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700 aggressions to the press in 2003 in Venezuela

By Sol Maria Castro,

According to a report filed by lawmaker Alberto Jordán Hernández, over 700 aggressions against the press were recorded in 2003, a continuous increase from the 38 attacks during the first three years, and 567 in 2002. In his opinion, the main trigger of these attacks is President Chávez’s “inflamed language,” “There is freedom of speech, no one denies that, but what a cost we pay for it!”

Transcription of data petitioning presidential recall referendum ends Monday afternoon.

Director Rodríguez admitted an “abnormal statistical leap” in the presidential petition forms placed under observation. Rodríguez informed that those responsible for the irregularities were suspended, among them, the coordinator of the Verification Committee. He added the international observers, and external auditors had described the figures as “strange.”

Opposition demands CNE respect February 13 deadline promised by directorate, and fire the Computer Department Head, Leonardo Hernández, accused of multiple irregularities.

Xeroxing (presidential) petition forms begins this Monday. According to MVR legislator it is not causing delays. President Chávez asked for certified copies of petition forms, and CNE complied on Jan. 22. Yet, MAS, the CD and two of the CNE directors began asking for the database to be used on November 13 and are still waiting for an answer. Jesús Torrealba, CD spokesman, said that it is organizing a street demonstration for February 13.

Results of elections at CIV still pending.

The National Electoral Council. CNE, which offered the results of Friday’s elections at the Engineer and Architect Association for Saturday, and then for Sunday, had not disclosed them by Monday. However, it is well known that the elections with a record attendance were won by the unified opposition ticket, led by a former PDVSA engineer with over 70% of the votes. The results guaranteed six of the seven posts in the national board of directors, and all six posts in the metropolitan chapter.

Government celebrates fifth anniversary.

The government will be celebrating the fifth anniversary of President Chávez’s inauguration this Monday evening with a rally outside the Presidential Palace of Miraflores. On Wednesday, a march of followers to the Racetrack in La Rinconada will help celebrate the 12th anniversary of the botched coup in 1992, which marks the beginning of the revolution according to the President.

Vice-president believes President Chávez has 56% approval.

José Vicente Rangel, Vice-president, estimates President Hugo Chávez counts on 56% of popular support despite the 40% figure given by the most optimistic polls. According to Rangel, such a “high position” is a consequence of the projects and missions the government has launched, for which it has destined 27% of the national budget. Rangel added the opposition is assuming the recall referendum “in subversive terms, to create instability in the country.” He warned them the government is ready, and sleeps with two eyes wide open. Referring to the botched coup led by Chávez in 1992, Rangel said he never perceived it as a coup d’état, but an “opinion coup” that unified many sectors and made politics closer to the people.

Inflation up to 2.5% in January.

Inflation for the month of January went from 1.8% in December to 2.5% according to the monthly report by the Venezuelan Central Bank, BCV. The difference is due to increases in both regulated and controlled food and services, with the highest increase in food and non-alcoholic beverages, up from 2.9% to 5.5%, housing services, from 3.2% to 4.8%, health, from o.5% to 2.1%, transportation from 2.2% to 2-5%, and entertainment and culture, from 1.7% to 2.9%.

Credit cards abroad authorized on March 1.

Once again, the government announced the use of credit cards abroad will be authorized on March 1. The president of the Venezuelan Banking Association, ABV, Arístides Maza Tirado, said all the national banking systems are ready for its use.

100,000 companies have shut down in five years.

The president of FEDECAMARAS, Albis Muńoz, informed its Executive Committee that some 100,000 private companies and businesses have been shut down during President Hugo Chávez’s administration; 30,000 of which belong to the small and medium company category. Muńoz also argued around 2 million are unemployed and more than 5 million are in the informal industry.

New Public Debt Bond issue introduced this week.

The Ministry of Finances will introduce a request of opinion to the Venezuelan Central Bank, BCV, and the Finance Commission at the National Assembly for a Bs. 320 billion in Public Debt Bonds (DPN) destined to liquidate the rest of the debt FOGADE has with the BCV.

Cova and Zambrano in a three day visit to Washington.

Former members of the Negotiation Table, Venezuelan Labor Union Secretary General, Manuel Cova, and Liaison Committee member, Timoteo Zambrano, are visiting Washington to demand the presence of OAS Secretary General, César Gaviria, in Caracas, and to request American support to the recall referendum against President Chávez in three months.

Russian Vice-president visiting Venezuela for three days.

The Vice-president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Yakovlev, began his three day visit to Venezuela meeting with Vice-President José Vicente Rangel. Yakovlev emphasized one of the objectives is to discuss the business opportunities with the national government.

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