VIO News Blog

January 27, 2009

Venezuelan Social Programs Continue to Operate Despite Low Crude Price

Oil is the top story today, with the Financial Times reporting that the lowered price of crude has caused President Chavez to reign in spending and threatens to undermine the revolutionary process. Strangely, no mention is made of Chavez’s frequent assertion that social programs in Venezuela will continue to be funded using the country’s large foreign currency reserves and development funds. Venezuela’s economic future is hotly debated, with some predicting a crash. Many other analysts have argued precisely the opposite; the Financial Times quotes an expert that says the country has a comfortable current account surplus and that “There’s no pressure on the government to devalue [the currency].”

Potential oil production cuts are also in the news. The AP reports that Venezuela will conform to further cuts mandated by OPEC. Price stabilization is the objective, according to Chavez, who is quoted in Bloomberg as saying: “If necessary, we’ll cut 4 million barrels more of production, but we’re not going to allow oil prices to drop to $6 a barrel again.”

In international news, the Caracas newspaper El Universal reports that Chavez advocated freedom for hostages during his visit to Colombia last weekend. In comments broadcast to captives held by the FARC over a Colombian radio station, the Venezuelan leader said: “I want to greet all of you, and also I am asking for freedom for all, freedom and equality.”

A Washington Post editorial yesterday on reactions to the Obama presidency abroad mentions Venezuela as a “predictable US adversary,” ignoring President Chavez’s appeals for better relations. Chavez wrote in an op-ed Sunday that, if the US can “unclench its fist,” the world is ready to receive the Obama administration with “outstretched hands, full of brotherhood.”

Continuing coverage of Bolivia’s successful approval of a new constitution Sunday in a national referendum contains many references to Venezuela. Time Magazine provides a good overview of Bolivia’s new charter, but mangles a parallel with Venezuela’s 1999 constitution. Time states that Venezuela’s Chavez “failed in his bid at ending presidential term limits,” however, a referendum on this issue is planned for February 15th. Coverage in the Christian Science Monitor features criticisms of Bolivia’s constitution, although it garnered a decisive rate of 60 percent support at the polls.

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