Intolerant Government fires retiring tenured researcher

April 25, 2009

This is a remarkable story of the intolerance and selective repression pc_1_1024 of the Venezuelan Government which ignores the law and at the same time has little respect for those that have spent their life working in and for Venezuela, accomplishing what few do.

Jaime Requena is a biologist with a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. He is a distinguished and accomplished scientist with over 100 publications to his name (including three books). He has worked at the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research and IDEA, a research foundation established in the 80’s  and is a member of the Venezuelan Academy of Sciences. He was even President of IDEA in 1988. In 1996 he was appointed to the Simon Bolivar Chair at Cambridge University. And that is when his problems began…

I like Jaime because he is quite irreverent and outspoken, you may remember the active role he took up to block Chavez from receiving an Honorary Degree from Cambridge, which I published here. . He is not the type to be quieted down easily. In 1997, after spending a year at Cambridge he asked for a months’ leave of absence, a typically routine and automatic procedure in Venezuelan academic institutions. He needed to stay in Cambridge to finish off a few things he had done there. He never received a reply, but thought nothing of it and stayed. He came back to find out that he had been fired. Firing somebody with tenure is not an easy procedure in Venezuela. In fact, firing someone Venezuela’s civil service  is fairly hard But Jaime was even fired without following the procedures. Three members of the Board of IDEA took advantage of this procedure to get rid of him.

Jaime spent a decade fighting his firing in the Courts and went all the way to the Venezuelan Supreme Court and won. IDEA had to hire him back and pay all his back salary. His firing however, stopped his career as an experimental biologist. During the years of his fight, he worked at Universidad Metropolitana, a private university, where he was General Manager of its foundation and did research on Venezuela’s scientific productivity and history. He compiled what is by far the most extensive and complete database of Venezuelan scientific researchers and published  papers.

When he was hired back by IDEA, Requena’s lab had been taken apart, so he tried to continue his reaserch on Venezuela’s scientific productivity. But he was clearly not wanted at IDEA. Jaime not only disagrees with the direction science policy has taken in Venezuela, but in 2008 wrote a letter to prestigious scientific journal Nature, denouncing the exclusion of social sciences from public financing by  the Chavez administration. Requena says that the only time he met the Head of IDEA, he recriminated him for writing the letter.

Requena’s life at IDEA was rough, he had no furniture in his office, had to supply it himself, was given nobody to help with his research and was not even given a computer. His access to a database needed for his work was restricted. Requena thus decided to request his retirement, given that he had worked for 41 years for the Venezuelan Government, more than sufficient to retire. He also requested that he be named Emeritus researcher of IDEA.

Instead, eleven days later he was fired for “immoral conduct”, “omissions which affect the security of the workplace” and “grave faults in his duties”.  The decision was made by the Head of IDEA and there was no meeting of the Board of Directors of the institution as required by its by-laws.

This was clearly political in nature. The argument by the Prsedient of IDEA was that Requena was still holding  his position at Universidad Metropolitana, which is not the case as he resigned when he rejoined IDEA and that he had requested that IDEA buy for him a software package which that University sells, which the President of IDEA called a conflict of interest. Requena needs that software for his research as it is the one that he had been using for years while at Metropolitana. Requena continued to be involved with the activities of the Foundation, but was not getting paid for it.

This is the arrogant and intollerant way in which the revolution with few accomplishments treats Venezuelans that have disntiguished themselves in their careers devoted to working for the Government with low salaries and limited funding, but managing to achieve international and national recognition for their work. Requena represents what Chavismo hates, knowledge, accomplishments and excellence, something quite rare among the Government’s supporters. That is why IDEA’s President Prudencio Chacon, whose scientific career pales in comparison with Requena’s, took it upon himself to fire him and thus remove from his surroundings someone that he envies and who openly opposes the Government he loyally represents.

24 Responses to “Intolerant Government fires retiring tenured researcher”

  1. Barqui Says:

    Just another sad day and more events to prove that merit will never have a value in Venezuela.

  2. GB Says:

    Here’s a parable that a friend in Thailand sent me via e-mail. It is very fitting. You may have seen this before, but here it is…

    ***
    An economics professor at a local college made a
    statement that he had never failed a single student before but had once
    failed an entire class.

    That class had insisted that socialism worked
    and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great
    equalizer.

    The professor then said, “OK, we will have an
    experiment in this class on socialism. All grades would be averaged and
    everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one
    would receive an A.

    After the first test, the grades were averaged
    and everyone got a B.

    The students who studied hard were upset and the
    students who studied little were happy.

