTV is a right wing propaganda station supported by US money. The FOX of Venezuela.
    Maria Corina Machado is funded by the US via NED to undermine democracy in Venezuela.

    Is this what you support, or were you ignorant of these facts?

  28. Markus Sorensson says: (permalink)
    May 21st, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Venezuela is in the verge of a civil war. You have to sign up for the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) if you want to get a job at PDVSA (the most important company in the country). The goverment is seizing control of the media, the industry and Chavez of all powers and institutions. So, is he a dictator? He might not be now, but he is very close. Somebody who doubts this just listens how he praises Cuba´s regime as democratic or spend some time in Venezuela and talk to a lot of different people.

  29. Alex says: (permalink)
    May 21st, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    “Apartheid, Holocaust, and the invasion of Iraq” all in the same pot? You’re dead wrong on that one. The last one does not belong there, because that invasion has liberated people from a horrible oppression of a very much Nazi-like regime. The fact that it was done in a really bad way, under a wrong excuse and sloppy management does not change the fact that it has liberated many people from terror. Just ask Kurds up north. I’m all for leaving the Iraqis to govern themselves. But the civilized world has responsibility to protect itself from the likes of Bin Laden and prevent occurrence of another Taliban-like regime (which, BTW, would be a good company for Apartheid and Holocaust on your list).

  30. Robert Graham says: (permalink)
    May 21st, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Mark;

    You have your own perspective, as a progressive, independently wealthy businessman. My own, as a poorly MA student of the Sociology of Development (thesis specializing on Venezuelan cooperatives) is this:

    It is premature to make categorical statements like:

    “That said, I have no reason to doubt the integrity and the values of Maria and Sumate. I believe they are dedicated to principles of transparency, justice, accountability and governance that will benefit any society.”

    If this were really the case, then she would not have made several false statements in her letter linked to on your May 17 post.

    In particular, she states that:

    “In Venezuela today there is no respect for the fundamental principles of democracy. The different branches of government are neither autonomous nor independent.”

    This vague accusation presumably refers to the Enabling Law (see below) or the fact that there are hardly any opposition deputies in parliament. The reason there are hardly any opposition deputies in parliament, is because they deliberately boycotted the last election.

    This was probably a tactic to delegitimise the Chavez-led government in the eyes of the international media. It may also be an allusion to alleged ‘politicization’ of the CNE (National Electoral Council, an independent body which oversees the electoral process), something which was found to be untrue by EU and Carter Center observers. Elections in Venezuela have been free and fair for the last 10 years.

    In historical terms, the 1999 Constitution introduced new separation of powers, which you can read a summary of here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Venezuela

    She further says:

    “The rule of law is constantly unobserved as evidenced by the Enabling Law passed recently, which unconstitutionally vests the Executive with an absolute power to legislate.”

    Enabling Laws allowing the President to rule by decree in selected matters have been granted to Carlos Andrés Pérez (1974), Jaime Lusinchi (1984) and Ramón José Velásquez (1993), as well as Chavez in 2001.

    Chavez can only issue so-called “law-decrees” in the areas named by the National Assembly, in the time limit the Assembly imposes, and that are consistent with the constitution. In other words, he cannot arbitrarily order someone’s arrest or do away with basic civil rights, for example.

    Furthermore, law-decrees can be rescinded by popular vote. According to Venezuela’s 1999 constitution all laws can be submitted to a referendum if at least 10% of registered voters request such a referendum. Law decrees have an even lower signature requirement, of only 5% of registered voters (800,000 out of 16 million registered voters).

    Further reading:
    http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1953

    She brings up crime as a human rights issue:

    “Basic human rights are flouted with more than fifteen thousand murder cases in 2006, most of them unresolved.”

    Historically murder rates have been sky high in Caracas in particular, and have not improved under the Chavez administration, though moves are underway to restructure the police force, root out corruption, and divert more resources at the problem, for example:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6576413.stm

    However it is not true that to imply that these are politically motivated murders by the state as was the case in say, Franco’s Spain or Pinochet’s Chile. Rather they are due to historical reasons of gross inequality, drugs, urban planning, and so on, and what political murders do exist are usually in the countryside, where landowners have a habit of murdering peasant leaders.

    She states that:

    “Freedom of speech is severely curtailed – with the impending threat to close down RCTV television channel.”

    In Venezuela today, nearly all private media (newspapers, radio, and TV) is rabidly anti-government, in a way that would be totally alien to those living in most Western countries. A good list of the media in Venezuela is here, if you feel like learning Spanish:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_of_Venezuela

    Furthermore, RCTV has not been closed down – its license for the VHF spectrum it occupies has been withdrawn. In Venezuela, as in all other countries, the electromagnetic spectrum is owned and managed by the state, and operators are given licenses to broadcast on certain frequencies, as space is limited.

    RCTV can still broadcast on cable, satellite, etc, but its broadcast license is to be given to a community/independent state-supported channel instead. It may no longer be profitable for RCTV to continue trading due to loss of advertising revenues etc, but it is hard to feel sympathy for a station that explicitly supported the anti-democratic coup d’etat of 2002.

    More canards:

    “Political discrimination is used as an instrument for instilling fear in dissenters through State sponsored lists such as Lista Tascón and Lista Maisanta.”

    You may read about Lista Tascón here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luis_Tasc%C3%B3n

    It’s the same issue as Lista Maisanta, and is basically a scandal of a rogue member of parliament, not state-sponsored harassment.

