Tag Archive | "president"

Venezuela: Thousands Rally in Support of Chávez

Thousands of people took to the streets today to demonstrate their support of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who is still hospitalised in Cuba receiving cancer treatment. Chávez was supposed to be sworn in today for his fourth term as president of Venezuela but the Supreme Court announced yesterday that the ceremony would be postponed.

The demonstration in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, was attended by leaders from 20 other countries such as presidents Jose Mujica of Uruguay, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, prime ministers and foreign ministers from the Caribbean, as well as foreign ministers Hector Timerman from Argentina and Ricardo Patiño from Ecuador.

This week, Vice President Nicolás Maduro said that Chávez was medically advised not to attend the inauguration ceremony. He is still receiving medical treatment in Cuba after a complex operation on 11th December.

His absence was a first in Venezuelan history since democracy was introduced in January 1958. This 10th January is the date specified in the constitution for the start of the Venezuelan presidential 2013-2019 term. Chávez was reelected with 55% of the vote on 7th October.

There are no reports of a possible return date for Chávez and no information about if he will be able to resume his work.

Henrique Capriles, central opposition spokesman, said yesterday in a press conference that Chávez delegates should start acting towards addressing problems like crime, inflation and food shortages.

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President Fernández Attacks Justice System After Marita Verón Ruling

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner came out strongly against the Argentine Justice system after the ruling that acquitted all the suspects accused of human trafficking.

“Last night something very ugly happened. There is a divorce between society and justice, I couldn’t believe it when I was told,” said Fernández in a public speech this afternoon at the inauguration of a medicine production plant.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

“We are going to initiate a democratisation of the Judicial Power. Humbly, I believe the time has come for each of the States powers to take care of the things that are happening. I pledge to start a democratisation of the Judiciary,” she added.

Already in conflict with certain judicial decisions taken in recent weeks, namely the extension of the injunction in the Clarín case, and the rejection of the “per saltum” mechanism by the Supreme Court, Fernández continued attacking the judicial branch questioning, “what other office is guaranteed for life?” Seemingly paving the way to what might become a drastic reform of that branch of government. She also stated “when there is money involved no matter how much noise you make they just don’t care”.

Also today the Supreme Court reacted to the news of the Marita Verón verdict by releasing a statement that called on judges to do their best to fight human trafficking.

“Following the events that took place today that are known by the public, the National Supreme Court, as holder of one of the three powers of the State, makes clear that the fight against human trafficking and the protection of victims of gender violence is a very clear and important institutional decision,” read the statement.

Although it made no direct reference to the actual case of Marita Verón, the statement also called on “all the judges in the country to keep maintaining their maximum efforts to end this crime”.

The Supreme Court could eventually be called to rule on the Marita Verón case if it is appealed.

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President Puts Agenda on Hold Due to Low Blood Pressure

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was today forced to cancel her agenda for the next 24 hours after doctors diagnosed her with low blood pressure.

A medical document was signed by presidential doctors Luis Buonomo, Marcelo Ballesteros and Daniel Fernandez. It read “Today, the President of the Nation, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was diagnosed with low blood pressure and was recommended total rest and monitoring over the next 24 hours”.

This is not the first time President Fernández has suffered from blood pressure problems. In both April and August of this year the president was forced to suspend activities for a day or two to rest.

Low blood pressure can create a situation whereby certain organs are not receiving sufficient amounts of blood to function normally. It is not a serious or critical condition, but can create difficulties in day-to-day life.

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Cuba: Fidel Castro Turns 86

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro is celebrating his 86th birthday today. The man who led Cuba through the country’s revolution and for nearly half a century afterwards will be celebrating out of the spotlight, although there are festivities planned around the Caribbean island state.

The capital, Havana, will see an exhibition of 13 images of Castro taken by photographers like Alberto Korda, which have been artistically modified by a group of local painters. Other provinces will see festivities such as fairs and book presentations, as the Sunday edition of many of the country’s newspapers ran with ‘Happy Birthday Fidel’ headlines.

