VIO News Blog

January 5, 2009

Venezuela Finishes 2008 with Record Level of Foreign Currency Reserves

Venezuela finished 2008 with a record $42.2 billion in foreign currency reserves, a needed cushion given lagging oil prices caused by the world economic crisis. Bloomberg reports that in addition to the foreign reserves, Venezuela has a separate National Development Fund (Fonden) totaling $39 billion, and a central bank stabilization fund worth $828 million. Venezuela’s 2009 budget calls for $78 billion in spending. President Chavez frequently says that low oil prices will not affect social programs that benefit the poor, guaranteeing free health care, education, and subsidized food.

Venezuela’s successful social programs are the theme of an editorial in the Northwest Arkansas Times yesterday. It claims the system is working: “Democratic socialism means health care, jobs, food, and security, in neighborhoods where in many cases nothing but absolute poverty existed 10 years ago.” President Chavez retains roughly two-thirds support despite the fact that the media is largely opposition-controlled. While there is still progress to be made, the piece states: “It is a learning process for all involved and certainly a democratic effort from the bottom up.”

The government is condemning a recent incident in which tear gas was thrown into the building of an anti-Chavez TV station. The AP reports that Information Minister Jesse Chacón said he “categorically rejects” the violence, which was attributed to a citizen group often decried by officials.

In international news, Venezuela is sending rescue workers along with 74 tons of humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe in the wake of a cholera outbreak. The AP reports that Justice Minister Tarek El Aissami said last week that the help is modest but Venezuela wants to take action.

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