Criticism of Hugo Chávez

Criticism of Hugo Chávez

Hugo Chávez is a passionately disputed personality. Supporters view him as a socialist liberator, hailing him for promoting Latin American integration, fighting imperialism and neoliberalism, empowering Venezuela's poor and indigenous communities, and reducing poverty and unemployment. Meanwhile, his opponents see him as an authoritarian or a totalitarian communist, militarist and demagogue who has failed to deliver on his promises, violated fundamental rights, meddled in the affairs of other Latin American countries, threatened Venezuela's economy and democracy, illegally silenced opponents, and destabilized global oil prices.

Background

A career military officer, Chávez founded the leftist Fifth Republic Movement after leading the failed 1992 coup d'état against the democratically-elected, President of Venezuela. Chávez was imprisoned, was later pardoned and released, and was elected President of Venezuela in 1998 on a platform of aiding Venezuela's poor majority. The Constitution of Venezuela was redrafted in 1999 and was approved by popular referendum. Previously presidential terms were limited to five years but under the new constitution these terms were expanded to a six-year term of office and a two-term limit. Chavez was reelected in 2000. Public protests were engendered by Chávez's firing of seven striking executives of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), Venezuela's state-owned oil company. ["BBC News". ("BBC" 7 April 2006). [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/1916181.stm Venezuela president sacks oil executives] Retrieved 21 July 2006] This in turn led to a management lockout which crippled the nation's oil industry and on April 11, 2002 a military coup d'etat removed Chavez from office, with street clashes resulting in injuries and deaths. As a consequence to the coup d'etat, further public protests pressured the military who supported the coup and Chavez was returned to power after 47 hours. Two years later, under provisions provided in the new constitution, a recall referendum in 2004 failed to recall the president. He won re-election in 2006. Chavez proposed a controversial referendum scheduled for December of 2007 that consisted of over 60 changes to the current constitution, including one that would eliminate presidential term limits. The referendum failed by a slim margin of 51%–49%.

Domestic

Critics of Chávez in Venezuela [ [http://www.veneconomy.com/site/files/articulos/artIng1751_1650.pdf The end of the dictatorship Then and Now] VenEconomy Archives (Dec 2001)] [ [http://buscador.eluniversal.com/2004/07/31/en_pol_art_31A479881.shtml Rise and Fall of Hugo Chavez] El Universal July 31 2004] and the United StatesU.S. Department of State (December 1, 2005). [http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/57714.pdf "The State of Democracy in Venezuela".] Accessed 18 June 2006.] claim that the Chávez government is leading Venezuela in an authoritarian direction, abandoning democratic tradition, extending state control over the economy, eliminating dissent, and carrying out "social programs that will set Venezuela back".Shifter, Michael. [http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060501faessay85303/michael-shifter/in-search-of-hugo-ch-vez.html "In Search of Hugo Chávez"] . "Foreign Affairs", May/June 2006. 85:3 "But Chávez's policy ideas are mostly dubious. (Despite the record old profits that are funding social spending, his initiatives have yielded only very modest gains.) His autocratic and megalomaniacal tendencies have undermined governance and the democratic process in Venezuela." "Available data of these measures' effect are mixed and not altogether reliable ... The government has also just changed its methodology for measuring poverty to reflect improvements in nonincome criteria such as access to health services and education, which, it argued, were not reflected in past figures."]

According to "The Boston Globe", the president of the National Assembly's finance commission, Rodrigo Cabezas, says that PDVSA, the state-owned oil company, will generate nearly $19 billion (USD) which will go to social spending in 2006. Another $4.5 billion (USD) will be set aside for antipoverty projects, and PDVSA is depositing about $100 million (USD) a week into a discretionary presidential spending fund. Seventy percent of Chávez’s so-called Fund for National Development is earmarked for infrastructure projects, and 25 percent for social spending, according to Cabezas. Oil revenues and royalties have yielded $50 billion (USD) available for public spending in 2006. The government says this oil windfall is "transforming the lives of the poor".Lakshmanam, Indira A.R. [http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/08/13/critics_slam_venezuelan_oil_windfall_spending?mode=PF Critics slam Venezuelan oil windfall spending.] Boston.com "Boston Globe" (13 August 2006).]

Allegations of electoral fraud and abuse

Following the changes made to Venezuela's Constitution and electoral processes in 1999, Súmate, a Venezuelan, not-for-profit civil association, was founded in 2002. The group is funded in large part by private Venezuelan interests, but also reportedly received up to 6% of their funds via a grant from the US backed National Endowment for Democracy. [ [http://buscador.eluniversal.com/2006/08/08/en_pol_art_08A761317.shtml Foreign Contributions amount to 6 per cent of funds.] "El Universal" (8 August 2006).] [ [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c108:H.+Res.+867: Expressing support for the work of the National Endowment for Democracy in Venezuela.] Resolution in the US House of Representatives "the National Endowment for Democracy made a grant to Sumate in the amount of $53,400 for a voter education project in Venezuela". (20 November 2004).] Súmate began work towards a constitutional referendum to recall Chávez. During a 2004 visit to Washington to meet U.S. government officials including President George W. Bush, Súmate's Vice-President María Corina Machado alleged that Chávez had "profoundly damaged Venezuela's democratic institutions". [ [http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0705/p06s01-woam.html Anti-Chávez leader under fire] Christian Science Monitor. July 05, 2005 edition ] She stated that she was motivated to campaign for the referendum "to dissipate tensions before they built up", believing that it was "a choice of ballots over bullets."Boustany, Nora. [http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/washingtonpost/access/660702441.html?dids=660702441:660702441&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&fmac=&date=Jul+9%2C+2004&author=Nora+Boustany&desc=Signing+On+To+Challenge+Hugo+Chavez Signing On To Challenge Hugo Chavez.] The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Jul 9, 2004. p. A.15] |
The recall vote was held on August 15, 2004. A record number of voters turned out to defeat the recall attempt with a 59% "no" vote. ["BBC News". ("BBC", 21 Sep 2004). [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3587184.stm "Venezuelan Audit Confirms Victory"] . Retrieved 05 Nov 2005.] The Carter Center "concluded the results were accurate", [Carter Center (2005). [http://www.cartercenter.org/documents/2020.pdf Observing the Venezuela Presidential Recall Referendum: Comprehensive Report.] Accessed 25 January 2006.] and the Organization of American States certified that their observers had not found any element of fraud in the process. [ [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,129037,00.html Chavez Claims Victory in Recall Vote.] Fox News (16 August 2004). Retrieved 31 Aug 2006] European Union observers did not oversee the elections, saying too many restrictions were put on their participation by the Chávez administration. [de Cordoba, Jose and Luhnow, David. "Venezuelans Rush to Vote on Chavez: Polarized Nation Decides Whether to Recall President After Years of Political Rifts". "Wall Street Journal". (Eastern edition). New York, NY: Aug 16, 2004. pg. A11.]

The referendum results were questioned by some sources in the United States. A Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB) exit poll predicted that Chávez would lose by 20%, but the election results showed him to have won by 20%. Schoen commented, "I think it was a massive fraud".Barone, M. [http://www.usnews.com/usnews/opinion/baroneweb/mb_040820.htm "Exit polls in Venezuela".] "U.S. News" & "World Report." August 20, 2004.] "US News and World Report" offered an analysis of the polls, indicating "very good reason to believe that the (Penn Schoen) exit poll had the result right, and that Chávez's election officials - and Carter and the American media - got it wrong". The "Associated Press" says that PSB used Súmate volunteers for fieldwork, and its results contradicted five other opposition exit polls. Publication or broadcast of exit polls was banned during the vote by electoral authorities, but results of the PSB poll went out to media outlets and opposition offices several hours before polls closed. ["Associated Press" ("AP" 19 Aug 2004). [http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2004/08/296520.html U.S. Poll Firm in Hot Water in Venezuela.] "Associated Press", Accessed 9 June 2006.]

Regarding the Venezuelan recall referendum of 2004, according to the Center for Security Policy, "the [Hugo Chávez] regime delayed and obstructed the recall referendum process at every turn. Once the regime was forced to submit to such a referendum, moreover, it used a fraud-filled voting process to ensure victory. The government did everything—including granting citizenship to half a million illegal aliens in a crude vote-buying scheme and “migrating” existing voters away from their local election office—to fix the results in its favor. The outcome was then affirmed and legitimated by ex-President Jimmy Carter’s near-unconditional support." "Jimmy Carter ignored pleas from the opposition and publicly endorsed the results, despite the fact that the government reneged on its agreement to carry out an audit of the results."Waller, J. Michael. [http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/What_to_Do.pdf What To Do About Venezuela.] Center for Security Policy. May 2005.] The Carter Center claims to have carried out the audit. [ "Carter Center" [http://www.cartercenter.org/documents/2020.pdf Observing the Venezuela Presidential Recall Referendum COMPREHENSIVE REPORT.] PDF. p. 90. Retrieved 11 Aug 2006.]

