Saturday, May 31, 2008
Basic Industries & Mines (Mibam) Minister Rodolfo Sanz interviewed by Globovision on April 15, 2008 regarding the take-over of Hecla's gold mining interests in El Callao, southeastern Bolivar State, says "we are going to intervene in the (gold mining) sector ... I have instructions from President Chavez to undertake a revision of some concessions."
Nine new jails are to be built this year, according to Interior and Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin. Time was when one of his predecessors, Jesse Chacón, put the number at two. As it turns out, most of the projects will consist of additions to existing prisons including the Coro, Yare and El Rodeo complexes.
Investigators working on the murder of Prosecutor Carlos Lugo in Falcon state reckon the killer was a former officer with the state police hired under a "hit contract" for persons yet unknown. Scientific and investigative police (Cicpc) chief Marco Chavez claims the case is "80 percent" solved.
Neighbors in Carmen, a slum in far from salubrious Antimano, southwest Caracas, are up in arms claiming the authorities failed to stop waste water from flooding their homes. They say neither the Metropolitan Mayor's Office nor its Infrastructure Ministry even answered their pleas for help.
Pressure is building to shut down the city morgue at Bello Monte because it's no longer in a condition to handle all the bodies that turn up and the refrigeration's on the blink. Noses were held as officials from the National Guard (GN), fire brigade, prosecutors' office and health agencies inspected the morgue earlier this week.
Two very elderly ladies are living a lonely life on the eleventh floor of a tower block in El Recreo. Candelaria Mantill, who's chalked up a century, and her neighbor, Ana Flores, a relatively youthful 90, haven't been able to get out for over a year because none of the lifts are working.
United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Francisco Arias Milla says Venezuela is NOT under threat of crisis in food supply
Milla pointed to the low cost of producing fertilizers and transporting products, both of them direct benefits of the country's wealth in oil. However, he emphasized that the country's relatively comfortable position was by no means certain.
Measures should be introduced to avert a crisis similar to that seen in countries in Africa, Asia and elsewhere in Latin America, he warned. In particular, he pointed to what was happening in the outside world. Corn was the most important cereal in terms of what people in Venezuela consume, Milla continued. But, he noted, corn was also being used to produce ethanol as a substitute for gasoline and other oil products in energy-short economies, above all the United States, the biggest energy market in the world.
"The Agriculture and Land Ministry has initiated a program to augment the production of corn and the supply of white corn," Milla said. "It's vulnerable but it's not a problem at present," he added, taking note of some of measures taken by the government such as the formation of social organizations aimed at ensuring that people had access to food supplies.
Milla then turned to what the people were actually eating, and he was upbeat on this note, too. Venezuelans in the main eat corn, dairy products, meat and beans. These foodstuffs met the people's needs in terms of energy and protein, including the most vulnerable sectors of the population, he added. As to minerals intake, he argued that the threefold increase in the world price of phosphate didn't signify a problem for Venezuela, either, because the country fortunately had sufficient domestic output to meet demand.
Devaluation absolutely denied: Planning & Development minister sees no slowdown in economy after BCV figures
Devaluation is a long-accepted recipe that's doled out when economies are deemed to be slowing down.
The problem with this is that devaluation can also fuel inflation since it boosts the local currency cost of imports -- and imports into Venezuela are steadily rising, not least to meet gaps in food supply. El Troudi's statements were the first detailed response from the government to the findings of the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV) on the economy's performance during the first quarter of this year.
The report prompted pause for thought by revealing a slowdown in the rapid growth that had sparked warnings that the economy was in danger of over-heating. The upshot of this was that the economy might spiral into inflation and crash into the buffers.
Orthodox economists say most of the basics are there with one glaring exception -- the government's inability to throttle inflation. Inflation flattened last year's official target of 11 percent by hitting 22.5 percent -- and El Troudi's revised 2008 target of 19.5 percent is already deemed to be in danger. Consumer prices rose at an annual rate of almost 30 percent during the first four months of this year.
Skeptics suggest the figure would have been higher had it not been for the BCV tinkering with how it calculates the official index.
It was not just with devaluation that El Troudi was in denial. The BCV's estimate of 4.8 percent first quarter growth compared with 8.8 percent in the same period a year before was not a sign of deceleration in the economy, he claimed. Instead, he insisted that the figures showed that gross domestic product (GDP) had been in ascent for 18 quarters running. "The Venezuelan economy is well on the road of growth and development," he said.
Even economists critical of the government concede the economy still seems to be doing well. "At the end of the day, 4.8 percent GDP growth would be considered very good going anywhere else," said one analyst off the record. "The question is what happens next quarter and the one after that ... then we'll know whether the economy is heading back into recession, although there's no real reason why it should."
El Troudi has forecast GDP growth at between six and eight percent this year.
Opposition trying to stir up turmoil, encourage Chavez' assassination, look for pro-coup military and generate lack of supplies
Addressing candidates of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) on Thursday, Chavez alerted the opposition "is trying to stir up turmoil, encourage his assassination, look for pro-coup military, and generate lack of supplies."
- Over 600 posts for governors, mayors, and regional deputies are at stake in the November 23 vote, and the president believes it is actually a tactical event with strategic impact for the country.
