Free software liberates Venezuela

Short URL:


The third International Forum on Free Knowledge brought together many groups and individuals interested in the development of free software worldwide to the city of Maracaibo. One reason Venezuela choose to host this event is because starting in January (2006), their new free software law, directive 3.390, comes into effect, which mandates all government agencies to migrate to free software over a two year period. I was invited to speak about Telephonia Libre: the use of free software in telecommunications.

Map of VenezuelaMap of Venezuela

Directive 3.390 mandates all government agencies to migrate to free software over a two year period

While I am invited to speak at many events and conferences worldwide, most often I reject them immediately because they’re not open to the general public. This is one of the reasons I rarely speak in the U.S.—virtually all U.S. scientific conferences in my field are for profit and are organized by groups who charge fees so high that it discourages the general public from participating, or they are organized for the benefit of commercial vendors who are trying to market themselves to potential customers. Science Fiction conventions actually would be closer to my choice of U.S. venue, although I don’t seem to get invited to those.

I accepted this invitation for several reasons; first, it was open and free to the general public. Second, it was Juan Carlos Gentile who personally asked me to attend. And finally, I have always been immensely curious about Venezuela. While there, I had the extremely lucky chance to speak with directors in many of the organizations charged with carrying out Chavez’s vision of a “Bolivarian Revolution".

While my travel had been planned a number of weeks in advance, as with all travel I have experienced in Latin America, this turned out to be on a different concept of time. I didn’t hear back at all from Venezuela until the weekend before departure, but this is actually not that remarkable. By Monday the 21st of November, I knew I’d arrive in Maracaibo the next day, and return on the 29th. That much was confirmed to me by Ambar Rodriguez, who works for Conatel, which is their state telephone regulatory agency. I had a chance to speak with Ambar over the weekend, but I didn’t know which airport I would departing from, or even what airlines I’d be flying, until Monday morning.

To understand the blissful attitude I had taken, you have to understand this: I recall one time I was staying with a family in San Paulo, where we were scheduled to take a flight to Porto Alegre. The airport was across town, and our departure time was about half an hour away when we finally wandered out to the car. We didn’t even travel in much of a hurry. Yet, somehow, in the twisted and bizarre time warp that is Brazil, we arrived on time for our flight anyway, and I never quite figured that out either. Time often has a very different meaning in Latin America.

Many of the events and presentations at the event were, much like mine, of a rather technical nature. My presentation caused some difficulty for the translator I was given, who had no experience or understanding of the specialized technical terms I was using. This was only corrected near the end when a different person came forward to translate my speech. Some presentations were from groups who were using free software in some social setting. The event was heavily attended by many people, and particular technical directors from many key parts of the Venezuelan government, because of their migration plans for 2006.

I eventually meet up with Jeff Zucker from Perl Mongers, who traveled by bus from Caracas and the well known international free software activist, Juan Carlos Gentile, who drove all the way from Caracas along the same roads with Marko, who is also from Italy. While it is said to take ten hours to drive from Caracas to Maracaibo, as he and Marko are Italian, naturally I expected he would arrive in only five. These three, and Ana Isabel Delgato from the Debian Venezuela group, were my primary “translation team" whenever I spoke with others who didn’t speak English.

The People’s Ministry of Economics

Venezuela is blessed with not one, but two economic ministries. There is the old ministry of economics, which deals with the traditional capitalist economy. It is worth noting that capitalism continues in Venezuela and will likely continue to do so for some time. While lands are at times redistributed to landless laborers, for the most part existing industries and businesses are left alone, and left to the old ministry of economics. Instead, they have a different idea of how to transform society here, and this brings me to the second ministry.

The Ministerio Para La Economia Popular, or roughly, the People’s Economic Ministry (and for simplicity, to be referred to simply as Minep) is tasked with transforming Venezuela with a new economy. While the ministry does a number of important tasks, I believe their most interesting is to train and educate ordinary Venezuelans, who volunteer on how to run a worker co-operative. This is done by providing co-ops the tools, financing, and practical training they need to operate their new enterprises.

My interest in this aspect of Minep came in part from their interest in providing VOIP services along with the computers they are offering to their worker managed co-ops. This was a rather specific technical issue, and one they were very interested in discussing with me.

Many of these worker co-ops are composed of very small startups that typically have 10 people or less. Minep offers training and support, as well as financing, to allow co-ops to purchase computing systems for their business needs. These systems are now offered entirely with free software, starting with the Debian GNU/Linux operating system, along with Open Office for general business use, and web hosting under Apache. Co-ops that go through the Minep program also have the ability to host web sites with their own content, and these usually feature the products or services a given co-op wishes to offer. Co-ops are also trained in the use of the free software they receive and in how to maintain their own IT infrastructure.

