Venezuela News Summary #68

Venezuela News Summary #68 (Dec. 31 - Jan. 11, 2009)

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. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4075

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

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. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4082

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. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4096

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. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4089

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. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4095

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. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4090

***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