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Chavez RCTV Closure Rejected by 70% of Venezuelans, Poll Finds

President Hugo Chavez's refusal to renew Radio Caracas Television's broadcast license next month is opposed by almost 70 percent of Venezuelans, making it the least-popular move of his eight-year presidency, Caracas pollster Luis Vicente Leon said.

Some 69.4 percent of respondents surveyed by Leon's Datanalisis firm said they disapprove of Chavez's pledge to let the television network's license expire, while 16.4 percent said they support it. The survey of 2,000 Venezuelans, conducted between April 9 and April 16, has a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points.

Only Chavez's proposals to use Cuba as an economic and political model for Venezuela have received similarly high levels of opposition, Leon said today in a telephone interview.

Resistance to closing the 54-year-old RCTV network, which draws the largest audience in Venezuela, is due more to a desire for free choice among channels than for free speech, Leon said.

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Venezuela protests militant's release

President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that Venezuela will lodge a protest with the United Nations after the U.S. released a Cuban militant on bond, accusing Washington of letting a terrorist go free.

Venezuela had asked the U.S. to extradite 79-year-old former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles on charges that he plotted the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane, in which 73 people died.

Chavez also said Posada has been plotting to assassinate him for years, and accused President Bush of complicity in failing to bring Posada to justice.

"President Bush, you are a protector of terrorists. As such, you are a terrorist," Chavez said during his weekly TV and radio program "Hello, President."

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Opinion piece by Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez

A Terrorist Goes Free


The New York Times
April 21, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor

AFTER the attacks of Sept. 11, President Bush forcefully argued that it was every country’s duty to fight international terrorism. He made the case that sponsoring terrorism or simply looking the other way when it happened were equivalent acts, and the United States would stand for neither. But holes have started appearing in that principle, courtesy of a single Venezuelan terrorist, released this week from a New Mexico prison on bail.

In early 2005, Luis Posada Carriles, a Venezuelan with a long history of violent attacks in Latin America, sneaked into the United States and was soon arrested. Mr. Posada had escaped from a Venezuelan prison while awaiting trial in the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 that killed 73 people, including all 24 members of Cuba’s youth fencing team and several Guyanese medical students. This was the deadliest attack on a civilian airliner in the Western Hemisphere in history — until 9/11.

Upon Mr. Posada’s capture, the government of President Hugo Chávez demanded his extradition. But the Bush administration has refused to extradite Mr. Posada to Venezuela or Cuba, claiming that it fears he will be tortured in those countries. In fact, Washington’s reluctance is more likely linked to Mr. Posada’s history as a Central Intelligence Agency operative and a darling of extremist sectors of the powerful Cuban-American community in Florida (he tried to assassinate Fidel Castro with C-4 explosives placed in an auditorium packed with students in Panama in 2000). Twenty-two months have passed since Venezuela formally asked for his extradition, offering 2,000 pages of documentary evidence to substantiate its claim, yet the State Department has not even acknowledged receiving the request.

Nor has Mr. Posada been charged with the 1976 attack, even though declassified Central Intelligence Agency documents indicate that his role has long been accepted as fact. Instead, he faces charges of immigration fraud, a travesty that could be equaled only by charging Osama bin Laden with entering and leaving Pakistan without a visa. Finally, Mr. Posada was released on bail on Thursday, even though he is an obvious flight risk and a violent terrorist.

Of course, Mr. Posada’s case isn’t the first instance related to Venezuela in which the Bush administration has set aside its principles for political expediency. Five years ago last week, the Bush administration gleefully welcomed a coup that overthrew President Chávez, replacing him with a junta that suspended the Constitution, dismissed the National Assembly and dissolved the Supreme Court. Thankfully, the Venezuelan people ensured that their democratically elected president was returned to power two days later.

Just as the Bush administration’s support for the Venezuelan junta undermined its pledge to uphold and promote democracy around the world, allowing Mr. Posada to avoid prosecution for a vicious attack he can credibly be accused of masterminding throws into doubt the sincerity of President Bush’s war on terrorism. Mr. Posada is a terrorist, regardless of the cause he fought for or the allies he might have. The Bush administration’s foot-dragging on his extradition and its failure to even classify him as a terrorist is unconscionable.

Last week, Venezuelans celebrated the return of democracy after the coup against President Chávez. But they continue to mourn the 73 people killed aboard that civilian airliner. If President Bush is serious about the principles he set out after 9/11, he need only look to Venezuela and correct the mistakes he can. The coup has passed, but the chance to extradite or prosecute Mr. Posada hasn’t.

Bernardo Álvarez Herrera is Venezuela’s ambassador to the United States.

Chávez to create state power corporation

President Hugo Chávez Sunday announced the creation of the Electric Corporation of Venezuela, which is intended as an umbrella for power companies such as Electrificación del Caroní (Edelca), La Electricidad de Caracas (EDC), Cadafe and Elecentro, among others.

He also said a waterworks corporation was also needed, adding that this is the only way to overcome contradictions and rivalries among several agencies in these areas.

Chávez praised the importance of centralized planning and stressed that "regional and local plans have to be attached to the major project."

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Venezuela says cement takeovers could be next

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Thursday said his nationalization drive could be expanded to cement-makers if they were found to be worsening a housing shortfall by favoring exports over domestic sales.

Buoyed by a landslide reelection in December, Chavez has forged ahead with the construction a socialist republic, taking over sectors of the economy he calls strategic, such as power utilities, oil projects and the country's No. 1 media company.

"We need to investigate the cement factories. I want reports ... because what is going on is that they still prefer to export at a higher price than issue supplies in the interest of the Venezuelan people," the anti-U.S. leftist said in a speech.

"If the cement-makers do not want to, then very well, we will take them over," he said in a speech recalling a 2002 coup attempt against him, adding that Venezuelan cement-makers had been privatized too cheaply "at the price of a scrawny hen."

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Venezuela seeks full control of its largest phone company

Venezuela will take full control of its largest phone company, Cantv, by June 4, and delist it from the New York Stock Exchange, the country's top telecommunications official said.

The government has offered to purchase outstanding shares in Nacional Teléfonos de Venezuela until May 8, hoping to obtain at least a 70 percent stake in the company, Telecommunications Minister Jesse Chacón told a news conference Tuesday.

It will have full, operational control of the company - following payments and share transfers - by June 4, when it will install a new management, including a new president, Chacón said.

During the process, the government also plans to buy up all of Cantv's remaining American Depository Receipts - certificates issued by U.S. banks that represent shares in companies abroad.

"The intention is to delist Cantv from the New York Stock Exchange," he said.

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Venezuela may request extradition of alleged coup plotter

Venezuela's highest court ruled that prosecutors may request the extradition from Colombia of the alleged mastermind of a short-lived coup against President Hugo Chavez five years ago.

The Supreme Court of Justice approved a petition late Monday allowing prosecutors to request the arrest and extradition of exiled business leader Pedro Carmona on charges of civil rebellion.

Rebel officers ousted Chavez on April 12, 2002, but the interim government that Carmona headed angered many Venezuelans by tossing out the constitution and dissolving congress.

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