By Emily Senger - Monday, April 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
Runner-up Henrique Capriles calls for a recount amid close results
Maduro, 50, was the protegé Chavez chose to continue his legacy before he died. Maduro will now serve the remainder of Chavez’s six-year term as president.
The election, however, was a close one. Maduro, a former bus driver, won with 50.7 per cent of the vote after 99 per cent of the votes had been counted, Bloomberg News reported Monday. That result was the closest the country has seen since 1968 and many in the country are questioning the legitimacy of the results.
The runner-up was Henrique Capriles, who stepped down as governor of Miranda state to run. He finished with 49.1 per cent of the vote, which was a closer result than expected. Capriles said he will challenge the results and is calling for a recount. “Mr. Maduro, you were the loser … This system is collapsing, it’s like a castle of sand – touch it and it falls,” Capriles said after the results. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 4:00 AM - 0 Comments
The comandante’s chosen successor launches his campaign for the presidency
The early days of Venezuela’s election campaign have featured the use of a corpse as a political prop, the intensification of an already creepy personality cult, and the incumbent candidate, Nicolás Maduro, accusing opponent Henrique Capriles, whose platform emphasizes “social inclusion” and poverty reduction, of being a fascist.
It is not, in other words, a restrained and thoughtful campaign—and even that description is perhaps generous. Democratic campaigns at least attempt to be fair fights; this one does not.
On April 14, Capriles must beat not just Maduro, but also the ghost of recently deceased president Hugo Chávez, most media, the military and the country’s supposedly non-partisan institutions, which Chávez politicized and tried to transform into tools of his “Bolivarian Revolution.”
On his own, Maduro, a former foreign minister who was named interim president after Chávez died, is a beatable candidate. A bear of a man and long-time Chávez loyalist, he lacks his predecessor’s charisma. “That wouldn’t matter so much if the economy was growing,” says Susan Kaufman Purcell, director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami. But it’s not. Chávez used subsidized oil exports to buy favour across Latin America and the Caribbean. He channelled revenue into social “missions” in poor neighbourhoods, instead of investing in maintenance and equipment to increase production. Infrastructure has decayed. Hospitals and schools are in rough shape. Violent crime is rampant.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 2:33 PM - 0 Comments
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s embrace of Hugo Chávez’s grieving mother created a storm back home.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s embrace of Hugo Chávez’s grieving mother created a storm back home.
A photo of the Iranian president hugging Elena Frías de Chávez at the late Venezuelan leader’s funeral was denounced by conservatives in Iran—where it is forbidden for men to touch women. Government officials hilariously claimed that the photo— released by state media in Venezuela, Tehran’s great friend—had been faked.
Iran quickly released a gruesomely photoshopped pic, showing Ahmadinejad embracing Chavez’s “uncle” in place of his mother. Oops: the “uncle’s” picture is that of an Egyptian opposition leader who is much taller than Ahmadinejad.
By Emily Senger - Friday, March 8, 2013 at 10:21 AM - 0 Comments
When the funeral for former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez ends Friday, the leader won’t…
When the funeral for former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez ends Friday, the leader won’t be buried underground.
In a surprise announcement, the government said Chavez will be embalmed and his preserved body will be put on display in a “crystal urn” in a military museum for public viewing.
Acting President Nicolas Maduro made the announcement Thursday, using state television to say: “It has been decided that the body of the comandante will be embalmed so that it remains eternally on view for the people at the museum.”
Chavez’s body will be treated like other famous leftist leaders. “Just like Lenin. Just like Mao Zedong,” Maduro said.
Chavez, 58, died Tuesday from cancer. He lead the country for 16 years and was re-elected to another six-year term in October 2012, but was never sworn in due to his illness.
More than 30 heads of state were expected to attend Chavez’s funeral, including Cuban President Raul Castro and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Yesterday, when Hugo Chavez died, the reaction was immediate, and it was hateful. Ezra Levant, the Canadian commentator never known for holding back, tweeted that Chavez should burn in hell. I mentioned this to someone, and they responded: “He needs Ezra’s help?” Such were the first moments of visceral response. Of course, news spread of tears—and cheers—in the streets of Caracas, the Venezuelan capital. Eventually, measured responses followed from Canada’s official circles. First, NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar tweeted his condolences to Chavez’s family and the people of Venezuela. Prime Minister Stephen Harper followed with a similar message of condolence—but also hope for a different direction, urging citizens to “build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”
This morning’s papers distil the varied reaction to Chavez’s passing. The Globe and Mail characterized Chavez as a “charismatic strongman“, and warned of the “growing doubt that the polarizing leader’s creation can outlive him.” The National Post, under the headline that Chavez “leaves a mess behind,” noted in its front-page lede that Chavez is one among many left-leaning Latin leaders who have “brought political repression and economic hardship to their people.” The Toronto Star labelled Chavez a “controversial president,” and also played up the uncertainty left in his wake. The Ottawa Citizen headlined Chavez’s “polarizing revolution.”
The Post‘s resident funny man, Steve Murray, said it all in a tweet, smack dab in the middle of the tug-of-war reaction to Chavez’s death: ”Going online to determine if Chavez was a hero or a villain is as tricky as finding out if GIRLS is good or not.”