    As the second test rolled around, the students
    who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard
    decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

    The second test average was a D! No one was
    happy.

    When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was
    an F.

    The scores never increased as bickering, blame
    and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study
    for the benefit of anyone else.

    All failed, to their great surprise, and the
    professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because
    when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when
    government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to
    succeed.

    Could not be any simpler than that.

  3. deananash Says:

    GB, what a great story, thanks for sharing it.

  4. deananash Says:

    Senor Jaime Requena, I’m sorry for your unnecessary losses.

    The good news must be this: surely you yourself are well-aware of your contributions towards making the world a better place. That is the best reward one can achieve and no one can take that away from you.

    Thank you for your work. Best of luck to you as you continue on your way.

  5. firepigette Says:

    Excellent post Miguel ; It is important to inform the world of particular stories like this one.

    I too and saddened.How can a political movement based on hatred and envy of those who do well, have come so far ?

    There are some who say just show the Chavistas a concrete plan for sustainable development that will work, and they will vote for the opposition,but they do not realize that people are not supporting a good plan now and blind fools still vote for Chavez.

    We are dealing with an emotional holocaust that will not be remedied by a simple plan for sustainable developmental.Plans are a dime a dozen.Heroes are needed for this one.

    An emotional holocaust indeed.

    Good luck to Mr Requena .

  6. Deanna Says:

    This is a very sad story for all of Venezuela. This only goes to show that the leaders of the present government are all mediocre, resentful people who probably would never have made a name for themselves if not for the “robolution.” The only way that they can get satisfaction is through the persecution of those who have proven themselves in a wider intellectual environment and have been truly recognized by their peers all over the world.

    It is also sad that Venezuela is retroceding almost 100 years, rather than advancing. The ideology and actions of this government is based on the Bolshevik revolution and soon enough, the intellectuals and progressive members of the population will not only be fired, persecuted and socially stigmatized, but will be put against the “paredon”, placed in labor camps or disappeared, as they were in Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, etc.

    In the meantime, human rights be damned in the eyes of the rest of the world who are silently watching the inevitable destruction of a democratic society.

  7. bruni Says:

    I just checked the Nature story.

    Jaime was responding to Nature because Nature wrote an ill informed, to say the least, editorial. In fact, I am appalled that more Venezuelan scientists did not write to Nature to refute what they were writing .

    Here’s the original editorial:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v450/n7172/full/450922a.html

    Now, Jaime’s response to Nature was not related to the lack of funding of social science projects. His response was more general, it was pointing to what Nature did not got in its editorial. The title seems to have been cherry picked by Nature to camouflage Jaime’s message. Here’s the link:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v451/n7177/full/451395d.html

    To Jaime chapeau for having answered a very partisan editorial by Nature and about your firing:

    you did it once, you can do it twice….

  8. dillis Says:

    What do you expect from a Government that have less intelect than the Flintstones? I don’t know about retroceding 100 years, more like back to the Latin version of the 7th Century caliphate!

  9. Isa Says:

    It’s a very interesting article, and the saddest part is that it is happening for everyone, in every level of education, it’s just too scary to think in the future of Venezuela!

  10. Prudencio Chacon Says:

    Dr. Requena Dismissal is Adapted and Based on the Law
    In view of the campaign of discredit and falsehoods against the Fundación Instituto de Estudios Avanzados IDEA unleashed by the opposition following the dismissal of Dr. Jaime Requena, it is convenient to make the national and international public opinion aware of the reality of the events.

    Firstly, Requena dismissal is due to three reasons, any of them enough to adopt the decision taken:

    (a) He worked in two places simultaneously, at IDEA (as a professor) and at the Universidad Metropolitana Foundation (UNIMET) as General Manager and Secretary of minutes. (b) He left his work several times without permission from his supervisor. (c) Lack of probity or immoral conduct at work, expressed in its official request to purchase through IDEA of a software developed by him at the UNIMET Foundation.

    Another element claimed by the media opinion matrix in his defense is that any administrative file was not opened before its dismissal. In this regard, it is clarified that the rights of workers in IDEA, since it is a Foundation, are governed by the Organic Labor Law. Accordingly, the legal procedure for taking the dismissal decision – since Dr. Requena is not a public servant – does not contemplate a previous administrative file opening. This does not preclude in any way the possibility of exercising his right to defense, guaranteed by democratic institutions of the Venezuelan State.

    Raised the real reasons why Dr. Requena was dismissed, it is worth highlighting that the causes of this measure are far from being political, as the researcher intended it to appear. At IDEA, as stipulated in the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, political thought is free. In this sense, the dismissal in question is framed by the strictest compliance with the law.

