Obama: Gobierno venezolano debe oír reclamos del pueblo Jefe de Estado aprovechó una cita bilateral desarrollada en México, además, para criticar la decisión de Nicolás Maduro de expulsar a tres funcionarios diplomáticos.
POR VICTOR JAQUE 19 febrero 2014 El presidente de Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, condenó este miércoles la violencia desatada en Venezuela durante una ola de protestas contra el Gobierno y llamó a las autoridades a liberar a los manifestantes detenidos.
Después de una reunión de líderes norteamericanos en México, Obama sostuvo que el presidente Nicolás Maduro ordenó días atrás la expulsión de tres diplomáticos estadounidenses con falsas acusaciones.
El presidente estadounidense dijo que el Gobierno de Maduro trata de desviar la atención sobre las carencias del país.
"El Gobierno debería de concentrarse en atender los reclamos legítimos del pueblo venezolano", dijo en una rueda de prensa tras una reunión para celebrar los 20 años del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (TLCAN).
Maduro asegura que las manifestaciones, que comenzaron hace tres semanas y han cobrado la vida de al menos cinco personas, son un intento de la oposición de sacarlo del poder con el apoyo de Washington.
"Hacemos un llamado al Gobierno venezolano para que libere a los manifestantes que han sido detenidos y que entablen un diálogo verdadero", dijo Obama. "Todas las partes tienen que trabajar conjuntamente, abstenerse de la violencia y restaurar la tranquilidad".
This is from yesterday, I didn't get a chance to post it earlier.
The reason I find it significant is because Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in. Previous "opposition leaders," facing similar situations, went into hiding or exile leaving the opposition leaderless. This could evolve into making Lopez the true leader of the opposition, something that until now has ben sorely lacking.
In Venezuela Opposition Leader Leopoldo Lopez Turns Himself In
February 18, 2014
It was certainly a day to remember. Despite the Government banning the opposition march and prohibiting marches, Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in in a demonstration which was simply massive. His handover was perfectly choreographed, leaving images that have a highly emotional content and guaranteeing that this day, whatever may happen was a victory for the Voluntad Popular leader.
I mean, there are very few things missing from a picture like this one:
Lopez being pushed into the National Guard tank, white flowers in one hand, flag in the other and screaming at his supporters. Really, can it get any more dramatic than this?
And this was after Lopez had given a fiery speech to his supporters hanging on the statue of Jose Marti in Plaza Brion of Chacaito at the end of which his wife was lifted up by the crowd to say goodbye to him right before he turned himself in. How can anyone not be moved by this image?:
And it was Lopez who, from the inside of the military vehicle, used a megaphone to ask people to move aside to let the vehicle through. Lopez was calma calm and at times it seemed as if the guardsman taking him looked more scared than he did.
And the show of support was nationwide, as students organized protests in all major cities, all of them with huge crowds, all ending at the Palaces of Justice of each State with the students handing in their demands.
I went to the march, leaving somewhat late, but was surprised when a couple of Kilometers away from the march, the street was still full of people walking towards Chacaito. And when I got to Chacaito it became difficult to get through because it was so crowded. Once in the intersection with the main Country Club Avenue, I was surprised by the sea of people coming down from that direction. It turns out it was the people from the West of Caracas, who, because the march was not allowed beyond Chacaito, had to come via Libertador Avenue to where Lopez turned himself in. From there, we turned South towards Las Mercedes, went under the Autopista and then climbed back on it, only to find that the students had not only blocked it, but occupied it all the way to the Cienpies Distributor. There were people everywhere, in front, below, above. And there was lots of police and guardsman, but they they were clearly given the order to do nothing, despite our fears that we could be gassed any minute.
This is an overall picture from above, two blocks away from where Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in:
And at this time, 7:37 PM , students are still out in the streets blocking the way
I am still surprised the Government went ahead and jailed Lopez. To accuse him of being a terrorist, when there are pictures showing that it was the Government’s intelligence police who shot the students on Feb. 12th. is somewhat dumb. By jailing him, not only does he become a martyr, elevating his stature within the opposition, but also creating another political prisoner and another reason for the students to fight.
Maduro also loses credibility, when it was him that suggested Lopez was responsible for the deaths of the students, not the Prosecutor, raising doubts, once again, abut the separation of powers in Venezuela. To make matters even worse, it was the Head of the National Assembly, Diodado Cabello, who took Lopez to his arraignment. What is Cabello doing there? He does not belong to any of the braches of Government that should be involved. The Government later said it was to protect Lopez’ life from the “right wing”, a silly excuse, more so, given that Lopez is also labelled as “right wing”.
Because while all this was going one, Maduro was holding his own march, despite his ban on demonstrations, where he said Lopez was being taken directly to jail (Ughh?) by helicopter, showing the President does not even understand legal procedures. In his speech, Maduro rambled, attaching President Piñera of Chile and Santos of Colombia, for involving themselves in Venezuelan affairs.
But more importantly, you just don’t go jail an opposition leader like Lopez on trumped up charges, without raising suspicions that this is simply autocracy at work. Lopez now becomes a hot potato for Maduro: Keep him in jail he becomes a symbol, release him, you look weak (and somewhat dumb!). He will actually be charged with murder, a silly charge if there ever was one.
Lopez seems to have scored a victory sooner than he thought when he started going out to try to gather the protests under his wing. Even Capriles went to the demonstration, as all opposition politicians showed up at the demonstration to show their support.
For now, the students remain on their own, a random band of disorganized protesters that have kept the Government in check for ten days. They will not go easily away and now they have one more prisoner to defend.
There is an ongoing protest about two blocks from my house
Beauty queen the latest victim in Venezuela unrest
By Tomas Sarmiento and Deisy Buitrago
14 minutes ago
CARACAS (Reuters) - A local beauty queen died of a gunshot wound on Wednesday in the fifth fatality from Venezuela's political unrest, as imprisoned protest leader Leopoldo Lopez urged supporters to keep fighting for the departure of the socialist government.
Tensions have risen in Venezuela since Lopez, a 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist, turned himself in to troops on Tuesday after spearheading three weeks of often rowdy protests against President Nicolas Maduro's government.
The latest included college student and model Genesis Carmona, 22, who was shot in the head at a protest on Tuesday in the central city of Valencia. She died later in a clinic.
"How long are we going to live like this? How long do we have to tolerate this pressure, with them killing us?" a relative, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
"She only needed one more semester to graduate," he added of Carmona, who had been studying tourism and had won the 2013 Miss Tourism competition in her state.
Three people were shot dead in Caracas after an opposition rally a week ago, and a fourth person died after being run over by a car during a demonstration in the coastal town of Carupano. There have been scores of arrests and injuries.
State TV channel VTV said the mother of one its employees died while being rushed to hospital in Caracas. VTV said she suffered a heart attack while the ambulance carrying her was stuck in gridlock due to opposition supporters blocking roads.
Lopez has urged his supporters to keep fighting for the departure of Maduro's socialist administration.
"Today more than ever, our cause has to be the exit of this government," he said, sitting by his wife in a pre-recorded video that was to be released in the event he was jailed. (http://t.co/uJGiXVm0AV)
"The exit from this disaster, the exit of this group of people who have kidnapped the future of Venezuelans is in your hands. Let's fight. I will be doing so."
There was sporadic trouble across Venezuela again on Wednesday. Rival groups scuffled outside the Caracas court where Lopez was due, while student demonstrators also blocked a highway in the capital, burning trash.
In western Tachira state, security forces and protesters fought in the streets for about two hours, with two students injured, various vehicles damaged or destroyed, and local monuments charred, witnesses said.
In southern Puerto Ordaz city, pro- and anti-government marchers fought in the street, witnesses said, with police firing teargas to quell the trouble.
Three government supporters were injured in the melee when shots were fired, and both sides faced off with sticks and stones, the witnesses said.
The demonstrators are calling for Maduro's resignation over issues ranging from inflation and violent crime to corruption and product shortages.
Maduro, who was narrowly elected last year to replace Hugo Chavez after his death from cancer, says Lopez and others in league with the U.S. government are seeking a coup.
Street protests were the backdrop to a short-lived ouster of Chavez for 36 hours in 2002, before military loyalists and supporters helped bring him back.
Though tens of thousands joined Lopez on the streets when he turned himself in on Tuesday, the protests have so far been much smaller than the wave of demonstrations a decade ago.
Neither is there any evidence that the military, which was the decisive factor in the 2002 overthrow, may turn on Maduro now.
Lopez was being held on Wednesday at the Ramo Verde jail in Caracas, and was due at a first court hearing.
Hundreds of his supporters waved banners saying "Free Leopoldo!" in the city center on Wednesday as a line of soldiers stood in front with riot shields. "We're prepared to give our lives," said pensioner Juan Marquez, 68.
Police held back a rival demonstration by several hundred 'Chavistas', some of them striking the protesters and chanting "Leopoldo, off to Tocoron" in a reference to a notoriously overcrowded provincial jail.
In an intriguing twist to the drama, Maduro said his powerful Congress head Diosdado Cabello, seen by many Venezuelans as a potential rival to the president, personally negotiated Lopez's surrender via his parents.
Cabello even helped drive him to custody in his own car given the risks to Lopez's life from extremists, Maduro said.
With local TV providing minimal live coverage of the street unrest, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have become the go-to media for many Venezuelans desperate for information.
However, many social media users are indiscriminately tweeting images without confirming their origin, leading to manipulation and gaffes including footage of unrest in Egypt and Chile being passed off as repression in Venezuela.
Old photos from past protests are also doing the rounds.
Detractors call Lopez a dangerous and self-serving hothead. He has frequently squabbled with fellow opposition leaders, and was involved in the 2002 coup, even helping arrest a minister.
"I've hardly been in office for 10 months and for 10 months this opposition has been plotting to kill me, topple me," Maduro said. "For how long is the right wing going to hurt the nation?"
Though the majority of demonstrators have been peaceful, a radical fringe have been attacking police, blocking roads and vandalizing buildings. Rights groups say the police response has been excessive, and some detainees say they were tortured.
In a nation split largely down the middle on political lines, 'Chavistas' have stayed loyal to Maduro despite unflattering comparisons with his famously charismatic predecessor. Many Venezuelans fear the loss of popular, oil-funded welfare programs should the socialists lose power.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne and Diego Ore in Caracas; Javier Farias in Tachira; German Dam in Puerto Ordaz; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Ken Wills)
In the immortal words of the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy, "It's all about the Benjamins."
In this week's weekly report on Venezuela (attached PDF), we cover the protests racking Venezuela, as rampant crime, an inflation rate officially over 56%, a bolivar currency that is virtually unconvertible (except in the black market where it has fallen to a fourth of its value in one year after falling to a third of its value the year before), and widespread shortages of everything from bread, flour and meat to toilet paper drive people out into the streets.
At the same time, the protestors are being put-down by well-armed state security forces and since the domestic television industry is now totally dominated and controlled by the Government, there is very little live coverage being reported. As I noted in a mid-week update to you last week, Colombian TV station NTN24 and CNN en Espanol have stepped up their coverage in that deficit, in addition to social media reports, pictures and video on Facebook and Twitter. Not happy that their "communicational hegemony" was being overcome, the Venezuela government took NTN24 off the air in Venezuela and blocked its internet feed. And learning from the failures of dictators in the Arab Spring, Venezuela even blocked Twitter -- which Twitter confirmed last week. In comparison to trusted news sources, the problem that we are also finding with new media like Twitter and Facebook is the reliability of the posts: while some of the information is good and current, other people put up old video and pictures, and some can be doctored, which confuses things and hurts its believability (the mistakes of which the government points out).
I spent some time on the weekend news shows talking about what is going on in Venezuela -- which has just kicked out 3 more American diplomats (third time in a year!). China, which has loaned Venezuela over $40 billion, is especially interested in what is going on there and you can see my interview on China's dominant broadcaster CCTV here: http://laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=1620461&CategoryId=10718
But in the end, many of the problems -- the inflation, the shortages, the crime, the collapsing currency -- are all about the Benjamins (as in Benjamin Franklin who appears on the $100 bill). After the first of the larger size SICAD sales of $220 million was cancelled earlier this month, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro promised the next one would be for $440 million. He lied, as only $216 million was announced on Friday (and the paper starved newspaper industry -- one of the last few outlets for opposition viewpoints -- was given nothing).
Here is the problem.