Economist and former planning minister of Venezuela ["Harvard Press Gazette" [http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2005/10.20/09-hausman.html Director of Center for International Development is named] Retrieved 29 Aug 2006] Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard University and Roberto Rigobón of the MIT Sloan School of Management performed a statistical analysis at Súmate's request, analyzing how fraud could have occurred during the referendum. They concluded that the vote samples audited by the government were not a random representation of all precincts, noting that the CNE had "refused to use the random number generating program offered by the Carter Center for the August 18th audit and instead used its own program installed in its own computer and initialed with their own seed." They also noted that opposition witnesses and international observers were not allowed near the computer hub on election day.Weisbrot M, Rosnick D, Tucker T (September 20,2004). [http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/venezuela_2004_09.pdf Black Swans, Conspiracy Theories, and the Quixotic Search for Fraud: A Look at Hausmann and Rigobón's Analysis of Venezuela's Referendum Vote] . "CEPR: Center for Economic and Policy Research". Accessed 22 November 2007.] Juan Francisco Alonso (September 06 , 2004). [http://www.eluniversal.com/2004/09/06/en_pol_art_06A489963.shtml Súmate: There is a 99% probability of fraud in referendum] . "El Universal". Accessed 6 August 2006. ]

The Carter Center investigated the statistical study and found that "none of the statistical studies examined here present evidence that fraud occurred during the 2004 presidential recall referendum". ["Carter Center" [http://www.cartercenter.org/documents/2020.pdf Observing theVenezuela Presidential Recall Referendum COMPREHENSIVE REPORT.] PDF p. 130. Retrieved 11 Aug 2006.] They also say they used a random number generator that the CNE provided, and that the opposition was invited but declined to participate in the event. [ "Carter Center" PDFlink| [http://www.cartercenter.org/documents/2020.pdf Observing theVenezuela Presidential Recall Referendum COMPREHENSIVE REPORT.] |18.2 MB p. 90. Retrieved 11 Aug 2006.] Economist Mark Weisbrot of the Center For Economic Policy and Research, a liberal think tank [Dorell, O. (4/12/2005). [http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/retirement/2005-04-12-benefits-calculators_x.htm Benefit estimates depend on who calculates them.] "USA Today". Accessed 30 June 2006.] based in Washington, reports that other economists have called the Harvard/MIT assumptions about how the alleged fraud was conducted unlikely.Weisbrot M, Rosnick D, Tucker T (September 20,2004). [http://www.cepr.net/publications/venezuela_2004_09.htm Black Swans, Conspiracy Theories, and the Quixotic Search for Fraud: A Look at Hausmann and Rigobón's Analysis of Venezuela's Referendum Vote] . "CEPR: Center for Economic and Policy Research". Accessed 30 June 2006. ]

"Súmate" says the sample for the audit was selected by the National Electoral Council, and was not of sufficient size to be statistically reliable. [ [http://web.sumate.org/documentos/PrelimRRP1-2%20main%20text2.pdf Preliminary Report: The Presidential Recall Referendum.] Súmate (September 7, 2004). Accessed 8 August 2006.]

The U.S. Department of State accepted that the results of the audit were "consistent with the results announced by (Venezuela's) National Electoral Council." [Pravda. [http://english.pravda.ru/world/americas/25-08-2004/6685-chavez-0 Venezuelan opposition seeks revenge as audits confirm Chavez’s victory] Retrieved August 5, 2006] [U.S. Department of State [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2004/35296.htm Daily Press Briefing for August 17 -- Transcript] Retrieved August 5, 2006] John Maisto, U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States, added that the results of the referendum "speak for themselves", saying that the quest for Venezuelan democracy "does not end with a single electoral process or referendum" and urging the "democratically elected government of Venezuela to address and recognize the legitimate concerns, rights, and aspirations of all of its citizens". [ [http://usinfo.state.gov/wh/Archive/2004/Sep/14-795264.html U.S. Urges Venezuela to Choose "Peaceful Path" to Democracy] Retrieved August 6, 2006] Regarding the recall effort, in testimony before the U.S. Senate, Maisto also pointed out that Carter had said that " 'expression of the citizen must be privileged over excessive technicalities' in resolving issues surrounding the tabulation of the signatures". [Maisto, John F. [http://www.senate.gov/~foreign/testimony/2004/MaistoTestimony040624.pdf STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR JOHN F. MAISTO.] United States Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, June 24, 2004.]

After the referendum failed to revoke Chávez's mandate, Chávez's government charged the founders of Súmate with treason and conspiracy for receiving foreign funds, earmarked for voter education, from the United States Department of State through the National Endowment for Democracy, triggering commentary from human rights organizations and the U.S. government. [Human Rights Watch. [http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/07/08/venezu11299.htm Venezuela: Court Orders Trial of Civil Society Leaders.] Accessed 8 June 2006.] [World Movement for Democracy. [http://www.wmd.org/democracyalerts/july1504.html Democracy Activists in Venezuela Threatened.] (July 16, 2004) Accessed 8 June 2006.] [Embassy of the United States, Venezuela (July 8, 2005). [http://caracas.usembassy.gov/wwwh2678.html "Súmate Trial Decision".] Accessed 18 June 2006.] The trial has been postponed several times.

Authoritarian rule and power consolidation

In spite of a presidential term limit of 6 years, Chávez has suggested that he would like to remain in power for 25 years,The Economist, (June 8, 2006), [http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=7037554 "Venezuela's foreign policy: Bruised but unbowed,"] "The Economist," Accessed 20 June 2006.] a claim he denies as a misinterpretation of his intent. [Holland, Alex. ("Venezuela Analysis" 21 Feb 2006). [http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1901 Chavez Threatens Opposition with Referendum on Third Term in Office] . Retrieved 21 Jun 2006. Chávez argued that this was necessary as the job of rebuilding Venezuela was so big that it could not be done in 5 years. At other times Chávez has said that this project will not be finished until 2021. Chávez has also said he will retire from politics in 2021. This has led many to conclude that Chávez wants to be President until 2021. Chávez has denied this, though.] However he recently proposed a constitutionally binding referendum to allow for a third term. [ Holland, Alex. ("Venezuela Analysis" 21 Feb 2006). [http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1901 Chavez Threatens Opposition with Referendum on Third Term in Office] . Retrieved 21 Jun 2006. “I might sign a decree calling for a popular referendum - Do you agree that Chavez should run for a third term in 2013?”] According to an article in "The Washington Post", a program called "Mission Identity" to fast track voter registration of immigrants to Venezuela—including Chávez supporters benefiting from his subsidies—has been put in place prior to the 2006 presidential elections.Bronstein, H. (June 14, 2006), [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/14/AR2006061400486.html "Colombians in Venezuela thank Chavez for new life",] "Washington Post", Accessed 22 June 2006. Also available [http://www.boston.com/news/world/latinamerica/articles/2006/06/14/colombians_in_venezuela_thank_chavez_for_new_life/ here.] ] A constitutional referendum was called for the December 2nd to amend 69 articles of the Venezuelan constitution. Among these controversial changes included an amendment to abolish presidential term limits. The referendum failed to pass by a narrow margin.

According to the US State Department, Chávez has abandoned democratic traditions, and placed democracy in peril with unchecked concentration of power, political persecution, and intimidation. "Foreign Affairs Magazine" says that, to his critics, Chávez is a power-hungry dictator whose authoritarian vision and policies are a formidable menace to his people, with autocratic and megalomaniacal tendencies. The Center for Security Policy calls Chávez a "self-absorbed, unstable strongman" who has found "common cause with terrorists and the regimes that support them."Waller, J. Michael. [http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/What_to_Do.pdf What To Do About Venezuela.] Center for Security Policy. May 2005.]

"Foreign Policy Magazine" says that Chávez has "updated tyranny for today" and "is practicing a new style of authoritarianism".Corrales, Javier. [http://www.keepmedia.com/pubs/ForeignPolicy/2006/01/01/1111144/print Hugo Boss.] "Foreign Policy" (Jan 1, 2006).] The article adds that Chávez has achieved absolute control of all state institutions that might check his power, and unrivaled political control. They also note that, more importantly, "Chávez commands the institute that supervises elections, the National Electoral Council" and say, "If democracy requires checks on the power of incumbents, Venezuela doesn't come close."

In testimony before the U.S. Senate, the South American Project Director for the Center for Strategic International Studies characterized Venezuela's democracy as "now in intensive care", saying that Chávez's government has weakened the foundations of Venezuela's democracy by systematically hacking away at the institutional checks on Chávez's authority". The testimony also included statements that the Chávez government had crossed the line by "selectively arresting opposition leaders, torturing some members of the opposition (according to human rights organizations) and encouraging, if not directing, its squads of Bolivarian Circles to beat up members of Congress and intimidate voters—all with impunity". [Diaz, Miguel. [http://www.senate.gov/~foreign/testimony/2004/DiazTestimony040624.pdf “The Threat to Democracy in Venezuela and its Implications for the Region and the United States”.] June 24, 2004.] Amnesty International reports that Venezuela lacks an independent and impartial judiciary.Amnesty International (2006). [http://web.amnesty.org/report2006/ven-summary-eng "AI Report 2006: Venezuela".] Accessed 22 June 2006.]

