Friday, July 31, 2009

Rockets for terrorists. Will there be any consequence for "Hugo Chavez"?

Hugo Chavez and his government are the only responsibles for this terrorism, no the people of Venezuela.
Washington Post Editorial, Friday, July 31, 2009

Rockets for Terrorists - Will there be any consequence for Venezuela's material support for Colombian insurgents?

WHEN THE Colombian government last year unveiled extensive evidence that the government of Venezuela had collaborated with a Colombian rebel movement known for terrorism and drug trafficking, other Latin American governments and the United States mostly chose to look the other way. The evidence was contained on laptops captured in a controversial raid by the Colombian army on a guerrilla base in Ecuador. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez denounced the e-mails and documents as forgeries, and the potential consequences of concluding that Venezuela was supporting a terrorist organization against a democratic government -- which could include mandatory U.S. sanctions and referral to the U.N. Security Council -- were more than the Bush administration was prepared to contemplate.

Now Colombia has made public evidence that will be even more difficult to ignore. In a raid on a camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), a group officially designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, Colombian forces captured sophisticated, Swedish-produced antitank rockets. A Swedish investigation confirmed that they were originally sold to the Venezuelan army by the arms manufacturer Saab. What's more, FARC e-mails from the laptops captured in Ecuador appear to refer to the weapons; in one, a FARC operative in Caracas reports discussing delivery of the arms in a 2007 meeting with two top Venezuelan generals, including the director of military intelligence, Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios.

Colombia privately asked Mr. Chávez's government for an explanation of the rockets several months ago; Sweden is now asking as well. But the only response has been public bluster by the Venezuelan caudillo, who on Tuesday withdrew his ambassador from Colombia and threatened to close the border to trade. If he follows through, U.S. drug authorities may well be pleased: A report released last week by the U.S. Government Accountability Office said Venezuela had created a "permissive environment" for FARC that had allowed the group to massively increase its cocaine smuggling across that border. "By allowing illegal armed groups to elude capture and by providing material support, Venezuela has extended a lifeline to Colombian illegal armed groups, and their continued existence endangers Colombian security gains achieved with U.S. assistance," the GAO reported.

This all sounds an awful lot like material support for terrorism -- which raises the question of whether the State Department will look again at whether Mr. Chávez's government or its top officials belong on its list of state sponsors of terrorism. The Bush administration's Treasury Department last year imposed sanctions on Gen. Carvajal and several other officials for supporting the FARC's drug trafficking. But that hardly covers the supply of antitank rockets to a designated terrorist organization. At the moment, the State Department is busy applying sanctions to members of Honduras's de facto government, which is guilty of deposing one of Mr. Chávez's clients and would-be emulators. Perhaps soon it can turn its attention to those in the hemisphere who have been caught trying to overturn a democratic government by supplying terrorists with advanced weapons.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Is Greg Craig driving US Latin America policy?

The Wall Street Journal

Is Greg Craig driving U.S. Latin America policy?


Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya returned to his country on Friday, traveling by SUV from Nicaragua to a small border town. It was his first time back in Honduras since he was arrested and deported on June 28 for violating the constitution.

Mr. Zelaya appeared somewhat disappointed that his theatrical re-entry did not provoke a shoot-out. A few hours later he jumped back into Nicaragua where Sandinista President Daniel Ortega has given him shelter.

If Mr. Zelaya keeps this up, the crisis could drag on. But however the standoff is resolved, it is likely to be remembered as a defining moment for U.S. Latin America policy under Barack Obama.

Mr. Zelaya had means, motive and opportunity to destroy the country’s democratic institutions and was moving to do so. If he succeeded, he could have consolidated power in the manner of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and turned the country into a police state. Mr. Obama’s insistence that Mr. Zelaya be restored to power has strengthened the image of an arrogant and patronizing Uncle Sam disconnected from the region’s reality.

Hondurans might be more amenable to an Obama democracy lecture if the U.S. showed any interest in standing up to Mr. Chávez and his antidemocratic allies or any grasp of the dangers they present. Instead, since taking office in January the American president has embraced the region’s bad actors only to be subsequently embarrassed by revelations that his new “friends” are actually enemies of liberty and peace.