After governing Cuba for nearly half a century, Fidel handed power to his brother, Raúl, in 2006, who formally assumed the presidency in 2007. Questions over the health of the ex-president remain, as Fidel has not been seen in public for months, and in June he stopped writing ‘Reflexiones’, a series of articles he started writing on an almost daily basis six years ago.

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Bolivia: Official Meeting Held between Leaders

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner traveled yesterday to Cochabamba, Bolivia, in order to meet with Bolivian President Evo Morales. The two leaders met to discuss topics like the recent displacement of Former President Fernando Lugo in Paraguay , as well as to negotiate bilateral agreements related to Bolivian gas sold to Argentina. Fernández traveled with government officials Hector Timerman, Julio De Video, and Robert Baratta.

Argentine Ambassador to Bolivia, Ariel Basteiro, announced that the main objective of the visit was to establish a new price for the sale of gas from Bolivia to Argentina, as well as to discuss a possible increase in amount of gas imported. Bolivian government official Juan José Sosa commented that the leaders will also discuss possible collaboration in energy production, as reported in Clarín.

At a ceremony held yesterday, Fernandez discussed the controversial impeachment of Lugo in Paraguay. She defended Mercosur’s decision to expel Paraguay as a member country, and expressed her commitment to defending democracy in the region. As reported in Telesur, she said  that leaders of Mercosur are “determined to defend not governments but the popular will of the people” of the region.

The leaders are set to hold private meetings all day today, in order to sign an agreement before Fernandez returns to Buenos Aires tonight. Basteiro stressed the strategic importance of the visit and of the Argentine embassy in Bolivia, since the nation is: “a neighboring country, because of the large number of Bolivians living in Argentina, and because it has natural resources that are fundamental to the industrial development of our country,” as quoted in Clarín.

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President Leads Independence Day Act in Tucumán

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner spoke today at the Independence Day Act in the capital city of the province of Tucumán, as part of the festivities celebrated there today. After arriving by plane, President Fernández visited the Historic House of Independence Museum in San Miguel de Tucumán, before leading the Independence Day Act in the company of Vice-President Amado Boudou and Governor of Tucumán José Alperovich.

Fernández began her speech by remembering her late husband and Former President Nestor Kirchner and the model he created for rescuing Argentina from its financial crisis in 2001. She spoke of his first visit as president to Tucumán to celebrate Argentina’s Independence Day: “it was a completely different world and country …it was the moment that Argentina started to lift itself up from its ruins.”

The President discussed the challenges of today’s global economy, the recent financial crises in Europe and the United States, and affirmed that in today’s globalised world, these problems “inevitably lead to repercussions in Argentina.”  She talked about her administration’s efforts to counteract these repercussions and ensure a strong national economy, emphasising the government’s commitment to protecting national industry, as well as specific policies like the new Procrear Credit Plan. She reminded Argentines that next month her administration will issue the “Boden 2012” bonds in dollars, which were created in order to remunerate citizens for money lost in  the 2001 crisis.

Fernández ended her speech by reminding citizens that the “struggle is not just for economic growth, but rather a growth that comes with equality and equity.” She called for “national unity,” and for Argentines to continue working together on projects of “organisation and solidarity.”

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President Demands Bank Investment in Business

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced yesterday a measure obligating banks to give loans to Argentine businesses equivalent to 5% of their total deposits. The new measure will result in $15bn in loans towards the production of goods and services on a three year term minimum with a fixed interest rate of around 15%. In addition, 50% of the credits will go to small and medium enterprises.

The measure has been put in place to tackle the reluctance of the banking sector to invest in Argentine business.  Credit represents only 15% of GDP in the country, a low for the region. Despite the robust nature of the financial system, credit is increasingly limited.

