Friday, February 29, 2008

Italy's Eni to invest $4bn in Venezuela

Eni, the Italian oil and gas group, plans to invest $4bn in Venezuela, making the biggest commitment by a western oil company since President Hugo Chávez began to take control of the country's oil projects in 2005. Eni has reached agreement in principle with PDVSA, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, to develop an area of the Orinoco belt - on some measures the world's largest oil reserve. The investment would expose Eni to the risk of further expropriation by Mr Chávez, while giving it access to Venezuela's huge reserves ahead of its European and US competitors.

President Hugo Chavez Urges Revolutionary Discipline

Caracas, Feb 29 (Prensa Latina) The conservative attack on the regional elections slated for November in Venezuela and emerging anarchism caused President Hugo Chavez to call for revolutionary discipline.

He mentioned on Venezolana de Television Thursday that groups might have accepted "Chavism without Chavez" in good faith, being unaware they were being played by right wingers and imperialism. His warning is connected to suspicions that anarchist groups could have been involved with the recent explosion of several bombs.

United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) legislator Julio Garcia Jarpa called this the result of infiltration of some revolutionary organizations.

The CIA could have succeeded in influencing some anarchist groups in isolated actions, as it did with students and some unions in the early days of the peaceful revolution.

In his view, they began nine years back to try and penetrate mass organizations, but so far their efforts to stop the process of changes have failed.

The legislator compared current events to Chile under President Salvador Allende, when a sector of the alliance was lured by the thesis of spontaneous struggle and deserted the Socialist Party. But we are better prepared and "the people's strength, wisdom, faith and hope in the struggle for a better future have been stronger than US intelligence penetration power.

Pétition : Oppose ExxonMobil action against Venezuela

In a letter published in the Guardian (28 Feb), over 50 prominent figures representing a wide section of British society have signed a statement, organised by the Venezuela Information Centre, raising concern over legal action taken by oil giant ExxonMobil to prevent the Venezuelan government from exercising its right to control its natural resources. They have urged ExxonMobil to work for “the amicable settlement” of its dispute with the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA through international arbitration. The statement is published as Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA goes to the High Court to appeal an English court’s decision to freeze its assets in England and Wales.

'Death seems a sweet option,' says Colombian hostage

Seriously ill after six years as a captive in Colombian rebel camps, Ingrid Betancourt believes ”death seems like a sweet option,” according to new details from a letter to her family. Betancourt, who has dual French-Colombian nationality, wrote to her mother, husband and children at the end of last year but more details were revealed by Spanish television channel Noticias Cuatro, which had access to the letters.

Judo teacher gets 10 years for sex crimes ... admitted having sex with the girl while at competitions in Venezuela

Doyle admitted having sex with the girl while at competitions in Venezuela, Estonia, and Russia in 2005 and 2006, when the girl was either 14 or 15. During these and other trips, Doyle was acting as chaperon for the girl, whose parents were not present. Doyle also videotaped himself having intercourse with the girl on at least one occasion, when she was 16, court documents said. Doyle began coaching the girl when she was eight years old, but did not have sexual contact with her until she was about 14.

Oil hits record high above 103 dollars

Oil prices charted fresh record territory Friday, rising to 103.05 dollars as the dollar fell to all time lows, before profit-taking trimmed the gains, traders said. At the same time gold led other commodities higher too, hitting a record 976.32 dollars per ounce as the troubled, cheaper dollar encouraged buyers.
'This was part of a broad-based commodities run based on the continued weakness of the dollar,' said Petromatrix analyst Olivier Jakob. A weak US currency boosts demand for dollar-denominated raw materials such as crude oil because it makes them cheaper for buyers using stronger currencies. The increased demand, if it outstrips the fall in the currency, leads to higher prices.

PDVSA says Exxon's asset freeze based on fantasy

Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA told a UK court on Friday that a $12 billion freeze on its assets should not have been granted to Exxon Mobil as the oil major's arguments were 'sheer fantasy land'. PDVSA lawyer Gordon Pollock said the amount frozen was excessive. He said a claim that PDVSA would try to hide its assets was not credible and the English court which awarded the freeze had exceeded its jurisdiction. Pollock said the $12 billion (6 billion pounds) figure Exxon asked to be frozen was based on adding up all the projected cash flows of the Venezuelan heavy oil project seized by President Hugo Chavez as part of his nationalisation drive, without any discount made for the fact they run to 2035.
He said this argument was 'simply economically and financially illiterate.'

China Steps Forward as Venezuela`s Key Oil Buyer

China could be the near monopoly buyer of Venezuelan fuel oil after Beijing stepped up financial aid to cash-strapped Caracas, but it will be years before higher volumes of crude from the OPEC member begins flowing East. Venezuela is struggling with multiple problems including a cash crunch caused by President Hugo Chavez's use of oil money to fund socialist projects, surplus fuel oil due to refinery outages and must seek alternative buyers for the crude it stopped shipping to Exxon Mobil Corp due to a legal row. In an unprecedented move to ease its cash squeeze, state-run PDVSA had asked for $1 billion upfront payment in a tender to sell eight fuel oil cargoes of 1.8 million barrels each. The tender was scrapped when potential buyers balked, but PDVSA is still holding talks with PetroChina, traders said.

UK North-east firms urged to seize market opportunities in Venezuela

Business opportunities for Aberdeen City and Shire firms were highlighted at a lunch this week hosted by the Lord Provost for the visit to the city of HM Ambassador to Venezuela. Lord Provost Peter Stephen welcomed Catherine Royle to the Town House for the lunch, which was also attended by Felix Plasencia, Deputy Head of the Venezuelan Mission in the UK. The Lord Provost stressed the historic links which had been developed over many years between Aberdeen and Venezuela’s second largest city, Maracaibo, and welcomed its anticipated return to the World Energy Cities Partnership.

Exxon Called `Forum-Shopping Tourists' by PDVSA in Asset Case

A lawyer for Petroleos de Venezuela SA called Exxon Mobil Corp. ``forum-shopping tourists'' in a case over a U.K. court order freezing $12 billion of the Venezuelan state oil company's assets. Petroleos de Venezuela, known as PDVSA, told a London court that the company had too few contacts to the U.K. for a court to freeze its assets around the world, said PDVSA lawyer Gordon Pollock, QC. PDVSA is a ``stranger to this country, and the same could of course be said of Exxon,'' Pollock said today on the second day of a hearing in the case.

Venezuela's central bank raised interest rates on credit cards and savings deposits

Venezuela's central bank raised interest rates on credit cards and savings deposits to reign in consumer spending and control the highest inflation rate in Latin America. Central bankers also set new maximum rates for loans to the agricultural, industrial and tourism sectors designed to help increase productivity and resolve widespread shortages. ``The central bank is trying to slow consumption,'' said Asdrubal Oliveros, chief economist at Caracas-based research firm Ecoanalitica. ``It's also trying to stimulate lending for these productive sectors.''

ExxonMobil Asset Freeze Claim Should Be Smaller

PDVSA lawyers also said ExxonMobil has no arguable case because in order to bring the case forward under U.K. jurisdiction, the oil company has to prove it is an issue of urgency. PdVSA argued that it is not an urgent issue as PdVSA doesn't plan to dispose of its assets, and therefore the means by which to potentially compensate ExxonMobil, before arbitration can be settled.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue's round-up of news from Venezuela

Executive Vice President Ramon Carrizalez has appeared before the National Assembly (AN) to give an update on government progress. Carrizalez has highlighted the government's new policy of university inclusion, the building of 406 Centers of Integral Diagnosis (CDI), housing solutions for more than 136,000 families and the seizure of 15,000 tonnes of food in special operations to fight shortages and hoarding. Other successes he lists include the setting up of a National Milk Fund, Petroleos de Venezuela's PDVAL food distribution chain and the re-launching of the Mercal food store program. The PDVAL network, Carrizalez has told deputies, is now distributing 150,000 tonnes of food with the logistical aid of the Venezuelan Armed Force (FAN). The AN has also heard that the obligatory agricultural banking portfolio has increased from 14 to 21% and the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) has readjusted agricultural rates from 17% to 15%, while producers of black beans have been given fiscal incentives. Carrizalez cites the setting up of a single gateway for companies importing to speed up red tape. Detailing improvements in health, the Vice President points to the building of 406 CDIs, 493 rehabilitation rooms and 13 high technology medical centers. The number of poor people in Venezuela has been reduced to 40%, the Minister claims, and he urges the National Assembly to open a debate on higher education and the education ministry's proposal to include more youngsters from the poorer sectors of society into the university system.

President Chavez has called the Colombian government's position on the humanitarian exchange " disappointing" and insists that the " humanist forces of the world will make it abandon its hard-line position." Speaking on VTV state television, the President says that it would appear that the Colombian government is in a time warp but that a proposal to set up an international group supported by an important number of Latin American and European governments will force Bogota to join the mainstream of opinion regarding a humanitarian exchange agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Yesterday, Colombian Interior Minister, Carlos Holguin declared yesterday that his government would not demilitarize two southeastern municipalities to pave the way for a final exchange of hostages for prisoners. What is not yet known is whether the Colombian government has released Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) prisoners as part of the exchange program. The rebels have released 8 hostages. President Chavez has also defended the FARC's position on the Colombian government because he declares that they do not believe in the good intentions of successive governments for historical reasons. However, Chavez has made it clear that if the FARC wants Venezuela to remain outside of negotiations, we would continue to support the process from the outside.

