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.

April 28, 2009

Venezuela Evaluates Bilateral Relations with Peru

On Monday, Peru announced that it would grant Manuel Rosales, a leader of Venezuela’s political opposition, political asylum after he entered that country last week as a tourist. Venezuela in turn recalled its ambassador to Peru and announced, through its Foreign Ministry, that it would be “evaluating” bilateral relations with Lima. Rosales had been scheduled to face trial on charges of having engaged in illicit use of public funds during his term as governor of the State of Zulia. Rosales has denied the charges and accused state prosecutors of engaging in a “political lynching.” Last Friday, Interpol announced that it had sent out an international warrant for Rosales’ detention in response to a request from a Venezuelan court. Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry called Peru’s decision to grant amnesty to Rosales a “mockery of international law.”

More opinion pieces have appeared in the press commenting on President Obama’s brief but friendly exchanges with President Chavez during the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago from the 17th to the 19th of April. A Kansas City Star op-ed defends Obama’s decision to engage with the Venezuelan leader remarking that Chavez “has a movement of Venezuelans behind him; he has many powerful allies; and he has a lot of oil. We have to work with him.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Times published a piece describing the significance of Eduardo Galeano’s book “The Open Veins of Latin America” which the Venezuelan president gave to Obama on the last day of the Summit. William Hamilton, professor at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro – told the Times that Chavez’s gift to Obama was a sincere gesture rather than a publicity stunt. “Chavez as well as people everywhere are impressed with Obama.” By giving this “rite-of-passage” reading to the US Commander-in-Chief, argues Hamilton, Latin Americans are “giving us a chance to renew our deepest values and redeem our image as a nation.”

April 23, 2009

Venezuela Alerts Interpol in Corruption Case

On Wednesday, Republican legislators criticized Barack Obama for shaking President Chavez’s hand last weekend. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissed saying “I found it somewhat amusing, to be honest…why should we be afraid of shaking somebody’s hand?, Reuters reports.

Manuel Rosales,a Venezuelan opposition leader who fled to Peru seeking asylum because he believes corruption charges against him are politically motivated, has said that he will fight Chavez from Peru, the AFP reports. However, Peru’s Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde said that Rosales could not use his country as a political platform. “Peru can’t be used as a political platform for any foreigner because that would violate the very nature of the refuge or political asylum that could be granted,” he added. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the Venezuelan courts have issued an arrest warrant for Rosales and sent out alerts to Interpol after Rosales failed to appear at a preliminary hearing.

Finally, more reports are circulating regarding Venezuela’s donation of an island in the Delaware River to New Jersey. The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that a ceremony of the transfer of Petty Island from Venezuela’s Citgo to the State of New Jersey was canceled due to miscommunication between Citgo and Governor Corzine’s office.

December 2, 2008

Venezuela to Aid Nicaragua if US and Europe Refuse

Venezuela has offered economic assistance to Nicaragua if the U.S. and Europe follow through on threats to withdraw anti-poverty aid, according to the AP today. President Ortega said the offer came “without conditions of any sort.”

More news appears today on comments made by President Chavez about the possibility that lawmakers or voters could push a referendum soon on ending presidential term limits. The AP reports that Chavez emphasized that such an initiative should not drag on, saying “I wouldn’t like to spend 2009 in a debate, a long campaign.” Last December, this and 68 other constitutional reforms were defeated by less than two percentage points in a referendum, but experts emphasize continued support for the president. Reuters and Time present the possible end to term limits as an autocratic move by President Chavez, even though his mandate would remain subject to democratic elections. Many other democracies throughout the world — including Canada, Chile, and Peru — do not impose term limits on the top executive.

The BBC reports today that joint naval exercises between Venezuela and Russia are intended to “evaluate the skills and capabilities of the fleets of both nations to fight against terrorism and drug-trafficking,” according to a Russian Vice-Admiral. The exercises, as well as a potential deal on the production of nuclear energy for civilian use, have been portrayed the media as a revival of Cold War-era dynamics. President Chavez, however, has emphasized the issues of sovereignty and multilateralism. The Miami Herald persists in calling the naval exercises an “anti-U.S.” move and reports that Chavez tried to “politicize” the visit of President Medvedev by giving him a Simon Bolivar award.

