Archive for the ‘Chavez’ Category


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A classic case of, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer…”

Appointments Unsettle State of Venezuelan Politics

NYTimes.com

Ever since President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela fell ill with cancer last year, intense speculation has focused on his inner circle and who might be groomed as a possible successor. Now, with a lengthy re-election campaign ahead of him, Mr. Chávez has once again upended expectations, scattering some of his closest confidants and promoting some old associates in a way that seems certain to provoke alarm at home and abroad.

On Thursday, a top official in Mr. Chávez’s political party, Diosdado Cabello, was sworn in as president of the National Assembly. Mr. Cabello, a former vice president with close ties to the military and an on-again off-again relationship with Mr. Chávez’s inner circle, wasted no time in announcing to opposition legislators that he had no intention of negotiating with them over issues.

Then came a bombshell with international implications: On Friday, Mr. Chávez announced that his new defense minister would be Gen. Henry Rangel Silva, a longtime military ally who has been accused by the United States of links to drug traffickers and by opposition politicians in Venezuela of being hostile to the democratic process. A former head of the Venezuelan intelligence service, General Rangel was accused by the United States Treasury Department in 2008 of working closely with the main leftist Colombian rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to help them transport drugs through Venezuela. Since then, further evidence has emerged fleshing out allegations that General Rangel aided the FARC’s efforts to move both drugs and weapons.

“Naming him while he’s on the list that the United States has of likely corrupt officials involved in the drug trade in Venezuela is clearly a thumb in the eye of the United States,” said Bruce M. Bagley, chairman of the international studies department at the University of Miami.

The announcement was sure to play well to Mr. Chávez’s base, which cheers his frequent taunting of the United States as an imperialist power seeking to trample on Venezuelan sovereignty. (Mr. Chávez will burnish his anti-American credentials further on Sunday when he hosts a visit by Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.)

The appointment may have been equally calculated to infuriate the opposition. In 2010, General Rangel gave an interview in which he said that the military was deeply loyal to Mr. Chávez and “married” to his political project. Some of his remarks were interpreted as suggesting that the military would not accept the formation of an opposition government if Mr. Chávez lost the 2012 presidential election, although the government later said his words were misinterpreted.

On Friday, Diego Arria, an opposition politician, issued Twitter posts criticizing the appointment of General Rangel, citing the drug trafficking allegations and his remarks about the coming election.

The appointment “is an act of profound embarrassment for the Armed Forces and a threat to all of us,” wrote Mr. Arria, who is seeking the opposition presidential nomination but is not considered a front runner.

Carlos Blanco, an adviser to another opposition candidate, María Corina Machado, said that General Rangel’s appointment carried a political message.

“Rangel Silva is connected to that image, the military officer that won’t allow another leader being in office,” Mr. Blanco said. “That’s the symbol that he represents, and I think that’s what Chávez is bringing into his cabinet.” He said that Mr. Chávez’s intentions would become clearer when he appointed a new vice president, an announcement that is expected soon.

The moves come as Mr. Chávez prepares for an extended political campaign against an opposition that appears more unified than it has been in years. A group of opposition politicians will hold a primary election next month to choose a single candidate to face Mr. Chávez. The presidential election is scheduled to take place in October.

Mr. Chávez’s doctors diagnosed cancer last June, and he spent the remainder of the year shuttling back and forth to Cuba, where he received treatment. But he has refused to give details of his illness and insists that he is fully recovered.

That has not cooled speculation about who might be waiting in the wings. Some speculation has focused on his brother, Adán, the governor of Barinas state and a close confidant. Others have looked to politicians high up in Mr. Chávez’s government.

The equation changed last month, when Mr. Chávez announced that he would be moving several key figures of his inner circle out of important government positions. They included Nicolás Maduro, the foreign minister; Elías Jaua, the vice president; Tareck El Aissami, the interior minister; and Gen. Carlos Mata Figueroa, the defense minister. All four, he said, would run for governorships in states currently held by the opposition.

