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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Venezuela to Build New Refinery in Ecuador

Caracas, Venezuela, May 31, 2006—In a series of agreements signed between Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and Ecuador’s President Alfredo Palacio, yesterday, Venezuela agreed to help Ecuador construct a new refinery and to expand an existing one, among other energy-related issues. The deal is expected to provide additional earnings to Ecuador of over $360 million per year for the refining of 100,000 barrels of Ecuadoran crude per day. Chavez was in Ecuador’s capital Quito to sign the agreements, following his visit to Bolivia.

Another part of the agreement would provide Ecuador with Venezuelan liquefied gas. Chavez, during a press conference in Quito, suggested that Venezuela would sell the gas directly to the Ecuadoran government, which would then market it, allowing consumers to save up to 20% of the cost by cutting out middlemen.

Chavez promised that these agreements would mark a new beginning in relations between the two countries. “These seven months that remain in the government of my friend President Palacio, we will use to construct a solid new floor, of political, social, technical, scientific, and energy relations,” said Chavez.

Ecuador’s President Palacio responded, “Thanks to the Venezuelan people and thanks to President Chavez, the hydrocarbon policy and petrol history of Ecuador will change.”During his press conference, Chavez predicted that Ecuador would be attacked, just as Bolivia has been attacked for the nationalization of its natural resources. While Bolivia recently announced the nationalization of its natural gas fields, Ecuador recently annulled a contract with Occidental Petroleum. “Allow me to congratulate you, President, for the decisions you have been taking to recover the strategic management of the natural resources of Ecuador,” said Chavez. The U.S. recently suspended negotiation of a Free Trade Agreement with Ecuador in response to Ecuador’s decision to suspend the Occidental Petroleum contract.

Student Riots Continue in Western Venezuela, Government Blames Provocateurs

By: Michael Fox -
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 - Classes at the University of the Andes (ULA) were suspended again yesterday, as disturbances and protests continued in Merida for the fourth straight business day. In response to the violence, various government representatives announced that behind the disturbances is a conspiracy to “destabilize” the country.

The “disturbances” come as a result of last Wednesday’s Venezuelan Supreme Court decision postponing ULA student elections, which were scheduled to be held on May 31st. In its decision, the court declared that the elections would have to be postponed because there existed “rational doubts about the competence” of the University Center Federation’s ability to administer its own elections.
The Venezuelan alternative media website,, reported yesterday afternoon that, “a small group of hooded individuals were throwing rocks, bottles, and other objects at a line of anti-riot Police.”

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan daily, El Mundo, reported last Friday, that various other Universities have joined in the protests, and are calling for a national demonstration tomorrow and a student march across the country. Ricardo Sánchez, general secretary of the Federation of University Centers of the Central University of Venezuela, announced yesterday that all of the Universities in Caracas would be meeting to coordinate actions in support of the ULA students.

While last week’s events are still unclear, government sources report that 26 Venezuelan National Guard and Police were wounded in the violence, many from gunshots. One officer is still in critical condition, and another testified to have just narrowly escaped a rape attempt. According to most reports, 10 students were wounded. El Mundo reported last Friday that the leader of the Somos Uno Movement from the Central University of Venezuela, Inti Rodriguez, declared that their were also a dozen students wounded at University protests in both the Venezuelan states of Tachira and Lara.
“Conspiracy of Violence”

Venezuelan Vice-President José Vicente Rangel, yesterday, condemned the existence of “preparations to generate situations of violence in the streets.”

“You can’t explain this situation only by the decision of the competent jurisdictional organism to post-pone ULA elections. This decision has nothing to do with the National Executive or the authorities from the state of Mérida,” he said. “The supposed University raid served also as a pretext to accentuate the violence.” In a press release, Rangel added, “there also exists the intention to unleash action in Caracas during the next OPEC meeting [this Thursday], with the goal of projecting to the world an image of chaos in Venezuela.”

Yesterday, the Minister of Interior and Justice, Jesse Chacón, and members of the National Assembly also denounced the student violence in Merida, and announced what they viewed as proof of a conspiracy to destabilize the country.

“These are acts of violence and sources of urban terrorism that have been unraveling by the student sector over the last hours and you should observe that all of the events connect to one another, they are interrelated and lead us to a conspiracy plan,” said National Assembly Representative, Tarek El Aissami, yesterday.

Aissami singled out the group Movimiento 13 de Marzo (March 13 Movement) and its student leader Nixon Moreno, as being behind the violence and disturbances. He accompanied his declarations with videotapes from 2004 of the March 13 Movement, which he declared contained “proof of the conviction” of the current events.

“Political Assassination”

Moreno, who was a Presidential candidate in the ULA’s postponed elections responded by accusing the state of trying to “politically assassinate” him.

“We are dealing with a dark laboratory, overseen by the Ministry of Interior and Justice (Jesse Chacón) in order to politically assassinate me,” he said yesterday. Moreno added that due to the repression of the National Guard, 25 students were left wounded.

The Venezuelan daily, El Universal, reported yesterday that Moreno, “informed that the students would continue their protests this week in response to the violation of the autonomous university, expressed, in his criteria, in the ruling of the TSJ that suspended the student elections, and in the National Guard ‘raid’ on the University.”

Moreno, who has been a ULA student for the past 10 years and is a former Student President of the ULA, blames last week’s violence, not on the students, but on the Venezuelan National Guard.
According to VTV, the Minister of Interior and Justice, Jesse Chacón, has categorically denied that the National Guard and police forces raided the ULA.

Rumors have surfaced over the possibility that last week’s violence could have been instigated by paramilitaries acting as students. The website,, reported last Thursday that “a group of organized mercenaries, acting and looking more like Colombian paramilitaries than students, burst in to the Center of the Humanities Faculty, well armed with high-caliber pistols and machine guns, faces covered with ski masks… with radios of the latest technology… and dispersed throughout Merida in strategic locations, in small groups, all armed, and interconnected through the radio system.”

Astrid Balsa, an ULA student, studying languages, doesn’t buy it. “People exaggerate a lot, but there are some things that are true. I don’t believe that there are paramilitaries,” she said, “but not everyone involved in the disturbances are students. Some are hooligans, and some are teenagers from the nearby schools who just want to cause trouble.”

Balsa said that classes and activities at the ULA have been suspended since last Wednesday, and that the disturbances have caused fear and long lines across the city of Merida.
"No one is in agreement with the disturbances," Balsa continued. "It's all a question of power, regardless on who's side you are on... the problem is that the University is a reflection of what is happening in the country."

Supreme Court Decision

Last Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision to postpone the elections was as a result of an injunction presented to the court by hundreds of ULA students including the current president of the Federation de University Centers of ULA, Jehyson Jose Guzman Araque.

“We asked the Supreme Court to review the elections, to make sure that everything was legal,” said Frella Alvarez, a fourth year ULA student studying Spanish literature. “At the University, there are rules that exist, but they may or may not be enforced… the University authority hasn’t been prepared to ensure that the rules are followed.”

According to Jan Ullrich, a German exchange student studying this year at ULA, these rules outlaw re-elections, include two-year term limits, and mandate that candidates must pass at least two classes a semester.

"The rules are there to ensure that these positions are for students, who are studying... not for professional politicians," said Ullrich. "Guzman has been at the University for 10 years. One of the other guys, for 15."

According to Ullrich, that the elections were postponed until February, 2007, when new candidates would have to be named, because none of the current candidates are eligible to run for office, because they do not qualify under the rules.

Mario Bonucci, ULA Director, criticized the TSJ decision last week, declaring that the ULA electoral commission has always been in charge of elections and that the current student president, Guzman, was elected, ratified and established under the same rules and structure that are now in place.“Of course, I shall call for peace, prudence and reflection. The University is the center where we debate with ideas not violence,” Bonucci added in response to last Wednesday’s violence, “That’s why I’m making this call for calm, tranquility and that we utilize the channels at our disposition in this democratic system.”

Friday, May 26, 2006

Venezuela-Guyana territorial dispute adjourned

The resumption of talks regarding a controversial border issue between Guyana and Venezuela was suspended, even though the Foreign Affairs minister of both countries committed to meet as soon as possible, Efe reported.

The chargé d'affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy in Guyana, Fernando Rincón, ensured that the issue was suspended because of the busy agendas of Guyana and Venezuela Foreign Affairs ministers Rudy Insanally and Alí Rodríguez, respectively.

In March Insanally and the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs vice-minister for Latin America and the Caribbean Pável Rondón agreed to hold a meeting between Guyana facilitator Ralph Ram Karran and his Venezuelan counterpart Héctor Azócar, together with official delegate Oliver Jackman, a representative of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The UN believes efforts to find a solution to this controversy should not last more than two years.

Venezuela is claiming the mineral- and forest-rich region on the riverside of Esequibo river, comprising two thirds of Guyana 215,000 square kilometers.

Guyana defends an arbitral award of 1899 setting the border between Guyana and Venezuela. But in the last few decades, Venezuela has been blocking Guyana efforts to find oil in the region.
The bilateral agenda also includes meetings for cultural cooperation and enhancement of transportation between the two countries.

