Monday, December 10, 2012

Just Kidding Voters, I Really DID Have Cancer

from USAToday and the AP
10:25PM EST December 9. 2012 - CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for a third cancer surgery after naming his vice president as his choice to lead the country if the illness cuts short his presidency.

Chavez's announcement on Saturday night unleashed new uncertainty about the country's future, and his supporters poured into city plazas across the nation to pray for his recovery from what appears to be an aggressive type of cancer.

Some wiped tears, while others held photos of him and chanted in unison: "Ooh-Ah! Chavez isn't going away!"

Chavez acknowledged the seriousness of his health situation in a televised address, saying for the first time that if he suffers complications Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement.

Several outside medical experts said that based on Chavez's account of his condition and his treatment so far, they doubt the cancer can be cured.

Chavez said he hasn't given up.

"With the grace of God, we'll come out victorious," said Chavez, who held up a crucifix and kissed it during his Saturday night appearance.

The 58-year-old president is still scheduled to be sworn in for a new six-year term Jan. 10. He has been in office for nearly 14 years, since 1999.

"There are risks. Who can deny it?" Chavez said, seated at the presidential palace beside Maduro and other aides. "In any circumstance, we should guarantee the advance of the Bolivarian Revolution."

Chavez, who won re-election on Oct. 7, said he would undergo surgery in Havana in the coming days. Lawmakers on Sunday voted unanimously to grant him permission to leave the country for the operation.

During the session at the National Assembly, opposition lawmakers agreed to Chavez's request and also said that Maduro should take on his duties during his temporary absence, as the constitution specifies. Opposition lawmaker Julio Borges criticized the incomplete information that has been released about Chavez's cancer, saying: "Venezuela has a right to know the truth."

Throughout his treatment, Chavez has kept secret various details about his illness, including the precise location of the tumors and the type of cancer. He has said he travels to Cuba for treatment because his cancer was diagnosed by doctors there.

National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said there are no plans at this time for Chavez to cede power, even temporarily, as president.

"He's not asking for permission to leave his duties," Cabello said. "The chief of this revolution is Hugo Chavez."

Cabello chided opposition politicians for questioning how forthcoming Chavez has been about his illness, likening them to "Komodo dragons."

Some of the pro-Chavez lawmakers cried and their voices cracked with emotion as they praised him and wished him a full recovery. They chanted, "Onward, commander!"

Under the Venezuelan constitution, as vice president Maduro would automatically fill in as president on a temporary basis should Chavez be unable to finish the current term concluding in early January.

But the constitution also says that if a president-elect dies before taking office, a new election should be held within 30 days. In the meantime, the president of the National Assembly is to be in charge of the government.

More than 1,000 of Chavez's supporters gathered on Sunday in Plaza Bolivar in Caracas to show solidarity, many wearing his movement's red T-shirts while a marching band played.

The president, who had just returned from Cuba early Friday, said on television Saturday that tests had found a return of "some malignant cells" in the same area where tumors were previously removed.

Chavez's quick trip home appeared aimed at sending a clear directive to his inner circle that Maduro is his chosen successor. He also called for his allies to pull together and said it's important for the military to remain united, too.

"The enemies of the country don't rest," he said, without elaborating.

Chavez said his doctors had recommended he have the surgery right away, but that he had told them he wanted to return to Venezuela first.

"What I came for was this," he said, seated below a portrait of independence hero Simon Bolivar, the inspiration of his Bolivarian Revolution movement.

Chavez had named Maduro, his longtime foreign minister, as his choice for vice president three days after winning re-election. The 50-year-old Maduro, a burly former bus driver, has shown unflagging loyalty and become a leading spokesman for the socialist leader.

Chavez said that if new elections are eventually held, his movement's candidate should be Maduro.

"In that scenario, which under the constitution would require presidential elections to be held again, you all elect Nicolas Maduro as president," Chavez said. "I ask that of you from my heart."

Chavez called him "one of the young leaders with the greatest ability to continue, if I'm unable to … continue with his firm hand, with his gaze, with his heart of a man of the people."

Chavez was flanked by Maduro and Cabello, and he held a small blue copy of the constitution in his hands. Concluding his talk, Chavez called for his aides to bring out a sword that once belonged to Bolivar, and showed it to Maduro.

"Before that sword we swear… we will be paying close attention, and I ask for all the support, all the support of the nation," Chavez said.

State television showed Chavez's supporters congregating in city squares on Sunday and joining hands to pray for his health. In downtown Caracas, some expressed optimism that Chavez would pull through it. Others said they weren't sure.

"I love Chavez, and I'm worried," said Leonardo Chirinos, a construction worker. "We don't know what's going to happen, but I trust that the revolution is going to continue on, no matter what happens."

Chavez called his relapse a "new battle." It will be his third operation to remove cancerous tissue in about a year and a half.

The president underwent surgery for an unspecified type of pelvic cancer in Cuba in June 2011, after an earlier operation for a pelvic abscess. He had another cancer surgery last February after a tumor appeared in the same area. He has also undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Chavez said in July that tests showed he was cancer-free. But he had recently reduced his public appearances, and he made his most recent trip to Cuba on Nov. 27, saying he would receive hyperbaric oxygen treatment. Such treatment is regularly used to help heal tissues damaged by radiation treatment.

Chavez said that while in Cuba tests detected the recurrence of cancer.

Dr. Julian Molina, an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said that based upon the limited information Chavez has made public about his cancer it appears to be terminal.

"For a patient in similar circumstances where you have given surgery as a first line of treatment, then chemotherapy, then radiation therapy and you are still dealing with a tumor this late — that indicates that it is not a curable cancer," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Molina and other medical experts said Chavez's next surgery likely won't be high-risk.

"I think if they are planning to do any surgery it is to improve his quality of life, meaning to remove a tumor that is located in a place that is either producing some pain or some difficulty for the patient," Molina said.

He agreed with other doctors queried by the AP that Chavez could have a sarcoma, which he said tend to spread to the lungs. Based on Chavez's treatment regimen, he said, it's highly unlikely he's suffering from colon or prostate cancer, though it could also be bladder cancer.

Molina said it is extremely difficult to say how long Chavez has to live. "You need to know more specifics about the case," he said.

Chavez said he wouldn't have run for re-election this year if tests at the time had shown signs of cancer. He also made his most specific comments yet about his movement carrying on without him if necessary.

"Fortunately, this revolution doesn't depend on one man," Chavez said. "Today we have a collective leadership."

Throughout his presidency, though, Chavez has been a one-man political phenomenon, and until the appointment of Maduro he hadn't designated any clear successor.

"Chavez is in the short term irreplaceable in terms of leadership and of national impact," said Luis Vicente Leon, a pollster who heads the Venezuelan firm Datanalisis.

Still, he said, Chavez's announcement could help his party's candidates rally support in upcoming state gubernatorial elections on Dec. 16. Leon also said that if Chavez's candidates have a strong showing, it could give his party an added boost to promote constitutional changes to allow Maduro to succeed Chavez without the need for a new election. Such a possibility has not been publicly raised by Chavez's political allies.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who was defeated in the presidential vote, wished Chavez a speedy recovery.

He also bristled at the idea of Maduro being a designated political heir, saying: "When a person leaves his position the public has the last word, because we're in Venezuela and not Cuba."

"Here you can't talk about successors," Capriles said.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

It's Ruff a Road...

...but nobody's going to pedal for ya, so keep on!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bad to the Bone

from Fox News Latino
Venezuela President Hugo Chávez is now battling bone metastasis from his pelvic cancer, according to a report by Spanish newspaper ABC. Citing an unnamed intelligence source, ABC's Washington correspondent Emil J. Blasco says there has been a recurrence and spread of the tumor, which was detected in a test performed on a trip to Havana just after the elections on October 7.

Blasco said the metastasis is causing Chavez “severe pain in the left femur and serious walking difficulties." He also says that Chavez passed out twice in August, losing consciousness briefly, and that doctors determined that his situation was deteriorating slowly but steadily.

Chavez last appeared publicly during a televised meeting on Nov. 15, prompting some critics to publicly wonder where he went after his election win.

During the electoral campaign, he repeatedly dismissed rumors that he had not been cured of his cancer, and vowed to serve out his six-year term.