State Prosecutors Office calls Giovanny Vasquezas as 'imputado' in Danilo Anderson 2004 murder investigation
- Also summonsed were former judge Gumer Quinata and former prosecutor Gilberto Landaeta.
Anderson was killed by a car bomb in November 2004, as he was investigating about 400 people allegedly linked to the April 2002 crisis
which briefly ousted President Hugo Chavez from power.
Rosales' Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT) accused of rushing the fences by naming contenders for November regional elections
Talk is that while Lopez secured widespread opposition backing for this from the mainstream opposition including UNT, he and Rosales may not be keeping political company for much longer.
The problem is who follows Lopez in comfortable Chacao, arguably the cream of mayor's jobs in the country. UNT plumped for Lilian Hernandez without much ado, but not to Lopez' liking. He's backing Emilio Grateron, who's sworn to run on his own if UNT doesn't desist. There are whispers about Lopez moving across to Primero Justicia, to which he belonged before UNT.
Whether Primero Justicia, which has its own candidate for Chacao, Sonny Rosenthal, would welcome Lopez back is an open question. Local opposition activists mutter Lopez should put Chacao behind him and get on with pitching for the capital job.
Less controversially, MAS put its weight behind former Miranda State Governor Enrique Mendoza in his bid to try for his old job. Once from the Social Christian party, Copei, he's backed by UNT, too.
President Chavez says he would have liked to meet rebel leader Marulanda; hope death of FARC leader will lead to dialogue
The President said he would have liked to talk with Marulanda about a proposed swap of rebel-held hostages for imprisoned guerrillas. He hoped that "dialogue, conversations, are reactivated in this new situation created by Manuel Marulanda's death.
Chavez expressed his willingness to cooperate with Colombia and try to help free more hostages. The rebels have an ideological affinity for Chavez and freed six hostages to Venezuelan officials earlier this year. But relations between Venezuela and Colombia have grown tense in recent months due to a Colombian military strike on the rebel group in Ecuadorean territory and Colombia's accusations that Chávez has sought to arm and fund the guerrillas.
Chavez insists he has not been aiding the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and has been in contact only while seeking to broker hostage releases. That said, Chávez has long been under suspicion of sympathizing with the FARC. That relations between Chavez and Colombian president Alvaro Uribe are prickly is a secret to no one. Uribe's a conservative with free market instincts and Washington's closest ally in South America, none of which is in the least to Chavez' liking.
Uribe is in an alliance with the United States in his battle against drug trafficking. The FARC and other guerrilla groups are believed to be using the drug trade and common crimes such as kidnapping and extortion to finance their operations. For his part, Chávez has labeled the FARC as a legitimate "belligerent" in a civil conflict.
Skepticism about Chavez' links with the FARC was heightened by Colombian claims to have found files in a computer that supposedly belonged to the FARC's "foreign minister" and second in command, Raul Reyes, when he was killed on March 1. Whether the tapes actually demonstrate sustained links between Chavez and the FARC, as some of the President's opposers have claimed, remains a matter of debate. So, too, does the authenticity of the files and the claims made about their content. Marulanda's death of a heart attack in March was confirmed by senior rebel leader Timoleon Jimenez in a video broadcast last Sunday. Marulanda was believed to be 78.
With this new Beta edition release, Nokia makes available to some Nokia phone users with GPS capabilities novel tools like that of "Drive", a high-quality navigation system meant for vehicles hitting the road, and a Nokia-assisted GPS orientation indicator.
Nokia Maps 2.0 also comes with "Walk", a pedestrian-dedicated component that accurately takes them from one spot to another helped by visual instructions given step by step. Among other highlights, it offers satellite and hybrid-type maps that blend in satellite and normal views of the main cities on the planet. These images display detailed views where specific avenues, streets and buildings around you can be easily spotted. Plus, switching between traditional, hybrid and satellite maps can be done in a jiffy.
On top of the Nokia Maps rollout, the company also introduced two new handsets: The Nokia N82 Black and Nokia N95 8GB. The first is a 5 mega-pixel cam, xenon flash-equipped phone with GPS, WiFi and HSDPA functionalities, while the latter is an enhanced version of the best-selling Nokia N95. Among the improvements, it highlights an onboard memory of 8 GB, a 2.8-inch display and an innovative rotating-action 3D user interface. Up until now, Nokia Maps relyon maps of over 200 countries, out of which more than 70 are fully navigable.
With the economy improving and living standards rising -- for which, in this context, read prosperous upper income people buying another new four-wheel drive status symbol and going for a gas-guzzling ride -- demand for gasoline is on the rise, too. Fuel oil is mainly used for electricity generation or industrial purposes, and additives enhance the quality of gasoline.
The Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV) says the value of imports of the three petroleum products all but doubled during the first quarter of this year compared with the same period in 2007.
The cost of importing these products jumped 98 percent to $1.595 billion in the first quarter, while the increase in the volume of shipments was more modest. Such is the reality of relaying on imports in the midst of booming world oil prices. A year before, first quarter imports of these products cost $802 million. By the final quarter of last year, the three-month bill had reached $1.3 billion.
The BCV attributed the increase to rising demand in an improving economy ... but it was also noted that until an unexpected increase of 3.3 percent in the first quarter of this year, domestic oil output had dropped during four consecutive quarters.
