Archive for the ‘Venezuela’ Category
Ezequiel Minaya, The Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2011
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced a 26.5% increase of the minimum wage late Monday, which will take effect in two stages beginning May 1.
Next month, minimum wage will be raised 15% followed by a second hike in September, bringing the monthly salary to 1,548 bolivars or $360 at the state-set exchange rate. The new wage will cover roughly 1.4 million workers, according to a government official who joined Chavez in unveiling the measure on state television.
Chavez has made it customary since 2000 to raise the minimum wage around this time of year to coincide with the May 1 observance of International Workers’ day. With a 2012 presidential election looming, the pay hike has the added benefit of possibly boosting the popularity of Chavez, who has maintained a core constituency with the aid of lavish social spending. Many workers in Venezuela receive additional benefits that include subsidized housing and food. And recently, the leftist leader announced that a greater percentage of profits from the state-run oil industry would be diverted to Fonden, a social development fund.
The minimum wage increase trails Venezuela’s inflation rate, which is among the highest in the world at 27.4% countrywide during the 12-month period through March. Earlier this month, top officials from the Central Bank of Venezuela and the Finance Ministry said the country’s economic outlook was improving and inflation was on the decline.
During his appearance, Chavez also revealed plans to extend a food benefit for workers that would strike a requirement that firms have a certain number of employees before having to provide meals.
ISRIA, April 18, 2011
President Ahmadinejad stressed the need for formation of a global movement to establish peace and security in the world.
President Ahmadinejad made the remarks in a phone conversation with his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez.
He condemned the military actions of some hegemonic powers against world nations and stressed the need for initiating global movements regarding important regional and international issues.
Saying that the US and its European allies were only seeking their own interests, President called for new independent movements to solve the existing problems based on dialogue and negotiation.
Dr. Ahmadinejad further pointed to the plans engineered by the US to solve its problems and expand its dominance over the region as well as the world and said that like the 9/11 plot, America will again fail in its plans to rob countries from their resources thanks to the vigilance of world nations.
Turning to the situation in libya, he said Iran was against any intervention of the NATO and the US in the internal affairs of the countries.
President Ahmadinejad also highlighted the strategic ties between Iran and Venezuela.
President Chavez criticized some countries for backing military operations against the Libyan nation and said the present situation called for joint and collective measures by all world nations.
Tamara Pearson, Venezuelanalysis, April 18, 2011
Yesterday Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez said he was renewing his proposal to form an international peace commission to settle the conflict in Libya.
The Venezuelan government will propose the creation of a broad commission to serve as mediator with the situation in Libya to presidents and countries of the African Union. Chavez urged the formation of a larger commission to see if it’s possible to “stop this craziness of aggressions”.
He made the decision after talking to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by phone. In order to strengthen his proposal, originally made in February, Chavez said he would seek support from other presidents around the world who “have an interest in a peaceful solution to the conflict in [Libya]”.
“We will work hard to contact other presidents, and try to shape a larger committee than the one that emerged from the African Union, to see if we can stop this madness. That’s what politics, international law and diplomacy are for,” Chavez said.
“When will you, distinguished U.S president and especially European countries stop? I’m going to keep talking about this situation. We have mentioned the U.S. president, [Barack] Obama. Now, we must also talk about President of France [Nicolas] Sarkozy and Prime Minister of Italy [Silvio] Berlusconi and the British Prime Minister David Cameron,” he said.
“Do these presidents think that they own the world? Do they think they have the right to bomb villages and peoples? NATO is now asking for more planes, they lack planes and bombs to kill more people … That’s not the way to solve any problem in this world,” he continued.
“Imperialism and the [governments] of Europe want to take over Libya’s petroleum, they don’t want to defend the people of Libya, that’s a lie,” Chavez said.
“Here in Venezuela we ask for peace in the world, humanity and the human cause. A greater level of peace, total peace, human peace through social justice and that is socialism, “he concluded.
