Latest report from Caracas in ENGLISH

Caracas, Venezuela : enero 24-29, 2006

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Latest report from Caracas in ENGLISH

Postby fruitbat » Sat Jan 21, 2006 7:57 am

Hello all,

Sorry for the silence since yesterday, when events began. Firstly I did not have time to sit and write reports as I should have done. Later I was in the hotel and had no connection. That is why you only receive this catastrophic report now.

You should know:

1) We will have approximately 75 interpreters in Caracas by Sunday nights (of and initial total of 283, before the many cancellations). If you have not yet received a definite confirmation reservation and/or you have not been able to obtain confirmation of your flight from the airline, your reservation was not paid and will probably be cancelled.

2) If you do not mind continuing to wait for the “Facilitation Group” of the Social Forum to undo the mess they have made – that is, if you don’t mind waiting for infinite negotiations to develop – then “stand by”: it is possible that they find you a ticket, they buy it, and you come to Caracas. If you will not, or cannot continue with this uncertainty, please cancel your participation as soon as possible.

This is what happened:

1) Up until Thursday night, the Social Forum accounts were being paid by the Foundation for a better World, an NGO created in Venezuela to manage the funds “donated” to the FSM and FSA. In truth, 90% of the funds managed by the Foundation were from the Venezuelan Government.

2) The Foundation wrote its LAST cheque last Friday morning. It was 25 million Bolivars ($12,000) to one of the two travel private agents reserving and buying the Babels tickets and it was set to cover the tickets from Mexico, Ecuador and Cuba (so the interpreters from these countries do have tickets). To compare: just the tickets from Brazil cost Bs 280 millon, and from Europe, Bs 100 millon.

3) Once this cheque for Bs 25 millon was written, the funds for the VI Word Social Forum and the II Forum of the Americas stood at virtually ZERO.

4) Who will pay the rest? The Venezuelan government directly. Members of the FG had only ONE face to face meeting with members of this government, in La Habana, Cuba, in April. Ten months ago the FG asked the Chavez government for definitions (and money) and heard exactly what we have been hearing for the past two or three months: "Tomorrow, don’t worry”.

5) We were told what I am telling you here by Edgardo, as, after spending the afternoon desperately looking for hum, as we could not find, he appeared in the Babels office with Santiago, Cheo’s brother, and gave us the explanations that Zuraima should have given us from the beginning.

6) "Mañana" finally arrived, and it was Thursday night. Zuraima and Edgardo practically spent the entire night meeting with Dario Vivas (representative of the Chavez government) and his comittee.

7) The results of that meeting were, initially, received with great enthusiasm: the Chavez government will pay for everything!

8) BUT with regard to the Babels tickets there was a small detail. The government will only pay tickets issued by the travel agency Petroleos de Venezuela, (Pdvsa).

9) On behalf of the government, the FG asked Sandra and Mary, from the two private travel agents, to simply pass all the reservations to Pdvsa – that is to say, the results of almost a months in which the two agents worked tirelessly with us, finding tickets, cancelling them when they were not paid, paying in advance for tickets they were not paid for and working all the time (Mary was awake at 2am on Friday, when we still had hope, before the end of the meeting of the FG where it was decided that they will not be paid for the tickets nor the time they lost).

10) Naturally, and correctly, neither of the two wants to give Pdvsa the results of their work for free.

11) So either a) they will offer them some payment for the time and energy spent. OR b) they will not offer them anything and they will not pass the reservations on to Pdvsa.

12) Either way, long and complex negotiations will be required. They may last one, two or even three days. If they decide not to transfer the tickets already prepared, hen Pdvsa will have to start from zero and they will not find tickets.

13) We are now trying to prepare the infrastructure for the 75 interpreters who already flew or have confirmed flights up to Sunday night. We have no money at all (we are buying water and office materials with our own money – basically Miguel’s money, and god knows how long he has been paying to do this work!).

14) The majority of the 12 Babels coordinators will be here tonight, and if they have the energy, we will talk about it and maybe new solutions will appear.

15) A proposal from Cheo is on the table, and we identify with it a lot: we want the FG to explain the situation to the 75 interpreters and 12 coordinators in a general meeting on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. Based on this meeting, all those who are in Caracas will be able to decide what to do and how to do it.

Leda, and also Miguel, Marcelo y Carmelo

Michael B
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Dec 13, 2004 9:09 pm

administrative problems in Caracas

Postby Michael B » Sat Jan 21, 2006 12:23 pm

Having already refused two job opportunities for next week, I will remain available for the Social Forum. From Brussels, it seems that we only have two possibilities with TAP : a flight on the 23rd or one on the 25th. Latest being a little ackward, as the Forum will already have started!

What concerns me, is the future credibility of the Social Forums, not from an interpreter's view, but from he view of the participants and organizations coming from all over the world, paying their entry fee, having to listen to speeches delivered in languages they don't know and having no chance to react, because of the absence of interpreters to facilitate their understanding.