Venezuela to initial pact on Spanish patrol boats

Venezuelan Navy vice admiral Armando Laguna Laguna on Friday is to initial in Spain an agreement with representatives of Navantia for the construction of the first of eight patrol boats Venezuela agreed to purchase from Spain in November 2005.

Venezuelan ambassador in Madrid retired general Arévalo Méndez in a phone conversation confirmed Laguna Laguna's visit to Spain, adding that the agreement would be signed in Cadiz, where Navantia headquarters are based.
"On Friday (May 25) directors of Navantia and the Navy General Command are to sign the agreement to construct the first out of eight oceanic and coast patrol boats Venezuela is to buy from Spain," Méndez explained.

Under the agreement, Méndez said, the first boat should be completed and operational by August 2008, while the last will be built in Puerto Cabello (Carabobo state), where the Venezuelan shipyard Dianca is based.

"Under the agreement, Navantia undertakes to build the last patrol boat in Venezuela, which involves technological transfer and will allow us to teach and train personnel in Dianca not only for repairs and maintenance, but also to build boats," Méndez ensured.

The agreement with Navantia has been estimated at over USD 1.6 billion.

Mercosur ratifies Venezuela's full membership

People's Daily, May 25 2006

The Common Market of the South (Mercosur) ratified the full membership of Venezuela, the Argentine Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

Representatives of Mercosur's four member countries, Argentine, Brazil, Uruguay,and Paraguay, signed Venezuela's Membership Protocol on Tuesday night at the San Martin Palace, which hosts Argentina's Foreign Ministry.

Argentina is the bloc's acting leader, a role which rotates every six months.
The member countries agreed on a timetable for Venezuela to adopt Mercosur's common tariffs and respect free trade within the bloc.

The timetable states that between 2010 and 2014 Venezuela will join the free trade area already in operation between the other four members.

The five countries pledged to promote integration across the region and fight poverty and social exclusion through solidarity and cooperation, the statement said.

The protocol will have to be ratified by Mercosur's presidents at a summit, slated for July 20-21 in the Argentine city of Cordoba, before it will be sent for ratification to the countries' respective legislatures.

Source: Xinhua

Venezuela's Chavez willing to follow Supreme Court's order in seeking reelection

People's Daily, May 25 2006

Venezuelen President Hugo Chavez said on Wednesday that under Venezuela's constitution, he did not have to leave office to be reelected to the presidency, but he would do so if ordered by the country's supreme court.

"If the Supreme Court of Justice decides that I must leave office in order to be reelected, I will follow their ruling," he said.

He added that he would go to the streets to achieve his aim of being reelected with 10 million votes, out of a total of 13 million eligible Venezuelan citizens.

Chavez said he hoped that the "dirty strategy" of the December elections, whose results the opposition said they did not trust, would not be repeated.

"We will base our actions on theirs. The question should be directed to the nation: 'do the people agree with the president being a candidate indefinitely'," he said.

Chavez has said on different occasions that if the opposition withdrew from the campaign he would replace the ballot paper with a referendum paper, asking citizens if they were happy to keep him in power until 2031.

According to Venezuela's constitution, the presidency can only be held for two terms. If Chavez wins a second term in office he will have to step down in 2014.

Chavez first took power in 1998, and was reelected in 2000 after amending the constitution.
Source: Xinhua

Venezuela to Renegotiate Mining Agreements

Venezuela to Renegotiate All Mining Agreements to Give State 'Total Control' of Industry

CARACAS, Venezuela Wednesday May 24, 2006 (AP) -- Venezuela will renegotiate all mining agreements with domestic and foreign companies to give the state "total control" of the industry, a government official announced Wednesday.

In a statement, Mining Minister Victor Alvarez said "government control of these areas is of crucial strategic interest" to the administration of President Hugo Chavez.

"We will intensify the review of all contracts and concessions ... so the state can assume total control" under a forthcoming law that will be drafted by Venezuela's National Assembly, Alvarez added.

Lawmakers allied with Chavez hold all 167 seats in the assembly, guaranteeing approval of the proposed law.

Studies completed by the mining ministry show that 71.1 percent of the 760 mining projects in this mineral-rich South American country are considered large mining holdings, many of them controlled by private companies from Venezuela, Russia, Canada and Holland, Alvarez said.
"Over the years, holders of these areas, have done absolutely nothing," he said.

Chavez, a nationalist who believes in strong state intervention in the economy, has warned that companies that control mines considered to be idle will lose their place in the mining industry.

Venezuela May Spend $4.74 Bln on Colombia Pipelines

May 24 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, is studying investing up to $4.74 billion to build two oil pipelines across neighboring Colombia to the Pacific coast, cutting the time it needs to ship crude to Asia.

The two pipelines, one for crude oil and the other for refined products, would cut across southern Colombia to the port of Tumaco, Jorge Luis Sanchez, who heads Venezuela's state natural gas company, said at an energy conference today in Caracas. The crude oil pipeline would have capacity of 400,000 barrels a day, while the products pipeline would be able to transport as much as 250,000 barrels a day.

"We're in the stage of visualizing these projects,'' Ivan Orellana, a board member at state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, said in an interview outside the conference. "We're in the very early phases.''

Venezuela is seeking to shorten the time needed to ship oil to Asia. Most supertankers can't pass through the Panama Canal, sending them around South America to reach China and other Asian countries after loading at Atlantic coast ports.

"A pipeline to the Pacific is the only way where selling oil to China would make any economic sense,'' said James Williams, an analyst with WTRG Energy Economics in London, Arkansas.

Venezuela now sends about two-thirds of its oil exports to the U.S. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is attempting to reduce his country's dependence on the U.S.

Venezuela produces about 2.6 million barrels a day, of which 2.1 million is exported.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Wilson in Caracas at

Venezuela seeks stake in Orinoco projects

CARACAS, Venezuela Wed May 24, 2006 - Venezuela seeks up to a 60 percent stake in four heavy oil projects in the Orinoco River basin where it is partnered with companies like Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips, a state oil company official said Wednesday.

"We are willing to go to 60 percent," said Eulogio del Pino, a director at Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, who oversees contracts with foreign oil companies.

PDVSA currently holds minority stakes ranging from 30 percent to 49.9 percent in partnerships upgrading heavy oil with BP PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips, France's Total SA and Norway's Statoil ASA.

The government said earlier that it planned to eventually take a controlling stake in those operations but had not specified how much control it sought.

The Orinoco projects develop what Venezuela says are some of the largest untapped oil reserves in the world.

President Hugo Chavez's administration has sought a larger share of profits from the industry amid surging oil prices.

It has already taken as much as 80 percent control of other oil fields across the country that were previously run by private companies under contract.

Also Wednesday, a government official said Venezuela will renegotiate all mining agreements with domestic and foreign companies to give the state "total control" of the industry.

Mining Minister Victor Alvarez said in a statement "government control of these areas is of crucial strategic interest" to the administration of President Hugo Chavez.

Lawmakers allied with Chavez hold all 167 seats in the assembly, guaranteeing approval of the proposed law.

Studies by the mining ministry show that 71.1 percent of the 760 mining projects in this mineral-rich South American country are considered large mining holdings, many of them controlled by private companies from Venezuela, Russia, Canada and Holland, Alvarez said.

"Over the years, holders of these areas, have done absolutely nothing," he said.
Chavez, who believes in strong state intervention in the economy, has warned that companies that control mines considered to be idle will lose their place in the mining industry.

Vietnam-Venezuela relations continue upturn

Nhan Dan, May 26 2006 - Vietnam and Venezuela have signed an agreement on visa requirement exemption for holders of diplomatic and official passports.
The agreement was reached during a two-day Vietnam visit by Venezuelan Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Alcides Rondon Rivero, beginning on May 24.

The Vice Minister also took part in the official inauguration ceremony of the Venezuelan Embassy in Hanoi. Vietnam and Venezuela have also agreed on setting up a mechanism for political dialogue between the two foreign ministries.

At the reception ceremony in Hanoi on May 25, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan expressed his hope that the two sides would strengthen exchange and carry out co-ordinated activities in the United Nation (UN), the Non-aligned Movement and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to protect developing countries' interests.

During his visit from May 24-25, Mr Alcides had various working sessions with Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien, Vice Minister Nguyen Phu Binh of Foreign Affairs, Chairman Vu Mao and other ranking officials of the National Assembly Committee for External Affairs, representatives of the Industry Ministry and the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations.

During the meetings, the Venezuelan and Vietnamese officials discussed measures to further boost the multi-faceted relations between the two countries, with a special focus on bilateral co-operation on trade and commerce.

Vice Minister Alcides expressed his appreciation of the renovation achievements that Vietnam has made over the years and conveyed congratulations to the Vietnamese Government and Party leaders for the great success of the recent 10th national party congress. (VNA)

Venezuela Wants NAM To Take Global Security Seriously

By P. Vijian

PUTRAJAYA, May 26 (Bernama) -- Oil-rich Venezuela wants the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to discuss issues on security, which is a pressing problem, when the organisation's foreign ministers meet early next week.

