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Vol. 73/No. 46      November 30, 2009

Venezuela Int’l Book Fair
spreads access to culture
(feature article)
CARACAS, Venezuela—The fifth annual Venezuela International Book Fair opened here in this capital city November 13. Since September 30 the book fair has traveled to 200 municipalities in the 24 states of the country.

More than 200 exhibitors from 14 countries, including more than 100 Venezuelan publishers, are participating in this year's fair. It is taking place in the centrally located Luis Mariano Rivera-Los Caobos Park. The program includes more than 420 activities—forums, book presentations, conferences, concerts, movies, and educational activities for the thousands of children expected to visit.

This year the fair’s honored country is Bolivia. Visitors can enjoy a large exhibit about that Andean country's music, dance, literature, and cultural traditions. The fair is also honoring the 50th anniversary of the publishing house Casa de las Américas of Cuba, created in the opening years of the Cuban Revolution.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez was the featured speaker at the fair’s opening ceremony, along with Héctor Soto, the Venezuelan minister of culture; María Estela Vargas, Bolivia's vice minister of culture; José Luis Briceño Guerrero, the honored Venezuelan writer of this year’s fair; and Rosa Angela Orozco, representing the "Revolutionary Reading Plan," an effort by Venezuelan government institutions to expand the population's access to literature.

"What is important for us is stimulating reading, not selling books," said Soto. He noted that in the last three and a half years some 18 million copies of 2,600 titles have been published in Venezuela, contrasting that to the 374 titles published in the second half of the 1990s, under the previous government.

Chávez said that the main question is not just the production of books, but "to what end are we reading?" Paraphrasing Venezuelan historical figures, he said that reading was part of the long process of obtaining a political understanding of society.

The Venezuelan president called attention to Washington's moves to have greater use of military bases in neighboring Colombia as an attempt to use that country as a launching pad for military operations in the region. Early in November, in response to these moves, the Venezuelan government ordered the mobilization of additional troops to towns bordering Colombia.

The Colombian government claims that the increased U.S. military presence is aimed at fighting drug trafficking and guerrilla groups, and denies it is a military threat to Venezuela.

The same day the fair opened thousands marched in the streets of Caracas to denounce Washington's threats. Participants at the opening ceremony joined in chanting slogans against the use of the bases as the march passed near by the Los Caobos Park during Chávez's presentation.

Pathfinder Press has participated in Venezuela book fairs for the last six years, offering an array of revolutionary books and pamphlets. The Marxist magazine New International, with articles explaining the worldwide capitalist economic crisis and working-class resistance in the United States to attacks by the bosses and their government, has found a receptive audience among fair participants, as have similar Pathfinder titles.

In the first four days of the fair more than 150 copies of New International were purchased, as well as 97 copies of the Spanish edition of Is Socialist Revolution in the U.S. Possible? a booklet based on talks by Socialist Workers Party leader Mary-Alice Waters at the 2007 and 2008 Caracas book fairs. Fourteen fair goers picked up Capitalism's World Disorder.  
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