Now that Hugo got his man in Ecuador, and keeping in mind that Venezuela is a major point of transit for drugs smuggled from South America to the United States and Europe, Correa’s coming through:
Ecuador’s leftist President Rafael Correa said Washington must let him open a military base in Miami if the United States wants to keep using an air base on Ecuador’s Pacific coast.
Correa has refused to renew Washington’s lease on the Manta air base, set to expire in 2009. U.S. officials say it is vital for counter-narcotics surveillance operations on Pacific drug-running routes.
“We’ll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami — an Ecuadorean base,” Correa said in an interview during a trip to Italy.
Interesting how he’s saying it in Italy, isn’t it?
The U.S. embassy to Ecuador says on its Web site that anti-narcotics flights from Manta gathered information behind more than 60 percent of illegal drug seizures on the high seas of the Eastern Pacific last year.
It offers a fact-sheet on the base at: http://ecuador.usembassy.gov/topics_of_interest/manta-fol.html
Correa’s learned his soundbites from Hugo:
Correa, a popular leftist economist, had promised to cut off his arm before extending the lease that ends in 2009 and has called U.S. President George W. Bush a “dimwit”.
But Correa, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, told Reuters he believed relations with the United States were “excellent” despite the base closing.
You would think that by now Chavez and Correa could have paid someone to write them a new script.
Meanwhile in Caracas, the police continue to use force against protestors:
Thousands of students have clashed with police in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, during a protest against proposed constitutional changes.
Police fired tear gas at students angry at plans to let President Hugo Chavez stand for indefinite re-election as bottles and stones were thrown.
Among the students’ concerns about the erosion of civil liberties is the fear that the authorities will be allowed to detain citizens without charge during a state of emergency.
Mr Chavez has dismissed criticism of the constitutional changes saying they are needed to accelerate Venezuela’s transition to socialism.
To make matters even worse, the pro-Chavez groups blocking the way included a couple of Deputies of the National Assembly, demonstrating that democracy is not alive and well in Venezuela. As the representatives of the students went into the Capitol building, only the pro-Chavez media was allowed in and even more remarkably a group of pro-Chavez “students” who had nothing to do with the march were also allowed in. Deputy Calixto Ortega won the day in terms of shame, when he said he did not understand why these students required “special” treatment, since the reform has been discussed extensively (!!!) and the students were getting “too much coverage” from the press. I guess the right to express yourself has now become a “special right” in Venezuela.
Venezuela News and Views posts:
The news today was the first dissident student march against the ill-called constitutional reform of Chavez. For a first effort it was impressive, and if chavismo thought that they had it made, they must be pondering new strategies tonight. The fact of the day is that the blockade put to the march by chavismo, comprised of Metropolitan Police and the usual red-shirted hordes failed: the students broke through and had to be received by the National Assembly.
Before relating the details of the day it is important to delve on this point: the students threw away their fears, and confronted chavismo in the streets. But also it is important to note that the chavista hordes were less numerous than usual and certainly not numerous enough that even as they were protected by the police, they could not block the passage to the student march. I do not know which is the most important fact, that chavismo is losing its touch or that the opposition is waking up bravely.
At any rate, the day is very important for two things:
1) visibly the opposition to the constitutional change is much bigger and determined than what anyone was thinking, including chavismo.
2) the way promises were broken, the way the army and the police acted, illustrate clearly that we are already under a repressive regime and that the objective of the constitutional changes are simply to make legal all that is already taking place.
Here’s the Univision report (in Spanish):
The transition to communism is going to roll right along as Chavez consolidates power. That will continue for as long as oil revenuew hold
Venezuela’s finances may quickly collapse if international oil prices stabilize, as revenues of state-owned PDVSA are falling while its costs are on the rise, according to the head of Harvard’s Center for International Development.
“You don’t need to wait for lower oil prices to see Venezuela crash. A stable oil price will do it, you just have to work yourself for 12 months,” professor Ricardo Hausmann told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of a seminar organized by Deutsche Bank.
Hausmann, who served as planning minister for Venezuela between 1992 and 1993, argued that while PDVSA’s oil production declines, internal oil consumption is increasing rapidly.
But gasoline prices in Venezuela are subsidized by the government of President Hugo Chavez, who allows Venezuelans to fill up the tank of their cars for less than $2. Moreover, the Venezuelan currency is fixed at an official rate of 2,150 to the dollar, well below the parallel market level of 5,800 per greenback.
“So if you are substituting exports for domestic sales, that has a huge impact on PDVSA,” the professor said, adding that the production costs of the Venezuelan oil industry is also rising fast.
Early this month, Venezuelans formed long lines to buy gasoline in a major provincial city after outages at a refinery prompted rare worries of supply shortages in the country.
The concert was cancelled, too.
Update: A Colombo-americana’s perspective has the timetable.