The Minep co-op training program was piloted in 2004, with some 3000 such worker managed co-ops formed. During this year (2005) they have formed over 45,000 such co-ops nationwide, and are expecting to train over 700,000 Venezuelans in how to form and be part of a new economy. This suggests to me that perhaps 40% of those that go through the Minep program eventually do form a commercial enterprise.

The use of free software and offering of computer systems for business use as part of the co-op program is actually relatively new. I believe, if I understood correctly, the full version of free software training program is a 6 month course, and so is rather comprehensive. This year (2005), they’ve only trained people from at most a few thousand of the co-ops on the use of free software through the initial pilot program. In 2006, however, that program, and free software training should be available to all interested.

The Ministry of Intellectual Prosperity

SAPI, the Independent Service ministry of Propiedad Intellectual, is the ministry that used to define Venezuela’s so called “Intellectual Property" laws. I understand SAPI also at one time concerned itself with the issue of what was called “Piracy". I would have thought, however, that controlling murderous gangs of anarco-capitalist “gentlemen of fortune" who raid ships, would be the job of the navy, or perhaps the interior ministry.

“Intellectual Property"

The term intellectual property itself is of course a new-speak propaganda word that didn’t even exist 20 years ago. First, the topic it covers varies from Copyrights, Patents, Trade Secrets and Trademarks, to a variety of other things, all of which are in reality all very different and unrelated. Second, it’s based on the premise that you can give something intangible to someone else, and yet control it and decide what other people do with it, as if it or they (and even the ideas they may have about it) were your physical property. Intellectual property amounts in part to thought control through legal fiction. Some even say it amounts to Intellectual Slavery.

The consequence of treating ideas and thoughts as if they are tangible property is the very destruction of science and education and the elimination of individual rights and freedoms. Science is in part built upon the idea that new knowledge is created by incrementally improving ideas. Education is based on the idea that one can learn from existing things and then use that knowledge to create new works. The idea behind “Intellectual Property" interferes with both. It is barbarism, and could well lead to a new “dark ages", where only a privileged few are allowed to learn, under the exclusive control of greedy intellectual monopolies.

Since “Intellectual Property" involves exclusive licensing, when public universities do this and then let others license their discoveries, the public is made to fund research that only benefits a small number of people. Even worse, those companies which receive such funding can then use this exclusive grant to sell back to society the fruits of what society already paid for. This can be thought of as paying for something twice. This could also be thought of as public welfare for private corporations, or more simply: exploitation.

I had the good fortune to meet the current director general of SAPI, Eduardo Samán, while I was in Maracaibo. He has very different ideas for the purpose of SAPI. He is a well known internationalist, and had been a key person in establishing the program for promoting a developing nations agenda within WIPO. Rather than creating new intellectual restrictions, Samán proposes that the mission of SAPI should instead become that of promoting “Intellectual Prosperity" by creating laws and services that promote the ability to share knowledge as the common heritage of all mankind.

Samán proposes that the mission of SAPI should instead become that of promoting “Intellectual Prosperity" by creating laws and services that promote the ability to share knowledge as the common heritage of all mankind

Assuming that private corporate interests in the developed world today do succeed in the great program of owning what people are allowed to think, it is very possible that places like Venezuela will become the new leading nations in science and technology.

Hugo ChavezHugo Chavez

How oil fuels the Bolivarian Revolution

Maracaibo is also the heartland of the oil industry, and the state run oil company, PDVSA. Oil companies are also traditionally conservative in nature. However, PDVSA also is a contrast, as both the primary wealth producing institution in the country, and the strongest source of support for President Hugo Chavez’s revolutionary changes.

I met a number of PDVSA oil workers, who seemed well represented among the ranks of PDVSA management. I also had the chance to talk over lunch with one of their directors, Socorro Hernendez, as well as Jose Luis Rey, whose renoun is both as a skilled hacker and financial genius who was involved in helping rebuild the financial trading systems that were sabotaged in 2003.

Today, the state-run oil company is a major backer of the free software movement (software libre) in Venezuela and is a major sponsor of the 3rd International Forum on Free Knowledge, which is what brought me to Maracaibo. Every question related to the use of free software in Venezuela, and to how the Bolivarian revolution started, seems to come back to PDVSA and the worker oil lockout in 2002.

