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CrisisWatch Database

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Venezuela

  |  1 Apr 2014

Unchanged

Despite announcement by President Maduro and other leading govt members that protest movement launched early Feb (which they term a “coup”) has been defeated, protests continued: most barricades rebuilt, no sign of protesters’ determination wavering. Continued clashes between protesters and pro-govt forces; since protest movement began 39 people have been killed and 2,041 placed in detention facilities, half still with probationary measures. Security forces deployed 17 March on Plaza Altamira in Caracas, but rapidly outnumbered by peaceful civilian protesters from surrounding neighbourhoods. Govt’s “peace conference” and truth commission set up in Feb failed to incorporate radicals or moderates from opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance. FMs from Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) visited Caracas 25-27 March, met with opposition groups as well as govt. Immediately after UNASUR’s 12 March decision to send mission, Maduro announced he would take “drastic measures” to end protests; announcement followed by deployment of National Guard in Caracas, arrest of mayors of San Cristobal (Táchira) and San Diego (Valencia), stripping of parliamentary immunity for MUD legislator Maria Corina Machado with view to prosecuting her for murder of political violence victims, and arrest of 3 air force generals for alleged coup plot. Vatican 28 March announced it is willing to facilitate peaceful resolution of crisis; Maduro said govt would accept its mediation.

Venezuela

  |  1 Mar 2014

Deteriorated Risk Alert

Month saw biggest anti-govt demonstrations in years as students took to streets across country; over dozen killed in clashes with security forces, scores injured; hundreds arrested, most subsequently released. Over 500 complaints of abuses by security services according to rights groups. Events threatening to further erode stability, human rights in already polarised nation. Demonstrations protesting violent crime, economic crisis began in San Cristobal city in SW state Táchira 2 Feb. Students backed by “La salida” movement, comprising wing of opposition alliance Democratic Unity (MUD), 12 Feb staged march to HQ of chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz to demand release of those jailed and protest food shortages, inflation, crime. Violence broke out between small group of demonstrators and armed civilian supporters of govt; 2 people died in initial clashes and third later, all shot in head. Over 300 reportedly detained over following week, 2 more killed; detainees reported beatings, torture, death threats, other abuses. Govt 16 Feb issued arrest warrant for Voluntad Popular (VP) party founder Leopoldo López accusing him of instigating violence, claimed opposition seeking violent overthrow of President Maduro. López 18 Feb turned himself in; called for protesters to stay in streets but remain non-violent; taken to military prison to await trial. As protests continued govt sent in riot squads accompanied by civilian gunmen; forces attacked protesters, destroyed and stole property. Govt 20 Feb sent troops to Táchira, threatened to declare state of emergency there. 3 U.S. diplomats given 48 hours to leave country 17 Feb for alleged involvement in supposed conspiracy. Govt 27 Feb issued arrest warrant for second opposition leader Carlos Vecchio, also from VP party. 

Venezuela

  |  1 Feb 2014

Unchanged

High-profile murder of former Miss Venezuela Mónica Spears and ex-partner 6 Jan forced politicians to intensify efforts toward solving country’s chronic insecurity crisis: President Maduro 8 Jan met with opposition governors of Miranda and Lara states Henrique Capriles and Henri Falcón and other state governors and mayors of 79 most crime-affected municipalities to work on “national pacification law”, to be finalised within month. Maduro 9 Jan announced changes to political and military leadership: 7 ministers, including industry, labour and education, replaced, General Gregorio Bernal Martínez appointed new head of Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin). Maduro also named retired military Manuel Eduardo Pérez Urdaneta and Ronald Blanco La Cruz as new director of National Police and head of National Security University (UNES) respectively, raising concerns over long-term fate of civilian police reform underway since 2009.

Venezuela

  |  2 Jan 2014

Unchanged

8 Dec municipal elections saw opposition MUD alliance make important advances, especially in big cities; MUD held metropolitan Caracas and Maracaibo and won Valencia and Barquisimeto, now controls 9 of 23 state capitals, plus greater Caracas including 4 of 5 Caracas municipalities. But controversial bid to turn election into plebiscite on President Maduro’s govt via national vote total backfired: ruling PSUV obtained almost 49% of votes, MUD less than 41%. MUD leadership insisting country split and govt lacks mandate for radical political and economic programs, also pointed to unfair election conditions and Maduro’s Nov move to force down retail prices.

