July 17, 2005
Relations between President Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan Catholic Church took another turn south on Sunday as the head of state charged that Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara had "the devil inside of him."
Chavez berated Castillo Lara after the cardinal called the government a dictatorship in an interview printed by El Universal on Sunday. Castillo Lara summoned Venezuelans to exercise Article 350 of the Constitution, which he said gave them the right not to recognize a government that violated principles of democracy or human rights.
"This is the most ill-fated government in the history of Venezuela," the nation's only cardinal said. He also likened upcoming elections organized by the National Electoral Council (CNE) to "a pantomime that no one can trust."
"He is a pantomime," Chavez shot back at Castillo Lara during a fiery segment of his Sunday television show "Hello, President." The president went on to call the cardinal an "outlaw," "immoral" and a "golpista"-or, one who stages a coup d'etat.
Chavez reprimanded Castillo Lara's comments as an attempt to discourage voters at upcoming August local elections. The crowd matched the president's fervor with the referendum-era chant, "Oh, ah, Chavez won't go away."
"The whole world knows that a democracy is living in Venezuela for the first time in 200 years," Chavez said, responding to the cardinal's accusations.
The president then held up a cross and told the crowd he was certain that Jesus Christ was a "radical socialist." He added that Che Guevara and Simon Bolivar were "Christ-like."
In the interview, Castillo Lara laughed when El Universal cited Chavez' comments that there had never been a Venezuelan government "closer to the mandate of Christ." He argued that the president's goal was not to favor the poor, as the government said, but to concentrate power.
A retired cardinal, Castillo Lara said he could not officially speak for the Church. But he did accuse Chavez of trying to divide up the Church ranks by giving some of its members benefits under the table, an effort which he said had failed because the Church was "united."
The El Universal article was published after Chavez told the Vatican's recently appointed ambassador to Venezuela last week that the country's bishops were against his government.
One Sunday in July 2006, I attended "Alo, Presidente," Hugo Chavez's (very, very) long Sunday television show. Here's what I wrote afterwards.
Jens Erik Gould
Daily Journal Staff
July 7, 2005
For many, Sunday is a day of rest. But not for President Hugo Chavez and the many supporters who tune into his television program "Hello, President" every seventh day.
Last Sunday, crowds of people sat in rows of chairs outside the National Vocational Training Institute (INCI) in the low-income Caracas suburb 23 de enero, the site of the 227th version of the show. Facing the crowd were stacks of speakers channeling the voice of Chavez.
Stiff security separated the street crowd from the president. Inside the institute, around two hundred students, military and government officials sat under a canape in the commons. Nearly half the crowd was dressed in red, the color of Chavez's Bolivarian revolution.
At the first glimpse of the president, the energy in the crowd changed and everyone was applauding loudly. Chavez emerged from the second floor of the complex and took a seat at his famed his famed "Hello, President" desk in front of the camera.
Since the average Sunday program lasts five to seven hours, food and drinks were available for audience members. Communication minister Andres Izarra has said that Chavez spends at least 40 hours a week on the air.
Throughout Sunday's six-hour long show, Chavez made an effort to connect with his audience on a personal level. At one point, a young boy yelled "Chavez!" and ran up to the stage. The head of state lifted him and a young girl into his arms and asked them about their families.
The president showed his humorous side and knack for impersonation as well. At one point, he swayed back and forth, imitating a drunk man who once told him "Long live Fidel (Castro)."
"Drunks say the truth, but when they pass a certain limit, it's just stupidity," said Chavez. The audience responded favorably to his jokes and impersonations. "Yes, that's it, president!" yelled one young man.
Chavez spent a large portion of the program speaking with students from Mision Robinson, a government-funded social program that provides elementary school classes for citizens lacking an education. "I didn't know how to read or write," said one student. "I learned it all at Mission Robinson."
The president weaved humor into the topic of illiteracy as well. "The guys are lazier," he said, noting that most students present at the show were women.
Chavez asked if the students had studied English and jokingly pronounced a couple phrases in broken English. "How are you? What's your name?" he said.
The president spent a good twenty minutes with the map of South America. Drawing a line connecting Caracas, Brazilia and Buenos Aires, Chavez the three most populous nations in South America were a new "axis."