A little history...

Before the worker lockout, the administration of the state oil company was strongly connected to the wealthy elite of Venezuela. Many of the wealthiest people in Venezuela had been getting much richer thanks to the oil company, in part through contracts and corruption, not unlike what has been happening here in the U.S. with politically connected companies like Halliburton.

President Hugo Chavez was originally elected on a platform to use the oil wealth to help pay for the poor of the country through education and health programs, rather than simply making the country’s wealthy even wealthier. Many of Venezuela’s wealthier citizens, used to having money from the state oil company, would not tolerate this, and so they decided President Hugo Chavez had to go at any cost, even if it meant sabotaging their own nation to do it.

So they tried to close the oil company in December of 2002, by locking out the workers, holding the oil resources of the nation as a whole hostage, and by having the entire IT infrastructure under their control. If the data and systems present then had been destroyed, it would have been years before another drop of oil could have been produced.

Out of 4800 managers, about 200 chose to stay behind, and together, with the help of many by then retired former managers who were less corrupt than the ones who left, the workers tried to save the oil company. But the biggest challenge was the computer infrastructure.

Management of IT was at the time contracted to SAIC, (Science Applications International Corp), which has well known political and business connections to Cheney’s office, to the U.S. DOD, and the CIA. At first, when the Venezuelan army was called out to secure the oil facilities during the lockout, the SAIC staff created videos of the troops securing the facilities in an attempt to claim they were under attack and tried to persuade the U.S. congress to give Bush war powers to seize the oil fields. When this scheme failed, the SAIC workers fled the country, but changed all the passwords and kept remote control of all of the computer servers of PDVSA. They choose not to destroy the data on them because they thought they’d be back in a few months once the government of President Chavez finally capitulated.

Much of the infrastructure of PDVSA was under Microsoft Windows-based servers, and used proprietary database software such as Microsoft SQL. The IT managers didn’t expect a bunch of oil workers to be capable of thwarting their plans. Those same oil workers, working together with local computer hackers, were able to secure control of vital computer servers, and in doing so saved the oil infrastructure.

The Venezuelan revolution is perhaps the first revolution in history saved by computer hackers and this is one of the reasons the government is so very strong on promoting the use of free software, particularly in public administration. The Venezuelan government wishes never again to have vital infrastructure held hostage or sabotaged by agents of foreign nations. This cannot be accomplished by source secret proprietary software, such as Microsoft Windows, with its infamous backdoor NSA key. Even proprietary software from a trustworthy source has to be suspect for possible tampering, and so must be rejected, not just by Venezuela, but by any nation that wishes to protect and maintain its sovereignty against sabotage.

The Venezuelan revolution is perhaps the first revolution in history saved by computer hackers

Back to the present...

Everyone I had met from PDVSA appears completely committed at all levels to the basic idea of converting Venezuela’s oil resources into long-term and self-sustaining wealth for the nation as a whole. This is done in part through the development of a new economy, as planned for through Minep.

Capturing this wealth is viewed as an urgent matter because, even though Venezuela posses one of the largest known reserves of oil, they expect world oil production to begin declining and see this wealth as very temporary. Socorro Hernendez said PDVSA believes that nobody will “burn" oil (as for example in automobiles) in as little as 20 years. He also said they believe that, while oil will remain important to the multitude of other industries in which it is used, the price will settle to $5 a barrel, so now is not only the best, but also the last, chance to create something useful from this wealth.

Capturing oil wealth is viewed as an urgent matter because, even though Venezuela posses one of the largest known reserves of oil, they expect world oil production to begin declining and see this wealth as very temporary

Conatel TelecenterConatel Telecenter

Conatel and Conclusions

I flew from Maracaibo to Caracas on November 26th. Even in Venezuela’s revolutionary republic, custom officials are still custom officials, and airports are still like airports everywhere. Given the lack of revolutionary posters, pictures of Chavez, or military checkpoints promised by the state department, what is worth noting is the rather ordinary way society and most institutions operate in Venezuela.

One interesting program is run by Conatel, Venezuela’s telecom regulatory agency, which now runs a program to deploy telecenters into communities around the country. Conatel is a regulatory agency for the telephone and broadcast services in a manner akin to the FCC in the United States. However, in this instance, Contatel also runs a community telecenter project in order to bring computing and telephone resources directly to communities across the nation. There are other similar programs running in various Latin American nations today.