    The above statements were all in one paragraph!

    In conclusion, how can you admire someone who egregiously misrepresents reality in an open letter, and base your perception of the reality of political processes in Venezuela on them? In my opinion, it shows a regrettable error of judgment.

    It is both reasonable and necessary to make criticisms of Chavez (or any other world leader), but these should be informed, not ideological.

  31. Jeffrey Henderson says: (permalink)
    May 21st, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    I think you missed the most important freedom. The right to keep and bear arms.

    This right protects all the others, and is vitally important, as every major genocide throughout history has been preceded by gun registration and gun control.

    Mark Shuttleworth says:

    The US constitutionally-enshrined right to bear arms is all about reminding the government that it cannot forcibly suppress its own population’s will. That was all very well in 1776, when village militia’s represented a serious form of resistance to oppression. In those days, the number of fighting men in your army was the single most important determinant of victory. In today’s world of high-tech heavy military equipment, village militias don’t stand a snowball’s hope in hell of defending village values against a government-sponsored military assault.

    However, we have new forms of weaponry that are a powerful force for good. The global media, and global digital communications, create a very effective brake on government aggression. Witness the Orange Revolution, which was largely organised by cellphone text messaging, IM email and web communications. Very few governments today will persist in brutal suppression of their own people when confronted with hard evidence and a global public outcry, or even a domestic outcry. Of course, some will, no defense of transparency is perfect, but then neither is the right to bear arms a perfect defense (ask Mr Koresh and other recent militias).  It may not be perfect, but the right to speak, to bear witness, to call out to the world for help, is genuinely a more effective tool for government accountability today than any self-defense by non-professional citizens, no matter how well armed they may be. Therefor,  I think it’s more important today to enshrine the rights to free communication, speech, and association, and the technical capabilities to act on those rights.

  32. Michael Christenson II says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 1:13 am

    Mark,

    In regards to your Posting, I’d like to thank you. Too many people over hear in the US are pushing for expansion of our prison system and our anti terrorist system. They want to double our Gauntanimo Bay Facilities and imprison more people off shore so that they will not be granted their soveriegn right to a trial by a jury of their peers. They want to shut anyone up with a dissenting voice.

    In short, they no longer care about Liberty of Freedom. They would gladly crumple it in a ball and toss it into the sea like some useless scrap of paper. I’ve made many arguments against them and only a few of us really understand.

    I’m just glad to hear my words echoed back to me from another so far away. It almost sounded like the echos of older days when death in prison from the elements was a real threat, and the media was born in the underground as a way to voice these words; so many hundreds of years ago. My how we’ve digressed.

  33. ErneX says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 1:47 am

    I knew that I was going to see a post by Luigino and I was damned right.

    First of all Mark, I really appreciate the support you expressed for Maria Corina.

    Secondly, I have to recognize the efforts being done in Venezuela to try to get all the public administration running on open source software.

    Robert Graham: what you seem to miss about “Lista Tascón/Maisanta” is that first, is a fascist list assembled to identify everyone that was against Chavez, and secondly, that the people that signed against him were fired from their government jobs because “they didn’t support the revolution”, this is pure fascism and is totally against elections law and the constitution of Venezuela, but as with many things there, anarchy roams free and every law can be bent providing you have the power or money to do so, as is the case of Chavez.

    We are basically staring at a dictatorship disguised as democracy, it seems to be a rather new concept but it is depressingly true in Venezuela. This very same TV station that’s now in the middle of controversy was very critical to the same government that Chavez tried to oust back in 1992 in his coupt attempt. A TV station that is basically part of Venezuelans DNA with more than 50 years broadcasting is now being subject of a closure disguised as a regular administrative issue.

    The reality is that corruption is so rampant now, that the government is trying its best to shut down every critical voice to the scandal surrounding high level government officials. People that 8 years ago were middle class citizens are now driving Hummers around Caracas thanks to the juicy contracts or important jobs and the many ministries that now exists on Venezuela.

    While is true that the level of criminality has been high even before Chavez took office, it has worsened really bad during the 9 years Chavez has in power, and sadly nothing is being done to correct this trend. Government officials pressed to reduce the weekly reports of deads in the major cities so the population cannot have real estimates of the magnitud of the problem, like if denying people information will magically reduce the reality of the number of crimes being committed every day.

    And to Luigino, I can only say that you are at least doing your job very good as the most visible head of the chavismo propaganda machine on the internet. One can only wonder how much money you’ve been making with the “revolution” during these years, because if you’re doing it for free they are clearly ripping you off. But I’m pretty sure you already made your nickel on more than one government deal of government job. It’s really though to critize the hand that feeds you I guess. Keep it up with the propaganda machine!

    Mark Shuttleworth says:

    Please don’t use this comment facility as a platform for personal attacks. By all means express opinions and facts about the issues, but don’t use this place to publish a personal or demeaning attack against another person. I very, very rarely do not publish a comment made here but I won’t allow this forum to turn into a spitting match. Thank you.