When oil prices crashed in late 2008 and into 2009, Chavez hit the capital markets to fund his spending. Beginning in May of 2009 (when they also expropriated and nationalized the oil service providers they could not pay), Venezuela and PDVSA began issuing massive amounts of US dollar bonds, for a 5 year total of $46.3 billion in new dollar debt, mostly at high interest rates (these are just bonds and does not include the $40 billion in loans from the China), essentially doubling the country's indebtedness.
Interest payments on those bonds are paid semi-annually (every six months) and this month alone Venezuela will pay out $732.5 million in coupon payments on its dollar bond debt -- which is essentially one week's worth of Venezuela oil exports, assuming 1.3 million barrels a day in real cash oil exports.
Throw in 4 weekly SICAD distributions of $220 million a week for $880 million and you are down another week of oil export earnings. That doesn't include the $80-90 million that CADIVI was providing weekly at 6.3, for another half a week of earnings. In the end, that doesn't leave much for paying the airlines the over $3.3 billion they are now owed, paying food companies the $2.43 billion they are owed, much less the billions owed to oil partners and service providers, workers, government employees, to say nothing of bread, chicken, flour or toilet paper.
It's all about the Benjamins -- or the lack thereof.
The press is heavily censored in Venezuela and the only way to get the real news is through social media like Twitter. Here is a sampler of the popular protest ongoing at this time that will not be reported by the press (pictures):
El pueblo frustra intento de arresto illegal por parte de militares
Noten que la franela del último personaje en el video tiene siete (7) estrellas, las siete estrellas tradicionales de nuestra bandera, no las ocho que le puso Chavez, el vende patria. Las siete estrellas representan las siete provincias de Venezuela en su momento de independencia y la octava, que se supone es Cuba, no tiene nada que ver con nosotros.
Desde hace mas de diez años no han habido manifestaciones anti gobierno en la calle como ahora. Un mostrario y esto en la cara de una censura de prensa. Para obtener noticias hay que usar medios sociales como Twitter.
Yes, they have. they were recorded on amateur video tape.
While Government Tries To Blame Lopez For Deaths, Paper Shows Otherwise February 16, 2014
Ever since last Wednesday’s student March which left two dead, the Government has tried to say that former Presidential candidate Leopoldo Lopez and Congresswoman Maria Corina Machado, who led the protest, were responsible for the the deaths right after the demonstration ended. But, usually pro-Government paper Ultimas Noticias, has done an extraordinary investigation of videos and pictures and what it has found is a carefully orchestrated withdrawal of the police, which were replaced by Intelligence police officers and plainclothesmen, who were wearing and used guns against running students.Having guns near a demonstration is illegal, Government officers murdering people at a demonstration is a crime against humanity by them and their superiors.
What this investigation shows is the power of the smartphone, as the evidence came mostly from amateur tapings (note that one of them, the person making the video is hiding under a car)
Here is the text and the video
and here is a summary of the text for those that do not speak Spanish. I recommend watching the video (at the end) after reading the text:
“It was at 3:13 PM when Bassil Alejandro Dacosta fell. The line of fire was in the hands of individuals identified with unirforms, plates and vehicles of the Bolivarain Intelligence Service (Sebin) accompanied by others dressed as civilians. They had taken over between the Tracabordo and the Ferrenquin corners of La Candelaria, after the Bolivarain National Police withdrew its troops
Here is the reconstruction: A group of students tries to go up from Monroy to Tracabordo. The march was over. Those left were screaming at police. They advanced towards a Sebin motorcycle, knocking it to the ground. The Sebin and civilians move forward and start shooting pistols rifles. The students withdraw. Others, among which was Bassil Dacosta, cross to a lateral street. It is not clear why they decide to trun around 12 seconds later, they cross the line of fire. Dacosta falls. At no point does the shooting stop.
Dacosta is the next to last of a line of students that crosses trying to escape the bullets. His buddies pick him up and carry him away”
Witneeses say the corner ahd been taken over by men and women in motorcycles, like “those you see in TV”. All dressed as civilains. Some with helmets and t-shirts. Some with their faces covered. They were shooting at the protesters in the Monroy corner. “They would shoot with their arms out and then hide”. In the wall of a City office there are at least 10 tarces of bullet impacts.
The civilians talked to the Sebin officers and withdrew. Sebin officers occupied their places.
At the head of the group came a Kawasaki Versys 1000 motorcycle with another large guy with kaki shirt and jeans with a short wave radio in his hand. He seems to be the leader. After Dacosta falls, he gestures towards a man in gray camouflage clothes.
At the instant of Dacosta’s death a photographic sequence shows at least seven men wielding their weapons. Five are shooting standing up, one is shooting in the air and four are shooting at the protesters. Two wear uniforms.
One of them wears a white shirt, green military pants, helmet and blck lenses, He moves in a motorcycle with official palate 2-177. The other wears a long sleeved black shirt, jeans and black shows. No helmet or glasses. The civialisn were acting in coordination with those in uniform.
One of the shooters picks up the motorcycle overthrown by the students. Two pick up the shells from the bullets, they get on their motorcycles and leave.
Questions: Maduro said those responsible had been identified, a day later the scientific police was still studying the scene?
Why did the National withdraw from the scene?
Why were weapons used to repress the protest?
Why were there civilians with uniformed Sebin officers repressing the march?
From the video: Why did the motorcycles easily cross between the students and the police?
Why did the guy jump over the police only to be seen shooting later?”
Here is the video:
Here are a few pictures of the guy in white from three different angles, one of them while shooting:
Meanwhile the investigative police last night went to Leopoldo Lopez’ parents’ home and his home reportedly to arrest him, in part for being responsible for the death of Dacosta. . He was not there. Maduro called him a coward for not turning himself in.
Tonight Lopez distributes this video, upping the ante in these protests calling for a march to the Prosecutors office to demand a number of things and to turn himself in for crimes he has not committed. He is asking everyone to wear white, as a sign that this is a peaceful movement.
For the Government this represents a quandary. Jailing Lopez will only ignite things even more, but it was Maduro who accused him of crimes, nobody knows specifically which ones. Will the Prosecutor obey Maduro and jail Lopez? Will a Judge sign the order to capture him?
Can the Prosecutor accuse Lopez while Ultimas Noticias has shown clear evidence that it was police and civilians in official motorcyles who were shooting at that instant at the students. Will they go after those responsible for Dacostas’s death?
It is certainly an interesting week to be here.
Note added at 9:21 PM Sunday Feb. 16th. : This work is having an effect, President Maduro said tonight on nationwide TV that he had order all Sebin officers to stay at their barracks!!!
Colonialism is over. The French and the Brits used own Suez. For that matter England used to own a big chunk of North America as did the Russians, the French, the Spanish, and the Dutch,. If you want to go back to biblical times just look at present day Middle East. There needs to be a statute of limitation on absentee ownership.
Maduro hasn't a chance of curbing inflation just as all the presidents who predated him since the oil embargo didn't. If you get a huge amount of money from oil and you give it to people to spend but curb production in the name of ideology or other failed economic policy you get too much money chasing too few good, the perfect recipe for inflation.
Maduro's new policy of clamping down on retailers is nothing new. I was an Apple reseller when Black Friday hit in 1983 when all this mess started, or when the mess got out of hand. I was forced to sell my old inventory at old prices. I could charge Bs. 10,000 for an Apple II but the new ones cost me Bs.14,000. Quite simply the government stole my working capital and my business went broke. What Maduro is doing in 2013 was already done in 1983 (30 years and they learned nothing).
By Brian Ellsworth and Deisy Buitrago | Reuters – 3 hrs ago
CARACAS (Reuters) - The U.S. Embassy in Venezuela on Tuesday defended three diplomats expelled by President Nicolas Maduro, rejecting charges they were involved in espionage and accusations Washington is trying to destabilize the OPEC nation.
In the latest spat between the ideological foes, Maduro on Monday ordered out three U.S. diplomats including Kelly Keiderling, temporarily in charge of the mission.
He alleged they had been meeting with "right wing" opposition leaders and encouraging acts of sabotage against the South American nation's electricity grid and economy.
The expulsions throw a wrench into cautious efforts this year to restore full diplomatic ties that were frayed for most of the 14-year rule of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
The U.S. government was evaluating its response and may take reciprocal action in accordance with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, a statement from the embassy said.
"We completely reject the Venezuelan government's allegations of U.S. government involvement in any type of conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuelan government," it added.
"We likewise reject the specific claims against the three members of our embassy."
In an address to the nation, Maduro repeated his accusations on Tuesday, saying the three Americans had been handing over money and stirring up plots in southeastern Bolivar state.
"You can see the hand of the gringo conspiracy ... they talk of a Benghazi," Maduro said, referring to the cradle of revolt against late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Maduro showed a video of the three in a special TV broadcast all local channels were obliged to show live.
To a backdrop of dramatic music, the video showed images of diplomatic vehicles, a flight manifest and the three diplomats entering and departing what appeared to be offices of pro-opposition groups in Bolivar.
"Until the U.S. government understands it has to respect Venezuela as a sovereign nation, quite simply there will be no cordial relations, nor cordial communications," Maduro said.
The U.S. Embassy statement said the diplomats were in Bolivar state on entirely "normal" business.
"We maintain regular contacts across the Venezuelan political spectrum," it said.
"This is what diplomats do. Venezuelan diplomats in the United States similarly meet with a broad range of representatives of our society."
Maduro, who is Chavez's successor and part of a Latin American leftist alliance including Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, named a new acting head of Venezuela's U.S. diplomatic mission shortly after his April election.
Many took that as a sign of warming relations.
That official may now face expulsion in the tit-for-tat style retaliation that has characterized similar incidents in the past.
Chavez in 2008 expelled Ambassador Patrick Duddy over what he called Washington's involvement in violent protests in Bolivia. In 2010, he blocked the nomination of diplomat Larry Palmer over comments that there were "clear ties" between members of Chavez's government and leftist Colombian rebels.
Venezuela's opposition says Maduro is continuing a Chavez-era tactic of inflating and inventing diplomatic crises to distract attention from economic and social problems affecting the nation's 29 million people.
(Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Cynthia Osterman)
Well, it's October 1 and we now know how the Third Quarter of 2013 ends, how Breaking Bad ends, and how the Federal Government ends. And after yesterday's expulsion of 3 US diplomats by Venezuela, including the top US diplomat in Caracas -- who was just a Deputy Chief of Mission, since the Ambassador had already been expelled, along with a host of others -- we now know how the Venezuela relationship with the US ends. Last one out of the US Embassy in Caracas please turn out the lights.
The last time Venezuela expelled U.S. diplomats was on March 5, when it ejected two US military attaches. Despite the fact that the US is the largest customer for Venezuela oil and Venezuela is the fifth largest supplier of oil to the US, the two countries have not had ambassadors in each others countries since former Venezuela President Hugo Chavez expelled US Ambassador Patrick Duddy in 2008 in "solidarity with Bolivia" and then failed to approve his nominated successor in 2010. The US reciprocated by expelling Venezuela Ambassador to the US Bernardo Alvarez the day after Chavez publicly said that Venezuela would reject the newly designated US Ambassador Larry Palmer in late December 2010.
We can expect that the Venezuelan charge d'affaires in Washington, Calixto Ortega, will be back in Caracas by the end of the week in the tit-for-tat strategy that the State Department has for dealing with the nettlesome Venezuelans.
And to say that the reason for the expulsions was wafer-thin is to insult wafer-makers all over the world: Maduro said it was because they were meeting with the "right wing" and making "economic war" on Venezuela and "sabotaging the electrical grid." He said he had evidence, but of course, did not provide any. Straight out of the Cuban playbook, which seems to be more of a one-pager these days than an actual binder. Sadly, this is all circus in this Bread and Circus satire, as there is not enough bread to go around as shortages and inflation continue ravaging the Venezuela economy. http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=1049644&CategoryId=10717
I have attached our latest Weekly Report on Venezuela (attached pdf), in which we cover the continuing travails of the economy, including going into further analysis of the Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro's China trip and more.
As always, please don't hesitate to let me know if we can be of any assistance. (PDF attached).
P.S. By the way, you can make sure that you get these and other Latin headlines (including the best Picture and Cartoon of the day) delivered to your email inbox FREE every morning by signing up for headlines from the Latin American Herald Tribune. Sign up here: http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=381843&CategoryId=35316 You can also join our 100,000 followers on Twitter to get real-time headlines: @lahtonline
Maduro went to China hoping to get a $5 billion loan but returned empty handed. At home things continue to deteriorate, recently we have had various blackouts, the dollar is sky high, over the last few months we have had the highest inflation rate I remember. The outcome is the expected one, blame the empire! What an asshole!
