Saturday, January 31, 2009

Patrick J. O'Donoghue's news and views from Venezuela -- January 24-25 and Monday, January 26

VHeadline News Editor Patrick J. O'Donoghue reports:

Primero Justicia (PJ) youth leader, Yon Goicoechea comments that the opposition student's march last Friday against the constitutional amendment is a "bridge to the Other Venezuela to tell them that we are many and that there cannot be two countries in Venezuela, just one." The "No" vote, Goicoechea points out, ratifies what Venezuela has been and wants to be, a country that can replace poverty for work, for effort ... "we want our young people to be able to go to university and children to college." The "No" vote, he proclaims, means more productivity and more effort in the countryside and for workers, greater possibilities of study, and an end to discrimination and exclusion.

President Chavez has welcomed US President Barrack Obama's decree to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and ban torture of political suspects. Venezuela is full of hope because the world seems to be entering the road of reason and peace, Chavez says during an ideological workshop for members of (Caracas) 23 de Enero district electoral commands. Chavez admits that he agrees with Fidel Castro on the latter's appreciation of Obama, stating that the new US President should be given time. Chavez states that Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was influenced by Obama becoming President.

President Chavez has made an important visit to Colombia to meet his counterpart, Alvaro Uribe. At a press conference with the Colombian President in Cartagena Chavez announced the exchange of new Ambassadors. Gustavo Marquez will go to Bogota, while Maria Luisa Chiappe will represent Colombia in Caracas. The two countries have also agreed to set up a technical commission to study the impact of the world financial crisis on trade between the two countries. Uribe proposed setting up infrastructure works such as bridges, energy sources and water in border areas to improve people's standard of living in those critical areas and Chavez supports the initiative. Chavez reveals that $200 million will go towards financing micro and small companies in both countries. The Presidents agree to meet again in April to sign documents governing the technical commission. Both countries will continue to strengthen confidence in each other, Chavez promises, but he did ask political economic, social and military and civil actors in both countries to contribute towards generating a genuine climate of confidence as a condition. Both Presidents have also decided to push for a possible single currency for bilateral trade operations as one possible way of meeting the world economic crisis. President Chavez maintains that at this moment of crisis the ministries of finance must study payment mechanisms in trade relations and attempt to introduce payment with their own currencies.

Maracaibo Mayor and leader of the main opposition party, Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT), Manuel Rosales visited the eastern Venezuelan city of Maturin to campaign for the "No" vote on February 15. Rosales says President Chavez is subjecting the Venezuelan people to a new ruse in presenting a constitutional amendment proposal. Gonzales insists on the main opposition line that the people already rejected the proposal at the December 2007 referendum. President Chavez' aim is to remain in power forever, Rosales alleges, and he intends to "eliminate private property and indoctrinate children in the Castro-Communist Doctrine." The opposition leader has also stated that the only way to escape poverty is to elect the right person to govern Venezuela and to ensure alternability in power, as in other countries.

Speaking at a meeting of the workers for the constitutional amendment, President Chavez says he is a defender of the working class and promoter of revolutionary spirit among workers. Chavez calls on the working class and its leaders to take conscience of the revolutionary process in Venezuela because they have a "great responsibility and should distance themselves from the vices of the past, namely the old Accion Democratica and Christian Socialist trade unionism that corrupted workers." Venezuela today needs a united working class and an end to divisions and discord, Chavez urges, and he hopes to see on the horizon a united, revolutionary and Socialist working class ... "it's is the responsibility of all of us, of the working class itself and its leaders."

Speaking as president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), President Chavez has launched the start of the fourth phase of the campaign for the "Yes" vote, which he dubs as " The Takeoff." In his second weekly column, the President says the political battle for the constitutional amendment he has proposed is becoming more intense as the referendum approaches and that is why it is important to reinforce the general offensive on all fronts and everywhere. The President reports that he is permanently on the campaign trail throughout Venezuela where he has sworn-in thousands of committees, urging them to visit each house in their neighborhood to ensure victory for the "Yes" vote. In the article Chavez calls on committees to show "initiative, creativity, joy, organization and mobilization in campaigning." The key element, he argues, is to counter a powerful opposition disinformation campaign against the people based on permanent manipulation and media laboratory spin. The President contends that every time he hears the "petite yankees" of Venezuela refer to the amendment proposal as calling for "indefinite" re-election, he remembers Shakespeare's Macbeth quote about a "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury yet meaningless." An election is either definite or it isn't, Chavez writes, re-election means return to elect and anyone who wants to continue in the public office must subject himself to the verdict of the people. "How can anyone remain in power, if s/he is not elected? Chavez concludes that the opposition is afraid of the People (El Pueblo) that has woken up like one big collective Lazarus.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue

Friday, January 23, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Crystallex International (KRY) and Gold Reserve (GRZ) are doing their best to implement damage control..."

VHeadline Venezuela News reports:
Speaking in London, Friday evening UK time, Agapov Group CEO Andre Agapov -- commenting a Reuters report published yesterday (Thursday) told VHeadline Venezuela News that the Russia-Venezuela joint venture with CVG-Minerven remains distinctly "in the game!"

"VenRus (signed in November last year) is the ONLY solution as per President Hugo Chavez' speech (at the opening of the National Assembly a week ago!). Crystallex International (KRY) and Gold Reserve (GRZ) are doing their best to implement damage control in the current impasse."

Agapov adds: "The Ministry of Basic Industries & Mines (Mibam) has a very busy time and with less than a month to go to the national referendum, we (Agapov) are still the ONLY partner of choice for the Venezuelan government ... the others simply do NOT exist!"

VHeadline Venezuela News


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.


Patrick J. O'Donoghue's news and views from Venezuela -- January 23, 2009

VHeadline News Editor Patrick J. O'Donoghue reports:

Writing his first newspaper column, President Chavez tells us where he is coming from and describes the two divisions in Venezuela today. Using baseball terms, (the title: Chavez' line drives comes from baseball), the President describes the two teams currently batting and battling in Venezuela as those who want national independence contrasted with those who want to turn Venezuela once more into a colony ... "a Sub-imperial country, a Sub-Republic." There is no way to achieve independence in Venezuela, Chavez contends, than via a national revolution. The President characterizes Bolivarian Socialism as "Socialist Democracy," which he says has already begun. The other team he dubs as "petite-yankee" (pitiyanquis) that has condemned Venezuela to an historical grave and depreciation via Capitalism and its political expression, representative democracy. Another difference is that the independence team has sworn an oath, the same which Simon Bolivar swore in Rome on Monte Sacro on August 15, 1805, whereas the colonialists do not have an oath, a project, or a flag. They turn their flag upside down and use seven stars, Chavez comments, and not eight stars as mandated by Bolivar in Angostura ... "it's a counter-flag and they are counter-Venezuelans, a no-country people." The President refers to himself as a soldier who was trained in the school of commitment and obedience to the legitimate power "orientated towards the collective effort in the search of tactical objectives and strategic ends." Earlier on, Chavez recalls, he became a revolutionary soldier because he accepted the sovereign power of the Venezuelan people as legitimate and superior and has sworn complete subordination to that power for the rest of his days. Referring to the upcoming referendum, Chavez says that if the majority reject it, he will go on another February, namely in 2013 but he warns that if the "No" vote wins, the colony will impose itself. The President highlights the importance of the month of February in his political career, recording his rebellion against the government on February 4, 1992 and the rebellion of the people against the Fourth Republic in 1989.

Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, Julio Escalona proclaims that Israel did not win in Gaza because it neither destroyed Hamas nor its operational capacity. People did not go against Hamas, Escalona asserts, despite pamphlets dropped from Israeli planes ... what Israel did was to withdraw. The UN Security Council had to take a resolution on the destruction and massacre in Gaza to which Israel responded by attacking UN buildings. Escalona reveals that the Security Council took the decision after pressure from the president of the General Assembly, Father Miguel D'Escoto. For the first time, the General Assembly challenged the USA's veto power, setting a precedent in the transformation of the current system of power and world superstructure, which includes the International Monetary Fund. Venezuela's mission to the UN met the challenge and fulfilled its duty to the country and the world, the diplomat concludes, saying those responsible for the genocide in Gaza are the same crowd responsible for the financial crisis, food crisis, global warming and the eventual death of the planet. The answer, Escalona challenges, lies in the reaction of peoples of the planet, recovering their capacity to think and act with autonomy to prevent the spiritual assassination that is taking place through materialism and lack of solidarity.

