VIO News Blog

March 25, 2009

Venezuelan City has new Sister in Wisconsin

Tom Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee and Edgar Carracaso, mayor of Carora, signed a sister city agreement on Tuesday. It marks the first such agreement between a Venezuelan and a U.S. city in the past 10 years. Mayor Carrasco stated that “Our governments may have differences, but that doesn’t offset our countries’ abilities to know each other.” Carrasco added that Carora will be developing the Casa El Alba to promote cultural and economic ties between the two cities and offer US visitors information about the city of Carora and Venezuela.

Venezuela’s biggest mosque, located in downtown Caracas, was robbed and ransacked according to the Associated Press. No suspects have yet been identified. An administrator said it was the second time the mosque had been broken into since September of last year.  In February of this year, an important Caracas synagogue was also broken into and vandalized.  Though various news outlets presented the incident as an “anti-Semitic” attack, a police investigation indicated that the primary motive was theft.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court has decided to move the corruption trial of Maracaibo’s mayor Manuel Rosales from the state of Zulia to Caracas, as judges in Rosales’s home state were allegedly caught meeting with the opposition mayor. Four judges in Zulia have also been suspended from their duties by the Supreme Court for participating in the alleged meeting. Rosales asserted that the decision was made by the Chavez government in order to find an “obedient judge.” Zulia lawmaker Calixto Ortega, however, stated that at least one of the four sanctioned judges was in a position to exercise direct influence on the Rosales case.

In economic news, the AP reports that progress is being made in establishing the Bank of the South, a regional financial institution designed to provide an alternative to the IMF and World Bank, both of which have strong ties to the US Treasury Department. The Bank of the South is expected to launch its operations in May with $10 billion in initial capital. Its members are currently Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

Finally, McClatchy reports that CIA cybersecurity expert Steve Stigall has claimed that Venezuela’s electronic voting system is not secure and was tampered with by President Chavez during a 2004 referendum on his presidency. Without providing any evidence to back his assertions, Stigall stated that “it was my understanding that” the computer program used for the audit of the voting machines “was provided by Chavez.” Stigall’s claims, made before a hearing in Orlando, Florida, run contrary to the assessment made by independent electoral monitoring missions from the Carter Center and the OAS, that concluded that the 2004 elections had been fair and transparent.

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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 Chávez 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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