(VIDEO) Venezuela Expels Top US Diplomat, 2 Others (VIDEO) Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro says they were meeting with the country's "right wing" saying “Out of Venezuela! Yankee, go home! Enough with the abuse!”
CARACAS - Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro announced the expulsion of 3 US diplomats during a live speech to Venezuela soldiers commemorating 200 years since the day when Atanasio Girardot died fighting for Venezuela's independence.
Maduro asked Foreign Minister Elias Jaua to expel the 3 US diplomats, giving them 48 hours to leave the country.
Maduro accused the 3 US diplomats of meeting with the country's "right wing" to plan economic and electricital system sabotage.
“We have sufficient evidence collected of the hostile, illegal and interventionist attitude of the officials,” Maduro said. “Out of Venezuela. Yankee, go home! Enough with the abuse.”
He did not provide any evidence but identified the diplomats as Kelly Keiderling, who is the charge d'affaires and the top US diplomat in the country, Elizabeth Hunderland and David Mutt. The U.S. Embassy says it has not yet been officially informed of the expulsions.
Keiderling has been the US Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires since July 2011. She joined the State Department in 1988 and has had a long and varied list of appointments, including in Ethiopia, Zambia, Botswana, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Back in Washington, she has served as Senior Panama Desk Officer in the Office of Central American Affairs, Public Diplomacy Desk Officer for the Caribbean, Acting Deputy Director of Central American Affairs, and Chief of Staff of the Iraq Office.
Venezuela has been plagued by electricity shortages as well as shortages of water and basic foodstuffs despite having the largest known oil reserves in the world.
Venezuela-watchers point out that Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez, who died in March, often blame the US "imperialist gringos" for the country's problems, despite being in power for over 15 years.
On that theme, the leader of the Opposition, Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, tweeted that "Nobody believes the alerts from Miraflores. Pure smoke to cover that he cannot run the country! Maduro has no plan for the country and does not know how to solve the problems facing our people!"
Capriles narrowly lost a controversial and disputed special election to Maduro in April in the wake of the death of Chavez.
The last time Venezuela expelled U.S. diplomats was on March 5, when it ejected two military attaches on similar allegations. That move came several hours before Maduro announced that longtime President Hugo Chavez had died of cancer.
Despite the fact that the US is the largest customer for Venezuela oil and Venezuela is the fifth largest supplier of oil to the US, the two countries have not had ambassadors in each others countries since former Venezuela President Hugo Chavez expelled US Ambassador Patrick Duddy in 2008 in "solidarity with Bolivia" and failed to approve his nominated successor in 2010.
The US reciprocated by expelling Venezuela Ambassador to the US Bernardo Alvarez after Chavez publicly said that Venezuela would reject the newly designated US Ambassador Larry Palmer in late December 2010.
“I don’t care what actions Barack Obama’s government may take," Maduro told the soldiers today. "We’re not going to allow an imperial government to bring money and see how they shut down the basic industries, how they turn off electricity to black out all Venezuela. What is that?”
Maduro called on national soldiers and all those who feel proud of belonging to the fatherland set free by Simon Bolivar to "continue hoisting the flag of independence, revolution and socialism."
"I'm so proud of having the homeland we have, we should be so proud of feeling and being Venezuelans and continue raising the flag of independence here," Maduro said.
"An independent Venezuela endured difficulties, betrayal, defeats, painful losses as that of Atanasio Girardot, setbacks, hesitation, but its flag was always raised, there was someone to raise it and feel proud of it," Maduro stressed. "Soldiers, we only have our life to give it to our Republic, if necessary, to keep it alive, for independence to be strengthened."
Atanasio Girardot (May 2, 1791 – September 30, 1813) was a Latin American revolutionary leader who fought beside Simón Bolívar in the Campaña Admirable and other battles. He died during the Battle of Bárbula, trying to plant the republican flag on Bárbula Hill.
Chavista increpa a Gabriela Montero en concierto en Paraná 28 Septiembre, 2013
John Locke / 28 sep 2013.- Anoche, la gran pianista venezolana Gabriela Montero publicó el siguiente texto en su facebook, referente a un incidente que se dió en un concierto de la pianista en Paraná.
Anoche, toqué ExPatria y el Concierto No.5 de Beethoven con el maravilloso director Osvaldo Ferreira y la Orquestra Sinfonica do Parana.Como no habían insertado el texto sobre mi obra en el programa, tuve que hablar y explicársela al publico.Les expliqué cómo Venezuela está tomada por la violencia y la corrupción. Les expliqué que mi dolor está claramente ilustrado en ExPatria y que describe el llanto y frustración the millones de venezolanos que no tienen la posibilidad de hablar públicamente como yo puedo hacerlo. Les expliqué que muchos sentimos que hemos perdido nuestro país. También expliqué que no me interesa la política, pero sí me interesan los seres humanos y el sufrimiento que trae la política corrupta, deshonesta y que sirve a los interés de aquellos que se están enriqueciendo.
Me importan los efectos que tienen sobre la sociedad de mi país.
En ese momento, un hombre mayor, empezó a gritar,” Mentirosa! Eres una mentirosa! Son todas mentiras!!”
Él estaba muy agitado y el público, sorprendido y desagradado con su ataque hacia mi, empezó a defenderme y pedirle que se callara. Insitió, llamándome mentirosa, y mi respuesta fue decirle que era mi derecho y mi deber hablar sobre los eventos que nos afectan y brillar luz sobre las verdades que están siendo ignorados por el mundo.
Le dije que Rachmaninov y Chopin escribieron sobre su anhelo de regresar a su patria. Sobre todo lo que habían perdido. También debí haber mencionado a Prokofiev y Shostakovich. El volumen de la conmoción aumentaba, y alguien le gritó al señor lo que una vez el Rey Juan Carlos de España le dijo a Chavez, “¿Por qué no te callas?”.
Me senté en la banqueta para comenzar ExPatria.
El hombre continuaba ofendiendome, y en ese momento me paré y con voz muy firme grité: “Yo soy venezolana y sé exactamente lo que estoy diciendo y por qué lo estoy diciendo”.
Me senté nuevamente al piano, mi corazón latiendo fuertemente, y el público se levantó, aplaudiendo. La orquesta golpeaba el piso del escenario creando una ola de sonido- de apoyo, y todo el mundo en la sala seguía de pie- aplaudiendo y apoyándome. Apoyando lo que estaba apunto de hacer y de expresar a través de la música. Apoyando el hecho de que entienden lo doloroso que es que exista una obra como ExPatria porque no debería de existir. Deberiamos celebrar el amor, el respecto y la libertad entre todos.
Gracias a todos los que estuvieron presentes. Gracias a todos los que hablaron conmigo después del concierto y entendieron cada mensaje en mi obra y mi ejecución. Gracias a la gran humanidad de la orquesta y la demostración de afecto y solidaridad. Gracias a Osvaldo por estar ahí conmigo. Y gracias al hombre que me insultó, por demostrarnos una vez mas lo peligrosa que es la ignorancia y como siempre debemos luchar por aquellos que no pueden, y nunca darles la espalda a aquellos que lo necesitan. Que no se sientan olvidados. Anoche, los aplausos fueron para los venezolanos que se sienten representados por ExPatria. Gracias.
I don't know. The fact that the opposition is still at it and has not run for Costa Rica or some other safe haven like the previous opposition leaders did is a good sign. They need the backing of international bodies.
Opposition Challenges Results In Over Five Thousand Ballot Boxes May 8, 2013
As you may have noticed, I have been traveling the last few days. But my friends keep me informed by sending all sorts of information which I read and file, but was not thinking of posting. Then yesterday I got the note on the second challenge to the April 14th. vote and thought I would mention it. The opposition is challenging the results in 5,720 tables or boxes, which comprise 21,562 tallies. Each table challenged includes some form of irregularity which is documented in the challenge. The opposition is requesting that the vote be redone in all these, which comprises of 2.3 million votes. Separately, the fingerprint analysis shows a large number of inconsistencies. But the most significant one is that 20% of he voters had no fingerprint on file, including over four hundred thousand new voters, all of which were supposed to have their prints on file.
This challenge to the election votes is separate from the first one, which was based on irregularities associated with violations of the electoral laws,such as assisted voting, propaganda and abuses, not with the details of the voting process and the results. Both include recusing those magistrates that have expressed an opinion on the case or are related to Government officials.
Venezuelan Bank Official Charged in U.S. With Two in Bribe Plot Bob Van Voris and Patricia HurtadoMay 08, 2013 12:01 am ET
May 8 (Bloomberg) -- An official with Venezuela’s state- owned economic development bank directed its bond-trading business to a New York brokerage in exchange for bribes from two of its employees, U.S. prosecutors said.
Maria Gonzalez, 54, vice president of finance at Banco de Desarrollo Economico y Social de Venezuela, Tomas Alberto Clarke Bethancourt, 43, and Jose Alejandro Hurtado, 38, were charged in a criminal complaint unsealed yesterday in federal court in New York.
Prosecutors said Clarke was a senior vice president and Hurtado an employee in the Miami office of the brokerage, which was identified in a lawsuit by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as Direct Access Partners LLC, or DAP.
“These latest charges certainly highlight the widespread corruption throughout the Venezuelan government and the immense sums of money available with no Venezuelan oversight,” Russ Dallen, head bond trader at Caracas Capital Markets, said yesterday in an e-mailed response to questions.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said that the three defendants engaged in a conspiracy to pay bribes to Gonzalez in exchange for her directing the bank’s financial trading business to DAP. All three were arrested by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on May 3 and presented in federal court in Miami on May 6.
The SEC said Hurtado, who lives in Miami, was the intermediary between DAP and Gonzalez. The Venezuelan government has a majority ownership interest in the bank, known as BANDES, and provided it with substantial funding, according to the SEC.
Henry Bell, a lawyer for Clarke, had no comment on the charges. Frank Rubino, who represents Hurtado, and Jane Moscowitz, a lawyer for Gonzalez, didn’t immediately return phone messages yesterday seeking comment on the allegations.
Phone calls to DAP’s offices yesterday after regular business hours weren’t answered.
From April 2009 through June 2010, Clarke, Hurtado and Gonzalez participated in a conspiracy in which Gonzalez directed trading business which she controlled to DAP and in return, agents and employees of the broker-dealer split the more than $60 million in mark-ups and mark-downs from trading with BANDES, the U.S. alleged.
Clarke and Hurtado allegedly devised a scheme with Gonzalez to split commissions which BANDES paid the broker-dealer, and the government said Gonzalez received monthly kickbacks from DAP and its employees which prosecutors said “were frequently in the six-figure amounts.”
Gonzalez, who was in charge of overseas trading for BANDES, made at least $3.6 million in kickbacks from the scheme according to prosecutors. In exchange, Gonzalez allegedly directed bank business to DAP. Hurtado and his wife made millions from DAP in salary, bonuses and finder’s fees in connection with the BANDES business, prosecutors said. Millions more went to a foreign entity controlled by Clarke, which then transferred some of the money to a Swiss account for Gonzalez’s benefit, according to the government.
In addition to generating money on mark-ups and mark-downs, Clarke caused DAP in January 2010 buy and sell the same bonds for BANDES on the same day.
“The result of such trades was that BANDES was left with the same bond holdings as before the trades, except that it had paid the broker-dealer approximately $10.5 million in mark-ups in the course of the two round-trip transactions,” the U.S. government said in its complaint.
The SEC’s lawsuit against Clarke and Hurtado includes as defendants Haydee Leticia Pabon, 33, who is Hurtado’s wife, and Iuri Rodolfo Bethancourt, 40, a resident of Panama. According to the SEC, Clarke and Bethancourt are “apparent relatives.”
Bharara’s office yesterday filed a civil forfeiture lawsuit seeking control of bank accounts used in the alleged scheme and Miami-area properties that Hurtado allegedly bought with his proceeds.
“The defendants’ arrests lay bare a web of bribery and corruption in which employees of a U.S. broker-dealer allegedly generated tens of millions of dollars through transactions in order to fund kickbacks to a Venezuelan government official in exchange for her directing the Venezuelan economic development bank’s financial trading business to their employer,” Bharara said yesterday in a statement. “The defendants also engaged in international money laundering to carry out their corrupt scheme.”
A BANDES press official, who declined to be identified because of bank policy, declined to comment on the charges. An official in Venezuela’s finance ministry, who declined to be identified because of ministry policy, also declined to comment. A representative of the Information Ministry, who couldn’t be identified because of ministry policy, declined to comment.
