VIO News Blog

April 28, 2009

Empire Still Kicking, Venezuela Still Kicking Back

The AFP reports that on Friday President Chavez said that while he and President Obama exchanged warm greetings during the Summit of the Americas, the US empire is still “alive and kicking.”

Labor leaders from Delaware left on Sunday as a delegation traveling to Venezuela to participate in meetings and dialogue with the Venezuelan government, businesses, and labor leaders, Delaware Online reports. Delaware was one of at least seven states in which discounted heating oil for those in need was delivered by the Venezuela-owned company CITGO.

On Sunday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki visited Venezuela and announced that his country would open a diplomatic mission in Venezuela. Malki and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro on Monday were set to sign a joint communique establishing diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the Palestinian Authority, AFP reports.

On Sunday, President Rafael Correa was easily re-elected, winning with 52% of the vote, and a 24% point lead against his closest rival. A Reuters article stated that this was “another victory” for the a new generation of left-leaning Latin American leaders like President Chavez who have challenged Washington’s agenda in the region.

Finally, an opinion piece in the Washington Times argues that President Obama lowered his and America’s moral standing by shaking President Chavez’s hand during the Summit of the Americas. The piece makes several baseless allegations, including the claim that the Venezuelan government supports the FARC guerilla army in Colombia.

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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.”

September 29, 2008

Venezuela Has Good Credit, Donates Laptops to Schools

President Chavez was in Portugal last Saturday, where he and Prime Minister Socrates signed deals worth $3 billion on technology, housing, and other issues. The AP reports that Venezuela purchased 1 million low-cost laptops from Portugal for use in schools.

In Russia last Friday, Chavez signed deals to create an oil and gas consortium and purchase $1 billion worth of military equipment. Sources do not report that Venezuela’s military purchases in Russia are partly the consequence of an embargo imposed by the US in 2006. Reuters reports that Russia and Venezuela may also work together on nuclear energy, according to Chavez, “for peaceful purposes, for medical purposes, for purposes of electricity generation.” Sources, however, emphasize the strategic dimensions of this issue, claiming that the move is “anti-US.” Venezuela, though, maintains stable trade relations with North America, and President Chavez has said he looks forward to improved diplomatic relations with a new US administration.

On the economy, Reuters reports that Standard & Poor’s gave Venezuela a good credit rating. According to Reuters, Venezuela has “robust external and fiscal balance sheets, which continue to improve as a result of high and increasing oil revenues.” Meanwhile, IPS reports on the expanding role of Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, in the region.

Finally, voters in Ecuador overwhelmingly approved a new constitution in a national referendum yesterday (seen at right), bolstering the mandate of President Correa. The AFP reports that exit polls showed 65-70 percent approval of the new charter. The Washington Post reports that Correa said, “Today Ecuador has decided on a new nation. The old structures are defeated… This confirms the citizens’ revolution.”

July 11, 2008

President Chavez Hosts Colombia’s Uribe Today in Caracas

Presidents Chavez and Uribe meet today in Caracas to discuss bilateral relations, according to the AP. Trade between the countries reached a record $6 billion last year, but ties suffered Colombia’s deadly raid on a FARC camp in Ecuador and subsequent campaign to accuse Ecuador and Venezuela of helping the rebels. The Colombian ambassador said that those accusations will not be discussed in today’s meeting. In related news, another AP story details spying by US and Colombian forces that enabled the recent rescue of hostages held by rebels.

A Washington Post op-ed cheers that rescue, but misleads readers by presenting the accusations against Venezuela and President Chavez as though they were fact. The claim that Chavez aided the FARC has not been verified by any independent source. INTERPOL  could only determine that the evidence in question was not altered extensively after its alleged recovery. The claims surfaced after Uribe canceled humanitarian hostage talks by Chavez and resumed its militarized approach to the armed conflict. The Post op-ed deems the March 1st bombing it Ecuador “daring,” though it was a sneak attack that killed two dozen, including innocent Mexican students. The Post wrongly claims “we know” Chavez helped the FARC, but the origins and authenticity of the evidence offered by the Uribe government remains shrouded.

In economic news, the AP reports that Suriname and Guyana are considering Venezuela’s proposal to build a continent-wide natural gas pipeline. Suriname’s environment minister said the plan would bring financial gain, but he will consider long-term implications. The pipeline is designed to deliver energy security to the continent. The Financial Times looks at the auto industry in Venezuela and government measures to offset reliance on imports. The pro-free market paper sees too much “red tape.”

Finally, a Miami Herald column takes aim at Ecuador, wrongly stating that President Correa is “silencing” the media. Officials have seized the assets of a wealthy family that owns TV broadcasters for its $661 million in debt to the state Deposit Guarantee Agency (AGD) after an embezzling scandal. By selling the assets, the expect to recover only a fraction of that amount. Both the Miami Herald and the Economist claim that press freedoms in Ecuador and Venezuela have suffered under leftist leadership, but the government does not censor the opposition-controlled media in either country.

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