Friday, November 30, 2007

In Chavez Territory, signs of dissent

In Chávez Territory, Signs of Dissent
By
SIMON ROMERO
Published: November 30, 2007
CARACAS,
Venezuela, Nov. 29 — Three days before a referendum that would vastly expand the powers of President Hugo Chavez, this city’s streets were packed with tens of thousands of opponents to the change on Thursday, a sign that Venezuelans may be balking at placing so much authority in the hands of one man.
Demonstrators at a rally in Caracas against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's proposed constitutional changes.

Even some of Mr. Chavez’s most fervent supporters are beginning to show signs of hesitation at supporting the constitutional changes he is promoting, including ending term limits for the president and greatly centralizing his authority.
New fissures are emerging among his once-cohesive supporters, pointing to the toughest test at the polls for Mr. Chavez in his nine-year presidency.
In the slums of the capital, where some of the president’s staunchest backers live amid the cinder block hovels, debate over the changes has grown more intense in recent days.
“Chávez is delirious if he thinks we’re going to follow him like sheep,” said Ivonne Torrealba, 29, a hairdresser in Coche who supported Mr. Chávez in every election beginning with his first campaign for president in 1998. “If this government cannot get me milk or asphalt for our roads, how is it going to give my mother a pension?”
Both Mr. Chávez and his critics say opinion polls show they will prevail, suggesting a highly contentious outcome. For the first time in years, Venezuela did not invite electoral observers from the
Organization of American States and the European Union, opening the government to claims of fraud if he wins.
Violence has already marked the weeks preceding to the vote. Two students involved in antigovernment protests claimed they were kidnapped and tortured this week by masked men in Barquisimeto, an interior city. And in Valencia, another city, a supporter of Mr. Chávez was shot dead this week in an exchange of gunfire at a protest site.
Tension has also been heightened by rare criticism of the constitutional overhaul from a breakaway party in Mr. Chávez’s coalition in the National Assembly and former confidants of the president, and the government has reacted to this dissent by describing it as “treason.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Chávez and senior officials here have exhibited increasingly erratic behavior ahead of the referendum. Mr. Chávez has lashed out at leaders in Colombia and Spain and asked for an investigation into whether CNN was seeking to incite an assassination attempt against him.
Reports of such plots are not in short supply here. State television also broadcast coverage this week of a memorandum in Spanish claimed to be written by the
C.I.A. in which destabilization plans against Mr. Chávez were laid out. A spokesman for the United States embassy here was unavailable for comment on the report.
Other analysts, including investigators who had previously uncovered financing of Venezuelan opposition groups by the United States government, expressed doubts about the authenticity of the memo, dubbed by Venezuelan officials as part of a plan called “Operation Pliers.”
“I find the document quite suspect,” said Jeremy Bigwood, an independent researcher in Washington. “There’s not an original version in English, and the timing of its release is strange. Everything about it smells bad.”
The simple home of Ms. Torrealba, the hairdresser, located near open sewage alongside a deafening highway in southwestern Caracas, is a case in point. Last December, she and her siblings awoke at dawn with fireworks to celebrate Mr. Chávez’s re-election to a six-year term, which he won with 63 percent of the vote.
This year, the mood in Ms. Torrealba’s home is glum. Her sister, Yohana Torrealba, 20, said she was alarmed by what she viewed as political intimidation by teachers in Misión Ribas, a social welfare program where she takes remedial high-school-level courses.
“The instructors told us we had to vote in favor and demonstrate on the streets for Chávez,” Yohana Torrealba said. “They want Venezuela to become like Cuba.”
Throughout the slums of Coche, confusion persists about how life could change if the constitutional changes are approved. Many residents who own their homes, however humble they may be, fear the government could take control of their property, despite efforts to dispel those fears by Mr. Chávez’s government.
Others wonder what will happen to the mayor and the governor they elected if Mr. Chávez wins the power to handpick rulers for new administrative regions he wants to create. Still others said they were afraid of voting against the proposal out of concern the government could discriminate against its opponents if their vote is made public.
But Mr. Chávez also commands an unrivaled political machine, with his supporters controlling every major institution of government and the loyalty of many voters in Coche and elsewhere. “It’s a lie that they’re going to take our houses away,” said Yanelcy Maitán, 40. “No one has done more for the poor than Chávez.”

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lawmaker slaps journalist on live television

Students agreed today: they will vote NO!!!

The intention to abstain is still running high, however, and only a few of the opposition spokesmen have called on voters to go out and vote NO.
Distrust of the CNE continues to be strong, and the “reform” route is recognized by most as illegitimate, but the encouraging trend favoring the NO could change that soon.
In addition to Petkoff, Baduel and Ismael Garcia of PODEMOS, Manuel Rosales has now also called on voters to do so, and the students will take the same position on the occasion of their march this Wednesday 21.
The parties that are part of the hard liners in the opposition led by Antonio Ledezma, Oscar Perez, Oswaldo Alvarez Paz and Hermann Escarra continue, but probably not for long, to call for the cancellation of the referendum and abstention.
It appears increasingly likely that the “reform” proposal will not pass.
In such an event, but also in the case of a YES victory by a small margin, the political damage to Chávez will be irreversible. Last Friday the anti-government candidates in the elections to the student bodies of the UCV received more than 4 times the votes of the Chavista slate.
Chávez could however limit the damage to his hold on power and sidestep an unavoidable debacle by instructing the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to decide in favor of one of the sixteen requests before it to postpone or cancel the referendum.
However, Chávez also did say in a press conference to the foreign correspondents last week that “elections are just one strategic option in building socialism”.
Tampering with the electronic voting machines is not likely to represent a great temptation, even if no international observers will be present on 2 December. 50% of the ballot boxes will be opened and their contents checked against the numbers of the corresponding voting machines. Opposition parties and ngo’s are organizing a nation-wide operation combining exit polls and a quick-count (tasks that are mainly being organized by Un Nuevo Tiempo).
A large part of the population, quite possibly half of it, feels that it is about to lose its identity, values and very livelihood, and is decided to vigorously defend its rights under any circumstance. The other half is split 3 to 2 between those that feel Chávez is not a bad person but that he is slightly off the rocker, and those that love him passionately and fear that rejection of the reform proposal would lead to the loss of their recently acquired benefits and political priority.
But all generally agree that the “reform” proposal is not necessary to improve governance.
Victory of the YES would spell deep instability, and victory of the NO is certainly no guarantee of normalcy.
The “reform” is proving to be Chávez gravest political mistake since his first election to the Presidency, and regardless of the results of the referendum his government will have lost its legitimacy as of the evening of 2 December.
It will have been the result of a long and drawn out process that started even before his reelection last December, and which has been closely followed by the entire nation. This learning process bodes well for a relatively peaceful resolution of Venezuela’s grave crisis of governance.

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General Raul Baduel - Chavez Coup d' etat

I believe this Baduel, he is advising Chavez that he is going the wrong way ......
vdebate reporter
It is against this background that General Raul Baduel (no longer active, but until July Minister of Defense and a Chávez loyalist and close friend) shook the country by stating that the “reform” proposal constituted a coup d’ etat and that the Executive and the Legislative had kidnapped the constituent powers belonging to the people.
He also called on his former comrades in arms to carefully read the “reform” proposal and reflect on its contents, and on all Venezuelans to vote NO on 2 December, as it is the last opportunity, he said, to secure democracy peacefully.
General Baduel, has changed the internal dynamics of the chavista movement by separating allegiance to the Comandante- Presidente from the substance of the “reform” proposal.
General Baduel, who is close to the PODEMOS party (particularly to Didalco Bolivar, the governor of Aragua) has been speaking to groups in the interior of Venezuela and has used a second press conference to call on Chávez to withdraw the “reform” proposal, and on the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to decide in favor of one of the many requests it has received to cancel the referendum.
Baduel is one of the original members of the “Saman de Guere” oath administered by Chávez to overturn the previous political order. He is highly respected in the Armed Forces for his principled leadership and professionalism, and he has a significant following of officers after a successful 30 year career in the army.
In addition, his youngest daughter is Chávez godchild.
His statements have opened the floodgates to many Venezuelans who now feel free to openly denounce Chávez and his policies, and for a large number of Chavistas to follow the path of “Chávez si, reforma no”, as chavista leader Gina Gonzalez of the Telares de Palo Grande barrio proposes. Baduel is bound to play an increasingly important role in the future.