The weirdness started with the April Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, when Mr. Obama practically high-fived Mr. Chávez like they were long lost soul mates. The administration’s spin was that tension in the region was caused by George W. Bush. The charming Mr. Obama would change all that, and from there U.S. influence would rise again. Mr. Chávez didn’t get the memo. On July 19, the Washington Post reported that a new Government Accountability Office report finds “that corruption at high levels of President Hugo Chavez’s government, and state aid to Colombia’s drug-trafficking guerrillas, have made Venezuela a major launching pad for cocaine bound for the United States and Europe.” Now Mr. Chávez says he will overthrow the Honduran government.
Mr. Obama called Ecuador’s Rafael Correa in early June to “congratulate” him on his recent re-election, and according to a White House spokesman, “express his desire to deepen our bilateral relationship and to maintain an ongoing dialogue that can ensure a productive relationship based on mutual respect.” This made Mr. Obama look uninformed again since Mr. Correa’s disrespect for U.S. interests is legendary.
On June 22, I reported in this column that Colombian military intelligence had evidence the Correa government is a supporter of the Colombian rebel group FARC. A furious Mr. Correa jumped in front of television cameras to issue a threat to sue The Wall Street Journal. “We are fed up with their lies,” he warned.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal’s Americas page.

He couldn’t know that the Associated Press would release a video days later of a rebel reading a letter from the FARC’s deceased leader about “compromising” documents that talk of the FARC’s financial support for Mr. Correa’s 2006 presidential campaign and “agreements” with Correa envoys. Reporting on the news, the Spanish daily El Pais wrote that “various emails from the computers of [FARC honcho] Raúl Reyes tell about the delivery of $100,000 to the Correa campaign team. What is new is that a high-ranking leader of the guerrillas verbally acknowledges the contribution.” Mr. Correa denies FARC connections and says it is a “setup.” No word yet on whether he plans to sue all the other newspapers that subsequently reported the story.

Having established that making nice with the region’s troublemakers is a priority, Mr. Obama now wants Mr. Zelaya—who was endorsed by the FARC last week—reinstated. If Honduras does not comply, the U.S. is threatening to freeze assets and revoke the visas of interim government officials.

Some Washington watchers figure this bizarre stance is due to the fact that Mr. Obama is relying heavily on White House Counsel Gregory Craig for advice on Latin America.

Mr. Craig was the lawyer for Fidel Castro—er, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the father of Elian Gonzalez—during Bill Clinton’s 2000 repatriation to Cuba of the seven-year-old. During the presidential campaign when Mr. Craig was advising Mr. Obama, the far-left Council on Hemispheric Affairs endorsed Mr. Craig as “the right man to revive deeply flawed U.S.-Latin America relations.” In other words, to pull policy left.

There is plenty of speculation that Mr. Obama is making policy off of Mr. Craig’s “expertise.” It is not too much to believe. Indeed, if all policy is now being run out of the White House, as many observers contend, then the views of the White House counsel may explain a lot.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Case Honduras: To Mr. Barack Obama and Mrs. Hillary Clinton

Logo Recivex

Resistencia Civil de Venezolanos en el Exterior addresses
the President and Secretary of State of the United States of America,
Mr. Barack Obama and Mrs. Hillary Clinton

With all due respect for said citizens, who hold the highest offices in the admired Northern country, we would like to express our astonishment regarding the position their government has taken in the case of the Honduran crisis.

As citizens who believe in the principles of a participatory democracy and in the values that constitute the foundation of a nation, we are of the opinion that Manuel Zelaya, the ousted president of Honduras, violated the Honduran Constitution by disregarding the decisions made by his country’s institutions concerning his actions, which were against that established by Law, and disrespected the Armed Forces constitutional mandate. Additionally, he allowed the intromission of the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua in affairs that belong solely to the sovereignty of the Honduran nation.

When the United States of America punishes with all their might the new Honduran government, they are simultaneously sending the wrong message to the world, they are saying: “Obey dictators like Chavez, now you know what will happen to those countries that defend their rightful Constitution”.

