Tag Archive | "chavez"

Venezuela: New Documents Reveal NSA Targeting of Chávez Government

Edward Snowden (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Edward Snowden (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The New York Times revealed on Sunday that in 2007 Venezuela entered a group of six “priority targets” for espionage by the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States.

The documents are based on official communication leaked by the former CIA analyst, Edward Snowden, which was passed on to the New York Times by the Guardian.

Primarily concerned with the influence of Hugo Chávez’s government on the interests of the US in Latin America, the espionage sought to “evaluate” the progress of Chávez and his leadership in the region.

The agency tracked official emails and personal correspondence of ten high-ranking officers from the Venezuelan Ministry of Planning and Financing, according to the Times. NSA officers tracked private messages on a daily basis, “searching for anything, which could provide political advantage.”

The strategic mission was to “enable policymakers in preventing Venezuela from achieving its regional leadership objectives and pursuing policies that would negatively impact the global interests of the US,” according to the official 2007 document.

Moreover the NSA ordered the study of the “breadth and depth of Venezuelan relations with countries of strategic concern to the US, particularly Iran, Cuba, China and Russia.” A PowerPoint presentation of August 2010, during Barrack Obama’s administration, revealed that the agency closely followed the loans of billions of dollars from China, Russia, and Iran, to Venezuela – for radar systems and oil drilling systems, missiles and combat planes, and the construction of an unmanned aircraft factory.

Other leaked documents also revealed that the NSA spied on the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Columbia (FARC). The operation, called ‘Operación Orlandocard’, created an information system intercepting thousands of emails they signalled as “potential future interest”.

Posted in Current Affairs, News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Venezuela: Maduro Wants Special Powers to Crack Down on Corruption

Nicolas Maduro (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Nicolas Maduro (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has asked the country’s National Assembly for special powers to deal with the fight against corruption, something he considers a “national emergency”.

Maduro added that the country must also strengthen the anti-corruption article of the Constitution and reform any laws necessary.

He asked the Venezuelan youth to unite in the call to fight against corruption “I want to ask for active support. Girls and boys of the youth, we can fight this and be victorious only if the youth…with their rebellion, with their criticism, accompany me,” he urged and added: “I ask that this support turns itself into action on the streets.”

Maduro assured that the government would not protect anybody and that “we are going with everything…against corruption”.

In the last few months, Maduro’s anti-corruption plan provoked the detention of various civil servants accused of irregular handling in their work.

The fight will also include sectors of the opposition, recently the official majority in the National Assembly suspended parliamentary immunity to deputy Richard Mardo who was accused of money laundering.

The country’s Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Díaz, announced over the weekend that the Public Ministry had detained 50 people and accused 53 under corruption charges since 26th July. Nevertheless none of the heavyweights have yet been targeted.

In last years report, the organisation Transparency International placed Venezuela as the third most corrupt country in Latin America, only after Argentina and Mexico.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Venezuela: Presidential Campaigns Begin

Nicolas Maduro (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Nicolas Maduro (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Candidates Nicolas Maduro and Henrique Capriles officially began their campaigns for the Venezuelan presidency yesterday, in anticipation of elections to be held 14th April. The winner of the upcoming elections will serve as the president of Venezuela until 2019, completing the term that late President Hugo Chavez would have served.

The campaigns kicked off with speeches by the respective candidates. Maduro, who has served as the interim head of state since the president’s death on 5th March, spoke in Chavez’s hometown of Sabaneta in the Venezuelan state of Barinas, to tens of thousands of supporters gathered to hear him. Maduro delivered his speech alongside some of Chavez’s siblings and daughter María Gabriela. The group showed a video recorded in late December in which the late president called for his followers to continue to support Maduro if anything should happen to him.

In yesterday’s speech, Maduro commented, “I am going to be president of this country because (Chavez) so ordered it and because our people will ratify this because the people have never failed President Chavez.”

The candidate also asserted that he believes that Chavez recently appeared to him in the form of a “little bird,” and blessed him as he began campaign proceedings, saying, “Today begins the battle. Go for victory.”

Maduro’s opponent, Capriles, also inaugurated his presidential campaign with a speech yesterday. Capriles, who ran against Chavez in last year’s presidential elections, spoke in the city of Maturín in the eastern state of Monagas and recognised his disadvantage in the race while calling for a campaign push from his supporters.

He stated, “All I have is the power of the people. I don’t have the support of the courts or the government’s resources… each one of you should take the campaign to your homes, to your neighbourhoods.”

