VIO News Blog

October 22, 2008

Venezuelan Poll Shows 75 Percent Approval for Chavez

Venezuelan Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez presented the 2009 budget to the National Assembly yesterday. The AP reports that it is based on an estimated 15 percent inflation for next year and oil prices of $60 per barrel. Official state spending will see a 22 percent increase, because the budget allows for less discretionary use of oil profits. Some 12 percent of funds will go to Venezuela’s renowned social programs that are helping to raise the standard of living.

The Financial Times reports that the success of those social programs has contributed to approval ratings of 75 percent for the Venezuelan leader, according to a new poll. The Times deems Venezuela more vulnerable to a drop in oil prices than other OPEC countries, though. About half of state expenditures come from oil.

According to a column in the Financial Times, the declining influence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has seen the rise of initiatives like Venezuela’s Bank of the South, which “heralds the emergence of a new wave of alternative institutional structures, not dominated by western powers.” It also notes that Venezuela distributed four times as much aid in South America than the U.S. did last year, which allegedly “drove Americans crazy.”

The Miami Herald reports today that testimony has finished in the trial of Florida-based Venezuelan business men accused of acting as unregistered foreign agents. The trial has become an airing of allegations of corruption in the Chavez government, despite the fact that this has little to do with the question of whether or not the accused men were indeed unregistered foreign agents. Some experts have suggested that the trial is politically motivated and designed to discredit the Venezuelan government. The Herald also reports on a small rally in protest of high crime rates in Venezuela, and takes a cursory view of the student movements there.

In regional news, Bolivia will hold a referendum on a new constitution on January 25, 2009, just as Venezuelans were given the chance to vote on a new charter in 1999. Finally, the U.S. and Colombia are alleging that the FARC have ties to Hezbollah. A Los Angeles Times article mentions U.S. Treasury sanctions against Venezuelan officials that are accused of having helped Hezbollah despite a lack of evidence.

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