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Kansas Bear
29 Nov 07,, 04:51
Venezuela Threatens to Expel US Official

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuela threatened Wednesday to expel a U.S. Embassy official for allegedly conspiring to defeat a referendum championed by President Hugo Chavez, accusing the diplomat of plotting to sway public opinion.

The allegation comes ahead of a fiercely contested referendum on reforms that would allow Chavez indefinite re-election and help him establish a socialist state in Venezuela. Sunday's vote has generated large pro- and anti-Chavez rallies and Chavez kept the rhetoric high on Wednesday by repeating his charge that Washington is plotting to kill him.

In Caracas, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro showed state television a document that he claimed was written by the unnamed embassy official and was to have been sent to the CIA as part of a plan to help ensure that Venezuelans vote against the proposed constitutional overhaul.

"It's a script from the CIA to try to generate a block of opinion among Venezuelans that would give a sure victory to the 'No' vote," said Maduro. "We will investigate and if it's that way, we'll remove this person from here as a persona non grata."

He did not provide more details of the alleged plot.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, said he was unaware of the document.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Rob McInturff said officials there were looking into the reports.

Chavez, an ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, has had a friction-filled relationship with Washington. The Venezuelan leader accuses the U.S. of supporting a 2002 coup that ousted him from office for two days, while U.S. officials call Chavez threat to the region's stability.

In February 2006, Venezuela expelled naval attache John Correa for allegedly passing secret information from Venezuelan military officers to the Pentagon.

On Tuesday, Chavez accused the CNN news network of "inciting" an assassination attempt against him. On Wednesday, Chavez said Washington is also seeking to kill him - a claim he has made in the past.

"Before the world, I accuse the imperialist government of the United States of promoting my assassination," Chavez told supporters in the southwestern city of Merida. "If anything should happen to me, the president of the United States will be responsible for my death."

U.S. officials have in the past denied they are plotting to assassinate Chavez.

In Sunday's referendum, Venezuelans will vote on proposed changes to 69 amendments of the nation's 1999 constitution. If approved, the revisions would allow Chavez indefinite re-election, create forms of communal property and further his plans to establish socialism in Venezuela.

On Wednesday, hundreds of stone-throwing students clashed with police and the Venezuelan National Guard in a protest against the constitutional overhaul. Security forces responded with water cannons and tear gas.

At least 600 students from the private Metropolitan University took part in disturbances that lasted more than four hours.

"We're doing this because we're sick of Chavez, sick of his government, sick of the way he governs," said Roberto, who covered his face, leaving only his eyes visible. He gave only his first name because he feared reprisals from the security forces. What a TRUE democracy....:rolleyes:

On Monday, a man was shot to death after he tried to cross a protest, near the city of Valencia. Chavez blamed violent elements within the opposition for the killing.

My Way News - Venezuela Threatens to Expel US Official (http://apnews.myway.com/article/20071129/D8T72RB80.html)

Kansas Bear
29 Nov 07,, 14:03
Venezuelan leader's power play has echoes of Castro


CARACAS, Venezuela — If Hugo Chávez gets his way, he'll be calling U.S. presidents "donkeys" and "drunkards" for another 20 years — at least.
A nationwide referendum set for Sunday could allow the colorful Venezuelan president to stay in office indefinitely. That would let Chávez, 53, continue reshaping Venezuela's economy in the mold of Cuba, and follow Fidel Castro as the self-anointed lifetime leader of an increasingly combative global alliance against the United States.

The consequences could be far more serious than the one-liners, clownish antics and occasional gaffes that have made Chávez a staple on YouTube.

"Venezuela is going to be a big, big headache" for Washington if Chávez wins the referendum, says Javier Corrales, a political science professor and Chávez watcher at Amherst College.

Corrales says an emboldened Chávez could drive up energy prices through his control of Venezuela's oil industry, refuse to cooperate with U.S. anti-drug efforts and undermine the fight against Islamist militants through his economic partnership with Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism.

In Venezuela, tensions have started to boil over as polls show the referendum's outcome is in doubt. Clashes between supporters and opponents have repeatedly turned violent, and one protester was killed Monday. Using his trademark hyperbole, Chávez told a crowd of students last week they could "save the world" by voting in his favor.

Critics fear that a "yes" vote would cement Chávez as a de facto dictator and lead to more of the problems that have begun to plague his self-styled socialist revolution. The economy is still expanding thanks to record prices for Venezuela's oil, but there are growing shortages of basic goods such as milk, pasta and sugar. The exchange rate for the currency is so distorted that passengers arriving at the Caracas airport are immediately besieged by black-market traders desperate for U.S. dollars.