Gonzalez is charged with conspiracy to violate the Travel Act, violation of the Travel Act, money laundering and money laundering conspiracy. Clarke and Hurtado are each charged with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, violation of the FCPA, Conspiracy to violate the Travel Act, violation of the Travel Act, money laundering and money laundering conspiracy.
The money laundering and money laundering conspiracy charges carry maximum prison terms of 20 years.
The case is U.S. v. Clarke, 13-mag-00683, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The SEC case is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Bethancourt, 13- cv-03074, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.
--With assistance from Nathan Crooks in Caracas and Joshua Gallu in Washington. Editors: Michael Hytha, Peter Blumberg
Good morning, I have attached our Report on Venezuela to this email, in which we cover the eventful first three weeks of the administration of Nicolas Maduro. I call it the Lindsey Lohan scenario -- it's not as hot as it was (9 people were killed in election-related violence the first week), but it is still WAY out-of-control!
This weekend marks one month that my former Oppenheimer investment bank partner Johnny Pettus has been detained without bail in jail at the SEBIN secret police headquarters Heliocoide, when the government raided and closed down the Oppenheimer office in Caracas, along with simultaneously raiding Johnny's home for "illicit foreign currency trading." ( http://www.laht.com/article.asp?CategoryId=10717&ArticleId=737339 ). I owned half the Oppenheimer investment bank franchise in Venezuela until mid-2007, when I sold my half to my then-partner Johnny. Sadly, this may make that sale the best trade of my life. In May of 2010, the government also raided our BBO offices in Caracas along with those of our largest competitor Econoinvest. Though the government arrested no one from our office, 4 people from Econoinvest were held for 2 years and 7 months without ever being convicted before they were released on bail on the last day of December last year. Their trial is still ongoing....
With that said, things continued to be Lindsey Lohan crazy in Caracas. Maduro's government arrested another American (Johnny is a US citizen as well), Tim Tracy, an actor and film-maker, and charged him as a spy. Obama denied that this weekend, but Venezuela doubled-down on the charge. I do not believe Tracy is a spy -- the closest he ever comes to working for the government is in an episode of the Geena Davis/Donald Sutherland series Commander-in-Chief when he plays a low-level White House administrative aide (you can watch the video here http://www.laht.com/article.asp?CategoryId=10717&ArticleId=760043 , as well as the trailer for another movie called Senseless where he plays a gay boyfriend. Given where he is, if the government or fellow prisoners believe either of these movies is reality, these two roles are probably not helpful).
Several clients have asked me for my thoughts on the Tracy incident. Personally, I believe that the government arrested Tracy to get his videos. He has been filming the conflicts and student movements against Chavez and now Maduro for most of last year. He has in depth interviews with the various student leaders as well as behind-the-scenes protest and fight footage. If they got all his video, it was a treasure trove of information for the government. As I have noted in this weekly email before, the students are the violent wild-card in this battle with the government. http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2013/04/15/guest-post-venezuelans-wake-up-to-economic-realities/#axzz2SWWXHx5x
Shortly after Tracy's arrest, the Government used some of Tracy's footage to arrest Antonio Rivero, a retired General who had gone into Opposition against the government and even showed an edited version of some of Tracy's tape at the announcement following the arrest.
Then, the day before the opposing Capriles and Maduro May Day marches, 7 opposition deputies -- including a woman, beautiful svelte Opposition leader Maria Corina Machado -- were brutally attacked and beaten in the National Assembly. The clash was a wake-up call, and march routes of the opposing camps were changed to avoid any further violence on May 1. The Government then blamed the National Assembly attack on the Opposition lawmakers (in which no one from the government was injured, but left Machado and Borges with fractures) and made a tape to try (and badly fail) to prove it, complete with an ominous soundtrack from Call of Duty 4 (kid you not, you can Shazam it as it plays). (Government video is here http://www.laht.com/article.asp?CategoryId=13303&ArticleId=768218 and shots from cell phones that prove the Opposition delegates were attacked here http://www.laht.com/article.asp?CategoryId=10717&ArticleId=767095 ).
That would be enough for this missive for the week, but the week was still not over. The Opposition has dispatched members around Latin America to make their case for a recount (see my email from last week or request it again if you missed it) and expose the actions of the government. Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez led a mission to Peru, where the Peru Foreign Minister is the UNASUR spokesman on the elections in Venezuela issue. The Peruvian Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo came out and said:
“Peru is promoting that Unasur pronounce itself in asking for dialogue and tolerance in Venezuela…the second element of the Unasur declaration consists in asking that there be in Venezuela a climate of dialogue and tolerance, request that we maintain, request that I reiterate," said Roncagliolo. "It seems fundamental to us for both Venezuelans and the region that such a climate of dialogue, tolerance and mutual respect can be established.”
In a knee-jerk response to that tame diplomatic statement, Maduro recalled the Venezuelan Ambassador to Peru, saying
“You may be Peru’s Foreign Minister, but you can not give opinions about Venezuela. I do not accept that lack of respect towards the political process that Venezuela is living. I don’t accept it…But to involve yourself with Venezuela’s problems to give us advice, please, don’t," said Maduro. "You made a mistake Peruvian Foreign Minister, you have made the mistake of your life”
Then, in response to the recall of the Ambassador, the Vice President of the Congressional Foreign Affairs committee Lourdes Alcorta said that it was clear in Venezuela that there is no President, but that there is a monkey holding office who has stolen the powers of the people. (Video here: http://www.laht.com/article.asp?CategoryId=10717&ArticleId=769672 ).
Never a dull moment in this Telenovela!
Until next week's chapter, please don't hesitate to let me know if we can be of any assistance. (PDF attached).
Analysis: Rough start to post-Chavez era augurs badly for Venezuela By Andrew Cawthorne | Reuters – 6 hrs ago
CARACAS (Reuters) - About the only tranquil place in Caracas over the last few days is a hilltop military museum housing the remains of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
Visitors tip-toe around his marble sarcophagus, reprimanded by guards if their voices rise above whispers.
Outside, a shell-shocked nation is still reeling both from Chavez's death from cancer last month and a week of violence and recriminations over the disputed election to succeed him.
Nightly protests - government supporters launch fireworks, opponents bang pots and bans - have been shaking the capital Caracas and most other major cities in the South American nation of 29 million people.
The beginning of Venezuela's transition into the post-Chavez era could hardly have been more raucous or controversial.
The dispute over Chavez protégé Nicolas Maduro's narrow presidential vote win led to the deaths of at least eight people.
It has also deepened the near 50-50 split in a nation polarized by Chavez's socialist policies, shown the fragility of Maduro's grip on the "Chavismo" movement, and left a raft of fast-accruing economic and social problems on the back burner.
"If we're at war among ourselves, everyone suffers," said construction worker Elias Simancas, 61, sitting on a bench in a square where police clashed with masked and rock-throwing protesters during riots after last Sunday's vote.
"We just want a country in peace," he said, expressing an oft-repeated sentiment by the less vocal but majority voices on both sides of the country's political conflict.
As well as longing for some quiet and normality after 14 years in the global spotlight under Chavez, Venezuelans also want plenty more tangible things on their street corners.
First on their wish list is an end to murders, kidnappings and violent robberies that rival the world's worst crime spots and leave many Venezuelan towns and cities eerily quiet at night.
Beyond that, most Venezuelans of all political creeds want an end to runaway price rises, shortages of basic products, power cuts, potholes, cronyism in politics, and the insulting rhetoric between politically divided neighbors and families.
"I'm sick of it. I want out. How can I bring up kids in this country?" said Manuel Pereira, a 39-year-old businessman who has seen his electronics importing company collapse due to lack of access to foreign currency under government controls.
Debating Venezuela's future with middle-class friends on Saturday morning as their children held weekend soccer training - instead of a local league match, canceled due to the unrest - he said he was going to use his Spanish roots to try and emigrate this year.
CHAVEZ'S SHOES IMPOSSIBLE TO FILL
Just as during Chavez's two-year battle with cancer, his re-election last year, and his death on March 5, ideological disputes rather than grassroots issues fill the headlines and dominate government and opposition agendas.
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles' decision to contest Maduro's election victory - by less than 2 percent, or 265,000 of nearly 15 million votes - uncorked passions and resentments built up during Chavez's rule.
The day after the election, Venezuela teetered on the edge of all-out crisis as pro-opposition hard-liners took to the streets in protests that turned violent and, according to the government, killed eight and injured many more.
Capriles publicly distanced himself from the bloodshed - blaming government instigators for the violence and accusing officials of exaggerating and exploiting the trouble - and called off a march in Caracas that may have turned violent.
The election board then agreed to audit the result, helping to take more heat out of the immediate situation.
Longer-term, the political standoff remains unresolved.
Though safely sworn-in, endorsed by his peers in South America and very unlikely to see his win overturned by the audit, Maduro cannot hide from some obvious conclusions after the vote.
Clearly he failed to replicate Chavez's popularity despite presenting himself as his devoted "son" and deploying much of the state apparatus at his service for an emotion-charged election just five weeks after Chavez's death.
Lacking the charisma and iron grip of his mentor, and with a weaker mandate at the polls, Maduro may now struggle to keep the ruling Socialist Party together given its competing interests and factions ranging from socialist ideologues to military chiefs and businessmen.
There have already been a handful of calls from within the movement for a period of soul-searching and for improving social services to win back the more than half-a-million 'Chavistas' who defected to Capriles during the election campaign.
"Let what needs correcting be corrected and what needs rectifying be rectified," said Foreign Minister Elias Jaua.
Furthermore, though Maduro condemns his opponents as "fascists" and "ultra-right," almost half of Venezuelans voted against him and question his legitimacy given opposition leaders' claims of thousands of irregularities on polling day.
Many Venezuelans are deeply frustrated that their OPEC nation is not doing better economically despite being rich in natural resources from abundant rivers for hydropower to the world's largest oil reserves.
OPPOSITION WAITING GAME
Opposition supporters are downhearted at having come so close to the prize but just missed out.
The Democratic Unity coalition is also a disparate and fragile mix of right- and left-wing parties and competing egos.
Capriles' surprisingly strong showing - most opinion polls before the vote had left him for dead - has cemented his standing as the undisputed opposition flag bearer and reduced the probability of what many had anticipated would be an opposition implosion after a comfortable Maduro win.
But Capriles faces public vilification by Maduro, possible legal charges against him over the violence, and a potential move to debar him from the governorship of Miranda state, where he is serving a second four-year term.
"They should get rid of him and find a proper democrat to run the opposition," said Andrea Lopez, a government supporter in Caracas' largest slum, Petare, saying Capriles should be put behind bars for the week's events.
"Some of my 'Chavista' neighbors even voted for him. They were deceived by his lies. Now they have seen the wolf in sheep's clothes. If he had won, we would have lost everything," she added, listing the health, education and other welfare projects that sprung up in her neighborhood under Chavez.
With Maduro in a tricky situation and the economy slowing, Capriles will likely look to consolidate an image as Venezuela's president-in-waiting.
"This is unfolding chapter by chapter," Capriles said. "The whole system is collapsing. It is a castle built on sand."
The awkward economic backdrop adds to Maduro's challenges, especially if the gloom-and-doom predictions of most Wall Street and private analysts are to be believed.
They see economic growth slowing from 5.6 percent in 2012 to perhaps half of that or even lower this year, inflation heading for 30 percent, bottlenecks in dollar supply for businesses, and shortages of basics from flour and sugar to medicine and tampons.
"Time is on the opposition's side as the economic and likely also political dynamics may contribute to weaken the government," said Goldman Sachs analyst Alberto Ramos.
He predicts just 2.2 percent growth in 2013 and a minimum 25-percent currency devaluation in 2014 or earlier.
Balancing that, economic naysayers have exaggerated Venezuela's economic woes in the past, and the billions keep pouring in from the nation's oil production.
All the signs so far are that Maduro will stay faithful to Chavez's economic policies, including costly fiscal strategies to maintain and expand the social welfare "missions" that were the cornerstone of his late boss's popularity.
In the immediate aftermath of Chavez's death, Maduro, a burly former bus driver who became foreign minister, was seen in many quarters as an affable and experienced diplomat who could be a potential reformer and bridge-builder.
There was talk of possible free-market economic tweaking, rapprochement with the United States, dialogue with the opposition and amnesty for political prisoners.
