Venezuelanalysis News Headlines #100 – May, 2011

VZ Opposition form “Progressive” Coalition for 2012 Presidential Elections - Chávez Defends Colombia Policy - VZ Detains Suspected FARC Musician Julián Conrado – VZ Minister says FARC Files Evidence “Finally Coming to an End” - VZ Votes in Favor of Honduras Return to OAS - VZ Gov Successfully Mediates Honduras Agreement - Chávez Requests Billions for Social Missions - First National Meeting of Socialist Workers’ Councils - Law Banning Racial Discrimination Passed in Venezuela – Caracas Police Brutality Results in Suspension of Ten Officers - Thousands March in Venezuela against U.S. Sanctions

All news from http://www.venezuelanalysis.com

I. Members of Venezuelan Opposition form “Progressive” Coalition for 2012 Presidential Elections
Last Thursday, members of the Venezuelan opposition formed what they called a new “progressive” political coalition including several political forces that once backed President Hugo Chávez. The Progressive Front for Change intends to help the opposition coalition win next year’s presidential elections. The Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, as the coalition is known, is the opposition attempt to unite all of the parties who are against the Chavez government. Amongst the parties in the new coalition are Patria Para Todos, Podemos, Bandera Roja, MAS, Vanguardia Popular, Causa R, and more. According to José Albornoz, Secretary General of the center-left Patria Para Todos, nearly all of the parties in the new coalition have supported the Chavez government at some point. At the inauguration of the coalition, Ramon Gallup Aveledo, executive secretary of the MUD, stressed the importance of unity between the groups. Founded in 2008, the MUD won over a third of the 165 seats in the National Assembly elections last year. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6242

II. Chávez Defends Colombia Policy, Insists on “Respect” for Venezuelan Sovereignty
Last week, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez reiterated that all outlawed organizations based in neighboring Colombia “must respect” Venezuelan territorial sovereignty. Referring to right-wing paramilitaries, drug trafficking cartels, and leftist guerrillas, Chávez said that his government “cannot permit the presence of any illegal armed groups in Venezuela.” Chávez’s comments came just days after Venezuelan authorities detained Guillermo Enrique Torres, another suspected member of Colombia’s FARC guerrilla. The Venezuelan and international left widely criticized the move. Chávez argued that the Torres detention and pending extradition was evidence that Venezuela is “meeting its international obligations.” http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6241

III. Venezuelan Governments Detains Suspected FARC Musician Julián Conrado
Torres, also known as Julián Conrado, a leftist singer-songwriter from Colombia, was first thought to have been killed during Colombia’s 2008 raid on a FARC encampment in Ecuador. Born in 1957, Torres is said to have composed over 100 protest songs, including an unofficial anthem of the FARC insurgency. Some of the Venezuelan left have compared Torres’s case with the recent detention and deportation of Colombian alternative journalist Joaquín Pérez Becerra. Becerra fled Colombia and was granted political asylum in Sweden in 2000. Both the Venezuelan Communist Party and Aporrea have questioned the political wisdom of Venezuela’s ongoing collaboration with Colombian authorities in their decades-long war with the FARC insurgency. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6236

IV. Venezuelan Minister says FARC Files Evidence “Finally Coming to an End”
Meanwhile in Mid-May Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro welcomed a decision by the Colombian Supreme Court to dismiss evidence said to be from the laptop computers of slain FARC leader Raúl Reyes. Maduro said, “This poisoned fable, this story of the Raúl Reyes computers, should now be passed into the garbage dump of oblivion.” The Supreme Court affirmed that military officials, who claim to have obtained material evidence from the bombed Ecuadorian FARC camp, did so illegally. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6205

V. Venezuela Votes in Favor of Honduras Return to OAS, “With Reservations”
Last week, the Venezuelan government voted “with reservations” for the return of Honduras to the Organization of American States, or OAS. Despite its approval, Venezuela insisted on the need for “justice” for the hundreds of human rights violations tied to the 2009 coup d’état against democratically-elected Honduran president Manuel Zelaya. In response to the coup, OAS member nations expelled Honduras from the international organization. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro welcomed the country’s return to the OAS as well as the Honduran efforts of “reconciliation.” http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6239