With the map of South America in his hands, he called the continent "a beautiful woman dancing on only one foot." He said "What do you think," asking the crowd what they thought of the axis. Suddenly, he broke into song, briefly singing a verse containing the same phrase.
Sitting in the front row were the Argentine president's sister, Alicia Kirchner, who is also the country's minister of social development, and the newly appointed Argentine ambassador to Venezuela, Hilda Garren. Kirchner gave Chavez several presents.
Kircher said that her country and the Chavez government shared "the same philosophy of work" and "collective conscience." "I hope you'll be here with us until 2001," Chavez told the Argentines.
Chavez proposed a Latin American social project that would fight poverty and illiteracy in the whole region. "Our people are far from integration," he said about Latin Americans.
In many episodes of his program, Chavez maintains harsh dialogue towards the government of the United States. Last Sunday was no exception. He ridiculed recruitment efforts by the United States army. "No one wants to go to war, but they're starting recruitment again," he said.
The president mocked Washington's agitation over the Venezuelan purchase of 100,000 AK-103 assault rifles from Russia. "Do they think we're going to take Washington with (100,000 rifles)?" he asked rhetorically. "We're going to take it, but not with 100,000 rifles." He also said precise plans existed to invade Venezuela.
Sunday's program is one of several opportunities citizens have to request state aid. Outside the institute, a group of government workers sat around a table processing letters from people around the nation. They highlighted the handwritten requests for pertinent information and marked each one with a label: "Housing," "Health" or "Employment."
After the program, a lady approached Energy and Petroleum minister Rafael Ramirez asking for help. Her daughter had been fired from her company because she was a "chavista," she said. Ramirez asked her to give her information to an assistant.
Ramirez asks companies for 'respect,' 'goodwill'
Jens Erik Gould
July 6, 2005
Transitional contracts drafted by the Venezuelan Ministry of Energy and Petroleum declare current operating agreements with foreign oil companies illegal and would reduce company rights and benefits.
A draft of the transitional contract obtained by The Daily Journal calls the operating agreements "incongruent with legal framework" and gives companies a period of six months to convert their operations to joint ventures.
"The companies have enough ability to understand that there is a legal framework that has to be respected, and that if they want to be exploiting petroleum in a country with one of the biggest reserves on the planet, they have to respect our laws," Energy and Petroleum minister Rafael Ramirez in an interview with The Daily Journal on Sunday. Companies that signed the transitional contracts would show "a sign of goodwill," he added.
The government argues that the 32 operating agreements signed with foreign companies in the 1990s are oil producing agreements rather than service contracts and therefore violate Venezuelan law prohibiting private participation.
The transitional contracts are meant to govern the operating agreements while Venezuelan authorities define the legal framework for joint ventures required under the stricter 2001 Hydrocarbons Law. The law stipulates 30 percent royalty payments and majority participation by the state-run oil company PetrÛleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
As of yet, no companies have announced plans to sign any transitional agreements.
The draft makes no mention of company rights to international arbitration, a benefit enjoyed under current contracts. Instead, it states that all contract disputes would fall under the jurisdiction of Venezuelan courts.
The government would also put an annual limit on capital fees, operation fees and interest paid to companies under the operating agreements, the draft states. Payment by PDVSA would not exceed 66.67 percent of the total value of crude produced in each operating area.
The document explains that fees exceeding this annual limit could not be transferred to another calendar year, revoking the contractor's "right to receive any compensation" for unpaid fees.
The annual limit would prevent PDVSA from accumulating losses, which the company argues is occurring under the current payment scheme that calculates fees based on the high price of oil.
Despite the condensed benefits, Ramirez offered assurances that the companies were not apprehensive about the transitional contracts. "Various" companies were interested and all companies were negotiating with the government, he said.
Asked if he expected companies to sign the transitional contracts, Ramirez said, "with some, yes; with some, no."
Shell Venezuela president Sean Rooney said last week that his company was in favor of converting to joint ventures.
"Shell was proactive in approaching the government to talk about converting our operating agreement to a joint venture because we felt it was the right thing to do," Rooney told reporters.
