VIO News Blog

October 6, 2008

Venezuelans Offered Free Energy-Efficient Cars to Reduce Fuel Consumption

Venezuelans were asked to lower their consumption of gasoline last week by President Chavez, who told citizens that a new program will replace gas-guzzling cars with fuel efficient cars at no cost. The AP reports that the program will even provide those who opt for the switch-over with a year of free fuel. Venezuela is hoping to reduce pollution by making the switch to natural gas.

In economic news, Venezuelan officials said Sunday that national financial institutions will not be adversely affected by the US financial crisis. According to the AP, though, some local banks had done business with Lehman Brothers, Treasury President Cesar Giral (pictured at right) said: “We don’t have any damaging external relationships.” Meanwhile, though, some significant state budget cuts planned for 2009 are making news. Spending cuts will be imposed on state officials themselves, who are being warned that there will be “significant restrictions” on “certain types of vehicles, cellphones and parties.” President Chavez has criticized what he sees as over-spending by state bureaucrats and urged “zero waste” for government agencies.

The New York Times reports that some Latin American leaders are “bitter” over the US economic slide; Argentina’s President Fernandez said “We are witnessing the First World, which at one point had been painted as a mecca we should strive to reach, popping like a bubble.” Also, in regional news, Bolivian President Morales rejected a request from the US DEA to use that country’s airspace. AFP reports that Morales said, “Under the pretext of fighting drug trafficking, under the pretext of monitoring coca leaf crops they want to overfly, and we are going to make it clear that we monitor domestically.” Meanwhile, Reuters reports that pro-government peasants supportive of the elected government of President Morales detained 4 right-wing unionists in recent violent clashes, but does not mention that dozens of those peasants were massacred.

The AP and The New York Times report that former Venezuelan Defense Minister Rafael Baduel was briefly detained Friday on allegations of corruption. In question are $14.5 million in public funds. Baduel broke with the Chavez administration in recent years to become a prominent opposition spokesperson.

Finally, a new World Bank report called the “Human Opportunity Index” puts Venezuela among the top 6 most likely to escape poverty of 19 Latin American nations studied. According to The Financial Times, citizens in Venezuela — like Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Argentina, and Uruguay — “have the chance to break the cycle of poverty.”

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