Venezuela's Charge d'Affairs to Malaysia Manuel Antonio Guzman Hernandez said his government was committed to world peace and willing to work with any nation to promote stability, either at the domestic or international level.

"In security issues, the principle contribution to the world peace is to say no to blackmail (to terrorists) and at the same time avoid contribution to terrorism forces.

"Venezuela has maintained great respect and concern with regards to the general views and opinions of those countries affected by international terrorism," he told Bernama here Friday.

He said the Venezuelan delegation would bring up security matters when they meet their counterparts at the Non-Aligned Movement Coordinating Bureau (NAM-CoB) Ministerial Meeting at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) which starts tomorrow.

Asked how Venezuela, the world's fifth largest oil exporter, could help economically-backward NAM members, Hernandez said the South American nation under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez had it own policy to assist poor economies.

"With the crisis of petroleum high prices, Venezuela has maintained favourable conditions in relation to the affairs of countries facing high level of poverty," he added.He said Chavez was even ready to help needy people in the United States who were suffering due to rising oil prices which had breached the US$70 mark recently.

Last year, Chavez pledged to help ordinary Americans pay their hefty energy bills during winter and again this winter the leftist leader has offered to help Europeans pay their bills.

Venezuela produces about three million barrels of crude oil daily and exports nearly 75 per cent of its output.

Hernandez added that oil price was unlikely to come down and urged the world to make rational usage of this non-recyclable fuel and at the same time seek alternative resources.


Russia ready to deliver Su jets to Venezuela - defense minister

ST. PETERSBURG. May 26 (Interfax-AVN) - Russia is ready to deliver multipurpose Su jet fighters to Venezuela, and there are no restrictions on such deliveries, Russian Vice Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said.
"There are no international restrictions on the delivery of arms to Venezuela. I mean conventional arms," Ivanov told journalists on Friday in St. Petersburg.

Venezuela sees natural gas shortage ending in 2009

By PETER WILSON Bloomberg News - May 25 2006

Venezuela, which has South America's largest natural-gas reserves, expects a domestic shortage of the fuel to end in 2009, the state oil company said.

The current shortage is between 800 million cubic feet a day to 1 billion cubic feet a day, Felix Rodriguez, vice president of Petroleos de Venezuela SA's natural-gas unit, told reporters Thursday at an energy conference in Caracas. Output is now 6.3 billion cubic feet a day, much of which is reinjected into oil fields to push crude to the surface.

"We will have a surplus in 2009, when offshore natural gas starts coming into the market," said Rodriguez. Production may rise to 500 million cubic feet a day this year.

Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, has focused on developing its oil industry ahead of its natural-gas reserves. The current natural-gas shortage has resulted in cutbacks in oil and petrochemical production.

The country has the world's eighth-largest natural gas reserves at about 150 trillion cubic feet.
Petróleos de Venezuela, the state oil company, is also in talks with private oil companies to take shares in their natural gas operations to expand output. The Caracas-based company has reached agreements to take shares in natural-gas operations run by Repsol YPF SA and Canada's Petrofalcon Corp.

Venezuela lawmakers blast video game

CARACAS, Venezuela May 25, 2006 (AP) -- A U.S. company's video game simulating an invasion of Venezuela is supposed to hit the shelves next year, but it's already raising the ire of lawmakers loyal to President Hugo Chavez.
Chavez supporters in Venezuela's National Assembly suspect the makers of "Mercenaries 2: World in Flames" are doing Washington's bidding by drumming up support among Americans for an eventual move to overthrow Chavez.

"I think the U.S. government knows how to prepare campaigns of psychological terror so they can make things happen later," Congressman Ismael Garcia said, citing the video game developed by Los Angeles-based Pandemic Studios.

Pandemic describes "Mercenaries 2" as "an explosive open-world action game" in which "a power-hungry tyrant messes with Venezuela's oil supply, sparking an invasion that turns the country into a war zone." The company says players take on the role of well-armed mercenaries.

Chris Norris, a publicist for Pandemic in Los Angeles, said the game wasn't intended to make a political statement about Chavez, though designers "always want to have a rip from the headlines."

"Although a conflict doesn't necessarily have to be happening, it's realistic enough to believe that it could eventually happen," Norris said.

Lawmaker Gabriela Ramirez said "Mercenaries 2" gives a false vision of Chavez as a tyrant and Venezuela as being on the verge of chaos. She said the game could be banned under a proposed law aimed at protecting Venezuelan children from violent video games.

In the U.S., "it sends a message to Americans: You have a danger next door, here in Latin America, and action must be taken," she said. "It's a justification for an imperialist aggression."

U.S. officials have repeatedly denied planning an attack on Venezuela, though President Bush said he is concerned about "an erosion of democracy" here -- an accusation Chavez has called blatantly false.

Venezuela Dismisses Bush’s Concerns about Venezuelan Democracy

By: Pablo Navarrete -

Caracas, Venezuela, May 23, 2006 - Reacting to comments made by U.S. President George Bush on Monday that expressed concern about, "the erosion of democracy" in Venezuela and Bolivia, Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez accused Bush on Tuesday of "demolishing" his own country's democracy.

"Democracy and the fundamental principles of that country, which were held up by Abraham Lincoln among others, are being demolished," said Chávez in reference to a domestic spying program which has been largely criticized in the U.S. for violating civil liberties, according to the AP.

"We'll have to tell the U.S. president that we are very worried because his imperialist, war-mongering government is dangerously eroding the possibility of peace and life on this planet," Chávez added. For Chávez, in the same way that the twentieth century was called the North American century, the twenty-first century will go down as the "the century which put an end to the North American empire."

Bush's remarks were also criticized by other high-level politicians in both Venezuela and the U.S. Venezuelan National Assembly President Nicolas Maduro said on Monday, "Today Bush, cynically, tries to make a judgment on Venezuela democracy. We ask [U.S.] opinion, 60 percent of whom reject his government, where is democracy being eroded: in a government which invades, bombs, and assassinates, or here [in Venezuela]?"

In the U.S., Democratic Congressman Donald M. Payne said on Tuesday that the Bush administration had adopted "a totally flawed position" regarding Chávez. Payne, who serves on the House of Representatives International Relations Committee and its Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, said the two countries "definitely need to have a dialogue."

This latest exchange between the two countries' leaders comes at a time when U.S.-Venezuela relations have been steadily deteriorating. Last week, the Bush administration declared a ban on arms sales from the U.S. to Venezuela, because Venezuela was allegedly "not cooperating fully" in the "war on terrorism." Venezuela is the only country on the U.S. list of countries that is not cooperating fully with terrorism that is not also on their list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

The arms sale ban affects U.S. sales and licensing for the export of defense articles and services to Venezuela, including the transfer of defense items, said Darla Jordan, a State Department spokeswoman, according to the AP. In 2005, Venezuela spent $34 million on military equipment in the U.S., mostly for spare parts for C-130 cargo planes.

Bush decries 'erosion of democracy' in Venezuela, Bolivia

CHICAGO Mon May 22 2006 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush said he was concerned about an "erosion of democracy" in Venezuela and Bolivia, which in recent months have adopted policies which many in Washington view as unfavorable toward US interests.

Asked here about the two Latin American countries' seemingly adverse policies towards Washington, Bush did not directly answer the question, but vowed to continue to foster positive policies in Latin America.

"I am going to continue to remind our hemisphere that respect for property rights and human rights is essential for all countries in order for there to be prosperity and peace," the US president said at a national meeting of restaurateurs, where he spoke about developments in Iraq.

"I'm going to remind our allies and friends in the neighborhood that the United States of America stands for justice; that when we see poverty, we care about it, and we do something about it," Bush said.

And in what appeared to be an oblique reference to reports that Venezuela played a supporting role in presidential elections last December in Bolivia, Bush cautioned against "meddling."

"I'm going to remind our people that meddling in other elections to achieve a short-term objective is not in the interests of the neighborhood," Bush said.Washington in the past has accused Venezuela of using its oil money to bolster the candidacy of leftist Evo Morales, who won Bolivia's December election by a landslide.

The US president added that he believes the free market system provides the best solution for poverty and other ills that afflict the region.

"I will continue to remind people that trade is the best way to help people be lifted from poverty," Bush said.

"We can spend money, and we do in the neighborhood, but the best way for there to be growth is to encourage commerce and trade and prosperity through the marketplace," he said.

He continued: "I'm going to remind people that the United States stands against corruption at all levels of government," adding, "the United States expects the same from other countries in the neighborhood."

Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba to sign eight cooperation agreements

Granma International, Mat 26 2006

LA PAZ, May 24 — Eight cooperation agreements covering a variety of areas that will strengthen the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) are to be signed during a meeting between Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela.

Bolivian presidential spokesman Alex Contreras said the agreements are to be signed next Friday, PL reported.

Contreras said that part of the agreements already negotiated deal with cooperation in the fields of education and health, Cuban strengths now being shared with Bolivia and Venezuela.