The treatment that Chavez is said to be undergoing in Havana involves breathing pure oxygen while in a pressurized, sealed chamber. Its value is well-established for treating burns, carbon monoxide poisoning and some other medical conditions, and to aid wound healing and help repair bone and tissue damaged by radiation treatments.

However, the American Cancer Society says there is no evidence the treatment can cure cancer. And Blasco notes that if hyperbaric oxygen treatment were the case, Chavez could have stayed in Venezuela, since the country boasts of having the latest technology on this kind of equipment (his brother Adam presented a "next generation" of those chambers in 2009 as governor of Barinas state).

Also, a hyperbaric chamber is a portable device that could be installed in the special clinic Chavez has at his home in La Orchila.

The 58-year-old president first underwent cancer treatment in Cuba in June 2011 and suffered a relapse in February. He has since said he's recovered from the pelvic cancer and won re-election in October.

Throughout his previous chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Chavez kept many details of his illness secret, including the type of cancer and the precise location of the tumors.

Cuba's official newspaper Granma said that Chavez arrived on the island Tuesday at the break of dawn, "in order to continue medical treatment following as part of strengthening their health, which will include several sessions oxygenation hyperbaric."

There were no photos of his arrival in Havana or departure from Caracas, unlike other times he's made the trip.

Venezuelan officials did not say how long he will stay in Havana, though they said he would be back by Jan. 10, when he is being sworn in for a fourth term.

Mix It!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

New Cuban Exodus?

from Breitbart
MIAMI, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- The number of Cubans arriving in the United States without visas has risen sharply in the past year, U.S. officials say.

There has been a surge in Cubans traveling to the United States from other countries -- including Spain, Ecuador, Mexico and Canada -- the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. Greater numbers are also traveling by boat to Florida.

Under the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, Cubans intercepted at sea can be returned there, but those who make it to U.S. soil are free to stay. That means those who arrive by air or cross a land border are safe.

About 20,000 Cubans arrive every year on scheduled flights from Havana with visas. No one keeps an exact count of the others, but refugee groups estimate it is about 10,000 a year.

The Coast Guard detained 1,275 Cubans on boats intercepted before they reached Florida in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30. That was the highest number since 2008.

"The influx of Cubans into the U.S. is increasing," said Ernesto Cuesta, who runs programs for Haitian and Cuban refugees for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Miami. The young people we are seeing are desperate. There is no hope in Cuba."

Hugo Chavez, Thought Enforcer

from the AP
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Government intelligence agents have raided a business printing opposition political pamphlets ahead of next month's state elections in Venezuela.

Zulia state Gov. Pablo Perez says the raid by the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service in the western city of Maracaibo is an attempt to intimidate opponents of President Hugo Chavez's government. He told reporters on Saturday that such actions are "abuses of power."

The intelligence agency's regional chief Carlos Calderon tells the Panorama newspaper that agents on Friday found pamphlets that aimed to "sabotage the candidacy" of Francisco Arias Cardenas, a Chavez ally running against Perez in the Dec. 16 elections.

Calderon didn't give details but said officials reported the propaganda to electoral authorities.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Don't Cry for Me Argentina

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Thousands of people flooded the streets of Argentina's capital Thursday night in one of the country's biggest anti-government protests in more than a decade.

Angered by rising inflation, violent crime and high-profile corruption, and afraid President Cristina Fernandez will try to hold onto power indefinitely by ending constitutional term limits, the protesters marched on the iconic obelisk in Buenos Aires chanting: "We're not afraid."

Demonstrators reached the presidential residence in scorching summer heat banging on pots, whistling and holding banners that read: "Respect, transparency, freedom."

The demonstrations were also held in plazas nationwide and in Argentine embassies and consulates around the world.

The protests hold deep symbolism for Argentines, who recall all too well the country's economic debacle of a decade ago. The "throw them all out" chants of that era's pot-banging marches forced presidents from office and left Argentina practically ungovernable until Fernandez's late husband, Nestor Kirchner, assumed the presidency in 2003.

The current president's supporters sought to ignore two of the protests this year, but with the latest effort promising to turn out huge numbers, her loyalists have come out in force. They dismiss the protesters as part of a wealthy elite, or beholden to discredited opposition parties, and misled by news coverage from media companies representing the country's most powerful economic interests.

"The people don't feel represented by anyone. It's a complaint everyone has. The people are begging for the opposition to rise up, and for the government to listen," said Mariana Torres, an accountant and mother of three who is among the leading organizers of the protests.

Fernandez has suggested that too much of Argentina's political rhetoric masks darker motivations that few want to openly express.

"No more lying," she said during a speech Wednesday. "It's all that I ask of all the Argentines, that we speak the truth."

Polls suggest neither side has a firm grip on people's sympathies.

Fernandez was re-elected by a landslide of 54 percent over a divided opposition just a year ago but saw her approval rating fall to 31 percent in a nationwide survey in September by the firm Management & Fit. The survey of 2,259 people, which had an error margin of about 2 percentage points, also said 65 percent of respondents disapproved of her opponents' performance.

Crime is the biggest concern for many marchers.

Argentine newspapers and television programs provide a daily diet of stories about increasingly bold home invasion robberies, in which armed bands tie up families until victims hand over the cash that many Argentines keep in their homes. Many people stopped putting money in banks after the government froze savings accounts and devalued the currency in 2002. Adding to frustrations, the vast majority of the crimes are never solved, while the death toll is rising.

Inflation also upsets many, as the government's much-criticized index puts inflation at about 10 percent annually, or as little as a third of the estimates of private economists. As a result, real estate transactions have slowed to a standstill, given the difficulty of estimating the future value of contracts. And unions that won 25 percent pay hikes only a few months ago are threatening to strike again unless the government comes up with more.

Many Argentines are worried mostly about their pocketbooks, angry that government decrees designed to maintain the central bank's dollar reserves and combat tax evasion have made it all but impossible to legally trade their inflationary pesos for safer currencies.

"If you go to the march you won't find only middle-class people," Torres said ahead of the demonstration. "You'll see everything from a professional to a low-wage worker to retirees on minimal pensions."

Sen. Anibal Fernandez, who was the president's Cabinet chief and now leads the governing party's legislators, has called the idea of general discontent "an invention of one faction of the ultra-right." He accused organizers of being funded by wealthy landowners and supporters of the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

Pro-government voices say what's really at stake is the model of social inclusion that the Kirchners pursued, such as providing cash payments to the poor and unemployed, and directing billions of dollars from the nationalized pension fund to social welfare projects.

The model puts Argentina's development needs ahead of international commitments, and has made sure that the country's state-controlled oil company and airline respond first to the needs of its citizens, government supporters say.

President Fernandez has called for an honest debate about her policies rather than protests.

"The only thing I ask of each one of the Argentines, and mostly of political class, is that each one says what they really think and want for this country, with sincerity, and that no one will be offended," she said.

But the president also issued a warning to those gathering Thursday night: "Don't anyone think that I'm going to go against my own politics, those that I've defended since I was 15 years old. These are the politics I believe in and this is the country I believe in."

Argentina's opposition parties remain weak and balkanized and face a credibility crisis, having lost control of Congress and nearly every other institution capable of restraining the government. Instead, much of the opposition has coalesced around social media sites created by Torres and attorney Marcelo Moran, who insist they aren't affiliated with any political organization. The eight sites and accounts they manage claim more than 200,000 followers.

Torres dismissed most opposition politicians as having lost touch with Argentines, and said she expected some of them to try to piggyback on the marches.

The march was organized on social networks and was also countered by supporters of the government on the web.

Writer Ivy Cangaro and business consultant Juan Carlos Romero launched a counter-campaign, "8-N I won't go," which has more than 27,000 followers. They, too, say they don't belong to any particular political platform, but support Fernandez.

Cangaro said the march was misguided. "The premises are false and have been imposed by the media through fear. The people assume it's real and so feel the need to go out and protest against it, but it has nothing to do with what's real and tangible."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Venezuelan Opposition Seeking a Restoration of Balance

from Reuters
CARACAS (Reuters) - Demoralized by their failure to unseat President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's opposition hopes to bounce back in December state elections that provide a chance to curb the socialist president's power.

The opposition holds seven of Venezuela's 23 states and is fighting to at least keep those by appealing to voters' worries over uncontrolled crime, cronyism and sputtering services.