Bureaucracy

"Foreign Policy Magazine" says that Chávez is "rewriting the manual on how to be a modern-day authoritarian" by means which include allowing the bureaucracy to decay "with one exception: the offices that count votes" where he has assigned "the best minds and the brightest "técnicos". "Perhaps the best evidence that Chávez is fostering bureaucratic chaos is cabinet turnover. It is impossible to have coherent policies when ministers don't stay long enough to decorate their offices." In August, 2006, following reported differences with Chávez during his recent international tour, Presidential Secretary Delcy Rodríguez was replaced by Adán Chávez, the brother of Hugo Chávez. Adán Chávez had previously been the ambassador to Cuba. [ [http://www.eluniversal.com/2006/08/08/pol_art_08108C.shtml Adán Chávez asume Secretaría de la Presidencia.] "El Universal" (August 8, 2006).] The "Charlotte Observer" reports that the author of several books on Chávez, Alberto Garrido, argues "A much more hard-line phase [of Chávez rule] is beginning and Chávez needs a reliable and radical team around him." Adán is older than his brother and was involved with pro-guerrilla groups before Hugo. [Gunson, Phil. [http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/news/nation/15252289.htm Chávez: Castro sent me a note.] "The Charlotte Observer" (11 August 2006).]

The head of the Venezuelan Internationalists' Association described the August 2006 appointment of Nicolás Maduro to Foreign Minister as "choosing officials lacking any training at all," saying "the current government thinks that there is no need to have much knowledge, studies, any experience in international affairs or negotiation ability." [ [http://buscador.eluniversal.com/2006/08/11/en_pol_art_11A763789.shtml Internationalists regret appointment of new Foreign Minister.] "El Universal" (11 August 2006).] "El Universal" reports that critics say his appointment "exacerbates the lack of professionalism and the politicization of Venezuelan diplomacy" and "reinforces the fact that the legislative branch of the Venezuelan government 'is just an extension of the executive power'." Former Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations Milos Alcalay said "Maduro ... has no experience at all in foreign affairs and is to take office as a kind of secretary to President Hugo Chávez. He just lacks the useful training in domestic and foreign policy to project his image." Alcalay said an experienced Minister was needed "to bring an end to the growing radical stance of Venezuelan President." [Diaz, Sara Carolina. [http://buscador.eluniversal.com/2006/08/11/en_pol_art_11A763599.shtml "Venezuelan diplomacy has become increasingly politicized".] "El Universal" (11 August 2006).]

Human rights

Human Rights Watch expressed concern in a personal letter to Chávez over the safety of human rights defenders in Venezuela. [ Human Rights Watch (April 19, 2002). [http://www.hrw.org/press/2002/04/chavez0419-ltr.htm Safety of Human Rights Defenders in Venezuela.] ] Human rights organization Amnesty International has catalogued a number of human rights violations under Chávez's administration.Amnesty International. (AI, 2005). [http://web.amnesty.org/report2005/ven-summary-eng "AI Summary Report 2005: Venezuela".] Retrieved 01 Nov 2005.] As of December 2004, Amnesty International had documented at least 14 deaths and at least 200 wounded during confrontations between anti-Chávez demonstrators and National Guard, police, and other security personnel in February and March 2004.

In 2003, family members of some people involved in the events of April 11, 2002, represented by a team of lawyers from Venezuela and Spain, filed a lawsuit at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague against Chávez and several of his government officials for crimes against humanity. The lawsuit was first filed in Spain on January 28, 2003, but it was decided by Judge Fernando Andreu of the National Audience that the Spanish courts would not be able to try Chávez because of his position as an acting President. However, the Spanish State's Attorney and the magistrates of the Penal Court of Appeals stated that the lawsuit was well founded and the case was consequently forwarded to the ICC (The International Criminal Court June 2003, Victims Compensation; Vol. 19, No. 6). [No Peace Without Justice. [http://www.npwj.org/?q=node/1545 "Venezuela's Hugo Chavez investigated by the International Criminal Court."] Accessed 23 May 2006.] On February 9, 2006 Luis Moreno Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, concluded that the requirements to continue the investigation were not satisfied according to the Rome Statute. The report stated that there were numerous instances where the information supplied was not sufficient to analyze with any degree verifiability. Some allegations were lacking dates, locations or names of alleged victims. On lists of alleged murder victims, some names were repeated. The report continued in a similar vein, stating that "in order to constitute a crime against humanity ... particular acts must have been committed ... Even a generous evaluation of the information provided, the available information did not provide a reasonable basis to believe that the requirement(s)... had been met." The report said that this conclusion could be reconsidered in the light of new evidence. [International Criminal Court. [http://www.icc-cpi.int/library/organs/otp/OTP_letter_to_senders_re_Venezuela_9_February_2006.pdf "re: Venezuela".] Accessed 9 February 2006.]

Chávez was criticized when he was elected president for inviting former dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez, who was living in exile in Spain, to Venezuela to attend Chávez's inauguration. The "Associated Press" reported that the move "provoked an outcry among older Venezuelans who remembered the brutal side of his dictatorship" and political repression. ["Associated Press" (September 22, 2001). "Marcos Perez Jimenez Dies at 87; General, Venezuelan Dictator." "Washington Post", p. B06. Available at [http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/venezuela/perez-jimenez-obituary.htm] . Accessed August 13, 2006.]

Free speech

As opposition to Chávez became more organized, owners, managers, commentators, and other high-ranking personnel affiliated with private mainstream television networks and most major mainstream newspapers stated their opposition to the Chávez administration. These media use their legal right of freedom of expression to accuse the Chávez administration of intimidation, censorship, and lack of freedom of expression. Chávez in turn alleges that the owners of these networks have primary allegiance to Venezuela's elite and U.S/Canadian interests.

During the Venezuelan coup attempt of 2002, domestic and international observers criticized the Government for excessive abuse of its right to call national broadcasts requiring all broadcast media to cease scheduled programming and transmit the broadcasts in their entirety. Between April 9 and 11, the government required all radio and TV stations to transmit numerous speeches by President Chávez, other government officials, and other programming favorable to the Government, even shutting the signals of the stations who refused, in an attempt to block coverage of the demonstrations and ensuing violence.U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (March 31, 2003). [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18348.htm Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2002.] Accessed 4 Aug 2006.] [ [http://www.freemedia.at/cms/ipi/freedom_detail.html?country=/KW0001/KW0002/KW0032/&year=2002 Venezuela - 2002 World Press Freedom Review] "International Press Institute" Accessed 14 August 2006.] [ [http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=6230 Venezuela - 2003 Annual Report] Reporters Without Borders Accessed 29 May 2007] [ [http://www.cpj.org/attacks02/americas02/ven.html Attacks on the Press 2002] "Committee to Protect Journalists" Accessed 29 May 2007] For two days before the attempted coup, the private television media channels in Venezuela cancelled regular programming and ran constant coverage of the opposition riots and disturbances while calling for people to attend the April 12 riot that was intended to overthrow the government.On the day of the march, RCTV allowed the leader of the march to call on the attendees to change route and head to the presidential palace. The march had been allowed by the government on the condition that it would follow a prearranged route. The oppositon supporters came under sniper fire after the change of direction, which was alleged to be from waiting pro-government forces, and used as a justification for the coup, although only the leadership of the opposition march seems to have been aware ahead of time of the change of route. Allegations of coordinating the coup via television were reinforced when several major figures involved in the abortive coup publicly thanked major TV channels for their participation prior to the return of Chavez. [ [http://www.medialens.org/alerts/07/070613_chavez_and_rctv.php Media Alert: Chavez And Rctv - Tilting The Balance Against 'The Bad Guy' ] ] [ [http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1283 A Case Study of Media Concentration and Power in Venezuela | venezuelanalysis.com ] ] [ [http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/06/01/1607/ Venezuela and the Media: Fact and Fiction - CommonDreams.org ] ]

The freedom of the press is seriously threatened in Venezuela according to various journalism organizations and NGOs. According to the International Press Institute, the Inter-American Press Association and Human Rights Watch, the administration of President Hugo Chávez tightened its grip on the press in 2005, while groups close to the government, including the Bolivarian Circles, hampered journalists’ ability to report. President Chávez’s government introduced harsher penalties for libel, defamation and insult, which resulted in a growing number of journalists appearing before the courts. The National Assembly approved by a simple majority the controversial "Law on the Social Responsibility of Radio and Television", or gag law, which, in effect, makes the private radio and television system part of the state, which controls its schedules, programs and content. [Haas, Nayeli Urquiza Haas. [http://www.freemedia.at/cms/ipi/freedom_detail.html?country=/KW0001/KW0002/KW0032/&year=2005 Venezuela - 2005 World Press Freedom Review.] "International Press Institute". Accessed 6 August 2006.] [ [http://www.sipiapa.org/pulications/report_venezuela2005.cfm Venezuela - Country by Country Report.] "Inter-American Press Association". Accessed 6 August 2006.] [Green, Eric. [http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2006&m=June&x=200606121239531xeneerg0.5350153 Global Press Groups Condemn Attacks on Journalists in Americas.] "Bureau of International Information Programs, United States Department of State". Accessed 6 August 2006.] [ [http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/03/24/venezu10368.htm Venezuela: Curbs on Free Expression Tightened] "Human Rights Watch" Accessed 08 May 2006.]

President Chávez announced that the operating license for RCTV—Venezuela's second largest TV channel which has been broadcasting for 53 years—will not be renewed. [BBC NEWS. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6215815.stm Chavez to shut down opposition TV.] (29 December2006).] The licence expired on 27 May 2007.Cite web|url=http://english.eluniversal.com/2006/12/29/en_pol_art_29A819711.shtml|title=Chávez refuses to renew broadcasting license to 53-year-old TV network|accessdate=2007-01-04|publisher=El Universal|date=2006-12-28] He publicly stated: "It runs out in March" [sic] ". So it's better that you go and prepare your suitcase and look around for what you're going to do in March... There will be no new operating license for this coupist TV channel called RCTV. The operating license is over... So go and turn off the equipment," [BBC Mundo. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/latin_america/newsid_6215000/6215575.stm Chávez niega licencia a televisora privada.] (28 December2006).es icon] RCTV supported a strike against Chávez in 2003. Reporters in Venezuela have expressed their concern to international media, stating that such a stance is a threat to freedom of speech.

