Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hugonnier Marine, Travelling Amazonia, 2006, Super16mm film transferred onto dvd with sound Duration 23.52 minutes

Hugonnier Marine, Wednesday (Monte Pascoal, Brazil), 2005, Lambda print and fluorescent tubes

Hugonnier Marine, Thursday (Monte Pascoal, Brazil), 2005, Lambda Print and fluorescent tubes

After showing in 2006, during the exhibition Pre-Emptive, two photographs out of her sequence Towards Tomorrow (International Date Line Alaska), the Kunsthalle Bern is pleased to announce the first solo-exhibition of French artist Marine Hugonnier in Switzerland.

Featuring a new film-production: Travelling Amazonia, the exhibition consists of 3 films and photographic works which come out of the artist’s exploration of the entanglement between history, geography and its representation. Travelling Amazonia closes the trilogy formed by Ariana, 2003 and The Last Tour, 2004, where Hugonnier explores the relation between landscape and history. The question of ‘viewpoint’ is addressed in a different way in all three of the films.

Ariana questions the implications of the panoramic shot, its relation to political power, and at the same time tells the story of a trip and an undertaking that was never completed. Its failure is the film’s central theme.

The Last Tour is a fiction in the near future, showing the ‘last’ voyage in a dirgible over the Matterhorn national Park. The film seems to introduce the moment that scenic outings will defintively belong to the past, at “the end of the society of the spectacle”.

After a journey with a film crew to Afghanistan and a trip in a hot air balloon over the Matterhorn, Hugonnier travels to the heart of the Amazon jungle to film Travelling Amazonia. The film’s narrative is centered around the Transamazonia highway, a massive project devised by the Brazilian government in the seventies to establish a route that would bisect the Amazon forest and connect the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts. The objective of Hugonnier and her team is to build a dolly and tracks with the same materials as were employed in building the highway. The construction of the Transamazonia generated an industry around the extraction of natural resources like metal, wood and rubber. Hugonnier and her team make use of these materials to film upon the very same road a „travelling shot“, which re-enacts the linearity of the Transamazonia highway and which recalls the pioneering ideals that this colonialist project embodied.

The exhibition also includes photographic and other works which complement the films. Wednesday and Thursday seek to reproduce the exact moment of the discovery of Brazil by the Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral. Cabral first saw Monte Pascoal at dusk on Wednesday April 22, 1500 and had to wait for the early hours of next morning to confirm his vision. Beach of the New World shows the exact geographical spot where Cabral and his crew first went ashore. Hugonnier alludes to those few hours in history when the ideals, beliefs and made-up imagery of “The New World” made their lasting entry into the Western psyche.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mexico Worries About Its Own Southern Border
Published: June 18, 2006

TAPACHULA, Mexico, June 11 — Quiet as it is kept in political circles, Mexico, so much the focus of the United States' immigration debate, has its own set of immigration problems. And as elected officials from President Vicente Fox on down denounce Washington's plans to deploy troops and build more walls along the United States border, Mexico has begun a re-examination of its own policies and prejudices.

Here at Mexico's own southern edge, Guatemalans cross legally and illegally to do jobs that Mexicans departing for the north no longer want. And hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants from nearly two dozen other countries, including China, Ecuador, Cuba and Somalia, pass through on their way to the United States.

Dense jungle makes establishing an effective law enforcement presence along the line impossible. Crossing the border is often as easy as hopping a fence or rafting for 10 minutes. But, under pressure from the United States, Mexico has steadily increased checkpoints along highways at the border including several posts with military forces.

The Mexican authorities report that detentions and deportations have risen in the past four years by an estimated 74 percent, to 240,000, nearly half along the southern border. But they acknowledged there had also been a boom in immigrant smuggling and increased incidents of abuses and attacks by corrupt law enforcement officials, vigilantes and bandits. Meanwhile, the waves of migrants continue to grow.

Few politicians have made public speeches about such matters. But Deputy Foreign Minister Gerónimo Gutiérrez recently acknowledged that Mexico's immigration laws were "tougher than those being contemplated by the United States," where the authorities caught 1.5 million people illegally crossing the Mexican border last year. He spoke before a congressional panel to discuss "Mexico in the Face of the Migratory Phenomenon."

In an interview, Mr. Gutiérrez said Mexico needed to "review its laws in order to have more legitimacy when we present our points of view to the United States."

Another high-level official in the Foreign Ministry was more blunt, but spoke only on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be seen as undermining Mexico in its dealings with the United States.

"Are we where we should be in the treatment of migrants?" the official said. "No we are not. But is the Mexican government aware of that? Yes, and it is something we are trying to correct."

Unlike the immigration debate in the United States, where immigration opponents and proponents bandy about estimated costs and benefits for everything from the agriculture industry to suburban horticulture, hard numbers on the effects of illegal migration on Mexico are rare. A trip to Chiapas raises questions about whether Mexico practices at home what it preaches abroad.

If the major characters in the migration drama unfolding in Chiapas could be captured in a collage, it would include a burly, white-haired farmer named Eusebio Ortega Contreras, who did not hide that most of the workers who picked mangos in his fields for $6 a day were underage, undocumented Guatemalans. Indians from Chiapas used to do these jobs, Mr. Ortega said. But in the past five years, they have been migrating to the United States. And lately, he said, he has begun to worry that he is going to lose the Guatemalans, too.

"We know that the conditions we provide our workers are not adequate," said Mr. Ortega, president of the local fruit growers' association, who showed a reporter the meager shelter he can offer: an awning off a hay shed for a roof and lined-up milk crates for beds. "But costs are going up. Production is going down. We barely earn enough money to maintain our orchards, much less improve conditions for the workers."

Joaquín Aguilar Vásquez, a 22-year-old father of two, would be standing with his knapsack in front of a passenger bus for the northern border, because jobs here at home barely kept his family fed. He said he started migrating two years ago to work in an electronics factory in Tijuana, where he earned $12 a day and saved enough to build a house. When he reaches Tijuana this time, he said, he will hire a smuggler to sneak him to a construction job in New Orleans.

There would be a skinny unidentified Chinese citizen, chain-smoking in the new migration detention center after being caught with more than 50 of his countrymen stowed away among banana crates in the back of a tractor-trailer. Next to him would be a group of Cuban rafters who floated to Mexico because of the increased United States Coast Guard presence around Florida. And there would be a flock of Central Americans, so scruffy and tough they seemed right out of "Oliver Twist," hopping a freight train north.

In the collage, Edwin Godoy, a 21-year-old Honduran who said he was deported last year from Miami and separated from his wife and two children, would be posing in front.

"They call this train the beast," Mr. Godoy shouted in English to get attention. "Do you want to know why? Because it can either take you where you want to go, or it can kill you. Some of us won't make it out of here alive."

At the start of his presidency nearly six years ago, Mr. Fox pledged that, as part of negotiations with the United States for legal status for illegal Mexican immigrants, this country would crack down on the flow of illegal immigrants crossing from Guatemala. He talked of a so-called Southern Plan that was to be an "unprecedented effort," and the United States offered an estimated $2 million a year to help Mexico deport illegal Central American immigrants.

George Grayson, an expert on Mexico at the College of William and Mary who has made several research trips to Mexico's southern border, said little had come of those efforts. He described this border as an "open sesame for illegal migrants, drug traffickers, exotic animals and Mayan artifacts."

And Mr. Grayson said the United States ended its support for deportation after the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, which instead provides some technical aid and training to increase security at Mexico's southern border checkpoints.

Mexican migration officials acknowledged that they had fewer than 450 agents patrolling the five states along this frontier, which has some 200 official and unofficial crossing points.

The rains came recently and flooded most rivers, making parts of this border as treacherous as the Sonora Desert, the deadly Arizona gateway where more than 460 migrants died of exposure and dehydration last year. But human rights advocates and government migration officials say nature does not do as much harm here as crime and corruption.