I actually saw the model Venezuelian telecenter at the Conatel building while I was in Caracas. A typical community telecenter comes with up to a dozen PC workstations, and a server. Connectivity is offered through a telecom carrier for both internet data and for voice. These systems entirely use free software, and each telecenter includes a staff of two people.

One of the people is trained to manage and teach how to use the computers and resources of the telecenter, and charged with maintaining the equipment. The second person is someone trained in the social needs of a given community. For example, for a telecenter that is deployed in an agricultural town, the second person would likely be someone who was educated in agriculture. In a mining town, it would likely be a miner.

Each telecenter desktop PC runs Debian GNU/Linux, and includes software for internet browsing, for performing routine work such as Open Office, and includes a camera along with GNOME Meeting for voice and video conferencing. The telecenters also have VOIP telephones that are made in China and that load an embedded Linux.

Many carriers in Venezuela offer direct H.323 connectivity for VOIP, and presumably, like Deutsch Telecom, more than likely use GNU GateKeeper to form their mesh network. The client workstations use GNOME Meeting, which is an H.323 client, and even the telephone instruments use H.323. No doubt, it would bring a tear to the eyes of Craig Southern, who heads the OpenH323 project, to know that there is a complete end-to-end national H.323 network in Venezuela, running the OpenH323 project stack, from the national carrier down to the individual telephone instruments.

I believe telecenters are or will be the public libraries of the new millennium. Unfortunately, most existing libraries elsewhere in the world today, while often they include computers, don’t understand how they should be used. For example, many libraries in the U.S. have computers, but they are really only used for web browsing, and come “attached" with nutty politicians more deeply concerned about library patrons potentially reading about sex rather than about the laws that require library content to be filtered for this reason.

I believe telecenters are or will be the public libraries of the new millennium

All these things began with the oil worker lockout. Rather than bringing down the government of Hugo Chavez, by working together with foreign interests to directly sabotage the country’s most vital industry, the wealthy elite of Venezuela radicalized the oil workers in a way that no other action could. The workers of PDVSA are now fully committed to creating the new economy, and will remain so regardless of who is in power. When the rich of Venezuela ponder who it was that made Venezuela become a revolutionary nation, they shouldn’t look at President Chavez, who may not have even been thinking of this at the time, and certainly had no means to accomplish it if he had; instead, they should look in the mirror.

When the rich of Venezuela ponder who it was that made Venezuela become a revolutionary nation they should look in the mirror



admin's picture
Submitted by admin on

From: Hp
Date: 2006-01-17
Subject: About something in the page 3

Hello, I believe that you did not understand well what they meant to you, in the 2003 sabotage went to our oil industry [1], thanks



in a personal thought, the ministry of science and tech (cnti)

has to watch more close this migration process, they are taking too slow and given permission to other goverment dep to dont obbey the free software lineament.

From: gbob
Date: 2006-02-08
Subject: Typical

I started reading this article because I thought it would have mostly technical info, but then I got to the "co-operative" section. Communism again - sigh.

It's really too bad that people still try this failed method over and over and over... It really ruined this article for me. This was abut the free software revolution, not the people's republic revolution. How is communism about freedom?

From: Mike
Date: 2006-02-09
Subject: Down Hill Slide

I also started out reading with high hopes. I am a UNIX admin with a strong desire to see Linux and free software in general succeed. I also used to live in Venezuela.

Once the article started telling us how great communism is, the article was on the downhill slide. Venezuela itself is on a slippery slope as well. While I in no way condone corruption, capitalism and freedom is what makes great nations great.

I believe that software should be shared and given away because we are good people and just want to be nice, not because we have some moral obligation. I also believe that people have the right to make a buck or two from their work.

It is very good to see the Venezuelan people being educated and if nothing else, at least some good is coming from this mad man named Chavez.

One last point - I have no doubt that Hugo Chavez wants the very best for his people and that he has good intentions for them. However, I think he is a power hungry individual with a healthy dose of paranoia.

From: Dave Guard (SUBSCRIBER!)
Url: this one
Date: 2006-02-10
Subject: No communism here?!?!


There is no mention of communism in this article.

The article talks about how great it is that the government of Venezeula is implementing free software. Whether the goverment there is faulted in other ways really bares no relation to this fact.

Even if someone is wrong most of the time, it doesn't mean the things they do right are any less right.

It is fantastic that free software provides an affordable, secure, stable and sustainable way to run the country and educate its people. And it will mean they don't have to fork out their hard earned money to MS through the purchase of licenses. They will also no longer be restricted by MS's formats, patents, licenses, range of products... etc. Nor will they need to continuously upgrade software (to stay supported), hardware (to keep up with the software) or virus protection.