During the last days of February and first days of March, Chavez promoted his proposal for the creation of an international peace commission to mediate and help solve the crisis in Libya, which NATO and its allies then began attack on 19 March.
On 11 April the anti-Gaddafi forces rejected a peace plan presented by the African Union, according to them, because it did not include plans for Gaddafi to step down.
Rachael Boothroyd, Venezuelanalysis, April 17, 2011
Venezuela’s President Chávez met with ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya and a delegation from the National Resistance Front (Frente de Resistencia Hondurena) on Saturday in order to continue mediation of the current political conflict in Honduras.
The meeting was arranged following an initial dialogue between Chávez, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and the current Honduran president, Porfirio Lobo, on the 9th of April in Cartagena, Colombia.
In his meeting with Chávez, which lasted more than three hours, Zelaya outlined the primary conditions that will set the basis for negotiations and initiate mediation to allow his return to Honduras. Lobo has since agreed to mediation and the conditions set out by Zelaya will act as a ‘working draft’ for further negotiations.
Afterwards Chávez, who is jointly leading the mediation committee with Santos, reaffirmed that Venezuela would continue to fight for the “reestablishment of peace and democracy in Honduras,” adding, “We are fighting to consolidate, not just in Venezuela, but on the whole continent, in Latin America, Central America, South America, an area of peace. A great area of peace which is truly democratic, where social justice – real peace – prevails.”
Zelaya thanked Chávez and the Venezuelan people for their role in the negotiation process, stating, “The people of Venezuela are the leading example and representation of the process of change in Latin America.”
After seeking a referendum on the creation of a constituent assembly, Zelaya was ousted in a coup d’état in June 2009 and is currently in exile in the Dominican Republic. A presidential election led to the replacement of the military junta by Porfirio Lobo in January 2010, however, several countries in Latin America, such as Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela have refused to acknowledge the election’s legitimacy. Honduras has been expelled from the OAS (Organisation of American States) since the 2009 coup and continues to experience political instability amidst reports of human rights abuses.
If Ollanta Humala wins a run-off vote in June, he could align Peru with Latin America’s political left.
Greg Grandi, Al Jazeera, April 15, 2011
Last week, in Peru’s presidential election, Ollanta Humala, a 48-year old former military officer, pulled off a stunning come-from-behind victory.
Beating his four main rivals with over 30 per cent of the vote, Humala, who has called for a fairer distribution of Peru’s enviable economic growth, scares Washington and Wall Street.
Peruvians have committed “political suicide”, declared a former US ambassador to the country following the vote.
Equally unnerved is Peru’s Noble Laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa, who often uses his considerable descriptive talents to render in subtle hues the anxieties of Lima’s upper-class whites.
Since Humala didn’t get 50 per cent of the vote, he will face Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, in a June run off – a choice Vargas Llosa describes as akin to one between “AIDS and terminal cancer”.
Many Peruvians, though, have worse fates in store for them than those two diseases. Despite Peru’s impressive macroeconomic performance, including low inflation, over the last decade, well over thirty per cent of Peru’s thirty million people live in poverty, and eight per cent in extreme poverty.
In the countryside, particularly the indigenous countryside, more than half of all families are poor, many desperately so.
Central areas in Lima, the capital, are booming. Profits skimmed off the high price of precious metals – silver, zinc, copper, tin, lead, and gold make up sixty per cent of the country’s exports and finance the rise of luxury condos and malls.
But the city is also sprawling outward. Mining and other high-capital, low-labour export industries – among them, logging, petroleum, natural gas, and biofuels plantations – are ripping up the Andean highlands and Amazonian lowlands, throwing a steady number of families into Lima, where they add block after block to its perimeter.
Terminal cancer might be a concern among Vargas Llosa’s condo constituency, but these economic refugees, particularly their children, are more likely to suffer shantytown diseases, including malnutrition, protein deficiency, dysentery, and drug-resistant tuberculosis. Peru ranks 23rd out of 26th in Latin America for access to waste treatment.