Maduro added, “This is not a fight against anyone, this is a fight for our Venezuela, in favour of each one of you.” The candidate concluded his remarks stating, “Yes, you can!”

Campaign speeches are continuing today, with Capriles touring Barinas and Maduro in Táchira and Mérida.

This month’s election is expected to fall to Maduro, as Chavez endorsed his candidacy before he died and public opinion polls show Capriles lagging at least ten percentage points behind in the race.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Venezuela: Opposition TV Network to be Sold

Globovisión Supporter (Photo: Globovisión)

Globovisión Supporter (Photo: Globovisión)

Venezuelan opposition news channel Globovisión will be sold off after the presidential elections on 14th April due to the station being “unworkable economically and politically”.

News agency Venezuela al Día, reported yesterday that Globovisión has accepted a formal buyout bid from Juan Domingo Cordero, the majority shareholder of Caracas-based insurance company Seguros La Vitalicia.

According to various media reports, Globovisión is being sold off after the April elections as a result of mounting tensions with the Chávez government.

The network has been caught up in political battles since 2007 when the government accused it of inciting civil unrest in Venezuela. Additionally, in 2011 Globovisión was fined US$2.2m for televising Venezuela’s prison riots.

According to regulators at the time, the network misrepresented the riots by only airing the opinions of mothers and wives outside the prison who feared that their relatives were being killed by the National Guard.

Globovisión’s executive vice president Guillermo Zuloaga has previously said that the channel “decided to give him (Chávez) the benefit of the doubt.

“But since 2001, when Chávez called us enemies of the revolution we became enemies of an all-powerful government, which controls all institutions and manages an inexhaustible money flow,” Zuloaga said.

“Unfortunately, the situation in the country, our environment, and our field of work, instead of improving over the years has worsened,” said Zuloaga. “The political situation, polarisation, and weakening of the economy has had a direct effect on Globovisión’s cash flow, and has turned it into a non-viable company”.

Globovisión will continue broadcasting and will cover the presidential elections until the 14th April, where Chávez’s political heir, acting president Nicolas Maduro, will face opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Venezuela: Maduro Sworn In As Caretaker President, Elections Called

Nicolás Maduro was sworn in as caretaker president on Friday (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

Nicolás Maduro was sworn in as caretaker president on Friday (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

Nicolás Maduro was sworn in as caretaker president of Venezuela on Friday, following the death of Hugo Chávez. He said in his first words as Venezuelan leader, “I will do all I can to honour Chávez.” His swearing in has been widely criticised by opposition parties.

“I wear this band, as legitimate president, to protect the people and to make sure the revolution continues.” Maduro said, speaking in front of the Venezuelan people who held banners reading “With Chávez and Maduro this country is safe.” Maduro will be caretaker president until a new president is elected next month.

The Venezuelan Electoral Council announced today that the elections will be held on 14th April, and the campaign will take place between 2nd and 11th April. The opposition Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) confirmed that they have offered Henrique Capriles the opportunity to represent them in the election. Capriles was the candidate in the last election in October, when he lost against Chávez.

Maduro also confirmed his belief that Chávez was murdered, and announced that a scientific commission is to be set up to investigate an alleged attack targeting the late president.

Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia, has stated that he is “almost certain” that the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez was a result of poisoning by the United States.

“Our brothers like Nicolás Maduro and other authorities in Venezuela will carry out a profound investigation, but I am almost certain that this is a poisoning case against Chávez,” said Morales in La Paz, Bolivia.

He went on to say that “the Empire (United States) has all the instruments to plan actions to other throw governments, leaders, social movements that are against capitalism” and suggested that both former Palestine leader Yaser Arafat and Venezuelan political leader Simón Bolivar were also poisoned.

Morales, who returned to La Paz after attending Chávez’s state funeral in Caracas, also accused the “Empire” of fostering internal or bilateral conflicts when coup d’état attempts fail in order to justify UN military interventions, serving countries that seek to loot natural resources.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (1)

Venezuela: Chávez Suffers from New Infection

Chávez in healthier times (Photo/Wikipedia)

Chávez in healthier times (Photo/Wikipedia)

The future of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is in question after Minister of Information Ernesto Villegas announced that Chávez has a “new and severe infection” on Monday.

“The president remains clinging on to life, aware of the difficulties that he is facing and complying strictly with the program designed with the medical team,” Villegas said.

Chávez underwent surgery in Havana, Cuba in December and, after returning to Venezuela, was admitted to the Caracas Military Hospital on 18th February to continue treatment.