Mr. Maduro, and to a lesser extent Mr. Jaua, were often spoken of as possible successors to Mr. Chávez. But commentators say that Mr. Chávez has never felt comfortable keeping potential rivals close by.

To many, the ascent of Mr. Cabello and General Rangel represents a strengthening of the military’s hand.

Both men took part in the failed 1992 coup attempt that first brought Mr. Chávez, then a military officer, to the attention of most Venezuelans.

Rocío San Miguel, a legal scholar who heads an organization that monitors Venezuelan security issues, said that Mr. Chávez might be seeking to solidify the loyalty of military officers in case the result of the October elections is in dispute.

“They are really who he has the most confidence in,” she said. If the October election is close or if the opposition disputes the results, she said, the military wing of Mr. Chávez’s party would be “absolutely indispensable.”

María Eugenia Díaz contributed reporting from Caracas.

Read the story online here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/world/americas/state-of-politics-in-venezuela-unsettled-by-chavez-appointments.html?_r=1&ref=world



Chávez Illness Sparks Succession Talk

[0624hugochavez]Reuters

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez attends an United Socialist Party of Venezuela event in La Guaira outside Caracas in January.
Venezuelan officials scrambled Thursday to reassure compatriots that President Hugo Chávez was not seriously ill after his brother said the president would remain in a Cuban hospital for up to 12 more days, making it likely that Mr. Chávez will be away from the country for nearly a month.
The absence has sparked furious speculation about the president’s health and led many in Venezuela to ask: What happens if the former army officer who has ruled Venezuela for 12 years is suddenly incapacitated or even dies?
“Nothing will ever be the same,” said Juan Carlos Zapata, a political analyst in Caracas. “This is the first signal that Chávez has an end and that there is nobody to take over. He might come back, but nothing will be the same.”

CHAVEZ

On Wednesday night, Mr. Chávez’s brother Adan said he had just returned from Havana where Mr. Chávez was “satisfactorily” recuperating from an emergency operation on June 10 to treat a pelvic abscess, a pus-filled cavity that can result from injury or infection.
Speculation coming from Cuba and Venezuela has focused on the possibility that Mr. Chávez has prostate cancer, and has had his prostate removed. A senior Venezuelan official didn’t respond to emailed questions about the speculation.
Mr. Chávez’s return to Caracas could take place in 10 or 12 days, his brother said on a television program. Venezuela’s Defense Minister Gen. Carlos Mata Figueroa said Thursday that Mr. Chávez was “stronger than ever,” and would be back “soon.”
Under Venezuela’s constitution, Vice President Elias Jaua would take the helm if Mr. Chávez is incapacitated. But whether he could remain in power long enough to preside over presidential elections scheduled for December 2012 is open to question, analysts say.

Staying Power

1992: Then-Lt. Col. Hugo Chávez leads a failed coup attempt.