The Rev. Ademar Barilli, a human rights advocate who, with the support of the Roman Catholic Church, runs a shelter for migrants in Tecún Umán, a Guatemalan border city, said that unlike crossing patterns at the northern border, migrants here did not typically go far into remote areas, hoping to avoid the authorities. Instead, he said, the migrants try to bribe their way through.

"A migrant with money can make it across Mexico with no problems," Father Barilli said. "A migrant with no money gets nowhere."

Mexican law authorizes only federal migration agents and federal preventive police officers to inspect cars for illegal migrants and to demand proof of legal status. But Mexican authorities acknowledge that migrants face run-ins with every level of law enforcement.

Migrants are also routinely detained by machete-wielding farmers, who extort their money by threatening to turn them over to the police. So many female migrants have been raped or coerced into sex, the authorities said, that some begin taking birth control pills a few months before embarking on the journey north.

Few are punished for such crimes, the authorities added, because the migrants rarely report them.

"This society does not see migrants as human beings, it sees them as criminals," said Lucía del Carmen Bermúdez, coordinator for a government migration agency called Grupo Beta. "The majority of the attacks against migrants are not committed by authorities, although there is still a big problem with corruption in Mexico. Most violence against migrants comes from civilians."

Grupo Beta is a uniquely Mexican creation; established 16 years ago in Tijuana to protect migrants. It was a time, said Pedro Espíndola, the director of Grupo Beta, when Mexican migration to the United States began to soar, and smuggling groups evolved from small-time, community-based operations into transnational criminal cartels.

Grupo Beta was expanded to the southern border in 1996, Mr. Espíndola said, when throngs of Central American migrants, aiming for the United States, began hopping freight trains in Tapachula. Train stations became easy staging areas for gangs to ambush migrants. Hospitals became overwhelmed with men and women who had fallen beneath moving locomotives, often losing limbs to their wheels.

Last year, Grupo Beta reported, 72 migrants died crossing the southern border, mostly in accidents on trains or highways. Human rights groups say the real figure is more than twice as high. And in the 16 years since one woman, Olga Sánchez Martínez, began selling bread and embroidery to operate a shelter and then a clinic for migrants, she said, she has treated more than 2,500 migrants with machete and gunshot wounds or severed limbs.

Last year's rains did so much damage to the bridges and roads around Tapachula that the train does not stop here anymore. But that has not stopped the migrants.

Some detour north of here, the authorities said, to train stations that run through the state of Tabasco. But migrants like Mr. Godoy, the Honduran, have so far refused to abandon this route. He walked eight days along the tracks that run from here to the station in Arriaga, about 120 miles away. Then he, along with at least 300 others, hopped a freight train that leaves there almost nightly, in plain view of evening traffic, the local police and the train's engineer.

It was Mr. Godoy's third attempt in three months. He said he had been caught by United States Border Patrol officers in Laredo, Tex., on each of his previous trips.

"I am not going to give up," he said. "I had a good life in Miami. I got no criminal record. I never hurt nobody. I'm just trying to be with my kids, you know? That's all I need."

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Return of Fania, the Record Company That Made Salsa Hot
Published: June 4, 2006

FANIA RECORDS, the legendary New York label that pioneered salsa, has often been called the Latin Motown. In its heyday, from the late 1960's through the 70's, Fania, like Motown, had a superstar-packed roster, a virtual monopoly on salsa's A-list: Celia Cruz, Willie Colón, Hector Lavoe, Johnny Pacheco, Rubén Blades, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, Bobby Valentin, Larry Harlow and other greats. Like Motown, Fania began as a humble cottage industry — its releases were once sold out of the trunk of a car on the streets of Harlem and the Bronx — and became a multimillion-dollar business that carried a bracing musical hybrid to the nation and the world.

But the comparison soon breaks down. Today Motown looms gigantic in American cultural memory, a cornerstone of the 60's nostalgia industry, the subject of innumerable books and documentaries, its hits still ubiquitous on the airwaves decades after they made the charts. Fania, on the other hand, is recalled mostly by collectors and Latinos of a certain age. And where Motown's records have been endlessly reissued and anthologized, Fania's catalog languished for years, its master tapes moldering in a warehouse in Hudson, N.Y. Dozens of its most important recordings are out of print, and others were so shoddily transferred to CD — often directly from the original vinyl — as to be virtually unlistenable.

Now, though, a Fania revival is stirring. Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez just finished shooting "El Cantante," a biopic about the short, tragic life of the singing star Hector Lavoe. More important, the music itself is at last being reissued properly, with informative liner notes (in Spanish and English) and shimmering remastered sound that conjures a bygone era: the funky tumult of Latin New York in the years of Vietnam, Watergate and Jimmy Carter. Emusica, the Miami company that purchased the Fania catalog last year in a deal worth several million dollars, recently released the first 30 of a planned 300 reissues. This bounty holds surprises even for longtime Fania aficionados and offers non-initiates a chance to catch up with some of the greatest music from one of pop's most fertile periods.

"Fania is the catalog of salsa music, an unmatched body of recordings," said David Garcia, an assistant professor of music at the University of North Carolina and an expert on Latin music. Larry Harlow, the keyboardist and bandleader who produced and arranged many of Fania's classic records (his 1979 album "Yo Soy Latino" is among the first reissued Fania CD's), called the label's output "a chronological biography of the whole Latin music scene from the mid-60's through the early 80's." Fania, Mr. Harlow said, "is Latin music." The label was the brainchild of unlikely business partners: the Dominican flutist and bandleader Johnny Pacheco and Jerry Masucci, an Italian-American former New York City police officer turned lawyer who fell in love with Latin music during a brief stay in Cuba in the early 60's. In 1964, Mr. Masucci (who died in 1997) and Mr. Pacheco teamed up and began signing hot New York musicians, including Ray Barretto (who died in February at 76), a conga virtuoso and leader of one of the city's best dance bands, as well as younger bandleaders like Bobby Valentin and Mr. Harlow.

By the late 60's the label's roster had swelled with young talent, and Fania would soon annex several smaller Latin labels. The roster included Willie Colón, a gifted trombonist and composer with eclectic musical tastes, and Hector Lavoe, a Puerto Rican singer with a luminous tenor voice. Together these musicians honed a new sound — a blend of bustling Afro-Cuban rhythms, big-band jazz, street-smart R&B and other styles — in a combustive atmosphere of collaboration and friendly rivalry.

"It was a very competitive time," recalled Mr. Colón, who in recent years has become involved in New York City politics, running for public advocate in 2001 and serving as co-chairman of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's re-election campaign last year. "Within the label, there was a lot of competition. We were all trying to innovate and outdo each other."

Those innovations are all over the first batch of Fania reissues. The music is built on a rock-solid Afro-Cuban base, on the clave beat and on the sensuous big-band stylings of Cuban son, with numerous other styles stirred into the mix, from mambo and rumba to Puerto Rican plena and bomba. But on early albums like "El Malo" (1967) by Mr. Colón, and classic 70's releases like "Rey del Bajo" by Mr. Valentin and "El Maestro" by Mr. Pacheco (both 1974), a sophisticated new style emerges, with son's 1-4-5 chord structures giving way to jazz chords and harmonies, complex arrangements and far more aggressive rhythm than is typical of Cuban music.

Cold war geopolitics played a role in the development of that sound. The Cuban embargo cut off virtually all contact between the island and musicians based in the United States, and a distinctively New York style was incubated in the city's dozens of Latin nightclubs. The Fania reissues radiate big-city cosmopolitanism. The label was a melting pot, with a lineup that included black and white Latinos: Puerto Ricans (Mr. Valentin, Ismael Rivera, Pete Rodriguez), Dominicans (Mr. Pacheco), Panamanians (Mr. Blades), Cubans (Celia Cruz), native New Yorkers (Mr. Barretto, Mr. Colón), even gringos like Mr. Harlow, né Lawrence Kahn, whose keyboard skills earned him the nickname El Judio Maravilloso (the Marvelous Jew). Their music drew on bebop, soul, rock and other sounds of the polyglot metropolis, and the lyrics were steeped in grit and street reportage.