The freedom of the press is secured by two key clauses in Chávez's Constitution of Venezuela of 1999. The right to freedom of expression is set out in Article 57 and Article 58 of the Constitution. The right to express opinions freely without censorship (Article 57) and the right to reply (Article 58) are generally in line with international standards. However, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed concern about Article 58 of the Constitution, which provides that "Everyone has the right to timely, truthful, impartial and uncensored information." The Commission took issue with the right to "truthful and timely" information arguing that this is "a kind of prior censorship prohibited in the American Convention on Human Rights." [Canton, Santiago A. [http://cidh.oas.org/Comunicados/English/2002/Press5.02.htm Preliminary Evaluation by the IACHR of the Visit to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.] "Inter-American Commission on Human Rights". Accessed 6 August 2006.]

In 2006, Reporters Without Borders ranked Venezuela 115th out of 168 countries in its global press freedom listing, sharply down from the last year's rating of 90th. [ [http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=19388 Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006.] "Reporters Without Borders". Accessed 11 December 2006.] Freedom House currently rates Venezuela as "Partly Free" according to its latest survey. [ [http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=251&year=2006 Venezuela (2006).] "Freedom House". Accessed 29 May 2007.] The U.S. Senate also passed a resolution condemning the closure of RCTV. [cite news |title= Chavez closes opposition TV station; thousands protest |url= http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/05/28/venezuela.protest/index.html |publisher= CNN |date=2007-05-28|accessdate=2007-05-28 ]

Economic policy

Domestically, Chávez has launched the Bolivarian Missions: a series of social programs whose stated goals are to combat disease, illiteracy, malnutrition, poverty, and other social ills. The Missions have entailed, among other things, the launching of massive government anti-poverty initiatives, [Niemeyer, p. 36. "The World Bank asserted on 7th October 2003 that Latin America's biggest issue is the fight against poverty. The Bolivarian Revolution seems to be the only process worldwide which is taking this problem seriously and is effectively tackling poverty with government programs. The financing of these programs by spending a good portion of the Nation's GDP (0.2% in August 2003 alone) ... "] [UNICEF. (UNICEF, 2005). [http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/files/IPlusQuarterlyeNewsletterJanMarch2005.pdf "Venezuela’s Barrio Adentro: A Model of Universal Primary Health Care"] . Retrieved 15 Oct 2005. UNICEF, p. 2. "Barrio Adentro" ... is part and parcel of the government's longterm poverty-reduction and social inclusion strategy to achieve and surpass the Millennium Development Goals."] the construction of thousands of free medical doctor's offices for the poor, [Kuiper, Jeroen. ("Venezuela Analysis", 28 Jul 2005). [http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1510 Barrio Adentro II: Victim of its Own Success] . Retrieved 18 October 2005. "After spreading primary health care through the "Mision Barrio Adentro" all over Venezuela in just two years, by constructing thousands of "consultorios" (doctor's offices) ... "] the institution of educational campaigns that have reportedly made more than one million adult Venezuelans literate, [Niemeyer, pp. 14-15. "With high levels of illiteracy to be found amongst the population the alphabetisation campaign called 'Mission Robinson' was brought into action. It has already taught more than a million people how to read and write and gained widespread support. Older people participate while youngsters enjoy access to University through a program guaranteeing equal access to Universities. This program is referred to as 'Mission Sucre'."] [Burbach, Roger. ("CounterPunch", 7 Nov 2005). [http://www.counterpunch.org/burbach11082005.html "Bush Versus Chavez"] . Retrieved 08 Nov 2005.] and the enactment of food [Niemeyer, p. 15. "Probably the most important achievement can be seen in the state run supermarkets, referred to as 'Mercal' which provide the basic necessities at affordable prices which are in many cases more than 30 percent cheaper than in regular shops."] and housing subsidies. ["Venezuela Analysis", [http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1704 "Chavez Disappointed with His Government’s Public Housing Achievements"] . " ... government is investing $2.8 billion in the housing program ... According to a report that Julio Montes, the Minister of Housing and Habitat, presented, only 43,000 homes had been constructed so far this year, while the government’s goal is to construct at least 120,000."]

Chávez was first elected on an anti-corruption platform and on promises of redistributing wealth to the poor, but Michael Shifter of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service says that "despite record oil profits that are funding social spending, his initiatives have yielded only very modest gains", and "The Economist" reports that his policies are most vulnerable in the areas of corruption, jobs and crime.The Economist, (April 20, 2006), [http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=6832058 "Venezuela: Crimes and misdemeanours".] "The Economist". Accessed 26 June 2006.]

During Chávez's presidency from 1999 to 2004, per-capita GDP dropped overall by 1–2 %,Economist (June 2003) [http://web.archive.org/web/20030604104250/http://economist.com/countries/Venezuela/profile.cfm?folder=Profile-FactSheet "Country Briefings: Venezuela Factsheet".] "The Economist". Accessed June 4, 2003.] with the overall poor performance largely due to the 24.9% gdp drop over 2003 associated with the opposition-backed oil strike. [http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/2007] but with the help of rising oil prices, the end of the oil strike, and strong consumption growth, recent economic activity under Chávez has been robust. GDP growth rates were 18% in 2004,The Economist (Feb 16, 2006), [http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=5526589 Venezuela: Mission Impossible,] "The Economist", Retrieved 22 June 2006.] 9% in 2005, [http://english.eluniversal.com/2006/08/09/en_eco_art_09A762255.shtml Imported goods are cheaper, BCV acknowledges.] "El Universal" (August 9, 2006).] and 9.6% in the first half of 2006, with the private sector growing at a 10.3% clip."Banco Central de Venezuela" ("BCV" 15 Aug 2006). [http://www.bcv.org.ve/c4/notasprensa.asp?Codigo=4943&Operacion=2&Sec=False Actividad económica crece en 9,6% durante el primer semestre de 2006] Retrieved 16 Aug 2006 es icon "Este resultado, unido al aumento de 9,9% observado en el primer trimestre, ubica el crecimiento del primer semestre en 9,6%." "Desde el punto de vista institucional, el sector público creció en 4,6% y el privado en 10,3%." ""La inversión bruta fija continuó su ritmo expansivo, alcanzando niveles superiores a los observados en toda la serie desde el año 1997."] From 2004 to the first half of 2006, non-petroleum sectors of the economy showed growth rates greater than 10%. ["El Universal (2006) [http://economia.eluniversal.com/2006/05/18/PIB-TRIMESTRAL-May-2006g.jpgMovimiento del producto interno bruto] . Retrieved 25 Jun 2006] Some economists argue that this subsidized growth could stop if oil prices decline,Bronstein, H. (June 14, 2006), [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/14/AR2006061400486.html "Colombians in Venezuela thank Chavez for new life",] "Washington Post", Accessed 22 June 2006.] and some social scientists and economists claim that the government's reported poverty figures have not fallen in proportion to the country's vast oil revenues in the last two years. The president of a private Venezuelan research firm which documented 55% real income growth among the poorest sectors of society said that, although his surveys showed rising incomes because of subsidies and grants, the number of people in the worst living conditions has grown. "The poor of Venezuela are living much better lately and have increased their purchasing power . . . [but] without being able to improve their housing, education level, and social mobility," he said. "Rather than help [the poor] become stakeholders in the economic system, what [the government has] done is distribute as much oil wealth as possible in missions and social programs."Lakshmanam, Indira A.R. [http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/08/13/critics_slam_venezuelan_oil_windfall_spending?mode=PF Critics slam Venezuelan oil windfall spending.] Boston.com "Boston Globe" (13 August 2006).]

