Category Archives: Venezuela

Venezuela’s “normalization” of relations with Washington

12 June 2013
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is flying to Rome next week, having obtained an audience with Pope Francis, the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who as a right-wing cleric in Argentina was complicit in the crimes of that country’s dirty war.
This turn to the church hierarchy comes on the heels of Maduro’s public accommodation with one of Venezuela’s wealthiest capitalists last month and the private meeting last week of his foreign minister, Elias Jaua, with US Secretary of State John Kerry to seek a “normalization” of relations between the Bolivarian Republic and US imperialism.
Some two months after his razor-thin election victory over the candidate of the Venezuelan right, Henrique Capriles, and confronting a deepening economic crisis characterized by a near hyperinflation rate of 35 percent, stagnant growth and chronic shortages, it is evident that Maduro is making a decided turn to the right in an attempt to bolster his government.
Equally significant, Washington and Venezuelan capitalists—represented in the person of the billionaire owner of the Polar Foods conglomerate, Lorenzo Mendoza, who was invited to a cordial meeting with Maduro at the Miraflores Palace have effectively lent their support to this effort.
The Obama administration, it should be recalled, was the only government in the world to withhold recognition of Maduro’s presidency following his 1.5 percent victory over Capriles. The US was also alone in demanding a full recount of the April 14 election ballots, despite there being no evidence of fraud, not to mention the lamentable record of the US electoral system, from the installation of an unelected president in 2000 to the computer rigging of the vote in Ohio in 2004.
As for Mendoza, aside from his personal fortune of $4.5 billion, he was an open supporter of the abortive 2002 US-backed coup that briefly deposed the late Hugo Chavez as Venezuela’s president. Obliged to assume a lower political profile in the wake of the failed coup, he mounted a vigorous defense of his company in the face of Maduro’s charges of “economic war” and “sabotage.”
These natural constituencies of the Venezuelan right—Washington and Mendoza—have effectively pulled the rug out from under the right wing’s campaign to brand Maduro an “illegitimate” president and force a new election.
Equally revealing is the move last month by the US oil conglomerate Chevron to provide $2 billion in financing for a joint venture with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA.
For now, both US imperialism and the decisive sectors of Venezuela’s capitalist ruling establishment view the stabilization of Maduro’s government as a preferable alternative to a social and political explosion. They recall both the Caracazo, the mass urban uprising against IMF policies in 1989, and the popular revolt that erupted in response to the 2002 coup attempt.
While they may have chafed at the foreign policy pursued by the Chavez government and some of its domestic policies, they do not share the illusions so vigorously promoted by the petty-bourgeois pseudo-left in Latin America and internationally that chavismo and its post-Chavez incarnation represent some direct challenge to imperialism or a viable road to socialism.
They are fully aware that Venezuela, 14 years of the “Bolivarian Revolution” notwithstanding, remains a capitalist country and a source of super profits for transnational banks and corporations as well as Venezuelan capitalists. Fully 71 percent of production remains in private hands and the financial sector is among the most profitable in the world, recording a 31 percent growth in the first quarter of this year, even as manufacturing moved into recession and the real income of Venezuelan workers was slashed by runaway inflation, currency devaluations and the lifting of price controls.
The country boasts the largest petroleum reserves in the world, with its economy wholly dependent upon oil exports, the lion’s share of which still goes to the US.
Those on the so-called “left” who promote illusions in the capacities of Maduro and chavismo to mount a genuine struggle against imperialism or provide a road to socialism, as well as those who pose the political task in Venezuela as one of pushing Maduro to the left, are working to politically disarm the working class in the face of real dangers.
For all the rhetoric about “fascists,” “coups” and “economic war,” the Chavistas, a bourgeois nationalist movement, has found no difficulty in reaching accommodations with those it denounced only days before.
If there is a genuine threat of a coup it comes from within the Chavista movement itself and one of its key pillars, the military, from which Chavez himself came. There are ominous rumors that Diosdado Cabello, the head of the national assembly and a representative of the boliburguesia that has enriched itself off of political connections and corruption, and who like Chavez is a former military officer, is mobilizing support from within the officer corps for a settling of accounts with Maduro.
Yet sections of the “left” actively seek to obscure such threats. Thus, Marea Socialista (MS—Socialist Tide), whose politics are promoted by both the Pabloites and the International Socialist Organization, recently wrote of the necessity to “actively incorporate military members of the Bolivarian people” in a political offensive to counter “disillusionment and frustration” within the population. MS, which functions as a tendency within the ruling PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), assures its readers that “there are no immediate possibilities of a counterrevolutionary coup” because of the “Bolivarian” character of the officer corps.
Identical illusions have been promoted by Stalinists, petty-bourgeois nationalists and Pabloite revisionist tendencies over and over again in Latin America—from the declaration that the Chilean army represented the “people in uniform” on the eve of Pinochet’s bloody 1973 coup to the assurances that Bolivia’s left nationalist president Gen. J.J. Torres would arm the workers in the face of the right-wing military’s seizure of power in 1971. The price for such illusions has been paid with the lives of tens of thousands of workers.
The burning political task in Venezuela as throughout Latin America is the building of a new revolutionary party fighting for the political independence of the working class as the sole means of achieving socialism. These parties must be firmly founded on the strategic experiences of the international workers’ movement over the whole past period, assimilated through the struggle of the world Trotskyist movement represented by the International Committee of the Fourth International.
Bill Van Auken

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Venezuela’s Maduro reaches out to big business and Washington

By Bill Van Auken 
7 June 2013
After three months in office, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the handpicked successor of the late Hugo Chavez, has put aside left rhetoric to seek accommodation with Venezuela’s biggest capitalists as well as with the Obama administration in Washington.
Maduro has repeatedly charged in recent months that US imperialism was conspiring to bring down his government and was the guiding hand behind a wave of political violence that followed his narrow election victory against right-wing candidate Henrique Capriles in April. Yet Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Elias Jaua was all smiles Wednesday, following a 40-minute meeting in Guatemala with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The two, who met privately on the sidelines of the Organization of American States General Assembly meeting in Antigua, Guatemala, declared their commitment to, in Kerry’s words, “establish a more constructive and positive relationship.” This is to include resuming the exchange of ambassadors, which has been suspended since late 2010. It was Venezuela that requested the meeting.
“We agreed today there will be an ongoing, continuing dialogue between the State Department and the Foreign Ministry, and we will try to set out an agenda by which we agree on things we can work together,” said Kerry.
For his part, Jaua declared that “A good relationship between the government of President Nicolas Maduro and the government of President Barack Obama is what suits both peoples, it’s the guarantee of peace and stability for our peoples.”
Just last month, Maduro referred to Obama in a public speech as “the big boss of the devils” and accused him of backing the “fascist right” in attacking the Venezuelan people.
In Guatemala, Jaua said that he had presented Kerry with a report on the violence that followed the April 14 election to choose Chavez’s successor in which 11 people were killed and 80 injured, most of them Maduro supporters. He gave the US secretary of state an extract of the report prepared on the incidents by Venezuela’s Public Advocate’s office.
He said that the discussion had “alerted Kerry to the actions of anti-democratic groups in Venezuela, which threaten Venezuelan democracy, stability and which often are being supported by political and economic sectors of other countries.”
In point of fact, the most significant “sectors” seeking to destabilize the Venezuelan regime have long been the CIA and the US State Department.
Maduro’s turn toward accommodation with US imperialism has been accompanied by a similar approach to both foreign and domestic capital.
Among the most significant deals in terms of foreign capital was reached late last month with Chevron Corp. Chevron is providing $2 billion in financing for Petroboscan, a joint venture between the US oil giant and Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, to boost heavy crude production in the northwestern state of Zulia. Shortly beforehand, PDVSA secured a $1 billion credit line with Houston-based Schlumberger Ltd., the world’s largest oilfield services company.
While oil exports to the US have declined to about 900,000 barrels a day, it remains Venezuela’s chief customer for oil, responsible for 95 percent of the country’s export earnings and roughly half of its federal budget revenue.
From the standpoint of the US-based energy conglomerates, securing dominance over Venezuela’s oil reserves, the largest in the world, remains a strategic objective. The investments by Chevron and Schlumberger make clear that they see the potential for major profits, the Venezuelan government’s rhetoric about “Bolivarian socialism” notwithstanding.
Domestically, after charging for months that major Venezuelan capitalists, backed by the US, were waging an “economic war” against his government, Maduro invited the country’s second-richest individual, Lorenzo Mendoza, the head of the country’s largest food company, Polar, to meet with him last month at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas.
Both Chavez and Maduro had singled out Polar and Mendoza for attack over the country’s increasingly severe shortages and rising food prices. Holding them responsible for hoarding and waging an “economic war,” they threatened to nationalize the firm.
For his part, Mendoza, who is worth some $4.5 billion, was an enthusiastic supporter of the US-backed coup that briefly unseated Chavez in April 2002. This history had contributed to his keeping a fairly low profile under Chavez, but it was noted in the Venezuelan media that he mounted a vigorous public defense of his company in the face of Maduro’s recent charges.
Mendoza described the meeting as “very cordial, direct, sincere,” adding, “The president was very kind in listening to us and communicating the need to keep investing, producing and supplying markets. That is our lifelong commitment, passion and vocation.” He said that the two had reached an agreement “not to politicize” the issue of food.
Vice President Jorge Arreaza provided a similar description of the encounter between the “working class” president and the billionaire. “The problem’s been overcome,” he said.
The meeting with Mendoza was only the most visible of a series of talks between the government and prominent Venezuelan capitalists. Among the deals reached is the lifting of certain price controls and the easing of currency restrictions.
“In another sign of the rapprochement, the hallways of the finance ministry for the first time in years are filled with businessmen in sharp suits,” Reuters reported. “Many carry folders stuffed with requests for greater flexibility in the currency control system and an easing of price controls.”
The news agency quoted Finance Minister Nelson Merentes stating after one meeting with business executives: “We’ve entered a phase of creating closer ties with the private sector, without ignoring the new socialist economy.”
After months of charging the big bourgeoisie in Venezuela with “sabotage,” the Maduro government is now currying its favor and begging it to increase production. This turn is driven by a deepening economic crisis characterized by a decline in growth, soaring inflation and widespread shortages.
Venezuela’s inflation rate is now near 30 percent, with the bulk of it reflecting the sharp rise in the price of food. Meanwhile, the growth rate for the first quarter of 2013 amounted to just 0.7 percent. This overall figure, however, masks the severity of the situation.
Venezuela’s financial sector, which continues to enjoy some of the highest profit rates in the world, saw a 31 percent growth during this period, while manufacturing declined by 3.6 percent and construction by 1.2 percent. The scarcity index, which tracks the amount of products missing from store shelves, has hit its highest level since the Central Bank began tracking these figures.
The accommodation between the Maduro government and Venezuelan capitalists, on the one hand, and Washington, on the other, has taken the political wind out of the sails of the rightist candidate Henrique Capriles, who has continued to charge electoral fraud and condemn Maduro as an illegitimate president. While the Obama administration has yet to formally recognize Maduro’s close election victory, it has turned a cold shoulder to demands for OAS sanctions against Venezuela. And Mendoza’s visit to Miraflores indicates that the billionaire accepts Maduro as legitimate.
Clearly, both domestic and foreign capital recognize that behind the left rhetoric and the limited social reforms of “Bolivarian Socialism,” Maduro’s government defends capitalism and they can do business with it. More fundamentally, continued agitation by the right wing and a further weakening of the government under conditions of deepening economic crisis and rising popular discontent poses the danger of provoking a social explosion in the working class.

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Boston and Venezuela: Terrorism There and Here

By Prof. James Petras
April 28, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – Two major terrorists’ attacks took place almost simultaneously: in Boston, two alleged Chechen terrorists set off bombs during the annual Boston Marathon killing three people and injuring 170; in Venezuela, terrorist-supporters of defeated presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, assassinated 8 and injured 70 supporters of victorious Socialist Party candidate Nicolas Maduro, in the course of firebombing 8 health clinics and several Party offices and homes. In the case of Boston, the terrorist spree resulted in one further fatality – one of the perpetrators; in Venezuela, some of the terrorists are under arrest but their political mentors are still free and active – in fact they are now presented as ‘victims of repression’ by the US media.
By examining the context, politics, government responses and mass media treatment of these terrorist acts we can gain insight into the larger meaning of terrorism and how it reflects, not merely the hypocrisy of the US government and mass media, but the underlying politics that encourages terrorism.
Context of Terrorism: From Chechnya to Boston : A Dangerous Game
Chechnya has been an armed battleground for over two decades pitting the secular Russian State against local Muslim fundamentalist separatists. Washington , fresh from arming and financing Muslim jihadis in a successful war against the secular Soviet-backed Afghan regime in the 1980’s, expanded its aid program into Central Asian and Caucasian Muslim regions of the former Soviet Union .
Russian military might ultimately defeated the Chechen warlords but many of their armed followers fled to other countries, joining armed, extremist, Islamist groups in Iraq , Pakistan , Afghanistan and later Egypt , Libya and now Syria . While accepting Western, especially US arms, to fight secular adversaries of the US Empire, the jihadis’ ultimate goal has been a clerical (Islamic) regime. Washington and the Europeans have played a dangerous game: using Muslim fundamentalists as shock troops to defeat secular nationalists, while planning to dump them in favor of neo-liberal ‘moderate’ Muslim or secular client regimes afterwards.
This cynical policy has backfired everywhere – including in the US . Fundamentalists in Afghanistan took state power after the Soviets pulled out. They opposed the US , which invaded Afghanistan after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and have successfully engaged in a 12 year war of attrition with Washington and NATO, spawning powerful allies in Pakistan and elsewhere. Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan serve as training bases and a ‘beacon’ for terrorists the world over.
The US invasion of Iraq and overthrow of President Saddam Hussein led to ten years of Al Qaeda and related-clerical terrorism in Iraq , wiping out the entire secular society. In the case of Libya and Syria , NATO and Gulf State arms have greatly expanded the arsenals of terrorist fundamentalists in North and Sub-Sahara Africa and the Middle East . Western-sponsored fundamentalist terrorists were directly related to the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington and there is little doubt that the recent actions of the Chechen bombers in Boston are products of this latest upsurge of NATO-backed fundamentalist advances in North Africa and the Middle East.
But against all the evidence to the contrary, Chechen terrorists are viewed by the White House as “freedom fighters” engaged in liberating their country from the secular Russians … Perhaps after the Boston terror attack, that appraisal will change.
Venezuela : Presenting Terrorism as “Peaceful Dissent”
The candidate of the US backed and financed opposition, Henrique Capriles, has lived up to his reputation for violent politics. In the run-up to his failed candidacy in the Venezuelan presidential election on April 15, his followers sabotaged power lines causing frequent national blackouts. His supporters among the elite hoarded basic consumer items, causing shortages, and repeatedly threatened violence if the election went against them.
With over 100 international observers from the United Nations, European Commission and the Jimmy Carter Center there to certify the Venezuelan elections, Capriles and his inner circle unleashed their street gangs, who proceeded to target Socialist voters, campaign workers, health clinics, newly-built low-income housing projects and Cuban doctors and nurses.
The “white terror” resulted in 8 deaths and 70 injuries. Over 135 right-wing street thugs were arrested and 90 were charged with felonies, conspiracy to commit murder and destroy public property. Capriles, violent political credentials go back at least a decade earlier when he played a major role in the bloody coup which briefly overthrew President Hugo Chavez in 2002. Capriles led a gang of armed thugs and assaulted the Cuban embassy, ‘arresting’ legitimate Cabinet ministers who had taken refuge. After a combined military and popular mass movement restored President Chavez, Capriles was placed under arrest for violence and treason. The courageous Venezuelan Attorney General, Danilo Anderson, was in the process of prosecuting Capriles and several hundred of his terrorist supporters when he was assassinated by a car bomb – planted by supporters of the failed coup.
Though Capriles electoral propaganda was given a face-lift – he even called himself a candidate of the “center-left” and a supporter of several of President Chavez’s “social missions”, his close ties with terrorist operatives were revealed by his call for violent action as soon as his electoral defeat was announced. His thinly veiled threat to organize a “mass march” and seize the headquarters of the electoral offices was only called off when the government ordered the National Guard and the Armed Forces on high alert. Clearly Capriles’ terror tactics were only pulled back in the face of greater force. When the legal order decided to defend democracy and not yield to terrorist blackmail, Capriles temporarily suspended violent activity and regrouped his forces, allowing the legal-electoral face of his movement to come to the fore.
Responses to Terror: Boston and Venezuela
In response to the terrorist incident in Boston, the local, state and federal police were mobilized and literally shut down the entire city and its transport networks and went on a comprehensive and massive ‘manhunt’: the mass media and the entire population were transformed into tools of a police state investigation. Entire blocks and neighborhoods were scoured as thousands of heavily armed police and security forces went house to house, room to room, dumpster to dumpster looking for a wounded 19 year old college freshman. A terror alert was raised for the entire country ad overseas police networks and intelligence agencies were involved in the search for the terrorist assassins. The media and the government constantly showed photos of the victims, emphasizing their horrific injuries and the gross criminality of the act: it was unthinkable to discuss any political dimensions to the act – it was presented, pure and simple, as an act of political terror directed at ‘cowering the American people and their elected government’. Every government official demanded that anyone, even remotely linked, to the crime or criminals face the full force of the law.
On the other hand and coinciding with the attack in Boston, when the Venezuelan oppositionist terrorists launched their violent assault on the citizens and public institutions they were given unconditional support by the Obama regime, which claimed the killers were really ‘democrats seeking to uphold free elections’. Secretary of State Kerry refused to recognize the electoral victory of President Maduro. Despite the carnage, the Venezuelan government did not declare martial law: at most the National Guard and loyalist police upheld the law and arrested several dozen protestors and terrorists; many of the former – not directly linked to violence – were quickly released. Moreover, despite the internationally certified elections by over 100 observers, the Maduro government conceded the chief demand for an electoral recount – in the hope of averting further right-wing bloodshed.
US Media Response
All the major Western news agencies, including the principle ‘respectable’ print media (Financial Times, New York Times and Washington Post) converted the Venezuelan political assassins into ‘peaceful protestors’ who were victimized for attempting to register their dissent. In other words, Washington and the entire media came out in full force in favor of political terror perpetrated against an adversarial democratic government, while invoking a near-martial law state for a brutal, but limited, act of terror in the US . Washington apparently does not make the connection between its support of terrorism abroad and its spread to the US .
The US media has blocked out discussion of the ties between Chechen terrorist front groups, based in the US and UK, and leading US neoconservatives and Zionists, including Rudolph Giuliani, Richard Perle, Kenneth Adleman, Elliott Abrams, Midge Dector, Frank Gaffney and R. James Woolsey – all leading members of the self-styled ‘American Committee for Peace in Chechnya’ (re-named Committee for Peace in the Caucasus after the horrific Beslan school massacre). These Washington luminaries are all full-throated supporters of the ‘war on terror’ or should we say supporters of ‘terror and war’ (“Chechen Terrorists and the Neocons” by former FBI official Coleen Rowley 4/19/13). The headquarters and nerve center for many ‘exile’ Chechen leaders, long sought by Russian authorities for mass terrorist activities, is Boston, Massachusetts – the site of the bombing – another ‘fact’ thus far ignored by the FBI and the Justice Department, perhaps because of long-standing and on-going working relations in organizing terrorist incidents aimed at destabilizing Russia.
Former Presidential candidate and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, after the bombing, stated that Chechens ‘were only focused (sic) on Russia ’ and not on the US (his Chechens perhaps). Interpol and US intelligence Agencies are well aware that Chechen militants have been involved in several Al Qaeda terrorist groups throughout South and Central Asia as well as the Middle East . The Russian government’s specific inquiries regarding any number of suspected Chechen terrorists or fronts have been given short shrift – apparently including the activities of one Tamerlan Tsarnaev, recently deceased.
(As a historical aside (and perhaps not unrelated), the Boston-based FBI was notorious from the 1970’s through the 1990’s for protecting a brutal gangster hit man, James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, as a privileged informant, while he murdered dozens of individuals in the New England area.)
The Deeper Meaning of the War on Terrorism
US support for Venezuelan terrorists and their political leader, Henrique Capriles, is part of a complex multi-track policy combining the exploitation of electoral processes and the clandestine funding of NGO’s for “grass roots” agitation of local grievances, together with support for ‘direct action’ including ‘trial runs’ of political violence against the symbols and institutions of social democracy. The versatile Capriles is the perfect candidate to run in elections while orchestrating terror. Past US experience with political terror in Latin America has had a boomerang effect – as evident in the Miami-based Cuban terrorist engagement with numerous bombings, gun-running and drug trafficking within the USA, especially the 1976 car bombing assassination of the exile Chilean Minister Orlando Letelier and an American associate on Embassy Row in the heart of Washington, DC – an action never characterized as ‘terrorism’ because of official US ties to the perpetrators.
Despite financial, political and military links between Washington and terrorists, especially fundamentalists, the latter retain their organizational autonomy and follow their own political-cultural agenda, which in most cases is hostile to the US . As far as the Chechens, the Afghans and the Al Qaeda Syrians today are concerned, the US is a tactical ally to be discarded on the road to establishing independent fundamentalist states. We should add the scores of Boston victims to the thousands of US citizens killed in New York , Washington , Libya , Afghanistan and elsewhere by former fundamentalist allies of the US .
By siding with terrorists and their political spokespeople and refusing to recognize the validity of the elections in Venezuela , the Obama regime has totally alienated itself from all of South America and the Caribbean . By supporting violent assaults against democratic institutions in Venezuela, the White House is signaling to its clients in opposition to the governments of Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador – that violent assaults against independent democratic governments is an acceptable road to restoring the neo-liberal order and US centered ‘regional integration’.
Conclusion
Washington has demonstrated no consistent opposition to terrorism – it depends on the political goals of the terrorists and on the target adversaries. In one of the two recent cases – the US government declared virtual “martial law” on Boston to kill or capture two terrorists who had attacked US citizens in a single locale; whereas in the case of Venezuela , the Obama regime has given political and material support to terrorists in order to subvert the entire constitutional order and electoral regime.
Because of the long-standing and deep ties between the US State Department, prominent neo-con leaders and Zionist notables with Chechen terrorists, we cannot expect a thorough investigation which would surely embarrass or threaten the careers of the major US officials who have long-term working relations with such criminals.
The White House will escalate and widen its support for the same Venezuelan terrorists who have sabotaged the electrical power system, the food supply and the constitutional electoral process of that country. Terror, in that context, serves as its launch pad for a full scale assault against the past decade’s social advances under the late President Hugo Chavez.
Meanwhile, in order to cover-up the Chechen-Washington working alliance, the Boston Marathon bombing will be reduced to an isolated act by two misguided youths, lead astray by an anonymous fundamentalist website – their actions reduced to ‘religious fundamentalism’. And despite an economy in crisis, tens of billions of more dollars will be allocated to expand the police state at home, citing its effectiveness and efficiency in the aftermath of the bombings while secretly sending more millions to foment ‘democratic’ terror…in Venezuela .