Agreements will also be signed between La Paz and Caracas for joint development projects between the state-run hydrocarbon enterprises of both nations.

By virtue of those agreements, as well as three asphalt factories, natural gas production plants will be established, which will make it possible, Contreras said, for Bolivia to stop being simply a gas vendor and begin to export derivatives.
An agreement will also be signed for the establishment of a bi-national enterprise, Minera de Sur (Minersur), which according to Walter Villarroel, minister of mining, will develop projects in a number of regions.

Villarroel left open the possibility that Minersur would operate in the giant iron mine in Mutún, near the border with Brazil, where the government is putting out to tender internationally the establishment of an iron and steel industry.

Hugo Salvatierra, minister of rural and agricultural development, noted the importance of an agreement for $100 million in credit that Venezuela will provide a support fund for small producers, which will be decisive to the agricultural sector.

Other agreements will facilitate the establishment of centers for the legal industrialization of the coca leaf and the development of agribusiness projects for coffee, tea and soy, he added.

Bolivia, Venezuela initial comprehensive oil agreement

Venezuela and Bolivia are to execute Friday an ambitious oil bill within the framework of the Peoples' Trade Treaty (TCP) bolstered by the two nations along with Cuba to counter the US Free Trade Agreement.
Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela will enter into an array of agreements, including an instrument to develop the oil business, during an unprecedented ceremony in the coca town of Chapare.
Amidst unusual movement of police agents, only comparable to the times of social unrest, coca trade unions anticipate a rally of 50,000 growers, according to estimates of presidential spokesman Alex Contreras.
Chávez announced last Wednesday in Caracas that he and Morales were to execute over 20 cooperation agreements and letters of intent.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Venezuela-Bolivia to Hookup in Sports

Caracas, May 23 (Prensa Latina) Venezuela and Bolivia will sign a sports cooperation agreement for plans and projects of mutual benefit in the fields of sports and physical culture, announced Venezuelan Sports Vice Minister Eduardo Alvarez Tuesday.
Alvarez said the signing will take place at the May 26 meeting in La Paz, the Bolivian capital, between Presidents Hugo Chavez Frias (Venezuela) and Bolivia´s Evo Morales.
He said that beginning in June, Venezuela will give Bolivia support for mass participation in physical education, sports competitions, high performance and community sports activities.
Also, it will help Bolivia with sports medicine, training of sports coaches, and service updating.
The cooperation agreement also covers using the Venezuelan experience in sports such as volleyball, judo, soccer, and triathlon.

Venezuela to Foster African Culture

Caracas, May 23 (Prensa Latina) Venezuela will open cultural agencies in four African countries, aimed at boosting traditions and customs in that continent, official sources reported Tuesday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Reinaldo Bolivar said this will be a pilot program to be implemented in Ethiopia, South Africa, Senegal and Algeria.
These agencies will be responsible for broadcasting national culture in that region through exhibitions, concerts and other artistic expressions.
The program includes a tour of well-known local musician Francisco Pacheco, founder of the traditional group "Un Solo Pueblo," to perform in Africa and sending a delegation to the 3rd Black Arts Festival, to be held in Senegal next year.
According to the official, at the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution the Latin American nation only had diplomatic ties with seven countries, and in only 15 months President Hugo Chavez' government has established links with 42 nations.

Venezuela Readies to Enter MERCOSUR

Caracas, May 24 (Prensa Latina) Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said his country is intensely preparing its entry to the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), main mechanism of integration in South America.
"We will enter MERCOSUR, but we have to reduce import taxes to zero. We will assume that challenge and should increase productivity," stated Chavez in an act on the occasion of Social Oil and Gas Districts.
The aim of these demarcations is to develop regions where different hydrocarbon companies are located, to create others of social production and support economic boosts in those localities.
The project is part of the so-called policy "Siembra Petrolera" implemented by the Bolivarian government.
Chavez reiterated in the meeting that the South American nation is making efforts to enter with great impact the MERCOSUR, an alliance destined to a fruitful "trade zone and a world power."
Venezuela, fifth oil exporter worldwide, was accepted as a "state in process of adhesion" in Montevideo, Uruguay, on December 9.
This time, the leaders agreed to a commission to fix a chronogram in a six-month period, for Caracas to adopt different rules.

Venezuela Leaves G-3

Caracas, May 23 (Prensa Latina) Venezuela denounced Tuesday the Group of Three (G-3), of which is member along with Mexico and Colombia, for having a neoliberal view that puts commercial interest above the peoples.
The local Foreign Ministry issued a release ratifying the withdrawal of this South American nation from the trade alliance and stressing that its integration purpose is based on complementary, cooperation and solidarity ties.
Sunday, President Hugo Chavez confirmed that Caracas decided to leave the G-3 to focus on its entry into the Common Market of the South as a full member. On his visit to Rome, first stop of an international tour, the statesman said his country prioritizes the Latin American integration above any other treaty.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Minister: Venez-OPEC Meet Important

Caracas, May 22 (Prensa Latina) Venezuelan Minister of Energy Rafael Ramirez highlighted the importance of the 141st special meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to be held in Caracas June 1.
Ramirez told journalists that OPEC countries’ representatives will arrive in Caracas on May 30, as Venezuelan authorities have organized a seminar on “Oil Sovereignty” for heads of delegations and the media.
Closed-door debates on current production quotas, a fair price policy and support for the world´s energy demands have also been scheduled.
The official presiding over the meeting, in his condition as OPEC Secretary General, is expected to give a press conference at the end of the meeting.
In Ramirez’ opinion, the coming gathering is “a golden opportunity to assess and make decisions on the oil market’s future,” as current geopolitical tension mark crude prices.

The State Department’s Mock Indignation Gives a Bad Name to U.S. Diplomacy

By: Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Saturday, May 20, 2006 - Following the announcement by the State Department that it was imposing an arms sale sanction against Venezuela, a Chávez advisor infuriated Washington when he responded with an apparently retaliatory announcement that Caracas would consider selling its American-made F-16’s to Iran.

The proposed sale irritated U.S. policymakers, whose initial imposition of the embargo was rationalized by the vague, if not totally contrived, accusations involving Hugo Chávez’s friendship with the leaders of U.S. classified rogue states of Cuba and Iran. Caracas’ threat of selling off the F-16 is somewhat logical, as the U.S. earlier had denied Venezuela the parts necessary to maintain its fleet of 21 F-16’s, rendering those aircraft – which are in need of upgrading and repair –little better than scrap metal.

In a certain sense, Washington’s new round of bluster can be properly seen as merely part of an ongoing war of words and spleen against Caracas, in which Chávez more than holds his own, much to the joy of the average Latin American. Venezuela and the U.S. have exchanged countless salvos of sharp rhetoric at each other, with Chávez describing the U.S. as a “pig” whose appointment at the slaughterhouse is imminent, and Secretary of State Rice portraying the Chávez administration as unconstructive and as being “a negative force in the region.”

Venezuela’s gonzo response to the new U.S. embargo fits into the milieu of bounteous hot air that has become increasingly typical between the two countries, though it has not yet ended up with the CIA ultimately being called in to settle matters.

Bringing in GoebbelsThere is some reason to believe, however, that the State Department actually does have a plan, and that these verbal jabs on Washington’s part have a calculated purpose, as they seem to represent a concerted attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Chávez’s constitutional government.

This effort already has included backing a failed coup against him in April 2002 – which has resulted in unremitting hostility ever since. It is also worth commenting that Chávez’s own reaction has been only slightly less confrontational. The big difference is that Chavez is being the playful, irascible, confounding and confrontational wunderkind that he always has been. As for the State Department, with Secretary Condoleezza Rice as its author, its Venezuela policy continues to be bovine, hypocritically cynical and grossly unprofessional in promoting a heavy handed policy against Venezuela, as much based on inventions and gross exaggeration as on facts.

This strategy, after it condemns all other peaceful options and decides to turn to a CIA deployment or negotiates an agreement with a contract killer to eliminate Chávez in order to safeguard the U.S.’ oil supply from the regime, would cost Washington dearly. Taking the high road that should strike a responsive chord with most Latin Americans, the Venezuelan leader observed that the United States “tramples on small and weak nations.”

Yet at this point, Chávez neither has threatened nor halted supplies of oil to the United States. Nor did he seem particularly distressed by the sanctions. An official Venezuelan foreign ministry communiqué was issued stating that the U.S. accusation was “despicable” and was “based on a futile campaign to discredit and isolate Venezuela, to destabilize its democratic government and prepare the political conditions for attack.”

One can only hope that somewhere in the Bush administration, a concentration of fast disappearing wisdom remains, and that it can bring to a halt to the State Department’s precarious – if not suicidal – descent into reckless arrogance and sprawling self-indulgence. As of now, the administration’s game plan is primitively simple and grossly offensive.

Inspired by Nazi-era propaganda czar, Joseph Goebbels, the model is to keep on relentlessly denouncing Chávez as a “dictator” until the public begins to automatically accept the connections between the word and the man. Of course, standing in the way of the administration’s success in convincingly making its case is the fact that Chávez’s political movement has won twice the number of highly attended elections than President Bush has, and by consistently far larger majorities—around 60 percent better. Furthermore, the TV networks are overwhelmingly dominated by the Chávez-hating middle-class opposition, and the same is true for the print media.

