Posts Tagged ‘Hugo Chávez’

A timeline of Venezuela’s slide toward disaster

| March 2nd, 2015 | No Comments »
Global Post

BY SIMEON TIGEL

LIMA, Peru — How did it all go so horribly wrong?

Back in 1998, when Hugo Chavez was first elected president, many Venezuelans’ expectations could not have been higher.

The burly former paratrooper vowed to end the politics that had allowed corruption to thrive and vast oil wealth to fritter away. More than anything else, Chavez gave a voice — arguably for the first time in the South American nation’s history — to the poor majority.

Seventeen years later, the economy is in shambles, and Chavez’s handpicked successor, President Nicolas Maduro, is locking up store owners and opposition leaders, drawing angry protesters into the streets. The death toll increased again last week when a 14-year-old schoolboy was shot in the head, reportedly by police.

The mayor of the capital Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, was detained Feb. 19 and charged the next day for ... Read More

Venezuela’s crackdown

| February 26th, 2015 | No Comments »

Venezuela’s “Bolivarian” regime is lurching from authoritarianism to dictatorship. On February 19th it arrested the elected mayor of metropolitan Caracas, Antonio Ledezma. Then it moved to expel Julio Borges, a moderate opposition leader, from the National Assembly—a fate already suffered by his colleague, María Corina Machado, ejected last year. Leopoldo López, another opposition leader, has been in jail for a year and is now on trial. Almost half the opposition’s mayors now face legal action. The regime’s favourite charge to level at hostile politicians is plotting to overthrow the government, often in conspiracy with the United States. But it is the president, Nicolás Maduro, who is staging a coup against the last vestiges of democracy. Venezuelans call it an autogolpe, or “self-coup”.

Hugo Chávez, who created and presided over the Bolivarian state-socialist system until his death in 2013, was repeatedly elected by Venezuelans, thanks to windfall oil revenues ... Read More

Kerry blasts Venezuela’s ‘egregious behavior’

| February 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
From AFP

Washington (AFP) – US Secretary of State John Kerry blasted the Venezuelan government’s “egregious behavior” and promised the speedy implementation of recent sanctions against the crisis-hit country.

peaking at a US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Kerry said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s regime had made a series of “wrong choices” in its handling of anti-government protests, as well as its clampdown on opposition leaders over claims of a US-backed coup plot.

“Venezuela keeps moving in the wrong direction and making the wrong choices,” Kerry said. “The answer is the sanctions are being implemented right now as fast as possible.”

Washington in December passed a law allowing sanctions against senior Venezuelan officials accused of violating the rights of protesters during anti-government demonstrations at the start of 2014.

Kerry said several US government agencies had “no disagreement whatsoever on the egregious behavior, the repression of people, the ... Read More

Venezuela and Cuba: Partners in repression

| February 24th, 2015 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Editorial Board

Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro paid a visit to Havana and met with Raúl and Fidel Castro, who have been his patrons and who helped to install him in power after the death of Hugo Chávez. Mr. Maduro’s political situation is desperate: As Venezuelans suffer severe shortages of staple goods and soaring inflation, his approval rating has dropped to 22 percent — and that’s before the full impact of falling oil prices hits a country dependent on petroleum for 96 percent of its hard-currency revenue.

On his return from Havana, Mr. Maduro turned to a familiar tactic. Intelligence agents stormed the residence of the elected opposition mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, and took him away to a military prison. Mr. Maduro then delivered a three-hour rant on television in which he accused the opposition leader of plotting a coup against him with the help of the Obama administration. Needless to say, he had no evidence to support this ludicrous charge.

If this ... Read More

Self-Inflicted Misery and Tyranny among Latin America’s Left

| February 24th, 2015 | No Comments »
Mexi Data

By Jerry Brewer

It is astonishing that with so much focus and dialogue on demands for world freedom, self-expression and human rights, many tend to ignore or simply fail to do their homework on repressive dictatorial-like regimes floundering throughout Latin America and oppressing their citizens.

It was certainly no secret that the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s 14 years in office was a tired precursor to a near failed state in Venezuela today. Chavez spent his entire rule in office working to recruit and support leftist presidential candidates throughout the hemisphere, touting his Bolivarian Revolution – that is quite simply the more exhausted Cuban Revolution that remains in Venezuelan to this very day.

Chavez demolished independence in Venezuela’s institutions, seized control of the economy, militarized the government, and virtually destroyed private enterprise. Death, destruction and insufficiencies in Venezuela remain rampant.

