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Take 5 Venezuela: Prisoner Wives, Cheap Gas, Maduro On Maradona

Take 5 Venezuela: Prisoner Wives, Cheap Gas, Maduro On Maradona
Aurore Barlier and Pierre Labainville

We shine the spotlight this week on Venezuela:


Plenty of glowing foreign press coverage of the arrival in Caracas of former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, who came to support opposition leaders who've been jailed by the government of President Nicolás Maduro. But El Correo del Orinoco, a state-owned daily, wrote that the vast majority of Venezuelan people "rejected the presence of the former Spanish prime minister in the country," and criticized his interference in internal affairs. Gonzalez's visit is part of a growing movement to challenge the government's policy of jailing political opponents, with Italian daily La Stampa reporting on a group of wives of imprisoned government opponents who call themselves the "Women In White." The group has also denounced the lamentable economic situation of the country and demanded transparent presidential elections.


The Center for Biological Diversity has sent 12,000 unusually packaged condoms to Venezuela. The women's monthly Cosmopolitan writes that the condoms feature endangered species pictures on their packaging, as a way to raise awareness of nature conservation while responding to a well-publicized shortage of condoms the country has been experiencing. Last February, the media reported that Venezuela was running out of condoms which had led to skyrocketing prices and raised serious health concerns.


Venezuela is a new favorite destination of young people who do not want to go broke on their holidays. But although you can buy a beer for a few pennies and find a decent hotel for $5 a night, Reuters says that last year's approximately one million tourists is four times fewer than in Colombia for example. In people's mind, Venezuela remains a place of crime and frequent shortages.


In Caracas, gasoline for your car is actually cheaper than water: $0.015 per liter ($0.26 per gallon). Prices are even 40 times lower on the black market. With such low prices, Venezuela's carbon footprint is South America's biggest, and is an opportunity for bootleggers who sell the gasoline in neighboring Colombia. According to the Venezuelan newspaper La Calle, the government is considering raising prices, which surprisingly is supported by 59% of the population, according to a recent poll.

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Photo: Sdi-jr/GFDL


After the recent soccer scandals that forced FIFA chief Sepp Blatter to resign, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has made clear his preferred candidate is a certain No. 10 from Argentina. "(Diego) Maradona should become president of FIFA," Maduro declared. "He has been denouncing FIFA's abuses for years and all he's got in response were threats and ridicule." Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez, was a close friend of Maradona.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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