To describe today’s Venezuela as a dictatorship is an unmitigated lie, and despite the adamant pleas of Rice and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, it is subscribed to only by a questionable sector of the U.S. media, led by Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl and the extraordinary science fiction editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Staff
May 18, 2006
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being “one of the nation’s most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers.” For more information, please see our web page at; or contact our Washington offices by phone (202) 223-4975, fax (202) 223-4979, or email

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Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA)

Venezuela Considers Selling Oil in Euros

By: Michael Fox -

Caracas, Venezuela, May 18, 2006—Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared on Tuesday that Venezuela would consider putting the sale of its oil in Euros. His comments come after Iran had announced that it too is contemplating switching to the European currency.

“That was an interesting proposal made by the president of Iran,” Chavez told Channel 4 News in London. “We are also free to choose between the dollar and the euro. I think that the European Union has made a great contribution with the Euro.”

“In a way, what the President of Iran is saying… is recognizing the power of Europe, that they have succeed in the integration and have a single currency that competes with the dollar, and Venezuela can consider that, too, we are free to do that,” Chavez added.

According to the BBC, Iran announced earlier this month that they supported the creation of an “oil exchange that traded solely in Euros”. Experts have warned that such a conversion to the European currency could trigger central banks to convert their dollar reserves to euros, thus potentially worsening the already declining US currency.

Although the International Herald Tribune reported yesterday that the US dollar has rebounded this week from its recent lows against the Euro, it still stands at about $1.28 per Euro. The value of the Euro has grown substantially against the dollar since the two currencies were equal, just before the beginning of the US invasion of Iraq.

Already last year, Venezuela made a number of financial moves towards the European currency. In October, 2005, the Financial Times reported that Venezuela had “transferred a large portion of its $30.4 billion of foreign reserves out of US Treasuries and into banks and other financial instruments in Europe, seemingly for political reasons.”

Last December, The Central Bank of Venezuela approved the use of Euros in some financial transactions in what it called, an attempt to “promote the diversification of the economic relations and international finance of the nation.”

The conversion to Euros has been a controversial international issue because of the possible effect it could have on the US currency and international markets. In November of 2000, Iraq switched its oil exchange to Euros, even before most Europeans where using the new currency. Many critics of US foreign policy have pointed to this conversion as a possible impetuous for the US invasion of Iraq a few short years later.

Possibly making the connection, President Chavez, at a speech in London on Sunday, declared that the price of oil would soar to over $100 a barrel if the United States were to declare war on Iran. Even before Iran’s recent announcements on possible Euro conversion, the Bush Administration had been exerting increasing pressure on the oil-rich nation over the development of its nuclear program. The Venezuelan government has publicly declared itself in support of Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy program and opposed to any military action against the middle-eastern country.

Venezuela’s First Quarter GDP Jumps 9.4% Over Last Year


Caracas, Venezuela, May 17, 2006 — First quarter GDP in Venezuela was 9.4% higher than the same time last year, according to numbers released yesterday by Venezuela’s Central Bank.
The growth was driven by a 10.9% increase in the non petroleum sector. According to the figures, growth was 4% in the public sector and 11% in the private sector, and oil income decreased by 0.2%.

In a release the bank said that there was across the board growth in non-oil activity, led by 9.4% growth in the manufacturing industry, 21% growth in construction, and 28.1% growth in communications. It credits the growth of these sectors to increased consumer demand and investment, which was 23.9% of GDP, partially caused by falling interest rates.

In 2002 and 2003, an attempted coup and an oil industry shut down caused the economy to shrink 8.9% and 7.7%, respectively. Since then Venezuela has seen a strong recovery, aided, in part, by strong oil prices and generous government spending. Currently, first quarter oil related GDP is seven percent less than it was in 2001, the year before the political crisis, non oil GDP is up 19%, and overall GDP is up 13%.

Particularly notable is the recovery of the mining sector, which, after shrinking by 35% in the first quarter of 2002 and 2003, has grown by 19% since 2001; general government services, which had been steadily decreasing since at l997, rose steadily even during the political crises to be 34% higher than in Q1 2001; and repair commerce and services, which rose by 33% since Q1 2001.

Venezuela’s strong growth in recent years stands in stark contrast to most of Latin America, which grew only 3% from 2000 to 2005, and only 11% in the 20 years before, as compared to 80% in the preceding 20 years, according to a paper by the DC based Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The World According to Chávez

By: Jonathan Steele and Duncan Campbell - The Guardian

Friday, May 19, 2006 - Hugo Chávez, Venezuela's socialist president, remembers "with great affection" the day he went to see Queen Elizabeth II in 2001. "There's something I'll never forget. When I got out of the car at the entrance to the palace, I spotted a coin lying on the ground and picked it up, and saw it had her face on one side. So I took the coin," he says. Once inside, he presented the Queen with his official gift, a glass model of waterfalls and forests in Venezuela and a multi-coloured bird. Then he took out the coin and handed it to her. "She kept it," he laughs, as he recounts the story in an interview with the Guardian yesterday, sitting beneath a portrait of 19th-century South American would-be liberator, Simón Bolívar - he ordered his staff to put up the picture - in his suite at London's Savoy hotel.

Chávez is in Britain at the invitation of London mayor Ken Livingstone and has been greeted rapturously by his supporters - from the Latin American diaspora to the British left, excited about a 21st-century success story. But his reception in most of the media here has been hostile, from wild accusations that he supports terrorism to suggestions that he is a despot who has done nothing to reduce poverty in spite of his claims.

We meet Chávez on day two of his whistlestop visit. He is of mixed race, thick-set, neatly turned out in suit and tie and with a fierce handshake. He touches your arm and knee as he speaks. On stage, Chávez is entertaining, like a stand-up comedian, and very physical: he mimes the way people cringe away from him in horror when they first meet this terrifying dictator. But in person he is thoughtful and concentrates carefully on the details. On this visit he failed to drop in on his old friend the Queen. "But I'd like to take the opportunity through your paper to greet her and congratulate her on her 80th birthday." Referring to his great ally, Cuba's president, Fidel Castro, he says: "She and Fidel are more or less the same age." The Queen and Castro have never met, so would he be the intermediary who could bring them together? "The two boys and the girl," he grins. "She is so young. I saw her on TV and she looks so fresh."

If it is something of a surprise to hear Chávez, a self-confessed socialist revolutionary and former army officer from a poor family, talking with such affection about Britain's hereditary head of state, it is rather less of a shock to hear his views on the Bush administration. In his seven years in power, the man who has twice been elected president has become one of the most popular leaders in Latin America precisely because of his outspoken criticism of what he always calls "the empire". His unabashed opposition to US foreign policy, and the pressure it has produced from Washington, tap into the deep vein of suspicion and resentment that two centuries of US invasions, coups, and economic domination have aroused in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Four years ago, Chávez himself survived a coup by dissident generals, backed by opposition media tycoons and many in Venezuela's upper class. US officials knew of the plot in advance and Washington welcomed his arrest and apparent overthrow. But the mutiny collapsed two days later when hundreds of thousands streamed out of the poor areas of Caracas, calling for his release in a huge display of "people power". And it is no surprise that he is popular with the poor: using Venezuela's oil revenues - the country has the world's sixth largest oil reserves - Chávez has funded extensive anti-poverty programmes in his own country, a literacy drive, health clinics in slum districts, aid to single mothers, free treatment to HIV/Aids sufferers, special tuition for early school-leavers, and evening classes for adults.

Last year, he even started offering this largesse to poor communities abroad. Through Citgo, the chain of petrol pumps that Venezuela owns in the United States, he cocked a snook at Washington by linking up with community leaders in several American cities and supplying cheap heating oil. At meetings yesterday with British trade union leaders and London's mayor, he was exploring options for doing the same in poor communities in Britain.

"We are very much encouraged by the success this has had with poor families in the US," he says. "We think it is important to be consistent with what you say and what you do, given the increase in world poverty as a result of the savagery of capitalism around the world and the high price of oil and fuel. In Britain we have investments in two small refineries and we have offices all around Europe. Our deputy minister for foreign affairs was expelled from the US just because she was encouraging this programme in the US."

But it is in South America where Chávez has most support. His hero is the great - if ultimately unsuccessful - Latin American, Simón Bolívar: Chávez wants to realise the Bolivarian dream of continental integration and independence. He has already had his country renamed the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, a decision ratified by the electorate in a referendum.

But Venezuela is unique in Latin America in being blessed with such vast amounts of oil. Even sympathetic analysts of Chávez's pro-poor policies wonder whether they really amount to a model for the rest of the continent. Surely Venezuela is an exception, with no direct lessons to offer its regional neighbours?