"We were making city music, talking about, you know, city things — what's happening on the corner, stories about drugs, violence, looking for a job," Mr. Colón said. "The stuff that was coming from Cuba was more rural, you know, 'my grass shack' and all that. We were kind of doing an urban folklore."

Mr. Colón in particular cultivated an image as a New York street tough, toying with gangster iconography and glowering on the covers of records like "El Malo" ("The Bad One"), whose artwork includes photos of his band performing in prisoners' uniforms.

What really shines through on these remastered records is extraordinary musicianship. Albums like "Celia & Johnny" (1974), Mr. Pacheco's collaboration with Ms. Cruz, and Roberto Roena's "Roberto Roena y Su Apollo Sound 5" (1973) are the essence of classic salsa: tough, gleaming, unstoppable dance music, with brass fanfares braying over crackling syncopation from claves, timbales and congas.

Jazz fans who have not caught up with salsa will be impressed by the virtuosity packed into tight pop song structures: Eddie Palmieri's cluster-chord-thick electric piano solo on the title track of his 1971 "progressive salsa" landmark "Vamonos Pa'l Monte," or Mr. Colón's blazing trombone improvisations on "El Malo." Most of these records are headlined, à la big-band jazz, by bandleader-instrumentalists. By the mid-1980's, with the arrival of a new style, salsa romántico, singers routinely got top billing. (In that period Fania dissolved amid a string of lawsuits involving royalties.)

Fania's heroic sound was a singer's: the high, pure voice of Hector Lavoe, whose mastery of both velvety crooning and fierce, percussive vocal improvisation set the standard for all salseros who followed. On the remastered version of his 1975 solo album "La Voz," one hears the disarmingly boyish warmth of his voice, a yearning quality that fires both love ballads and up-tempo numbers like "Mi Gente" ("My People"), the Johnny Pacheco song that became Mr. Lavoe's anthem. The sweetness of Mr. Lavoe's singing belied his hard living and hard luck — battles with drug abuse, the murder of his son, suicide attempts and an AIDS-related death at 46 — and today, 13 years after his death, he remains salsa's tragic saint. (His cult, one suspects, will only grow when "El Cantante" hits theaters.)

Fania will forever be defined by those hard-driving salsa records from the mid-70's, not least by the albums of its flagship band, the Fania All-Stars, which featured most of the label's biggest names. (Emusica is planning several Fania All-Star releases.) But the new reissues reveal the surprising breadth of Fania's catalog: it wasn't just a salsa label. The recordings include a remarkable album by the eccentric vocalist La Lupe, singing torchy boleros with string orchestra accompaniment; groove-oriented Latin jazz by the Cuban conga legend Mongo Santamaria; "Cuba y Puerto Rico Son," a superb 1966 collaboration between Tito Puente and a young Celia Cruz; and several very funky boogaloo and Latin soul releases from the middle and late 60's. The best of these is Joe Bataan's "Riot" (1968), whose cover photo of weapon-wielding Latin youth captures the growing militancy of the barrio in those turbulent years.

One of the hallmarks of Fania's golden age is politics, the social-consciousness messages musicians brought to songs that had previously stuck to themes of romance and dancing. "It was revolution time," Mr. Harlow remembered. "It was Woodstock time. It was the Black Panthers. It was Vietnam. When Latin music got cut off from Cuba in the 1960's, New York musicians added that new kind of lyrical content. We would sing about love, we would sing about war, we would sing about protest."

The pivotal figure was Rubén Blades, the singer-songwriter whose poetic lyrics carried forceful, often satirical messages about racism, social justice and cultural pride. "Siembra," Mr. Blades's 1978 collaboration with Mr. Colón, was a sweeping concept album with propulsive salsa tunes (and disco parodies) lampooning American materialism and calling for Latino unity, which for years stood as the top-selling Latin album of all time.

Like nearly all Fania albums, "Siembra" was recorded in a Manhattan studio. Your local record store will probably shelve these CD's in the world music section with all the other non-Anglophone stuff, but salsa is homegrown American music, as much a part of the indigenous musical landscape as jazz or rock or hip-hop.

At a moment when the country is convulsed by debate over the latest waves of Latin immigration, the Fania rereleases are reminders of the deep roots of Latinos here — the first Puerto Rican tradesmen arrived in New York in the 17th century — and of the profound role they have played in both shaping United States culture and exporting it back to points south.

"Fania really led the way in spreading salsa throughout South America and the Caribbean," Professor Garcia said. Leading second- and third-generation salsa musicians have hailed from such places as Colombia and Venezuela, and it wasn't just Fania's music but also its messages that took root. The huge popularity throughout Latin America of politically trenchant albums like "Siembra," with its feisty calls for pan-Latin pride, is just one dramatic example of the ways that the Latin diaspora has spoken back to the homeland.

Latin music has found a growing audience among gringos in the United States. But is the audience that embraced the Buena Vista Social Club's prerevolutionary Cuban son ready to discover some more Latin music, not nearly as genteel, from a lot closer to home?

The sound should certainly be familiar to most American listeners. Fania's songwriters were inspired by American pop like Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," but the influence ran both ways: the sonic texture of Gaye's album, with its gently percolating congas, is audibly indebted to salsa. Fania's sound seeped into soul and classic rock, into Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield, into Santana and even Led Zeppelin, whose album radio staple "Fool in the Rain" is a salsa pastiche. And no one who has lived in a city with a significant Latino population in the last four decades can have missed the festive music blasting from cars and open apartment windows on sultry summer evenings.

To younger Latinos enamored of today's Fania equivalent, reggaetón, these old albums will doubtless sound old-fashioned. But music this rhythmically tough could never be dowdy. It's late-20th-century music ready to ignite 21st-century dance floors.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

5th Austrian Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts to


This year’s Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts goes to the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson. Elisabeth Gehrer, Austrian Federal Minister of Education, Science and Culture, will present the Prize on 7th June, 2006, at 7 p.m. in the audience hall of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture in Vienna.

The Euro 55,000 Kiesler Prize is presented alternately by the Republic of Austria and the City of Vienna every two years for extraordinary achievements in architecture and the arts that relate to Frederick Kiesler’s experimental, innovative attitudes and his theory of ‘correlated arts’.

“The jury acknowledges Olafur Eliasson as an artist whose interdisciplinary approach and many years of international activity constitute a comprehensive realignment in relations between the art work and the viewer in the sphere of nature, culture, architecture and art. On the basis of scientific studies and models of philosophy and perception theory, Olafur Eliasson creates complex, sensible modellings of the parameters of time and space ... very much in line with the inspiring, comprehensive work concept of Frederick Kiesler ...”
Quotation of the jury 2006: Monica Bonvicini, Peter Cook, Gregor Eichinger, Marco De Michelis and Eckhard Schneider.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Seeking United Latin America, Venezuela's Chávez Is a Divider

Published: May 20, 2006

BOGOTÁ, Colombia, May 19 — As Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, insinuates himself deeper in the politics of his region, something of a backlash is building among his neighbors.

Mr. Chávez — stridently anti-American, leftist and never short on words — has cast himself as spokesman for a united Latin America free of Washington's influence. He has backed Bolivia's recent gas nationalization, set up his own Socialist trade bloc and jumped into the middle of disputes between his neighbors, even when no one has asked.

Some nations are beginning to take umbrage. The mere association with Mr. Chávez has helped reverse the leads of presidential candidates in Mexico and Peru. Officials from Mexico to Nicaragua, Peru and Brazil have expressed rising impatience at what they see as Mr. Chávez's meddling and grandstanding, often at their expense.

Diplomatic sparring has broken into the open. Last month, after very public sniping between Mr. Chávez and Peru's president, Alejandro Toledo, the country withdrew its ambassador from Caracas, citing "flagrant interference" in its affairs.

"He goes around shooting from the hip and shooting his mouth off, and that has caused tensions," Jorge G. Castañeda, a former Mexican foreign minister, said by phone from New York, where he is teaching at New York University. "The difference now is that he's picking fights with his friends, not just his adversaries."

