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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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.

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