Chávez takes issue with that. Countries with natural resources have to take control of them, he says; narrow ruling elites and foreign investors have exploited them for too long, making super-profits for themselves. The Venezuelan governments which were in charge during the last era of high world oil prices in the 1970s wasted much of the revenue on patronage, corruption, macro-economic mismanagement and boom-bust spending. Washington's hostility to Chávez began when Venezuela's president sought to take control of his country's oil industry and stopped it being privatised. He thoroughly applauds Bolivia's new president Evo Morales for nationalising Bolivia's gas fields.
This week, Chávez has been presented in much of the British media as if he were some kind of dictator, and unelected. But as he points out, he has held and won eight elections, all certified by outside observers as free and fair. In contrast to countries such as Italy, where Silvio Berlusconi controlled the major TV channels, the opposition in Venezuela has three TV stations that criticise Chávez constantly and furiously. "It's the first time that a government, after seven and a half years of power, has a popularity rating of close to 70%," he says.

Some supporters suggest that the Venezuelan president's government is classic top-down paternalism, heavily dependent on the energy, charm and goodwill of the president himself. Chávez denies this. "Our participatory democracy is getting more solid every day," he says. "We have urban land committees, health committees, environmental committees, groups running savings banks, as well as elected local councils. Never in our history has Venezuela had such autonomous powers as we have today. It is different from the former neo-liberal model."

The United States is as concerned by this as much as by Venezuela's economic policies. "The empire is very preoccupied and the pawns of the the empire are very preoccupied that this model is so strong and enjoys so much support, with a reduction in poverty [and] the inclusion of people in education; illiteracy has been wiped out and we are now building a health care system that is open to all. You have to remember that in 1996 inflation was 100%. Now unemployment is in single digits, after reaching nearly 20%," he says. It is because Venezuela is implementing an alternative which is successful, he adds, that "they are orchestrating these attacks. Washington has said that I am a modern-day Hitler. Last week, a spokesman in the White House referring to the latest report in the war on terrorism said that Venezuela is supporting terrorism." He sees the allegations of terrorism as bewildering, part of the US smear campaign against him.

The charge that Chávez has allowed inequalities to widen seems particularly far off target. There are no independent statistics to back up Chávez's claim that the percentage of people below the poverty line has dropped from 50% to 37%, but the wave of social spending in poor areas suggests he must be right about the broad trend. Britain's Department for International Development has declined to fund several attempts by independent British social scientists to research Venezuela's poverty reduction schemes; it has left it to the Inter-American Development Bank, an agency still dominated by the neo-liberal Washington consensus.

But Venezuela has pioneered the effort to implement an alternative economic and social model that rejects the US belief in privatisation, cuts in government welfare spending and free trade. A decade of economic disaster throughout Latin America in the 1990s has given him huge support in the region, inspiring other leaders to try to follow suit.

Beyond Latin America, Chávez has forged good working relations with the world's major oil and gas exporters. After London, he leaves for Algeria and Libya. Some critics have accused him of cosying up to the military regime in Burma. "That is the first time I have heard about Burma - they say I support Bin Laden or ETA, but never Burma. But ... if you say so. Many things are said about me, so many things both inside and outside the country. This is a well-orchestrated, worldwide campaign. Now what is the purpose of this campaign? Simón Rodriguez, Bolívar's tutor, used to say 200 years ago - the idea is to destroy the model and by doing so you prevent it from becoming contagious."

At an enthusiastic rally in London's Camden Centre on Sunday afternoon, Chávez delighted the crowd during his marathon three-and-a-half-hour speech by taking the same metaphor further. A few years ago, few people dared to call themselves socialists, he says. Now it is different. "We have to marshal our ideas for a better world. We have to infect people. Let's have a badge, saying, 'I'm a socialist. I will infect you'."

Chávez's critics have also made their voices heard. An anti-Chávez website,, has also been running lengthy attacks on the visit, accusing him of human rights abuses, of locking up political opponents, and making a weapon out of la lista (the list) of the several million people who signed petitions calling for a referendum to recall him from power in 2004. They claim signatories suffer discrimination now. There has also been some dissent from people who support what he is trying to achieve. Nicaragua-born Bianca Jagger, for instance, criticised Chávez for supporting the Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega, even though Ortega has made what she sees as an unholy alliance with the rightwing in his country in this autumn's elections.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch publish allegations against the Venezuelan government on their websites. HRW's director general José Miguel Vivanco criticised the media laws introduced last year as having "flouted international principles that protect free expression". The two organisations have also accused the government of attempting to muzzle criticism by threatening opponents with prosecution. Amnesty highlights alleged brutality by the security forces over decades, which Chávez has not ended. But neither organisation singles Venezuela out as having a particularly bad record globally.

But back to Britain: why did he really not meet up with Tony Blair? Was it because the British government's relations with Chávez took a nose-dive after the failed coup attempt when London reacted in solidarity with the Bush administration, according to British academics who specialise in Latin American politics? Or was it it also because of Blair's attack on Chávez in parliament in February? Chávez denies any snub. Referring to his calls on the Queen and Blair last time, he says, "The big capitalist press is trying to minimise the importance of this visit. I didn't come here to visit them. There's nothing negative. This is not an official visit." And anyway, there were few heads of state in the world he could ask to see at such short notice - he had only a fortnight to arrange the trip. What about Castro? "I was coming back from Africa in my Airbus once. I rang him [Fidel] and said I'd be in Havana in four hours' time. He said, 'Where are you?' I explained I was in the air. 'Only you and Bush would ring people from their planes!' he told me. I was quite offended."

Just before we leave he tells us, "I have an obsession with reading." Asked what is on his bedside table at the moment, an aide goes out and returns with Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. "I read it all the time. It is my companion. It is a monument to human beings," says Chávez.
And a final word? "As Rousseau said, between the poor and the rich, liberty is oppressive," he says. "Only law can liberate".

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The Guardian

Venezuela Considers U.S. Weapons Ban Sale Prelude to Further Aggression

By: Gregory Wilpert –

Caracas, Venezuela, May 16, 2006—Reacting to yesterday’s announcement that the U.S. would no longer sell weapons to Venezuela because Venezuela is “not cooperating fully” in the “war on terrorism,” numerous Venezuelan government officials, starting with President Chavez, reacted to the announcement with indifference and derision. “If it's true that the empire is taking sanctions against us, firstly it's a confirmation of imperial abuse, of imperial desperation (and) secondly we will take no notice. It is an impotent empire,” said Chavez to the BBC while in London yesterday.

Venezuela is the only country on the list of countries that is not cooperating fully, but that is not on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism. The consequence of being only on this list, according to the State Department, “U.S. sales and licenses for the export of defense articles and services to Venezuela, including the re-transfer of defense articles, will not be permitted.”

The U.S. has made several efforts to block arms sales of military equipment to Venezuela by third countries, such as Spain and Brazil. According to the U.S., the Brazilian planes and Spanish patrol boats that Venezuela wants include U.S.-made parts, which gives the U.S. the right to veto the sales. In effect, the recent decision would appear to make official the existing policy of preventing arms sales to Venezuela.

The reason for the move, according to State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack, is that the Bush administration is concerned about the, “relationship they've built up [with] states like Iran and Cuba, state sponsors of terror, the intelligence-sharing relationship, which has made it very difficult for the United States to work on anti-terrorism efforts with them.”

Several Venezuelan officials, though, dismissed the move. Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez said that placing Venezuela on this list was “cynical,” considering that the U.S. has not cooperated at all with Venezuela’s extradition request for Luis Posada Carriles, who Venezuela considers to be a terrorist because he is accused of a 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.

An official Foreign Relations Ministry communiqué stated that the U.S. State Department’s “despicable” accusations, “are based on a futile campaign to discredit and isolate Venezuela, to destabilize its democratic government and prepare the political conditions for an attack.”

The communiqué speculated about the reasons for the Bush administration’s move, saying that if Venezuela was being punished for not supporting U.S. “genocide” in Iraq or for opposing U.S. efforts to block Iran’s development of peaceful nuclear technology, then Venezuela is proud that it will never, “give itself … to demands of this nature.”

The statement went on to say that the real reason the U.S. does not want to sell arms to Venezuela is that it wants to prevent Venezuela from being able to defend itself.

According to the AP, State Department statistics show that in 2005 Venezuela spent $34 million on arms purchases in the U.S., of which $30 million were for spare parts for C-130 cargo planes.

Venezuela has repeatedly complained that the U.S. has violated its sales agreement for the F-16 fighter planes it has, which the Bush administration has refused to service. Chavez suggested a year ago that perhaps Venezuela would sell the F-16s to China or Cuba. These, though, declined having an interest in them. Yesterday, in an interview with AP, General Alberto Müller Rojas, who is a close military advisor to Chavez, suggested that perhaps the planes could be sold to Iran.

Over half of Venezuela’s aircraft and almost all of its navy ships are U.S. made. Stopping the sales of military equipment to Venezuela would almost certainly also mean a gradual lack of spare parts for these.

Despite this, Venezuela’s Vice-President, José Vicente Rangel, dismissed the ban, saying, “Venezuela is not interested in buying military equipment from the United States. If [Venezuela] wants to, it will sovereignly buy them from any other country.”