According to government figures, unemployment has dropped by 6.9% since the start of Chávez's presidency. ["Instituto Nacional de Estadistica".("INE", Jan 1999) [http://www.ine.gov.ve/hogares/Hogares2.asp?Periodo=M&Ano=1999&R_Desde=Ene&R_Hasta=EneIndicadores Globales de Fuerza de Trabajo] . Retrieved 13 Jun 2006."Taza de Desocupacion 16.6%" es icon] ["Instituto Nacional de Estadistica".("INE", April 2006) [http://www.ine.gov.ve/hogares/Hogares2.asp?Periodo=M&Ano=2006&R_Desde=Abr&R_Hasta=Jun Globales de Fuerza de Trabajo] . Retrieved 13 Jun 2006."Taza de Desocupacion 9.7%" es icon] Despite high oil revenues, Venezuela's rate of unemployment remains at 10% in February 2006 from the 2003 high of 20%, which occurred during a two-month strike and business lockout that shut down the country's oil industry, crippling the economy in an attempt to drive Chavez from power by laying the blame for the chaos at his doorstep. However, some economists argue that recent job creation may not be permanent, for it relies on an expanded public payroll that will become unaffordable if oil prices fall. Critics also question the government's reported poverty figures, based on contradictory statistics and definitions, which they say have not fallen enough considering the country's vast oil revenues in the last two years.The Economist (Feb 16, 2006), [http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=5526589 Venezuela: Mission Impossible.] "The Economist". Retrieved 22 June 2006.] "The Economist" reports that both poverty and unemployment figures under Chávez have not seen significant improvement and that official corruption under his government continues to be rampant, [The Economist (Mar 30 2006), [http://www.economist.com/World/la/displayStory.cfm?story_id=6749208 "Venezuela: The sickly stench of corruption".] "The Economist. Accessed 19 June 2006.] and point to the 1-2% drop in Venezuela's per-capita GDP early in Chávez's term, before the 2004 surge in oil prices.Economist (June 2003). [http://web.archive.org/web/20030604104250/http://economist.com/countries/Venezuela/profile.cfm?folder=Profile-FactSheet "Country Briefings: Venezuela Factsheet".] "The Economist". Accessed June 4, 2003.] According to "The Boston Globe", critics say the government defines "informal workers, such as street vendors, as employed, and exclud [es] adults who are studying in missions from unemployment numbers." When the president of the Venezuelan National Statistics Institute released numbers in 2005 which showed that poverty had actually risen by more than 10 points under Chávez (to 53% in 2004, just after the strike), Chávez called for a new measure of poverty, defining a "social well-being index". Under this new definition, poverty registers at 40 percent. The minimum wage in Venezuela in July 2006 covered only 65 percent of the cost of the basic food basket. [ [http://english.eluniversal.com/2006/08/02/en_eco_art_02A758309.shtml Food basket heightens.] "El Universal" (August 2, 2006).]

The Heritage Foundation's, a conservative public policy analysis group, Index of Economic Freedom ranked Venezuela 152 out of 157 countries, among the 12 economies of the world labelled "repressed". [ Heritage Foundation (2006), [http://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/country.cfm?id=Venezuela "2006 Index of Economic Freedom: Venezuela".] Accessed 27 June 2006.]

The government and independent observers refute the charges of economic decline by pointing out that the renewed economic growth of the last two years has brought rapid reductions in poverty, especially when one considers the vast expansion of non-cash income represented by subsidized food distribution and other social programs.Weisbrot, M., Sandoval, L., and Rosnick, D. (2006), [http://www.cepr.net/publications/venezuelan_poverty_rates_2006_05.pdf "Poverty Rates In Venezuela: Getting The Numbers Right".] "Center for Economic and Policy Research". Accessed May 31, 2006.]

At the same time, "The Economist" opines that the administration's unwillingness to utilize private sector resources has resulted in a crumbling public infrastructure and a deficit in housing.The Economist (Feb 16, 2006). [http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=5526589 Venezuela: Mission Impossible.] "The Economist", Retrieved 22 June 2006.] Critics cite the many public hospitals that lack basic medicine and hygienic supplies. They also question the motives behind the Bolivarian Missions' regular cash and in-kind payments to the millions of poor Venezuelans enrolling in their social programs. With many enrollees participating in more than one Mission simultaneously, receiving a steady and unearned income, critics worry that work ethic will be corrupted and enrollees will be predisposed to support and vote for Chávez. Supporters would respond that the opposition was not similarly worried about economic policy influencing political allegiances in the years when the current Venezuelan opposition promoted policies that re-distributed income upward, also notable was the opposition's 2006 presidential candidate Manual Rosales who promoted a policy which would have scrapped the social missions and paid a stipend of $250 - $450 per month directly to the poor, a rate exceeding the nations average wage, with no requirement for work, study or community involvement at all.

According to Venezuela's "El Universal", one of the Chávez administration's outstanding weaknesses is the failure to meet its goals of construction of housing. Chávez promised to build 150,000 houses in 2006, but in the first half of the year, completed only 24 percent of that target, with 35,000 houses. [ [http://english.eluniversal.com/2006/07/31/en_eco_art_31A756381.shtml Chávez' Government has built 24 percent of scheduled houses.] "El Universal" (July 31, 2006).]

Venezuela's non-traditional exports decreased by 20 percent in the first quarter of 2006. The drop was attributed to uncertain regulations on exports, markets lost because of politics, restrictions on purchasing US dollars, and bureaucratic delays affecting exporters, according to Francisco Mendoza, president of the Venezuelan Exporter's Association (AVEX). Mendoza said Venezuela is losing five large trade partners by withdrawing from the Group of Three (G-3) and the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), exchanging them for less valuable markets in the Common Market of the South (Mercosur). He says that only 10 percent of AVEX members have been granted certificates to purchase USD dollars needed for exports, and that overvaluation of the Venezuelan bolivar undermines the competitiveness of Venezuelan products abroad. [ [http://english.eluniversal.com/2006/07/28/en_eco_art_28A754689.shtml Venezuelan exports plummet 20 percent.] "El Universal" (July 28, 2006).]

According to "The Boston Globe", the head of Mission Sucre, a program to provide free and ongoing education, says that “investments in education, health, and infrastructure will have a lasting effect on standard of living”. Data from a private Venezuelan research firm shows the incomes of the “poorest Venezuelans have risen because of subsidies and grants”. The "Globe" reports that the government has “subsidized markets in poor neighborhoods that sell staple foods up to 40 percent cheaper than elsewhere.” Low income residents are reportedly living better because of subsidies that boost household income, decrease food costs, and provide access to free schooling and basic medical care. Chavez’s “missions” offer education, aid to the needy, soup kitchens, and medical care. There have been marked improvements in the infant mortality rate between 1998 and 2005. [Central Intelligence Agency. (CIA, 1998). " [http://www.umsl.edu/services/govdocs/wofact98/259.htm The World Factbook 1998: Venezuela.] " Retrieved 18 Oct 2005.] Central Intelligence Agency. (CIA, 2005). " [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ve.html The World Factbook 2005: Venezuela.] " Retrieved 18 Oct 2005.]

Corruption and nepotism

ISN Security Watch says that, as long as Venezuela's military leaders remain loyal to Chávez, they will "receive no oversight from Caracas", resulting in impunity and corruption. Gustavo Coronel, a former member of PDVSA's board of directors, claimed that social programs are "run by military officers who have little to no oversight".Logan, S. (February 6, 2006). [http://www.isn.ethz.ch/news/sw/details.cfm?id=16085 "The Kalashnikov threat in Venezuela".] International Relations and Security Network (ISN). Accessed 27 June 2006.] Verify credibility|date=July 2007 Members of the Venezuelan Armed Forces are alleged to be involved in supplying arms to Colombia's FARC,Logan, S. (February 6, 2006). [http://www.isn.ethz.ch/news/sw/details.cfm?id=16085 "The Kalashnikov threat in Venezuela".] International Relations and Security Network (ISN). Accessed 27 June 2006.] Verify credibility|date=July 2007 and U.S. anti-drug officials allege that corruption within the Chávez administration is converting Venezuela into a trafficking route for Colombian drugs.Goodman, J. "AP", [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/20/AR2006062000728.html "Coca Production Increases in Colombia".] "Washington Post" (June 20, 2006). Accessed 24 June 2006.] Critics also allege widespread corruption in the police force.Reel, M. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/09/AR2006050901803.html "Crime Brings Venezuelans Into Streets".] "Washington Post" (May 10, 2006), p. A17. Accessed 24 June 2006.]

In Gallup Poll's Corruption Index, Venezuela ranks 31st out of 101 countries, where the population perceive corruption as widespread in the government and/or business. The index lists Venezuela as third least corrupt nation in Latin America. [Steve Crabtree and Nicole Naurath [http://www.hra.am/file/gallup_corruption.htm Gallup Launches Worldwide Corruption Index] "Gallup Poll News Service" Accessed 21 Dec 2006.]

"The Economist" reports that "Mr. Chávez has grasped all the powers of state into his own hands, and eliminated all independent oversight of his government. The opposition argues that the inevitable result of this is graft on an increased scale." Berlin-based Transparency International, in its annual survey Corruption Perceptions Index, ranked Venezuela as one of only a dozen countries where perceived corruption had "greatly increased" in 2005, resulting in a ranking of 130th out of the 150 countries surveyed,The Economist, (Mar 30, 2006), [http://www.economist.com/World/la/displayStory.cfm?story_id=6749208 "Venezuela: The sickly stench of corruption.] "The Economist". Accessed 20 June 2006.] [Phil Gunson [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13989898/site/newsweek/print/0/displaymode/1098/ A Question of Graft] "Newsweek International" Accessed 14 August 2006.] to become the nation perceived as the third most corrupt in Latin America, above Paraguay and Haiti. Critics claim that rampant corruption reaches the highest levels of Venezuelan airport and security officials, that billions of dollars have been siphoned away from social programs by corrupt officials, and that leaders of the military have limited oversight, creating an environment in which impunity and corruption develop.Verify credibility|date=July 2007Goodman, Joshua. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/20/AR2006062000728.html Coca Production Increases in Colombia.] "The Washington Post" (June 20, 2006).] Currently Venezuela ranks 138th out of 163 countries with a rating of 2.3. [ [http://www.transparency.org/news_room/in_focus/cpi_2006/cpi_table CPI Table] "Transparency International" Accessed 21 Dec 2006.]