Some of Mr. Chávez's gestures, like his tendency to tweak the Bush administration, or the aid projects he has bankrolled with Venezuela's oil money, still leave him popular, particularly among the poor.

But increasingly, the very image of the Venezuelan leader has come to stand for a style of caustic nationalism that many in the region fear, as the divisions provoked by the man who professes to want to unify his region have widened.

"He is beginning to overreach, wanting to be involved in everything," said Riordan Roett, director of Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. "It's a matter of egomania at work here."

Mr. Chávez, for instance, has taken the uncompromising stand that governments must choose either his vision of continental unity or free trade with Washington, which Mr. Chávez blames for impoverishing the region. "You either have one or the other," he said. "Either we're a united community or we're not."

In late April, he exasperated Colombia, Ecuador and Peru by declaring that Venezuela would drop out of their trade group, the Andean Community of Nations, because the other three members were seeking free trade agreements with the United States. He has instead formed a trade bloc with Cuba and Bolivia's new Socialist government.

While the move was filled with political symbolism, analysts say it offers few real prospects for trade and threatens badly needed integration among Andean countries, which still depend on United States markets.

"Chávez's idea of sovereignty seems pretty selective," said Michael Shifter, a senior policy analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue policy group in Washington. "Chávez has been saying, in effect, 'You're either with us or against us.' For most Latin Americans that hubristic message doesn't go over very well, whether it comes from Washington or Caracas."

The sparring with Peru's government erupted last month after President Toledo said it made no sense for Mr. Chávez to criticize his Andean partners for dealing with Washington when Venezuela sells most of its oil to the United States.

But he saved his strongest words for Mr. Chávez's general involvement in Peruvian affairs.

"Mr. Chávez, learn to govern democratically," Mr. Toledo said. "Learn to work with us. Our arms are open to integrate Latin America, but not for you to destabilize us with your checkbook."

When Alan García, a candidate in Peru's June 4 presidential election, also took Mr. Chávez to task, the Venezuelan president responded with, among other things, an endorsement of his opponent.

"I hope that Ollanta Humala becomes president of Peru," Mr. Chávez declared, backing Mr. García's nationalist opponent, who has modeled himself on the Venezuelan leader. "Go, comrade! Long live Ollanta Humala! Long live Peru!"

Mr. Chávez called Mr. García, a former president whose tenure was marred by corruption scandals, "shameless, a thief," and warned that if he were elected "by some work of the devil," Venezuela would withdraw its ambassador.

But it was Peru that made the move first. Venezuela soon followed, and the Chávez government responded by calling Mr. Toledo an "office boy" for President Bush. Mr. García benefited handsomely, taking a long lead in the polls.

Surveys showed Peruvians had little patience for Mr. Chávez's interference. Only 17 percent of Peruvians said they had a positive view of the Venezuelan leader, the Lima-based Apoyo polling firm found.

In Nicaragua, Mr. Chávez has thrown his support behind Daniel Ortega, the former leader of the communist Sandinista revolution, who is running for president in November elections.

"I shouldn't say I hope you win because they will accuse me of sticking my nose into Nicaraguan internal affairs," Mr. Chávez told Mr. Ortega, who was invited on his radio show in late April. "But I hope you win."

Mr. Chávez pledged to supply cheap fuel to a group of Sandinista-run towns. The gesture was interpreted by opponents as a naked ploy to influence the vote and criticized as a backhanded way to funnel money to the Ortega campaign.

Nicaragua's government called on Mr. Chávez to stay out. "We hope this partisan support comes to an end so that Nicaraguans can freely choose who we want to be the next leader of Nicaragua," Foreign Minister Norman Caldera told Nicaraguan television this month.

The American ambassador to Nicaragua, Paul A. Trivelli, speaking to Nicaraguan media, accused Mr. Chávez of "direct intervention," but analysts said it was too soon to say what effect Mr. Chávez would have on the vote.

In Mexico, the leftist candidate in the July presidential election, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has labored to distance himself from Mr. Chávez, to no avail.

When he made a slip of manners recently, calling President Vicente Fox a chattering bird and telling him to shut up, his conservative opponent, Felipe Calderón, ran a series of attack advertisements intercutting the gaffe with images of Mr. Chávez, whose tendency to hurl insults is a trademark. (He has called Mr. Bush a drunkard and Mr. Fox a "puppy dog of the empire.")

In recent weeks, Mr. López Obrador's lead in the polls has evaporated, and he now trails his opponent.

The disputes are not limited to politics, however, but also touch important national interests.

Mr. Chávez, for instance, encouraged and quickly supported Bolivia's nationalization of its energy sector this month, a move that infuriated Argentina and Brazil, which depend on Bolivian natural gas.

Though Venezuela was not a party to the dispute, Mr. Chávez joined a meeting of leaders from Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia aimed at calming the crisis, and dominated a news conference afterward, upstaging even his Bolivian protégé, President Evo Morales.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, steward of South America's largest economy and nominally a left-wing ally of Mr. Chávez, was particularly humiliated. Celso Amorim, the foreign minister, was called before senators and quizzed about Brazil's weak response. He said Mr. da Silva had admonished the Venezuelan leader in a private phone call, telling him that the Bolivian move could jeopardize Mr. Chávez's dream of a 5,000-mile pipeline to carry Venezuela's gas to Argentina.

Mr. da Silva also rebuked Mr. Chávez, he said, for involving himself in a dispute that Brazil is having with Uruguay and Paraguay over their trade bloc, Mercosur, saying Mr. Chávez's role was "a stimulant to activities incompatible with the spirit of integration."

The wounds have yet to heal. Jorge Viana, the governor of Acre state in Brazil, and a crucial ally of Mr. da Silva, told Brazilian radio last week that Mr. Chávez's meddling was "lamentable." He criticized Mr. Chávez's "precipitated decisions to interfere in the internal affairs of Bolivia, Peru and, by extension, those of Brazil." Mr. Chávez, he said, "needs to calm down."

James C. McKinley contributed reporting from Mexico City for this article, and Paulo Prada from Rio de Janeiro.


Thursday, May 18, 2006


MAY 22 - 27, 2006 IN NEW YORK CITY

28 leading New York City galleries and museums join forces to present ACAW, an annual citywide event that focuses this year on Asian video art.

A highlight is Fast Futures: Asian Video Art, an exhibition of 35 works drawn from an open call juried by Melissa Chiu (Asia Society Museum Director), Yu Yeon Kim (independent curator) and Barbara London (Museum of Modern Art Curator) to be presented in galleries and museums across New York. Emerging and established artists are included from Turkey, Afghanistan, Dagestan, Japan, India, Pakistan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand and Hong Kong.

Asia Society launches this exciting week on Monday May 22 at 6.30pm with Dialogues in Asian Contemporary Art: Take 4, a panel discussion with leading artist Vivan Sundaram, curators Johan Pijnappel and Barbara London, and moderated by Melissa Chiu. Other events throughout the week include lectures, performances and video screenings.

