Working to provoke discussion and provide up-to-date information and analysis on US-Venezuelan relations, politics, policies, and culture.

Guillen ecstatic to visit Venezuela

by Jesse Sanchez

Jose Luis Silva froze in his tracks on Estadio Universitario's concourse and immediately put out his right arm, simultaneously stopping and accidentally splashing his three children who were trailing him with his soda. It was Saturday in the city.

The Silva family was visiting the stadium, home of the Caracas Baseball Club, to catch a game between their beloved Leones and Tiburones de La Guaira when Jose nonchalantly looked to his right and caught a glimpse of a patriot signing a baseball.

Go to full article.

Venezuelan Central Bank approves use of the Euro

Wall Street Journal
December 30, 2005

Venezuela's central-bank board approved using the euro, the currency shared by 12 European nations, to service demand from foreign companies and to diversify the country's dealings from the dollar.

The central bank has recently made efforts to diversify its investments as part of President Hugo Chávez's vow to limit dependency on the U.S. The move will allow monetary authority to make payments and purchases in euros, as freely as with the dollar, the currency most companies in Venezuela use for international transactions, the bank said on its Web page earlier in the week.

Go to full article.

Venezuela's Economy Expanded 9.4% in 2005

by Peter Wilson
December 29, 2005

Venezuela's economy grew 9.4 percent in 2005 as President Hugo Chavez boosted government spending and increased subsidies for the South American country's poor.

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of a country's production of goods and services, expanded for a ninth quarter in the October-to-December period, Central Bank President Gaston Parra said in a statement, without giving the fourth-quarter figure. Venezuela's economy expanded 17.9 percent in 2004.

Go to full article.

A Different Latin America

New York Times editorial
December 24, 2005

Bolivia's recent presidential election was almost as history making as Iraq's parliamentary vote. The winner, Evo Morales, will be the first member of the indigenous majority to run Bolivia since the conquistadors arrived nearly five centuries ago. His victory was one of the most decisive since the return of democracy more than two decades ago, ending an era of weak, unstable and ineffective governments.

But do not expect any toasts from the Bush administration. During the campaign, Mr. Morales advertised himself as Washington's "nightmare." He opposes almost everything the Bush team stands for in Latin America, from combating coca leaf production to privatizing natural resources and liberalizing trade. His favorite Latin leaders are Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro of Cuba. And the political popularity of these anti-Washington positions is part of a growing regional trend.

Go to full editorial.

Chavez doll craze hits Venezuela

by Greg Morsbach
BBC News
December 23, 2005

The little Chavez - or Chavecito - has the president's trademark red army beret and his military boots, and even its own political catchphrase.

In a country that is split into those for and against the president, the toy is causing a stir.

The dolls have turned many a toy shop into a goldmine.

"In just a few weeks, we sold 1,500 of these dolls. That's about 20 dolls a day," says Douglas Bustamante, one of the store owners in the capital, Caracas.

Go to full article.

An Easy Way to Keep America's Poor Warm

True Majority advocates the purchase of CITGO oil, the Venezuelan oil company providing low-cost heating oil to north easterners.

Click here to read more.

Believe The Miami Herald?

By Alvaro F. Fernandez
Progresso Weekly
December 15, 2005

Democracy in South Florida is in shambles. I base my statement on a Miami Herald editorial last week which said that a turnout of 25 percent in a recent election “demonstrates a lack of confidence” in the system from citizens.

The editorial published Wednesday, December 7th, was critical of the Venezuelan electoral situation. Upon reading it, my first reaction was, What about our elections right here in this country? Better yet, right here in the Miami area?

“Victory tainted by abstention at polls – Lack of confidence in Venezuela’s electoral system,” said The Miami Herald headline. Their editorial was based on the fact that 75% of voters did not turn out for a recent election in Venezuela.

Go to article.

Hugo Chavez's Ace


The points made in both of these letters couldn't be more on target. One remains curious about why U.S. oil companies wouldn't take the blatantly political step of providing more low cost fuel for low and moderate income Americans. Such steps would be universally applauded here in the United States as a surprisingly generous act by companies normally thought of as being only interested in squeezing profits from people, regardless of their incomes. But the issue here is not social responsibility; it is the warped nature of a foreign policy that personalizes conflicts with foreign leaders to such a great extent, that everything -- even a hand of help extended to poor U.S. citizens suffering from low temperatures and high heating oil prices -- must be seen through the lens of the conflict, rather than judged on its own logic. Many people have already written comments to Caracas Connect showing vast disagreements about President Chavez and his policies, and those issues deserve to be debated. But come on! Wouldn't it be in the spirit of the season to wish the recipients of this largesse a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays rather than engaging in a mean-spirited and Scrooge-like display, just because the Bush Administration has such a vitriolic reaction to anything that President Chavez says or does? Rather than bah humbug, we say "well done."

