Venezuela

Venezuela’s vice-minister of foreign affairs for Asia, the Middle East and Oceania, Vladimir Villegas, lead the Venezuelan delegation to the 38th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF — formerly the South Pacific Forum) meeting in Tonga on October 16-17. The PIF is the coordinated annual meeting, organised along a concensus model, of the heads of states of the 16 PIF members — Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, NZ, Tonga, Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Niue, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau, PNG, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, with New Caledonia and French Polynesia being associated members, and Tokelau, Wallis, Futuna, the Commonwealth and the Asia Development Bank having official observor status. East Timor has had “special observer” status since 2002. With 33% of the world’s total surface and 46% of its ocean area, the 25000 Pacific Islands comprise 17 independent nations – all of whom have a vote and representation in the United Nations (11 have achieved this status only since 1960). Green Left Weekly’s Lara Pullin spoke with Villegas during the forum about Venezuela’s plans to increase cooperation, on the basis of solidarity, with the region.
After receiving the modified project of constitutional reform, which includes an additional 36 changes proposed by the National Assembly, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, announced on October 31 that the proposed changes, which will be put to a referendum on December 2, should be voted on in separate blocs, rather than as one single bloc.
Venezuelan opposition groups are planning to use “all means possible to stop the constitutional reform referendum”, scheduled to take place on December 2, reported the October 25 Ultimas Noiticias. Describing the proposed constitutional reforms as a “constitutional coup”, a coalition of opposition parties — some of which participated in the short-lived military coup against the government of socialist President Hugo Chavez in 2002 — have called for a massive protest on November 3, demanding that the National Electoral Council (CNE) suspend the constitutional reform referendum.
On October 3 Caribbean Net News reported that the South American nation Guyana, which borders Venezuela to its west, will soon benefit from a US$12.5 million debt write-off by Venezuela under an agreement expected to be finalised in the near future.
According to an October 8 report from Venezuela’s Presidential Press Office report, a new poll conducted by polling company Seijas has revealed that only 3.4% of Venezuelans think capitalism is the best system of government; 22.6% said it was preferable to socialism and 62.7% said they preferred socialism to capitalism.
Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution, led by socialist President Hugo Chavez, has captured the imagination of people around the world and sparked widespread commentary on the nature of the process of social change under way in the oil-rich South American nation.
“The Venezuelan economy in the Chavez years”, a study released in July by the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, reveals massive social gains for the poor and working people in Venezuela as a result of the pro-people polices promoted by the government of socialist President Hugo Chavez. The study, by Mark Weisbrot and Luis Sandoval, also provides a detailed look at the state of the Venezuelan economy, which has experienced significant economic growth. The authors argue that, contrary to suggestions widely made in the corporate media (which the authors refer to as “conventional wisdom”), this growth is unlikely to end any time soon.
Next month, a representative of the foreign ministry of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will visit Australia to address the Latin America and Asia Pacific International Solidarity Forum in Melbourne on October 11-14.’s, Green Left Weekly’s Jim McIlroy and Coral Wynter conducted an interview in Caracas last November with Venezuelan vice-minister for Asia, the Middle East and Oceania, Vladimir Villegas. Villegas talked about the Venezuelan government’s revolutionary approach to international relations.
I walked with Roberto Navarrete into the national stadium in Santiago, Chile. With the southern winter’s wind skating down from the Andes, it was empty and ghostly. Little had changed, he said: the chicken wire, the broken seats, the tunnel to the changing rooms from which the screams echoed. We stopped at a large number 28. “This is where I was, facing the scoreboard. This is where I was called to be tortured.”
Addressing thousands of members of the battalions of the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), packed into the Poliedro Stadium in Caracas on August 25, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for an “offensive” to guarantee the approval in the national referendum of his proposed constitutional reforms, which he says are necessary to guarantee the country’s transition to socialism.

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