  34. froycard says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 2:01 am

    I am very thankful for the abroad supports that opositions have receive including UBUNTU’s developers. First of all, I live in a poor neighbourhood in Caracas (Catia), and in almost a decade of Chavez’s government, he has done NOTHING at all but the corruption, poverty and criminalty have widespread. People have to flood the streets and making a living as a street sellers for the lack of proper jobs. And you can see that from west to east and any subway station’s exits. People cannot find a proper food supplies at the groceries and supermarkets. Meanwhile, the OVERLORD has all the dollar (thanks to the OIL boom prices) to give away to other countries so they can support his government and defend what he is doing in Venezuela. He attacks and insults to anybody that thinks not accordingly. We have only two channel now RCTV and GLOBOVISION that broadcast talk show and opinion, news program that denounce the great corruption in this government. So, he wants to shut our voices so we cannot air our protests.
    We need any foreign helps possible!!
    About the thing a person said about elections and democracy. This guy was reelected many times thanks to an ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINE. I think he was ELECTRONICALLY elected as a president and was not a real people decision on the ballots. As were the congress, that is 100% PRO-GOVERNMENT. You think there is a democracy when the congress is just one-sided? The Supreme Court of Justice is 100% CHAVISTA as well as the nation prosecutors and any top key public office. The are only two state opposing ruler government out of 28 !!! that’s the only power the opposition has. THERE IS NOT DEMOCRACY IN THIS COUNTRY. IT’S A FAKE DEMOCRACY.
    Again, thanks for your support and please keep up the good work!!
    (excuse my poor English)

  35. Max says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 2:05 am

    I just have to say, visit http://www.urru.org/ there’s a huge archive about the truth behind the “pacific but armed revolution” (like the same Chavez call it).

  36. Max says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 2:39 am

    Maybe I don’t have enough english level but I’ll try to describe tips of what I see here in Venezuela:

    - Chavez has 8 years in the power and everyday says that pretends to stay at least till 2021 (previously 5 years was the maximum allowed).
    - The national congress named “Asamblea Nacional” is integrated 100% for Chavez supporters.
    - There has been accusations of pressure over Public Employees to go vote for Chavez just because “they work for the government”.
    - Chavez is proposing the pretty “Communal councils” but doesn’t say too loud that this imply the very probably abolition of Governor and Mayor figures in the country.
    - RCTV (the older TV channel of Venezuelan history) will be closed just for criticize Chavez but they don’t mention that this is one of the most viewed channels of the country, even many of their supporters see this channel.
    - They have founded (or buyed) tens of new radio stations and TV channels but they allege that need the RCTV frequency….
    - If the finally close RCTV then just will be ONE (Yes Just One) TV channel opposing to Chavez called “Globovisión” the others channels accepted not to talk anymore against Chavez to avoid to be closed.
    - Here if you speak against Chavez they call you unpatriotic, CIA agent and advise you to left the country.
    - If you ever signed to call a referendum against Chavez then you’ll NEVER be able to work in a public institution for the rest of your life…

    And so on… I can continue writing tips that shows the totalitary tendency of this government and the new apartheid they created but my english is somwhat limited to write all that I think.

    Just remember Hitler won elections too and had lot of supporters, but doesn’t meant that was democratic.

  37. Rosa Maria says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 2:59 am

    Thanks Mark for taking your time in writing such a great post in your blog.

    Reading some of the comments here (I don’t read the ridiculously long postings of supporters that are trying to justify something impossible to justify as why is there the actual levels of corruption, criminality, misery in Venezuela when is one of the richest oil reserve countries in the world) I just want to say that Maria Corina is not guilty of any crime such as “supporting the 2002 failed military coup”. It was no coup; it was a massive pacific demonstration against the government that was turn as “coup” and massacre by the Chavez supporters to resurrect him later as a leader. It was all a great show that cost blood and many lives.

    You said “However, sometimes the illusion of democracy is used to give legitimacy to choices that were not, at all, democratic”.

    I said: Yes Mark, Chavez is a Dictator, no doubt about it.

    Thanks again…

  38. Waiko says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 3:21 am

    Thanks to the media

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKLtJIRmjxE

  39. Ed says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 5:13 am

    Jeez, I wonder why the top level Chavista Internet shill Luigino Bracci, forgets to include his URL. Don’t want others to see what a hack he is?

    And Robert Graham…. you are pathetic. Maria Corina has more cojones than you. She is a good woman and a real woman. You pass judgement without knowing one thing about her… you base your opinions on propaganda websites… impressive.

    Wikpedia has been compromised and Venezuelanalysis is run by the regime…. try this website out for all sides of the story:

    http://www.venezuelatoday.net

    or

    http://www.venenews.net

    http://www.venenews.net

  40. Ed says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 5:22 am

    Luigi: “in the 8 years of government Chavez has made 9 elections bla bla bla…”

    All elections since 2004 RR have been cooked i.e. Smartmatic and the electoral roll.

    Jimmy Carter and his Carter Center along with Cesar Gaviria and the OAS, in 2004 certifiied the largest electoral fraud in the history of Latam. That is a fact. Look at Carter track record starting with Iran…. Venezuela very complicated..

    For December election, aside from the electronic and voter roll manipulation, Chavez had unlimited electoral budget totalling about USD $9 billion (what he spent on social programs in 2006)

    The opposing candidate was financed by private sector (not U.S) and did not have access to goverment funds or matching funds… campaign budget under USD $20 million.

    Despite the difference, coercion and cheating, Chavez managed to obtain minor majority then padded it. It’s all smoke and mirrors. In a clean and fair campaign and election, Chavez loses.

  41. Nick says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 6:08 am

    May be, you should request some advice from Nelson Mandela. After all, his image is used to promote Ubuntu. He fought against apartheit all his life.

    The great majority of Venezuelan people lived in a kind of apartheid because of people like Carolina Machado. You are supporting her to return to those times.