Joint ventures are expected to allow companies to own and market oil, rather than the current arrangement in which they are hired to pump PDVSA's crude.
While Rooney declined to say last week whether his company had received a draft of the transitional contract, he admitted there was a possibility that Shell would sign a transitional agreement.
U.S. ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield said in an interview on Monday that while Venezuela had a sovereign right to govern its natural resources, it also had an "obligation to respect the contracts that it has already signed and voluntarily entered into."
Henrique RodrÌguez, president of the small Venezuelan oil firm Suelopetrol, told reporters last week that his company had received a draft of the transitional proposal, but he called it a mere "proposal for negotiations."
The anticipated regulations for the new joint ventures are expected to resolve uncertainty surrounding how much managerial control the companies will have given their minority participation.
While the government takes an increasingly nationalist stance, some major foreign companies have reiterated a willingness to keep doing business in the country.
"With a company like Chevron being in Venezuela for over 60 years, we are committed to Venezuela," said Ali Moshiri, president of Chevron Latin America, in an interview last week. "We just need to work out some of these issues."
Other companies who have operating agreements in the country include ExxonMobil, British Petroleum, Repsol YPF, Petrobras and China National Petroleum Corp.
Brownfield celebrates July 4th
Jens Erik Gould
Daily Journal Staff
July 5, 2005
A crowd of American citizens and embassy officials were on hand at the US Embassy on Monday as United States ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield hosted a ceremony commemorating Independence Day. In honor of the occasion, four members of the US Armed Forces raised a large American flag on the Embassy hill overlooking Caracas.
During his speech, Brownfield praised his country, saying it allowed citizens to "speak our mind and to live as we wish, so long as we do not impinge on our neighbors."
He also said Americans were possibly the "most observed" people in the world. Asked about the comment later, he told The Daily Journal, "since about 1945, the US, its government and its people seem to attract more attention, more analysis, more news and press coverage than any other people in the world and perhaps any other people in history."
One American woman attending the event said that she felt under the microscope living in Caracas. She added that she sometimes felt unsafe as government criticisms of the United States have increased.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez often refers to the United States as an "imperialist empire" and has nicknamed President George W. Bush "Mr. Danger." US officials have called Venezuela a threat to the region.
Bilateral relations have been strained by recent events, including the row over the fate of suspected terrorist Luis Posada Carriles and President Bush's reception of S˙mate director Maria Corina Machado at the White House in early June.
The ambassador said there was "no question whatsoever" that the "rhetoric and dialogue" between the two governments had changed in the past few years. Political and diplomatic factors accounted for this change, as well as "the new nature of the economic relationship between the two countries," he said.
Venezuela has sought to strengthen commercial ties with countries such as Iran, China and Russia and is also a principle advocate of Latin American economic integration.
Brownfield said he was not "deeply troubled" by the Venezuelan effort to develop new economic ties. "My task is to manage this relationship in a way that most meets the needs and the interests of the American people and the Venezuelan people for the years to come," he said.
The ambassador did put politically motivated economic decisions in a separate category. "We have a right to express a view if we believe that some markets are being acquired or there is penetration that is driven more by political consideration and political decisions as opposed to economic and commercial decisions," Brownfield said.
Regarding stricter policies towards foreign oil companies by Venezuela, Brownfield said the government had a sovereign right to determine how to handle its natural resources and to set its own tax and royalties policy. Yet he also said that Venezuela had an "obligation to respect the contracts that it has already signed and voluntarily entered into."
Asked about the local sentiment towards Americans, Brownfield said he could not define how Americans were perceived because Venezuelan society was very diverse. "I think overall, however, our relations people to people are very good and I think they're as good as you'll find almost anywhere else in Latin America," he said.
He said the bilateral relationship was almost 200 years old and also said there existed a "very close relationship that is tied to certain economic principals-prinicpally petroleum," which has lasted 80 years.
Similar flag ceremonies were be held on Monday at 160 embassies worldwide, the ambassador said. He added that traditional parades, picnics, baseball games and fireworks would take place across the US.
The native Texan said his favorite place to spend Independence Day was on the banks of the Colorado River in Austin, Texas, listening to the Austin Symphony Orchestra and watching a fireworks display.
