According to the Hinterlaces polls company, if the constitutional amendment referendum were held this week, 61% of the population would vote against the proposal with 32% in favor. Company president, Oscar Schemel points out that the majority rejection scenario is fluid and President Chavez directing this message correctly. Schemel argues that there is confusion among the so-called "neither-nor" and government sympathizers and that is where the President's message is being directed. The main reason for the rejection at the moment, the pollster suggests, is the fact that many believe the proposal has already been rejected at the constitutional reform package referendum in 2007. The 30 point difference could disappear, Schemel continues, if the President succeeds in getting his message across to many who abstained in the 2007 referendum, and whom he calls "autonomous" or "independent" Chavists. Another argument adding to the rejection is that many people think that Chavez will be in power forever and the first comparison that comes into their minds is Fidel Castro. In conclusion, Schemel is of the opinion that despite a majority rejection option at the moment, Chavez has a clear opportunity of winning the upcoming referendum.
President Chavez has once again attacked the Israeli army for its "cowardly attack" on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and calls on the Israeli people to convince its government to stop the current madness. The Israeli President, Chavez insists, should be taken to the International Criminal Court, along with the President of the United States. Venezuela's opposition also comes under attack for not expressing its rejection of what is happening to the Palestinians in Gaza. Venezuelans, Chavez comments, are trying to take me to the International Criminal Court but have shown a cowardly silence ... "they have no evidence against me nor will they have." The President has revealed that Venezuela is attempting to open an air bridge with the Palestinians and calls on the Venezuelan Jewish community to speak out against what is happening. The statement was made during a visit of the President to a children's heart hospital in Caracas.
President Chavez reports that in 1998 the number of children operated on for heart problems was almost 0%, while today 80% of children that need heart operations are being attended to. Chavez made a statement while visiting the children's cardiological hospital in Caracas. Commemorating the Catholic festival of Epiphany, or as it is known in Latin America, Three Kings (Wise Men) Day, President Chavez brought gifts to the children and their parents. Chavez recalls that current project kicked off in 2002 and because of the coup and the subsequent national stoppage by the opposition, the project could only be re-launched in 2004 and the hospital finally opened on August 20, 2006. Speaking to reporters, the President declares that the Venezuelan people should not lose the heart of a child because there is "nothing purer and nobler than dreams and hopes of a child." According to statistics, around 5,000 boys and girls are born with congenital heart problems and the hospital attends children between the ages of 0 to 18 years.
President Chavez comments that oil prices are starting to rise again, seeking stability and he says he believes that oil exporting countries will manage to stabilize prices and remain united. Venezuelan crude dipped to a low $32.14 on December 19 and last Friday, rose five dollars to $39.95 per barrel. However, the President did launch a challenge to members of the opposition in Venezuela, boasting that even if the price of oil fell to zero bolivares, Venezuela would not enter into an economic crisis because there is enough money to hold out, adding that the Revolution will not be stopped by a fall in oil prices.
According to United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) national directorate member, Aristobulo Isturiz, the government campaign in favor of the constitutional amendment proposal has entered its third and final stage, with the setting up of 200 committees in favor of the Yes vote. Campaign commands are being set up within the government social programs and the objective is to have the 200 committees actively engaged in convincing people to vote in favor of ending term-limits for the presidency. Isturiz has announced that on Friday there will be another signature election campaign supporting the amendment until January 13 and communal power, youth & student, and peasant fronts will be sworn in today,Thursday and Saturday respectively.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Nicholas Maduro has confirmed the government's decision to expel the Israeli Ambassador and to hold a mass rally in favor of the Palestine people living in the Gaza Strip. Maduro says he hopes that other countries will follow Venezuela's example of solidarity. The Foreign Minister has criticized the Israeli attack on a United Nations sponsored school in Gaza causing death and casualties, calling it an act of State terrorism. Commenting on the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador, Maduro points out that a minimum diplomatic representation from Israel will be allowed to remain in the country. The mass rally is expected to take place on Thursday at four o'clock.
Information & Communication (Minci) Minister, Jesse Chacon says his country's decision to expel the Israeli Ambassador is an act of sovereignty and solidarity with the people of Gaza, victim of a cruel massacre. All Venezuelans should unite around the government, whatever their political tendency, the Minister stresses, insisting that it is not a decision against the Jewish community in Venezuela. "Just as we criticize the Jewish Holocaust, we criticize the Palestinian Holocaust because Holocaust is Holocaust, whatever name you put on it." The Minister criticizes Israel for not allowing the Red Cross or humanitarian aid to flow freely into Gaza, adding that people have had enough of so many bombing and death.
More than 5,000 Venezuelans received free medical attention in Cuba in 2008. According to the coordinator of the integral medical cooperation agreement between Cuba and Venezuela, Pedro Llerena, the same number of citizens will receive special medical attention in 2009. In the last eight years, he states, 35,000 people have gone to Cuba either as patients or family members to receive medical aid. There have been 9,000 surgeries, of which 450 were cardiovascular operations undertaken in 45 medical institutions. At the moment, he reveals,there are 30,000 Cuban doctors, dentists and health technicians in Venezuela taking part in government programs.
Patrick J. O'Donoghue
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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