VIO News Blog

February 26, 2009

Venezuela Condemns State Department Report

The U.S. State Department released their annual report on human rights yesterday.  As in previous years, it alleges that Venezuela has a politicized judiciary, and that the Venezuelan government harasses the political opposition and news media. Venezuela on Thursday condemned the report and categorically rejected what it says are false allegations and a clear example of political meddling in its internal affairs. Contrary to the impression given by the report, Venezuela’s opposition parties enjoy all the political freedoms that are found in other democratic countries and have in fact made significant gains in recent elections.  Meanwhile, freedom of speech is fully respected, as is demonstrated by the fact that a majority of private media outlets remain ardent and vocal critics of the government.

CIA Director Leon Panetta mentioned Ecuador, Argentina and Venezuela as countries which may be destabilized as a result of the global financial crisis, McClatchy reports. This analysis is surprising given that it is estimated that Venezuela has close to $70 billion in reserves, and many experts predict that Venezuela will be able to weather the economic storm, even if oil prices remain low for the next two years or so.

Bloomberg reports that China National Petroleum Corp. received government approval for the construction of a refinery China’s Guangdong province, which will be built to process 200,000 barrels of Venezuelan crude oil a day.

Finally, The Miami Herald reports that Costa Rican president Oscar Arias has said his country’s full entry into PetroCaribe, a Venezuelan led group of Carribbean and Central American nations which have signed a series of beneficial energy cooperation agreements, appears to be delayed due to plunging oil prices. Arias questioned how interested Venezuela was in continuing PetroCaribe, given the current economic crisis. However, on Wednesday, Venezuelan Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez reaffirmed that Venezuela will maintain the program to provide aid to ‘brother countries.’

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October 1, 2008

Latin American Leaders Unite to Condemn US “Casino” Economy

South American leaders met in Brazil yesterday. President Chavez and Brazil’s Lula da Silva held their own regular quarterly meeting, at which seven bilateral agreements were signed in the areas of iron and steel production, oil refining, agriculture, and housing. The leaders of Bolivia and Ecuador were also present, and all were critical of the US financial crisis, according to Bloomberg. Lula da Silva said: “Those that spent the last three decades telling us what to do, didn’t do what they had to do. The crisis is very serious and so profound that we don’t know how big it is.” The AP reports that President Chavez likened it to “a hundred hurricanes” and said that “the Washington consensus has collapsed.”

Other Latin American leaders have also spoken out, according to the AP; President Arias of trade-dependent Costa Rica said, “The managers of big business took huge risks out of greed.” Even the right-wing Bush ally Alvaro Uribe of Colombia complained, “The whole world has financed the United States, and I believe that they have a reciprocal debt with the planet.” A Washington Post headline reads that the US financial  crisis “deepens divisions” in South America, but the situation appears quite the opposite.

US Congressmen sent a letter to President Chavez yesterday rebuking him for having expelled two Human Rights Watch employees after their very negative evaluation on his administration, according to the AP. The report, which accused the government of curtailing political rights and free expression, was rejected by Venezuelan officials. Human Rights Watch consulted opposition leaders for their report, which painted a limited picture of human rights in Venezuela. It also came after a series of US attacks, including US Treasury Department sanctions, State Department blacklistings against Venezuela on drugs and terrorism. Venezuelan officials viewed the report as more “meddling” in internal affairs.

September 30, 2008

Venezuela Pursues New Energy Avenues, Ecuador Renews Democracy

Spain’s foreign minister said Monday that he supports Venezuela’s decision to pursue nuclear energy as long as “it meets all the safeguards and protections” established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and it is not for “military purposes,” according to the Caracas newspaper El Universal. President Chavez has affirmed that the nuclear power would indeed be for peaceful purposes only. Meanwhile, the AP reports that Costa Rica is promoting a nuclear test-ban treaty for Latin American countries that would ensure peaceful conduct, a treaty Venezuela already ratified in 2002.

More news comes today on Venezuela’s deal with Portugal to purchase 1 million kid-friendly laptops for use in schools across the country (at right, President Chavez and Portugal’s Socrates check out a model). The BBC reports: “The deal to buy the machines is the largest yet for laptops created for school children.”

After voters in Ecuador overwhelmingly approved a new constitution in a national referendum last Sunday, sources allege that President Correa is “tightening his grip” on the economy with new laws that give the state a broader role in setting monetary and oil policy. Reuters reports that opposition groups say Correa has “too much authority.” For most, though, the vote was seen as a democratic renewal that demonstrated the strong legitimacy of the government. Such legitimacy has been a long time coming; Correa is set to be the first leader in over a decade to serve a full term in office. The Christian Science Monitor says Correa is “not a lackey” of Venezuela’s Chavez, when in fact, neither are any of the other the popularly elected leftist Latin American presidents.

The recent expulsion of US Ambassadors from Bolivia and Venezuela are the subject of a Bay State Banner article which points out that “Chávez has consistently alleged that U.S. officials have been involved in efforts to destabilize the Venezuelan government.”

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