Venezuela News Summary #95

Large Crowds Turn Out for 200-Year Independence Celebrations in Venezuela | ALBA Summit in Venezuela vows to fight Climate Change with System Change | Venezuela Celebrates ‘Day of the Bolivarian Militias, the Armed People and the April Revolution’ | China Offers Largest Credit to Venezuela | Russia and Venezuela Deepen Ties with Energy, Military Deals | Venezuela and Uruguay Trade Oil for Food, Promote Latin American Integration | Venezuela Criticizes Bias in Inter-American Human Rights Commission Annual Report | Eight Colombians Arrested on Suspicion of Spying in Venezuela | Venezuela Coming Out of Electricity Crisis | Two More Minister Changes in Venezuela | Venezuelans Eat More and Are Better Nourished than Ten Years Ago | Analysis article excerpt: Fighting Corruption or Persecuting Political Opponents in Venezuela? A Response to the New York Times

I. Large Crowds Turn Out for 200-Year Independence Celebrations in Venezuela

This month, Venezuela celebrated its bicentennial independence celebration. On April 19 in a massive show of support for the Bolivarian revolution, roughly a million supporters turned out to watch the bicentennial Independence Day civic-military parade, in Caracas. The parade marked 200 years since the overthrow of the Spanish colonial authorities, the founding of the First Venezuelan Republic and the establishment of the country’s first independent government. A little over a year later, On July 5, 1811 Venezuela’s congress declared the nation’s independence, becoming the first Spanish American colony to do so. The process sparked a broader war of independence across Latin America led by Simon Bolivar, after whom Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution” is named. Last week’s festivities were attended by the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, as well as the prime ministers from various Caribbean nations. Argentine president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was the guest of honor at the celebrations, and spoke of a second Latin American independence marked by regional integration and the push for independence from U.S. domination. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5295

II. ALBA Summit in Venezuela vows to fight Climate Change with System Change

The Independence celebrations came on the heels of the Ninth Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). The six-year-old fair-trade bloc met in Caracas and signed an agreement to consolidate regional integration and sovereignty with the aim of building socialism. The ALBA summit dealt with issues such as defense, the threat of U.S. imperialism, and the process of independence in the region. A central theme of the summit was the global climate crisis, which according to the leaders of the ALBA member countries, is a product of the capitalist economic model. Bolivian President Evo Morales hosted the World People’s Conference on Climate Change days later. In Caracas, he said, “The hour to combat the capitalist economic system, which has caused so much damage to life and humanity, has arrived.” http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5296

III. Venezuela Celebrates ‘Day of the Bolivarian Militias, the Armed People and the April Revolution’

Less than a week before, on April 13th, in another national celebration Venezuelans commemorated eight years since a popular uprising defeated a U.S. backed coup against President Hugo Chavez. In honor of the date, Venezuela swore in 35,000 new militia members naming it the “Day of the Bolivarian Militias, the Armed People and the April Revolution.” Eight years ago, on April 11, 2002, opposition snipers and metropolitan police officers shot and killed nineteen people. Rightwing generals used the violence as a pretext to spark a military revolt, kidnapping President Hugo Chavez. Pedro Carmona, head of the Fedecameras Chamber of Commerce declared himself interim President, and issued a decree dissolving the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and the National Assembly. During the coup, hundreds of Chavez supporters were rounded up. State and community media outlets were sacked, while the opposition-controlled private media imposed a blackout. The United States was one of few countries to recognize the illegitimate government. But within two days, Chavez was swept back into power as poor Venezuelans took to the streets, and loyal sectors of the armed forces retook the presidential palace and the Fuerte Tiuna military base in Caracas. Recalling the events of April 2002, Chavez said the Venezuelan oligarchy had conspired with U.S. imperialism to disrespect the will of the Venezuelan people and overthrow the democratically elected government. Now, with the formation of the Bolivarian Militia, he said, “The militia is the people and the people are the militia, the armed people and the armed forces are one.” http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5276

