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Posts tagged ‘Chavez’

Jonathan, Oduah, Et Al., And The Venezuelan Paralell By Michael Egbejumi-David.

President Goodluck Jonathan and Stella Oduah
By Michael Egbejumi-David

Some years ago, I saw a documentary on television that captured the brazen attempt to remove the then Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez, from office barely three years into his presidency.

Chavez’s offence was that, as soon as he became President, he implemented a true national constitution that enabled participatory democracy from the grassroots level on up.  Then he went and built thousands of free medical clinics for the poor.  He also increased government’s funding of education and, in just three years, he has increased the level of literacy in his country by an estimated one million adults.  Chavez didn’t stop there; he went further and enacted food and housing subsidies.  He also unfurled a program of land reform.  The man then began to reduce the levels of poverty using State oil revenues.

You don’t need me to tell you that big business in Venezuela didn’t like what they were seeing.  They didn’t like what Chavez was doing at all.  However, Chavez’s biggest sin against them was that he began a comprehensive reform of the State-owned oil corporation.  You see, back then, Venezuela was the world’s fifth largest exporter of oil, but 80% of the population didn’t benefit from the oil wealth.  So Chavez moved against the corporation’s entrenched management that, in reality, was running the place like a private business.  He also moved against the indolent and highly corrupt union.  Chavez re-focused his nation’s oil policy to benefit its citizens first before worrying about the international export market.  In no time at all, petrol was being sold in Venezuela for the equivalent of 3 Naira per litre.

All of that went down like a lead balloon with big business.

Unfortunately for Chavez, the TV stations in his country, except one, were owned and ran by the same owners of big business.  These were the elite, the Cabal who had been running things in Venezuela for decades.  The emancipation of the masses wasn’t profitable to them.  In no time at all, they began to use their media to resist and to attack Chavez.

Then in April 2002, the pro-business cabal sponsored an oil workers protest.  They also bribed a small group of very high-ranking anti-Chavez military officers to come across to their side of the divide.  Some members of the upper class came out too, banging their pots and pans with expensive looking spoons.  One evening, in the midst of this protest, a few military officers – a la Abaca, Diya and co versus Shonekan – waltzed into the Presidential Palace and, at gun point, asked Chavez to resign.  Chavez refused.  He was informed that if he didn’t resign, there would be a bloodbath with all the protesters outside, and that the Presidential Palace would also be bombed within minutes.  Chavez still refused to resign as President but he agreed to be detained.  He was led away by the officers and was subsequently detained on a military base.

A few minutes after Chavez was taken away, a wealthy business baron who was then the President of the Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce, Pedro Carmona, declared himself President of an interim national government. Carmona promptly abolished the 1999 constitution and appointed a small governing council to help him run the country.  He also announced the reinstatement of the longtime head of the State-owned oil corporation whom Chavez had removed.

The next day, Carmona, his new cabinet – drawn exclusively from the privileged class, and the senior military officers who backed him relocated themselves to the Presidential Palace where they wined and congratulated each other, backslapping.  Afterwards, their new Attorney General and spokesman, a most pompous, verbose chap, pronounced the dismissal of the Legislature, the Judiciary, all elected Governors and the Electoral Commission to a chorus of wild applause.  More back slapping followed.

However, the masses – young and old – trooped out in a massive demonstration and in support of Chavez’s government.  Of course they were confronted on the streets by the police.  After three years, repression was back in Venezuela.  The police were back shooting at their own people.

But the masses resisted and continued their protest.  They continued to agitate for the return of Chavez.  Then, the Presidential Guards hatched a plan and quietly surrounded the Palace.  While the masses demonstrated outside, the Guards quickly retook the Palace.  In the ensuing confusion, the usurper President escaped.  He slipped away with some of his backing Generals, some of whom had hurriedly discarded their uniforms.  Others were not so lucky.  Most of the new interim cabinet and their supporters were herded downstairs into the basement and were put under arrest.  They, including their loquacious, newly minted Attorney General, were made to sit on the bare floor.  Their haughtiness firmly drained out of them.

In just 47 hours – two days – things have turned around.  Chavez was returned from detention and a grateful nation heaved a sigh of relief.

Most unfortunately, in Nigeria, the exact opposite of the redemptive situation above is what obtains, and is what we have had on our hands for a very long time.  The corrupt Cabal who only cares about themselves; the corrupt Cabal who unrelentingly trample on our rights; the corrupt Cabal who treats the people with absolute disdain; the corrupt Cabal who holds us in utter disregard calls the shots here.

