Skip to comments.Chavez Opponents Aim for Early Elections
Posted on 01/31/2003 1:33:37 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
CARACAS, Venezuela - With many opponents of President Hugo Chavez preparing to return to work, Venezuelans leading a 60-day-old strike shifted tactics Thursday, diving headlong into an initiative to shorten his six-year term with international help.
After two grueling months, strike organizers have agreed to let shopping malls, banks, franchises and schools reopen next week. Meanwhile, production continues to creep upwards in the vital oil industry, where the walkout has been strongest.
As diplomats from six nations headed to Caracas on Thursday to push for early elections, opposition leaders were planning a petition drive to support several measures, including a proposed constitutional amendment that would:
_Cut presidential terms from six years to four;
_Hold new presidential and congressional elections this year;
_Create a new elections council to organize any vote;
_Get the Supreme Court to determine when, exactly, a recall vote on Chavez's presidency can be held;
_Allow Chavez and legislators to seek re-election.
Similar ideas were floated by former President Jimmy Carter during a recent visit to Caracas. The government said it was studying the opposition's proposal but won't allow it to shorten Chavez's term.
Diplomats from the United States, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Portugal and Spain - dubbed the "Group of Friends" of Venezuela - planned a private dinner meeting late Thursday with Cesar Gaviria, secretary general of the Organization of American States. Gaviria has mediated talks here since November.
The envoys, including Curt Struble, acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, planned meetings with Chavez and the opposition on Friday.
Gaviria said the diplomats can monitor compliance with any electoral pact and reduce tensions that have led to six deaths since the strike began Dec. 2. "The country can't sustain more tension," he said.
Strike leader Manuel Cova of the Venezuelan Workers Confederation said Thursday a new presidential election could be held as early as March.
"To do this we need the guarantees of the international community," Cova said. "If we don't do it this year, we'll be in prison, or in exile, there won't be press freedom. ... We must do it this year."
Chavez had welcomed Carter's ideas about early elections. But he also has threatened to abandon the OAS-mediated talks, saying he won't negotiate with "terrorists."
Chavez failed to expand the "Friends" to include governments more sympathetic to his populist revolution. He has since warned the diplomats not to interfere in internal affairs.
The opposition called the strike to demand a nonbinding referendum on Chavez's rule in February, as petitioned by 2 million Venezuelan voters. It later upped the ante to demand Chavez's ouster.
But the Supreme Court, citing a technicality, indefinitely postponed the referendum. Chavez, elected in 2000 to a six-year term, shows no signs of leaving.
The deadlock has hobbled production in the world's No. 5 oil exporter. Analysts predict the economy will shrink 25 percent this year after an 8 percent contraction last year.
The government has cut its $25 billion 2003 budget by 10 percent and announced Thursday it will cut the state-owned oil monopoly's $8 billion budget by $2.7 billion to offset oil losses. Oil accounts for half of government income and 30 percent of Venezuela's $100 billion gross domestic product.
Chavez says oil production has reached 1.4 million barrels a day, and exports 1 million barrels a day - a third of pre-strike export levels.
Dissident oil executives say production is about 1 million barrels and exports half that. Venezuela still must import gasoline.
The oil company said a key loading terminal in Puerto La Cruz, in east Venezuela, had resumed automated operations, meaning it will likely boost its output. The terminal, which loaded 800,000 barrels per day before the strike, has been loading just 30,000 barrels per day.
Also Thursday, Amerada Hess Corp. said a refinery it operates with the oil monopoly in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands had received its first shipment of Venezuelan crude since December.
After spending more than $70 million a day to support the bolivar currency, the government suspended sales of U.S. dollars until it unveils currency controls next week.
The bolivar, which has weakened 25 percent against the dollar this year, may be fixed at 1,600 per dollar, with monthly devaluations afterward, said Ricardo Sanguino, a member of Congress' finance committee.
The dollar has reached 2,500 bolivars on black market trading.