While production rates rose in the first quarter, crude oil exports fell by 2.1 percent on a year before to 2.79 million barrels a day (b/d). This implied there was an extra 162,000 b/d to fill in gaps in the domestic market, but this obviously wasn't sufficient to cope with rising consumption. The central bank dryly commented that a 20 percent rise in overall imports in the first quarter wasn't solely due to shipping in key food items such as milk, meat, fish and cooking oil.
Signing the constituent treaty were Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina; Evo Morales of Bolivia; Lula da Silva of Brazil; Michelle Bachelet of Chile; Alvaro Uribe from Colombia; Rafael Correa of Ecuador; Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana; Nicanor Duarte Frutos of Paraguay; Alan Garcia from Peru; Ronald Venetiaan of Suriname; and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Vice-President Rodolfo Nin Novoa signed for Uruguay.
The special summit was originally scheduled for Colombia in March, but had to be postponed in the light of the Colombian cross-border raid on Ecuadorian territory on March 1, which killed a top guerrilla leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and 26 other persons.
Accession to the treaty is, according to the preamble of the document, "a decisive step towards the strengthening of multilateralism and the rule of law in international relations to achieve a diversified, balanced and fair world."
The draft of the treaty was finalised at meetings of the UNASUR Council of Delegates in Cartagena (Colombia), Rio de Janeiro and Caracas earlier this year. It defines the organisation's administrative bodies as the Council of Heads of State and Government (the highest organ) to convene annually; the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs to meet twice a year; the Council of Delegates, (representatives of ambassadorial rank, to meet more frequently throughout the year); a rotating presidency; and a general secretariat manned by international civil servants drawn from the member nations, and headed by a Secretary-General elected for not more than two biennial terms. The official working languages of the body will be Dutch, English, Portuguese and Spanish.
The document also stipulates the setting up of a South American parliament based in Cochabamba, Bolivia, but a special protocol will have to be promulgated to enable its establishment.
The constituent treaty, which will come into force after it is ratified by nine states, emphasises the general objective of UNASUR as "building, in a participative and consensual manner, an integration and union process among its peoples in the cultural, social, economic and political dimensions, prioritising political dialogue, social policies, education, energy, infrastructure, financing and the environment, among others, with a view of eliminating socio-economic inequality, to achieving social inclusion and citizen participation, to strengthening democracy, and reducing the asymmetries in the background of strengthening the sovereignty of States."
But since all the member states may not be ready to accede to all the commitments of the Union immediately, the treaty gives consideration to the principle of "gradualism", proposed by Suriname and Guyana, among others, during the negotiations. Thus, the preamble specifies that since South American integration is "flexible and gradual in its implementation . . . . each State may assume the commitments according to their reality."
The treaty also notes that after the fifth year of its entry into force, other Latin American and Caribbean states can apply to be admitted as Associated States of UNASUR.
The genesis of UNASUR goes back to December 2004 when the 12 South American Presidents met in Cuzco, Peru, to establish the South American Community of Nations. But even before Cuzco, the Presidents held summits (from 2000) and set up various mechanisms aimed at continental integration. One significant mechanism is the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA) which has already formulated an ambitious project list to boost infrastructural integration throughout the continent.
Then in April 2007, at the South American Energy Summit held in Margarita, Venezuela, the leaders decided to change the Community's name to the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and to establish a general secretariat based in Ecuador. Rodrigo Borja, a former Ecuadorian president, was also named as the first Secretary General.
The organization's institutional framework expanded in 2007 with the setting up of the South American Energy Council and a major financial mechanism, the Banco del Sur (Bank of the South), even though the latter is still not yet fully on-stream.
But the momentum suffered a setback with the resignation on the eve of the special summit of Rodrigo Borja, the appointed secretary-general. Media reports claimed he had earlier complained that some leaders did not support his vision of putting other regional trade blocs, including Mercosur and the Andean Community, under the UNASUR umbrella. But his resignation might have resulted because the constituent treaty did not provide the post with as much autonomy and power as he wanted. In addition, he was unhappy with the "gradualistic" approach to the integration process as stipulated in the treaty.
UNASUR brings together the 12 nations with a joint population of about 390 million and an annual GDP nearing 2 trillion dollars. The continent's intra-regional trade amounted to more than US$72 billion in 2006, while its economy grew by 5.7 percent in 2007, mainly due to foreign direct investment which reached a record US$106 billion. And according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the bloc's economy will grow a further 4.7 percent this year.
After the signing ceremony, Chile took over the pro-tempore presidency of UNASUR from Bolivia, since first-choice Colombia, citing differences with Ecuador and Venezuela, refused the position.
In assuming the position, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet was firm on the unifying role of the organisation. "We want to show that Latin America is capable of speaking with a firm and strong voice and of building effective integration," she said during the discussions.
She stressed the importance of concrete integration measures, especially in infrastructure, and reaffirmed the commitment of Presidents Lula da Silva and Morales to complete by the end of 2009 the highway linking the Brazilian port of Santos on the Atlantic with Arica and Iquique on the Pacific coast of northern Chile after crossing Bolivia.Bachelet added that UNASUR must quickly embark into social programmes for poverty reduction which could see the enhancement of financial and energy integration, the improvement of regional infrastructure, and cooperation in social policies, especially in the area of education.