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Maduro sworn in as Venezuela sets vote recount

By Bill Van Auken 
20 April 2013
Nicolás Maduro, handpicked by the late Hugo Chávez as his successor, was sworn in as Venezuela’s president Friday, just one day after the government’s National Electoral Council, or CNE, announced that it would cede to the demand of the right-wing opposition for a complete audit of the April 14 presidential vote.
Maduro delivered a long and meandering speech after his formal swearing-in. He combined vows to complete the “socialist revolution” in Venezuela with appeals to the country’s capitalists to cooperate in developing its economy. He recounted that just the day before he had “extended my hand to our businessmen.” He announced that his government was working on plans for special economic zones in which “Public, private, national and international” capital would work together with “flexibility.” He also declared that he found the example of Guangdong province—containing both China’s greatest numbers of billionaires and its most exploited workers—“very interesting.”
At one point in the speech, a young man rushed the podium seizing the microphone out of Maduro’s hand before he was hustled away. “This was a complete failure of security,” he said when he was able to resume his speech. “They could have put a bullet in me here.”
The CNE’s decision Thursday came in response to a formal appeal by the right-wing candidate Henrique Capriles and the coalition that backed him, which is known as MUD.
Initially, Maduro had indicated his support for such an audit of the April 14 vote, which saw the previously two-digit lead won by Chávez against similar opponents to barely 1.8 percent, or less than 275,000 votes out of nearly 15 million cast. He then shifted his position opposing such a measure.
The shift back again to support for a complete audit (54 percent of the ballot boxes were already audited in the course of the election count) appears to be part of a calculated decision by both factions of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie—the chavistas and the US-backed right—to back off from a direct confrontation after violence in the aftermath of the election left at least eight people dead, scores wounded and at least 150 arrested.
Capriles issued a call in the immediate aftermath of the election being declared for Maduro for his supporters to take to the streets to “defend their vote” and to march on local offices of the CNE. The call was answered with violent demonstrations, including in some of the most well-heeled neighborhoods of Caracas, as well as attacks by fascist bands on Maduro supporters and on state-run health clinics, government offices and homes of state officials.
Maduro charged that the right was attempting to mount a coup, backed by Washington, and announced that the government would not allow a mass demonstration called by Capriles and his backers for Wednesday in the Venezuelan capital.
Capriles tried to disassociate himself from the violence and urged his supporters not to march but remain home and engage in cacerolazos —beating pots and pans. He alleged that the government and its supporters intended to provoke a confrontation.
Capriles accepted the CNE’s decision for a complete audit of the ballots, even though he had previously demanded a vote-by-vote recount. He claimed that the audit would confirm his charges of “fraud,” for which he and his supporters have been unable to present any objective evidence.
The right wing’s continuing challenge is fueled in large measure by support from Washington, which has refused to recognize Maduro’s election.
Speaking before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry echoed the right’s demand. “We think there ought to be a recount,” he said. “I don’t know whether it’s going to happen.”
He reiterated that the Obama administration had yet to decide whether to recognize Maduro’s government. “Obviously, if there are huge irregularities, we are going to have serious questions about the viability of that government,” Kerry said.
Responding from Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Maduro declared: “It’s obscene the US intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela. Take your eyes off Venezuela, John Kerry! Get out of here!”
He might well have added, “You’ve got the wrong country and you’re nine years too late.” If Kerry was serious about the sanctity of elections and ballots being counted, he should have demanded a recount in the state of Ohio in 2004, when he was the Democratic candidate for the US presidency.
On what conceivable basis is Washington in a position to lecture Venezuela about elections? In 2000, its Supreme Court installed George W. Bush as president by sanctioning ballot fraud and suppressing votes, with the abject complicity of the Democratic Party and its candidate Al Gore.
Maduro and his supporters have compared the protest march that the right had called for Wednesday to another mass march organized against Chávez on April 11, 2002, whose violent outcome was turned into a pretext for a US-backed coup that briefly saw the late Venezuelan president ousted and imprisoned before it was reversed by loyal military units and popular demonstrations.
A repeat of this history is by no means excluded, but for the moment the military, which wields substantial power within the government setup created under Chávez, has signaled its support for Maduro and the results of the election.
Nonetheless, the right clearly feels itself politically strengthened, and with US backing will continue efforts to destabilize and bring down Maduro’s government.
The sharp fall in the vote for the ruling party of Chávez and Maduro is not, fundamentally, a matter of personalities or Maduro lacking the “charisma” of his deceased predecessor, as some sections of the bourgeois media have suggested.
Rather, it reflects growing disaffection among layers of the working class and other sections of the population that had previously supported chavismo, but in this election cast a voto castigo, or “punishment vote,” for Capriles as a protest against the government’s policies. This was driven by a 25 percent inflation rate, growing shortages of basic necessities and currency devaluations in March that resulted in the plummeting of real wages, even as profits for the banks and corporations rose and the wealth and corruption of the so-called boliburguesía increased under the self-described “socialist” government.
The election results will also heighten divisions within the Venezuelan ruling party, the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela). The man who placed the presidential sash on Maduro Friday, Diosdado Cabello, the president of the national assembly, is widely seen as a political rival of the newly elected president. In the immediate aftermath of the election, he tweeted that it was necessary to “search out the failings even under the rocks” and to make the “profound self-criticism that these results demand.”
A former army officer and reportedly one of the wealthiest individuals in the ruling party, he has stronger ties to both the military and the sections of Venezuelan capitalists who have supported chavismo .
Both external and internal pressures will push the government of Maduro further to the right and into confrontation with Venezuelan workers. The decisive question in the coming struggles is the forging of the political independence of the working class and of a new revolutionary leadership.

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Maduro prepares cutbacks for post-election Venezuela

By Alexander Fangmann 
13 April 2013
With official campaigning over, Venezuela will hold a special presidential election on Sunday, April 14, to select a replacement for Hugo Chávez, who died on March 5 after 14 years in office. With the country facing increasing economic difficulties, it is clear that the winner—in all likelihood Chávez’s handpicked successor and current acting president, Nicolás Maduro—will be compelled to cut social spending and scale back the level of aid given to friendly regimes.
Maduro, the chosen representative of a new ruling layer built up over the course of Chávez’s 14 years in office—the so-called boliburguesia— is intent on keeping power in order to preserve their privileges and the financial spoils derived from government contracts, speculation, and corruption.
In the conduct of his campaign, Maduro has continued his appeal to right-wing and nationalist sentiments, with repeated invocations of patriotism and the fatherland. He and his campaign team have often appeared at functions clothed in some form of the Venezuelan flag, including tracksuits and baseball caps, in a manner indistinguishable from reactionary opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.
Maduro served for two decades as a loyal functionary to Chávez, first organizing support among trade union leaders for the creation of Chávez’s electoral vehicle, the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR), which later organized the creation of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Later, he entered the National Assembly, becoming its president and coordinating Chávez’s legislative agenda, until in 2006 he was appointed minister of foreign affairs.
As a consequence of his deep involvement with Chávez, as well as his relative personal indistinctness, Maduro has identified himself completely with Chávez. First presenting himself as Chávez’s “son,” Maduro’s invocations of the former president have reached almost bizarre levels, with recent claims that Chávez appeared to him in the form of a bird in order to bless his campaign. By doing this, Maduro aims to mislead Venezuelan workers into thinking he will continue all of Chávez’s policies which, though limited, did result in improvements in conditions for the poorest sections.
One of the more substantial announcements to come out of Maduro’s camp is that upon election he plans to create “micro-missions” that would be designed to “improve efficiency” at state-run enterprises and other social and political institutions. Designed to evoke the Bolivarian missions, the programs through which Chávez enacted anti-poverty initiatives, the micro-missions will instead be small teams composed of experts, political functionaries, and army officers that will draw up recommendations for layoffs and other cuts.
As Maduro told a Venezuelan newspaper: “Efficiency has a lot to do with the methods of management and planning. If an economic or a social activity isn’t planned well, if the correct methods aren’t there to direct it, to do follow-up, the resources are wasted and there are no results.” Describing the assembled groups, Maduro said, “A group intervenes, they get in there for one, two, three, four months, revolutionize the planning methods and the management, get the objective on the right path to make it efficient and then they move on to something else.”
This is no doubt the first of a series of steps on the part of the chavistas to cut back on social spending in the face of mounting economic problems. A Moody’s report noted that Venezuela’s budget deficit for the last year amounted to 12 percent of GDP. At the same time, a rise in imports of 16.5 percent caused Venezuela to become a net importer for the first time since 2009. This was a major factor in the government’s recent devaluations of the bolivar, most recently one of 32 percent that was announced on February 8.
The current account deficit has created a shortage of dollars, which has made it difficult for importers to purchase goods and has led to price increases and shortages, including of food. Empresas Polar, one of the country’s largest food and beverage importers, has been criticized by Maduro for withholding food from the public, while the company has replied that the state currency board owed it $141 million and was delaying release of funds for up to 200 days, without which it is unable to secure raw materials and supplies.
The government had recently announced the creation of a “complementary” foreign exchange system through which companies can secure dollars via an auction, thought to be around nine bolivars to the dollar. This would be in addition to the fixed rate of 6.3 bolivars to the dollar now offered through the usual system.
The devaluations and shortages have hit the Venezuelan working class hard. Consumer prices have risen 23 percent from a year ago, and inflation is expected to hit 28 percent for this year. This has led Maduro to announce that the minimum wage, currently 2,047 bolivars per month (approximately $325) will be increased by 40 percent over the year, with an initial 20 percent increase to be approved for May.
Underscoring the extent to which Maduro represents the aspirations of a privileged social layer in Latin America that resents the historic domination of the region by the United States, Maduro received the endorsement of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who recorded a video message aimed at Venezuelans. Da Silva, who led the attempt by Brazil to position itself as a regional capitalist power, praised Maduro as Chávez’s successor and noted the former’s efforts in creating UNASUR (The Union of South American Nations). UNASUR is modeled on the European Union, and has a goal of creating a common market, which, like the EU, would no doubt benefit the ruling class of the continent’s larger powers, at the expense of the working class.
As Reuters news agency reported last month, “If Brazil’s business leaders could vote in Venezuela’s election … they would cast their ballots for Hugo Chávez’s political heir, acting president Nicolás Maduro.” Brazilian corporations have increased their exports to Venezuela five-fold over the past decade, and Brazilian capitalist investments in Venezuela have reached around $20 billion. According to Reuters, the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht has 8,000 employees in Venezuela working on nine different projects.

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Operation Destabilize Venezuela and the Secret US Embassy Cables: Infiltrate, “Divide Chavismo”, “Isolate Chavez Internationally”

Would you believe that the United States tried to do something that was not nice against Hugo Chávez?

By William Blum 
Global Research,

chavez2
Wikileaks has done it again. I guess the US will really have to get tough now with Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.
In a secret US cable to the State Department, dated November 9, 2006, and recently published online by WikiLeaks, former US ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, outlines a comprehensive plan to destabilize the government of the late President Hugo Chávez. The cable begins with a Summary:
During his 8 years in power, President Chavez has systematically dismantled the institutions of democracy and governance. The USAID/OTI program objectives in Venezuela focus on strengthening democratic institutions and spaces through non-partisan cooperation with many sectors of Venezuelan society.
USAID/OTI = United States Agency for International Development/Office of Transition Initiatives. The latter is one of the many euphemisms that American diplomats use with each other and the world – They say it means a transition to “democracy”. What it actually means is a transition from the target country adamantly refusing to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs to a country gladly willing (or acceding under pressure) to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs.
OTI supports the Freedom House (FH) “Right to Defend Human Rights” program with $1.1 million. Simultaneously through Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), OTI has also provided 22 grants to human rights organizations.
Freedom House is one of the oldest US government conduits for transitioning to “democracy”; to a significant extent it equates “democracy” and “human rights” with free enterprise. Development Alternatives Inc. is the organization that sent Alan Gross to Cuba on a mission to help implement the US government’s operation of regime change.
OTI speaks of working to improve “the deteriorating human rights situation in” Venezuela. Does anyone know of a foreign government with several millions of dollars to throw around who would like to improve the seriously deteriorating human rights situation in the United States? They can start with the round-the-clock surveillance and the unconscionable entrapment of numerous young “terrorists” guilty of thought crimes.
“OTI partners are training NGOs [non-governmental organizations] to be activists and become more involved in advocacy.”
Now how’s that for a self-given license to fund and get involved in any social, economic or political activity that can sabotage any program of the Chávez government and/or make it look bad? The US ambassador’s cable points out that:
OTI has directly reached approximately 238,000 adults through over 3000 forums, workshops and training sessions delivering alternative values and providing opportunities for opposition activists to interact with hard-core Chavistas, with the desired effect of pulling them slowly away from Chavismo. We have supported this initiative with 50 grants totaling over $1.1 million.
“Another key Chavez strategy,” the cable continues, “is his attempt to divide and polarize Venezuelan society using rhetoric of hate and violence. OTI supports local NGOs who work in Chavista strongholds and with Chavista leaders, using those spaces to counter this rhetoric and promote alliances through working together on issues of importance to the entire community.”
This is the classical neo-liberal argument against any attempt to transform a capitalist society – The revolutionaries are creating class conflict. But of course, the class conflict was already there, and nowhere more embedded and distasteful than in Latin America.
OTI funded 54 social projects all over the country, at over $1.2 million, allowing [the] Ambassador to visit poor areas of Venezuela and demonstrate US concern for the Venezuelan people. This program fosters confusion within the Bolivarian ranks, and pushes back at the attempt of Chavez to use the United States as a ‘unifying enemy.’
One has to wonder if the good ambassador (now an Assistant Secretary of State) placed any weight or value at all on the election and re-election by decisive margins of Chávez and the huge masses of people who repeatedly filled the large open squares to passionately cheer him. When did such things last happen in the ambassador’s own country? Where was his country’s “concern for the Venezuelan people” during the decades of highly corrupt and dictatorial regimes? His country’a embassy in Venezuela in that period was not plotting anything remotely like what is outlined in this cable.
The cable summarizes the focus of the embassy’s strategy’s as: “1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez internationally.” 1
The stated mission for the Office of Transition Initiatives is: “To support U.S. foreign policy objectives by helping local partners advance peace and democracy in priority countries in crisis.” 2
Notice the key word – “crisis”. For whom was Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela a “crisis”? For the people of Venezuela or the people who own and operate United States, Inc.?
Imagine a foreign country’s embassy, agencies and NGOs in the United States behaving as the American embassy, OTI, and NGOs did in Venezuela. President Putin of Russia recently tightened government controls over foreign NGOs out of such concern. As a result, he of course has been branded by the American government and media as a throwback to the Soviet Union.
Under pressure from the Venezuelan government, the OTI’s office in Venezuela was closed in 2010.
For our concluding words of wisdom, class, here’s Charles Shapiro, US ambassador to Venezuela from 2002 to 2004, speaking recently of the Venezuelan leaders: “I think they really believe it, that we are out there at some level to do them ill.” 3
The latest threats to life as we know it
Last month numerous foreign-policy commentators marked the tenth anniversary of the fateful American bombing and invasion of Iraq. Those who condemned the appalling devastation of the Iraqi people and their society emphasized that it had all been a terrible mistake, since Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein didn’t actually possess weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This is the same argument we’ve heard repeatedly during the past ten years from most opponents of the war.
But of the many lies – explicit or implicit – surrounding the war in Iraq, the biggest one of all is that if, in fact, Saddam Hussein had had those WMD the invasion would have been justified; that in such case Iraq would indeed have been a threat to the United States or to Israel or to some other country equally decent, innocent and holy. However, I must ask as I’ve asked before: What possible reason would Saddam Hussein have had for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? He had no reason, no more than the Iranians do today. No more than the Soviets had during the decades of the Cold War. No more than North Korea has ever had since the United States bombed them in the early 1950s.
Yet last month the new Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, announced that he would strengthen United States defenses against a possible attack by [supposedly] nuclear-equipped North Korea, positioning 14 additional missile interceptors in Alaska and California at an estimated cost of $1 billion. So much for the newest Great White Hope. Does it ever matter who the individuals are who are occupying the highest offices of the US foreign-policy establishment? Or their gender or their color?
“Oh,” many people argued, “Saddam Hussein was so crazy who knew what he might do?” But when it became obvious in late 2002 that the US was intent upon invading Iraq, Saddam opened up the country to the UN weapons inspectors much more than ever before, offering virtually full cooperation. This was not the behavior of a crazy person; this was the behavior of a survivalist. He didn’t even use any WMD when he was invaded by the United States in 1991 (“the first Gulf War”), when he certainly had such weapons. Moreover, the country’s vice president, Tariq Aziz, went on major American television news programs to assure the American people and the world that Iraq no longer had any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons; and we now know that Iraq had put out peace feelers in early 2003 hoping to prevent the war. The Iraqi leaders were not crazy at all. Unless one believes that to oppose US foreign policy you have to be crazy. Or suicidal.
It can as well be argued that American leaders were crazy to carry out the Iraqi invasion in the face of tens of millions of people at home and around the world protesting against it, pleading with the Bush gang not to unleash the horrors. (How many demonstrations were there in support of the invasion?)
In any event, the United States did not invade Iraq because of any threat of an attack using WMD. Washington leaders did not themselves believe that Iraq possessed such weapons of any significant quantity or potency. Amongst the sizable evidence supporting this claim we have the fact that they would not have exposed hundreds of thousands of soldiers on the ground.
Nor can it be argued that mere possession of such weapons – or the belief of same – was reason enough to take action, for then the United States would have to invade Russia, France, Israel, et al.
I have written much of the above in previous editions of this report, going back to 2003. But I’m afraid that I and other commentators will have to be repeating these observations for years to come. Myths that reinforce official government propaganda die hard. The mainstream media act like they don’t see through them, while national security officials thrive on them to give themselves a mission, to enhance their budgets, and further their personal advancement. The Washington Post recently reported: “A year into his tenure, the country’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, has proved even more bellicose than his father, North Korea’s longtime ruler, disappointing U.S. officials who had hoped for a fresh start with the regime.” 4
Yeah, right, can’t you just see those American officials shaking their heads and exclaiming: “Damn, what do we have to do to get those North Korean fellows to trust us?” Well, they could start by ending the many international sanctions they impose on North Korea. They could discontinue arming and training South Korean military forces. And they could stop engaging in provocative fly-overs, ships cruising the waters, and military exercises along with South Korea, Australia, and other countries dangerously close to the North. The Wall Street Journal reported:
The first show of force came on March 8, during the U.S.-South Korean exercise, known as Foal Eagle, when long-range B-52 bombers conducted low-altitude maneuvers. A few weeks later, in broad daylight, two B-2 bombers sent from a Missouri air base dropped dummy payloads on a South Korean missile range.
U.S. intelligence agencies, as had been planned, reviewed the North’s responses. After those flights, the North responded as the Pentagon and intelligence agencies had expected, with angry rhetoric, threatening to attack the South and the U.S.
On Sunday, the U.S. flew a pair of advanced F-22s to South Korea, which prompted another angry response from the North. 5
And the United States could stop having wet dreams about North Korea collapsing, enabling the US to establish an American military base right at the Chinese border.
As to North Korea’s frequent threats … yes, they actually outdo the United States in bellicosity, lies, and stupidity. But their threats are not to be taken any more seriously than Washington’s oft expressed devotion to democracy and freedom. When it comes to doing actual harm to other peoples, the North Koreans are not in the same league as the empire.
“Everyone is concerned about miscalculation and the outbreak of war. But the sense across the U.S. government is that the North Koreans are not going to wage all-out war,” a senior Obama administration official said. “They are interested first and foremost in regime survival.” 6
American sovereignty hasn’t faced a legitimate foreign threat to its existence since the British in 1812.
The marvelous world of Freedom of Speech
So, the United States and its Western partners have banned Iranian TV from North America and in various European countries. Did you hear about that? Probably not if you’re not on the mailing list ofPressTV, the 24-hour English-Language Iranian news channel. According to PressTV:
The Iranian film channel, iFilm, as well as Iranian radio stations, have also been banned from sensitive Western eyes and ears, all such media having been removed in February from the Galaxy 19 satellite platform serving the United States and Canada.
In December the Spanish satellite company, Hispasat, terminated the broadcast of the Iranian Spanish-language channel Hispan TV. Hispasat is partly owned by Eutelsat, whose French-Israeli CEO is blamed for the recent wave of attacks on Iranian media in Europe.
The American Jewish Committee has welcomed these developments. AJC Executive Director David Harris has acknowledged that the committee had for months been engaged in discussions with the Spaniards over taking Iranian channels off the air. 7
A careful search of the Lexis-Nexis data base of international media reveals that not one English-language print newspaper, broadcast station, or news agency in the world has reported on the PressTV news story since it appeared February 8. One Internet newspaper, Digital Journal, ran the story on February 10.
The United States, Canada, Spain, and France are thus amongst those countries proudly celebrating their commitment to the time-honored concept of freedom of speech. Other nations of “The Free World” cannot be far behind as Washington continues to turn the screws of Iranian sanctions still tighter.
In his classic 1984, George Orwell defined “doublethink” as “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” In the United States, the preferred label given by the Ministry of Truth to such hypocrisy is “American exceptionalism”, which manifests itself in the assertion of a divinely ordained mission as well in the insistence on America’s right to apply double standards in its own favor and reject “moral equivalence”.
The use of sanctions to prevent foreign media from saying things that Washington has decidedshould not be said is actually a marked improvement over previous American methods. For example, on October 8, 2001, the second day of the US bombing of Afghanistan, the transmitters for the Taliban government’s Radio Shari were bombed and shortly after this the US bombed some 20 regional radio sites. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the targeting of these facilities, saying: “Naturally, they cannot be considered to be free media outlets. They are mouthpieces of the Taliban and those harboring terrorists.” 8 And in Yugoslavia, in 1999, during the infamous 78-bombing of the Balkan country which posed no threat at all to the United States, state-owned Radio Television Serbia (RTS) was targeted because it was broadcasting things which the United States and NATO did not like (like how much horror the bombing was causing). The bombs took the lives of many of the station’s staff, and both legs of one of the survivors, which had to be amputated to free him from the wreckage. Notes
Washington Post, January 10, 2013
Washington Post, March 16, 2013
Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2013
Ibid.
Index on Censorship online, the UK’s leading organization promoting freedom of expression, October 18, 2001

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Washington’s Secret “Five Point Plan” to Destabilize Venezuela

