VIO News Blog

June 18, 2009

Suspects Detained in Killing of Opposition Leader

Filed under: Daily News Roundup — VenWorld @ 2:22 pm
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The Spanish news agency EFE reports that six individuals suspected of involvement in the recent killing of opposition leader Jhonathan Rivas have been detained by Venezuelan authorities. Rivas, a regional leader of the Primero Justicia opposition party, was shot and killed last Saturday in a public square in the city of El Tigre. According to another opposition leader who suffered a blow to the head, the attack was perpetrated by a group of Chavez supporters. Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami did not identify the detained suspects but stated that the government had no tolerance for violence, no matter the “ideological and political orientation of those who may be affected.”

The Venezuelan foreign ministry released a statement on Tuesday firmly rejecting “the ferocious and unfounded campaign to discredit” the June 12 presidential election in Iran and demanding “the immediate end to maneuvers to intimidate and destabilize the Islamic Revolution.” Though defeated candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi and much of the international media have suggested that massive fraud took place during the election, various independent analysts and pollsters have argued that there is no proof of significant irregularities and that recent polls predicted a large victory for President Ahmadinejad. Whatever the case may be, the current media hype surrounding the Iranian elections and based largely on unsubstantiated claims of fraud and large demonstrations of primarily middle-class Iranians, bears a troubling resemblance to past media-driven electoral controversies in Venezuela.

A smaller media frenzy was generated by rumors that Venezuelan health authorities planned to quarantine a cruise ship anchored at Margarita Island due to the presence of at least three crew members diagnosed with swine flu. Though it was initially reported that the vessel would be quarantined until June 24th, in the end, Venezuelan passengers were allowed to disembark and the ship continued on to the island of Aruba.

El Universal reports on the decision of Venezuela’s Autonomous Service for Intellectual Property (SAPI) to post on its web site all “technical information” linked to patents licensed in Venezuela. The head of the institution explained that the decision was made in order to allow Venezuelan technicians “to change and improve new technologies that have already been developed.” President Chavez has also instructed the former head of SAPI and current Minister of Trade, Eduardo Saman, to recommend revisions to the country’s property rights legislation in order to ensure that “patents cannot be a restriction or a trap.” While some see this move as a threat and “unconstitutional”, there is an increasing consensus in the developing world that patent laws need to be made more flexible in order, for example, to allow for greater access to life-saving medicine for the poor.

Finally, the Miami Herald reports that Venezuelan expatriates in southern Florida are collecting funds to help opposition news channel Globovision pay a $4 million government fine. The fund-raising drive was initially organized by Venezuelan opposition student groups and is apparently now the hottest topic of conversation among Florida Venezuelans. Venezuela’s ChargĂ© d’Affaires in Washington told the Herald that due process has been respected in the case of Globovision and that “attempts to portray the station as a victim are nothing but theater.”

June 17, 2009

Prosecutors Investigate Globovision for Inciting Crime

On Tuesday, Venezuela’s telecommunications regulator CONATEL instructed prosecutors to investigate whether or not the Globovision news channel incited a crime when it aired the comments of a newspaper editor who stated that President Chavez could end up “hanging” like the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. A spokeswoman for CONATEL stated that if the investigation determined that Globovision was responsible for supporting criminal activities, it’s broadcasting license “could be revoked.”

An article posted on CNN’s web site presents a variety of quotes from individuals and organizations that are critical of this and other CONATEL investigations of Globovision. The article, however, fails to present a single contrasting point of view or critical background information regarding, for instance, the role that the news station played during the April 2002 coup against Chavez. CNN also quotes the NED-funded NGO Reporters without Borders making the false claim that Globovision is currently the only Venezuelan television station that has “kept up its criticism of the government.” In fact, as any frequent watcher of Venezuelan television knows, other private channels such as Televen and Venevision continue to frequently air criticism of the government, while the RCTV network broadcasts intensely critical views of the government on cable and satellite television.

In recent weeks, pamphlets threatening to “socially cleanse” communities of transvestites, sex workers and thieves, among others, have been distributed throughout communities in western Venezuela, according to Venezuelanalysis. Signed by a group named “Black Eagles”, believed to be a splinter group of the defunct Colombian paramilitary organization A.U.C., the pamphlets have been accompanied by violent acts, including the brutal murder of a transvestite sex worker in the state of Merida. Venezuela’s national police investigation unit has launched an investigation into the pamphlets and the murders. Meanwhile, President Chavez and the Venezuelan Minister of Interior and Justice have accused the governor of Tachira, Cesar Perez, of conspiring with paramilitary groups to mount a violent plan to secede from Venezuela.

The communications industry research group Telegeography reports that President Chavez has invited Caribbean countries to share the use of Venezuela’s new Simon Bolivar satellite which began to operate in January. Science and Technology Minister Jesse Chacon explained that the satellite would allow Venezuela to provide high speed internet and TV services to remote areas of Venezuela. He also announced that the government would soon launch a free public Wi-Fi network that will cover 50 square kilometres in the city of Barquisimeto.

The Venezuelan government announced Monday that CADIVI – the country’s foreign exchange administrator – would be allocating $2.5 billion to the national car industry to allow for more imports of motor vehicles and car parts following a plunge in car sales during the month of May. The government has limited the amount of dollars made available to the industry in order to decrease car imports and boost national production.

In other economic news, Bloomberg reports that the Venezuelan National Assembly has approved a law requiring all chemical production to be placed under the control of government-controlled joint ventures. A number of strategic industries have been nationalized since 2007, including Venezuela’s steel, cement and electrical industries.

April 14, 2009

US Coast Guard Respects Venezuelan Sovereignty in Drug Bust

On Friday, President Chavez said he saw “good signals” from the U.S. after Luis Posada Carriles, who is wanted for terrorism in Venezuela and Cuba, was charged in a U.S. court for lying about his involvement in the 1997 bombing of a Havana hotel. Chavez was also encouraged by the U.S. Coast Guard’s cooperation in a large cocaine bust involving a Venezuelan boat off the coast of Brazil, AP reports. The Coast Guard first called Venezuelan authorities to seek permission before boarding the boat. “Now they’re going to turn over to us the boat, the drugs, the prisoners. Those are good signals because that didn’t used to happen,” Chavez said.

On Monday, in a speech marking the seven year anniversary of a failed coup, Chavez said “sanctions must be imposed” on television networks which backed the brief overthrow and staged a media blackout. The AP quoted Ana Cristina Nunez of Globovision, saying that “The president is totally criminalizing the free exercise of freedom of expression.” However, the right to freedom of speech remains strong in Venezuela, with the majority of the country’s media in private hands – most of which remain vocally opposed to the Chavez government.

The Venezuelan government plans to issue $15.8 billion in local bonds to offset the shortfall in oil revenue. An article by Dow Jones Newswire asserts that the country’s bankers will comply in purchasing the newly issued debt, despite the fact that the government “threatens them with nationalization.” However, the government has consistently stated it has no intention of nationalizing large swathes of the banking sector.

Finally, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra performed to a packed audience at Chicago’s Symphony Center on Friday, receiving much praise in a Chicago Tribune review.

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