Schedule of Events

Mon, 5.22.06
Asia Society Museum
6:30 pm Discussion
8 pm Reception

Tues, 5.23.06 (Uptown)
American Folk Art Museum
5pm Exhibition Tour
6-8pm Reception

Gallery Korea
5-7 pm Reception

Japan Society
5:30-8 pm Reception

Goedhuis Contemporary
6-8 pm Reception

Tilton Gallery
6-8 pm Reception

China Institute
8-9:30 pm Screening/Discussion

Wed, 5.24.06 (Downtown)
Arts Projects International
11-5 pm
Exhibition Viewing

Brooklyn Museum
3-5 pm Screening/Discussion
Chuk Palu Gallery/Center for
Contemporary Art Afghanistan
6-8:30 pm Lecture/Reception

Ethan Cohen Fine Arts
6-8 pm Reception
7 pm Performance

Thurs, 5.25.06 (Chelsea)
Bose Pacia Gallery
6:30 pm Discussion/Exhibition Viewing

Chambers Fine Art
6-8 pm Exhibition Viewing

James Cohan Gallery
6-8 pm Exhibition Viewing

Max Protetch Gallery
6-8 pm Reception

M.Y. Art Prospects
6-9pm Reception

Sepia International /
The Alkazai Collection
6-8 pm Reception

Sundaram Tagore Gallery
6-8:30 pm Reception

Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
6-8 pm Reception

Thomas Erben Gallery
6-8:30 pm Reception

Fri, 5.26.06 (Various)
Rubin Museum of Art
4:30-12 pm Video Screening
Artist Tours & ACAW DJ

Bose Pacia Gallery
6:30 pm Video Screening

Flow Sound Collective
Diapason Gallery
8:30-12 pm
Sound Art Performances

Gallery Arts India
6-9 pm Reception

Sat, 5.27.06 (Boroughs)
Bronx Museum of the Arts
4-6 pm Video Screening

Queens Museum of Art
2-5 pm Music & Dance Performances

Asian Art Museum
(San Francisco)
Exhibition on view thru July 16

Sponsors: ArtAsiaPacific, Diapason, Chambers Hotel, Sotheby's, SurroundArt and WPS1.org Art Radio

For a complete agenda and schedule of events, visit http://www.acaw.net
Media Contacts: Elaine Merguerian Asia Society, (212) 327-9271
ACAW Managing Director: Leeza Ahmady, (212) 327-9251

Asian Contemporary Art Week is an initiative of the Asian Contemporary Art Consortium: Melissa Chiu, Asia Society and Museum; Eleni Cocordas, Japan Society; Ethan Cohen, Ethan Cohen Fine Arts; Esa Epstein, Sepia International, The Alkazi Collection; Michael Goedhuis, Goedhuis Contemporary; Steve Pacia and Shumita Bose, Bose Pacia Modern; France Pepper, China Institute; Jung Lee Sanders, Arts Projects International; David Solo and Jack and Susy Wadsworth, Collectors.

Austrian Cultural Forum New York
11 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022
212 319 5300

Exhibition dates:
April 25 – July 8 | 2006

Gallery hours:
Monday – Saturday | 10 am – 6 pm
Free admission.

Works by:

John Baldessari
Pier Paolo Calzolari
Clegg & Guttmann
Jessica Diamond
Marc Goethals
Georg Herold
Jenny Holzer
Joseph Kosuth
Sherrie Levine
Ilya Kabakov
Haim Steinbach
Franz West
Heimo Zobernig

In 2006, the world is commemorating the 150th anniversary of Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. From April 24, 2006, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York presents Freud and Contemporary Art: The Collection of the Sigmund Freud Museum Vienna, exhibiting this unique collection for the first time in the United States. The works assembled are extraordinary examples of how Freud’s thought found its way into the processes and contents of artistic creation. The exhibition is curated by Peter Pakesch, artistic director of the Joanneum in Graz, and Inge Scholz-Strasser, director of the Sigmund Freud Museum Vienna.

The Sigmund Freud Museum at Berggasse 19 in Vienna is a showcase of how a traditional memorial-type institution can become a platform for the numerous interconnections between science and art. Its transformation started in 1989, the 50th anniversary of Freud’s death and the centennial of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s birth, when American conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth was involved in an exhibition on Ludwig Wittgenstein at the Vienna Secession. As Kosuth’s work is also heavily influenced by Freud, the opportunity arose to shed light on the significance of Freud’s theories for the practice of art and present this correlation to the public in the place where the thoughts originated. Kosuth not only installed Zero & Not in Freud’s vacant private apartment but convinced other artists of major international reputation to each donate a work to the Sigmund Freud Museum Vienna. The example set by Kosuth was followed by John Baldessari, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Clegg & Guttmann, Jessica Diamond, Marc Goethals, Georg Herold, Jenny Holzer, Sherrie Levine, Ilya Kabakov, Haim Steinbach, Franz West, and Heimo Zobernig.

A special characteristic of the collection is that the works belong to the realm of conceptual art. The link between object, language, and representation in the arena of psychoanalytical theory is inherent in all of them, with Joseph Kosuth acting as the pioneer. West’s linguistic shifts and Herold’s overstated wit are telling examples of the various approaches that came together in this collection. Psychoanalytic thought has become an indispensable tool in the general practice of many artists, and as a consequence allows psychoanalytic theory to live on in the creative. Through its collection, the Museum demonstrates the vitality of psychoanalysis as a system and an intellectual model that has become an integral part of our consciousness and that through art acquires an additional level of action and interpretation.

An exhibition catalogue including artist statements, a foreword by Christoph Thun-Hohenstein, introductory texts by the curators Inge Scholz-Strasser and Peter Pakesch, and an essay by August Ruhs will be published in conjunction with the exhibition.

Freud and Contemporary Art: The Collection of the Sigmund Freud Museum Vienna is part of a series of programs organized or sponsored by the Austrian Cultural Forum New York to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Freud’s birthday. For more information, please visit http://www.acfny.org

The Austrian Cultural Forum is located at 11 East 52nd Street in Manhattan. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm. Admission is free. For additional information call 212 319 5300 or visit http://www.acfny.org

We gratefully acknowledge the support provided by Austrian Airlines, Austrian Lotteries, the City of Vienna, Gesellschaft der Freunde der Bildenden Künste, and Zumtobel Staff.

In just one month opens the first manifestation of Ideal City –Invisible Cities. Fortyone international artists will reflect from June 18 onward the ideal city and its sibling, the invisible city in Zamosc, Poland:

Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Francis Alys, Carl Andre, Archigram, Colin Ardley, Tim Ayres, Miroslaw Balka, Daniela Brahm, Pedro Cabrita Reis, Rui Calcada Bastos, Constant, Jonas Dahlberg, Tacita Dean, Jaroslaw Flicinski, Carlos Garaicoa, Dan Graham, George Hadjimichalis, Rula Halawani, Franka Hoernschemeyer, Craigie Horsfield, Katarzyna Jozefowicz, Jakob Kolding, Ola Kolehmainen, Lucas Lenglet, Sol LeWitt, David Maljkovic, Gerold Miller, Matthias Mueller, Teresa Murak, Brian O’Connell, Daniel Roth, Albrecht Schaefer, Kai Schiemenz, Les Schliesser, Melanie Smith, Monika Sosnowska, David Tremlett, Anton Vidokle, Lawrence Weiner, Tilman Wendland, Krzysztof Zielinski

Curated by Sabrina van der Ley and Markus Richter / European Art Projects
Commissioner: Anda Rottenberg, Adam Mickiewicz Institute

Zamosc is an extraordinary treasure of late Renaissance architecture singular in its urban conception, located near the Polish-Ukrainian border, on route between Lublin and Lwow. The never destroyed city will host the works of contemporary artists from twelve European and six non-European countries amidst its traces of a once truly multicultural society, the former orthodox churches, the cathedral, the synagogue as well as the Armenian houses.

Only few ideal cities were ever partially or completely built. In particular, the ideal city plannings that were closely tied to societal utopias usually remained unrealized. Zamosc, conceived by Count Jan Zamoyski and built between 1580 – 1605 by Italian architect Bernardo Morando, is one of the rare existing examples of an ideal city. Today Zamosc is included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage.

The artists working site-specifically will react to the given architecture and insert their work in public spaces and buildings, hidden courtyards or squares. Lawrence Weiner enfolds the arcades at the main square with one of his word sculptures. Monika Sosnowska composed a fountain while Miroslaw Balka sculpture relates to wounds, deeply cut during the second World War. Daniela Brahm, Colin Ardley, Kai Schiemenz determine squares and public spaces anew, Franka Hoernschemeyer reflects with her installation the clear gridding of the city’s layout and Lucas Lenglet drafted a columbarium for one of the courtyards. Les Schliesser sets up a museum for a fictive architect born in Zamosc, Jakob Kolding investigates functional city planning with a poster project and Craigie Horsfield introduces a sound installation. David Tremlett inserted pastel wall drawings into the cartouches of the Renaissance synagogue, while the structural works of Katarzyna Jozefowicz and Pedro Cabrita Reis d ialogue across its naves and Sol Lewitt inhabits its courtyard temporarily. Tilman Wendland’s installation in the historical museum will integrate documentation on ideal city plans of the moderns Le Corbusier, Niemeyer and Hansen and Jaroslaw Flicinski will conceive a large wall painting for the academy, in the gymnasium of which George Hadjimichalis will install his Workshop of Projects and Images in Crisis.

