Louisa F. from San Diego, California, points out this presentation about our protests called “This is Venezuela” by Vicente Behrens (has sound!). Even if you don’t speak Spanish, the images are excellent and powerful, mostly from last April 11th. (my favorite word lately).
Archive for March 26th, 2003
Venezuelan sovereign debt markets were rattled today by a speech by Hugo Chavez in which he suggested that the country’s debt needed to be restructured. Arguing that Venezuela has made all debt payments in the last four years and will continue to do so, Chavez indicated that the debt load is too heavy and needs to be restructured. Blaming the strike for all of the Government’s woes, Chavez said that the Government had to scrape bottom in order to be able to pay salaries and that some institutions are still owed funds for salaries.
While the statements were typical Chavez, financial markets initially took them as a sign that Venezuela was ready to suspend payment, causing sharp losses in the prices of Venezuela’s debt prices. The Ministry of Finance had to “interpret” the President’s statements saying that the country had no plans at this time to stop external debt payments and the President’s remarks were simply a statement of fact that the country has steep payments to make in 2003 and 2004. The truth of this whole matter is that Venezuela has been trying in the last two years to either restructure its debt or issue new debt in foreign currency, but has been unable to do it, is because of the steep premium it would have to pay for issuing any new instrument. Thus, Chavez’ words probably simply reflect a recurrent discussion at the Cabinet level which simply reflects the “Chavez premium” present in international markets at this time. The truth is that Venezuela can not afford at this time to stop debt payments due to the fact that it ahs significant property in the US, through PDVSA America, which owns Citgo and a number of refineries in the US. Moreover, confidence in Venezuela as a stable supplier of oil has been severely impacted by the events of the last few months, thus declaring any form of moratorium on the country’s debt would simply hurt the country’s image further. Thus, the Government is essentially trapped by any announcement of the possibility of delaying debt payments in its own contradictions.
The Electoral Hall; of the Venezuelan Supreme Court decided today on the composition of the Electoral Commission (CNE), deciding that one of the members of the Commission, Leonardo Pizani, may not participate anymore on any decisions. The decision is a result of the now infamous decision that stopped the consultative referendum that some Chavez supporters had requested days before that referendum was to take place. According to the two to one decision, the presence of Mr. Pizani on the Electoral commission violated three articles of the Venezuelan Constitution, since his presence on the Board of the CNE did not give the trust and transparency required by the Constitution violating the Constitutional right of participation. Pizani had been elected to the CNE by the National Assembly but had presented his resignation about one year ago. His resignation was never formally accepted by the Assembly which prompted him to join the Board of the CNE in October which approved the timetable of the consultative referendum. The decision implies that any decision by the Electoral Board requires unanimity since most of his members have resigned from it and only four of them are left at this time. One of them is a Chavez supporter who objected to the celebration of the referendum despite the fact that the Supreme Court never said the referendum itself was not legal.
The dissenting Justice, said the decision does not protect the legitimate interest of voters and has neutralized the capabilities of one of the branches of power, violating due to a formality, the exercise of fundamental rights of citizen participation expressed through the request by popular initiative of the consultative referendum.
With the earlier injunction, the Electoral Hall simply blocked the possibility of the referendum and at the time prohibited the CNE from holding any election. While that restriction appears to be lifted by this decision, if one member of the Board of the CNE opposes an election he can simply stop it. The Chavez controlled National Assembly is currently selecting the new members of the Board of the CNE, which require for its approval a two-thirds majority of the Deputies. This will require some form of negotiation for a Board to be approved. However, regulations establish that if by a certain date the Assembly ahs been unable to choose a Board, the Supreme Court will undertake that function.