The new Undersecretary of State, James Steinberg, seeking US Senate approval, says he intends to adopt a clear diplomacy towards Venezuela and relations will include direct contacts that favor US national interests, which include ending Venezuela's links with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and anti-drugs cooperation. Steinberg has told the US. Senate foreign affairs committee that the US has ceded ground too many times to Chavez whose actions and vision for the region neither favor his citizens or the peoples of Latin America. First reactions to the supposedly new policy confirms suspicions of a continuation of the Bush Administration's take on Venezuela. The Obama administration, Steinberg told Senators will seek a more active role in Latin America with a positive approximation which will ignore the "theatrical attempts of President Chavez to dominate the regional agenda." The US. he continues, is waiting for a tangible sign that Venezuela wants to improve relations with the USA and no decision has been taken regarding how to approach the Venezuelan government. Steinberg reinforces the Bush administration line, stating that the success of the war on drugs in Colombia has forced narco-traffickers to change their routes through Venezuela, whose "geography, rampant corruption, weak judicial system and lack of international cooperation" has converted it as an ideal transshipment route. In conclusion, no real change in the US mentality that South America is the USA's backyard and can be sorted out easily. The approach as outlined by Steinberg and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton seems to confirm President Chavez' warning to people in Latin America not to hold out many illusions about the change in US policy towards the continent and Venezuela with the arrival of Obama.

During a visit of Argentinian President, Cristina Fernandez to Venezuela, it has been learned that President Chavez and herself have agreed to hold meetings every three months to review the two countries' bilateral agenda. The decision was announced during the signing of around 20 agreements between the two countries. Fernandez points out that the quarterly meetings will be preceded by ministerial work sessions. Agreements were reached in the areas of food, technology and energy. Both Presidents have expressed the will to continue working for greater integration in Latin America and to strengthen exchanges between the two countries.

The Inter American Human Rights Commissions special freedom of expression rapporteur has condemned the assassination of Venezuelan journalist, Orel Sambrano last week and calls on Venezuelan authorities to undertake a quick and efficient investigation into the assassination, which took place in Carabobo. Sambrano was shot dead last Friday by two gunmen on a motorbike. According to the rapporteur, the journalist was investigating narco-trafficking rings and local corruption. On January 1, press photographer Jacinto Lopez was killed in a criminal incident in Barquisimeto (Lara) and a colleague of his wounded. Another journalist, Raphael Finol was wounded after entering the building of his newspaper, El Regional.

Interior & Justice (Minci) Minister Tarek El Aissami has accused the opposition 24-hours TV news station, Globovision of joint participation in street disorders by opposition students from private universities with the intention of destabilizing the political situation in Venezuela. The Minister made a statement during a visit to Tocuyito penitentiary in Carabobo to install a regional penitentiary council. Globovision, the Minister states, was present when the police seized incendiary devices in a truck used during an opposition student march on Tuesday and started accusing the police chief of planting Molotov cocktails, whereas VTV State television showed clearly what was inside the truck, as well as the driver, whom El Assaimi claims, has taken part in several street disturbances. The Minister also points to the coverage given to the arrest of students belonging to the pro-government La Piedrita group dubbed as "criminals" by Globovision, in contrast to opposition students causing disturbances who were referred to as simple "students."

The Coordinadora Simon Bolivar representing groups in the Caracas district of 23 de Enero is celebrating 51 years of the end of dictatorship in Venezuela, and the 52 years of the foundation of the parish itself with activities that include a cavalcade to support the constitutional amendment proposal to end term limits for all public offices. Among those invited for the day-long activities are Interior & Justice (Minci) Minister Tarek El Aissami, Libertador Mayor Jorge Rodriguez and Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba.

In his weekly "Runrunes" column, opposition spin doctor, Nelson Bocaranda has matured a rumor at the Yellow House (Foreign Ministry) that President Chavez is not at all pleased with the performance of his government's Ambassadors to France and the United Kingdom for allegedly wasting money on trips with their families. Bocaranda contradicts his report by highlighting support given by the Embassy in Paris to the Palestinians in Gaza that merited a grafitti protest from Zionist sectors. VHeadline Venezuela News was unable to get any commentary from the Embassy in London. Bocaranda is well known for latching on to rumors and spinning them as truths.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue


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.


Odeen Ishmael : Latin American-Russian relations expand

VHeadline commentarist, Guyana's Ambassador to Venezuela, Dr. Odeen Ishmael writes: The arrival of four Russian warships to the Caribbean for the joint exercises with the Venezuelan navy in early December, the second official visit by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to Russia three months before, and the reciprocal two-day visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, on November 27-28, spurred speculation for a while in the western media as to whether a "Cold War" situation would develop in South America.

Medvedev's visit to Venezuela and also to Brazil obviously raised the region's political profile in the eyes of the world. In Caracas, Russian and Venezuelan officials signed a series of accords, including one pledging cooperation in nuclear energy for peaceful uses.

Even before these recent events, Russian-Latin American relations have been
expanding in the areas of investment, military and energy. But, certainly,
Russia does not maintain the same level of ties with Latin American countries as
it did during the Cold War years.

Significantly, Russian-Venezuelan relations have expanded since 2004 with cooperation agreements in the fields of energy, investment and military. Russian energy firms have been invited to invest in petroleum exploration in the Orinoco Basin. And in regard to oil exports, Venezuela has been reaching out to Russia and other countries including Iran, China and Portugal to diversify its oil exports in case any problem occurs with its trade relations with the US.

However, it is not only Venezuela that benefits from Russian military relations. Similar agreements have developed with many other Latin American countries. While Venezuela is the largest purchaser or armaments, Argentina has bought helicopters, radars and air traffic control systems. Peru has also acquired Russian military equipment while Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and Colombia pursue cordial military relations.

With Brazil, Russia maintains a strategic partnership through which the two cooperate in technology and in space explorations. In Brasilia, during a three-day visit on November 25-27, Medvedev and President Luiz Lula da Silva discussed the development of bilateral ties in oil and gas production, energy, including nuclear power, as well as space, agriculture and humanitarian issues. Representatives of the two governments also signed agreements on military and technical cooperation.

The Russian president's visit there provided an impetus to the strengthening of bilateral trade and economic, scientific and technical relations in the context of forming a "technological alliance" between the two countries. Bilateral trade between the two nations already surpassed US$7 billion in 2008, and they plan to increase annual investment to $10 billion by 2010.

In addition to Venezuela and Brazil, Russia has technical agreements with Latin American countries including Argentina, Mexico and Chile and assists in many infrastructure projects in the region. Russia's economic investment has multiplied as well and this includes the involvement of its aluminium giant RUSAL in the bauxite industry of both Venezuela and Guyana. However, it is feared that Russian economic enterprises in the region may slow down due to the current global economic crisis.

Evidently, the expanded military relations between Russia and Venezuela, as well
as with other countries in the region, are worrying to the US which has
traditionally dominated the arms market in Latin America. Thus, Russia's
military investment can easily undermine US influence and some military analysts
feel that this may whip up an arms race in the region.

Since the end of the Cold War at the end of the 1980s, Russia downgraded its influence in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) with Cuba being the main loser in this policy change. Russia, by the 1990s, no longer had a socialist government, and the once powerful Soviet Union was broken up in many new states where economic interests rather than socialist ideology had become more important.

Russia itself turned more capitalistic as the decade advanced and moved politically closer to the United States to which it showed strong solidarity following the terrorist attacks in September 2001. And possibly because of this political closeness, it stayed aloof of the leftist leaders of Latin America

  • However, all of this changed during the Iraq war and American support for revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, and Russia moved to improve ties with countries in the Americas, generally viewed as retaliation for US meddling in its backyard.

