says The Economist,
THREE teenage brothers were kidnapped with the family chauffeur on their way to school in Caracas on February 23rd. Forty days later, the bodies of all four were found outside the city. The discovery produced a wave of outrage, much of it directed against the government of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s socialist president. Since he took office in 1999, the country’s murder rate has almost tripled.
For once, the protests seemed spontaneous, despite the efforts of officials to pin them on their opponents. The opposition denounces–and has tried to topple–Mr Chavez for curbing democracy. But oddly it has failed to take up issues on which the president is most vulnerable, such as corruption, jobs and crime.
Caracas has become South America’s most violent capital. Worse, the police are themselves suspects in many of the killings. The public prosecutor’s office says it is investigating over 6,000 alleged “extra-judicial executions” by police. The brothers were kidnapped by men in police uniform, as was a businessman kidnapped and murdered last month. Two dozen policemen are currently awaiting trial for killing
three students, and wounding three others, who failed to stop at a roadblock.
If you think the poor are protected, you are mistaken:
The vast majority of murders take place in the anonymity of the slums, and never come to public attention. According to some accounts, gang-members have been recruited into the police to enforce political control rather than fight crime.
Thousands Protest Gov’t Response to Crime in Venezuela. Venezuela News and Views has photos of the demonstration:
Publius Pundit has more, and don’t miss Acuéstate por la vida.
This is on the front page of today’s WSJ: Chávez Plans to Take More Control Of Oil Away From Foreign Firms
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is planning a new assault on Big Oil, potentially taking a major step toward nationalization of Venezuela’s oil industry that could hurt oil-company profits, reduce production and put further pressure on global oil prices.
Venezuela’s Congress, made up entirely of Mr. Chávez’s allies, is considering sharply raising taxes and royalties on foreign companies’ operations in the Orinoco River basin, the country’s richest oil deposit.
Forbes has more:
Chavez also wants to seize majority control of the four Orinoco projects and force private companies who run them to accept a minority stake, said the report, citing a top executive at state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PdVSA.
If the latest initiative succeeds, it would eliminate the country’s remaining privately managed oil fields, the report said.
Venezuela, which decided to withdraw from the Community of Andean Nations (a process that will take 5 years, which means that Venezuela must respect for the next five years all customs and trade agreements signed with other member states), now Venezuela Plans to Raise Trade Barriers Against Colombia, Peru (Update: Where Hugo goes, Evo follows). Colombia and Peru belong to the Community of Andean Nations. How will Venezuela keep to “all customs and trade agreements signed with other member states” while raising trade barriers against Colombia and Peru remains to be seen.
(technorati tags Venezuela)