Venezuela News Summary #63

Venezuela News Summary, (Nov. 24- Dec. 2nd) Results of elections, Opposition backlash & Chavez Response

I. Venezuelan Political Leaders React Positively to Regional Election Results
Just over a week ago, members of Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela gained a bittersweet victory in Venezuela’s regional elections, winning governorships strongly in 17 of 22 states, but losing the country’s two most populous regions and the Capital District of Caracas. On the heels of the November 23rd vote, winning candidates of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, committed to strengthening socialism in their states. Opposition candidates emphasized security and said they want to work with the national government.  http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3984

II. United Socialist Party of Venezuela Wins 81% of Mayoral Offices in Elections
As well as winning over 75% of the governorships in Venezuela, PSUV candidates also won over 80% of the more than 300 mayor’s offices up for grabs in Venezuela’s local and regional elections. In a press conference the next morning, Chavez declared that this represents a steady increase since pro-Chávez candidates won just over 100 mayor’s offices in 2000, and just over 200 in 2004. The president also noted that the number of votes for PSUV candidates was 5 and a half million this year, which is 1.3 million more votes than the constitutional reform proposal received last year. In all five states where opposition candidates were elected to the governor’s offices – Carabobo, Miranda, Nueva Esparta, Táchira, and Zulia, PSUV candidates won control of the majority of the municipal governments. Chávez said that the local elections showed that Venezuelans want a “deepening of the revolution,” and that the PSUV is the most potent political force among the nearly 300 political parties that ran candidates nation-wide. Chávez also commented on U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama. He said he hopes Obama “dedicates himself to solving the internal problems left by Bush.” He asked Obama to have respect for Venezuela and open a dialogue to quote “debate about the big issues: oil, the situation in Colombia, drug trafficking and others.”  http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3988

III. International Observers “Dazzled” by Venezuelan Electoral Process
A group of more than 130 international election observers praised the organization, fairness, and efficiency of the November 23rd regional and local elections in Venezuela. They gave constructive suggestions for how to reduce lines at polling booths in the future, and Joaquin Vives, an observer from Colombia’s National Electoral Council, applauded the well-audited electoral machinery, which he said makes the Venezuelan electoral process a quote, “pioneer in the world.” Vives also expressed admiration for the electoral spirit of the Venezuelan people. Another international observer, Greek Legislator Sofía Sakorafa, complimented the political independence of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council and the fact that it has its own law outlining its functions. The election observers came to Venezuela from 54 different countries across the globe. Venezuelan elections in past years have been verified as free and fair by the Organization of American States, the European Union and the US-based Carter Center.  http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/399

IV. Russia and Venezuela Sign Nuclear Energy Accord During Historic Presidential Visit
Russian President Dimitri Medvedev became the first Russian president ever to visit Venezuela. During his stay, Medvedev met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in which they moved further in various joint energy projects. They agreed to cooperate to stabilize the price of oil, and discussed the possibility of Russian participation in the alternative Latin American trade group, ALBA or Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. Consistent with statements last week that Venezuela plans to build a nuclear reactor with Russian assistance, Chávez and Medvedev signed a cooperation accord on Wednesday to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in Venezuela. The Russian-Venezuelan alliance has grown in recent years. Venezuela has spent 4 and a half billion dollars on Russian weapons and military equipment since 2005. The two nations have also signed accords to guarantee mutual investments in an array of industries including the automobile sector, and commercial flights between Moscow and Caracas. Along with the Medvedev visit, A Russian naval fleet also arrived last week in Venezuela to carry out joint exercises with the Venezuelan navy. Venezuelan Navy Commander, Luis Márquez said there is no intention of firing artillery during the joint exercises with Russia. The naval cooperation comes six months after the United States Southern Command re-activated its Fourth Fleet to patrol Latin American waters. The Fourth Fleet had been inactive for half a century. Venezuela plans to build a new naval base on its island state, Nueva Esparta, for national defense and to combat drug trafficking.  http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3993

