Venezuelan Budget Won't Come from Oil, Will Go to the People

Almost three-quarters of the budget submitted to the Supreme Court will go to social spending.

Venezuela’s 2017 budget aims to break the oil-rentier model and promote a new system of social justice in the country, an official said Friday.

OPINION: Chavismo Must Stop the Economic Bleeding

Vice President for Planning and Knowledge of Venezuela Ricardo Menendez said that 74 percent of spending is devoted to social projects: 50 percent to health, education and social programs and 24 percent to infrastructure development, urban infrastructure and public works.

He added that 83 percent of the national budget, estimated at over US$830 million, will come from taxes. Another 12 percent will be financed with revenue from socialist state enterprises and only 3.2 percent with oil exports, based on an average of the Venezuelan barrel price of US$30.

Menendez said that the government is committed "to the breakdown of the oil rentier model, and (to) build(ing) another model, greater justice” and to “show how the horizon is raised in Venezuela.”

“We counter the neoliberal model with a production model, and that production comes from our people,” said Menendez.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro presented the budget directly to the Supreme Court for approval on Friday, bypassing interference from the country's aggressive right-wing opposition in the National Assembly.

The Supreme Court had previously declared invalid all acts of the National Assembly after the organization swore in three legislators whose proclamations had been suspended over irregularities when during their campaigns.

The right wing has also been accused of sabotaging the economy, provoking violence to destabilize the country and having no interest in solving any economic problems.

The budget was approved by Maduro after consultation with a popular assembly. It will be rolled out with revitalized methods for management, in step with local governments.

Maduro also approved the Annual Operating Plan and debt law for next year.

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Colombian Victims of War Greeted by Tens Thousands for Peace

Some 3,000 victims and 7,000 Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and rural people are expected to march in Bogota alongside supporters.

Tens of Thousands of Colombians again flooded the streets of central Bogota Wednesday in support of Indigenous communities and other victims hit hardest by over 50 years of armed conflict to pressure the government and the country’s largest guerrilla army, the FARC-EP to quickly resolve the political crisis sparked by the recent defeat of the historic peace accords at the polls.

OPINION: Colombia: The Just Cause for Peace and Unity

Under the banner, “For the victims, an agreement now!” demonstrators filled Bogota’s Bolivar square to greet with applause and flowers some 3,000 victims and 7,000 campesinos, Indigenous and Afro-descendant people who marched into the central plaza to raise their voices in the name of peace in Colombia.

The Indigenous delegation departed from the National University in Bogota, where student movements organizing for peace have been blossoming and was joined by the victims, gathered at the National Center for Historical Memory, en route to Bolivar Square in the heart of the capital city’s historic center.

Bolivar Square has been home to an encampment for peace for the past week after activists launched an indefinite occupation to demand a definitive end to the conflict, continuation of the bilateral cease-fire between the military and the FARC, and clarity about the fate of the final peace deal.

The landmark agreement between the government and the FARC-EP — concluded after nearly four years of talks in Havana, Cuba — was signed Sept. 26, but was cast into limbo after voters narrowly rejected it by less than 0.5 percent in a plebiscite on Oct. 2.

RELATED:​​​ Plan Colombia Casts Shadow on Indigenous Rights as Peace Nears

The central plaza also hosted an art installation in memory of the victims of the conflict Tuesday, when Colombian artist Doris Salcedo and hundreds of participants draped the entire squares in miles of white cloth bearing the names of thousands of victims, written in ashes.

Organizers of Wednesday’s “March of Flowers” in support of victims wrote on social media that the event planned to receive Indigenous communities and victims' organizations “with honors” to demand that Colombia never again suffers the brutality of war.

“We want to invite all citizens to exercise empathy and solidarity with these heroes of forgiveness, the victims of violence and Indigenous peoples,” reads the call for participation in the event on Facebook.

Areas of Colombia most impacted and victimized by the more than half-century of civil war – mainly on the periphery of the country – voted in support of the peace deal. Many large cities, such as Medellin — the stronghold of far-right former president and leader of the “No” campaign, Alvaro Uribe – rejected the agreement, while other cities such as Bogota and Cali voted “Yes.”

After the defeat of the deal at the ballot box, victims lamented the lack of solidarity the rest of the population showed toward the communities most eager to see an end to violence.

Proponents of the “No” camp argued that the emphasis on truth rather than criminal prosecutions in the transitional justice portion of the deal would grant impunity for crimes committed during the conflict, and rejected the proposed participation of FARC-EP members in Congress. The “gender perspective” incorporated into the deal – including measures to protect LGBTI rights – also sparked a homophobic backlash that saw socially conservative groups also push for a “No” vote.

Since the plebiscite, both FARC-EP and government negotiators have resumed dialogue in Havana. The next steps on the path to peace remain unclear.

