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Venezuela: Latest News


Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa labeled President Hugo Chávez as "a very dangerous person" who, besides destroying Venezuela, has become an example of a populist leader who must be vanquished in a "cultural war."

Vargas Llosa took part in a conference on democracy and leadership challenges in Latin America, an event organized by Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank.

"Chávez is a very dangerous person, not only because he is destroying Venezuela, but also because he is creating a kind of model that under certain circumstances could become popular in the rest of Latin America," he said.

"This is a cultural war," added Vargas Llosa. "We must fight and win if we do not want get back to the populist era, which has been so tragic in our history."

Venezuela is "evolving increasingly towards a totalitarian system", he said.

"Fortunately, the press and mass media have not yet been taken over, but it is something that you could envisage in the near future, unless something happens," he added.

Chilean Foreign Affairs minister Soledad Alvear voiced Chilean government unease at Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez' comments on the relationship between Chile and Bolivia.

Alvear also confirmed that the government recalled Chilean ambassador to Caracas, Fabio Vío Valdivieso, so that he can report about Chávez' statements favoring Bolivia's quest for Pacific Ocean access.

She said the ambassador would likely arrive to Santiago on Wednesday, and added that there is not yet a date for his return to Caracas, said news agency Efe.

Francisco Carrasquero, president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), warned that all political players filing petitions for recall votes must respect the rules on electoral advertising and propaganda -otherwise, they would be sanctioned. Carrasquero said that only some hours after the rules entered into force, several players involved in the processes violated some provisions set forth in the regulations.

He also said that everything is ready for receiving international observers, "pursuant to the regulations approved by CNE's directors." The United Nations Development Program said it could not be able to organize a mission due to lack of time.

The Caracas Stock Exchange Index (IBC) closed 386.20 (1.87 percent) lower than Monday's session, El Diario de la Bolsa said.

The IBC closed at 20,236.22, while the Financial Index and the Industrial Index finished at 33,765.61 and 17,746.72, respectively.

In 156 transactions in cash, 3,961,050 shares changed hands for VEB 1,772,210,816.80. At the end of the day, three shares closed higher, six fell, and six remained steady.

In the fixed-income market, commercial papers, export bonds and public bonds for VEB 3.92 billion changed hands in 202 transactions.

The opposition alliance Democratic Coordinator would gather the signatures of Venezuelans living abroad in support of a recall vote against President Hugo Chávez, even though they would serve only as "testimonial" because the Electoral Power has not allowed such a move.

The decision was announced by Elías Santana, leader of civil association "Queremos Elegir" and member of the Democratic Coordinator's Foreign Affairs Committee, in a meeting with representatives of the Foreign Press Association of Venezuela, said news agency Efe.

Santana said the signatures would be collected in at least 20 cities abroad, during the same days and with the same forms to be used in Venezuela, but with a prominent notice warning that they have no binding power.

Arrest orders were issued against General Felipe Rodríguez and lieutenants Germán Valera and José Colina for allegedly attacking with bombs the diplomatic premises of Spain and Colombia.

Rodríguez, Valera and Colina are linked to the dissident military officers who declared their opposition to President Hugo Chávez in October last year and established their "headquarters" in Plaza Altamira, east Caracas.

Ezequiel Zamora, Vice President of the National Electoral Council (CNE), replied to accusations made by the pro-government electoral campaign command saying that congressmen leading this group show "a supine ignorance" about regulations ruling referenda in Venezuela, approved on September 25.

Once again, Zamora said that the CNE would check the signatures backing the different referenda in order to verify that they are not photocopies or the product of any other "modern method of reproduction."

The signature and the fingerprint will be preserved in the archives of the CNE. The data in the referendum forms will be transcribed and matched with data from the Permanent Electoral Register and the national identification office (Oni-Dex).

Foreign Minister Roy Chaderton said that the Venezuelan government is not interfering in the domestic matters of Chile and Bolivia when voicing support for land-locked Bolivia's quest for Pacific Ocean access, lost during its war with Chile 125 years ago. President Hugo Chávez said over the weekend that some day he would like to visit a Bolivian beach.

"We think we are not interfering in the domestic affairs of Chile or Bolivia," he said. "It is evident that to go for a swim in the Pacific Ocean, there should be an agreed solution between the parties. That's our deepest desire."

The government of Chile recalled its ambassador to Caracas for consultations.

The government of Chile called its ambassador to Caracas, Fabio Vío, to analyze the frequent declarations of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez about the Bolivian request of an access to the sea.

Francisco Vidal, General Secretary of the Chilean government, said that he did not know if the report is true, but he reproached Chávez for talking about an issue that belongs to the bilateral relationships between Chile and Bolivia.

"I dream of enjoying a Bolivian beach," Chávez said on Saturday in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, where he was attending the Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government.

The National Electoral Council (CNE) announced that regulations ruling the electoral propaganda for recall referenda in Venezuela entered into force.

According to these rules, propaganda on TV is limited to two minutes per day and radio broadcasting to five minutes. Anonymous announcements are prohibited, news agency EFE reported.

Jorge Rodríguez, a CNE's director, said that as of Tuesday, private TV channels could not maintain the level of the propaganda they have had. "Everybody is obliged to respect the regulations. We are not going to permit infringements," he added. Fines for breaches are up to $125,000.

The National Electoral Council (CNE) finished the training of 2,842 observers for the signature collection process in which petitions will be signed in favor of recall votes against opposition legislators (November 21-24).

Likewise, the CNE distributed 2.10 million forms as well as other materials, such as minutes and instructive leaflets, for the electoral process.

The accreditation and training of observers for the signature drive beginning on Nov. 28 to demand a recall vote against President Hugo Chávez is to be initiated on Tuesday, November 18. Approximately 6,000 observers will be in charge of overseeing this signature collection.

Former workers of the oil industry denounced that Alí Rodríguez, president of the state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa), bought a plane for $27-30 million.

Horacio Medina, president of oil trade union Unapetrol, said that the plane was bought in the name of Citgo. He added that this is an unnecessary expenditure since the company has already two aircrafts.

Medina said that the illegal use of the planes was already denounced and the problem has aggravated. "The planes are being used for political proselytism," he said.

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