We are Resistencia Civil de Venezolanos en el Exterior, we are RECIVEX

RECIVEX - Civil Resistance of Venezuelans Overseas is a non- profit organization, conformed by Venezuelan volunteers, with representation in different cities around the world. Our mission is to develop, to execute and to promote initiatives destined to fortify the collective and individual exercise of the fundamental rights of the citizens of our nation. Our main tasks is to inform the international community on the Venezuelan reality, with special emphasis in those matters and circumstances that threaten or violate the democratic principles in our country. Registered in the state of Connecticut, USA.

RECIVEX strives for a democratic, harmonious Venezuela living in justice and liberty.

311 Eastern Street • E 1005 New Haven, CT 06513 • 203-4690434 •

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why defend the rule of law in Honduras but not in Venezuela

The Washington Post, Editorial -
Friday, July 24, 2009

Why defend the rule of law in Honduras but not in Venezuela?

LATIN AMERICAN diplomats remain preoccupied with the political crisisin Honduras, which has been teetering between a negotiated solutionthat would conditionally restore ousted President Manuel Zelaya tooffice and an escalation of conflict that would play into the hands ofanti-democratic forces around the region. While the drama drags on,those forces continue to advance in other countries, unremarked on bysome of the same governments that rushed to condemn Mr. Zelaya'souster. So it's worth reporting on a meeting that took place Tuesday at the Organization of American States headquarters in Washington between OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and three elected Venezuelanleaders who, like Mr. Zelaya, have been deprived of their powers and threatened with criminal prosecution.

The three are Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and the governors of twostates, Pablo Pérez of Zulia and César Pérez Vivas of Tachira. All three won election in November, along with several other opposition leaders. But since then, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has used decrees, a rubber-stamp parliament and a politically compromised legal system to strip the officials of control over key services and infrastructure.

Mr. Insulza, a Chilean socialist who has been flamboyant in his defense of Mr. Zelaya, listened to the Venezuelans' account. But the OAS leader insisted that there was nothing he could do about Mr.Chávez's actions, even under the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which was adopted by all 34 active OAS members in 2001. This month, Mr.Insulza helped spur the OAS to suspend Honduras on the grounds that it had violated the charter. But in the case of Mr. Chávez's stripping power from the governors and mayors, Mr. Insulza said, "I can't say whether it is bad or good." His authority, he said, is limited to"trying to establish bridges between the parties."

That is not how Mr. Insulza handled the case of Honduras, of course. Far from promoting dialogue, the secretary general refused to negotiate r even speak with the president elected by the Honduran National Congress to replace Mr. Zelaya. Instead he joined in a Venezuelan-orchestrated attempt to force Mr. Zelaya's return that, predictably, led to violence. Now, with an attempted mediation by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias stalled, Mr. Zelaya is again threatening to enter the country without an agreement. Don't expect the OAS chief to dissuade him.

Still, Mr. Insulza has a point. The weakness of the Democratic Charter is that it protects presidents from undemocratic assault but does not readily allow OAS intervention in cases where the executive himself is responsible for violating the constitutional order -- as Mr.Zelaya did before his ouster. The Honduras crisis provides an opportunity for the Obama administration to seek changes in those rules. If the administration is to depend on organizations such as the OAS to advance its policies in Latin America, it must push it to counter attacks on democracy whenever and wherever they occur.

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Top 10 worst world leaders

And Chavez make into this list. The Huffington Post forgot Fidel Castro.
vdebate reporter