Speaking on a VTV state television program, President Chavez has made important comments on some of the political currents and opinions inside the Bolivarian movement, calling for some tendencies and ideas to be confronted, which, he states, are absurd at this stage of the process, causing divisions and raising barriers among popular forces. The President recalls his speech at the plenary session of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) foundation congress where he highlighted the emergence of divisions, expulsions, assassinations after Bolivar spent 15 years of revolutionary warfare and crossed the Andes as leader. " What must be defended as one defends life itself is union ... I am the first defender of freedom of opinion and auto-criticism but an auto-criticism that is responsible and really revolutionary and constructive."

After leaving prison in 1994, Chavez remembers, he recalls that he met with almost all of the Venezuelan Left among which there were some groups at the time that rejected the topic of power, proposing an anti-power, that everything should be horizontal with coordinating committees etc., something he says he has never understood. Chavez argues that perhaps because of his military formation he believes that in a war there has to be a plan, a command structure, leadership and discipline.

Continuing his take on the internal debate, Chavez maintains that since the December 2 elections the thesis of "Chavism without Chavez" has been bandied around and the view that that " we in government are no longer a constituent power but part of the constituted power ... that they are the constituent power and we do not deserve to be part of the popular debate." Battling that idea, Chavez calls the current of opinion dangerous and right- wing. A clear example, he thunders, was Wednesday's pro-government march, which he dubs " anarchist." The Bolivarian Movement, Chavez concludes, should now start debating anarchism.

Referring to the latest developments inside the PSUV, Chavez says he has received a list of 70 members proposed for the national leadership, among whom are Aristobulo Isturiz and Carlos Escarra. The President has expressed the hope that those elected will include equal divisions between men and women and that youth will be given a chance. Chavez has reiterated that the most important aspect that must be dealt with now internally is discipline.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is the new peace hero in Colombia

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has done it again. He once again helped free Colombian hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). After six years of captivity at the hands of leftist rebels, four Colombian hostages gained their freedom in a jungle clearing Wednesday after captors turned them over to representatives of Venezuelan PresidentHugo Chavez and the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to local reports in Bogota.

Venezuela´s Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez calls Foul on Exxon

Caracas, Feb 28 (Prensa Latina) Venezuela´s Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez termed unjustified and unnecessary a $12 billion freeze granted to U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil over state-run oil firm PDVSA (Petroleos de Venezuela SA) assets.

Ramirez, also the PDVSA chairman, told journalists that legal teams are working on the presentation of the case before London courts. Exxon's harassment threatens legal security to carry out oil business, Ramirez added.

The measure is beyond arbitration, as PDVSA is a state-run business boasting jurisdictional immunity and cannot be seized, according to international practice, he said.

Ramirez recalled the freeze is "a measure usually taken against businesses which are bankrupt or leaving a certain sector," certainly not the case of the Venezuelan oil firm.

Therefore, we reserve the right to take any step "to assert our rights" and no court or harassment action will make us yield, he added.

Crystallex Still Awaits Permit for Venezuela Mine, Company Says

Crystallex International Corp., owner of the Las Cristinas mine concession in Venezuela, denied a news report that it had received an environmental permit for the site. ``We do not have the physical permit,'' spokesman Richard Marshall said in a phone interview from Toronto. ``We are still awaiting issuance of the permit without guidance on timing.'' Crystallex shares rose yesterday after Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela-based newspaper Correo del Caroni reported that the permit had been issued. The stock rose 40 cents, or 22 percent, to $2.18 in American Stock Exchange composite trading yesterday.

Chavez Spurns Venezuela Extremists

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez criticized the occupation of the archbishop's palace in Caracas on Wednesday and called for an end to anarchic stands by groups identified with the process of changes he has been leading since 1999. In a call at midnight to La Hojilla, a Venezolana de Television program, Chavez said the action headed by social leader Lina Ron tarnishes his government's efforts. 'One could think that these groups, which call themselves revolutionary, have been infiltrated to erase the government success with those actions and relate it to violence,' said the head of State during a telephone call broadcast live.

Chevron: Venezuela continues to be reliable export source to US

Venezuela will continue to reliably export oil to the U.S., despite the current political tensions between some American oil companies and Venezuela's government, a Chevron Corp. executive said Thursday. Although Venezuela has tried to exercise increasing control over its oil resources, the country relies upon oil revenue, said Ali Moshiri, president of Chevron's Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production company.

Betancourt a 'matter of life or death' for the whole world

The poor health of former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, kidnapped six years ago, and the appalling conditions in which the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are holding her have touched the whole world. 'It is a matter of life or death,' French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday at a press conference in South Africa. The case of Betancourt, 46, became even more dire this week when a released hostage described the failing condition of the politician, who holds dual French-Colombian citizenship.

Chavez seeks international mediation for Colombia

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proposed on Thursday creating an international mediating group to negotiate the release of hostages held by Colombian rebels, a day after he brokered the freeing of four captives. Chavez, who is in a diplomatic dispute with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe over his mediation with the rebels, said France and the leftist governments of Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador backed his idea to include more nations in the talks.

FARC hostage's mother concerned with daughter's delicate health

Mother of a high-profile hostage held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Thursday expressed her emotional pain and concerns over the news that her daughter is in bad condition. Yolanda Betancourt, mother of Ingrid Betan court who was kidnapped in 2002 by FARC, Colombia's largest rebel group, said she learned from some recent-released hostages that her daughter is treated badly by FARC and has physical problems.

United States Passes Tax Hike for Oil Companies

US House Republicans criticized energy legislation passed late Wednesday, saying that it would raise taxes on the oil industry but give tax breaks to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the state-run oil company CITGO. 'Middle-class families and small businesses are feeling the squeeze from rising costs for gasoline, food, and other costs of living,' said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a statement. 'Unfortunately, the Democrats' 'no energy' bill will only make matters worse by raising taxes and setting the table for even higher prices at the pump.'

Teacher facing sex charges free to travel to Venezuela

A teacher at a Châteauguay elementary school will be allowed to enjoy a planned spring-break vacation in Venezuela next week, despite being charged with sexually assaulting 19 girls. Dressed in a charcoal-grey suit and a striped burgundy tie, Henri Fournier smiled and appeared relieved as Quebec Court Judge Robert Lafontaine granted him bail during a hearing at the Valleyfield courthouse yesterday. The hearing appeared to be an emotional roller coaster for the 54-year-old gym teacher. Fournier shook his head often as evidence was presented and was on the verge of tears as Det.-Sgt. Serge Dubois summarized the investigation conducted by the Châteauguay police.

Chevron happy in Venezuela, says it's there for the 'long term'

Chevron Corp. sees its oil business with Venezuela as a 'long-term' relationship, a top executive of the oil giant said Thursday, adding that Chevron plans to comply with new contractual terms for its projects in the Orinoco Belt. 'We will continue to follow our contract to the government of Venezuela and PdVSA,' Ali Moshiri, president for Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production, told Dow Jones Newswires. 'We are in Venezuela for the long term.'

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro calls on the Colombian government to "reflect" on its relationship with Venezuela

Caracas Daily Journal (Vincent Bevins): Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro called on the Colombian government to "reflect" on both its relationship with Venezuela and its position on a humanitarian exchange as a result of the successful hostage liberation.

"We hope that the Colombian government reflects upon the immense errors it has committed in its political conduct towards the people of Venezuela, towards the government of Venezuela."

In this vein he is probably referring to the cancellation of negotiations by President Alvaro Uribe, and diplomatic spats which included accusing Chávez of somehow working with the rebels and drug traffickers.

The successful release of four hostages held by the FARC, negotiated by President Chávez and Colombian Senator Piedad Córdoba, could be an important step to an improvement in relations between the two countries, which hit significant lows at the beginning of the year.

The Colombian government chose to allow the release yesterday, and expressed gratitude for the gestures of Chávez and Córdoba. And Colombian Foreign Chanceller Fernándo Araujo has made several statements recently indicating he wants relations to improve. In a serious stepback from claims that Colombia was organizing military actions with the U.S. against Venezuela, Maduro made some similar claims on Wednesday.

"We have the best relations with the government of Colombia, with the distinct political sectors," he said. However, he also called said that the government of Venezuela will continue pushing for a humanitarian accord between Colombia and the FARC. Yesterday the FARC issued a communiqué saying that their release showed the power of "humanity" over "intransigence," and called on the Colombian government to open a demilitarized zone for negotiations, a request that the Colombian government has repeatedly denied.

"Today there is an immense desire in the whole world to accompany Colombia in the search for a humanitarian exchange."

The FARC still holds many hostages, and has made clear that they want their officers back in exchange. Uribe, however, insists the rebels are "terrorists" and has eschewed negotiations in favor of military actions.