1998-99: Promising to help the poor, Chávez wins a landslide victory in presidential elections. A referendum expands presidential term to two terms of six years.
2000: Chávez handily wins second presidential election under new constitution.
April 2002: Civil unrest leads to a brief coup attempt.
Dec. 2002-Feb. 2003: Chávez purges opponents during a strike at state-oil giant PDVSA.
2004: Helped by ramped up social spending, Chávez wins an opposition-initiated referendum.
2006: Aided by high oil prices, Chávez wins a second full term.
2007: Chávez’s attempt to abolish term limits in a referendum is defeated.
2009: Chávez holds another referendum on abolishing term limits and wins. He plans to stand for presidential elections in 2012.
A populist caudillo—or strongman—whose rule rests on the personal and emotional tie he has developed with many poor Venezuelans, Mr. Chávez has no natural successor, analysts say.
“Chavismo without Chávez is not possible,” said Alberto Barrera, a co-author of a biography of Mr. Chávez. “Chávez, who is a great showman, is the emotion through which the people connect to power.”
Like many caudillos, Mr. Chávez has built a cult of personality, and dominates the country’s airwaves, speaking on television and radio for hours at a time. His visage is plastered on billboards across the country.
Polls show other Chávez supporters are unknown or unliked by most Venezuelans, said Daniel Kerner, a Latin America analyst at the Eurasia Group. “Chávez has made it difficult for anyone to rise to that level where they can be seen as a replacement.”
Many analysts say that neither Mr. Jaua nor other top Chávez officials have any of the president’s charisma, which is the glue the president has used to build a following.
Mr. Chávez’s exit from the political scene would no doubt lead to a fierce succession struggle among leading members of his movement. Mr. Jaua, who analysts say comes from the most leftist branch of Mr. Chávez’s movement and has close ties to Cuba, could be challenged by other powerful Chávez followers such as Diosdado Cabello, a former soldier now a powerful congressman who controls much of the political apparatus of Mr. Chávez’s socialist party.
Rafael Ramírez, the head of the state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, the oil-rich’s country piggy bank, is seen by analysts as another would-be contender for power, as is Mr. Chávez’s brother Adan.
If Mr. Chávez were to be incapacitated, Cuba’s crack security services might play a key role, analysts say. Mr. Chávez, who considers himself to be Fidel Castro’s spiritual heir, provides Cuba with up to 100,000 barrels a day of cut-rate oil, making the island’s economic survival largely dependent on Mr. Chávez’s largess.
“The two Castro brothers, who were Catholics once, must be burning a lot of candles, praying for Chávez’s survival,” says Riordan Roett, head of Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.
Venezuela’s military would also play a crucial role. Much of the military has benefited from perks and money-making opportunities provided by Mr. Chávez. But there is resentment among some officers of Cuban influence in the armed forces, and fear that civilian militias armed by Mr. Chávez pose a threat to the institution and the country.
“These political vacuums are very dangerous. There will be a fight,” Mr. Roett said. “There will be military moves. There will be moves among the Bolivarian factions.”
Some analysts believe that Mr. Chávez, a master of the grand political gesture, is only biding his time to make a triumphal comeback from Cuba, as if from the dead. Such a return, they believe, could help overpower his political opposition.
The former tank commander-turned president still commands the loyalty of about half of his countrymen. But many Venezuelans have become frustrated by the country’s surging criminal violence, its spluttering electrical system, as well as the highest inflation rate in the world.
One key date for Chávez watchers: July 5th, when Mr. Chávez is expected to host a spectacular and long-planned regional summit marking the 200th anniversary of Venezuelan independence.
But the longer time goes on without specific news on Mr. Chávez’s situation, the more anxiety grows. “I’m hearing so many rumors now, I don’t know what to believe,” said Manuel Acosta, a 47-year-old taxi driver.
“Of course you don’t want to wish ill upon anyone but if there is a change in the leaders, we can hope that things will start to change for the better.”

Corrections & Amplifications
Speculation coming from Cuba and Venezuela has focused on the possibility that Mr. Chávez has prostate cancer, and has had his prostate removed. An earlier version of this article misspelled the word as prostrate.
Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Chávez Illness Sparks Succession Talk – WSJ.com

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Iran is Building a Secret Missile Installation in Venezuela – Opinion FoxNews.com

This photo released by the Iranian Defense Ministry, alledgedly shows a Nasr1 (Victory) missile in a factory in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, March 7, 2010. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi announced on state TV Sunday a new production line of highly accurate, short range cruise missiles capable of evading radar. The missile named Nasr 1 (Victory) will be capable of destroying targets up to 3,000 tons in size according to Vahidi. Iran frequently makes announcements about new advances in military technology that cannot be independently verified.

AP Photo/Iranian Defense Ministry, Vahid Reza Alaei, HO

This photo released by the Iranian Defense Ministry, alledgedly shows a Nasr1 (Victory) missile in a factory in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, March 7, 2010. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi announced on state TV Sunday a new production line of highly accurate, short range cruise missiles capable of evading radar. The missile named Nasr 1 (Victory) will be capable of destroying targets up to 3,000 tons in size according to Vahidi. Iran frequently makes announcements about new advances in military technology that cannot be independently verified.


