VIO News Blog

April 29, 2009

Rosales Hides Behind Right-Wing Friends

El Universal reports that the Peruvian government has sent conciliatory signals to Venezuela despite its decision to offer asylum to opposition politician Manuel Rosales who faces charges of corruption in the Venezuelan courts. While the Venezuelan foreign ministry recalled its ambassador in Lima and stated that the relationship with the Andean nation was under “evaluation”, Peru has maintained its ambassador in Caracas. Peruvian President Alan Garcia declared that his government had “a position of friendship with the Venezuelan government” but also had a policy of providing “shelter to whomever feels threatened.” German Saltron, Venezuela’s representative to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, contested the notion that Peru’s offer of asylum was based on “humanitarian reasons”, signaling President Garcia’s “political and ideological affinity” with Rosales and his alleged long-standing friendship with opposition leader Carlos Andres Perez.

On Tuesday, 17 individuals were arrested in Curacao for their alleged involvement in an international drug ring that provided financial support to the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. According to a statement released by Dutch Authorities, the arrests were carried out thanks to a coordinated operation involving police and judicial organisms from Curacao, the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Venezuela and the United States.

Also on Tuesday, ex President Jimmy Carter announced that he would be meeting with the Presidents of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru over the coming days.

The AP reports that Iran’s defense minister has held talks with his Venezuelan counterpart in Caracas. The Iranian official told Iran’s state media that his country was developing a long-term cooperation plan with Venezuela; however, Venezuelan officials declined to make any comments regarding the ongoing talks.

In economic news, Dow Jones reports that the value of the Bolivar has strengthened against the dollar in Venezuela’s parallel market as a result PDVSA’s announcement of plans to emit several billion dollars worth of dollar-denominated debt. Meanwhile, President Chavez approved the emission of 12 billion bolivars ($4.8 billion) in treasury notes in order to cover the budgetary gap generated by lower oil prices. The National Assembly has authorized the selling of up to $15.8 billion in local treasury bonds before the year’s end.

Finally, on Tuesday Venezuela’s state oil company announced that the round of bidding on three projects to develop the heavy-oil fields in the Orinoco basin has been delayed three months. The company will announce the bidding results on August 14th rather than May 7 as had been originally announced.

March 3, 2009

Venezuelan Government Steps up Rice Plant Inspections

Bloomberg reports that the Venezuelan government is stepping up inspections of privately-owned rice processing plants that are accused of failing to abide by price controls and not producing at full capacity. Reporting from the Arroz Mary processing plant, Business Week quotes army Colonel Carlos Osorio saying, “We aren’t expropriating” the plant or confiscating its rice, instead the government is ensuring that companies distribute the necessary amounts of rice.

The AP reports that PDVSA, Venezuela’s state oil company, announced on Monday that it will begin to settle its outstanding debts with around 6,000 contractors and suppliers, after a “review and analysis of debt.” Rafael Ramirez, president of PDVSA, stated that due to the drop in oil prices, the company will be “reviewing five-year contracts because the prices [that PDVSA pays contractors] can’t remain the same and that should be understood.”

Finally, on Monday, Venezuelan authorities found the wreckage of a small plane in the Andes which had disappeared over the weekend. Unfortunately, none of the 7 passengers survived the accident.

November 7, 2008

Chavez Meets with Russian Officials to Discuss Bilateral Initiatives

President Chavez met with Russian officials on Thursday to discuss several bilateral initiatives on topics including nuclear energy, direct flights between the two countries, gas exploration in the Gulf of Venezuela, and gold mining in Southern Venezuela. The AP reports that Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said “We can say that our relations are taking on the characteristic of strategic partners.” Meanwhile, President Chavez noted the November 26th historic visit of President Medvedev, who will be the first Russian President to visit Venezuela.

The AP and Bloomberg report that a joint venture between Venezuela’s state energy company PDVSA and Russia’s Gazprom regarding a new gas production site in the Gulf of Venezuela, will be inaugurated today.

In a Reuters article discussing Bolivia’s plans to fund its own counter-narcotics operations after a rift with the DEA, President Chavez is referred to as “Washington’s leading regional foe.” Meanwhile, no mention is made of Venezuela’s repeated intent to seek better relations with a new US administration. AP notes that Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said “Barack Obama’s election as U.S. president is a historic moment for international relations.”

In an article in the Guardian, British scholar Richard Gott is cautiously optimistic about US-Latin America relations in the wake of the Obama victory. He suggests that the new administration should end the embargo against Cuba and reach out to new elected leaders in the Andes. Dialogue with Venezuela’s Chavez would be particularly productive, Gott predicts: “If a personal meeting can be engineered, these two improbable leaders, with many similarities in their outsider backgrounds, will get on famously.”

In economic news, the AP reports that annual inflation in Caracas reached 35.6 percent, partly due to soaring food prices. The article however fails to note that inflation is still significantly lower than rates seen in the 1990s and that current inflation is also largely a result of increased consumer demand due to government policies designed to reduce poverty and empower citizens.

September 2, 2008

Chavez in South Africa for Oil Deals

Filed under: Daily News Roundup — VenWorld @ 11:01 am
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President Chavez is in South Africa today to sign joint ventures in oil and gas, deals the government of President Mbeki (seen here) says will “provide alternative sources of energy to South Africa.” Reuters reports that Chavez expressed interest in South Africa’s gas-to-liquid technology and that South Africa’s state oil firm, PetroSA, will invest in oil exploration in Venezuela. According to the AP, both leaders indicated that the new cooperation on trade would, in Mbeki’s words, contribute to “the further empowerment of the countries of the south.”

Over the weekend, US government attacks on Venezuela’s anti-drug efforts again surfaced when officials released surveillance data on “suspected drug flights.” AP reports that the officials claim the amount of cocaine passing through Venezuela has increased 16-fold since 2002. US counter-drug operations in Venezuela ceased in 2006 when agents were found spying. However, the Chavez government has since stepped up its counter-drug policing, carrying out record drug seizures and extensive corruption purges, and purchasing new surveillance technologies — from countries other than the US, due to Washington’s arms embargo against Venezuela. Drugs have been a consistent point of criticism from the Bush camp, and the new allegations are unsurprising. A New York Times headline states that President Chavez reacted by threatening to “expel” the US ambassador, but the article indicates that it was simply a “thaw” after the two met last month and expressed willingness for cooperation.

In regional news, Ecuador’s Ambassador to the US published a letter in the New York Times critical of an editorial that glossed Andean Presidents (those of Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela) as “authoritarian-minded leaders.” The ambassador states: “This undermines a more accurate vision of a region of individual countries with unique domestic challenges and proposals.”

News reporting on the Andes, unfortunately, rarely provides an accurate vision. A Wall Street Journal article states that a member of El Salvador’s FMLN is implicated in Colombia’s claim that the FARC received arms and money from foreign governments including those of Venezuela and Ecuador. The Journal repeats the allegations without mentioning that independent bodies like the OAS have been unable to find proof.

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