Another matter discussed at the special summit was the Brazilian proposal for a South American Defence Council aimed at resolving conflicts and promoting military cooperation. While the proposal won wide support from the others, Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe expressed his opposition and emphasised his trust on the existing OAS defence mechanism. He said the "terrorist threat" facing his country did not allow for military cooperation at present, and explained that his opposition to such a Defence Council was due to the resistance of some South American countries to define the leftist FARC as a terrorist organisation.
Nevertheless, a Colombian government statement shortly after declared that "Colombia does not oppose the creation of a working group to study the theme." The meeting subsequently established a commission to examine the proposal and to issue a report within three months.
The current tensions among some South American nations pose the main challenge for UNASUR. Ideological differences exist: on the one hand, there is the strong left leaning pro-socialist group comprising Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and, to a lesser extent, Brazil and Argentina. On the other hand, Colombia is closely allied to the United States. In between, there are Chile, Guyana, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay and Suriname. There are also long-existing border issues, but political optimists see these being pushed on the back burner with the advance of political and economic integration, which can also act to ease future political tensions.
In addition, quarrels between Ecuador and Colombia and Venezuela and Colombia continue to bubble over despite the peace agreement reached during the Rio Group summit in the Dominican Republic earlier this year. In an effort to ease the diplomatic tensions, Lula met with Uribe, Chavez and Correa before the summit commenced to help resolve their differences.
But right now, its immediate task is to find a new secretary-general to manage the day-to-day affairs of the Union. President Bachelet will be consulting on this matter with her South American colleagues over the next three months, and at the end of this period it is expected they will reach agreement on a likely candidate for this position.
On the economic front, UNASUR will be faced with the challenge of attempting to unite two large existing regional free trade schemes, Mercosur and the Andean Community, and at the same time integrate Chile, Guyana and Suriname in this process.
(The writer is the Ambassador of Guyana to Venezuela. The views expressed are solely those of the writer.)
Friday, May 30, 2008
In a meeting to review political consultation mechanisms, Cuba and Venezuela have agreed to continue strengthening strategic bilateral agreements. According to Cuban Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque, the mechanism has become an efficient reference point for strengthening and deepening bilateral strategic relations. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro has called the mechanism used "useful" and "relevant" as a means of synchronizing answers to intense situations that crop up at any moment. Both sides agree that the relation the two countries enjoy goes beyond a simple context of international policy and has turned into a historic and strategic brotherhood.
State VTV Channel director, Yuri Pimentel is once again the centre of controversy after implementing and retracting a measure to make private media sources pay for transmitting VTV news items. The majority of media sources in Venezuela have reacted angrily to the price proposal and the measure has forced the resignation of Pimentel's mentor, Communication & Information (Minci) Minister, Andres Izarra. The reason given for the resignation is that the measure had been taken and approved without the approbation of President Chavez. Yesterday, Pimentel, who got himself in a mess as deputy minister of prisons last year, has announced that the measure was being dropped. At a press conference, lame duck Pimentel maintains that VTV ratifies its "commitment to truthful and opportune information" and calls on all other media sources to "make responsible and legal use of the signal which belong to all Venezuelans," namely VTV.
The resignation of Minci Minister Izarra has shook public opinion inside and outside the Bolivarian movement since he has been considered an effective and efficient Minister. The general opinion as of yesterday evening is that there is more in the resignation than what meets the eye. Opposition sources, such as Nelson Bocaranda allege that he is taking the rap for mistakes made by President Chavez, especially regarding recent international gaffes with Germany and Chile and for reactions to the situation in Colombia. Left-wing sources in the government suggest that ambivalence shown by the government to the death of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader, Manuel Marulanda and its dilly-dallying with Colombia's Alvaro Uribe has damaged its standing. Other observers, such as editor/publisher Miguel Salazar, claim that Pimentel landed the Minister in a quagmire.
The government is not the only side that has encountered difficulties in deciding on pre-candidates to the regional elections in November. Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT) and Zulia State Governor, Manuel Rosales has accused some opposition leaders of breaking ranks and meeting with the government. Rosales also says he has proof that they are receiving financing from the government. The declaration comes after strong rumors of divisions between the two leading opposition parties, UNT and Primero Justicia (PJ), especially regarding the unitary candidate for Maracaibo Mayor.
Rosales criticized the VTV director, Yuri Pimentel's attempt to make private TV channels pay 432,000 bolivares an hour to transmit from the State Channel signal. The idea, he says, was to prevent private channels from showing the government's political events but he welcomes the resignation of Andres Izarra, quipping that at least someone the government has a bit of dignity.
President Chavez has offered a first statement on the death of FARC leader, Manuel Marulanda, stating that nobody should show happiness about the death of another person. Speaking at a United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) meeting in Puerto La Cruz, the President laments the fact that he was not able to meet Marulanda personally to talk about peace, the humanitarian agreement but says he hopes that the new situation generated by Marulanda's death will reactivate dialogue, conversations and that both the government and the guerrillas will reconsider their positions. The Venezuelan government for its part, the President insists, is ready to take up negotiations to secure a humanitarian agreement and cooperate in any agreement that leads to peace in Colombia.