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Venezuelan Students Protest Chavez

Students are Venezuelans new heroes now, after politicians have had so many mistakes fighting against Chavez.
vdebater reporter
The country had been stunned into paralysis by the “reform” proposal, but since the first week of November Venezuelans appear not to be dealing with anything else.
Every day student marches take place in the main cities, in particular in Caracas, Merida, San Cristobal, Maracaibo, Valencia, Barquisimeto and even Barcelona-Puerto La Cruz, a Chávez stronghold.
As of tomorrow these marches are expected to grow larger as people from all walks of life start joining them.A new leadership is fast emerging from the student movement. Intelligent, committed, courageous, highly articulate and from all social classes.
They represent a new, broader-based opposition movement that includes mainly the lower middle class and the poor who had not been politically active, many formerly part of Chávez’ political base.
The government had not used violence in order to disperse the marching students but has now started to repress them with its gangs of hoodlums on motorcycles, as shown on a particularly damning video of the 7 November armed persecution of protesting students on the campus of the UCV (Universidad Central de Venezuela), and which ended with three students wounded by bullets.
The movement has only continued to grow and gain speed.

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Venezuela rich, but without milk, meat, sugar...

Chávez’ old magic is not working as well as it used to. After almost nine years in power he has not addressed the worsening security situation in the poor barrios, the main concern of over 60% of the population, and the scarcity of basic food items like milk, meat, sugar and cooking oil is becoming more acute by the week.
Although large shipments are supposed to arrive from Brazil before the referendum (a ship carrying Brazilian cattle sank a few miles outside of Puerto Cabello last week, and the dead animals have been washing ashore since), rice and pasta are expected to be the next to disappear from the shelves.
The MERCAL food distribution network is close to collapsing, most of its subsidized products finding their way to the black market, and two out of three of its outlets are simply not functioning, says Jesus Torrealba, the host of the popular Radar de los Barrios radio and TV program. Many of the Cuban doctors of the Barrio Adentro program only survive because the people provide them with food and money, also according to Torrealba.

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Constitutional Reform - Vote NO - Venezuela

Learn why we don't want these changes past.
Summary on Venezuela
Caracas, 20 November 2007
By Enrique ter Horst
The National Assembly submitted on 2 November to the National Electoral Council (CNE) the text containing changes to 69 articles of the Constitution, with the request to organize a referendum to approve or reject the proposed “reform” of the Constitution championed by President Chávez. The CNE has been organizing the referendum for 2 December, but published the full text of the changes on 12 November, allowing voters only 18 days to study the changes and make up their minds on how to vote.
Separate votes are to take place on two blocks of articles;

the first, called A, includes the changes originally proposed by the President, which were analyzed in the last summary, plus 13 new ones proposed by the Advisory Commission created by Chávez, and which include:

  • lowering the voting age to 16;
  • weakening the protection of intellectual property;
  • adopting a foreign policy geared to “establishing a pluripolar world, free of the hegemony of any imperialist power center..”
  • promoting integration and confederation (with Cuba?) and categorizing the foreign service as a “strategic activity of the state”;
  • defining the socio-economic regime of Venezuela as based on “socialist, anti imperialist and humanist principles” and dropping the present principles of “social justice;
  • democracy and free competition”;
  • making future constitutional amendments and reforms more difficult by increasing the number of voters able to initiate them from 15% to 20% (amendments) to 25% (reform) and to 30% for the convening of a Constituent Assembly, as well as increasing in all cases the minimum number of participating voters, but allowing the CNE to shorten the holding of a referendum from “in” 30 days to “within” 30 days.

The 23 articles of block B, described as the contribution of the Assembly but in fact also reflecting the views of the President, and produced only at the end of the third parliamentary discussion, include:

  • the suppression of the words “of all persons” after the words “rights and freedoms” to be guaranteed by the state in compliance with the principle of non discrimination.
  • significant increases in the percentages of voters required to request the organization of consultative (from 10% to 20%) and recall (from 20% to 30%) referenda, the annulment of laws (from 10% to 30%), as well as the annulment of laws promulgated by the President under enabling laws (from 5% to 30%);
    the participation of administrative staff in elections to choose University authorities;
  • the transfer to the central government of the income of states derived from non-metallic minerals, salt flats, and roads and highways
  • the functional subordination of state comptroller offices to the central National Comptrollers’ office;
    the substitution of civil society and of the law faculties as members of the postulation committees to select Supreme Court and National Electoral Council magistrates by spokesmen of the Poder Popular;
  • the exclusive authority of the President of the Republic and of his Council of Ministers to declare all states of exception (emergency) suspending constitutional rights, without any time limitation, eliminating the present requirement of securing approval of the decree declaring the state of exception by parliament within 8 days of having been dictated, as well as its submission to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice for its opinion on its constitutionality, canceling the guarantee of maintaining in such states the rights to due process, information and the protection of the remaining intangible human rights, and of ensuring their conformity with the International Pact of Civil and Political Rights and the American Convention of Human Rights, entrusting solely the President and his ministers with the decision of when the circumstances that gave rise to the imposition of such states of exception have ended.

The text of the proposal ends with 15 transitory provisions of which the most important ones are the first, listing fifteen laws constituting the backbone of the new revolutionary legal framework, and the ninth, authorizing the President to regulate by decree “the transition towards the socialist economy model” even before the principles included in article 112 of the new Constitution are developed.