Venezuela

  |  1 Dec 2013

Unchanged

President Maduro mid-month announced prices of electrical appliances unjustifiably high, ordered them reduced and told consumers to rush to shops and “leave nothing on shelves”; price controls subsequently extended to other consumer goods. Retail sector representatives warned it will be virtually impossible to maintain commercial operations. National Assembly 19 Nov approved law giving Maduro power to legislate by decree, primarily on economic matters, for 12 months, after govt removed opposition legislator on corruption charges. Local elections appeared set to go ahead 8 Dec despite fears govt would postpone poll. Opposition MUD seen as likely to make gains amid declining support in polls for ruling party, which is defending some 80% of municipalities. Govt decreed 8 Dec “Chavez loyalty day”, apparently planning to hold political rallies to coincide with poll in violation of electoral law. Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched 23 Nov; MUD leader Capriles’ national tours coordinator arrested by military intelligence agents before marches started.

Venezuela

  |  1 Nov 2013

Unchanged

Finance Minister Nelson Merentes, seen as leading advocate of more flexible economic policy, stripped of role as “economic VP” early Oct and replaced by oil minister and chief of state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela Rafael Ramirez. Ramirez’s appointment seen as strengthening hardliners led by Planning Minister Jorge Giordani who oppose détente with private sector, market economy. Rights activists voiced concern at revival of Strategic Center of Security and Homeland Protection, military-led body mandated to gather information on national security and determine which information should remain “restricted”.

Venezuela

  |  1 Oct 2013

Unchanged

Govt 10 Sept announced decision to proceed with country’s withdrawal from Inter-American Court on Human Rights, prompting concern domestically and abroad. France seized more than 1.3 tons of cocaine on Air France flight from Venezuela; authorities jailed 22 people, including National Guard officials and airport staff. Govt 30 Sept announced expulsion of 3 U.S. diplomats accused of plotting to sabotage economy.

Venezuela

  |  1 Sep 2013

Unchanged

Supreme Court (TSJ) 8 Aug dismissed appeal against presidential elections results presented by opposition leader Henrique Capriles because allegations were “generic and vague”; Capriles said not surprised by decision, reiterated intention to appeal to international courts. Following 11 Aug announcement by attorney general Luisa Ortega Díaz that 50 people had been arrested and 53 charged with corruption-related offences, President Maduro said would ask National Assembly for legislative powers to combat corruption; opposition called new anti-corruption drive politically-motivated “witch hunt”.

Venezuela

  |  1 Aug 2013

Unchanged

Govt 23 July said ending talks to restore relations with U.S. in protest at remarks by UN ambassador-designate Samantha Power that civil society experiencing crackdown in Venezuela. President Maduro 5 July made public offer of asylum to fugitive U.S. whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Maduro continued to work to establish authority over military; rival national assembly chairman Diosdado Cabello also continued efforts to expand influence. Head of daily El Nacional accused govt of trying to silence it.

Venezuela

  |  1 Jul 2013

Unchanged

President Maduro 5 June denied rumours of further large devaluation of bolivar, blamed “corrupt, fascist right-wing” forces within country for attempting to spread fear about economy. Following several postponements, govt set elections for mayors and councillors for 8 Dec 2013. National Electoral Council (CNE) 12 June announced it concluded audit of 14 April presidential election results and found no discrepancies; Supreme Court yet to announce if it will submit legal challenges to election. FM Jaua 5 June met U.S. Sec State Kerry at OAS General Assembly in Guatemala.