    She is using to you. She knows this is the way to poison the water of FLOSS in Venezuela. The government of Hugo Chávez supports FLOSS. She brings the bone of contention, with her angelical face, great eyes, beautiful smile and pretty figure.

    You do not know the Venezuelan situation. It is not a wide opened market as a developed country. In my country, companies of television like RCTV impose the tastes and dictate the consumption guidelines. The private education is dominated by Proprietary Software. Idem the companies. But, you know better than I the big business practices to impose their products. The illegal copy is the norm. The hegemony of Proprietary Software is absolute. Without Venezuela’s government support FLOSS never would have had real opportunity. If old times come back Free Software Open Source will not have support.

    Afortunatly this will not occur. It does not matter how much poison Maria Corina and the mass media they use. Lamentably, the only one poisoned in my country will be the people’s enthusiasm by Ubuntu.

    As in the South Africa the truth will prevail.

    Sincerely.

  42. Nick says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 6:49 am

    Errata: 2nd. paragrah, change “Carolina” to “María Corina”.
    I request excuses, by this and any other error I can’t see. I am not English speaker. Regards.

  43. Sara Perez says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    100% agree with you Mr. Mark…Thanks very mucho for your support to Ma. Corina.

  44. Mark Shuttleworth : Cultural Choices We Make in Democracy Right Now « Compass says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    [...] In Defense of Independent Governance comments on the value of three key principles across continents and decades : [...]

  45. Daniel Duquenal says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    Dear Mark

    You have outlined very well the three principles that underline the existence of a free people, and indeed you have touched a nerve about Venezuela because these three tenets have been contained and are on their way to be gutted out of all meaning. I see already that the usual suspect crowd has come to the rescue of Chavez which is the perfect indicator that you hit bull’s eye with your words. And to defend Maria Corina Machado is even better as even large segments of the opposition to Chavez are abandoning her these days. Not for any particular failings of her, but because she has been too democrat, to educational, too willing to confront ALL Venezuelans with our own failings. Leaders like her is what we need.

    Even though I have one of the most complete blogs as to the Venezuelan situation I still would like this opportunity to comment on your three elements for freedom and give you a symbol on how these are used to demolish freedom in Venezuela.

    “human nature is unchanging across the world and across time”: this is so true in Venezuela. What is going on now has in fact happened during the two preceding oil booms. The only difference is that we had real politicians in office then, to a presidential term limited to 5 years. But now with Chavez we have a coup maker, who has clearly expressed his wish to be president for life. This has for result to exacerbate all of our vices, to raise the level of confrontation which is the chosen strategy to obtain what he wants to obtain. In other words Chavez is only the latest avatar of the “caudillos” that have tormented us all through our history in Venezuela. Except that he has lots of money and the mass media give him quite a loudspeaker. But he expresses the same stale and failed ideas of the past.

    “presumption of innocence until the proof of guilt”: In practice the Venezuelan judicial system now acts considering you guilty until you prove your innocence. This is particularly effective when dealing with political opponents who cannot afford the costly legal fees that are required when justice is put upside down. In fact one could argue that the secret of Chavez power, and why he has managed to present an image of “legality” to the outside world is the way he acquired control of the judicial system. In today Venezuela you cannot win a political trial against the government. It is that simple. So the government only needs to find an excuse to send you to trial and eventually force you out of the country or jail you like General Uson is jailed for having expressed an opinion in a talk show. Because of course, when you attack the army with an opinion your fate is sealed even faster. People do not quite realize that but for all practical purpose Venezuela is today a military dictatorship validated by the people. There might have been elections but the military rule as if they had made a coup a few years ago.

    “freedom of speech is essential for a healthy society”: With the RCTV case it is now obvious to all. But it has started a long time ago. The new legal system established has allowed for a considerable self censorship. RCTV closing is just the next logical step. And it will make it much easier for the government to close newspapers since free air borne media will not be available to give the alert.

    Thank you for your support of true democratic values.

  46. Talfin… Es todo! » Mark Shuttleworth da su apoyo a Maria Corina Machado de SUMATE. says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    [...] Actualizado: En el siguiente link encontrarán la respuesta a la polémica generada en el blog de Mark. Donde no solo, se habla de la situación de Venezuela, sino también tiene una visión muy interesante de la situación del mundo y de las sociedades lo que nos puede poner a reflexionar un poco. [...]

  47. roml says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    hi, all i have to say is something that you already know, its like one of the thing a like the most of Ubuntu “I am who I am because of who we all are.” Yes, i live in Venezuela, maybe i am one of the youngest writing here i am 21 years old. Yes i like Ubuntu, i am part of the Ubuntu community, All i can say besides, that i am against Chavez because i don’t believe in any of his ideals, I don’t believe in any of the thing he say that he is doing because after all the events in my country, yes thats right MY country, because i feel it that way i think that maybe the side of the population that like what he say, and all his promises, they are not looking forward, they are not thinking, not only in their future but, their sons, daughters, grandchilds or even their own life’s.

    Thanks for your words Mark i like your point of be, and i also think like you about that we fail, but its not about failures, its about success and i think we can get up and be stronger.

  48. FCard says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    I want to debate this post (excerpt):
    “Luigino Bracci Says:
    May 19th, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    Hi Mark,

    I agree with the principles in your post.

    I know that most of the things you read about President Chávez apparently are the same things that some dictators did in the past, buy also you should understand that some people is interested in making the world believe that Chavez is another dictator hungry of power.

    In fact, the things are very different of what you can see in London.