But his need to imitate Chavez's rhetoric during the campaign, then the post-election dispute, have seen him looking every bit the hard-liner in public.
That may be exacerbated by his dependence on the support of tough-talking National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello, the country's second most powerful official, who had been seen as a candidate for the top job before Chavez gave his blessing to Maduro.
Cabello showed his teeth last week, banning opposition legislators from speaking unless they recognized Maduro's win.
"Capriles wants chaos," said Cabello, a former military comrade of Chavez who keeps strong ties with the security forces and is seen as the muscle in government behind Maduro.
"But we're not idiots! There is no weakness. We swear to defend Chavez's legacy."
(Additional reporting by Girish Gupta, Deisy Buitrago, Mario Naranjo, Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Kieran Murray and Xavier Briand)
Opposition, election body differ on Venezuela vote audit By Daniel Wallis and Deisy Buitrago | Reuters – 2 hrs 10 mins ago
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's opposition and electoral authority expressed on Saturday widely differing expectations for an audit of the contested April 14 presidential election, a day after Nicolas Maduro was sworn in to succeed the late Hugo Chavez.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who says there were thousands of irregularities, wants a manual recount of all ballots cast in the vote, but has accepted the electoral body's decision to carry out a more limited electronic audit.
That move by the National Electoral Council's (CNE), the night before Maduro's inauguration, helped calm tensions after the government said opposition-led protests killed eight people and both sides accused the other of potting more violence.
The opposition said on Saturday that the audit, which is expected to take a month, must examine all aspects of the vote.
Official results showed Maduro winning by less than 2 percentage points in a much closer race than had been expected for the presidency of the OPEC nation with the biggest oil reserves in the world.
"This is going to be a long process ... and our people have to stay alert," Carlos Ocariz, national director of Capriles' team, told a news conference. "We want to know the truth. Once we see what happened last Sunday, a new phase can begin."
Ocariz said an opinion poll showed a majority of Venezuelans supported the call for a manual vote-by-vote recount, a more comprehensive review than the authorities agreed to conduct.
He also denounced what he said were cases of state employees being persecuted over suspicions they voted for the opposition.
Meanwhile, the CNE sought to temper the hopes of Capriles supporters that the audit will produce a different outcome.
"We will not let something that aims to verify whether the system worked be turned into a sort of public impeachment that tries to question the results," CNE rector Sandra Oblitas told reporters at the council's headquarters.
"As always, when the CNE announces results to the country, it is because they are irreversible."
The body's president, Tibisay Lucena, has also cautioned against anyone raising "false expectations" from the audit.
On Thursday, the electoral authority said it would widen to 100 percent an audit of electronic votes from a previous audit on election day that reviewed 54 percent of the machines.
Venezuelans vote electronically, but the machines also print out paper receipts of each vote that are kept in boxes. The audit involves counting the paper ballots at some stations to ensure they are consistent with the machine-tallied results.
MADURO SWORN IN
Maduro, a burly former bus driver whom Chavez named as his preferred successor before dying from cancer last month, was sworn in on Friday at a ceremony in Caracas attended by heads of state including the leaders of Brazil, Argentina, Cuba and Iran.
In his first speech as president, Maduro paid homage to his late boss, and at times seemed to reach out to the opposition. "I'm ready to talk even with the devil," he said.
At other times, the 50-year-old revived his combative language from the campaign trail, condemning his rivals as fascists who wanted chaos and had tried to unseat him in a coup.
As well as welcoming high profile guests such as Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff to his inauguration, Maduro has also received the backing of South America's Unasur bloc of nations, whose leaders met in Peru the night before the ceremony.
Among the presidents who flew on to Venezuela after debating the post-election dispute was Argentina's Cristina Fernandez, who on Saturday visited the hilltop military museum in Caracas where the marble sarcophagus of her close friend and ally Chavez is on display.
"I felt a knot in my stomach and my eyes filled with tears," she said on Twitter, describing how loudspeakers in the museum played a recording of Chavez singing the national anthem.
Fernandez's vocal support for Maduro brought a sharp response from Capriles, who says Chavez frittered away Venezuelans' birthright by "gifting" oil revenue to political allies through subsidized fuel supplies and other aid.
"Has Argentina's president brought a check for the millions of dollars she owes the Venezuelan people?" he asked on Twitter.
"It is the people who funded Senora Cristina's election campaign ... To those who are visiting Venezuela and owe us, we ask you to PAY! Those resources belong to the people."
(Additional reporting by Pablo Garibian; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Paul Simao)
Venezuela is in total confusion. After the vote Capriles asked for a recount and Maduro accepted. Then Maduro did an about face. A couple of days later Maduro accepts an audit but the CNE, the election board does not go along and wants to send the mess to the supreme court, a bunch of hand picked Chavista judges.
The opposition is banging on pots and the Chavistas are firing unending barrages of fireworks. If there is an alien civilization near by, they will pick up planet Earth by our noise. I don't have a cue how this will end.
Historically tyrannical governments that don't let go of the iron grip are very hard to remove but at any sign of weakness they can quickly cave in. I mentioned the other day that was was coming was a game of chicken but tis is ridiculous. First Maduro blinks then about turns. Then Capriles takes a hard stand but blinks when threatened with violence. Now Maduro blinks again but the CNE takes a hard stand. How can anyone make heads or tails of it?
Yesterday Miguel had this to say:
Maduro Blinks, Recount Will Take Place » Madurosilla
Despite all the bravado, all the refusal to recount and even Luisa Estela’s opinion, the CNE spent a full nine hours yesterday discussing the possible recount and magically. an hour before UNASUR was to recognize Maduro but strongly request a recount, the CNE announced that the 46% of ballot boxes would be audited.
You have to realize that the other 54% was not 100% audited and that an audit is truly a recount, as votes, machines and voting notebooks have to match in detail.
So, what happened? Simply, Maduro was forced to blink. It was not only UNASUR, but also the Venezuelan military that exerted its pressure and force the acceptance of the recount that Maduro had backtracked on. And opposition radicals can claim what they want, but 46% is statistically VERY significant. Any discrepancy, any irregularity, any inconsistency will certainly come out in this audit.
Maduro may look really bad after this recount…
What Maduro and his cronies did not realize is how sensible a recount sounds no matter how partisan you may be. Thus, internationally, Maduro accepting the recount only to “recular” (go back) the next day, looked certainly suspicious to say the least.
For Capriles, this is a win-win situation. He knows the hundreds of irregularities in the voting and his team will focus on it. Any ballot box not present, any inconsistency and those votes will be subtracted from Maduro’s lead. Add Capriles 57,000 international votes and Maduro’s lead of 270,000 could easily melt into the 100,000 lead.
And make him look even weaker.
And what do you say at that point? If all irregularities add up to something significant, the road ahead could be quite difficult.What happens if Maduro’s lead is reduced to 100 thousand or even less? Do they audit the remainder votes?
But it could get tricky as soon as next week, when the audit begins and Capriles’ team asks for international observers and the CNE refuses them. Or Tibisay says in this audit no actual ballots will be counted. The road will not be easy or simple.
But I am told the military knows what happened in detail on April 14th.Thus, Maduro blinked, but not only because of UNASUR, but because the military knew what was happening on Sunday. The Government claimed all afternoon that Maduro was ahead by as much as 10%, only to announce a small (<2%) victory at the last minute and rushing the proclamation of Maduro, and event that has always taken two or three days to take place.
And the military is divided. Yes, they have opinions, but leadership, true leadership, is nowhere to be seen on either of the two sides. Or maybe they are afraid to show their true colors.
But in the meantime, Maduro blinks and backtracks, Tibisay goes back on her words and Luisa Estela is made to look like the obeying fool everyone knows she is.
The whole thing is more volatile than most people imagine. Maduro was weak, even if he won. But his performance since has weakened him even further, while many of his comrades wonder why Hugo picked Nicolas, if they are so much better than him.
Things could change so fast, that I can’t predict a month, let alone a year. And as I had suggested before the election, politics is a new game in Venezuela. Chavez dominated politics and the agenda for fourteen years, but Capriles has lead the first political fight of the post-Chavez ear and he seems to have won resoundly.
In fact, Maduro may want to sound tough, but in reality nobody fears him, after all, Capriles and others already made him blink…
Capriles blinked first, we lose again. There is this incredibly naive belief that dictators can be dethroned by voting, history to the contrary. In 2002 I did a survey of the life expectancy of a number of well known dictators, from our very own Juan Vicente Gomez and including such notables as Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Franco, Oliveira Salazar, Castro, Saddam Hussein, Chapita (Rafael Trujillo) and a few others.
These were ousted or killed outright
Allende Bishop Chapita Hitler Noriega Mussolini Saddam
all but one (Chapita) was done in by a foreign power. These died of natural causes:
Juan Vicente Gomez
Antonio Oliveira Salazar
Mao Tse Tung
1959-? ? ?
Hugo Chavez Frias
Based on these observation I forecast that Chavez would die of natural causes while still in power. i was spot on even if I didn't figure he'd go early victim of cancer. It's hard to tell this early if Maduro will grow into the job but so far he is playing the dictator perfectly. To stay in power you have to be ruthless and the other side has to blink, which it did.
Canceling the march “was a responsible thing to do because you cannot win the battle when Maduro has all the guns and tanks,” Dallen said in a phone interview from Caracas. “But this is not the end of it at all.”
Not the end but another six years of Chavista dictatorship.
Capriles Calls Off Protest After Venezuela Threatens Crackdown 2013-04-17 03:30:01.0 GMT By Charlie Devereux and Corina Pons
April 17 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski took a step back from the brink of a mounting confrontation with the government by calling off a march planned for today to protest the results of the April 14 presidential election.
Capriles acted after Nicolas Maduro, proclaimed the winner by the national electoral council, vowed to come down with a “firm hand” on opposition supporters and seven people died in political violence, according to the public prosecutor. Capriles urged supporters to bang pots and pans at home to avoid violence. Maduro responded by telling his followers to drown out the protest with fireworks and music.
“We know that your agenda in the government is to try to get the country into a situation of confrontation and violence,” Capriles, 40, told reporters yesterday in Caracas. “Tomorrow we won’t mobilize.”
Tensions have escalated in Venezuela after a close result in an emergency election following the death of President Hugo Chavez March 5. While Capriles’ gesture averts the likelihood of bloodshed for now, Maduro’s response points to a protracted conflict, said Gregory Weeks, head of the department of political science at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte.
“This eases the tension, but I don’t know for how long,” Weeks, former director of Latin American studies at the university, said in a phone interview. Maduro’s response “is in many ways a provocation.”
Venezuela’s dollar-denominated bonds fell the most in almost 15 years yesterday as traders anticipated political instability will undermine the economy. Inflation accelerated to 25 percent in March, the fastest official rate in the region. The central bank’s scarcity index, which measures the amount of goods that are out of stock in the market, rose to a record high of 20.4 percent in January.
Maduro will be sworn in on April 19 even as the opposition insists irregularities affected about 300,000 votes, enough to overturn the result. Capriles said he believed he had won the election and is ready to concede defeat if a recount confirms Maduro’s victory.
Maduro said he didn’t recognize Capriles as the governor of Miranda state. Capriles, who the electoral council said took 49 percent of the votes, temporarily stepped down as governor to run for president. Maduro won the race with 50.8 percent of the votes, the council said.
“I’m going to take legal measures, because you have violated the constitution and assassinated the people,” Maduro said, referring to the opposition leader, after the march was called off.
The nationwide protests also left 61 injured and led to the arrest of 135 people, Public Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz said. Opposition protesters have attacked health centers and local offices of the ruling socialist party, Maduro said.
“You won’t go to downtown Caracas to fill it with blood and death,” Maduro, 50, said yesterday in comments broadcast on state television. “This is a chronicle of a coup foretold.”
Capriles, in an interview with CNN’s Spanish-language channel yesterday, said “the government wants violence. We are calling for peace.”
In 2002, Chavez was overthrown for two days after opposition street protests in Caracas turned violent. A decade earlier, Chavez became a national figure by leading military rebels in a failed coup against President Carlos Andres Perez.
Protests should die down in the coming days or weeks after the march was canceled, said Francisco Rodriguez, senior Andean economist at Bank of America Corp. Rodriguez said he thinks Capriles doesn’t have enough evidence to overturn the result.
The country’s bonds due in 2027 dropped 6.89 cents to 91.22 cents on the dollar yesterday, the biggest decline since August 1998. The yield rose 95 basis points, or 0.95 percentage point, to 10.44 percent, the highest since November.
