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Posts tagged ‘Henrique Capriles Radonski’

Venezuela’s Maduro Tightens Grip on Media.

CARACAS, Venezuela — As Gov. Henrique Capriles campaigned for president of Venezuela last April, he couldn’t venture more than a few steps without being hounded by dozens of sharp-elbowed cameramen and photographers. Nearly eight months later, the visibly thinner and exhausted opposition leader is accompanied by just a handful of journalists at what was supposed to be one of the final, electrifying opposition rallies ahead of this weekend’s mayoral elections.

Critics say the shrinking media coverage has been deliberate. Even while Venezuelans endure their toughest economic crisis in 15 years of socialist rule, the opposition has been largely knocked from public view by what they claim is a government-led campaign to intimidate media outlets that give airtime to the opposition and the nation’s mounting woes.

Between January and September, the number of attacks on journalists, cases of harassment and reports of censorship has risen 56 percent compared with the first nine months of 2012, according to a complaint filed by press freedom groups in October to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Even more damaging has been the sale of several media outlets once critical of the government to owners who more closely follow the official line.

Capriles calls it an “information blockade,” and warns that President Nicolas Maduro‘s alleged attempts to silence the opposition signal a more authoritarian style of rule to come unless resoundingly reject his policies at the ballot box this Sunday. The election for mayors and city councils is a dogfight in this deeply polarized country. It is also Maduro’s first electoral test since he defeated Capriles in April by a razor-thin margin following Hugo Chavez’s death from cancer.

“Without a doubt this is one of the toughest moments in our history to get our message out,” said Capriles, who has been crisscrossing the country stumping for opposition candidates.

Yet for all the opposition complaints, analysts say the government’s biggest trump card going into the vote isn’t its grip on the media but rather Maduro’s political instincts. Facing a steady decline in the polls, Maduro on Nov. 9 seized control of several retail outlets, arrested dozens of store managers and slashed prices on plasma TVs and fridges to strike a blow against opponents he accuses of waging an “economic war” against his government. The measures have led to a steady improvement in the president’s approval rating, said Luis Vicente Leon of Caracas-based pollster Datanalisis.

The most likely result from Sunday’s vote, Leon said, is the opposition winning in Caracas and other big cities while the government remains dominant in the countryside, giving each side a claim on victory.

“There’s an economic crisis in Venezuela but paradoxically who has best capitalized on it politically is the government that generated it,” said Leon. “They’ve combined rhetoric with action and, just as importantly, has managed to sell a narrative of who are the ones to blame for the economic troubles.”

The government denies it is threatening journalists or forcing its viewpoint, and attributes the decline in coverage of Capriles to the fact that voters and media bosses alike were turned off by his unsubstantiated claims of fraud following his defeat in the presidential race.

“There’s no campaign to make him invisible,” said Igor Molina, a high-ranking official at telecommunications regulator Conatel. “Perhaps it is just that the overexposure which he was accustomed to is gone.”

The most emblematic example of Venezuela’s rougher media landscape is the takeover of TV station Globovision.

When Chavez refused to renew the license of independent broadcaster RCTV in 2007, Globovision remained as the lone voice broadcasting criticism of the government. But after being fined $2 million last year for its coverage of the security forces’ violent quelling of a prison riot, the channel was sold in May to three local businessmen with no prior media experience. Many veteran journalists were immediately fired or quit, and the channel overnight stopped broadcasting opposition news conferences and rallies.

“This is a sophisticated strategy because you’re not closing down the company,” said Carlos Correa, of Espacio Publico, the nongovernmental organization behind the complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. “You’re simply asking someone you’re close to, or have business dealings with, to do a favor and buy a media company to neutralize its coverage.”

Globovision’s owners haven’t commented on their plans for the channel or the transaction. But last month the saga seemed to repeat itself when the editor of the country’s main business newspaper, El Mundo, was fired after publishing an article on the hemorrhaging of the central bank’s foreign currency reserves. Just a few weeks earlier, El Mundo’s owner Cadena Capriles, the country’s largest print media conglomerate, was purchased by a group of UK and Curacao-based investors. Cadena Capriles’ founding owners aren’t directly related to the politician who shares their last name.