If there was even a modicum of value to add to the history of Venezuela from ... Read More

Venezuela cracks down on critics

| February 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Andres Schipani in Caracas and John Paul Rathbone in London

When Venezuelan security police dressed in camouflage and armed with assault rifles snatched Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Caracas, from his office last week another high-profile government critic was locked up.

As the president’s popularity tumbles amid an economic crisis exacerbated by the fall in oil prices, many are worried that the socialist government will try to cling to power by any means ahead of contested midterm elections later this year. A socialist defeat could open the door for a recall

A big part of the government’s impoverished power-base is likely to remain loyal at the polls. But President Nicolás Maduro — who replaced the late Hugo Chávez but lacks his political skills and popular appeal — faces increasing public discontent as the economy shrinks and shortages of goods mount.

Luis Vicente León, a leading political analyst and pollster in Caracas, ... Read More

Time for Venezuela’s Friends to Act

| February 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
International Crisis Group

By Javier Ciurlizza

The shocking 19 February arrest on coup charges of the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, marks a sharp new drop in the downward spiral of Venezuela since protests and harsh repression erupted in its main cities nearly one year ago. To find stability, Venezuela needs urgent help from its friends to build political consensus. So far mostly silent, regional states and organisations, as well as the international community at large, must act firmly, not with unilateral sanctions, but with pressure for dialogue between the two sides.

Crisis Group and other organisations have repeatedly warned of Venezuela’s dangerous polarisation since the violence that killed 43 people, landed 61 in jail (now including Ledezma) and resulted in judicial restrictions on another 2,000. Neither government nor opposition, however, has responded with more than pompous sermonising.

Sounding the alarm about Venezuela’s imminent collapse, coups, riots and other calamities can ... Read More

To fix Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro must go

| February 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
Quartz

By María Teresa Romero

The profound crisis engulfing Venezuela shows no sign of abating. On the contrary, the first month of 2015 has exposed to the world the country’s dire shortage of basic foodstuffs and household products, rampant insecurity, human-rights violations, criminalization of protests, and the disarray of its armed forces, just to name a few issues.

This has created the conditions for renewed calls across society for the resignation of President Nicolás Maduro, or at least for such a possibility to be openly discussed. And the voices demanding it are not isolated. They come mainly from the Venezuelan opposition, who see in his resignation the only way for the country begin reconstructing a deeply fragmented society, in which the most basic values of cooperation have all but disappeared. But ordinary citizens unconnected to formal politics also feel the imminent crisis. The open disdain for human life has reached such heights that now Caracas ranks among the world’s top violent ... Read More

A civilian sacrifice is more likely than a coup in Caracas

| February 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez

Venezuela’s cartoonish leaders have survived boulders and anvils that would eradicate most governments. For years, inflation, crime and civil discontent have been ubiquitous and yet the revolution soldiers on. This resilience was once attributed to high oil prices and the charisma of the late Hugo Chávez. Both are now gone. And, with President Nicolás Maduro’s successor government floundering, there are whispers of a possible putsch.

Venezuelan presidents have long cried “coup” to justify crackdowns. But serious analysts are joining the speculation. A rash of high-profile military defections and a government broadcast of allegedly recorded subversive chatter among former generals seem to call military loyalties into question. Discontent on the streets is becoming palpable.

Latin America has a penchant for overthrowing its leaders and despite its oil wealth Venezuela has been no exception. The presidential palace has been strafed or bombed by mutinous forces on several occasions. In 1992 Chávez ... Read More

Rough Seas for Venezuela

| February 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times

BY ENRIQUE KRAUZE

MEXICO CITY — At the University of Havana in 1999, President Hugo Chávez assailed those who would “ask Cuba to follow the path of false democracy” and declared that Venezuela was “moving toward the same ocean as the Cuban people, an ocean of happiness, of true social justice, of peace.” But the recent steep plunge in oil prices has thrown both Cuba and the Venezuela that supplies its oil into a much more turbulent ocean than Mr. Chávez ever imagined.

To emulate Cuba politically was an inexcusable choice, but Mr. Chávez began carefully to do so. In order to distance Venezuela from “false democracy,” he accumulated control over the organs of government and over much of the information media: radio, television and the press. His successor, Nicolás Maduro, has remained on that road but much more crudely — with little attention to nuance or pragmatic pressures. He took over the rest ... Read More

Clashes erupt on anniversary of Venezuela protests

| February 13th, 2015 | No Comments »
From AFP

Caracas (AFP) – Venezuelan police fired tear gas Thursday to break up students demonstrating against President Nicolas Maduro’s government, on the anniversary of protests that eventually left 43 people dead last year.