Venezuela

  |  1 Jun 2013

Unchanged

Venezuela Opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance 2 May called on Supreme Court (TSJ) electoral chamber to annul 14 April presidential election on account of multiple alleged irregularities, including violence at polling stations, exclusion of opposition witnesses and coercion of voters; 8 May filed second suit calling for partial annulment of election, citing irregularities in 5,729 mesas (voting tables) which it said compromised over 2.3 million votes. MUD also challenged 3 electoral chamber judges on grounds of partiality to ruling party. President Maduro mid-month accused private sector of waging “economic war” on regime by slowing production and hoarding goods. Head of National Assembly Diosdado Cabello said meeting between MUD leader Henrique Capriles and Colombian President Santos in Bogotá 29 May amounted to putting “bomb” in bilateral relations. FM Jaua said Venezuela recalled envoy to Havana peace talks, Maduro said meeting amounted to “backstabbing”; Santos dismissed allegations Colombia is trying to destabilise Venezuela as “crazy”. National Electoral Council announced municipal elections will be held 8 Dec.

Venezuela

  |  1 May 2013

Deteriorated

Following March death of President Chávez, closely fought elections on 14 April triggered political crisis. Result much closer than most opinion polls had predicted, with VP Maduro defeating opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) candidate Henrique Capriles by less than 2 percentage points and fewer than 230,000 votes; opposition refused to accept result. Maduro’s narrow victory, along with acute political polarisation and controversy surrounding govt use of state resources to support Maduro’s campaign, prompted one electoral body (CNE) member to call for 100% audit of paper ballots (just over 50% already audited on election day) to verify electronic results. Call echoed by Capriles, but CNE majority rejected proposal. Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) meeting in Lima 18 April reportedly persuaded govt to allow audit of an additional 18,000 ballot boxes; CNE said 12,000 of those 18,000 would be randomly selected, process will take 30 days. Some CNE members insisted electronic result is irreversible, any challenge would have to be made before Supreme Court, whose president also declared there could be no change since electoral law rules out manual recount. MUD insisted it has sufficient evidence of irregularities to call result into question. Maduro blamed Capriles for violent incidents in days following election, including 8 deaths he said result of opposition “campaign of violence”.

Venezuela

  |  1 Apr 2013

Unchanged

President Chávez died from cancer 5 March; VP Maduro sworn in as acting president after funeral. Electoral commission (CNE) 9 March announced legislative elections to be held 14 April; will pit Maduro against opposition Democratic Unity alliance’s Henrique Capriles. Maduro further hardened stance on opposition and U.S., claimed U.S. plot to assassinate Capriles “to create chaos in country”. Govt 5 March expelled 2 U.S. diplomats for allegedly conspiring against govt; U.S. 11 March ordered 2 Venezuelan diplomats to leave U.S. .Opposition demanding that CNE take steps to curb govt abuse of state resources for campaigning, wants armed forces to adopt more neutral stance.

Venezuela

  |  1 Mar 2013

Unchanged

Govt 18 Feb announced return of President Chávez following 70-day absence for cancer treatment in Cuba; VP Maduro 28 Feb said Chávez “battling for his life”. Opposition Democratic Unity alliance (MUD) continued to press for full medical report and restoration of constitutional normality as Chávez yet to be inaugurated.

Venezuela

  |  1 Feb 2013

Risk Alert Unchanged

Fears of instability after Supreme Court (TSJ) moved to keep cancer-stricken President Chávez in power despite his failure to attend 10 Jan inauguration for his third presidential term, prompting opposition challenge and signs of further radicalisation of both sides. TSJ 9 Jan ruled Chávez did not need to be sworn for new term before National Assembly but that he could take oath of office at unspecified later date before TSJ; also argued that ministers could remain in power. Chávez 15 Jan appointed loyalist and former VP Elías Jaua as foreign minister and “political VP”. Opposition leader Capriles said govt “openly lies” about Chávez health. Electoral Commission 29 Jan said municipal elections initially scheduled 26 May now to be held 14 July. Prison riot in Barquisimeto 25 Jan left at least 61 people dead; UNOHCHR 29 Jan expressed concern over violence in prisons.

Venezuela

  |  30 Dec 2012

Unchanged

National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello suggested delaying President Chávez’s swearing-in ceremony scheduled for 10 Jan as Chávez facing “difficult” recovery after new cancer surgery in Cuba, 23 Dec said govt will not call fresh elections if Chávez unable to be sworn in. Chávez 8 Dec named VP Nicolás Maduro as potential heir. Ruling PSUV party won 20 governorships out of 23 in regional elections 16 Dec but former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles re-elected as Merida state governor. Venezuelan Observatory of Violence 27 Dec reported over 21,000 people assassinated in 2012.