In another episode with a chilling effect on coverage, Maduro in October publicly criticized newspaper Diario 2001 as “bandits” and called for it to be “punished” for publishing an article about gasoline shortages in Latin America’s largest oil exporter. Within days of the tongue-lashing, federal prosecutors opened an investigation.

The government is also targeting the opposition on the Internet, until now a largely untouched forum for government criticism. Last month it blocked access to dozens of websites used to track the black market value of the nation’s currency, which has plunged to 10 times its official 6.3-per-dollar value.

While coverage of the opposition is being curtailed, Maduro is making greater use of the airwaves. Data compiled by Andres Canizalez, a media researcher at Catholic University in Caracas, show the president has appeared on television an average of two hours a day, surpassing a mark left by his loquacious mentor Chavez, thanks to a law requiring radio and TV channels to interrupt normal programming to broadcast the president’s activities.

It’s not clear if the government tactics are actually persuading voters. While Capriles may be less visible, Venezuela’s economic problems are readily apparent in most supermarkets, where staples such as milk and toilet paper are harder to find and prices for other goods have skyrocketed in line with an official 54 percent inflation rate. The opposition is hopeful that such hardships will allow it to build on the 56 municipalities that it and dissident factions of Chavismo won in the last local elections in 2008.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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.


Venezuela expels three US diplomats over ‘sabotage’.

Nicolas Maduro: “We cannot accept that this group of US officials take action against the peace of the republic like this”

Venezuela has announced it is expelling three US diplomats, whom it accuses of plotting to sabotage the economy.

President Nicolas Maduro said the diplomats have 48 hours to leave the country, saying “Yankees, go home!”

Mr Maduro says he has evidence that the trio took part in a power-grid sabotage in September and had bribed Venezuelan companies to cut down production.

The United States and Venezuela have been without ambassadors in each other’s capitals since 2010.

The diplomats expelled have been named as Kelly Keiderling – the charge d’affaires and the most senior US diplomat in Caracas – David Moo and Elizabeth Hoffman.

“We completely reject the Venezuelan government‘s allegations of US government involvement in any type of conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuela government,” the embassy said in a statement.

It said it had not yet been officially notified of the Venezuelan government decision to expel the three diplomats.

Mr Maduro made the announcement during an official ceremony at the city of Santa Ana.

“Out of Venezuela! Yankees go home! Enough of abuse against the dignity of a peace-loving nation,” he said.

Venezuela is facing a shortage of several goods, including toilet paper, sugar and flour.

The opposition blames Mr Maduro’s left-wing policies and rhetoric for the crisis.

‘New York plot’

Relations between the two countries have been bad for over a decade.

For years, the late President Hugo Chavez denounced “American imperialism” in Latin America.

In December 2010, Mr Chavez denied a visa to the man appointed to be US ambassador to Caracas, Larry Palmer, over remarks he had made about involvement between the Venezuelan government and Colombian Farc rebels.

Supermarket in Venezuela, May 13The Venezuelan government seized a toilet paper factory last month to avoid any shortage

“Anyone who comes here as an ambassador has to show respect. This is a country that must be respected,” Mr Chavez said at the time.

The US retaliated and expelled the Venezuelan ambassador to Washington.

Mr Maduro took office as interim president when Mr Chavez was terminally ill with cancer. He was elected president in April, by a narrow margin, defeating opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

Mr Maduro’s new Foreign Minister, Elias Jaua, met the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, during a regional summit in Guatemala in June.

They both said they were determined to improve relations, but the good will did not last long.

Last week, Mr Maduro cancelled his scheduled speech at the United Nations Assembly General, saying that his life would be in danger in New York.

Mr Maduro accused two former US officials of being behind the “provocations”.

“The US government knows exactly that these people were behind a dangerous activity being plotted in New York,” he said.