But the government is counting on momentum from the October 7 presidential election victory - where Chavez's charisma and anti-poverty programs outweighed weariness with those day-to-day problems - to make gains at a regional level.

Chavez carried all but two of the states in his re-election triumph and is now sending out some political heavy hitters inside his party to try and wrest control of some opposition-held governorships.

"No one is giving up," said Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, mastermind of the opposition Democratic Unity coalition that this year managed to unite Venezuela's diverse opposition parties for the first time during Chavez's 14-year presidency.

"The reasons for this struggle remain exactly the same," added Aveledo, urging supporters to ensure a good turnout despite disappointment at opposition candidate Henrique Capriles' 11-point loss to Chavez in the election.

Chavez's new six-year term starts in January and will extend his rule to two decades, though there is speculation the cancer that floored him for a year from mid-2011 may recur.

Opposition leaders generally stay quiet on Chavez's health but view the December 16 state elections as a chance to at least limit his influence.

Despite being squeezed of funding by the central government, most of the seven opposition governors have won plaudits for relatively efficient administrations. Capriles governs Miranda state and used his successes there in health, education and food programs as a springboard for his presidential bid.

Now he is locked in the headline battle on December 16, when he will seek re-election in Miranda and faces Chavez's high-profile former vice-president, Elias Jaua.

Promising to deepen socialist reforms and improve efficiency in his new term, the 58-year-old Chavez handpicked Jaua and is providing ample campaign resources to try and sink his presidential rival's political future.

"He's not going to have the Miranda governorship as a consolation prize," declared Jaua, 42, a former stone-throwing student radical who is one of Chavez's most trusted allies.

Capriles, 40, insists he is back in fighting shape and is reminding voters that, even though he fell short, the opposition had its best showing against Chavez, with a record vote of 6.5 million or 44 percent of the total.

"Who didn't have a cry on that Sunday? I was very down," he said. "But now I'm back on my feet, and will do all in my power to ensure we win a majority of governorships."

CHAVEZ FACTOR DOMINATES AGAIN

A good showing for the opposition would improve its power base, enable a new generation of leaders to have crucial experience in office, and potentially give them leverage in braking Chavez's policies at local implementation level.

A poor performance might reopen some of the internal dissent and splits that have plagued them in the past.

Bolstered by his re-election and his successful cancer treatments, Chavez is likely to hit the campaign trail to help Jaua and other government candidates for the governorships.

With the opposition traditionally doing better in local rather than presidential polls - which are a vote on the still-popular Chavez - the president's personal presence in the campaign is vital for his candidates.

Chavez acknowledged cancer radiotherapy treatment earlier in the year had left him weakened for the presidential bid. Health issues may again limit his role in the regional campaigns.

"I was boxing with my left hand tied up, and one leg tied up," he said last weekend. "This might sound arrogant, but if I'd been in top condition, I'd have won by 20 points."

Opponents hope that now that Chavez's place in the presidential palace is secure again, the December elections may turn into a protest vote against Socialist Party governors from an electorate unhappy over many grassroots issues.

A lower turnout than the record 81 percent of voters in the presidential election may also hurt Chavez's allies.

"You cannot compare the two votes," said pollster Luis Vicente Leon, who accurately predicted the presidential race.

"Chavez is not the candidate in these elections, the strength of his regional candidates is not equivalent to him and in these elections you get 10-15 percent fewer voters, two million people, which could radically change the game."

Another high-profile opposition leader, Pablo Perez, who was runner-up to Capriles in the opposition's February presidential primary, will be fighting to keep his post as governor in the oil-rich western state of Zulia.

Henri Falcon, 51, a former military ally of Chavez who broke with him in 2010, is seeking re-election in Lara state.

Chavez has reshuffled his Cabinet to send some of his most trusted allies into the regions to battle for him.

As well as Jaua, the outgoing ministers of interior Tareck El Aissami, indigenous issues Nicia Maldonado, and the presidency office Erika Farias are all contesting governorships.

Chavez's brother Adan will seek re-election in the family's home state of Barinas, in Venezuela's agricultural heartland.

Monday, October 8, 2012

...Paved with Good Intentions

Re-Grasping the Blutfahne
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- President Hugo Chavez put to rest any doubts about his masterful political touch in winning a third consecutive six-year term after a bitterly fought race against a youthful rival who has galvanized Venezuela's opposition.

The state governor who lost Sunday's presidential vote, Henrique Capriles, had accused the flamboyant incumbent of unfairly using Venezuela's oil wealth to finance his campaign as well as flaunting his near-total control of state institutions.

Still, he accepted defeat as Chavez swept to a 10-point victory margin, the smallest yet for him a presidential race. This time, the former army paratroop commander won 55 percent of the vote against 45 percent for Capriles with more than 90 percent of the vote counted.

Chavez will now have a freer hand to push for an even bigger state role in the economy, as he pledged during the campaign, and to continue populist programs. He's also likely to further limit dissent and deepen friendships with U.S. rivals.

Chavez spent heavily in the months before the vote, building public housing and bankrolling expanded social programs.

"I think he just cranked up the patronage machine and unleashed a spending orgy," said Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue think tank.

But Shifter also noted the affinity and gratefulness Venezuela's poor feel for Chavez. "Despite his illness, I still think he retains a strong emotional connection with a lot of Venezuelans that I think were not prepared to vote against him."

"They still think that he's trying hard even if he's not delivering what he promised, that he still has their best interests at heart," Shifter said. "That's the political skill that he has. He hasn't lost that touch."

Chavez spoke little during the campaign about his fight with cancer, which since June 2011 has included surgery to remove tumors from his pelvic region as well as chemotherapy and radiation treatment. He has said his most recent tests showed no sign of illness.

Tensions were high Sunday night as announcement of the results were delayed.

Finally, fireworks exploded over downtown Caracas amid a cacophony of horn-honking by elated Chavez supporters waving flags and jumping for joy outside the presidential palace.

"I can't describe the relief and happiness I feel right now," said Edgar Gonzalez, a 38-year-old construction worker.

He ran through crowds of Chavez supporters packing the streets around the presidential palace wearing a Venezuelan flag as a cape and yelling: "Oh, no! Chavez won't go!"

"It's time now to sweep away the squalid ones," said another elated supporter, Ignacio Gonzalez, using a description of the opposition Chavez employed during campaigning.

"It's time to get them out of governor's and mayor's offices. The next battle is in December," when state and municipal elections will be held, added the 25-year-old student, who wore a red shirt that wedded the images of Chavez, Jesus Christ and South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Capriles posed the strongest challenge yet to Chavez, who won by a 27-point margin in 2006 and by 16 points when he was first elected in 1998.

"I will continue working to build one country," said the wiry, 40-year-old grandson of Holocaust survivors who unified and energized the opposition while barnstorming across the country.

He said in his concession speech that he rejects the idea of two Venezuelas divided by ideology and class.

Capriles had vowed to address violent crime that has spun out of control, streamline a patronage-bloated bureaucracy and end rampant corruption, but his promises proved inadequate against Chavez's charisma, well-oiled political machine and legacy of putting Venezuela's poor first with generous social welfare programs.

Yet with a turnout of 81 percent, Chavez only got 551,902 more votes this time around than he did six years ago, while the opposition boosted its tally by 2.09 million. Chavez appeared to acknowledge the opposition's growing clout.

"I extend from here my recognition of all who voted against us, recognition of their democratic weight," he told thousands of cheering supporters from the balcony of the Miraflores presidential palace.

A Capriles victory would have brought a radical foreign policy shift including a halt to preferential oil deals with allies such as Cuba, along with a loosening of state economic controls and an increase in private investment.

Washington, which has often feuded with Chavez, declined to congratulate the president directly, but acknowledged the result.

"We congratulate the Venezuelan people for the high turnout and generally peaceful manner in which this election was carried out," said State Department spokesman William Ostick.

"We believe that the views of the more than 6 million people who voted for the opposition should be taken into account going forward," he added.

President Raul Castro of Cuba, which could have been badly hurt by a Chavez loss, was among Latin American leaders sending warm congratulations to the former paratrooper on his victory after nearly 14 years in office.