By Stephen Lendman
April 08, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – It doesn’t surprise. It’s likely happening ahead of Venezuela’s April 14 presidential election. It’ll continue when it’s over.
Washington tolerates no independent governments. It demands pro-Western ones. It wants them serving US interests. Outliers are targeted for regime change.
Throughout his tenure, Chavez was America’s main hemispheric bete noire. He’s gone. Chavismo lives. Washington’s war on Venezuela continues.
It’s the oil, stupid. Venezuela has the world’s largest reserves. It’s also for unchallenged regional dominance. No holds barred tactics persist to achieve it.
On April 5, Russia Today (RT) headlined “New WikiLeaks cable reveals US embassy strategy to destabilize Chavez government.”
America’s Caracas embassy’s a hotbed of anti-Chavismo subversion. RT referred to past events. William Brownfield was US ambassador. He’s now Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
From 2004 – 2006, his five-point plan included “strengthening democratic institutions,” (doing so by undermining them), “penetrating Chavez’s political base, dividing Chavismo, protecting vital US business, and isolating Chavez internationally.”
USAID handled implementation. It provided about $15 million dollars. It did so through its Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). It was created in spring 2002. Money went for training and technical assistance. Over 300 anti-Chavismo organizations got it.
A November 9, 2006 US Caracas embassy cable explained. WikiLeaks exposed it. Its full unredacted text states:
“Classified By: Robert Downes, Political Counselor,
for Reason 1.4(d).
——-
SUMMARY
——-
“1. (S) During his 8 years in power, President Chavez has
systematically dismantled the institutions of democracy and
governance. The USAID/OTI program objectives in Venezuela
focus on strengthening democratic institutions and spaces
through non-partisan cooperation with many sectors of
Venezuelan society.
2. (S) In August of 2004, Ambassador outlined the country
team’s 5 point strategy to guide embassy activities in
Venezuela for the period 2004 ) 2006 (specifically, from the
referendum to the 2006 presidential elections). The
strategy’s focus is: 1) Strengthening Democratic
Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3)
Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5)
Isolating Chavez internationally.
3. (S) A brief description of USAID/OTI activities during
the aforementioned time period in support of the strategy
follows:
Strengthen Democratic Institutions
————-
4. (S) This strategic objective represents the majority of
USAID/OTI work in Venezuela. Organized civil society is an
increasingly important pillar of democracy, one where
President Chavez has not yet been able to assert full
control.
5. (S) OTI has supported over 300 Venezuelan civil society
organizations with technical assistance, capacity building,
connecting them with each other and international movements,
and with financial support upwards of $15 million. Of these,
39 organizations focused on advocacy have been formed since
the arrival of OTI; many of these organizations as a direct
result of OTI programs and funding.
6. (S) Human Rights: OTI supports the Freedom House (FH)
“Right to Defend Human Rights” program with $1.1 million.
Simultaneously through Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI),
OTI has also provided 22 grants to human rights
organizations, totaling $726,000. FH provides training and
technical assistance to 15 different smaller and regional
human rights organizations on how to research, document, and
present cases in situations of judicial impunity through a
specialized software and proven techniques. Following are
some specific successes from this project, which has led to a
better understanding internationally of the deteriorating
human rights situation in the country:
Venezuelan Prison Observatory: Since beginning work with
OTI, OVP has taken 1 case successfully through the
inter-American system, achieving a ruling requiring BRV
special protective measures for the prison ‘La Pica.’ Also,
on November 7th – 12th they will be launching the
Latin-American Prison Observatory, consolidating their work
with a regional network. OVP receives technical support from
FH, as well as monetary support from Pan American Development Foundation (PADF). Due to the success of the OVP in raising awareness of the issue, the BRV has put pressure on them in the form of public statements, announcing investigations, accusing them of alleged crimes as well as death threats.
Central Venezuelan University Human Rights Center: This
center was created out of the FH program and a grant from
CARACAS 00003356 002.2 OF 004
DAI. They have successfully raised awareness regarding the
International Cooperation Law and the human rights situation
in Venezuela, and have served as a voice nationally and
internationally.
Human Rights Lawyers Network in Bolivar State: This group
was created out of the FH program and a grant from the DAI
small grants program. They are currently supporting the
victims of a massacre of 12 miners in Bolivar State allegedly
by the Venezuelan Army. Chavez himself was forced to admit
that the military used excessive force in this case. They
will present their case to the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights in February 2007.
7. (S) Citizen Participation in Governance: Venezuelan
NGOs lack a long history of social activism. In response,
OTI partners are training NGOs to be activists and become
more involved in advocacy. The successes of this focus have
been as follows:
Support for the Rights of the Handicapped: OTI has funded 3
projects in the Caracas area dealing with the rights of the
handicapped. Venezuela had neither the appropriate
legislation nor political will to assure that the cities are
designed and equipped in a handicapped sensitive fashion.
Through these programs, OTI brought the issue of the
handicapped to the forefront, trained advocacy groups to
advocate for their rights and lobby the National Assembly,
and alerted the press regarding this issue. Subsequent to
this, the National Assembly was forced to consider
handicapped needs and propose draft legislation for the issue.
Por la Caracas Possible (PCP): Once-beautiful Caracas has
decayed over the past several years due to corruption and
lack of attention. PCP is a local NGO dedicated to bringing
attention to this problem. They have held campaigns with
communities shining a light on the terrible job elected
leadership are doing resolving the problems in Caracas.
During their work they have been expelled from communities by
the elected leaders, further infuriating communities that
already feel un-assisted.
8. (S) Civic Education: One effective Chavista mechanism
of control applies democratic vocabulary to support
revolutionary Bolivarian ideology. OTI has been working to
counter this through a civic education program called
‘Democracy Among Us.’ This interactive education program
works through NGOs in low income communities to deliver five
modules: 1) Separation of Powers, 2) Rule of Law, 3) The
Role and Responsibility of Citizens, 4) Political Tolerance,
and 5) The Role of Civil Society. Separate civic education
programs in political tolerance, participation, and human
rights have reached over 600,000 people.
————–
Penetrate Base/Divide Chavismo
————–
9. (S) Another key Chavez strategy is his attempt to divide
and polarize Venezuelan society using rhetoric of hate and
violence. OTI supports local NGOs who work in Chavista
strongholds and with Chavista leaders, using those spaces to
counter this rhetoric and promote alliances through working
together on issues of importance to the entire community.
OTI has directly reached approximately 238,000 adults through
over 3000 forums, workshops and training sessions delivering
alternative values and providing opportunities for opposition
activists to interact with hard-core Chavistas, with the
desired effect of pulling them slowly away from Chavismo. We
have supported this initiative with 50 grants totaling over
$1.1 million. There are several key examples of this:
10. (S) Visor Participativo: This is a group of 34 OTI
CARACAS 00003356 003.2 OF 004
funded and technically assisted NGOs working together on
municipal strengthening. They work in 48 municipalities
(Venezuela has 337), with 31 MVR, 2 PPT and 15 opposition
mayors. As Chavez attempts to re-centralize the country, OTI
through Visor is supporting decentralization. Much of this
is done through the municipal councils (CLPPs). The National
Assembly recently passed a law that creates groups parallel
to the mayor’s offices and municipal councils (and that
report directly to the president’s office). These groups are
receiving the lions share of new monies Chavez is pumping
into the regions, leaving the municipalities under-funded.
As Chavez attempts to re-centralize all power to the
Executive in the capital, local Chavista leadership are
becoming the opposition as their individual oxen are gored.
Visor has been providing these leaders with tools and skills
for leadership to counter the threat represented by the new
legislation.
11. (S) CECAVID: This project supported an NGO working
with women in the informal sectors of Barquisimeto, the 5th
largest city in Venezuela. The training helped them
negotiate with city government to provide better working
conditions. After initially agreeing to the women’s
conditions, the city government reneged and the women shut
down the city for 2 days forcing the mayor to return to the
bargaining table. This project is now being replicated in
another area of Venezuela.
12. (S) PROCATIA: OTI has partnered with a group widely
perceived by people in the large Caracas &barrio8 as
opposition leaning. Due to incompetence of the local elected
leadership, the garbage problem in Catia is a messy issue for
all those who live there. This group has organized brigades
to collect and recycle trash, in the process putting pressure
on the government to provide basic services and repositioning
the group as a respected ally of the ‘barrio.’
13. (S) Finally, through support of a positive social
impact campaign in cooperation with PAS, OTI funded 54 social
projects all over the country, at over $1.2 million, allowing
Ambassador to visit poor areas of Venezuela and demonstrate
US concern for the Venezuelan people. This program fosters
confusion within the Bolivarian ranks, and pushes back at the
attempt of Chavez to use the United States as a ‘unifying
enemy.’
—————
Isolate Chavez
—————
14. (S) An important component of the OTI program is
providing information internationally regarding the true
revolutionary state of affairs. OTI’s support for human
rights organizations has provided ample opportunity to do so.
The FH exchanges allowed Venezuelan human rights
organizations to visit Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Chile,
Argentina, Costa Rica, and Washington DC to educate their
peers regarding the human rights situation. Also, DAI has
brought dozens of international leaders to Venezuela,
university professors, NGO members, and political leaders to
participate in workshops and seminars, who then return to
their countries with a better understanding of the Venezuelan
reality and as stronger advocates for the Venezuelan
opposition.
15. (S) More recently, OTI has taken advantage of the draft
law of International Cooperation to send NGO representatives
to international NGO conferences where they are able to voice
their concerns in terms that global civil society understands. So far, OTI has sent Venezuelan NGO leaders to Turkey, Scotland, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Chile, Uruguay, Washington and Argentina (twice) to talk about the law. Upcoming visits are planned to Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.
CARACAS 00003356 004.2 OF 004
OTI has also brought 4 recognized experts in NGO law from
abroad to Venezuela to show solidarity for their Venezuelan
counterparts. PADF supported visits by 4 key human rights
defenders to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission
meetings in Washington in October of 2006. These have led to
various successes:
Civicus, a world alliance of NGOs, has put the Venezuela
issue on their Civil Society Watch short list of countries of
concern.
Gente de Soluciones, a Venezuelan NGO presented their
“Project Society” to the OAS General Assembly. While there,
they met with many of the Ambassadors and Foreign Ministers
of OAS member states to express concern about the law.
Uruguayan parliamentarians met with NGOs at a special session of the Foreign Affairs commission, and have promised to help where they can.
The Human Rights Commission of the OAS has made several
public statements and sent private letters to the National
Assembly expressing concern with the law.
The most prestigious law faculty in Buenos Aires, Argentina
has committed to hosting an event to deal with the draft law.
The Democratic Observatory of MERCOSUR plans to hold an event early next year to discuss the draft law.
So far the Venezuelan National Assembly has received many
letters and emails of opposition to the law from groups all
over the world.
A private meeting between 4 Venezuelan human rights defenders and Secretary General Jose Miguel Inzulsa during the October 2006 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (please protect).
The press, both local and international, has been made aware
of the proposed law and it has received wide play in the US
as well as in Latin America.
16. (S) OTI has also created a web site which has been sent
to thousands of people all over the world with details of the
law in an interactive format.
Comment
——-
17. (S) Through carrying out positive activities, working
in a non-partisan way across the ideological landscape, OTI
has been able to achieve levels of success in carrying out
the country team strategy in Venezuela. These successes have
come with increasing opposition by different sectors of
Venezuelan society and the Venezuelan government. Should
Chavez win the December 3rd presidential elections, OTI
expects the atmosphere for our work in Venezuela to become
more complicated.
BROWNFIELD”
OTI funded over 50 projects. They aimed to foster “confusion within the Bolivarian ranks, and pushe(d) back at the attempt of Chavez to use the United States as a unifying enemy.”
In 2010, Venezuela closed OTI’s office. It did so for good reason. Chavez knew what he faced. So does acting president/United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) presidential candidate Nicolas Maduro. Elections are scheduled for Sunday, April 14.
He’s odds on favored to win. Polls show him way ahead. He’s concerned about internal subversion and sabotage. On April 4, he ordered Venezuela’s military to protect power plants just in case.
He did so following suspicious Cararcas and Aragua state outages. He called them opposition efforts to wage “electricity” and “economic war.” He stressed the urgency of protecting “national security.”
Venezuela’s state-run National Electricity Corporation (Corpoelec) found 11 burned out transformers throughout Aragua state. Company president Argenis Chavez cited sabotage. So did Maduro, saying “(t)here’s nothing to indicate (a conventional) failure.”
“It’s not a secret to anyone that inside the structure of the electrical system, there are (anti-Chavismo) elements. Thank God every day there are less workers who answer the right-wing call to commit sabotage. But there is internal and external sabotage.”
Argenis Chavez said suspicious power failures occurred before last October’s presidential elections. They’re happening again now. Perhaps other destabilizing schemes are planned ahead of April 14.
Washington’s long arm’s been involved throughout Chavez’s tenure. It continues now. Replacing Chavismo is policy. Past efforts failed.
They included an aborted two-day April 2002 coup, a 2002-03 64-day oil industry lockout, an unsuccessful 2004 recall election, Western scoundrel media campaigns, and millions of dollars given anti-Chavismo political parties, journalists, NGOs, and other groups wanting oligarch power restored.
In 2006, Washington established a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) mission manager for Venezuela and Cuba. CIA veteran Timothy Langford heads it. He replaced interim manager Patrick Maher.
In June 2007, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Craig Kelly called Chavez a regional “enemy.” He proposed “six main areas of action for the US government to limit (his) influence (and) reassert US leadership in the region.”
He stressed “strengthen(ing) ties to those military leaders in the region who share our concern over Chavez.” He proposed “psychological operations” to exploit government vulnerabilities.
“We also need to make sure that the truth about Chavez – his hollow vision, his empty promises, his dangerous international relationships, starting with Iran – gets out, always exercising careful judgment about where and how we take on Chavez directly/publicly.”
Throughout his tenure, Washington wanted him ousted. It wants state-owned enterprises privatized. It wants Bolivarian initiatives abolished. It wants Venezuela made a client-state.
In April 2008, the Pentagon reactivated its Fourth Fleet. It did so after a 60 year hiatus. It was established during WW II. It was disbanded in 1950.
It’s part of US Naval Forces Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM). It’s headquartered at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, FL. It operates throughout Central and Latin America.
Its purpose involves “conducting varying missions including a range of contingency operations, counter(ing) narco-terrorism, and theater security cooperation activities.”
Former USSOUTHCOM commander Admiral James Stevenson called the move a message to the entire region, not just Venezuela.
National War College commandant General Robert Steele said:
“The United States’ obsession with Venezuela, Cuba and other things indicates they are going to use more military force, going to use that instrument more often.”
US bases infest Latin America. Seven operate in eastern Colombia. It borders Venezuela. Chavez was justifiably concerned. He called stationing US forces nearby “a threat of war at us.”
So far, US destabilization efforts wage it by other means. Expect no letup ahead. Venezuela’s targeted for regime change. Obama’s more belligerent than Bush.
Chavismo remains the threat of a good example. Washington wants a client state replacing it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net .His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html – Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com .
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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The US Plans to End Chávez’s Rule

Documents released by WikiLeaks explain in detail former US ambassador’s strategy to undermine Chávez’s regime.
By Latinamerica Press
April 05, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“LAP” – After the failed coup against President Hugo Chávez (1999-2013) in 2002, in the best tradition of the Cold War, the US Embassy in Venezuela launched a plan to put an end to Chavismo (the name given to Hugo Chávez’s left-wing political ideology), as revealed in secret documents released by WikiLeaks.
An investigation carried out and published on March 18 by Pública — the independent Brazilian Agency of Investigative Reporting and Journalism— exposed the five-point strategy implemented between 2004 and 2006 by the former US ambassador, William Brownfield. The plan by Brownfield — the current Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs — included strengthening democratic institutions in Venezuela, infiltrating Chávez’s political basis, dividing Chavismo, protecting US businesses and isolating Chávez internationally.
The plan was implemented through the US Agency for International Development, or USAID, which gave about US$15 million for technical assistance and training to over 300 civil society organizations through its Office of Transition Initiatives, or OTI, created shortly after the failed coup d’état against Chávez.
According to research conducted by Pública on the basis of a cable released by WikiLeaks, “one of the main objectives of USAID was to bring human rights cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in order to obtain convictions and undermine the international credibility of the Venezuelan government. According to the account of the former ambassador [Brownfield], that is what the Venezuelan Prison Observatory did — it achieved a ruling by the court requiring special measures to address the human rights violations in La Pica prison, in the east of the country.”
The 06CARACAS3356 cable, signed by Brownfield, is a brief description of the USAID/OTI activities during those two years. The document notes that the strengthening of democratic institutions was the strategic objective which “represents the majority of USAID/OTI work in Venezuela.”
OTI allocated $1.1 million for training and technical assistance to local human rights organizations through Freedom House — a non-governmental organization based in Washington that promotes democracy, political freedom and human rights — and through Development Alternatives Inc., or DAI, the company that administered the funds.
OTI’s work focused on counteracting Chávez’s alleged strategy of “divid[ing] and polariz[ing] Venezuelan society using rhetoric of hate and violence.” OTI funded over 50 social projects throughout the country with the aim of “fostering confusion within the Bolivarian ranks.”
“OTI has directly reached approximately 238,000 adults through over 3,000 forums, workshops and training sessions delivering alternative values and providing opportunities for opposition activists to interact with hard-core Chavistas [a common name for the supporters of Hugo Chávez’s political ideology], with the desired effect of pulling them slowly away from Chavismo,” the cable says.
In addition, DAI has brought professors, nongovernmental organizations’ members and political leaders — mainly from Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, United States, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru — to Venezuela to participate in workshops and seminars who would then return to their countries with “a better understanding of the Venezuelan reality and as stronger advocates for the Venezuelan opposition.”
Brownfield’s diplomatic work in Venezuela ended in mid-2007 and he soon took over as an ambassador to Colombia, where he remained until October 2010, when he was appointed to his current position in the State Department. Under pressure from the Venezuelan government, the OTI’s office in Venezuela was closed in 2010.
Latinamerica Press

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Venezuela’s Maduro runs right-wing campaign in preparation for austerity

By Alexander Fangmann 
2 April 2013
With a presidential election scheduled for April 14, after the death of President Hugo Chávez on March 5, former vice president and now acting president Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s handpicked successor, appears to be far in the lead over the main opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda state who ran against Chávez in October.
Maduro has primarily campaigned as Chávez’s handpicked successor who will carry on his policies, to the point that his campaign team has taken to describing him as Chávez’s “son.” Increasingly, Maduro’s campaign has made moves to the right, using Chávez’s death to make reactionary appeals to both the military and Catholic Church, to shore up support for the Chavista movement among those right-wing layers.
A former activist in the Maoist Liga Socialista, Maduro later became a bus driver in Caracas in the 1990s. During that time, he became head of the bus driver’s union, and entered the National Assembly in 1998 as a founding member of Chávez’s electoral vehicle, the Movement for a Fifth Republic, which later initiated Chávez’ United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
In 2005, he was appointed foreign minister, a post he held until October 2012, when we has named vice president. Maduro’s wife is Cilia Flores, the Venezuelan attorney general, who in served as Chávez’s lead defense attorney in the wake of the former paratrooper officer’s abortive 1992 coup.
Although never a member of the military, Maduro has carefully worked to associate himself with it, dressing in quasi-military attire in official photos, and appearing at campaign functions driving military vehicles. Maintaining ties to the military is crucial for Maduro. Chávez, a former lieutenant colonel, relied heavily on the military, placing officers in his cabinet, throughout the government, and at the head of some of the largest state-owned enterprises, such as the Venezuelan Guayana Corporation, a large mining conglomerate.
Military officers hold 11 of Venezuela’s 23 state governorships and roughly a quarter of ministerial portfolios. The head of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, a former officer who participated in Chávez’s 1992 coup, is seen as one of Maduro’s major rivals inside the Chavista movement. Although Defense Minister Diego Mollero came out in favor of Maduro, in contravention of the Venezuelan constitution, there are no doubt significant sections of the military which would like to shed even the current minimal level of oversight over their control of state-owned corporations.
An important theme of Maduro’s campaign has been the attempt to build up a cult of Chávez mixed with appeals to religion. At a rally in Caracas, Maduro said, “president Chávez is in heaven,” adding: “I don’t have any doubt that if any man who walked this earth did what was needed so that Christ the redeemer would give him a seat at his side, it was our redeemer liberator of the 21st century, the comandante Hugo Chávez.”
Maduro’s appeals to religious sentiment are an overture to the Catholic Church, which plays a reactionary role in Latin America. After Argentine cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was selected as pope, Maduro said: “We know that our commander ascended to those heights and is face to face with Christ. Something must have influenced [Jesus] to call for a South American pope.”
In fact, Bergoglio had been described in Argentina as the leader of the political right and is implicated in crimes committed by the Argentine military junta—in which an estimated 30,000 workers, students, and intellectuals were “disappeared” or murdered.
Maduro’s courting of the military and church indicates the reactionary character of the policies he is preparing to pursue against the working class as the Venezuelan bourgeoisie moves to shore up its wealth. While presenting himself as Chávez’s successor, Maduro is widely seen as a pragmatist who will cut spending on social programs and foreign aid drawn from Venezuela’s oil revenues.
Maduro faces calls to increase Venezuela’s oil production capacity, which has fallen on average 2 percent per year over the last four years, according to Fitch, the ratings agency. It is widely expected that Maduro will make overtures to international oil companies to invest in production.
On February 8, the government announced it was devaluing the national currency, the bolivar, by 32 percent. As Venezuela earns dollars through international oil sales, in devaluing the bolivar, Venezuela’s government effectively gave itself more bolivars per dollar. At the same time, the devaluation will certainly affect the buying power of the vast majority of the population, who already experience high levels of inflation, mitigated only by price controls on some basic necessities.
The devaluation was aimed at both alleviating budget pressures and at jump-starting the country’s non-oil exports, which have dropped to 5 percent of total exports, from a previous level of 19 percent eight years ago.
By weakening the value of the bolivar, the government hopes to stimulate national industry and undercut cheap imports entering from other countries, particularly Brazil. It also served as a barrier to capital flight, making it more expensive to convert national earnings to dollars.
Right before the government announced the devaluation of the currency, Maduro signaled that cutbacks and preparations for austerity were being planned, saying, “we have to learn to do a lot with a little, more with less,” and “we need to overturn the culture in which historically, because of oil, we’ve done little with a lot.”
Maduro himself is a prime example of the social layer some have called theboliburguesia —a new section of the ruling class in Venezuela which owes its existence to Chávez’ so-called Bolivarian Revolution.
They have profited from government contracts, corruption, and financial speculation made possible through participation in Chávez’ regime. Having enriched itself at the public trough, this layer has no interest in giving up the wealth it has amassed over the past decades and is working to shore up its own interests. This layer will prove violently hostile to any challenge from the working class.

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Venezuela’s presidential elections: best chances for Maduro

On the 14th of April 2013, Venezuelans will elect their new president for a term of six years. Various polls indicate that the current Interim President, Nicolás Maduro (PSUV), will win. He is leading with a margin of 20 to 24 points. 
by Olivia Kroth 
Actually, PSUV, Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, has developed a collective leadership. Nicolás Maduro is seconded by Elías Jaua, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. They work as a harmonious team according to Hugo Chávez’s last wish. Furthermore, 21 of 23 Venezuelan governors are members of PSUV, supporting the presidential candidate, Nicolás Maduro, in their respective states. 
All PSUV members have adopted the battle cry, “unity and leadership!” Millions are united in working towards the goal of securing a maximum of votes for Nicolás Maduro on the 14th of April, according to the PSUV slogan, “I swear to Chávez that my vote goes to Maduro.” The late President of Venezuela, Comandante Hugo Chávez, who passed away on the 5th of March 2013, had asked all of his fans and followers to give their votes to his friend and comrade, Nicolás Maduro. 
Who is Nicolás Maduro? 
A tall handsome man, who stems from a working class family in Caracas, a PSUV member, a hard worker and strong character like Hugo Chávez was, but less fiery, less extroverted and less impulsive. He appears to be more pragmatic and reserved, which might partly be due to his wife’s influence, lawyer Cilia Flores, whose last post was Attorney General of the Republic. 
Nicolás Maduro was born on the 23rd of November 1962. Between 1991 and 1998, he worked for the Metro System of Caracas as a union leader. In 1999, he became a Deputy of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly and one year later, in 2000, Deputy of the National Assembly, representing the Capital District. He was re-elected to this office in 2005. 
In 2006, the late President, Hugo Chávez, appointed Nicolás Maduro as Minister of Foreign Affairs. In this capacity, he worked as a strong supporter of the Great Brother Leader, Muammar Gaddafi, and the Socialist Libyan Jamahiriya, until it was bombed to rubble and ashes by NATO. 
Nicolás Maduro also advocates friendship with President Manuel Santos of neighbouring Colombia. He helped to improve the relations between Venezuela and Colombia, which had soured under the previous Colombian president. In addition, Nicolás Maduro built up excellent contacts to the leaders of all the Latin American and Central American progressive governments, especially Cuba. 
Nicolás Maduro is loyal to the socialist cause and will continue with all the social missions initiated by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. He is a tireless anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist fighter like his predecessor was. The Venezuelan masses have extended their love for Hugo Chávez to include Nicolás Maduro, whose portrait can be seen everywhere, on flags, caps, T-shirts and walls. When he recently opened a twitter account, he gained 1.5 million followers in just two days. 
Sympathy for Hugo Chávez’s successor is increasing, as he tours the Venezuelan states on his presidential campaign. The masses feel that they might lose all their achievements and gains of the past 14 years, should the Bolivarian Revolution fail. Nicolás Maduro has set his stakes high. His aim is to win nine, even 10 million votes on the 14th of April. He is telling the people in the streets that they will lose everything, if PSUV loses the upcoming elections. He promises to always remain loyal to the legacy of Hugo Chávez, which means “Socialism for the 21st Century.” 
Nicolás Maduro also profits from Venezuela’s recent entry into MERCOSUR, the Common Market of South America, as his country takes over the rotating presidency from Uruguay this summer. “On the 28th of June 2013, I will travel to Montevideo, Uruguay, as Venezuela’s President, because Venezuela assumes the presidency of MERCOSUR,” Nicolás Maduro announced during his election campaign in Lara, one of Venezuela’s western grassland states. 
Who is Cilia Flores? 
She is Nicolás Maduro’s wife, but she does not want to be Venezuela’s “First Lady” at the side of her husband, because she disdains this bourgeois concept. She would rather be the “First Female Patriot” and the “First Socialist Woman” of Venezuela. 
Cilia Flores was born in Tinaquillo, Cojedes, on the 1st of January 1953. She graduated from the University Santa María in Caracas as a lawyer, specialized in Labour Law and Penal Law. In 1993, Cilia Flores founded the Bolivarian Circle of Human Rights. In 1994, she was a member of the lawyers’ team that liberated Hugo Chávez from prison. 
In 1998, Cilia Flores supported Hugo Chávez as presidential candidate and won a Deputy’s seat in the first National Assembly of Venezuela, in 2000. She was re-elected to this post, in 2005, and became the first female President of the National Assembly, in 2006. On the 31st of January 2012, Cilia Flores was appointed Attorney General of the Republic by the late President, Hugo Chávez. 
Women play a great role in Venezuela since the Bolivarian Revolution began, in 1999. They are visible and powerful. Venezuelan women work as doctors, lawyers, teachers and in many other professions. There are high ranking female officers in the Venezuelan Armed Forces. Many women hold high political posts as mayors, state governors or ministers. 
“A revolutionary, a socialist, must be a true feminist,” Hugo Chávez once pronounced. Women have profited greatly from Venezuela’s social missions. Many women will be at the front in the upcoming presidential elections, organizing rallies in their neighbourhoods, persuading their compatriots to vote for Nicolás Maduro. 
“Que grande ha sido Chávez,” Nicolás Maduro emphasized, “how great Chávez was.” He himself is not a tiny man either, with his towering height of 1.90 metres. During the next presidential term, from 2013 to 2019, he will surely get his chance of proving that he is also a political giant, like Hugo Chávez, the strong and inspiring leader, whose memory will live on in Nicolás Maduro and the wonderful people of Venezuela. 
Hugo Chávez has acquired his rightful place in history as one of Latin America’s great freedom fighters, in line with Simón Bolívar, José Marti and Ché Guevara. 
La Revolución sigue. The Revolution goes on.