Top 10 worst leaders according to THE HUFFINGTON POST.
The Huffington Post

N° 1. Kim Jong II De facto leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Il rules over the most secretive, closed-off country in the world. He often makes news with various bouts of saber-rattling, such as the recent alleged nuclear test, and with reports of human rights abuses and a starving population.
N° 2. Robert Mugabe Ruler of Zimbabwe since its founding in 1980 with the ousting of the white-minority ruled Rhodesian government. Mugabe has overseen the complete decimation of what was once one of Africa's strongest economies and is regularly criticized for human rights abuses, especially during the 2008 presidential campaign when his goons oversaw an intimidation campaign of torture and murder against supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai.
N° 3. Than Shwe Ruler of Burma's military junta since 1992, Shwe's true colors were revealed to the international community in the aftermath of Nargis when he prohibited rescue and aid groups from reaching cyclone victims.
N° 4. Ayatolah Alí Khamenei Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1989, Khamenei is widely considered the ultimate authority in a state that feigns democracy while brutalizing its own people when they dissent. Khamenei has brought a heavy hand down on protesters of the disputed June 12 presidential election and shows no sign of bending anytime soon.
N° 5. Muammar al-Quaddafi Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1989, Khamenei is widely considered the ultimate authority in a state that feigns democracy while brutalizing its own people when they dissent. Khamenei has brought a heavy hand down on protesters of the disputed June 12 presidential election and shows no sign of bending anytime soon.
N° 6. Hugo Chávez President of Venezuela since 1998, Chavez has incrementally aimed to consolidate his power through referendums and constitutional amendments. While he touts his socialist credentials, Chavez has cracked down more and more on dissenters--such as with his current campaign against the last remaining opposition TV channel Globovision. He is often criticized for harassing and unjustly prosecuting outspoken political opponents.
N° 7. Silvio Berlusconi On-and-off Prime Minister of Italy since 1994 and the third richest man in the country, Berlusconi frequents the international news media with various scandals that are usually centered around women. Berlusconi is currently going through a very public divorce from his wife Veronica Lario over his attendance to an 18-year-old girl's birthday party (he is 73), among other things. Among and endless selection of gaffes, Berlusconi once complimentred Barack Obama on his "suntan".
N° 8. Omar al-Bashir Ruler of Sudan since 1989, al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity, namely in the Darfur region. Despite the warrant, he freely travels to sympathetic countries to flaunt his relative immunity among friends. 2.7 million people are believed to have been displaced since 2003 as a result of his military campaign against the Darfur rebels.
N° 9. Ju Jintao Paramount Leader of China and the Chinese Communist Party since 2002, Jintao often finds himself trapped between China's meteoric rise towards modernization and its history of harshly cracking down on dissent. The months leading up to the 2008 Beijing elections were reported to be particularly repressive against dissenters and the press, especially regarding Tibet. More recently, the Chinese state quelled violent Uighur-Han protests in Xinjiang province, leaving scores dead.
N° 10. King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud King of Saudi Arabia since 1995, Abdullah often presents himself as a reformist and peacemaker in the region while overseeing the most oppressive system against women in the world. Women's rights in Saudi Arabia remain so restricted that they must ask a male's permission to do basically anything, including working, studying, travelling, or marrying

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Friday, July 24, 2009

A State in Grip of Kidnappers and the Family of Hugo Chávez - The New York Times

Scott Dalton for The New York Times
"This is what anarchy looks like, at least the type of anarchy where the family of Chávez accumulates wealth and power," said Ángel Santamaría, a Barinas cattleman whose 8-year-old son, Kusto, was held for ransom for 29 days.
Published: July 20, 2009
BARINAS, Venezuela — Stretching over vast cattle estates at the foothills of the Andes, Barinas is known for two things: as the bastion of the family of President Hugo Chávez and as the setting for a terrifying surge in abductions, making it a contender for Latin America’s most likely place to get kidnapped.

The New York Times
Barinas is the home region of the family of Hugo Chávez.

An intensifying nationwide crime wave over the past decade has pushed the kidnapping rate in Venezuela past Colombia’s and Mexico’s, with about 2 abductions per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the Interior Ministry.

But nowhere in Venezuela comes close in abductions to Barinas, with 7.2 kidnappings per 100,000 inhabitants, as armed gangs thrive off the disarray here while Mr. Chávez’s family tightens its grip on the state. Seizures of cattle ranches and crumbling infrastructure also contribute to the sense of low-intensity chaos.

Barinas offers a unique microcosm of Mr. Chávez’s rule. Many poor residents still revere the president, born here into poverty in 1954. But polarization in Barinas is growing more severe, with others chafing at his newly prosperous parents and siblings, who have governed the state since the 1990s. While Barinas is a laboratory for projects like land reform, urgent problems like violent crime go unmentioned in the many billboards here extolling the Chávez family’s ascendancy.

“This is what anarchy looks like, at least the type of anarchy where the family of Chávez accumulates wealth and power as the rest of us fear for our lives,” said Ángel Santamaría, 57, a cattleman in the town of Nueva Bolivia whose son, Kusto, 8, was kidnapped while walking to school in May. He was held for 29 days, until Mr. Santamaría gathered a small ransom to free him.