V. Venezuela Proposes New Regional Currency During ALBA Summit
In Caracas, in a speech last Wednesday, at the III Extraordinary Summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, ALBA, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez proposed the creation of a regional monetary bloc with its own currency to break the hegemony of the U.S. dollar and U.S.-dominated international financial institutions. According to Chavez, the currency would begin as a virtual compensation system, and later become a hard currency. The Venezuelan president declared that it would make Latin American countries less susceptible to the effects of the world financial crisis. Chávez suggested that the new currency be called the Sucre, in honor of Antonio José de Sucre, a South American independence hero. SUCRE in Spanish also stands for Unified Regional Compensation System. The ALBA is an alternative trade bloc to the U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas, and its members include Honduras, Nicaragua, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, Dominica, and Ecuador as an associate.  http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3994

VI. Venezuelan Trade Union Leaders Shot, Workers Call for Armed Self-Defence
Three trade unionists Richard Gallardo, Luis Hernández and Carlos Requena, were shot dead late Thursday night in Aragua state, Venezuela. The union leaders were members of Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela and leaders of the pro-revolutionary National Workers Union, or UNT. On Thursday evening they were gunned down by an armed assassin on a motorbike as they made their way home after participating in a labor dispute with the Colombian-owned Alpina food processing company. There is speculation that the attack was carried out by paramilitaries hired by the Colombian company, which is reported to have used paramilitaries in similar disputes in its home country. The attacks additionally resembled a method of assassination commonly used against unionists and social movement activists in Colombia, known as sicariato, whereby hired gunmen on motorbikes carry out drive-by shootings. However, the day before, the unionists had also been attacked by the Aragua state police aligned with outgoing opposition governor Didalco Bolivar. In a press conference on November 27 Hernández had condemned the brutally police repression of 400 workers at the Alpina plant. Hernández, Gallardo and Requena were known as, “Neverending fighters” for workers’ rights.” Workers are calling for an immediate and full investigation, and the Venezuela Attorney General’s Office says one is already on the way. National public prosecutor Orlando Villamizar and Aragua state prosecutor Elas Pérez, have been assigned to head up investigations. The incident highlights the growing class conflict that has erupted across Venezuela in the aftermath of the November 23 regional elections. Numerous reports have surfaced of Venezuela’s elite, US-backed opposition launching a campaign of violence and intimidation against trade unionists, grass roots community organisations and pro-revolution social movements, particularly in the areas where the opposition won.  http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3995

VII. Beneficiaries of Venezuelan Missions March Against Threats by Opposition Governor-Elect
Beneficiaries, teachers, adults, disabled people, students and workers came out on Friday to defend the social missions and programs of the national government in the face of threats to close them down by the new governor-elect of the state of Miranda, Henrique Capriles Radonski. The march, which wound through the Miranda state capital of Los Teques, was led by Mayor-Elect of Guaicaipuro Municipality Alirio Mendoza, who joined the people demanding respect for the spaces won by the revolution. Mendoza pointed out that Miranda is not only the metropolitan area, but also 15 municipalities and six seats in the Legislative Council that belong to the Bolivarian Revolution. Among those present was Miriam Castellanos, the Guaicaipuro municipal coordinator of the educational program, Misión Ribas. Castellanos condemned the violent closure of public spaces where students receive classes, which she said began just two days after the elections. During the march hundreds of people joined from across Miranda. Elena Istúriz, a spokesperson for the Cartanal communal council said that they would remain in the streets until the new governor understands that the missions belong to the people.  http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3997

VIII. Chávez Encourages Party to Propose Amendment for his Re-Election
Following the recent attacks on the social programs by opposition supporters, Chávez changed his position and encouraged the PSUV leadership to campaign for a constitutional change that would allow for his re-election. During a public ceremony for the swearing-in of the mayor of the city municipality of Caracas, he said quote, “I’m ready to be with you until 2019.” Currently the constitution allows for only two consecutive six-year terms in office, which means Chávez would have to leave in 2013 unless the constitution is changed. As he discussed the recent violence by the opposition against various social programs known as “missions,” he gave his support to the PSUV and to the Venezuelan people to start a national debate on the introduction of a constitutional amendment permitting the re-election of the president. One of the vice presidents of the party, Freddy Bernal, announced that the PSUV would try to make the proposal to change the constitution. For this the party will need to collect signatures from 15% of registered voters, or nearly 3 million signatures. This is less than half the votes it obtained in the recent regional elections. According to article 341 of the Venezuelan constitution, amendments can either be made via initiative from 15% of registered voters or from 30% of the members of the National Assembly, or from the President on the advice of his cabinet.  http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4003