Chavez paid close attention to his military-like get-out-the-vote organization at the grass roots, stressing its importance at campaign rallies. The opposition said he unfairly plowed millions in state funds into the effort.

One pro-Chavez voter, private bodyguard Carlos Julio Silva, said that whatever his faults, Chavez deserved to win for spreading the nation's oil wealth to the poor with free medical care, public housing and other government programs. The country has the world's largest proven oil reserves.

"There is corruption, there's plenty of bureaucracy, but the people have never had a leader who cared about this country," Silva said after voting for Chavez in the Caracas slum of Petare. His daughter received an apartment from the state while the free medical care he gets included a recent operation to remove tissue that was clouding his vision.

First-time voter Brenda Aguirre, who is about to embark on cost-free legal studies at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, was also willing to forgive "el comandante" for his shortcomings.

"Chavez isn't to blame for the people who surround him," she said.

Across town, where people from Aguirre's neighborhood wait tables and sweep floors, Capriles told supporters not to feel defeated.

"We have planted many seeds across Venezuela and I know that these seeds are going to produce many trees," he told them at his campaign headquarters.

At many polling places, voters began lining up hours before polls opened at dawn, some snaking for blocks in the baking Caribbean sun. Some shaded themselves with umbrellas. Vendors grilled meat and some people drank beer.

Chavez's critics accused the president of inflaming divisions by labeling his opponents "fascists," "Yankees" and "neo-Nazis," and it's likely hard for many of his opponents to stomach another six years of the loquacious and conflictive leader.

Some said before the vote that they'd consider leaving the country if Chavez won.

Gino Caso, an auto mechanic, said Chavez is power-hungry and out of touch with problems such as crime. He said his son had been robbed, as had neighboring shops.

"I don't know what planet he lives on," Caso said, gesturing with hands blackened with grease. "He wants to be like Fidel Castro - end up with everything, take control of the country."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Peace for Columbia?

from Noticias 24
Bogata, 01 October, 2012 - The armed guerrillas of the FARC in Columbia today confirmed from Cuba that peace talks with the Columbian government will begin on the 15th of October in Oslo, and not on the 8th as they had reported earlier.

Rodrigo Granda, a member the rebel negotiating team, read from Havana on the Columbian Blu Radio station a communique that he claimed would be signed between FARC and the Columbian government.

"The National Government and the FARC People's Army inform public opinion, both national and international, a meeting of the technical teams of both parties have agreed to begin a conversation on 15 October of this year and to make a public announcement on the 17th of October in the city of Oslo," said Granda.

The guerrilla made reference to a compromise signed on the 26th of last August in La Habana which gave place to the named general Accord for ending the conflict and the construction of a stable and long lasting peace, which would open the table to dialogue in Oslo and later relocate the negotiations to Cuba.

The guerrilla had previously informed, also from the Cuban capital, that the Oslo site would be met on the 8th of October, but last weekend some Columbian mediators moved the date back to the 14th.

A little before, other FARC negotiators, "Marco Leon Calarca", who's real name is Luis Alberto Alban, indicated in the magazine "Efe" that "in the first 15th of this month" would begin the formal dialogue.

He also said that tentatively they would inform the exact date of the beginning of negotiations.

The Columbian government and the FARC began in this manner its third attempt at a peace process in the almost 50 years of armed conflict. with Cuba and Norway as guarantors and Chile and Venezuela in the capacity of "seconds".

FARC and the Columbian government announced an accord at the end of August after six months of secret exploratory talks conducted in La Habana.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Chavez's Voter Intimidation Campaign Heats Up

from the AP
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Supporters of Venezuelan presidential candidate Henrique Capriles had just set out in a caravan of cars for an afternoon of campaigning when they came to a road blocked by a crowd of President Hugo Chavez's loyalists.

Witnesses said some people in the caravan had gotten out to try to convince the Chavez supporters to let them through when gunfire rang out. Two Capriles supporters died in the violence on Saturday in the western state of Barinas and a third was seriously wounded.

There have been other spasms of violence in the heated campaign ahead of Venezuela's Oct. 7 election, but this was the first fatal incident, and it sharply ratcheted up tensions.

Capriles condemned the violence on Sunday, saying at a campaign rally: "The time of hatred is going to be buried in Venezuela." Chavez also called for calm, saying: "It's not with violence that we're going to face each other. It's vote against vote."

Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said on Sunday in a message on Twitter that one suspect was arrested in the killings, though he didn't identify the suspect or say how he was captured.

Opposition politician Pedro Castillo, who was in the caravan and witnessed the violence, said there was no physical confrontation before the shooting erupted. He said the caravan was stopped in a long line of cars when some of the Capriles supporters got out, and that more than two dozen Chavez supporters had laid tires in the road to block traffic.

A video posted online showed the two groups arguing.

One opposition supporter, 32-year-old Jason Valero, was among those standing in the street and tried to walk through the barricade, Castillo said. Then, he was shot in the chest, Castillo said.

"There wasn't even a shove," Castillo said. "The matter went from something verbal to taking out a gun and despicably killing a person, and then to starting with a barrage of gunshots."

The video posted on YouTube showed people scattering as the shots rang out.

An older opposition supporter, Omar Fernandez, had been blowing on a horn of the sort used in political rallies, Castillo said. Fernandez was wounded in the neck and died at a hospital, he said.

Fernandez had been an agricultural secretary for the opposition party Un Nuevo Tiempo in the town of Barinitas, said opposition politician Rafael Riera, who also witnessed the shooting.

Valero was a father of four who worked in a family cargo truck business, Castillo said.

A third man, local campaign photographer Hector Rojas, was seriously wounded in the shooting, while Castillo said a teenage girl suffered a less serious wound and was released from a hospital.

Riera said the people in the caravan had simply wanted to make a swing through the area and had tried to tell the Chavez supporters "we didn't want any sort of problems."

Riera said that people had seen a truck nearby and "from there some individuals got out and fired some shots."

Both opposition politicians said that after the shooting one suspect was stopped by people before he could get away, and was then detained by authorities. They also said a truck was burned after the shooting.

"What we want is what their relatives are demanding... that justice be done and that this act not go unpunished," said Castillo, who attended wakes for the victims.

In another previous outburst of campaign-related violence, at least 14 people were injured on Sept. 12 when stone throwing broke out after Chavez backers blocked a road trying to prevent Capriles from reaching an event in Puerto Cabello.

In March, shots erupted while Capriles was visiting a Caracas district that traditionally has been pro-Chavez, and one opposition supporter was wounded.

Capriles Rally 9/30/12


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Closing in on 10-7

from Yahoo News
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Liliana Carias used to hope President Hugo Chavez would change her life. Not anymore.

She's been living for years in a dirt-floor shack without running water, and after voting for Chavez in the last three presidential elections, the single mother of four said she's tired of waiting for help.

She was among thousands of people who cheered for the president's rival recently in the serpentine streets of Caracas' Petare slum, which used to be a bastion of support for Chavez. She held out a handwritten letter addressed to "My future President Henrique Capriles," the opposition challenger, writing that her salary as a supermarket cashier was no longer enough to support her family and she was worried her landlord would evict them.

"We need change," Carias said as the drum-beating caravan paraded by. "I thought it would come with Chavez but I'm very disappointed. He promised us everything but nothing changed. I still don't have running water, sewer or electricity."

From single mothers to construction workers, some Chavez supporters have been turning away from the president to consider new leadership. They've become key to the Oct. 7 presidential vote and Capriles' strategy.

Surveys don't indicate exactly which "Chavistas" are becoming "Caprilistas," but the group appears to include working-class and lower-middle-class Venezuelans. Polls also reveal weariness over a growing yet troubled economy, 18 percent inflation and one of the world's highest murder rates.

Despite billions of dollars in government spending on social programs, solutions to problems such as the country's severe housing shortage have been elusive. Slums have grown during Chavez's presidency, and the government's construction of new housing projects hasn't kept up with the legions of poor people like Carias who have applied for apartments and ended up waiting for years.

Now Chavez is spending heavily building apartments and paying out more benefits to poor families. But some in the working class still complain that they're being bypassed and have lost faith in the government's promises.

Chavez held a 10-point lead over Capriles in a survey released this week by the Venezuelan polling firm Datanalisis. But the 49 percent who said they intend to vote for Chavez was dramatically lower than the 63 percent who re-elected him in 2006. The latest poll said 11 percent of those interviewed didn't reveal a preference.