New York Times
December 16, 2005

To the Editor:

Re "Hugo Chávez and His Helpers" (editorial, Dec. 10):

I agree that we need to compete successfully with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. What is his secret weapon? Helping the poor! How can we compete with him? Help the poor!

To the Editor:

You point out that President Hugo Chávez has used high oil prices "to increase funds for popular social programs for the poor, making him electorally unassailable." You note that this, among other factors, has led to a "dangerous concentration of power."

Click to read the full text of both letters

More on the Elections

Mr. Chavez's Rubber Stamp
Washington Post Editorial
Monday, December 12, 2005

VENEZUELA'S democratic system, which has been crumbling under pressure from President Hugo Chavez, has taken another lurch toward collapse. In elections for the National Assembly held Dec. 4, at least 75 percent of voters chose not to go to the polls, despite threats from government officials that state workers would lose their jobs if they did not. A fifth of those who did turn out cast blank ballots rather than support pro-government candidates; opposition parties withdrew from the election days before it occurred. The result is that Mr. Chavez's supporters, with a mandate from 20 percent of the electorate, will occupy all 167 seats in the assembly. The legislature, like the court system before it, will be converted from a check on Mr. Chavez's power to a rubber stamp. Its top priority, National Assembly President Nicolas Maduro said after the vote, would be "to legislate so that Chavez rules not until 2021, but until 2030."

Click here to read the full story.

Chávez defends Venezuela election
By Christopher Toothtaker
The Associated Press
Saturday December 10, 2005

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on Friday denounced reports by international observers who oversaw recent congressional elections, rejecting criticism of his government's use of media resources.

Click here to read the full story.

Briefing on the Status of the Posada Carriles Case

by Wayne S. Smith

On December 7, the Center for International Policy, the Washington Office on Latin America and the Latin American Working Group hosted a briefing on the Hill on the status of the case of Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile terrorist being detained in the United States on the minor charge of illegal entry – despite all the massive evidence of his involvement in various acts of terrorism.

Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive led off by presenting various declassified CIA and FBI documents detailing Posada Carriles’ involvement in the 1976 bombing of the Cubana airliner with the loss of 73 innocent lives, and various other acts of terrorism. In other words, Kornbluh pointed out, the U.S. Government has abundant evidence of Posada Carriles’ crimes. Venezuela wants to try him for the 1976 bombing and has asked for his extradition. Why is the United States only holding him on the charge of illegal entry and why has it refused to deport him to Venezuela?

Click here to read full briefing.

Congressman Jose Serrano discusses Bronx heating oil deal

December 7, 2005

Congressman Jose Serrano (D-NY 16) wrote the following to Caracas Connect:

Yesterday I announced the details of a low-cost heating oil program along with CITGO CEO Felix Rodriguez and Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez and leaders of three non-profit housing corporations in the Bronx. Under the terms of this historic deal, CITGO will provide heating oil this winter to the three housing non-profits at 40 percent below market price. The non-profits, in turn, will have to pass the savings on to the residents of their buildings in the form of rent reductions, as well as building improvements and increased spending on their social programs.

This program is truly innovative and couldn't come at a better time. Heating prices are expected to be far above what they were last year, and with the cold of winter closing in, many people in my district and across the nation are going to be facing difficult financial circumstances. As I said to the press yesterday at the announcement and signing ceremony, it's shameful that no American oil company has offered to use any of their record-breaking profits to help the American people in this situation.

This program came out of President Hugo Chavez' visit to the Bronx this past September at my invitation. I invited him because I thought it was important for him to come and meet with real American people, who are also in a struggle for economic equality and social justice. He made the offer of this reduced price oil during that visit, and I immediately began to work to make it a reality.

I represent the poorest congressional district in the nation, in the midst of the richest city on earth-the juxtaposition is striking. I think that President Chavez saw that when he toured the district and genuinely wanted to help the people of the Bronx. The CITGO program does just that: it genuinely will help the people of the Bronx.

Some say that this heating oil is an attempt to score political points. The truth is that I welcome the help and I would welcome any other American corporation that wants to come here and score points.

Readers: What are your thoughts on CITGO's discounted oil offer to U.S. citizens? Please post your comments.

