VIO News Blog

September 24, 2008

Venezuelan Local Election Campaigns Begin as Latin American Leaders Discuss Global Economy

Campaigning for local elections began yesterday in Venezuela. According to the AP, the mayoral and gubernatorial races will be “a key test” for the political party of President Chavez (the PSUV) and for opposition groups. A war of words has already begun, with opposition leaders claiming that it is unfair for the government to have “exclusive use” of state television, even though most private networks are staunchly anti-Chavez. Meanwhile, the Caracas mayoral candidate Jorge Rodriguez appealed to the opposition to “Leave behind the violent behavior.” Voting will take place on November 23rd.

In China yesterday, President Chavez promised to raise Venezuelan exports to the fast-growing country to 1 million barrels a day by 2012, according to the AP. Reuters reports that a preexisting joint development fund between China and Venezuela will be doubled to reach $12 billion, and that the countries will create two joint oil refineries. Forbes claims that these economic ties are spurred by Venezuela’s supposed desire to “cozy up to left-leaning rivals of the United States,” though the US certainly does more trade each year with China than Venezuela does.

The trial of Venezuelan businessmen accused by the US government as acting as unregistered foreign agents continues in Florida. The BBC and AP report that one of the accused men, who have plead guilty, now says that the funds in question totaled $4.2 million. US prosecutors refuse to see the trial as a politically motivated move by the US against Venezuela, though experts point out that the circumstances are suspect and that no similar trial would likely be brought against any other country in the region.

At the UN Summit in New York, Latin American leaders from many countries decried government bailouts in the US and expressed fears about the volatile “casino” economy of the northern nation, according to the Miami Herald. “We must not allow the burden of boundless greed of a few to be shouldered by all… The economy is too serious an undertaking to be left in the hands of speculators. Ethics must also apply to the economy,” said Brazilian President Lula da Silva. Meanwhile, Cristina Fernandez of Argentina lamented the fact that “In South America, they told us that the market would solve everything.”

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September 23, 2008

Venezuela’s Chavez Goes to China, Not New York

President Chavez arrived in China today to discuss trade agreements, including the construction of two joint oil refineries, according to the Wall Street Journal. A Chinese spokesman said, “China-Venezuela relations are normal state-to-state relations, (they) are not based on ideology, are not targeted against any third party and will not affect other countries’ relations with Venezuela.” Reuters notes the Venezuelan leader is not attending the UN Summit in New York. “The only thing we demand is that our nation be respected… We’re no longer the backyard of the United States,” Chavez said. He will also visit Russia, France, and Portugal this week.

A Miami Herald editorial bashes the decision by Venezuelan officials to expel the staff of Human Rights Watch after its unfavorable evaluation of the Chavez administration. The Herald deems this “intolerance” and wrongly states that Chavez has an “anti-democratic agenda.” The act, however, was according to a law on defamation that pre-dates the Chavez government. The Foreign Ministry explained that it considered the report, which was conducted and released in secret, an example of “meddling in internal affairs” by the US group. Recently, Venezuela expelled its US Ambassador in solidarity with Bolivia after an alliance there between the US ambassador and violent anti-government groups was exposed. In an NBC interview, the former Venezuelan Ambassador to Washington Bernardo Alvarez discusses his own expulsion from the US.

President Bush will meet opposition leaders from countries including Venezuela at this week’s UN Summit to “discuss the freedom agenda,” according to AFP. The so-called “dissidents” include Marcel Granier, the wealthy media mogul and president of RCTV, a station that lost its right to broadcast on the public airwaves and moved to cable after inciting violence during the 2002 coup against Chavez.

Finally, sources report today on the foreign policy agendas of the US presidential hopefuls. AFP points out that Obama is willing to speak with the leaders of Spain, Venezuela, and other countries, while McCain is not. The BBC reports that Obama is well received among Afro-descendant Latin Americans, who see him as representing minorities in much the same way that President Chavez does in Venezuela.

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