Many expect the nationalization of all private banks, the cement producers and of the POLAR beverage and food conglomerate in early 2008, should the “reform” be approved.
The laws listed in the first transitory provision are the laws of the Poder Popular, of the Promotion of the Socialist Economy, of the Political and Territorial Organization of the Republic, of the Central Bank, of the National Fund of the Poder Popular, of the Municipal Branch, of the Foreign Service, of Hydrocarbons, of Gas, of the punishment of the crime of torture, of Labor, of the System of Justice, of the Social Security System, of the establishment of the Fund for Social Stability for self-employed workers, and of Education.
Chávez has announced that more than a hundred laws will be promulgated soon after the “reform” has been approved. It will be recalled that the Enabling Law authorizing the President to legislate by decree only lapses in mid 2008.Chávez’ radical proposal has forced Venezuelans to define themselves as either democrats opposing him and what he stands for, or old fashioned communists, fascists and/or opportunists supporting him.
This sounds caricaturesque, but is exactly what is happening.
Polarization of the electorate suits him well, as his popularity is more and more concentrated on the remaining affection of the poor in light of his dismal performance as a ruler. His campaign is designed to deepen polarization along support or rejection of his person (“SI, con Chávez”, “SIgue con Chávez”), threatening in his first campaign speech the “oligarchs of the east of Caracas” with a million people who would not leave stone on stone if they attempted another coup against his government.
Not surprisingly the government has shown little interest in allowing for an open discussion of his “reform” proposal, and the televised debates that had been foreseen for the second half of November have been cancelled.Chávez’ old magic is not working as well as it used to.
After almost nine years in power he has not addressed the worsening security situation in the poor barrios, the main concern of over 60% of the population, and the scarcity of basic food items like milk, meat, sugar and cooking oil is becoming more acute by the week. Although large shipments are supposed to arrive from Brazil before the referendum (a ship carrying Brazilian cattle sank a few miles outside of Puerto Cabello last week, and the dead animals have been washing ashore since), rice and pasta are expected to be the next to disappear from the shelves.
The MERCAL food distribution network is close to collapsing, most of its subsidized products finding their way to the black market, and two out of three of its outlets are simply not functioning, says Jesus Torrealba, the host of the popular Radar de los Barrios radio and TV program.
Many of the Cuban doctors of the Barrio Adentro program only survive because the people provide them with food and money, also according to Torrealba.
The country had been stunned into paralysis by the “reform” proposal, but since the first week of November Venezuelans appear not to be dealing with anything else. Every day student marches take place in the main cities, in particular in Caracas, Merida, San Cristobal, Maracaibo, Valencia, Barquisimeto and even Barcelona-Puerto La Cruz, a Chávez stronghold. As of tomorrow these marches are expected to grow larger as people from all walks of life start joining them.A new leadership is fast emerging from the student movement. Intelligent, committed, courageous, highly articulate and from all social classes.
They represent a new, broader-based opposition movement that includes mainly the lower middle class and the poor who had not been politically active, many formerly part of Chávez’ political base. The government had not used violence in order to disperse the marching students but has now started to repress them with its gangs of hoodlums on motorcycles, as shown on a particularly damning video of the 7 November armed persecution of protesting students on the campus of the UCV (Universidad Central de Venezuela), and which ended with three students wounded by bullets.
The movement has only continued to grow and gain speed. It is against this background that General Raul Baduel (no longer active, but until July Minister of Defense and a Chávez loyalist and close friend) shook the country by stating that the “reform” proposal constituted a coup d’ etat and that the Executive and the Legislative had kidnapped the constituent powers belonging to the people.
He also called on his former comrades in arms to carefully read the “reform” proposal and reflect on its contents, and on all Venezuelans to vote NO on 2 December, as it is the last opportunity, he said, to secure democracy peacefully. General Baduel, has changed the internal dynamics of the chavista movement by separating allegiance to the Comandante- Presidente from the substance of the “reform” proposal.
General Baduel, who is close to the PODEMOS party (particularly to Didalco Bolivar, the governor of Aragua) has been speaking to groups in the interior of Venezuela and has used a second press conference to call on Chávez to withdraw the “reform” proposal, and on the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to decide in favor of one of the many requests it has received to cancel the referendum.
Baduel is one of the original members of the “Saman de Guere” oath administered by Chávez to overturn the previous political order. He is highly respected in the Armed Forces for his principled leadership and professionalism, and he has a significant following of officers after a successful 30 year career in the army.
In addition, his youngest daughter is Chávez godchild. His statements have opened the floodgates to many Venezuelans who now feel free to openly denounce Chávez and his policies, and for a large number of Chavistas to follow the path of “Chávez si, reforma no”, as chavista leader Gina Gonzalez of the Telares de Palo Grande barrio proposes.
Baduel is bound to play an increasingly important role in the future.The long interview given last week by former First Lady Marisabel Rodriguez on Globovision also calling for a NO vote, and the famous “Porqué no te callas?” (“Why don’t you shut up?”) hurled at Chávez by King Juan Carlos at the Iberoamerican summit in Santiago de Chile, also appear to have had an effect in strengthening a perceptible growth in the numbers of those rejecting the “reform” of the Constitution.
Many things are forgiven in Latin America, but not being the object of ridicule. Hinterlaces’ latest poll finalized in the first week of November puts the YES at 45% and the NO at 43%, with an abstention of 39%. The study also shows that if the percentage of those abstaining came down to 25% the NO would win with a difference of 14 points.
DATOS, also a very respected polling company, puts the NO at 41% and the YES at 33%. Several polls show that a majority believes that the reform proposal benefits the President more than the country. One opinion poll outfit close to the government puts the YES ahead by 66%.The intention to abstain is still running high, however, and only a few of the opposition spokesmen have called on voters to go out and vote NO.
Distrust of the CNE continues to be strong, and the “reform” route is recognized by most as illegitimate, but the encouraging trend favoring the NO could change that soon. In addition to Petkoff, Baduel and Ismael Garcia of PODEMOS, Manuel Rosales has now also called on voters to do so, and the students will take the same position on the occasion of their march this Wednesday 21.
The parties that are part of the hard liners in the opposition led by Antonio Ledezma, Oscar Perez, Oswaldo Alvarez Paz and Hermann Escarra continue, but probably not for long, to call for the cancellation of the referendum and abstention. It appears increasingly likely that the “reform” proposal will not pass. In such an event, but also in the case of a YES victory by a small margin, the political damage to Chávez will be irreversible.
Last Friday the anti-government candidates in the elections to the student bodies of the UCV received more than 4 times the votes of the Chavista slate. Chávez could however limit the damage to his hold on power and sidestep an unavoidable debacle by instructing the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to decide in favor of one of the sixteen requests before it to postpone or cancel the referendum.
However, Chávez also did say in a press conference to the foreign correspondents last week that “elections are just one strategic option in building socialism”. Tampering with the electronic voting machines is not likely to represent a great temptation, even if no international observers will be present on 2 December.
50% of the ballot boxes will be opened and their contents checked against the numbers of the corresponding voting machines. Opposition parties and ngo’s are organizing a nation-wide operation combining exit polls and a quick-count (tasks that are mainly being organized by Un Nuevo Tiempo).
A large part of the population, quite possibly half of it, feels that it is about to lose its identity, values and very livelihood, and is decided to vigorously defend its rights under any circumstance. The other half is split 3 to 2 between those that feel Chávez is not a bad person but that he is slightly off the rocker, and those that love him passionately and fear that rejection of the reform proposal would lead to the loss of their recently acquired benefits and political priority. But all generally agree that the “reform” proposal is not necessary to improve governance. Victory of the YES would spell deep instability, and victory of the NO is certainly no guarantee of normalcy.
The “reform” is proving to be Chávez gravest political mistake since his first election to the Presidency, and regardless of the results of the referendum his government will have lost its legitimacy as of the evening of 2 December. It will have been the result of a long and drawn out process that started even before his reelection last December, and which has been closely followed by the entire nation. This learning process bodes well for a relatively peaceful resolution of Venezuela’s grave crisis of governance.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

LETTRE OUVERTE À L'OCCASSION DE LA VISITE DU PRÉSIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ EN FRANCE

We agree with this letter. See below English version.
vdebate
LETTRE OUVERTE À L'OCCASSION DE LA VISITE DU PRÉSIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ EN FRANCE
La France, fidèle à sa tradition du pays des Droits de l'Homme, a invité le président vénézuélien, dans le cadre de son intervention en faveur d'Ingrid Betancourt et des otages détenus par les FARC. Nous saluons cette initiative éminemment humanitaire.
Mais le Président Hugo Chavez prétend par cette action humanitaire, entre autres, améliorer son image internationale et distraire l'attention de l'opinion publique de la réforme constitutionnelle qu'il entend imposer au Venezuela.
Cette invitation intervient à douze jours de la tenue d'un referendum pour la nouvelle Constitution, rédigée sans consultation et en violant la procédure établie par la Constitution en vigueur.
Rejeté par la majorité des Vénézuéliens y compris par ceux du propre camp de Chavez, ce nouveau texte constitutionnel entend supprimer tout contrôle sur les actions de l'Exécutif. Il constitue une véritable entorse aux principes fondamentaux de la démocratie et de l'État de Droit.
La tenue d'un référendum ne garantit en aucune façon l'expression d'un suffrage impartial, car, depuis des années déjà, le Conseil National Electoral, l'instance chargée de superviser les processus électoraux au Venezuela, est entièrement placé sous la coupe de l'Exécutif et de ses partisans. Le vote électronique, instauré dans le pays depuis 2004, se prête à toutes les manipulations. Nous tenons à rappeler que pendant des années, le Président Chavez a ignoré le sort des vénézuéliens otages des FARC et ne s'est nullement soucié de leurs familles.
Que le Président se livre à une course aux armements que rien ne justifie, mettant en péril la paix et la sécurité du pays et de la région, au lieu d'employer les ressources du pétrole au développement durable du pays et à résoudre les graves problèmes économiques et sociaux de la société vénézuélienne.
Qu'il a procédé à la création d'une milice civile armée, comptant plusieurs centaines de milliers d'effectifs, dans le but avoué d'une mise sous contrôle de l'ensemble de la société. Que l'instauration d'un État socialiste, dans le cadre de la prétendu réforme Socialisme du XXIe siècle », prévu dans la future Constitution «reformée » ne fera que sanctionner la violation des principes fondamentaux des droits de l'Homme universellement reconnus.
Nous lançons un appel au Gouvernement français et à l'ensemble des démocrates en France pour qu'ils observent de près la dérive anti-démocratique d'un régime qui, quoi qu'il en dise, suit le chemin qui mène au totalitarisme, un chemin déjà emprunté pour le plus grand malheur des peuples qui y étaient soumis (Cuba, Russie, l'Europe de l'Est et certains pays d'Asie).
Les Vénézuéliens ont vécu en démocratie depuis 1958, se voient aujourd'hui confrontés au risque de disparition à la disparition de l'état de Droit et du respect des libertés. Ne laissons pas mourir une des plus anciennes démocraties d'Amérique Latine !

