VIO News Blog

February 9, 2009

Venezuela Counts Down to Sunday’s Referendum

As the February 15th vote on term limits nears in Venezuela, there has been much coverage on the lead up to the referendum. AP reports that a grenade exploded at the headquarters of Democratic Action, an opposition party.  President Chavez has condemned violence by the opposition as well as supporters alike, and has said that those who break the law will be held accountable.  On Saturday, he called on the Venezuelan Attorney General to bring to justice a small group called La Piedrita which has claimed responsibility for several incidents that have taken place over the last few weeks.

The AFP reports that “tens of thousands” protested the upcoming referendum on term limits in Caracas on Saturday.  The protest unrolled peacefully along an 11-mile stretch of roadways that ran from the city outskirts to the downtown area.

An AP article about the coming referendum falsely asserts that President Chavez “has long cast himself as the only one who can save the region from a meddling United States”.  The article also suggests that Chavez doesn’t wish to have good relations with the new US Administration even though he has repeatedly stated that he is willing to sit down with President Obama and work on building better relations.

The AP also reports that the Venezuelan government announced that 11 people suspected of involvement in the January 30th vandalizing of a Caracas synagogue were arrested. The arrest included 7 police officers and 1 security guard from the synagogue. Elias Farache, president of the Venezuelan-Israelite Association said “We thank the authorities for the quick detention of the suspects. We also want to thank all of those who showed their solidarity with us.”

Meanwhile, an article that appeared in the Washington Post on Sunday, leaves the impression that the Venezuelan government has fostered a climate of antisemitism by failing, in the words of ADL president Abraham Foxman, “to differentiate between criticism of Israel and criticism of the Jewish people.”  However, President Chavez and other high officials in the Venezuelan government have consistently signaled that, while their government is critical of Israel’s military action in Gaza it wishes to have the best possible relations with the Jewish community, both in Venezuela and internationally.

Reuters reports that Venezuela’s finance minister Ali Rodriguez discussing oil prices in the context of the Venezuelan economy has said “We have prepared different scenarios that go from $20 upward. We don’t think it will fall below that level.” Rodriguez added that “If we have to make great sacrifices in public spending, we must make the maximum effort to ensure it is not in the social sector.” Bloomberg reports that the Venezuelan government will tap into $1.65 billion from its National Development Fund in the first quarter, to maintain public spending amidst a steep decline in the price of oil. President Chavez stated that Venezuela plans to invest $225 billion in oil and non-oil projects over the next four years.

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