VIO News Blog

February 3, 2009

Venezuelans Celebrate 10 Years of Revolution

Yesterday, President Chavez again expressed hope for better relations between Venezuela and the U.S. and vowed to accept any result in the February 15th referendum, saying: “If we lose, we lose.”

The comments were made in an interview with CNN on the occasion of his tenth anniversary in elected office. Chavez welcomed talks with Obama, saying “I wish we could restore relations to the same level we had with President Clinton.” He questioned the ability of the U.S. to reduce its high levels of oil consumption,” and highlighted the dense economic ties between the U.S. and Venezuela: “We employ thousands of workers in the United States… We give aid to hundreds of thousands of poor families in the United States with our heating oil program.”

Crowds in Caracas yesterday cheered the anniversary of Chavez’s first swearing-in (see image above). AFP reports that, then years later, the leader maintains 57 percent approval ratings. Voters will decide in less than two weeks whether or not to allow Chavez chance to compete for a third term. According to the rector of the Central University of Venezuela: “There have been errors and inefficiency in these 10 years but also positive changes for the country that should not be reversed.”

Caracas also hosted a summit of the regional group ALBA yesterday. In attendance were leaders from Ecuador, Bolivia, Dominica, and Cuba. The AP reports that the countries agreed to create another joint fund  to help boost agricultural production and offset high food prices.

Finally, in economic news, Reuters reports that Venezuelan officials  have no plans to devalue the currency or raise taxes at home. Meanwhile, according to Bloomberg, Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez said yesterday that Venezuela reduced its combined foreign and domestic debt last year by $150 million to reach an amount of $43 billion. This makes the debt equal to just 13.5 percent of GDP, a very strong ratio compared Venezuela’s past figures as well as current ones in the US and UK.


December 1, 2008

Venezuela Hosts ALBA Summit for Latin American Regional Cooperation

President Chavez proposed a common currency for nations at last week’s summit of ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas). According to Bloomberg, he urged regional, cooperative solutions to financial troubles and less dependence on the IMF and World Bank. At the meeting were the leaders of Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Cuba, and Dominica (see image at right). Mainstream media coverage of the event was very limited.

Venezuela begins joint naval exercises with Russia today, the AP reports. Presidents Chavez and Medvedev signed several accords on oil and nuclear energy. A New York Times article suggests that such plans may go nowhere, contrary to evidence of greater cooperation. Reuters reports that the Venezuelan leader told his Russian counterpart, “Our mission is a mission of peace, you are leading us to the balanced multi-polar world.”

News comes today that President Chavez, whose approval ratings are at 55 percent by modest estimates, urged supporters to organize if they wish him to have a chance at reelection in 2012. The current constitution allows two term limits, but legislation has been proposed to allow presidents to run for office beyond that point. The media portrays this as a bid by Chavez to become “president-for-life,” ignoring the fact that Venezuela would remain a democratic country guided by electoral competition. Reelection was one of 69 items included in a set of constitutional reforms that lost narrowly in a referendum last year. Chavez said that he would no longer put forth such legislation, but that voters have the right to bring about a new referendum on the issue if they gather signatures. Voters pushed a referendum on Chavez’s presidency in 2004, which he won with 59% support.

A New York Times editorial offers advice on Latin America for the Obama administration. Though the paper generally claims the U.S. has successfully “ignored” Venezuela, this time it recognizes — and laments — the Bush administration’s support for the failed coup against Chavez in 2002. The Times also insists that Venezuela’s Chavez is “corrupt and autocratic,” despite recent democratic elections deemed exemplary by the OAS, and predicts declining influence for Venezuela in the region, hinting that it will lose economic clout. Many credible experts, on the other hand, have said that Venezuela will remain a robust economy despite lowered oil prices.

Colombia recalled its consul in Venezuela’s second-largest city of Maracaibo on Sunday after he was chastised for making statements against the government. In comments aired on TV, the consul said the election of opposition governors in Zulia and Tachira was “very good news” and called one of the governors a “a very, very special friend,” according to Bloomberg.

Finally, Colombia’s Ingrid Betancourt is on tour to thank the Latin America leaders who helped her escape captivity from the FARC, including President Chavez. The Venezuelan leader negotiated the release of six hostages this year, and was a vocal advocate for Betancourt.

September 4, 2008

Dominica Gets $21 Million for Development Through ALBA

Filed under: Daily News Roundup — VenWorld @ 10:48 am
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The small Caribbean nation of Dominica will soon receive $21 million in development funds through ALBA, the regional integration initiative spearheaded by Venezuela. According to the AP, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the aid is “testament to the strong bonds of friendship between Dominica and Venezuela within the ALBA.” Honduras joined ALBA last week, becoming its sixth member.

Bush’s White House drug czar continues to issue wild accusations against Venezuela. AP reports that the Bush rep claimed that more cocaine is leaving Venezuela and less is being seized, and also made the vague prediction that “what’s coming is mafias taking over at least sections of the country if not whole institutions of government.” The claim that Venezuela has seen more cocaine trafficking remains unsubstantiated by any reliable figures, particularly because US drug agencies track only “suspected” drug flights. Caracas officials maintain that their anti-drug efforts have increased and been complemented by far-reaching corruption purges. El Universal quotes the head of Venezuela’s National Anti-Drug Office, Nestor Reverol, who calls the US accusations “irresponsible.”

A Washington Times op-ed repeats the drug accusations against Venezuela and makes the exaggerated claim that the country is a “clear and immediate security threat.” It wrongly calls Venezuela a “dictatorship,” when in fact democratic institutions and norms have been maintained and reinforced under President Chavez. Voter turnout in regular free and fair elections, for example, has reached almost 75 percent. Open debates occur in civil society and in the media, which is still dominated by opposition voices. Finally, “terrorist” groups such as Hezbollah are not permitted to “raise funds freely” in Venezuela, nor is the Chavez administration anti-Semitic. After President Chavez met with Jewish leaders last month, the head of the Latin American Jewish Congress called the Venezuelan leader “a great friend of the Jewish community… who wants to fight anti-Semitism.”

In a speech at the RNC yesterday, Republican VP nominee Palin slammed US dependence on foreign oil. Reuters reports that Palin said, “Venezuela might shut off its oil deliveries.” This has never occurred, and most expert analysts rule out the possibility entirely. In recent months, President Chavez has in fact vowed that Venezuela’s vast reserves can supply the US market for decades to come.

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