In November of last year, the German daily Die Welt reported that a secret agreement between the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, and his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had been signed.
The agreement was said to have been signed and finalized on October 19 by both parties, though no details were offered. Hugo Chávez, who had traveled to Iran on what was called expansion of relations between the two countries, acknowledged that the details of the latest accords were not released, and that some agreements went beyond those put on paper.
The leaders of Iran and Venezuela hailed what they called their strong strategic relationship, saying they are united in efforts to establish a “New World Order” that will eliminate Western dominance over global affairs.
Now, the German newspaper, however, confirms that the bilateral agreement signed in October was for a missile installation to be built inside Venezuela. Quoting diplomatic sources, Die Welt reports that, at present, the area earmarked for the missile base is the Paraguaná Peninsula, located 120 kilometers from the Colombian border.
A group of engineers from Khatam Al-Anbia, the construction arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, covertly traveled to this area on the orders of Amir Hajizadeh, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard Air Force.

Die Welt writes that the Iranian delegation had been ordered to focus on the plan for building the necessary foundations for air strikes. The planning and building of command stations, control bases, residential buildings, security towers, bunkers and dugouts, warheads, rocket fuel and other cloaking constructs has been assigned to other members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps of Engineers. The IRGC engineers will also be interfacing with their Venezuelan counterparts in fabricating missile depots that are said to go as deep as 20 meters in the ground.
The report maintains that building such depots is not easy and that they must be built to accommodate a network of special pipes necessary for the transfer of fuel within the installation, while expelling poisonous materials to the outside. At the same time, necessary precautions must be taken to withstand all possible air strikes.
Security sources have stated that the plans for the underground missile depots will be prepared by experts from the chemical engineering department of the Sharif Industrial University and Tehran Polytechnic. Apparently, these experts have produced and presented their first proposal to the Revolutionary Guards’ Khatam Al-Anbia headquarters.
Based on sources inside Iran, reports indicate that the Revolutionary Guards have established many entities and facilities in Venezuela as front companies involved in covert operations, such as exploration of uranium.
Venezuela is said to have significant reserves, something that Iran is desperately in need of for the continuation of their nuclear bomb project. Other activities include housing of the Quds forces, along with Hezbollah cells in these facilities, so they can expand their activities throughout Latin America and form collaborations with drug cartels in Mexico and then enter America.
Many of the Iranian so-called commercial facilities in Venezuela are under strict no-fly zone regulations by the Venezuelan government, and are only accessible by the Iranians in charge of those facilities!
With Iran’s refusal to halt its nuclear program and the progress they’re making with their missile delivery system, this new military alliance with Venezuela is most alarming for our national security here in America.
Based on my sources, I believe the radicals ruling Iran are emboldened by the confusion of the Obama administration in confronting Iran’s nuclear program. The Iranian regime feels that America has exhausted all of its options with its negotiation and sanctions approach and therefore no longer poses a serious threat to Iran’s nuclear drive.
The Iranian officials recently announced that Iran will continue enriching uranium to the 20 percent level (enriching uranium to 20 percent is going 80 percent of the way to nuclear bomb material), and that it also intends to install centrifuges in the previously secret site at the Fardo enrichment plant.
With Iran’s pursuit of the bomb, its collaboration with rogue states, and its continuous support of terrorist groups in the Middle East and around the world, it is time to realize that the Iranian regime poses the gravest danger to world peace, global stability and our national security.
The Obama administration needs to take immediate action to stop the jihadists in Tehran from acquiring the nuclear bomb. Failing to do that means we will face a new brand of terrorism on a scale that will dwarf 9/11 by comparison!
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for an ex-CIA spy who requires anonymity for safety reasons. He is the author of “A Time to Betray,” a book about his double life as a CIA agent in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, published by Threshold Editions, Simon & Schuster, April 2010.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/latino/news/2011/05/17/iran-building-secret-missile-installation-venezuela/#ixzz1MfT1V268