What’s above the fold this morning?
The Globe and Mail leads with the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. The National Post fronts Chavez’s death and legacy. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with Chavez’s “uncertain legacy.” The Ottawa Citizen leads with Chavez’s “polarizing revolution.” iPolitics fronts the “uncertainty” and “hope” in Venezuela’s oil patch. CBC.ca leads with Venezuelan Vice-President Nicolas Maduro’s ascent to interim president. National Newswatch showcases a Star story about Conservative Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu’s alleged relationship with a staffer.
Stories that will be (mostly) missed
1. Anti-tobacco. The feds are introducing legislation that would create an RCMP task force of about 50 officers to combat Canada’s contraband tobacco industry. 2. Holocaust remembrance. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was in Berlin to assume the chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, a 31-nation body. 3. Sri Lankan migrants. Just under 40 per cent of refugee claims resulting from the arrival of the MV Sun Sea had been accepted, as of last month—65 of the 163 cases so far adjudicated. 4. Gambling. Police arrested 18 people allegedly involved in one of Canada’s largest gambling ring yesterday, and also seized $1.6 million in cash and two handguns.
By Aaron Hutchins - Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 11:41 PM - 0 Comments
How did politicians in Canada and around the world react to the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez? Let’s just say there were mixed emotions. Below is a list compiled of statements, tweets, and reported televised interviews about the late controversial President.
In a statement by the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper said: “At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”
Jean Chrétien, the former Prime Minister, said in a televised interview on CBC’s Power and Politics:
“He was a great baseball fan and player and he always told me that if I were to visit him in Venezuela we would go to a baseball field and he would throw balls to me for me to hit them, you know, and we never had the occasion to do that.”
“On a personal basis, I had really good relations with him. He was not a great admirer of the Americans and he was not shy to discuss that with anybody, including me.”
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae expressed his hope for democracy in Venezuela via Twitter, writing:
“The death of Hugo Chavez marks turning in Venezuelan politics – we send our condolences, and hopes for democratic future for a great people.”
NDP member of Parliament Paul Dewar also went to Twitter to say the following:
“Condolences to President Chavez’s family and the people of Venezuela. We reaffirm the enduring bonds between our two countries.”
South of the border, American politicians had polarizing views on the passing of the Venezuelan leader. Demorcratic Congressman Jose E. Serrano had positive memories of Chavez, and expressed this on his Twitter account:
“Hugo Chavez was a leader that understood the needs of the poor. He was committed to empowering the powerless. R.I.P. Mr. President.”
Republican Congressman Ed Royce, on the other hand, wasn’t shy about his dislike for the late-Venezuelan leader:
“Hugo Chavez was a tyrant who forced the people of Venezuela to live in fear. His death dents the alliance of anti-U.S. leftist leaders in South America. Good riddance to this dictator,” Royce said in a statement.
In a longer statement from Jimmy Carter, the former President extended his condolences while also acknowledging the division Chavez created during his 14 years as the controversial leader of Venezuela.
“Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chávez’s commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.”
President Barack Obama had a more neutral statement, saying:
“At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government. As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.”
In Mexico, President Enrique Peña Nieto said the following on Twitter:
“So sorry to hear of President Hugo Chavez’s passing. My deepest condolences to his family and the Venezuelan people.”
And former Mexican President Felipe Calderón also tweeted, writing:
“My condolences to Hugo Chavez’s family and followers, and to all Venezuelans. May Venezuela define its path with democracy.”
In Argentina, Vice-President Amado Boudou tweeted:
“A great sorrow for the Americas. See you soon, commander: you and Nestor [Kichner] will lead the people to victory.”
Here’s what some other politicians had to say:
“The rule of Hugo Chavez is over,” wrote U.S. Senator Bill Nelson on his Twitter feed.
Congressman Tom Cotton‘s statement said:
“Sic semper tyrannis. [Latin for "Thus always to tyrants."]
“After the welcome news of Hugo Chavez’s death, I hope that the oppressed people of Venezuela will be able to live in freedom, not under miserable tyranny.”
U.S. Senator Bob Corker, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the following:
“Following the death of Hugo Chavez, it is my hope that all Venezuelans will have the opportunity to fully exercise their political rights, including freedom of expression and assembly, in fully free and fair constitutionally-mandated elections and build a more prosperous future for their country.”
Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in her statement:
“For over a decade Chavez had used corruption, intimidation, manipulation, and brutal tactics to rule over the Venezuelan people. Chavez misruled Venezuela with an iron grip on the government, economy, and the courts as he routinely bullied the media and the opposition to deny the people of Venezuela their basic freedoms. Today, his death marks the end of this tyrannical rule but the road to democracy for the Venezuelan people is still very much uncertain.”
The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary William Hague released a statement saying:
“I was saddened to learn of the death of President Hugo Chavez today. As President of Venezuela for 14 years he has left a lasting impression on the country and more widely. I would like to offer my condolences to his family and to the Venezuelan people at this time.”