“To date, his respiratory function has been worsening,” Villegas said.

Chávez has been undergoing chemotherapy in Caracas, and has been accompanied by family members. His daughter, María Gabriela Chavez, tweeted a message on Tuesday.

“All my love for you! We continue to cling to God! Thank you for the messages of solidarity! #momentofprayer We will overcome! With God always!” the tweet read.

Chávez won the last presidential election in October, granting him six more years in office, but if the presidential seat should be effectively vacated, elections would be held within the following 30 days.

Current vice-president Nicolás Maduro was given Chávez’s blessing to be the president’s successor and has made daily appearances in recent days, seemingly preparing for a possible election. Henrique Capriles is believed to be a potential oppositional candidate.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Venezuela: Chávez Returns From Cuba After Cancer Surgery

Photos of president Chávez in Havana were released by the government last week.

Photos of president Chávez in Havana were released by the government last week.

President Hugo Chávez returned to Venezuela early this morning after undergoing two months of cancer treatment in Havana, Cuba. Vice President Nicolás Maduro confirmed the president’s arrival at 2:30am local time at the Simón Bolivar International airport. Arriving under strict secrecy and without press fanfare, he was admitted to the military hospital in Caracas.

He announced via his Twitter account “We have returned to the homeland. Thank you my God!! Thank you my beloved people!! Here we shall continue treatment”. This is the first time since 1st November that the president has communicated via Twitter.

In a second tweet the president thanked Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, and all of Cuba; as well as the whole of Venezuela for all its love. He cited his trust in God and his nurses, finishing the tweet with the words “we will live and we shall conquer/overcome”.

On the 11th December last year the president underwent a complicated surgery after the re-appearance of malignant cancer cells in his pelvic are where a cancerous lesion was previously discovered.

Chávez was treated at the advanced Medical Surgery Research Centre (Cimeq), which was subject to stringent secrecy protocol. Aside from a photograph released last Friday showing him smiling with his two eldest daughters, he was not seen in public throughout his stay there nor was he photographed. None of the Latin American presidents who visited him were allowed access to his room. Medical personnel were forbidden from entering with mobile phones, and were made to use special keys that were changed daily.

Unable to take office following his re-election last October, the Supreme Court extended his 2007-2012 government mandate allowing him to assume the post at a later date.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Weekly News Roundup, January 25th

It’s Friday again!

And aren’t you happy that while yesterday we were melting under the scorching maladies of our pagan god, the sun, today we left our homes wearing only a t-shirt and ended up freezing our asses off?

Ah, the many mood swings of Mother Nature, influenced by her shady boyfriend, Climate Change. You think this is bad? Wait until February. Then you’ll really regret moving to this country.

Anyway, this whole intro has been small talk about the weather. It’s like being stuck with me in a really long elevator ride, isn’t it? I guess there’s nothing left to talk about between us.

Sad when a relationship reaches that point, isn’t it?

Please like the Weekly News Roundup on Facebook so you can keep up with out updates. Are you done?

No, seriously, go do it. I’ll wait right here.


Alright, this is what you need to know:

  • The ARA Santísima Trinidad officially stole the ARA Libertad's thunder this week. (Photo/Wikipedia)

    We begin with the first journalism fuck up of 2013 (well, at least the first big, big, journalism fuck up) which involves Spanish newspaper El País and an infamous non-photo of an ailing non-Hugo Chávez on the operating table. As we all know, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is battling cancer in Cuba (and if you didn’t know, put down the Xbox and grab a newspaper, you douche). His treatment and current condition has been mostly kept under wraps with all sorts of rumors flooding the Twittersphere. Is he dead? Is he alive? Is he un-dead? Are we all dead, like in Lost? So considering how much relevance and influence El País has on a global scale (think of it as the New York Times of the Spanish language), the world responded with rightful indignation at a front page splashed with a giant photo of some Chávez-looking dude being intubated. The never-resting internet elves, who I don’t know how but always manage to find everything on the web, soon realized the low-res photo was a screen capture from some random 2008 You Tube video and all hell broke loose. A new nail on the coffin of journalism, which by now already has like a million nails on it and has been buried six feet under since 2000.