Opinion: Iran is Building a Secret Missile Installation in Venezuela – FoxNews.com


Chavez’ Government asked the FARC to kill opposition leaders and carry out bombings




Today’s New York Times has an article by Simon Romero on the book with the internal FARC communications found in Raul Reyes‘ computers. Among the highlights:
“In some of the most revealing descriptions of FARC activity in Venezuela, the book explains how Venezuela’s main intelligence agency, formerly known by the acronym Disip and now called the Bolivarian Intelligence Service, sought to enlist the FARC in training state security forces and conducting terrorist attacks, including bombings, in Caracas in 2002 and 2003. “
and:
“The book also cites requests by Mr. Chávez’s government for the guerrillas to assassinate at least two of his opponents.
The FARC discussed one such request in 2006 from a security adviser for Alí Rodríguez Araque, a top official here. According to the archive, the adviser, Julio Chirino, asked the FARC to kill Henry López Sisco, who led the Disip at the time of a 1986 massacre of unarmed members of a subversive group.”

Let the denials begin…

And

May 10, 2011

Venezuela Asked Colombian Rebels to Kill Opposition Figures, Analysis Shows

CARACAS, Venezuela — Colombia’s main rebel group has an intricate history of collaboration with Venezuelan officials, who have asked it to provide urban guerrilla training to pro-government cells here and to assassinate political opponents of Venezuela’s president, according to a new analysis of the group’s internal communications.
The analysis contends that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was asked to serve as a shadow militia for Venezuela’s intelligence apparatus, although there is no evidence that President Hugo Chávez was aware of the assassination requests or that they were ever carried out.
The documents, found in the computer files of a senior FARC commander who was killed in a 2008 raid, also show that the relationship between the leftist rebels and Venezuela’s leftist government, while often cooperative, has been rocky and at times duplicitous.
The documents are part of a 240-page book on the rebel group, “The FARC Files: Venezuela, Ecuador and the Secret Archive of Raúl Reyes,” to be published Tuesday by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. While some of the documents have been quoted and cited previously, the release of a CD accompanying the book will be the first time such a large number of the documents have been made public since they were first seized.
The book comes at a delicate stage in the FARC’s ties with Venezuela’s government. Mr. Chávez acknowledged last month for the first time that some of his political allies had collaborated with Colombian rebels, but insisted they “went behind all our backs.”
The book contradicts this assertion, pointing to a long history of collaboration by Mr. Chávez and his top confidants. Venezuela’s government viewed the FARC as “an ally that would keep U.S. and Colombian military strength in the region tied down in counterinsurgency, helping to reduce perceived threats against Venezuela,” the book said.
The archive describes a covert meeting in Venezuela in September 2000 between Mr. Chávez and Mr. Reyes, the FARC commander whose computers, hard drives and memory sticks were the source of the files. At the meeting, Mr. Chávez agreed to lend the FARC hard currency for weapons purchases.
A spokesman for Mr. Chávez did not respond to requests for comment.
Venezuela’s government has contended that the Reyes files were fabrications. In 2008, Interpol dismissed the possibility that the archive, which includes documents going back to the early 1980s, had been doctored.
Moreover, data from the archive has led to the recovery of caches of uranium in Colombia and American dollars in Costa Rica, and has been the basis of actions by governments including Canada, Spain and the United States. Such uses constitute “de facto recognition” that the archive is authentic, the institute said.
“We haven’t begun the dossier with the words ‘J’accuse,’ ” said Nigel Inkster, one of the book’s editors. “Instead we tried to produce a sober analysis of the FARC since the late 1990s, when Venezuela became a central element of their survival strategy.”
Recently, Venezuela seems to have cooled toward the FARC, conforming to a pattern described in the book of ups and downs between Mr. Chávez and the rebels. In April, his government took the unusual step of detaining Joaquín Pérez, a suspected senior operative for the FARC who had been living in Sweden, and deporting him to Colombia.