Chavez rejects insistent speculations regarding the location where the video issued by the FARC and officially announcing the death of Marulanda was shot. Chavez points out that the same tactic has been employed by Colombia to hammer its version about the content of supposed computers belonging to Raul Reyes. "They're inventing anything and repeat it so many times that many people end up believing that Chavez sent Marulanda $300 million and I don't know how many rifles and uniforms and that here in Venezuela we protect terrorism and guerrillas."
Patrick J. O'Donoghue
Venezuelan National System of Youth & Childrens Orchestras honored ... founder says challenged by prize
In his small office at the organization's headquarters in Caracas, Abreu spoke about the concept of the network of orchestras that he founded in 1975 so that other children could have "the same opportunity" he had had and which -- over the years -- has become a model known around the world. "The System (as the network of orchestras is known) has penetrated more and more sectors of society," he said, recalling that handicapped children have joined the network, as well as street kids in communities where poverty is at critical levels. "It serves as a horizon of hope, of happiness, of family integration."
"A school of social life, and also of community development, of community integration" is his definition of the System, which is made up of some 170 orchestras in which some 265,000 youths and children have participated. The access to artistic education contributes, Abreu said, to "the social and moral rescue" of the kids with the least resources and to preventing "art from being confined to the elites."
For the Venezuelan composer and economist, "the democratization of artistic education must constitute one of the urgent goals of the educational system in the world." In commenting on the Asturias Prize the System received last week, Abreu emphasized his "two feelings" on the matter.
The jubilation of the orchestras "in the face of that news that rewards their effort, the sacrifice of the children, the almost heroic denial of our teachers ... is a reward," he said. "But on the other hand, at the same time, for those of us who have responsibilities in leading the System ... it is a very serious responsibility, an additional burden. It's the responsibility every day of confirming and perfecting our effort," he said. "We can't slack off in our effort ... (or think that) a prize, no matter how great, can be the end of our road ... On the contrary, it puts us before a broader and challenging horizon," emphasized Abreu, who will go to the northern Spanish city of Oviedo in October to receive the prize from Crown Prince Felipe. "But not only ... will a delegation of the children, of the teachers go ... Everyone deserves to be there."
- A month ago, the System State Foundation signed an agreement with Spain's Albeniz Foundation to permit Venezuelan youths to have access to virtual classes with music teachers. Abreu called that agreement "momentous."
He defined himself as "a social worker with a profound faith in his art as an instrument to stimulate and promote human development in his country, a modest musician who contributes his portion of effort and work to that idea."
Abreu was born in 1939 in the western Venezuelan state of Trujillo. His mother was the daughter of Italian immigrants and his maternal grandfather was the director of a musical band who came from Italy at the end of the 19th Century. "He, along with other emigrant companions, founded a philharmonic band in Montecarmelo (Trujillo state) ... that was the first seed of this process. They had brought in the boat 46 musical instruments," he said.
Abreu added that "this vocation of my grandfather and this effort of so many years always inspired my vocation."
Fourteen traffic wardens robbed; 22 crimes of violence against women defined by law; Bad debts more than double at Venezuelan banks
The Supreme Justice Tribunal (TSJ) swore in judges to on new special courts that will try cases involving violence against women. No less than 22 such crimes are defined by law, but the trouble until now has been bringing cases to court and securing convictions, officials say.
Yaracuay Governor Carlos Gimenez can only be removed from his post if he is convicted of a crime in a court, according to Alberto Arteaga Sanchez, a lawyer and specialist in penal law. Similar arguments have been put forward on behalf of aspirant candidates included in Comptroller General Clodosbaldo Russian's controversial ban.
Bad debts more than doubled at Venezuelan banks, leaping by 109.46 percent to a little over Bs.Fs.1.73 billion in the year up to and including April, from Bs.Fs.827 million in the same period 12 months before, said the Banking Superintendent's Office (Sudeban). Growth in credit card use slowed slightly at the same time, but was still up 41.8 percent. Officials at the Light Industries and Commerce Ministry (Milco) say they're being "saturated" by requests for certificates of Venezuelan origin. This is a new requirement for exporting food under government efforts to prevent shortages.
Officials have declared 22 cultural institutions including the Teatro Teresa Carreño and the national dance and music companies as being of a "socialist" character. The measure is seen as part of the government's policy of ensuring greater "popular participation" in the arts. All together, now.
The first agreement sets out the terms of an interchange of technicians, producers and students. It also contemplates consultation mechanisms for evaluating the possibilities for investment in "mixed companies" formed by partners from both countries. The governments of Venezuelan and Portugal are particularly interested in joint deals in the energy sector.
- Portugal has scant energy resources of its own, but has considerable experience in developing and exploiting oil and natural resources around the world.
The meeting was headed by Brig. Gen. Bruno Pinget of France and the head of the Venezuelan chiefs of staff, Gen. Julio Ramon Fernandez. They visited military bases and discussed operational aspects in the Caribbean.
France still has a presence in the Caribbean, including the national territory of Martinique. (Please don't call it a colony if you want to be popular in Paris).
The territories are considered an integral part of the republic and are still ruled directly from the French capital.