And according to Reuters, leaders throughout America said the following:
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera: “We undoubtedly had our differences, but I was always able to appreciate the strength, the engagement with which Chavez fought for his ideas.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos: “The obsession that united us and that was the base of our relationship was peace in Colombia and the region. If we’ve advanced in a solid peace process … it’s also thanks to the dedication and commitment without limits of President Chavez and the Venezuelan government.”
Mauricio Funes, President of El Salvador: “The death of someone who has been one of the strongest and most popular Latin American leaders will, without doubt, produce a vacuum in politics, but most of all, in the heart of all Venezuelan men and women.”
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff: “On many occasions, the Brazilian government did not fully agree with President Hugo Chavez but today, as always, we recognize in him a great leader, an irreparable loss and, above all, a friend of Brazil.”
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva: “I’m confident that his example of love of the fatherland and his dedication to the cause of the poor will continue to illuminate the future of Venezuela.”
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 9:11 PM - 0 Comments
To say that Hugo Chavez divided Venezuelans doesn’t do justice to the extremes of emotion he provoked in his fellow citizens.
I once spent an evening with a wealthy woman in Caracas who made increasingly lurid and damning allegations about the president, culminating in an anecdote about a friend of a relative of a friend who supposedly knew Chavez and heard him express admiration for Hitler.
This was preposterous, but then so was much of the hagiography that surrounded Chavez when he lived, and that will surely get kicked up a notch now. Chavez was not a tyrant, but nor was he saint who sought to liberate Venezuela’s poor and unite the country behind revolutionary socialism. That Venezuela is so split now at the moment of his death is the natural result of his own polarizing politics.
Chavez was an autocratic populist who governed as if in the midst of a perpetual election campaign in which he was not constrained by normal democratic rules. For Chavez, Venezuelans could be divided between his supporters — chavistas — and opponents. Most chavistas were poor, and many benefited from his polices designed to help them. Chavez brought them subsidized food and more accessible healthcare. He built cable cars to connect residents of mountainside shantytowns to the centre of Caracas.
But to Chavez the poor were also — and perhaps primarily — supporters to be mobilized. So many of his social programs were politicized. The committees administering them were linked to Chavez’s party. Schoolchildren learned to sing his praise. In one particularly telling incident, Venezuelans who signed a petition asking for a presidential recall referendum found themselves excluded from public service jobs — whether they were poor and in need of employment or not.
The sad irony is that after 14 years with Chavez in power, Venezuelans are still poor. Wealth is now distributed more evenly, but there is less of it to go around. While the economies of neighbouring countries such as Brazil and Colombia have expanded during the past decade, Venezuela’s has stagnated. Chavez made economic decisions on the fly, sometimes announcing them during weekly unscripted televised addresses that also included the president singing and dancing.
He devalued the currency. He nationalized the oil industry and managed it poorly. He didn’t diversify the country’s economy. Some 50 per cent of government revenue comes from oil. If its prices hadn’t have soared so high during his presidency, Venezuela would be in even worse financial shape than it is now.
Hugo Chavez tried to raise Venezuela’s global profile by forging alliances with pretty much anyone opposed to the United States. His bonds with Fidel Castro’s Cuba at least made some ideological sense; those with the archconservative theocrats running Iran betray the amoral hypocrisy of his brand of socialism.
If Chavez can be justifiably praised, it is for empowering Venezuela’s vast underclass. They had been variously cheated, exploited, and ignored before he came to power. They cannot be ignored any longer. With luck, a more democratic, liberal, and economically competent president will eventually take Chavez’s place without forgetting that lesson.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 9:08 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – As he prepared to meet Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for the first…
OTTAWA – As he prepared to meet Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for the first time nearly four years ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper drew an ideological line in the sand.
He called Chavez for how he saw him — the leader of an authoritarian petro state that he saw as a relic of the Cold War, one that was on the wrong side of sound economic theory and practice.
As Chavez, 58, finally succumbed Tuesday to the cancer that he had been fighting for nearly two years, Harper had kind words only for the Venezuelan people that the charismatic leftist had left behind.
The prime minister said he was offering his “condolences to the people of Venezuela,” and that he looked forward “to working with (Chavez’s) successor and other leaders in the region to build a hemisphere that is more prosperous, secure and democratic.”
Harper said he hopes the death of Chavez brings a more promising future for the Venezuelan people.
“At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights,” Harper said in a statement Tuesday evening.
Harper clearly had no time for the Western Hemisphere’s most persistent opponent of the free market economics of Canada and the United States.
Chavez led a leftist revival across Latin America that posed a direct challenge to U.S. influence in the region.
Harper himself has in the past pointedly challenged the world view of the influential Venezuelan leader.
As Harper met with a reporter with the Postmedia News Service at 24 Sussex in April 2009 on the eve of the Summit of the Americas, the prime minister made it clear in no uncertain terms that Chavez was his political polar opposite.
Harper was curious to meet Chavez in person, and he fully expected him to use the growing global financial security to trumpet the success of his socialist policies.
But the prime minister was having none of it.
“What we’re seeing in the hemisphere is the time when the world has been moving towards a broad consensus on economic policy, you’ve had in the Americas — our own hemisphere — moving to cold war positioning —hard line capitalism and hard line socialism,” Harper said.
“There are those that will use the global financial crisis to try and say capitalism is discredited. We need to go back to the old state models, as I said economic nationalism, class warfare, or political authoritarianism.
