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Posts tagged ‘Hugo Chávez’

Lopez Leads Charge Against Venezuela’s Maduro Dictatorship.

Image: Lopez Leads Charge Against Venezuela's Maduro Dictatorship


By Melanie Batley

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is single-handedly mounting a credible populist challenge to the government of Nicholas Maduro, drawing on his charisma, eloquence, and political popularity.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist is behind the wave of demonstrations that have swept the country over the last three weeks, using stirring rhetoric and calling for a “nonviolent struggle of the masses.”

“Very soon, we will have a free and democratic Venezuela! God bless you,” he said at the end of a rousing seven-minute speech to tens of thousands of supporters earlier this week.

Lopez has been blamed by the regime for the violence that erupted last week during a demonstration that left six dead. He is currently awaiting a court hearing after handing himself over to authorities on Tuesday and could be charged with murder and terrorism.

Lopez served eight years as the mayor of Chacao, a prosperous commercial district in eastern Caracas, where he enjoyed widespread popularity. Former President Hugo Chavez subsequently banned him from holding public office ostensibly for the abuse of public funds, but more likely because his populist rhetoric was presenting a threat to the regime, according to Businessweek.

Maduro, Chavez’s successor, has accused him of plotting a coup and has labeled him “the face of fascism,” another indication that the government believes him to be a credible threat.

Lopez first appeared on the political scene in 2000, as a co-founder of the Primero Justicia (Justice First) party, and now leads Vountad Popular (Popular Will). Before the failed coup attempt against Chavez in 2002, Lopez called for opposition street protests.

Today he uses Twitter and social media to help spread his message of peaceful demonstrations. A recent video he recorded with his wife, Lilian Tintori, urges Venezuelans to rise up against a government that he says has robbed them of their hard currency reserves, security, and rights.

The messages appear to be striking a chord with a public weary of shortages and a regime trying to silence dissent.

Lopez was born in Caracas to a well-off family linked in part to the petroleum industry. His bloodline extends to Venezuela’s founder, Simon Bolivar, and Venezuela’s first president is another ancestor, Businessweek reports.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


Obama to Venezuela’s Maduro: Release Prisoners, Address Grievances.

President Barack Obama urged Venezuela Wednesday to release protesters detained in anti-government demonstrations that turned violent and address the “legitimate grievances” of its people.

Obama condemned violence that has marred two weeks of protests in the oil-rich country against the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro, with four people killed so far.

Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, one of the main actors in the wave of protests, is due for a hearing at the prison where he is held on claims he incited the violence.

Scores of protesters have also been detained.

“Along with the Organization of American States, we call on the Venezuelan government to release protesters it has detained and engage in real dialogue,” Obama told reporters after a North American leaders summit in this Mexican city.

Speaking about unrest in Venezuela and Ukraine, Obama denounced the “unacceptable violence in those two countries which the United States strongly condemns.”

“In Venezuela, rather than trying to distract from its own failings by making up false accusations against diplomats from the United States, the government ought to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people,” Obama said.

“All parties have an obligation to work together to restrain violence and restore calm.”

Venezuela’s relations with Washington, long strained under stalwart leftist leader Hugo Chavez, have remained sour and distrustful under Maduro, who has stuck closely to his predecessor’s policies.

About 100 supporters of jailed opposition leader Lopez rallied Wednesday outside a Caracas court where he had been due to hear charges blaming him for a deadly episode of violence.

Heavy security surrounded the Palace of Justice, blocking streets leading to the building, where the Harvard-educated economist had been scheduled to appear after spending the night in jail.

But his party said in a Twitter message that the hearing had been moved to a military jail. Lopez’s defense attorney Juan Carlos Gutiérrez said a court illegally ordered the change claiming it would protect Lopez’s life.

Lopez’s dramatic surrender to national guard troops at a protest rally Tuesday came after two weeks of protests in the oil-rich country against the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro is under fire over what critics say is rampant crime, runaway inflation, high unemployment and other economic problems.