But the primary reasons for Russia's re-activism in Latin America can easily be interpreted as its desire to re-emerge as a strong power in the global political scene, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean where it exerted much influence during the Cold War years.

Over the years, LAC has developed strong economic and political linkages with the European Union (EU), and more recently, the Union of South American Nations has fashioned separate partnerships with Africa and the Arab nations. All of these alliances support a preferential trade agreement, something which Russia also wants with Latin America and the Caribbean.

Interestingly, the EU is also troubled by the growing relations between Latin America and Russia. The European Commission has since urged member countries to take action to combat Russian influence in the fields of energy and military in Latin America. The EU is also keen on expanding relations but the grouping has come under sharp criticisms from some LAC governments for not paying too much attention to poverty and other serious social problems in the region as it pushes to expand its economic relationship. For instance, at the EU-LAC summit in Peru last year, the EU was sharply criticised for its plans to implement its new immigration law which will result in the deportation of many Latin American immigrants.

While it is true that some LAC governments are on the ideological left, their relations with Russia cannot be seen as part of a leftist alliance since Russia by no means positioned on the left of the ideological divide. No doubt, by developing economic, military and political relations with Moscow, countries of the region are asserting their independence and emphasising that they can have successful relations with both "West" and "East" as they integrate themselves more and more into the global economy.

And as a new administration takes the reins in Washington, Latin America and the Caribbean are now anxiously look forward to see how the United States -- which has paid little attention to the region in the past eight years -- will approach this changing political, economic and military climate in the region.

Dr. Odeen Oshmael

(The writer is Guyana's ambassador to Venezuela. The views expressed are solely those of the writer.)

Concerning President Chavez of Venezuela ... both Bush and Obama sang the same Swan's Song.

VHeadline commentarist, University of Los Andes political sciences professor, Dr. Franz J. T. Lee writes: The extravagant United States "150 million dollar" presidential inauguration festival cannot hide the current deepening economic recession and global depression, also not the cancerous alienating outgrowths and the dangerous, belligerent contradictions of the coming of a possible global fascism.

The horrendous Gaza massacre of innocent children and women, using sophisticated weaponry of human torture and agony, was a gruesome kind of political lightning conductor to deviate the world public attention away from the real causes of the Gaza genocide and of more atrocities to come.

Furthermore, historical experience indicates that during all economic cycles of depression, tendentially world wars threaten to break out; latently, a nightmare for the system, possible anti-capitalist social revolutions also tend to flare up across the globe and the weakest links of the metropolitan imperialist chains begin to erode, to shatter.

Currently, more than last month, corruption, speculation and bankruptcy are rife; the slump deepens inexorably; across the globe big banks falter, sectors of the world market plummet and economic growth stagnates, slinging huge economies like Japan and the USA, in fact, the whole world order into apocalyptic jeopardy.

The elected president Barack Obama had nothing to say of its loyal Middle East ally, with regard to the Gaza massacre ... because two presidents of the USA cannot voice their class opinions simultaneously. However, what is valid for Pontius was not valid for Pilate: with reference to President Chavez of Venezuela, before the opulent show, in unison both Bush and Obama sang the same old terrorist Swan's Song.

On Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, the inherent, structural recession was not impressed by the feudal aristocratic United States 'monarchy', that is, by the military and industrial festivities ad nauseam of the social class basis of the new Democratic president; it was not participating in the huge pan et cirsenses, on the contrary, while the celebrations took place, on Wall Street, and elsewhere, the stock markets declined progressively; all over major banks suffered heavy losses.

The World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) summarized this fiasco as follows:
"The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 4 percent lower, losing 332 points and falling below the 8,000 mark to 7,949. Also sharply down were the Standard & Poor's 500 Index (-5.3 percent) and the Nasdaq Composite Index (-5.8 percent). The Dow and S&P are now at two-month lows, largely erasing the rebound that followed the November presidential election, which saw the markets anticipate an Obama administration stimulus package. "Optimism that government spending would revive the economy [has] evaporated," Bloomberg News reported."

But this was not all: "The financial sector took the biggest hit yesterday, with the S&P 500 Financials Index closing down 17 percent to its lowest level in 13 years. Bank of America stocks closed 29 percent lower, Wells Fargo lost 24 percent, JPMorgan Chase fell 21 percent, and Citigroup declined 20 percent. Boston-based bank State Street, the world's largest institutional money manager, plummeted 56 percent after it announced $6.3 billion of unrealized losses in its investment portfolio, shocking financial analysts who had regarded State Street's financial operations as among the safest in the market."

In Britain and on the European continent major banks suffered similar losses, were shaken by the structural, systemic crisis of world capitalism.

What this means for the metropolitan workers the European Commission told us without any flowers: unemployment in the 16 countries using the euro, which could reach 10 percent at the end of this year. Of course, this is already being accompanied by layoffs, and soon by cutting of wages, of social benefits and by higher taxation to bail out the capitalist State and its respective ruling class bosses.

In reality, what the Murdoch Empire does not inform us about, like in the case of the ex-world power, of the Soviet Union, is the possible dissolution, the demise of the United States of America within the historic context of globalization. To get a glimpse of this historic possibility, Christopher Ketcham, ... who is not a Marxist, rather he is a serious writer of Vanity Fair, GQ, Harper's and other magazines ...
will tell us in his upcoming book why he feels that "The United States Must End".

In plain text, more than a century ago, in his magnificent work 'Capital', Karl Marx explained the main reason for the current volatile 'transrevolutionary' global situation. Only concrete living human labor force produces profits, surplus value, accumulation of capital. Dead technology, in the form of machines and computers do not produce a cent worth of real surplus value. What Marx has called the tendential law of the development of the organic composition of capital is now becoming the Damocles Sword hovering above world capitalism. Just look at who produce what, that is, the bulk of the products on the world market, to note the Achilles' Heel of corporate imperialism.

War machines and computers do not consume, do not realize capital, surplus value. They destroy, they kill. They produce massacres, My Lai, Sharpeville and Gaza. We are entering a mode of production of weapons of mass destruction, of the destruction of capital, of labor, of possible world wars, of the possible annihilation of life on planet Earth.

This is what more than two million United States workers have to try to stop in Washington. Next time, they will have to march on Washington to celebrate their class victory, the end of a mode of destruction, of genocide, torture, massacres and terrorism.

In fact, thereafter they should return home, peacefully, to play with their kids, to make love and not war for a month and then we could see who are the sovereigns of this world. This is much easier said than done, really, if this would be possible to organize on a global scale, then it would not be necessary to do it at all. However, we fear that earthly human emancipation will take another road, that one which our masters have taken for millennia, and are now choosing it for us in Gaza and elsewhere.

For us, here in Venezuela, the class consciousness to eradicate all modes of production, that is, of human destruction, logically, scientifically, philosophically and sapiently, has to be superior to anything that the bourgeoisie ever did, thought about, and ventured beyond. If this would still be possible, only the twinkling stars could tell us.

Franz J. T. Lee


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.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Crystallex' future with Las Cristinas has not yet been decided ... Sanz says "when we have a decision, they will be contacted!"

VHeadline editor & publisher Roy S. Carson writes: Reuters is reporting that the Venezuelan government has not yet decided the toss on who is to exploit the giant Las Cristinas gold mine in southern Bolivar State where Crystallex International Corporation (KRY) is still waiting for final EIS permits to begin work under an exclusive mine-operating contract signed four years ago.

Basic Industries & Mines (Mibam) Minister Rodolfo Sanz is cited by Reuters as saying "the Venezuelan State is ready to exercise sovereign control over its strategic mineral deposits" but that this does NOT preclude any (other) form of relationship/partnership and that the government "will study each (individual) relationship/partnership" on its merits.