“We think it says the opposite.”
Harper was willing to concede that the “turbo capitalism” that led to the recession needed to be reigned in.
But he wasn’t interested in any lessons in economics from Chavez.
“There’s nothing out here that says that running an authoritarian state on petro dollars is not going to get you very far in the long term,” Harper said.
“(But) that’s not why the Chinas, and Indias and South Koreas have been growing,” the prime minister added.
“It actually shows, contrary to what the worst demagogues say that good relations with the United States are beneficial to you and beneficial across the spectrum.”
In his 14 years in power, Chavez used his country’s lucrative oil wealth on social programs such as state-run food markets, new public housing, free health clinics and education programs.
Poverty declined during Chavez’s presidency amid a historic boom in oil earnings, but critics said he failed to use the windfall of hundreds of billions of dollars to develop the country’s economy.
Since them, Venezuela’s economy has sputtered as the output of its state-controlled oil company declined.
In December, two months after he won re-election, Chavez boarded a plane for Cuba for treatment of his cancer.
He blew a kiss to his country, and was never seen again in public.
The Harper government, meanwhile, was keen to engage with Venezuela, and forge economic links, at what it viewed as a critical turning point in history.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was to have travelled to Venezuela two weeks ago but the trip was abruptly cancelled because Chavez made an unexpected homecoming from Cuba.
Baird had been scheduled to hold meetings with government counterparts and other opposition representatives as part of a six-country tour of Latin America.
The Venezuelans found the atmosphere surrounding Chavez’s return to be too politically charged to host Baird.
The day before the news broke of Chavez’s departure from a Cuban hospital, Baird told The Canadian Press that he wanted to hold talks on increasing opportunities for Canadian businesses in Venezuela.
Baird said he had a full business agenda planned in Venezuela, but that “obviously we want to promote democracy, and we want to promote political freedoms.”
Baird also said he didn’t see “eye to eye” with the Venezuelans on their growing relations with Iran, a country Canada severed relations with last year and that faces United Nations sanctions over its nuclear ambitions.
Baird also said he planned to meet opposition figures in Venezuela — something that would have landed him squarely in the middle of the uncertainty unfolding about the whether Chavez would be able to carry on, or have to be replaced.
Almost four years ago, Harper himself said he was curious about meeting Chavez. In the end, Chavez made some hay at the 2009 Summit of the Americas, but Harper came out of the meeting pleased.
He pushed Canada’s trade agenda with Latin America and the Caribbean.
The day before he departed for Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, however, Harper knew his task wouldn’t be as straightforward as he would have liked.
He was expecting opposition from “countries that are opposed to basically sound economic policies, want to go back to Cold War socialism, countries that want to turn back the clock on the democratic progress that’s been made in the hemisphere.”
Seated at a table of a rear sitting room of his official residence, Harper said: “There’s no doubt that when you talk about basic values, even basic economic values you’ve got clearly some leaders who are not on the same page.”
On Tuesday night it seemed Harper clearly relished the chance to turn that page.
By Emily Senger - Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 5:03 PM - 0 Comments
Chavez struggled to recover after cancer diagnosis in 2011
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has died.
The news came via Venezuela’s current Vice-President Nicolas Maduro.
A respiratory infection had made Chavez’s already fragile health even worse as the Venezuelan president struggled to recover after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2011.
The Venezuelan government had earlier been criticized for not releasing many details on the ailing leader’s health since he had cancer surgery in Cuba on Dec. 11. Information Minister Ernesto Villegas read a brief statement on television Monday. “Today there is a worsening of his respiratory function, related to his depressed immune system,” he said. “There is now a new, severe infection.” Continue…
By Emily Senger - Monday, February 18, 2013 at 11:31 AM - 0 Comments
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made a surprise return home Monday after receiving treatment for…
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made a surprise return home Monday after receiving treatment for cancer in Cuba over the past two months.
The announcement was made on Twitter and on state television, where a host clapped his hands and said: “He’s back. He’s back. Bravo, Commander Chavez has returned! We are very happy to be able to share this joyous news.”
Supporters gathered outside the Dr. Carlos Arvelo Military Hospital in Caracas, where Chavez will continue to received treatment. They cheered, waved Venezuelan flags and held pictures of the leader.
Chavez, 58, has ruled the country for 14 years. He was re-elected to another six-year term in October, but has not yet been sworn in due to ongoing heath issues.
The details of Chavez’s cancer treatment have been few. He underwent surgery for cancer on Dec. 11. He had not been heard of since then, until photos of the president in a bed, flanked by his two daughters, were released last week. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 5:30 AM - 0 Comments
‘Fat girls,’ ice dancers and a sweet simian with a sense of fashion
Making their mark
A week after soccer’s brain trust, FIFA, snubbed Canada’s Christine Sinclair, fans of the game had plenty to celebrate. First, the Argentine superstar Lionel Messi scored his 86th goal of 2012, surpassing a 40-year-old record and affirming the Barcelona striker as the greatest scorer the game has seen. Then, Sinclair was announced as winner of the Lou Marsh Award, given to Canada’s top athlete of the year. The honour comes after FIFA left Sinclair off its shortlist for female player of 2012—a cold shoulder some chalked up to Sinclair’s intemperate remarks about the officiating after Canada’s hard-fought semi-final loss to the U.S. at the London Olympics. To John Herdman, Sinclair’s national team coach, her body of work speaks for itself: “I’d put her up there with the biggest and best athletes in the world.”