The governor of Barinas, Adán Chávez, the president’s eldest brother and a former ambassador to Cuba, said this month that many of the kidnappings might have been a result of destabilization efforts by the opposition or so-called self-kidnappings: orchestrated abductions to reveal weaknesses among security forces, or to extort money from one’s own family.

“With each day that passes,” the governor said recently, “Barinas is safer than before.”

Through a spokeswoman, he declined to be interviewed.

In an election last year marred by accusations of fraud, Adán Chávez succeeded his own father, Hugo de los Reyes Chávez, a former schoolteacher who had governed Barinas for a decade with the president’s brother, Argenis, the former secretary of state in Barinas.

Another brother, Aníbal, is mayor of nearby Sabaneta, and another brother, Adelis, is a top banker at Banco Sofitasa, which does business with Adán’s government. Yet another brother, Narciso, was put in charge of cooperation projects with Cuba. The president’s cousin Asdrúbal holds a top post at the national oil company.

Politicians once loyal to the president who have broken with him and his family here contend that Mr. Chávez’s family has amassed wealth and landholdings through a series of deals carried out by front men.

One opposition leader, Wilmer Azuaje, detailed to prosecutors and legislators what he said was more than $20 million in illegal gains by the family since the president’s father was elected governor in 1998. But in a brief review of those claims, National Assembly, under the control of Chávez loyalists, cleared the family of charges of illicit enrichment.

“In the meantime, while the family wraps itself in the rhetoric of socialism, we are descending into a neo-capitalist chaos where all that matters is money,” said Alberto Santelíz, the publisher of La Prensa, a small opposition newspaper.

One reason for the rise in kidnappings is the injection of oil money into the local economy, with some families reaping quick fortunes because of ties to large infrastructure projects.

A new soccer stadium, built under the supervision of Adelis Chávez’s at a cost of more than $50 million, is still unfinished two years after its first game in 2007, joining other white elephants dotting Barinas’s landscape. Nearby lies the unfinished Museum of the Plains, intended to celebrate the culture of the president’s birthplace. A sprawling shopping mall stands half-completed after its backers fled a shakedown by construction unions.

More than a decade into the Chávez family’s rule in Barinas, the state remains Venezuela’s poorest, with average monthly household income of about $800, according to the National Statistics Institute. Kidnapping, once feared only by the wealthy, has spread in Barinas to include the poor. In one case this year of a 3-year-old girl kidnapped in the slum of Mi Jardín, the abductor, when told that the only thing of value owned by the girl’s mother was a refrigerator, instructed her to sell it to pay the ransom.

Kidnapping specialists here said the abductors were drawn from two Colombian rebel groups, a small Venezuelan guerrilla faction called the Bolivarian Liberation Front, other criminal gangs and corrupt police officers. Just a fraction of the kidnappings result in prison sentences.

“With impunity rampant in Barinas, how can our governor say with a straight face that people are kidnapping themselves?” asked Lucy Montoya, 38, a hardware store owner whose sister, Doris, a 41-year-old mother of three, was kidnapped in March.

Doris Montoya’s abductors have not freed her or communicated with her family since receiving ransom money in May, Lucy Montoya said, adding, “The government’s handling of this crisis is an affront to our dignity as human beings.”

Meanwhile, new figures show kidnappings climbing to 454 known cases in the first six months of 2009, including about 66 in Barinas, compared with a nationwide 2008 estimate of between 537 and 612. But officials acknowledge that the true figures are probably higher because many cases are never reported.

Here in Barinas, victims seethe over the inaction of the president and his family. “Our ruling dynasty is effectively telling us we are expendable,” said Rodolfo Peña, 38, a businessman who was abducted here last year. “The only other plausible theory,” he said, “is that they are too inebriated by power to notice the emergency at their feet.”

Sign in to Recommend A version of this article appeared in print on July 21, 2009, on page A4 of the New York edition.

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Labor tension up at Venezuela oil company PDVSA

Labor tension up at Venezuelan oil company PDVSA
Thu Jul 23, 2009
By Marianna Parraga - Analysis

CARACAS (Reuters) - Rising dissatisfaction at Venezuela's state-owned oil company over contract negotiations and alleged meddling from the socialist government could generate isolated industrial action in the OPEC country.

