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.”

December 8, 2008

Venezuelan Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary of President Chavez

Saturday marked ten years since President Chavez was first elected. AFP reports that Chavez spoke before thousands of supporters (pictured at right), and said that a referendum on  presidential term limits will come from the National Assembly. Support is needed from 30 percent of lawmakers in order to hold a vote. Chavez said the measure would give Venezuelans the chance “to successfully complete… the revolutionary process that now has profound ideological content: Bolivarian socialism.” Meanwhile, according to AFP, the political opposition is determined to derail the referendum. Julio Borges of Primero Justicia said: “We are preparing to fight on all fronts — in the courts and in the streets.”

In a similar report, the Washington Post claims that Chavez has tried to “build an anti-Washington alliance,” when in fact the Venezuelan leader has specifically opposed Bush policies of U.S. unilateralism and unbridled free trade. Chavez recently congratulated Obama on his electoral victory and has repeatedly expressed a desire for dialogue and better relations with the U.S. Still, the Post reports that a vote on presidential term limits in Venezuela means a “challenge” for Obama. It also cites, despite a lack of evidence, Venezuela’s alleged support for Colombian guerrillas. President Chavez helped free six captives from the FARC this year. AFP reports that one former hostage, Igrid Betancourt, is currently visiting Venezuela to show thanks and ask for more assistance.

Reuters reported Friday on cabinet changes in Venezuela that put two PSUV candidates who lost in recent regional elections back into the executive branch. Diosdado Cabello, the former governor of Miranda, was appointed infrastructure minister. Jesse Chacon, who lost in the Caracas race for municipal mayor, will replace Andres Izarra as information minister. The Miami Herald’s Spanish-language paper, El Nuevo Herald, airs allegations that pro-Chavez candidates sought to “buy votes” in regional elections — even where they lost. The claims come from opposition politicians of the formerly government-aligned political party Patria Para Todos (PPT). One interviewee says that in the past it was “customary” in Venezuela to offer services and goods in exchange for votes.

On the economy, inflation has fallen for a second straight month in Venezuela. Bloomberg reports that reduced rates of consumption are likely the cause. Overall, consumer prices have risen 27.6% so far in 2008. The AP reports that inflation also went down in Caracas, though it is currently at 32.7%.

Venezuela performed well in a recent Gallup/Inter-American Development Bank poll that ranks citizen satisfaction across different areas of the economy, society, and politics. On a scale of one to ten, where ten is the most satisfied, Venezuelans gave an average of 6.5, making the country the fourth-happiest in Latin America. Among Venezuelan respondents, 90.6% said they were satisfied with their employment situation (the 3rd highest rate in Latin America, and 84% were satisfied with the country’s public education system (2nd highest). The results are published in Venezuelanalysis. A Miami Herald column, meanwhile, takes high rates of satisfaction with public education throughout Latin America as evidence that millions in the region are simply “in denial.” This condescending view sees only “educational backwardness,” and ignores progress made in recent years.

Finally, a letter in the Miami Herald urges a greater focus on Latin America in U.S. foreign policy. It advocates a hemispheric free trade agreement, an initiative that Bush pressed, but that fell flat after being roundly rejected by other nations. Meanwhile, another op-ed in the Tribune by British MP Colin Burgon reviews the new democratic governments in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela, and highlights their alternative proposals for development.

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