    Finally, the IDEA Foundation emphatically rejects the manipulation, both national and international, that has been intended from this case. This manipulation lies in transforming serious misconducts at work, on ethical and legal levels, into political flags of the Venezuelan opposition.

    Prudencio Chacon • 5/22/09; 9:02:52 PM #

  11. Jaime Requena Says:

    Regarding the statement released by the” Commissar” of IDEA justifying my dismissal from the institute were I worked for the past 27 years and had the honor to be its President, I would like to reproduce herein the official declaration of the human rights commission of the Venezuelan Association for the Advancement of Science (AsoVAC) recently released on may 12th, 2009 and posted in http://asovac.net/bitacora/?p=3373, where it clearly states that the charges or accusations such as 1) that I worked (for a salary) in two places simultaneously was simply not true having presented factual evidence that upon joining IDEA I resigned to FundaMET the same day; 2)the president of IDEA does not have the legal authority to dismiss a full Professor of IDEA, a prerogative of the Directive Council of IDEA (article 34 of IDEA bylaws) 3)That my petition for an Emeritus Professorship was not answered even though it was done weeks before being expelled from IDEA and 4) IDEA did not follow any legal procedures that guarantee me the possibility to defend myself on time from an administrative act that had dramatic consequences. THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF THE VENEZUELAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE (ASOVAC) where it SETS ITS VIEW ON THE ARBITRARY ACTION AGAINST DR. JAIME REQUENA Once more Venezuela faces the issue of censorship of the freedom of expression of a member of its scientific community. On this occasion the aggression has been against Dr. Jaime Requena, a Biologist graduated from the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), Ph.D and Doctor of Science by Cambridge University, who has had dissenting criteria regarding the government’s scientific policy. On January 2008 Dr. Requena sent a communication to Nature, the prestigious international scientific journal, stating that his research showed that Venezuela´s scientific production was at the lowest point of the past 25 years, in part due to the exclusion of the social sciences from government financing. The conclusions of his research upset the authorities of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IDEA), a government agency where Dr. Requena worked as tenured Professor. On April 2nd, 2009, Dr. Requena requested from IDEA´S Council of Directors his promotion to the status of Professor Emeritus, according to the by-laws of the institution, as was his due after serving his country in several academic capacities for more the 41 years. His request was not answered, instead 12 days later, Dr. Requena received an official communication signed by IDEA’s President dismissing him from his academic post, alleging that he had incurred in lack of probity and immoral behaviour at work, omissions or imprudence and serious fault against the duties imposed by his obligations. It should be mentioned that Dr. Requena was never informed about the specific facts justifying his dismissal nor was he given the opportunity to make use of his right of rebuttal. Subsequently, at IDEA’S web page (www.idea.gob.ve) a communiqué was published in which its President stated the “official position” on this case. It is therein expressed that Dr. Requena did not fulfill his obligations as a full time Professor at the institution, since he was at the same time holding a management office at Fundación Universidad Metropolitana (FUNDAMENT), a private institution. On this regard it is ascertained that in 1997 Dr. Requena had been removed from his post as researcher in IDEA, by an illegal action on the part of Idea’s authorities and that during most of the period when he was unable to work at this Institution he took a position in the private sector as an employee of FUNDAMET. Dr. Requena took legal action against the authorities of IDEA and after a trial that lasted 12 years, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice of Venezuela, decided in his favor and ordered his reinstatement as a Full Professor at IDEA. Thus Dr. Requena immediately resigned his position at FUNDAMET on January 3rd, 2007, as it is evident from information provided to us. The President of IDEA dismissed Dr. Requena, without the approval of the Council of Directors, the sole competent body called to decide on his dismissal. The President of IDEA justifies his action, at the Institute’s web page, as follows; “since IDEA is an official institution, the rights of the institution’s workers fall under Venezuela´s Organic Labor Laws, and since there is in the law, no provision for tenured employees, it is not necessary to open previously any administrative procedures for the dismissal of any employee, tenured or not.”. Although Dr. Requena has his barristers to press his rights before the law, this Human Rights Commission is bound to state its alarm when observing the use of artifices, e.g. the use of private law legal procedures, to injure the rights of members of the Scientific Community. In effect, the discretionary dismissal without any procedure, allowed under Venezuelan labor legislation, is being applied in his case to the labor relationship of a scientist at the service of the State, thus failing to recognize not only the due process guarantee, but also the right to the social security benefits due to public servants. These facts appear to be a menace against to those who dare dissent the government policy. Thus the right to freedom of expression of all government scientists is forfeited even though the Article 57th of the National Constitution of the Republic of Venezuela, guarantees Freedom of Expression. The article reads as follows: “Censorship against public servants expressing opinion on matters under their responsibility is prohibited”. The Human Rights Commission of the Venezuelan Association for the Advancement of Science raises a strong protest against the use of such criteria that places our country in a position far removed from the Rule of Law. A position by which, the preservation of the human capital developed during long years in the practice of scientific disciplines until levels of excellence are reached, looses importance. The Human Rights Commission of the Venezuelan Association for the Advancement of Science expresses its full solidarity to Dr, Jaime Requena and denounces before national and international organizations of the scientific community and before public opinion, an action that injures human dignity and hinders Venezuela´s scientific development. Caracas 12 de mayo de 2009 Sign: Luis Carbonell –President, Manuel Rachadell, Maria Cristina di Prisco, Marisol Aguilera y Carlos Luis Carrillo Artiles
    Jaime Requena • 5/24/09; 2:58:57 PM #