Bonds will continue to fall as the future of Venezuela remains unclear amid the political dispute and the potential of violence remains high, said Russell Dallen, the head trader at Caracas Capital Markets.
Caracas was flooded with music, fireworks and the sound of pots and pans being banged last night for more than an hour as supporters from both sides showed loyalty to their leaders.
Chavez, who tapped the world’s biggest oil reserves to reduce poverty, left the country polarized as he nationalized more than 1,000 companies or their assets and implemented currency and price controls that created food shortages and fueled inflation.
Canceling the march “was a responsible thing to do because you cannot win the battle when Maduro has all the guns and tanks,” Dallen said in a phone interview from Caracas. “But this is not the end of it at all.”
Venezuelan rivals rally supporters, four people reported dead Reuters/Reuters - Supporters of opposition leader Henrique Capriles demonstrate for a recount of the votes in Sunday's election, in Caracas, April 15, 2013. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo
By Brian Ellsworth and Andrew Cawthorne
CARACAS (Reuters) - Violent clashes over Venezuela's disputed presidential election have killed four people, the state news agency said on Tuesday, as both sides in the stand-off planned rival demonstrations.
The deaths occurred when hundreds of protesters took to the streets in various parts of the capital, Caracas, and in other cities on Monday, blocking streets, burning tires and clashing with security forces, in some cases.
The AVN news agency said two people were killed in Miranda state, which includes part of Caracas, one in Tachira state on the border with Colombia, and another in western Zulia state. It gave no further details.
In one of the confrontations, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets in a running battle with masked, rock-wielding opposition supporters in a wealthy district of Caracas.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles is demanding a recount of the votes from Sunday's election after official results showed a narrow victory for ruling party candidate Nicolas Maduro, the acting president.
Capriles said his team's figures show that he won the election and he has called his supporters into the streets for peaceful demonstrations.
The National Electoral Council refused to hold a full recount, saying a 54 percent audit of the widely respected electronic vote system had already been carried out.
The election was triggered by the death of socialist leader Hugo Chavez last month after a two-year battle with cancer. He named Maduro as his successor before he died and his protege won the election with 50.8 percent of the vote against Capriles' 49.0 percent.
Both sides have urged their supporters to hold peaceful demonstrations nationwide on Tuesday, raising fears of more unrest in the oil-exporting nation of 29 million people, which has seen plenty of political turbulence in the last few decades.
"Imagine if I went crazy and called the people and armed forces onto the street? What would happen in this country? How many millions would pour onto the street?" Maduro said late on Monday, blaming Capriles for the violence.
"We're not going to do it. This country needs peace. Where are the opposition politicians who believe in democracy?"
The unrest in Caracas included demonstrations outside the offices of state television channel VTV and the home of the head of the election authority.
Capriles, the governor of Miranda state, hopes to highlight the weakness of Maduro's mandate and stir up opposition anger over his charge that the electoral council is biased in favor of the ruling Socialist Party.
The strategy could backfire if demonstrations turn into prolonged disturbances, such as those the opposition led between 2002 and 2004, which sometimes blocked roads for days with trash and burning tires and annoyed many Venezuelans.
A return to prolonged trouble in the streets could renew questions about the opposition's democratic credentials on the heels of their best showing in a presidential election, and just as Capriles has consolidated himself as its leader.
LEGAL MOVE AGAINST CAPRILES?
Senior government figures have raised the possibility of legal action against Capriles.
"Fascist Capriles, I will personally ensure you pay for the damage you are doing to our fatherland and people," National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello said on Twitter, requesting that state prosecutors open a criminal investigation.
But the opposition leader says he will fight on.
"We are not going to ignore the will of the people. We believe we won ... we want this problem resolved peacefully," Capriles told a news conference.
"There is no majority here, there are two halves." Opposition sources say their count showed Capriles won by more than 300,000 votes.
His team says it has evidence of some 3,200 election day irregularities, from voters using fake IDs to intimidation of volunteers at polling centers. It wants an exhaustive check of the paper-ballots printed at the time of casting a vote.
The focus of Monday's protests in the capital was the Plaza Altamira, which was often site of opposition demonstrations during Chavez's polarizing 14-year rule. Burned-out debris and glass lay strews on the ground on Tuesday morning.
"We will protest for as long as it takes. We will not give up the streets," said Carlos Cusumano, a 20-year-old student who took part in the protest.
Wearing T-shirts wrapped around their faces, some demonstrators threw sticks and stones at the ranks of police, who wore body armor and carried shields.
Maduro, who had initially said he was open to a recount, called on his supporters to demonstrate all week. The official results showed him winning by 265,000 votes.
"Maduro won and the people have proclaimed him," said dental technician Alicia Rodriguez, 38. "Learn to lose!" she added in reference to the opposition's stance.
The head of the electoral authority, Tibisay Lucena, shot down the opposition leader's call for a recount, saying "threats and intimidation" were not the way to appeal its decisions.
She also accused the U.S. government and Organization of American States of trying to meddle in Venezuelan affairs after they backed the idea of a vote audit.
The controversy over Venezuela's first presidential election without Chavez on the ballot in two decades raised doubts about the future of "Chavismo" - the late president's self-proclaimed socialist movement - without its towering and mercurial founder.
Chavez named Maduro as his heir in an emotional last public speech to the nation before his death, giving the former foreign minister and vice president a huge boost ahead of the vote.
But Maduro's double-digit lead in opinion polls evaporated in the final days as Capriles led an energetic campaign that mocked Maduro as a non-entity and focused voters on daily problems ranging from crime to inflation and creaking utilities.
Maduro's margin of victory raises the possibility he could face future challenges from rivals in the leftist coalition that united around Chavez, who won four presidential elections.
At his last election in October, the former soldier beat Capriles by 11 percentage points even though his battle with cancer had severely restricted his ability to campaign.
(Additional reporting by Diego Ore and Girish Gupta; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and David Storey)
Venezuela: An Election That Reeks Of Fraud Posted 04/15/2013 07:01 PM ET
Latin America: Venezuela's election on Sunday, which saw bus driver Nicolas Maduro declared the winner by a razor-thin margin, reeked of electoral fraud. Kudos to challenger Henrique Capriles for calling it out.
Fraud is a strong word but, yes, it's the clearest conclusion from Venezuela's election Sunday to pick a successor to the late socialist dictator Hugo Chavez.
Chavez's hand-picked successor "won" Venezuela's election Sunday, with what Chavez's anything-but impartial CNE electoral body declaring he'd gotten 50.6% of the vote, while his challenger, Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles Radonski garnered 49.07% — a gap of just 235,000 votes. That's suspicious right there, given the structural advantages and Chavez "sympathy votes" Maduro had yet couldn't turn into a victory.
Polls — every one of them — showed that Capriles had crossed over to a tie or lead in the last week of the campaign, while the size of his spirited million-strong rallies — the largest since 2002 — told the same story.
Capriles says he had enough evidence amid a stream of down-ballot irregularities — from Chavista motorcycle goons intimidating voters to ballot boxes strewn across the Barinas state — to believe he had won.
Yet Maduro, a wooden candidate almost totally lacking in charisma, somehow was the people's choice.
His angry victory speech threatening voters was an odd thing, given his razor-thin margin of victory and presumed need to unify the country to govern.
Obviously, he was trying to hold together his base, which in fact is crumbling as his Chavista political rivals now call for "self criticism." That's not a good sign.
What's more he wasn't able to buy votes this time. Banker Russ Dallen of BBO Financial Services in Caracas points out that amid the shambles of Venezuela's public finances, Maduro didn't even have cash to dole out goodies to buy votes.
Perhaps the biggest reality that can't be ignored is that Chavez's, and by extension Maduro's, socialist record is one of massive failure.
Venezuela, with the world's largest oil reserves, is deeply in debt, has 30% inflation, repeated currency devaluations, empty store shelves, capital controls, crumbling infrastructure, and the world's worst crime and corruption.
The only place we've seen comparable results has been in Mexico during the PRI "perfect dictatorship" era of Mario Vargas Llosa's description, where a losing candidate in a stacked election would win by a small margin instead of a big one to preserve credibility.
As we go to press, tanks have been dispatched to the streets of the middle-class district of Altimira in the capital, a sign of the instability that comes of an election with zero credibility that couldn't even be disguised by Chavez's corrupt Chicago-style political machine.
Capriles has called for a recount and the White House, to its credit, has asked for an audit. They're unlikely to happen, given that the game of the Chavista machine is to hold on to power at any price.
They'll hold onto power with military tanks as the facade of Venezuelan democracy crumbles.
Venezuela Tense, As Electoral Board Rushes Maduro Proclamation by moctavio
So, the story is like this:
Yesterday, Maduro's team was telling diplomats and reporters that at 1:00 PM Maduro was ahead by 2% of the votes. At that time, it looked as if abstention was going to be more like 30% of the total number of voters. In the next couple of hours, participation increased dramatically, but the increase was higher in traditionally more pro-opo centers than in pro-Chávez centers. However, by 4 PM Chavismo was projecting a victory by 1-2% of the vote.
Meanwhile in Capriles' camp, all that was being counted at that point was participation. They had the same 30% abstention projection at 1 PM, but then it accelerated and they began projecting 22-23% abstention at the end of the day. But they could see the details and the participation by 4 PM in the more pro-opo centers was 75% (top 50% pro-opo centers) versus 69% in the pro-Chávez centers.
When the Actas began arriving, the opposition counting center began seeing a virtual tie from the time it had 20% of the tallies. Essentially, within the error of the tally, it was impossible to predict who was winning. If you added the international votes, then they would get a Capriles victory.
This continued and the Capriles team was hearing that Chavismo was saying that Maduro had an advantage of a quarter of a million votes. As the night went on, Capriles decided to call Maduro and told him that his numbers were saying the race was too tight and any announcement should be held off. Maduro told Capriles that he had to check (??) and never called back. Within twenty minutes CNE made the announcement.
Meanwhile, at the CNE, Vicente Diaz had argued that no announcement should be made and they should wait to reconcile the numbers. Vicente Diaz also suggested that the CNE itself shoudl call for an audit, something it can do. He was voted down and the announcement was made.
Today, Vicente Diaz went to CNE where there was supposed to be a meeting and instead found that Maduro would be proclaimed as the winner, while the meeting in which he was going to formally propose that a complete counting of the ballots and tallies be made, was not going to take place.
Thus, Vicente Diaz decided not to go to the proclamation.
At which point I ask: Why the rush? Why make the announcement if things were not clear or there were doubts? Why rush to proclaim Maduro if he was not planned to be sworn in until Thursday?
That is the big "if", Maduro who alraedy stars weak with a very small victory, makes himself more illegitimate by trying to be proclaimed early and while he claims he wants to count the boxes, the suggestion is this may not happen.
Meanwhile, Capriles was calling for people not to go out and protest, but instead participate in a pot banging tonight at 8 PM, as well as marches in all regional CNE's tomorrow and one on Wednesday to the CNE to formally request a complete recount of all the ballots and comparison with tallies and the voting notebooks.
But students had a mind of their own and began protesting in many parts of the country. In Caracas, near Plaza Altamira and the Autopista, students gathered to protest. Chavista motorcycles began showing up and there appeared that there would be confrontations. Then opposition motorcycles showed up and Chavistas fortunately left.
Meanwhile, the Government sent out the National Guard, who used tear gas to disperse the crowd away from the Autopista. I managed to get a little close at that time. Here are some protesters:
And here is the National Guard holding strong to stop students from going down to the Autopista:
And here is a picture of the fires the students built to stop the National Guard from going through:
And in the only gesture of peace and conciliation of the last 24 hours, Maduro ordered tonight that the National Guard withdraw from Alatamira and the Autopista.
Things are tense. Very Tense. Falcon said some Generals have been detained because they disagreed with decision to announce the results. Others tell me they are searching for Capriles' Minister of Defense "in pectore". The European Union, OAS, US and other UNASUR countries have sent the message they will not recognize Maduro until votes are counted again.
But I just don't believe any votes will be recounted and ballot boxes found in at elast eight places around the country, either being dispose of or being burned suggest I will be right. Fraud is the only word that comes to mind...
Venezuelan opposition calls for protests to demand recount By Marianna Parraga and Todd Benson | Reuters – 38 mins ago
CARACAS (Reuters) - Opposition leader Henrique Capriles on Monday called on Venezuelans to take to the streets and peacefully demand a vote recount if election authorities formally proclaim Hugo Chavez's chosen successor as the next president.