Fernandez said regular contacts would allow Venezuela access to advanced military technology.
Venezuelan officers also received "high level" training in France, he added. The next meeting is scheduled to take place in Paris during the first half of next year.
Rumblings at the National Assembly (AN): government deputy and 60 colleagues worried about corruption
AN Deputy Luis Diaz said that "more than 60 parliamentarians will go out to combat corruption." He said he'd spoken to that number of fellow deputies about misuse of state funds -- and he claimed they'd all walk out of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) if things got worse. Diaz said he and his colleagues would take that "personal decision" because "we've reached the end" and all had crashed, in some cases, into fascism. He claimed many of the legislators he'd spoken with shared his thoughts about leaving the PSUV.
Recrimination was in the air in the wake of Wednesday's student march to the Assembly to hand in a list of demands.
AN first vice president Saul Ortega, who'd had formally to receive the document, complained there were deputies who'd promised student leaders to take up their points in the legislature. They would claim time for debate which would have to be met at all levels, starting with universities, he warned. "These deputies should bring these demands," he declared, "so that you know who they are."
The quite obvious target of this attack was deputy Ismael Garcia, head of Podemos, the social democratic party that's now in opposition. He had made a point of greeting the students and accompanied them as they left.
Out on the sidelines, Lina Ron, who tends to see herself as the very soul of chavismo - to the point of forming her own little party, Unidad Popular Venezolano, because she thought mainstream parties were letting the revolution down -- predicted lots of infighting in the contest to pick pro-Chavez candidates for the state and municipal elections scheduled for November 23. "Losers always shriek," she said with characteristic pith.
The bank figures demonstrate that petroleum imports reached US$1.5 billion (¤964 million) during the first quarter of 2008 _ their highest level for more than a decade _ and include diesel oil, gasoline and chemical additives to improve gasoline products. Economist Gustavo Garcia said Thursday that the growth in importations «demonstrates production has fallen. Venezuela's state oil company says they produced 3.15 million barrels per day last year. Analysts including the Paris-based International Energy Administration put Venezuela's production at around 2.4 million bpd.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The U.S. Embassy in Caracas said it had no knowledge of the arrest.
According to a Center of International Policy analyst on Colombia, the announcement of Manuel Marulanda's death was not official but came from a few chance answers Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos "tossed off" in an interview with Colombia's Semana magazine. The analyst claims that Santos received a rebuke from President Alvaro Uribe and suggests that it is no secret that Santos, who comes from Colombia's most prominent newspaper family, wants to be President in 2010. His unorthodox announcement of Marulanda's death must be viewed in that context.
The Colombian government, it would appear, is desperate to get hold of the body of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader, Manuel Marulanda as a major war trophy. Colombian army chief, General Mario Montoya says the government will pay a ransom to anybody who can tell them where the body has been buried. Engaging on a damage control exercise, Montoya claims that he was misinterpreted when the sum of $2.7 million was put forward. The army, the General points out, uses two forms of reward, the first for specific information, such as the location of an FARC leader or arms dump and the second, for information needed at a specific moment in time, in this case the recovery of the body of Marulanda. Payments in the first category range from $55 to 2.7 million and in the case of Marulanda, the amount is being studied. The government, he defends, is interested in finding out how the rebel chief died, whether it was from a heart attack, which he doubts, or whether it was from a government attack on his camp.
President Chavez has attended the ceremony in which new integral general medicine doctors have received their job positions. The act took place in the Teresa Carreno Theatre in Caracas. President Chavez has announced the opening of 203 new basic clinics throughout Venezuela. 960 integral medicine doctors and 2,000 nurses have joined the health program, which includes 2,700 primary attention clinics throughout the country. President Chavez says that the Barrio Adentro health scheme has 3,681 primary and second stage clinics in Venezuela.
Colombian Senator, Piedad Cordoba says she is certain that under the new FARC leadership the humanitarian agreement, which has been put on ice, will be taken up again with the freedom of more hostages. The Senator maintains that she knows the new FARC commander and comments that he has a serious political structure. Cordova forecasts a political and negotiated solution to the current civil war in Colombia. The Venezuelan government has reacted cautiously to news of FARC leader, Manuel Marulanda's death.
Patrick J. O'Donoghue
A new law has established the General Intelligence Office and the General Counterintelligence Office, both overseen by the Interior Ministry, plus similar military intelligence and counterintelligence components, Rodriguez Chacin told reporters. He did not say how they will differ from the current spy agencies or whether any top officials will be replaced. Rodriquez Chacin announced the change the previous night, saying the new agencies are meant to confront U.S. attempts to meddle in Venezuela's internal affairs.
Most people don't know that Crystallex has been operating without incident in Venezuela for 16 years.
Contrary to what has been reported, Crystallex has a plan in place to environmentally mine the area and build a new reservoir and eco-system that will benefit the area for years to come. The trees that were destroyed in the area have absolutely nothing to with Crystallex, in fact, there are no more trees in the areas where Crystallex will be mining ... and this was due to illegal activities as well.