In the casemates of the decorates fortress Zamosc, the photo, film and video works by Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Francis Alys, Tacita Dean and Rula Halawani address the issues of geometry, order, defence systems, resistance and alleged security. In the historical academy building, which today houses the town’s high school, in the Historical Museum and at the Zamosc City Gallery 20 artists will be showing their works relating to the major themes of the exhibition including memory and the grid. The contemporary art works will engage in a challenging and substantial discourse with the historical city and the underlying invisible cities, hidden beyond or masked by time and history.

All in short walking distance, the exhibition will cover the entire city of Zamosc from June 18, 2006 to August 22, 2006. In September and October, a freshly adapted version of the exhibition will be shown in the city of Potsdam, which was mainly planned and built during Baroque times.

Ideal City - Invisible Cities is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation.

Further generous support is kindly provided by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Warsaw and the City of Zamosc. Additional funds thanks to ifa-Institute of Foreign Relations, Stuttgart; the Mondriaan Stichting, Amsterdam, the Instituto das Artes, Lisbon; the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon; the Luso-American Foundation, Lisbon and the Ford Foundation, Cairo.

Project Partners: City of Zamosc; BWA Zamosc; Museum Zamoyski, Zamosc; Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland; Art School of Zamosc, College of Management and Administration, Zamosc; Brandenburgischer Kunstverein, Potsdam; Kulturland Brandenburg e.V.; Filmmuseum Potsdam, Haus der Brandenburgisch-Preussischen Geschichte, Greige – Buero fuer Design.

For images and further information please view http://www.idealcity-invisiblecities.org or contact Anne Maier at European Art Projects, Tel. +49-30-30 38 18 37, Fax +49-30-30 38 18 30, am@european-art-projects.com

Preview in Zamosc, Poland
17 June 2006, from noon

17 June 2006, 3-6 pm

Official Opening
7 pm

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

La nueva revolución femenina
El fallo de la Corte sobre el aborto fue valeroso y la reacción de la Iglesia, desproporcionada.