Testimony of Curt Struble, deputy assistant secretary of State for Western Hemipshere Affairs, October 10, 2001*** [Full Text] In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, the countries of the Americas have responded strongly and positively against international terrorism and in solidarity with the United States, and have supported our efforts to construct an international counterterrorism coalition. Indeed, the outpouring of support, sympathy and outrage by our Western Hemisphere neighbors has been especially gratifying to those of us who have worked in the hemisphere for any length of time. These horrific events have underscored the values and humanity we hold in common, reminding us that the people of this Hemisphere hold a special feeling for the U.S.; cherish democracy and the free exchange of ideas; and share our respect for the sanctity of human life and our outrage at the callous, wanton cruelty of those who would seek to destroy it all.
As Ambassador Noriega has made clear, the political response of the hemisphere's governments and foreign ministers in the OAS and within the Rio Treaty context has been gratifying and vitally important as the U.S. shapes its response to terrorism. Some countries which have experienced terrorist acts in their own territory in the past, empathized automatically. At the same time, the deeply-felt humanity of the responses has been particularly poignant. In the statements and actions of leaders and individuals there has uniformly been a sense that they not only understood our pain and grief but that they shared in our loss. Indeed, many did literally share our suffering. Thirty of the Hemisphere's thirty-four nations lost citizens in the events of September 11, a tragic testimony of the degree to which our fates are linked. Among those nations directly affected, El Salvador counts 122 dead and missing, the Dominican Republic 42, and Ecuador 31.
The Western Hemisphere, perhaps more than any region in the world, has benefited from the free flow of trade, people and ideas, and the US has been a natural focus of that flow. What we have discovered in the past two weeks is that that flow, in addition to creating a natural commonality of interest, has also fostered bonds that go far deeper.
A mound of flowers as high as the embassy gate in Ottawa; flags at half mast throughout the hemisphere; a simple heart-rending ceremony by Ecuador's firefighters honoring their fallen comrades in New York City; a day of remembrance for the September 11 victims at the rebuilt AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires -- rebuilt following the 1994 terrorist attack that killed 86 Argentines. All of these gestures speak to the shared bonds within our hemisphere and transcend the daily press of events that often seem to divide us. Cuba alone failed to join the hemispheric chorus of sympathy and support, choosing instead to criticize the United States and say we brought the attacks upon ourselves. In the days immediately following the attack, there was a sense among our neighbors in the hemisphere that they could not offer help, condolences and support fast enough to mollify their own feelings of sympathy and outrage. Offers of rescue assistance, medical teams, plasma and military support flowed in so quickly that managing them and responding was difficult. President De la Rua offered Argentina's world-class military peacekeepers to lessen such commitments by our armed forces at a time we need to husband our strength. Expressions of sentiment followed as quickly: a flood of letters from presidents and prime ministers; 100,000 people at a memorial service on Parliament Hill in Ottawa; a group of school children with a wreath and a handmade card in La Paz. In Jamaica, tossing protocol concerns aside, both the Governor-General and the Prime Minister paid unprecedented calls upon the embassy in Kingston to offer their condolences and to express their support. The people of Canada opened their homes to welcome the hundreds of air travelers whose flights were diverted on that tragic day. In Brasilia, the President and Foreign Minister spent an hour at our Embassy mingling with staff to provide encouragement in a dark hour.
The governments of Bolivia and Ecuador held memorial services attended by Presidents Quiroga and Noboa. The government of Paraguay declared a 48-hour period of mourning. Several countries cancelled national day ceremonies. In Rio de Janeiro the memorial service at the local Anglican Church was attended by the religious leader of the Islamic Center in Sao Paulo, who flew to Rio simply to attend the ceremony and to demonstrate " our solidarity with the American people, declaring our vehement repudiation of all types of terrorism, perfidy and extremism." President Fox of Mexico met with President Bush on October 4 to reaffirm Mexican support for the United States. President Toledo of Peru made an unplanned visit to the OAS Special General Assembly on the morning of September 11 to express Peru's outrage at the terrorist attacks and express solidarity with the assembled foreign ministers of the hemisphere.