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U.S. "Far-right" Wants to Kill Capriles

By Daniel Wallis and Andrew Cawthorne
March 14, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Reuters” – Venezuela’s acting president said on Wednesday that “far right” figures in the United States were plotting to kill opposition leader Henrique Capriles in an increasingly volatile atmosphere ahead of an April 14 election.
Accusations are flying and emotions are running high in the South American OPEC nation of 29 million people since the death last week of former socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
“We have detected plans by the far right, linked to the groups of (former Bush administration officials) Roger Noriega and Otto Reich, to make an attempt against the opposition presidential candidate,” Nicolas Maduro said.
He gave no more details, but said in a televised speech that the government had sent a senior general to meet with aides of Capriles. There was no immediate response from Washington or Capriles’ camp.
During the Chavez era, there were frequent claims of U.S. plots aimed at discrediting his self-styled revolution. Critics said they were a smokescreen to create a sense of “imperialist” threat and distract Venezuelans from daily problems.
Why foreign right-wingers would want to bring down the business-friendly Capriles was not explained by Maduro.
The upcoming vote will pit Maduro, Chavez’s heir apparent, against Capriles, a centrist state governor who lost an election to Chavez in October.
Noriega, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America under former president George W. Bush, denied Maduro’s accusation. “Its absolute nonsense,” said Noriega said.
“They call you what they are and they accuse you of doing what they do. That is the way they operate,” Noreiga.
Reich was not immediately available to comment.
Earlier this week, Capriles’ team said the opposition candidate had not registered his candidacy in person on Monday because they had received information that an attack against him was planned. Aides delivered his papers instead.
In January, Maduro said unidentified groups had entered the country with the aim of assassinating him and the head of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello.
This week, Maduro also said Venezuela will set up a formal inquiry into claims that Chavez’s cancer was the result of poisoning by his enemies abroad.
GAY ROW
Venezuela’s acrimonious election campaign was further stirred by remarks from Maduro that were widely perceived as a homophobic slur against Capriles.
Capriles, 40, was the target of racial and sexual innuendoes by Chavez’s supporters throughout last year’s presidential race: one cartoon shown on state media depicted him in pink shorts with a Nazi swastika on one arm.
Chavez himself was also vilified by foes as an uncouth clown throughout his rule. The mockery included racist insults and photos of apes with his face superimposed.
Denigrating images of Maduro driving a bus – his former job – are now circulating among anti-government factions.
In the flurry of back-and-forth accusations from both camps this week, Maduro appeared to revive last year’s line of attack over Capriles’ sexuality. Capriles is unmarried.
“I do have a wife, you know? I do like women!” Maduro told a rally. He has also called Capriles “a little princess.”
The comment drew hoots of laughter from supporters, some shouting explicit insults against the opposition leader.
That infuriated backers of Capriles, whom polls show has an uphill struggle to beat Maduro. “I believe in a society where no one feels excluded due to their way of thinking, race, beliefs or sexual orientation,” Capriles said in response.
Images of guns pointed at TVs showing Capriles’ image are also doing the rounds, triggering a formal opposition complaint.
On Wednesday, Maduro rowed back and insisted he was always respectful of others’ private lives. “If I were homosexual I would be proud about it and I would love whoever I loved with my heart, without problem,” he said.
Venezuela’s acting leader also said on Wednesday that plans to embalm Chavez’s remains, in the style of Communist leaders Lenin, Stalin and Mao, had run into problems.
“Russian and German scientists have arrived to embalm Chavez and they tell us it’s very difficult because the process should have started earlier. … Maybe we can’t do it,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez, Mario Naranjo and Patricia Velez)

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Hugo Chavez Was A Miracle

By Paul Craig Roberts
March 13, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“PCR” – On March 5, 2013, Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela and world leader against imperialism, died. Washington imperialists and their media and think tank whores expressed gleeful sighs of relief as did the brainwashed US population. An “enemy of America” was gone.
Chavez was not an enemy of America. He was an enemy of Washington’s hegemony over other countries, an enemy of Washington’s alliance with elite ruling cliques who steal from the people they grind down and deny sustenance. He was an enemy of Washington’s injustice, of Washington’s foreign policy based on lies and military aggression, bombs and invasions.
Washington is not America. Washington is Satan’s home town.
Chavez was a friend of truth and justice, and this made him unpopular throughout the Western World where every political leader regards truth and justice as dire threats.
Chavez was a world leader. Unlike US politicians, Chavez was respected throughout the non-western world. He was awarded honorary doctorates from China, Russia, Brazil, and other countries, but not from Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, and Oxford.
Chavez was a miracle. He was a miracle, because he did not sell out to the United States and the Venezuelan elites. Had he sold out, Chavez would have become very rich from oil revenues, like the Saudi Royal Family, and he would have been honored by the United States in the way that Washington honors all its puppets: with visits to the White House. He could have become a dictator for life as long as he served Washington.
Each of Washington’s puppets, from Asia to Europe and the Middle East, anxiously awaits the invitation that demonstrates Washington’s appreciation of his or her servitude to the global imperialist power that still occupies Japan and Germany 68 years after World War II and South Korea 60 years after the end of the Korean War and has placed troops and military bases in a large number of other “sovereign” countries.
It would have been politically easy for Chavez to sell out. All he had to do was to continue populist rhetoric, promote his allies in the army, throw more benefits to the underclass than its members had ever previously experienced, and divide the rest of the oil revenues with the corrupt Venezuelan elites.
But Chavez was a real person, like Rafael Correa, the three-term elected president of Ecuador, who stood up to the United States and granted political asylum to the persecuted Julian Assange, and Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia since the Spanish conquest. The majority of Venezuelans understood that Chavez was a real person. They elected him to four terms as president and would have continued electing him as long as he lived. What Washington hates most is a real person who cannot be bought.
The more the corrupt western politicians and media whores demonized Chavez, the more Venezuelans loved him. They understood completely that anyone damned by Washington was God’s gift to the world.
It is costly to stand up to Washington. All who are bold enough to do so are demonized. They risk assassination and being overthrown in a CIA-organized coup, as Chavez was in 2002. When CIA-instructed Venezuelan elites sprung their coup and kidnapped Chavez, the coup was overthrown by the Venezuelan people who took to the streets and by elements of the military before Chavez could be murdered by the CIA-controlled Venezuelan elites, who escaped with their own venal lives only because, unlike them, Chavez was humanitarian. The Venezuelan people rose in instantaneous and massive public defense of Chavez and put the lie to the Bush White House claim that Chavez was a dictator.
Showing its sordid corruption, the New York Times took the side of the undemocratic coup by a handful of elitists against the democratically elected Chavez, and declared that Chavez’s removal by a small group of rich elites and CIA operatives meant that “Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator.”
The lies and demonization continue with Chavez’s death. He will never be forgiven for standing up for justice. Neither will Correa and Morales, both of whom are no doubt on assassination lists.
CounterPunch, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, and other commentators have collected examples of the venom-spewing obituaries that the western presstitutes have written for Chavez, essentially celebrations that death has silenced the bravest voice on earth.http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/03/08/obituaries-for-hugo-chavez/
Perhaps the most absurd of all was Associated Press business reporter Pamela Sampson’s judgment that Chavez wasted Venezuela’s oil wealth on “social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs,” a poor use of money that could have been used to build sky scrappers such as “the world’s tallest building in Dubai and branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi.”
Among the tens of millions of Washington’s victims in the world–the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Mali, with Iran, Russia, China, and South America waiting in the wings for sanctions, destabilization, conquest or reconquest, Chavez’s September 20, 2006 speech at the UN General Assembly during the George W. Bush regime will stand forever as the greatest speech of the early 21st century.
Chavez beards the lion, or rather Satan, in his own den:
“Yesterday, the devil himself stood right here, at this podium, speaking as if he owned the world. You can still smell the sulfur.”
“We should call a psychiatrist to analyze yesterday’s statement made by the president of the United States. As the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums, to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world. An Alfred Hitchcock movie could use it as a scenario. I would even propose a title: ‘the Devil’s Recipe.’”
The UN General Assembly had never heard such words, not even in the days when the militarily powerful Soviet Union was present. Faces broke out in smiles of approval, but no one dared to clap. Too much US money for the home country was at stake.
The US and UK delegations fled the scene, like vampires confronted with garlic and the Cross or werewolves confronted with silver bullets.
Chavez spoke about the false democracy of elites that is imposed by force and on others by “weapons and bombs.” Chavez asked, “What type of democracy do you impose with Marines and bombs?”
Wherever George W. Bush looks, Chavez said, “he sees extremists. And you, my brother–he looks at your color, and he says, oh, there’s an extremist. Evo Morales, the worthy president of Bolivia, looks like an extremist to him. The imperialists see extremists everywhere. It is not that we are extremists. It is that the world is waking up. It is waking up all over and people are standing up.”
In two short sentences totaling 20 words, Chavez defined for all times early 21st century Washington: “The imperium is afraid of truth, is afraid of independent voices. It calls us extremists, but they are the extremists.”
Throughout South America and the non-western world, Chavez’s death is being blamed on Washington. South Americans are aware of the US congressional hearings in the 1970s when the Church Committee brought to light the various CIA schemes to poison Fidel Castro.
The official document presented to President John F. Kennedy by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, known as the Northwoods Project, is known to the world and is available online. The Northwoods project consisted of a false flag attack on American citizens in order to blame Cuba and create public and world acceptance for US-imposed regime change in Cuba. President Kennedy rejected the proposal as inconsistent with morality and accountable government. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Northwoods
The belief has already hardened in South America that Washington with its hideous technologies of death infected Chavez with cancer in order to remove him as an obstacle to Washington’s hegemony over South America.
This belief will never die: Chavez, the greatest South American since Simon Bolivar, was murdered by Washington. True or false, the belief is set in stone. As Washington and globalism destroy more countries, the lives of elites become more precarious.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt understood that security for the rich required economic security for the underclasses. Roosevelt established in the US a weak form of social democracy that European politicians had already understood was necessary for social cohesion and political and economic stability.
The Clinton, Bush, and Obama regimes set about undermining the stability that Roosevelt provided, as Thatcher, Major, Blair, and the current prime minister of the UK undermined the social agreement between classes in the UK. Politicians in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand also made the mistake of handing power over to private elites at the expense of social and economic stability.
Gerald Celente predicts that the elites will not survive the hatred and anger that they are bringing upon themselves. I suspect that he is correct. The American middle class is being destroyed. The working class has become a proletariat, and the social welfare system is being destroyed in order to reduce the budget deficit caused by the loss of tax revenues to jobs offshoring and the expense of wars, overseas military bases, and financial bailouts. The American people are being compelled to suffer in order that elites can continue with their agendas.
The US elites know what is coming. That is why they created a Nazi-style Ministry of the Interior known as Homeland Security, armed with enough ammunition to kill every American five times and with tanks to neutralize the Second Amendment rights of Americans.http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article34259.htm
Pistols and rifles are useless against tanks, as the Branch Davidians found out in Waco, Texas. The protection of a small handful of elites from the Americans they are oppressing is also the reason the police are being militarized, brought under Washington’s control and armed with drones that can assassinate the real leaders of the American people who will be, not in the legislative, executive, or judicial chambers, but in the streets. http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-militarization-of-law-enforcement-in-america-use-of-military-technology-and-tactics-by-local-level-police/5326303
Internment camps in the US appear to be real and not a conspiracy theory. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfkZ1yri26s
The threat that the US government poses to its own citizens was recognized on March 7, 2013, by two US Senators, Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), who introduced a bill to prevent the US government from murdering its own citizens: “The Federal Government may not use a drone to kill a citizen of the United States who is located in the United States” unless the person “poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to another individual. Nothing in this section shall be construed to suggest that the Constitution would otherwise allow the killing of a citizen of the United States in the United States without due process of law.” http://www.cruz.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=339952
The “indispensable people” with their presidents Bush and Obama have begun the 21st century with death and violence. That is their only legacy.
The death and violence that Washington has unleashed will come back to Washington and to the corrupt political elites everywhere. As Gerald Celente says, the first great war of the 21st century has begun.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available.

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Venezuela to Investigate Chavez Murder Allegations

By BBC

March 12, 2013 “Information Clearing House –BBC – Venezuelan officials have said they will set up an inquiry to investigate suspicions that President Hugo Chavez was murdered by foreign agencies.

Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told the BBC the United States and Israel were to blame for Mr Chavez’s death.

He said he hoped the special commission would provide evidence.
Mr Chavez himself suggested he might have been injected by “foreign imperialist forces” after discovering he had cancer in 2011.
On an interview with BBC Mundo in Caracas, Mr Ramirez said he had no doubt that Mr Chavez’s death was an act of confrontation and similar to Yasser Arafat’s.
On the day Mr Chavez died, the Vice-President Nicolas Maduro also likened his case to the death of the Palestinian leader.
‘Destabilise Venezuela’
Venezuelan official rhetoric against the United States has stepped up since last Tuesday.
Hours before announcing the death of the leader, Mr Maduro said live on state television that a plot to “destabilise Venezuela” had been foiled.
He also said two US military attaches were being ordered out, accusing them of involvement in the alleged conspiracy.
Mr Maduro said that one day a scientific commission would prove that Mr Chavez’s cancer had been “injected by imperialist forces”.
On Monday, the US expelled two Venezuelan diplomats following the expulsion of their officials from Caracas.
The second secretary in Venezuela’s Washington embassy, Orlando Jose Montanez, and New York consular official Victor Camacaro were declared personae non gratae on Saturday and left the US on Sunday, state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“When you have an incident that you consider unjust… you need to take reciprocal action and make your point clear,” she added.
The Venezuelans were asked to leave a day after President Chavez’s funeral, US officials said.
The two countries have not had ambassadors in each other’s capitals since 2010.
Image embedded in this article by ICH

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Hugo Chavez Depicted as Tyrant for Challenging Western oil Domination:

Venezuelan leader redirected vast sums of national wealth to the swollen ranks of Venezuela’s poor.
By Linda McQuaig
March 12, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -” Toronto Star” – Had Hugo Chavez followed the pattern of many Third World leaders and concentrated on siphoning off his nation’s wealth for personal gain, he would have attracted little attention or animosity in the West.
Instead, he did virtually the opposite — redirecting vast sums of national wealth to the swollen ranks of Venezuela’s poor, along with free health care and education. No wonder he alienated local elites, who are used to being first in line at the national trough.
Chavez’s relentless championing of the downtrodden set a standard increasingly followed in Latin America. It explains his immense popularity with the masses and the widespread grief over his death last week.
Yet in the West, he was portrayed as a tyrant.
He was accused of muzzling the press, although anyone who’s ever turned on a TV in Caracas knows there’s no shortage of Fox News-style media outlets carrying a frothy mix of celebrities, U.S. sitcoms and anti-Chavez tirades.
He was also accused of being anti-democratic, even though he won elections which former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and his global election monitoring centre have declared “the best in the world.”
Chavez deservedly came under attack in the West — including from Noam Chomsky — for failing to order the release of a judge imprisoned for allowing a corrupt banker to flee Venezuela with millions of dollars.
But it’s striking to note that the West routinely ignores more serious democratic failings on the part of its allies, including torture and execution in full-fledged dictatorships like Saudi Arabia.
What actually appears to have infuriated the western establishment was Chavez’s audacity in challenging — and scoring some victories against — western dominance of the world economy.
One such victory allowed Third World oil-producing nations to gain a bigger share of global oil revenues.
Up until the 1970s, the major western oil companies, known as the Seven Sisters, controlled the world oil market through a cartel established at a secret retreat at Achnacarry Castle in Scotland in 1928. The Achnacarry agreement set out in detail how the companies would maintain their lucrative control of oil markets into the future, setting quotas among themselves, never competing with each other and preventing competitors from getting in on the action.
In the 1970s, oil-producing nations in the Middle East and Venezuela organized and managed to replace the Seven Sisters with their own cartel, OPEC, striking a better deal for themselves and sending oil prices soaring. Some enraged westerners were left wondering, “How did our oil get under their sand?”
But the oil companies, backed by western governments, soon reclaimed their dominance. By the late 1990s, according to Wall Street oil analyst Fadel Gheit, a badly divided OPEC was on its deathbed.
Then miraculously it started to revive. “It was Hugo Chavez,” says Gheit. “He saved OPEC.”
Chronicling Chavez’s role in reuniting OPEC brought me to Caracas in 2004, for a book I was writing on the geopolitics of oil. In an interview that stretched beyond two hours, Chavez recounted his personal shuttle mission to OPEC nations in August 2000, infuriating Washington by defying its ban on foreign leaders visiting Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, and then convening the squabbling nations in Caracas.
Although the oil companies have continued to thrive, OPEC’s revival has ensured a significant share of the world’s oil wealth has gone to Third World producers — including poor nations like Algeria, Nigeria and Venezuela.
U.S. oil analyst Michael Tanzer notes that attempts to organize other Third World producing nations around commodities like coffee and copper have failed, with OPEC serving as the lone inspiring model of how the developing world can unite to challenge Western power.
Chavez championed the rising up of the Third World, and did it with flair and verve — often breaking spontaneously into popular love songs in front of cheering throngs at public gatherings — leaving the dull grey suits in the West all the more resentful.
For those concerned with social justice, Chavez’s passing is a sad milestone. It will surely be a while before we’ll see such a feisty mix of Robin Hood, Che Guevara and Michael Bublé straddling the world stage.
Linda McQuaig’s column appears monthly. lmcquaig@sympatico.ca
© Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd
See also –
Bolivian president blames ‘imperialists’ for death of Chaves: He says that “sooner or later it will be proven that there was an attempt on his life. Because it is always like that when presidents or union leaders open their mouth to demand their rights.”

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The Bolivarian Revolution

History Has Not Ended in Latin America
By Melkulangara BHADRAKUMAR
March 10, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – History, evidently, has not ended in Latin America. Amidst the «sequester» storm battering the Washington political circuit incessantly, United States President Barack Obama could still see a silver lining among the dark heavy clouds and he scrambled to express an interest in a «constructive relationship» with Venezuela. Hardly had President Hugo Chavez breathed his last.
But Obama who is never lost for words sounded uncharacteristically curt and seemed unsure how to necessarily phrase his offer of condolences. The US political elites somewhat made up for it – the elites who are so polarized that they may not even agree that the earth rotates around the sun closed ranks immediately to peer through the binoculars at faraway Caracas and cry ‘Land, ho!’ 
Chavez evokes strong feelings in the American mind. The Republicans on the Hill gloated that it is a good thing that Chavez died. Both the Democrats and the Republicans visualize that a chance has turned up to put behind the long period of strained US-Venezuelan ties and open a new page. 
However, as the day wore on, the US state department stepped in to hold a special briefing, which gave a nuanced American reaction, perhaps in an attempt to finesse the intemperate political outbursts of the Congressmen as well as to convey a complex set of signals to the leadership in charge in Caracas… 
Devoid of rhetoric, the state department briefing signaled Washington’s readiness to deal with post-Chavez Venezuela, but with the important caveat that the presidential election should be held within 30 days as mandated under the constitution; it should provide a «level playing field» for the opposition to participate; and, it should be held in a free and fair manner with foreign observers who would need to be convinced that «democratic principles» have been adhered to. 
The unnamed senior state department officials lamented that Chavez made a practice of using Uncle Sam as a «foil, using us as sort of a straw man that could be attacked», and they admitted «just how difficult it’s been to try and have the positive relationship with Venezuela that we’d like… a productive, more functional relationship». 
They repeatedly identified specific areas where there could be mutual interest, «where our [American and Venezuelan] interests coincide» – counter-narcotics, counterterrorism, trade and economic ties, energy. They said the US will «see if there’s any space to work these things… if there’s space to do so on their [Venezuelan] side, then we’ll find out» – although, «at least initially, I don’t see this changing very much.» On the whole, therefore, the US will adopt a «step-by-step process during which we will continue to speak out and to defend the democratic principles… we’ve set out sort of a roadmap, if you will, of the way we’d like to do this, a sort of step-by-step process.» 
Reading between the lines, the Obama administration is groping for a way forward, given the high probability that Chavez’s right hand man and Vice President, Nicolas Maduro might be the dominant power to emerge in the forthcoming presidential election. 
Washington will pursue a twin-track approach to him by piling pressure on the pretext of its concern for «democratic principles» while looking for an opening for a «constructive relationship». This is a well-honed approach that US has deployed over time not only in Latin America but elsewhere too. But whether it will work in today’s Venezuela remains to be seen. Chavez’s departure does not mean the end for the Left in Venezuela. Nor can the US administration overlook the huge political significance of the allegiance openly expressed by the Venezuelan military to Maduro. 
Playing the long game
Clearly, leftism has deeply penetrated the Venezuelan society and in the short term at least, Maduro will inherit the mantle of leadership. The Venezuelan opposition, which broadly represents the interests of the middle class, lacks the clout today to tilt the prevailing balance of power in its favor. Even detractors would admit that Chavez repeatedly secured legitimate mandates to rule through genuinely democratic elections. In short, the US’s «roadmap» and «step-by-step process» will aim on the one hand to rattle the Maduro government so as to compel/coax it to «constructively» respond to Washington’s overtures while on the other hand play the long game. 
The two chilling expressions words in the entire state department briefing – «roadmap» and «step-by-step process» – would suggest that Uncle Sam has every intention to discredit Chavisomo, the teachings of Chavez, now that the bizarrely compelling populist socialist gadfly of immense charisma has vacated the stage. Evidently, Washington has no intentions to leave Venezuela alone to work out its own way forward at such a defining moment in its history. So much is at stake. 
First of all, there is the oil. Chavez took back into native hands the control of Venezuela’s vast oil resources. In 2007, he began pushing for national control of the country’s oil industry. His actions led to the abandonment of the big Orinoco projects by Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips. Yet, US refineries continue to import more than 1 million barrels of Venezuelan oil per day, which is the second biggest source of US oil imports, next only to the supplies from Canada. But other international companies have established themselves – notably, from Russia and China. To be sure, a grim struggle lies ahead with the Big Oil striving to regain at least some of the lost ground, apart from elbowing out competitors, when the widespread expectation is that Venezuela may likely increase its oil production. 
Venezuela has proven crude-oil reserves of 297.57 billion barrels, according to a 2012 report from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. It, however, produces only 2.9 million barrels per day and exports 1.6 million barrels per day. (In comparison, Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest producer, has smaller proven reserves of 265.41 billion barrels, though it produces 9.3 million barrels per day and exports 7.2 million barrels per day, according to the OPEC.)
Venezuela’s oil sales to China have soared and Chavez signed a $40 billion loan agreement with Beijing that firmed up China’s assured access to Venezuelan oil. Again, Chavez provided Cuba with all the oil it needed, which was lifeblood for that country’s struggling economy as it found its way to make its difficult transition in the post-cold war era in the face of the relentless hostility from Washington. Venezuelan oil forged the Cuba – Venezuela axis, which proved a game changer in regional politics. Havana sent thousands of health workers to Venezuela who helped Chavez implement his social project for the poor. The Cuban security advisors helped Chavez neutralize the US machinations against his government. 
Over and above, it was oil again that prompted Chavez toward his initial diplomatic focus on reviving the oil exporters’ cartel known as the OPEC [Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] with the agenda of boosting Venezuela’s revenues. And that, in turn, brought him into contact with a leader whom the US wants the entire world to ostracize – Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The proximity between the two blossomed into a close friendship and alliance in no time, nourished by their shared antipathy toward the US policies. 
Suffice to say, oil will remain a key factor in the US policies toward Venezuela. But at the end of the day, Chavez’s legacy cannot be reduced to that of an oil salesman. The point is, he hurt core US interests regionally and globally in a profound – and possibly enduring – way that makes it difficult for Washington to forgive him easily.
An alternative to Washington Consensus
The legacy of Hugo Chavez is a many-splendored thing. Venezuela is a country with a population of around 30 million with limited national strength and yet Chavez’s death is being noted and discussed as an international event of much significance. Despite the sustained campaign by the West to demonize Chavez as a «dictator», the world opinion at large takes him seriously as a man of destiny, as is borne out by the fulsome praise lavished on him by leaderships in Brazil, Russia, China, India and so on. 
At the end of the day, what matters is that despite his authoritarian style of leadership – Latin American tradition of caudillismo or strongman rule – Chavez was a genuinely elected leader and in every election that he fought, he emerged far ahead of his rivals. What explains this extraordinary popularity among his people? 
In a nutshell, it was the Bolivarian Revolution, Chavez’s vision of making Venezuela into a socialist state. He undertook numerous social «missions» aimed at promoting mass literacy, providing for food security and health care all over the country. The result is plain to see. Chavez succeeded in good measure in the redistribution of Venezuela’s wealth and in raising the living standards of the downtrodden people. 
According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America, poverty in Venezuela dropped by a whopping 20.8 percent – from 48.6% to 27.7 – in the eight years between 2002 to 2010 alone and the extent of Chavez’s success in closing the gap between the rich and the poor has been such that the country today has the lowest Gini coefficient anywhere in Latin America – 0.394. 
The World Bank estimates that during the 2003-2009 period the percentage of Venezuelans living under the poverty line declined from 62% to 29%. In the six-year period from 2001 to 2007, illiteracy fell from 7% to 5%. Clearly, Chavez navigated Venezuela to a high level of socio-economic equality. 
This and this alone would explain the massive outpouring of support for him in election after election from the country’s working class. But even more important, he gave them a voice, a sense of dignity, an assertiveness to claim their rights and even the right to dream of a better life. 
Indeed, this worked in other ways too. First, Washington was «stuck» with Chavez. All the dirty tricks in the Central Intelligence Agency armory could not destabilize the Chavez regime. Nor could Caudillismo be trifled with like Peronism could be. Put differently, it was not a matter of personality or cojones alone. 
In different circumstances, Washington could have belittled Chavez for his lack of democratic instincts. But, on the contrary, Chavez kept Venezuela steadily on the democratic path. Human rights violations were a rare occurance. The media’s freedom to disagree or criticize the government was untramelled. Elections have been held regularly and they have been by and large fair by the estimation of impartial observers, and the prospect of a peaceful transfer of power was never really in doubt. The fact is, Chavez won his last election in October by winning 54% of the votes. 
By the sheer force of his personality and his policies, Chavez ensured that «leftism» has become ingrained in Venezuela’s politics. Thus, in the October election, even the principal opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski ended up virtually endorsing Chavez’s missions and claiming that given an opportunity he could manage them better and more efficiently. The multitude of poor people, who were ignored and left behind, have regained their self-respect during the Chavez era and even without him they are bound to demand participation in the country’s political and social system. The fervor of the masses partly at least makes up for the danger that the system that Chavez has left behind is not as deep-rooted as it should be. Thus in the short run, his party is all but certain to retain power. 
To be sure, Chavez has left an indelible mark on the political landscape of not only Venezuela but also the Latin American continent as a whole. He inspired the surge of left-wing politics across the continent. Several countries «swung» left during the past 14-year period – Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Peru – and went on to elect left-wing leaders. What unites them is the accent these leaders have placed on tackling poverty and social justice and their pronounced opposition to US «imperialism». 
Tapping into this synergy, Chavez played a seminal role to create new regional bodies with a concerted drive for regional integration – The Union of South American Nations [Unasur], Bolivian Alliance for the Americas [Alba] and Community of Latin American and Caribbean States [Celac]. This was a shrewd strategy insofar as he created a «firewall» against possible US intervention in the region. The ground reality is that the Organization of American States [OAS], which the US used as an instrument of regional hegemony, has been relegated to the background and has lost its pre-eminence. The consequent loss of US influence in the region might well turn out to be Chavez’s greatest legacy. 
From Washington’s viewpoint, the high water mark of its regional influence was in December 1994 in Miami when President Bill Clinton hosted the first Summit of the Americas in a quest to cast Latin America in the US’s image. From then on, it has been a steady decline. The pendulum began swinging virtually to the other side since 1998 when Chavez took over. Today the region is reverberating with the socialist model that Chavez expounded – and not the vast Arctic-to-Tierra-del-Fuego free trade zone of market economies that Bill Clinton envisioned. 
Chavez has got it established that Latin America does not have to follow Washington’s lead, and, in fact, can be better off by not doing so. True, Chavez model has not become Latin America’s model uniformly, but his project has demonstrated in an overarching way that there are alternatives to Washington’s economic and political vision of development.
Chavez’s far-sightedness lies in his making available Venezuela’s oil largess to other impoverished regional states to rescue their economies so that they are strong enough to discount Washington’s diktat. He could see that by helping the small neighbors, he was strengthening Venezuela’s own capacity to withstand US pressures. In turn, his abrasive stance against US imperialism on the international stage also provided much political space for other less «militant» countries of Latin America to negotiate with Washington. Meanwhile, this emergent climate in Latin American politics opened the door to other big players to appear on the scene, which was hitherto dominated by the US – especially China. 
Indeed, through a critical phase when all this was happening in Latin America, the US also got preoccupied with the effort to extricate itself from the quagmire in Iraq. But in the final analysis, it was Chavez’s initiatives to create economic union and political unity in the region that virtually rolled back the power of the US in the region. Added to this, his provocative stance on the world stage berating US imperialism struck a deep chord in the Latin American popular psyche. The snowballing effect of all this was apparent in the failure of the US to rally the support of many Latin American countries for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. 
Looking back, Chavez succeeded in his mission to undermine the US influence all over Latin America and he probably succeeded on a scale that even Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in their heyday could not have…
Melkulangara BHADRAKUMAR, Former career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. Devoted much of his 3-decade long career to the Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran desks in the Ministry of External Affairs and in assignments on the territory of the former Soviet Union. After leaving the diplomatic service, took to writing and contribute to The Asia Times, The Hindu and Deccan Herald. Lives in New Delhi.