Back to bunga?
Silvio Berlusconi could provide survival tips to vampires. No sooner had his foes left him for dead, politically speaking, than the scandal-ridden former Italian prime minister rose anew, forcing current PM Mario Monti out of power this week, and declaring his candidacy for the national leadership. Berlusconi’s resurrection marks a new low for Italian politics, critics say: at 76, he is still appealing convictions for tax fraud, while fighting charges of having sex with an underage prostitute—this, at time when Italy is drifting toward a full-blown debt crisis. Yet the media tycoon hasn’t lost an ounce of audacity. On his Facebook page, he claimed that he tried to find a worthy successor, but added: “There isn’t one.”
By Patricia Treble - Friday, October 12, 2012 at 10:57 AM - 0 Comments
Venezuela’s strongman squeaks back to power
While thousands of red-shirted “Chávistas” crowded in front of Venezuela’s presidential palace in Caracas to listen to President Hugo Chávez’s acceptance speech this week, their celebrations were muted by the close results. The socialist leader, 58, was re-elected with only 54 per cent of the vote—a far cry from 2006 when he steamrolled the opposition.
While the electorate didn’t send the populist leader packing, it clearly signalled its unhappiness with a decade of Chávez’s rule. While his Bolívarian Revolution saw the creation of massive social programs for the poor combined with equally mammoth loans and oil transfers to neighbouring socialist nations including Cuba, it did nothing to combat endemic violence—it has one of the highest murder rates in the world and kidnapping is a growth industry—power blackouts, high inflation and, in a country with the largest proven oil reserves in the world, a faltering economy.
Though he reached out to those opposed to his increasingly dictatorial rule after the election—recognizing “all who voted against us, recognition of their democratic weight”—throughout the campaign he caricatured his opponent, Henrique Capriles, as a “pig” and a “right-wing oligarch” who would govern only for the rich. Indeed, he never publicly named Capriles.
Certainly Chávez knows he faces a formidable opposition leader. Capriles, 40, a charismatic former state governor, united the notoriously fractured anti-Chávez forces and ran a strong campaign. He promised to rein in the excesses of Chávez’s largesse, most notably by cutting off oil gifts, and to bring fiscal restraint to the government. In his concession speech, Capriles hinted that he was going to continue to be a thorn in the president’s side, telling Venezuela, “I am at your service.”
By David Agren - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
There’s an unfamiliar challenge in his bid for a fourth term as president: a legitimate political opponent
TV screens often switch without warning across Venezuela for unscheduled messages brought to them by the Ministry of People’s Power for Communication and Information. Radio stations follow suit—as obligated for these interruptions, known as cadenas, or chains. The cadenas usually carry an address from President Hugo Chávez, who is known to talk at length—nine-plus hours on one occasion—about his political projects and plans for “21st-century socialism.” The appearances seldom highlight pressing problems, such as a recent prison riot that added to the more than 300 deaths that have occurred behind bars this year, or the late August explosion that ripped apart the country’s most important refinery and claimed 48 lives.
Cadenas have been a fact of life in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, but with elections scheduled for Oct. 7, Chávez has had a lot more to opine about of late. The broadcasts underscore what opponents and analysts say is an unfair advantage for Chávez as he seeks his fourth term as president of a country with the world’s largest proven petroleum oil reserves. The often confrontational president and cancer survivor—he credits his recovery to treatments in Cuba—can already count on positive press coverage, having forced non-compliant channels off the air or into submission. He also has the courts and the electoral commission in his corner, the opposition contends. Then there’s his seemingly bottomless barrel of petro bucks to ply poor voters with everything from cheap appliances and free houses to clinics staffed with Cuban doctors.
Still, some polls place Chávez in a surprisingly close race with opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, a state governor, 40-year-old grandson of a Holocaust survivor, and standard-bearer of a new generation of opposition politicians whose careers began after Chávez won power in 1998. Capriles’s predecessors often campaigned on simply ousting Chávez from office—failing to recognize the military-man-turned-populist president’s pull with the poor, and their parties’ own unpopularity from past years of presiding over petroleum-fuelled booms that didn’t benefit the bottom rungs of society. Capriles, in comparison, promises no radical changes to the programs for the poor that Chávez claims to champion—health, housing and poverty reduction, to name three. He campaigns on the issues: crime, corruption and depoliticizing public policy and petroleum.
By David Agren - Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 8:12 AM - 0 Comments
Our Q&A with the Venezuelan presidential candidate
Henrique Capriles Radonski can be a hard man to reach. A Venezuelan state governor and the 40-year-old grandson of a Holocaust survivor, he is running to become Venezuela’s next president—for real. Surprising Venezuelans and foreign observers across the world, he is closing in on Hugo Chávez, the country’s strongman of 13 years, according to a number of opinion polls.