The Russian leader in fact spent less time in Venezuela than in the other countries he visited: Peru, Brazil, and Cuba. A Washington Post op-ed suggests that the visit was a “farce” that served only to show that Russia “can play games in America’s back yard.” The “back yard” designation is one Latin America has sought to shake.

November 20, 2008

Global Cooperation Abounds as Venezuela Reaches out to Africa and Asia

Reuters reported yesterday on the political scene in Venezuela ahead of Sunday’s elections. President Chavez, it states, is “still popular” with 60 percent approval and “polls show his party will likely hold onto a large majority of states even though the opposition could make some gains.” Chavez’s suggestion that he would pursue more policy changes if his PSUV political party emerges with sufficient support could mark a change from “slowed reforms” in response to the rejection of constitutional reforms by voters in a national referendum last December. One analyst said: “The stakes are high on both sides.”

World leaders are heading to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Peru this weekend. The leaders of Russia and Vietnam planned stops in Venezuela on either side of the meeting. Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet (pictured at right) discussed oil and gas ties with President Chavez yesterday, according to AFP. Dow Jones reports that PetroVietnam may invest $9 billion in oil production in Venezuela. Meanwhile, media buzz has surrounded Russian President Medvedev’s visit to Venezuela. Press accounts such as a Reuters article today deem this an attempt to “rile the U.S.” and revive Cold War-era politics, while downplaying the fact that Medvedev will also go to Brazil and Peru, and will likely meet with President Bush at the APEC meeting.

Venezuela’s expansion of relations with Africa continued yesterday with the announcement of a new cooperation deal with Zimbabwe. According to AFP, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister for Africa, Reinaldo Bolivar, emphasized the importance of “south-south cooperation.” Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s top rep in Brazil said: “Venezuela provides great assistance to our country through donations made through the World Food Program.” Agriculture has been a key area of cooperation for the countries.

Finally, in cultural news, two articles today feature the classical music conductor Gustavo Dudamel, whose origins in Venezuela’s state-funded music program led him to global fame. The Washington Times deems Dudamel “better than the hype.” The L.A. Times reports that the music program, called “el sistema,” receives $29 million from the Venezuelan government each year. It teaches “the values of self-discipline and teamwork in service of social harmony.”

November 19, 2008

Venezuela and England Cooperate in “Connecting Classrooms” Program

A new program called “Connecting Classrooms” lets teachers in England learn from the successes of Venezuela’s “Bolivarian” public education system, according to the BBC. One teacher calls the schools in poor areas “oases of calm and order where children are able to get that one life opportunity to get an education.” Another London-based teacher said: “Where [the Bolivarian schools] are very strong is in the area of values, in instilling in their pupils the belief that when they grow up they must be better citizens… and a better future will mean that the population in general is at less risk of crime and of criminality.”

An AP article today repeats unfounded claims by opposition politicians that they are being “intimidated” ahead of regional elections. Opposition Governor Manuel Rosales of Zulia state faces actual legal proceedings for the misuse of public funds, and has a hearing set for next week. The AP also cites data from the biased polling firm Datanalisis, whose director has publicly called for the assassination of the president. Meanwhile, statements by President Chavez are presented with insufficient context; national law prohibits the media from giving voting results too early, and Chavez once mentioned that he could perhaps use tanks to prevent another violent coup  — not simply if opposition candidates are elected on Sunday.

The President of Vietnam is currently visiting Venezuela on his way to the Asia-Pacific summit in Peru. According to the AFP, the Vietnamese leader will meet President Chavez tomorrow to discuss energy cooperation. Reuters reports that Cuban President Raul Castro may visit Venezuela in the next few days.

