Venezuela's recall petition: Paid not to play!
By THE DAILY JOURNAL INVESTIGATIVE NEWS TEAM
Caracas (22-23 November) - In a country where at least 20 percent of the population
is unemployed and even those who have a job are struggling with the reduced
buying power of a bolivar that has devalued to a third of what it was a year-and-a-half
ago, the government of Hugo Chávez Frías has a new jobs program,
one that involves paving people for their signatures in the recall referendum,
showing up for marches and for not signing the petition seeking to put an end
to Chavez's rule.
The Daily Journal investigative news team uncovered government job sites springing up in many of the poorer sections of Caracas offering jobs. Long lines of people have been turning up and applying as the word of mouth about the sites spreads. Candidates fill out an application asking what they would like to earn and what, they would like to do. They are then called back and offered 'jobs" - of not signing the petition calling for a referendum on Hugo Chávez and paid cold, hard cash for the promise.
Searching through the want ads of Ultimas Noticias, we came across an advertisement on November 10, calling for "Urgent help wanted. 100 young people, either sex, to attend clients in stores, supervise and provide information, Immediate work-."
Many of the help wanted ads that have been appearing use similar language and some even have the same phone numbers. When you call the number, asking what is required to apply you are told to go to Parque Cerntral and fill out an application. When arriving at Parque Central, you are directed toward a basement where there are tables and lots of people filling out applications.
When I went in, 1 was surprised at how crowded the room was. "Is everybody here applying for this job?" I asked the attendant who handed me my application. 'Yes. And everybody is going lo get to work- in this company," came the answer with a knowing smile.
I began filling out the application form, which looked like a sheet from the census. In addition to the standard, name, cédula, address and telephone number, it asked: "Do you live in an apartment, house or rancho? How many people live in your house? How many brothers and sisters live in your house? How many rooms does your house have? How many televisions and refrigerators are in your house? Have you worked in public or private companies?" The application bore the MINFRA logo and seal at the bottom.
MINFRA is the Ministry of Infrastructure, headed by Diosdado Cabello, who has been with Chávez since they both participated in the 1992 coup attempt. One of Chávez' most trusted lieutenants, Cabello has also served as vice president, chief of staff, and head of the telecommunications regulatory agency, Conatel, which raided Globovisión last month, seizing equipment.
My application was numbered in the 1500s, giving some indication as to how many people have been applying - and receiving these jobs. 'We will call you," they promised me, after I turned in my completed application. Nine days later, on Wednesday, November l9th, 1 got my call short1y after 10:00 a.m, saying that they would like to see me, that my application number was 1532 and that 1 should go and have an interview at, 4.15 p.m. at Parque Central, Edificio Caroata, Floor 18.
When I arrived in the lobby of Caroata Tower at Parque Central, I was asked for my application number. The guards verified it and then escorted me up to the l8th floor, a place with long halls that was crowded with lots of people. I was told to take a number. When my number was called, I went to an office, where a nicely dressed, executive lady told me "You have been selected for the job. The only requirement is that you cannot sign the Reafirmazo on November 28."
At this point, I diplomatically assured my executive recruiter that I do not approve of this. "Oh no my signature is very valuable," I told her. My executive recruiter got very serious and said, "Oh, no, no, no, this is not a game. You cannot sign on November 28. You wrote here you want Bs. 200,000. It is okay, we will give you in advance, the 200,000. The money is here with us. But you cannot sign the recall referendum."
"I am not here for political reasons," I say. "I am here because I came to apply for a job. Bs. 200,000 is not going to buy me a house." At this point my recruiter is getting somewhat distressed. She calls a "Deputy Tascón".
Congressman Tascón, we are having a little problem here because this young man does not want lo sign the contract and put his fingerprint on it says my recruiter.
Congressman Luis Tascón, a leading member of Chávez' Fifth Republic Movement, is well-known in the barrios because he has a Web site that publishes all the names and cédulas of the people that signed the first Firmazo. lt is obviously an attempt at intimidation. However, the gentleman, that she was addressing was NOT that Luis Tascón.
My stem "Congressman Tascón" wrinkles his face and squints his eyes: "Look, this is not a game. We know exactly where you live and we know exactly your phone number. This conversation cannot be taken out of this room, This cannot be mentioned to anybody." Escorting me out, he says "We just want to get that marico (faggot) Peña and that marico (faggot) Mendoza out."
I see lots of people are taking the money and agreeing not to sign. While there, I saw receipts for people paid as little as Bs. 80,000. But I overheard another conversation. Another woman there, obviously equally distressed with this behavior, says "I can't believe you people do this. Paying us to do such a thing. How can you do such a low thing? To pay people, to buy people."
Meanwhile, Rogelio Salazar, a MAS director in Bolívar state alleged that in a number of villages, Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) officials had handed out hard cash and bags of food to citizens that signed in favor of the government's push to revoke that states opposition legislator, Nelson Rampersad. Salazar said the government had distributed Bs. 16,000 per person for signing a petition, and that National Guard (GN) trucks had transported and distributed bags of food to those that signed.
Next week, apparently, you can go to Parque Central, Edificio San Martín, Nivel Oficina Uno, Office 129 and 120, and get such a job too.
But the Chávez supporters' plans don't end with trying to buy people's non-signatures. Apparently, they intend lo pay people to attend a march during the Chávez petition period, in hopes of dissuading or making it difficult for the opposition to get to the signature places. In El Silencio, diagonal to Bolívar Avenue, across from the Hotel Conde, you can find José Venod, in the office of Inmobiliaria y Raíces or by telephone at 861-6461. On Friday, 21 November, he informed one member of our investigative team that "We are going to pay you Bs. 30,000 per person to attend a march on November 28. This includes the food, drinks, beer, shirts and hats. We are also renting some vans on the night of the 27th to take groups of people out of Caracas and then bring them back in big buses the next day."
The idea is to apparently look like there is huge support, for President Chávez from around the country.
The Daily Journal Investigative News Team will be bringing News scoops whether from within the government or the opposition, in the future. Our sole commitment is to fair, unbiased journalism that reports the truth.
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