Clashes broke out as the students in the western city of San Cristobal, the cradle of the protests that shook the country from February to June 2014, tried to march to the local offices of the national human rights ombudsman.

The authorities said one person was hit in the head by a stone and wounded during the fray, before police fired tear gas to disperse the rally.

Venezuelan media said several more people had been hurt and reported several arrests.

Protests were also held in the capital Caracas and other cities to mark the anniversary of last year’s demonstrations, which began over violent crime but ballooned into a massive show ... Read More

Mismanagement, corruption and the oil slump are fraying Venezuela’s regime

| February 13th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Economist

On a Wednesday evening around 30 pensioners have gathered for a meeting in a long, brightly lit room in a largely abandoned shopping gallery in Santa Teresa, a rundown and overcrowded district in the centre of Caracas. After a video and some announcements, Alexis Rondón, an official of the Ministry of Social Movements and Communes, begins to speak. “Chávez lives,” he says. “Make no mistake: our revolution is stronger than ever.”

Mr Rondón’s rambling remarks over the next 45 minutes belie that claim. Saying Venezuela is faced with an “economic war”, he calls on his audience to check food queues for outsiders, who might be profiteers or troublemakers, and to draw up a census of the district to identify opposition activists and government supporters. “We must impose harsh controls,” he warns. “This will be a year of struggle”.

About this, at least, Mr Rondón is correct. Sixteen years ... Read More

Venezuela Revises Foreign Exchange Rules

| February 11th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By EZEQUIEL MINAYA

CARACAS, Venezuela—Venezuela said Tuesday it will create a new foreign-exchange market that will operate via supply and demand, a rare nod to the free-market from the socialist government but one which economists said was unlikely to ease a deepening economic crisis.

The changes imply a partial devaluation of the bolivar currency but do little to untangle a complicated system of currency controls that remain largely intact, including three separate official exchange rates.

The new market, called the Marginal Foreign Exchange System, will allow people and companies to freely buy and sell dollars, said Finance Minister Rodolfo Marco Torres, who promised more details on Wednesday. Until now, access to dollars for people and companies has been strictly rationed.

But even as it introduced the new market, the government said it would keep much of its three-tiered currency system intact, including a 6.3 fixed rate for the local bolivar that will be used for ... Read More

Analytic Guidance: Venezuela’s Political Factions

| February 9th, 2015 | No Comments »
Stratfor Summary

As its economic crisis grows more severe, Venezuela is paralyzed by a struggle among the political factions that make up its ruling elite. Since former President Hugo Chavez’s death, these groups have essentially ruled the country by committee. Caracas has been gridlocked on key policy decisions as a result. However, Venezuela’s precipitous economic decline will require some kind of action, making the political impasse unsustainable.

Though Venezuela’s economic and political future ultimately will depend on greater forces, such as global oil prices, the various factions will influence short-term events and decisions. These groups will face difficulties in the legislative election scheduled for October. A loss in that election could threaten their unity and lead them to challenge President Nicolas Maduro’s authority.

Analysis

The roots of Venezuela’s fractured political system lie in the origins of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela. When he became president in 1999, Chavez counted on the backing of numerous leftist civilians who had ... Read More

Venezuela’s political crisis grows more explosive

| February 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

As Venezuela drifts toward repression, the Obama administration has failed to “name and shame” human rights violators, as mandated by Congress last December. Robust U.S. action is more critical than ever, as authorities in Caracas last week approved the use of deadly force against Venezuelans protesting food shortages and fresh revelations on the criminality of regime leaders.

Career diplomats managing Venezuela policy have a record of favoring stability over freedom in that country. They fiercely resisted Congress’ call for sanctions against individuals using violence to quell student-led demonstrations last spring—giving regime gangs time to crush the unrest, leaving 44 dead, hundreds jailed, and thousands injured.

In the midst of the crackdown last March, Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson told a U.S. Senate hearing that opposition leaders opposed human rights sanctions against the regime—an assertion she was forced to recant within days. In an effort to forestall Congressional action last July, the Administration revoked ... Read More

Venezuela jails store owners accused of creating queues – Maduro

| February 3rd, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY ALEXANDRA ULMER AND DEISY BUITRAGO

(Reuters) – Venezuela has jailed the owners of an unnamed chain of shops accused of engineering queues to whip up anger with the socialist government, President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday.

