VIO News Blog

April 17, 2009

Chavez Holds Out for Equality in the Americas

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that while no bilateral meeting between President Obama and President Chavez is scheduled during the Summit of the Americas, if Chavez were to approach the US President, it is likely he would agree to talk, CNN reports.

On Thursday, President Chavez said that Venezuela will vote against the Summit of the Americas declaration, arguing that it treats Latin America as subservient to the interests of the United States, AP reports. According to the Miami Herald, Chavez said of the declaration, that it was “as if time had not passed.”

At a meeting in Venezuela, of ALBA-member nations, President Chavez announced the creation of a new regional currency ‘Sucre,’ which he expects will enter into effect in 2010 as an electronic currency to facilitate trade between the member countries. The new regional currency will provide an alternative to the U.S. dollar frequently used for trade throughout the hemisphere. Chavez added that he hoped other nations in South and Central America would later also participate in using the currency.

An editorial in the Dallas News argues that President Obama should ignore Chavez and try to divide the alliance between Cuba and Venezuela, by opening up trade and travel to the island nation.

Finally, in regional news, Bolivian police in Santa Cruz said they foiled a plot to assassinate President Morales, and while attempting to arrest the suspects, a 30-minute gunbattle ensued, ending in the deaths of three suspects and the arrest of two others.

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November 12, 2008

Venezuela Makes Trade Deal with Bolivia, Deports Suspected Drug Traffickers to US

Venezuelan anti-drug officials deported two Colombian cousins to the U.S. yesterday to be tried for drug trafficking charges.  The AP reports that anti-drug chief Nestor Reverol (pictured here) said Venezuelan police caught the men last month, after they were sought by the U.S. since 2001. Venezuela frequently detains traffickers (five were arrested so far in 2008), and also seizes tens of tons of illicit goods each year. Despite this, the White House has for the last four years designated the country as failing to take action against drugs.

In a continuing story, President Chavez has removed the Venezuelan consul in Houston, Texas, Mr. Antonio Padrino, after he made an administrative error with large consequences. The Houston consulate was temporarily closed last week by the U.S. State Department after switching office spaces before full permission was granted to make the move. The AP reports that President Chavez called it a mistake, but nonetheless withdrew the Houston consul in order to clear up the situation. Foreign Minister Maduro said that it had been resolved “from the administrative and diplomatic point of view,” according to El Universal.

Venezuela has signed a deal to purchase $30 million in textiles from Bolivia to boost trade with that country — the poorest in South America — after it was handed damaging trade sanctions by President Bush. El Universal reports that trade talks began Monday. In other economic news, Reuters reports that coffee is lacking in many Venezuelan supermarkets, and uses this news to predict a failure for government-backed candidates in the upcoming regional elections. The shortage is attributed to price caps set by the state, but the article ends with a list of other possible factors: “unusually heavy rains and a smaller harvest than expected and hoarding by customers.”

The Financial Times reports on high rates of crime in Caracas, a frequent concern of Venezuelan citizens and foreign critics of President Chavez alike. Police recently raided and closed an illegal bullet factory in a poor area of the city. A local authority suggested that the problem is inherited, saying “You can’t change a country in just 10 years after 40 years of misrule.” However, the Times suggests that crime will be a key issue in the regional elections on November 23rd.

October 14, 2008

Venezuela Nabs Drug Kinpin, Gets Praise from Reporters Without Borders

Eight suspects were arrested yesterday in the recent murder of a student in the western state of Zulia. The Attorney General said those arrested include police officers and businessmen, according to the AP. Zulia borders Colombia and is known to be quite violent. Bloomberg reports that President Chavez recently claimed that the CIA has offices there. Buried in that article is the news that Venezuelan officials made their fifth major drug arrest this year. Eber Antonio Pulgar Chacon, a drug trafficker wanted in the U.S., was captured Saturday. No other sources report on the arrest, although the White House’s recent claim that Venezuela is failing in the fight against drugs earned intense media attention.