Capriles’ press people say he campaigns in the streets from sunup to sundown, pressing the flesh in as many pueblos as possible in the run up to the Oct. 7 elections. This makes telephone interviews difficult, they say, but it’s a necessary way of campaigning in a country where President Chávez can control the airways. In an example Capriles complains of frequently, the government can force channels to carry “cadenas,” unscheduled broadcasts that interrupt regular programing and inevitably contain pro-Chávez messages, instead of less-partisan pronouncements.
The image of the tireless Capriles campaigning pueblo-to-pueblo also contrasts sharply with that of a weakened Chávez, who recently survived a cancer scare. Still, few observers would wager against the president winning another term, given his enormous popularity with the poor and ability to tap into the proceeds of a petro-state.
The ever-busy Capriles responded to email questions from Maclean’s – answering during one of his brief breaks.
Q: How has your campaign gone so far?
A: “In two months of campaigning we’ve already toured 200 towns, and we expect to reach 300 towns before Oct. 7.
“We’re going throughout the country, door-to-door, town-to-town, listing to Venezuelans. Venezuela has stagnated because this government arrived with a lot of ideas and promises, but got sidetracked along the way. This government has abandoned Venezuelans to attend to the problems of other countries. We’re not interested in saving the planet. We’re interested in resolving the problems of Venezuelans.”
By Gabriela Perdomo - Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 3:10 PM - 0 Comments
Nationalization of oil companies will earn points on the home front, but at what cost?
In a shocking move, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced the government would seize control of the country’s leading oil and gas producer, YPF. Its parent firm, Repsol, is based in Spain; the country expressed outrage at the takeover and offered its full support to the conglomerate. Kirchner, who announced the nationalization on live TV, will grant Argentina a 51 per cent controlling share in the company; she also dumped CEO Sebastián Eskenazi, installing two of her top aides, Julio de Vido and Axel Kicillof, in his place. The populist move is sure to win Kirchner points on the homefront, where there is a widespread sense that oil profits are being shipped elsewhere, but it comes at a steep cost internationally.
Repsol’s president, Antonio Brufau, claims the takeover was an excuse to cover up Argentina’s “social and economic crisis.” Spain’s industry minister is warning of “diplomatic, commercial and energy” consequences. Even Argentina’s two main newspapers were sharply critical: Clarin, the country’s largest daily, claimed Argentina risks scaring off investors. “The price,” it wrote, “is not just the court cases but the risk of ending up a little further away from the rest of the world.”
By Gabriela Perdomo - Friday, February 24, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
Henrique Capriles represents an alliance of 20 opposition political parties and movements
Henrique Capriles, governor of Venezuela’s Miranda state, has won an opposition primary with 62 per cent of the vote and will face incumbent Hugo Chávez in October’s presidential ballot. Capriles, 39, will represent the Coalition for Democratic Unity (MUD), an alliance of 20 opposition political parties and movements. Almost three million Venezuelans—about 16 per cent of the electorate—participated in the national primary last Feb. 12; opposition candidates for regional mayoral and gubernatorial elections were also elected.
This is the first time opposition parties have organized under an umbrella and held a ballot to select unified candidates since Chávez was elected in 1999. MUD has claimed the vote was a “huge” victory for the opposition, with the number of voters exceeding their expectations. Pollster Luis Vicente León of Datanálisis says voters chose “youth, future without ties with the past, and moderation” in electing Capriles. The candidate has never belonged to a political party—he thinks they are useless—and was the most conciliatory of all the contenders. Saying “Venezuelans are tired of confrontation,” he has vowed to “earn the people’s trust” to transition the country into a new, more harmonious era. León notes that Capriles “never mentioned Chávez once” in his victory speech, trying not to alienate the president’s supporters.
Chávez is seeking his third consecutive re-election for a six-year term in office. Analysts predict this will be his hardest democratic contest yet. Not only is the opposition organized; the president is sick, currently under treatment for prostate cancer. His office keeps his prognosis secret, but several leaked documents—allegedly from intelligence agencies in Europe and the United States—that have been published in the media claim that his health is very fragile and he could be facing death within the year. Aside from the president’s health, Venezuelans are extremely concerned about safety. Caracas has become one of the most violent cities in Latin America, and polls show 80 per cent of Venezuelans place safety as their top worry. Inflation has also become a major problem, and people are not blind to empty shelves in supermarkets: scarcity of goods from sugar to feminine products has become the norm.
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, February 6, 2012 at 8:20 AM - 0 Comments
Garth Brooks resurfaces, Jonathan Franzen’s new snit, and Christine Sinclair sends Canada to London
A model union
The union movement just got a whole lot more photogenic. Sara Ziff, a waifish 29-year-old model from Manhattan, is the industry’s first labour leader. Launching in February, Ziff’s Model Alliance hopes to enforce ﬁnancial transparency laws, as well as sexual harassment and health care issues for U.S. catwalkers. Contrary to the glossy fantasy, Ziff says, modelling is a bruising, exploitation-prone industry that chews up and spits out the vast majority of those who try to make a go of it. Ziff, who quit the industry at 25 after an A-list career modelling the likes of Calvin Klein and Stella McCartney, says Model Alliance isn’t a union per se, but a regulatory agency that will police the industry.