Sanz only briefly mentioned Crystallex/Las Cristinas in the Reuters report although the government had recently said that Russian-Canadian Rusoro would be participating in an extended VenRus joint venture to operate the site, estimated to hold gold reserves of some 35.2 million troy ounces.
  • Somewhat side-stepping the issue, Sanz said that a decision on Crystallex' future with the Las Cristinas project has not yet been made, adding that "when we have a decision, they will be contacted!"
Crystallex has already publicly stated -- and Sanz confirmed -- that it had not yet received any further instruction in the matter from Venezuelan authorities. Meanwhile, he (Sanz) stated that ... as of this moment in time ... "Rusoro is not involved in Las Cristinas. Las Cristinas is Venezuela's!"

This latter statement would be logical while negotiations continue between the Russians and Venezuelan government as to the future of Venezuela's mining resources.

Nevertheless, Sanz confirmed that the government (state-owned gold corporation CVG-Minerven) is associated with Rusoro in the RusVen joint venture and that RusVen is already operating the La Camorra and Isidora mines in southern Bolivar State.

The information coincides with facts gleaned from an exclusive VHeadline interview with Agapov Group CEO Andre Agapov, who adamantly refused to be drawn on the subject of Las Cristinas while his company continues with its bid to take over the Las Brisas del Cuyuni gold mine, adjacent to Las Cristinas.
Usually media-cooperative Crystallex executives have remained close-lipped on developments in Venezuela since news of the VenRus joint venture (signed in November) first broke ... we have repeatedly sought clarifying interviews with Crystallex executives since mid-December, but have been routinely told that they will issue no statement or comment until such times as they, themselves, decide if they have anything to say.
Based in London-England, the Agapov Group's CEO Andre Agapov has consistently insisted, and local residents in southern Bolivar State agree, that part of the transnationals' (Crystallex/Gold Reserve) problem in Venezuela is that the government of President Hugo Chavez Frias has balked at giving the companies the final permits while government officials take their time to review other alternatives suggested by, among others, the Russian Agapov Group.

Meanwhile, VHeadline can today reveal that preparations are being made for a high-powered Russian government/trade delegation to hold talks with government and industry officials in Caracas in March, during which event it is understood that a series of multi-billion $ investments in Venezuela will be announced ... including major investments in the Venezuelan gold mining sector.

Roy S. Carson


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.


Chris Herz: As Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has said, Barack Obama might well face assassination...

VHeadline's Washington DC-based commentarist Chris Herz writes: The nomination by US President Barack Obama of Admiral Dennis Blair to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) exposes, perfectly, the sort of weakness one must expect from the new regime in the USA.

  • This conservative is a personal friend of the militarists, most specifically General Wiranto, of the cabal that still runs Indonesia.

When commander of US forces in the Pacific, Admiral Blair, was publicly taxed by the Clinton administration with attempting to limit the violence being inflicted on East Timor under the Indonesian occupation. Instead, intercepted cable traffic (and more on this below) revealed his encouragement of his buddies in a course of massive, reckless, pointless violence.

Apparently the joint US/Australian wireless intelligence installation at Alice Springs, Northern Territories, intercepted Indonesian military radio traffic which indicated that not only was Admiral Blair not in obedience to his purported instructions, but he was promising delivery of more arms to the Indonesians. Intercepts by the Alice Springs people must be shared between the USA and the Australian Defense Ministry.

The famous war correspondent, Allan Nairn at the time reported seeing in police stations in Timor crates of ammunition labeled, Remingtom Arms Company, Hartford, Connecticut, USA.

Anyway, at that moment the Australian government was in the process of being tasked by the United Nations Organization with restoring peace in East Timor and, for some strange reason, did not see why their soldiers should be threatened by US-provided arms and ammunitions. They leaked the contents of this wireless traffic to Mr Nairn.

As is usual in these matters the corporate media in the USA never reported on these matters.

No ... they were mentioned only by the reporter Amy Goodman in her daily program on Pacific Radio. This show, I would like to say as an aside, is an essential for any person wishing to be well-informed as to what is really going on in the USA.

  • Even so, this guerrilla media exposure was enough so that when later Admiral Blair was questioned on the matter before the Congress his response was to lie like a rug.

We are left with two suppositions. First, as was customary during the Clinton years, the military high command were often openly disobedient. Or, second, as was also often the case, the Clinton administration were putting about one story in public and their military emmissary had been instructed to confidentially tell the Indonesians something entirely different. Either is entirely possible, take your pick.

The fact that Blair is not being tasked now with this past misdeed, indeed he seems to have the support now for his bid to head CIA of the major figures in the Congress, suggests the insincerity of the Clinton government vis a vis the matter.

The only other alternative analysis is that the Congress, which as we now know
was attacked with anthrax back in 2001 from within Washington's defense/ intelligence apparatus, still remains terrified of offending these institutions.

Another sign of the weakness of the new government is the ability of a few right-wingers to stall the pending nominations of two individuals to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Commission on the Environment.

In the USA, such appointments, like that of Admiral Blair, must pass a vote in the Senate. The fact is that a person, who may well have lied to that body in the past, will face no challenge, and two who are guilty of nothing other than having done an effective job in lower positions on issues of environmental protection may fail of appointment ... obviously this should speak volumes as to the real locii of power in Washington.

I grant that Obama seems willing to stop the worst abuses of the late Bush government on torture and unlawful imprisonment ... but, within the military, these issues meet with divided opinion. Some officers of my acquainance have always felt that such behaviors on the part of the USA only exposed captured US personnel to similar abuse.

On other issues where military or security officials and interests have more
unified positions, such as the US relationship to unpleasant client regimes as
Indonesia, Obama's options remain limited.

Our new US president may not challenge corporate or military power in any substantial way, even in the unlikely event he is so inclined, or as Venezuela's President Chavez has said, Obama might well face assassination.

The fact that he has had to chose a vice president from the right wing of the Democratic Party, Joseph Biden, must be a constant reminder of this threat and of the very real weakness of his position...

From the imperial capital

Chris Herz


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.


Patrick J. O'Donoghue's news and views from Venezuela -- January 22, 2009

VHeadline News Editor Patrick J. O'Donoghue reports:

Deputy Foreign Minister for Africa, Reinaldo Bolivar has rejected what he calls "excuses" used by Morocco to close its Embassy in Caracas on January 15. The day after closing the Embassy in Caracas and announcing its transfer to the Dominican Republic, Morocco accused Venezuela of supporting the war campaign of the Polisario Front and engaging in hostile acts against Morocco. Bolivar says the closure of the Embassy in Caracas comes one day after Venezuela broke relations with Israel over its invasion of Gaza. The Minister reveals that Venezuela's Ambassador to Algeria, Hector Michel Mujica presented his credentials to the President of the Democratic Saharaui Arab Republic, Mohamed Abelaziz on January 10 and recalls that Venezuela has recognized the Saharaui Republic (which Morroco rejects) since 1983 and has managed relations with that Republic through its Embassy in Algeria, which has not been recognized by Morocco either.

Bolivarian student organizations have taken to the streets to show support for the constitutional amendment, which will go to a referendum on February 15. The demonstrations come after President Chavez called on pro-government students to combat disorders and destabilization attempts on the part of opposition students. Chavez accuses the opposition of promoting acts of violence as the result of a meeting between US official and leading opposition party chiefs, which he has nicknamed as the "Puerto Rico Pact."

Meanwhile, opposition students have announced another march, this time to the headquarters of the National Elections Council (CNE) on Friday, January 23 (23E), which coincides with the fall of Dictator Perez Jimenez and the beginning of representative democracy in 1958, known as historically as the Punto Fijo Pact, which marked the political landscape for at least forty years. Government students are also expected to take to the streets on the same day to defend that the government's record on participative democracy, of which the referendum is another manifestation.

State VTV journalist Mail Liendo, who covered last Tuesday's opposition student march in Caracas, brushes aside opposition accusations that the Metropolitan Police (PM) planted gasoline canisters and Molotov cocktails in a truck hired by the students. The journalist claims that the images shown by the private media have been tampered with and that opposition student leader, Ricardo Sanchez had shown an edited video without sound, accusing the PM commissioner, Carlos Meza of planting the objects. Communication & Information (Minci) Minister, Jesse Chacon showed the full video of when the truck was seized, showing the PM commander opening the doors and reviewing what was inside the truck. Liendo insists that she was there with her camera crew when the truck was opened, along with other media sources including Radio Nacional de Venezuela (RNV).