Venezuela

  |  1 Dec 2012

Unchanged

Venezuela elected member of UNGA’s Human Rights Council for 2013-2015; opponents of President Chávez, parts of international community criticised election, especially given Venezuela’s Sept request for withdrawal from Inter-American Court on Human Rights. Judge arrested in 2009 while investigating prominent human rights case alleged she was raped while in prison. Chávez 27 Nov travelled to Cuba for new round of cancer treatment, marking 7th trip to island this year.

Venezuela

  |  1 Nov 2012

Unchanged

Presidential election held 7 Oct with no major incidents reported; President Chávez re-elected for 4th term with 55.3% of vote, defeating opposition Henrique Capriles (44.1%). Govt 16 Oct expelled all remaining Paraguayan diplomats following July withdrawal of ambassadors from both countries amid tensions over June impeachment of Paraguayan president Lugo.

Venezuela

  |  1 Oct 2012

Unchanged Risk Alert

Fears of renewed violence as tensions increased ahead of 7 Oct presidential elections. 2 local opposition leaders shot dead at campaign rally in Barinas state 29 Sept, allegedly by members of ruling PSUV party; 6 PSUV militants arrested. Govt denied accusations by opposition Primero Justicia. Unconfirmed reports President Chávez training cells of “militant revolutionaries” from grassroots social and vigilante groups “colectivos” to avert possible electoral defeat. Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) 12 Sept designated commission to “accompany” 7 Oct presidential elections. Latest opinion polling varies between groups, but most indicate Chávez with double-digit lead, though opposition candidate Capriles gaining ground, many undecided or non-respondents. Capriles sacked top aide after being filmed receiving cash payment from unidentified person.

Venezuela

  |  1 Sep 2012

Unchanged

Spain, U.S., UK experts concluded electronic voting system for Oct presidential elections “guarantees transparency and secrecy of vote” following 5 Aug tests. Concerns over homicide rates in prisons increased following 19 Aug riot involving rival gangs at Yare prison, Miranda State which left 25 dead, 43 injured.

Venezuela

  |  1 Aug 2012

Unchanged

President Chávez reportedly violated electoral rules 217 times in first week of presidential campaign compared to 165 by Capriles; violations consisted mostly of use of state funds, public buildings for campaign purposes, attacks on opponent. Candidates 19 July signed agreement to respect electoral rules/results, promote peaceful campaign. Paraguay’s Defence Minister García 28 June accused Venezuelan FM Maduro of inciting Paraguayan army revolt in order to defend ousted president Lugo. Chávez 24 July reiterated intention to withdraw Venezuela from Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR); OAS late June passed reforms to modernise IACHR; new IACHR Executive Secretary Emilio Álvarez Icaza stated he will engage harshest critics of system.

Venezuela

  |  1 Jul 2012

Unchanged

8 presidential candidates registered with National Election Council (CNE) ahead of 7 Oct polls, including President Chávez, opposition MUD presidential candidate Henrique Capriles. Authorities 3 June announced arrest of “Diego Rastrojo”, major drug trafficker and leader of new illegal armed group, plans to extradite him to Colombia. Govt 1 June announced new law banning private gun ownership. President Chávez 14 June said country producing surveillance drones, weapons as part of cooperation with Iran, Russia, China. “Anti-Chávez” TV channel Globovision 29 June paid $2.1 million fine for coverage of 2011 prison riot.

Venezuela

  |  1 Jun 2012

Unchanged

President Chávez early May appointed “Council of State” body of advisers, touted as part of a plan for post-Chávez transition. Parliament 8 May voted to withdraw from Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; FM Maduro called upon regional govts to work towards creation of new supra-national human rights infrastructure independent from OAS and U.S.; UNOHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville called upon govt to reconsider. Continued uncertainty over Chávez’s health following 11-day silence after return from Cuba.

