Every year, the Independent Research Committee, comprised of a group of students from Glendon’s International Studies Department, conducts research on a particular country, hosts a symposium in February on contemporary issues facing that country, visits the country to study, intern or work, and then seeks publication of their research.
This year, the Independent Research Committee has chosen Venezuela, one of the leading oil producing nations in the world, for its International Studies Symposium taking place at York’s Glendon campus on Saturday, Feb. 28.
Right: The committee has chosen Venezuela for its international studies symposium
The committee chose Venezuela because the country plays an important role in shaping global energy security. This, among other factors, has allowed Venezuela to maintain a unique position as a leader within the Americas. The government of Venezuela, under current President Hugo Chávez, has employed oil diplomacy and oil as aid to further its agenda, not only within Venezuela, but within Latin America as a whole.
Left: Hugo Chávez
Chávez’s actions to further his Socialist Revolution have led to the reform of a number of social policies to benefit the Venezuelan people, particularly in the areas of education and health care. However, his actions have not been without controversy and public opinion is divided, both within the country and outside it on the implications of his policies. This has led to actions such as mass student protests within Venezuela and the refusal by opposition parties to continue their electoral campaigns against his party.
To consider the myriad of challenges facing Venezuela, the students have collected an impressive group of individuals for their symposium. Speaking at this year’s event is Adina Mercedes Bastidas Castillo, who served as the vice-president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela from 2000 to 2002. Other noted participants include Eva Golinger, a Venezuelan-American lawyer, writer and investigator; Edward Mercado, director, Us-Venezuela (USVEN) Bolivarian Exchange Network; Alex Grant, activist and national coordinator of Hands Off Venezuela; Paul Kellogg, professor in the Department of International Studies at Trent University; Clara Herrera, an economist who has also worked on the prize-winning documentary Raza Cósmica; Judy Rebick, Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice & Democracy at Ryerson University; Maria Victor, Venezuelan sociologist and policy analyst; Maria Fitch, a consultant in conflict resolution and community legal activist; James Early, director of Cultural Heritage Policy at the Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution; and Carles Muntaner, research chair at the Social, Equity & Health section of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and professor of nursing, public health and psychiatry at the University of Toronto.
Members of Glendon’s Independent Research Committee on Venezuela are fourth-year students Andrew Campbell, Katherine Hall, Nicholas Hersh, Andrea Hiebert, Avril Lang, Ekaterina Malyuzhinets and Clara Wong. The symposium is free and open to the public and interested participants are invited to register online through the Venezuela Symposium Web site.
Submitted by Clara Wong, communications & logistics director for the Independent Research Committee on Venezuela