Banks must pay 5% of the level of private sector deposits in June. 31 public and private banks will be taking part, comprising 20 private banks that make up 1% of the Argentine financial system and 11 more that act as financial agents for the provinces.

“We will ask a group of banks to do in a year what the National Bank did in four and a half years for Argentine businesses and workers,” said president Fernández, speaking at a press conference at the Casa Rosada yesterday.

She criticised the lack of investment made by private banks in comparison to the efforts made by the state to support business.

“The state shows a lot of confidence in business, from the credit lines of the National Bank, which give $1.3bn loans a week to business, to the Bicentennial Programme” she said yesterday

Ex head of the Central Bank, Martin Redrado criticised the policy on Radio10 this morning however as “kind but ineffective.”

Speaking in a press conference he agreed the need for more investment in Argentine business but questioned President Fernández’ solution:

“This measure relies on a trust in economic policy which doesn’t exist” he said.“The real question is why is there no investment in Argentina:  Is there a lack of investment because of a lack of credit or because of a lack of conditions?”

This new measure will add to the reform of the Charter of the Central Bank which has given the financial sector a more active role in the promotion of long term credit to industry.

It comes amidst a series of policies targeted towards consumer credit in Argentina. Unlike consumer credit programmes however, loans to enterprises require longer term and more involved negotiations.

Critics argue, however, that these longer time frames are still not long enough to make effective business loans.

Redrado pointed out this morning that few businesses have investment plans which fit the three year time frames necessary for the credits to work.

The policy will today be improved by the board of the Central Bank, led by Mercedes Marcó Del Pont who yesterday held a talk with banking leaders to discuss the implications of the measure.

From 31st June, banks will have up to six months to make loans to companies purchasing capital assets. The deadline will be extended for more complicated investments.

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Venezuela: Presidential Campaigns Launched for October Elections

On Sunday the 1st of June, presidential candidates for Venezuela’s October election officially began campaigning.

The two main candidates are incumbent president Hugo Chávez, currently serving his second term, and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.

Five other candidates are currently vying for the office: María Bolívar, Luis Reyes, Yoel Acosta Chirinos, Orlando Chirinos, and Reina Sequera.

Chávez launched his campaign yesterday with an 18-kilometer caravan from the city of Mariara to the city of Maracay; both cities are located in the central state of Carabobo. Tens of thousands of supporters turned out dressed in red, the color associated with Chávez’s so-called ‘Bolivarian revolution’.

Chávez, 57, has been largely absent from the public eye because of his battle with cancer; the president has undergone three operations in the last year in an effort to remove two malignant tumors. Recently, however, he has come out to assure supporters that he is recovered and ready for the upcoming campaign.

If he wins, he could stand to hold the presidency for twenty consecutive years.

Launching the official campaign, the president called in particular for his followers to help “convince the undecided”.

Capriles, who states that his “commitment is to reach the most forgotten people”, elected to begin his campaign in the border regions. He first visited the state of Bolívar, near the border with Brazil, and then the state of Zulia, near the border with Colombia.

The 39-year-old former governor of the state of Miranda stated “today we have been in the most beautiful places, but also the most forgotten. Two forgotten populations, ignored by and invisible to a government that swore to attend to the poorest”.

Earlier in June, when Capriles officially declared his candidacy in the National Electoral Council, thousands of supporters marched to support the candidate.

Centre-left Capriles stands for free market economics with social programs; the candidate has spoken positively of Brazil’s government structure.

Chávez’s proposed plan, presented to the National Electoral Council (CNE) on the 11th of June, is structured on five points and centered on continuing state socialism. The president and state-media typically class Capriles as ‘rightist’.

At present, Chávez is showing a double figure lead in most polls. Over a quarter of the 18.9 million voters, however, still identify as undecided and his advantage is less pronounced than it has been in former campaigns.

Media use by presidential candidates is highly regulated by the National Electoral Council (CNE). Candidates have a daily allowance of three minutes of television advertising, four minutes of radio, a half page in standard newspaper and a full page in the tabloid news per day.