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El Comandante Has Left the Building

By Pepe Escobar
March 09, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – “Asia Times” – Now that would be some movie; the story of a man of the people who rises against all odds to become the political Elvis of Latin America. Bigger than Elvis, actually; a president who won 13 out of 14 national democratic elections. No chance you will ever see such a movie winning an Oscar – much less produced in Hollywood. Unless, of course, Oliver Stone convinces HBO about a cable/DVD special.
How enlightening to watch world leaders’ reactions to the death of Venezuela’s El Comandante Hugo Chavez. Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica – a man who actually shuns 90% of his salary because he insists he covers his basic necessities with much less – once again reminded everyone how he qualified Chavez as “the most generous leader I ever met”, while praising the “fortress of democracy” of which Chavez was a great builder.
Compare it with US President Barack Obama – in what sounds like a dormant cut and paste by some White House intern – reaffirming US support for “the Venezuelan people”. Would that be “the people” who have been electing and re-electing Chavez non-stop since the late 1990s? Or would that be “the people” who trade Martinis in Miami demonizing him as an evil communist?
El Comandante may have left the building – his body defeated by cancer – but the post-mortem demonization will go on forever. One key reason stands out. Venezuela holds the largest oil reserves in the world. Washington and that crumbling Kafkaesque citadel also known as the European Union sing All You Need is Love non-stop to those ghastly, feudal Persian Gulf petro-monarchs (but not to “the people”) in return for their oil. By contrast, in Venezuela El Comandante came up with the subversive idea of using oil wealth to at least alleviate the problems of most of his people. Western turbo-capitalism, as is well known, does not do redistribution of wealth and empowerment of communitarian values.
I hate you, cabron
According to the Foreign Ministry, Vice-President Nicolas Maduro – and not the leader of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, very close to top military leaders – will be temporarily in power before new elections to be held within the next 30 days. Maduro is bound to win them handily; the Venezuelan political opposition is a fragmented joke. This spells out Chavismo without Chavez – much to the chagrin of the immense pan-American and pan-European Chavez-hating cottage industry
It’s not an accident that El Comandante became immensely popular among “the people” of not only vast swathes of Latin America but also all across the Global South. These “people” – not in the Barack Obama sense – clearly saw the direct correlation between neoliberalism and the expansion of poverty (now millions of Europeans are also tasting it). Especially in South America, it was popular reaction against neoliberalism that led – via democratic elections – to a wave of leftist governments in the past decade, from Venezuela to Bolivia, Ecuador and Uruguay.
The Bush administration – to say the least – abhorred it. They could not do anything about Lula in Brazil – a clever operator who adopted neoliberal clothes (Wall Street loved him) but remained a progressive at heart. Washington – incapable of getting rid of the coup after coup reflexes of the 1960s and 1970s – thought that Chavez was a weak link. Thus came the April 2002 coup led by a military faction, with power given to a wealthy entrepreneur. The US-backed coup lasted less than 48 hours; Chavez was duly restored to power, supported by “the people” (the real thing) and most of the army.
So there’s nothing unexpected in the announcement by Maduro, a few hours before El Comandante’s death, that two US embassy employees would be expelled in 24 hours; Air Attache David Delmonaco, and assistant Air Attache Devlin Costal. Delmonaco was accused of fomenting – what else – a coup with some factions of the Venezuelan military. Those gringos never learn.
Immense suspicion among Chavistas that El Comandante may have been poisoned – a convoluted replay of what happened to Yasser Arafat in 2004 – is also predictable. It could have been highly radioactive polonium-210, as in Arafat’s case. The Hollywood-friendly CIA may have some ideas about that.
All shook up
The verdict is now open on what exact brand of revolutionary was Chavez. He always praised everyone from Mao to Che in the revolutionary pantheon. He certainly was a very skillful popular leader with a fine geopolitical eye to identify centuries-old patterns of subjugation of Latin America. Thus his constant reference to the Hispanic revolutionary tradition from Bolivar to Marti.
Chavez’s mantra was that the only way out for Latin America would be better integration; thus his impulsion of myriad mechanisms, from ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance) to Petrocaribe, from the Banco del Sur (the Bank of the South) to UNASUR (the Union of South American countries).
As for his “socialism of the 21st century”, beyond all ideological straitjackets he did more to explore the true spirit of common values – as an antidote to the putrefaction of turbo-charged, financial capitalism – than tons of neo-Marxist academic analyses.
No wonder the Goldman Sachs gang and cohorts saw him as worse than the Black Plague. Venezuela bought Sukhoi fighter jets; entered strategic relationships with BRICS members Russia and China – not to mention other Global South actors; maintains over 30,000 Cuban doctors practicing preventive medicine living in poor communities – what led to a boom of young Venezuelans studying medicine.
Stark numbers tell most of the story that needs to be known. Venezuelan public deficit is a mere 7.4% of GDP. Public debt is 51.3% of GDP – much less than the European Union average. The public sector – defying apocalyptic “communist” accusations – accounts for only 18.4% of the economy; less than state-oriented France and even the whole of Scandinavia. In terms of geopolitics of oil, quotas are established by OPEC; so the fact that Venezuela is exporting less to the US means it’s diversifying its customers (and exporting more and more to strategic partner China).
And here’s the clincher; poverty accounted for 71% of Venezuelan citizens in 1996. In 2010, the percentage had been reduced to 21%. For a serious analysis of the Venezuelan economy in the Chavez era, see here.
Years ago, it took a superb novelist like Garcia Marquez to reveal El Comandante’s secret as The Great Communicator; he was one of them (his “people”, in the not-Barack Obama sense), from the physical appearance to the mannerisms, convivial attitude and language (the same applied to Lula in relation to most Brazilians).
So while Oliver Stone surveys the film market, one will be waiting for a Garcia Marquez to elevate Chavez to novelistic Walhalla. One thing is sure; in terms of a Global South narrative, history will record that El Comandante may have left the building; but then, after him the building was never the same again.

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US Plots Conquest of Venezuela in Wake of Chavez’ Death

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Global Research, March 07, 2013
chavez3
US corporate-financier funded think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), declared in its “post-Chávez checklist for US policymakers,” that the US must move quickly to reorganize Venezuela according to US interests. Upon its checklist were “key demands”:

  • The ouster of narco-kingpins who now hold senior posts in government
  • The respect for a constitutional succession
  • The adoption of meaningful electoral reforms to ensure a fair campaign environment and a transparent vote count in expected presidential elections; and
  • The dismantling of Iranian and Hezbollah networks in Venezuela
In reality, AEI is talking about dismantling entirely the obstacles that have prevented the US and the corporate-financier interests that direct it, from installing a client regime and extracting entirely Venezuela’s wealth while obstructing, even dismantling the progress and geopolitical influence achieved by the late President Hugo Chavez throughout South America and beyond.
The AEI “checklist” continues by stating:
Now is the time for US diplomats to begin a quiet dialogue with key regional powers to explain the high cost of Chávez’s criminal regime, including the impact of chavista complicity with narcotraffickers who sow mayhem in Colombia, Central America, and Mexico. Perhaps then we can convince regional leaders to show solidarity with Venezuelan democrats who want to restore a commitment to the rule of law and to rebuild an economy that can be an engine for growth in South America.
Of course, by “Venezuelan democrats,” AEI means Wall Street-backed  proxies like Henrique Capriles Radonski and his Primero Justicia (Justice First) political front, two entities the Western media is already gearing up to support ahead of anticipated elections.

West Has Positioned Proxies to Strip Venezuela to the Bone After Chavez’ Passing
Primero Justicia (Justice First) was co-founded by Leopoldo Lopez and Julio Borges, who like Radonski, have been backed for nearly a decade by the US State Department. Primero Justicia and the network of foreign-funded NGOs that support it have been recipients of both direct and indirect foreign support for at least just as long.
ImageUS State Department document (archived) illustrating the role National Endowment for Democracy (NED)-funded NGOs play in supporting US-backed opposition figures in Venezuela. The US regularly fails to transparently list who is included in extensive funding NED provides opposition groups in Venezeula, so documents like this give a rare glimpse into the names and dynamics actually involved. As was suspected, NED money is going into networks providing support for current presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski.  In this particular document, NED-funded Sumate’s legal trouble is described in relation to its attempted defense of Radonski. At the time this document was written, Radonski was in jail pending trial for his role in facilitating the 2002 US-backed failed coup against President Hugo Chavez. The document may still be online at the US State Department’s official website here.
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All three co-founders are US educated – Radonski having attended New York’s Columbia University (Spanish), Julio Borges attending Boston College and Oxford (Spanish), and Leopoldo Lopez who attended the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (KSG), of which he is considered an alumni of (and here).
The Harvard Kennedy School, which hosts the notorious Belfer Center, includes the following faculty and alumni of  Lopez, co-founder of the current US-backed opposition in Venezuela:
John P. Holdren, Samantha Power, Lawrence Summers, Robert Zoellick, (all as faculty), as well as Ban Ki-Moon (’84), Paul Volcker (’51), Robert Kagan (’91), Bill O’Reilly (’96), Klaus Schwab (’67), and literally hundreds of senators, ambassadors, and administrators of Wall Street and London’s current global spanning international order. Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government (KSG) is clearly one of several universities that form the foundation of both creating corporate-financier driven globalist-international policy, as well as cultivating legions of administrators to execute it.
To understand fully the implications of Lopez’ education it helps to understand the leadership and principles guiding Harvard’s mission statements, best exemplified by KSG’ Belfer Center, which to this day, lends its public support to Lopez and his Primero Justicia opposition party.
Image: John P. Holdren (bearded, left), an advocate for population reduction through forced sterilization overseen by a “planetary regime,” is just one of many “colorful” characters to be found within the halls of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government from which Primero Justicia co-founder Leopoldo Lopez of Venezuela graduated. To this day, KSG provides forums in support of US-backed opposition bids at seizing power in Venezuela. 
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Named after Robert Belfer of the Belco Petroleum Corporation and later, director of the failed Enron Corporation, the Belfer Center describes itself as being “the hub of the Harvard Kennedy School’s research, teaching, and training in international security affairs, environmental and resource issues, and science and technology policy.” Robert Belfer still sits in as an International Council Member.
Belfer’s director, Graham Allison provides an example of self-serving corporatism steering US policy. He was a founder of the Trilateral Commission, a director of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a consultant to the RAND Corporation, Director of the Getty Oil Company, Natixis, Loomis Sayles, Hansberger, Taubman Centers, Inc., and Belco Oil and Gas, as well as a member of the advisory boards of Chase Bank, Chemical Bank, Hydro-Quebec, and the shady International Energy Corporation, all according to his official Belfer Center bio.
Other questionable personalities involved as Belfer alumnus are Goldman Sachs, CFR member, and former-World Bank president Robert Zoellick. Sitting on the board of directors is CFR member and former Goldman Sachs consultant, Ashton Carter. There is also former director of Citigroup and Raytheon, former Director of Central Intelligence and CFR member John Deutch, who required a pardon by Clinton to avoid prosecution over a breach of security while fumbling his duties at the CIA. Meanwhile, Nathaniel Rothschild of Atticus Capital and RIT Capital Partners, Paul Volcker of the Federal Reserve, and former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff all serve as Belfer Center’s “advisers.”
Last but not least, there is John P. Holdren, also a Council on Foreign Relations member, science adviser to both President Clinton and President Obama, and co-author with Paul Ehrilich, of the now notorious “Ecoscience.” When Holdren isn’t brand-building for “Climate Disruption,” he is dreaming of a Malthusian fueled totalitarian global government that forcibly sterilizes the world’s population. He feared, erroneously, that overpopulation would be the end of humanity. He claimed in his hubris filled, fact deficient book, “The No Growth Society,” that by the year 2040, the United States would have a dangerously unsustainable population of 280 million he called “much too many.” The current US population is over 300 million, and despite reckless leadership and policies, it is still sustainable.
One could argue that Lopez’ education is in his past, independent of his current political activities, however, the interests driving the agenda of the Belfer Center are demonstrably still backing his Primero Justicia party’s bid for seizing power in Venezuela. Lopez, Radonski, and Borges are to this day still receiving substantial funding and support through NGO networks funded directly by the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy, and is clearly favored by the Western press. Furthermore, the CFRHeritage Foundation, and other corporate-financier driven think-tanks have all come out in support of Radonski and Primero Justicia, in their bid to “restore democracy” American-style in Venezuela.
With Chavez’ passing, the names of these opposition figures will become mainstays of Western reporting ahead of anticipated elections the West is eager to have held – elections the West is well positioned to manipulate in favor of Lopez, Radonski, and Borges.
Whatever one may have thought about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his policies, he nationalized his nation’s oil, forcing out foreign multinational corporations, diversified his exports to reduce dependency on Western markets (with US exports at a 9 year low), and had openly opposed corporate-financier neo-imperialism across the globe. He was an obstruction to Western hegemony – an obstruction that has provoked overt, depraved jubilation from his opponents upon his death.
And while many critics are quick to claim President Chavez’ policies are a “failure,” it would be helpful to remember that the US, on record, has arrayed its vast resources both overtly and covertly against the Venezuelan people over the years to ensure that any system outside the West’s sphere of influence inevitably fails.
Dark Days Ahead.
Dark days indeed lay ahead for Venezuela, with the AEI “checklist” foreshadowing an “uprising,” stating:
As Venezuelan democrats wage that struggle against chavismo, regional leaders must make clear that Syria-style repression will never be tolerated in the Americas. We should defend the right of Venezuelans to struggle democratically to reclaim control of their country and its future. Only Washington can make clear to Chinese, Russian, Iranian, and Cuban leaders that, yes, the United States does mind if they try to sustain an undemocratic and hostile regime in Venezuela. Any attempt to suppress their self-determination with Chinese cash, Russian arms, Iranian terrorists, or Cuban thuggery will be met with a coordinated regional response.
US military contractors and special forces had been caught operating in and around Venezuela. Just as there were warning signs in Syria years before the 2011 conflict began, the US’ intentions of provoking bloodshed and regime change in Venezuela stretch back as far as 2002. Just as Syria is now facing a Western-engineered proxy war, Venezuela will too, with the AEI already declaring US plans to wage a Syria-style proxy war in South America.
The AEI also reminds readers of the West’s faux-human rights, “economic development,” and “democracy promotion” racket Hugo Chavez had ejected from Venezuela and displaced across parts of South America, and the West’s desire to reestablish it:
US development agencies should work with friends in the region to form a task force of private sector representatives, economists, and engineers to work with Venezuelans to identify the economic reforms, infrastructure investments, security assistance, and humanitarian aid that will be required to stabilize and rebuild that country. Of course, the expectation will be that all the costs of these activities will be borne by an oil sector restored to productivity and profitability.
Finally, we need to work with like-minded nations to reinvigorate regional organizations committed to democracy, human rights, anti-drug cooperation, and hemispheric solidarity, which have been neutered by Chávez’s destructive agenda.
As the US openly funds, arms, and backs Al Qaeda in Syria, conducts global renditions, operates an international archipelago of torture dungeons, and is only now wrapping up a decade of subjugation and mass murder in Iraq and Afghanistan that is still claiming lives and jeopardizing the future of millions to this day, it is difficult to discern just who the AEI’s target audience is. It is most likely those who can read between the lines – the corporate-financier vultures waiting for the right moment to strip Venezuela to the bone.
The fate of Venezuela lies in its people’s hands. Covert destabilization must be faced by the Venezuelan people, while the alternative media must do its best to unravel the lies already being spun ahead of long-planned operations in “post-Chavez Venezuela.” For the rest of us, we must identify the corporate-financier interests driving this agenda, – interests we most likely patronize on a daily basis, and both boycott and permanently replace them to erode the unwarranted influence they have used, and will continue to use against the Venezuelan people, as well as people across the globe.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez illuminated Latin America

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The Venezuelan Vice-President, Nicolás Maduro, announced a week of mourning in the country, but emphasized that “Those who die for life, can’t be really dead.” All Venezuelan schools will remain closed until the 11th of March 2013. On the 8th of March, the official farewell ceremony for President Hugo Chávez will take place at 10 in the morning, with many Heads of States participating.
by Olivia Kroth 
In Caracas, a huge crowd in Plaza Bolívar shouted, “Chávez lives, the struggle continues.” Venezuelans were mourning on the plazas of their cities, towns and villages, as Tamara Pearson reported in Venezuelanalysis. 
Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, already arrived in Caracas, after hearing the bad news that her colleague Hugo Chávez had died in the early morning hours. Cristina Fernández and her late husband, President Kirchner of Argentina, had been very close friends of Hugo Chávez. 
Cristina Fernández flew to Caracas, clad in black, with black sunglasses on, so people would not see her eyes, red from crying. She was accompanied by Argentina’s Foreign Minister, Héctor Timerman; the Interior Minister, Florencio Randazzo; the legal and technical Secretary, Carlos Zanmini; two Senators, Miguel Ángel Pichetto and Aníbal Fernández; a Deputy, Juan Cabandié. 
From Bolivia, President Evo Morales sent a message of condolence, “Hugo Chávez will always be present in all the regions of the world.” In the name of his nation, he expressed solidarity with the people of Venezuela in these difficult days. 
From Cuba, Fidel and Raúl Castro sent a condolence message, entitled “Hasta siempre Comandante!” The text was reprinted in the major Venezuelan media, Correo del Orinoco and Patria Grande. “With deep and painful sorrow, our nation and the Revolutionary Government of Cuba took notice of President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías’ death,” the Cuban leaders wrote. 
“Cuba will keep eternal loyalty to the legacy and memory of Commander President Hugo Chávez, his ideals of unity, integration and independence of Our America. The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela will always have our unwavering support. President Chávez was the protagonist of an extraordinary battle. We remember him as a militant patriot in the service of Venezuela and La Patria Grande,” the message continued. 
The condolence telegram also appraised his historic place in the line of Latin American freedom fighters, “Hugo Chávez reincarnated the Liberator, Simón Bolívar, to accomplish what he had been denied to finish. Comandante Chávez is the founding father of ALBA and CELAC.” 
Raúl and Fidel Castro, who were very close friends and knew him well, went on to praise the late Venezuelan President’s personal qualities, “His heroic battle against death is an unsurpassed example of strength. His work of a lifetime is irreversible.” 
Of course, the Cuban leaders mentioned their common enemy, imperialism: “Hugo Chávez was also brilliant in the international struggles against imperialism, always defending the poor, the workers, our indigenous peoples. Hugo Chávez was eloquent, persuasive and optimistic. His example will motivate and lead us in our future battles. Hasta la victoria siempre!” 
From Ecuador, President Rafael Correa sent a message of condolence saying that Hugo Chávez died for the life of his adored Venezuela, so that his fatherland could live on. He also died for a planet with more justice and humanistic values. “Therefore we cannot say that he is dead. He will remain alive now more than ever,” Rafael Correa wrote. 
He also expressed his solidarity with the extended Chávez family: Hugo, the father; Dona Elena, the mother; the President’s children, Rosa Virginia, María Gabriela, Rosinés and Hugito; last but not least, all of the President’s brothers, first and foremost the eldest, Adán Chávez, who is Governor in the Chávez home state of Barinas. Rafael Correa sent them all a “caring embrace.” 
President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua wrote in his message of condolence, “Hugo Chávez came into this world to illuminate Latin America.” On Revolution Square of Nicaragua’s capital Managua, people gathered to commemorate President Hugo Chávez. “We are gathered here tonight, full of spiritual strength, to continue with these battles, to fulfil the dreams of Simón Bolívar, José Marti and Hugo Chávez,” the Nicaraguan President said to the crowd. 
The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, also sent a telegram of condolences to Venezuela. The text on the Kremlin.ru website says: Mr. Putin who met Hugo Chávez on a number of occasions, noted his outstanding qualities, “He was an exceptional and strong person who looked to the future and always set for himself the highest objectives.” 
Vladimir Putin also lauded Hugo Chávez’ personal efforts to lay a solid foundation for the partnership between the two countries, encouraging active political contacts and getting major humanitarian and economic projects underway. He added that the two countries need to keep following this road now, strengthening and developing their ties. 
President Vladimir Putin emphasized that the Venezuelan people’s inherent spirit of endurance and vital energy will get them through the trials that have come their way and give them the strength to continue the work of building a strong, independent and prosperous Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. 
May your soul rest in peace, dear Hugo Chávez! Thank you for everything you did and gave to the world.
      
Prepared for publication by:

Lisa Karpova

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez dies of cancer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=G0epI5do3BQ

March 06, 2013 “Information Clearing House – Al-Jazeera” Venezuelans have begun seven days of national mourning after the announcement that their president, Hugo Chavez, died aged 58 after a long battle against cancer.
The country’s vice-president, Nicolas Maduro – tipped as a likely successor – broke the news on Tuesday night, prompting a wave of grief in the nation’s streets.
Chavez’s body will be escorted from the Caracas military hospital where he died from cancer to a military academy he considered his second home.

His body will lie in state until a funeral on Friday to honour the leftist leader who ruled the oil-rich nation for 14 years.

Armed forces across the country have fired a 21-gun salute in his honour.

They will fire another cannon shot “every hour until his burial”, the armed forces said.

All schools and universities have been shut for the week.

Hundreds of people spent the night in front of his hospital, waving Venezuelan flags and chanting “we are all Chavez!”

A banner was hung the hospital fence, reading “Chavez lives, the battle continues!”

“I love him,” said Iris Dicuro, 62, who came from the northeastern city of Puerto La Cruz and wore a shirt with the words “Forward Comandante.” “I want to bid farewell because he was a good man who gave everything to the poor.”

‘Challenging time’

Some of Chavez’s closest allies had already arrived on Wednesday ahead of a state funeral on Friday, including Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, Uruguay’s Jose Mujica and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.

The nation’s security forces were deployed following Chavez’s death and Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said calm reigned in the nation, which was once rocked by a short-lived coup against Chavez in 2002.
Venezuela’s closest ally, communist Cuba, declared its own mourning period for a leader who helped prop up the island’s economy with cheap fuel and cash transfers, and dubbed Chavez a “true son” of revolutionary icon Fidel Castro.
Chavez’s illness prevented him from taking the oath of office after he was re-elected for a fourth term in October.

A senior minister said a new vote would be called within what are sure to be 30 tense days.

US President Barack Obama – often a target of Chavez’s anti-American scorn – was circumspect, pledging the United States would support the “Venezuelan people” and describing Chavez’s passing as a “challenging time”.

“As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights,” Obama said.

Shortly before Chavez’s death was announced, Maduro expelled two US military attaches and accused Venezuela’s enemies of somehow afflicting the leftist with the cancer that eventually killed him.

Chavez was showered with tributes from Latin American leaders, not just his allies but also figures like Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, who hailed him as a “great Latin American” and a “friend of the Brazilian people”.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Chavez had fallen “martyr” to a “suspect illness,” while hailing his close ally for “serving the people of Venezuela and defending human and revolutionary values.”
‘Great politician’

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said he is “conveying condolence” to the Venezuelan president’s “family and the people of Venezuela”, according to Al Jazeera’s James Bays, who was reporting from New York.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, also issued as statement describing Chavez’s death as a “tragedy”.
“He was a great politician for his country and for the world as a whole,” Churkin said.    
Meanwhile, a teary-eyed Bolivian President Evo Morales, one of Chavez’s closest allies in Latin America and most loyal disciples, declared that “Chavez is more alive than ever”.
“Chavez will continue to be an inspiration for all peoples who fight for their liberation,” Morales said on Tuesday in a televised speech. “Chavez will always be present in all the regions of the world and all social sectors.”
Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Caracas, said “millions of people” are expected to attend the funeral.
“Chavez is known as a guy who could bring out his supporters and that is what’s going to happen,” Elizondo said. “He is such a big figure here in Venezuela, you cannot overstate it. He is larger than life”.

Chavez had checked into the hospital on February 18 for a course of chemotherapy after spending two months in Cuba, where in December he had undergone his fourth round of cancer surgery since June 2011.

The once ubiquitous presence on state television and radio disappeared from public view after he was flown to Cuba on December 10, an unprecedented absence that fueled wave after wave of rumours.

Senior officials had sent mixed signals about the president’s health for weeks, while the opposition repeatedly accused the government of lying about his condition. The exact nature and location of his cancer was never revealed.

A new election could offer another shot at the presidency to Henrique Capriles, the opposition leader who lost to Chavez in October but insisted Tuesday that the two men were “adversaries, but never enemies”.

“This is not the time for differences. This is the time for unity, the time for peace,” Capriles said.


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Hugo Chavez Frias, Rest in Power: Eres de los muertos que nunca mueren!