Would the real masses go out and rally in support of the current Nigerian government?  Do they have a reason to do so?  Daniel Kanu’s-style rented crowds don’t count.  Since Murtala Muhammed, do the masses have the impression that subsequent governments – including the present one – represent their interests?  Unlike Chavez’s, our own governments have been and continues to be wholly self-serving.  Our own leaders condone, live and breathe sleaze.  Our own governments have us in a chokehold and are gradually draining the life out of us and out of the country.  We have a corrupt oligarch that is happy to divide us along ethnic and religious lines as long as we stay divided.  We have a corrupt Cabal who actually believes that the masses are nothing more than a mere nuisance in its way.

Go figure…

Twitter: demdemdem1


Venezuela’s Maduro: Workers See Chavez Apparition at Building Site.

Image: Venezuela's Maduro: Workers See Chavez Apparition at Building Site

CARACAS, VenezuelaVenezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said an image of his idol and predecessor, the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, has appeared miraculously in the wall of an underground construction site.

Since his death from cancer earlier this year, Chavez has taken on mythical proportions for supporters and Maduro has spoken of seeing his former mentor’s spirit several times, including in the shape of a bird.

In the latest incident, Maduro said Chavez’s face had briefly appeared to workers building a new subway line in Caracas in the middle of the night.

“My hair stands on end just telling you about it,” Maduro said on state TV late on Wednesday, showing a photo of a white-plaster wall with marks that appear like eyes and a nose.

“Who is that face? That gaze is the gaze of the fatherland that is everywhere around us, including in inexplicable phenomena,” added an awed Maduro, who won an April election to replace Chavez after his 14-year presidency.

Maduro’s reverence for Chavez plays well with government supporters, who treat the charismatic former leader’s memory with religious adoration. The 50-year-old Maduro, who mixes Catholic beliefs with a penchant for Asian spirituality, has been a devoted personal follower of Chavez since first meeting him at a jail in 1993.

Workers took the photo with a mobile phone during the image’s brief appearance, the president added.

“Just as it appeared, so it disappeared. So you see, what you say is right, Chavez is everywhere, we are Chavez, you are Chavez,” Maduro said during an event shown on live TV.

Stories of Chavez appearances, however, draw mockery from the roughly half of Venezuelans who do not support Maduro. Many of them regard him as a buffoon riding on Chavez’s image and causing embarrassment for Venezuela‘s international standing.

Both sides are gearing up for local elections in December that will be a major test of Maduro’s standing in the OPEC nation of 29 million people. Rampant violent crime and economic problems are the main issues taxing voters.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Maduro Seeks Decree Powers From Venezuela Lawmakers.

Image: Maduro Seeks Decree Powers From Venezuela Lawmakers

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro went to parliament on Tuesday to seek decree powers that he says are essential to tackle corruption and fix the economy but opponents view as proof he wants to rule as an autocrat.The National Assembly, where Maduro’s socialist government has a nearly two-thirds majority, will schedule a vote on the request next week and is widely expected to grant him the fast-track legislative powers in a revival of a measure used several times by his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

Maduro, 50, says he needs the so-called Enabling Law for 12 months to toughen a crackdown on corruption in the South American OPEC nation as well as tackle economic problems that have become the main challenge of his young presidency.

“We’ve come to ask for decree powers that will give us a solid legal basis to act quickly and firmly against this badness, this sickness,” he told lawmakers after arriving to the cheers of supporters who lined streets around the assembly.

“If corruption continues and perpetuates the destructive logic of capitalism, there won’t be socialism here anymore. . . . Corruption must stop being a normal part of our political life,” Maduro said.

Only introducing “extremely severe” punishments for graft could put the country on the right path, he said, urging Venezuelans to reject corruption wherever it originated, in the opposition ranks or among his own “Chavista” supporters.

“It’s the same gangsterism, however it’s dressed up,” Maduro said.

Opposition leaders, however, suspect Maduro will try to use the special powers to attack them and to push through new laws that have nothing to do with the fight against graft.

In its latest annual index of perceptions of corruption, global watchdog Transparency International ranked Venezuela as the ninth most corrupt country in the world.

Having risen from a Caracas bus driver to Chavez’s vice president, Maduro won an April election to succeed him after his death from cancer.

Opponents mock Maduro as a poor imitation of Chavez, Venezuela’s leader of 14 years, arguing that he is ruining the country by continuing the same model of authoritarian leadership and failed leftist economic policies.

In a long speech that hailed the late Argentine revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara and quoted South American independence hero Simon Bolivar, Maduro said decree powers would let him “deepen, accelerate and fight until the end for a new political ethic, a new republican life, and a new society.”


Though he has ordered no new state takeovers of businesses, the president has kept in place controversial Chavez-era currency controls and the black market price of dollars has soared to seven times higher than the official rate.

Inflation, a decades-old problem in Venezuela, is at an annual 45 percent, and the restricted access to dollars has fueled a shortage of imported goods ranging from toilet paper and motorcycle parts to communion wine.