Pocos temas han movilizado tanto a los colombianos como el aborto. Aunque Colombia llegó tarde al debate mundial, las pasiones desatadas por la demanda de la abogada Mónica Roa contra el artículo del Código Penal que condenaba a entre uno y tres años de cárcel a las mujeres que interrumpieran su embarazo, no tienen precedente en la historia del país. Fue una batalla campal. De un lado, la Iglesia y el Movimiento Laico no escatimaron esfuerzos para ganar este pulso: recogieron un millón de firmas para solicitarle a la Corte que conservara el aborto como delito; el cardenal Pedro Rubiano lo equiparó con el homicidio, los sacerdotes incluyeron la defensa de la vida del feto en sus sermones, la red Futuro Colombia y Laicos por Colombia pagaron avisos de página entera en los periódicos con imágenes amarillistas de fetos agonizantes de casi 9 meses. Incluso los niños escribieron cartas a la Corte rogándoles no dejar que las "mamás mataran a sus bebés". En privado, el lobby fue aún más intenso. A cada uno de los magistrados de la Corte le llegó el video El grito silencioso, con la filmación de un supuesto aborto en vivo, y magistrados de todas partes del mundo enviaron sus 'recomendaciones' a sus pares colombianos alertando sobre la inconveniencia de despenalizar.Del otro lado, se ubicaron Mónica Roa, el movimiento feminista y la vanguardia intelectual. Roa, una abogada bogotana de 30 años de la Universidad de los Andes, lideró una estrategia minuciosamente diseñada. Roa viajó a diferentes lugares del mundo para investigar qué argumentos habían sido efectivos con los jueces para despenalizar el aborto; estudió a fondo la jurisprudencia de la Corte y los tratados internacionales, y adelantó una efectiva labor de medios. Identificó a las personas más sensibles frente al aborto y las convirtió en sus aliados: involucró a médicos, académicos y organizaciones de mujeres en todas las regiones. Su lobby trascendió las fronteras colombianas. A la Corte Constitucional llegaron conceptos de la prestigiosa Clínica de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad de Yale, así como el grupo de derecho de Harvard y de cientos de expertos mundiales y magistrados.
El alcance del fallo Con una votación 5-3, la Corte Constitucional despenalizó el aborto en circunstancias excepcionales. En concreto, la Corte prohibió a partir de hoy enviar a la cárcel a las mujeres que aborten cuando su embarazo ha sido el resultado de una violación, cuando el feto tiene malformaciones graves O cuando pone en riesgo la salud y la vida de la mujer. Los médicos que se los practiquen tampoco podrán ser penalizados. El fallo es revolucionario en muchos sentidos. Primero, porque la Corte definió estos tres casos de manera muy amplia. Por ejemplo, en el caso de la malformación grave del feto, la Corte no especificó que debía ser genética. También se puede abortar en el caso en que sea el resultado del consumo de drogas, por ejemplo. ¿Significa esto que ahora está permitido abortar si se sabe que cuando nazca el niño será sordo o tendrá síndrome de Down? No. La Corte fue enfática en que esta excepción sólo se aplicará para casos en los cuales un médico certifique que la malformación es tan grave, que el niño no vivirá más de unos pocos días. Antes del fallo, así una mujer supiera que esperaba un bebé sin cerebro, o con una deformación cardíaca que no le permitiría a su hijo vivir ni una semana, tenía que darlo a luz. En el caso de la violación, la Corte Constitucional no exige a la mujer someterse a una inspección forense. ¿Basta con que diga que la violaron? No. La Corte fue explícita en afirmar que es necesario que el delito haya sido debidamente denunciado ante la Fiscalía. Esto mismo se aplica cuando el embarazo es producto del incesto, que también es un delito en Colombia. Poner una denuncia falsa contra una persona constituye en sí mismo un delito, por eso es bastante improbable que las mujeres denuncien por salvar el 'honor'.Cuando la "continuación del embarazo constituya peligro para la vida o la salud de la mujer, certificado por un médico", también podrá abortar legalmente. La Corte no especificó que el peligro debía ser inminente ni grave. Tampoco lo limitó a la salud física. De esta manera, también comprende la salud emocional o sicológica, pues la Corte tiene una amplia jurisprudencia acerca de cómo la salud es integral. ¿Basta tener mareos para poder abortar o la angustia propia de las madres primerizas? No. Un médico debe certificar que la vida o la salud corren peligro y los mareos no ponen en peligro a nadie. Pero, por ejemplo, una depresión grave sí puede ser causal para abortar. Es el médico quien lo evaluará.Precisamente por esta redacción tan amplia de este artículo, mucha gente cree que la sentencia de la Corte es una legalización del aborto por la puerta de atrás. En cierta forma tiene razón. Con la falta de controles que tiene el Estado y con la cantidad de embarazos indeseados que ocurren en Colombia, es poco factible que la sentencia se pueda ejecutar con la rigidez que exige el papel.La dimensión del aborto Estudios internacionales como los del Instituto Alan Guttmacher, de Nueva York, el centro de investigación sobre el aborto desde la perspectiva médica más reconocido del mundo, demuestran que en los países donde se ha liberalizado la práctica, el problema de mortalidad y salubridad disminuye considerablemente en el mediano plazo. Por eso, el fallo, además de implicar una defensa a las libertades y losderechos de la mujer, también es la base para solucionar un grave problema de salud pública. Como hasta el pasado miércoles en Colombia el aborto era una práctica ilegal, no hay cifras oficiales, pero varias instituciones han realizado investigaciones, por la magnitud del tema. Uno de los estudios más completos es el que realizó el Centro de Investigaciones sobre Dinámica Social (Cidis), de la Universidad Externado de Colombia en 22 ciudades del país. La investigación demostró que el 22 por ciento de las 33.275 mujeres de entre 15 y 55 años encuestadas declaró haber tenido por lo menos un aborto inducido. De esas mujeres, el 17 por ciento pertenecen al estrato bajo-bajo; el 25 por ciento, al estrato bajo, y el 22 por ciento, al medio-bajo. Casi la mitad de las mujeres que aceptaron haber abortado (45 por ciento) son adolescentes menores de 19 años, mientras que el promedio para el total de mujeres es 12,4 abortos por cada 100 embarazos.Aunque las cifras de Profamilia no se refieren directamente al número de abortos, la encuesta Nacional de Demografía y Salud contiene elementos que reconfirman los resultados de la investigación del Cidis. Según las cifras, el número de embarazos registrados en un año se acerca a 1.500.000, mientras que el número de nacimientos oscila entre 1.000.000 y 1.100.000. Lo que abre la pregunta sobre cerca de 500.000 partos que nunca se dieron. El aborto es la tercera causa de la mortalidad materna después de la eclampsia y las complicaciones del parto. Así lo aceptó el Ministerio de la Protección Social, como aceptó también que hay una cifra aproximada a los 300.000 abortos, según registró en el concepto favorable que mandó a la Corte Constitucional con ocasión de la demanda de despenalización. Lo que sí es claro es que la mayoría de las mujeres que abortan son pobres.El razonamiento de la Corte ¿Tomó en cuenta la Corte estas circunstancias sociales? Al parecer no. Según dijeron los magistrados a SEMANA, el fallo se tomó estrictamente interpretando los derechos de las mujeres garantizados por la Constitución. Aunque quienes se oponen a la despenalización del aborto se autodenominan Pro Vida, paradójicamente el eje del fallo fue la defensa de la vida. Normalmente el debate se había planteado entre el derecho a la libertad de las mujeres para decidir sobre su cuerpo y la vida del feto. La Corte le sacó el quite a este debate, y de entrada todos los magistrados reconocieron que era deber del Estado proteger la vida humana y que esta existía aun antes del nacimiento. Pero también reconocieron que la mujer tenía derecho a la vida y, aplicando un criterio de proporcionalidad, concluyeron que el derecho del feto va hasta donde no afecte desproporcionadamente el derecho de la mujer. En el caso en que la vida de la mujer corra peligro, la decisión era fácil. En el de la salud no tanto, pero la Corte consistentemente en todos sus fallos de tutela ha considerado que el derecho a la salud está estrechamente vinculado al de la vida. En el caso de las malformaciones graves, dado que sólo se aplica cuando la vida del feto es inviable, no se afecta el derecho a la vida, ya que en todo caso no va a vivir. Y en el de la violación, el razonamiento de los magistrados fue que sería ilógico que el Estado, que define el acceso carnal violento como un delito, se aliara con el violador para instrumentalizar a la mujer en la dirección que quería el criminal.¿Qué viene ahora?¿Puede una mujer hoy mismo ir a solicitar un aborto? Sí y no. El fallo es de aplicación inmediata, eso quiere decir que empezó a regir desde la semana pasada, cuando quedó en firme la decisión. Es decir, toda mujer que presente una denuncia penal contra el violador o el certificado de un médico dando fe de que ese embarazo pone en peligro la vida o la salud de la madre, o que el feto no es viable por malformaciones graves, puede exigir que le practiquen un aborto de inmediato, sin importar el mes en el que esté.Ese es otro de los elementos revolucionarios del fallo: no exige un plazo máximo para hacerlo como se exige en la mayoría de países, sino que lo deja a criterio del médico. Tampoco pone un tope mínimo de edad, lo cual sin duda podría evitar que siga creciendo el número de madres adolescentes pero no dejar de ser polémico. Pero, más importante aun, redactó la sentencia de tal forma que no hay necesidad de que el Congreso entre a reglamentarla. Esto es clave, puesto que lo que ha sucedido en la mayoría de países de América Latina es que por la vía de la reglamentación, el Congreso, con procedimientos engorrosos, ha anulado en la práctica el derecho reconocido por el tribunal supremo respectivo. En Colombia, el derecho a abortar en casos extremos opera desde ya.Sin embargo, al Ministerio de Protección Social le corresponde definir las condiciones de la práctica de los abortos dentro del sistema general de seguridad social. Definir el papel del asegurador, el del prestador, el de la población afiliada a los régimenes contributivo, subsidiado y vinculado. Deberá reglamentar en qué tipo de clínicas u hospitales se pueden practicar, cómo deben ser las salas de cirugía, registrar los procedimientos a seguir y los medicamentos que inducen la interrupción el embarazo; definir cuáles se van a incluir en el POS, entre otras cosas. Para esa tarea, el ministro Diego Palacios creó un comité especial que se reunirá esta semana con la sentencia de la Corte en la mano, con reglamentaciones de otros países donde ha sido despenalizado, y directrices de las organizaciones internacionales de la salud que le sirvan de guía. Pero se sabe que el Ministerio ya lleva meses preparándose para estar a la altura del fallo.La OMS, por ejemplo, recomienda que en las primeras nueve semanas de gestación el aborto sea inducido con medicamentos, y hasta las 12, se debe usar el método de aspiración al vacío. "Los medicamentos no serán costosos, pero hay que tener en cuenta que los procedimientos tienen indicaciones distintas ,dependiendo de las semanas de gestación", dijo a SEMANA Lenis Urquijo, director de Salud Pública del Ministerio.Uno de los motivos por los que se le recomienda a la mujer tomar temprano la decisión tiene que ver con la complejidad de los procedimientos. "No es lo mismo uno ambulatorio que uno que implica hospitalización y sala obstétrica", explicó Urquijo. Por ejemplo, entre las semanas 13 y 22 ya es necesario utilizar métodos quirúrgicos para evacuar el útero, como la dilación y el curetaje. La decisión de la Corte no sólo reducirá la mortalidad femenina. Si en Colombia se repiten los mismos efectos de la despenalización de otros países, se reducirán también los costos del sistema de seguridad social generados por la atención de las complicaciones de abortos ilegales. En Estados Unidos la despenalización cuesta cinco dólares por paciente, mientras que por atención de complicaciones se gastan entre 200 y 400 dólares. Son muchos gastos: los de sangre, transfusión, antibióticos. Hay muchas complicaciones por cuenta del aborto inseguro, como el daño interno en el aparato genitourinario, infertilidad, como afirmó Urquijo: "En términos de costos uno espera un ahorro porque se va a reducir la atención de las complicaciones leves, moderadas y severas que produce el aborto inseguro a corto y a largo plazo". De hecho, un estudio realizado por Cecilia López calculó que el sistema de salud colombiano gastó más de 76.000 millones de pesos durante 2005 en atender a mujeres que llegaron a los hospitales desangrándose o con infecciones graves por haberse practicado un aborto inseguro. Esto, claro, sin contar las muertes de mujeres pobres, que quedaron infértiles o perdieron la vida tratando de interrumpir su embarazo con ganchos de ropa, puntas de paraguas, ramas y otros elementos peligrosos.En los países que tienen legalizada la práctica, los procedimientos no invasivos se realizan incluso en instituciones médicas de primer nivel de atención porque no requieren un equipo más allá del necesario para un examen ginecológico. Los otros procedimientos se practican en hospitales que cuentan con instrumentación más compleja que asegure la atención plena de la mujer. El fallo de la Corte es claro en decir que aunque un médico puede alegar su derecho a la objeción de conciencia y negarse a practicar un aborto por principios morales individuales, una institución no podrá hacerlo y deberá encontrar un profesional que atienda la solicitud de la paciente. Ni siquiera las instituciones administradas por comunidades religiosas podrán hacerlo, porque el derecho a la objeción de conciencia no prevalece sobre el derecho a la vida o a la salud del paciente. Los contradictores de la despenalización del aborto califican la interrupción del embarazo como un método anticonceptivo atroz. Pero las dudas emocionales y sicológicas de una mujer que toma la decisión y lo aparatosa que resulta una intervención médica siempre serán más complicadas de manejar que el uso de un condón. Por eso, es difícil pensar que una mujer va a preferir tener que pasar por un aborto que usar un método anticonceptivo. Más ahora, que, saliendo de la clandestinidad, las parejas tendrán la posibilidad de discutir otras opciones con allegados. Lo importante ahora es que la despenalización vaya acompañada de una estrategia de educación sexual que estimule el uso de anticonceptivos, promueva el valor de la vida y disminuya la violencia sexual. "Si eso se hace bien, las mujeres que aborten lo van a hacer sólo por las razones que despenalizó la Corte. Ninguna va a abusar de su derecho, dijo Mónica Roa. Lo importante ahora es atacar las razones que llevan a las mujeres a abortar".En concreto, se requiere una política que garantice el acceso de los colombianos a los anticonceptivos, como se hizo recientemente en Bogotá. También campañas para disminuir la violencia sexual, para que las niñas de las comunas, a falta de muñecas no opten por tener hijos, para acabar con el machismo que impide que los hombres se sometan a una vasectomía, en fin, para que el tema de los embarazos indeseados se ponga en el centro de las políticas públicas. Esa es una de las grandes ganancias de este fallo. Ahora el problema se volverá visible, se discutirá y la sociedad tendrá que volverlo un tema colectivo.Ante un tema de esta complejidad ha causado bastante sorpresa la posición de la Iglesia. Es entendible que ésta, por cuestiones de doctrina, manifieste su rechazo al fallo. Sin embargo, era de esperarse que esta oposición fuera en cierta forma simbólica o nominal, como lo han sido sus posiciones frente a temas como el condón, el divorcio y la clonación. Se sentaría así una posición de principio, sin interferir con realidades que no se pueden ignorar. Pero haber llegado al extremo de ex comulgar a los magistrados que votaron a favor de la despenalización es no sólo desproporcionado, sino algo ridículo. Sobre todo si se tiene en cuenta que no son pocos los juristas que consideran que esos magistrados no hicieron nada diferente que respetar los parámetros de la Constitución. Esas posiciones anacrónicas, más cercanas a la Inquisioción que a la sociedad contemporánea, en lugar de sumar adeptos, tienen el efecto de distanciar a la Iglesia de sus fieles.La Corte hizo bien al dejar clara la diferencia que existe entre lo que puede ser un pecado para los católicos y lo que debe ser un delito para todos los colombianos.


