VIO News Blog

January 16, 2009

Chavez: “Obama Threw the First Stone”

President Chavez indicated yesterday that he will wait to see whether President elect Obama — whom he said remains largely “an unknown” — fulfills the intense expectations generated by his election. Bloomberg reports that Chavez cited a TV interview Tuesday in which Obama “remarked that the Venezuelan leader exported terrorist activities and slowed progress in the region.” The Venezuelan leader replied: “Don’t say Chavez is throwing stones, Obama already threw the first one.”

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro met yesterday with U.S. embassy staff in Caracas, according to the AP. Top U.S. rep John Caulfield said afterward, “We spoke about the opportunity for a renewed dialogue.” Caulfield also allegedly met in secret with leaders of Venezuela’s political opposition last week, according to a report in NACLA. It states: “if the allegations are proven, then the opposition will once again find itself on the defensive, trying to disprove that their funding and strategy are not ‘Made in U.S.A.'”

In other international news, the Presidents of Venezuela and Brazil are holding their regular quarterly meeting today. The Caracas newspaper El Universal reports that this signals even closer ties between the countries. The leaders are discussing trade relations, particularly a cooperation agreement on food supply.

The New York Daily News reports on Venezuela’s heating oil assistance program in the Bronx. Recipients of the aid were relieved by the news last week that, despite rumors to the contrary, the program will continue for a fourth year. One man said: “We appreciate what [Chávez] is doing, helping us out from another country… People depend on [it].”

Reuters reports that CIA Director Michael Hayden said that, for oil producers Iran and Venezuela, lowered crude prices are “destabilizing, but it could be positive,” because it will increase the sting of U.S. sanctions. Meanwhile, President Chavez has stressed that Venezuela will not be destabilized. He says the government will continue to spend on social programs, and will not force the people to suffer the burden of economic downturn. Venezuela’s foreign currency reserves are at an all-time high.

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