OPEN LETTER
France will host a visit by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. It will do so faithful to its long-standing traditions in defense of human rights and in the context of its endeavors in favor of the liberation of Ingrid Betancourt and other hostages held in captivity by the FARC.
We welcome, on humanitarian grounds, the initiative taken by the French government. We do so even if aware that president Chavez’s visit has self-serving goals such as reinforcing his persona’s profile and distracting international public opinion [from domestic issues].
President Chavez’s visit to France comes twelve days before a referendum on a new constitution is held in Venezuela. This proposal was drafted without consultation with the people and in disregard of binding constitutional review procedures.
Such a new charter would endorse indefinite presidential reelections and eliminate any overview of the executive branch of government’s actions. As such, it truly makes a mockery of the fundamental principles upon which democracy and the rule of law are based. As such, it is rejected by the larger part of Venezuelans, including from within the president’s own ranks.
In Venezuela, a referendum will not guarantee in impartial terms the expression of the people’s will. For years, the national electoral council, the institution responsible for free and fair elections, has been totally under the control of the government and its cronies. Electronic voting, inaugurated in 2004, is subject to all kinds of manipulation.
We must recall the following,
That for many years president Chavez has chosen to ignore the fate of all those Venezuelans held hostage by the FARC and that he has made no effort at all to take care of their families;
That president Chavez has engaged in an unjustifiable weapons buildup that places peace and security in both Venezuela and the Latin American and the Caribbean region in jeopardy. He has so done in lieu of making use of the oil export revenues to foster sustainable development for Venezuela and solve the serious economic and social problems confronted by its people.
That the president has created an armed civil militia, several thousands strong, larger even than Venezuela’s regular armed forces, and that he has done so in order to place Venezuelan society under his control;
That, as called for under the future “amended” constitution, the instauration of a socialist state in the framework of a so-called ‘xxi century socialism’ will only serve to justify the violation of fundamental principles in the field of human rights.
We call upon the French government and upon all democrats in France to become aware of the Venezuelan regime’s anti-democratic drift and of its totalitarian tendencies. This is the same road already taken – for their misfortune - by those nations already living under such regimes, as is nowadays the case of Cuba.
Venezuelans, who have lived in democracy since 1958, today confront the disappearance of both the rule of law and the respect of fundamental freedoms.
We ask all democrats in the world not to allow one of the oldest democracies in Latin America to perish (end)

Víctor Rodríguez Cedeño, ancien ambassadeur du Venezuela à l’ONU.
Mario Vargas Llosa, écrivain ;
Carlos Alberto Montaner, écrivain ;
Diego Arria, ancien ambassadeur du Venezuela à l’ONU ;
Jesús Torrealba, Radar de los Barrios (association des bidonvilles) ;
Bernard-Henri Lévy, philosophe ;
Pascal Bruckner, écrivain ;
Alain Finkielkraut, philosophe ;
André Glucksmann, philosophe ;
Simón Alberto Consalvi, éditeur, écrivain, diplomate ;
Pierre-André Taguieff, directeur de recherche au CNRS ;
Manuel Caballero, membre de l’Académie d’histoire au Venezuela ;
Mortimer Zuckerman, US News & World Report ;
Asdrúbal Aguiar, ancien membre de la Cour interaméricaine des droits de l’homme ;
Ilios Yannakakis, historien-politologue ;
Teodoro Petkoff, directeur du journal Tal Cual ;
Pierre Rigoulot, directeur de l’Institut d’histoire sociale ;
Athaualpa Litchy, cinéaste ;
Alberto Schlesinger Vélez, académicien et homme politique colombien ;
Carlos Cruz-Diez, artiste plasticien ;
Michael Prazan, écrivain, réalisateur ;
Benjamín R. Scharifker, président de l’université Simón-Bolívar de Caracas ;
Les signataires par ordre alphabétique:
Marcos Aguinis, écrivain
Milos Alcalay, ancien ambassadeur du Venezuela à l'ONU
Caroline Bosc-Bierne de Oteyza, Centro de Estudios de la Comunicación, UCAB
Ludi Boeken, cinéaste
Marta Colomina, journaliste
Virginia Contreras, avocate, ancien ambassadeur du Venezuela à l'OEA
Werner Corrales, ancien ambassadeur du Venezuela à l'ONU
Jerome L.J di Costanzo, éditorialiste
Carmela Garipoli, Caleidoscopio
Graciela de García-Pelayo, professeur, UCV
Yon Goicoechea, dirigeant du mouvement des étudiants de la UCAB.
Patricia Guzman, poète , journaliste.
Marines Hernandez, sociologue.
Consuelo Iranzo, sociologue.
Francisco Kerdel Vegas, ancien ambassadeur du Venezuela en France
Marc Knobel, historien,
Président de J'AccuseEnrique Krauze, écrivain
Max Lagarrigue, journaliste et historien.
Barbara Lefebvre, enseignante
Oscar Lucien, cinéaste.
Jacobo Machover, écrivain
Eduardo Manet, écrivain
Pompeyo Márquez, dirigeant politique,
journalisteIbsen Martínez, écrivain,
Fernando Mires, historien
Laurent Muller, Président de l'Association Européenne Cuba Libre
Carlos Oteyza, cinéaste
Graciela de García-Pelayo, professeur, UCV
Carlos Poveda, artiste plasticien
Miguel Rodríguez Mendoza, ancien directeur adjoint de l'OMC
Patrice Renault-Sablonière, Président de la Société Internationale de DH
Lena Soffer, Asociación Diálogo por Venezuela France
Adolfo Taylhardat, ancien ambassadeur du Venezuela à l'ONU
Enrique Ter Horst, ancien ambassadeur du Venezuela à l'ONU
Iruña Urruticoechea, journaliste
Antoine Vitkine, journaliste et réalisateur de documentaires
Pedro León Zapata, artiste plasticien
Maria Oteyza, Ciudadanía Activa,
Olga Ramos, Asamblea de Educación,
Vladimiro Mujica,Compromiso Ciudadano,Instituto Latinoamericano : Democracia sin Fronteras

