VIO News Blog

December 11, 2008

Venezuela to Harness the Power of Wind

Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, is beginning to invest in renewable energy. A deal was signed yesterday with the Spanish company Gamesa for the purchase of 76 wind turbines that will be Venezuela’s first experience with using wind power. Reuters reports that the turbines cost $150 million and will generate 100 megawatts from a site located in the state of Falcon.

There are about 30,000 Cuban health workers participating in the “Barrio Adentro” social mission that provides free treatments to the poor in Venezuela, according to the country’s Health Minister Jesus Mantilla. AFP reports that Mantilla said Barrio Adentro has 6,571 clinics throughout Venezuela. Cuba provides doctors in exchange for Venezuelan goods such as discounted oil.

Sources report that Cuban President Raul Castro will make his first overseas trip on Saturday to visit President Chavez in Caracas. According to the AP, Castro’s trip was planned to coincide with an ALBA summit that has now been postponed.

The Christian Science Monitor asks whether any action will come of Ingrid Betancourt’s recent tour of countries including Venezuela to drum up support for further efforts to free hostages held by the FARC. The Chavez government is not, as the Monitor suggests, “ideologically akin” to the FARC. The Venezuelan government is a democratic one that does not adhere to the Marxism of the FARC, nor does it endorse armed political struggles. Chavez said as much earlier this year when he declared: “the guerrilla war is history.”

In cultural news today, the AFP reports that the three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone is making a film he says is “about President Chavez and the South American revolution.” According to AFP, “Stone has already with met with Chavez, who is reviled by the outgoing Bush administration.” Finally, see a review of a Venezuelan music ensemble in the San Francisco Chronicle and a review of a South Florida Venezuelan restaurant in the Miami Herald.

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November 13, 2008

President of Venezuelan Electoral Council Welcomes Foreign Observers to Regional Elections

Venezuela’s regional elections on November 23rd will be monitored by 130 foreign observers from groups such as the OAS, according to the Caracas newspaper El Universal. Observer missions have been invited from 34 different countries. El Universal also reports that Spain’s Secretary of State for Latin America recently said that “the election campaign is going normally.” Tibisay Lucena, President of the National Electoral Council (pictured at right), said that the observation missions will be accompanied by a program “to learn about the Venezuelan electoral system” that has inspired “confidence, curiosity and admiration” in foreign visitors.

The economy of Venezuela is in the news today, after comments made by President Chavez yesterday. Bloomberg and Reuters report that Chavez said: “The price of oil has been falling as a product of the global crisis… That’s the factor, that if it continues to extend itself for a period of time, could affect us, of course it would affect us.”

As an oil-exporting country for about a century, Venezuela is familiar with the volatility of crude prices and has become more adept at managing the highs and lows. The recently released 2009 budget is based on the conservative estimate of oil prices of $60 per barrel. Oxford Analytica explains this and many other factors that suggest Venezuela will not likely suffer an economic collapse due to the global financial crisis. It states: “Venezuela is likely to be able to continue its high public and social spending in 2009.” The country’s economy is bolstered by $40 billion in foreign currency reserves and tens of billions in development funds.

Finally, the price of oil remains in the news. The AP reports that the International Energy Association estimates that oil prices will average $80 per barrel in 2009. OPEC countries may meet later this month in Cairo to evaluate current rates of production, according to Bloomberg.

October 27, 2008

Venezuela Engaged in Anti-Drug Effort with Spain

Spain’s foreign minister announced new anti-drug cooperation with Venezuela over the weekend, according to the Caracas newspaper El Universal. The initiative, proposed by Venezuela, is aimed at increasing the ability to interdict drugs being trafficked to Europe. Venezuela has made significant progress on fighting drugs — despite US criticism — even after cooperation with the DEA ended. A letter in Sunday’s Boston Globe enumerates that progress. Anti-drug policing has been stepped up on the border with Colombia, the world’s largest cocaine producer. The BBC reports though that one Colombian drug kingpin allegedly “bases himself” over the border in rural Venezuela.

Bloomberg reports on the economy, and indicates that President Chavez’s approval rating remained at 58 percent last month according to one source. A Washington Post editorial Saturday delights in the possibility that the US financial crisis could hurt so-called “rogue states.” It suggests that President Chavez is “disturbed” by lower oil prices and mocks his appeal to US leaders to “sit down and talk and come to an agreement because we need each other.” On Sunday, a similar New York Times editorial makes the erroneous claim that Venezuela “is said to be desperate for prices to go back above $100.” Reuters reports that Chavez said he supports a price band for oil that would see OPEC setting the value crude as low as $70 per barrel. The Venezuelan leader also indicated recently that the country could remain solvent at $55 per barrel, citing foreign currency reserves of about $40 billion.

Reuters and the AP report on a comment by Chavez that he would like to see Mayor Manuel Rosales of Zulia state jailed for his alleged role in coup plots. “He cannot continue in office. … He is one of those who wants to see me dead,” Chavez said. Notably, though, members of Venezuela’s opposition have not been actively discriminated against and were pardoned early this year for their roles in the 2002 coup.

Finally, press attention continues to swirl around Venezuela’s ties with Russia. The US has just sanctioned Russia’s state arms trader. The Washington Post reports though that “in an unusual move, it granted the company a partial waiver to permit the sale of nearly two dozen Russian helicopters to Iraq.”

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.”

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