By Daniel Patrick Welch 
March 06, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – What this man meant, and means, to the global south and to all those striving for a better path for humanity, can not be overstated. I am saddened almost beyond words. Part of me wants to just curl up and be sad. But I also feel that it is critical to find the words, and to keep circulating them, saying them over and over. Viva Comandante Chavez! Viva la revolucion! Viva el socialismo bolivriano!!
This is a scary and vulnerable moment for the people of Venezuela and anyone who would resist imperialist aggression. Reactionary forces led by the US have already tried to launch a coup against Chavez more than once, and there is little doubt they are trying something as we speak. They are salivating at the prospect of picking off one of the major symbols of resistance, and everyone who cares about pushing back against empire should be on high alert.
This is not paranoia or rhetoric. Even if it was a documented case of cancer, I wouldn’t put it past these bastards to have had a hand in it. The shit they have tried on Fidel strains credulity, but is well documented. Regardless, eternal vigilance and all that… Shields up, people! We are about to be subjected to a virtual tsunami of horseshit in the US press, all part of a predictable and longstanding campaign to destabilize Venezuela and undermine the people’s revolution. DON’T BE FOOLED!! Americans, usually fast asleep, are far too quick to accept the bullshit our government spews while fomenting coups and unrest throughout the hemisphere and the world. Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, Panama, Haiti, D.R., Chile… the list is endless… there is almost no country the US government has not tried to fuck over in pursuit of its own imperialist agenda–NO MATTER WHO IS IN THE WHITE HOUSE, no matter his race or party, or so-called ‘philosophy.’ This is how the machine works–keep your eyes, minds and hearts open.
In fact, it is often when the so-called “left” is in power (as laughable as that notion is for anyone paying attention) that forces of reaction try to sneak in a quick victory, under cover of darkness as it were. Obama’s assault on Social Security and his “austerity” crap is a perfect example. All the scenarios being floated are the right wing’s wet dream, and would be unthinkable without the “Democratic” cover.
On a global scale, of course, things are even worse. There is no denying the criminality of the US government toward the sovereign nations of its own hemisphere, and no White Hat big enough to make us look like the good guys. The US government and the forces it represents have simply, tragically and consistently been on the wrong side at every possible juncture.
Now is the time to sharpen and call out these differences between “us” and “them.” Imperialism, capitalism, The Powers That Be–whatever you want to call them, thrive by fomenting a false “unity” while sowing discord on any issue of any significance. Now is the time for unity and solidarity with those still resisting empire, both in this hemisphere and around the globe. The US and NATO military machines encircle the globe like the insidious octopus that they are, and anyone in the way of global domination will be crushed. That means killed if necessary, as well as demonized, plotted against, attacked, manipulated, scared and threatened into submission. People who don’t realize this are defining themselves against the vast majority of the world’s population, for whom there actually is a real world beyond the corporate asskissing media bubble within which Americans live and sleep—mostly sleep.
The recolonization of Africa, the planned and brutal destruction of Libya, the funding, arming, training and cover for nominally islamist thugs—all reveal a cynicism and an arrogance that is infuriatingly familiar to most citizens of this hemisphere beyond US borders. It is, in plain fact, the past happening over and over again, this time with islamist instead of Marxist antiheros in the reactionary narrative—except, of course, when they are “our sons of bitches.”
There will be more struggles to come, more stops on this same train, more lessons to be learned, forgotten, ignored and heeded. But the rage and despair we feel is important to express in all its raw power. Slogans perfectly fine when our hearts are heavy—they are often all we can muster. So here goes: US keep your bloody, criminal hands off Venezuela, and keep your thugs and spies out of the global south! THIS is the test, folks… which side of the global struggle are you on?
Keep on marching, striking, fighting, talking, convincing, defending, supporting—it is of paramount importance at this moment. Ni un paso atras, nisiquiera para coger impulso! Te queremos, Comandante Chavez! Eres de los muertos que nunca mueren. MOURN THE DEAD and FIGHT LIKE HELL FOR THE LIVING!!
Daniel Patrick Welch. Writer, singer, linguist and activist. Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School [ http://www.greenhouseschool.org ].
(c) 2013 Daniel Patrick Welch

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Death Of A Dictator: Venezuela Free of the Clutches of Chavez

When Fools Meet Heroes
By Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
March 06, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – “According to news reports, Chavez has passed after a long battle against cancer. For over a decade Chavez had used corruption, intimidation, manipulation, and brutal tactics to rule over the Venezuelan people. Chavez misruled Venezuela with an iron grip on the government, economy, and the courts as he routinely bullied the media and the opposition to deny the people of Venezuela their basic freedoms. Today his death marks the end of this tyrannical rule but the road to democracy for the Venezuelan people is still very much uncertain. 
Chavez not only led Venezuela into a spiraling economic downturn, but also deepened ties with fellow despots throughout the world that led to fear and instability in the Western Hemisphere. His ever growing cooperation with fellow state sponsors of terrorism, Iran, Syria, and Cuba, threatened U.S. interests in the region and around the globe. By providing aid and financial assistance to these rogue regimes, Chavez gave many human rights violators an economic lifeline in the form of oil subsidies to continue their tyrannical rule over their people.
The Venezuela people now have an opportunity to emerge from this oppressive regime and regain their democracy and human rights. However, this can only be done through a true democratic process with free, fair, and transparent elections. I am hopeful that democracy will rise from the ashes of the Chavez regime and again become a part of a new Venezuela. Now it is up to the Venezuelan people to redefine and rebuild their nation as a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous state free of the clutches of Chavez and his disastrous social and economic policies.”
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), is Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

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Chavez loses his battle, Heaven gains an angel

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The Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, 58, passed away on Tuesday afternoon after a two-year battle with cancer and a severe respiratory infection. The news was announced in Caracas by Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, who was named by Chávez as the one he preferred to succeed him in the event of his death.
Nicolas Maduro speaks of a moment of great pain at the passing away of Hugo Chávez, but for the great revolutionary leader it is a moment of relief from an intolerable situation. President since 1999, when he surfed a wave of popular euphoria against the Fascist policies of Venezuela’s oligarchy, Hugo Chávez has systematically implemented socially progressive policies, despite facing the opposition of the vested interests of those who oppose him.
Re-elected in a free and fair democratic election last November to his fourth term in office, Chávez pledged to further improve the lives of his people but his influence swept across Latin America. The father of “oil diplomacy”, he understood the strategic value of Venezuela’s huge mineral wealth and forged strong relations with Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, urging his continent to pull together and form strong trading ties, while at the same time, now on a world stage, his was a strong voice against the imperialist policies of the USA and its NATO poodles. Despite this he insisted on making cheap oil available for poorer families in the USA and offered help after Katrina.
In foreign policy, Hugo Chávez did much to place Venezuela as an intercontinental player, creating strong links with the upcoming economies, preparing the foundations for what will certainly become an enlarged BRIC group, to include countries such as the Islamic Republic of Iran and Indonesia, alongside Brazil, Russia, India and the PR China. This fight for a multi-polar world was a battle which continues as the main legacy of Hugo Chávez and this is the fight that his followers shall continue.
His new vision for world governance included plans to expand the UN Security Council to include more countries from all regions of our planet; a new policy of transparency with more effective methods of crisis management; the suppression of the anti-democratic veto at the UNSC; the strengthening of the powers of the Secretary-General of the UNO – a re-founding of the UNO with powers which are adequate to handle the issues of today’s world.
At home, the policies of Hugo Chávez were democratic and socially progressive, and were based upon the legitimacy of genuinely free and fair elections and the support of the majority of his people. He created a new middle class in Venezuela, a country which was caught in a medieval regime ruled by a corrupt oligarchic clique of elitists. His main successes at home were in the areas of healthcare and education, in just 12 years. Consultations are provided for free, medicines are distributed free, 24 hours a day, to the people of Venezuela in the Barrio Adentro programme. The Mercals (state-subsidised grocery stores) provide staple products for reduced prices, making foodstuffs available for all.
The effects of his education programme will be visible for decades to come. As he believed, an educated people can create their own welfare conditions. Hugo Chávez will be missed for his courage, honesty and frontality, as he fought for what is right against entrenched and selfish interests which pander to the whims of the few who control the world’s resources. A visionary like Fidel, Hugo Chávez is freed from his intolerable discomfort but his star and its message will shine forever, lighting the night sky, proof that Heaven has gained an angel.
Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Interview with Venezuelan Vice-president Nicolás Maduro

In this in-depth interview given to Spanish journalist José Luís Paniagua of EFE news agency, Venezuelan Vice-President Nicolás Maduro underscores the constitutional legitimacy of the current Venezuelan government in the absence of President Chávez, and slams the Western media spin and propaganda surrounding the immediate future of Venezuela. Ultimately, he reiterates his country’s steadfast commitment to pursue the Socialist Plan and its unshakable faith in the multipolar world, free of imperial hegemony, that is being born.
 | CARACAS (VENEZUELA) | 24 JANUARY 2013 
EFE journalist Jose Luis Paniagua: Thank you very much, first of all, for taking time out from your busy schedule to meet us today, I’ll quickly ask the question everyone raises every day and that is, how is the President? What are the latest developments in the health of President Chavez?
Executive Vice President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro: Well, I am very grateful for this interview. The President is in a process of prolonged post-operative recovery. As we have continually informed people, the operation was quite complex, difficult, and high risk. It resulted in internal bleeding that was fortunately controlled, but that produced a situation, shall we say, more difficult and complex than had been anticipated before the operation. We’ve seen him, I’ve seen him several times, recently on January 14, as part of the political team who went to visit: Diosdado Cabello, Cilia Flores, Rafael Ramirez. Adán Chávez is also part of the team and the older brother of President Chávez; Jorge Arreaza, a government minister who is also part of the Chávez family, the husband of the eldest daughter. We went to visit. We stayed with him for a while. We talked and updated him on various issues within the country. In general terms we saw him very calm, at peace, very aware of all the post-operative phases, the consequences of the operation and the impact it had on his respiratory system. We can tell the whole international community and all people of good faith who are interested in the health of President Chávez that he has the best medical equipment, people at the highest level in all specialties, a multi-disciplinary team, but also that their expertise is applied to him with great care and love. That really is a distinctive aspect of the treatment – loving and scientific – that our president receives.
José Luís Paniagua: Has he recovered from the respiratory complications?
Nicolás Maduro: Well, these are medical details that we have been reporting. The infection has been controlled and the doctors are now attending to respiratory complications that arose from the operation and from infections that were very serious.
José Luís Paniagua: In the days following surgery, during the last days of December, you reported on the status of the President in a somewhat sombre tone. It seemed that these were particularly difficult moments. Is that so?
Nicolás Maduro: Yes, we have advised our public continually and truthfully. There difficult situations that we lived through during the final days of the year. We visited him. We talked with him, but there were complications, respiratory deficiencies and infection that required complete rest and very intense treatment and great discipline by President Chávez. Fortunately there were positive results. He always demanded that we keep the people well informed in a manner that is objective, calm, and yes also respectful to him as patient. All patients according to universal medical ethics have a right to privacy and, well, Chávez is not an exception. He is a human being with the right to privacy and rights as a patient including respect for the rights of his immediate family. We have sought a balance point that allows us to tell the truth to our people with great serenity, with the peace of mind, but also reveal the hardest truths that have to be said at the time. We will continue to do this as the medical condition of President Chávez evolves.
José Luís Paniagua: You have defended the way the government has provided information regarding the President’s health. You’ve issued 29 statements, if I recall correctly, updating on President Chávez’s situation, but some people still think that technical details are missing, that more explicit medial information is required. Why not opt to divulge excerpts of medical reports while also, somehow, safeguarding the dignity and privacy of President Chávez while his medical condition evolved?
Nicolás Maduro: Well, you know that President Chávez is one of the world leaders of the revolution, a global social revolution, a socialist revolution that seeks a new era, and not only in our country and in Latin American. It is pursuing a world without empires and the president has confronted world powers including the transnational media companies. He has told them off directly. In our country, the revolution has rescued our natural resources. Oil is now at the service of the Venezuelan people. He has faced the powers that be in the world and confronted, as the world knows, the main power that exists in our world, U.S. imperialism.
I say this because President Chávez is not any citizen, or an athlete, or a famous artist or a president of a government elsewhere in the world, which we respect, who could manage this by divulging medical reports. The management of the medical information has taken into account the role of President Chávez. We have had to face a really miserable media war over the life and health of the President. We’ve faced the most abject, morbid journalism. You cannot even call it tabloid journalism. This is journalism full of evil that has been propagated worldwide, particularly in Spain. In the newspaperABC, for example, that everyone who in Spain knows to be a newspaper of the Franco era. It still defends the heinous crimes of Franco, a despicable dictatorship repudiated by the Spanish people and by the world. ABC has acted as an attack center around the topic of the president’s health and right wing media around the world have propagated those attacks on television, radio and print.
Recently we had delegations from 27 countries here in Venezuela, on January 10, and all countries, all in different languages, English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, other brothers in Latin America and the Caribbean told us the same thing – that in the print media of all these 27 countries they see the articles of garbage outlets like ABC or El País. For example, in the newspaper El País, in Spain, 56% of the articles are written in Miami. Amazing, a newspaper that is published in Spain talks about President Chávez and Venezuela and its articles are written from the city that is the inheritance of the vilest counter revolutionary worms.
We have made what we consider the right choice. We’ve incorporated the political and human defense of President Chávez and his family with the medical information. That was really needed to step up against such evil aimed at a world leader who has constantly grown in stature. In fact, in this stage as in other difficult times, President Chávez has grown in the sympathy and the love that many feel towards him. Well beyond the left, well beyond the progressive movements in the world, there are many worthy people of other ideologies, right and center-right, who respect Comandante Chávez. and our news reports go out to all and convey the absolute truth.
José Luís Paniagua: Well, to your point, the type of reports that have emerged from different places suggest that the Venezuelan government could not deal with, or has not found a way to deal with, conflicting unconfirmed reports distributed through social networking sites, or on the internet generally. Is there something that you’ve re-evaluated, or thought “maybe I could have done better job” in terms of communication about the President?
Nicolás Maduro: Deal with, for example, the ABCnewspaper in Spain? How does one deal with fascists? They make things up. They live off malevolence, off bad intentions. They live in their own world. It is up to the Spanish public, the readers of the press, the mass media consumers in the entire world to figure out where you find truth and where you find lies. I think the big losers, from an ethical point of view, are the liars, not the public nor the truth which we have always conveyed.
José Luís Paniagua: How long do you estimate that the president will be convalescing in Cuba? Is there some kind of date expected?
Nicolás Maduro: At this time it would not be possible to establish because his recovery process is stable. He has overcome various post-operative problems. The medical treatment at this time is focused on overcoming the ravages of respiratory deficiencies. Maybe in the next few days, after meeting with the medical team as part of our ongoing collaboration, it may be possible to answer with more clarity about the president’s prognosis for the coming weeks and when he may be ready to return to Caracas.
José Luís Paniagua: Within weeks, not months …?
Nicolás Maduro: It would be speculation to go into that. We hope to be weeks away from a great happiness, and as we strongly believe in God and know that our prayers are heard, hopefully that is what will happen.
José Luís Paniagua: What if, for whatever reason, the president is unable to resume the leadership of the state? I do not know if this is a possibility. He mentioned it himself before leaving for Cuba. What would happen in that scenario?
Nicolás Maduro: Well, President Chávez in this regard has been very clear. In his speech of December 8 he mentioned various scenarios that at this time are being evaluated and re-evaluated. On December 8, he said he was ready to undergo an operation that clearly was high risk. With that courage, serenity, tranquility he met with his political team and laid out different scenarios. He had already thought of different ways to deal with any situation that might arise, even the worst. He laid it on the table what could happen during the operation. Thanks to God and the physical strength of President Chávez that scenario did not take place – the scenario in which he did not survive the operation. It would have been a huge blow to our country, our people, for all of us, very painful. Fortunately we are in the post-operative scenario and evaluating him.
The constitution is very clear. First, in the situation that the president at some point thinks he is unable to continue, the constitution establishes the mechanisms and time periods for the political and institutional life of the country to maintain stability and for elections to be held. As it says in our constitution, in 30 days our people would decide at the polls. Now as for political rhythms of political strength in Venezuela, as you well know, today the revolutionary forces have acquired enough strength, sufficient capacity, to deal with any scenarios that could occur. Presently, here as I sit in this chair, the situation which we are in is that President Chávez is the President of Venezuela, and has started the 2013-2019 term and will remain President of our country. I’ve merely been reviewing scenarios that you have raised, that President Chávez has raised and, well, they’re in the public debate.
José Luís Paniagua: And he is giving instructions from Cuba. On Tuesday it was announced that former Vice President Elias Juan was appointed Foreign Affairs Minister by instruction of President Chávez. I have to ask you about the famous signature on the decree, if it was signed personally by
President Chávez or if it was done electronically
 