Despite the verbal squabbling between the two countries, they remain very important trading partners. A lot of the trouble was set off by U.S. ambassador to Colombia, William Brownfield, who made allegations of Venezuela's role in the cocaine trade. He recently apologized for causing such a "delicate" situation for his host country. He neglected to actually apologize for the accusations.

The relatives remain in Caracas with the newly freed hostages.

Confusion over Candidates' Eligibility

Caracas Daily Journal (Vincent Bevins): Confusion about the status of approximately 400 persons who are supposedly ineligible to run for election this year continues as CNE president Tibisay Lucena modified statements made by her colleague Vicente Díaz.

She said that the decision was absolutely not in the hands of the CNE (The National Electoral Council), that the CNE had no power to decide on the political eligibility of any Venezuelan, and that they were obliged to do exactly as the law, and the courts decided.

That is, that regardless of their opinion on the matter, it seems that members of the list submitted by Comptroller General Clodosbaldo Russián are rendered ineligible, with the right to appeal to the supreme court.

"So then, we are going continue complying with the law, just like always, with what is in the constitution, and what the Supreme Court decides, which in the case is in favor of the position of the Comptroller General.

Russián inspired sharp reactions from both the parties of the members of the list and CNE rector Diáz this week when he announced that in his opinion, those 400 (or 369, depending whom you ask) who had "caused harm to public resources" couldn't run for election. That list included Leopóldo López, mayor of Chacao, and Enrique Mendoza.

Diáz responded by saying that Russián had overstepped his constitutional bounds, that no Comptroller can suspend one's constitutional political rights to run for office. He also said,
however, that the CNE should make their own decisions in this matter.

His boss offered a further rectification Wednesday, while refusing to comment on if Russián had overstepped his bounds. She wanted to make clear, however, that the courts decide that, not the Electoral Power.

"All those people who feel their rights have been violated have all the constitutional and legal rights to appeal those decisions. But now, they can't appeal to the National Electoral Council. They should appeal to the Supreme Court."

The list Russián submitted to the CNE this week did not come as a surprise, however. All of the people had already received sanctions from his office which had appeared in the Official Gazette. What is at issue now is if his decisions are legally binding.

Opposition party Un Nuevo Tiempo has declared it will fight the injunction in the streets and in the courts. "If necessary, we will march on the Supreme Court," said Enrique Martínez, party

Meanwhile, another CNE rector chimed in, Germán Yepez, claiming that the decision of the Comptroller General all was indeed binding for the CNE. "It obligates the entities to comply with the sanction."

If there is this much disagreement within the CNE itself, then it probably should go to the Supreme Court.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue's round-up of news from Venezuela

In an update on the Exxon Cerro Negro vs. Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) lawsuit, the latter's lawyer, John Fordham has confirmed this afternoon's hearing but he has told that the judge will first decide whether the hearing will be public or private. Mr. Fordham spent yesterday afternoon conferring with the PDVSA delegation that is in London for the case. The objective of the case is to have the courts annul a decision to freeze all PDVSA assets in the UK. It would appear that the sessions WILL be heard in private and will continue tomorrow morning at 10.30 a.m. We have been unable to contact members of the PDVSA delegation for an update on proceedings. As a matter of clarification, VHeadline's news editor has been informed by an expert that "there is no lawsuit as such, merely a cautionary measure to freeze $12 billions of assets ... this was previously called a Mareva Injunction and this jurisprudence started in 1975." PDVSA and its UK lawyers want to have the cautionary measure lifted and "defrost" its assets in the UK. The same source of information confirms that while the assets frozen are around $12 billion, the US company claims a compensation of $5 million.

President Chavez phoned into the State channel TV's La Hojilla program last night to launch a stinging criticism of yesterday morning's pro-government march in which Bolivarian leader, Lina Ron attacked the Archbishop of Caracas and Globovision news channel. Chavez says the attitude of Ron and others that took part in a march organized by the Revolutionary Popular Assembly and showed "signs of revolutionary indiscipline." Furthermore, the President has announced that he will ask for Lina Ron to be expelled from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) ... "we cannot start a party like ours with such indiscipline and irresponsibility." Chavez has stated that he could not understand why the marchers entered the Archbishops residence and hints that Lina may have surrounded herself with infiltrators. Recalling the "damage done by the ultra-left infiltrated by the CIA to Salvador Allende in Chile (1970-73), which gave the Right an excuse to overthrow the government," Chavez suggests that there are infiltrators interested in showing that the Bolivarian revolution is violent. National Assembly deputy, Luis Tascon was also criticized for attacking Bolivarian leaders. Chavez insists that any denunciations must be accompanied by evidence.

According to a report published in Maracaibo broadsheet, Panorama, President Chavez has an acceptance rating of 67.3%. In a survey undertaken by the Venezuelan Data Institute (Ivad), 54.3% of Venezuelans consider the situation in the country has improved. Last year, at the same time the rating was 41%. In other ratings, 53.7% of those surveyed think that food shortages are a serious problem and 53% thought the situation would improve. However, public insecurity remains the biggest problem, rating 72.1% down from last year's figure of 81.4%.

Perhaps the biggest message in yesterday's successful liberation of four former Colombian Congress members is President Chavez' call to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to find French-Colombian citizen, Ingrid Betancourt and to secure her freedom. The freed hostages have stated that Betancourt's health situation is delicate and insist that she needs urgent attention. Chavez has called on FARC leader, Manuel Marulanda to bring the former presidential candidate closer to his camp as soon as possible. Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe has welcomed the release of the hostages and thanked President Chavez and Colombian opposition senator, Piedad Cordoba for their role in securing the releases.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue

PDVSA Tells UK Court Exxon-Requested Asset Freeze Unjustified

State oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PdVSA, argued to a U.K. court Thursday that an injunction obtained by Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) to freeze up to $12 billion of the Venezuelan company's assets was unjustified and should be repealed. Lawyers representing PdVSA told the judge that the London court's decision last month to order a freezing injunction had been beyond its jurisdiction and unwarranted given the nature of the dispute between PdVSA and ExxonMobil, which is seeking compensation for an oil project nationalized last year by the Venezuelan government.

Exxon is looking to establish a legal precedent that would not only have impact in dealings with Venezuela

Petroleos de Venezuela, the Venezuelan national oil company, will ask a London court to overturn an order won by Exxon Mobil Corp. freezing $12 billion in assets. Petroleos de Venezuela, known as PDVSA, will tell a judge at a hearing in London today that the dispute over the seizure of an oil field in Venezuela has little connection to the U.K. The company might also ask the court to reduce the order or allow it to offer an alternative bond. Courts in the U.K., Netherlands and Netherlands Antilles issued orders freezing as much as $12 billion in PDVSA assets. Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil had asked for the injunctions ahead of a ruling at a New York arbitration over the takeover.

Crystallex hopeful, but still waiting for Venezuela permit

Toronto-based Crystallex International, which is waiting for the Venezuelan government to issue a permit to enable it to start building its Las Cristinas project, in the country's Bolivar state, continues to receive encouraging intimations from various authorities, but has still not got its hands on the all-important permit, the company said on Thursday. Las Cristinas, which is believed to be one of South America's biggest untapped gold deposits, has estimated proven and probable reserves (based on a $550 gold price assumption) of 16,86-million ounces of gold, according to a September update by Crystallex.

Freed hostage: Rebels seized letters of U.S captives

Ex-Sen. Luis Eladio Perez also said that the three Americans, with whom he shared his last six months of jungle captivity, still suffer injuries from the plane crash five years ago that landed them in guerrilla hands. He said the three were badly shaken by the 60-year prison sentence a U.S. judge slapped on a Colombian rebel last month after his conviction in connection with their captivity.

Prominent British Figures Call on ExxonMobil to Respect Venezuelan Sovereignty

Over 50 prominent figures representing a wide section of British society have signed a statement raising concern over legal action taken by oil giant ExxonMobil to prevent the Venezuelan government from exercising its right to control its natural resources. They have urged ExxonMobil to work for 'the amicable settlement' of its dispute with the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA through international arbitration. The statement is published as Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA goes to the High Court to appeal an English court's decision to freeze its assets in England and Wales.

Crystallex Updates Shareholders on the Las Cristinas Project

Crystallex International Corporation (KRY) today provided shareholders a recap of achievements and progress for the Las Cristinas gold project in South Eastern Bolivar State, Venezuela. Mr. Gordon Thompson, Crystallex President and Chief Executive Officer, commented that, 'During 2007, our project partner the Corporacion Venezolana de Guayana ('CVG'), was formally notified by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources of Venezuela ('MinAmb') that all the requirements for the issuance of the Las Cristinas Environmental permit had been fulfilled.'

National Assembly proposes measures to promote productive sector

The Mixed Commission for Supply of the National Assembly proposed this Tuesday to constitute measures to promote and stimulate country's productive sectors in order to increase the supply of some products in a short, medium, and long term. The announcement was made by the President of this Commission, Mario Isea, after an ordinary meeting where it was discussed the final stage of the work schedule to present a report to the National Government with specific recommendations regarding control measures against speculation, hoarding, and shortage."