Venezuela

  |  1 May 2012

Unchanged

President Chávez’s 4 radiotherapy cycles in Cuba meant further absences, prevented his attendance at 6th Summit of the Americas; following week-long silence Chávez 24 April announcing return to Caracas in televised address. Former Supreme Court judge Eladio Aponte, dismissed because of alleged ties to drug kingpin Walid Makled, agreed to provide U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency with information on drug trade activities involving high-ranking members of govt.

Venezuela

  |  1 Apr 2012

Unchanged

Gunmen 4 March attacked October 2012 elections campaign event led by opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, exacerbating tensions between govt and opposition; President Chávez 20 March said plot to assassinate Capriles uncovered. In joint operation, Interpol, Colombian and Venezuelan security agents 21 March arrested FARC co-founder William Alberto Asprilla Chitiva “Marquetaliano” near Caracas. Chávez 31 March returned to Cuba for second five-day radiotherapy treatment.

Venezuela

  |  1 Mar 2012

Unchanged

Henrique Capriles Radonski, leader of Primero Justicia party and governor of Miranda state, elected 12 Feb as unified opposition candidate to run against President Chávez in 7 Oct primaries. Chávez 4 Feb commemorated 20th anniversary of failed coup that launched his political career. Political uncertainty increased after Chávez travelled to Cuba 24 Feb to remove cancer tumour, 29 Feb said “recovering like a condor”; worries his health may affect conduct of elections.

Venezuela

  |  1 Feb 2012

Unchanged

President Chávez restructured cabinet, appointed Henry Rangel Silva as defence minister, Diosdado Cabello as National Assembly president; changes seen as part of electoral strategy to regain links with regions under opposition control, strengthen control over armed forces. Colombian magazine Semana 14 Jan denounced links between Defence Minister Silva and FARC leader “Timochenko”, sparking debate on Venezuela-FARC ties; President Chávez denied allegations. Chávez 9 Jan met Iranian counterpart, signed new political/industrial agreements. Venezuelan Prisons Observatory 20 Jan said number of prison deaths spiked to 560 in 2011, nearly 1,500 inmates injured in prison violence. Opposition pre-candidate Leopoldo López 24 Jan withdrew from Feb primaries, announced support for Henrique Capriles.

Venezuela

  |  2 Jan 2012

Unchanged

Representatives from 33 countries met in Caracas 2-3 Dec for launch of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC); U.S. and Canada excluded. U.S. President Obama in Venezuelan daily El Universal 19 Dec criticised Venezuela’s rights record, ties to Iran and Cuba; Chavez responded by calling him “clown”. Local NGO reported 2011 murder rate 67 per 100,000.*

* Figure corrected 16 January.

Venezuela

  |  1 Dec 2011

Unchanged

Capture of major Colombian drug trafficker Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco alias “Valenciano” 28 Nov preceded meeting between President Chávez and Colombian president Santos in Caracas. Presidents made new commitments on trade, energy; Chávez confirmed commitment to fight any illegal armed groups on Venezuelan territory. 6 candidates registered to participate in Feb 2012 primary presidential elections. In response to rising insecurity President Chávez mid-Nov placed thousands of National Guard troops onto streets of Caracas and 2 neighbouring states, Vargas and Miranda. Major league baseball player and Chilean Consul briefly kidnapped 9 and 11 Nov respectively.


Venezuela

  |  1 Nov 2011

Unchanged


Venezuela 7 October accepted 95 of 148 recommendations made in UN HRC Universal Periodic Review, but rejected recommendations concerning judicial independence, press freedom, protection of NGOs. Supreme Court 17 Oct dismissed as “unfeasible” Sept Inter American Court of Human Rights ruling that former mayor Leopoldo López, previously banned from holding office, could run for 2012 elections. Govt 19 Oct imposed $2.1mn fine on only remaining opposition news channel Globovisión for coverage of June riots in Rodeo prison.

Venezuela

  |  1 Oct 2011

Unchanged

U.S. 8 Sept accused 4 senior Venezuelan officials of supporting FARC rebels; govt dismissed accusations. Inter American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) 16 Sept ordered Venezuelan election officials to restore political rights of former mayor Leopoldo López, suspended from holding office by Venezuelan authorities in 2008, to allow him to run for Feb 2012 opposition primary elections; Chávez dismissed ruling. National Electoral Council 13 Sept moved date for presidential elections from Dec 2012 to Oct 2012. NGO Venezuela Observatory for Violence reported Aug most violent month of year.