.
Elías Jaua, Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, in office since 15 January 2013.
Nicolás Maduro: [Laughs] Look, you can see that the Venezuelan right is so clumsy. Right now they are divided into four groups fighting against each other and competing to see who is bolder. They have now led themselves to a dead end street, as always, by saying that the new foreign minister, Elías Jaua, was not appointed by President Chávez, despite the document bearing his signature. The only ones who have forged a letter and a signature in Venezuela’s recent history were this very opposition. They forged a letter from President Chávez saying he had resigned between April 11-13, 2002, and they forged his signature. Now the forgers question an appointment that, with all seriousness and solemnity, was made by the Bolivarian government and by the person who actually can make the appointment, the head of state. He is the one who runs foreign policy and he appointed a truly illustrious Minister, Elías Jaua, to one of the most powerful positions, Elías Jaua is one of the most beloved members of President Chávez’s political team. The opposition has led themselves into a dead end street and they will crash. And when the day of the crash comes they will not apologize, nor will they self-criticize. They will continue, as always, going from one defeat to another. Unfortunately, that is the Venezuelan right that we have.
José Luís Paniagua: But the signature on the decree, was it signed by hand by President Chávez or was it done electronically?
Nicolás Maduro: Well, I think that’s a debate without any real substance. President Chávez has given an order and signed a decree and the decree has gone through as hundreds of others have gone through during the year. In any case, they want to debate something that is of no importance to the country’s political life. It does not bring anything positive. President Chavez, as head of state, gave an order to appoint Elías Jaua. The decree was signed. The decree was published. It is as simple as that, as it always has been. If you want to review the thousands of decrees that have been signed since 1999, it doesn’t add anything of substance to a discussion of Venezuelan democracy, or the political situation we are living through. It is a perverse whim of the decadent right wing in Venezuela.
José Luís Paniagua: On January 8, the Supreme Court ruled on the situation that had arisen because of the inability of the President to attend the swearing in ceremony for his new mandate. There was a dispute about the correct constitutional process. The Supreme Court ruled that the President could take the oath later once he recovers and that the previous government could, for administrative continuity principle, continue in office, but the opposition argued that it should be the President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, who should become head of state. Why not Diosdado Cabello?
Nicolás Maduro: Because the constitution is very clear. First, in Venezuela, as with all issues, they were discussed freely and democratically. In fact, this debate even extended beyond our borders. There appeared a constitutionalist [laughter] from elsewhere in the world to tell us what was in Venezuela’s constitution. Our constitution is very clear. It is also very simple. Our constitution was made in 1999 by a constituent assembly which involved thousands of Venezuelans and its editorial style is far removed from elite legalese that one typically sees in law, particularly public law and constitutional law. It was written in clear language for regular people.
Anyone who wants to see the Venezuelan Constitution, approved by the Venezuelan people in a referendum, can go to Article 231 and 235 for those who want to deepen their understanding of the issue. There it is all very clear. First, the President is out of the country with the permission of the National Assembly, requested and then granted by the National Assembly unanimously, i.e. all parliamentarians in Venezuela, both the revolutionary bloc and the opposition voted in favor of that permission. Second, reiterating what the Supreme Court ruled, in the event that unforeseen circumstances did not allow the President to be sworn in, it could happen on another date before the Supreme Court. The President is a President in office, re-elected, ratified several times. There was and is administrative continuity. The only circumstance in which comrade Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Assembly, would take over as head of state is in the case of an absolute absence as stipulated in Article 233.
For those who want to read, 233. if an absolute absence is declared before the inauguration, Diosdado Cabello would take over and elections would be held in 30 days. So the opposition in its different variants, because some said it was an absolute absence while others said that it was a temporary absence, others that there was no absence, others that things could continue, the different versions that the Venezuelan right asserted were discussed and the Supreme Court made its decision. Like anywhere in the world, the Supreme Court’s ruling is gospel. The dispute about the interpretation of the constitution was settled and our country has done what it had to do correctly. There is a functioning government, The President is out of the country constitutionally and we are working with the Vice President, the ministers, to maintain the country on a correct and constructive path.
José Luís Paniagua: It is nevertheless hard to explain, Mr. Vice President, why if President Chávez was unable to attend the swearing in ceremony, and unable to submit the report the other day before the National Assembly, a temporary absence has not yet been declared. If not a permanent absence, a temporary absence is also well established in the constitution, why has a temporary absence not been declared?
Nicolás Maduro: First, because the circumstances do not exist for a temporary absence. There is a government in office working. Over the course of history, the accumulation of experience has led us to create an institution like the vice presidency, which is an institution to support the presidency, coordinate the cabinet. That allows us, as we have for almost 18 months during the presidents constitutionally approved leaves from the country, to continue through the Vice President and the government team implementing his orders, governing the country with the country’s head of state.
In Venezuela, as you know, legitimacy for running the republic rests with Hugo Chávez. We just are his collaborators. In acknowledgement of that political reality, the immense power of leadership, moral power, ethical power, political influence, decision making ability, contained in the leadership of Comandante Chávez, in recognition of this reality, we have chosen this approach that has been successful, very successful. The president is in charge and his team supports him. You should also know that the president created new positions for better coordination.
We have a Vice -president for financial economics, a Vice-president for the productive economy, a vice president of policy, a vice president of social policy, and a vice president for territorial policy and an executive Vice-president, All vice presidents formed a council, so we have a system of government that has proven successful for situations like the ones we are living.
José Luís Paniagua: In these circumstances, to follow up on my question, as Vice-president what things can you do and not do? How far does your power extend at this moment?
Nicolás Maduro: Well, the list is long, [laughs] for an interview like this.
José Luís Paniagua: [Laughs]. Evidently your power does not extend to the appointment of ministers.
Nicolás Maduro: No, not here.
José Luís Paniagua: And if there was some kind of reason at any given time to substitute a minister, the president would have to do it?
Nicolás Maduro: It is a power vested in the president, of course. The president has the authority to add, remove, or replace ministers; the conduct of foreign policy; the delegation of certain administrative matters, tax exemptions if necessary; the management of some resources, say, national funds to finance work at the level of states, regions. But he keeps driving the state. There are a set of functions that are managed from the vice presidency if they are constitutional and they are getting done – the coordinating function. The key function is the coordination of good governance of the vice president for their respective areas, ministers and, well, the direct contact with power popular. In Venezuela we have the democratic concept of popular power and our direct contact with it is meant to deliver it power: economic or social power, political power. The country continues to operate within the course proposed by the president and approved by the nation – the Socialist Plan of 2013-2019.
José Luís Paniagua: You have traveled, and other vice presidents have traveled regularly during these last weeks to Cuba. I imagine they have taken work with them on those occasions and have met with the Cuban government, with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and with President Raúl Castro. Is it possible  to say something about what was said in those meetings?
Cuba’s Fidel Castro and ailing Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in Havana.(File, AP)
Nicolás Maduro: Well, the first thing to mention is the extreme devotion of Fidel Castro to the care of Chávez, to the care of the Chávez family. He is in direct contact with the doctors. Almost daily Comandante Fidel Castro is in the hospital, near the doctors, close to the family, attending to and greeting President Chávez. We have to be thankful for that as human beings. He has given us courage, strength, sharing conversations with us – his long experience in history. He is undefeated against the most powerful imperialist aggressor that has ever existed – US imperialism. He has acquired a truly privileged knowledge of the history of Latin America, of what has happened because he has lived it for 60 years in the struggle for the independence of Latin America. They are talks of great human value and that impart tremendous historical learning – and with President Raúl Castro as well.
We have implemented, as you know, a number of plans for cooperation on health, on education, sports, cultural matters, economic matters. We have economic projects that President Chávez has called “empresas morochas” i.e. a set of joint ventures. In other words, Cuba and Venezuela have, within the framework of ALBA, a very dynamic and multidimensional relationship. We take advantage during our visits to see President Chávez to also address these issues – to discuss and perfect them. We never stop, not for a second, profoundly thanking the Cuban people, their doctors, and Fidel and Raúl for the deeply humanitarian attention they’ve provided our president.
José Luís Paniagua: When you hear these accusations that Havana runs Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, as someone who is close to the Cuban government, what do you feel at that moment?
Nicolás Maduro: Well, that’s their campaign. It is up to them to lie. It is up to us to work and tell the truth, plain and simple. They have their lies, we have inherited the glories of the Liberator Simon Bolivar, of his apostle José Martí. Cuban independence cost so much because the nineteenth century was ravaged by the presence of the most powerful army that left Spain. More than 300 000 Spanish troops tried to keep Cuba as their jewel in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico as well, but especially Cuba, which has always been a point of great strategic importance to empires and remains so.
Independence cost Cuba wars throughout the nineteenth century, including the war that independence fighters initiated in1895 but that was then frustrated by the U.S. military intervention and the imposition of the Plat Amendment. That was the beginning of the neo-colonialism in Cuba which ended with the victory of the bearded ones on January a, 1959. Cuba acquired its independence at immense cost and if you find anything in Fidel Castro it is that heritage of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism. It is the same with our country. How dearly cost the independence that the liberators won us. Nobody made a present of independence for us in the nineteenth century, no one. It cost 20 years of war here in Venezuela and our armies came from across the Americas to fight for independence. We are two peoples who have the same anti-colonialist tradition, the same pride when we find ourselves as brothers. This is one thing the right can never understand.
We say dig into the ground to defend independence. The right says drops to your knees on the ground when you see a gringo. There is a big difference between saying drop to your knees before the US Empire and saying dig into the ground to defend independence – worlds apart, different ideas, and different values. So, yes, the comments of the right are offensive, but, their offenses aside, we work with dignity and our brotherhood between Cuba and Venezuela is ratified daily – in ALBA, and among all our brothers and sisters in Latin America and the Caribbean.
José Luís Paniagua: Let me return to the constitutional issue. The OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza has said that he fully respected the view taken by Venezuelan institutions. I do not know if it deserves some sort of response but I will not neglect to ask what happened yesterday – the comments made by the Panamanian Ambassador, the retraction made by the Panamanian government, and the Canadian government proposed sending an OAS commission to Venezuela.
Nicolás Maduro: Starting with the latter, the proposal of the Government of Canada is a miserable proposal that has relevance to the independent democratic life of our country. Unfortunately the far-right is governing that country and has taken positions that have been isolating Canada from the international community and disgusted progressive governments around the world. We reject – as our ambassador has – that position of Canada, the Government of Canada that is, because the Canadian people have all our love and our fond memories always. As for the debate that occurred in the OAS, well, our Ambassador Roy Chaderton was very clear – we congratulated him privately and now publicly – because he spoke the truth with dignity and intelligence in response to a disproportionate aggression by a person who has been disowned by his government. We thanked the President of Panama, its foreign minister, who disowned the position very quickly, and spoke privately with our foreign minister, Elías Jaua. The president of Panama yesterday offered his apologies and said that he would do so publicly. So thank you very much to the government of Panama, our brothers with whom we will continue to cooperate in projects related to trade and energy.
José Luís Paniagua: By the way, how is the exit of Venezuela from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission coming along?
Nicolás Maduro: It is coming along. A year has to pass before we totally are out of that system. During the early months of that period Venezuela has been appointed – by the vote of 154 countries – to the UN’s Human Rights Council which is where we should be. That is the system that currently must be strengthened, that has demonstrated capacity to renew itself, to change when challenged. The Inter-American System of Human Rights has not. It has been kidnapped by an elite beholden to the worst interests of the ruling elite of the United States- totally kidnapped and subordinated. Every day they violate the Convention on Human Rights. Thank God we are each further away from that system and trying to build a new system of human rights in Latin American.
José Luís Paniagua: So there is no turning back on that decision by Venezuela?
Nicolás Maduro: No, it’s the correct decision that we should celebrate as often as we can.
José Luís Paniagua: Days earlier you accused elements of the opposition of looking for a death, of seeking instability in Venezuela and even said that before the Federal Council of Government. What information does the Venezuelan government have to base that kind of accusation on, to raise that kind of scenario?
Nicolás Maduro: What we said on January 10 in front of thousands of compatriots who came to the swearing in of the people on Urdaneta avenue, here in Caracas – an extraordinary ceremony attended by 27 of our close allies on the continent – is that we had information that small groups within the extreme right would perpetrate violent attacks on property that would be magnified by the private media both nationally and internationally in an effort to create destabilization and international alarm over Venezuela. On January 11, a day later, in the afternoon, the first violent event took place. A small group (that has been identified) destroyed offices of a foundation to serve children who have problems: orphaned girls, children who have AIDS, children who merit special protection. They destroyed the offices in an act of vandalism that has been repudiated by the entire country. It was the first attack. Action was taken quickly and performed well by the security forces and measures have been taken in other cities that prevented attacks from spreading.
Measures in other states have also given us the time to prevent these actions of small violent groups of the extreme right. So these groups, and there are others who are working on scenarios of destabilization, were reported about responsibly. We will continue to denounce them. Some of these pseudo-right leaders are going really crazy in Venezuela, and competing with each other because they do not accept the leadership of their former candidate presidential. They believe their former presidential candidate is a person who, as we say in Venezuela, is weak, weak in his message, in leadership, and they not recognize him and so they’ve gone crazy. This group surrounding the former presidential candidate has not had the courage to condemn the violent groups. Hopefully they will. It is never too late to do things that foster peace in the republic. I hope they do, but the divisions within the opposition that encourage these extreme right-wing groups that have always existed. They were responsible for the terrorist attacks that were against the consulate of Spain in 2003 (in 2004, sorry) and also against consulate of Colombia. These are terrorist groups like the ones Colombian paramilitaries brought to Venezuela to attack the palace presidential and the President. Now these groups are riled up again. We are going to ensure peace in the country and that law and order is maintained. If these groups break the law, they will be arrested.
José Luís Paniagua: You commented about former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles. You greeted him the other day.
Nicolás Maduro: Yes.
José Luís Paniagua: Did you get to chat with him, say something about a specific topic?
Nicolás Maduro: No, the government of President Chávez, through the Vice presidency convenes the Federal Council of Government, which is an instance where the entire government participates: all ministers, all governors, a group of mayors and designated spokespeople of popular power. That session of the Council of Federal Government, which is constitutional, is convened to review a range of issues and officially convened functioning governments. In this 2013-2019 term they came, the three opposition governors. You know that of 23 governors who were elected on December 16, the revolution won 20 and the opposition was left with three governorates: the state of Amazonas, Lara and Miranda. The three governors came and we greeted them, of course. The most newsworthy was the picture where we greet former presidential candidate for the opposition, the governor of Miranda. He was there for the entire session, participated in the decision making process there, was included in some working committees. That is how democratic life has to be. One recognizes the instructions, the Constitution, the laws and work. That is one of the reasons why the extreme right tries to blackmail him and the other governors who came to the session. The far right wants to delegitimize the government of President Chávez and they plan a violent insurrection to overthrow the government. These are the lunacies of an extreme right that lives within the opposition and sometimes imposes its speech, political line and everything.
José Luís Paniagua: Vice President, the opposition had called for a march on January 23 and the government decided the same day to convene another march. Does it not generate a risk of some kind of confrontation? Is it not a risk to march on the same day?
Nicolás Maduro: No, January 23 is an emblematic date in the contemporary history of Venezuela and if you check you, we all have always, on January 23, done activities that involve a mass mobilization of the people, as has the opposition. It is an opportunity for the opposition to express itself, as it always has, with marches, with public events with all guarantees. They are welcome to get out to the street, and we are also welcome. Let us make that day a great mobilization that will culminate in the street named “January 23”, which is one of the emblematic streets in the city of Caracas. We do what we must do, reclaim the civic-military spirit that overthrew the last dictatorship that existed in Venezuela and focus on where we were. We say that the spirit of Colonel Hugo Trejo and the journalist Fabricio Ojeda, the military and civilian leaders of that civil-military uprising that toppled the dictatorship is alive and is part of the spirit with which President Chávez – as Commander on 4 February ’94 – took up arms against the International Monetary Fund. It is part of the spirit of the Bolivarian revolution. We have a right to do that. The opposition also claims that date. Welcome. We have all guarantees to mobilize and demonstrate in our country.
José Luís Paniagua: I do wish to ask for statements that you made ​​recently made about slight warming of relations we have seen with the U.S. government. Do you foresee an improved relationship that eventually could produce a return of the ambassadors to the respective countries?
Nicolás Maduro: Well, President Chávez gave us precise orders which he has now given to his new Foreign Minister, our dear comrade Elías Jaua, (also vice president of the political area), that we are always ready to have a relationship based on respect and equality among states with the United States. We have always said that sooner or later the ruling elite of the United States – the elite that runs the military industrial elite media apparatus that is the power true in the United States and over its various governments, now the Obama administration- must learn to recognize the new independence that exists in Latin America and the Caribbean. It must give way to a new relationship of respect. Latin America and the Caribbean is no longer the backyard of the United States. Latin America has taken its own path in economic matters, political matters, in reclaiming the glories of our independence, culturally, educationally.
We have an identity which has enabled a step in the founding of the Union of South American Nations, Unasur, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean, CELAC, ALBA, Petrocaribe. There is another reality and within that new reality we are always willing to have good relations with the governments of the United States – at any time, but always on the basis of absolute respect, non-intervention in the internal affairs of our country. We have also said that sooner or later humanity wil see – in the decades to come – the final decline of imperial hegemonic power has been exercised by the elites of the United States in the last 150 years. The world to come has to be a multipolar world, multipolar, multicenter, without imperial hegemony – a world of peace and respect international law, respect for the right to economic and social development and for the lives of the peoples of the South. Respect for the right to independence, to democracy, to life. This has to be the world, for that world we are struggling and President Chávez has made ​​great contributions as a driving intellectual force towards this world that is being born.
José Luís Paniagua: Let me finish by asking about relations with Spain. How are relations with the government of Mariano Rajoy?
Nicolás Maduro: They are respectful relations, good relations. Our ambassadors in Madrid and the Spanish ambassador in Venezuela have close relationships with the government, our government. We hope that these features of our relations persist. Spain is facing a very difficult time from an economic point of view. We wish the best to the Spanish people, the best from our hearts. Spain is in our history by many circumstances and we have a great love for the history of Spain, life in Spain, to the struggle of the Spanish and have a great respect for the Spanish culture, the identity of Spain. We hope that relations with companies that have such important life here…Spain has large oil investments here that guarantee of energy for the next 100 years. As President Chávez said, here is the energy security of Spain, here on Venezuelan soil, in oil, gas. We hope that this is remains so and that new investment comes. Telefónica is here. There are major companies. May they continue to come and continue to work together on a basis of respect and for the welfare of both countries and both continents.
Latin America and the Caribbean have taken a distinct path after getting rid of the neoliberal formulas of the IMF and World Bank. We cast them off because they led us to misery, hunger, need, backwardness. Europe has its own way. Spain and Europe have their way. We respect the way of Europe and give a big shout out of respect to the Spanish people.
José Luís Paniagua: Thank you Vice-president.
Nicolás Maduro: Thank you.
Translation by Joe Emersberger

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Chávez: Good news

21.01.2013

 
Chávez: Good news. 49149.jpeg
Venezuela is buzzing with the news that President Hugo Chávez is ever more likely to return from his enforced absence in a hospital in Havana, Cuba. Venezuelan diplomat Roy Chaderton has confirmed that the return of Hugo Chávez is “more and more certain”.
Chaderton made his declarations to Venezuelan State TV Telesur today, claiming that there is a “stronger and stronger possibility” that Chávez will return to Venezuela and retake his functions. He had already stated to a meeting of the Organization of American States that since Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999, the Venezuelan people became educated.
Hugo Chávez went to Cuba on December 11 for a fourth operation for cancer. He was unable to be present at the inauguration ceremony for his new mandate after victory in the 2012 election. New malignant cancerous cells were discovered in his pelvic region, in which he had previous operations to remove tumours.
Latest news
The latest news is that Chávez is alive, well and working from his bed as he recovers from a delicate operation in Havana. When he was first diagnosed with cancer in 2011, he requested that technicians created a digital signature for him so that he could sign decrees via the Internet. This is what has apparently just happened with the appointment of Elías Jaua as Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, dated January 15, 2013.
The opposition politicians in Venezuela are complaining, but the fact remains that in this day and age, the electronic option is viable and Hugo Chávez saw the need almost two years before he used it.
Chávez: A tremendous success story
Hugo Chavez, apart from his democratic socialist policies which have created a new middle class in Venezuela, a country which was caught in a medieval regime ruled by a corrupt oligarchic clique of elitists, has spread his governance abroad: poorer families in the northern states of the USA can obtain oil cheaper for their energy needs.
Apart from this, he has a new vision for world governance: to expand the UN Security Council to include more countries from all regions of our planet; a new policy of transparency with more effective methods of crisis management; the suppression of the anti-democratic veto at the UNSC; the strengthening of the powers of the Secretary-General of the UNO – a re-founding of the UNO with powers which are adequate to handle the issues of today’s world.
Internally, Hugo Chávez has brought healthcare and education to the people, in just 12 years. Consultations are provided for free, medicines are distributed free, 24 hours a day, to the people of Venezuela in the Barrio Adentro programme. The Mercals (state-subsidised grocery stores) provide staple products for reduced prices, making foodstuffs available for all.
Certainly, there is far more to do. But Hugo Chávez has identified the key question: an educated people can create their own welfare conditions, the perfect answer to those who brand him a “dictator”. What dictator is democratically elected, and what dictator educates his people?
Viva Hugo Chávez! You have far more to do! In Venezuela and in the world!

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Venezuelan legislature postpones Chavez inauguration

By Bill Van Auken 
10 January 2013
The postponement of the inauguration of cancer-stricken Hugo Chavez for a fourth presidential term has ratcheted up political tensions in Venezuela, with the country’s right-wing opposition demanding an immediate transfer of power.
Venezuela’s National Assembly on Tuesday voted to approve a request from Chavez, who is hospitalized in Cuba following his fourth cancer surgery, to postpone his inauguration, which was scheduled for January 10.
The legislature, which is dominated by Chavez’s ruling PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), voted to grant the president as long as he needed to recuperate from his illness.
The ruling party is going ahead with a mass rally in Caracas on Thursday, which is to be attended by presidents Jose Mujica of Uruguay and Evo Morales of Bolivia. Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, is flying to Havana to visit Chavez. In an indication of its concern for stability in the oil-rich country, Latin America’s leading power, Brazil, threw its support to the National Assembly decision, calling the delay in the inauguration “prudent” and “perfectly covered by constitutional measures.”
For its part, the US State Department has repeatedly denied that it is attempting to impose “a made-in-America solution for Venezuela’s transition,” while acknowledging that US officials have been in discussions both with Vice President Maduro and opposition leaders.
Chavez has not been seen in public since a December 8 television appearance in which announced that he would be forced to take a leave of absence because of his health crisis. Since then, official announcements on his status have been less than encouraging, with early reports that he suffered hemorrhaging and lung failure after the surgery. Since then, his condition has been given as “stable.”
The attempt by the Venezuelan right to use Chavez’s absence to shift the political situation suffered a setback Wednesday when the country’s Supreme Court dismissed claims that the incumbent president could not continue in office if he failed to appear for the swearing-in ceremony.
Luisa Estrella Morales, the president of the court, told a news conference that the formality of the January 10 ceremony was not necessary because “there exists an administrative continuity.”
Chavez’s absence from the country had been approved by the National Assembly, as required by the constitution, she said. The same document provides that in the event the president cannot, for whatever reason, be sworn in before the National Assembly, the Supreme Court may administer the oath of office. Asked if such a ceremony could be held at his hospital in Havana, Cuba, Morales answered that “the condition of time, place and manner of the swearing-in of the president” had not been set.
Ironically, the right-wing opposition, backed by Venezuela’s Catholic Church hierarchy, had postured as the defender of the constitution, a document which it had bitterly opposed when it was created under Chavez in 1999, changing the country’s name to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
“Right now in Venezuela, without any doubt whatsoever, a constitutional conflict has arisen,” declared opposition leader Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda state, who lost to Chavez by a 10 percent margin in last October’s presidential election.
Capriles warned that a decision by the Supreme Court upholding the National Assembly’s decision postponing the inauguration “could contribute to anarchy… a scenario of not recognizing the constitution and anarchy isn’t convenient for anyone in Venezuela.” He went on to suggest that the country’s military, the Bolivarian Armed Forces, would “support the constitution and are willing to enforce its application.”
Capriles was deeply implicated in the CIA-backed coup that briefly toppled and imprisoned Chavez in 2002, and was himself jailed in its aftermath for his role in leading a violent demonstration outside the Cuban embassy, where Chavez supporters were believed to have taken refuge.
The opposition, organized into the coalition known as MUD (Mesa de la Unidad Democratica), has insisted that under the constitution Chavez should be declared temporarily incapacitated and the speaker of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, rather than Vice President Nicolas Maduro, should take the reigns of power as a caretaker president.
While couched in constitutional terms, the demand represents a political tactic to exploit internal divisions within the Chavista PSUV, which the opposition hopes will rise to the surface once Chavez either dies or is declared unable to govern.
While Cabello and Maduro have been portrayed as representing widely divergent tendencies, the military and civilian wings of Chavismo, both men trace their connection to Chavez back to the failed 1992 military coup led by the former paratrooper commander.
Cabello, a former army lieutenant, was one of Chavez’s fellow military conspirators. Maduro, a bus driver and union leader who became a member of the Maoist Liga Socialista in his youth, is married to the lawyer Celia Flores, who defended Chavez and secured his release from prison two years after his coup attempt.
Cabello has been not only president of the National Assembly, but also governor of Miranda (defeated by Capriles), minister of public works, and vice-president of the ruling PSUV. He has close ties to senior military officers and has been charged with corruption and enriching himself through his political connections. Some sections of the media have suggested that he has reservations about the close ties forged by Chavez with Cuba and is an anti-communist.
Maduro was Venezuela’s foreign minister before being appointed by Chavez as his vice president. His wife, Celia Flores, is the country’s attorney general. In his December 8 broadcast, Chavez named Maduro as his successor, his choice as the PSUV candidate in event of his demise or incapacitation. The right-wing media has portrayed him as a leftist and puppet of the Castro regime in Cuba.
Cabello and Maduro have denied any tensions between them and have denounced claims to the contrary as provocations by the political right. The motivation behind these provocations, however, is to exploit tensions within the bourgeois nationalist and populist movement created by Chavez that are very real.
Chavez has played a Bonapartist role, balancing between the disparate social forces that formed his base. These included not only oppressed layers of the population that benefited from social assistance programs he financed through oil export earnings, but the so-called boliburguesia, a layer of Venezuelan capitalists that have enriched themselves off of government connections and financial speculation.
A key institutional foundation of the regime remained the military from which Chavez came. Half of Venezuela’s state governors are former military officers and they are also heavily represented in Chavez’s cabinet.
The ability of either Maduro or Cabello to play this same role in managing Chavismo without Chavez is by no means certain, raising the prospect of a protracted political crisis and a sharpening of the class struggle in Venezuela.

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Chavez’s Enemies See Opportunities in Cancer

Whither Hugo?
By Mike Whitney
“When Chavez became president of Venezuela, the country was limping….. He gave everything he had in him – his sweat, soul, strength, energy, intelligence and love – to change Venezuela with dignity, growth, sovereignty, and nation-building. …. He helped it to grow strong, beautiful and happy….Today, Venezuela grows and flourishes, thanks to his commitment and vision, thanks to his dedication and determination, thanks to his love.”
Eva Golinger, Postcards from the Revolution
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is very sick. Currently he is in Havana, Cuba receiving treatment for a severe respiratory infection following his forth cancer surgery in less than 2 years. Chavez hasn’t been seen in public for more than 3 weeks.
Last week, Venezuela’s vice president, Nicolas Maduro, issued a statement intended to quash malicious rumors about the president’s health and inform worried supporters about the ailing Chavez’s condition. Here’s what he said:
“We have been informed of new complications that have arisen as the result of a previously diagnosed respiratory infection. Yesterday we were aware of his situation and how he is responding to his medication. We met numerous times with his medical team and his family. Just a few minutes ago we were with President Chavez. He greeted us himself and talked about the complications.
After 19 days after undergoing surgery, President Chavez state of health continues to be delicate with complications that are being attended to in a process that is not without risks. Thanks to his great physical and spiritual and strength, Commander Chavez is confronting this difficult challenge.
We have decided to stay with Chavez in Havana for the next few hours attentive to how his actual situation develops.”
Chavez’s struggle with cancer has been greeted with elation by the mainstream media that can barely contain its glee at the former-paratrooper’s misfortune. The MSM—-representing the interests of bankers, corporatists, cutthroat oil oligarchs and bloodthirsty weapons manufacturers —have waged a long and bitter fight with the man who dared to oppose the profit system, nationalise the nation’s oil industry, and reject Washington’s imperial ambitions in the region. For that, Chavez has been demonized in the media as a “leftist strongman” and a “dictator”. Corporate mandarins everywhere see Chavez’s illness as an opportunity to recolonize the thriving country and replace its democratically-elected leadership with the any one of silver-spoon loafers that Washington keeps in tow for just this kind of situation. (Think: Karzai) Two Intel agency-generated coups (guess who?) have failed to topple the popular and tenacious Chavez. We can only hope that he will be equally successful in his battle with cancer.
The media has launched an impressive propaganda campaign aimed at discrediting Chavez, denigrating his achievements, and spreading fear about the future. The intention is to foment political instability and gin up support for the right-wing opposition which has the implicit support of Washington. Here’s a sample of the lies that are being spread by Chavez’s enemies:
“Spain’s ABC reported on Monday that president Chavez “has entered into an induced coma, with his vital signs very low, maintained by artificial assistance… sources consulted by the ABC assured on Monday that a disconnection from artificial assistance had been scheduled…this disconnection, with the foreseeable result of death, could happen at any time”.
The article further claimed that “almost half a metre of his intestine has been extracted” and that Chavez hasn’t eaten solid food since.
The ABC also speculated that Venezuelan government officials “seem to be preparing the country for the news of his [Chavez’s] death”.
The report was reposted and copied by other mainstream media sources, and follows a previous report by the ABC last week claiming that “Chavez had a tracheotomy” and was on “artificial respiration”. (“Venezuelan Government Denounces ‘Psychological Warfare’ Regarding Chavez’s Health”, Venezuelanalysis)
None of this is true. It’s all politically-motivated baloney. Chavez is not in a coma, half a metre of his intestines have NOT been removed, he has Not had a tracheotomy, and the government is NOT preparing the country for the news of his death”. These rumors just illustrate how despised Chavez is among the racketeer class of brandy-drooling plutocrats who want to return Venezuela to the pre-Chavez glory days of widespread ignorance, injustice and grinding poverty where 1 percenters ran the whole shooting match like their personal fiefdom. Chavez swept the miscreants from office, restored the rule of law, and initiated social programs which have lifted millions out of poverty, raised standards of living across the board, reduced illiteracy, lowered unemployment, provided universal health care, increased pensions and minimum wage, nationalised Venezuela’s booming oil industry, and stuck a big fat thumb in Uncle Sam’s imperial eye at every opportunity. And that is why he is despised in the media, in the corporate penthouse suites and in the Oval Office. As Sky News foreign affairs correspondent Lisa Holland opined in a recent article:
“A strident critic of America’s foreign policy, (Chavez) has been a thorn in Washington’s side and has always been quick to offer shelter and vocal support to the countries America has struggled with.” (Sky News.)
You bet he has, and that’s why we love him.
Speedy recovery, Hugo. Yo soy Chavez!
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.
See also – Must watch video – Propaganda : North Korean Documentary Exposes Western Propaganda

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Venezuela’s Chavez: Obama Should Govern His Own Country and not “Invade” Others

By Ewan Robertson
Mérida, 9th November 2012 (Venezuelanalysis) – Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has commented on the re-election of US president Barack Obama, while urging his own state governor candidates to maintain their commitment “with the people” and not the “local bourgeoisie.”
In a meeting with ministers yesterday, Chavez offered his thoughts on the current US president’s re-election, saying, “Hopefully President Obama reflects and dedicates himself to governing his country, and forgets about invading other peoples, destabilising other countries, etc.”
The Venezuela president further stated his opinion that Obama should “reflect, first, for his country, which lamentably has many social and economic problems. It’s a divided country, a country with a social and economic fracture where poverty and misery are growing every day.”
With Chavez’s own re-election on 7 October, both presidents have been through long electoral campaigns this year. The latest figures on the US election put turnout lower than in 2008, possibly at around 50%. In Venezuela’s presidential election turnout was 81%, a historic high.
Speaking to ministers, Chavez also described the US as being dominated by “a super elite, [who] are exploiting the country and society: poisoning it, cheating it, manipulating it through a media war.”
Venezuelan – US relations have been frozen at the chargé d’Affaires level since 2010, when the former US ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, ended his term of service, and the Chavez government refused at accept Obama’s replacement, Larry Palmer.
Message to Candidates
In the same meeting, Chavez also sent a message to the candidates for his party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), in the upcoming regional and local elections.
The Venezuelan head of state warned candidates against a lack of commitment with the Bolivarian movement, saying that some of his party’s elected representatives “end up trapped by the regional bourgeoisie…and each of those cases has pained me greatly.”
He accused some of his movement’s representatives as being afraid of local power elites, and argued “they freeze up….you see them making great speeches, and suddenly they win the mayoralty, the governorship, and they stop themselves!”
Chavez also criticised his governors for not doing more to tackle the system of large-scale land ownership in Venezuela, known as latifundios. He stated that “I haven’t received, in all these years, even one recommendation from a governor to confront the latifundios, to fulfil the constitution: it seems you’ve forgotten, then?”
The PSUV is currently waging a campaign against the opposition MUD coalition, and other groups, for state governor elections slated for 16 December. In many states the election is likely to be tight-fought.
In this context, Chavez declared to the PSUV’s candidates, “What I’m doing is a reflection and a call, hand on heart…from now on I commit my candidates for governor to assume their responsibility with the revolution, not with local groups, or political groups inside the (PSUV) party.”
Chavez also clarified that he was not referring to all PSUV representatives, and argued that the movement had many “good teams”. He concluded his commentary by again urging all his candidates to maintain “loyalty [with] the people and the revolution, whatever the cost.”
 

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Venezuela Election Results: Hugo Chavez Declared Winner

By MANUEL RUEDA

October 07, 2012 “ABC News” President Hugo Chavez has retained power in Venezuela, after defeating opponent Henrique Capriles, by a comfortable victory of one million votes.

Chavez, the longest serving President in Latin America, has been re-elected for the third time. In the months leading up to the election Capriles had been widely portrayed by the international press as his toughest opponent thus far.

But electoral triumph today, in which Chavez won by 54% of vote, mirrored similar victories by the Venezuelan president in previous presidential votes. Capriles took 44% of vote.