Analysts say a strong turnout by disenchanted ex-Chavistas could help tip the balance in favor of the challenger.

"The votes of those who have changed sides are key in this race because without them, it would be impossible for Capriles to win," said Luis Vicente Leon, president of Datanalisis.

Chavez first won the presidency in 1998 with promises to sweep away corrupt, entrenched political parties and help the poor in this oil-rich country.

That message helped the soldier-turned-politician win political dominance throughout the 2000s as the economy boomed along with oil earnings. Chavez has remained popular in part thanks to social programs including state-run grocery stores, medical clinics staffed by Cuban doctors and cash benefits for poor families.

Government figures show the number of Venezuelans living in poverty decreased most markedly between 2004 and 2007, and then in the following years budged little, giving the opposition room to score some election victories. In the 2010 congressional elections, for instance, the government held on to a majority of seats but the popular vote was almost evenly split between the pro- and anti-Chavez camps.

Chavez's popularity slipped as the economy stalled, though it still hovered around 50 percent or higher during much of the past year. In that time, he's waged a protracted fight against cancer and had to square off against the opposition's first ever unity candidate.

"It's clear that he's not the same Chavez as he was in 2006," Leon said. "His ratings in terms of performance and public approval have changed. If (Capriles) has a chance, it's because of that. There's a migration of votes. The question is: Is it enough?"

Chavez, for one, has called an opposition victory impossible, saying he'll win by a "knockout" and even put on boxing gloves at one point to emphasize his prediction. At one news conference, he laughed when asked about his loyalists defecting.

"For those who say there's a hidden vote, or that Chavistas will vote against Chavez, it's something like saying there are Martians on the sun," Chavez quipped.

Chavez has also been trying to make inroads among traditional middle-class opposition supporters. On a recent evening a small crowd of Chavistas demonstrated on a corner in an affluent Caracas neighborhood, holding banners announcing "The Middle Class with Chavez."

The impression has nonetheless grown that the president has become too enamored of his own global legacy while neglecting basic needs at home such as infrastructure and public safety. Chavez's election manifesto of proposals for his next six-year term trumpets abstract ideas such as "preserving life on the planet and helping to save mankind," a "new international geopolitics" and "a continuation of the 21st century socialism."

Capriles has responded with ridicule, recently telling supporters: "Saving humankind! ... Where's the plan for health? Where's the plan for education, for jobs?"

Capriles' campaign has also been running newspaper ads detailing "14 years of unfulfilled promises," including pledges by Chavez to construct a bridge across the country's biggest lake, build more hospitals and revolutionize a small farming sector to make the country self-sufficient in food. Another opposition ad features side-by-side photos of Venezuela's slums with homes that Chavez purportedly gave away in the Dominican Republic, with the slogan "It's time to put Venezuela first."

It's a message that resonates in places such as Petare, one of the biggest slums in Latin America, where homicides and the lack of basic public works make life a daily struggle. In 2008, an opposition candidate beat out a close Chavez aide to become district mayor. Since then it's been a key electoral battleground in Caracas.

During Capriles' weekend demonstration, many wore baseball caps emblazoned with the yellow, red and blue of the Venezuelan flag, just like the one their candidate has worn on the campaign trail. The crowd paraded past small groups of Chavez supporters in red shirts who came out of their homes shouting "Chavez won't leave!" and other slogans. Several years ago, more of them would have been challenging the march.

"I voted for him but I regret it," said Rosina Dambrosio, a homemaker in Petare. "He was going to modernize Venezuela and fight crime. And he also spoke so beautifully. I guess we trusted him too much. He still speaks nicely, but I don't believe him anymore."

She and her neighbor Zoraida Berniquez said it's not safe to walk the neighborhood at night.. Berniquez recently had to dive for cover during a walk when she heard the rat-tat-tat of gunfire.

Former Chavez supporters pile on the disappointments: The president's concentrated too much power and has governed undemocratically, he's divided the country along pro- and anti-Chavez lines.

"This is not the country that I wanted for my grandchildren," said Osiris Rojas, a 56-year-old secretary, while listening to Capriles at a rally. "Why so much hate if we're all Venezuelans? I feel cheated."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

October Surprise?

Henrique Capriles would win 47.42% of the votes against 43.42% for Hugo Chávez. Poll taken between 18 and 26 of August had a 95% confidence level.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The FARC Hits the Social Networks

With a Defiant Rap Video


Somehow, not as effective as this...I suspect

Friday, September 7, 2012

Venezuela Holds American Sailor Hostage

Getting detained on dubious grounds in a third-world country with a broad anti-American streak is a genuine nightmare, but one American seaman is making the best of it with the aid of Facebook, a smartphone and a keen sense of gallows humor.

Russell Macomber of Ormond Beach, Florida, is a crewman on the M/V Ocean Atlas, a heavy-lift cargo ship that has sailed under a U.S. flag since 2002. On Aug. 29, Ocean Atlas was detained in the Venezuelan port of Maracaibo. Its crew has been held there ever since, enduring multiple searches by agents from Interpol and the Venezuelan drug enforcement agency and the arrest of the ship’s captain. The grounds for the detention are unclear — crew members were initially told it was suspicion of drug smuggling, then told they were suspected of smuggling firearms — as is the timeline for their release. My colleague Chris Helman has more.

Throughout this period, Macomber has been narrating the ordeal to friends and family on his Facebook page. While the posts have grown progressively more urgent, they’re shot through with the sort of sardonic sangfroid you like to imagine a captive American seaman would display under pressure. When I asked Macomber for permission to quote from them, he readily agreed, saying he hoped calling attention to his crew’s plight might speed their release. He stipulated, however, that I describe him as having six-pack abs and a thick head of hair.

For the record, I’m told Russell Macomber has six-pack abs and a thick head of hair.

His last update before arriving in Maracaibo betrayed no hint of what was to come.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Did a Gas Leak Ignite Amuay?

thirty nine dead and at least 70 injured in Venezuelan refinery blast.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Socialismo, o Muerte

Say it Ain't So, Hugo....

from Columbia Reports
Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe admitted Monday he planned a military intervention against the rebel groups FARC and ELN in Venezuela but "didn't have time" to execute it before his presidential term ended in 2010.

"We obtained new evidence of guerrilla camps in Venezuela. I had three options: Report it, [or] keep quiet, or the other option was to stage a military operation in Venezuela. I didn't have time," Uribe said during a conference at the Autonomous Latin American University in Medellin.

Uribe said he found new proof about the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela in the first six months of 2010. His presidential term ended in August 2010, leaving him without time to send military troops across Colombia's eastern border.

In July 2010, Uribe denounced the presence of 87 guerrilla camps on Venezuelan territory in front of the Organization of American States. As a result, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez broke all ties with Colombia.

At the conference, Uribe accused Chavez' government failing to control high insecurity and criminality in Venezuela and contributing to it in Colombia. "In Venezuela insecurity and criminality has risen without anyone doing anything about it. Chavez insists that the violence is due to neoliberalism and he disagrees with our model although it has proven to be the one that works," Uribe said.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Yankee Paranoia...

from the Huffington Post
CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez announced Thursday that security forces arrested a U.S. citizen and suspect he is a mercenary who could be involved in an alleged plot to destabilize Venezuela if the opposition's candidate loses the upcoming presidential election.

Chavez said the Hispanic man was detained Aug. 4 while crossing into Venezuela from Colombia. The president said the man was carrying a U.S. passport with entrance and exit stamps from countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya as well as a notebook containing geographical coordinates.

The man's identity was not released. Chavez did not say where he was being interrogated.

An official from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas did not answer repeated telephone calls seeking comment on Chavez's announcement.

"He has all the appearance of a mercenary," Chavez said, speaking during a campaign rally in the coastal state of Vargas. "We are interrogating him."

The man tore up part of the notebook in his possession when he was detained, Chavez said.

Chavez suggested, without offering evidence, the American might have been recruited by government opponents to instigate violent protests if opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles loses the Oct. 7 election.

Chavez has repeatedly vowed to win re-election and continue trying to steer Venezuela toward socialism.

The president has repeatedly claimed the opposition plans to accuse election officials of rigging the vote and refuse to accept the results if he is victorious – an allegation that Capriles and fellow opposition leaders deny.