Enterprise representatives from the German State Saxony-Anhalt learn of business oportunities in Venezuela

Venezuela was visited by enterprise representatives of the German State Saxony-Anhalt in order to know the business oportunities that the country offers in the chemistry and petrochemistry sectors, as well as the following fields: plastic, environment, infrastructure, mining and metalurgy, tourism and gas.
The commission, organized by the Commerce Office of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Embassy in Germany, received specialized technical counseling from the National Board of Investment Promotion CONAPRI.
This institution offered duly and liable information about business opportunities and economic and legal incentives that the country grants to investments.

Politics in Venezuela are often portrayed from the viewpoint of those who support President Hugo Chavez or those who despise him

Politics in Venezuela are often portrayed from the viewpoint of those who support President Hugo Chavez or those who despise him, with little opportunity to hear from the voices of those in the middle. Christopher Moore, 23, producer and co-director of a 75-minute documentary about the 2006 presidential election in Venezuela, followed the two lead candidates -- Hugo Chavez and Manuel Rosales -- to document the country's political polarization.

Chavez Appeals to FARC for Betancourt

Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez has made a passionate appeal to the leader of the FARC rebels to release the former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. The appeal came following the release of 4 hostages to Venezuelan custody yesterday. Chavez called Betancourt’s case “urgent” and said to Manuel Marulanda via a televised message “from my heart to change Ingrid’s location. Move her to a base closer to you, while we continue working to pave the way for her definitive release.”

British Appeal Commercial Court to start hearings in Exxon Mobil Cerro Negro Ltd v. Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA)

British Appeal Commercial Court 21 will start hearings in private today before Lord Justice Walker at the Royal Courts of Justice (London) in the case of Exxon Mobil Cerro Negro Ltd versus Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).

The Venezuelan oil company will be represented by the law firm, Stephenson Harwood whose head of commercial litigation, John Fordham is defending PDVSA's endeavor to have a British Court order to freeze company assets in the UK overturned.

Fordham was instrumental in representing the City of Westminster council's corruption case against Conservative Dame Shirley Porter in 2005 for which the law firm received the dispute resolution team of the year honor at the 2005 Legal Business Awards 2005.

Yesterday, Wednesday, a group of protesters organized by Hands Off Venezuela (UK) gathered outside the Courts of Justice to highlight opposition to ExxonMobil's unwarranted freezing of PDVSA assets.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Solidarity campaigners protest in central London on Wednesday night against ExxonMobil

Solidarity campaigners protested in central London on Wednesday night against ExxonMobil's successful attempt to freeze Venezuelan assets as part of a compensation dispute. After gathering outside an office block owned by the oil giant's British subsidiary Esso, the 20-plus protesters marched to the Royal Courts of Justice, where ExxonMobil had been granted the assets freeze and where the case was to be continued on the following Friday and Wednesday. ExxonMobil has launched a lawsuit against Venezuela and has won court orders in Britain, the Netherlands and the US to freeze up to $12 billion (£6.1bn) of assets. Venezuela has responded by stopping oil sales to the company, accusing it of 'judicial terrorism' and acting as 'a spearhead for imperialism.'

Freed Colombians Hostages in Stable Condition

Caracas, Feb 27 (Prensa Latina) The four former legislators released Wednesday by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are in stable health condition in Venezuela, sources of the International Red Cross reported.

According to Irma Alvarez, International Red Cross spokeswoman in Venezuela, said the four hostages were medically examined after the rescue operation. Alvarez said two Venezuelan helicopters fryng the Red Cross emblem were used in the operation.

In her statements to Venezolana de Television, the spokeswoman explained that four Red Cross representatives took part in the action leading to the release of former legislators Gloria Polanco, Orlando Beltran, Luis Eladio Perez and Jorge Eduardo Gechem.

Venezuelan passenger plane carrying 112 people makes emergency landing in Panama

A Venezuelan passenger plane carrying 112 people made an emergency landing in Panama on Wednesday after its pilot saw smoke coming out of its air conditioning equipment, Panamanian authorities said. The aircraft landed safely at Panama City's Tocumen international airport, and no injuries were reported, Panama's aeronautic authority said in a statement. The plane, operated by the Empresa Aerea Venezolana airline, was flying a domestic route between the Venezuelan cities of Maracaibo and Maiquetia.

Hostages release boost to efforts to free Betancourt: Kouchner

The release of four hostages by Colombian rebels on Wednesday was a 'powerful boost' to efforts to free others such as Franco-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said. 'The survival of the weakest hostages, like our compatriot Ingrid Betancourt whose sixth anniversary in detention we have just marked, is really what's at stake here,' Kouchner said.
'The success of this (Wednesday's) operation constitutes a powerful boost to ... find an urgent humanitarian solution to the drama,' the said in a statement. Betancourt, who had been running for president when she was seized six years ago by the Marxist rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is considered the group's headline detainee.

Venezuela: government and communities organize to ensure food distribution

Over the course of last week, the Venezuelan government's subsidized food system, Mercal, along with the new PDVAL markets run by the state oil company PDVSA, which sell products at nationally regulated prices, distributed 3,300 tons of basic foods through 666 special operations in 20 of Venezuela's 23 states, according to National Food Minister Félix Osorio. Last Saturday alone, 454 small-scale, mobile food markets distributed 1,647 tons of food to local communities with the intention of serving 'only those most in need,' Osorio reported.

PDVSA Aims For $5.7B Investment In Former Exxon Venture

Venezuela plans an ambitious development program for Petromonagas, a heavy crude upgrader at the heart of the country's legal dispute with Exxon Mobil Corp. With Exxon now out of the oil-rich Orinoco basin, state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela, or PdVSA, and Britain's BP Plc have crafted a $5.7 billion joint plan to operate and expand Petromonagas, a venture formerly known as Cerro Negro, according to a copy of the project's unpublished business plan.

Venezuela to Be Proposed to Chair LatAm Parliament

Caracas, Feb 27 (Prensa Latina) The new president of the Venezuelan chapter in the Latin American Parliament, Victor Chirinos, said Venezuela will be proposed to chair that regional body.

Chirinos, who took over the presidency of the Venezuelan chapter on Tuesday, noted that his comrades would defend Venezuela's revolutionary process and its leader, Hugo Chavez, from the campaigns launched to discredit them.

According to a press release from the National Assembly, the lawmaker warned that Venezuela is waging a struggle of truth against lie by those who want to distort Chavez's image in complicity with the US government. He pointed out that a way to stop that campaign is to bring together Latin American and Caribbean leftwing groups to win the presidency of the Latin American Parliament, which has always been chaired by the right wing.

Canadian gold miner Crystallex may sell as much as 85% of its future Venezuelan gold production on international spot markets...

In an exclusive interview, Canadian gold mining Crystallex International (KRY) vice president A. Richard Marshall says that under strict Venezuelan regulations his company is committed to offer at least 15% of its Venezuelan gold production to the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) ... and the remaining 85% (or in fact all of it) may be exported subject to regulatory licensing arrangements that have presented no problems in the past.

The Toronto-based company -- which operates in Venezuelan under its Crystallex de Venezuela C.A. subsidiary -- says the regulariions clearly state that although any payment by the Central Bank under its option on the 15% of production, is made at the global market US$ price per ounce of gold in the Venezuelan currency, F.Bolivares (=Strong Bolivares), mechanisms exist for funds to be repatriated to Canada under foreign exchange regulations currently in place.

Although Crystallex is currently only producing 30,000 ounces of gold per year from its existing mine operations in southeastern Venezuela, Marshall said the company has not experienced any foreign exchange difficulties although he admits that incomes have been ploughed back into preparations for the company's major contract to mine at least 16 million ounces of gold at the gigantic Las Cristinas goldfield which will produce a steady flow of bullion some 24-30 months after a final permit to launch operations is officially announced.

President Hugo Chavez spoke with FARC hostages by telephone soon after they were released

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, into whose custody they were released, spoke with them by phone after they were freed, said Jesse Chacon, a top aide to the president. 'They are safe and sound,'' Chacon said. The helicopters would fly to the Venezuelan border town of Santo Domingo. The freed hostages would then fly on to Caracas, the capital, to be reunited with their families.

Another lesson we can learn from a critical understanding of Latin American experiences

Another lesson we can learn from a critical understanding of Latin American experiences – and some European ones too – is how electoral activity can be an extension of movement politics. It faces all kinds of pitfalls but also imposes disciplines and provides the stimuli of translating transformative politics into practical and widely accessible alternatives.

Active participation needed to make political system work

Like most Americans, I mutter with some regularity about the failings and stupidity of our government on all levels. At almost the same time when I hear of some particularly gross or lethal action on the part of another country, I shake my head and say to whoever is nearby, 'Aren't you glad we live here and not there.' The idea being that for whatever our faults, we still provide the standard of good government for the rest of the world. It's a comforting thought. Someone once said, 'God protects little children, drunks and the United States of America.' An appealing concept, but true? I don't know. Surely the same laws of politics apply to us as to the rest of the world. Maybe we have just had a spectacular run of luck.