I also think it is fantastic that their oil industry is now in the hands of the people rather than a few wealthy exploiters who were/are in cahoots with a variety of powerful, unsavoury types who mainly happen to reside in the US.

This sets a great example for the rest of the world.

From: Victor
Date: 2006-02-08
Subject: Congratulations

This is a very good article, telling people what a government is doing to make things better, with a vision other than "Psycho revolutionary making another dictatorship in latin america", whitch is what rich people from that country and "foreign governments" interested in what is under the ground there tries to tell to everybody worldwide.

It could be a nice example to other nations if doesn't occur any type of sabotage.

Thank you for the article!

From: Venezolano
Date: 2006-02-09
Subject: Free software don't mean free people

Free software revolution is good

But in Venezuela the cost is our fredoom. Most of the managament of the Chavez goverment are military. Would you like that your country were ruled for a bunch of the soldiers. I don't think soo

This guys, before Chevez goberment was the most conservative military in south America, and now, "they're the new socialism"

When they are generals? and when the are captains or mayor their fight againts the guerila at the 60's and 70's.

For me the cost of Linux is the higest cost ever pay.

From: Joao Da Silva
Date: 2006-02-09
Subject: Chavez support for FLOSS is terrible!

(Edited for swear words by Tony Mobily)

We *don't* need Chavez to support FLOSS, thank you very much. Chavez is a man that comes from the ranks of the military, who undermines freedom of speech and who is downright demagogical and hypocritical. How can you guys be so enamored of Free Software that you don't even take into consideration supporting an undemocratic character like him?

Now, I've seen *that* movie (government support of FLOSS) before. I've seen in Brazil. NOTHING HAPPENED, except deployment of some FLOSS workstations, much to the financial happiness of system administrators that had contacts with Labor Party members in the government. Yeah, I saw people quit their jobs and make GOOD money...******* liars...Just read the press: Lula's leftist government is awash in corruption and ethical violations scandals! ****! DO YOU EVEN READ ABOUT THE COUNTRIES YOU VISIT ?!!! (PS: Oh, let me just add that I have *first hand* experience here, i.e., I KNOW THE PEOPLE I'M TALKING ABOUT).

Name *one* important project that got support from the Brazilian government (please don't name the Mono *Visual Basic* (!!!) compiler, or little tiny Lua - I said *important*, as in "kernel", "OpenOffice", etc).

Venezuela is *way* worst than Brazil when it comes to tecnhology and academics. Brazil is a ******* powerhouse. Venezuela is a "Banana Republic", except the banana is black and liquid. Let's see what the Great Chavez will do for the Linux kernel. Let's see how much *money* he throws into practical projects, how much $support$ he pitches in for OpenOffice, GNU, BSDs, etc. Sorry, I think this is just talk, and talk is cheap.

This is a load of bullcrap that will result in *nothing*. These people have not the discipline and the stamina for the kind of effort that is required. When it comes to FLOSS, Venezuela will be Brazil all over again, except much, much worse. That boat will bet on it!

Characterizing FLOSS with this leftist shit is the worst thing that could happen in terms of our image. FLOSS is not communism, FLOSS is 21st century new economy, and Chavez can't even grasp 20th century economics, much less complex issues like FLOSS.

We will see...Let's see if we get *loads* of kernel patches from Venezuelan projects...Did we see any of that from Brazil ? Nah, it's the United States that keeps rowing the boat...These are the facts.

From: Tony Mobily (SUBSCRIBER!)
Date: 2006-02-10
Subject: A couple of points...


I don't know enough about politics to write an informed comment. I believe only very, very few people can indeed write informed comments.

I don't know much about the MONO VB project. However, I would like to remind you of two things:

* Free Software is not just Linux. It's not even just GNU/Linux. If everybody only worked on the kernel, and JUST the kernel, free software would not be as widespread.

* You write "Nah, it's the United States that keeps rowing the boat". Is it? Do you know that Samba is an Australian project, develped in Camberra? Do they not "row the boat" as well? Do a bit of research: a _lot_ of crucial free software is not made in the US. Alan Cox (who's played a MAJOR role in the kernel) is English. I guess he was "rowing" too, while writing code.

This is what I know. I don't know much about politics, and therefore I won't make comments.

I wish more people followed my example.