Source: BBC NEWS.

Venezuela Furious at Colombia’s Meeting With Opposition Leader.

Image: Venezuela Furious at Colombia's Meeting With Opposition Leader

Venezuela’s opposition leader Henrique Capriles, left, speaks during a press conference next to Colombia Senate President Roy Barreras at Congress in Bogota on May 29.

CARACAS/BOGOTA — Venezuela reacted with fury to Wednesday’s talks between Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles, saying it was a “bomb” in ties and recalling an envoy to Colombia’s peace process.Capriles met Santos in Bogota at the start of a tour around Latin America to press his case that last month’s presidential poll in Venezuela was fraudulent and President Nicolas Maduro‘s government is therefore illegitimate.

Capriles, a 40-year-old business-friendly state governor, lost to Maduro, the successor to late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, by just 1.5 percentage points, according to official results.

The Maduro government has vilified Capriles as a “fascist” trying to stir a coup in Venezuela, and powerful Congress head Diosdado Cabello, who is also the No. 2 in the ruling Socialist Party, was the first to complain about the meeting in Bogota.

“Colombia must clarify if the government is with Capriles’ coup intentions, or with the people of Venezuela and with the legitimate, sovereign and constitutional government of comrade Nicolas Maduro,” Cabello told state media. “President Santos is putting a bomb in the good relations that President Chavez urged so much. . . . He is receiving a murderer, a fascist right there in his palace.”

Colombia is a major U.S. ally and the government before Santos had dire relations with Chavez’s administration.

But despite ideological differences, Santos patched things up with Chavez in the name of pragmatism and regional solidarity after taking power in 2010. That helped trade to flow and enabled both sides to chase criminal gangs on the border.

Colombian Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas on Wednesday offered to provide Venezuela with food and manufactured goods to ease shortages in the OPEC-member country.

Cardenas offered to meet with Venezuelan officials to discuss the issue in the coming days and find a form of payment that might involve an exchange of Colombian goods for crude oil.


Capriles, whose politics are closer to Santos’ than Maduro’s are, also met with Colombia’s parliament leaders during Wednesday’s visit. He said he was taking his demand for justice abroad given that it was being stymied at home.

“We are taking the voice of millions of Venezuelans beyond our borders,” he told reporters, repeating his argument that the April 14 presidential vote was stolen from him. “The fight for democracy has to be everyone’s fight.”

Capriles said he and Santos spoke about the economy, security, Venezuela’s internal situation, and peace talks Colombia’s government is holding with Marxist guerrillas.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua echoed Cabello’s criticisms and said the country’s envoy to Colombia’s peace talks in Cuba, Roy Chaderton, would be recalled in protest.

“I deeply regret that President Santos has taken a step that is going to lead, in a painful way, to the derailing of the good relations that we had,” he told reporters.

Maduro has not specifically referred to Capriles’ visit, though on Tuesday he said that “right-wing” Venezuelans were traveling around the region planning economic sabotage and assassinations against his government.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Venezuela Opposition Leader Charged With Spurring Violence.

CARACAS, Venezuela — A Venezuelan court charged retired General Antonio Rivero on Monday with inciting post-election violence in the latest political flash point in the bitterly divided nation.

Opposition leaders say Rivero, a member of the Popular Will movement that is a driving force of Venezuela’s opposition coalition, became new President Nicolas Maduro‘s first political prisoner when he was arrested over the weekend.

Authorities say he was one of those behind a wave of violence, on the day after Maduro’s disputed April 14 election, that represented a coup attempt and killed nine people.

Rivero, who was an ally of former socialist President Hugo Chavez until 2008, was charged with “conspiracy” and “public instigation” at a Caracas court after authorities showed a video of him helping coordinate protesters in the capital’s streets.

“This is part of the persecution the government has carried out, to spread fear,” opposition leader and losing presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said, calling for Rivero’s release and an end to alleged harassment of his supporters. “If they continue like this, they are going to have to jail 8 million Venezuelans.”