  • What does this have to do with Argentina, man? Get to the point or something!“, you say? Well, first of all calm the fuck down. And second, everything has to do with Argentina and you should know that by now. After many around the world expressed complete disgust at the cheap stunt (and let’s face it, it was a cheap stunt with no journalistic value whatsoever) El País apologized profusely (for using a fake photo, not for their vulture-like demeanor). But this wasn’t enough to discourage President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner from castigating journalism (its mortal enemy, according to those National Geographic documentaries). “The despicable press. I cannot think of another adjective. It is the same everywhere; El País in Madrid, The Sun in Murdoch’s London embroiled in corruption schemes with Cameron’s government and who knows what else. Which editor authorised the publication? Will they speak about freedom of the press?“, she tweeted. Not really sure what “freedom of the press” is supposed to mean, but then again, she has a very peculiar idea of how the press is supposed to work. Here, let me show you (cue the elevator music):
  • Good press: President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is awesome.
  • Bad press: The President is human so sometimes she can make a mistake.
  • Good press: Imperialism and dictatorships are still lurking around the corner, and if you elect anyone but Cristina into office, they will come back and enslave you forever. Also probably rape your parents.
  • Bad press: There’s no chance for a military coup in this country.
  • Good press: There is no inflation.
  • Bad press: Shut up, there totally is.
  • Bad press: We agree, but let’s leave dumb nationalism aside and try to solve this like adults.
  • Good press: You shut up, bad press.
  • Bad press: I wasn’t aware this was a dialogue. I thought this was more of a set of bullet points specifically designed to provide contrast between what the government thinks is good press and bad press.
  • Good press: And that’s exactly why you’re Bad Press. Moving on.
  • Good press: Argentina began its existence in 2003. Everything before that is lies, lies, lies.
  • Bad press: Whatever.
  • Good press: The press sucks, unless it praises the Fernández de Kirchner administration. In that case, it still sucks, but it sucks less.
  • Bad press: The press doesn’t suck. There are good and bad practices of journalism. And comparing a stupid photo stunt to the UK’s hacking scandal, and bringing in the concept of freedom of the press just to make it sound more of an epic battle proves that you’re also trying to manipulate public opinion and that you definitely, absolutely, positively have no idea of what the press is supposed to be like.
  • Cristina made her stellar reappearance on TV today after her “Sex & The City 2/Rambo 2” presidential tour (she even went down the Cu Chi tunnels and everything! Have fun with this photo, and this one, and this one, and this one), and addressed inflation concerns. In a nutshell? It’s the store owners who are to blame for skyrocketing prices. There’s no such thing as “inflation”. See? Good press was right.
  • Great news, everyone! After interminable months of oppressive import restrictions that kept us from buying essential products such as this, supreme overlord of the netherworld Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno decided that it was time to lift some of the import restrictions tragically imposed on society last year. So additional import permits are no longer required for: paper, home appliances, toys, shoe wear, motorbikes, bike tires, balls, textile products, diverse manufacturing (is that like, a real category? Sounds so broad…) metal parts, auto parts, vehicles, etc.
  • I know, still no banana guard. Life sucks.
  • Oh, and speaking of Guillermo Moreno (AKA, the Hannibal Lecter of Argentine politics), he also said he believes the official dollar exchange rate will reach $6 pesos in December.  Are you an expat getting paid in dollars? This is you. Are you an Argentine getting paid in pesos? This is you. Are you an Argentine studying abroad whose college fees are being paid by your Argentine hard-working parents? This is you.
  • Remember how we all flocked to Mar del Plata two weeks ago to celebrate the arrival of our dear Frigate Libertad, which was retained in Ghana for three months for reasons you probably already forgot? Remember, hmm? Well, you better feel bad about this, because not too far from where you were waving your little Argentine flags, the Santísima Trinidad warship was crying alone because no one gave a damn about her. Decommissioned and stripped down for spare parts in 2004, the proud warship, who saw battle in 1982 during the invasion of the Malvinas/Falklands, couldn’t take such fate and in a final call for attention decided to commit suicide by capsizing in Puerto Madero Puerto Belgrano.
  • But let’s not rush to conclusions here, because Defense Minister Arturo Puricelli decided to confirm that the vessel had sunk as a result of sabotage, because that was better than admitting that it just sunk because no one gave a shit about it.
  • So who are the culprits in this barbaric act of cowardice? Besides Clarín, that is. Is it a rogue military group from the Malvinas/Falklands, trying to vindicate history? Is it everyone who didn’t vote for Cristina? Or was it Mother Nature, that relentless bitch, who told the sea to eat away the ship’s hull until engulfing it in a wave of darkness and oblivion? (Yes, that would count as sabotage too, shut up).
  • Those of you who have been privy to superhero movies lately may have