From: cybermalandro
Date: 2006-02-10
Subject: Thanks for the article


I am a Venezuela living in the U.S. I am not with or against Chavez. I just happened to have moved here about 18 years a go. I do want to make a comment. Thanks to your article I dig more the idea of Open Source Software. It is really inpiring. I wish more Open Source Software leaders would write this type of articles because in the end the idea of OSS is to share knowledge and not let anyone behind, we all benefit from knowledge.

Your article has inspire me to help more the Open Source Community in whatever I can. I appreciate the time you took to write this and the time you took to help out the people of Venezuela.

From: Alfredomarquezp
Date: 2006-02-14
Subject: I canŽt believe somebody wrote this

ItŽs incredible sad to see how somebody write this without any idea about what itŽs really happening in my country.

I have used and developed OSS for 15 years and I can tell you that this article is an insult to the intelligence of those who know about software and to those who are really proud of using Open Source as part of our choices to develop software.

How can you say that the problem in PDVSA was due to the use of any kind of software ? and let me tell you, because I know that very well: there was not any Microsoft software in the core businesss of PDVSA, Microsoft software is not ready for that league yet.

Additionally, spend some seconds to think about this:

If some workers in your company (whatever it would be) quit and you find yourself alone with no idea about how to operate a piece of hardware and software and there is not any contingency plan, any documentation about how to operate anything. Do you really think that the problem is in the SOFTWARE MODEL ??????? ItŽs as crazy as it sounds.

Did somebody really believe that if the software is open source, you can solve the problem by reviewing millions of lines of code in order to know how to operate an oil refinery ???? PLEASE !!!!!! itŽs not a matter of using UNIX or Linux or Windows or whatever you want. ItŽs a matter of doing the things well when you deploy and manage a project of this size.

I love Open Source software but these kind of articles are the worst thing for our communities. I have seen some guys facing discussions with weak arguments like those in this article and I see why in Venezuela we were not CONVINCED about the use of Open source and we have to be FORCED to use it by law. IŽve seen some people proud about this. IŽM NOT.

ItŽs crazy to see how in the name of the Open Source Software some people are talking about freedom forcing the companies to use just one choice by law instead of the value and benefits of the open source software itself, talking about "SOBERANIA" destroying thousands of venezuelean companies who developed and distribute software and services for the public sector in Venezuela.

Additionaly to this, you can see the public sector companies completely out of focus thinking on crazy migration processes, expending at least two years for migrations(theoretically), expending money and energy to do the same they do today instead of being better and more efficient.

I really hope you take some time to think about this and donŽt keep damaging the image of the open source software by saying things like those in this article


Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

What a bunch of libertarian whiners. Even when the bolivarians bend over backwards to give you chumps every chance possible to adapt, you just bite the hand that's being extended. Typical selfish petit-bourgeois... Too bad for you Big Brother in the U.S. can't back your selfish asses up this time.

When the day comes that you have to make the Big Choices you won't be able to dodge -- remember that you had all the lead-time and support you needed. Not that this would register with ideologically-blinkered types like yourselves.

Did I say you were a bunch of over-privileged whiners?

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Alfredomarquezp is right about one of the arguments being weak: the IT sabotage clearly could still have happened even if they had been using open source software. However, the idea that the Venezuelan government is _wrong_ to save money by switching to open source since this will hurt companies that sell software to the government is ridiculous, especially if you have any shred of libertarian principles (is this what free capitalism means? the right to make money by securing gov't contracts?). The long-term benefits to the country of switching to Linux and open source software would far outweigh any short-term pain.

As for the part about the change being "forced" (and remember, private companies and citizens are still free to fork over to micro$oft to their hearts' content), anyone who's worked in a large institution (in the U.S. or anywhere) knows that O.S. and software changes are _always_ forced, in the sense that they're decided at an institutional level and aren't up to each individual's free choice. I'm not saying that's a good thing, but it's the universal norm, not some horrible new thing you can blame on Hugo Chavez.

As for the politics, I like to think we techies - to the extent that we care - should be capable of seeking out real information and applying the same kind of intelligent analysis that we apply to our work, instead of going in for dogmatic knee-jerk diatribes or taking media reports as fact (we know how wrong they get it about technology - why think they're any better when it comes to latin america?). Anyway, that's all I wanted to say.

Author information

David Sugar's picture


David Sugar is an active maintainer for a number of packages that are part of the GNU project, including GNU Bayonne. He has served as the voluntary chairman of the FSF’s DotGNU steering committee, as a founder and CTO for Open Source Telecomm Corporation, and currently owns and operates Tycho Softworks.

privacy policy