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Paraguay's Ousted Progressive President Lugo to Run Again

Much like what was recently done in Brazil, the political elite in Paraguay rushed to convene a political trial against Lugo's presidency.

Former president and current Senator Fernando Lugo said Monday that only a formal ruling could prevent him from running in the upcoming presidential elections in Paraguay, as many attempt to deter the electoral ambitions of the only progressive president the country has had.

RELATED: 5 Points About the 2012 Parliamentary Putsch Against Paraguay's Lugo

“I will just wait—and not listen to 'opinologists,' jurists, etc.—for the decision of the Supreme Court if anyone wishes to impede my candidacy,” said Lugo, who was ousted as president by a parliamentary coup in 2012.

Since he announced his candidacy in June, right-wing sectors have argued that it would be unconstitutional for an ousted president to run again for the same office.

However, the senator affirmed the constitution “did not mention whether a former president could be vetoed or prohibited (to run in the election); I am currently senator, I was elected, because it was allowed. I am not senator for life and I believe that the Constitution guarantees equal opportunities to all Paraguayan citizens.”

The constitution's article 229 only forbids the candidacy for the current president and vice-president, he noted.

Lugo's election in 2008 broke the six-decade rule of the right-wing Colorado Party and was seen as part of the progressive wave of leaders elected throughout Latin America. An adherent of liberation theology, the former catholic bishop campaigned for reforms in favor of the long-neglected poor in the country, which propelled him to the presidency.

ANALYSIS: Paraguayan Guerrilla and Land Conflict: The Next Colombia?

Lugo faced opposition from the powerful political establishment in Paraguay, who impeded his efforts at nearly every turn and conspired to secure his ouster from the beginning of his presidency.

His opponents succeeded when they mounted a political show trial in the country's congress, using the Curuguaty massacre as a pretext.

Much like what was recently done in Brazil against President Dilma Rousseff, the political elite rushed to convene a political trial against the president. On June 21, 2012, the two establishment political parties, the Colorado Party of the Stroessner dictatorship and the right-wing Liberal Party launched impeachment proceedings against Lugo.

Lugo opted not to fight his ouster and was quickly replaced by his vice president, Federico Franco, a member of the Colorado Party who had earlier broken with the president.

Franco quickly restored things to the establishment status quo, reversing many of Lugo's progressive policies. Horacio Cartes, also of the Colorado Party, was subsequently elected president in elections held in April 2013, but has been facing growing opposition, with social protests regularly demanding his resignation.

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Venezuela Electoral Board Announces Signature Collection Dates

In August, the CNE announced a roadmap for a possible recall referendum against Maduro, outlining a timeline that must be followed by the opposition.

The National Electoral Council of Venezuela announced the dates for the collection of signatures in the recall referendum put forth by opposition groups against the government of President Nicolas Maduro to be Oct. 26 through Oct. 28.

RELATED: Venezuela: First Step of Recall Referendum Complete

The right-wing group Democratic Unity will need to collect signatures from 20 percent of the electorate, nearly 4 million signatures, to proceed with the referendum. The electoral body will then review and verify the signature before deciding in late November whether the opposition met the requirements. The electoral body ruled that the referendum vote won’t be possible until 2017, a decision that has triggered the anger of the anti-government forces.

In August, the CNE announced a roadmap for a possible recall referendum against Maduro, outlining a timeline that must be followed by the opposition.

The MUD submitted its initial petition for the recall referendum on May 2, and had the process been initiated by the opposition in January 2016, it would have most likely ensured the recall vote occur in 2016.

RELATED: Venezuelan Opposition Calls for Street Violence

If Maduro remains in office until January 10, 2017, his vice president would serve the remainder of his five-year term in the event that voters recall him.

In June, the CNE announced that 605,727 of the submitted signatures were invalid due to widespread irregularities, including signatures from deceased and non-existent persons and minors.

Under the Venezuelan constitution, a recall referendum must be held this year for new presidential elections to be triggered.

The previous presidential recall referendum was held against President Hugo Chavez, which took eight months, from November 2003 to August 2004. However, Chavez remained in power after the recall was rejected by a wide margin of voters.

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Six Latin American Countries Boycott Temer's UN Address

The delegations of Ecuador, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua walked out of the auditorium as Temer began his address.

Brazilian President Michel Temer, who came to power following what has been widely condemned as a parliamentary coup against ex-President Dilma Rousseff, told the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday that the impeachment was "constitutional" while protesters outside hoisted banners and chanted "Out with Temer."

IN DEPTH: The Coup That Ousted Brazilian Democracy​

The delegations of Ecuador, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua walked out of the auditorium as Temer stepped to the dais to speak. In his address, Temer said that Brazil lives in a “full democracy” and insisted that the impeachment process against Rousseff followed a “constitutional order.”