    For example, I dont’ think that a “dictator” will approve laws to make people take more and more decisions by themselves. The Chavez government approved a law of “Communal councils”, that gives a big portion of the city’s budget to the people so they can decide by themselves, in assembly, how they should invest it in enhacements to their neighbourhood. Pro-Chavez and anti-Chavez people is working together using this resources to build a better community, taking decisions that, in the past, were taken only by a person (the city’s major).

    TALKBACK:

    I can tell you this Mr, and hope everybody can read this too:

    Chavez was “reelected” (between quotes since most ppl consider this election was an automation election fraud)on past Dec-3 for another 6 year presidential term, this is the second time that he is in office. According to the 1999 Venezuela’s constitution, a person can be elected prez for two consecutives term and no more.

    Now, Chavez and with extraordinary power betowed by the congress, he is “amending” the constitution so that he can run for president election indefinite. Of course, this reform of the constitution will be approved by the congress since it is 100 pro-chavist.

    So, this was he will be in power until his death if he wants… is there not a resemblance of a dictator here?

    (he will be able to be reelected at any time, since the Electoral Power is controled by the government and using an automation voting machine, simple, right?, he will be “automated” elected as many times as he wishes to)

    what a democracy, sir!! SUX!!

  49. Jabberwocky says: (permalink)
    May 22nd, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    Mark,

    Seeing you present sharpened, balanced thinking…..worthy of your intelligence & human spirit, is heartening to watch

    Salut !

    p.s. – to the people who make comments about Apartheid & Nelson Mandela…
    Perhaps you need to be more aware of what is going on in South Africa at present…
    before you advocate South Africa as a beacon to aspire to…

    Yes apartheid was an atrocity & Mandela’s reconciliatory approach
    catalysed a different reality for the country..
    However, the rainbow nation honeymoon is , for the most part, over.
    We are now grappling with the realities of our new democracy…

    South Africa is struggling with how it synthesizes
    the ideals of its constitution (it has a remarkably good one btw…)
    …with the reality of less-than-perfect human nature & power constructs….

    If you scrape below the surface recently,
    our current dilemma’s are not all that different from many other countries (like yours)
    where politicians have tasted power & want to hold onto it.
    ZA is an example- but a far from perfect one.

  50. Ed says: (permalink)
    May 23rd, 2007 at 12:35 am

    Mr Shuttleworth, you may find this latest IDC Software Piracy Study interesting: Venezuela is the worst in Latam and the sixth worst in the world:

    http://www.latinbusinesschronicle.com/app/article.aspx?id=1252

    It goes to the root of the problem in Venezuela… there is no rule of law. The only law-of-the-land is Chavez. Of course you have a vibrant free software community in Venezuela when paying for something (specially when an American multinational is involved) goes against the grain of the freeloading fake-revolution.

  51. bruni says: (permalink)
    May 23rd, 2007 at 2:27 am

    I agree with you Mark.

    now one point that I should add is that real Freedom of Speech means not just to be able to talk, but it also involves the lack of fear to speak out. When a self-censorship is put in place, when there is an indirect cohersion for the media or for the individuals, then regardless of the possibility of speaking out, there is
    no real freedom of speech.

  52. Consultor says: (permalink)
    May 23rd, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    ” You have emitted partial judgments and you have made a great damage to the free software Bolivarian comunity that believe in Chávez and believed in Ubuntu.”

    Only laughs !!!

    Free software isn’t “bolivarian” flag, is a philosophical movement stupid girl!!! What a personnal point of view must take influences in any software based decission??? That is not ethical Sandra !!

    With this paragraph, you’re showing a complete ignorance about Free Software, you (and others with you) only have personnal interests in goverments software massive contracts and consulting for money. This the way that this little group (includes Bracci and others) are looking for, only money with free software contracts, I have been witness of that !!!

    The venezuelan people HATE Chávez, including Bracci, Sandra Parra and everyone in FS which are wolves dressed like ewe.

    Bracci why you don’t speak about Tascon List????

    Mark: In Venezuela every people was marked like an criminal only why put the sign in a paper requesting the Revocatory of president in 2004 as Constitution of Venezuela said. This information was digitized and distributed to EVERY public office like a single application (Visual BASIC made) to be consulted (mandatory) before any hiring of personnel. This application still are being used to avoid any against-Chavez take access to job or any request before public offices (passports, Id, Social Security pays, etc).

    Thanks Mark by your support to Maria Corina, now have more love to my UBUNTU laptop !!!