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Differ on Politicizing OPEC

Thanks God not everyone is like Chavez. King Abdullah, separete from Chavez, saying to the OPEC shouldn't be political. The Oil energy is to bring prosperity and not to create political conflicts.
vdebate reporter
Saudi, Venezuela Leaders Differ on Politicizing OPEC (Update3)
By Maher Chmaytelli and Ayesha DayaNov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia said OPEC shouldn't make oil a source of conflict, contradicting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who wants the oil exporter group to become an active ``political agent.''`
`Oil is an energy for building and prosperity, it shouldn't become a means of conflict,'' King Abdullah said at the start of the group's heads of state summit in Riyadh today. ``
[b]Those who want OPEC to become an organization of monopoly and exploitation ignore the truth.''
[/b]The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, provider of more than 40 percent of the world's oil, is holding its third heads of state summit since it was founded in 1960. The Saudi foreign minister clashed yesterday with a push by Iran and Venezuela to debate pricing oil in currencies other than the U.S. dollar.`
`OPEC was born as a geopolitical force and not only as a technical or economic one in the '60s,'' Chavez said, speaking before King Abdullah. ``We should continue to strengthen OPEC, but beyond that, OPEC should set itself up as an active political agent.''
The contrasting view on OPEC's role in the world comes a day after a disagreement between Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal on whether to move away from the dollar was accidentally broadcast on live television.
`Fair' LevelChavez said in his speech today he's confident OPEC will do what it can to keep oil prices at a ``fair'' level, adding that if Iran was invaded, prices could easily rise to $200 a barrel.
Crude oil for December delivery yesterday rose $1.67 to $95.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.`
`The current price of oil if we take into consideration inflation is less than what it was in the early 1980s,'' Abdullah said. High taxes in consuming nations were hurting consumers more than the producers, he said.
The last OPEC heads of state summit was in 2000 in Venezuela and was hosted by Chavez, who was sworn in as president a year earlier. Iran and Venezuela both have tense political relations with the U.S.Ibrahim Ibrahim, an executive at Qatar Petroleum, said that while Venezuela has helped OPEC become a stronger organization over the years, ``there is no need for OPEC to be a political force now.
It just has to ensure that the oil market is stable.''
To contact the reporters on this story: Maher Chmaytelli in Riyadh at mchmaytelli@bloomberg.net Fred Pals in Riyadh at fpals@bloomberg.net
Last Updated: November 17, 2007 16:27 EST

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Friday, November 16, 2007

A constitutional 'reform' could complete Venezuela's transformation into a dictatorship.

Mr. Chavez's Coup. A constitutional 'reform' could complete Venezuela's transformation into a dictatorship.
Thursday, November 15, 2007; A24
TENS OF thousands of Venezuelan students marched to the Supreme Court in Caracas last week to protest the new "socialist" constitutional reform that President Hugo Chavez is preparing to impose on the country. On their return, students from the Central University of Venezuela were fired on by gunmen who roared onto the campus on motorcycles. Nine were hurt; university officials later identified the shooters as members of government-sponsored paramilitary groups. That's just one example of the ugly climate of intimidation Mr. Chavez is creating in advance of a Dec. 2 referendum that he expects will formally confirm him as de facto president for life and give him powers rivaling those of his mentor, Fidel Castro.
Mr. Chavez's apologists like to dismiss the Venezuelan forces opposing his deconstruction of democracy -- which include the Catholic Church, the private business community and labor unions as well as students -- as a corrupt elite. So it's worth noting what some of Mr. Chavez's long-standing allies are saying about his constitutional changes.
The political party Podemos, whose members ran for parliament on a pro-Chavez platform, call it "a constitutional fraud." Mr. Chavez's recently retired defense minister, Gen. Raul Isaias Baduel, said it was an "undemocratic imposition" and that its approval would amount to "a coup."
In fact, Mr. Chavez's rewrite would complete his transformation into an autocrat. It would lengthen his presidential term from six to seven years and remove the current limit of two terms, allowing him to serve indefinitely. He would have broad powers to seize property, to dispose of Venezuela's foreign exchange reserves, to impose central government rule on local jurisdictions and to declare indefinite states of emergency under which due process and freedom of information would be suspended. As a populist sop, one provision would reduce the workday from eight to six hours; that benefit, the state's control over national television and the voting process, and the apparent intention of many Venezuelans to stay away from the polls are expected to deliver the necessary ratification.
The strength and courage of the resistance to Mr. Chavez is nevertheless growing. Despite the attacks by government goons, students have continued to march by the thousands. Bloggers have posted photos and videos of the government-sponsored violence. Opposition leaders have continued to speak out despite being labeled "traitors" by Mr. Chavez and harassed with death threats. Venezuela is on the verge of succumbing to a dictatorship that will isolate and retard the country, maybe for decades. It's encouraging that so many of its people aren't prepared to give up their freedom without a fight.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chavez's colourful quotations

Chavez's colourful quotations

Hugo Chavez said he was not going to shut up
King says: Shut Up


Hugo Chavez's verbal abuse of world leaders has become legendary. At the weekend, the Venezuelan leader was told to "shut up" by the Spanish King, Juan Carlos, after attacking Spain's former prime minister and the monarch, himself. Since his election in a landslide victory in 1998, Mr Chavez has largely fired up his rhetoric against the United States and her allies. Below is a selection of the most memorable of Mr Chavez's colourful quotations.

THE DEVIL COMES
Hugo Chavez used his speech to lash at US influence
Speech Extract
In a dramatic speech to the United Nations in September 2006, Mr Chavez famously described George W Bush as the "Devil". The Devil is right at home. The Devil, the Devil himself, is right in the house. And the Devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the Devil came here. Right here. [crosses himself] And it smells of sulphur still today. Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the Devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world.

DANGER OR DONKEY?
Mr Bush has long been the focus of Mr Chavez's tirades. In a nationally televised speech in March 2006, the Venezuelan leader was not short of ways to described the US president: You are ignoramus, you are a burro, Mr Danger... or to say it to you in my bad English: [switching languages] You are a donkey, Mr Danger. You are a donkey, Mr George W Bush. [Returning to Spanish] You are a coward, a killer, a [perpetrator of] genocide, an alcoholic, a drunk, a liar, an immoral person, Mr Danger. You are the worst, Mr Danger. The worst of this planet... A psychologically sick man, I know it.

DON'T MESS WITH ME, LITTLE GIRL
Mr Chavez has referred to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as "little girl" on a number of occasions. In February 2006, Ms Rice described Venezuela as a menace to regional democracy. She spoke of an "inoculation strategy" against a country she called a "sidekick" of Iran. During his weekly Sunday broadcast, Mr Chavez replied with a warning to Ms Rice: Remember, little girl, I'm like the thorn tree that flowers on the plain. I waft my scent to passers-by and prick he who shakes me. Don't mess with me, Condoleezza. Don't mess with me, girl.
He blew a screen kiss to Ms Rice and jokingly referred to her as "Condolence."

IMPERIALIST PAWN
The former British Prime Minister Tony Blair also came in for verbal abuse. In 2006, Mr Blair urged Venezuela to abide by the rules of the international community. Mr Chavez replied that Mr Blair had flouted those very rules by invading Iraq. Don't be shameless, Mr Blair. Don't be immoral, Mr Blair. You are one of those who have no morals. You are not one who has the right to criticise anyone about the rules of the international community. You are an imperialist pawn who attempts to curry favour with Danger Bush-Hitler, the number one mass murderer and assassin there is on the planet. Go straight to hell, Mr Blair.


THE NEW HOLOCAUST
Also in 2006, Mr Chavez warned that his country would most likely sever links with Israel in protest at its military offensive in Lebanon. He said he had "no interest" in maintaining relations with Israel, which he has accused of committing genocide. Israel has gone mad. It's attacking, doing the same thing to the Palestinian and Lebanese people that it has criticised - and with reason - [in the case of] the Holocaust. But this is a new Holocaust.


SAD, SO SAD
Mr Chavez has verbally blasted his neighbours on a number of occasions. In 2005, he described his then Mexican counterpart, Vicente Fox, as a puppy dog for United States imperialism. Mr Chavez said Mr Fox had, as he put it, been left bleeding by a recent Summit of the Americas. It makes one sad to see the sell-out of President Fox, really it makes one sad. How sad that the president of a people like the Mexicans lets himself become the puppy dog of the empire.

YET ANOTHER 'IDIOT'
Earlier this year, Mr Chavez called on the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, to resign after he condemned the Venezuelan government's decision not to renew a private TV station's licence. Dr Insulza is quite an idiot, a true idiot. The insipid Dr Insulza should resign from the secretariat of the OAS for daring to play that role.

