VIO News Blog

March 2, 2009

State Department’s Report on Venezuela “Plagued with Lies”

On Thursday, the Venezuelan and Bolivian governments firmly condemned the U.S. State Department’s report on Human Rights practices in their respective countries shortly after its release yesterday. Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro was quoted by AP as stating that the report’s allegations are “plagued with lies,” while Bolivia’s Vice Minister Sacha Llorenti said that the report is “a gross simplification of the national reality that is politically motivated.” He also suggested that the U.S. lacked moral authority to raise human rights concerns.

The AP reports that before dawn on Thursday, a small explosive was thrown at a Jewish community center in Caracas. Nobody was injured in the attack, but the explosion damaged the doors to the center and a nearby vehicle. The event sparked fears of rising anti-Semitism in Venezuela as it was the second attack on a Jewish center this year. Reuters reports that authorities have already begun an investigation into the incident. AP quotes an international source – Sergio Widder of Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center as stating that “This is outrageous, it’s turning into an escalation.” It should be noted that the Venezuelan government forcefully denounced the vandalizing of a Caracas synagogue earlier this year, and a police investigation revealed that the perpetrators’ principal motivation was robbery and not anti-Semitism.

Reuters reports that Argentina has summoned the U.S. Ambassador in Argentina, and has demanded an explanation regarding CIA Director Leon Panetta’s comment on Wednesday that Argentina, Ecuador, and Venezuela could be pushed into instability by the global economic crisis. Argentina’s Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana called the comments “unfounded and irresponsible, especially from an agency that has a sad history of meddling in the affairs of countries in the region.”

Bloomberg reports that Venezuela’s economy grew at its’ slowest pace since 2003 in the fourth quarter of 2008, expanding 3.2 percent amidst a plunge in the country’s oil revenues. The AP reports that Venezuela’s Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez said Thursday that Venezuela’s economic outlook for 2009 is stable despite the continued lull in oil prices.

Finally, an opinion piece in the Sun-Sentinel urges Venezuelan expatriates living in Florida to ponder the reasons why President Chavez remains so popular – with special attention given to his government’s social programs dedicated to ending poverty. The author reminds readers of the disastrous political past, which in 1993 led to riots, high inflation, two failed military coups, and the impeachment of then President Carlos Andres Perez. While the author is not a Chavez supporter, he states that “much of this dissatisfaction with Venezuela’s old political elite fueled Ch├ívez’s rise to power.”

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December 15, 2008

With Patience and Good Faith, US-Venezuela Relations will Improve

U.S.-Venezuela relations “are going to improve” under Obama, President Chavez said yesterday. According to AFP, Chavez said Venezuela will work with the U.S. on energy issues, “the struggle against terrorism and international crime,” as well as anti-drug efforts. Specifically on the topic of drug cooperation, he stated: “We can remake an agreement with the DEA that respects the sovereignty of Venezuela.”

Chavez stressed the need for patience and good faith in repairing U.S.-Venezuela ties, according to the AP. He also expressed approval of Senator Clinton’s new role as Secretary of State. “I feel that there are winds of change,” Chavez said.

The AP reports that Bolivia is similarly poised to repair relations with the U.S. One expert called President Morales’ recent meetings with Congressmen in Washington “pretty revolutionary.” Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that a regional summit for Latin America that begins in Brazil tomorrow will exclude lame duck President Bush, signaling reduced U.S. influence in the hemisphere. According to Bloomberg, “The summit reinforces such regional initiatives as the Union of South American Nations, which was formed in May by 12 countries to mediate conflicts such as political violence in Bolivia, bypassing the U.S.-dominated OAS.”

Much media attention surrounds a visit by Cuban President Raul Castro to Venezuela. The trip is first over-seas visit as head of state. Yesterday, Castro and Chavez (pictured at right) signed joint projects on energy and communications worth $2 billion. The AP reports that President Chavez spoke during the visit to call on Obama to recognize a long-ignored extradition request for Luis Posada Carriles, who is wanted for crimes against humanity including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane that killed 73 civilians. Posada Carriles is living in Miami, where he recently avoided charges of immigration fraud.

An op-ed in Missouri’s Springfield News-Leader weighs in on a possible national referendum on ending presidential term limits. The piece portrays the measure as a power grab for Chavez, claiming he wishes to “make himself South America’s most powerful leader.” Rather than seeking to dominate the region, though, Chavez has helped bring regional leaders together in new multilateral institutions such as ALBA and UNASUR to advance social aims and defend sovereignty. At home, Chavez’s reforms have succeeded in reducing poverty by over 30%, a fact which explains his continued popularity in Venezuela. This and other progress is enumerated in another op-ed from Global Research that sees Venezuela as experiencing “a democratic effort from the bottom up.”

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