Open-pit mining also known as open-cast mining and open-cut mining is a method of extracting rock or minerals from the earth by their removal from an open pit or borrow ... the procedure is used when rock or minerals are near the surface. Ortega de Carrizales is (or should be!) fully aware of this as her office, the Ministry the of Environment approved the EIS (Environmental Impact Study) in June, 2007.
Also, in June 2007, Crystallex posted bond, paid taxes and the government confirmed that ALL permit requirements fulfilled.
Certainly, Ortega de Carrizales wasn't sleeping during all this ... or was she?
- Ortega de Carrizales' throw-away statement of not allowing open-pit mining in at this juncture is INSANE.
Right now Ortega de Carrizales is probably in violation of the current law and she should resign immediately, face termination or at the very least retract her statement.
Something tells me she is too pompous and callous to do any of these...
Chavez ... it's YOUR legacy ... NOT Ms. Ortega de Carrizales'
The bigger picture is employment, ceasing degradation from illegal mining, new infrastructure and showing the world that Venezuela is a place when foreign investment is welcome.
Right now,Venezuela has extreme poverty 27% (first half of 2007), high inflation (approximately 22%) and unemployment rate of approximately 9%. Believe it or not, these numbers are an improvement from a few years ago.
My point here is that the entire Venezuelan economy is built on, and depends on oil revenues which at the present time are favorable!
What happens if there is a "collapse" or a "bust" in this market ... Venezuela would see a depression like never before.
Why wait? Show the world that you can invest in Venezuela! Make it a place where not only mining finds it attractive, but hundreds of other industries as well.
Something tells me Ortega de Carrizales is not looking at the bigger picture.
Venezuela is facing the most difficult period of its history with honest reporters crippled by sectarianism on top of rampant corruption within the administration and beyond, aided and abetted by criminal forces in the US and Spanish governments which cannot accept the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people to decide over their own future.
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Capricious personal decisions on environment and mining go against the economic and social development of Venezuela
Planning and Development Minister Haiman El-Troudi: Venezuela's economy needs investment from the private sector to keep expanding
Attorney General: Over 6,000 complaints of alleged extrajudicial executions carried out by the police between 2000 and 2007
AI recalls that President Hugo Chavez Frias began his third term in office January and that the National Assembly granted him the power to enact by decree for 18 months laws on matters such as public security and institutional reform, and that Venezuelans rejected controversial constitutional changes in a national referendum.
As regards political violence, Amnesty International claims that "authorities failed to take effective measures to halt the escalation of violence in the context of demonstrations promoted by supporters and opponents of the Government." Dozens of demonstrators, mainly students -- including those under 18 -- were arrested or wounded during demonstrations protesting the government's decision not to renew Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) public broadcast license last May (2007).
As regards public security, AI says that, according to the Attorney General, over 6,000 complaints of alleged extrajudicial executions carried out by the police had been filed between 2000 and 2007 and of 2,000 officers reportedly involved in these acts, fewer than 400 had been arrested by the end of that year.
- "The use of firearms to commit homicide and other violent crimes continued to be widespread, even in prisons," says AI presenting official figures which show between January and September 2007 there were 9,568 homicides ... 852 more than in the same period in the previous year."
Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) issues appeal to Venezuelans to take their "old bolivar" banknotes to the bank!
Seven coins and six banknotes make up the new "family" of strong bolivares currently in circulation. Their face value is precisely one thousandth that of "old bolivares" which will soon be withdrawn completely from circulation and no longer be used as legal tender.
The government has guaranteed to exchange "old" currencies in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 bolivar denominations even if they are damaged but have not lost their serial numbers or signatures of the issuing authorities.
Central Bank officials reccomend businesses and services to only issue change in the new "strong" denominations to allow for a progressive withdrawal of the old.
National Guard (GN) officers seize 277 kilograms of mercury used principally for the manufacture of cocaine and in illegal mining
Commanding officer, General Gabriel Oviedo said the mercury -- used principally for the manufacture of cocaine and in mining -- was transported in a vehicle owned by the as yet un-named detainee, who was stopped by the National Guard at a border control.
During preliminary investigation the detainee has admitted that he was heading for southeastern Bolivar State where the issue of environmental damage caused by contaminants like mercury in illegal mining is very high on the political agenda.
Venezuela is facing the most difficult period of its history with honest reporters crippled by sectarianism on top of rampant corruption within the administration and beyond, aided and abetted by criminal forces in the US and Spanish governments which cannot accept the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people to decide over their own future.
HELP US TO KEEP BRINGING YOU THE TRUTH
USA subversion by the White House provides economic financing, psychological manipulation and efforts to destabilize strategic sectors
Lina Ron has told a Caracas press conference that the plan includes attempts to manipulate and bribe senior military commanders, the go-slow operations, promoting candidates who are politically disqualified, and pressures on the National Electoral Council (CNE) ... already part of a plan orchestrated by opposition groups.
Although she has not yet named names, the UPV leader has denounced links to the privately-owned media which is already seeking to turn the June 1 primaries for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) into a fiasco.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Since the Gulf War, which I experienced first hand for about 5 months, I lost all respect for the US government, and since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, I have lost all but the minimal respect for Americans.