Though his case appears to be losing steam and has not garnered much support from other Latin American countries, Capriles plans to challenge the presidential vote both in local and international courts.

He has asked for a full vote recount, alleging thousands of irregularities and accusing Maduro of “stealing” the election.

A political party allied with the government said on Monday it had evidence of corruption by construction companies linked to Capriles’ family that it would present to state prosecutors and the country’s top court.

At the same time, a special congressional commission created to investigate the post-vote violence said it was sending legislators into the interior of the country to probe the incidents.

The commission, made up only of pro-government deputies, has said it will “determine responsibility for violent actions directed by Capriles” alongside parallel investigations by state prosecutors.

Maduro, who was Chavez’s chosen heir and won the vote by less than 2 percentage points, has warned Capriles of legal action against him, too, and called the opposition leader a “fascist” bent on destabilizing the OPEC nation.

The president said violence whipped up by the opposition after the vote had included protests outside the home of Tibisay Lucena, head of the election board. The opposition accuses her of taking orders from the ruling Socialist Party.

“Why did they attack her house? Why did the [private] media not denounce this?” Maduro said on Monday. “Sooner rather than later, the feelings of fascist hate will be defeated.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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.

Capriles to Challenge Venezuela Election in Court.

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Thursday he will challenge President Nicolas Maduro‘s narrow election victory in the courts and that an audit of the vote being prepared by electoral authorities risked being “a joke.”

Maduro, the hand-picked successor of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, won the April 14 vote by less than 2 percentage points. The opposition says there were thousands of irregularities in the election and that their figures show Capriles won.

Both sides had agreed to an expanded audit of votes by the National Electoral Council. Since then Maduro has been sworn in as president and the opposition has grown increasingly frustrated by what it sees as foot-dragging by officials.

Capriles has insisted that the audit process be rigorous and include all relevant paperwork from polling centers.

“If we don’t have access to those notebooks, we’re not going to take part in an audit that would be a joke on Venezuelans and a joke on the world,” he told a local TV station.

“The next step will be to challenge the election, which must take place in the next few days. With all the proof, all the elements we now have, we are going to challenge the election.”

The election council has not responded to a demand by Capriles that it give concrete details of the audit by Thursday. It has stressed, however, that the process will only check that the system worked properly and the election results are “irreversible.”

Capriles conceded that his legal challenge, which could in theory result in all or parts of the ballot being rerun, faced a tough path through Venezuela’s courts.

Critics say Chavez packed the judiciary with loyal appointees during his 14 years in power.

“We’re not going to challenge the election with the expectation that the Supreme Court is going to give us a favorable reply, or that the justice system will work,” Capriles said. “But we’re going to go through all the legal procedures.”


Both sides have called on their followers to march again on May 1, creating another potential flashpoint in the OPEC nation of 29 million people.

Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor who favors Brazil-style, business-friendly policies with strong social protections, confounded opinion polls to run a close finish against Maduro in the election, held just five weeks after Chavez’s death from cancer.

The government calls Capriles a “fascist murderer” and blames him for post-election violence that it says killed nine people. This week, the “Chavista“-dominated Congress began an investigation of Capriles in connection with the unrest.

The government says the violence was proof that the opposition had tried to launch a coup, while the opposition accuses the authorities of exaggerating the unrest and including victims of common crime to boost its figures.

On Wednesday night, a televised news conference by the opposition leader was interrupted by a government “cadena” broadcast — which all local channels are required to show live — that held him responsible for the violence.

On Thursday, moments before Capriles was to be interviewed live on local station Globovision, another “cadena” began that lasted almost an hour and showed Maduro and his cabinet meeting business leaders in the western state of Zulia.

Again, the compulsory broadcast triggered noisy protests in wealthier Caracas neighborhoods where opposition supporters banged pots and pans in a traditional form of demonstration.

“It’s just like last night,” Capriles said later. “In everything he does, Nicolas keeps showing that he’s scared. He doesn’t want the people to know what’s going on.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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