Similarly, Venezuela has come under fire from the White House and human rights groups for allegedly having poor press freedoms, however, no U.S. newspapers report on recent praise from Reporters Without Borders. The organization hailed the government’s vocal rejection of violence against reporters during a demonstration. Venezuela’s Justice Minister and Information Minister both strongly condemned attacks by citizens on journalists from the anti-Chavez broadcaster Globovision in the Caracas neighborhood “23 de Enero.” Reporters Without Borders also welcomed the announcement by Information Minister Andres Izarra that opposition candidates in the upcoming elections will be given air time on the main public TV channel, Venezolana de Television (VTV).

The Washington Post reports on the disqualification of some candidates from upcoming state and municipal elections. The claim is made that only those politicians that “posed a challenge” to the political party of President Chavez were disqualified. However, the hundreds barred from running for office due to corruption probes do include pro-Chavez candidates. According to the Post, a government official says that “the decisions to disqualify were made on legal grounds after long probes in which investigators did not even know the political affiliation of those they were investigating.” Of Leopoldo Lopez, the opposition mayor of Chacao accused of misuse of public funds, the official said: “He has planted the idea that it is political persecution. That is false, it is completely false.”

The AP and AFP report on the declining influence of the U.S. in global politics. AFP quotes a British philosopher who calls it “a historic geopolitical shift in which the balance of power in the world is being altered irrevocably.” This has been the theme of much of the press coverage of joint military exercises by Venezuela and Russia. A Washington Times article claims that the political career of President Chavez is based on anti-Americanism, when in fact the Venezuelan leader has good business relations with the U.S. and has only responded to attacks by the Bush administration. Chavez has also said that he looks forward to working with the next U.S. president.

Indian Country Today reports that U.S. Indigenous communities continue to rely on reduced-cost heating oil from the Venezuelan-owned company CITGO. CITGO’s donations last year alone totaled $100 million. The aid goes to low-income families in 24 U.S. states, including 223 tribal communities. Meanwhile, USA Today anticipates the end of Venezuela’s oil-funded social programs due to lowered oil prices. While some social spending has been cut back recently, this is fairly unlikely; oil prices were still several times lower when the anti-poverty programs began, and Venezuela’s economy remains in good shape.

September 17, 2008

Bush White House Condemns Venezuela, Bolivia on Drugs

Filed under: Daily News Roundup — VenWorld @ 1:53 pm
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The Bush administration released its annual drug report yesterday, blacklisting Bolivia and Venezuela as countries that “failed to comply” with counter-narcotics efforts. This comes after Bolivia expelled its US ambassador for colluding with violent anti-government groups, and Venezuela did so, too, in solidarity. The Wall Street Journal reports that this “raises the heat” on leaders there. The report cites “inaction” on drugs by Venezuela despite clear progress such as a more than 50% rise in  narcotics seizures and frequent arrests of drug kingpins. White House drug reports often serve political ends, and are used to sanction countries. Reuters reports, though, that Bush declared, “support for programs to aid Venezuela’s democratic institutions and… bilateral programs in Bolivia are vital to the national interests of the United States.” To read the report, click here.

In Bolivia, the Morales government has offered dialogue with the opposition groups responsible for massacring at least 30 peasants and seizing government buildings and gas pipelines. The AP reports that a pact signed Tuesday requires the violent factions to cease their deadly actions, while peasant groups will end peaceful “counter-demonstrations in support of Bolivia’s first indigenous president.”

Finally, the Washington Post reports on recent changes in crude prices, which skyrocketed this year before falling by about 37%. The Post claims that high oil prices “emboldened confrontational oil exporters” like President Chavez in Venezuela. The AP reports, though, that the drop in the value of oil has not ruffled the Venezuelan leader, who simply said he hopes prices will stabilize. When President Chavez was first elected in 1998, oil was around $14 per barrel — compared to $100 or more. Since then, windfall oil profits have been used to reduce poverty in Venezuela.

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