US recession fears raise oil prices

Investors around the world have been ploughing money into oil after a flurry of gloomy economic data showed plunging consumer confidence, soaring inflation and a near-9% fall in US house prices in the final quarter of last year. It has prompted a flight from the US dollar as investors expect more interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve. The euro is now worth 1.50 dollars for the first time, and the pound bought 1.94 dollars early last week but is now worth more than 1.99 dollars.

Colombian hostages freed by Farc

Four hostages held by Colombian left-wing Farc rebels have been released, Red Cross officials say. The hostages were handed over to a delegation sent from Venezuela to secure their release, in a deal brokered by President Hugo Chavez. A Red Cross spokeswoman said they were fit to travel, despite reports that some were in poor health.

FARC releases Gloria Polanco, Jose Eduardo Gechem, Orlando Beltran and Luis Eladio Perez

Bogota, Feb 27 (Prensa Latina) The Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) handed over former lawmakers Gloria Polanco, Jose Eduardo Gechem, Orlando Beltran and Luis Eladio Perez to a humanitarian mission on Wednesday.

In a news conference in this capital, International Red Cross representative Barbara Hintermann confirmed the guerrillas' release of the four politicians in the southern department of Guaviare.

Hintermann said one of the Red Cross representatives who traveled as part of the humanitarian mission called her up to confirm the release of the politicians, who will be taken to Venezuela. The news was also confirmed by Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos.

According to the plan, after picking up the group, the two helicopters of the Venezuelan Air Force bearing International Red Cross logos would wait some time for the guerrilla patrol to go deep into the jungle. They would take off for the Santo Domingo base in Venezuela, and from there to Caracas, where they will be welcomed by close relatives and would probably meet with President Hugo Chavez.

The FARC announced the release of the former lawmakers as a unilateral gesture to acknowledge the humanitarian efforts made by President Chavez and Liberal Senator Piedad Cordoba.

This is the second time in less than two months that the Colombian guerrillas make such a gesture. Politicians Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez were released in January under very similar conditions.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue's round-up of news from Venezuela

A day after Federation of Chambers of Industry & Commerce (Fedecamaras) president, Jose Manuel Gonzalez offered an olive branch to the government, second deputy president, Noel Alvarez has stated that the organization will ask the Inter American Human Rights Court for protection measures in favor of the board of directors and employees after an explosive device went off in front of its Caracas HQ last weekend. Alvarez made the statement after presenting a document to the Attorney General asking for a full investigation into the explosion. Fedecamaras, Alvarez complains, has not received any sign of solidarity from government sources, except from a Labor Ministry director. The deputy president adds that the business sector is ready to dialogue with the government on any level.

First news reports indicate that the person killed in the explosion in front of the Fedecamaras HQ was one Hector Amado Serrano, said to be a former State Political & Security (DISIP) police officer. Interior & Justice (MIJ) Minister, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin's first reaction has been to say that Amado Serrano was a member of a group of anarchists which the government is currently investing. According to National Assembly deputy Reinaldo Garcia, Serrano belonged to one of the Bolivarian networks of social intelligence. reports claims from Metro Mayor Juan Barreto that the deceased worked for National Assembly deputy, Pedro Infante, connected to the Tupamaro Party that has its base in the Caracas 23 de Enero district. Conclusion: the incident has become a chance for a bit of mud-slinging and point-chasing.

The Tupamaro Movement has issued a statement denying any involvement in the incident at Fedecamaras and accuses the tabloid 2001 of linking the organization with the attack without providing any proof. The fact that Hector Serrano lived in 23 de Enero, the statement runs, does not mean that Tupamaro Movement was involved.

During a march and rally organized by Aporrea org, Bolivarian leader Lina Ron has spoken out against raids taking place in 23 de Enero by State Political & Security (DISIP) agents. Ron cautions MIJ Minister Rodriguez Chacin to act prudently and to apply the same measures to paramilitaries living in Caracas East. Ron also read a statement outside the residence of the Archbishop of Caracas rejecting the position taken by the bishops during the April 11, 2002 coup and the Papal Nunciature for granting asylum to student leader, Nixon Moreno. Several pro-government supporters entered the residence evicting staff members before the metropolitan police restored order.

Coffee growers from the hills surrounding the town of Sanare, Lara State are forecasting the production of 400,000 measures (measure=100 lbs) of coffee. Gran Casa coffee company president, Federico Camacho made the statement during a meeting with Communal Economy Minister, Pedro Morejon and State Governor Luis Reyes. At the meeting coffee producers presented a list of their needs and problems that requiring an effective solution, while the visitors laid the foundation for a plan of action to help solve land problems and review government credits. Minister Morejon says that his Ministry has started a series of inspections to see how credits have been and are being used and to monitor projects.

US Ambassador to Colombia, William Brownfield has apologized to the Colombian government for provoking a stand-off with Venezuela after a statement he made on a Colombian radio show about an increase in drug-trafficking in the neighboring country. Brownfield says he does not apologize for what he said because it represents a position of his government but he does lament having complicated things for the Colombian government. On February 16, Venezuela sent a note of protest through the Colombian Ambassador in Caracas, Fernando Marin regarding Brownfield's statements. The US Ambassador went OTT regarding the volume of drugs being transshipped through Venezuela over the last five years. Brownfield described the transshipment hike as an explosion. "We do not say that a government is at fault and we are not saying that is it is specifically owing to a concrete decision of a government ... what we are saying is that it has multiplied between 10 to 15 times."

Patrick J. O'Donoghue

Crude oil prices set record high 102.08 dollars per barrel

Oil prices rocketed Wednesday to a record high above 102 dollars, with speculative trade energised by the sliding US dollar and jitters before OPEC's crude production meeting next week, analysts said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, touched an historic 102.08 dollars per barrel in electronic deals. Brent North Sea crude for April delivery struck an all-time peak at 100.53 dollars. 'Oil futures made new record highs as the market continues to benefit from the weakening dollar, however, the market has retreated since making fresh highs amid profit taking,' said Sucden analyst Nimit Khamar."

Venezuela-Cuba Boost Genetic Diagnosis

Caracas, Feb 26 (Prensa Latina) Experts from Venezuela and Cuba are developing research to genetically diagnose people with physical disabilities, in an initiative aimed at determining illness causes and the necessary treatment, official sources reported.

Venezuelan Participation and Social Protection Minister Erika Farias said the work started in the state of Miranda in 2007, and has been extended to such other states as Barinas, Zulia, and Delta Amacuro.

People that are already located by the Barrio Adentro Mission are genetically assessed within that system, she told Venezolana de Television.

The official said the initiative involves house by house actions with Cuban medical equipment, social workers and specialized physicians.

As an example, she revealed there were some 25,000 cases detected in Miranda, 21,000 of which have already been solved, adding the construction of a clinic for genetic studies in that entity.

Farias also announced they are making progress in qualifying personnel to detect the problems even during pregnancy.

Venezuelan IT firm Sidif to expand into English-speaking Caribbean, Brazil

Venezuelan IT firm Sidif plans to expand operations to the English-speaking Caribbean and Brazil during the first half of this year, and is aiming to generate revenues of US$1mn and US$2mn respectively from these markets in the first year of operations, company president Enrique Santiago told BNamericas. Santiago believes the main attractions of both markets are the economic and political stability and the initial approaches Sidif has received there, allowing them to penetrate the markets in a reasonably short period of time.

Gold explorer Medoro Resources dropped to its lowest in over 10 months on news of private placement to raise up to C$10m

Gold explorer Medoro Resources dropped to its lowest in over 10 months as it announced details of a private placing to raise up to C$10m to fund its exploration and drilling program. The placing of as many as 25m units at C$0.40 each, or around 20.5p, will finance the firm's interests in Venezuela and Mali, as well being used for other general and corporate purposes, it said.

Venezuela and Russia Exchange Oil Technology

Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), through its subsidiary PDVSA Industrial, S.A., signed a technology agreement with Russia's BORETS, which contemplates the organization of a mixed company that will manufacture and assembly electrosubmersible pumping systems. Based on this new agreement, a plant will be installed and put into service to manufacture and assembly submersible equipment used in the oil and gas industry. This is considered a high added value product for the Corporation. This mixed company will be governed according to the current legal framework on the hydrocarbon sector and its partners will be Petroleos de Venezuela (60%) and BORETS (40%).

Venezuela to implement new university admissions system that takes into account socio-economic status and residency

Venezuela will implement a new university admissions system that takes into account socio- economic status and residency as well as merit, Higher Education Minister Luis Acuna said. The new system is designed to improve access to Venezuelan universities, Acuna said today in comments broadcast by state television.

Venezuelan choppers to pick up captives

Two Venezuelan helicopters departed for Colombia Wednesday morning on a mission to pick up four hostages held by rebels for more than six years, the international Red Cross said. The Venezuelan helicopters took off from the Venezuelan border town of Santo Domingo, said Yves Heller, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Bogota. The two helicopters bore Red Cross insignia and were headed for an airport in the southern Colombian town of San Jose de Guaviare, he said. From there, the helicopters are to take off again for an unidentified spot in the Colombian jungles for the hostage handover.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Venezuela minister of home affairs and justice, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin: Venezuela Ready for FARC Detainees

Caracas, Feb 26 (Prensa Latina) Actions aimed at releasing four former legislators by the Colombian insurgency focus Tuesday the Venezuelan political stage, awaiting signals to concrete that important peace step.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin said he has the coordinates for the handover of Gloria Polanco, Orlando Cuellar, Eladio Perez and Jorge Eduardo Gechem by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

It is expected that the International Red Cross cooperate in this operation, in a very similar mechanism used in January when the guerrilla released Clara Rojas, former candidate for the Colombian vice presidency, and former legislator Consuelo Gonzalez.