  12. Miguel Octavio Says:

    The revolutionary Comissar at IDEA Prudencio Chacon tried above to discredit this blog using the typical lies of the revolution. He will be dealt completely, but just to begin here are the links that prove that Dr. Requena resigned to Universidad Metropolitana before rejoining IDEA.
    Document #1:

    http://www.hotlinkfiles.com/files/2564123_vtm2g/RenunciaFundamet2007enero.pdf

    Letter by Jaime Requena resigning from his job at the Foundation of Universidad Metropolitana

    Document #2:

    Document indicating that on Jan 17th. 2009, Universidad Metropolitana paid Jaime Requena his severance (liquidacion in Spanish) for leaving the job, as required by law:

    http://www.hotlinkfiles.com/files/2564124_vuaht/LiquidacionFundamet2007enero.pdf

    This proves Dr. Chacon is lying when he says Requena held both positions at once. I will post this week a letter from Universidad Metropolitana stating that the software was the property of Universidad Metropolitana and not its consultants and developers. Thus, Requena had no conflict of interest.

    This proves once again how the revolution lies to achieve its objectives. Dr. Requena was fired for political reasons and Dr. Chacon’s post above proves how politically slanted he is.

    Miguel Octavio • 5/24/09; 3:22:50 PM #

  13. Jaime Requena Says:

    Miguel, do you think that perhaps one of your friends, reader of your blog, could try to help commissar Chacon by suggesting where he could take a quick course on English. His communiqué posted appears to be written either by Tarzan or Chita, difficult to say who did it
    Jaime Requena • 5/24/09; 9:13:05 AM #

  14. Miguel Octavio Says:

    Hay que ser boludo de verdad. Ud. adapto la ley para actuar como actuo. The firing is illegal, you can not do what you did alone. You act as a comissar, one day you will PAY.
    Miguel Octavio • 5/24/09; 8:09:57 AM #

  15. moctavio Says:

    The revolutionary Comissar at IDEA Prudencio Chacon tried above to discredit this blog using the typical lies of the revolution. He will be dealt completely, but just to begin here are the links that prove that Dr. Requena resigned to Universidad Metropolitana before rejoining IDEA.

    Document #1:

    http://www.hotlinkfiles.com/files/2564123_vtm2g/RenunciaFundamet2007enero.pdf

    Letter by Jaime Requena resigning from his job at the Foundation of Universidad Metropolitana

    Document #2:

    Document indicating that on Jan 17th. 2009, Universidad Metropolitana paid Jaime Requena his severance (liquidacion in Spanish) for leaving the job, as required by law:

    http://www.hotlinkfiles.com/files/2564124_vuaht/LiquidacionFundamet2007enero.pdf

    This proves Dr. Chacon is lying when he says Requena held both positions at once. I will post this week a letter from Universidad Metropolitana stating that the software was the property of Universidad Metropolitana and not its consultants and developers. Thus, Requena had no conflict of interest.

    This proves once again how the revolution lies to achieve its objectives. Dr. Requena was fired for political reasons and Dr. Chacon’s post above proves how politically slanted he is.

  16. moctavio Says:

    should read 2007 above

  17. moctavio Says:

    And here is a letter certifyng that only Universidad Metropolitana receives any benefits from the software he sells and not its authors or developers:

    http://www.hotlinkfiles.com/files/2567098_p40tx/ConstanciaBiblios.doc


  18. [...] science as Minister and admonishing him “put the screws” on the scientists as well as the firing of Jaime Requena when he requested his retirement from IDEA, a scientfic research [...]

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