Even some longtime supporters say Chávez has gone too far in trying to cement his control over daily life. The government is "confiscating the rights of the people," says Ismael Garcia, a member of the National Assembly who helped Chávez regain power after an attempted coup in 2002 but now is campaigning against the referendum. "It's not democratic," Garcia says.

Chávez says the changes will allow him to implement a centralized socialist state better equipped to improve the lives of Venezuela's poor. The reforms would remove presidential term limits, cut the workday to six hours and make it easier for the state to seize private property. "Communal cities" would be established under presidential control, which could allow Chávez to ignore elected local officials. The president also would be able to suspend civil rights in emergencies.

Venezuela's poorest people have been the biggest beneficiaries of the health and education programs that Chávez has financed with record oil revenue. The former paratrooper is counting on their support to stay in power long enough to rival his mentor Castro, who has tormented Washington for 47 years.

"I'm ready. I have the moral strength, the physical strength and the will to continue with you at the helm until at least 2020," Chávez told supporters last week. "And if the strength continues with me, and God wills it, then I'll probably go on to 2027."

A year after calling President Bush "the devil" at the United Nations, Chávez has begun to couple his barbed attacks with words explicitly targeted at damaging the U.S. economy. After meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran last week, Chávez said the falling dollar was "a sign the U.S. empire is coming down," and called on OPEC countries to use the euro instead. His comments helped push oil prices closer to $100 a barrel.

U.S. companies such as Heinz, AES and Verizon have been damaged by Chávez's recent economic changes, which included nationalizing Venezuela's electricity sector and buying out many other companies.

Chávez's office did not respond to a request for an interview. Saul Ortega, a Chávez ally and president of the foreign relations panel in the National Assembly, notes that U.S. companies still do billions of dollars of business a year in Venezuela and says Washington has nothing to fear.

Unlike Castro's Cuba, where dissent is not tolerated, Venezuela is not a police state. Media are allowed to criticize Chávez, although he shut down an independent TV station this year, sparking massive protests. Venezuelans are also free to leave the country anytime, something that thousands have done in recent months to places such as Panama and Florida.

"We're finding our own path," Ortega says. "It's going to be a democratic, free, prosperous, beautiful country, not subject to any external domination."

Revolutionary hub

Visitors to Caracas are aware of the referendum's high stakes from the moment they arrive at Caracas' international airport, where a huge 3-D sign celebrating socialism hangs above baggage claim. From there, the onslaught of revolutionary slogans and crimson banners never lets up.

"Nothing stops the revolution," says one sign hanging from a building downtown. "Full-speed revolution toward socialism!" say signs in the subway.

Chávez's supporters credit him with giving them more of a share of Venezuela's booming economy, which has grown about 10% a year since a massive collapse in 2002. Poverty has fallen from 42.8% in 1999 to 33.9% in 2006, according to Venezuela's census bureau, although progress on unemployment has been mixed.

"The comandante has done so many good things for this country," Aura Eslada, 54, a secretary who wore a red cap and a "yes with Chávez" T-shirt, said during a march Tuesday. "There's no other leader like him. The opposition doesn't have anybody better to offer."

However, María Elena Sánchez is one of many Venezuelans who are growing frustrated by the economic problems created by Chávez's policies.

"I haven't been able to buy liquid milk in three months," Sánchez says, standing in front of an empty cooler at the Sud-America Supermarket. "This isn't supposed to happen in Caracas, right? The capital is supposed to have everything."

Strict price controls on food items have discouraged companies from producing enough of some goods because they can't turn a profit on them. Controls on buying dollars, in place since 2003, have simultaneously made it difficult for importers to buy abroad.

"Pasta, milk, rice, sugar, wheat flour, sometimes even salt is hard to get," says Wilfredo Chacón, shift manager of the Sud-America. "Sometimes all the deliveryman gives me is one box of 9 liters of milk."

A poll released Saturday by Datanalisis, a respected local pollster, showed 46% of Venezuelans blame the government for the shortages, while 31% blamed businesses. Six months ago, 65% blamed businesses.

Some of the economic distortions border on the bizarre. Airline tickets to and from Caracas are increasingly hard to come by because so many seats are being bought up by Venezuelan currency speculators who can make an easy profit by manipulating the financial system.

The speculators fly to nearby Panama, Aruba and Curacao, where they can charge up to $5,000 to their credit cards and receive U.S. dollars in return from local businesses. Upon returning to Venezuela, the travelers then sell their dollars on the black market at twice the official rate — making thousands of dollars.

"You can't get a flight to those places at any price now," said Eduardo Ablan, a travel agent at Festival Tours in Caracas. "It's all because of the black market."

Even some Chávez supporters wonder just how far he will go. "I think health, education, that's all gotten better," taxi driver William Batista says. "But when he says he wants a socialist state, I honestly don't know what he means."

Wrong place, wrong time?

