Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Patrick J. O'Donoghue's round up of news from Venezuela -- October 22, 2008

The National Armed Force Armament Directorate (Darfa) undertook a surprise inspection at Zulia State police stations. State government security and defense secretary, Alejandro Querales says he was not informed beforehand and is unaware of the reasons for the inspection. Querales states that Zulia state police are waiting for the return of rifles that were withdrawn four years ago. However, regional police commissioner, Jesus Cubillan admits that he was waiting for a visit from Darfa since they generally undertake two inspections a year.

Defending customs officials at the Simon Bolivar International airport in Maiquetia, Passport & Identification (Onidex) director-general, Colonel Baudelio Medrano insists that reviews are random and not discriminatory. The remarks come after complaints from opposition journalists and politicians leaving and entering the country that they are being harassed by officials insisting on taking their passports for photocopying and interrogating them about their trip. Medrano admits that on any day 40 passports could be reviewed. The latest protest at treatment when leaving Venezuela comes from Chilean professor, resident in Germany, Francisco Mieres, who says he was stopped and questioned just before entering the airplane.

Seniat/IRS officers have seized 33.3 kg of cocaine at Valencia international airport in Carabobo. The drugs haul was detected when it passed through an x-ray machine at customs and was hidden inside a cargo of ceramics destined for The Netherlands and Spain. According to police reports, the seizure is part of a zero contraband plan at national and international airports.

Sumate electoral group is proposing to set up networks of so called super-witnesses to cover the next 10 years when 10 electoral processes are on the cards. Sumate's Jose Luis Perez says the idea arose because of the number of elections Venezuela has held and will hold in the future. Perez points out that there are three ways to take part in elections, first as voters, the second as a members of a table, and finally as witnesses supporting the project. According to Sumate, the super-witnesses will ensure electoral transparency and the idea is that they are present at all voting tables.

Communication & Information Ministry and the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television are organizing a second training session for alternative and community media. The course will be called "pedagogical accompaniment" and revolves around training and providing technical assistance to around 185 community media in the areas of general production, news production, programming, technology, design and photography using the method learning while doing. The course consists of 11 workshops comprising six dedicated to radio, three to television and two to printing.

A communique from the organized groups in 23 de Enero district in Caracas states that the groups will defend themselves from media campaigns against the parish and genuine expressions of popular organisation. The groups highlight an article in El Universal accusing groups and "delinquents" of setting up a reign of terror in the district. The groups insist that they are the product of a "long, vigorous and wonderful tradition of struggle and popular organisation" lasting a quarter of a century and reject any attempt to criminalize groups or people in the parish using arguments of class or racial hatred. The communique calls on news corporations and their owners to be "rigorous in seeking the truth" and to pay attention to the multiplicity of opinions within the parish. Signing off, the groups boast that they are the "most combative, Bolivarian, revolutionary, internationalist and organized demographic unity in Latin America." That condition, they claim, has not been achieved in any bureaucratic convention and will not be undermined by any multi-million campaign backed by television studios and smear laboratories.

Economy & Finance Minister, Ali Rodriguez Araque has told the National Assembly (AN) that the national budget 2009 does not contemplate any change in the exchange rate. Presenting the budget plan to the assembly, the Minister maintains that a review of different variables has been researched and that the current exchange rate of $1/Bs.F 2.15 will remain in force. The budget calculates an oil production of 3.6 million bpd and exports of 2.9 billion bpd. Inflation has been set at 15% and growth 6%. The Minister says Venezuela has not been hit by the international financial crisis and points to last week's average basket of $68 per barrel. The budget next year is set at $60 a barrel as the guideline.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue
patrick.vheadline@gmail.com

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Venezuela is facing the most difficult period of its history with honest reporters crippled by sectarianism on top of rampant corruption within the administration and beyond, aided and abetted by criminal forces in the US and Spanish governments which cannot accept the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people to decide over their own future.

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