Gesture From Venezuela Heats the Bronx

December 7, 2005
The New York Times
By Manny Fernandez and Juan Forero

About all that Belkis Bejaran had ever heard about the firebrand leader of faraway Venezuela was that he had often hurled verbal insults at President Bush. Then this week, with a sort of bemused gratitude, she heard that Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, which sits on the Western Hemisphere's largest oil supply, would provide discounted heating fuel to her landlord. In turn, the landlord will pass on the savings, reducing her monthly rent this winter by more than $100.

Go to full story.

Statement by Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, Venezuelan ambassador to the United States

December 5, 2005

Ambassador Alvarez wrote the following to Caracas Connect:

"The elections proceeded peacefully and transparently, further attesting to the fact that the Venezuelan people remain committed to peaceful democraticdevelopment. The decision of the opposition parties not to participate was unfortunate, but more importantly,verifies the fact that some members of the opposition seek to undermine a legitimate democratic process for purely political gain. When the opposition parties raised concerns with elements of the country's electoral system, the National Electoral Council agreed to a set of 11 changes. With these changes in place, the OAS, the Electoral Council and the opposition agreed to go forward with the elections, recognizing that Venezuela's electoral system was free, fair, and transparent. In spite of these agreements, the opposition parties withdrew, deliberately seeking to sabotage lawful elections they knew they would lose. Even Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, recognized this, telling the New York Times,"It's really hard to understand what exactly the political opposition leadership has in mind. But certainly it is not going to help them to present themselves as victims that deserve solidarity from the international community. With these kinds of tactics I don't think they'll gain any ground."

I believe the American people should see this election as further proof of President Chavez's commitment to participatory democracy. President Chavez and the National Assembly can now concentrate on implementing programs and policies that fight poverty and social exclusion, promote economic growth, and expand the avenues through which the Venezuelan people can truly benefit from their democratic system."

What's your opinion about the elections in Venezuela? Please post your thoughts.

Elections in Venezuela

By Daniel Hellinger,
Webster University, St. Louis

The elections in Venezuela bring a mixture of good and bad news for the development of “protagonistic democracy,” as President Hugo Chávez call the new system instituted by the Bolivarian Constitution of 1999.
On the one hand, the elections were conducted in a transparent way and reaffirm the legitimacy of the government. The low turnout must be put in the context and in no way reflects a rejection of the Bolivarian Revolution. However, President Chávez himself has set a higher standard for democracy than merely ensuring that elections are transparent.

Click here to read more.

Ruling party in Venezuela likely to gain legislative seats

December 5, 2005
San Jose Mercury News
By Patricia Rondon Espin

Candidates aligned with President Hugo Chávez were widely expected to increase their legislative majority Sunday as Venezuelans voted for a new National Assembly in an election boycotted by several opposition parties.

Willian Lara, a leading lawmaker in Chávez's governing party, said internal tallies of the Fifth Republic Movement indicated pro-Chávez candidates could sweep all 167 of the assembly's seats.

Chávez earlier dismissed the boycott as a failed ploy to sabotage legitimate elections and avoid an embarrassing defeat, and officials later blamed a pipeline explosion on government opponents.

Click here to read the full story.

Boycott of elections was right

December 5, 2005
Miami Herald
Op-ed by Senator Bill Frist

By boycotting yesterday's legislative elections, Venezuela's major opposition parties sent a stark message to the world: Democracy has taken an enormous step backwards in one corner of the Western Hemisphere.

Since taking office in 1999, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has displayed clear dictatorial tendencies. In the run-up to Sunday's elections opposition leaders say that Venezuelan election officials blatantly favored pro-government candidates and failed to correct egregious errors in the nation's voter registry.

Under Chávez's government, broadcasters have faced mandates to air propaganda, laws have banned criticism of the president, and secret police officers have begun to keep dossiers on every officer in the Venezuelan military. Groups of armed government supporters called Bolivarian Circles have roughed up opponents and enforced the will of his Movement for the Fifth Republic political party. Yesterday, his candidates ran without real opposition.

Click here to go to full article.

The Elections Bush Doesn't Like

Robert Scheer posted some interesting commentary on Truthdig:

"Venezuela votes today and the U.S. backed opposition parties are boycotting, not because the internationally monitored vote won’t be fair but because the party of populist Hugo Chavez will win. For the Bushies, Chavez has committed the unforgivable crime of using proceeds from 'our' oil, which happens to be inconveniently located in Venezuela, to feed his people."