Moreover, these expressions of solidarity and sympathy are being matched by concrete actions by the nations of the Hemisphere, underlining the President's statement that the campaign against terrorism has to be global and that every country in the world has a role to play. Countries from the Bahamas to Argentina to Canada have taken concrete steps to freeze accounts linked to Osama bin Ladin and his associates as called for in UN Security Council Resolutions 1333 and 1373. Governments have beefed up security measures: Panama enhancing security to assure the protection of the Panama Canal and Venezuela providing additional protection for our diplomatic residences and schools used by Americans in Caracas. We are in close contact with authorities from Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay to share intelligence about possible terrorist activities in the tri-border area of those countries. The countries of Central America are looking at ways to improve border security and improve the sharing of information about migrants. Colombia is offering to share with its regional neighbors its technical expertise in areas such as money laundering gained in close partnership with the U.S. in the past. More needs to be done to monitor and suppress money laundering and alien smuggling, criminal activities that also provide resources and logistic support for terrorist. We are urging all the countries of the hemisphere to sign and ratify the 12 international conventions that deal with counterterrorism and to implement fully the terms of UNSC 1333 and 1373 with respect to blocking terrorists' access to funds.
Events in Washington, at the extraordinary convocation of OAS foreign ministers on September 21, were an important measure of our support within the hemisphere. The invocation of the Rio Treaty that same day and the expressions of solidarity were critical as we energize world condemnation of terrorism. However, the real measures of the tragedy of September 11, and the degree to which those events have drawn the hemisphere together, have played out in churches, squares and plazas throughout the hemisphere as the Americas grieved the loss of 6,000 of their fellows. And our hemispheric commitment to confront terrorism will be demonstrated by the concrete measures we take as sovereign governments and as a community of governments to arm ourselves against this worldwide threat. [End]
As of October 12, 2001, this document was also available online at http://www.house.gov/international_relations/stru1010.htm
September 14, 2001Chavez Urges U.S. Not to Start War*** President Hugo Chavez urged the United States on Friday not to start the ``first war of the 21st century'' in responding to terrorist attacks.***
September 30, 2001Chavez's New Situation (Chavez Plans to visit Saddam and Ghadafi in October)***President Chávez reacted late and wrong before the 09-11 tragedy. He was last among Latin American rulers to pronounce himself. He did not do it on the 11th as his colleagues did. Under presidential directives his private Secretary read a statement of condemnation and condolences. The day after it was announced that the "network"* broadcast was cancelled. On Thursday night it went on for three hours.
The president read pages in the Bible, he condemned terrorist activities in the U. S. and offered assistance. Then, through three hours he commented on his weekly activities, stressing that in the delivery of lands and credits to peasants he was accompanied by the Ambassador and other high officials from Cuba visiting Venezuela. As usual in these instances, he used harsh language about the enemies of the revolution, lashing out on Andrés Mata, Editor of El Universal and his "gang of opinionators" who are strong critics of the government. Venezuela as a whole was living the horror of events in the U. S. As in the rest of the Continent people were nailed to the TV sets watching with terrified eyes what was unfolding on the TV screens. Many in Venezuela have relatives who study or work in New York and Washington. It was strange that the President would have not spoken on the day of the tragedy or the following day. It was incomprehensible that he would postpone it for the broadcast network. Unusual to take this matter as if attending a funeral to say some words of sympathy and then without respect for the climate of mourning, to go on chuckling on his adventures or demeaning respectable people. This is the summary of end of the week comments in multiple media sources.
."Chávez acknowledged that there is still misunderstanding and confusion in the U. S. over his policies. On this he said: "Until recently, what was under discussion, here and abroad, was to appease Chávez." Let's be nice to him to see if we can tame him" easily. But it seems this beast is not too easy to tame." He lowered his voice and, this time, he did not smile. "This is an ideological conviction of mine and nothing will change that."