The day after Venezuela's election board declared acting President Nicolas Maduro winner of Sunday's presidential vote by a tight margin, Capriles insisted the opposition's own count showed he was the victor.
"We think we won the election. The other side thinks they won and we're both within our rights," Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor, said in a televised news conference.
"All we're asking is that our rights be respected, that the will of the people be respected, and that every single vote be counted, every little piece of paper, that paper isn't for recycling, it's proof."
The request appeared to fall on deaf ears.
Shortly after Capriles spoke, senior ruling party official Dario Vivas told Reuters the proclamation ceremony would go ahead and accused Capriles of trying to "destabilize" the country.
Conscious of Venezuela's long history of turbulent protests, Capriles urged his supporters to resist temptations to resort to violence. He called for Venezuelans to bang pots and pans in protest on Monday night if Maduro is formally proclaimed winner.
If the stalemate continues, Capriles asked his followers to gather in protest on Tuesday in front of election board offices around the nation. If there is still no sign of a recount by Wednesday, Capriles pledged to lead a peaceful march through the streets of Caracas to the election board's headquarters.
The controversy around Venezuela's first presidential election without Chavez on the ballot in two decades ushered in new uncertainty in the oil-rich country.
It also raised doubts about the future of "Chavismo," Chavez's self-proclaimed socialist movement, without its charismatic founder, who died from cancer on March 5.
Before dying, Chavez named his longtime protégé Maduro as his preferred successor, giving the former bus driver a huge boost heading into Sunday's election.
But the endorsement was not enough to ensure an easy victory for Maduro, who edged out Capriles with 50.7 percent of the votes, according to election board returns.
Capriles took 49.1 percent, just 235,000 fewer votes, according to the official count. Opposition sources told Reuters their count showed Capriles won by more than 300,000 votes.
A sense of normalcy reigned in Caracas on Monday despite the election tensions, with businesses open and traffic flowing, although there were some isolated protests.
About 200 pro-opposition students protested in an upscale district, trying to enter a hotel where unofficial foreign election observers were meeting. Outside the opposition's campaign headquarters, some protesters shouted "No more fraud."
Maduro, 50, said he would accept a full recount, even as he insisted his victory was clean and dedicated it to Chavez. Senior government officials, on state television and Twitter, ridiculed the opposition as sore losers and praised Venezuela's election system as foolproof.
"It's impossible to manipulate the election result," Jorge Rodriguez, Maduro's campaign chief, said on state TV.
The U.S. government backed the call for a full audit of the results and the Organization of American States offered to send election auditors to help. Chavista allies such as Russia and Cuba, which receives generous aid and subsidized oil from Venezuela, immediately congratulated Maduro.
Venezuela's election board is no stranger to controversy. Over the years, the opposition has repeatedly accused it of turning a blind eye to the blatant use of state resources in favor of pro-Chavez candidates. Critics say four of its five members are openly pro-government.
"The next few hours are critical," Pedro Benitez, a senior member of the opposition coalition, told Reuters. "The opposition has to get access to the ballot boxes, which are under custody of the (military)."
A similar situation gripped Mexico in 2006, when a leftist opposition candidate alleged fraud after losing a tight presidential race to Felipe Calderon. A partial recount followed and Calderon's victory was upheld.
(Additional reporting by Eyanir Chinea and Mario Naranjo; Writing by Todd Benson; Editing by Kieran Murray, Jackie Frank and Bill Trott)
Capriles refuses to concede Venezuela presidential election, demands recount
By Juan Forero, Monday, April 15, 12:52 PM
CARACAS, Venezuela - Nicolas Maduro, the longtime loyal lieutenant of the late President Hugo Chavez, celebrated his apparent narrow victory in the presidential contest Monday, even as opponent Henrique Capriles refused to concede and demanded a recount, citing 3,200 irregularities on the day of the vote.
Instead of the resounding victory that many pollsters predicted for Maduro, who had the sympathy vote after Chavez died last month following a battle with cancer, his government begins on a shaky foundation with a questionable mandate. The margin of victory was just 235,000 votes.
“I want to say to the candidate of the government, the loser today is you,” Capriles said in an emotional press conference called moments after Maduro declared victory at the presidential palace where Chavez had given rousing speeches celebrating election wins.
He said that Maduro had benefitted from a vast state get-out-the vote machinery that included last minute tactics to bring voters to polls – including reopening closed polling stations.
“We are not going to recognize the results until each vote of the Venezuelan people is counted, one by one,” said Capriles, 40, an energetic lawyer and governor of economically important Miranda state. The Venezuelan electoral system is automated, but each vote also produces a paper receipt that can be counted by hand, according to electoral regulations.
One of the rectors of the National Electoral Council, Vicente Diaz, had called for a hand count after the results of the election were released. And in his victory speech, Maduro said, “We’re going to do it.”
“We’re not afraid – let the boxes talk,” said Maduro, 50, referring to the cardboard boxes that hold ballots. “That the truth be told.”
Still, on a tense Monday in which many businesses were shuttered, it remained unclear if a recount would take place.
The government continued with plans for a ceremony on Monday afternoon in which Maduro would be proclaimed the winner, to be followed days later by a swearing in ceremony. And the electoral council – which has five members, the majority of whom are allies of the government – had not said whether a recount would take place.
“These are the irreversible results that the Venezuelan people have decided with this electoral process,” Tibisay Lucena, the head of the council, said late Sunday as she read the results.
According to the council, voters gave Maduro 50.6 percent of the vote to 49.1 for Capriles, with 99 percent of the vote counted. It was unclear, though, if the Venezuelan vote from outside of the country – which analysts say is overwhelmingly opposed to Chavez – were included in that total.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney called Capriles’s request for an audit of votes an “important, prudent, and necessary step” to ensure that Venezuelans have trust in the election results.
The narrow margin was a letdown for many in Chavismo, the radical movement that Chavez founded, with the goal of turning Venezuela into a socialist state.
Capriles just wound up a press conference with the international press corps present, asking for a recount of the vote.
It seems the government wants to rush through the proclamation of Maduro without doing the recount. Capriles has asked publicly that people go to the state level electoral offices asking for a recount saying it's a local responsibility to do so. Should the recount not happen then he is calling for people to go to the national offices of the electoral body (CNE) to ask for the recount. In addition, he has asked people to join a cacerolazo (pot banging) tonight at 8 PM should there e no response from the CNE by then.
This is the closest call I have heard not to civil disobedience but to a public demand for a recount. Will the CNE accept? Will they call out the riot police to stop the people from asking for their rights? This could turn ugly quickly.
Capriles made the point that at least a million votes changed from Chavez in October to Capriles yesterday, proof that even Chavistas have had enough.
Capriles is a pretty good speaker. This isn't over as I feared yesterday. The game of chicken is now in force. Who will blink first?
I believe this is earlier news:
Henrique Capriles Wants Vote Recount in Venezuela Elections
By MANUEL RUEDA (@ruedareport) April 15, 2014 Henrique Capriles, has refused to accept the results of Sunday's presidential election in Venezuela until votes are fully audited.
According to Venezuela's National Electoral Council, Capriles, the opposition candidate, obtained 49 percent of the votes this weekend. That means he lost to government candidate Nicolas Maduro by just 1.5 percentage points.
Capriles claimed there had been hundreds of violations at voting stations across Venezuela on Sunday and asked for a full recount of the votes before he would accept defeat.
Don't let the term "hispanic" blind you. Obama is "un negrito," OIbama is "mi color." On the whole Venezuelans are a lot less racist than Americans but this also allows us to talk freely of color, nationality and other personal traits without being accused of racism. Chavez tried to bring race to the table but that essentially failed, only the very young, who didn't know better, fell for it. It should not come as a surprise that color and nationality are attractors even for people who would not be considered racist.
Second, the vote here was not about socialism vs, capitalism at all. Capriles is best described as a "Lula da Silva" style socialist. Even if he were if he were a capitalism at heart (I have no way of knowing but he certainly has capitalists in his lineage), he would not be able to turn Venezuela on a dime. It is important to remember that CAP was impeached mainly because he tried to bring economic freedoms to Venezuela (eliminate price controls, privatize state enterprises) some of which were not kindly received in great measure because he never prepared people for the transitory pain these changes bring. Raising the price of gas at the pump broke the camel's back and he was fired.
One can live with socialism and populism provided one's basic economic freedoms remain intact, specially the right to own property. One doesn't particularly care if the government is misspending oil income but one sure cares if one's home or business is taken away. Milton Friedman put it very nicely.
A final personal note: it is a rare privilege for an author to be able to evaluate his own work forty years after it first appeared. I appreciate very much having the chance to do so. I am enormously gratified by how well the book has withstood time and how pertinent it remains to today's problems. If there is one major change I would make, it would be to replace the dichotomy of economic freedom and political freedom with the trichotomy of economic freedom, civil freedom and political freedom. After I finished the book, Hong Kong, before it was returned to China, persuaded me that while economic freedom is a necessary condition for civil and political freedom, political freedom, desirable though it may be, is not a necessary condition for economic and civil freedom. Along these lines, the one major defect in the book seems to me an inadequate treatment of the role of political freedom, which under some circumstances promotes economic and civil freedom, and under others, inhibits economic and civil freedom. [emphasis added]
I analyzed the above in light of the Venezuela experience at Software Times Venezuela 2011.
I got home at 3:30 after a 4 and a half hour walk from Los Caobos to Altamira and back. I talked to a lot of people, no queues anywhere. Voting was quick. Capta-huella (finger print analyzer) was used only once not twice as last time. There seemed to be no delaying tactics by the government. Opposition people were very optimistic. I ran into some youth that I would not have thought were anti-Chavez.
A Maduro truck is going by my house this minute, totally illegal.
Let’s see how they steal the vote this time.
Tour of Caracas On Voting Day: No Lines, Some Abuses April 14, 2013
Update 1:47PM: I am told by reliable people that at 1 PM the percentage of voters that had cast their vote was running 10% behind the same number in October.
Sunny with just a hint of haze. It's 11:00 local time and I'm taking off for a walk to my voting station. I'll report any news on my return.
The feeling here is that abstention will decide the vote. If you don't vote the other guy wins. There is the belief among the opposition that Maduro cannot get out the vote. During the week I heard on the Metro a woman with a loud voice say: "lo que viene no sirve" (what is coming is no good). From other things she said it was clear that she was a Chavez devotee. If for her Maduro is as useless as Capriles, why bother voting? On the other side, in my building a lady is organizing transport for senior citizens to get them to vote.
If the vote is close the chavistas will steal it. Let's hope the difference is large enough that they cannot steal it.
There existed a very powerful economic group in Venezuela set up by an immigrant from the Canary Islands. Mendoza started out with a hardware store which he built into a construction supply empire including cement, ceramics, paint (Sherwin Williams), construction materials and even a mortgage bank. In addition the group made paper and paper products, and his daughter set up a foundation to treat bones for young invalids (Ortopédico Infantil), and even an art gallery. Grupo Mendoza was one of the most successful Venezuelan conglomerates ever. The old man never groomed a successor. His managers lived in constant political infighting. I know a lot of this from personal experience. Several of their companies were my clients while I was with IBM and later when I was an independent management consultant. These positions gave me access at the highest levels (excluding Mendoza himself). I got a chance to meet Mendoza personally when a painting sold by my mother in one of their auctions had a bad ending. But that is a story for another day. Today's story is that on his death, the Grupo Mendoza disintegrated quickly because there was no capable successor to carry on.
Chavez picked Maduro to be his vice-president because Maduro was the least threatening person he could find, a veritable lap-dog. I though there would be more infighting among Chavistas for the presidency. Some said that the president of the National Assembly should have been legally the presidential candidate. Diosdado Cabello is not all that popular in Chavista circles and he lost the gubernatorial election for Miranda State to Capriles.
Good Afternoon Carlos, Regarding the marina cats. We use approx. 8 kilos a week of cat food. Omar has been buying two 3 Kilo bags. Dellisa (Black girl feeding the cats) has been supplementing the cat food out of her personal stock (she has 2 cats). Would you please ask Omar to buy 8 kilos of cat food a week. Omar will need to buy 4 kilos twice a week. Regarding Monday (Day after election), we are concerned that there may be businesses closed or problems with traffic. Would you please ask Omar to buy double the cat food on this Friday so that we don't have a problem on Monday. So this Friday we will need 8 kilos (Friday's regular 4 kilos and Monday's -4 kilos). So on Monday- he will not need to buy food. He will buy cat food again- 4 Kilos on Friday.