    Wikipedia has no photos of Menganno so I can't legally post one here. Here's Captain America. They kinda look alike, except for the fact that they look nothing like each other. (Photo/Wikipedia)

    noticed a tendency to humanize them. To show the psychological residues that constantly burden a tormented mind under a latex mask. Batman, Superman, Spider-man, Hulk, they have all returned to the big screen in the embodiment of an anti-hero who leads a life of loneliness because society doesn’t understand that they are not spandex-wearing weirdos with daddy issues. And while in real life the US has Phoenix Jones, Argentina has Menganno. A superhero of sorts, Menganno patrols the streets of Lanús, in the Greater Buenos Aires area and has become a friend of the children and grandmas looking to cross the street. Menganno proudly assures his only weapons are a police baton and some pepper spray because he doesn’t believe in using firearms. So sweet and naive, this guy. Life was swell for Menganno and his wife, until this week some arch-villains (aka car robbers) decided to ambush him while he was parking outside of his house. Menganno resolved he wasn’t going to take any of that funny business and after careful deliberation chose to put his no-weapon philosophy on hold and shoot the robbers 14 fucking times with the assault weapon he was carrying in his glove compartment. After the police and the media showed up, Menganno admitted shame in using a gun to scare off the robbers and then cried as he confessed he was “fearful” they would seek revenge, which for a superhero is kind of lame. But his plight didn’t end there, since as it turns out his gun permit was expired and he was not allowed to carry his weapon. He is now under investigation for illegal possession of firearms and could go to jail anytime soon. The robbers, in the meantime, are planning their next move to take over the world via some contrived scheme of ridiculous, yet effective, proportions. An excellent metaphor for the times we’re living in, people. Being the villain always pays.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Send Adrian your comments, thoughts or tips at adrbono@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @AdrianBono

And don’t forget to like the Weekly News Roundup on Facebook, so we don’t have to keep reminding you about this every Friday.

Posted in Thoughts of a ForeignerComments (1)

President Attacks El País for False Chávez Photo

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner today took to Twitter to attack Spanish newspaper El País for publishing a photo of Hugo Chávez in hospital which turned out to be false.

“That’s not a photo, it is a despicable trick” said the Argentine president of the image.

El País claimed that the photo was a recent image of the Venezuelan president in hospital in Cuba, “taken a few days ago”, however it was revealed that the picture was in fact a captured image from a Youtube video which dates back to 2008. The image shows Chávez undergoing a surgical procedure. The Spanish newspaper has withdrawn any unsold copies of the particular issue.

“The despicable press. I cannot think of another adjective. It is the same everywhere; El País in Madrid, The Sun in Murdoch’s London embroiled in corruption schemes with Cameron’s government and who knows what else” Fernández wrote on Twitter.

“Which editor authorised the publication? Will they speak about freedom of the press?” continued the President’s attack.

Fernández concluded with a message to María and Rosa, the two daughters of the Venezuelan head of state, urging them to keep caring for their father. She also addressed Nicolás Maduro, the vice-president, who today travels to Cuba to visit Chávez in hospital.

Posted in Current Affairs, News From Argentina, News Round Ups, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (1)

Venezuela: Opposition Leader Demands Word from Chávez

Henrique Capriles, the man who lost out to Hugo Chávez in the last elections, yesterday called on the ailing president to speak publicly to the population to prove that he is of a suitable health to run the country.

Venezuela’s president has not been seen since the cancer surgery that he had in Havana five weeks ago. However, his signature did appear in the government’s official gazette yesterday, on a decree for the new foreign minister. It was the first appearance of the president’s signature since the post-operative complications began back in December.

Capriles made the point that “if the president can sign decrees, I call on him to show himself, to talk to Venezuela”.

Speaking at his inauguration as governor of the state of Miranda, a position he obtained after losing the presidential campaign, Capriles went on to say that Chávez “should tell us everything that is happening in government because what we have in Venezuela is misgovernment”.

Chávez has been fighting an unspecified cancer and the operation in December was his fourth in 18 months. His silence and lack of information from officials has led to speculation as to the severity of his medical condition. The re-elected president was unable to be sworn in last week for a fourth term due to his state of health.

One area where Chávez’s support remains undeterred is that of the armed forces. In a statement made on Wednesday, defence minister Diego Molero Bellavia said “Soldiers will abide by and enforce the Supreme Court decision to allow the head of state to return home when his health improves”.

He concluded that the military have “unconditional loyalty, now more than ever, to commander Hugo Chávez.” Officials insist that the president’s condition is improving and that he is still running the country from his bed in Havana.

Posted in Current Affairs, News From Latin America, News Round Ups, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

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