Nearly 100,000 workers employed by Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, and some of its contractors are upset because of overdue pay, delays in renegotiating a new contract and bullying by the government, dissident union leaders say.

The situation has been made worse by the difficulty of incorporating thousands of workers from oil service companies that were nationalized in recent months.

"If this situation continues, workers will no longer complain to the unions and there will be an explosion of the conflict," said Bernardino Chirinos of the Oil Workers' Union of Zulia, the oil-rich western state.

"Workers are ready to take action. We're at the doorstep of a strike," said Chirinos.

PDVSA says it has added to its payroll 6,500 workers and plans to add another 1,600 from previously private companies in the western Zulia state. But many part-time workers also want a staff position and have protested.

Since former paratrooper Hugo Chavez was elected president over a decade ago, he has vastly increased government intervention in the economy, nationalizing power, telephone, steel and cement companies. He also implemented currency and price controls.

Chavez fired about 20,000 workers after a crippling shutdown of the oil industry at the end of 2002 aimed at toppling his government.


Critics say efforts by Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez to consolidate all unions under a pro-government, socialist banner within the oil workers' federation FUTPV is fueling resentment among some leaders.

Last week Ramirez said he wouldn't sit down to negotiate a new contract with enemies of Chavez, in reference to unionists that side with more market-friendly opposition politicians.

The dispute among more than 100 unions over the FUTPV has delayed the renewal of a collective contract by more than six months, upsetting workers eager to get a pay raise in a country with inflation expected to top 30 percent this year.

Seven of the eleven candidates bidding for the top job of the FUTPV are considered pro-government.

Some unionists say elections have intentionally been delayed so that pro-government groups can join forces under the auspices of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) created by Chavez to defeat the opposition candidates.

Ramirez said the FUTPV needed to be in hands of a revolutionary in line with the country's socialist agenda.
Public sector workers in Venezuela often say they are obliged to attend pro-government rallies and active dissidents are excluded from government jobs.

Opposition-linked unionists say PDVSA, which has been struggling to pay creditors since the oil price fell sharply from last year's highs, is also short-changing workers, especially on overtime pay.

They are now putting pressure on PDVSA to pay up.

"If we win the election, PDVSA will have 72 hours to live up to its obligations," said Jose Bodas, a unionist bidding for a post on the FUTPV board of directors.

"If not, we'll register a protest with the Labor Ministry and exercise our right to strike."

(Writing by Raymond Colitt; Editing by Christian Wiessner)

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Venezuela's role in drug transit increases, report says

CNN) -- Venezuela's role as a transit point for South American cocaine bound for the United States and Europe has significantly expanded in recent years, according to a U.S. government report released Monday.

President Hugo Chavez says Venezuela has increased success in the drug fight since ousting the DEA in '05.

The Venezuelan government contributed to a more than fourfold increase in cocaine flow between 2004 and 2007, in part by providing a safe haven for Colombian drug traffickers while reducing counternarcotics cooperation with U.S. officials, the General Accounting Office study said.

The report's findings, which were denied by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, may present a new obstacle to the Obama administration's attempt to thaw America's relations with the influential South American country.

The total amount of cocaine shipped from Venezuela to the United States, Europe and West Africa jumped from roughly 60 to 260 metric tons over the four years, the report said, with the most recent total representing approximately 17 percent of cocaine produced worldwide.

The report said that while the United States remains the primary market for most cocaine going through Venezuela, there also has been a notable increase in cocaine shipped to Europe -- with Spain serving as the primary point of entry.

In 2006, Spanish authorities confiscated roughly 50 metric tons of cocaine -- more than two-fifths of the total seized on the continent.

The report also said that the South American drug trade has been bolstered in recent years by the Venezuelan government's decision to actively assist several illegal armed groups. It specifically highlighted a Venezuelan "lifeline" thrown to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

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Venezuelan mayor protests Chavez's tactics
FARC, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, accounts for 60 percent of the total cocaine exported from Colombia to the United States, the report said. The group has received support from Chavez for its violent opposition to the Colombian government, which is frequently at odds with Chavez's administration.