The Social & Economic Development Bank of Venezuela (Bandes) has transferred financial resources to pay pensions for the month of February to the Venezuela Institute of Social Security (IVSS). The money will be paid to around 1.3 million pensioners. Bandes has apologized for a "genuine mistake" in a communique issued on Friday regarding payment of an additional bonus for 2008.

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro has hit out against Organizations of American States (OAS) general secretary, Miguel Insulza for declarations regarding US President Obama's view on Venezuela. Insulza had stated that the new US President was not seeking a fight with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Maduro jibes Insulza as a failed presidential candidate in his homeland, Chile and says he should not try and present himself as a democratic leader that has helped and continues to help Venezuela and the region by raising the banners of sovereignty. Maduro contends that Venezuela will not allow insults or people who applaud Obama for claiming that Venezuela is exporting terrorism. Insulza, the Minister declares, has shown his ignorance of Venezuela's political, economic and social process and has been an accomplice of permanent aggressions on the part of the Bush Administration against President Chavez.

National Elections Council (CNE) president, Tibisay Lucena has criticized opposition parties for double standards. Lucena quips that on the one hand they are disqualifying and rejecting a call to hold a referendum, while at the same time taking part in preparations and talks about the referendum process itself. Christian Socialist (COPEI) electoral affairs coordinator, Enrique Naime rejects the charge, declaring that the opposition has denounced the fact that the electoral register has been closed, the decision to extend voting hours, as well as the date of the referendum itself.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue


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.


Rusoro Reports Record Gold Production

Rusoro Mining Ltd. reported that it has achieved record gold production at historically low cash costs at its Choco 10 mine for November 2008.
The Company also reports that operations at the Isidora mine continue to exceed its expectations. Both mines are located near the town of El Callao in Bolivar State, Venezuela. Recent production highlights include:
- Record Production. The Choco 10 mill produced 13,475 oz of gold in November 2008. This marks a monthly record for 2008 and can be attributed to a record month of ore processed from the Choco 10 mine which produced 9,170 ounces of gold with the other 4,305 ounces of gold coming from ore processed from the near-by Isidora gold mine.

- Record Cash Costs. Cash costs at the Choco mill were a record low for November at US$385 per ounce of gold. The vast improvement is the culmination of a number of initiatives which include, improvements made to the haulage fleet availabilities, mill availabilities and
optimization of the primary mine haulage contract.

- Record Ore Processed. The number of tonnes of ore processed through the Choco 10 mill has
continued to impress with 193,796 tonnes processed in November.

Rusoro President, George Salamis states, "The Company is extremely encouraged that the months of hard work by Rusoro's operations team to optimize production at Choco 10 have resulted in the operations reaching these milestones. We have a number of initiatives that are on-going and the Company is optimistic that further reductions in our operational cash costs are achievable at the mines."

Understanding the Chavez Strategy of Confrontation and Violence in Venezuela

As tensions continue to rise in Caracas and the President dictates the State apparatus to put down harshly any protests against him
while at the same time encouraging his own followers to aggressiveness, the Editors of Veneconomy try to evidence and explain the how and why of what is going on. It is only possible to understand the events of the past few days if they are viewed through the eyes of a military, fascist Hugo Chávez, faithful disciple of the Argentine sociologist Norberto Ceresole.

Ceresole was a radical anti-Semite who believed in and supported the use of violence to polarize public opinion and bring about the wishes of the caudillo. Following Ceresole’s teachings, Chávez has undertaken a civilian-military campaign to demoralize and break up those who oppose the unconstitutional referendum on the reelection amendment ordered by the President.

On one front, the conventional forces being deployed in this campaign are the obscene militant participation of the National Electoral Council, the National Assembly, and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, whose duty is, supposedly, to stand guarantors of the rights of ALL the country’s citizens and not just those of a political group.

The second front of this campaign consists of a simulation of a fourth generation war, where shock groups, such as Lina Ron’s, Alexis Vive’s or La Piedrita’s followers, bushwhack dissidents with the consent and encouragement of the authorities and the protection of the country’s police forces and military.

This Tuesday, the National Guard and the Metropolitan Police mounted a savage attack on students who were protesting against the amendment in front of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice building, following the President’s orders to teargas them, with the “good stuff,” and put them in prison.

On the third front of this campaign a psychological war is being waged that:
1) Lies steeped in government lies, among them assurances that the amendment is in accordance with the Constitution and the law and drafting the referendum question in convoluted manner that does not even specify the true purpose of the referendum, so as to manipulate and deceive the people.

2) Makes abusive use of propaganda employing State resources (in the Metro and other means of public transportation and in some government offices, loudspeakers torment users with pro-amendment slogans and jingles); and

3) Discredits adversaries, subjecting them to public scorn and hatred, as the President himself has done in the case of the political leaders and media representatives who allegedly met in
Puerto Rico, and as happened with the students accused of wanting to set fire to El Ávila National Park with a montage as “evidence” and when Molotov cocktails were planted in a truck transporting students.

VenEconomy is proud of and supports the valiant students who are firmly engaging in nonviolent opposition. It also calls on the population in general to say NO outright to this constitutional amendment.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Venamcham anticipates falling Venezuela-US trade

The collapse of Venezuelan oil prices could press the US-Venezuelan trade down from approximately USD 70 billion ending last year after a record growth of 40 percent, said on Wednesday Edward Jardine, the chair of the Venezuelan-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Venamcham).

"We really lack an estimate, because this depends a lot on oil prices, but it will drop because the price of oil barrel triggered such growth of more or less 40 percent last year," said Jardine on the forecast for bilateral trade, during the event on 2009 Economic Prospects, hosted by Venancham. He also noted that while last year imports went as high as USD 50 billion, the potential smaller amount of available foreign currency could cut the allocation for importers.

The senior official expressed the concern of the business sector about soaring inflation estimated by Venamcham at 40-50 percent ending this year. Finally, he commented that ongoing labor conflicts would be another trouble for the private sector.

Petrobras Would Build $4.5 Billion Refinery Without PDVSA

Brazilian state-controlled oil giant Petrobras said Wednesday that it might procede independently on a new refinery unless agreement comes soon with state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. on the price to be paid for Venezuelan crude.
"We have already concluded the shareholders accord and the (company) statute, but not the supply contract," Petrobras executive Paulo Roberto Costa told reporters in Rio de Janeiro.

"If we delay in concluding the contract, the project will not stop, since Petrobras has enough heavy crude" to supply the refinery on its own, Costa said. He said PDVSA wants to supply Venezuelan crude to the refinery at above-market prices, while Petrobras says the fuel-supply contract should be tied to the prices of benchmark crudes such as Brent or West Texas Intermediate.

Petrobras began work last September on the Abreu e Lima refinery, located in the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco. The original plan called for a 60/40 partnership, with Petrobras as the majority shareholder. So far, PDVSA has contributed nothing toward the estimated $4.5 billion cost of construction. Each company was supposed to supply half of the crude to Abreu e Lima, which will have refining capacity of 200,000 barrels per day.

Once completed in 2010, the refinery will annually produce 814,000 cubic meters of naphtha, 322,000 tons of liquefied petroleum gas, 8.8 million tons of diesel and 1.4 million of tons of petroleum coke. It is not known whether Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez discussed the refinery impasse during their quarterly working meeting last week.

PDVSA is wholly owned by the Venezuelan government and under the direction management of the country's energy minister. Petrobras shares are traded on the Sao Paulo, New York, Madrid and Buenos Aires exchanges, but the Brazilian government maintains control through a golden share. Venezuela is the world's sixth-leading oil exporter and a key supplier to the United States.

Brazil, which last year announced the discovery of potentially huge offshore oil deposits, has achieved self-sufficiency in crude and expects to become a significant exporter in the coming decades.

Chavez Voodoo Economics and Stealth Devaluation Measures Abound in Venezuela

Hugo Chávez brags that Venezuela is armor-plated against the impacts of the world economic and financial crisis and irresponsibly maintains that, even though oil drops to zero, the country will not suffer.

