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Post UN World Heritage List: A Frustrating Trip to Venezuela
Created by John Eipper on 09/14/18 3:27 AM

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UN World Heritage List: A Frustrating Trip to Venezuela (Carmen Negrin, France, 09/14/18 3:27 am)

In response to José Ignacio Soler (12 September), as John E pointed out, our disagreement is not total.

A final word concerning my mission to Los Roques, Venezuela. It took place days before Hugo Chávez was sent to La Orchila in April 2002.

During my visit, there were strikes in Caracas, the caceroleras [women banging pots in protest--JE] were very active in the streets.  I don't remember if there was or not a curfew, but it's possible.  For everything we did, in spite of the fact that everything had been obviously pre-arranged and confirmed, my team had to improvise new plans, B, C and sometimes D. At the time, La Orchila was a presidential resort and a military base. In fact we had an also improvised--and imposed--meeting with the military.

Another small technical clarification.  A country can only propose, not impose, a site for the World Heritage List. It must describe in detail the characteristics of the site/property, expose its universal value and propose a sustainable management-plan, which the World Heritage Center (UNESCO) can help with, and they must engage in maintaining and protecting the site for the good of humanity. Once all these elements are put together, the World Heritage Committee composed of States Parties may accept or refuse the site's inclusion on the List. The delimitation of a site is done by the country concerned. In summary, if Venezuela did not want the waters of la Orchila to be included, they could have excluded its perimeter from the proposal, even though we might have questioned its logic.

Personally, in spite of the total chaos, I found the trip worthwhile. The site is unique. So unique that a few days before our arrival, Bush father had been there fishing on a yacht (although totally forbidden). It was heartbreaking to see the despair among most of our local partners and from a work point of view, it turned out to be very frustrating, in particular for the other countries who had high expectations and who didn't stand a chance of getting on the List on their own. But what was most striking was the total lack of coordination within the Venezuelan government. On the Venezuelan side, the mission involved high-level officials related to education, science, culture, foreign affairs and unexpectedly the military.

The project implied surveillance of the corals, the currents, the fish, the turtles, etc.  Thus I can understand why the military would have refused the project, although requested by their own National Commission. But they must have or at least should have discussed it before our arrival. The argument brought up was the President's privacy, not security.

As for Zapatero and UNASUR, all I can say is: would you say the same thing of Michelle Bachelet?

If the influence doesn't come from Cuba, it will come from the USA. It has been like that for many decades. Unless it starts coming from China or Russia, or even Iran, who according to my info, is now present in Venezuela. Maybe Nacho can confirm this information.

JE comments:   Yes, Nacho.  What can you tell us about Chinese and Russian influence?  (We wouldn't expect Putin to limit his meddling to the United States only, eh?)  Even more interesting would be the Iran factor.  What's the word in Caracas?

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