The government radio and television stations, however, are not included in the regulations, and so may be used by Chávez without restriction. Government news sources often criticize Capriles.

Controversy recently arose when Globovision, a Venezuelan news channel, was fined for its coverage of a prison riot last year in which over 20 people were killed. Globovision is often critical of the government, and Chavez has accused the channel of supporting a coup attempt in 2002.

Globalvision challenged the $2.1 fine in court, and holds that the fine was an attempt to intimidate the channel in the face of the upcoming elections. Capriles also claims that the fine was an attempt to stifle independent media outlets.

The presidential election will be held on the 7th of October this year, with campaigns closing on the 4th of October.

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President CFK and Moyano Compete for Airtime

This afternoon, news channels showed divided screens as President Cristina Fernandéz de Kirchner and Secretary General of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) Hugo Moyano both delivered speeches.

A little after 3pm, Moyano began his speech in front of demonstrators who had been gathering since early this morning in a protest calling for the income tax floor to be raised and the cap on family benefits to be lifted.

Those CGT unions loyal to Moyano were joined by Barrionuevo’s CGT Azul y Blanca, the Frente de Izquierda, and a collection of other unions at the demonstration. The absence of many service and industrial unions within the CGT, as well as the majority of the public transport unions, was seen as a blow to Moyano.

Moyano delivered a strong critique of the government, accusing the current administration of “arrogance”.

He responded directly to critiques offered yesterday by the president, stating that today’s activities did not represent ”extortion” but rather a “legitimate complaint by the workers”. He further argued that it was the government that was guilty of “extortion” by “keeping workers’ money”.

Moyano’s speech made many references to Juan Domingo Perón and his wife, Evita. He promised that today’s strike would not be “the only strike followed by a demonstration” and confirmed his intention to continue leading the CGT when his term ends next July.

This afternoon President Fernández also made a speech at the opening of a pork-processing factory in the town of Juan Llerena. The project was partially financed by the national Agricultural Ministry. The trip constituted her first official visit to the province of San Luis, where Juan Llerena is located.

In her speech, the president discussed the achievements of her administration with regards to employment, talked about the relationship between university education and work, and made reference to the G20.

President Fernández commented, “we have accomplished a lot over the last nine years, and we are going to continue working with the same strength and conviction with which we began this process on the 25th of May, 2003.”

While not directly mentioning Moyano, she did comment, “We do not all think alike, but this is not River versus Boca, we need Argentina to win.”

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Moyano Heads Large-scale Demonstrations in Buenos Aires

Protestors began gathering this morning in the Plaza de Mayo and around the Obelisk in preparation for what the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) predicts to be a 150,000 person demonstration later this afternoon.

Hugo Moyano, Secretary General of the CGT, called for the demonstration. The protest represents the first time that the CGT has mobilised against the government in the Plaza de Mayo in either Kirchnerist presidency.

Historically, the Kirchners had a good relationship with Moyano. Since the death of Néstor Kirchner, however, the relationship between Moyano and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has become strained.

The central demand of the protesters is a raise in the income tax threshold. Other demands include a call for to lift the cap on universal family benefits and school aid.

Yesterday afternoon, President Fernández made a speech defending the current tax policies and criticising Moyano, although she did not refer to the union leader by name.  She stated that the Moyano’s call for a raise in the income tax threshold would only affect 19% of workers.

She stated, “There will not be extortion, threats, or affront that will steer me from the path that I have chosen,” as quoted by Página 12.

In response to the president’s speech, Moyano commented that Fernández, “does not understand the value of money,” as quoted by Clarín.

While the central demonstration in the Plaza de Mayo will not begin until 2pm, workers began marching from different points around the city as early as 9am.

The demonstrations were already causing disruptions in city traffic this morning. Av. 9 de Julio had been blocked off between Corrientes and Belgrano.