  53. Jonás A Reyes C says: (permalink)
    May 24th, 2007 at 2:35 am

    Hola Mark!! Solo quiero decirte que desde hace un año estoy en el mundo del Software Libre. Estoy con el porque me gusta “compartir”, porque es la anti tesis del INDIVIDUALISMO. Soy Venezolano. Leí sobre tu post donde apoyas a Maria Corina Machado. Al respecto te dire que si, yo Soy Chavista porque Quiero un mundo Mejor, Soy Chavista porque creo que Compartir es Mejor, Soy Chavista porque El dolor de los demas me duele, Soy Chavista qporque Quiero a mi País. Soy Chavista porque creo en el humanismo. Soy chavista porque creo en la Verdad y solo la Verdad te hace libre, Soy Chavista porque amo incluso a quienes se oponen a mi, Soy Chavista porque Lloro por las hambrunas en Africa, Soy Chavista porque odio las crueles dictaduras en Africa y en el Mundo, Soy Chavista porque estremese mi corazon ver inocentes morir en iraq por culpa del fascista y asesino Bush!, Soy chavista porque quiero usar el Software Libre Como un Medio y no un Fin, Soy Chavista porque creo que el conocimiento es libre, Soy Chavista porque quiero ayudar al desposeido, Soy Chavista poirque deseo que se acabe el Imperialismo en el Mundo, Soy Chavista porque no tengo miedo a pensar, Soy Chavista porque Deseo que se termine la Exclusion y El Racismo en el mundo. Soy Chavista porqque creo en la Democracia, Soy Chavista porque creo en el derecho de Auto Determinacion de los pueblos, Soy Chavista porque deseo tener medios de comunicacion y no medios de DEFORMACION. Tantas razones para ser Chavista. Ubuntu es la Distribucion Linux Mas Usable. ¿Sabes porque me gusta tanto ubuntu? por su codigo y compromiso Social. Acabo de Instalar UbuntuStudio, y supe que es una gran joya!! pense: “Al fin no dependere de Windows”. Pero Saber que no tienes conciencia sobre las realidades de los pueblos me lleno de un dolor, que ya estoy pensando en no usar Ubuntu, porque me ha dado la impresion que Ubuntu podria terminar siendo una Marca mas, un Producto mas para los mercados, con frases bonitas y elocuentes pero sin contenido. Ojala no sea Asi. Ojala solo hayas sido victima de La belleza y engañoza “ingenuidad” de Maria Corina Machado, quien avala con sus posturas el asesinato de la Mayoria venezolana. Y pensar que en mi Univertsidad (Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela) logre que todos los Laboratorios Migrasen a Ubuntu, que todos los cursos en areas de Tecnologias fuesen en Ubuntu. Y pensar que a mis compañeros de Clase todos los dias les asesoro sobre Ubuntu. ¿Que les dire Mañana?¿les dire que apoyas la disolucion de mi universidad porque eres amigo de Corina Machado? (Mi universidad fue creada por Chavez para brindar la oportunidad a los pobres de acceder a la educacion superior, ya que otras universidades publicas estan acaparadas por elites que conspiran contra mi pais, mi universidad es atacada muy seguido por la gente de Maria Corina MAchado porque les duele que los pobres tengamos acceso al conocimiento; obviamente ellos (los Opositores a chavez) siempre encuentran excusas para decir que es malo “Alfabetizar a la Poblacion, Es malo dejar que mas de 600.000 Bachilleres ingresen a las universidades, que es malo mantener la educacion publica.”) tantas cosas que decir. Las pude decir en ingles, pero hoy he querido hablar tambien para quienes no saben Ingles o para quienes no sabes traducir con Google.
    Un Abrazo!!! se que tu no tienes malas intenciones, se que opinaste a la ligera, pero igual tenia que expresar lo que siento. Un Abrazo Solidario, desde la Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela: Tierra de Hombres y Mentes Libres!!!

  54. Ricardo C. Fernández de C. says: (permalink)
    May 25th, 2007 at 2:34 am

    Hey Mark, than you very much about this and the other post, now i have a lot of work to do! im getting a lot of calls from everywhere in the goverment to change their desktops/servers from Ubuntu to Debian! YAY! the Venezuela Debian Community really loves you Mark! thank you so much for this GREAT notice, keep supporting terrorist and murderers in Venezuela! thats the way to go man! it was like that time a CEO of RH called us “pig” and right now no one want to use RH ’cause that! More Debian users. Damn im so happy. Thank you.

  55. Rafael says: (permalink)
    May 25th, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    I guess by now you´ve seen how intolerant Chavistas are of other peoples´ opinion if it doesn´t match their own…

  56. Consultor says: (permalink)
    May 25th, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    Ricardo C. Fernández de C:

    Gordo grasiento oportunista ladron!!!!!!!!!!
    Anda a que te coja un burro con los ojos azules malnacido !!!

    Se te notan las costuras de que solo estas en SL solo por dinero, capitalismo tecnologico?

    Tu y toda la cuerda de focas que aplauden esa estúpida robo-ilución, deben ir presos y si es posible, aplicarles la inyeccion letal…

    Basura gordo de mierda !!!

  57. Kira says: (permalink)
    May 25th, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    Your post is absolutely equilibrated and from a person that stands for principles instead of ideologies, and that, ubuntu chavistas friends, is something you should learn from Mr. Mark. It is about defending principles, not a president or a candidate or an ideology but principles, if a principle like freedom of speech gets harmed by a decission however justifiable to your eyes by the government you should cast a doubt over it and think deeply about it, because if it is harming to the development of democracy and the display of diverse voices it may not be so good.

    I am a Venezuelan and is heart breaking to see that a man comes first for his fanatic followers than the nation.

  58. Max says: (permalink)
    May 30th, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Let’s see if Luigino Bracci and others can explain someday things like this http://www.noticias24.com/actualidad/?p=5248 that happened last days after Chavez close the most viewed TV channel of the country…

  59. Seán says: (permalink)
    June 3rd, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/columnists/guests/s_510752.html

    Well OpenSolaris and DesktopBSD are pretty good alternatives to Kubuntu. I’ll be ditching ubuntu as will a lot of people. It’s a pity, I really had gotten behind ubuntu but this ignorant and misguided support of the rich right wing scum undermining democracy in Venezuela is too much.

    What a pity, it was all going so well.