Also, Rangel pointed out that the same day that the U.S. said Venezuela was not cooperating fully in the war on terrorism because of its supposed support for Colombian leftist rebel groups, among other things, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe praised the good relations with Venezuela.

The director of the Washington, DC based Center for Economic and Policy Research, Mark Weisbrot, told Venezuela’s state news agency ABN is a new stage in a long standing strategy to discredit the Chavez government. Also, according to Weisbrot, the measure is hypocritical because the U.S. has not collaborated with Venezuela in any of its emblematic cases.

Venezuela’s Minister of Defense, Orlando Maniglia, also responded to Washington’s announcement, saying that the Bush administration is being “incoherent,” banning the sales of military equipment that is precisely designed for the fight against terrorism, such as for the patrol of its borders. Venezuela has repeatedly stated that the purchase of Brazilian planes and the Spanish patrol boats that the U.S. has blocked are needed to improve Venezuela’s ability to control its boarder.
Maniglia went on to say that he was tired of asking for parts for Venezuela’s aging F-16 fighter planes and that he would start looking elsewhere to purchase the parts. Maniglia reiterated that the U.S. has a contractual obligation to sell Venezuela the replacement parts.

State Department Looking for a Fight in which it Might get a Black Eye

By: Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 - In yet another blow to the credibility of one of its annually released “certification” reports on the performance of other nations on some broad social or political issue – this time on the degree of cooperation in the anti-terrorism struggle – the State Department in its 2006 compilation included Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, and accused Venezuela of a high degree of non-cooperation. The decades-old and always sketchy evidence involving the Castro regime in alleged terrorist activity has been used to buttress Washington’s crusade against Havana. As for the spurious nature of its case against Chávez, this has caused a number of area specialists to dismiss Washington’s claims as disgraceful inventions that are totally devoid of substance or integrity.

A Masterpiece of Science FictionSeveral years ago, the State Department sent up to the hill a preliminary draft of a report whose compilers had failed to accuse Castro of any terrorist act, because there were no grounds for such a claim. As a result, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and other members of the Miami delegation became so incensed that the report was hurriedly sent back to the State Department where officials dutifully, if retroactively, redrafted the piece, working in some anti-Castro boilerplate. The State Department’s action on Venezuela the other week was compiled in the same spirit. Yesterday, the State Department announced new sanctions on Venezuela, justified by purported terrorist links to Caracas, alleged by U.S. officials. The sanctions, which forbid sales of U.S. military weapons or technology to Caracas, are meant at best to be a symbolic gesture aimed at further escalating Secretary Condi Rice’s attempt to spearhead the Bush administration’s malice-driven onslaught against Chávez.

The justification for the sanctions – Venezuela’s putative links to terrorism – is an absolute canard, and is in keeping with the U.S. policy of not seeing conventional diplomacy as a suitable tool to deal with Chávez. Rather than seeking constructive solutions to what would appear to be reconcilable differences, the Bush administration has chosen to engage in a campaign of dirty tricks against Caracas, seeking to undermine the constitutionally-elected Chávez government, which clearly represents a majority of the population, but nevertheless has been repeatedly referred to by the White House as a dictatorship. These stratagems have ranged from backing a failed coup aimed at overthrowing Chávez in 2002, to accusing him, without any, or on only flimsy evidence, of various offenses. The present document, and Washington’s other annual reports, are archly political, rather than remotely authoritative in their contents, and are best characterized by the spin they give to showing that Washington is objectively tough on its perceived enemies, while in fact it is going easy on its friends.

There are the Bad and the Super BadOne may recall the administration’s slamming of Colombian president Ernesto Samper, whose attitude towards drug trafficking was no more congenial than was the case with high Mexican officials. But the punishment was far from even handed, with Washington canceling Samper’s U.S. travel visa, while Mexico’s punitive penalties were waived.

The U.S. congress has created separate annual certification processes for the right to practice religion, human rights, terrorism, and drug trafficking. With the exception of the one pertaining to religion, all of the certification procedures have been debauched by the administration, making them meet political desiderata as viewed from Washington. They are truly not worth the paper that they are written on.

The Bush administration must be condemned for its chronic habit of twisting information and manipulating facts to achieve its ideological goals. As the situation in Iraq, as well as its own almost daily excesses, have shown, the Bush administration seems prepared to go to any length to carry out its extremist agenda. In doing so, it undermines its already shattered credibility, because, after a while, its contrived versions begin to exact a heavy toll in terms of other countries’ growing lack of trust in them.

Washington’s sanctions ultimately will prove to be no great inconvenience to Chávez’s Venezuela, but it will further uphold the U.S. to ridicule. For the average Latin American, Chávez will be further lionized as being the man who dared to stand up to the gringos in Washington. Moreover, Caracas has no outstanding orders of American weaponry on its docket, nor was it considering placing an order. Secondly, in recent years there has been a diminishment of U.S. weaponry sales to Latin American armed forces, due to their long delivery time and their relatively high price and complex technology. Finally, Washington would do well to keep in mind that four out of every five barrels of Venezuelan petroleum goes to the U.S. market.

This analysis was prepared by the COHA Staff

Original source / relevant link:
Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA)

Venezuela to Build Two New Thermoelectric Plants

By: Michael Fox -

Caracas, Venezuela, May 16, 2006 —Last Friday, Venezuela announced the construction of two new thermoelectric plants, which it hopes to have in operation by the end of 2007.
According to a press release from the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, the plants will be located in the states of Falcon and Anzoátegui. In the latter, the Alberto Lovera plant will be constructed next to the Puerto La Cruz oil refinery, where it will supply the refinery with a third of its energy production. The rest will go to local energy consumption in Anzoátegui and part of Sucre state.

“In the conception of the plans of the Corporation, not only were the internal needs of the company evaluated, but also the needs of the sectors where it operates. That is why, instead of supporting the instillation of a 100 megawatt plant, we added the needs of the community and that’s why we constructed a 300 megawatt plant,” said Alejandro Granado PDVSA Vice-president of Refining, while describing the plans for the Alberto Lovera plant.

The Falcon state, Josefa Camejo plant, will be located on the land of the Paraguaná Refining Center (CRP), and like Alberto Lovera, a sizeable portion of its estimated 450 megawatt energy production will also go to meeting the needs of its sister refinery.

While the state electric company, CADAFE, will be constructing the plants, the land and the resources for their creation have come from PDVSA through various sources such as the National Development Fund (Fonden) and the Fund for the Social and Economic Development of the Country (Fondespa). Total estimated costs for both plants are approximately $450 million.

According to PDVSA, Alberto Lovera will utilize natural gas as its primary energy source and diesel as an alternative. Approximately 70% of the energy in Venezuela is generated through hydroelectric power from the Caroní river and the rest is from thermoelectricity- mostly from natural gas.

Nervis Villalobos, Vice-minister of Energy and President of CADAFE declared that the Alberto Lovera construction will begin immediately, “They are already going ahead with the preparation of the terrain and soon will begin the civil works, the units have already been bought and will be in Venezuelan ports before the end of 2006.” According to Villalobos, Venezuela has invested $2 billion in the thermoelectric and hydroelectric energy sector, in recent years. On top of these plants, two more are currently being built, one in Guárico and another in Anzoátegui. Venezuelan energy demand is currently growing at 7% per year.

Chávez and Venezuela Deserve the Support of All Who Believe In Social Justice and Democracy

By: Ken Livingstone - The Guardian

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 - President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela will today become the second head of state - after the Queen - to be welcomed to London's City Hall. When it comes to the social transformation taking place in Venezuela, the political qualifications often necessary in our imperfect world can be set aside. It is crystal clear on which side right and justice lies.

For many years people have demanded that social progress and democracy go hand in hand, and that is exactly what is now taking place in Venezuela. It therefore deserves the unequivocal support of not only every supporter of social progress but every genuine believer in democracy in the world. Venezuela is a state of huge oil wealth that was hitherto scarcely used to benefit the population. Now, for the first time in a country of over 25 million people, a functioning health service is being built. Seventeen million people have been given access to free healthcare for the first time in their lives. Illiteracy has been eliminated. Fifteen million people have been given access to food, medicines and other essential products at affordable prices. A quarter of a million eye operations have been financed to rescue people from blindness. These are extraordinary practical achievements.

Little wonder, then, that Chávez and his supporters have won 10 elections in eight years. These victories were achieved despite a private media largely controlled by opponents of the government. Yet Chávez's visit has been met with absurd claims from rightwing activists that he is some kind of dictator. The opponents of democracy are those who orchestrated a coup against Chávez, captured on film in the extraordinary documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

It is a film that literally changes lives. By chance, a TV crew was in the presidential palace when the military coup of April 2002 against Chávez took place. It captured minute by minute the events that unfolded. Anti-Chávez gunmen, in league with the coup organisers, opened fire on a pro-Chávez demonstration. As guns are commonplace in Venezuela, some in the crowd returned fire.