The minister mentioned February 27 as a probable date to finalize that step, taking into consideration the need to coordinate with Colombian authorities in charge of the corresponding consents.

The information on the place of the delivery is in the hands of Rodriguez Chacin, who asserted it will be provided in a sealed envelop to the Red Cross in case of an unexpected situation.

The success of this project is surrounded by accusations of the presence of some 18,000 Colombian military soldiers in the zone, endangering people who could be freed and those who are still in the hands of the FARC rebels.

If this action is successfully realized, it will be the second unilateral step of the insurgency, in recognition of the mediating labor by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian Senator Piedad Cordova, which had been abruptly stopped by the Bogota government.

Venezuela ready to launch operation to pick up four hostages expected to be released by Colombian rebels

Venezuela is ready to launch an operation today to pick up four hostages expected to be released by Colombian Marxist rebels, Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin said. Rodriguez urged the neighbouring Colombian government to give the green light for the operation, saying Caracas had already received the co-ordinates of the hostages’ location from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. 'We have faith that (the operation) will immediately be authorised,' he told reporters on Monday. We could do it today with authorisation. We have the ability to go and come back the same afternoon.'

Pope Benedict XVI sends telegram expressing his condolences to relatives of 46 who died in Venezuelan plane crash

Pope Benedict XVI Tuesday forwarded a telegram expressing his condolences to the relatives of the 46 people who were killed in a plane crash last Thursday in Andean Mérida state, southwest Venezuela. Benedict XVI is offering 'intercessory prayers for the eternal rest of the victims and lifts his fervent prayers to the Lord for Him to comfort all the people who are suffering for this painful tragedy.'

Oscar Heck: Judge for yourself

VHeadline commentarist Oscar Heck writes: "Gerry, a thin, pale-looking and wiry former right-wing radical, said that "the US government helped us with arms, training and logistics against liberal sectors which interfered with liberty and freedom on US territory."

After 13 years as an insurgent for the "US White Christian Liberation Forces" (US-WCLF), Gerry has abandoned the US-WCLF to become an informant for the Clinton-Obama liberal left campaign. For security reasons, Gerry has secretly met with USA TOMORROW DAILY to tell us about his experience with the US-WCLF, involving drug smuggling, coercion, kidnapping and ..."

Wow! Doesn't that sound fantastic?

Now listen to this, a quote from an AP article of February 25, 2008, entitled, "Colombian Rebels Find Haven in Venezuela," by Fabiola Sanchez and Frank Bajak:

"Leftist rebels fighting Colombia's U.S.-backed military have increasingly found refuge in Venezuela, where they get weapons, food, medical treatment and a smuggling route for the cocaine that keeps them afloat ... Former rebels, local citizens and Colombian officials told The Associated Press that hundreds or even thousands of Colombian insurgents are in Venezuela at any given time.'Venezuela's army helps the guerrillas a lot,' said Antonio, who spent 13 years with FARC. Now an informant for Colombia's military, he asked that his last name be omitted to protect relatives from reprisals ... Well inside Venezuela, Colombian insurgents rest, train, buy arms and uniforms, recover from wounds and process cocaine, according to the rebel deserters, Venezuelan opposition politicians and Colombian officials."

Judge for yourself....

Oscar Heck

Patrick J. O'Donoghue's round-up of news from Venezuela

Interior & Justice (MIJ) Minister, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin has announced that four hostages to be released by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are together and are expected to be released within the next few days. According to the Minister, the government has received the geographical coordinates to begin the freedom of four Colombian Congress members: Gloria Polanco de Lozada, Luis Eladio Perez, Orlando Beltran and Jorge Gechem. Appearing with Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro and families of the hostages currently in Caracas awaiting the release, Rodriguez Chacin has called on the Colombian government to cease military operations in the liberation zone. According to Venezuelan intelligence sources, the Colombian military has mobilized more than 18,000 soldiers near the liberation area.

According to Comptroller General, Clodosbaldo Russian, around about 400 opposition politicians are legally unable to aspire to posts in regional and legislative elections this year. Among those are Chacao Mayor, Leopoldo Lopez, former Miranda State Governor, Enrique Mendoza and former Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas, Alfredo Pena. In the case of Lopez, Russian points out, there is an accusation pending since 2005 for allegedly diverting resources destined to pay staff working in the municipal education system and firefighters. Mendoza has the case pending regarding the sale of vehicles in 1996 without any public auction process. Mendoza's prohibition to aspire to posts expires in December 7, 2009. From what can be gleaned from media sources many Fourth Republic politicians and personalities have already put themselves forward as candidates.

According to Interior & Justice (MIJ) Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, the weekly crime rate has dropped compared to the same period last year from 253 to 141 homicides. The Minister says homicides are dropping thanks to more effective policing ... "police officers are working with greater consciousness and humanism." Last year, the average homicide per week was 52, Rodriguez Chacin claims, and this year in Caracas is down to 31. "There has been a 44% drop in homicides nationally and 40.38% in Caracas." The Minister adds other figures such as: 22,906 drug packets seized in Caracas and 568 citizens caught in the act selling drugs, while 256 persons wanted by the law are being processed.

Federation of Chambers of Industry and Commerce (Fedecamaras) president, Jose Manuel Gonzalez has replied to President Chavez' rebuttal that he would not allow the business sector to tell him what to do. In a communique Gonzalez challenges the President to fix a date, time and place for a meeting to which Fedecamaras would come without "fear, threats and offering optimism and confidence." According to the employers' association, government economic policies have led to an increase in shortages, prices and corruption affecting the most needy people in Venezuela. Gonzalez also points out that without a heightened, respectful and free participation of private enterprise the phenomenon of food shortages will be impossible to solve. The organization is also criticizes what it calls a "dangerous tendency to involve members of the Armed Force (FAN) and Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) professionals in the production, distribution and marketing of food, medicine and educational services." Over the weekend there was an explosion outside the Caracas HQ of Fedecamaras in which one person supposedly responsible for placing an explosive device was killed. Fedecamaras calls on the government to investigate who was behind the incident which, it states, threatens peace in Venezuela.

Popular organizations in Caracas have organized a rally today condemning the violence promoted by 24/7 opposition news channel, Globovision. The rally will take place in (Caracas) Plaza Bolivar today and among the organizers are: Coordinadora Simon Bolivar and the Antifascist Front of Venezuela. has organized a march and rally tomorrow on Wednesday, February 27 (27F) to remember the popular rebellion in 1989 popularly known as the Caracazo. According to the organization, 27F was the beginning of the Bolivarian Popular Revolution and it hopes that the rally will be a sign of the strength of popular power. The march is against bureaucracy and to highlight the real needs of the people, namely housing, services, community infrastructure, roads, health, education land, social security and just salaries.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue

Oscar Heck - I am sure Aleksander Boyd wouldn't even squint

VHeadline commentarist Oscar Heck writes: Here is a link to an article written by one Aleksander Boyd in which he is essentially blaming the recent bombing of FEDECAMARAS offices in Caracas on Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez:

Boyd, the dishonest and scheming criminal that he is -- I explain why below -- states, "While reading this piece of news, it's worth bearing in mind: this video of Hugo Chavez threatening Fedecamaras' chair just a few days before the explosion; and these statements of Minister of Interior and Justice Ramón Rodríguez Chacín saying that the Metropolitan Police was to become a 'socialist, revolutionary and subversive police force.' "

The actual Chacin quote, which Boyd, as usual, presents out of context is as follows: "... we need to construct a socialist, revolutionary, and subversive police force...we must rise up against the yokes that oppress the body of the police, and know that human beings are the most important thing."

When talking about subversion, Chacin is relating it to subversion against the corruption (and criminal activity) within the existing police forces.

I think that all Venezuelans know the extent to which much of the traditional Caracas police forces are involved in criminal activity, often related to violence against Chavez and Chavez supporters, creating fear and panic on behalf of the violent, US-financed Venezuelan opposition of which Boyd is a member.

What Boyd fails to address is the fact that it has been shown on several occasions, such as the killings during the opposition-led coup in April 2002 and the bombing of the Colombian Embassy in 2003 (if I remember correctly), that in fact it was opposition sectors which ordered the killings with collaboration from the Caracas police under Alfredo Pena.

Coincidentally, "leftist" leaflets were also found at the Colombian Embassy bombing site with mysterious "leftist" organization names ... names which I have never heard about and would probably have heard about if they existed because I live in some of the most "dangerous" barrios of Caracas and Tachira, along the Colombian borders.

Anyways, I must add, as I have often stated, that all this smells to me of CIA.