Venezuela

  |  1 Sep 2011

Unchanged

Following June-July violent prison riots, new prisons minister 3 Aug suspended admission of new prisoners until further notice; later suggested 20,000 prisoners should be released to address overcrowding. Govt 17 Aug announced plans to nationalise gold industry, repatriate gold reserves from foreign banks to “friendly countries”, including Brazil, China. President Chávez 11 Aug said cancer treatment going “well”, illness “not serious”. Chávez criticised internally for continued support for Libyan dictator Qaddafi. Chávez 17 Aug announced new $4bn arms deal with Russia.

Venezuela

  |  1 Aug 2011

Unchanged

Uncertainty over President Chávez’s health continued following his late-June admission that he had received surgery for cancer in Cuba. After 4 July brief return to Caracas, Chávez 16 July returned to Cuba to continue treatment. Chávez 25 July confirmed intention to stand in 2012 elections. National Assembly 16 July authorised Chávez to govern from abroad while receiving treatment, but opposition claims his absence unconstitutional, criticised govt’s lack of transparency over his health. Chávez 16 July for first time during 12-year rule delegated some administrative, budgetary powers to VP and Finance Minister. Police 13 July regained control of El Rodeo prison outside Caracas following month-long riots that left dozens of inmates dead.

Venezuela

  |  1 Jul 2011

Deteriorated

Growing uncertainty over President Chávez’s health intensified caused political confusion, highlighted lack of alternative leadership, led to infighting in ruling PSUV party. Chávez largely absent from public following 10 June operation for “pelvic abscess” in Cuba, but in televised speech 30 June admitted he had cancerous tumour removed, said he remains “in control” of govt. Govt throughout month denied speculation his illness was life-threatening. Poor prison conditions highlighted by series of riots; at least 21 inmates killed 21 June in clash between rival gangs. New presidential commission tasked with public policies on disarming, preventing use of arms amid soaring homicide rates held first meeting 6 June; critics said govt’s continued arming of civilian militias damages commission’s credibility. Chavez late May condemned U.S. sanctions against state oil company PDVSA, imposed 24 May due to Venezuela’s support for Iran.

Venezuela

  |  1 Jun 2011

Unchanged

UK thinktank 10 May alleged ties between govt and FARC, said FARC relied on sanctuaries inside Venezuela; govt rejected claims, but President Chávez 1 May said former allies had collaborated with FARC without his consent. Following alleged drug lord Walid Makled’s extradition from Colombia, opposition 10 May called for investigation into Makled’s claims of links between ruling PSUV party and drug traffickers.

Venezuela

  |  1 May 2011

Unchanged

Social tensions continued to rise with hundreds of anti-govt protests during month; local NGO reported protests taking increasingly radical form. President Chávez late March published decree arming National Bolivarian Militias and creating militia officer corp independent of army; militia already numbers tens of thousands, critics say biased towards Chávez’s PSUV party. Relations with Colombia improved (see Colombia): Colombian govt 13 Apr announced extradition of suspected Venezuelan drug trafficker Walid Makled; Makled claims links between PSUV, military and drug-traffickers in Venezuela. Alleged head of FARC in Europe captured and deported to Colombia 25 Apr.

Venezuela

  |  1 Apr 2011

Unchanged

OAS human rights body IACHR 1 March condemned law allowing govt to suspend public officials suspected of corruption from seeking office; opposition claims President Chávez uses law to prevent their candidates from standing. Chávez strongly criticised internally for failing to denounce Libyan leader Gaddafi; Chávez condemned NATO intervention in Libya but toned down support for regime during month.

Venezuela

  |  1 Mar 2011

Unchanged

Govt 9 Feb confirmed Venezuela’s homicide rate at 48 per 100,000 citizens; has previously refused to release homicide statistics. Opposition parties boycotted 15 Feb National Assembly session to protest key-note speech by general with alleged links to drug trafficking, pro-govt bias. 23-day student anti-govt hunger strike ended 22 Feb after govt promised to review cases of alleged political prisoners, start dialogue with OAS.

