Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Deterioration in Venezuela

Gustavo Coronel: Venezuela :hot spot in the Caribbean

The process of deterioration in Venezuela has accelerated significantly during the last six months. Venezuelans have shown great patience, often bordering on apathy, but conditions in the country are fast approaching significant turmoil and possible violence. This is happening before the eyes of our hemispheric political leaders.
Although significantly authoritarian from the beginning of his presidency, the performance of President Hugo Chavez during the last months has become one of a dictator: no checks and balances, decisions concentrated in his hands, dissenters persecuted, national assets utilized without accountability and his pretensions of turning Venezuela into another Cuba no longer disguised. He has become a political bulldozer, running over all dissent. Items:
• General Raul Baduel, one of his former Ministers of Defense and now a political dissenter, has been imprisoned on charges of corruption;
• Twelve Caracas police officers accused by the government of shooting against Caracas marchers in April 11, 2002, were given sentences of up to 30 years in prison when, in fact, the shooting was done by snipers under the orders of the Chavez regime, none of whom have ever been charged;
• Mr. Manuel Rosales, Mayor of the city of Maracaibo and one of the most prominent leaders of the opposition, is now in exile in Peru after served an order of arrest on charges of corruption;
• Prominent members of the opposition such as former Mayor of the Chacao District of Caracas, Leopoldo Lopez, have been prevented from running for public office, on vague accusations of corruption;
• Globovision, the last truly independent TV station left in the country after the confiscation of assets and the closing down of Radio Caracas TV, has been served with a notice of suspension. The reason? Informing the Venezuelan public about the earthquake that took place some days ago before the government “officially” aired the information.
• The Mayors and Governors of the opposition, who won their offices through elections, are being openly harassed and their work being made extremely difficult. Mr. Antonio Ledezma, the Mayor of Greater Caracas, was expelled from his headquarters, which were immediately occupied by a puppet “governor” directly named by Chavez. The money that should be sent to these states and mayoralties by the central government is being cut-off. This represents an open violation of the constitution and of the will of the people and has recently been the object of condemnation by the European Parliament.
• The Ateneo de Caracas, one of the oldest cultural centers of the country and a center of perceived opposition to Chavez, has been ordered by the government to evacuate peremptorily the premises they have occupied for long decades. As they have no other place to go this probably means their disappearance.
• The Caracas home of former president and novelist Romulo Gallegos, where the beloved novelist lived for many years, is now partly used as a government food market. A bust of Gallegos has been removed from the presidential palace and replaced with one of mediocre, early XX century dictator Cipriano Castro. Gallego's books have been burned by the thousands by the regime, in a barbaric action copied from Bradbury's “Fahrenheit 451”.
• Petroleos de Venezuela, the state-owned company, has stopped paying many of its contractors. The size of the debt to Tulsa's Williams Companies, Tulsa's Helmerich and Payne, Schlumberger, Halliburton and other companies already amounts to $8-12 billion. While these debts keep mounting, the Chavez regime has simply taken over the assets of some of these companies. Such a move will add about 8,000 new workers to the already adipose payroll of Petroleos de Venezuela, the state- owned Petroleum Company,while leaving about 22,000 others without jobs.
• The May 1st Caracas march against the government was met with tear gas and strong repression by the Chavez-controlled armed forces. In a cynical display Chavez went on TV to accuse the unarmed citizens of “an act of aggression against our armed forces”.
• A new law is now being passed by the Chavez-controlled National Assembly that will make it illegitimate for NGO's to receive foreign financing. Most of these not-for-profit organizations, especially those in the field of human rights, receive help from USA or Europe. The law is clearly targeted against this type of organizations, as Chavez feels that they are strong centers of political opposition.
• In his obsession to break away from all things made in America Chavez bought 53 Russian, Mi, helicopters but forgot that pilots have to be trained before they can fly them. During the last year four have crashed, causing 18 deaths.
The armed forces, an institution that should be the guarantor of democracy seems is under Chavez's political control due to the lavish monetary handouts and privileges received by the military elite. They now salute in Cuban style: “Fatherland, Socialism or Death”.
Chavez's message has become disdainful of legality. Drunk with power he currently leads an offensive against democracy in several of his socialist satellites, mostly Bolivia. He is threatening with leaving the Organization of American States, OAS, although this organization, led by weak-kneed Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, has been criminally tolerant of his undemocratic transgressions.
In shaking his hand U.S. President Obama allowed Chavez to use this gesture to convince his followers that Obama is “his friend” and will let him do as he pleases. The democrats of Venezuela and all Latin America are frustrated by the apparent U.S. lack of will to live up to its democratic values.