What better way to start a smear campaign against Chavez and Chavez supporters, most of whom live in barrios -- where these mysterious "leftists" groups are presumed to live? In 2002 the opposition killed several innocent opposition supporters (their own people) and them blamed it on Chavez. The CIA and the US-government financed opposition, do not care who they shoot, as long as it serves their best purpose in blaming Chavez ... which then the local opposition media picks up ... which then the US mainstream media sends out to the whole world ... that Chavez and Chavez supporters are murderers.

But wait? Why is it that I call Aleksander Boyd a dishonest and scheming criminal?

This is what he said prior to October 02, 2005, when I published this in one of my articles:
"Paraphrasing Gerry Adams; 'sometimes violence is the only means to achieve goals…' The more the time elapses, the blunter the constitutional violations of the regime, the more I become convinced that the sole way of effectively opposing Chavez is through violence ... Hence there is a solution: to disown the regime for its violations to democratic values, principles and guarantees and encroachment of human rights are evident. Said stance should go in hand with violence, as Gerry Adams pointed out, if some sort of consensus and respect from Chavez and his thugs is to be achieved. ... The solution in my view is clear and simple: violence.' ... The other question that daunts me is, how can democracy be protected from itself? What mechanisms has the layman to simply kick out of office pariahs such as Chavez? The answer is none, and since there is no democratic mechanisms in place, violence is the only recourse left."

You can check it out directly at this link:

And, by the way, FEDECAMARAS (where this latest bombing took place) is the traditional and largest and highly corrupt association of Venezuelan chambers of commerce ... and it received hefty financing from the NED, a US government organization that was created by Reagan in the early 1980s to replace subversive CIA financing abroad ... and coincidentally, FEDECAMARAS was one of the two main Venezuelan organizations (the other was the CTV) which headed up the violent coup against Chavez in 2002 around the same time when innocent opposition people were killed by the same opposition group of people who headed up the coup.

I am quite sure that Aleksander Boyd wouldn't even squint if he "had to kill" his own people in order to blame Chavez ... at least that is what I can deduce from his approach to the latest bombing and from his words, above.

Oscar Heck

UK managed to sell more than half of its gold reserves at an average $275 per ounce - the very bottom of a 20-year bear market

For years, the International Monetary Fund has played a crucial role trying to shore up the tattered economies of bankrupt nations. Now the IMF’s own finances are in a mess, forcing it to consider the sale of around 400 million tonnes of gold out of its total reserves of a little over 3,200 tonnes - the world’s third largest after the US and Germany. The prospect of a sale, which has not yet been approved but could raise $12 billion at current prices, is the latest factor to have triggered volatility in the global gold market.

FARC Detainee Wife Warns Colombia

Caracas, Feb 26 (Prensa Latina) Angela Rodriguez de Perez, wife of former Colombian congressman, Luis Eladio Perez, demanded careful governmental assistance in the liberation of four persons in the hands of FARC rebels in this country.

Rodriguez told Colombian authorities that they should demonstrate seriousness and comply with the promise of preventing military actions in the area where the detainees must be handed over to Caracas authorities.

The wife of the former congressman participated in a press conference where Venezuelan minister of foreign relations and justice, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin exposed the presence of more than eight thousand soldiers in the region.

Chacin and chancellor Nicolas Maduro informed that their government has the coordinates for the liberation of the four former congresspersons detained by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The insurgent group announced the liberation of Orlando Beltran, Luis Eladio Perez, Luis Grechem and Gloria Polanco in recognition of the mediation of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and senator Piedad Cordoba.

The Colombian insurgents freed this year the former congresswoman Consuelo Gonzales and former vice presidential candidate, Clara Rojas, after Colombian president had rejected Chavez mediation for a humanitarian agreement.

Venezuela: Election Calendar to be Discussed in March

Caracas, Feb 25 (Prensa Latina) Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) will review in March the calendar for regional elections, in order to outline the steps to be taken, electoral sources announced on Monday.

CNE official Sandra Oblitas said the calendar is expected to include the deadline for voter registration, nomination of candidates, campaign and audits, among other election-related issues.
Oblitas highlighted the important role played by verifications as a guarantee of the openness of the electoral process.

CNE sources have estimated that election date to choose some 600 governors, mayors and members of legislative councils might be November 23.

Terrorism probes still haunting Posada at 80

In the twilight of his life, Luis Posada Carriles is a free man in Miami -- for now. But criminal and congressional probes weigh heavily on him. Luis Posada Carriles, the anti-Castro Cuban militant, celebrated his 80th birthday this month at an undisclosed location in Miami, but many serious legal and political questions about his alleged crimes as a younger man still loom as large as ever.

Milka Duno has not taken off her driving gloves; instead the petit racer from Venezuela moves forward into 2008

Milka Duno, despite a rough debut in selected IndyCar Series races last year, has not taken off her driving gloves; instead the petit racer from Venezuela moves forward into 2008. 'I'm very pleased to get an opportunity with Dreyer and Reinbold to take the next step in my career,' Duno said. 'I felt comfortable with them right away in the first few meetings. I think that working together with them will make me move forward.'

Presidential summit for the launching of the Union of South American nations, Unasur, will take place March 28/29

The presidential summit for the launching of the Union of South American nations, Unasur, will take place March 28/29 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, said Colombian Foreign Affairs minister Fernando Araujo. “A meeting of presidents is scheduled for that date in Cartagena and we hope that the treaty will be approved which is an effort from the whole region in search of a more intense integration ... We’re drafting the Nations of the South Union treaty which we expect to have ready for the end of March” for approval by the twelve presidents added Araujo. The original summit was scheduled for January but was postponed at the last meeting of delegates which took place in Chile in November 2007.

PetroFalcon Begins Natural Gas Deliveries From Cumarebo

PetroFalcon Corporation, a publicly-traded natural resource company with oil and gas operations in Venezuela, announced that its 40%-owned joint venture, PetroCumarebo, S.A., resumed natural gas deliveries from the Cumarebo Field in the East Falcon Block. PetroCumarebo is now delivering an additional 10 million cubic feet of natural gas per day ('mmcf/d') and 150 barrels of oil per day ('bbls/d'), or 1,816 barrels of oil equivalent per day ('boe/d'), from the Cumarebo Field. PDVSA's Interconexion Centro Occidente ('ICO') pipeline transports the natural gas to the nearby Paraguana Refinery Complex.

Four more hostages in Colombia could be freed in the coming hours

Four more hostages in Colombia could be freed in the coming hours if reports from Venezuela are correct. The captives being held by FARC rebels are said to have been brought together in preparation for their release. After negotiations with representatives of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez FARC said last month that it would liberate the four Colombian politicians. Venezuelan Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez has said his officials are getting ready for a handover as early as Wednesday. But he has also accused Colombia of putting the hostages at risk with military operations in the area.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Posada Carriles celebrated his 80th birthday this month at an undisclosed location in Miami

Luis Posada Carriles, the anti-Castro Cuban militant, celebrated his 80th birthday this month at an undisclosed location in Miami, but many serious legal and political questions about his alleged crimes as a younger man still loom as large as ever. In New Jersey, Posada is the ''target'' of a federal grand jury investigation into the series of 1997 tourist-site bombings in Havana, his lawyer Arturo Hernandez confirmed to The Miami Herald. Posada has long denied any involvement in the bombings. In Washington, Posada's alleged role in the bombing of a 1976 Cuban airliner that killed 73 people is being revisited by a Democratic lawmaker from Massachusetts who plans to hold Congressional hearings on the matter this spring.

Correction: make that another two alphabetical letter acronym...

VHeadline commentarist and money market specialist Fred Cederholm writes: I've been thinking about benchmarks. Actually I've been thinking about the December 2007 trade numbers, the recession, our trade deficits, our energy deficits, a line drawn in the water, and mushrooms. The "official" numbers for our energy imports and our trade deficit(s) for this past December, and the cumulative trade deficit(s) for the calendar year just ended were released last week. There are some real eye openers in the figures.

These should be filed away for comparison because 2008 is already shaping up for US/us to be a year of many changes ... mostly downward!

You see financial pundits (me included) are looking to the year ahead as a year of downturns. Some have already postulated that the dreaded R-word of recession actually began in the final months of 2007. Others predict its beginnings in the first or second quarter of 2008. Because this is a presidential election year, the government will pull out all the stops to put forth a smiley face during the third quarter before the actual election in November. We've heard their mantra of "don't worry, be happy (and spend)" before. Congress and the Bush Administration already have approved a $150 Billion rebate package giving tax-paying citizenry a spring windfall to soften coming downturns. This means of course, a supplementary bump in our National Debt by the same amount. All coming downturns should be reflected in our consumption of goods and energy. Dollar slide will continue.