VI. Venezuelan Government Helps Successfully Mediate Honduras Agreement
The vote comes just weeks after joint Venezuela-Colombia mediation efforts helped secure an agreement between Zelaya and current Honduran President Porfirio Lobo. As part of the agreement, Zelaya returned to Honduras the last weekend in May, almost two years after his forced removal from the Honduran presidency. The agreement also stipulates that the Honduran government end the persecution of members of the anti-coup National Popular Resistance Front, recognize the Resistance Front as a political organization, investigate human rights violations since the coup; and guarantee a future constituent assembly. Venezuela and Colombia spent several months in mediation to secure the agreement. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6213

VII. President Chávez Requests 45 Billion Bolivars for Social Missions
President Hugo Chávez petitioned the National Assembly last week for 45 billion bolivars in order to secure more funds for Venezuela’s social programs. The money was requested through the “Law of Additional Debt” and will mean cashing government bonds and increasing the nation’s debt limit for 2011. Nearly half of the 45 billion bolivars will go to the government’s new housing mission, a quarter will be dedicated to the recently announced employment mission, and nearly 10% will be used to address the ongoing emergency caused by recent heavy rains. The Venezuelan government has promised to build 2 million homes over the next six years and employ more than 3.5 million Venezuelans in “productive, socialist and humanist” jobs over the next 8 years. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6235

VIII. First National Meeting of Socialist Workers’ Councils Takes Place in Bolivar, Venezuela
Two weeks ago, more than 900 delegates from workers’ councils across Venezuela met at the SIDOR steel plant in Bolivar state to take important steps in the organization of Socialist Workers’ Councils. They also analyzed the progress, strengths and weaknesses of worker control in Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez first called for the creation of socialist workers’ councils in November 2007. In one example, the state television station VTV elected its workers’ council in June 2010, when 850 workers elected three-dozen spokespeople to the council. The recently passed Popular Power Law recognizes socialist workers’ councils among the various popular power organizations, thereby creating a legal basis for such councils. The Network of Socialist Workers’ Councils is now calling for the creation of a special law of workers’ councils. Early this year, regional council meetings were held across the country to prepare for the national gathering in May. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6216

IX. Law Banning Racial Discrimination Passed in Venezuela
In May, Venezuela’s National Assembly unanimously approved the Law Against Racial Discrimination. The draft law was passed during a session that was attended by the Network of Afro-Descendents in Venezuela. The legislation will establish mechanisms to prevent, respond to, punish and eradicate racial discrimination. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6188

X. “Human Rights Abuses” Result in Suspension of Ten Police Officers in Caracas Neighborhood of Chacao
Ten members of the Caracas-based Chacao police force were suspended in early May after a state judicial investigation linked the officers to a 2010 incident of police brutality. The former police chief and the mayor of the upscale Caracas municipality, and opposition stronghold, were subpoenaed to explain the incidents. In early May, socialist lawmaker Cilia Flores released video evidence of Chacao police officers physically assaulting a dozen people after the group was subdued and in police custody. The victims of the incident accused the Chacao police of “human rights violations.” According to Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz, both the Chacao police force and the mayor’s office have been uncooperative since the investigation began last year. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6182

XI. Thousands March in Venezuela against U.S. Sanctions
Roughly ten thousand people marched in Caracas the last Sunday in May to protest sanctions imposed by the United States on the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA for trading with Iran. The sanctions were announced on May 24, and also included smaller companies in Monaco, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Singapore. Under the sanctions, Venezuela is allowed to continue to sell oil to the U.S. but PDVSA will be prohibited from competing for U.S. government contracts, acquiring funds from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and obtaining U.S. export licenses. The sanctions do not apply to PDVSA’s U.S. based subsidiary, CITGO. Many PDVSA workers joined the marches and rallied across Caracas, in defense of national sovereignty against foreign interference. President Hugo Chavez congratulated the protesters through Twitter, saying, “There you have it, the Venezuelan people, the workers, showing what they are capable of when the motherland is threatened. We will overcome!” Several regional organizations denounced the sanctions, including the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, ALBA, Petrocaribe, the Union of South American Nations, UNASUR, and more. The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, the U.S. University and College Union, the Alliance for Global Justice, and Hands off Venezuela also condemned the sanctions. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6228