"A group of the bourgeoisie is preparing to reject the people's triumph, that's very clear," Chavez told the crowd of cheering supporters.

Opposition leaders are going "to try to plunge the country into a political crisis and fill the country with violence," Chavez warned. "I urge everybody to be very alert."

Opposition lawmaker Pedro Pablo Alcantara scoffed at the president's allegations that government foes would attempt to stir up trouble if Chavez is re-elected to a new six-year term.

"We reject his accusations," Alcantara said in a telephone interview after Chavez's speech.

Alcantara accused the government of encouraging violence against its adversaries in the past while arming thuggish groups that have attacked opposition marches and television stations strongly critical of Chavez.

"It's the president who has promoted violence," he said.

Alcantara sidestepped questions on Chavez's claims that the opposition would refuse to accept a victory by him even if it was corroborated by an independent audit of the election results. Alcantara said only that anti-Chavez parties have recruited thousands of volunteers to try to prevent vote rigging by the National Electoral Council.

Many government opponents perceive a pro-Chavez bias in the council, which Alcantara referred to as the government's "elections ministry."

"It's not an impartial arbitrator," he said.

The council's directors deny the institution favors Chavez.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Suenan las Campanas

El Padre Antonio Tejeira vino de España,
buscando nuevas promesas en esta tierra.
Llegó a la selva sin la esperanza de ser obispo,
y entre el calor y en entre los mosquitos habló de Cristo.
El padre no funcionaba en el Vaticano,
entre papeles y sueños de aire acondicionado;
y fue a un pueblito en medio de la nada a dar su sermón,
cada semana pa' los que busquen la salvación.

El niño Andrés Eloy Pérez tiene diez años.
Estudia en la elementaria "Simón Bolivar".
Todavia no sabe decir el Credo correctamente;
le gusta el río, jugar al fútbol y estar ausente.

Le han dado el puesto en la iglesia de monaguillo
a ver si la conexión compone al chiquillo;
y su familia está muy orgullosa, porque a su vez se cree
que con Dios conectando a uno, conecta a diez.

Suenan la campanas un, dos, tres,
del Padre Antonio y su monaguillo Andrés.

Suenan la campanas otra ves
del Padre Antonio y su monaguillo Andrés.

El padre condena la violencia.
Sabe por experiencia que no es la solución.
Les habla de amor y de justicia,
de Dios va la noticia vibrando en su sermón:

suenan las campanas: un, dos, tres
del Padre Antonio y su monaguillo Andrés.

Suenan la campanas otra ves
del Padre Antonio y su monaguillo Andrés.

Al padre lo halló la guerra un domingo de misa,
dando la comunión en mangas de camisa.
En medio del padre nuestro entró el matador
y sin confesar su culpa le disparó.

Antonio cayo, ostia en mano y sin saber por qué
Andrés se murió a su lado sin conocer a Pelé;
y entre el grito y la sorpresa, agonizando otra vez
estaba el Cristo de palo pegado a la pared.
Y nunca se supo el criminal quién fue
del Padre Antonio y su monaguillo Andrés.

Pero suenan las campanas otra ves,
por el Padre Antonio y su monaguillo Andres

Suenan las campanas
tierra va a temblar
suenan las campanas
por amërica
suenan las campanas
oh; virgen señora
quien nos salva ahora
suenan las campanas
de antonio y andres
suenan las campanas
ven y oyela otra ves
suena la campana
centroamericana
suena la campana
por mi tierra hermana
mira y tu veras
suena la campana

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Did Venezuela Attempt to Organize a Counter-Coup to Prevent Lugo's Dismissal?

from Mercopress
The swift impeachment of Paraguay's former President Fernando Lugo drew strong criticism from left-leaning governments in South America. Chávez ordered Venezuela's ambassador to leave Paraguay and halted oil shipments in protest.

Paraguay's new defence minister, Maria Liz Garcia, has accused Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro of participating in a meeting with senior Paraguayan military officials during the two-day process that removed Lugo.

Garcia, who was appointed by President Federico Franco, said several days ago she had information that Maduro had urged the military officials to intervene to stop Lugo from being removed from office by Congress.

Maduro dismissed the accusations last week.

Garcia made her statement on Wednesday before a prosecutor who has opened an investigation.

Citing “the grave evidence of intervention by Venezuelan officials in the internal affairs of Paraguay,” the Foreign Ministry ordered its ambassador to leave Caracas.

Earlier this week, Franco's government gave journalists copies of security camera footage showing Maduro walking down a corridor in the presidential palace. Other images showed military chiefs, but there were no pictures of them meeting.

Landlocked Paraguay with a long history of political instability and military rule, making accusations of military meddling is a highly sensitive subject.

Maduro travelled to Asuncion the day before Lugo's was removed from the presidency after a hearing that lasted hours. He went as part of a delegation of foreign ministers from countries belonging to the UNASUR regional grouping.

The Union of South American Nations and regional trade bloc Mercosur have suspended Paraguay from both organizations until elections are held next year.

President Franco has pledged to comply with the electoral calendar with elections next April and the swearing in ceremony of the elected president in August 2013.

An Organization of American States mission that visited Paraguay for on the ground fact-finding will deliver its report to the OAS Permanent Council next Monday.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Party Time in Spain

from Noticias 24
(Pamplona, Spain, July 06. Reuters) - The launch of the traditional "chupinazo" rocket that marks the beginning of the San Fermin, Pamplona became today, in northern Spain.

To cries of "Viva San Fermin" the fuse of the rocket was lit announcing nine uninterrupted holidays.

Thousands of people dressed in white packed the town hall square and surroundings, with their handkerchiefs extended to form a red cloak, unmistakable symbol of the San Fermin festival has begun.

Joy flooded the old part of town, with thousands of locals and tourists from around the world come to live the festivities universalized by the American writer Ernest Hemingway in his novel "The Sun Also Rises" (1932).

However, not until 08:00 am on Saturday when there is the main event of the San Fermin festival, with the first closure.

Hundreds of "boys" run then through the narrow streets of the historic center of the city in front of six bulls in a stretch of 800 meters, separating the Santo Domingo corrals to the bullring, where animals will be fought hours later.

Minutes of tension, intense emotion and not without danger, as they often crash and cause incidents, with the result of several bruised and wounded.

In total, 15 runners have died so far, the last in 2009, a Spanish teenager Daniel Jimeno Romero, 27, who died on July 10 of that year and was gored in the neck by a bull while running alomg the route.

As stated by mayor Enrique Maya on the eve of San Fermin, "If a party is in times of crisis, that's San Fermin, with plenty of street events and where you can enjoy a lot with a controlled spending. "

Among the events planned, the main novelty this year is the traditional "Riau-Riau", the march of the municipal corporation to the chapel of San Fermin this afternoon, to be released again after 16 year absence from the official program for the recorded incidents caused by young radical nationalists.

"Riau-Riau" is just one of the 431 official events, of which 305 are music, 77 are children and family activities, 33 consist of bullfighting, eight are rural sport exhibitions and many other institutional events.

This year nearly 2,500 professionals in the media have requested credentials to the town of Pamplona.

After nine days of bulls and party, the traditional "Poor me!", Sung by thousands of throats at midnight of the last festive day, July 14, will lay off another year of San Fermin.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Unholy Alliances

from AEI

U.S. diplomats have been silent on these growing alliances. However, fresh revelations about Chávez’s alliance with Iran demonstrate what he is capable of doing when he is not provoked.

Hugo Chávez admitted on June 13 that Venezuela is manufacturing Iranian drones and that Iran has built several explosives and chemical facilities in his country. However, Chávez is trying to throw international observers off his scent by acknowledging an unmanned aerial vehicle program for “peaceful purposes.” What he did not disclose are the many other troubling aspects of the extensive military cooperation between the two rabidly anti-U.S. regimes—not the least of which is that Venezuela secretly shipped an F-16 to Iran in 2006 that could be used today to test the air defenses around Teheran’s illicit nuclear facilities.

U.S. diplomats have convinced themselves—and have tried to convince members of Congress and the media—that Iran’s push into the Americas poses no threat to U.S. security. Indeed, a State Department spokesperson quickly downplayed the significance of Chávez’s admission.