Venezuela

  |  1 Feb 2011

Unchanged

New National Assembly (NA) convened 5 Jan, depriving President Chávez’s PSUV party of two-thirds majority, but NA’s powers heavily curtailed following enabling law passed Dec that allows Chávez to rule by decree for 18 months. OAS SG José Miguel Insulza 7 Jan criticised law as against OAS democratic charter; Catholic bishops 11 Jan said law opens for “totalitarian state”. Chávez 15 Jan called for dialogue with opposition, said may be willing to give up decree powers in May, but 26 Jan retracted. Following large-scale student protests, Chávez 4 Jan vetoed controversial law increasing govt control of universities.

Venezuela

  |  3 Jan 2011

Unchanged

Outgoing National Assembly (NA) 15 Dec approved law granting President Chávez broad decree powers for 12 months. U.S. called measure “subversion” of democracy; move comes before new NA with stronger opposition convenes 5 Jan. NA 9 Dec passed law defining role of “community councils”, critics claim at the expense of elected mayors and governors; 21 Dec approved bill banning NGOs, political parties from receiving foreign funding. 5 Dec regional elections in 2 departments resulted in 8 ruling party and 5 opposition candidates elected. Colombian ambassador 16 Dec announced Venezuela paid over 50% of debt owed to Colombian companies, in context of improved political and economic ties in recent months. U.S. 30 Dec revoked visa of Venezuelan ambassador, followed Caracas’s refusal to accept credentials of proposed U.S. ambassador to Venezuela.

Venezuela

  |  1 Dec 2010

Unchanged

President Chávez 2 Nov met Colombian President Santos in efforts to further improve relations (see Colombia). Santos 16 Nov controversially confirmed extradition of drug trafficker Walid Makled to Venezuela; Makled believed to have valuable information implicating high ranking Venezuelan officials in drugs trade. Venezuelan govt 24 Nov responded by extraditing 3 suspected ELN and FARC members to Colombia. Chávez 27 Nov announced Russian $4bn credit for military equipment; fulfilled promise to promote alleged drug trafficker General Henry Rangel Silva to country’s highest military rank.

“Colombia spurns US extradition for reputed narco”, AP, 16 Nov. 2010.

Venezuela

  |  1 Nov 2010

Unchanged

President Chávez 13 Oct began tour through several eastern European and Middle Eastern countries: 15 Oct signed agreement on nuclear power plant with Russian President Medvedev, 20 Oct announced intention to strengthen economic ties with Iran. Controversy over reported links between Basque separatist group ETA and govt official deepened; govt 11 Oct responded to Spanish request by opening investigation but continued to reject accusations, calls for official’s extradition. Ongoing expropriations of national and international companies: since 26 Sept elections 250,000 hectares of rural land expropriated. Chávez 10 Oct announced emergency bill to expropriate urban land.

  • “Venezuela’s multi-polar disorder”, Al Jazeera, 25 Oct. 2010.
  • For latest report, see Crisis Group Latin America Briefing N°22, Venezuela: Accelerating the Bolivarian Revolution, 5 Nov. 2009.


 

Venezuela

  |  1 Oct 2010

Unchanged

Despite polarisation ahead of poll, 26 Sept legislative elections unfolded peacefully. President Chávez claimed victory, announced deepening of Bolivarian Revolution; opposition parties celebrated achieving crucial one-third of seats returning to parliament after 5 years’ absence, allowing them to block major legislation. Chávez 8 Sept accused opposition of being behind attacks on power infrastructure leading to electricity shortages, announced intention to “neutralise” all attempts to create further unrest. Govt 21 Sept formally rejected U.S. Ambassador-designate Palmer, FM Maduro accused Palmer of violating Venezuela’s sovereignty with controversial Aug remarks.


 

Venezuela

  |  1 Sep 2010

Unchanged

De-escalation of tensions with Colombia: at 10 Aug meeting President Chávez and Colombian President Santos decided to re-establish diplomatic ties, set up committees to restore bilateral trade, improve border security. Amid growing debate on rising urban homicide rates ahead of 26 Sept legislative elections, govt 17 Aug demanded influential pro-opposition newspapers cease publication of violent images, citing “child protection”; provoked accusations of censorship from opposition, media groups. Chávez 8 Aug threatened to reject U.S. Ambassador-designate Larry Palmer after he criticised “low morale” of Venezuelan armed forces, Chávez’s denial of presence of Colombian rebel camps inside Venezuela. Chávez reiterated FARC “has no future through armed struggle”, urged release of hostages.