Partly as a result of Venezuela's support for FARC, the report said, U.S. presidents in recent years have repeatedly "designated Venezuela as a major drug transit country that has 'failed demonstrably' to meet its international counternarcotics obligations and responsibilities ... both within and along its borders."

The report described cocaine being smuggled "aboard maritime vessels" departing from "Venezuela's long coastline or aboard suspicious aircraft that take off and land from hundreds of clandestine airstrips."

Chavez, speaking to reporters in Bolivia over the weekend, dismissed the report as "a new lie from the government of the United States." He said Venezuela has had increased success stopping drug traffickers since expelling the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2005.

Venezuelan government officials have also pointed out, according to the report, that it is difficult to prevent the entry of drugs from Colombia given the countries' lengthy border "and rugged terrain that has long been the scene of crime, smuggling, and trafficking."

The report may prove problematic for an already rocky relationship between the United States and Venezuela. The two countries recently agreed to reinstate ambassadors expelled during a diplomatic dispute last year.

President Obama was heavily criticized for striking what conservative critics said was an overly friendly tone toward Chavez at the Summit of the Americas in April. Chavez, who once famously called then-U.S. President George W. Bush the "devil," has repeatedly condemned the United States as an imperialist nation.

"The findings of this report have heightened my concern that Venezuela's failure to cooperate with the United States on drug interdiction is related to corruption in that country's government," said Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, who initially requested the GAO report.

"I would hope that the government of Venezuela understands that the findings of this report merit serious corrective action. I encourage expeditious action in this regard. ... The fight against drugs must be won through full cooperation among producing, transit and consuming nations."


Sunday, July 5, 2009




The public’s attention generally focuses on the circumstantial, while analysis of the transcendental or structural is avoided or postponed.
One of those transcendental problems is the gradual destruction of human capital in Venezuela. In Newsweek Web this week, Mac Margolis analyzes the exodus of Venezuelans during the decade of the Chávez administration.
This analyst tells of the tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have gone to live abroad owing to the policies of a government that believes that the country is its own private property and has radically polarized the population, commenting that this mass of emigrants is made up particularly of artists, lawyers, doctors, managers, and engineers.
He maintains that this exodus has not only split up families, but that it will also affect the country’s future. He points out that, in Chávez’s Venezuela, talent is one of the main exports and warns that this goes against the tide of the repatriation policies being implemented by many developing countries today to recover their economies and consolidate their democracies.
This situation is somewhat reminiscent of Fidel Castro’s Cuba at the start of his communist revolution, when the best of the country’s middle class emigrated. That Cuban exodus was crucial for transforming Miami from a geriatric tourism area to the prosperous cultural and business center with considerable influence in the entire Latin American region that it is today. That mass emigration of professionals and prosperous, qualified manpower was a decisive factor that contributed to Cuba becoming one of the most backward countries in Latin America, on a par with Haiti.
Why has Venezuela, which until the 90s attracted immigrants, become a country of emigrants that is losing valuable human resources that are fundamental for building its future? The short answer is Hugo Chávez! A longer answer is provided by this analyst of Hugo Chávez’s policies.
One of the first brain drains occurred with the expulsion of more than 20,000 professionals from PDVSA. This wrecked the state-owned oil company, which has now become corrupt and efficient.
Another has been triggered by the high level of politicization of government agencies and state-owned companies, which has resulted in anyone who is against Chávez’s project being denied job opportunities and the chance to take part in the country’s development. Then there is the government’s anti-private enterprise policy, which has drastically reduced the productive apparatus and, consequently, the sources of jobs that do not depend on having a party card. Today, it is practically compulsory to run candidates to jobs in the growing number of state-owned companies through the filter of the Tascón List.
Other factors that have contributed to this mass exodus are the government’s harassment of free thought and free creativity that is scaring off intellectuals and researchers; the capital depletion of health centers that is making doctors and other health professionals go elsewhere; the threat to private property, which makes people fear that they will be left with nothing after years of hard work; and the appalling crime levels and impunity that have prompted families to leave the country for fear of their lives.
In short, this is a spurious government that steals from the nation’s youth the possibility of having a future in their own country and deprives Venezuela of the talent it needs in order to develop.

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