While all the other candidates offer variations on a theme of “more of the same”, Humala promises mild reform. He pledges to improve health care for the poor and implement a means-tested pension plan for the elderly.
To pay for it, he said he will raise the taxes on mineral exports. This is hardly a radical program, but those who have grown fat off of Peru’s unsustainable model of economic development view it as catastrophic.
News of Humala’s first-round victory sent Peru’s currency and bond prices sharply down. Opinion and policy makers in Lima and the US rushed to their keyboards to warn of “class warfare”, as did the former US ambassador cited above.
The “outcome”, he said, “could not have been worse”. There is a saying in Latin America to describe the hysteria that overcomes elites when they hear someone suggesting a more equitable distribution of wealth: “when they sit down to dinner, they see Hugo Chavez in their soup.”
Can Humala win in June? According to The Economist, polls taken before last week’s election found that “more than 77 per cent of voters expressing an opinion wanted to modify the country’s development model”. And 37 per cent wanted radical change.
America’s ‘backyard’ has never been so united and independent of U.S. influence.
Steve Ellner, In These Times, April 14, 2011
In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama pressed for quick passage of a free trade agreement with Colombia, and since then has followed up on the proposal. In doing so he has delighted Republicans who had been accusing him of failing to prioritize the issue. In his January speech, Obama made no reference to his unequivocal concern over human rights violations which he had raised in his third presidential debate with McCain.
Since 2008, little has improved to justify Obama’s reversal. Human Rights Watch has reported a 41 percent increase in the number of victims in 2010 over the previous year, including the murder of 44 trade unionists. In the first six weeks of 2011, death squads assassinated three more labor activists.
In an attempt to assure members of U.S. Congress that progress is being made, on April 7 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Obama announced from the White House the approval of an “Action Plan,” whereby the Colombian government pledged to take stringent measures to curb abuses. Many Colombian trade union leaders, however, refused to buy into the arrangement and expressed skepticism about their government’s resolve. Tarsicio Mora, president of the Unitary Workers Confederation (CUT), objected by saying, “It just can’t be that respect for a basic right established in the constitution, such as the right to life, has to be required by a commercial transaction.”
Obama’s new stand has also failed to win over U.S. trade unionists. In January, Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen argued against the agreement by pointing out that 15 million Colombians representing 82 percent of the working population are not recognized as workers and thus under the law “have no rights.”
Obama’s change–from opposition to the free trade agreement with Colombia, to lukewarm endorsement of it, to vigorous support–is just one example of his turnabout on Latin American policy. His modified stand distances Washington from an important bloc of Latin American governments and contributes to the decline of the U.S. leadership position in the hemisphere.
Venezuenanalysis.com note: In the past both the U.S. and Colombian governments have used the alleged presence of FARC members in Venezuela to demonise the Bolivarian government. Recently, in 2009, the Colombian government insinuated that Venezuela was providing weapons to the FARC to help justify the presence of U.S military bases in the Colombia and as part of tensions and disputes between the two countries at the time.
Edward Fox, Columbia Reports, April 12, 2011
President Juan Manuel Santos told Spanish television Tuesday he is confident that FARC encampments in Venezuela have been dismantled.
“We are satisfied that the camps that we had previously located are no longer there,” the head of state said, adding that Venezuela had provided Colombia with details on Monday of two FARC guerrillas accused of killing two Colombian marines who had escaped across the border. This move, Santos stated, was an “unprecedented” gesture in relations between the neighboring countries, Terra reports.
Venezuela has been the focus of accusations in recent years for harboring the terrorist organization within its border, culminating in the filing of a complaint before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) by former President Alvaro Uribe last August.
Since Santos came to power however, there has been a significant thawing in relations between the two countries, something the Colombian president praised his Venezuelan counterpart for on Tuesday.
Santos said, “We are advancing each time on the different fronts [security, economy] we agreed upon eight months ago,” adding that Hugo Chavez has so far complied with everything he said he would and that he, Santos, acknowledges that.