Challenging abortion law in Colombia
An interview with Monica Roa
July 2005

AWID: Could you please explain the current abortion law in Colombia and how this impacts women?
MR: Abortion in Colombia is illegal under every circumstance. Colombia's abortion law stipulates that both the woman who has the abortion and the abortion provider can be sentenced to up to three years in prison. Colombia, Chile and El Salvador are the only three countries in Latin America that prohibit abortion under all circumstances. Only 4% of the world's population lives in countries where abortion is totally banned.
Although women do not go to jail for this reason often, the illegality constitutes a violation of their right to life, equality, integrity and dignity. Women are forced to risk their lives and health by getting unsafe abortions. This is how abortion is the third leading cause of maternal mortality in Colombia, which is unacceptable given that unsafe abortion is the only cause of maternal mortality that can be prevented.
AWID: What exactly have you targeted for change within the law, and what immediate impacts for women would result if the case was successful?
MR: The complaint petitions the review of the constitutionality of Article 122 of the Colombian penal code, which criminalizes abortion under all circumstances. It sets forth that the criminalization of abortion, when the woman's life or health is in danger, the pregnancy is the result of rape, and/or when the fetus has impairments incompatible with life outside the womb, violates the following rights:
The right to equality and to non-discrimination (political constitution, art. 13), by criminalizing a medical practice that only women need and which, in certain cases, is necessary to save their lives. The result of this discrimination is that, for example, women lack control over their own bodies, including their reproductive health. the criminalization of abortion stigmatizes a medical procedure that all women have the right to obtain. This discrimination disproportionately impacts young, poor and rural women.
The right to life, health and integrity (political constitution, art. 11, 12, 43 and 49), by failing to recognize the effects the total criminalization of abortion has on the life, health and integrity of women.
The right to dignity, reproductive autonomy and the free development of personhood (political constitution, preamble and art. 1, 16 and 42), by obligating women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term - in the case of rape from the beginning of the pregnancy, or in other cases, when serious fetal impairments, incompatible with life outside the womb, are found to exist - including when it goes against the woman's best interest for her physical, psychological or emotional well-being. These rights are also violated in that women are treated as "reproductive machines," ignoring the right to determine their own lives.
A favorable decision from the court would immediately give all women under these circumstances the right to have a legal and safe abortion provided by the public health system. At the same time, our objective is to take the debate around abortion to another level. We want Colombian society to discuss the issue as a matter of gender equality, social justice, and public health. The moral and religious positions should only be relevant as personal choices and not as public policy. Hopefully having this kind of debate will derive in a broader liberalization in the future.
AWID: What prompted you to challenge the law in the constitutional court at this time, and not before? Has there been a significant change in the political/social climate regarding abortion?
MR: "The likelihood of passing a new abortion law is higher now than at any other point in Colombian history," says Roa. "Legal precedent, international law, and societal attitudes towards abortion all appear to be working in favor of protecting the lives of Colombian women."
In the past 10 years two relevant legal developments have occurred that make this challenge viable and irrefutable. On one hand the Colombian constitutional court has recognized the legal value of international human rights arguments and has used them to solve constitutional challenges in other areas. On the other hand the international human rights arguments that frame illegal abortion as a violation of women´s rights have become clearer and stronger. I am only putting those two together.
From the public opinion point of view, I am gladly surprised by the response we have received so far. We have received a lot of support, the media coverage has all been favorable, and in many cases I have been accused of being too conservative. I hope this facilitates the decision making process to the court.
Several additional factors offer reason to believe that the challenge could be positively acted upon by Colombia's highest court, which needs a simple majority (5 out of 9 votes) to overturn the current provisions. The court composition includes the first-ever female magistrate and other justices who have in recent years issued statements against the criminalization of abortion in judicial arguments. Colombian society also appears to be sympathetic to a liberalization of the abortion law. A 2003 survey of Colombian men and women who are self-identified Catholics reveals that they condone abortion when: the woman's life is in danger (73%), the woman's health is at risk (65%), in cases of serious physical or mental fetal impairment (61%), and/or the pregnancy is the result of rape (52%) (source: Catholics for the right to decide).
AWID: What role has the women's movement in Colombia played in the development of a favorable climate for political change on the issue?
MR: In Colombia the women's movement has been working on the issue of abortion for a long time. Several attempts at passing law reforms have failed, but the debate has been ongoing and has been "maturing" with time. I am only building up on these fruitful advocacy efforts. The role of the international women´s movement has also been key since we owe the development of the international human rights standards to them.
From a strategic point of view, within the context of the constitutional challenge, the women´s movement plays the role of standing by the principle of complete liberalization. They remind society that this is only a first step, that it is not enough, and by the way they make my arguments sound more moderate (which facilitates the support of a group that does not agree with total liberalization or total criminalization).
AWID: If successful, how do you think the result could resonate within the region? Could it affect other countries with similar restrictive laws on abortion like Chile and El Salvador?
MR: I am positive it will. There is momentum in the region about the liberalization of anti-abortion laws. There are projects in many countries going on that have good chances of success. This momentum will be more visible as the projects advance, and it will be undeniable when successes start coming. All these will give advocates from other countries like the ones you mention, tools and inspiration to continue the struggle. This is a global movement that has no frontiers. It is time that the rights provisions written in international human rights treaties come to life and start having a real impact on women´s lives. That is the judge's role and women´s rights activists must give them the chance to do so by bringing challenges to the courts.
For more information on the case, please visit the Women's Link Worldwide website: http://www.womenslinkworldwide.org/