If they dare attack Iran, which is a healthy and peaceful country, I will lose all respect for all Americans and all people who in any avoidable fashion collaborate with Americans. Brits, Australians and Canadians (myself included) are on a similar list of despicable, ruthless, conscienceless people who elect psychopaths to rule their stolen countries, create their mindless jurisprudence-excused laws, multiply their soulless repressive policing forces and increase the number of paid murderers to be sent away to "weaker" countries to assassinate innocent men, women and children.
A recent article in The Asia Times, entitled, "Bush 'plans Iran air strike by August,'" states:
"NEW YORK - The George W Bush administration plans to launch an air strike against Iran within the next two months, an informed source tells Asia Times Online, echoing other reports that have surfaced in the media in the United States recently. Two key US senators briefed on the attack planned to go public with their opposition to the move, according to the source, but their projected New York Times op-ed piece has yet to appear. The source, a retired US career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community, speaking anonymously, said last week that the US plans an air strike against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The air strike would target the headquarters of the IRGC's elite Quds force. With an estimated strength of up to 90,000 fighters, the Quds' stated mission is to spread Iran's revolution of 1979 throughout the region."
Why would the USA attack Iran?
Iran is no threat to the USA, none whatsoever. All that garbage about Iran supporting or training "terrorists" is basically poppycock, it is manipulated information taken out of context and shoved at high pressure into the feeble minds of millions of Americans, Brits, Aussies, Canadians, and others, like most members of the violent, pro-USA, paranoid, anti-Chavez mid-to-upper classes in Venezuela and around the world ... those people who are members of the exploitive ruling classes who have no qualm about attacking and sacking a weaker peoples.
Even if Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon, what is the problem?
The USA has nuclear weapons, so does India, and so does Pakistan, where some of the most "dangerous" "terrorists" are purported to live, according to the US government.
They have nuclear weapons.
Why not attack Pakistan?
Why not attack Israel?
They also have nuclear weapons.
Why not France or the UK?
China? No, too big. France and the UK? Not worth it, they have no natural resources to plunder.
Why not attack China? They have some too.
Israel? No way! Friends in arms! How about North Korea? They have nuclear weapons. No, too far away and not enough stuff to plunder. No oil. That leaves Pakistan and India. Nah, Pakistan does not have massive oil reserves, neither does India ... but Iran does ... so the story is invented that Iran is developing nuclear weapons ... and promoting "terrorism."
The USA is doing everything to distort reality so that they can steal the largest oil reserves in the world (apart from Saudi Arabia).
Venezuela is probably on the list as well.
We already have inside information that Chavez is in the greatest danger he has been in since the short-lived US-financed cup against him in 2002. Things in Venezuela are getting hot ... but so are things in the USA.
I bet that most people who would support or say nothing against a US attack on Iran think that Iranians are Arabs. Wrong. Completely wrong. The vast majority of Iranians are not Arabs, they are descendents of the Aryans and they speak Persian (Farsi), the main official language of Iran.
Just this fact tells you how ignorance exists in parallel fashion.
The most ignorant people will believe the biggest lies ... and the US government knows that ... and that is why they make great efforts to keep their citizenry ignorant. The more ignorant Americans are (and believe me, compared to most people in the world, they are very ignorant), the more they can be manipulated, the more they will obey and the more they will allow themselves to be taken advantage of and abused by the liars, the murderers and the thieves who run the US government, their churches, their schools and their corporations.
If the USA attacks Iran, Americans will get the surprise of their lives ... simply because the entire world will be forced to react against further US criminality and genocide (Afghanistan and Iraq). The world's population will not allow more innocent-people-for-oil to be massacred, slaughtered and maimed by the USA.
A US attack on Iran will be the last straw.
The USA is so accustomed to embargoing other nations, usually completely innocent ones, such as Cuba ... but what will happen if the USA attacks Iran?
First, some of the countries supplying the USA with oil will stop oil supplies to the USA and sell the same oil at a discount to countries such as China and India. This will cause a massive economic catastrophe within the USA (with waves hitting countries such as Canada, Europe and Japan).
Then, the USA will be embargoed by a massive world people's movement (soon to be organized, I suspect) ... embargoes against Walmart, McDonald's, any fast-food or restaurant chain, all US manufacturers and commerce abroad, all US-owned mass-exploitation operations such as sweat-shops and cheap-labor farms ... and US-based religious, diplomatic, political and scientific missions abroad.
All Americans and their collaborators traveling or living abroad will be at great risk for their lives. This will not happen overnight, but it will happen ... the time it takes to create a highly organized worldwide movement against US interests and against US citizens. However, there will be more problems, closer to home. Mutiny.
If the captain and "officers" of our ship are leading us, the crew and passengers directly into the hands of imminent mortal danger, and if they are lying to us in the process, will we, as crew members and passengers permit them to go ahead?
Unfortunately, most of us will say nothing because we are too far brainwashed and repressed and scared to say anything ... so we will allow ourselves to be led into the hands of useless death.
However, a few of us will have the courage to stand up and say something, even at the risk of being slain or jailed or tortured by the captain and his "officers" ... and that is precisely what is happening now.
I suspect that as we speak, those who have the balls to say something are getting organized in quiet, to later speak out ... but not necessarily only with words ... and that will be the beginning of the "Great Fall of the USA - From the Inside" ... coming soon to a theater near you.
This is not a reality show ... this is reality.