IN PRAISE OF MUGABE
At times, Mr Chavez has riled the international community not with his verbal abuse, but with his praise of controversial heads of state. In 2004, he praised Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe as a "freedom fighter". I give you a replica of liberator Simon Bolivar's sword. For you who, like Bolivar, took up arms to liberate your people. For you who, like Bolivar, are and will always be a true freedom fighter. [Mugabe] continues, alongside his people, to confront the pretensions of new imperialists.
Mr Mugabe, who was in Venezuela for a summit of the G-15 group of developing nations, smiled as he unsheathed the sword and swung it about.

HALLOWEEN
In 2005, Mr Chavez issued an attack on Halloween, telling his countrymen that it had no place in Venezuelan society. He used his weekly TV and radio broadcast to caution that the observance is strictly a "gringa," or North American custom. He described it as: Terrorism, putting fear into other nations, putting fear into their own people. Families go and begin to disguise their children as witches. This is contrary to our way.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/7090600.stm

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Students emerge as a Leading force against Chavez

Students Emerge as a Leading Force Against Chávez
David Rochkind for The New York Times
Yon Goicoechea, 23, a leader of an anti-Chávez student group. For safety, he moves from one friend’s apartment to another.

By SIMON ROMERO
Published: November 10, 2007
CARACAS, Venezuela, Nov. 9 — Finding Yon Goicoechea, a leader of the nascent student movement protesting the expanding power of President Hugo Chávez, is not easy. He changes cellphones every few days. After receiving dozens of death threats, he moves among the apartments of friends here each day in search of a safe place to sleep.


Yon Goicochea

In an interview this week in a back room at one such residence, a villa in a leafy district in this city, Mr. Goicoechea described the movement that has supplanted traditional political parties in recent weeks as the most cohesive and respected challenger to Mr. Chávez’s government.
“We believe in exhausting the democratic options available to us through peaceful action,” said Mr. Goicoechea, 23, who studies law at Andrés Bello Catholic University here, referring to the students’ opposition to a constitutional overhaul. In the polarized world of Venezuelan political debate, such parsed and polished statements are rare.

But what about the claims, from Mr. Chávez and his loyalists, that the students ultimately want to oust him from office? “We want social transformation, not a coup,” Mr. Goicoechea said. “The real coup d’état is coming from Chávez, who wants to perpetuate himself in power.”

Indeed, the students first burst onto the scene over the summer with protests against Mr. Chávez’s move to push RCTV, a critical television network, off public airwaves. But the president’s proposed charter, which would abolish his term limits, has led to much larger protests here and in other large cities this month.

About 80,000 students flooded main avenues here on Wednesday in a march to the Supreme Court to ask it to suspend the referendum on 69 constitutional amendments scheduled for Dec. 2. Students returning from that march were attacked by gunmen at the campus of the Central University of Venezuela; nine were injured. The violence continued Friday in Mérida in western Venezuela, where four police officers and a bystander were shot and wounded while trying to break up clashes between opposing student groups, Reuters reported.

While such incidents continue ahead of the referendum, Mr. Chávez continues to disparage the student movement, calling the student protests a “fascist attack.” The president has also described the students as “daddy’s boys” — children of privilege resisting social change.

Many are indeed middle-class, but the unusual inclusiveness of public universities here makes it difficult to play class politics.

“I live in Catia,” said Ricardo Sánchez, 24, a student leader at Central University, referring to a conglomeration of slums on Caracas’s western fringe. “I leave home at 5 in the morning, and I have to go home very early so the thugs won’t attack me.

“This reform doesn’t solve those problems,” Mr. Sánchez continued, referring to the proposed constitutional overhaul.

In other statements, the president has gone further, accusing opponents of conspiring to carry out a “soft coup” supported by the United States and being inspired by groups like the Albert Einstein Institution, a nonprofit group in Cambridge, Mass., that advocates nonviolent struggle.

American involvement in political affairs here remains a delicate subject, following the Bush administration’s tacit support for the coup that briefly removed Mr. Chávez from office in 2002. Mr. Chávez has also criticized the United States for channeling funds to nongovernmental groups that are critical of him.

Hewing to a new policy trying to avoid verbal clashes with Mr. Chávez, American officials here carefully denied supporting the students.

“The United States government has no role in the student demonstrations,” said Benjamin Ziff, a spokesman for the United States Embassy in Caracas.

But some of Mr. Chávez’s assertions, that the students draw inspiration from nonviolent movements elsewhere, are not off the mark. In the interview, Mr. Goicoechea said he had been fascinated with the Serbian opposition’s toppling in 2000 of Slobodan Milosevic and Gandhi’s struggle against British colonialism.

The movement led by Mr. Goicoechea and others in their 20s has evolved since June, when protesters painted their palms white and inserted flowers in the rifles of members of the security forces. Since then, they have efficiently coordinated protests around the country with a tone of increasing defiance.

“The student leaders now have more credibility among people in the street than any leader of the opposition parties,” said Alberto Garrido, a political analyst.

The are substantial: Mr. Chávez commands fervent support among the poor, and his followers control every institution of the federal government.

Mr. Chávez insists that the proposed charter contains measures needed to move his revolution forward, like a six-hour workday and reconfiguring the military. The president’s term of office would also be extended to seven years from six.

Students opposing these proposals, of course, are not the only movement on campus. Pro-Chávez student leaders have also been mobilized in recent weeks, gaining ample airtime for their views on state television.

Tensions between student groups are increasing. Robert Serra, a student leader who supports Mr. Chávez, said this week that sectors of the population were awaiting an alert to “occupy” the Caracas campuses of Central University and Andrés Bello Catholic University, bastions of opposition to Mr. Chávez.

Still, the growing intensity of anti-Chávez student protests here presents challenges for both sides: Can a revolution advance if large numbers of students are opposed to it? And will others join the students ?

“People don’t believe in political parties anymore; they don’t believe in anyone,” said Stalin González, a leader of the student protests here.

“The students are fresh new figures with a different message,” he said. “This doesn’t mean we’re the salvation.”
Jens Erik Gould contributed reporting.

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King of Spain an Prime Minister feed up with Hugo Chavez's big mouth

King of Spain an Prime Minister Zapatero feed up with Hugo Chavez's big mouth
At last! Spaniards finally told Chavez what everybody else wants to: SHUT UP!

The news appeared today in Spain's newspaper ABC online. In this video, you can tell how Mr. Zapatero is asking Hugo Chavez for a little bit of respect for him to address to ex-president Aznar. This happened at the Cumbre Iberoamericana in Chile. Zapatero said to him, that there is a conduct norm that everybody should do, and is to address others with respect. To that, Mr. Big-Mouth-Clown of Venezuela insisted insulting Aznar for a second time, calling him a "fascist.

And, guess what, non other that the King of Spain intervened this time to put Chavez in his place. He said to him, "why don't you shut up?"

This is so shamful. You can make your point across without behaving like a caveman. I cannot believe that someones NEEDS to teach this guy some manners on a political summit. For the record, I never voted for Hugo Chavez.

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Crackdown in Venezuela Called a Ploy

Crackdown in Venezuela Called a Ploy. University Leaders See Move to End Campus AutonomyAssociated Press
Friday, November 9, 2007; Page A17


Police officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at university students during a protest against President Hugo Chavez in Caracas yesterday


CARACAS, Venezuela, Nov. 8 -- University leaders accused the Venezuelan government Thursday of provoking violence to justify military occupations of campuses where students are leading protests against President Hugo Chávez.

Gunmen opened fire on students returning from a peaceful march Wednesday in which 80,000 people denounced a constitutional referendum, planned for December, that would expand Chávez's power. At least eight people were injured in the incident in Caracas, including one by gunfire, officials said.

Justice Minister Pedro Carreño blamed students, opposition leaders and the news media for the violence. "We want to urge the media to reflect, to stop broadcasting biased news through media manipulation, filling a part of the population with hate," Carreño said in an address Wednesday night.