Gustavo Coronel is a 28 years oil industry veteran, a member of the first board of directors (1975-1979) of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), author of several books. At the present Coronel is Petroleumworld associate editor and advisor on the opinion and editorial content of the site.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Witness say he was paid in Venezuela

Isaias Rodriguez is behind this case, he knew about the payment to Vasquez. He is guilty, and he has been using on his favor, the Venezuela Justice System.
vdebate reporter
The Boston Globe 10/04/2008

Witness says he was paid in Venezuela
By Ian James
Associated Press Writer / April 9, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela—A man once considered the star witness in the case of an assassinated prosecutor has recanted testimony that helped convict three men and implicated opponents of President Hugo Chavez.
Giovanny Vasquez said in an interview televised Wednesday that he believes the former attorney general, Isaias Rodriguez, was fooled by prosecutors working under him. Vasquez's lawyer, Morly Uzcategui, said Tuesday night that his client knows nothing about the case but testified against suspects after receiving $500,000 from a government official.
In Vasquez's interview, which was taped Tuesday and shown on the opposition-leaning channel Globovision, he said the former attorney general was apparently unaware. "I have good faith he didn't have anything to do with it," Vasquez was quoted as saying on Globovision's Web site.
Chavez responded Wednesday night, calling the allegations an attack on legal authorities "by the same ones who ordered the brave prosecutor Danilo Anderson killed."
"They attack the institutions," Chavez said, "taking up the investigation into the terrible murder again in a perverse way."
Rodriguez once called Vasquez his key witness in the 2004 murder. Anderson, who was killed in a car bombing, had been investigating the roles of government opponents in a failed 2002 coup against Chavez.
The former attorney general -- now an alternate judge for the Supreme Court -- said the case is being manipulated as part of a U.S.-backed media campaign against Chavez. According to the state-run Bolivarian News Agency, Rodriguez said he expects disinformation about the case will be part of a "script" with political aims.
Based in part on Vasquez's testimony, a judge convicted three former police officers in 2005 and sent them to prison. The men denied involvement.
Vasquez's testimony also was originally cited in cases against other suspects, including banker Nelson Mezerhane, retired Gen. Eugenio Anez Nunez, ex-police officer Fernando Jesus Moreno Palmar, Cuban-born Salvador Romani and journalist Patricia Poleo, a prominent Chavez critic.
In late 2006, authorities froze criminal proceedings against most of those suspects, citing a lack of evidence.
Vasquez presented his new testimony to prosecutors Tuesday. Uzcategui, his lawyer, was quoted by the newspaper El Universal as saying his client "provided evidence showing the (first) investigation... was a montage."
The Colombian-born witness went along with it "due to money issues and later due to pressures against him, his relatives and his life," Uzcategui said, according to El Universal. "They delivered $500,000 in cash to Vasquez for having lent his help for this."
The source of the alleged payment was unclear, though the lawyer said it came from a Justice Ministry official.
Vasquez said he has received threats, and his face was blurred to prevent easy identification in the interview, which Globovision said was taped by Somos, a smaller regional station.
In an earlier interview taped in 2006 and released this week, Vasquez mentioned the $500,000 payment, saying he later handed over $200,000 under an agreement with a prosecutor who was taken off the case.
He also said he was once flown to the Venezuela's La Orchila island by the military intelligence agency. His lawyer said Vasquez was there a month "to prepare him" for testifying.
Uzcategui said the 2006 interview was among evidence presented to prosecutors. It is unclear why it was not made public previously.
Associated Press writers Jorge Rueda and Christopher Toothaker contributed to this report

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

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".

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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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

There is no hiding the obvious

It is nothing new for the Chávez administration to attack and try to discredit nongovernment organizations. It knows that these spokesmen of civil society are independent and do not lend themselves to manipulation, particularly those that work to defend human rights.
In order to discredit these representatives of civil society and prevent them from taking action, they have resorted to every trick in the book, including arbitrary and unconstitutional interpretations of the law.
One such was the decision handed down by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice in 2000 in which Justice Jesús Eduardo Cabrera Infante determined that organizations that received financing from abroad did not form part of civil society. The purpose behind this decision was to restrict the participation of civil society in any sphere of national life. What is more, during these past seven years, this same decision has been used at the discretion of the powers that be and when it suits them to silence complaints about what is happening in Venezuela raised by different NGOs that work to defend citizens’ rights.
The NGO to come under attack today is Transparencia Venezuela, the Venezuelan chapter of Transparency International, a nonprofit organization of renown that seeks to prevent and reduce corruption in all parts of the world. Transparencia Venezuela had planned to submit a follow-up report to the OAS this week on compliance with the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (IACAC), under which it represents Venezuelan society.
At that meeting, at which the Venezuelan government would also be represented, the countries (government and civil society) are under the obligation to submit their respective reports on progress made in the fight against corruption.
However, the Venezuelan government, availing itself of the infamous decision of the TSJ mentioned earlier, is, once again, trying to prevent Transparencia Venezuela from submitting its report on corruption in the country. It fears, and quite rightly so, that the rampant corruption that is undermining the Bolivarian government will be exposed, yet again, for the world to see.
So, in a letter from Venezuela’s official representatives, signed by the General Accountability Office of the Republic and addressed to the Follow-up Mechanism of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (AICAC) follow-up mechanism, they claim that Transparencia Venezuela is not an organization of Venezuelan civil society because it receives funds from abroad.
The Head of the Accountability Office even chose to forget the fact that the AICAC follow-up mechanism had earlier recommended that this decision be eliminated, while requesting that steps be taken to ensure that there were no provisions in current legislation that restricted the participation of civil organizations in efforts to prevent corruption.
It may well be that the government will, once again, manage to prevent Transparencia Venezuela from submitting its report, thus violating the NGO’s right to take part in the AICAC follow-up mechanism and setting a worrisome precedent so that, in the future, the government and government agencies will have the power to select who may and who may not monitor them.
With all that, the Chávez administration will not be able to prevent the AICAC follow-up mechanism from receiving the different reports from Transparencia Venezuela or the findings from being made public.
In other words, however hard it tries, the government will not be able to hide the obvious, particularly the widespread corruption plaguing its revolution.

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