  60. totedati says: (permalink)
    June 10th, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    time for a trip to venezuela … ;-p … then you can have a better view of the matter … ;-p

  61. El Blog de Jose » Blog Archive » Recent political issues, travelling to DC and emdevs hacking says: (permalink)
    June 10th, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    [...] A few days ago, some people in Venezuela were shocked by Mark Shuttleworth’s claims against Hugo Chávez Government and supporting María Corina Machado, a minor opposition leader in the Country. [...]

  62. Al. Go. says: (permalink)
    November 5th, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Yeah, Ms Machado “Independent governance”, oh yeah! haha hoho
    http://www.williambowles.info/images/machado_bush.jpg
    http://www.williambowles.info/venezuela/2005/machado.html

  63. Andrei Rublyov says: (permalink)
    November 12th, 2007 at 4:53 am

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely… hence democracy, justice, equality.

    Democraticaly defined constitution,

    Equality before the law,

    Right to inform and BE informed, it ain’t enough to have the freedom to speak if it is not TRANSMITTED.

    Equality of CONDITIONS, not just oportunity…

    Transparency in affairs not justified to secrecy, the right to public inquest, and the duty of justice to prevent corruption in affairs whether public or PSEUDO PRIVATE (ie CORPORATE).

    A corporation is not a person, it has nor conscience, nor freedom, nor ethics (other than psychotic ones that bind it to profit maximisation)

    THE RIGHT TO DEMOCRACY IN ALL AFFAIRS OF STATE…… ESPECIALY ECONOMIC.

    Therefore an “autonomous” European Central Bank, and the special laws that give corporations the rights of a PERSON under law are INCOMPATIBLE WITH NEITHER DEMOCRACY, CULTURE NOR HUMANITY.

  64. Andrei Rublyov says: (permalink)
    November 20th, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    “It’s human nature that makes absolute power corrupt absolutely.”

    Hence the concept of democracy. Division of power.

    Why then are our constitutions not democraticaly constituted, when latin america is taking steps in that direction… Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela?

    Why are we sent on handing over absolute power over the economy on national and international basis to “autonomous” central banks, and international subdivisions (eg. IMF)?

    Why do we only have a single form of media, the private one?

    Why do we let private industrial interests dominate all interests public?

    - one of the definitions of fascism:

    “I’ve removed this spurious section, which appears to have been based on a quote by Ronald Reagan. State intervention in the economy is not fascism.FelixFelix talk 18:22, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

    Reagan is far from the only one. President Hoover talking about the New Deal said, “I tried to show him that this stuff was pure fascism; that it was a remaking of Mussolini’s “corporate state” -Herbert Hoover. Alot of politicians around that time admired fascism and the New Deal was American version of it. For example, US Conferssman Milford Howard said “I want to go on record at the beginning of this unpretentious book by avowing my faith in Benito Mussolini, Italy’s great premier, and Fascism, the child of his marvelous brain, as the highest expression of a pragmatic philosophy of government…”Anarcho-capitalism 19:05, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

    Corporatism is a defining characteristic of fascism. Corporatism is characterized by a high degree of state intervention in the economy. It just doesn’t require the nationalism and militarism of fascism. The New Deal doesn’t deserve its own section but FDR’s government certainly warrants a mention in the first paragraph of this section.
    (JoeCarson 18:33, 9 February 2007 (UTC))

    You are correct in saying corporatism is a defining characteristic of fascism and you seem to be using corporatism mostly correctly. However, that section sounded almost overtly POV. If the section was rewritten in a more NPOV tone it could possibly be included. For example, the line “Some aspects of the Roosevelts New Deal were labeled as fascist.” is very vague and seems to be almost intentionally so to be weasel-y. Did FDR call the New Deal fascist or use fascist models? Do scholars call the New Deal fascist and are those scholars reputable and/or neutral? Etc. – DNewhall 18:52, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

    Lots of reputable scholars say the New Deal was fascist, largely from the Austrian School of economics. As far as “neutral” I don’t know, but, is there such a thing as a “neutral” scholar?Anarcho-capitalism 18:56, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
    The passive tense is not anybody’s friend. To say that conservative opponents of Roosevelt labelled the New Deal as fascist (or, alternately, communist!) is true, and perhaps should be mentioned somewhere. It is going a good deal further to say that “reputable scholars” have made this claim. What are these people scholars of? I would posit that they were not scholars of fascism. john k 19:53, 9 February 2007 (UTC)”

    – source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Fascism

    “Franklin D. Roosevelt in an April 29, 1938 message to Congress warned that the growth of private power could lead to fascism:

    The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism–ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.[18][19][20]

    From the same message:

    The Growing Concentration of Economic Power. Statistics of the Bureau of Internal Revenue reveal the following amazing figures for 1935: “Ownership of corporate assets: Of all corporations reporting from every part of the Nation, one-tenth of 1 percent of them owned 52 percent of the assets of all of them.”[18][20]

    – source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatism#Corporatism_and_Fascism

    “In Washington, the headquarters of both the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) face each other on the same street. What are these organisations, and who controls them?

    To find out we need to look back to just after WWI. At this point the money changers were attempting to consolidate the central banks under the guise of peacemaking. To stop future wars they put forward the formation of a world central bank named the Bank of International Settlements, a world court called the World Court in the Hague, and a world executive for legislation called the League of Nations.

    In his 1966 book entitled Tragedy and Hope, president Clinton’s mentor Carroll Quigley writes about this.

    “The powers of financial capitalism had [a] far-reaching [plan], nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole.