This is Chávez's own version to members of his staff and associates with whom he met at "La Casona," ( the Presidential Residence) in order to analyze the meeting between the Foreign Minister and Ambassador Hrinak together with reports from Venezuelan Ambassadors. In the meeting he began by saying that Fidel had again called him to suggest prudence. Ambassador Arcaya recommends not to rush. The Ambassador to France maintains that Europe will not give Bush carte blanche. Minister Rangel says that he's been carefully reading what Gutiérrez , Under Secretary of Latin American Affairs, said -when asked about Venezuela's relations with OPEC Arabs: "The Department of State remains committed in keeping a good relationship with Venezuelans. We cannot ignore hat its President has popular support shown in several elections. He says and does things we dislike but we make efforts not to react." Chávez informs of a coded message from the Embassy in Washington. The Commerce Secretary threatens with sanctions. The President asks an aide to tune into CNN to be informed before giving his orders.
The Venezuelan government shall remain on guard. The repuslse of the terrorist acts of 09-11 is firm. The will is equally firm to guarantee oil supplies to the U. S. but Venezuela shall not give Bush carte blanche. The major lines of foreign policy of the Bolivarian revolution will not change. Unity of OPEC is the priority, which means preserving the best of relations with Middle East producers. Venezuela is now a major actor in world politics because it assumed the vanguard role in the battle against unipolarity. The U. S. wants to take advantage of 09-11 to consolidate its world hegemony. This means that, as never before, the validity grows for the struggle to solidify several poles of power counterbalancing each other.
Such is the synthesis of the presidential intervention in the gathering at La Casona. "Those are the orders for Foreign Minister Dávila who travels to the U. S. for the meeting at the OAS." With a happy smile he added: I will also travel, God willing, but it shall be in October to planned meetings with Saddan Hussein and Ghadaffi." Some very serious concerns on the national scene -polls, labor unions and the economy- are now added to the worry about problems in the development of his foreign policy -labeled a puzzle by The Wall Street Journal-. These are equally worrisome because they are interconnected.***
October 31, 2001 Chávez condemns bombings by U.S.-- In a series of recent barbed comments, two senior Chávez aides have criticized the U.S. war on terrorism, souring relations between the United States and Venezuela, a major supplier of crude oil. Defense Minister José Vicente Rangel and Interior Minister Luis Miquilena have blasted the U.S. bombing campaign that began Oct. 7 in Afghanistan. Miquilena said he has seen no proof that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
U.S. Ambassador Donna Hrinak later said in a television interview that such remarks would have consequences: ``The country has paid a price in terms of credibility.'' Foreign Minister Luis Alfonso Dávila said he would call Hrinak in for an explanation. That meeting has yet to occur. A U.S. official said Hrinak now planned to talk ``at length'' with Venezuelan officials ``regarding their public posture on Sept. 11 and its aftermath.''***
January 5, 2003 More Facts Uncovered in Chavez - Al Qaeda Collaboration*** Major Juan Diaz Castillo, Chavez's personal pilot, was assigned the job of planning the delivery of the $1 million collaboration to the terrorist group. Now an active member of the country's resistance movement, he is today revealing details of the transfer and of other subversive acts carried out in the name of Chavez's so called "Bolivarian Revolution".
" - They are criminals and killers," he lambasts the inner circle of Chavez cohorts. And he is not afraid of naming names: "The job was given to me by Hugo Chavez. I coordinated with current Interior Minister Diosdado Cabello, then Interior Minister Luis Alfonso Davila, and the current Vice President (then Defense Minister) Jose Vicente Rangel. When we determined the difficulty of sending three Hercules C-130 transport planes to Afghanistan, Diosdado Cabello decided to send cash instead.
" - In the last week of September, 2001, one million U.S. dollars was transferred to Dr Walter Marquez, Venezuela's representative for the region. Of that amount, one hundred thousand was used for food and clothing for the Taliban government, and the remaining nine hundred thousand dollars went to the Taliban in cash, with the understanding that it was to support the Al Qaeda terrorists in their relocation efforts."