At the end of May 2007 Asdrubal Chávez, Hugo Chávez's cousin has been chosen as public company Petroleos de Venezuela's vice president. His elder brother Adan has been appointed education minister and his father Hugo de los Reyes Chávez is governor of the state of Barinas. Barinas' secretary of state is another brother of Hugo Chávez. Furthermore, Anibal Chávez is mayor of Sabaneta de Barinas and Narciso Chavez candidate for the mayorship in Bolivar. [fr icon" [http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3222,36-928557,0.html Les bonnes affaires de la famille Chavez] " (The good deals of Chavez' family), Le Monde, 25 june 2007]

Crime

Since Chávez took office, "The Economist" reports that the murder rate has almost tripled, and that Venezuela's capital – Caracas – has become South America's most violent, with police implicated in some of the crimes.The Economist, (April 20, 2006), [http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=6832058 "Venezuela: Crimes and misdemeanours.] "The Economist". Accessed 26 June 2006.] Amnesty International (2006), [http://web.amnesty.org/report2006/ven-summary-eng "AI Report 2006: Venezuela".] Accessed 22 June 2006.] The United Nations reported in 2005 that Venezuela had the highest number of deaths by gunfire per capita in the world, [Chicago Tribune (June 12, 2006), [http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0606120144jun12,1,7033002.story?ctrack=1&cset=true "In Venezuela, crime runs 'absolutely out of control' ".] Accessed 22 June 2006.] garnering for Venezuela a claim to the title of the world's most violent crime capital.Reel, M. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/09/AR2006050901803.html "Crime Brings Venezuelans Into Streets".] "Washington Post" (May 10, 2006), p. A17. Accessed 24 June 2006.] Critics claim that Chávez's policies are largely responsible for these declines.Corrales, Javier. "Hugo Boss". "Foreign Policy". Jan 1, 2006.] Reel, M. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/09/AR2006050901803.html "Crime Brings Venezuelans Into Streets".] "Washington Post" (May 10, 2006), p. A17. Accessed 24 June 2006.] The U.S. State Department says there is a "politicization of the judiciary, the electoral authorities, and the legal system" and a "reported 13% increase in politically motivated detentions".U.S. Department of State (December 1, 2005). [http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/57714.pdf "The State of Democracy in Venezuela".] Accessed 18 June 2006.]

Critics accuse the Bolivarian Circles Chávez founded of furthering violence,Morsbach, Greg. ("BBC", 12 Jun 2002). [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2038827.stm "Chavez accused of fostering militia links"] . Retrieved 13 Jun 2006.] and say Chávez's new civil reserve defense force is intended to intimidate domestic opponents and repress internal dissent. Chávez government officials respond that the reserve is similar to civilian reserves and forces in many nations, including the United States.Ceaser, M. ("BBC", 1 Jul 2005). [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4635187.stm "Chavez's 'citizen militias' on the march".] Retrieved 27 June 2006.] According to a study by Brigham Young University scholars, the "Bolivarian circles" also help the government identify opponents, who are then denied services. [Davis, Bob. "Move Over, Che: Chavez Is New Icon of Radical Chic." "Wall Street Journal" (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Jun 16, 2006. p. A1.]

According to an article in "Foreign Policy Magazine", "On average, Chávez shuffles more than half of his cabinet every year." During his presidency, Chávez has had six Ministers of Interior and Justice. In August 2006, following assaults on a squatter and a National Assembly member, "El Universal" says that Chávez called on the latest Minister, Jesse Chacón to quit if he could not do the job, demanding more rigor in the fight against corruption, and affirming the need to clean up and transform the local police forces. He questioned the impunity that exists in the country, and challenged authorities, like Chacón, to resign if they couldn't make progress against crime. He also called for greater protection of squatters settling on landed estates. [Diaz, Sara Carolina. [http://www.eluniversal.com/2006/08/07/pol_art_07104A.shtml Chávez exige acabar con latifundios.] "El Universal" (7 August 2006).]

Other

Some criticism has come from Chávez's supporters. Chávez's own political party, Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), has been criticized as being riddled with the same cronyism, political patronage, and corruption that Chávez alleged were characteristic of the old "Fourth Republic" political parties. Venezuela's trade unionists and indigenous communities have participated in peaceful demonstrations intended to impel the government to speed up labor and land reforms. These communities, while largely expressing their sympathy and support for Chávez, criticize what they see as Chávez's slow progress in protecting their interests against managers and mining concerns, respectively. [Fuentes, F. (2005), "Venezuela Analysis", [http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1564 "Challenges for Venezuela's Workers’ Movement".] "Venezuela Analysis". Accessed 15 February 2006.] [Márquez, H. "Venezuela Analysis" (2005), [http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1414 "Venezuela's Indigenous Peoples Protest Coal Mining".] "Inter Press Service". Accessed 2 February 2006.] [Parma, A. "Venezuela Analysis" (2005a), [http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1780 "Pro-Chavez Union Leaders in Venezuela Urge Chavez to Do Better".] "Venezuela Analysis". Accessed 26 January 2006.]

The pro-government party For Social Democracy led by Ismael García opposed the 2007 constitutional amendment proposals.

Farmers have protested about the lack of a consistent policy addressing prices, smuggling, insecurity and crime. [ [http://english.eluniversal.com/2006/08/03/en_eco_art_03A758801.shtml Farmers' protests escalate.] "El Universal" (August 3, 2006).]

Foreign policy

"The New York Times" has represented Chávez as "thriving on the atmosphere of confrontation" between Venezuela and the U.S. [ Forero, J. NY Times. [http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/11/international/americas/11venezuela.html?n=Top%2fReference%2fTimes%20Topics%2fPeople%2fC%2fChavez%2c%20Hugo People: Hugo Chavez.] ] "The Washington Post" has described him as an "ideologue".Sanchez, Marcela. ("Washington Post", 25 Aug 2005). [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/25/AR2005082501420.html "Dealing With the Good and Bad Hugo Chavez".] Retrieved 05 Nov 2005.] A PBS discussion panel has said that Chávez's actions are "hurtful to Venezuela's democracy" and that he is "making all types of unfounded allegations about what the U.S. is up to in Venezuela." [Suarez, R. [http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/latin_america/jan-june05/chavez_4-25.html U.S.-Venezuelan Tensions Persist.] "PBS". Accessed 23 May 2006.]

Chávez's foreign policy conduct and anti-Bush rhetoric has occasionally reached the level of personal attacks. In response to the ousting of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, Chávez referred to U.S. President George W. Bush as a "pendejo". In a later speech, he made personal remarks regarding Condoleezza Rice, referring to her as a "complete illiterate" with regard to comprehending Latin America. [Ministerio de Comunicación e Información. (23 Jan 2005). [http://www.minci.gov.ve/imagnot/23-ENE-2005%20-%20MARCHA%20-%20CORREGIDO.DEFINITIVO..doc "Marcha Defensa de la Soberanía".] Retrieved 10 Nov 2005.] Diehl, Jackson. ("Washington Post", 28 Mar 2005). [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A5755-2005Mar27.html "Chavez's Censorship: Where 'Disrespect' Can Land You in Jail".] Retrieved 10 Nov 2005.] ["People's Daily". (12 Jan 2004). [http://english.people.com.cn/200401/12/eng20040112_132386.shtml "Chavez calls Condoleezza Rice an 'illiterate' following sharp criticism".] Retrieved 10 Nov 2005.]

The United States administration of George W. Bush,U.S. Department of State (December 1, 2005). [http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/57714.pdf "The State of Democracy in Venezuela".] Accessed 18 June 2006.] described the "State of Democracy in Venezuela" as "in grave peril," with "unchecked concentration of power in the executive," saying Chávez has "turned his back on the Venezuelan electorate," "suffocated the democratic debate," "resisted external efforts to support democratic political activity," and committed an "assault on Venezuela's democratic institutions."

Chávez's trips abroad have also caused some criticism within his own coalition. For example, in July 2006 the National Assembly refused to ratify a trip to North Korea."Morsbach, Greg". ("BBC news" 24 July 2006). [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/5205770.stm Chavez tour piques US interest] . Retrieved 24 July 2006] The BBC reports that Chávez has spent 365 days abroad since taking office.

Alfredo Rangel says that Chávez's new civil reserve defense force, claimed to consist of approximately two million members, may be intended to intimidate domestic opponents and suppress internal dissent, dismissing the possibility of a U.S. invasion. Chávez government officials respond that the reserve is similar to civilian reserves and forces in many nations, including the United States.Ceaser, M. ("BBC", 1 Jul 2005). [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4635187.stm "Chavez's 'citizen militias' on the march".] Retrieved 27 June 2006.]

Venezuelan-Israeli relations

On August 3, 2006 Chávez ordered the Venezuelan charge d'affaires to Israel, to return from Tel Aviv to Caracas, protesting the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. The Israeli government responded by recalling the Israeli ambassador to Venezuela. [ [http://english.eluniversal.com/2006/08/09/en_pol_art_09A762277.shtml Israel is not informed about Venezuela's plans to break off relations.] "El Universal" (August 9, 2006).] [Haaretz.com. [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/747797.html ADL: Chavez comparison of IDF and Hitler is outrageous.] "Haaretz service" (August 8, 2006).]

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev responded, "As an act of protest against the one-sided policy of the president of Venezuela and in light of his wild slurs against the state of Israel and in response to the recall of the Venezuelan charge d'affaires to his country, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni decided to bring our ambassador in Venezuela back temporarily for consultations."Mather, S. "VenezuelaAnalysis.com" (August 8, 2006). [http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=2035 Israel Withdraws its Ambassador for Venezuela.] "VenezuelaAnalysis.com".]