Higher Education Minister Luis Acuña, meanwhile, offered to send in troops to quell the violence, but university authorities quickly rejected the offer as an attempted power grab.

"We won't fall into the trap," said Eleazar Narváez, rector of the Central University of Venezuela.

Chávez's opponents say the president has long wanted to end the autonomy of Venezuela's public universities, most of which are run by rectors associated with the opposition who defeated Chávez followers in campus elections.

Street demonstrations led by university students have spread to at least six cities around Venezuela, and organizers vowed to continue protesting despite crackdowns by security forces and clashes with government supporters. The marches have been mostly peaceful, although there have been several clashes in which students threw rocks and police fired plastic bullets at demonstrators.

On Wednesday, photographers for the Associated Press saw at least four gunmen -- their faces covered by ski masks or T-shirts -- firing handguns at a crowd of government opponents returning to the Central University of Venezuela from the march

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Gunfire Erupts at Venezuela University

I am from Venezuela and this is true. The masked gunmen were sent by Chavez's political party. Our venezuelans students are heroes.Can you believe the "Justice Minister" blamed the marching students?
This article says: "the Supreme Court is unlikely to act on the students' demands, given that pro-Chavez lawmakers appointed all 32 of its justices".
vdebate

Gunfire Erupts at Venezuela University
CARACAS, Venezuela, Nov 08, 2007 (AP Online via COMTEX) -- Masked gunmen opened fire on students returning from a march in which tens of thousands of Venezuelans denounced President Hugo Chavez's attempts to expand his power through constitutional changes.
Officials said at least eight people were injured Wednesday, including one by gunfire, at the Central University of Venezuela, or UCV - the country's largest university.
Students protested in at least six other cities, and several turned violent with rock-throwing youths clashing with police shooting plastic bullets at demonstrators.
Photographers for The Associated Press saw at least four gunmen - their faces covered by ski masks or T-shirts - firing handguns at the anti-Chavez crowd at the UCV. Terrified students ran through the campus as ambulances arrived.
Antonio Rivero, director of Venezuela's Civil Defense agency, told Union Radio that at least eight people were injured, including one by gunfire, and that no one had been killed. Earlier, Rivero said he had been informed that one person had died in the violence.
The violence broke out after an estimated 80,000 anti-Chavez demonstrators - led by university students - marched peacefully to the Supreme Court to protest constitutional changes that would greatly expand Chavez's power if voters agree to the changes in December. Unrest, if it continues, could mar a Dec. 2 referendum on the controversial reforms.
Dozens of angry students surrounded a building where the gunmen were hiding, set fire to benches outside and knocked out windows with rocks. Later, armed men riding motorcycles arrived, scaring off students and standing at the doorway - one of them firing a handgun in the air - as people fled the building.
Justice Minister Pedro Carreno blamed students, university authorities, opposition parties and the media for the violence.
"We want to urge the media to reflect, to stop broadcasting biased news through media manipulation, filling a part of the population with hate," Carreno said in a televised address.
He did not provide details about the number of injured or if any suspects were arrested.
University students also staged demonstrations in the cities of Merida, Maracaibo, Puerto La Cruz, San Cristobal, Barquisimeto and Valencia on Wednesday.
The amendments being protested would abolish presidential term limits, give the president control over the Central Bank and let him create new provinces governed by handpicked officials.
The protesters demand the referendum be suspended, saying the amendments would weaken civil liberties and give Chavez unprecedented power to declare states of emergency.
"Don't allow Venezuela to go down a path that nobody wants to cross," student leader Freddy Guevara told Globovision during the march to the Supreme Court.
Chavez, who was first elected in 1998, denies the reforms threaten freedom. He says they would instead move Venezuela toward what he calls "21st century socialism."
In televised comments prior to the unrest, Chavez urged Venezuelans to turn out en masse to vote for the reforms. In reference to the opposition, he said: "Don't go crazy."
The Supreme Court is unlikely to act on the students' demands, given that pro-Chavez lawmakers appointed all 32 of its justices.
Copyright (C) 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Pictures Protest November 3, 2007 - Giancarlo


Students with chains


Herman Escarra


This is what Venezuelans think: Chavez=Coward, abusive, assassin, ...


Don't kill me


Liberty

Venezuelans



Sancionar=Aprobar

Police

Don't touch my kids, they are not alone

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Gunmen fire on Venezuela protest

These bad guys probably are part of Chavez political Party.
vdebate


Gunmen fire on Venezuela protest

Some of the gunmen opened fire on students from motorcycles
Gunmen in Venezuela have opened fire on students returning from a peaceful march in Caracas against President Hugo Chavez's planned consitutional reforms.
At least eight people were hurt during the clashes on a university campus, including at least one by gunfire.
The students were protesting against plans to remove presidential term limits, the subject of a referendum.
Thousands had marched to Venezuela's Supreme Court and filed a demand for the December vote to be suspended.
Last week, troops used tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of students protesting in Caracas against the proposed amendments.
Students fled
It is unclear how Wednesday's violence erupted.
A number of gunmen arrived at the Central University of Venezuela campus on motorcycles, law faculty dean Jorge Pabon told AFP news agency.
They set a bus alight, and later fired at students from inside one of the university buildings.
State TV showed footage of angry students setting fire to benches and throwing rocks at the university building where the gunmen were hiding.
Photographers for the Associated Press news agency saw at least four masked gunmen firing handguns at the crowd, as terrified students fled.
Globovision television, which is openly critical of the government, showed images of hooded men throwing objects into university classes and other people, apparently students, running away.
Civil defence chief Antonio Rivero said at least eight people were hurt, one of them by gunfire.
'Power grab'
The government described the protest, one of several recent student-led demonstrations against the constitutional reforms, as an opposition effort to destabilise the country ahead of the referendum on 2 December.
The amendments up for approval include giving the president control over the central bank, and the creation of new provinces governed by centrally appointed officials.
President Chavez is also proposing to bypass legal controls on the executive during a state of emergency, bring in a maximum six-hour working day, and cut the voting age from 18 to 16.
Supporters say the changes will deepen Venezuela's democracy but critics accuse Mr Chavez of a power grab.

More Pictures at:

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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Even poor are losing in Venezuela