IV. China Offers Largest Credit to Venezuela

On to international news, last week, government representatives from Venezuela and China signed seven energy agreements in Caracas. Among them, the two governments agreed to exploit the Junin 4 section of the Orinoco Oil Belt as part of a joint venture between the country’s state oil companies. The two governments signed six agreements to strengthen Venezuela’s national electricity system through training, technical assistance and technology transference from China as well as the construction of a 500 megawatt thermoelectric plant in Merida state. China also offered $20 billion in financing, the largest such offer in the last fifty years. Over the last five years, the two countries has increased trade up to $5 billion a year, and China has more than doubled its import of Venezuela petroleum up to nearly 500,000 barrels a day. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5291

V. Russia and Venezuela Deepen Ties with Energy, Military Deals

Energy and military accords were at the top of the agenda during the visit of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to Venezuela in early April. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the agreements marked a shift towards a “new equation” in international relations. The Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, created a joint company with Russian oil firms to develop four sectors of the Orinoco Oil Belt. PDVSA also signed a deal with the Russian oil and gas shipping company, Sovcomflot, for the construction of new oil and liquid gas tankers. To help increase Venezuelan electricity production, which has fallen short of the rapidly-growing demand, the Russian energy company INTER-RAOUES will build a 500 megawatt thermoelectric plant. Bringing nuclear energy to Venezuela was discussed at the meeting, and Chavez reiterated that Venezuela would use it to solve its domestic energy shortage and to depend less on oil, not for military purposes. In the latest step of an ongoing effort to increase its defense capacity, Venezuela also purchased four Russian helicopters and more than 90 Russian tanks. Russia and Venezuela have significantly increased bilateral relations in recent years by creating a bi-national bank with $4 billion in capital, launching gas exploration off the Venezuelan coast, and investing in the renovation of Venezuela’s infrastructure. Russia is also building a machine gun factory in Venezuela, and Venezuela has purchased more than $4 billion worth of Russian Sukhoi fighter planes, helicopters, and tanks since 2005. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5243

VI. Venezuela and Uruguay Trade Oil for Food, Promote Latin American Integration

Less than a week after the Russian visit, Uruguay’s new President Jose “Pepe” Mujica was in Caracas where the two countries renewed agreements to exchange Venezuelan oil for essential agricultural and manufacturing supplies. Mujica called the accords a step towards “Latin American Unity.” Through the 5-year-old Caracas Energy Cooperation Agreement, Uruguay will now receive more than 40,000 barrels of oil per day, at solidarity rates. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his country could supply Uruguay with natural gas, and proposed the construction of a gas liquefying plant in Uruguay. The two countries also discussed upgrading Uruguay’s La Teja refinery so that it may process crude oil from Venezuela’s Orinoco Oil Belt. Wednesday’s visit was Mujica’s first since being elected late last year. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5255

VII. Venezuela Criticizes Bias in Inter-American Human Rights Commission Annual Report

Venezuela criticized the 2009 Inter-American Human Rights Commission Annual Report, which includes Venezuela among countries that do not respect human rights. Roy Chaderton, Venezuelan Ambassador to the Organization of American States called the report an example of “political defamation.” He accused the commission of basing itself on, “prejudiced opinions with the purpose of causing political damage.” Chaderton further criticized the report for ignoring severe human rights violations of other OAS member states, particularly the United States, and for maintaining a close political relationship with the Venezuelan opposition. The commission report was released in English on April 15th and based mainly on accounts by Venezuelan opposition media and political groups. It highlighted intolerance of political dissent, restrictions on freedom of expression, and lack of independence of the judicial branch, as among the human rights violations suffered in Venezuela. Venezuelan officials have repeatedly questioned the credibility of the Inter-American Commission’s reports since April 2002, when the commission recognized the coup regime that was installed after President Hugo Chavez was kidnapped during the short lived 2002 coup. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5283

