Magazine article New Internationalist

What the UN Means to Rafael Linares

Magazine article New Internationalist

What the UN Means to Rafael Linares

Article excerpt

Rafael Linares

- street bookseller, Caracas, Venezuela

RAFAEL sells used books under a highway bridge in crowded downtown Caracas. All kinds of things are sold here, from books to pirate software, CDs, DVDs, clothes, food, beer. Traffic and music are heavy and noisy. Some people quietly play chess.

Before selling books, Rafael walked the streets pushing a cart with ice cream; before that he was an alcoholic who recovered and found religion. He lost an eye in a street fight. His arms have scars that suggest he's been in jail at some point.

Now he carries his Bible everywhere, along with the Venezuelan Constitution. He, like most poor people in Venezuela, is a staunch supporter of the President. Hugo Chávez, he says, was sent by God to look after the poor. The Constitution is Rafael's Bill of Rights - and Chávez its defender.

Do you know anything about UN agencies?

'No, not really. By the way, somewhere here I have a book about UNESCO [he starts searching in the huge metal box where he keeps his goods]. I think it's about starvation, I can't recall the title...'

Have you ever met a UN official?

'No, never.'

Can you identify any UN person?

'Kofi Annan. I think he's a balanced man. Also the Brazilian, the one who died in Iraq [Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN Envoy], he seemed to be a simple man, a peace lover. …

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