No one believes such a whopper. It is more than evident that the President is trying to deny the obvious, simply waiting to get the referendum on the reelection amendment behind him. It is more than likely that, after this unconstitutional referendum, the government will have no alternative but to take drastic measures in order to cope with the collapse of oil prices and the fiscal crisis that this entails. There are already signs of what form these measures will take. It is thought that, among other things, the government will make the exchange control policy more stringent and that it will tighten up controls of all types.

Cadivi, the foreign currency administration agency has already sent out a number of signals: it has taken more than 90,000 users out of circulation on the grounds of alleged illegal use of their foreign currency quota; cut travelers’ access to foreign currency for payment of expenses abroad by half (Regulatory Order No. 093); and restricted cash withdrawals from automatic tellers in border countries to $62.5 a week, equivalent to one quarter of the total monthly foreign currency withdrawal quota authorized by Cadivi.

Another signal comes from the Ministry of Light Industries and Commerce (MILCO), which, to date, has not issued the automotive industry the import licenses for the quotas for 2009. This signal clearly indicates that imports at the official exchange rate will be restricted still further. In fact, it is already practically impossible for any businessman to obtain foreign currency at the official rate other than for food and medicine. It is thought that the government could implement a dual exchange rate, similar to the rate implemented by Recadi, for non-essential imports.

Yet another signal, this time from the Executive, is the decision to control the prices of all food products (domestic and imported) manufactured using regulated inputs. Along the same food control lines is the regulatory order of January 13, which sets import and production quotas for a large number of regulated products. And while the signals in the matter of tax policy have been ambiguous, it is thought that the government will also increase VAT and reintroduce the financial transactions tax.

The government has also demonstrated that it will go ahead regardless and use both orthodox and unorthodox methods to keep its neck above water. One example of this is the transfer of $12 billion from the Central Bank’s “surplus” reserves (which are no such thing) to Fonden for regular expenditures, so condemning the Central Bank to bankruptcy and fuelling inflation.

Unfortunately, these measures have not only come late, they are also superficial and bland and do not get to the bottom of the problem.

Attacks on the Press in 2008: Venezuela - Committee to Protect Journalists

Official intolerance of criticism and unfounded government accusations promoted a climate of fear among Venezuelan journalists. Tensions reached new heights in September when, without providing evidence, President Hugo Chávez Frías and high-ranking administration officials accused private media outlets of plotting to overthrow the government and murder the president. With violent crime rates escalating, the murder of a newspaper executive and the shooting of a critical columnist raised concern about journalists’ safety.

A year after Chávez’s unprecedented decision to withdraw the broadcast frequency of the country’s oldest private television station, RCTV, the government continued its efforts to restrict critical coverage. In February, a group of legislators urged the attorney general’s office to investigate private television station Globovisión, alleging the broadcaster was engaged in a campaign to damage the president’s image. The legislators charged that Globovisión was trying to harm Chávez by broadcasting a speech in which the head of state talked about the benefits of chewing coca leaves. Deputy Juan Carlos Dugarte, from the official Movimiento Quinta República party, claimed the broadcaster was sending Venezuelans a subliminal message that the president was addicted to drugs. No investigation had been launched by late year.

Globovisión was the target of a violent attack in September, when a group of people tossed tear gas canisters at its offices. The assailants left fliers declaring the station a military target. The fliers, signed by the pro-government group La Piedrita, said the network would be held responsible if Chávez were harmed or a coup attempted, according to a transcript published in the national daily El Nacional. Minister of Interior and Justice Tarek El Aissami said the attack was related to the broadcaster’s supposed involvement in a conspiracy to oust Chávez from office; Globovisión General Director Alberto Federico Ravell denied such involvement.

By silencing critical voices and expanding the reach of state news media, the government was succeeding in its aggressive efforts to challenge the influence of private media, analysts told CPJ. Globovisión, a 24-hour news channel, remained the nation’s most critical broadcaster after RCTV was pulled off the public airwaves in May 2007. (RCTV continued to air on satellite and cable.) But Globovisión’s reach was limited—it aired only in metropolitan Caracas and the state of Carabobo. The private broadcasters with national reach, Televén and Venevisión, eased their criticism of the government, ridding themselves of their most controversial programs. Local journalists said the September decision by the National Telecommunications Commission to renew Televén’s broadcast license for five years reflected the station’s uncritical stance. The commission had renewed Venevisión’s license in May 2007, also for five years.

On September 11, Chávez accused a group of radical opponents—allegedly backed by the United States—of plotting to topple his government and assassinate him. The president made the assertion after a recording of a conversation between what were said to be retired military officers surfaced in the state-owned media. Chávez claimed the plotters sought to blow up the presidential plane or bomb Miraflores, the presidential palace. A few days later—without providing any evidence—Chávez, administration officials, and members of the National Assembly accused Globovisión and the two largest national dailies, El Nacional and El Universal, of being part of the plot.

The owners of these outlets and U.S. officials denied any involvement in a conspiracy. The government launched an investigation, and in late September, El Aissami announced the arrests of 12 suspects, including civilians and former military members. The National Assembly formed a special commission to investigate what role private media had in the plot after a complaint was filed by pro-government talk show host Mario Silva. After interviewing witnesses and reviewing documents, the assembly concluded in September that Globovisión, El Nacional, and El Universal had attempted to play down the president’s accusation through what they characterized as “banal” reporting, according to a report by the state news agency Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias. A more intensive investigation would follow, the legislative body said in a statement. In December, the legislative commission urged the attorney general to investigate an opposition leader, military officers, and media executives for allegedly participating in the plot.

Miguel Henrique Otero, editor of El Nacional, called the government’s accusations a “smokescreen” to obscure official corruption scandals and a spike in violent crime. CPJ sent Chávez a letter in October urging him to show greater tolerance toward criticism in the press and to halt accusations against the news media without factual foundations.

The government’s intolerance of criticism was reflected in the September expulsion of the Americas director of Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco, and his deputy, Daniel Wilkinson, hours after the group issued a report slamming Venezuela’s human rights record. The Ministry of Foreign Relations said the activists had violated the country’s constitution and laws by attacking democratic institutions and interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs. Back in 2007, Chávez ordered officials to scrutinize statements by foreign public figures and deport any outspoken critics. Though Venezuela has not taken any action against foreign correspondents, the expulsion of human rights activists because of their criticism set an alarming precedent, according to veteran foreign correspondent Phil Gunson, who wrote for The Economist and The Miami Herald from Caracas.

A series of violent attacks, including the killing of a newspaper executive, fueled concern among journalists. On June 3, Pierre Fould Gerges, vice president of the Caracas daily Reporte Diario de la Economía, was shot to death by unidentified gunmen. Giselle Suárez, a lawyer for Reporte Diario de la Economía, told CPJ that several senior staff members had received telephone and e-mail death threats since June 2007. Investigators had not publicly cited a motive for the murder by late year. The newspaper’s editorial pages had been tough on government corruption.

On September 27, unidentified individuals shot Eliécer Calzadilla, a columnist for the Ciudad Guayana-based daily Correo del Caroní, as he was getting into his car in a parking lot in southern Bolívar province. Calzadilla was taken to a local hospital with a serious head injury. In an article published on September 28, Calzadilla, a harsh government critic, said he did not believe the attack was intended to be a robbery.

In an encouraging development in May, a former police officer was convicted in the 2006 murder of photographer Jorge Aguirre. Boris Blanco, a former officer in the Chacao municipality of Caracas, was given a 15-year prison sentence for killing Aguirre. Aguirre, 60, a photographer with the newspaper chain Cadena Capriles, which publishes the daily El Mundo, was photographing renovations to a Caracas stadium when he decided to cover a nearby anticrime demonstration on the afternoon of April 5, 2006. A motorcyclist, apparently angered by the actions of the driver of Aguirre’s company car, shot the photographer four times. As Aguirre lay dying on the street, he managed to take a photograph of the fleeing killer.

