Venezuela News Summary #81

Venezuela New Summary #81 (April 23 - May, 2009)

I. Venezuela Expands Outlets for Denunciations of Violence Against Women
The Venezuelan Attorney General’s office announced a week and a half ago that
since the passage of the 2007 Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence, the number of denunciations of violence against women has tripled in Venezuela. The attorney general’s office says this is because women have become more aware of their rights and have more access to the courts. Since the passage of the 2007 law, the public prosecutors office has received more than 100,000 cases of violence across the country. Roughly half of which came from Caracas. Planning director of the National Women’s Institute, Norma Romero, said the large number in Caracas was due to a concentration of attention centers, and the fact that in the countryside it has been harder for them to help women empower themselves. Currently, there are 30 courts for violence against women in the country. President Hugo Chavez recently announced the full creation of a Ministry of Women’s Affairs, which formally came into effect in mid April. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4389

II. Peru Grants Political Asylum to Venezuelan Opposition Leader Wanted for Corruption
Last Monday, Peru’s Foreign Relations Ministry granted political asylum to leading Venezuelan opposition figure Manuel Rosales. Rosales is a former presidential candidate who is wanted in Venezuela for stealing public funds and accepting bribes during his term as governor of Zulia state. In response to the asylum approval, the Venezuelan Foreign Relations Ministry recalled its ambassador from Lima. In an official statement, the Ministry called Peru’s decision quote, “a mockery of international law, a hard hit for the struggle against corruption in Venezuela, and an offense to the Venezuelan people.” According to the Venezuelan Ministry, Venezuela had issued an arrest warrant and also presented all the necessary evidence in the case against Rosales to Interpol, which had subsequently issued a warrant for the international arrest of Rosales. Rosales skirted his court appointment in Caracas two weeks ago, when he was to face charges that he channeled nearly $70,000 into private bank accounts. He turned up in Lima, Peru, where he called democratically elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez a “coward” and a “dictator” during a press conference. The Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office and a special National Assembly commission began to investigate Rosales last October. Chávez had accused Rosales of corruption, facilitating the infiltration of Colombian paramilitary groups in Venezuela, and participating in the April 2002 military coup d’etat. Peru has previously granted asylum to several violent opposition leaders who were charged with crimes relating to their subversive political activity during the 2002 coup and the general oil industry strike that began later that year. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4403

III. Venezuela Issues Arrest Warrant for Ex-Governor Eduardo Manuitt
A state court in Guarico, Venezuela, issued an arrest warrant last week for the ex-Guarico state governor. Eduardo Manuitt is wanted for embezzlement and his whereabouts are unknown. Manuitt was governor of Gaurico from 1999 to 2008, and originally a member of the Pro-Chavez PPT party. He joined the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, but was later expelled for supporting the gubernatorial candidacy of his daughter, Lenny Manuitt, who broke from the PSUV ranks and ran on the PPT ticket after failing to be elected in the PSUV primaries. On mid December last year the public prosecutor accused Manuitt of irregularities in the purchase of 4 air conditioning units for hospitals in 1999 while he was governor. Manuitt told the press he was innocent and claimed the accusations were politically motivated. Embezzlement in Venezuela holds a sentence of 3-10 years in prison. Meanwhile, the public prosecutor’s office summoned ex-Caracas mayor, Juan Barreto, last week for alleged corruption while serving as Metropolitan Mayor from 2004 to 2008. Barreto is currently a PSUV legislator in the National Assembly and is said to have been one of the main promoters of President Hugo Chavez’s presidential candidacy in 1998. The investigations of Rosales, Manuitt and Barreto are the latest in a series of high profile political corruption cases in Venezuela. Earlier this month Chávez’s long-time ally and former defense minister, Raul Baduel, was temporarily detained for questioning about a hole in the Defense Ministry’s budget during his term as minister. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4397

IV. U.S.’s “Isolation” of Venezuela Has Not Worked, Says Clinton
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a week and a half ago that the U.S. policy of isolating Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez over the past eight years has failed. “Let’s see what else might be possible,” said Clinton during a four-hour hearing on foreign policy in the U.S. House of Representatives. Speaking of the failed policy, Clinton pointed to the fact that Chavez has increased diplomatic, economic and political ties with countries like Iran, Russia, and China, and that Venezuela has invested oil revenue in South Africa, a large part of Arab oil exporting countries, and the majority of Latin American and Caribbean countries. At last months’ Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago U.S. President Barack Obama shook hands and spoke cordially with Chávez. Clinton called Obama’s diplomatic openness to Chávez and the re-opening of diplomatic relations between the two countries a quote, “positive development.” http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4394