Having repeatedly promised to ease the country’s complex currency controls to let a greater flow of dollars reach importers, Maduro may initially use decree powers to tinker with the complicated foreign exchange regime.

Maduro says Washington is helping the local opposition wage an “economic war” against Venezuela. Last week, he expelled three U.S. diplomats he accused of plotting with anti-government activists to damage the power grid and commit other sabotage.

The president likens the current accumulation of problems to the 2002-2003 period of Chavez’s rule, when there was a brief coup and an oil sector strike against him.

Chanting from the public gallery of the National Assembly, Maduro’s supporters interrupted his speech to sing “That’s how you govern!” and “With Chavez and Maduro, the people are safe!”

Opposition leaders, in a nation of 29 million people broadly split 50:50 between pro- and anti-government supporters, accuse Maduro of inventing excuses to cover up his own incompetence and the dysfunctional economy he inherited from Chavez.

“Maduro and his gang will be remembered as presiding over the most corrupt period in the history of Venezuela,” opposition leader Henrique Capriles said.

“This law that he wants is in order to distract the people from their problems. Decree powers will not help the government be successful.”

The last time Chavez was granted decree powers — in 2010 for 18 months — it caused a political uproar, despite his insistence that he needed them to deal with a national emergency caused by floods that made nearly 140,000 people homeless.

The late socialist leader passed nearly 200 laws by decree during his time in office, including legislation that allowed him to nationalize major oil projects and increase his influence in the Supreme Court.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


US Defends Diplomats Expelled From Venezuela.

CARACAS,  Venezuela — The U.S. Embassy in Venezuela on Tuesday defended three diplomats expelled by President Nicolas Maduro, rejecting charges they were involved in espionage and accusations Washington is trying to destabilize the OPEC nation.

In the latest spat between the ideological foes, Maduro on Monday ordered out three U.S. diplomats including Kelly Keiderling, temporarily in charge of the mission.

He alleged they had been meeting with “right wing” opposition leaders and encouraging acts of sabotage against the South American nation’s electricity grid and economy.

“We completely reject the Venezuelan government’s allegations of U.S. government involvement in any type of conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuelan government,” the embassy said in a statement. “We likewise reject the specific claims against the three members of our embassy.”

The U.S. government is still evaluating how it will respond and may take reciprocal action in accordance with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, the statement said.

Venezuelan state TV, to a backdrop of dramatic music, showed images of diplomatic vehicles and a flight manifest with the names of the U.S. officials that commentators said was proof they met with the opposition in the southeast of the nation.

“The three people were in Bolivar state conducting normal diplomatic engagement,” the U.S. Embassy statement said. “We maintain regular contacts across the Venezuelan political spectrum. . . . This is what diplomats do.”

The expulsions throw a wrench into cautious efforts this year to restore full diplomatic ties that were frayed for most of the 14-year rule of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

Maduro, Chavez’s successor, named a new acting head of Venezuela’s U.S. diplomatic mission shortly after his April election in what many took as a sign of warming relations.

That official may now face expulsion in the tit-for-tat style retaliation that has characterized similar incidents in the past.

Chavez in 2008 expelled Ambassador Patrick Duddy over what he called Washington’s involvement in violent protests in Bolivia. In 2010, he blocked the nomination of diplomat Larry Palmer over comments that there were “clear ties” between members of Chavez’s government and leftist Colombian rebels.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Venezuelan Socialist Policies Unintentionally Benefit American Exporters.

Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez‘s socialist economic policies and staunch opposition to American capitalism have unexpectedly benefited U.S. rice farmers.

In a strategy to help the poor, the late president nationalized large farms, redistributed land and controlled food prices, resulting in the unintended consequence of increasing the country’s reliance on American imports, The Wall Street Journal reports 

“The rice industry has been very good to us,” Steve Orlicek, an Arkansas rice farmer, told the Journal, adding that Chavez “really gutted” Venezuelan agriculture. “I’d like to see it turn around, and I am sure the farmers there would, too.”

The U.S. is also exporting other products such as steel and even toilet paper after the Venezuelan government took control of several major industries. Meanwhile, domestic production of steel, sugar, and many other goods have fallen in the country, leading to shortages. And Venezuela now imports beef and coffee despite it once being able to produce its own.

Oil is the only remaining strong export that Venezuela has, accounting for about half the government’s income, though that could be jeopardized if prices fall.

“Chavez, who died of cancer in March, said, ‘We are against capitalists and we are against big oligarchs’ the Journal said. But he left the country more beholden to foreigners and foreign companies than ever before,” Moises Naim of Washington’s Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told the Journal.

Overall, during the 14 years of Chavez’s rule, Venezuelan imports quadrupled from $14.5 billion in 2000 to $59.3 billion 2012, and exports from the U.S. in 2011 comprised $12 billion, an increase of 16 percent from the previous year.