After three people were killed in street clashes on February 12, Maduro ordered Lopez’s arrest, blaming him for the violence.

Political scientist Angel Oropeza said the government was walking a tightrope.

“They may hold him for a few days. If they free him right away, it would be a sign of weakness,” said Oropeza, a political science professor at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas.

“But if they hold on to him for a long time, it could fuel the protests even more and the government would come under more international pressure,” he said.

Oropeza said that with the arrest, the only thing the government had achieved was to divert people’s attention away from Venezuela’s economic woes and “shift debate to an area it has always handled better — that of political confrontation.”

On Tuesday, Lopez told thousands of his supporters, all clad in white, that he hoped his arrest would highlight the “unjust justice” in Venezuela. He drew an explosion of cheers from the crowds.

Maduro, speaking to pro-government oil workers dressed in red in the western part of Caracas, countered that Lopez would have to “answer for his calls to sedition.”

Lopez, draped in a Venezuelan flag, suddenly emerged in the crowd on Tuesday on the Plaza Brion, climbing a statue of Cuban independence hero Jose Marti.

After delivering a brief message to his cheering supporters, who had defied a ban on the march, he surrendered to the National Guard.

“I present myself before an unjust justice, before a corrupt justice,” said Lopez.

“If my incarceration serves to wake up people… it will have been worth it.”

He calmly walked under escort to a National Guard vehicle as his supporters pressed around the vehicle, blocking its path.

Maduro’s government summoned its followers to rallies of its own in an area of downtown Caracas, amid fears of clashes with the opposition demonstrators.

The tensions generated by the protests have spilled into the international arena.

On Sunday, Maduro ordered the expulsion of three US diplomats, accusing them of meeting student leaders under the guise of offering them visas.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said that the United States was still mulling its options.

“I would repeat very strongly that the allegations against our diplomats by the Venezuelan government are baseless and false, and that right now, we are considering what actions to take,” Harf said.

© AFP 2014

Maria Conchita Alonso: Oliver Stone ‘Got Paid’ to Support Venezuela.

Actress and singer Maria Conchita Alonso says movie director Oliver Stone “got paid” to support the Venezuelan government, a dictatorship being infiltrated by foreign interests that ultimately pose a threat to the United States.

“It’s a dictatorship right now in Venezuela. And it’s a danger for the United States,” the outspoken Cuban-born, Venezuelan-raised star told “The Steve Malzberg Show” Wednesday on Newsmax TV.

“This is a war about the next-door neighbors of the United States. The Cubans are there. The Russians. The Iranians. The Chinese. Just now, in the past few days, planes full of soldiers from Cuba have been arriving in Venezuela. Chinese are also arriving in Venezuela.

“The final point of all this is, they want the United States. Why is that so hard to understand?”

Story continues below video.

Alonso passionately described the personal tragedies unfolding in the streets of Venezuela.

“These students were tired of [the fact that] you can’t find food, you can’t find medicine, if you go out of your home to see your mom or take your kids to school, or whatever, your life is in danger,” she said.

“Every week, hundreds of people are killed by the huge crimes that exist now in Venezuela. Isn’t it better to just go out and do something and stop this once and for all? … The kids are out on the streets trying to save a country,” she said.

“And the students have no arms… I mean, they have nothing, and the military is infiltrated with a lot of Cubans and they’re… attacking with real bullets and with the other ones that do hurt you and open holes in your body but they’re not real ones.

“Four students have been killed, three students and one girl were killed…. A 17-year-old kid was run over by an SUV from someone from the pedevesa [the state-run oil and gas company], from the government. The kids are out on the streets trying to save a country, trying to tell the Cubans, ‘you get out of here.’”

Stone — whose films include “JFK,” “Natural Born Killers,” and “The Hand” —  is producing a biopic on the life of the late Hugo Chavez and recently implied that student protests against the current regime aren’t legitimate.

“Venezuela is a democratically elected government. These people who keep protesting are sore losers,” he said in an interview.