Julia’s very bad week
Pity Julia Gillard. The Australian prime minister had to be dragged to safety by bodyguards after Aboriginal protesters crashed an awards ceremony on Australia Day. What’s worse, the protesters were actually targeting opposition leader Tony Abbott, who earlier in the day had criticized an Aborigine occupation of the grounds outside Parliament House. It was the second time in as many weeks Gillard had to retreat. She recently said a gift she’d received from the Queen was paid for by Aussie taxpayers. Gillard was incorrect, and the Queen was not amused.
By Gabriela Perdomo - Friday, January 27, 2012 at 4:41 PM - 0 Comments
New documents purportedly show the Venezuelan president is seriously ill
Spain’s ABC newspaper is claiming to have accessed classified medical records indicating that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may have only one year to live unless he undergoes more aggressive treatments for prostate cancer. The paper refers to results from Chavez’s tests on Dec. 30, 2011, and quotes a medical diagnosis stating his cancer has “clearly” continued to metastasize “into his bones and spine.” Additionally, the president has developed a new tumour “of about 2.0 by 1.5 millimeters” in his colon, the report says. Doctors quoted in the documents conclude that Chavez has between nine and 12 months to live, barring “a more intense treatment,” which the president has apparently refused to take so far, is followed.
The president’s office is not releasing any information on his health, and the authenticity of the ABC source cannot be independently confirmed. However, it’s not the first time the media speculates the Venezuelan president’s days are counted. Last November, the Wall Street Journal reported similar news based on information from a European intelligence agency. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Friday, December 30, 2011 at 11:08 AM - 0 Comments
State department responds after Chavez suggests the US might have the technology to induce cancer
The United States has responded strongly to speculation by Venezuelan President Hugh Chavez that it may have the technology to induce cancer, AFP reports. “With regard to the Chavez statements, let me simply say that they are horrific and reprehensible,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said. The statement follows a rhetorical question Chavez posed at an armed forces ceremony on Wednesday, regarding the U.S.: “Would it be that strange if they had developed technology to induce cancer without anyone knowing about it?” In the same speech, Chavez had questioned the odds of “what has been happening to some of us in Latin America.” Chavez, a cancer survivor, referred to Argentine leader Cristina Kirchner, who recently announced she has thyroid cancer. Both the current and past presidents of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as well as the Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, have had or are currently dealing with cancer.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Is the Venezuelan president really spooked by the markets or just shoring up finances?
In a move that he’s portraying as financial prudence in the face of market turmoil, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has ordered over $6 billion in cash reserves to be relocated from accounts in Britain and Switzerland to China, Brazil and Russia, and over 200 tonnes of gold repatriated. The measure, he said, is aimed at sheltering Venezuela from “a crisis of uncertainty” in the global economy. Admittedly, with the world on the brink of a possible double dip into recession, Britain struck by riots on top of a sluggish economy, and even Switzerland recently engaging in dubious manoeuvring to force a depreciation of the Swiss franc, Chávez may have a point. Some critics, though, suspect the Venezuelan autocrat is simply shoring up resources as he heads into a difficult presidential election this fall after recently being diagnosed with cancer. Interestingly, others argue that Chávez was spooked by the fate of his close friend Col. Moammar Gadhafi, whose financial assets in the West were frozen at the outset of the Libyan revolution.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Communicating with his people—while seeking cancer treatment in Castro’s Cuba
During a recent stay in Cuba, Hugo Chávez took to Twitter to stay in touch with his people. The president of Venezuela has cancer and was in Havana to have a tumour removed, but he took time out to tweet to his more than 1.8 million followers. “We’re moving along here, brother! With God and the Virgin!” read one post, according to a translation by the Associated Press. “In my modest opinion…THEY ROBBED US OF THE VICTORY GOAL,” said another, a reference to a soccer match between his country and Paraguay.
Chávez’s Twitter campaign earned wry headlines abroad. But back home, it was his choice of medical locale that was causing a stir. The Venezuelan health system has been a shambles for decades; under Chávez, opponents say, things have grown dramatically worse. By seeking treatment abroad, critics charge, Chávez has tacitly acknowledged that the Venezuelan system is not up to snuff. What does the president think? At this point, he has yet to express himself on the issue, on Twitter or anywhere else.
By Nancy MacDonald, Cigdem Iltan, Emma Teitel, Alex Ballingall and Richard Foot - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 10:50 AM - 1 Comment
Hugo Chávez looks to Castro for care, J-Lo and Marc Anthony call it quits, and Shaq gets a new job
He speeds for good deeds
When you imagine the record-holder for the fastest bicycle trip across Canada, you’re probably not picturing somebody’s grandpa. But as of this week, the title belongs to Winnipeg’s Arvid Loewen, proud grandfather of three. The 54-year-old, who has raised more than $1.5 million for Kenyan orphans by cycling, pedalled close to 500 km per day. After 13 days, six hours and 13 minutes, Loewen rolled into downtown Halifax, beating the previous record by more than three hours. In other speeding news this week, David Weber’s attempt to save his unborn baby was rewarded with a huge ticket and a licence suspension. The 32-year-old was driving in rural Manitoba with his wife Genevieve when she went into labour. Complications during her first birth meant natural labour could endanger future babies. Panicked, David hit speeds of up to 170 km/h to get to a hospital. But the RCMP pulled him over twice, earning him $1,000 in ﬁnes. “What would have happened if something happened to my wife, or my baby?” David told the Winnipeg Free Press. “It’s like there’s no compassion anymore.” Baby Anabela was born healthy via emergency C-section.