In an interview with the news agency Al Jazeera in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Chávez made the first of his statements regarding Israel and the conflict, saying, "They are doing what Hitler did against the Jews."Shoer-Roth, Daniel. MiamiHerald.com (9 August 2006) [http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/15229406.htm Uproar: Chávez equates Nazis, Israelis.] Accessed 9 Aug 2006.]

According to "The Miami Herald", two days later, on his Sunday radio program, "Aló Presidente" (Hello President), Chávez accused Israel of "going mad and inflicting on the people of Palestine and Lebanon the same thing they have criticized, and with reason: the Holocaust. But this is a new Holocaust" with the help of the United States, which he described as a terrorist country. He went on to say that the United States refuses "to allow the [United Nations Security Council| [U.N.] Security Council] to make a decision to halt the genocide Israel is committing against the Palestinian and Lebanese people."

"Dow Jones Newswire" reported that, on August 10, while giving a speech in eastern Venezuela, Chávez said Venezuelans are "making a call to world leaders, for the love of God, let's halt this crazy fascist aggression against innocent people. Are we human or what are we?... I feel indignation for Israel's assault on the Palestinian people and the Lebanese people. They dropped bombs on shelters. ... It's a Holocaust that is occurring there." ["Dow Jones Newswire" (August 10, 2006). [http://news.morningstar.com/news/DJ/M08/D10/200608102229DOWJONESDJONLINE001384.html?Cat=MktDigest Venezuela President Asks International Leaders To Halt Israeli Offensive.] "Morning Star".]

Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said on August 13, 2006 that Venezuela would not endorse an OPEC oil embargo in response to the Middle East crisis, but did say, "What we have been warning and denouncing over the past two years is the permanent aggression of U.S. foreign policy toward OPEC producers" which continue to "pressure" the oil market. [http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0806/352440.html Venezuela Won't Push for Israel Boycott.] ABC7 News (August 13, 2006). Accessed August 13, 2006.] Ramirez attributed record high oil prices to U.S. "policy of permanent aggression toward Venezuela, Iran..." and "countries in the Persian Gulf."

In response to the Israeli airstrike of Qana, on July 31, Vice President Rangel said, "This murder of dozens of women and children has no justification whatsoever." The UN and other powerful nations shared blame for the attack because they had responded to Israel's military campaign in Palestine and Lebanon with "silence and omissions. Venezuela has never had any anti-Jewish attitudes, recognizes the existence of Israel as a state, welcomes the Jewish community and guarantees its total respect.""Roundup: Latin American countries condemn Israeli brutal attack on Lebanon. People's Daily Online. (July 31, 2006). Available [http://english.people.com.cn/200607/31/eng20060731_288443.html here.] Accessed 14 August 2006.]

Accusations of antisemitism

Chávez has been accused of antisemitism several times by organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, which wrote to Chávez asking him to consider how his statements might affect Venezuela. The southern area director of the ADL accused Chávez of "distorting history and torturing the truth, as he has done in this case, (comparing Israel's actions to that of Hitler) it is a dangerous exercise which echoes classic antisemitic themes."

The Federation of Israeli Associations of Venezuela condemned "attempts to trivialize the Holocaust, the premeditated and systematic extermination of millions of human beings solely because they were Jews ... by comparing it with the current war actions."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center previously criticized Chávez after he compared Spain's Jose Maria Aznar to Hitler."Perelman, Marc. Venezuela's Jews Defend Leftist President in Flap Over Remarks. Forward.com (January 13, 2006). Available [http://www.embavenez-us.org/news.php?nid=2227 here.] Accessed 11 August 2006.] In late 2005, Rabbi Henri Sobel of Brazil, a World Jewish Congress leader, also accused Chávez of anti-Semitism. The Weisenthal Center also criticized a December 2005 speech by Chávez as anti-Semitic. [Wiesenthal Center (January 4, 2006). [http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/apps/nl/content.asp?c=fwLYKnN8LzH&b=312458&content_id={17D5A467-8F24-4ADA-BCD3-DE4476D7F462}&notoc=1 SWC CONDEMNS ANTISEMITIC STATEMENTS BY VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ – DEMANDS PUBLIC APOLOGY.] Accessed 11 August 2006.]

According to the "Miami Herald", "It's not the first time Chávez has made comments deemed antisemitic. In 2005, he attacked 'some minorities, the descendants of the people who crucified Christ, [who] seized the riches of the world'." Chávez stated that " [t] he world is for all of us, then, but it so happens that a minority, the descendants of the same ones that crucified Christ, the descendants of the same ones that kicked Bolívar out of here and also crucified him in their own way over there in Santa Marta, in Colombia. A minority has taken possession all of the wealth of the world."Toothaker, C. "Associated Press" (January 5, 2006). [http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-sa/2006/jan/05/010508277.html Hugo Chavez Accused of Anti-Semitism.] "Las Vegas Sun".]

According to Venezuelan government sources and the liberal FAIR, in translating and disseminating his speech, the Weisenthal Center omitted the reference to Bolívar, stated that Chávez was referring to Jews and denounced the remarks as anti-Semitic by way of his allusions to wealth.Government of Venezuela, Ministry of Communication and Information. [http://www.mci.gob.ve/noticiaingles.asp?num=388 Editing Chavez to Manufacture a Slur.] "Ven-Global News" (January 23, 2006).] According to an article published at Forward.com, Venezuelan Jewish community leaders accused the Simon Wiesenthal Center of rushing to judgment with the anti-Semitic remarks, saying that Chávez's comments had been taken out of context, and that he was actually referring to "gentile business elites" or the "white oligarchy that has dominated the region since the colonial era". The Weisenthal Center's representative in Latin America replied that Chávez's mention of Christ-killers was "ambiguous at best" and that the "decision to criticize Chávez had been taken after careful consideration".

Halvorssen says that, "Chavez [sic] first ran for president on a reform platform, winning in a landslide. What few understood then was that Chavez planned to revolutionize the country following a plan masterminded by his longtime friend Norberto Ceresole, an Argentinian writer infamous for his books denying the Holocaust and his conspiracy theories about Jewish plans to control the planet." Holocaust denier Ceresole calls the Jews of Venezuela the greatest threat to Chavismo in his "Caudillo, Ejército, Pueblo" (Leader, Army, People).Halvorssen, Thor. [http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/903jhsjt.asp Hurricane Hugo.] "The Weekly Standard", August 8, 2005, Volume 010, Issue 44. Also available at [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0RMQ/is_44_10/ai_n14895831/print LookSmart.] ] In 2004, after he overcame the referendum on his presidency, Chávez told the opposition not to to let themselves “be poisoned by those 'wandering Jews'. Don’t let them lead you to the place they want you to be led. There are some people saying that those 40 percent [who supported his recall] are all enemies of Chávez." The next day he said on national television that "There are some − every day there are fewer − ‘small leaders’ [dirigencillos] who don’t lead anyone, they are more isolated every day, and wander around like the 'wandering Jew'."Stephen Roth Institute. [http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw2004/venezuela.htm Annual Report 2004: Venezuela.] Accessed August 11, 2006.] The Roth Institute says that the Jewish community in Venezuela explains that the phrase ‘wandering Jews’ "was directed metaphorically at the leaders of the opposition parties" and is a common term in the Catholic world, without truly anti-Semitic intention. Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel explained the meaning of the term the next day, and assured Jewish community leaders that it had been used inappropriately. The U.S. State Department also mentioned that "A few days after his electoral victory, President Chávez gave a speech in which he compared the opposition to 'wandering Jews'."U.S. Department of State (2005). [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2005/51657.htm Venezuela: International Religious Freedom Report 2005.] Accessed 13 August 2006.] Writing in The Weekly Standard, Thor Halvorssen says the United States Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor's "Report on Global Anti-Semitism" also noted that "Anti-Semitic leaflets also were available to the public in an Interior and Justice Ministry office waiting room."

Chávez and the Arab World

CNSNews says that critics of Israel, many of them in the Arab world, hailed Chávez in his dealings with Israel.Goodenough, Patrick. [http://www.cnsnews.com/news/viewstory.asp?Page=%5CForeignBureaus%5Carchive%5C200608%5CINT20060807a.html Critics of Israel Hail Hugo Chavez.] CNSNews.com (7 August 2006).] "Al-Ahram Weekly" commented, "it was somehow ironic that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, following his attack on Israel and the recalling of his ambassador to Tel Aviv, emerged as the most popular leader within the Arab world." [ [http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2006/807/re81.htm Resounding failure.] "Al-Ahram" (10 - 16 August 2006 Issue No. 807)] The Syrian communist party urged Arab governments to "follow the example of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez”. [ [http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticleNew.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2006/August/middleeast_August129.xml&section=middleeast&col= Syrian communists urge Arab leaders to copy Venezuela’s protest against Israel.] "Khaleej Times" (August 4, 2006).]

According to CNSNews, the vice-chairman of Hezbollah's political council, Mahmoud Komati, called Chávez's actions an example for "revolutionaries" The high profile anti-war protester and UK Member of Parliament, George Galloway described Chávez as a "real leader of the Arab people."