A recent World Bank report found that 30 percent of people who were originally considered “not poor” in Venezuela fell into poverty between 1992 and 2006 even though the middle class grew in most other Latin American countries during that time, the Journal reports.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Melanie Batley

Oliver Stone Making Chavez Film.

Image: Oliver Stone Making Chavez Film

Filmmaker and long-time Hugo Chavez fan Oliver Stone is making a movie about the late Venezuelan leader, according to President Nicolas Maduro.

“Oliver Stone is making a very beautiful film about our commander Hugo Chavez… that he will likely finish in the next months,” Maduro said on Thursday, at an event in the northwestern state of Lara.

“We are eager for its debut on the big screen in Venezuela,” he said.

Maduro said that one of Stone’s producers informed him about the film while on an official trip in Paris.

Chavez led Venezuela for 14 years until he died on March 5 after a long battle with cancer at the age of 58. A retired army lieutenant colonel, he died five months after being re-elected to a third six-year term in office.

Stone, 66, frequently has praised the outspoken Chavez, whom he interviewed for a 2009 documentary entitled “South of the Border,” exploring Chavez’s role in bottom-up change sweeping South America.

Other leftist leaders interviewed in that film included Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa.

Maduro said that Stone soon will visit Venezuela for the premiere of a film project on “the history of American imperialism.”

The director, who has described his views as “progressive”, is known for politically-angled productions that some critics dismiss as tendentious.

On his website, Stone describes some of his films as being “at deep odds with conventional myth.”

His movies include “Platoon” — the first in his Vietnam trilogy — “JFK,” “Natural Born Killers,” and “Nixon.”

He also directed “W.” — an unflattering portrait of former US president George W. Bush — and the hit movies “Wall Street” and “Scarface.”

© AFP 2013

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Venezuela Election Official: Capriles Raised False Hopes in Vote Audit.

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s electoral authority has accused the opposition of creating false hopes about a vote audit being prepared after President Nicolas Maduro‘s narrow election win, adding that his rival had failed to present compelling proof of foul play.

The National Electoral Council had stressed from the start that the “expanded” audit it agreed to after the April 14 vote would not change the results, which made Maduro the successor to the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles says there were thousands of irregularities during the vote, and that his own calculations showed he won. He says he will challenge the outcome in the OPEC nation’s courts.

“We have always insisted that Capriles had the right to challenge the process,” Tibisay Lucena, president of the electoral council, said in a televised national broadcast. “But it is also his obligation to present proof.”

She dismissed various opposition submissions alleging voting irregularities as lacking key details, and said Capriles had subsequently tried to present the audit in very different terms than the electoral council had agreed to.

“It has been manipulated to generate false expectations about the process, including making it look like the consequence of the wider audit could affect the election results,” she said.

Capriles has said that unless the audit includes all the relevant paperwork from polling centers, his team would not take part in a process that would end up being “a joke.”

He has conceded that his legal challenge to Maduro’s election faces a difficult path through the South American country’s courts. Critics say Chavez packed the judiciary with loyal political appointees during his 14 years in power.

Capriles, a 40-year-old centrist state governor, confounded opinion polls to run a close finish against Maduro in the election, held just five weeks after Chavez’s death from cancer. Capriles lost by less than two percentage points, according to official results.

The government blames Capriles for post-election violence that it says killed nine people, and the “Chavista”-dominated Congress is investigating him in connection with the unrest.

On Saturday, security forces arrested a retired general who is now a senior official with an opposition party and was recorded on video apparently advising rioters during clashes with police in a Caracas square a day after the election.

The opposition said the arrest was “illegal and cowardly.”

The government also has arrested an American citizen it says was financing opposition student protesters to destabilize the country on behalf of an unnamed U.S. intelligence agency.

Relatives and friends of Timothy Hallet Tracy, 34, described him to U.S. media as a documentary-maker who was in Venezuela to make a film about the presidential election.

Some Maduro allies say the violence was proof that the opposition tried to launch a coup, while the opposition accuses the authorities of exaggerating the trouble and counting victims of common crime among its figures.

Both sides have called on their followers to march again on May 1, creating another potential flashpoint.

On Saturday, Maduro was on an official visit to Cuba to strengthen ties between the two countries. Chavez helped support Cuba’s economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Maduro spoke at a tribute where President Raul Castro described Chavez as Cuba’s best friend, and he signed cooperation accords for 51 projects.

Capriles, who accuses Cuba’s Castro brothers of meddling in Venezuela’s affairs, criticized the trip on Twitter.

“The Big Connected-One (Maduro) goes to Havana to receive instructions from his Boss. We always said it, there’s nothing more powerful that the truth!” the opposition leader tweeted.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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