VIO News Blog

February 6, 2009

Alleged Destabilization Plot Thwarted in Venezuela

Two National Guard commanders not yet identified were detained Wednesday for “preparing destabilization plans,” according to televised statements made by President Chavez yesterday. The AP reports that the men allegedly conspired against the government in conjunction with local opposition groups and ex-lieutenants living in the U.S. The latter are said to be Jose Antonio Colina and German Rodolfo Varela, who tried to overthrow the government in 2002 and for whom Venezuela has been denied extradition requests since early 2004.

The AP also reports that private oil contractors in Venezuela are stopping work to protest back payments they are owed by the state oil firm PDVSA. Meanwhile, PDVSA says service providers increased their prices by as much as 40 percent last summer. Oil Minister Ramirez has said Venezuela will repay all its debts, according to the AP.

The Economist prints an article and an opinion piece on Venezuela that are nearly indistinguishable in their tone and message. The article ignores evidence to make the ludicrous claim that “a climate of hostility against Jews” is fostered by the Venezuelan government. Leaders consistently advocate religious freedom and tolerance — values that were made law in the 1999 constitution — and have also met with Jewish leaders and signed anti-discrimination accords. The Economist opinion piece claims vandalism at a synagogue last week was only “eventually condemned” by government officials, but it was immediately and forcefully denounced by the president, vice president, and government ministers who promised the culprits would be fully punished. The Economist also claims the President Chavez’s ten years in elected office have yielded no gains for Venezuela, dismissing social missions as “hard to assess.” UN data shows Venezuela has lowered the income gap and reduced poverty by 20 percent since 2002.

Finally, in other news today, El Universal reports that Venezuela will soon have a new Indigenous news agency with nationwide distribution thanks to the new Simon Bolivar Satellite, Venesat-1.

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January 28, 2009

Venezuelan FM: Relationship with the Middle East is Transparent

Venezuela has a “transparent relationship” with the Middle East, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said yesterday. The AFP reports that he explained: “We have no official relations with (Hamas and Hezbollah) and if we did we would say so. …Our government totally and absolutely guarantees religious equality and nondiscrimination on religious issues.” The comments were a response to allegations in an Israeli newspaper the same day Israel expelled Venezuelan diplomats.

Maduro also said yesterday that Venezuela respects President Obama’s plan for energy independence, but that “at the same time we have been asking them to respect Venezuelan and Latin American decisions concerning the path we have taken.” According to the Financial Times, Obama plans to cut U.S. oil use by 4m barrels a day within 10 years. U.S. oil consumption has grown over the decade to reach 20.7 million barrels per day, an amount greater that of than any other nation.

The AP and Reuters report on comments by Venezuela’s foreign minister with headlines declaring that Venezuela-U.S. relations will remain on hold under Obama. The actual statements suggest a far more measured position, though; Maduro said that Venezuela will seek to restore diplomatic ties with the U.S. “in the best and most correct manner,” and that this “will probably take some time.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (seen at right) accused Iran of “subversive activity” in Latin America yesterday at a senate hearing in Washington. He claimed Iranians are opening “a lot of offices” in “a number of places.” Venezuela was mentioned as the site of a visit by the Russian navy on its tour of the region last year. Gates joked that the Russians would have had more fun had they visited Miami.

An ALBA summit will be held in Venezuela next week, according to CNN. Set to attend are the leaders of Honduras, Nicaragua, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Bolivia, as well as representatives from Ecuador and other observer nations. They will discuss common initiatives, including a shared currency. CNN mentions the upcoming referendum in Venezuela on term limits, claiming Venezuelans rejected similar legislation last year. However, that referendum concerned 69 proposals including communal property rights, recognition for Afro-Venezuelans, ending foreign funding for political campaigns, and banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

USA Today provides a very misleading account of the issue of term limits in Venezuela and other Latin American nations. It wrongly classifies democratic leaders in Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua as a new class of “strongmen.” The leaders are described as authoritarian despite the fact that they are “generally civilians instead of soldiers, and they take office via elections instead of coups… [and] are staying in office because they are so popular.” Bolivia is singled out for its new constitution, approved in a national referendum last Sunday. The charterĀ  recognizes the rights of Indigenous and Afro-Bolivians and guarantees healthcare, education, water, and a safe environment to all citizens.

August 14, 2008

Venezuela’s Chavez Holds Key Meeting with Jewish Leaders

Yesterday, President Chavez met Jewish leaders in Venezuela (pictured at right). The head of the World Jewish Congress said, “We mentioned our concerns about anti-Semitism and asked him what his position was… And he said he was certainly not an anti-Semite.” This issue has for years been among the worst media misrepresentations of the Venezuelan leader. President Chavez called it “very important meeting,” according to the AP. To read a transcript of statements made at yesterday’s meeting, click here.

In regional news, Bolivian President Evo Morales has extended an olive branch to his political opponents after winning a recall referendum last Sunday. Reuters reports that Morales and opposition leaders agreed yesterday to meet “with an open mind.”

President Chavez is attending today’s inauguration of the new Paraguayan leader, Fernando Lugo. Newsweek prints an interview with Lugo, a former Bishop who says, “I am a centrist, like the hole of a poncho, standing above political parties.” Reuters reports that Lugo plans to help the poor by pursuing land reform and other policies. His administration marks a break from 61 years of one-party rule.

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