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Venezuela: Eight soldiers were allegedly burnt for signing PRR petition in Zulia State

By Sol Maria Castro,

A fire generated in the first military garrison in Zulia State, Fort Mara, resulted in eight Army soldiers badly burnt, two of them with first, second, and third degree burns in over 50% of their bodies. Angel Pedréañez (20), Alcides Martínez (20), Orlando Bustamante (20), César Cábar (23), Abraham Mena (19), Eusebio Reyes (19), Jorge Martí (?) and another unidentified soldier had been sent to a disciplinary cell for participating in El Reafirmazo (the signature collection drive petitioning a presidential recall referendum), and then playing AWOL when pressed by the unit captain when according to Martí, and two of the soldiers’ parents, military officers sprayed gasoline and then ignited the cell. Zulia State commanding officer, General Wilfredo Silva informed the explosion and fire in the cells where the soldiers were was due to an accident originated by a lit cigarette. However, the father of one of the soldiers, Carlos Pedreáñez, fireman for over 37 years in Maracaibo’s Fire Department argued no mattress reaches flames that high because of a lit cigarette. The state governor, Manuel Rosales, has demanded the government and military authorities to investigate the incident.

AN to pass Supreme Court Law via express

MVR legislator, Luis Velásquez Alvaray, claimed the National Assembly would resume the second discussion of the Supreme Court Organic Law this Thursday. Velásquez explained the Law was reduced to 29 articles, 10 of which have already been passed by the pro-government majority in ordinary sessions. According to the articles already passed, the Supreme Court will have 32 justices, and their appointment will be made by a simple majority at the National Assembly.

Consumer prices up in March

Consumer prices in Caracas rose 2.1 percent in March, compared with an increase of 1.6 percent in January and 0.8 percent in March 2003, the Central Bank of Venezuela said in its monthly report. Inflation in the first quarter of the year stood at 6.4 percent. According to the bank, higher prices were the result of a higher exchange rate approved in February. Goods and services under a system of controlled prices increased 1.6 percent, whereas those under the forces of supply and demand rose 2.7 percent.

Carlos Ortega will remain in Costa Rica pending appeal to decision

Manuel Cova, Secretary General of the Venezuelan Workers Confederation, CTV, visited the Costa Rican Embassy in Caracas this Thursday, and stated the invitation the Costa Rican government sent Carlos Ortega, CTC president, to abandon the country is not final, and Ortega will await for the decision in Costa Rica. Cova informed the press Ortega insists he has not violated the conditions of his asylum and is appealing the Costa Rican government’s decision. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Costa Rica asked Ortega to renounce his political asylum status granted in March 2003 after Ortega participated in a political rally in Miami last Saturday.

President Chávez accused in The Hague

On Wednesday, a group of attorneys asked the International Penal Court to investigate President Hugo Chávez for crimes against humanity that would include 20 torture cases, 50 cases of violence, 4 sexual abuse cases, and 40 politically motivated murders starting April 2002. Alfredo Romero, the attorney representing the families of 52 victims of violence in Venezuela, who met with the prosecutors of the IPC in The Hague, said the suit is against President Chávez and his government.

Venezuela accuses the US, the NED, the IACHR, Súmate and the opposition at the OAS

Jorge Valero, Venezuelan Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), denounced in a speech before the OAS Permanent Council that the U.S. government, through the Department of State and the National Endowment for Democracy, (NED), financing Súmate, "is intervening in the country's domestic affairs." He reiterated that the opposition has conspired with the U.S. to oust President Chávez since the coup of 2002, for which they had ample proof. According to John Maisto, U.S. Ambassador to the OAS, Valero's speech was an "outburst marked by all manner of irresponsible and untrue accusations," that only tried to distract the attention of the Permanent Council and the international public opinion from what we all know is the real issue at stake in Venezuela." He insisted that the U.S. supports a "constitutional, democratic, peaceful and electoral" process in Venezuela as a way to solve its political impasse. According to Maisto, Valero's speech should not surprise anybody, after "the vulgar personal insults against my President (George W. Bush)" and "recent, unjust attacks on the independence of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights." In his opinion, the accusations are "a crude attempt to bi-lateralize an issue that concerns the entire international community: The state of democracy in Venezuela."

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