Even if the vote swings in Chávez's favor Sunday, he may not be able to fully carry out his move to socialism, says Michael Shifter, an analyst at the Interamerican Dialogue, a Washington think tank.

"Venezuelan society is too individualistic, is too chaotic and is not amenable to those tight controls that he wants," Shifter says. "There's a real difference between where he wants to take the country and how far the country wants to go with him."

Chávez blames Bush for not opposing the short-lived 2002 coup against him, and constantly talks of the threat of a U.S. invasion. Washington strongly denies any such plans, and has in recent years mostly chosen to ignore Chávez's rhetoric.

Chávez's continuing demands for higher oil prices and his suspicion of U.S.-led trade pacts could disrupt attempts to form trade alliances that could counter the European Union and China.

"He would like to establish Venezuela as an alternative to the U.S. model of how to do things," says Terry McCoy, a political science professor at the University of Florida.

A recent study by pollster Latinobarometro — as well as an outburst this month by Spain's normally mild-mannered King Juan Carlos, who told Chávez to "shut up" — suggest his influence in the region could be waning. On Wednesday, Chávez said he would no longer have "any type of relations" with neighboring Colombia, calling its pro-U.S. leader "a pawn of the empire."

Venezuela's growing economic relationship with Iran is most worrisome, especially at a time when the United States and the European Union are deliberating more sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program, Shifter and McCoy say.

On Monday, Chávez presided over the delivery of 200 cars built by Venirauto, a joint venture between the two countries, to health workers and local government officials. Iran and Venezuela also have cooperated in producing petrochemicals, housing and tractors.

Whether relations between Venezuela and the United States improve may depend on Bush's successor. Chávez has professed to getting along better with President Clinton than "the Texan who walks around shooting from the hip."

Opposition leaders would rather start the relationship over.

"We are fighting for the future of Venezuela, for the world of our grandchildren," says Garcia, the former Chávez supporter. "If in 10 years I have a grandchild and he sits on my knee and he says, 'Grandpa, you were there, and what did you do with my country?' What am I going to say?

"That's why we're fighting this with such passion."

Venezuelan leader's power play has echoes of Castro - USATODAY.com (http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-11-28-Chavez_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip)

Julie
29 Nov 07,, 15:13
Somebody send Chavez a couple of cases of kleenex. He is such a cry baby.

Kansas Bear
30 Nov 07,, 14:00
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of the capital Thursday to oppose a referendum that would eliminate term limits for President Hugo Chavez and help him establish a socialist state in Venezuela.
Blowing whistles, waving placards and shouting "Not like this!" the marchers carried Venezuelan flags and dressed in blue—the chosen color of the opposition—as they streamed along Bolivar Avenue.

"This is a movement by those of us who oppose a change to this country's way of life, because what (the referendum) aims to do is impose totalitarianism," said former lawmaker Elias Matta. "There can't be a communist Venezuela, and that's why our society is reacting this way."

The rally marked the close of the opposition's campaign against the proposed constitutional changes, which will be submitted to a vote Sunday. Chavez plans to lead rallies in favor of the reforms Friday.

Venezuelans will vote on 69 proposed changes to nation's 1999 constitution that would, among other things, eliminate presidential term limits, create forms of communal property and give greater power to the presidency.

Chavez denies that the proposals are a bid to seize unchecked power, saying the constitutional overhaul is necessary to give more of a voice to the people through community-based councils.

Rallies for and against the amendments have surged across this South American country in the run-up to the vote, occasionally leading to clashes. There were no immediate reports of violence Thursday.

Venezuelans Protest Chavez's Referendum (http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8T7H9BO0&show_article=1)

Kansas Bear
01 Dec 07,, 03:46
Venezuela threatens to cut oil exports to U.S

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez said on Friday he will cut oil sales to the United States if the American government interferes in Sunday's referendum aimed at allowing him to run for reelection indefinitely.

Chavez told supports at a rally that the state oil company will halt sales to the United States on Monday if Washington interferes with the vote on the proposed constitutional reform.

The Venezuelan leader and Cuba ally also said he had ordered the military to protect oil fields and refineries in case of political violence.

The reform would also give him direct control over foreign currency reserves while reducing the workday to six hours and expanding social security benefits for informal workers like street vendors.

Venezuela threatens to cut oil exports to U.S | International | Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSN3059805220071130?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&rpc=22&sp=true)

Feanor
01 Dec 07,, 04:06
Yes. Cut the exports please. So we can all finally see what your economy is worth without capitalist money.

gunnut
01 Dec 07,, 05:11
Actually this is a seller's market. He can always sell his oil elsewhere. This will also drive up oil future on Wall Street. We will be hurt in the short term. In the long term, we'll develop alternative sources a little bit faster.