Here’s some of what U.S. diplomats continue to ignore:

The fact that Venezuela shipped one of its U.S.-manufactured F-16 fighter aircraft to Iran was revealed to me last month by a Venezuelan military officer who was present during an Iranian military delegation’s visit to El Libertador Air Base in Palo Negro. Because the Israeli air force operates modified F-16s, the Iranian military could use the purloined Venezuelan aircraft to calibrate its air defense systems.

Chávez also failed to reveal that Iran is bankrolling the production of marine (seaborne) mines that might one day be deployed in the Strait of Hormuz or across shipping lanes leading to the Panama Canal. According to another Venezuelan military source, the director of that mine program purchased some of the necessary technology here in the United States.

Neither did the Venezuelan caudillo explain why six Iranian companies associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and sanctioned by the United Nations, United Kingdom, and European Union for their involvement in Tehran’s illicit ballistic missile and nuclear programs are now operating major industrial facilities at strategic locations in Venezuela. For example, the firm Kimia Sanat, which is helping Venezuela build unmanned aerial vehicles near Maracay, Venezuela, was sanctioned under a 2007 UN Security Council resolution.

Parchin Chemical Industries, sanctioned under a UN resolution in 2007 for exporting chemicals used for Iran’s ballistic missile program, has recently completed a factory near Morón, Venezuela, to produce “ball powder,” an explosive propellant. Likewise, Iran’s National Petrochemical Company was sanctioned by the United Kingdom in 2008 but continues to operate a “petrochemical training facility” in Venezuela, which was inaugurated personally by Chávez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2006.

The Iranian Offshore Engineering Construction Company, which has operated a private port and shipyard on the strategic Paraguana peninsula since 2008, was sanctioned last year for being involved in the construction of the Fordow uranium enrichment site near Qom.

According to reliable sources in the Venezuelan government, Iranian Major General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the Revolutionary Guard Corps aerospace commander who previously headed Iran’s missile program, visited the facilities in Maracay and Moran in July 2009 and November 2011. An independent source who infiltrated Hezbollah on behalf of a South American security agency attended several lectures from 2006 to 2008 at the Iranian-run petrochemical training facility by radical cleric Mohsen Rabbani, who is wanted by Interpol for his role in the 1992 and 1994 terrorist bombings against the Israeli Embassy and Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

Chávez is suffering from terminal cancer and may die before Venezuela’s October 7 presidential elections. In the meantime, members of his ruthless inner circle—many of whom are implicated in narcotrafficking and corruption—are determined to hold on to power at all costs. The Venezuelan opposition is waging a lonely battle against an authoritarian regime that is managed by Cuba, bankrolled by China, and armed by Russia and Iran.

U.S. diplomats have been silent on these growing alliances, determined to avoid a public confrontation with Chávez for fear of provoking the bombastic populist. However, these fresh revelations about Chávez’s alliance with Iran demonstrate what he is capable of doing when he is not provoked.

With Iran’s back against the wall, squeezed by new international economic sanctions, it will scratch and claw to hold on to its economic ties to Venezuela, which it uses to gain illicit access to the international financial system and carry its struggle to the United States’ doorstep. As the United States and the international community square off with Iran in the months ahead, we may pay a dear price for having neglected Chávez’s dangerous liaisons with Tehran until it was too late.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Zapatos Mojados

... or "How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Pair of Shoes!"

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Opportunities Missed?

Now where did I put my invasion map???

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (L) shows Paraguay on a map of South America to his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) on the day in which Paraguayan lawmakers impeached their president Fernando Lugo over his handling of a deadly land dispute, during a meeting at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on June 22, 2012. Chavez hosted Ahmadinejad on Friday to ink a series of deals, just a week after boasting about collaboration with Tehran on a drone project. Chavez, who has been battling cancer for more than a year and faces a tough re-election contest in October, has expressed 'solidarity' with key ally Iran as it faces growing pressure over its suspect nuclear program.

Lesson Number 1 - the Dictator is ALWAYS Right!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Venezuealan Deputy on the "Number One Enemy of Latin America"

from Noticias 24:
(Caracas, 07 June. Noticias24) – The Deputy to Parliament for the Socialist Party (PSUV), Roy Daza, expressed that "the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) has no alternative but to disappear completely."

Adding at the 42nd Assembly of the Organization of American States, "an historic moment has been reached where some important decisions have been taken, the outcome of which highlight the respect for sovereignty," of Latin American countries.

"There is no alternative but for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to be definitively disbanded. It has become an office managed by the warmongers of the United States," reiterated the Deputy.

In the same regard, he claimed that "the United Nations needs to undergo a reorganization, as do other (international) institutions."

Roy Daza reiterated that, "we people of Latin America can build our own CDH (Human Rights monitoring organization) in the Community of Latin American and Carribean States (CELAC) and in the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR)."

The Deputy of Parliament stated the United States "is the number one enemies of Latin America and of the whole world," and added that the CIDH is, "an office of enemies who only function to call on the telephone and comply with petitions" with the North American country.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

OAS Becomes a Mutual Suicide Pact

Have you heard of the new Social Charter of the America's? Who knew that it would lead the OAS to devolve into a mutual suicide pact? Certainly not me. Have you seen all of the new "rights" everyone has. A shopping list from every former Commie's soggiest wet dream.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hugo Bans Guns

from the BBC:
Venezuela has brought a new gun law into effect which bans the commercial sale of firearms and ammunition.

Until now, anyone with a gun permit could buy arms from a private company.

Under the new law, only the army, police and certain groups like security companies will be able to buy arms from the state-owned weapons manufacturer and importer.

The ban is the latest attempt by the government to improve security and cut crime ahead of elections in October

Venezuela saw more than 18,000 murders last year and the capital, Caracas, is thought to be one of the most dangerous cities in Latin America.

'Must do more'

The government has been running a gun amnesty in the run-up to the introduction of the new law to try to encourage people to give up their illegal arms without fear of consequences.

One member of the public in Caracas told the BBC: "They're killing people every day. This law is important but they need to do more, they're not doing enough now."

Hugo Chavez's government says the ultimate aim is to disarm all civilians, but his opponents say the police and government may not have the capacity or the will to enforce the new law.

Criminal violence is set to be a major issue in presidential elections later in the year.

Campaign group The Venezuela Violence Observatory said last year that violence has risen steadily since Mr Chavez took office in 1999.

Several Latin American countries have murder rates far higher than the global average of 6.9 murders per 100,000 people.

According to a recent United Nations report, South America, Central America and the Caribbean have the highest rates of murder by firearms in the world.

It found that over 70% of all homicides in South America are as a results of guns - in Western Europe, the figure was closer to 25%.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Queremos Paz

from Wikipedia:
The December 2001 uprising was a period of civil unrest and rioting in Argentina, which took place during December 2001, with the most violent incidents taking place on December 19 and December 20 in the capital, Buenos Aires, Rosario and other large cities around the country.

The uprising was a predominantly middle-class uprising against the government of President Fernando de la Rúa, who had failed to contain the economic crisis that was going through its third year of recession. Since 1991, the Argentine peso was at a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar. The dollarization had been instrumental to overcome the chronic hyperinflation bursts of the late 1980s, but almost entirely deprived Argentina of control over its monetary policy, and a sudden revaluation of the dollar in 1997 ended up harming exports, which were the only important source of foreign currency at the time.

De la Rúa's economic policies suffered a severe blow in March 2001 when Economy Minister José Luis Machinea resigned from office. He was briefly replaced by the then-Defense Minister Ricardo López Murphy, who himself was forced to resign following negative reception to his shock program. After only two weeks in office, López Murphy was replaced by Domingo Cavallo, who had previously served as Economy Minister between 1991 and 1996, and who was widely credited to be the man that took Argentina out of hyperinflation.

Cavallo took to administer the country's economy, establishing new taxes and special agreements with certain sectors of the Argentine industrial establishment. He also took to restructure Argentina's massive foreign debt in an operation known locally as the megacanje ("mega-exchange", i. e. an exchange of debt bonds for others at more advantageous conditions). From the first moment, there were allegations of corruption and money laundering about the megacanje.