V. Venezuela’s Chávez Congratulates Ecuador’s Correa for Re-Election Victory

In a telephone call the last week in April, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez congratulated Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa for his “decisive and historic victory” in the April 26th presidential elections, in which just over half of Ecuadorians re-elected Correa to a second term. Chávez also said the process of electing a constituent assembly to re-write the Ecuadorian constitution last year strengthened the people’s faith in revolution through democratic means. Correa’s closest competitor in the multi-candidate presidential race, Lucio Gutiérrez, received less than a third of the votes. Correa said his victory shows large support for 21st Century Socialism at the national and regional level.” http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4400

VI. Venezuela and the Palestinian Authority Establish Diplomatic Relations
Last Monday, Venezuela and the Palestinian Authority established formal diplomatic relations and announced the opening of a Palestinian embassy in Caracas. Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister Nicolás Maduro and his Palestinian colleague Riyad Al-Malki met in Caracas and pledged their countries’ mutual solidarity. Al-Malki emphasized the importance of international support for Palestinian independence from Israeli occupation, and expressed his appreciation for Venezuela’s severance of diplomatic ties with Israel in January in protest against Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza. Al-Malki referred to President Hugo Chávez as a quote, “international symbol, and a decisive voice of the oppressed in the face of injustice and tyranny.” Both Maduro and Al-Malki mentioned the possibility of future economic investment accords between the two nations. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4407

VII. Venezuelan Oil Company to Reduce Executive Pay, Freeze Worker Salaries, and Maintain Investments
In Energy News, last Sunday, Rafael Ramírez, president of Venezuela’s state oil company, announced that PDVSA will reduce executive salaries by 20% and will not award bonuses or negotiate worker salary increases this year. He said the decisions were in order to maintain the company’s rate of investment and emerge solidly from the world economic crisis. According to Ramirez, the company will also prioritize the formation of mixed enterprises with international oil companies to exploit Venezuela’s vast crude reserves in the Orinoco Oil Belt. In order to maintain investments, Ramirez announced that a 40% reduction in company spending is necessary. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4401

VIII. Venezuela Opens National Art Gallery and Launches National Reading Plan
Last Weekend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez inaugurated the newly constructed headquarters of the National Art Gallery, launched a national Revolutionary Reading Plan, and commemorated the anniversary of the government’s Culture Mission, which promotes cultural programming in local communities. Chávez also met with Venezuelan artists and with Italian tenor Andrea Boticelli. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4402

IX. New Orinoco Bridge and Aluminum Company to Propel Socialism in Venezuela, Says Chávez
Meanwhile during the week, Chávez announced that his government will grant a $10 million loan to a new state-run “socialist” aluminum company, and will invest more than $10 million to finish the construction of a third bridge over the Orinoco River. The 11-kilometer bridge will connect the railways and highways of Guárico and Bolívar states, and is part of the government’s plan for “the integration of the country.” Nearly 2,000 workers will be hired to construct the bridge. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4409

X. Venezuela Proceeds with Plan to Sustain Growth and Social Spending in the Economic Crisis
The Venezuelan government increased the minimum wage by 10%, emitted more than $5 billion dollars in government bonds, and revamped its strategy to combat predatory price speculation. The moves are the latest in the Venezuelan government’s plan to maintain social investment and boost domestic productivity amidst the global economic downturn. In March, the government lowered its estimate of the average price of oil from $60 to $40 per barrel for the year 2009. To adjust to this change, the government reduced overall spending in its 2009 budget by 7%, and then hiked the sales tax by 30%, and passed a law to cut unnecessary spending in government institutions. To help maintain spending on social programs, the government plans to nearly triple its internal debt this year, to $16 billion. To control inflation, President Hugo Chávez called on his Council of Ministers on Wednesday to extend a freeze on rent prices and keep government-issued dollars out of the hands of price speculators. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4410