Local journalists and free press advocates were disappointed by the release in August of the man held as the mastermind in the 2004 murder of journalist Mauro Marcano. Prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to convict Ceferino García, who had been detained in August 2006 and deported from Trinidad and Tobago. Marcano, a radio host and columnist, was shot dead by unidentified attackers on September 1, 2004, in the Monagas capital of Maturín. Marcano had hosted the daily radio show “De Frente con el Pueblo” (Facing the People) on Radio Maturín, and written the weekly column “Sin Bozal” (Without Muzzle) for the Maturín-based daily El Oriental. Marcano aggressively denounced drug trafficking and police corruption in the area. At the time of his murder, he was also a municipal councilman for the regional political movement.

Following regional elections in November in which opposition candidates won several key victories, Chávez announced he would seek constitutional changes allowing indefinite presidential re-election. Chávez, whose term expires in 2013, lost a similar effort to eliminate term limits in a 2007 referendum. During and after the November election, Chávez stepped up verbal attacks on political foes and the private news media in what analysts described as an attempt to clamp down on the opposition.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue's news and views from Venezuela -- January 21, 2009

VHeadline News Editor Patrick J. O'Donoghue reports:

President Chavez says he welcomes new US President, Barack Obama but warns the Venezuelan people not to harbor any illusions because what Venezuela is dealing with, he maintains, is the North American empire. The President made the declaration during a campaign act in Barcelona (Anzoategui). Of one thing Chavez is glad and that is the exit of the Bush administration, which, he contends, filled the world with terror and violence ... "Goodbye, Mister Bush!" Chavez adds that he hopes the arrival of a new President will bring about a real change in relations between the US and third world countries with respect for their sovereignty and freedoms. Up till now the performance of Obama as President-elect has failed to impress President Chavez, who has accused Obama of meddling in Venezuela's electoral campaign.

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro has announced that Venezuela will continue to send humanitarian aid to Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and that Venezuela is closely following peace talks. Minister Maduro made the statement at the Simon Bolivar international airport in Maiquetia just before another military plane took off for Gaza with aid. Venezuela is calling for the return of Palestinian land to its people and their right to a free and peaceful state.

Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez has reacted positively to some of the statements made by US President Barack Obama last night. Ending a visit to Cuba, Fernandez insists that the US must start respecting the peoples of South America and that the great challenge for Argentina and Cuba and other emerging nations and economies is to sustain activity and growth and create a new trade model. Fernandez has welcomed Obama's critique of the market that "sometimes acts with irresponsibility and must be monitored and controlled." The Argentinian President is flying to Venezuela for an official visit of two days to amplify the agenda of cooperation between Caracas and Buenos Aires.

President Chavez has announced that he will be writing a column in several domestic newspapers from tomorrow, Thursday, January 22. The column will be titled, "Las Lines de Chavez" (Chavez' Line Drives) and the President says it is one way he can contribute to the current battle of ideas. The column will appear on Tuesday, Thursday and Sundays and will also be available on the Internet. The first piece will revolve around Chavez as a baseball player. Playing on the word term "line," which is used in baseball, Chavez recalls that the strongest line drives he made as a baseball player were always towards right-field but now he's not hitting lines with a bat but with his mind and the lines are not just going to right-field.

Family members and workers at the Pepsi Cola plant in Aragua are seriously questioning charges leveled by the Attorney General's Office against Julio Cesar Arguinzonez for allegedly murdering three trade union leaders, Richard Gallardo, Luis Hernandez and Carlos Requena on November 27. Two of the leaders were also members of the United Socialist Party of the Left and candidates to regional elections on November 23. Trade union leaders at Pepsi-Cola allege that the accused was on shift work when the crime occurred and have CCTV evidence confirming his presence. National Union of Workers (UNT) representatives complain that the authorities have not investigated trade union mafias and company owners whom they claim are the natural suspects of being behind the crime. The company in question is a milk company owned by Colombian citizens, which the deceased had visited prior to their assassination. According to Interior & Justice (MIJ) Minister, Tarek El Aissami, the motive of the crime centers around a struggle to control the Pepsi-Cola trade union.

Interior & Justice (MIJ) Minister Tarek El Aissami has confirmed the arrest of four opposition students who took part in a march in Caracas yesterday protesting against the constitutional amendment proposal. The Minister says a truck with more than 100 Molotov cocktails, sacks of stones and a canister of gasoline was seized. According to the Minister, the owner of the truck had been contracted by students organizing a march. The four have been arrested, the Minister states, for attacking the police during skirmishes around Plaza Brion. The march to the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) building had not been authorized.

Speaking in Cabimas (Zulia), President Chavez has told members of the social missions front working for the approval of the constitutional amendment proposal that he will not allow opposition students to set fire to the streets of Caracas. The President calls on the Bolivarian student movement not to allow the streets to be taken over by "students of the bourgeoisie" and to undertake marches in support of the amendment. The President urges his people to be prepared for difficult days because what the country is seeing, he declares, is an attempt at destabilization in the wake of the "Puerto Rico Pact" signed by all the opposition. The President repeats the government will not allow street disturbances and much less the torching of Venezuela.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue


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.


Government Acts to Crush Indefinite Re-Election Protesters -- But Not Stop Violence Against Them

Tension came to the surface as security forces carried out President Hugo Chavez' orders to take a tough line with demonstrators protesting against his plan to reform the constitution to remove a ban on successive re-election.

Students had assembled Tuesday to march on the Supreme Justice Tribunal (TSJ) to demand that Venezuela's senior judges rule in favor of keeping the electoral registers open until the eve of the February 15 referendum on Chavez' plan. The TSJ is located at the top of Avenida Baralt in the north of the old center of the capital.

The students didn't get within even spitting distance as the Metropolitan Police barred their way, firing tear gas and rubber bullets to dissuade the march from moving any further forward. Protesters ran into shops to take shelter as it became clear that the police were fully prepared to follow the president's order to the letter. He had threatened to fire officers who didn't.

March organizers decided to call a halt in Plaza Brion in the district of Chacaito. Given the evident determination of the police and others to stop them going further, this looked like good sense in the circumstances. David Smolansky, a spokesman for a student group opposed to Chavez' proposed lifting on a constitutional ban on successive re-election, said that the security forces had "once again violated our rights."

Government supporters on motorbikes had hovered on the fringes of the protesters from the very start, Smolansky was reported to have stated. Some of the men on motorbikes had been carrying guns and opened fire on the students, it was alleged. No gunshot wounds were immediately reported. Gunshots were reported to have been heard in Las Mercedes, a middle class district in the geographical center of the capital - a center of anti-government sentiment.

Officers from the Chacao municipal police force were said to have arrested four people on motorbikes for bearing firearms after this incident. The identities and whereabouts of the detainess wasn't disclosed. The legality of the march was in question even before it began. Student leaders claimed they had secured approval from the authorities, but all the indications suggested this wasn't the case and never would have been.

Even as protesters against the president's re-election plan had gathered in the Plaza Venezuela district preparing for the march, signs were that Chavez' appointed Interior and Justice Minister Tarek El Aissami was far from sympathetic towards the students' cause. He said he hadn't heard of any such march - and anyway, the protesters were intent on causing trouble. By then, Libertador Municipal Mayor Jore Rodriguez had said that the planned route of the march had been allocated for other purposes. This was an indirect way of saying he hadn't approved the march. Rodriguez is a powerfull figure in the president's ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

Earlier, the opposition party Causa R claimed that a ceremony marking its anniversary at El Ateneo in Caracas had come under attack from a group of the president's supporters, or chavistas. It said some of the attackers were carrying firearms. Spokesmen for Causa R said that tear gas canisters had been thrown at the building, and that party members and employees were trapped inside the building. Claiming that the building was "surrounded" by hardline chavistas, Gabriel Ponte Puerta of Causa R told reporters by telephone that squads from the National Guard and the Metropolitan Police had done nothing to halt the disorder. Ponte Puerta pointed the finger at Lina Ron, a voluble superchavista who founded her own little party because she felt that the top echelon at Chávez' ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and before that, the Fifth Republic Movement )MVR), had gone soft on the revolution.