US television stations manipulated these images by editing out the gunfire aimed at the pro- Chávez crowd to claim that anti-Chavez demonstrators had been attacked. A million people took to the streets of Caracas to demand Chávez's release. The moment when the army deserted the coup leaders and went over to support the demonstrators is shown on film. It is a sign of how little David Cameron's Conservative party has changed that London Tories are boycotting today's meeting with Chávez.

This contrasts, of course, with the Tories' longstanding feting of the murdering torturer General Augusto Pinochet. To justify their position they ludicrously compare Chávez to Stalin. Sometimes it is necessary to choose the lesser of two evils.

Britain fought with Stalin against Hitler. But with Chávez the choice is not difficult at all. He is both carrying out a progressive programme and doing so through the mandate of the ballot box. George Bush's refusal to respect the choices of the Venezuelan people shows that his administration has no real interest in promoting democracy at all. Not since the 1973 coup that brought Pinochet to power have people faced a clearer or more important international choice.

In Venezuela millions are struggling to take their country out of poverty. They are doing so by means that are among the most democratic in the world. Both are inspiring. Today Venezuela is being opposed largely on the basis of lies. We have to make sure Venezuelans have to face nothing worse. It is the duty of all people who support progress, justice and democracy to stand with Venezuela.

Ken Livingstone is the mayor of London

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

Original source / relevant link:
The Guardian

International Energy Agency Increases Venezuela’s Oil Production Estimates, Maybe

By: Michael Fox & Gregory Wilpert -

Monday, May 15, 2006 - Last week, the Venezuelan Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Rafael Ramirez, declared that the International Energy Agency (IEA) has recognized that Venezuela is extracting over 3.0 million barrels of oil per day. This revised figure would be a tremendous coup for the Venezuelan government, which has been maintaining that production is at 3.3. million, not the 2.6 million barrels per day that the opposition and international oil analysts have claimed. While a special section of the IEA’s March 2006 report indeed indicates that in 2005 oil production was close to 3.1 million barrels per day (mbpd) in 2005, all recent IEA monthly reports still indicate a crude production of only 2.6 to 2.7 mbpd. The reason for the lack of consistency in the reporting appears to have its roots in what types of oil are counted and what are not.

Ramirez, in an interview with Union Radio last week, stated that the 3.3 million barrel statistic includes 600,000 barrels of extra-heavy crude a day currently being extracted from the Orinoco Oil Belt, which had not been previously included. According to Union Radio, Ramirez added that the Orinoco oil production, combined with the previous production of 2.6 million equals the officially stated figure of 3.3 mbpd.

There are several different types of crude or derivatives, such as condensates, natural gas liquid, synthetic crude, and Orimulsión. Venezuela’s official statistics generally include all of these, while oil analysts’ reports often do not. Part of the confusion about whether or not to include these comes from the fact that Venezuela has in the past few years been steadily increasing its production of non-conventional crude. For example, while Venezuela produced only 125,000 barrels of synthetic crude per day in 2001, it is now producing over 500,000 barrels per day (according to the IEA). In the middle of this transition was the opposition promoted oil industry shutdown, which temporarily ground all oil production to a halt in early 2003. When production was re-started again in mid 2003, opposition leaders pointed to the lower conventional crude production and argued that Venezuela was producing far less oil after the shutdown than it did before.

Venezuela’s Orinoco Oil Belt reserves, where the extra-heavy crude is turned into synthetic crude for easier transport, have also not been counted as part of its total proven oil reserves, which OPEC currently officially estimates at 80 billion barrels. If included, Venezuela would have 315 billion barrels of oil, the largest reserves of any country in the world. Increasingly, as the price of oil is reaching new highs, it has become much more profitable to extract the extra-heavy crude than it used to be and to turn it into synthetic crude. As extra-heavy crude production becomes more profitable, it makes more sense to consider this type of production a competitor to regular crudes and thus part of Venezuela’s total oil reserves and of total oil production.

“Now, here, there existed doubts before with respect to our numbers because the International Energy Agency had not recognized the crude from the [Orinoco] Belt, as conventional crude, and in fact it’s not conventional crude, but the report from the International Energy Association… the last report from march… certifies that the production from the belt is petroleum production and from here on out the reports from the International Agency are going to reflect our level of production as 3.3 million.” Ramirez told Union Radio.

According to the March IEA report, “This Report will henceforward include Orinoco heavy crude production in its estimates of Venezuelan monthly crude supply… It is hoped this will bring the Report more in line with standard industry practice and contribute to oil market transparency.”

As a result, on March 24, the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, issued a press release entitled, Secondary Sources Recognize Total Recuperation of the Venezuela Petroleum Industry, which reads:
“The total recuperation of the Venezuelan petroleum industry is recognized by international organizations from the world energy sector, like the International Energy Agency (IEA), secondary source that admits, for the first time, that the national production is in excess of 3 million barrels daily, and also includes in its totals the volumes of crude extracted from the Orinoco Petroleum Belt.”
However, the May IEA Oil Market Report, released this past week, still only reflects crude production of 2.6 mpbd, which, according to the report, also includes Orinoco oil production.

According to the May report, Venezuelan target crude production, based on Venezuela’s OPEC production quota, is set at 3.22 mbpd, of which the reports says Venezuela is only producing 2.63 million barrels (including Orinoco production). The IEA reiterates this when the May report clearly states, “Venezuela, Indonesia, Iran and Nigeria are currently unable to match target output levels.” However, according to OPEC’s last annual figures, in its 2004 Statistical Bulletin, Venezuela produced 3.1 mbpd in 2004, just 100,000 barrels short of its OPEC quota.

In a phone interview on Friday, with Lawrence Eagles, head of the IEA Division for Oil Industry and Markets, Mr. Eagles confirmed that the IEA numbers presented on Friday in their May report are their most up to date figures and that there is no other information that may have been passed on to the Minister. “We publish all our numbers,” he said.

While Eagles could not comment on Ramirez’ remarks, he said that to his knowledge, Venezuela is currently producing 2.9 million barrels per day (2.6 mbpd of crude, plus another 300,000 bpd in “non-conventional” oil production). He added that he realizes that “there is a discrepancy with the figures that are published by Venezuela. We have spoken with them, and we are open to meeting.”
Venezuela’s total petroleum production, according to the IEA, is the sum of total crude production plus other “non-conventional” outputs such as Orimulsion and natural gas liquids (NGL), which in Venezuela, can account for a sizeable amount of oil production. (currently over 300,000 barrels per day). For the IEA, this month, this means the difference between producing 2.6 mbpd and 2.9 million.
Ramirez’s declaration about Venezuelan IEA production estimates come just days after renewed criticism from the opposition, such as ex-PDVSA President Luis Giusti, with regard to Venezuela’s decision to raise taxes on oil companies operating in the country, and of the direction of the Venezuelan oil industry.

President Chavez announced last Sunday on his weekly television show, Alo Presidente, that he would be initiating a new “extraction” tax on oil companies operating in Venezuela, as well as increasing income taxes for the foreign companies along the Orinoco Belt.

In an interview with Venezuela’s Union Radio earlier this week, Giusti declared that this would be a “hard hit” for the companies along the Orinoco Belt and it is thanks to those associations and transnational corporations that Venezuela has developed its oil industry along the Orinoco Petroleum Belt.

“What we are seeing is that in Venezuela, the outlook for increases in the future, are starting to go up in smoke and what we see is rather a petroleum industry in contraction, that the day the prices change, the situation is going to be evident once and for all for everyone,” he continued.

“Venezuela is in a situation that will probably remain hidden and will go unnoticed due to the elevated prices that permit high government earnings, but Venezuela is in an extremely delicate situation in terms of petroleum. PDVSA has lost 1.8 million barrels per day of capacity, from a business that when this government took charge produced 3.4 million barrels per day- it has become a business that produces 1.5 million barrels a day,” said Giusti.

He added that the current productive capacity of PDVSA remains hidden because of the transnational corporations that are producing at least 1.1 million barrels of crude per day.
As if in response, during his Union Radio interview on Wednesday, Minister Ramirez declared, “The statistic that we are producing 1.5 million barrels is absurd. If we run the numbers of the income, the contributions to the weekly finances that we do, anyone can deduce the 3.3.”

Nevertheless, not even PDVSA believes that all of the 3.3 million barrels are being produced without the support of foreign companies. That is, PDVSA’s own reports, such as its just issued quarterly magazine, Siembra Petrolera (“Sowing the Oil”), states that transnationals, via joint ventures produce 1.1 million barrels per day, of which about 500,000 are conventional crude and about 600,000 are non-conventional crude, which is turned into synthetic crude. PDVSA’s own production (without joint ventures) are thus at 2.2 million, according to PDVSA.

On April 1st a new law went in to affect mandating that all foreign oil companies form joint ventures with PDVSA in order to continue operating in Venezuela. PDVSA has an average participation of 63% in the joint ventures of conventional crude. The Venezuelan National Assembly recommended last Thursday that the state acquire majority shares in the Orinoco Oil Belt joint ventures too.

See also:
Venezuela Takes Over Two Foreign Operated Oil Fields
Venezuela Increases Taxes on Oil Companies in Orinoco Oil Belt