The Russia-Venezuela relationship is misrepresented in a Washington Times op-ed today that claims joint naval exercises between the countries are evidence that Russia is “prepared to intrude in the U.S. backyard.” Russian leaders emphasize that the exercises do not involve any third country. Venezuela, for its part, has not “sown instability” in the region, as the op-ed states. Instead, it has been at the forefront of cooperation initiatives such as UNASUR — the Union of South American Nations (wrongly identified in the op-ed as the “South American Cooperation Council”). The op-ed also conveniently avoids reference to the recent re-deployment of the 4th Fleet of the U.S. Navy in Latin America, which had been disbanded in 1950.

Finally, the Christian Science Monitor reports that the new Latinobarometro poll suggests more in the region are identifying as politically “moderate.” In Venezuela, rates of support for democracy are higher than in any other country except Uruguay. The Monitor links this to the defeat of constitutional reforms in a referendum last December, considered a “loss” for President Chavez. However, Venezuela has for years led the region in favoring democracy and had high rates of satisfaction with the state of democracy.

August 13, 2008

Venezuela Prepares for Elections, Promotes Food Security

Filed under: Daily News Roundup — VenWorld @ 11:07 am
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Registration closed yesterday for candidates in Venezuela’s regional elections this November. According to the AP, nearly 7,000 people threw their names in the hat for mayoral and gubernatorial seats across the country. A law dating back to the 1970s that prevents individuals facing corruption charges from running for public office has stirred controversy. Opposition members claim they are unfairly barred from competing in elections, but Venezuela’s Supreme Court recently found that the law is indeed constitutional.

Venezuela’s energy assistance program for the Caribbean, Petrocaribe, is helping to provide food security in its 18 member countries. According to Reuters, it was announced yesterday that the countries will be eligible for $2 million-dollar grants for agricultural development. A rep from the Dominican Republic said: “President Chavez’s initiative to provide these funds provides us with some tranquility and a way we can together tackle the great challenges poor countries face.” Assistance from Venezuela has also been welcomed by poor people in Peru after last year’s major earthquake, Reuters reports.

Also in economic news, Venezuelan government continues to loosen controls on food prices. Price caps on basic goods such as meat and bread were lifted yesterday to boost supply and address the concerns of producers. The controls were designed to help Venezuela’s consumers, though, and their removal has already caused price hikes of 20-50%, according to the AP. The BBC reports that inflation is a continuing problem.

Finally, a Washington Post op-ed examines what is seen as “the rise of a multi-power, non-Western-dominated planet.” It recalls prior U.S. interventions abroad in Cuba and Nicaragua, and more recently when the Bush administration “green-lighted an attempted coup against Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in 2002.”

June 26, 2008

Venezuela’s Youth Music Programs Praised

Filed under: Daily News Roundup — VenWorld @ 9:51 am
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The success of Venezuela’s free orchestra programs for children in low-income families is highlighted again today, this time by the AP. The program — called “El Sistema” — has existed for over 30 years, and is currently educating a quarter of a million disadvantaged young people. Because of it, Venezuela has burst onto the world stage as a premier spot for classical music talent, producing greats such as conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who will head the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009. Dudamel says, “‘El Sistema’ has given me everything. It gave me the possibility of having a path in life with music.”

Leaders in Bolivia’s Chapare region are rejecting U.S. anti-drug aid. The AP reports that a coca grower stated: “We want USAID to go. If USAID leaves, we will have aid from Venezuela, which is unconditioned and in solidarity.” USAID gave $87 million in aid to Bolivia in 2007, but chemical eradication schemes and programs to promote alternatives to drug crops have failed.

Also in regional news, Peru’s President Alan Garcia joined other Latin American leaders in speaking out against new anti-immigration laws in the European Union. According to the AP, Garcia called the new laws “abusive,” and said they mistreat immigrants. He plans to unite a group of OAS countries against the measures, including Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Bloomberg reports that the Andean Community trade group has threatened to suspend trade talks with the EU unless the law is revised.

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