Chavez and Castro further health ties
August 21, 2005
The Daily Journal
Chavez and Cuban President Fidel Castro, together hosting Sunday's version of the program "Hello President," pledged to offer medical care to 6 million Latin Americans over the next 10 years under the auspices of the "Sandino Agreement." 300,000 patients outside of Venezuela and the Caribbean would also receive operations in the next year, they said.
The two presidents settled on the figures after experiencing "a little confusion" in their calculations.
President Chavez was in Cuba to attend the first graduation of medical students from the Latin American Medical Science School on Saturday. Of the 1,610 students from 28 countries who received degrees, 51 were Venezuelan.
Around 20 leaders from around the region attended the graduation, including Panamanian President Martin Torrijos.
Chavez said that the Venezuelan airline Conviasa would dedicate an aircraft to carrying patents from around Latin America to receive treatment in Cuba.
Venezuela would set up its own Latin American school of medicine, similar to the school in Havana, which would "educate an army of doctors to fight against disease," Chavez said. He dedicated the school to Castro and the Cuban revolution.
The two leaders also promised to graduate around 100,000 medical students in the next 10 years.
"An atomic bomb has exploded for the life of the people of Latin America and the Caribbean," Chavez said.
The "Mission Milagro," which brings Venezuelan patients to Cuba for medical attention, celebrated its 50,000th patient to receive an operation in Cuba on Sunday. The patient, Angel Quintero Gomez, thanked Chavez and Castro on the program after receiving an eye operation.
It's interesting to read Venezuela's military rhetoric about the U.S. back in 2005, in light of what's going on today.
Reservists to counteract US - Lopez Hidalgo
By Jens Erik Gould
Daily Journal Staff
"Fourth generation warfare" allegedly committed by the United States against Venezuela is behind the government's aggressive plan to expand its military reserves, said the Inspector General of the National Armed Forces (FAN) in an exclusive interview with The Daily Journal on Tuesday.
The reason? The world covets Venezuela's enormous petroleum reserves at a time when global supplies are dwindling, said Gen. Melvin LÛpez Hidalgo, who assumed his new post last week.
"It's not against the people of the United States, but specifically against the hostile attitude of President Bush," he said.
According LÛpez Hidalgo, this fourth generation conflict, which refers to decentralized modern war in which the lines between war and politics are blurred, has led Venezuela to boost its capacity for "asymmetric warfare," a conflict in which two belligerents are mismatched in their military capabilities.
When asked how Venezuela could stand up to the U.S.' military might in the case of action, he cited the Vietnam War and the current violence in Iraq as examples of successful asymmetric responses against Washington.
"They can come in here, embark, bomb us, et cetera, but the people can respond," he said. "That is the integration and union of a people so it can respond to aggression."
President Hugo Ch·vez' call earlier this year to boost the reserves to over 2 million men "created an expectation" that has propelled citizens across the country to register, the Inspector said.
While the Inspector declined to specify how many people were currently registered for the reserves, he said the government was shooting for a total of 2.5 million, or approximately 10 percent of the population, and aimed to enroll 1 million by the end of the year. When asked if the number had already reached 500,000 he said "we could talk about that number."
LÛpez Hidalgo called it a "fact" that "all the people that intervened in the coup d'Ètat" staged in April 2002 against President Hugo Ch·vez "were supported by the U.S. government." He said that the supposed US involvement "opened our eyes" to the nation's need for more men in arms.
The US government denies any participation in the coup. Yet the Inspector offered assurances that during the coup, a U.S. submarine was located off the Venezuelan coast, U.S. Black Hawk helicopters were in the country and that the U.S. coordinated exercises with personnel ready to join the coup. He added that Washington had requested that evidence of these actions be erased.
The Inspector also repeated claims made last month by President Hugo Ch·vez that the United States supported a strategic plan to invade Venezuela-called the Balboa Plan-which he said was simulated in Spain in 2001.
He insisted that the plan was backed by the United Nations and NATO, and was designed to cut the country in half, "destroy the military bases, ... bomb all the airports, ...destroy all the airplanes, ... and destroy bridges."