Michael Bihay

Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2006 5:47 pm

Postby Francis » Sat Jan 21, 2006 1:58 pm

I deeply believe that despite all the problems we are facing (or maybe precisely because of them), the Social Forums play an essential part in the construction of more humane societies. I hope the negociations will be successful. I don't understand why the venezualian government hasn't already given the travel agents what they ask for (which seems fair). Aren't we needed? 100 000 participants from all over the world are expected, how could they find an alternative solution on such short notice? This situation is not only unacceptable it is incomprehensible. I understand that even if a solution is found, our working conditions won't be easy. I don't know who's responsible for this crisis, I only think that Babels cannot continue depending on other organizations's good will.
Having also refused job opportunities, I remain available.


Posts: 29
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2006 1:48 am
Location: Wales, UK

Saving the Forum - a simple solution

Postby Ramsey » Sat Jan 21, 2006 3:02 pm

What exactly is the problem??

If the Venezuelan Government 'would pay everything' but only to a particular travel agency, pvsa, then that is perfectly fine. The solution is that pvsa use the two travel agencies who have made all the reservations as sub-contractors. That way the two travel agencies get all the money they would have received. pvsa get to charge a handling fee / commission for doing very little work and there is no longer a problem.

Can someone please explain why there is even any need for 'negotiations' or 'discussions'? Are there other pre-conditions about which we have not been told? If not, then could pvsa and the two private travel agents please reach an agreement and hurry up before it is too late, AND STOP WASTING TIME WITH 'NEGOTIATIONS' AND 'DISCUSSIONS' WHEN THERE IS ALREADY A CLEAR SOLUTION!!!

Mario Patricio
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Sep 13, 2004 9:44 pm

My flight? Our flights?

Postby Mario Patricio » Sat Jan 21, 2006 9:59 pm

So according to this paragraph

"If you have not yet received a definite confirmation reservation and/or you have not been able to obtain confirmation of your flight from the airline, your reservation was not paid and will probably be cancelled".

Is this so? Why was not told before? I could have gotten my own ticket at 1/2 the price of a last minute ticket!

I´ll just keep on waiting and hoping.

Mario Patricio

Posts: 29
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2006 1:48 am
Location: Wales, UK

A point to ponder?

Postby Ramsey » Sun Jan 22, 2006 1:38 am

babelistos & babelistas might be interested in this page: ... -be-naked/

Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Dec 04, 2004 10:05 pm
Location: Montréal Québec

HELP! I'm frazzling into a cynic!

Postby Ferdydurke » Sun Jan 22, 2006 8:59 am

Hm, interesting turn of events, in Caracas. What is the moral equivalent of frayed nerves, the untold repercussions, down to the smallest details, reverberating in myriad lives, ah... but for the cause, no less : babysitters reserved, and cancelled, and reserved again, contract replacements found, then lost, then rehired again, the caving in to unethical armtwisting, the nail-biting cliffhangers feeding the adrenaline-deprived junkies apparently lurking in our midst, as days and days of being left in the dark stretch out into these final wee hours, the lack of means justified by the inspiring ends, a small price to pay indeed for the wonders of the gift of self, the opportunity to deploy our heartfelt altruism on the road so carefully paved by the well-meaning, armed with the best intentions. Human dignity is afoot, a new civilisation beckons, the future is just around the corner, ye shall yet bask in its warm glow. But not just yet. Sigh. Pardon my crisis of faith. My weakness. I am most unworthy. I think I have much to gain through re-education, that's really where I need to be sent, a happy camper at last! Bon voyage to all and sundry! See you there, or be square!

Good night, and good luck!

Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Jan 20, 2006 10:00 am

Postby j.f.k. » Sun Jan 22, 2006 12:28 pm


Ok, so the situation is as follows:

Nothing's happening because the gouvernment wants to give money to a travel agency run by their friends instead of to an agency not run by their friends. Babels, and the two other agencies, are not happy because it isn't very nice of the gouvernment to want to do so.


Why would in not be possible for the two ones we know to do so and receive proper financial compensation? Tell the gouvernment representative that *if* he wants the hundreds of tickets to go to his friends, fine, but there will be a small price to pay to the two other agencies. A *release fee* as it were. THEN haggle on the price. Tell him that if he refuses, he will lose ALL the tickets and his friends won't get anything. This way the issue is not on the principle, but on the price. Find out what the commission is and ask for a percentage. On suge a huge amount of tickets, the commission MUST be really high anyway. And I am sure that the other agency would not mind being flexible in order to gain such a huge amount of orders.

At the end of the day, the two ones we know care about losing customers, in other words money. For the time being, they've lost everything. The other cares about gaining customers, in other words money. They have not gained anything. The gouvernment wants to give money to there friends and needs an excuse to do so. They don't have that excuse. And we want to go to Caracas.


For a modest amount, they will have the excuse, the two companies will get some compensation, the other one will gain customers and we'll get to go to Caracas. Where's the problem? That it's unfair? Sure it is. But, for some reason that I can't begin to comprehend, we're dealing with a gouvernment and, until someone proves the opposite, gouvernments are NOT philanthropists. You deal with them, you deal with politics. So either you play the politics, or you lose. For the time being, we're all losing.

Methinks 'tis somewhat silly.

Could I also suggest that if the people on the spot need any help negociating or need to bounce ideas, that they post a short message on the forum? Had I known of the situation earlier this week, I'd have been REALLY happy to help them.

Good luck to all who are there and to those who should be on their way.

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