Cuban involvement: "Chavez is Castro's puppet"
Asked why Chavez would support Al Qaeda, the high-level military defector offered two explanations. " - First of all, Chavez had for a long time wanted a direct line of communication with Al Qaeda. He had asked Libya for that, but with no success. Then came 9/11 and Chavez was impressed," remembers the pilot of the presidential airplane.
" - Second, Chavez looks up to Fidel Castro. The Cuban dictator has collaborated with terrorist groups for years. Chavez emulates Fidel Casto. It sounds bizarre, but Chavez is a bizarre man. He was already starting to go off the rails in 2001, and he wanted direct contacts to all the major terror groups in the world." According to Diaz Castillo, Chavez depends on Fidel Castro's advice in governing Venezuela. The pilot revealed that during the last four years, roughly 4,000 Venezuelans have been receiving military and intelligence training in Cuba. The Cuban communist dictator assists Venezuela's embattled crypto-communist in holding onto power, at whatever cost, because Cuba depends on Venezuela's oil billions to stay afloat. Earlier this year, Fidel Castro said that "for the Cuban revolution to survive, it is necessary for the Bolivarian revolution to survive," in reference to Chavez's Marxist experiment.***
Former PDVSA President Luis Giusti said the law clashes with the spirit of mid-1990s reforms that opened Venezuela's petroleum industry to joint-ventures with foreign oil companies. The move generated $20 billion in foreign investment and Venezuela's production rose to a record 4 million barrels a day, making the state-owned company among the 10 biggest oil companies in the world. Giusti has argued that Venezuela should further liberalize its oil industry, a trend he said is taking place in other countries, including fellow members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Chavez, who will inaugurate the Hydrocarbons Law on Friday in oil-rich western Falcon State, promotes an oil policy that favors extracting the highest earnings possible per barrel over maximizing production. Despite record oil production in the mid-1990s, corporate tax breaks and plunging oil prices left government coffers scraping bottom, Chavez said.
Since taking office in 1999, Chavez said Venezuela has promoted healthy world oil prices through strict compliance with production quotas set by OPEC. Now, the government wants to create a steadier revenue flow by imposing the world's highest royalty rates on companies exploring and exploiting Venezuela's state-owned oil fields. The Hydrocarbons Law raises royalty rates from 16.7 percent to 30 percent. Giusti warned the new rates will drive investors to other oil producing countries, where rates do not exceed 20 percent and the average rate is 7.1 percent. Among Venezuela's fellow OPEC members, the average is 14.7 percent.***
Insight Magazine - Fidel May Be Part of Terror Campaign***"Tours through radical Islamic states by Castro and his close Venezuelan ally, President Hugo Chavez, in the months prior to the September attacks indicate some level of complicity or knowledge of what was going to happen," says Lisette Bustamante, a former aide to Castro who currently works on the Spanish daily newspaper La Razon.
Not only were statements by both leaders in their Middle Eastern trips laced with violent anti-American rhetoric, Bustamante points out, but Chavez quite candidly told reporters that his talks with Saddam Hussein and heads of other oil-producing states involved the creation of a "new anti-imperialist axis" against Western industrialized economies.
It was just the sort of anti-American blather that tends to excite the faithful remnant of the old-guard communists, say U.S. intelligence analysts. Mysterious predictions about some catastrophic event in the United States began to circulate in the electronic traffic and even were voiced by Russia's Pravda on Aug. 1 under the headline, "The Dollar and the U.S. Will Fall." Based on interviews with the Malaysian ambassador to Moscow and a group of Russian economists, the report was taken seriously enough for members of Russia's parliament, the Duma, to advise Russian citizens to cash out dollars. An adviser to the Duma's Commission on Economic Politics, Tatyana Koryagina, even specified late August or early September as the likely time for an attack on the United States that would lead to its economic collapse.***
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