VIO News Blog

October 23, 2008

Electrical Service Continues Uninterrupted in Venezuela

A blackout in Venezuela last Sunday that lasted approximately forty five minutes is still making news. The AP reports that three engineers employed by the state-owned EDELCA were charged with causing the failure. Meanwhile, Reuters claims that because this is the third brief outage this year, Venezuela is “struggling to maintain basic electrical service.” Electricity was nationalized last year in a controversial move that has raised hackles in the private media. However, the state’s new investment in electricity is meant to expand access to infrastructure in rural areas and increase the efficiency and affordability of the service.

Closing statements were held this morning in the trial of Florida-based Venezuelan businessman Franklin Duran. The Miami Herald reports that Duran could face 10 years in jail for acting as an unregistered foreign agent. The Herald points out that experts on Latin America say the trial is politically motivated: Professor Bagley of the University of Miami said, “The United States has gone after this case because they want to embarrass the Ch├ívez government.” A Wall Street Journal article does just this, expounding on the corruption allegations that have surfaced in the trial despite their lack of relevance to the proceedings against Duran.

Caracas newspaper El Universal reports on the escalating use of anti-Venezuela statements by the McCain-Palin campaign in the US. Senator McCain has emphasized the need for so-called “energy independence,” while Governor Palin called President Chavez as a “dictator” and suggested “the imposition of sanctions.” When asked if she supports military intervention in Venezuela, Palin said ambivalently, “Military action must always be the last resort.”

Finally, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions yesterday against Iran’s Export Development Bank, as well as those of banks it claims are affiliates, including Venezuela’s Banco Internacional De Desarollo. The Treasury moved to freeze their US assets and prevent from doing business with US citizens.

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September 22, 2008

Venezuela Deepens Foreign Relations As McCain Attacks

“Gratuitous attacks” is how President Chavez described a new ad campaign by Republican hopefuls McCain-Palin that features the Venezuelan leader, the AP reports. “I don’t respond to candidates,” Chavez said. He has not commented on the US elections except to say that he hopes for better relations with a new administration. Also according to the AP, the Venezuela Information Office in Washington stated that the ad is an “attempt at fear-mongering” and that the words and image of Chavez “were taken out of context and used as a baseless attack.” The Boston Globe prints a transcript of the ad. Also in US-Venezuela relations, the AP reports that President Chavez said over the weekend that Venezuela is moving away from the use of the US dollar for its foreign currency reserves, and now has less than one percent of its $39.2 billion in US banks.

Last week, two Human Rights Watch staff were expelled from Venezuela after that group released a harshly critical report on the Chavez administration. A pre-Chavez law forbids foreigners from attacking Venezuela’s democratic institutions. The Foreign Ministry explained that the country “will not tolerate any meddling or interference in its internal affairs.” The Financial Times reports that Human Rights Watch reacted by claiming that Venezuela is seeing a “descent into intolerance.” Meanwhile, the Venezuela Information Office called the view put forth by the organization “incomplete and biased.”

In regional news, President Chavez is visiting Cuba today before moving on to tour China, Russia, Portugal and France. AFP reports that he said the week-long trip is “of great strategic interest” to Venezuela. New trade deals in oil and other areas are expected to be signed in China. Venezuela’s joint military exercises with Russia are in the news today. Reuters reports that a spokesman for the Russian navy said that the maneuvers are “aimed at training rescue drills and operations against sea terrorists.” The New York Times says that this is a strategic effort by Russia to boost its Latin American ties, but Russian reps say that the idea is not new, and will not affect any other country.

Finally, the Miami Herald reports on the continuing trial against Venezuelan businessmen accused by prosecutors of acting as unregistered foreign agents. Several experts indicate that the charges are politically motivated. “There is something bigger going on here. I have no doubt this is coming from the U.S. government”, said Peter Hakim of the Inter-American Dialogue.

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