Our eight largest trade deficits for the month of December 2007 (and 2007 Year to Date) are as follows: China $18.792 Billion ($256.269 Billion YTD), Japan $6.593 Billion ($82.799 Billion YTD), Mexico $6.511 Billion ($74.258 Billion YTD), Canada $4.656 Billion, ($64.674 Billion YTD), Germany $3.874 Billion ($44.712 Billion YTD), Venezuela $3.651 Billion ($29.697 Billion YTD), Nigeria $3.431 Billion ($29.984 Billion YTD), and Saudi Arabia $2.704 Billion ($25.227 Billion YTD). Considering that our hands-down overall biggest dollar denominated imports are for crude oil and petroleum distillates, just WHAT all are we hocking our souls for in what we are getting from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />China, Japan, and Germany? As an aside… our biggest trade surpluses are with the Dutch with a December surplus of $1.513 Billion and a YTD surplus of $14.566 Billion.

The top eight sources of Uncle $ugar's crude oil imports for December 2007 were: Canada (1.780 Million barrels per DAY--MBPD), Saudi Arabia (1.675 MBPD), Venezuela (1.246 MBPD), Mexico (1.234 MBPD), Nigeria (1.210 MBPD), Angola (0.439 MBPD), Iraq (0.378 MBPD), and Algeria (0.348 MBPD). Uncle $ugar's top eight sources of total petroleum imports for April 2007 were: Canada (2.326 MILLION barrels per DAY--MBPD), Saudi Arabia (1.686 MBPD), Venezuela (1.382 MBPD), Mexico (1.322 MBPD), Nigeria (1.271 MBPD), Algeria (0.600 MBPD), Angola (0.439 MBPD) and Iraq (0.378 MBPD). The December import value of crude oil ($24.9 Billion) and the December import average price per barrel of crude oil ($82.76) were records. Despite all the December saber rattling between Washington and Caracas, Venezuela regained its historic slot as our overall number three energy provider. Mexican production/ sales to US/us continued to decline.

How we fare in 2008 should be reflected in the numbers presented to the public.

In the recent past, such reporting has been spun, hyped, or even eliminated altogether. We stopped getting the M-3 money supply data last March and more economic reporting by Uncle $ugar is scheduled for elimination this March. The FED and the Administration have drawn their line in the water, seeing more liquidity as the solution - not the problem. The US citizenry is being treated like mushrooms; kept in the dark and fed PR (public relations).

Correction: make that another two alphabetical letter acronym.

Fred Cederholm

CANTV opens campaign to have its employees call their computer mouse a ``raton''

Venezuela's state-owned telephone company is opening a campaign to have its employees call their computer mouse a ``raton'' -- Spanish for mouse -- in a bid to preserve the country's language and culture. Managers at Cia. Anonima Nacional de Telefonos de Venezuela, which was nationalized last year, decided to initiate the ``Say it in Spanish, say it with pride'' campaign because they noticed workers were using English words for industry terms that have Spanish translations, according to a statement from Venezuela's Information Ministry.

Exxon Mobil Actions against PDVSA Lack Legal Foundations

Caracas, Feb 25 (Prensa Latina) The actions taken by the US transnational company Exxon Mobil against the state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) to freeze its assets abroad lack legal foundations, experts said on Monday.

In statements to the newspaper PANORAMA, expert Victor Santamarin pointed out that as an arbitration process is underway, such a measure is ruled out before the trial begins.

Santamarin said that Exxon Mobil's lawsuit for five billion dollars is lower than the 12 billion dollars demanded in as preventive actions by British and Dutch courts.

In that regard, the experts recalled that the ICSID (International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes), which is in charge of settling the dispute, has not ruled that assets must be frozen as a previous step to arbitration.

So far, the country has spent more than 1.8 billion dollars to control operations in the Orinoco Oil Strip, which was mainly run by transnational companies.

According to Deputy Mario Isea, the lawsuit exceeds Exxon Mobil's reported assets in the former Cerro Negro project (currently Petromonagas), which totaled 700 million dollars.

In that regard, the lawmaker pointed out that transnational company owned 41.77 percent of the assets, so it cannot demand such a huge compensation.

For Venezuela, Isea added, additional lawsuits by the US company are pressure mechanisms outside the scope of the law.

Venezuela will halt exports of foods such as milk and meat unless domestic demand is met first

Venezuela will halt exports of foods such as milk and meat unless domestic demand is met first, the government said today, as leftist president Hugo Chavez struggles with shortages of staple products. Venezuelan shoppers have for months faced shortages of basics such as milk and chicken, a problem the government blames on growing demand and hoarding but business leaders say stems from price controls that do not keep pace with high inflation.

Venezuelan official blames 'anarchists' for explosion that killed 1 man

Venezuela's justice minister on Monday blamed 'anarchists' for an explosion that killed one man at the offices of Venezuela's leading business chamber and he vowed to capture those responsible.
'We know who they are and we know the game they want to play,' Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin told reporters. 'We're going to capture them.' The blast near the entrance of the Fedecamaras business chamber headquarters in Caracas killed a man and shattered windows early Sunday.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue's round-up of news from Venezuela

Veteran international analyst and journalist, Walter Martinez has appeared on state television VTV once more after a long absence. The reappearance of former Uruguay air force pilot, Martinez was welcomed by President Chavez who phoned in for a chat. Martinez says his famous program "Dossier" will return via the military academy television channel but will be transmitted by other channels as well. Mr. Martinez' program was taken off the air the two years ago by VTV state television board of directors, much to the dismay of many viewers who followed Martinez' analysis of world affairs as they happened or in "pleno desarrollo" as was his catch phrase.

The government has been reviewing its media policies. The revision is part of its overall strategy to review, rectify, and give a new impulse to all aspects of the Bolivarian revolution. The revision process is headed by Communication & Information Minister (Minci) Minister, Andres Izarra and VTV president, Yuri Pimentel. President Chavez has told both men that one of the important aspects of the revision is to turn the Channel 8 into a 24/7 news channel like Telesur, while the other channels will concentrate on sport, culture and general entertainment.

Andres Izarra has announced plans to introduce new news formats aimed at amplifying and improving communication processes in Venezuela itself. Speaking on VTV state channel's "Open Dialogue" program, the Minister insists on the need for an excellent television service and better quality journalism to replace current formats and to give an impulse to information and communication. The plan is within the framework of the 3Rs strategy to review, rectify, and re-impulse policies. According to the Minister, current government channels follow a very generalized profile competing for the same audience and part of the current government review debate centers on specifying the audience each channel wants to reach. "We want to complement the evolution and impact of channels by implementing and monitoring an audiometer that will provide us with means of competing not just with private channels but also for audiences ... the channels must be competitive, have a purpose and be original ... that is the spirit motivating us to propose the changes." The Minister has denied that the radio-electrical space is being dominated by community media, arguing that 80% of the space is in the hands of private companies, according to statistics from communications regulatory body, Conatel.

According to a report in the Notitarde newspaper, US Senator Richard Lugar has called on Congress to investigate concerns he has about Venezuela. As member of the Senate foreign affairs committee, Lugar has asked the General Accountability Office to provide an update on concerns he has about " large quantities of cocaine being transshipped the ports of Puerto Cabello and Maracaibo." Other concerns deal with possible government involvement in the trade and links with narco-trafficking rings and guerrilla groups. Lugar states that he has drawn up a list of 13 concerns.

Delegates attending the second plenary session of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela's (PSUV) fifth assembly have unanimously appointed President Chavez party president. They also decided that the 1,861 delegates make up the General Assembly of Delegates, which will act as the new party's maximum authority. An election system for national authorities on a temporary basis has been approved and next Saturday each of the delegates will tender names of three candidates to the national leadership bureau. Voting will take place on the eighth or ninth of March. PSUV national coordinator, Jorge Rodriguez states that the election process will be automated and has asked the National Elections Council (CNE) to oversee the electoral process.

During his Sunday radio address from Apure State, President Chavez insisted on pushing forward the agrarian reform and the war on landed estates. The President has announced an investment of (Bs.F) 2.8 billion bolivares in credits for agricultural producers to help boost production in some areas. Chavez has expressed the hope that by 2012 national demand for meat will be met by local producers. According to Agricultural & Lands Minister, Elias Jaua, Venezuela produces 2 million heads of cattle and says he hopes to produce 3 million heads of cattle a year by 2012. As regards milk production, Minister Jaua maintains that the plan is to lift production 200% by 2012 from 1.7 million liters to 4.2 million.

The UK Agroflora has once again come under fire when President Chavez was told that the Vestey subsidiary has been restricting the movement of 200 indigenous citizens. National Assembly deputy for Apure, Cristobal Jimenez claims that company had fenced in around 200 Yaruro indians who could only move get in and out of their lands with company permission. Agroflora owns a number of farms and ranches in the State, such as Cana Pistola ( 75,000 hectares), Turagua ( 30,000 hectares), Punta de Mata and Los Cocos ( 105,000 hectares). The company purchased the El Morichito ranch from the State Governor under Juan Vicente Gomez and the indians were included in the sale. Agriculture & Lands Minister, Elias Jaua comments that after meeting the Agroflora president, the latter agreed to free up 4,000 hectares to allow the indians to come and go as they please. Chavez has rejected Agroflora's argument that some lands are not producing because they are part of a nature reserve. Jimenez informed Chavez that Nelson Rockefeller was a shareholder in the Invega company which owned the El Frio ranch. The deceased US Vice president under Gerard Ford visited the ranch several times.