Venezuela: Chávez stops oil shipments to Paraguay
Venezuela stops oil shipments to Paraguay; Chávez kicks off new social program to curb crime rates; and indigenous community demands the return of sacred boulder.
Venezuela stops supplying oil to Paraguay
President Hugo Chávez ordered on Sunday 24 June the withdrawal of Venezuela’s ambassador to Paraguay, José Franciso Javier Arrué, and a halt to oil shipments in protest of former President Fernando Lugo’s deposition.
During the celebration of the 191st anniversary of the country’s last independence battle, Chávez observed that Lugo had been ousted after ‘an express trial’ where ‘no proof’ had been presented against the former president.
On Friday 23 June, the Venezuelan president had already denounced the ousting of President Lugo as a coup d’état, and warned that the political commotion in Asunción was far from over.
According to Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color around 30% of the oil sold in Paraguay comes from Venezuela.
Government plans to curb crime rates with new social program
President Hugo Chávez kicked off a new social program called Misión a Toda Vida Venezuela to curb the high crime rates that have notoriously affected Venezuela over the past decade.
The six-point plan is the 20th such initiative developed by the government to tackle street crime in Venezuela. In a televised speech on Wednesday 20 June, Chávez said the Misión will be implemented all across the country and that it will include: prevention work; the reinforcement of police forces; the transformation of the judiciary system; the modernization of the penitentiary system; the implementation of a victim protection system; and the promotion of peaceful coexistence.
The President blamed the violence rates on poverty, hunger, inequality, the lavish living of the middle class, and the implementation of neoliberal policies before he came to power. He also conceded that that the act of implementing social welfare programs during his 13 years as president had not been enough to combat criminal violence.
Chávez denied that the program was a gimmick to gain votes for the upcoming presidential elections, saying he did not need to resort to those tricks because he was winning by a landslide. He accused the opposition of manipulating an issue ‘so heartfelt by the population’ to gain electoral momentum.
Recent polls show Chávez with a 15.9% lead over rival Henrique Capriles.
Indian tribe demands the return of sacred sandstone boulder
A group of government officials, accompanied by representatives of Venezuela’s Cultural Heritage Centre and the indigenous Pemón community, demanded on Thursday 21 June the return of a red sandstone rock that is part of a Berlin sculpture park. They claim the rock was stolen from a group of Pemón people who believe it contains the remains of an important tribal ancestor.
The 30-tonne stone was taken from the Canaima National Park in south-eastern Venezuela by the German artist Wolfgang von Schwarzenfeld. He says that in 1998 the head of the park gave the rock to him as a gift and that at that time the local Pemón Indians did not object to its removal.
However, a group of the Pemón tribe is now asking for an immediate repatriation, alleging that the rock is their ‘grandmother’ and that moving it has provoked natural disasters throughout the country.
Germany’s ambassador in Venezuela, Georg-Clemens Dick, told the group who gathered to protest in front of the Embassy that once more he would present the petition to his government.