De la Rúa's political situation was also precarious. His arrival to power in 1999 had been possible thanks to the Alliance for Work, Justice and Education, a coalition formed by the Radical Civic Union and the FrePaSo, which managed to defeat the incumbent Justicialist Party (the Peronists) in that year's presidential elections. However, the Alliance (as it was known) failed to achieve a majority in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, and lost the provincial elections to the Peronists, who then remained in charge of large and critical districts such as the Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Santa Fe provinces.

The government coalition was strained from the first moment; the FrePaSo leaders resented being "junior members" of the government (being forced to that position after losing their bid to the Governorship of Buenos Aires), while the Radicals were divided between their left- and right-leaning factions (De la Rúa was a leader of the party's conservatives), especially regarding economic policy. In late 2000 a political scandal broke out when it was reported that SIDE, Argentina's intelligence service, had paid massive bribes to a number of senators to approve a controversial Labor Reform Act. The head of SIDE, Fernando de Santibañes, was a personal friend of De la Rúa. The crisis came to a head on October 2000 when Vice President Carlos Álvarez resigned, citing De la Rúa's unwillingness to tackle corruption.

The March 2001 crisis (see above) also caused the resignation of all the FrePaSo Cabinet ministers, leaving de la Rúa without political support. The congressional elections of October 2001 were a disaster for the government, which lost many of its seats in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies to the Peronists. The election results marked also a growing unrest within Argentina's voters, who took to cast millions of null or blank votes. The Peronists seized the opportunity to appoint Senator Ramón Puerta to be President Pro-Tempore of the Argentine Senate, a situation which added to De la Rúa's political weakness since in the Argentine system the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate is next in line for the Presidency after the Vice President. With no Vice President of its own, Puerta's designation meant that De la Rúa had a virtual Peronist Vice President.

Social unrest was also growing. Since the late 1990s, protest movements had formed in Argentina, notably the piqueteros ("picketeers"), initially made up of unemployed workers. The piqueteros blockaded major roads and highways demanding government subsidies and other welfare measures. They featured prominently during the March 2001 crisis.

This entire crisis came to a head on November 29, 2001, when Argentines took to banks and financial institutions to withdraw millions of pesos and dollars from their accounts. Had the withdrawal continued, Argentina's entire banking system would have collapsed.

Friday, May 25, 2012

There are NO FARC Rebels in Venezuela?

from Noticias 24
Caracas - Up til this moment, they number 10 the Columbian citizens captured by the Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) following last Monday's confrontation between guerillas and active Columbian military forces in some cases only two kilometers from their border with Venezuela, said the Ministry of Defense's General in Chief, Henry Rangel Silva.

The Entailment of the prisoners with guerilla forces will be determined and those affected sent to Columbian immigration officials, detailed Rangel Silva while supervising the 100 year plan in the Manuel Par Battalion in El Tigre (Zulia) and the frontier security base near El Indio, a site near where the confrontation occured.

We are detecting their relations (with the guerillas) so that we can act in accordance with the Law. We have always been respectful of the Human Rights of all people within our territories, recited the chief of Defense Forces.

The confrontation last Monday left 12 Columbian military personnel dead and four wounded. Since then, we have deployed newarly 3,000 FANB effectives in two brigades, in addition to those already active in the zone, in order to reinforce security on the Columbian-Venezuelan border. Rangel Silva guaranteed that his territory was free of armed insurgent groups.

"Fortunately, we have not had any situations leading to the confrontation of armed irregulars because there are none in our country," said the Minster, who agreed that irregular groups could trespass the border and eventually would be dealt with "the iron hand and work" of Venezuelan military units.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Paranoia Strikes Deep

from (Reuters) -
A veteran Venezuelan crossword-writer has been accused of hiding a coded message to assassinate President Hugo Chavez's brother in the latest surreal twist to election year politics in the South American nation.

Neptali Segovia was interviewed by intelligence agents, his newspaper said on Friday, after a state TV pundit said he had disguised a message to gun down Chavez's brother, Adan, in the answers to various clues in a crossword this week.

"These sorts of messages were used a lot in World War Two," the pundit, Perez Pirela, said earlier in the week in a dramatic denouncement of Ultimas Noticias newspaper on live television.

Segovia has denied any subversive intentions.

While causing laughter in some circles, the case also shows the dangerously polarized environment in Venezuela, where the socialist Chavez has been accusing opposition leaders of planning violence in the run-up to an October presidential vote.

Mystery over cancer-stricken Chavez's condition has only heightened the nervous atmosphere in Venezuela.

The pugnacious Pirela, who uses an early evening TV show to lay into Chavez opponents, said a group of mathematicians, psychologists and others had studied the Spanish-language crossword and concluded it was a coded assassination plot.

Answers to clues included "Adan", "asesinen" (meaning "kill") and "rafaga" (which can mean either a burst of gunfire, or a gust of wind).

LIKE DE GAULLE?

"It's a message ... I'm speaking in the name of truth," Pirela added, noting how French leader Charles de Gaulle used to broadcast coded messages from London to Resistance fighters in France during World War Two.

Police were not available for comment.

But Ultimas Noticias said six officers from Venezuela's intelligence service had visited the newspaper's editorial offices on Thursday asking for information about Segovia.

After that, he went voluntarily to the intelligence service's headquarters to give a statement, it said.

"I am the first to want to clarify this. I have nothing to hide because the work I have been doing for the last 17 years has only a cultural and education intention, and is transparent," Segovia was quoted as saying.

"I was treated respectfully. They took down my comments and made a routine summary. Then they took me home."

Another newspaper, the militantly pro-opposition Tal Cual, lampooned the Chavez government on Friday with a front-page crossword highlighting the nation's ills.

Clues included: "What officials do when they misuse public funds" (Corruption); Perhaps the most abused law? (Constitution); and "Name of supreme leader who governs our destiny? Bearded." (Fidel Castro).

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Coming Revolution

from the FT:
Politicians across the spectrum in Venezuela are trading dire predictions of impending violence in the vacuum left by uncertainty about the health of President Hugo Chávez.

The opposition has warned of plans to postpone or even cancel elections due in October because of speculation that the socialist leader’s cancer will prevent him from running.

“Civil unrest is coming, they are going to provoke it, to stop the elections,” Henry Ramos Allup, a leading opposition politician, told reporters this week, accusing the government of arming paramilitary groups with Kalashnikov rifles.

“Since they can’t win the elections, those subversive groups will organise a tumult including looting, selective attacks on opposition leaders and members of the middle classes,” he said, adding that this would be used to justify military rule.

On the other side, government officials and loyalists have spoken of plots to assassinate Mr Chávez and stage coup d’états.

The president himself, who officials said on Wednesday had just completed a sixth round of radiotherapy in Cuba following a recurrence of the cancerous tumour in his pelvic region, broke a week-long silence on Monday to denounce such schemes, as well as deny that he was abandoning his duties as president while in Cuba.

“They have always had and always will have those plans up their sleeve, with the backing of the empire [the US government], most of all because of Venezuela’s vast resources,” he said during a telephone call to state television. “Our task is to be alert to neutralise [any attempt at destabilisation],” he added, before promising a “knockout” election victory in October.

The information minister, the attorney-general, two prominent deputies in congress and a pundit on state television have all made similar warnings this week. On Wednesday, the pundit claimed on a prime-time programme that a puzzle in one of the country’s most widely circulated newspapers contained a hidden message instigating the assassination of the president’s older brother, Adán Chávez.

Speculation about the health of Mr Chávez has been mounting. He has been seen in public only once since mid-April, in a short address which ended with the leader in tears. Last week, he created a council of state, ostensibly charged with advising the president on policy issues. But some believe the agency is a transitional body intended to smooth the way towards a post-Chávez Venezuela. Venezuela’s sovereign debt has rallied on the speculation over Mr Chávez’s illness, as investors bet that a more market-friendly government may soon take power.

The contrasting versions of reality given by either side are also reflected in opinion polls. Jesse Chacón, a former minister turned pollster running Caracas-based GIS XXI, said on Wednesday that an April survey showed that 57 per cent intended to vote for Mr Chávez, compared with just 21 per cent for the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski.

That contrasts with the results released on Tuesday of a hitherto-unknown outfit called Encuestadora Nacional Predicmática which showed Mr Capriles beating the incumbent by eight percentage points. Venezuelans often joke that opinion polls can be found for all tastes.