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Audio: Weekly News Summary

Venezuela News Summary #68

  • Length: 6:48 minutes (6.23 MB)
  • Format: MP3 Stereo 44kHz 128Kbps (CBR)

I. Chavez Reflects on Past and Projects Future in End of Year Speech
In his end of year speech Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez highlighted the improvements in living standards, announced key projects 2009, and called for the continuation of the socialist project in Venezuela. Chavez delivered his end of year message from the Miraflores Palace in Caracas. Reading through the investment plan for the next five years, Chavez noted a range of projects to be invested in, including livestock technology, industry, electricity, education, telecommunications, wood, aluminum, fertilizers, food, transport, drinking water, and a national train carriage factory, among others. Among highligted plans for agricultural and fishing development. Chavez announced various improvements in the country over the last 10 years including decreased inequality, and a 50% drop in extreme poverty. Chavez said never in Venezuelan history, has the country experienced such extraordinary change. Chavez showed a video of the launch of the new Bolivar Satellite. On January 10, China handed the satellite over to Venezuela- the country's first satellite. Chavez said that over the next ten years he hoped Venezuela would become a power in moral, social, popular, economic, industrial, energy, agricultural, petrochemical, defense, and development terms.

II. Chávez Proposes Constitutional Amendment Include Governors and Mayors
The first week in January, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for the proposed amendment to the constitution to eliminate presidential term limits to be extended to include other elected positions such as mayors, governors and legislators. Chavez made the comment at a meeting of the "Simon Bolivar Campaign", the national campaign in favor of the amendment.

He said that the change would mark a break with the old democracy. Chavez emphasized that re-election would have to depend on the positive governance of each governor. He said that the proposal is an extension of the right of the people to elect and nominate who they want without restrictions. Chavez announced that a new phase of signature collection and debate around the amendment would start on January 9 and will last until this Thursday with the presentation of the amendment proposal to the National Electoral Council. In mid December, a majority of the national assembly approved the amendment of article 230 to allow for continuous re-election of the president, in the first reading. The second reading will began last week.

Meanwhile, more than two polls publicized the first weekend in January, showed majority support for the amendment. In polls by both Panorama and the National Institute of Data Analysis more than 50% of those surveyed said they would vote for the elimination of presidential term limits.

III. Venezuelan Opposition Attacks Chavistas during Governor’s Swearing in Ceremony
Last week, more than 40 United Socialist Party supporters were injured by members of the opposition during the swearing in of the newly elected governor of Tachira state, Cesar Perez Vivas. Vivas, who was also the general secretary of one of the the traditional opposition party- COPEI, won the state governorship in November regional elections. Various supporters and a range of opposition governors attended his swearing in ceremony, which took place in the main plaza of the state capital. According to national assembly member, Iris Varela, immediately after the ceremony, the opposition group beat up people identified as pro-Chavez. The outgoing governor, Ronaldo Blanco was escorted by the National Guard to his vehicle, to protect him from attacks. One woman was stripped of her t-shirt which had a pro-amendment slogan on it, and the opposition members tried to undress 10 other female Barrio Adentro health mission workers. The opposition members also threw large rocks, homemade explosives and other blunt objects. Various legislators received bruises, and other injuries. Six vehicles were also damaged. The general secretary of the new state government has rejected the denunciations that were made, but blamed the skirmishes on quote, "provocation" by the outgoing governor and the legislators by coming dressed in red with their insignias of Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV. PSUV Vice-President, Freddy Bernal, said the events last Wednesday are indicative of the character of the government of Cesar Perez Viva.

IV. Venezuela Expels Israeli Ambassador in Solidarity with Palestinian People
Last week, Venezuela expressed it's solidarity with the Palestinian people in the wake of recent attacks by the Israeli government on Gaza. In response to the Israel agression, the South American country expelled the Israeli ambassador to Venezuela, Shlomo Cohen. Venezuela is also organizing humanitarian aid, and has called on the international community to protest. In response, Israel called Venezuela a terrorist state. Meanwhile Chavez has demanded that Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Omert, be taken to the International Criminal Court for his aggression against Gaza and the more than 500 civilian deaths. The Venezuelan president called on the Israeli people to rise up against their government and condemned the prohibition against water, food, and the International Red Cross entering the Gaza strip. Israel responded be expelling the Venezuelan charge d’affaires, based in Tel Aviv. Last week, the Venezuelan National Assembly held a minute of silence for the victims of the Israeli invasion of the Gaza strip. The Palestinian flag will be raised in the National Assembly for one month as a gesture of solidarity.

VI. Venezuelans Protest Israel's Attack and Send Aid to Gaza
Meanwhile Venezuelans protested across the country last week in solidarity with the Palestinians. An estimated 5,000 people attended a protest in Caracas, calling for a boycott of Israeli products, an embargo on sending Venezuelan oil to Israel, and for the suspension of education, cultural and other agreements that it has with Israel until the invasion of Gaza ends.

A second larger march was organized by the PSUV, and took place that afternoon. More than 60 Venezuelan ambassadors participated, who were in Caracas for a foreign ministry meeting. Foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro announced that Venezuela will deliver 80 tons of medicine, food and water to Gaza. Thirty Venezuelan doctors and the Simon Bolivar Humanitarian Workforce will also be sent to the region in solidarity.

V. Venezuela and Citgo Assure Continuity of U.S. Heating Oil program
Contradicting recent reports about the program's discontinuation, the U.S.-based, Venezuelan-owned CITGO Petroleum Corporation confirmed the continuation of its U.S. heating oil program. CITGO CEO Alejandro Granado made the announcement during a press conference last week with Citizens Energy Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy II. Because of the falling price of crude oil over the last several months, CITGO had been forced to evaluate all its social programs, including the heating initiative. Last year, the heating oil program provided 200,000 households in more than 20 states across the U.S. with fuel, including over 65 Native American tribes and large low-income housing cooperatives in New York City. CITGO funds also provided heating grants to over 200 homeless shelters in more than a dozen states. The 2008-2009 heating season marks the fourth year of CITGO's donations.

***Income-eligible households interested in getting up to 100 free gallons of heating oil can call the toll-free hotline number 1-877-JOE-4-OIL to apply for the assistance, starting on Jan. 19. Citizens Energy will send out authorization letters to approved households, who can then contact their local dealer to arrange deliveries.***