Ron, it was alleged, had been seen snatching a camera from a woman who was taking photographs. The identity of this individual and whether she was working for the press, or what happened to her afterwards, were not disclosed. For her part, Ron claimed that "ultra right groups" had taken over El Ateneo. The implication of this was that she and her sympathizers were trying to regain the building.

The students purpose in marching to the TSJ had been to push the judges into reversing a ruling by a majority of the board at the National Electoral Council (CNE) that the electoral register when it was last updated last December is to be used for the referendum. The rationale for this is that there isn't time to update the register, but critics for whom the CNE has long been an object of suspicion say that as many as 400,000 young people who recently became eligible to vote are in effect being disenfranchised in the run-up to the referendum.

The ambush at El Ateneo was the latest of a string of threatening incidents since the campaign officially got under way last Saturday. Shortly after dawn on Monday morning, five tear gas canisters were thrown at the office of the Papal Nuncio in Caracas. This attack was attributed to a shadowy group known as El Piedrita (Little Stone), which has claimed responsibility for similar attacks before.

Other targets of aggression have included the residence of Marcel Granier, proprietor of private media conglomerate 1BC, and the headquarters of Globovisión, the private all-news channel that makes no secret of its opposition to Chávez. Two journalists well known for their outright opposition to the Chávez regime, Globovisión anchorman Leopoldo Castillo and Marta Colomina, are also said to have been on the end of unwanted attention from chavista groups.

The Caracas headquarters of the opposition Social Christian party, Copei, also came under attack from men on motorbikes armed who similarly threw tear gas canisters. A car belonging to Ricardo Sánchez, president of the students' Federation of University Centers at the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) in Caracas, was set on fire late Saturday. Men on motorbikes were said to have thrown Molotov Cocktail homemade gasoline bombs at the vehicle. Sánchez, who was not inside the car at the time, afterwards said the president would be responsible if anything happened to him or "any other student." Asked about this incident, Rodríguez said he viewed the incident with "suspicion," implying that the car-bombing was a deliberate own-goal by the opposition.

Chávez last weekend called on the security forces to bring a heavy hand against anybody intent on "destabilizing" the referendum campaign. He and senior government officials have labeled students opposed to his bid to "indefinite" re-election as "fascicts."

Metropolitan Mayor Antonio Ledezma has been the object of several dubious incidents. He says his office in downtown Caracas was "invaded" last weekend by "paramilitary groups" with links to the president. When Ledezma first arrived at his offices after winning the November 23 election, he found his way barred by men who smashed windows and swore they weren't going to work for him. They were said to be municipal employees.

Then Ledezma found himself prevented from entering the building that used to house the old Supreme Court to hold the first meeting of the new city council. The building had been used for that purpose for the previous eight years, when the capital was controlled by Chavez' PSUV and its allies. Ledezma claims that "a plan of indefinite violence" is under way at the instigation of the government. He has raised several allegations of misconduct against his predecessor as city chief executive, Juan Barreto, and claims that last weekend's attack was aimed at removing evidence of Barreto's alleged misdoings in office, which are under investigation.

Gold Reserve postpones separation time under shareholder rights plan

Gold Reserve Inc. (GRZ) today announced that its Board of Directors has postponed the separation time under Gold Reserve's shareholder rights plan to February 17, 2009. The hostile offer by Rusoro Mining Ltd. (RML) of December 15, 2008 (the "Offer") to acquire all of the outstanding shares and equity units of Gold Reserve in consideration for three shares of Rusoro for each Gold Reserve share or equity unit tendered under the Offer is not a "Permitted Bid" within the meaning of the Gold Reserve shareholder rights plan. Gold Reserve urges its shareholders not to tender their shares or equity units into the inadequate Rusoro Offer.

Diamond mines at Guaniamo and gold reserves at Las Cristinas will be taken under Venezuelan sovereign state control within the next few days

VHeadline Venezuela News reports:
Venezuela's Basic Industries & Mininig Ministry (Mibam) says it will take action to relaunch the nation's aluminum industry and that the future of mining will be governed under a new system where resources of great importance, such as diamond mines at Guaniamo and gold reserves at Las Cristinas will be taken under sovereign state control within the next few days.

Writing in today's edition of the regional newspaper Correo del Caroni, Naralie Garcia says that the head of Mibam (also president of the state-owned heavy industry conglomerate, the Venezuelan Guayana Corporation-CVG) Rodolfo Sanz has detailed the reorganization of Venezuela's mining sector and the reversal of several concessions and operating contracts back into the hands of the Venezuelan State.

  • Most immediate, Sanz said is to deal with the situation in CVG aluminum subsidiaries where remedial measures will be taken in the next few days. Meanwhile, he said that CVG Ferrominera Orinoco has increased production of iron pellets from 1,026,000 in 2007 to 1,442,000 tonnes in 2008.
As regards the state-owned gold mining company CVG-Minerven in El Callao, Sanz said that there was a 4% increase in production in 2008 compared with 2007 and that 1,206 kilos of gold bullion (38,773.79 troy ounces) had been deposited at the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) and that the government has already taken control of mines in the south of the region ... Isidora, La Camorra, Revemin ... which had been in the hands of trans-nationals.

On the subject of ecological damage in the Kilometer 88 area and surrounding areas, Sanz says that he has flown over the area ... "the truth is that the destruction by artisanal mining, mining by garimpieros is very high. We need to instigate a process of industrialization of all our mineral reserves, not just the gold. I have already raised this issue, and it has been approved President Hugo Chavez."

"We know the location of our diamond reserves in Santa Elena de Uairen (on the border with Brazil) and in Guaniamo ... geological surveys indicate that there may be a diamond formation that allows us to use industrial processes. We know also know of other minerals on the border of Amazonas and Bolivar State as well as uranium."

In 2009, Sanz says that the government will complete a database of strategic minerals, to certify Venezuela's national mineral reserves. He adds that the Las Cristinas project, which has about 31 million ounces of proven gold, valued at about US$33 billion, can get internal financing and that the companies that have been involved in their operation have continuously been quoted on (North American) stock exchanges based on the nation's gold resources. "We will re-take Guaniamo (diamond mine) within 15 days, including a diamond processing plant and the State will also exercise sovereign control over Las Cristinas. "

With regard to Guaniamo -- considered one of the largest diamond deposits in South America -- the government says that rights granted in 2004 have expired and that the mine must be return to the nation ... a national diamond company is to be created to service the Guaniamo diamond district.

"As for Las Cristinas, managed by (the Canadian trans-national) Crystallex, the state has not given the proper environmental permits for their operation. We have always questioned, and President Chavez has said that Venezuela should be empowered to do what foreign companies have done since these are Venezuela's sovereign reserves."
Somewhat less dramatically, Minister Rodolfo Sanz says that the aluminum sector is going through a "difficult" phase exascerbated by the global crisis ... "our production costs are above the $3,500 per tonne, and the precipitous fall in prices means that at $1550 per tonne we would be selling below production costs." Sanz says that the government will shortly announce a series of meetings with union leadership, where the workers will try to find a solution that will effectively lead to productive investment in the plant and meet some worker demands. "I believe the workers to understand that the situation imposed on us and created by the global crisis means that we must confront the problems and contribute to the failure of businesses. We must be aware that some sacrifices will have to be made to achieve a structural reorganization of companies in the aluminum sector."

Sanz said that the start of major industrial projects in 2009, including four sawmills and a factory for structural panels, using CVG-Proforca's Caribbean pine plantations, is under control and no losses have occurred.

"This year we are going to make major investments in steel and other basic industries. Already in September we should be opening the Cerro Azul cement plant in Monagas State in partnership with the Iranians ... we must move 45% of the plant's aluminum rolling capacity to Caicara del Orinoco and we must reach 80% production capacity at the Iron ore smelting plant in Ciudad Piar, which is a tremendous facility."

"We will be advancing $120 million to begin building the new steel works in Ciudad Piar and at Siderurgical del Orinoco (Sidor) and we will invest nearly $200 million in a plant to produce lime pellets."

VHeadline Venezuela News


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.