Update –


Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez ‘wins re-election’

By Al Jazeera

October 07, 2012 — Electoral Council says with most votes counted Chavez had about 54 per cent of votes, while his rival got 44 per cent.

Venezuela’s electoral council says President Hugo Chavez has won re-election, defeating challenger Henrique Capriles.

National Electoral Council president Tibisay Lucena said on Sunday that with most votes counted, Chavez had about 54 per cent of the vote, while his rival Henrique Capriles garnered 44.99% of votes.

It was Chavez’s third re-election victory in nearly 14 years in office.

The victory gives Chavez another six-year term to cement his legacy and press more forcefully for a transition to socialism in the country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves.

Turnout had been high and voting was extended beyond the official closing time of 18:00 (22:30 GMT) at some polling stations where big queues were formed.

The electoral council’s president, Tibisay Lucena, said any stations where voters had not cast ballots would remain open.

Electoral officials gave no indication of when they might begin releasing first returns. Publishing exit polls and unofficial vote counts is illegal in Venezuela.

Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman, reporting from Caracas, said “Both candidates have called for people to be patient and wait for the results, both men have said they will respect the result.”

Chavez, the Venezuelan president, appealed for calm as his supporters began setting off fireworks and partying in the street on Sunday night in anticipation of victory in the presidential election.

“Let’s way for the results with patience, calm and prepare to recognise the results, whatever they maybe,” he said in a phone call broadcast during a press conference held by his campaign team.

“I ask the nation to stay calm, be patient and that nobody despair, that nobody fall into provocations, no violence, and we wait for the results,” Chavez said.

“Let’s prepare for this with maturity, with good faith and the willingness to continue the march of the Bolivarian fatherland,” Chavez said, referring to Venezuela’s independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Capriles tweeted “We know what happened and we should wait,” , calling Sunday “a grand, historic day.”

While not accusing the government of intentionally delaying results, Capriles did complain earlier that most voting stations lacked lines and the government should get on with the vote-counting.

Capriles spokesman Armando Briquet demanded all motorcycle traffic be banned. In the past, gangs of red-shirted motorcyclists chanting pro-Chavez slogans have intimidated people.

Chavez’s campaign manager, Jorge Rodriguez, told reporters there were no such plans. “This country has freedom of circulation,” he said at a news conference.

The Leftist president is hoping to get a third term in office but is facing tough competition from Capriles.

Chavez, who won 62 per cent of the vote in the 2006 election, held a 10-point lead in the latest opinion poll, but other surveys have put the rivals in a statistical dead heat.

Capriles, 40, a lawyer-turned-politician who has never lost an election, has rallied support by focusing on the day-to-day problems that worry voters most, such as high crime, power blackouts and endemic corruption.

Sporting what he called his “lucky shoes,” the superstitious Capriles struck a conciliatory tone after voting.

“Whatever the people decide today is sacred,” he said to applause from supporters. “To know how to win, you have to know how to lose.”

On the eve of elections, Venezuelans crowded grocery stores and markets to stock up on food and queued to collect the national ID cards they need for voting.

The National Electoral Council (NEC) headquarters in Caracas was also buzzing with activity, while both camps were busy with organising and mobilising volunteers.

Over 300 polling stations were also set up in embassies and consulates around the world for Venezuelan nationals living abroad to cast their vote.

“At most polling stations, lines stretched for blocks,” Al Jazeera’s Chris Arsenault reported from Caracas.

“Geography plays a huge role on voter preferences. In the upper class areas, the vast majority despise Chavez and are backing the opposition. In the slums or barrios, most are backing Chavez. In middle class areas, the vote is more divided.”

Tight race

Chavez has been leading in most polls ahead of the election, with one survey showing him at a 10 per cent lead in October while others have projected that a neck and neck outcome is likely.

In Cota 905, a poor barrio, all the voters Al Jazeera interviewed said they were backing Chavez. “Chavez has given many benefits to us,” Mireya Cecilia Maestro, a housewife, told Al Jazeera. “The social programmes, the subsidised food markets and all the housing projects help us a lot.”

Chavez staged a remarkable comeback after bouncing back from cancer this year and wants a new six-year term to consolidate his self-styled socialist revolution in the OPEC nation.”The changes have been pretty positive,” Antonio Tovar, a Chavez supporter in Cota 905, told Al Jazeera. “The government has helped the people a lot.”

Victory would allow 58-year-old Chavez to continue a wave of nationalisation and consolidate control over the economy, though a recurrence of his cancer would weaken his leadership and possibly give the opposition another chance.

“Some of the changes in the last 14 years are positive, others are negative, there is no black and white,” Raiza Yellamo, a retired education sector employee voting in a lower middle class area told Al Jazeera. “Before Chavez, education was a benefit not a right. I hope there will be social cohesion and unity after the election. We need an equal society for all.”

“The most important thing is to be free: to have security, and electricity and to stop the corruption,” Adriana Mancera, a businesswoman, told Al Jazeera as she left a polling station in the posh Chacao district. “There is going to be a huge change. Here anything could happen, Chavez has a militia and they are armed. I don’t think he will recognise the results when he loses.”

The result of the election also serves as a cliff-hanger for other left-wing governments in the region, from Cuba to Ecuador, who depend on Chavez’s discounted oil sales and generous financial assistance.


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A Plan to Topple Hugo?

By Mike Whitney
“The socialist revolution will not be stopped by anyone because it has become the people.” Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
October 06, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – There’s no better time to read Cindy Sheehan’s heartfelt and galvanizing new book “Revolution, A Love Story” than today, just hours before Venezuela’s presidential elections. The author provides a riveting summary of Latin American history dating back to the Conquistadors focusing particular attention on Washington’s myriad interventions and the rise of the region’s second greatest protagonist, Hugo Chavez. Sheehan–who is a self-confessed Chavez admirer–opines that the charismatic Venezuelan leader “like Simon Bolivar before him, not only dreams of a united Latin America, but is showing the way.” Regrettably, the United States has repeatedly tried to derail Chavez’s reform agenda by funding anti-Chavez groups via non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that pretend to be working for human rights or democracy promotion. The real purpose of these US-funded saboteurs is to topple the democratically-elected Chavez. Barack Obama supports this type of subversion as enthusiastically as did his predecessor, George W. Bush. The only difference is that Obama is more discreet. 
Here’s an excerpt from an article by author and attorney Eva Golinger with more of the details: 
“In Venezuela, the US has been supporting anti-Chavez groups for over 8 years, including those that executed the coup d’etat against President Chavez in April 2002. Since then, the funding has increased substantially. A May 2010 report evaluating foreign assistance to political groups in Venezuela, commissioned by the National Endowment for Democracy, revealed that more than $40 million USD annually is channeled to anti-Chavez groups, the majority from US agencies….
Venezuela stands out as the Latin American nation where NED has most invested funding in opposition groups during 2009, with $1,818,473 USD, more than double from the year before….Allen Weinstein, one of NED’s original founders, revealed once to the Washington Post, “What we do today was done clandestinely 25 years ago by the CIA.” (America’s Covert “Civil Society Operations”: US Interference in Venezuela Keeps Growing”, Eva Golinger, Global Research)
In “Revolution, A Love Story” Sheehan provides a long list of Chavez’s achievements including a steep reduction in unemployment (from 12 percent in 1998 to 6.1 percent in 2010), a sharp rise in the minimum wage (which is the highest in Latin America), bigger pensions for retiring workers, an increase in literacy to 99.6 percent, universal health care, and a poverty-rate that is less than half of what it was when Chavez took office. 
Naturally, the successes of Bolivarian Revolution have incensed Venezuela’s 1 percent who want to return to the golden era of plutocratic rule where the nation’s wealth was plundered by a Mafia of unelected oligarchs. It’s this amalgam of bandits to which Washington has hooked its wagon. Venezuela’s elites are expected to challenge the election results shortly after the ballots have been counted (on October 7) and Chavez is declared the winner. Whether the plan goes forward or not is anyone’s guess, but here’s what’s going on below the radar according to an article in Green Left titled “Venezuela: Ex-US ambassador outlines intervention plans”: 
“In an extraordinary paper released in September, former US ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, outlined a range of military, financial and diplomatic measures that the US should be prepared to take against the Chavez government after the October 7 elections. In the paper, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, Duddy’s recommendations include that in the event of “an outbreak of violence and/or interruption of democracy” the US should use various means to “to communicate to the Venezuelan military leadership that they are obliged to uphold their constitution, respect human rights, and protect their country’s democratic tradition” and “organize a coalition of partners to limit an illegitimate Venezuelan administration’s access to government assets held abroad as well as to the international financial system”.
Isn’t this the same strategy that the State Department used in Egypt when Mubarak was deposed? Didn’t the US send signals to the Egyptian military that Washington would support them if they followed their instructions?
More from Green Left: 
“In the paper… Duddy suggested the US “could also arrange for the proceeds of Venezuelan government–owned corporate entities to be held in escrow accounts until democracy is restored [and] … block access to [Venezuelan government owned] CITGO’s refining facilities in the United States and consider prohibiting [Venezuelan state] oil sales to the United States”.
So the administration plans to carry out an agenda dictated by big oil? Now there’s a surprise. 
More from Green Left: “…there are obvious concerns that this fits neatly with the objectives of those inside the right-wing opposition in Venezuela who are planning for the non-recognition of the coming elections if, as expected, Hugo Chavez wins. 
With polls showing strong leads for Chavez, a campaign is already under way by sections of the right-wing opposition coalition to present any electoral defeat as being down to Chavez-led fraud.” 
Haven’t we seen this movie before? The CIA-funded opposition immediately appears on the streets of the capital in the thousands; sets up their tents, their food stalls, and their rock bands, while the western media films every minor skirmish, every act of police violence, every sign-waving protester decrying the brutal, repressive regime of…”fill in the blanks.” (Ukraine, Lebanon, Georgia etc) It’s all so tedious, but effective nonetheless. Toppling democratically-elected governments (“color-coded revolutions) has become Washington’s favorite pastime. Is that what’s in store for Hugo Chavez? 
Keep in mind that, according to former US President Jimmy Carter, Venezuela’s electoral system is “the best in the world”. So we can be reasonably confident that the ballot-count will be fair and accurate. What we should be more concerned about is what happens after the votes have been tallied. That’s when the real trouble will begin.
The western media has been trying to create the illusion that the race between Chavez and right-wing challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski is close. It isn’t. The media is lying. Chavez is ahead by a wide-margin although you wouldn’t know it by reading the strumpet press. The polls currently show Chavez holding a 12% lead over his opponent. He also has a presidential approval rating of over 65 percent which means that, barring foul play, he should win in a landslide. 
Here’s more from an article in Venezuelanalysis: 
“In August 2012, the Japanese finance organisation, Nomura Holding published a client analysis stating that Hugo Chavez has a “large lead” against Henrique Capriles Radonski which they found “unlikely to be closed …before the October 7 election”. Likewise a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report earlier this year described “President Chavez’s commanding lead in the polls and high level of electoral support”.
This lead in the polls is undoubtedly linked to Venezuela’s expanding economy, which is growing at 6% per year, as well as new social policies which address the ongoing needs of Venezuela’s poor majority. For example in the past year alone 250,000 new social houses have been built, state pensions made available for all and the minimum wage increased by 30%. These follow the policies that have successfully delivered free healthcare and education for all, slashing poverty rates in recent years.”
As we noted earlier, Chavez’s opponent, Capriles Radonski, is a right-wing stooge who is committed to strengthening relations with Washington while implementing structural reforms that lower living standards. A leaked document linked to Radonski’s party, the MUD 
(Roundtable of Democratic Unity), indicates that a change of leaders would result in more privatisations of public services and assets and an end to many of Chavez’s popular social programs. In other words, more welfare for corporate chieftans and more austerity for everyone else. Chavez referred to the secret document– called “the packetazo” –in a recent speech saying: 
“Behind Capriles Radonski’s democratic mask is the most horrendous thing in politics. Behind his deceptive message of progress and social welfare is the most savage neoliberal capitalist package that has been known in Venezuela and Latin America.” Chavez said he would fight against the packetazo and “deliver a knock-out punch to neoliberalism which will never again be implemented in Venezuela.” 
This is why Washington hates Chavez, because he’s raised living standards for the poor and given ordinary working people hope that they can break-free from US domination and the power of big money. Chavez summed it up like this in an interview with Cindy Sheehan who asked “Why do you think the Empire makes such a concerted effort to demonize you?”
Chavez answered: “Because the Empire is afraid that the people of the United States will find out the truth. …that a Bolivarian movement, or a Lincoln movement, or a movement of conscoius citizens could erupt in their own country and transform the system….
They fear the truth. They fear the contagious effect. They fear an awakening of the people in the United States. They fear a revolution in the United States.” 
It will be interesting to see what Obama has up his sleeve. Will he support the will of the people and accept that Chavez has been chosen as president for another 6 years or launch another color coded revolution to implement regime change? Only time will tell. In the meantime, grab a copy of Sheehan’s “Revolution, A Love Story”. It’s a great read.

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Venezuela: accident or sabotage?

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by Emanuel Cancella*


In the first place, the incident highlights the risks the oil workers are exposed to. Those who work in the oil sector, through their labor unions, are always collecting security policies to ensure the health and physical integrity of both workers and the residents who live around the refineries and factories.
In Venezuela, like Brazil our guidelines go beyond the remuneration issue. In Brazil, Petrobras oil workers, who are currently in a wage campaign, settled their claims with the company since August 16, and there are whole chapters about the lack of job security.
However, even with all the precautions, the job is risky and accidents happen. In the case of the fire at the refinery in Venezuela, some aspects cannot be ignored.
The country is in an election year and the candidate, Hugo Chavez, remains with twenty percentage points ahead of his opponent. Opportunistically and inhumanly, part of the Venezuelan press tries to take an electoral advantage of this drama, trying to place the fault for the accident on the Chávez government.
It is worth remembering a significant event in the recent history of Venezuela: in 2002, some PDVSA oil workers “sold out” to foreign capital, wanted to privatize the company and supported the “lockout” against Chávez, paralyzing the refineries. Chavez had to act firmly, dismissing the conspirators and passing control of the company into the hands of those who bravely faced the saboteurs.
Since Saturday, when the fire started at Amuay, the same oil workers that once faced the saboteurs are trying in every way, tackle the fire, with much commitment and competence. It will soon be possible to resume the activities of the refinery. Already the saboteurs prefer to poison public opinion, running to supply the media with unfounded opinions and information, eager to take advantage of the tragedy in order to reverse electoral indices.
A parallel with Paraguay also needs to be made. President Lugo was overthrown as a result of a parliamentary coup, after an agrarian conflict that resulted in the death of several peasants on the pretext of his having been unable to contain the conflict.
In the case of Paraguay, since 2009, WikiLeaks has charged that the United States was brewing a coup against Lugo . In Venezuela, the Spanish newspaper El País published in 2006, there was a story about a videogame manufactured in the United States that aimed to overthrow the Venezuelan government. The villains of the story were “rojos” – reds – and part of the game proposed an attack on the Amuay refinery.
For us, it is difficult not to consider some hypotheses: before these antecedents, there being only 40 days until the presidential elections, will an accident of this proportion have been, in fact, mere coincidence? The question hangs in the air: accident or sabotage?
All the solidarity of oil workers from Brazil to the dead, the wounded and their families!
*Emanuel Cancella is Secretary-General of Sindipetro RJ and director of the National Federation of Oil (FNP).

World Bank President Says President Hugo Chavez’s “Days Are Numbered”

By Paul Dobson
June 14, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — World Bank president Robert Zoellick said last week that the days of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were “numbered” economically and politically following a wave of nationalisations.
Zoellick spoke ominously of “an opportunity to make the western hemisphere the first democratic hemisphere” by exploiting Chavez’s hypothetical downfall to force “rapid policy changes” on other countries, naming Cuba and Nicaragua.
Without a trace of irony he talked of how the US could make Latin America “a place of democracy, development and dignity” rather than one of “coups, caudillos and cocaine.”
A bit rich from the country which organised the coups, bankrolled the caudillos and bought the cocaine for decades before the progressive movement spearheaded by Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution began to reshape the continent.
But Zoellick may be underestimating his target. The Bolivarian revolution has made tremendous gains for Venezuela’s democracy, development and dignity precisely by challenging the might of exploitative transnational companies. Here we can look at just one example – Venezuela v a British man nicknamed “Spam.”
Or to give him his full title, Samuel George Armstrong Vestey, third baron Vestey, lieutenant in the Scots Guards, peer, ex-chancellor and lord prior to the Order of St John of Jerusalem, deputy lieutenant of Gloucestershire, Master of the Horse of the Sovereign, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.
He’s 27th in the Order of Preference for Gentlemen in the UK – a who’s who of the nobility – the ex-husband to Prince Harry’s godmother and owner of the 2,430-hectare Stowell Park estate in Gloucestershire. More importantly he’s the head of Vestey Group.
The group is a British foodstuff conglomerate founded in Liverpool in 1897, which made its fortune importing meat. It moved into Venezuela in 1903 and bought 11 ranches in prime-quality land (classified in the country as “A1,” the best possible for farming), setting up the Compania Inglesa subsidiary in the country which itself set up Agroflora, the cattle-ranching arm of the business.
The company did well, buying up land in a range of other countries from Australia to China and making vast profits for its owners William and Edmund Vestey. William managed to get ennobled as a baron despite opposition from King George V, who was irritated by his demand for tax-exempt status at the height of World War I.
When this demand was refused they went into tax exile in Argentina before setting up a dodgy if legal scheme involving a French trust fund that enabled them to evade almost all tax in Britain until the loophole was closed in 1991. A Sunday Times investigation once revealed that in 1978 the firm had managed to pay just £10 in tax on a profit of around £2.3 million.
They were at their height called “the richest dynasty in the land apart from the Windsors.” Biographer Philip Knightley wrote: “They did not live on the income, they did not live on the interest from their investments. They lived on the interest on the interest.”
Business and tax evasion went excellently for William’s successors until 2001, when the Chavez government passed a new land law allowing it to look into all landholdings of over 5,000 hectares and forcibly nationalise them with compensation if they were deemed inactive, idle or no project was presented for their development.
Spam had a problem – he owned over 420,000ha of land in Venezuela and over 130,000 head of cattle. Twelve of his ranches surpassed the 5,000ha mark. So he held a one-man protest outside Venezuela’s London embassy in February 2001.
Squatters began to settle on his lands and cultivate crops. Though they were making use of previously inactive land, there are reports of these landless farmers being shot at and even murdered by men allegedly paid off by Spam.
In 2005 things got even worse for the tycoon. The government sent troops into his Charcote ranch and confiscated 13,000 cattle. After coming to an agreement with the government Spam received the equivalent of £2.65m in local currency as compensation for two ranches he was forced to give up.
In 2008 there was controversy over the plight of 400 indigenous people who lived on his Morichito ranch. By the terms of the land contract they were literally owned by Spam.
In October 2010 he faced his biggest problem yet when Chavez declared: “All the lands of the so-called Compania Inglesa will be nationalised now. I don’t want to lose another day. Free the land, free the slave labour.”
That meant around 300,000ha of land, all his remaining ranches and 120,000 cattle.
The Central Bank immediately approved funds for buying up the ranches. Chavez pointed out: “We must recognise what is really private land, we’re not stealing it from anyone. Some companies like this insist we pay them in foreign money. No – we are in Venezuela.”
The ranches passed to the state and the jobs of the workers were guaranteed. Some land was distributed to those who lived or worked on it to set up co-operatives, some continues production under state administration and some areas are being restructured for crop rather than cattle-farming.
Spam said: “We have been in constructive discussions with the Venezuelan government for some time now and we continue in that vein in order to find a friendly agreement.”
These discussions went on for about a year. But in October 2011 talks fell apart over the payment issue and lands were ordered to be taken by force.
Spam was offered compensation in the overvalued local currency and no other, a total of 274m bolivars (£46m).
Poor Spam was left without a single ranch.
Many economists, landowners, cattle-ranchers and general bigwigs were up in arms over these land-grabs.
Many peasants, workers, patriots and general country folk supported them.
But the government pointed out that Spam’s deeds had not been in order – and that anyway if you went back far enough the land had been nicked off the people in the first place.
It also reminded us that 90 per cent of the meat produced on these ranches was to be sold in Britain. Venezuelan land, Venezuelan cattle, Venezuelan labour, but virtually no meat for Venezuela at a time when the country was importing 70 per cent of meat consumed.
That this was A1 fertile land – perfect for crop production, not cattle-ranching.
And finally that there were millions of Venezuelans without land, houses or businesses who could benefit from the lots of all three owned by the absentee landlord.
So 2011 was the year that concluded the story of Spam in Venezuela. But not to worry – the third baron Vestey’s colonial adventures continue in, among other places, Australia, Brazil and China.
Copyright Morning Star
See also – Chavez says Venezuela has started making drones, assembling Kalashnikov rifles: Venezuela has spent billions of dollars for Russian arms and military aircraft since 2005, including 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, dozens of attack helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles.“We are a free and independent country,” Chavez said.

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President Chávez promotes indigenous policies

By Olivia Kroth



Sources: Blog Hugo Chávez, Correo del Orinoco, Patria Grande, Radio Nacional de Venezuela, Venezuelanalysis

Hugo Chávez, of indigenous origin himself, has a big heart for Venezuela’s indigenous population. As soon as he became president in 1999, the national constitution was changed and the Organic Law on Indigenous Peoples and Communities (LOPCI) was introduced, giving indigenous citizens special rights.

Thus they received the right to demarcate and inhabit their ancestral lands, send their children to bilingual schools, elect indigenous members of parliament, practice traditional medicine and adhere to their ancestral religions.

The law also explicitly acknowledges the systematic persecution which indigenous people suffered under previous regimes. It gives them back their dignity by protecting their genetic material.

Some conflicts arose with landowners when the Yupka tribes in western Venezuela, especially in the state of Zulia, claimed and occupied their ancestral territory. Previously, they had lived as landless peasants on the huge ranches of the landowners. Under the new law, they took the opportunity of recuperating what they see as their own.

The Yupka people brought historical documents, topographical surveys and anthropological testimonies to prove their rights. In 2008, they occupied private estates, while the police cordoned the area off, trying to prevent the Yupka from entering.

In his TV show, “Hello President” (Aló Presidente), Hugo Chávez said, “Nobody should have any doubts: Between the large estate owners and the Indians, this Government is with the Indians.”

Meanwhile, the large estates have been expropriated. The National Land Demarcation Commission, a branch of the Environment Ministry, demarcated the recuperated territory with the help and participation of indigenous councils.

Indigenous cooperatives have been established to work on these lands, reviving the ancestral spirit of Indo-American socialism. The indigenous population does not know private property, but has traditionally been living in tribal communes.  

In October 2009, about 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of land were given back to the Yupka people by the Chávez Government for communal use. The Yupka territory stretches from the Sierra de Perijá to Maracaibo Lake.

The disowned elite repeatedly tried destabilization tactics, vehemently opposing Hugo Chávez’s socialist administration. They even went as far as murdering some Indians.

Another indigenous policy in Venezuela is the creation of socialist Missions. A variety of Missions provide the indigenous population with free education, health care and housing.

The indigenous communities have their own housing constructions, using the traditional local materials of adobe and wood. They sell communal products in their commercial cooperatives. Furthermore, they have built bilingual schools.

The Law about Indigenous Languages of Venezuela promotes the revitalization of ancestral culture, languages and Indo-American thinking. This law has been translated into the tribal languages of Akawayo, Baré, Barí, Curripaco, Inga, Jivi, Ökuana, Pemón, Piapoco, Piaroa, Puinave, Pumé, Warao, Warekena, Wayuunaiki, Yanomami and Yeral.

Revitalizing and protecting indigenous culture in Venezuela is of great importance to Hugo Chávez, who calls it the “heart of the nation.”  The country has a Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nicia Maldonado, and celebrates several indigenous holidays.

The 18th of March is the Day of the Indigenous Child, as recognition and inclusion of indigenous children, highlighting their cultural, historical, linguistic and social prominence.

The 8th of October is the Day of Indigenous Resistance. It marks the arrival of Christopher Columbus on the continent in 1492. The Spaniards thought they had discovered a “new continent.” In fact the natives had been living there for thousands of years already. The Spanish colonialists wanted to eliminate these peoples and their cultures, but they met strong resistance.         

One of the main local Chiefs resisting Spanish colonialism was Guaicaipuro, of the Caracas tribe. Venezuela’s capital is named after him and the Guaicaipuro Mission was introduced in 2004.

Each year, thousands of indigenous citizens travel to Caracas on the 12th of October to commemorate the Day of Indigenous Resistance. At the National Pantheon, Hugo Chávez presents a floral arrangement in honor of Chief Guaicaipuro.

All indigenous tribes of Venezuela are encouraged to participate in the Patriotic Pole (Polo Patriotico), a new grassroots movement created by PSUV, the Socialist Party, which is preparing the national presidential election of Hugo Chávez this coming October. 

Nohelí Pocaterra, an indigenous Member of Parliament, pointed out that many Indians are interested in defending the revolutionary process of President Hugo Chávez. “We have our mechanisms, we are organized. We are relying on our national, regional, municipal, local and community organizations. The children, youngsters, adolescents, women, all are organized,” the deputy said.

José Gonzáles, President of the National Indio Council of Venezuela (CONIVE), also supports the initiative.

The Venezuelan indigenous citizens are thankful to President Hugo Chávez for giving them back their dignity and defending their rights. Therefore they wish to play an active role in the presidential election campaign 2012.

“Amor con amor se paga.” – “Love is repaid with love.” 

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