    This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent meetings and conferences.

    The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations.

    Each central bank… Sought to dominate its government by its ability to control treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent economic rewards in the business world.”
    Carroll Quigley, Professor, Georgetown University

    They got 2 out of 3. The league of nations failed largely owing to the suspicions of the people and while opposition concentrated on this, the other two proposals snuck their way through.

    It would take another war to wear the public resistance down. Wall street invested heavily to rebuild Germany, as the Chase bank had propped up the Russian revolution.

    Now the Chase merged with the Warburg’s Manhattan Bank to form the Chase Manhattan which would later merge with the Chemical Bank to become the largest bank on Wall Street.

    In 1944 the US approved its full participation in the IMF and the World Bank. By 1945 the second League of Nations was approved under the new name ‘The United Nations’. The war had dissolved all opposition. The methods used in the National Banking Act of 1864 and the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 were now simply used on a Global scale.

    The Federal Reserve Act allowing the creation of Federal Reserve notes is mirrored by the IMF’s authority to produce money called Special Drawing Rights (SDR’s). It is estimated the IMF has produced $30 billion dollars worth of SDR’s so far. In the United States SDR’s are already accepted as legal money, and all other member nations are being pressured to follow suit. With SDR’s being partially backed by gold, a world gold standard is sneaking its way in through the back door, which comes with no objection from the money changers who now hold two-thirds of the worlds gold and can use this to structure the worlds economy to their further advantage.

    We have gone from the goldsmith’s fraud being reproduced on a national scale through the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve, to a Global level with the IMF and the World Bank. Unless we together stop giving these exchange units their power by our collective faith in them, the future will probably see the Intergalactic Bank and the Federation of Planets Reserve set up in much the same way.

    This radical transfer of power has taken place with absolutely no mandate from the people.

    Nations borrow Special Drawing Right from the International Monetary Fund in order to pay interest on their mounting debts. With these SDR’s produced at no cost, the IMF charges more interest. This contrary to bold claims does not alleviate poverty or further any development. It just creates a steady flow of wealth from borrowing nations to the money changers who now control the IMF and the World Bank.

    The permanent debt of Third World Countries is constantly being increased to provide temporary relief from the poverty being caused by previous borrowing.

    These repayments already exceed the amount of new loans. By 1992 Africa’s debt had reached $290 billion dollars, which is two and a half times greater than it was in 1980. A noble attempt to repay it has caused increased infant mortality and unemployment, plus deteriorating schools, and general health and welfare problems.

    As world resources continue to be sucked into this insatiable black hole of greed, if allowed to continue the entire world will face a simular fate.

    As one prominent Brazilian politician, Luis Ignacio Silva,ðput it.

    “Without being radical or overly bold, I will tell you that the Third World War has already started – a silent war, not for that reason any the less sinister. This war is tearing down Brazil, Latin America and practically all the Third World. Instead of soldiers dying there are children, instead of millions of wounded there are millions of unemployed; instead of destruction of bridges there is the tearing down of factories, schools, hospitals, and entire economies . . . It is a war by the United States against the Latin American continent and the Third World. It is a war over the foreign debt, one which has as its main weapon interest, a weapon more deadly than the atom bomb, more shattering than a laser beam . .”1 ”

    – source: http://www.xat.org/xat/worldbank.html

    DOES ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPT ABSOLUTELY?

    “Origin

    Lord ActonThis arose as a quotation by Lord Acton in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887:

    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

    William Pitt the Younger, The Earl of Chatham and British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778, is sometimes wrongly attributed as the source. He did say something similar though, in a speech to the UK House of Lords in 1770:

    “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it””
    – source: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/288200.html
    Firstly is there such a thing as absolute power? Clearly there is an absolute power over certain matters possible but it is hard to see how there could be a truly absolute power as such.

    Is it the aquisition of power that corrupts, or the nature of the system in place that requires corruption as a trait?
    The documentary “spin” might give some food for thought:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7344181953466797353

  65. Andrei Rublyov says: (permalink)
    November 20th, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    “The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks.”

    Lord Acton

    Yet he somehow managed to support the confederates… nobody is perfect.

  66. andresorozco says: (permalink)
    February 7th, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    I read with many interest the observations you made in both articles about Venezuela. I am foreigner, I left Venezuela after 5 years of work, after building house with my earned money, married a venezuelan woman, payed taxes and with all the intention to settle in that wonderful country. I have never get involved in local politics, but I can form my politic point of view. I felt the venezuelan process conducted by Mr.president Chavez was not suitable to our family project. My wife comes from a poor family of chavist moderate political views. Mother went through some of Chavez missions. All what she got was a debt caused by the organization of her cooperative project who cashed the money and let the coop fall apart. My wife graduated from university couldn’t apply from work because she never take a political position (and Chavism says that no active involvement in the project means you are against that). I saw the Tascon “enemies” lists from a collegue, who survived two rounds of them while three other collegues were fired. One privat company was forced to dismiss one of them after they employed him due to pressures by the government company they were partnering. I saw many corruption, and the worst is the arbitrariety to which mr. President and his followers manage everything. If they refused to use Ubuntu (as I read in this blog replies, I haven’t confirmed this news) just for your blog entries, you don’t really need to travel to Venezuela to form your own opinion about what Chavism is. I think what you wrote is extremely equilibrated, and no statement you made should have hurted anybody. But as we see extreme political partialization is the trademark of chavism. Congratulations for you work and efforts. Looking forward for more insights.