VIO News Blog

October 15, 2008

Venezuela an Oasis of Calm in Troubled Financial Times

Yesterday, tear gas was thrown at the headquarters of Nuevo Pais, a Caracas newspaper whose editor promoted the assassination of President Chavez. The AP reports that a “radical pro-government militia” called La Piedrita took responsibility for the act. Though it is unclear in the article, the group is not affiliated with the government and has been publicly condemned by prominent officials in the Chavez administration. On Monday of this week, the minister of justice and minister of information spoke out against La Piedrita and called their violent tactics “political childishness,” for which they were praised by Reporters Without Borders.

Also in Venezuela, Reuters reports that some 6,500 relatives of incarcerated people held a protest on Tuesday to demand better conditions in jails. Prison violence in Venezuela is widespread, and last year produced 500 deaths. The government promised reforms to the system this year. The challenges are considerable, but some small steps have already been made, such as bringing the famous music education program, “El Sistema” into jails to help rehabilitate the incarcerated.

Developments came yesterday in the “suitcasegate” trial in which Florida-based Venezuelan businessmen are accused by the US government of acting as unregistered foreign agents. The Miami Herald reports that the lawyer for the sole defendant in the case, Franklin Durán, was finally allowed to introduce evidence that “he says could create reasonable doubt about the government’s case.” The lawyer contends that the charges were “calculated to smear both Mr. Durán and the Venezuelan government.” So far, judges have refused to consider the political context of the allegations.

Finally, The Financial Times calls the Caracas stock market an “oasis of calm” amid the global financial crisis. As in most countries, Venezuela’s banks have felt the effects of the crisis, but “the system as a whole is reckoned to be solvent.”

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