VIO News Blog

October 14, 2008

Venezuela Nabs Drug Kinpin, Gets Praise from Reporters Without Borders

Eight suspects were arrested yesterday in the recent murder of a student in the western state of Zulia. The Attorney General said those arrested include police officers and businessmen, according to the AP. Zulia borders Colombia and is known to be quite violent. Bloomberg reports that President Chavez recently claimed that the CIA has offices there. Buried in that article is the news that Venezuelan officials made their fifth major drug arrest this year. Eber Antonio Pulgar Chacon, a drug trafficker wanted in the U.S., was captured Saturday. No other sources report on the arrest, although the White House’s recent claim that Venezuela is failing in the fight against drugs earned intense media attention.

Similarly, Venezuela has come under fire from the White House and human rights groups for allegedly having poor press freedoms, however, no U.S. newspapers report on recent praise from Reporters Without Borders. The organization hailed the government’s vocal rejection of violence against reporters during a demonstration. Venezuela’s Justice Minister and Information Minister both strongly condemned attacks by citizens on journalists from the anti-Chavez broadcaster Globovision in the Caracas neighborhood “23 de Enero.” Reporters Without Borders also welcomed the announcement by Information Minister Andres Izarra that opposition candidates in the upcoming elections will be given air time on the main public TV channel, Venezolana de Television (VTV).

The Washington Post reports on the disqualification of some candidates from upcoming state and municipal elections. The claim is made that only those politicians that “posed a challenge” to the political party of President Chavez were disqualified. However, the hundreds barred from running for office due to corruption probes do include pro-Chavez candidates. According to the Post, a government official says that “the decisions to disqualify were made on legal grounds after long probes in which investigators did not even know the political affiliation of those they were investigating.” Of Leopoldo Lopez, the opposition mayor of Chacao accused of misuse of public funds, the official said: “He has planted the idea that it is political persecution. That is false, it is completely false.”

The AP and AFP report on the declining influence of the U.S. in global politics. AFP quotes a British philosopher who calls it “a historic geopolitical shift in which the balance of power in the world is being altered irrevocably.” This has been the theme of much of the press coverage of joint military exercises by Venezuela and Russia. A Washington Times article claims that the political career of President Chavez is based on anti-Americanism, when in fact the Venezuelan leader has good business relations with the U.S. and has only responded to attacks by the Bush administration. Chavez has also said that he looks forward to working with the next U.S. president.

Indian Country Today reports that U.S. Indigenous communities continue to rely on reduced-cost heating oil from the Venezuelan-owned company CITGO. CITGO’s donations last year alone totaled $100 million. The aid goes to low-income families in 24 U.S. states, including 223 tribal communities. Meanwhile, USA Today anticipates the end of Venezuela’s oil-funded social programs due to lowered oil prices. While some social spending has been cut back recently, this is fairly unlikely; oil prices were still several times lower when the anti-poverty programs began, and Venezuela’s economy remains in good shape.

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