Shaq to work
It was a good week for retired athletes embroiled in controversy. Shaquille O’Neal was absolved of involvement in a titillating story about a group of gangsters who allegedly kidnapped, pistol-whipped and robbed a man claiming to be in possession of a Shaq sex tape. Court officials deemed the big man wasn’t involved in the incident. Shaq also inked a multi-year deal with broadcaster TNT. He’ll join Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnston on the network’s Inside the NBA program. Then there’s former baseball star Roger Clemens. After being charged with lying to Congress about steroid use, the former Yankee had his trial thrown out after the prosecution submitted evidence that violated a pretrial agreement. Judge Reggie Watson said afterwards a “first-year law student” wouldn’t have made the same mistake. Talk about dodging a knock-down pitch.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 1:57 PM - 1 Comment
First images of Venezuelan president since emergency operation
Cuban state television has aired footage of Hugo Chavez, the first images of Venezuela’s president since his emergency operation in Havana on June 10. Rumours had circulated about the state of his health, but the new images show Chavez wearing a tracksuit in the colours of the Venezuelan flag and talking with Fidel Castro. Venezuelan officials said the surgery was for a pelvic abscess, but local and foreign media speculated the president’s condition was more serious. There is no set date for Chavez’s return to Venezuela.
By macleans.ca - Monday, March 28, 2011 at 5:17 PM - 0 Comments
P.K. Subban’s winning streak, Hugo Chávez weighs in on everything, and what LiLo can learn from Blago
Old hat, new hat trick
It was a typical week at the office for Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban. Last Thursday, he was hacked by an established NHL star, Vincent Lecavalier. On Friday he scored a goal against the New York Rangers and was challenged to a fight. On Saturday, he was disparaged on national TV by Don Cherry, and on Sunday he scored the first hat trick by a rookie defenceman in the 101-year history of les glorieux. The ebullient Subban is driving his opponents to distraction—not to mention a few prigs in the hockey media. But with each passing game, it’s becoming clearer that P.K.’s detractors will have to adjust to him rather than vice versa. As former Habs GM Bob Gainey put it: “Some of those people should just shut up and play against him.”
Hugo still boss
An autocrat’s work is never done. In between signing trade agreements with China, including a deal involving Venezuela’s state-run oil company, and an extended $4-billion line of credit for its capital of Caracas, Latin American strongman Hugo Chávez found time last week to accuse America of planning to sabotage his re-election bid in 2012, censure the West for its air strikes on Libya—and attack the boom in breast implants in his own country. He pointed the finger at doctors, who “convince some women that if they don’t have some big bosoms, they should feel bad.”
By Charlie Gillis, Chris Sorensen and Nicholas Köhler - Friday, February 4, 2011 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Kim Campbell schools the U.S. right, Naomi Campbell’s ‘Frost-Nixon moment,’ and Nabokov was right
A breath of fresh Canadian air
The usual right vs. left political jabber of American talk TV was punctuated this week by a few clear-eyed statements courtesy of Canada’s first female prime minister. On Real Time With Bill Maher, former Progressive Conservative leader Kim Campbell called Republican Jack Kingston‘s views on global warming “absolute rubbish,” pointing out to the Georgia congressman that scientists didn’t set out looking for a non-existent problem just to torture right-leaning politicians. When the conversation shifted toward the evolution vs. creation debate, Campbell asked if Kingston was concerned about the alarming rise of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms in hospitals. He squirmed. “That’s evolution,” she said to applause. Does 132 days as PM preclude Campbell from a future in politics?
In addition to writing great novels, Vladimir Nabokov was a self-taught expert on the evolutionary biology of butterflies—though, like any amateur, the Lolita author faced skepticism from the scientific establishment. Now one of his most audacious theories has been proven right. A paper published by the Royal Society has endorsed Nabokov’s hypothesis that butterflies are not indigenous to North America, but rather arrived in a series of “waves” from Asia. The new research was made possible by gene-sequencing technology Nabokov never had. Said Naomi Pierce, a Harvard expert who co-authored the study: “It’s really quite a marvel.”
Single White Premier seeks less idiotic press
With three female premiers and a female prime minister, Julia Gillard, Australian voters seem fairly accustomed to the idea of women in politics. The media? Not so much. The country’s biggest national newspaper, the Australian, ran a front-page story about Tasmanian premier Lara Giddings‘s first day in office that zeroed in on her comments (in response to a reporter’s question) about the challenges of snaring a husband when you’re a busy politician. The headline read: “Leftist Lara still looking for Mr. Right.” Critics shook their heads. “Why on Earth was this suddenly relevant the day Giddings became Tasmania’s first female premier?” asked one Sydney Morning Herald columnist, noting Giddings was previously an unmarried treasurer and an unmarried attorney general. “It was not as if she had landed from Mars.”