Thursday, January 30, 2003

Venezuelan researchers call for international help
Political conflict is endangering human life, scientific endeavour and a rich environment.
from the journal Nature, Vol 421 No 6922, 30 January 2003

Venezuelan scientists wrote of their concern for Venezuela in the prestigious Nature Journal.
Daniel notes: I am taking the liberty to post this and I apologize if I offend anybody at Nature. It will be removed if requested.

Venezuela has entered 2003 deadlocked in a dangerous political confrontation and a general strike that has lasted two months so far. Scientific endeavour, like everything else, has been seriously disrupted by the crisis, partly because many researchers and post-graduate students support the strike, but more imminently because salaries, project funding and basic services such as gas, electricity, liquid nitrogen, transport and the Internet are no longer reliable. We find ourselves in a chaotic environment where it is next to impossible to fulfil national and international research commitments.

One notorious casualty is Intevep -- the R&D branch of the national oil company PDVSA -- which has practically come to a standstill and so is now earmarked for ‘major restructuring’ by the Ministry of Energy and Mining.

Our Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC) and the national research universities have been prostrated by financial cuts starting last year. We hear many threats of government intervention.

The Association of Investigators of IVIC (AsoInIVIC) has been hosting assemblies and electronic debates in the past two months. We have sent out press releases in which we deplore the recent spread of politically motivated violence, including the killing of unarmed demonstrators by paramilitary groups.

A consultative referendum was legally scheduled for early February, but has been suspended by the Supreme Tribunal. A table of negotiation and agreements has been set up by the Organization of American States, chaired by its Secretary General, Dr César Gaviria: we have urged the 20 negotiators to support the consultative referendum.

We have also issued warnings against misuse of PDVSA’s equipment and infra-structure by uncertified personnel because accidents involving human lives and the environment have already occurred -- for example, 79 reported oil spills on Lake Maracaibo since the conflict began.

We at AsoInIVIC are struggling to preserve Venezuela’s science and its natural environment, which is rich in biodiversity. We ask the scientific community to help by exerting pressure, for example through learned societies and UNESCO; by raising funds to help us meet commitments abroad; by backing local groups, through environment agencies, in denouncing the ecological disasters; and by remaining patient while we return to normality.

C. Mendoza (president), J. A. Urbina (secretary general)
Association of Investigators of IVIC,
Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research,
PO Box 21827, Caracas 1020A, Venezuela

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