Alonso, co-star of the Robin Williams flick “Moscow on the Hudson,” says Stone received funding from the Chavez government for film projects and therefore has remained sympathetic to the Venezuelan government.

“He got paid all the money [from the Chavez regime] and has to do this….

“And the same thing years ago, Danny Glover got paid, I don’t know how many millions… to make a movie about one of the first presidents from Haiti….

“It’s all about money.”

See the “Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV each weekday live by clicking here now.


© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Joe Schaeffer

Luis Rosales: Time for World to Join Venezuela’s Fight for Democracy.

Everyone who believes in democracy, freedom and human rights today should be standing with Leopoldo López, the brave young opposition leader who is defying the growing radicalization of the ruling government in Venezuela.

López, a charismatic, Harvard-educated former mayor of Caracas’ Chacao district, has emerged as the face of the growing opposition to the leftist government of Nicolas Maduro, the successor to the late dictator Hugo Chavez. On Tuesday, López was arrested on what international human rights groups have called baseless charges for the deaths of three people killed in an anti-government demonstration earlier this month.

Although President Maduro has called him a fascist, Lopez is completely the opposite. He is an honest politician who really believes in democracy. He has devoted his life to helping his country stand up to the growing authoritarianism of Maduro. He has long been persecuted by a government that controls most of the country’s media and its corrupt judiciary.

From the beginning, when he was first elected mayor in 2000, Lopez challenged this repressive system. Chavez ordered judges to ban him from holding further office after saddling him with trumped up charges. The government consistently has used this method to eliminate popular opponents. As one of the three most popular political leaders in the country, Lopez stepped back and unselfishly endorsed another opposition candidate for president, Henrique Capriles, in order not to fracture the anti-Chavez opposition.

Chavez died in March, 2013. Maduro, a declared Marxist who many observers consider to be a puppet of Cuba’s Castro regime, succeeded him and was elected after a very controversial process fraught with charges of fraud. The opposition believed it was robbed. But the official apparatus, tightly controlled by the Chavistas, ignored the claims and stifled any official audit of the vote.

That was Maduro’s original sin, the first of many. His rule has been an unmitigated disaster. Venezuela, a global oil power, leads the South American continent in inflation. As the economy has collapsed, it also has taken the lead in other negative indicators like the rate of crime and domestic violence. And that is what feeds the growing opposition movement.

Over the last several weeks, millions have taken to the streets across the country to express their discontent. The government has responded by mobilizing its own armed mobs, backed by both the military and the police, to attack peaceful demonstrators. This, in turn, has divided the opposition.

Capriles leads a group that believes that change can be encouraged through dialogue and nonviolent demonstration. Lopez, however, believes that a repressive government must be challenged with strength when it attacks its own people. He believes that Maduro, like Lenin and Castro before him, is trying to create the conditions for a “proletarian dictatorship,” the first step toward totalitarian socialism.

The history of the last century is replete with nations that have succumbed to this tactic: Russia, the nations of Eastern Europe, Vietnam, Cambodia, North Korea and Cuba to name just a few.

In every case, when socialists took power, they immediately suspended individual liberties, freedom of press and private ownership to end what they considered an “outdated” capitalist and bourgeois systems. The new elites, backed by a massive, authoritarian bureaucracy, never saw any reason to reverse course. What emerged were single party states with either no elections or cruel parodies of them, without freedom, and heavily militarized at all levels of society.

This is the system that Leopoldo López fears will emerge in Venezuela if the people do not stand up and fight now. And it’s going to take democrats and human rights activists from all over the world to help him in his fight. There needs to be a push now to stop Maduro from repressing students and other demonstrators and force him to release Lopez before it’s too late.

We the people have to put international pressure on Maduro’s regime and push our democratic governments and elected representatives to do the same. And we need to do this now, not only for the sake of Lopez, but also for the future of Venezuela and Latin America.

Luis Rosales is a political strategist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is the author of the new book, “Francis: A Pope for Our Times.”

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


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

Latin American Expert: Rise of Leftist Governments Killing Democracy.