Chronic shortages of basic goods, including flour, chicken and diapers, have triggered massive lines that sometimes stretch around blocks and have become a nightmare to navigate for Venezuelans.

Most economists blame the scarcity on currency controls that restrict dollars for imports, as well as falling domestic production.

Maduro, however, accuses a rapacious business elite of waging an “economic war” to bring down his administration.

“Yesterday we detected that a famous chain of stores was conspiring, irritating the people,” Maduro told a crowd of red-clad supporters and soldiers.

“We came, we normalized sales, we summoned the owners, we arrested them and they’re prisoners for having provoked the people,” he said ... Read More

Running Out of Time: Dimming Prospects for Reform in Venezuela

| February 2nd, 2015 | No Comments »
Brookings

By Harold Trinkunas

The collapse of global oil prices is putting particularly severe pressure on Venezuela, with unpredictable but serious economic and political consequences. The price of Venezuela’s oil has fallen from $97 per barrel to less than $40 in the past year. For a country that imports over 70 percent of all consumer goods (including food) and depends on oil exports for over 95 percent of its foreign exchange, the effects on Venezuelans’ well-being are severe. Gross domestic product contracted by 3 percent in 2014 and inflation exceeded 60 percent. Reports from Venezuela indicate longer lines at markets, shortages across a wider spectrum of goods and occasional outbursts of looting at supermarkets. These problems are even worse in the regions most distant from the national capital, Caracas.

President Maduro’s recent global tour to China, Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Algeria, had the twin aim of convincing oil producers to ... Read More

Oil Cash Waning, Venezuelan Shelves Lie Bare

| January 30th, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By WILLIAM NEUMAN

CARACAS, Venezuela — Mary Noriega heard there would be chicken.

She hated being herded “like cattle,” she said, standing for hours in a line of more than 1,500 people hoping to buy food, as soldiers with side arms checked identification cards to make sure no one tried to buy basic items more than once or twice a week.

But Ms. Noriega, a laboratory assistant with three children, said she had no choice, ticking off the inventory in her depleted refrigerator: coffee and corn flour. Things had gotten so bad, she said, that she had begun bartering with neighbors to put food on the table.

“We always knew that this year would start badly, but I think this is super bad,” Ms. Noriega said.

Venezuelans have put up with shortages and long lines ... Read More

Is This Scandal the Proof That Venezuela Has Finally Become a Narco-State?

| January 29th, 2015 | No Comments »
Foreign Policy

BY DANIEL LANSBERG-RODRÍGUEZ

With its economic woes multiplying by the day, the last thing the Venezuelan government needs is another blow to its international reputation. But that’s exactly what it got yesterday, when the Spanish newspaper ABC reported that an ex-bodyguard of Diosdado Cabello, the speaker of the Venezuelan parliament, has provided information to U.S. authorities implicating his former boss as a kingpin in the drug trade. According to the report, Leamsy Salazar, a well-connected officer within the Venezuelan armed forces, has defected to the United States, and is set to serve as the star witness in an American investigation into ties between the Caracas government and powerful narcotics syndicates.

Given his background, Salazar certainly ought to be in the know. Prior to turning state’s witness, he spent over a decade as the head of Hugo Chávez’s personal security detail and sometime personal assistant; a YouTube video currently making the rounds on ... Read More

Ex guardaespaldas de Chávez deserta a EE.UU. y apunta contra Diosdado Cabello

| January 28th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

Por Kejal Vyas y Juan Forero

CARACAS, Venezuela—Un ex guardaespaldas de Diosdado Cabello, el poderoso presidente de la Asamblea Nacional y uno de los líderes del brazo militar del país, desertó a Estados Unidos para cooperar con las autoridades que investigan el tráfico de drogas en Venezuela, dijeron funcionarios de ese país el martes.

Leamsy Salazar, quien había trabajado en el cuerpo de seguridad del ex presidente Hugo Chávez, se encuentra en Washington donde se prevé que dé testimonios que implican a Cabello en la presunta organización de operaciones de tráfico de cocaína controladas por militares venezolanos, dijeron dos fuentes al tanto.

Ambas personas dijeron que el objetivo es imputar a Cabello bajo cargos de tráfico drogas. Un vocera del Departamento de Justicia de EE.UU. no quiso comentar, en tanto que funcionarios del Departamento de Estado no respondieron a llamadas solicitando declaraciones.

Funcionarios venezolanos atacaron a Salazar y EE.UU., diciendo que el motivo de ... Read More

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