VIII. Eight Colombians Arrested on Suspicion of Spying in Venezuela

In the first week of April, eight Colombian citizens were arrested in Venezuela on suspicion of carrying out espionage against the country’s national electricity system. According to Venezuelan Interior Minister Tarek El Aissaimi, among the equipment seized from the suspects was a camera with images of various electricity substations around the country, transmission lines and infrastructure, as well as satellite communications equipment. President Hugo Chavez announced that some of the suspects were carrying Colombian military identification. According to Chavez the group operated behind the facade of a company based in the state of Barinas, and had been captured “thanks to military intelligence, political intelligence and popular participation.” Venezuelan National Guard officials took over an electricity installation in the state of Aragua after an explosion at the plant in March. The blast was thought to be an act of sabotage. Venezuela has been experiencing electricity shortages for several months as a result of structural problems in the sector and a record drought which has brought water levels in the Guri Dam to critical lows. Venezuela receives 70% of its electricity from the hydroelectric dam on the Orinoco River. Chavez declared a state of emergency in the electricity sector in February and introduced a series of measures aimed at increasing electricity production, distribution and reducing electricity consumption. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5252

IX. Venezuela Coming Out of Electricity Crisis

In mid April, the Venezuelan Ministry of Electricity announced a $3 billion investment that is projected to increase national electricity production by nearly 6000 megawatts by the end of the year and by 15,000 megawatts by 2015. The public investment will initially be focused on the three hardest-hit states, Anzoátegui, Aragua, and Barinas, and then expanded to the rest of the nation with the installation of thermoelectric plants and the improvement of electricity distribution infrastructure. Electricity Minister Ali Rodriguez also emphasized the importance of having diverse energy sources in the long run. Currently, hydroelectricity produces more than 70% of Venezuela’s power. The government’s goal is that thermoelectricity will account for 50% of the nation’s power by 2015. Wind power and solar power will be incorporated to produce as much as 10% of the power supply by 2025. Venezuela’s national oil company, PDVSA, is currently investing oil profits in an experimental wind park that is projected to produce 100 megawatts. Over the past three years, PDVSA has spent almost $100 million to bring solar electricity panels to geographically isolated, poor communities nation-wide. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5279

X. Two More Minister Changes in Venezuela

Two weeks ago, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that journalist Tania Diaz will replace Blanca Eekhout as minister of communication. He also designated Jose Khan as the new minister of basic industry and mining. Khan will also take over as president of the Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5264

XI. Venezuelans Eat More and Are Better Nourished than Ten Years Ago

According to the National Nutrition Institute, over the last decade, Venezuelans’ average daily caloric intake surpassed UN standards, and the rate of malnutrition dropped by more than two thirds. During the same period, poverty and extreme poverty decreased by half. Government officials attribute these nutritional achievements to the Chavez administration’s efforts to turn the oil-exporting nation into a food producer, and make food affordable to the poor. The Chavez administration has launched two nation-wide subsidized food distribution networks, opened thousands of public cafeterias, drastically expanded state-owned food production, increased loans to small producers, re-distributed millions of hectares of idle lands, and established price controls on essential food items. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5300


XII. Fighting Corruption or Persecuting Political Opponents in Venezuela? A Response to the New York Times


“As Venezuela heads toward its fifteenth internationally monitored election in ten years, the international media assault against the democratically-elected Chavez government is intensifying. On April 3rd, New York Times correspondent Simon Romero lent a hand to Venezuela’s elite, neo-liberal opposition by warping positive news about the government’s anti-corruption efforts into a profoundly biased diatribe about supposed political persecution.”

“With scant reference to several very relevant facts, Romero suggested that Chavez puppeteer an arbitrary arrest of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni merely for having displeased the president, and that this is part of Chavez’s effort to take control of the judiciary and silence dissent.”

“When considered even-handedly, the arrest of Judge Afiuni for illegally allowing a wealthy banker to be released from custody and thus flee the country reflects the government’s efforts to establish the rule of law in the historically corrupt banking sector and justice system. It also brings to light deep-rooted problems in Venezuela’s judiciary, indicating that there is much more to be done to fully correct these problems.”