Latin American expert Luis Fleischman told Newsmax Friday that the rise of leftist governments is leading to a deterioration of democracy in South and Central America.

He also warned that alliances between these governments and Iran could result in Iran placing nuclear weapons in the Western Hemisphere — within easy range of the United States.

Story continues below.


Fleischman is an adjunct professor of sociology and political science at Florida Atlantic University Honors College and the editor of “The Americas Report.” He is also an adviser to the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy and the author of the new book “Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era.”

“There are certain areas in Latin America where democracy is flourishing. Take for instance Brazil, Chile, Uruguay,” he said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Friday.

“But on the other hand, there are places such as Venezuela and the alliances Venezuela has made with other countries such as Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ecuador, and obviously Cuba, where democracy deteriorates.

“The Bolivian revolution is a new type of socialist revolution,” he continued. “One of the main characteristic is the state actually overruns civil society. The power of the executive overruns the legislative powers and the judiciary. This model is being imitated by a number of countries in Latin America, not only those who made alliances with Hugo Chavez, but also with countries such as Argentina. The president of Argentina admires Hugo Chavez and admires his style of government, which by the way continues after his death.”

Hugo Chavez pursued alliances with the drug cartels, with the Iranians, and with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Fleischman pointed out.

“The alliance with drug cartels is very dangerous,” he says “What they are doing, besides intoxicating our society with drugs, is bribing and destroying the institutions of the state — the bureaucracy, the police, etc.

“Countries in Latin America are experiencing anarchy as a result of the presence of the drug cartels. Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, all these countries are experiencing anarchy.”

The lack of government control in some areas could make them havens for terrorists. But even more disturbing, the leftist governments’ ties with Iran are growing, Fleischman warned.

“The danger of the alliance with Iran is clear,” he said.

“The best friends of Iran, after Syria, are Venezuela and its allies. So what happens if Iran develops a nuclear weapon? They can place nuclear missiles on Latin American soil and that could be a very serious danger to U.S. security because it enables Iran [to launch missiles] right here in our backyard.”

Regarding China’s relationship with Latin America, Fleischman said the Chinese have economic interests and “a political agenda” as well.

“They resent the fact that the United States has influence in their backyard,” he told Newsmax. “We have strong relations with South Korea, with the Vietnamese, with Japan, and they resent that.

“Therefore the Chinese are looking to increase their political power in our own backyard. That means they will tend to increase their alliances with these anti-American liars led by Venezuela.”

Other countries in the Western Hemisphere have reacted to the anti-democratic movement in parts of Latin America by “basically looking the other way,” according to Fleischman.

“The Organization of American States has a charter that protects democracy. They basically endorse the idea that if one country is violating democracy they have every right to intervene in that country and demand that they restore democracy — not intervene military but demand that they restore democracy,” he added.

“They have not done it with the Bolivian revolution, with Venezuela, and with its allies. They have ignored the violations of democracy so this is a lack of leadership on the part of Brazil and also the United States,” he said.

Asked if American influence in Latin America is diminishing, Fleischman said, “It shouldn’t because the United States is still the main trade partner of the majority of the countries, even though the Chinese are gaining ground. The United States used to be the largest partner of Brazil in trade, and today China is.

“Yet the United States has adopted a foreign policy of basically trying not to interfere in Latin American internal affairs, up to the point that they have not even properly demanded the restoration of democracy or the implementation of the OAS charter with regard to democracy.”

Turning to Egypt, Fleischman says the Muslim Brotherhood, the liberals, and the military have all played a “terrible hand” following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

“I do not think that Egypt is going to fall into anarchy like Syria,” he added. “But the Muslim Brotherhood is going to bring al-Qaida in and that is going to be a serious, serious problem.

“The United States should have had a planned policy toward Egypt after the transition to democracy in the post-Mubarak era. And our foreign policy at this time is let’s try not to be involved. We have enough problems here domestically. We don’t need to be involved in every region in the world,” he said.

“So they dropped the ball on Egypt and now we have a problem.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Jim Meyers and Kathleen Walter

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