Venezuela’s Marxist dictatorship is destroying property rights across the country. We’ve noted in the past how it’s happened in the countryside, at sugar farms, on nature reserves, among the large and small corporations, and in apartment and office buildings. But these aren’t the only places – the destruction of property rights also is happening in the poorest neighborhoods.
vdebate
In an unexpectedly good
article (http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1668) Alex Holland, a writer at Venezuelanalysis, a Chavista propaganda organ, unwittingly describes how even poor shantytown dwellerss with desperate need for title-deed ownership are being badly affected by collectivization, which is destroying the weak property rights these urban poor once had. The writer explains the horrible dynamic with perfect clarity and honesty and then ineptly defends it, making the Marxist propaganda easy for us to gloss over. Evidently, the facts on the ground were just too big for this writer.
Here is how it happens:
People who live in the urban barrios, those ramshackle red brick houses that starkly encircle Caracas on mountain after mountain cannot just get title deed but must join a 100-200-strong collective called an “Urban Land Committee” or, CTU, first. If they don’t join one of these, they get no title deed and are shut out of the system. The system came into being based on a 2002 decree by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez.
There are over 5,200 of these collectives, averaging 147 houses in each, representing more than a fifth of Venezuelans, or 5.7 million of Venezuela’s 25-million strong population. The author notes that the explicit aim of them is social “change.”
Then the issue of who the land really belongs to is brought up.
In a loaded passage, the article says many of the slum houses are on land that is vaguely described as belonging to other people. Some houses are said to be longstanding squats that no one did anything about. That’s one justification for ascertaining who has a right to property. The other is of numbers. Large numbers, as in collectives, not length of stay, or effort to get title deed, or tax payments, or investments, just numbers, are the other criteria for determining who has a right to occupy a property.
The article describes a planned takeover of a “mansion” by a group of 23 homeless families, due to the mansion being occupied by a lone woman who apparently got it somehow from the army. This woman is said to not have title deed (any more than squatters do) but since there are more of them (at five per family, that should be about 120 people, quite a number even for a“mansion”) they are getting ready to take it over. No word on how the woman feels about it.
The author then speaks of the fears the so-called rich have for such occupations of private property moving from the poor areas to inside the better parts of the city. Based on the news, the actions in the barrios encourage takeovers in other parts of the city. The question of who decides who gets taken over and who gets left alone is left up in the air.
Somehow the title-deed system is flawed all over Venezuela but only the poor, and only in collectives, have any right to declare title deed. A shantytown dweller without title deed is a good guy deserving of title deed or whatever Chavismo understands as such, but a rich guy in the city without title deed is a thief whose property needs to be confiscated accordingly. There is literally no recognition of rule of law grounded in inviolable property rights.
Venezuelanalysis writes:
This was about “democratizing ownership,” Martinez argued. As part of this “democratizing” process, (chief collectivization chief Ivan) Martinez did admit that the government does not consider all property rights to be as sacred as others.
No kidding!
According to Hernando de Soto, (who’s cited disdainfully in this article), the only purpose of property rights is their inviolability. That’s what makes them a basis for rule of law. Without inviolable property rights, there will never be rule of law, but only arbitrary rules and confiscations, all of which create uncertainty and a disincentive to invest.
Meanwhile, what goes on in the CTU collectives is scrutinized as well. Venezuelananalysis gushingly writes:The CTUs are about people debating, agreeing, and taking action collectively about things that directly affect every aspect of their daily lives.
The writer didn’t ask what happens when someone disagrees. What happens to someone who doesn’t want to go along with something? Can they count on giving up title deed because they’ll be out of the collective? The right to dissent is highly suspect in such a setup given that it’s tied to one’s title deed. How freely can anyone speak in such circumstances?
Discussions about water and electricity are mentioned as one thing – and I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s against water and electricity so it’s hard to see what’s to discuss or why a meeting is necessary. But the author gives away the game by explaining that the discussions are more likely to be Marxist indoctrination, as in “social charters.” It doesn’t say what happens to people who don’t agree with the indoctrination.
What’s more, maps are made of the barrios, which is ok in itself, but obviously, given the collectives running these things, are more likely for coercive security purposes from the state which has its hands on everything.
Meanwhile, these CTU collectives are cursed with the usual curse of Marxism- meetings upon meetings, ten-hour-long indoctrinations each week, plus higher level meetings up at least two levels after that. With a setup like that, it’s clear that most slum dwellers are trapped in a forced meeting for indoctrination, something that prevents them from doing more productive things if they can. The author claims that party politics is not discussed but what’s more likely is that the topic is off limits, and what goes on in Chavez’s MVR party is concealed. Instead, they get indoctrination like this:Topics discussed beyond the need to physically improve the barrio range from a desire to encourage social production to transcending the capitalist system entirely.
But the CTUs are sources of handouts, the only handouts accessible to these urban poor. Naturally, they are for collective projects, as decided by the collective nomenklatura, ever mind the dissenters. Some of the funds are also for individual houses, such as “repairing an old lady’s house” the author says, though in reality, they are just as likely to go for that extra fourth floor on the house of the collective chief. The point is, it’s discretionary, inherently disadvantageous to the dissenters and inherently advantageous to the barrio leader and his select cronies.
Of course it’s a money-pit. The state financer, called Banfonades, is reported even in the Chavista media as being bankrupt and mismanaged, with vast funds disappearing. Its funds may well have gone to support “housing” for Chavista elite in places like Miami.
What’s more, the government administration of the funds has resulted in long delays and inefficiencies. Barrio dwellers tell the writer that life is exactly the same as before, dismissing the claim that the people have become beggars of the state. That doesn’t sound like improvement – it sounds more like housing money in Miami. The writer describes housing protests to the government for its inefficiency. Obviously, it’s another hallmark of a Marxist regime right there. The writer didn’t say if the barrio dwellers ever got any relief for their protest.
There is a single good point the Chavistas make, which is that the slum collectives should not be cleared for big Stalinist housing projects that were so characteristic of blighted Paris during its 2005 riots.
But that doesn’t help the existing slums if people cannot own their own houses no matter what their political views, cannot buy them or sell them as they please, cannot make improvements without dependence on government financing and are forced into collectivist indoctrination sessions to partake of any benefits, the most basic of which is title deed. Private property under these conditions is nothing more than slum housing and given the fact that these slums are on hillsides instead of high-rises, amounts only to a more organic way to get a view.
A.M. Mora y Leon 02 13 05

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Troops Clash With Venezuelan Protesters

We admire all these Venezuelan' students protesting against our dictator Chavez. Chavez will win the elections on December 2nd, because of ELECTRONIC FRAUD IN OUR VENEZULAN'S ELECTIONS!!!!!
vdebate reporter

Riot police officers protected themselves Thursday as university students protested in Caracas, Venezuela.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: November 2, 2007


Troops Clash With Venezuelan Protesters
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Soldiers used tear gas, plastic bullets and water cannons to scatter tens of thousands who massed Thursday to protest constitutional reforms that would permit Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to run for re-election indefinitely.

Led by university students, protesters chanted ''Freedom! Freedom!'' and warned that 69 amendments drafted by the Chavista-dominated National Assembly would violate civil liberties and derail democracy.

It was the biggest turnout against Chavez in months, and appeared to revive Venezuela's languid opposition at a time when the president seems as strong as ever. Students promised more street demonstrations over the weekend, but no opposition-led protests were planned for Friday.

''This is a dictatorship masked as democracy,'' said Jorge Rivas, an 18-year-old student. ''Chavez wants our country to be like Cuba, and we're not going to allow that to occur.''

Authorities broke up the protest outside the headquarters of the country's electoral council, reporting that six police officers and one student were injured. But students said dozens of protesters were hurt during the melee. The local Globovision television network broadcast footage of several police beating an unarmed protester with billy clubs.

Student leader Freddy Guevara said it was not immediately clear how many students were arrested, and he urged local human rights groups to help verify the number of detained protesters.

Students hurled rocks and bottles, and a few lifted up sections of metal barricades and thrust them against police holding riot shields. Students retreated later when police fired plastic bullets.

Rock-throwing clashes between students and Chavez supporters continued at a nearby university campus.

''Chavez wants to remain in power his entire life, and that's not democracy,'' said Gonzalo Rommer, a 20-year-old student who joined protesters marching to the National Elections Council.

Deputy Justice Minister Tarek El Aissami blamed students for the violence, saying they forced their way through police barricades.

But Vicente Diaz, one of the National Election Council's five directors, accused National Guardsmen and police of using excessive force to disperse protesters. ''We absolutely condemn the behavior of the authorities,'' Diaz said.

The amendments would give the government control over the Central Bank, create new types of cooperative property, allow authorities to detain citizens without charge during a state of emergency and extend presidential terms from six to seven years while allowing Chavez to run again in 2012.

To take effect, the reforms must be approved by voters in a Dec. 2 referendum. Lawmakers are expected to give final approval to the amendments on Friday during a special congressional session.

Opposition parties, human rights groups and representatives of the Roman Catholic Church fear civil liberties would be severely weakened under the constitutional changes.

Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, denies the reforms threaten civil liberties.

He and his supporters say the changes will help move the country toward socialism, while giving neighborhood-based assemblies more decision-making power in using government funds for local projects like paving streets and building public housing.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Students protest against changes in the constitution

I am glad that Venezuelan students are protesting against the changes that Chavez wants to do in our Venezuelan Constitution. He just wants "TOTAL POWER"

Here Maria Conchita Alonso talking to FOX NEWS:

http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/player/popup/?rn=3906861&cl=4839407&ch=4226714&src=news

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