This move came amid a rapprochement between Mr. Chávez and Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, as a response by Mr. Chávez to Colombia’s claims that the FARC was operating from Venezuelan soil.
The archive, which opens a window into bouts of tension and even loathing between the FARC and Mr. Chávez’s emissaries, shows that Mr. Chávez has sided with the Colombian government on other occasions, especially when he stood to gain politically.
In November 2002, the book reports, before a meeting between Álvaro Uribe, then Colombia’s president, and Mr. Chávez, the FARC asked the Venezuelan Army for permission to transport uniforms on a mule train through Venezuelan territory. The Venezuelan Army granted permission, then ambushed the convoy, seized eight FARC operatives and delivered them to Colombia, allowing Mr. Chávez to inform Mr. Uribe of the operation in person.
Such betrayals, as well as unfulfilled promises of large sums of money, generated considerable tension among the rebels over their relationship with Mr. Chávez.
A member of the FARC’s secretariat, Víctor Suárez Rojas, who used the nom de guerre Mono Jojoy, once called Mr. Chávez a “deceitful and divisive president who lacked the resolve to organize himself politically and militarily.”
Still, periods of tension tended to be the exception in a relationship that has given the rebel group a broad degree of cross-border sanctuary.
In some of the most revealing descriptions of FARC activity in Venezuela, the book explains how Venezuela’s main intelligence agency, formerly known by the acronym Disip and now called the Bolivarian Intelligence Service, sought to enlist the FARC in training state security forces and conducting terrorist attacks, including bombings, in Caracas in 2002 and 2003.
A meeting described in the book shows that Mr. Chávez was almost certainly unaware of the Disip’s decision to involve the FARC in state terrorism, but that Venezuelan intelligence officials still carried out such contacts with a large amount of autonomy.
Drawing from the FARC’s archive, the book also describes how the group trained various pro-Chávez organizations in Venezuela, including the Bolivarian Liberation Forces, a shadowy paramilitary group operating along the border with Colombia.
FARC communications also discussed providing training in urban terrorism methods for representatives of the Venezuelan Communist Party and several radical cells from 23 de Enero, a Caracas slum that has long been a hive of pro-Chávez activity.
The book also cites requests by Mr. Chávez’s government for the guerrillas to assassinate at least two of his opponents.
The FARC discussed one such request in 2006 from a security adviser for Alí Rodríguez Araque, a top official here. According to the archive, the adviser, Julio Chirino, asked the FARC to kill Henry López Sisco, who led the Disip at the time of a 1986 massacre of unarmed members of a subversive group.
“They ask that if possible we give it to this guy in the head,” said Mr. Reyes, the former FARC commander.
The book says there was no evidence that the FARC acted on the request before Mr. López Sisco left Venezuela in November 2006.
Less is known about another assassination request cited in the book, including whom the target was or whether it took place.
But the book makes it clear that the Colombian rebels sometimes found their Venezuelan hosts unscrupulous and deceitful.
In one example, Mono Jojoy, who was killed in a bombing raid last year, had harsh words for Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, a former Venezuelan naval officer who has served as a top liaison between Mr. Chávez and the FARC, calling him “the worst kind of bandit.”

Venezuela Inflation reading via The Devils Excrement:

Island Canuck inflation Index closes at 59.7% in 2010The MasterBlog

Island Canuck inflation Index closes at 59.7% in 2010

moctavio | January 23, 2011 at 9:26 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/ppwPU-35e

Our friend and reader Island Canuck sent me a while back his final numbers for inflation in 2010. Recall that at the end of June the expat sent us his numbers and inflation was running at a 30% clip for the first half of the year. Well, despite the fact that there was no devaluation in the second half of 2010, his food and beverage index essentially doubled in 2010 as you can see in the table below. Note that most vegetables had triple digit increases in the year (They are mostly produced locally). Note also that things that are not available had small increases. Any insights by readers are welcome.





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