 

Venezuela

  |  1 Aug 2010

Unchanged

President Chávez 22 July broke diplomatic relations with Colombia after Bogotá 15 July claimed proof of FARC, ELN camps in Venezuela; govt denied accusations it “tolerated” rebel presence. Colombia 22 July presented evidence to OAS of alleged 1,500 FARC fighters in 87 camps across border; Chávez said evidence could be fabricated and charged that Colombia President Uribe could be trying to provoke war, but called on FARC to renounce armed struggle. Little progress at 29 July emergency summit of Unasur FMs, but Chávez 31 July said “hopeful” of solution when Colombia  President-elect Juan Manuel Santos takes office 7 Aug. Chávez 21 July announced govt will take minority stake in anti-govt TV station Globovisión, appoint pro-govt board members. Human Rights Watch 21 July criticised continued govt harassment of human rights workers and new govt body that will monitor, restrict information from govt agencies, established by decree June.



 

Venezuela

  |  1 Jul 2010

Unchanged

Govt 18 June asked Interpol to arrest Guillermo Zuloaga, head of anti-govt TV station Globovision, after he fled the country following mid-month arrest warrant by Venezuelan court for business irregularities. Top govt anti-corruption official early month barred 7 opposition candidates suspected of graft from standing in Sept parliamentary elections; opposition claimed politically motivated. President Chávez 10 June suspended electricity rationing, in effect since Jan.

Venezuela

  |  1 Jun 2010

Unchanged

5 of 8 Colombians arrested in March transferred to military court 12 May to face espionage, sabotage charges; 3 others released. Chávez-critic and ex-defence minister Raúl Isaias Baduel 7 May sentenced to nearly 8 years’ prison for corruption. President Chávez continued crackdown on currency speculators and traders he blames for economic woes.

Venezuela

  |  1 May 2010

Unchanged

Govt 6 Apr confirmed it had arrested 8 Colombians 29 March, accused of espionage, sabotaging electricity grid; Bogotá denied. Govt 15 Apr launched new youth groups (“communication guerillas”) to respond to anti-govt media “disinformation”; opposition, private media outlets highly critical. Opposition criticised President Chávez for 26 April granting army 40% pay rise amidst growing economic crisis; govt 5 Apr announced further arms deals with Russia that could rise to US$5bn.

Venezuela

  |  1 Apr 2010

Unchanged

Spanish judge 1 March accused ex-ministry of agriculture official Arturo Cubillas of facilitating contacts between FARC and ETA rebels, unclear if with govt knowledge; President Chávez rejected. Govt 23 Feb arrested influential opposition figure Oswaldo Álvarez Paz for “spreading false information” after he accused govt of ties to FARC, ETA; 26 March arrested head of anti-govt TV station Globovision for “contempt”, insulting Chávez in public. 1 March U.S. State Dept report said cocaine trafficking from Venezuela increased sharply during 2009.

Venezuela

  |  1 Mar 2010

Unchanged

President Chávez 9 Feb announced “electricity emergency”, signed 60-day decree authorising govt to fine heavy energy users; opposition criticised govt’s 3 Feb appointment of Cuba VP Ramiro Valdés as head of commission to address energy crisis. OAS human rights body IAHRC 2 Feb asked govt to investigate “improper use of force” by police during late Jan anti-govt protests that left 2 dead. 25 Feb IAHRC report highly critical of deteriorating democratic, human rights situations in Venezuela; Chávez 26 Feb rejected report, announced Venezuela will leave IAHRC. Govt rejected Colombia’s 20 Feb claim that FARC commander “Granobles” hiding in Venezuela’s Apure department. Group of independent media outlets 2 Feb criticised Chávez’s increasing erosion of press freedoms.

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CrisisWatch N°128

Read the latest edition of CrisisWatch in full.