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Venezuela: Latest News

By Sol Maria Castro,

* AN session to pass new modifications to Procedures and Debates Regulations suspended.

The special session to pass a new reform to the Procedures and Debates Regulations this Wednesday had to be suspended after the opposition legislators noisily staged their protest. With this new reform, (the ninth in three years, and the third in the last six months), pro-government legislators intend to limit the number of legislators in the debate of laws to only 10 four-minute participations, a “fast track” that would allow them to pass drafts classified as “emergency” in record time during a valid session. Other modifications will allow the President to convoke sessions 24 hours in advance anywhere in the country outside the premises, and penalize any legislator who uses violence as a method of participation in the National Assembly sessions. The latest reform passed in a park near Miraflores, contested in the Supreme Court by opposition legislators has not been addressed yet.

* Opposition will decide on regional candidates after RR.

Although not an official decision, the strongest proposal within the umbrella opposition group, Democratic Coordinator, CD, is to allow all candidates to run in the upcoming regional elections of governors, mayors and councilmen register, and negotiate and decide on consensus candidates only after the presidential recall referendum has been held. The National Electoral Council announced said elections will take place on August 1, and all candidates must register before March 30.

* CNE approved the Tupamaros as a political party.

The National Electoral Council approved the request the pro-government armed Marxist group known as Tupamaros made to the electoral body last September to be acknowledged as a political party: the Tupamaro Revolutionary Movement (MRT). One of the leaders of the new party, Luis Carias, announced that they’re giving up “extremist” viewpoints. NB: The latest “extremist” viewpoint, part of their urban warfare operation against the “enemies of the revolution” was an attack with handguns and rifles on January 16, 2004, against a group of policemen and bystanders outside a subway station in a sector near 23 de Enero neighborhood where the group is located. Four were wounded.

* January 23 opposition march ready.

Miranda State governor, and Democratic Coordinator spokesman, Enrique Mendoza, informed Tuesday that all legal and logistics requirements for the opposition-organized march and rally on January 23 have been met. The CD estimates some 100,000 people will attend the final rally on Victoria Avenue after walking along an average of 16 kms, from five departing points: Chuao, Altamira, Santa Fé, El Paraíso and Santa Mónica. Mendoza added that the opposition march will never come across the pro-government march which goes from the Supreme Court to the National Electoral Council downtown.

* Government begins anti-Mega-fraud campaign.

The pro-government electoral Ayacucho Command has begun the campaign “I did not sign against Chávez” in what is known as the new Dignity Mission which will be extended to February 4. The objective according to a Command’s document is to collect 5 million signatures repudiating the presidential recall referendum to generate an opinion movement whose guidelines are “to turn the forgery in a public order problem, to provoke an instinct reaction of deep disgust and repulse in the collective, capable of mobilizing the traditionally apathetic sectors so it is the people who penalize the fraud criminals.” The declarations will be submitted to the National Electoral Council between March 15 and April 15.

* Information Minister claims government is the victim of violence.

The Minister of Information and Communication, Jesse Chacón, denied the government is behind the violent acts which took place on Sunday when a group of political leaders from the socialist party MAS were attacked by a pro-government mob downtown, claiming it was illogical for the government to promote a climate of instability when the first victim of violence is the government itself. The Minister said he suspected the opposition is involved in the events and explained this could be “an opposition strategy in view of the fact that President Hugo Chávez has strengthened his image as a result of his social policies.” Chacón also informed the Minister Council had approved Bs. 50 billion to equip 500 ambulatory clinics for the “Into the Slums” Mission.

* One Chávez to Cuba among Chancellery moves.

President Hugo Chávez has appointed his elder brother, Adán Chávez as the new Ambassador to Cuba, according to statements made by Foreign Affairs Minister, Roy Chaderton. Julio Montes, current Ambassador to Cuba since 2000 will take over as director to the Secretary of the Presidency, Adán Chávez’s current position. Although not official yet, it is well known Chaderton will go to France as Ambassador; candidates for the new Minister include present Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Jorge Valero, current Ambassador to France and former Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Jesús Arnaldo Pérez, and current Ambassador to Spain, and former wife of the Attorney General, Gladys Gutiérrez.

* Former Colombian Minister ratifies President Chávez’s conversation on FARC.

In a local radio interview this Wednesday, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, Guillermo Fernández de Soto, ratified what he said a day earlier about the obvious relation between President Chávez and the guerrilla group FARC in response to statements made by Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister, Roy Chaderton, who said the media had twisted Fernández de Soto’s statements. Fernández de Soto revealed that President Hugo Chávez confessed to Andrés Pastrana, Colombian president at the time that the FARC had asked him to sell them weapons and he had declined. Fernández de Soto said those words revealed a direct relationship between the two when there was an ongoing conflict. He added that the former Minister of Internal Affairs, Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, acting as the government’s envoy visited the distension zone in El Caguan without notifying the Colombian government, and also created numerous difficulties in the peace conversations with the ELN, which led the Colombian government to threaten with declaring him persona “non gratta”. Chaderton had said on Tuesday the local media twisted Guillermo de Soto's statements, "an accusation coming from opposition and media madness in Venezuela."

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