This week’s top story:
Two seeminly unrelated Venezuelan news stories,
First, Student opposition leader gunned down in Venezuela
Venezuelan authorities are investigating the fatal shooting of a student leader who helped organize protests against constitutional amendments proposed by President Hugo Chavez.
Julio Soto, a student leader at the University of Zulia, was killed Wednesday by unidentified gunmen in the western city of Maracaibo.
Local Police Chief Jose Gonzalez said he believes Soto was specifically targeted because the assailants sprayed his vehicle with gunfire and then fled without taking anything.
But Justice Minister Tarek El Aissami said federal authorities have not yet determined if the killing was a politically motivated hit.
Soto was a member of the Copei opposition party. Voters rejected Chavez’s proposed reforms in December.
Education Minister Hector Navarro told Venezuela’s state news agency on Thursday that Chávez wants police to catch those who killed Julio Soto “as soon as possible.”
In the second item, former Defense Minister Gen. Raúl Baduel, who was instrumental in defeating Chávez constitutional reforms last December, was detained by the authorities on Friday and is now barred from leaving the country:
Rafael Tosta, a lawyer for Mr. Baduel, who was released Friday night, said his client was also required to appear before a military tribunal every 15 days and was prohibited from publicly commenting on the accusations, which revolve around $14.5 million in missing funds.
Mr. Baduel, who helped reinstall Mr. Chávez after a brief coup in 2002, has gone from being a hero of the president’s socialist-inspired revolution to one of its outcasts. Mr. Baduel emerged as one of Mr. Chávez most vocal opponents since resigning as defense minister last year.
Here’s the video of his arrest:
Military Attorney, Gen. Ernesto Cedeno, said the former minister has been charged with alleged robbery of National Armed Forces funds and properties during his term of over four years at the helm of the military institution.
In a press conference, Cedeno said the decision was taken in the wake of an investigation stemming from an accusation rather than from political reprisal, as stated by Baduel, who assumed opposition stances after his retirement.
“According to the investigation, there are over $31 billion bolivars missing (about $14.50 million), and out of a sense of justice and honor, he oughts to clear up the situation during his term as Defense minister,” stressed Cedeno.
Baduel was recently shot at while driving his car but managed to get away.
Does this signal a new crackdown on the Venezuelan opposition? Stratfor sees it at attempts to destabilize the opposition:
A few months ago, the loosely organized and previously unpopular opposition parties began making major gains in public opinion as Venezuela’s economy began souring and Chavez’s socialist policies came under fire. With this in mind, Chavez has gone so far as to have the courts ban 272 opposition politicians from running for office, charging them with corruption.
Chavez has also moved to strengthen the central government ahead of the elections, including implementing a series of reforms rejected in the 2006 constitution vote. Most recently, Chavez — with the help of the National Assembly — enacted the Organic Law for the Organization and Management of the Territory, which gives the central government control over local and state-level governments. In doing so, Chavez effectively negates any gains the opposition leaders might achieve if they are able to score seats in the upcoming election.
Why Did the Chicken Cross Party Lines?
Going to hell on a financial handbasketcase: Fidel asesora creación de un nuevo sistema financiero, liderado por Venezuela e Irán Fidel’s an advisor on a new financial system led by Venezuela and Iran (whom, by the way, years ago joined forces to undermine the US dollar).
Nature as a Privileged Minority
Pork and rum? Rum Tax Break Report False, Says Distilled Spirits Council of the United States
There is confusion over a provision in the current financial rescue package which benefits the rum-producing territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. This is not a tax break for rum makers as has been reported in the press and claimed on Capitol Hill.
It is fundamentally a revenue sharing arrangement between the U.S. government and the governments of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, which Congress has voted to extend repeatedly over the last 20 years. Under this provision, the federal government rebates to the governments of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands most of the Federal Excise Tax collected on rum imported to the United States.
Venezuela, France mull nuclear energy deal As IBD blog commented,
Well, why not? /s The U.S. is sending loud signals it doesn’t care about Russian nuclear proliferation in the Caribbean, so the French are taking the cue that this is a ‘for sale’ sign. Or maybe something more negative is going on. France also says it wants Hugo Chavez, that glorious mediator to FARC (who was found to have used FARC contacts not to mediate but funnel cash and arms to the terrorists) now will mediate between the West and Iran. Wonder what he will funnel now? This is insane. Do the French never learn?