LÛpez Hidalgo even cited a recent amendment passed by the U.S. House of Representatives to counteract the Venezuela-backed television station Telesur as an example of fourth generation warfare. "They will try to intercept and neutralize the electromagnetic waves of our sovereign air space," he said. "That calls us to wake up and respond."
The Inspector would not say whether the recent acquisition of Russian rifles and Brazilian war planes was related to the plan to boost Venezuela's asymmetric capability. Nor did he reveal whether more purchases were in the works. He did, however, point out that the request to purchase the Russian rifles was made even before Ch·vez came to power in 1998.
He said that military force could come from neighboring Colombia, but only if it were supported by the United States. "We understand that (Colombia's alliance with the United States) is not a position of the Colombian people, but a foreign position that affects the Colombian and Venezuelan people," he said.
Ch·vez opponents have accused the government of boosting the reserves in order to counteract its supposed mistrust of the Armed Forces after the military participation in the 2002 coup d'etat. Yet LÛpez Hidalgo called these claims "completely false" and guaranteed that the government now had more confidence in the FAN than ever.
"There are admirals, colonels, et cetera, that participated in coup, and now regret it," LÛpez Hidalgo said. "Many people opened their eyes."
Also, a plan to "generate confidence" in the FAN, which the Inspector called one of his main projects, included efforts by the Attorney General and military courts to reopen investigations against officers who were accused of participating in the coup, which he called "fundamentally military." Some of the most important cases involved Commander Efrain Vasquez Velasco, Vice Admiral Hector RamÌrez PÈrez and General Enrique Medina Gomez, he said.
The Inspector repeated several times that these men and others were "still (living) at home," and said his goal was for these men and others "to assume responsibility." "The worst that can happen in this country is that impunity wins," he said.
LÛpez Hidalgo also claimed that the population "feels more relaxes with this (reserves) initiative." "Because it is not only the Armed Forces that will safeguard the security of nation, but the (1999) Constitution establishes co-responsibility for the defense of country. We are applying the Bolivarian Constitution, which is a willingness of people of Venezuela," he said.
The make-up of the reserves
The reserves do appear to be expanding upwards from the 60,000 men that the Inspector said were registered before Ch·vez' announcement. Lt. Col. Pablo Cabarga Mota, who manages the military's reserves unit in the Caracas suburb 23 de enero, told The Daily Journal last month that the number of people registered in his unit had increased from 1,500 to 6,000 since the start of the year.
The Inspector explained that some citizens have "taken the initiative" to begin training even though the Organic Law of the National Armed Forces - which establishes the organization and budget of the reserves - has not yet been passed. One program in the Caracas suburb of El Paraiso trains hundreds of citizens in civilian clothes every week.
Under the new law, the reserves budget will depend upon the Executive rather than the Ministry of Defense. He also mentioned that Ch·vez proposed paying reservists a subsidy of Bs. 16,000 per day, which he said was more than they received today.
Reserves units would also be developed within national industries and said various training operations had already been carried out within the petroleum industry.
But LÛpez Hidalgo assured that the reservists would only train with FAN arms, and would not have access to arms outside of training. He also said instead of taking up arms, some reservists would work in social development programs along with FAN soldiers. 3 years of training would be required to become official reservists.
A peaceful buildup?
Some consider the concept of a peaceful military buildup an oxymoron, and government opponents have gone as far as claiming that the government is creating a new military body to squash internal dissent.
Even so, the Inspector offered assurances that the movement was not "bellicose" and that Venezuela was "not preparing to invade anyone." "With that we don't want to worry anyone, nor any neighboring country. On the contrary, we want to show that we are ready to defend our territory until the end."
[[First published in 2005]]
Jens Erik Gould
Para La Voz de Nuevo México
CARACAS, Venezuela — Por la pantalla destellaban las imágenes de los manifestantes que marchaban por una ciudad latinoamericana no identificada. Unos de ellos levantaban una pancarta con una caricatura del Tío Sam que decía: “Aplastemos el imperialismo”. Luego la cámara enfocó a una mujer sonriendo detrás de las palabras, “Por fin nos vemos las caras”.
Estos pasajes formaban parte de la señal de prueba de Telesur, un nuevo canal de televisión latinoamericano que inició transmisiones el domingo.