El País: Capriles lidera la mayor concentración opositora desde 1999
El diario español El País informó en una nota a través de su portal web que el candidato presidencial por la Unidad, Henrique Capriles, lideró este domingo lo que sería la mayor concentración opositora en el país desde el año 1999.
"El evento, llamado “Caracas Heroica”, resultó la mayor concentración organizada desde 1999 por sectores distintos al chavismo" citó el medio.
Desde seis puntos de la capital de Venezuela marcharon cientos de miles de ciudadanos que apoyan la opción electoral de Capriles. La avenida Bolívar, que sirve tradicionalmente de prueba de fuego para cualquier opción electoral en Venezuela, no dio abasto para alojarlos.
El candidato opositor ratificó su poder de convocatoria y, con ello, envió un mensaje creíble de aliento y esperanza para que sus electores no deserten el próximo domingo, día de acudir a las urnas y en la que cada voto contará para decidir un resultado que se anticipa estrecho. Parece indudable que Capriles ha captado un impulso importante justo en la culminación de una campaña de apenas diez días que culminará el próximo jueves.
A diferencia del Capriles contemporizador de la campaña anterior, en esta ocasión el candidato de 40 años de edad apuntó sin remilgos a los puntos flancos de su contrario, el candidato oficialista y presidente encargado, Nicolás Maduro. “Nicolás, tú irás a ganar las elecciones en La Habana, pero yo voy a hacerlo aquí en Venezuela el 14 de abril”, dijo, fustigando al chavismo por su cercanía con el régimen de los hermanos Castro en Cuba. Ofreció la nacionalidad venezolana a todos los servidores cubanos que quieran quedarse a trabajar en Venezuela, pero avisó la expulsión del país de los asesores cubanos que actúen en los cuarteles de la Fuerza Armada venezolana.
Criticó la corrupción rampante entre los funcionarios del gobierno, a quienes llama “los enchufaos”, de los que puso como ejemplo al actual ministro de Petróleo y Minería y presidente de la petrolera estatal Pdvsa, Rafael Ramírez, a quien calificó como “el hombre más rico del país”. Invitó a los seguidores de Chávez a percatarse del contraste entre las condiciones en que ellos viven y el estilo de vida adoptado por la burocracia revolucionaria, y decidir a partir de allí su voto. "Yo no soy la oposición, soy la solución”, buscó reposicionarse Capriles, con un lema que busca sentir más cómodos a los votantes de Chávez que pudieran estar pensando en cambiar de opción esta vez.
Dijo que, así como en octubre tenía claro que los números no le iban a dar en su competencia electoral contra el comandante Chávez –a la postre, vencedor-, supuestamente venía de consultar algunos estudios de seguimiento de las tendencias de opinión favorables. "Vamos a ganar el próximo domingo”, afirmó Capriles, que lllamó a descartar el triunfalismo y a cuidar los votos de la oposición el 14 de abril.
La mayoría de los estudios dados a conocer hasta el momento, cuya cobertura de campo es anterior a la semana que termina, dan ventaja al contrincante de Capriles, el oficialista Maduro.
“Aceptaremos los resultados, sean lo que sean”, aseguró Maduro desde San Fernando de Apure, al suroeste del país, casi al mismo tiempo en que Capriles se apresuraba a hablar en Caracas. El delfín que Chávez escogió públicamente antes de morir y que ejerce de presidente encargado exigió el mismo compromiso de Capriles, ante la sospecha de que la oposición prepara una agenda oculta de desconocimiento del triunfo oficialista.
Maduro, que el jueves cerrará su campaña en Caracas, evitó durante su acto proselitista dos de las ideas principales que, sin embargo, habían vertebrado su discurso el día anterior. Una de ellas insiste en que el voto por Maduro es un asunto de lealtad al comandante fallecido. El candidato no tuvo empacho en afirmar el sábado, durante un discurso en una zona de población mayoritariamente amerindia, que votar contra maduro era votar contra sí mismos.
Asimismo, Maduro abandonó la denuncia que el sábado en la noche hizo desde Ciudad Guayana, según la cual mercenarios contratados por sectores contrarrevolucionarios de Miami (Florida, Estados Unidos) y de “la derecha salvadoreña” habrían entrado en territorio venezolano para atentar contra su vida.
The winners are the guys selling T-shirts, caps, flags and banners, they must have sold hundreds of thousands by the number of people I saw wearing them.
Last night the political music went on until quite late. Today it started at around 11 in the morning but they quit by 6 PM. What a relief. Hearing the same broken record over and over again is truly a PITA!
Around noon I left the house to walk to the produce market (open Tuesday to Sunday). I saw a fair number of Chavistas in "getting out the vote" mode but only a few were activists. I saw about six or eight Caprilistas (you recognize them by the T-shirts and caps) walking toward an opposition march. Instead of going home by the same route, I decided to take the Metro back. Where i got off I was met by a river if Caprilistas! It was the closest I have been to a political march in my 74 years of existence.
Seeing so many opposition people marching changed my mood for the better. The Chavistas have been very good at capturing their political base. Chavez was what we call a chameleon, changing his coloring to fit the mood. Over the past three or four years they dropped the public "like Cuba" stance which never did sit well with most Venezuelan. Instead they created an image of a loving Chavez - a "Corazón de mi pueblo" image. I was quite surprised when a few week ago our concierge declared for Chavez (a change of heart?) saying that the Chavistas were protecting the working classes. The concierge has been with us for over 20 years and I don't ever recall having any serious labor related problem with her. Still, the Chavistas won her over.
There can be no doubt that the Chavistas have a solid following and politically they have outmaneuvered the opposition by a wide margin. Seeing so many opposition marching today tells me that we are truly divided, maybe close to a 50-50 split. What worries me more is the economic situation, specially the exchange controls.
Today has been a god damn circus! The government must have pressed thousands of CDs with political music and they keep playing it over and over again. Getting the election over is going to be a big relief. The central theme is that Chavez lives and will never die, "Viva Chavez." They seem to have only corpses to adore: Bolivar, Che, Chavez. People voting for these corpses, do they think corpses can govern? Madness!
No comment necessary but it does make life more difficult...
Wall Street Journal: Venezuela Raids Local Brokerage of Oppenheimer By Kejal Vyas
CARACAS — Venezuelan authorities late Thursday raided the home and office of what they say is a local representative of Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., the brokerage subsidiary of Oppenheimer Holdings Inc., OPY -1.19% for allegedly violating foreign-exchange regulations.
Venezuela's national intelligence agency, or Sebin, seized documents from Caracas brokerage Brisbane, Mendes de Leon, Pettus & Asociados that it says point to alleged buying and selling of dollars, according to a statement Friday from the Attorney General's office. Such activity would be prohibited in the South American country unless done through the government. The statement identified the company as a local representative of Oppenheimer & Co.
New York-based Oppenheimer did not respond to calls seeking comment.
The move comes as interim President Nicolas Maduro increases his calls for combating currency speculation in Venezuela, where a shortage of hard currency filtering through government channels has led to a spike in dollar demand on the black market. In recent speeches, Mr. Maduro has talked of cracking down on the illegal trade, which he says is run by "bourgeois" opponents engaged in economic sabotage against the ruling socialist party.
Authorities also "seized dollars, euros and firearms" from the house of brokerage owner John Gayle Pettus, the statement said. Calls to the office of Brisbane, Mendes de Leon, Pettus & Asociados and to employees went unanswered Friday, and they couldn't be reached for comment.
The Venezuelan government said it began a probe into the local brokerage on March 23 after it was notified of alleged "irregularities" at the company. The Attorney General's office said it found evidence allegedly linked to dollar exchanges at the site.
An Information Ministry statement earlier Friday indicated that Mr. Pettus, a Venezuelan citizen, had been detained, but it wasn't immediately clear if he was still being held or facing any charges.
Mr. Pettus couldn't be reached for comment. Spokesmen at the Information Ministry, as well as the Interior and Justice Ministry, said they had no further comment.
The U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority lists Mr. Pettus as a broker registered with Oppenheimer & Co. Inc.'s Venezuela office since 1993. A 2012 edition of Standard & Poor's directory shows Oppenheimer as the only U.S. broker listed with a Venezuelan affiliate.
Russ Dallen, a managing partner at Caracas Capital Markets, who was a partner at Mr. Pettus' brokerage until 2007, said he received calls from employees informing him of the raid Thursday afternoon.
Many economists blame the leftist regime's currency controls, implemented by the late president Hugo Chavez in 2003 to prevent capital flight, for the lack of dollars in the economy which has led to a sharp depreciation of the bolivar on the black market. The government has set a fixed exchange rate of 6.3 Venezuela bolivar per dollar, but dollars are traded at nearly 23 bolivar on the black market.
A scarcity of dollars has also led to widespread shortages of food and consumer goods, as companies in this import-heavy economy complain they lack access to the dollars they need to purchase products from abroad.
In 2010, Venezuela's government cracked down on a large parallel currency market and imprisoned several brokerage directors for allegedly violating currency controls. Four former directors of Econoinvest Casa de Bolsa CA, which was once Venezuela's biggest brokerage firm, were released in December after spending more than two years in prison. The directors have said they never violated exchange laws. Their trial is continuing.
You have to wonder if humans are all that rational after all. If they were, religions would be all dead.
Tales From Maduro’s Mind: Chavez’ Little Bird Apparition April 2, 2013
You can’t make this corny, stupid, silly stuff up. Interim President Maduro says that this morning he went to a small chapel made out of wood (Where? Made out of wood. Really Nicolas? He was also alone, praying, sure Nicolas, we believe you) and a little bird came in and chirped at him (Maduro repeats the sounds and everything) and he whistled back the same pretty chirp. And then comes the jump into the mystical, it was Chavez, he felt the spirit, blessing the campaign, yada yada yada…
Really, hard to make this stuff up. Hard to even think of saying such things.
Chigüire Bipolar gives up making jokes, says it is really hard to make things up after Maduro saying this.
Capriles Accepts Challenge Against Nicolas In Venezuela’s Election March 11, 2013
A forceful Henrique Capriles went on TV last night and accepted the challenge to run against Venezuela’s interim President Nicolas Maduro, in a speech that quickly proved what I suggested on Saturday: Politics is back in Venezuela now that Chavez is absent.
Capriles was extraordinary in a very strong speech, which was carefully thought out. At all times, Capriles was very respectful of Hugo Chavez and fairly dismissive of Nicolas Maduro, whom he referred to as Nicolas or “Nicolas, chico” all the time. In one of his best lines, Capriles said, “Nicolas is not Chavez and you all know it, even Chavez complained about those that surrounded him and those are the people that want to govern you”
He noted that the Government and Nicolas had been lying to the people and he was very inclusive, saying he was not running for himself or to get power, but because he wanted Venezuela to do better. He offered a Government for all.
On the lying, he suggested that Chavez had been dead a while, asking how come all of the t-shirt and flags were ready for the funeral and support for Nicolas.
He blasted the Minister of Defense, not only for his illegal support of Nicola’s candidacy, but also he told him he was a disgrace, finishing next to last in his military class.
He had very unkind words for the Head of the Electoral Board, who wore a revolutionary arm band at Chavez’ funeral an asked her for respect, not for him, but for the Venezuelans who are not Chavistas and for the law.
By being forceful and confrontational, Capriles was not only re-energizing the voters, was clearly choosing a different campaign strategy than the one against Chavez. He knew then he had to be respectful of Chavez and he is ever more respectful now, but now he is completely critical of Nicolas and his cohorts. Capriles also seems to recognize that politics changed in Venezuela when Hugo Chavez passed away on March 5th.
And that this is the case was proven immediately, when Nicolas could not wait and had to respond to Capriles within the hour, something Chavez would have never done. Nicolas came and tried to blast Capriles, but his speech was too forced. And in a clear sign that Chavismo is worried about participation in the upcoming election, Nicolas announced that on the same day there will be a referendum to change the Constitution so that Chavez can be buried in the Panteon Nacional immediately. This was clearly a ploy to have the Chavista rank and file more involved in the upcoming election, but Capriles and the opposition can simply bypass the issue by backing the referendum and saying that if the people want it, it should be done.
But more importantly, Nicolas’ speech demonstrated what a weak candidate and poor politician he is. The campaign is too short for Capriles to overcome the abuse of power of Chavismo and the sympathy vote, but it seems as if Capriles had given the whole thing a lot of thought. And in the opening moments of the campaign, score one for the challenger.