President Chávez's has made a number of trips to Libya in his role as OPEC representative to discuss the international situation, declining oil prices, and OPEC production. [El Universal (28 Oct 2001). [http://buscador.eluniversal.com/2001/10/28/apo_art_28184FF.shtml Libia.] Accessed 1 July 2006. es_icon] The first occurred in 2001 after a personal invitation he received in 1999 by Muammar al-Gaddafi. [El Universal (4 Feb 1999). [http://buscador.eluniversal.com/1999/02/04/apo_art_04112DD.shtml Invitaciones reacciones e informes.] Accessed 1 July 2006. es_icon] Some members of the National Assembly of Venezuela accused Chávez of not reporting his trip to Libya and hiding it under a tour of Europe and Africa. [El Universal (16 Oct 2001). [http://buscador.eluniversal.com/2001/10/16/pol_art_16208DD.shtml Presidente 'trampeó' a la AN, según Mujica.] Accessed 1 July 2006. es_icon] Venezuela's former ambassador to Libya Julio César Pineda said in 2003 that Chávez was coordinating an anti-American strategy with terrorist states following his visit to Libya, [El Universal (21 Feb 2003). [http://buscador.eluniversal.com/2003/02/21/int_art_21158CC.shtml Diplomático denuncia plan Chávez-Gaddafi.] Accessed 1 July 2006. es_icon] but today, Libya is moving closer to alignment with the United States at a time that Chávez is setting himself up as South America's leading anti-American. [Williams, Daniel. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/15/AR2006051501443.html Lack of Surprise Greets Word of U.S.-Libya Ties.] "Washington Post" (May 16, 2006), p. A12.] [MSNBC.com. [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12837050/ Venezuela’s Chavez meets with Gadhafi in Libya: Meeting comes as leaders move on opposite trajectories in U.S. relations.] "Associated Press" (May 17, 2006).]

Iran

President Chávez has developed strong ties with the government of Iran, in particular in the area of energy production, economic, and industrial cooperation. [http://buscador.eluniversal.com/2001/05/21/eco_art_21204AA.shtml VENEZUELA E IRÁN EN CAMINO HACIA UNA 'ALIANZA ESTRATÉGICA'.] "El Universal (21 May 2001)." Accessed 1 July 2006. es_icon] He has visited Iran on several occasions, the first time in 2001, [ [http://buscador.eluniversal.com/2001/05/18/eco_art_18202GG.shtml Hugo Chávez de visita en Irán hasta el lunes.] "El Universal (18 May 2001)." Accessed 1 July 2006. es_icon] when he declared that he came to Iran to "prepare the road for peace, justice, stability and progress for the 21st century". [http://buscador.eluniversal.com/2001/05/21/eco_art_21204AA.shtml VENEZUELA E IRÁN EN CAMINO HACIA UNA 'ALIANZA ESTRATÉGICA'.] "El Universal (21 May 2001)." Accessed 1 July 2006. es_icon] Mohamed Khatami also has visited Venezuela on three occasions. During his 2005 visit, Chávez awarded him the "Orden del Libertador" and called him a "tireless fighter for all the right causes in the world". [ [http://www.rnv.gov.ve/noticias/index.php?act=ST&f=2&t=14704&hl=jatami&s=4a1ae9096a123385575142033afa5b96 Presidente Jatami recibió condecoración Collar de la Orden del Libertador.] "Radio Nacional de Venezuela (1 Mar 2005). es_icon] In May of 2006, Chávez expressed his favorable view of the production of nuclear energy in Iran announced by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and denied that they had plans to develop nuclear weapons. [ [http://buscador.eluniversal.com/2006/05/21/pol_ava_21A710337.shtml Chávez exige respetar Irán y aclara que no tiene plan nuclear.] "El Universal (21 May 2006)." Accessed 1 July 2006. es_icon] His relationship with the government of Iran and his support for their nuclear program has elicited the concern of the U.S. government. Condoleezza Rice commented that, given the political strategy of President Chávez in relation to Iran, "Venezuela has become a negative force in the region". [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/latin_america/newsid_4349000/4349301.stm EE.UU. preocupado por Venezuela.] "BBCMundo.com (14 Mar 2005)." Accessed 1 July 2006. es_icon]

Chávez paid a two-day visit to Iran when the government faced international criticism for continuing its nuclear program and backing Hezbollah guerrillas. [FoxNews.com [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,206204,00.html Venezuela's Chavez, Iran's Ahmadinejad Pledge Mutual Support.] "Associated Press" (July 29, 2006).] On Chávez's birthday, July 28, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented Chávez with Iran's highest honor for "supporting Tehran in its nuclear standoff with the international community". [Karimi, Nasser. Yahoo News. [http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060731/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iran_venezuela Hugo Chavez receives Iran's highest honor.] "Associated Press" (July 30, 2006).]

Chávez pledged that Venezuela would "stay by Iran at any time and under any condition." Ahmedinejad called Chávez a kindred spirit. "I feel I have met a brother and trench mate after meeting Chávez." Chávez said he "admired the Iranian president for 'his wisdom and strength'," saying, "We are with you and with Iran forever. As long as we remain united we will be able to defeat imperialism, but if we are divided they will push us aside". [Karimi, Nasser. [http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/World/2006/07/29/1709518-ap.html Chavez, Ahmedinejad pledge mutual support.] "Canoe Network" (July 29, 2006).]

"Reuters" reported that Chávez told a crowd at the University of Tehran, "If the U.S. empire succeeds in consolidating its dominance, then the humankind has no future. Therefore, we have to save the humankind and put an end to the U.S. empire". The report adds that Chávez slashed out at Israel and labeled the 2006 Lebanon offensive as "fascist and terrorist." Decorating Chávez with the "Higher Medal of the Islamic Republic of Iran", Ahmadinejad said, "Mr. Chávez is my brother, he is a friend of the Iranian nation and the people seeking freedom around the world. He works perpetually against the dominant system. He is a worker of God and servant of the people." [ [http://english.eluniversal.com/2006/07/31/en_pol_art_31A756133.shtml Chávez decorated in Iran; initials cooperation pacts.] "El Universal" (July 31, 2006).]

Calls for assassination

Chávez has consistently said that he expects the United States to assassinate him, to further suppress Latin American growth and revolution. Several public figures have called for the assassination of Chávez, most notably televangelist Pat Robertson, saying, "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," and "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it... It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war…and I don't think any oil shipments will stop". [ABCNews. "Televangelist Calls for Chavez's Death. Accessed 23 May 2006. [http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/wireStory?id=1060460] ]

Other notable figures calling for his assassination include former president of Venezuela, Carlos Andrés Pérez, [Branford, Becky. "BBC News" (August 13, 2004). [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3559668.stm "Analysis: Chavez at eye of storm".] "BBC". Accessed 26 June 2006.] and Venezuelan actor, Orlando Urdaneta. [Gobierno Bolivariano de Venezuela. [http://www.rnv.gov.ve/noticias/index.php?act=ST&f=2&t=9999 Urdaneta llama al magnicidio desde Miami.] Accessed 8 July 2006.] The US Ambassador to Venezuela between 2001 and 2004, Charles S. Shapiro, also reported to the Chávez administration two potential assassination plots."Márquez Humberto". (IPS March 9 2006) [http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=27799 "Statements Indicate Chávez May Indeed Be in Somebody's Crosshairs".] Accessed 21 Jun 2006.]

Personal

Hugo Chávez has been married twice. He first married Nancy Colmenares and they remained married for eighteen years. They separated soon after Chávez's 1992 coup attempt, but have remained good friends since. ["La Semana". [http://semana.terra.com.co/opencms/opencms/Semana/articulo.html?id=36699 "Entrevista Hugo Chavez: Me declaro amigo de Colombia".] Retrieved 09 Nov 2005.]

During his first marriage, Chávez also had a nine-year affair with Herma Marksman, [Guillermoprieto, Alma (2005), [http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18302 "Don't Cry for Me, Venezuela",] "New York Review of Books." Accessed 26 June 2006.] [Byrne, Jennifer. ("Foreign Correspondent", 03 Jun 2003). [http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/stories/s882059.htm "Venezuela - Bolivarian Revolution".] Retrieved 11 Nov 2005.] a Venezuelan historian. She wrote the book "Chávez me utilizó" ("Chávez used me", ISBN 980-6598-05-9) with her views and opinions about Hugo Chávez. Her beliefs are that Chávez is a person without values, ambitious, disloyal and who uses others to later "discard" them: "... (he) has turned into an assassin".

Notes

References

* Amnesty International. [http://web.amnesty.org/library/eng-ven/index "Venezuela".] Accessed 20 June 2006.
* Human Rights Watch. [http://hrw.org/doc/?t=americas&c=venezu Venezuela.] Accessed 20 June 2006.
* Harvard reference
Author=Niemeyer, Ralph T.
Last=Niemeyer
First=Ralph T.
Title=Under Attack: Morning Dawn in Venezuela
Publisher=iUniverse
Year=2004
ID=ISBN 0-59566-208-0
.
* [http://infovenezuela.org/ On the State of Democracy in Venezuela.] "InfoVenezuela.org" Accessed 20 June 2006.
* U.S. Department of State (December 1, 2005). [http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/57714.pdf "The State of Democracy in Venezuela".] Accessed 18 June 2006.
* U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (June 24, 2004). [http://www.senate.gov/~foreign/hearings/2004/hrg040624p.html The State of Democracy in Venezuela: Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate.] Accessed 30 June 2006.
*World Socialist Website—http://www.wsws.org/articles/2007/feb2007/chav-f12.shtml--Hugo Chávez, Marx and the “Bolivarism” of the twenty-first century

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