Fundado por los gobiernos de Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba y Uruguay, el canal pretende ser una alternativa a los grandes medios de comunicación internacionales como CNN.
“Las producciones que vienen de (los grandes medios) son una visión de Latinoamérica en blanco y negro, normalmente en negro cuando hay desastre y nada más”, dijo el director de Telesur, Aram Aharonian.
Un tercio de la programación del canal consistirá de noticias recogidas por nueve corresponsalías en las Américas. El resto será programación cultural latinoamericana, como películas, documentales y conciertos.
Un programa promete poner al descubierto las acciones de los soldados estadounidenses supuestamente implicados en el tráfico de drogas en Colombia. Otra serie llamada “Memorias del Fuego” presentará eventos históricos latinoamericanos que Flor de Maria Oliva 7/25/05 según los ejecutivos del canal se han olvidado.
No obstante, la semana pasada la Cámara de Representantes de EE. UU. aprobó una enmienda impulsada por Connie Mack, Republicano de Florida, que autoriza transmisiones de radio y televisión estadounidenses Flor de Maria Oliva 7/25/05 para bloquear el alcance de Telesur.
Mack, junto con críticos de Telesur, acusan al nuevo canal de ser un portavoz para la política del presidente de Venezuela Hugo Chávez. Se preocupan porque Andrés Izarra, el Ministro de Comunicaciones venezolano es el presidente de Telesur, y también porque Venezuela posee el 51 por ciento del canal y es su sede.
“Hoy (EE. UU.) envió un mensaje que no se hará de la vista gorda mientras que Hugo Chávez sigue borrando la libertad y secuestrando Venezuela de sus ciudadanos”, dice Mack, según AFP.
Pero aunque Izarra respondió el domingo que Telesur sería un canal “en contra del imperialismo cultural”, también dijo: “Esto no debe interpretarse como una iniciativa en contra del pueblo estadounidense”.
El congresista demócrata por Arizona Raúl Grijalva rechazó la iniciativa de Mack.
“Los dueños de los medios privados en Venezuela son inmensamente ricos, y son probablemente las últimas personas sobre faz de la tierra que necesitarán ayuda de EE. UU. para transmitir sus opiniones”, dijo Grijalva.
Chris Crommett, vicepresidente de CNN en Español, dijo en una entrevista el mes pasado que no quería prejuzgar Telesur, y señaló que hay quienes suelen acusar a CNN de tener afiliaciones políticas.
El canal se puede ver por satélite en todo el hemisferio y está en negociaciones con estaciones de cable para transmitir en EE. UU.
On eve of vote, Venezuelan president accuses Washington of backing rival
Dec. 2, 2006. 01:00 AM
JENS ERIK GOULD
CARACAS—Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says his real opponent when he goes up for re-election tomorrow won't be main opposition candidate Manuel Rosales. Rather, it will be the United States.
Chavez, who famously called U.S. President George W. Bush "the devil" at the United Nations in September, is convinced that Washington is behind Rosales' effort to unseat him.
He told hundreds of thousands of supporters at a campaign rally that his true rival was the "imperialist government of the United States."
Chavez's anti-Bush rhetoric resonates in Latin America, where opposition is growing to the free-market capitalist reforms urged by Washington. With Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador all electing leftist presidents in the past year, the Venezuelan leader sees the region's leftward shift as an opportunity to rebuff U.S. influence.
But Chavez's supporters offer another explanation for his commanding lead in most public opinion polls: a legacy of generous social development programs bankrolled by windfall oil profits to provide cheaper food, free education and free health care for the poor.
"President Chavez has confronted the problem of poverty and the social problems that have been serious in our country," said lawmaker William Querales, who is on the foreign policy committee at the legislature. "Foreign policy has an effect, but obviously a leader grows stronger through the solution of internal problems."
The opposition counters by pointing to studies showing that Chavez, 52, has failed to put a major dent in poverty and that violent crime has worsened.
Freddy Linarez, 48, a construction worker from the dangerous Caracas neighbourhood of Petare, said the government was not doing enough to fight crime.