Unions have been divided as to who is participating. The protesters who are participating will arrive at the demonstration in the Plaza de Mayo in three flanks.

Moyano is directing the unions of his CGT umbrella group that are participating along the Diagonal Sur. Notable among those unions that will be present is the truck drivers’ union headed by Moyano’s son Pablo. Members of the CGT that oppose Moyano and are not participating in today’s demonstrations plan to offer the government their own proposal.

Barrionuevo is leading a collection of 56 unions – including the restaurant and hotel workers’ union that he directs – from the 9 de Julio and the Avenida de Mayo.

A third flank, organized by the opposition party Frente de Izquierda, gathered near the Obelisk to march towards the Plaza. Several other opposition parties and social groups will also be present.

The first demonstrators to arrive this morning were the truck drivers of the city of Olavarría, shortly followed by delegations from Lanús and Santa Fe.

Notably absent amongst the demonstrators are the CTA unions, the farm leaders, anti-Moyano CGT unions, and the independent unions, including among others the majority of those connected to public transport, the taxi drivers union, and unions of government workers.

A stage has been constructed in the centre of the Plaza de Mayo. Moyano is expected to speak at 3pm and will deliver a list of demands to the president. The plaza is filled with the flags of various unions.

The federal and metropolitan police were both monitoring the plaza as of this morning. President Fernández announced yesterday, however, that there would not be police presence in the plaza during the full demonstration this afternoon so as to avoid confrontation. Police will be monitoring the Casa Rosada only.

Fernández de Kirchner announced the lack of police presence during today’s activities after formally offering condolences for the death of the nine members of the gendarmerie that were killed in an accident after returning from a protest in Chubut. She commented that “it is not just that they should have to be insulted, spit upon, or pushed,” as quoted by Clarín.

Moyano has suggested, however, that the move is an effort to generate an incident during the protest.

Today’s protests follow on the back of strikes and protests last week. A week ago Wednesday, Pablo Moyano’s truck drivers’ union blocked the distribution of fuel, forcing the president to return early from the Río+20 environmental summit.

Last week’s demonstrations arose from a conflict between the Truck Driver’s Union and the Cargo Logistics Chamber. The Cargo Logistics Chamber offered a 21% salary increase, but the union demanded a 30% increase.

Plans for strikes ended in most of the country when the Ministry of Labour called for a conciliatory agreement between the two groups.  An agreement has since been reached for a 25.5% salary increase.

The income tax and collection of family allowances were also topics of concern during these earlier strikes.

How will the strikes affect your day?

The strikes and protests are expected to cause complications in transportation and public services.

The truck driver’s strike, which began at midnight, will have the most notable effects.  Their demonstration will effect the distribution of fuel, food, mail and newspapers, as well as trash collection.

Both local city bus travel and long-term bus travel are operational, as the UTA transport workers’ union is not participating in today’s demonstrations. Nevertheless, delays are expected – particularly this afternoon – due to the magnitude of the protests in the centre of the city.

It remains unclear to what degree subte travel will be affected; neither the UTA transport workers’ union nor the Association of Subte Workers elected to participate in the protest, but some of the staff of the A, B and H lines have chosen to participate.

Trains are operating normally, although delays are expected.

Air traffic travel will be affected; various unions connected to air travel are participating in the mobilizations to differing degrees. Aeolíneas Argentinas, Austral, Lan Argentina, Sol and Andes have all rescheduled their flights to leave the window of 12pm to 6pm open. The companies ask that passengers call in advance to find out if their travel plans will be affected.

Gas stations are not selling fuel from 12pm through the end of the demonstrations.

Part of the banking industry is taking part in the demonstration, but to a lesser extent than other industries. Banks are accordingly expected to be fully operational.

Hospitals and all government offices are operating normally.

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As a possible ‪Grexit‬ looms in the old continent, we revisit Marc Rogers' article comparing Greece's current situation to Argentina's own 2001-2 crisis.

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