"You have to be more afraid of the police than the actual thieves," Linarez said. "People steal here in Petare and neither the National Guard nor the police do anything. And the mayor doesn't even show his face."
But many in the poor neighbourhoods, called barrios, on the outskirts of Caracas say they are better off since Chavez was elected in 1998.
Tacagua is a barrio where many homes are made of scraps of tin pieced together. Here, gang violence and drug use are part of everyday life, and the government has been slow to provide new housing for families whose homes are in danger of collapsing in mudslides.
Even so, posters and graffiti praising Chavez permeate the neighbourhood.
Yris Machado, 41, a widow, could feed her four children only one meal a day until a Chavez-backed program began supplying her with food staples. Now, she and her children, one of whom has Down syndrome, eat three meals a day.
"Thanks to my president, now I can say that I'm going to buy a new mattress for my daughter and I'm going to give her a better way of living," Machado said.
Across town in the low-income area of El Valle, Gladys Garcia is thrilled with the Chavez government. After being denied treatment by a private hospital because she couldn't pay, Garcia is now getting attention at a free government-sponsored health-care clinic.
The program called Barrio Adentro, Spanish for "inside the neighbourhood," brings tens of thousands of Cuban doctors to work in Venezuela in exchange for Venezuelan oil under preferential terms. Since 2003, thousands of red-brick clinics have sprung up across the country, giving the poor 24-hour-a-day treatment closer to home.
It is voters like Garcia and Machado that Rosales' campaign is failing to win over, although he has promised to tackle Venezuela's growing problems with crime and corruption, as well as putting an end to Chavez's generous aid to allies like Cuba.
Rosales also accuses the government of politicizing state entities. His campaign released a video earlier this month showing Chavez's energy minister Rafael Ramirez threatening to lay off state oil company workers who didn't support the president.
This article was first published in 2014 in The Financialist
Want to buy a home in Australia? You’ll need to compete with the Chinese. Wealthy Chinese are pouring more than $5 billion a year into the Australian property market, accounting for 12 percent of the new housing supply per year, according to a Credit Suisse report entitled “The Chinese Property Boom Down Under.”
And it looks as if they’ll be accounting for even more: Chinese spending in Australia’s residential market totaled $24 billion over the past seven years; Credit Suisse estimates a near-doubling to $44 billion over the next seven.
It’s not just Australia’s cleaner air or beautiful beaches that are attracting Chinese money. Chinese investors are scouring the globe for compelling investment opportunities since their banks are offering low or negative real interest on deposits and Beijing is restricting property purchases.
The boom is jacking up property prices in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities to among the highest in the world.
By Jens Gould
The Albuquerque Tribune
March 24, 2005
Varsity softball teams from around the state face off today in a tournament honoring former Rio Rancho softball player Kristin Griego.
The annual Kristin Griego Memorial Varsity Softball tournament provides an opportunity for some rare matchups as teams warm up for district play next week.
The finals are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday at Rio Rancho High School.
Rio Rancho coach Paul Kohman, who coached Griego for four seasons, said the school renamed the tournament because Griego was a high caliber player who was well respected.
"She always gave to others and worked very hard," said Kohman.
Griego died of a diabetic seizure in November 2003.
The tournament features some of the state's best teams and promises to be competitive. "I think there could be some upsets this year," said Kohman, who also manages the tournament.
The bracket matches up teams who do not normally play each other in the regular season and allows teams to see styles of play from other districts.
"Besides coaching your own team, it's fun to watch other teams play," said Kohman. "We're all a little different in everything we do."
Coaches also use the tournament as an indicator of how teams might perform during the rest of the season.
Highland coach Ron Thomas said the tournament will help his team gear up for its first district game next week.
Farmington won last year's tournament with an extra-innings victory over Rio Rancho in the finals. The Scorpions went on to win the 4A State Championship.
Alamogordo enters the tournament as defending 5A State champions.
Kohman said one player to watch this weekend is Aztec's hard-throwing pitcher Cassidy Nee.
The tournament, formerly known as the Rio Rancho Invitational, is in its sixth year. It is open to teams of all classifications and does not draw brackets by seed.
Play begins at 11 a.m. on Thursday and continues until Saturday. All games will take place on four fields at Rio Rancho High School.