He concluded by saying "We have given an example to the world."

Traditionally, Brazil has been the first country to address the General Assembly dating back to its 10th session in 1955, when other countries were reluctant to kick off the event, including the United Nation's host country, the United States. Brazil volunteered to speak first, and the tradition has endured for more than 60 years.

In his address, Temer also referred to the migrant crisis and the rise of extremism as global “deficits” and said his government is committed to addressing these issues. He also called on measures to reform the U.N. Security Council, which critics have long complained serves as an exclusive club with veto power that it can exercise against the larger body.

He also defended his neoliberal agenda that has produced deep cuts to popular educational social programs introduced and expanded under Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva–popularly known as Lula– who was also of the Workers Party. Brazil, Temer said, is following the “right path.” He also stated that “development is more than an objective, it is an imperative… development is tantamount to dignity."

Temer faces very low approval ratings at home among Brazilians. He is scheduled to complete Rousseff’s presidential term until the next scheduled election in late 2018, and his government is pressing accusations of corruption against Lula, who is the odds-on-favorite to recapture the presidency.


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Non-Aligned Movement Summit Kicks Off in Venezuela

The global body has been instrumental in the fight against colonialism, imperialism, racism and oppression.

Heads of state and representatives of 120 nations are in Venezuela’s Margarita Island for the 17th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, which kicks off Tuesdayas the global body focuses on the promotion and defense of world peace, one of the fundamental principles of the movement.

IN DEPTH: Non-Aligned Movement

With the slogan "United on the Path for Peace,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez gave the the inaugural speech as her country assumes the organization's rotating presidency for the next three years after taking over from Iran.

With 120 member states, the NAM is the second largest international body after the United Nations. It has 53 members from Africa, 39 from Asia, 26 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 17 observer countries and 10 observer organizations.

The summit, which ends on Sept. 18, will have meetings scheduled in three consecutive segments: meeting of senior officials, foreign ministers meeting, and a conference of heads of state and government.

The global body has been instrumental in the fight against colonialism, imperialism, racism and oppression.

Heads of state and representatives of 120 nations are in Venezuela’s Margarita Island for the 17th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, which kicks off Tuesdayas the global body focuses on the promotion and defense of world peace, one of the fundamental principles of the movement.

Non-Aligned Movement 2016 Summit

As the Non-Aligned Movement prepares to meet in Venezuela for its 17th Summit, the founding principles of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist group seem more relevant than ever as Western neo-colonial policies continue to affect people around the world.


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Evo Morales Denounces Acts of Violence by Striking Miners

Bolivian President Evo Morales denounced the recent acts of violence carried out by a group of striking miners. 

Bolivian President Evo Morales denounced the kidnapping and assassination of the country’s Vice Minister of the Interior Rodolfo Illanes, calling it an act of “conspiracy” against his administration during a press conference on Friday.

His comments take place after government officials confirmed Thursday evening that striking miners from the Federation of Mining Cooperative in Bolivia, known as Fencomin, were responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Llanes.

RELATED: Bolivian Government Confirms Minister Beaten to Death by Miners

The striking miners in Bolivia seized Illanes Thursday morning in a move authorities slammed as a “kidnapping” amid an escalating conflict between mine workers and President Evo Morales’ administration.

More than 100 arrests had been made in relation to the murder. Bolivian authorites early Friday morning said that they had recovered Illanes' body which reports say has sign of torture. 

In his remarks on Friday morning, Morales said the recent actions carried out by the Bolivian miners were rooted in self-serving political interests rather than genuine social change.  

"This mobilization of the Fencomin was a political conspiracy and there was no genuine social demands for the sector," President Morales told the media on Friday.

RELATED: Evo Morales' Rise to Power

The Fencomin miners, formerly allied with Morales, launched the indefinite strike after a series of deadlocked negotiations. They demand better working conditions and pay and reform of the country’s mining act, including elimination of certain environmental obligations, among other points. 

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Venezuela Assumes Mercosur Presidency, Slams Right-Wing Assault

A "triple alliance" of right-wing governments in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay have tried to undermine Venezuela's presidency of Mercosur.

Venezuela has assumed the pro tempore presidency of the regional bloc Mercosur – despite a campaign led by the conservative governments of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina – and Venezuela's foreign minister said they will not be bullied into withdrawing by the right-wing "triple alliance."

ANALYSIS: Mercosur, a Regional Bloc Fighting Off Imperialism

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said her country will not accept the “boycott” carried out by the three member states of the regional trade bloc who are trying to stop Caracas from assuming Mercosur's chairmanship. 

“This triple alliance made of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay want to prevent Venezuela to exert its full right to chair the Mercosur, using legal barbarities to fulfill their purpose,” Rodriguez said. 

The top diplomat also added that this boycott has the “imperialist seal” of Washington, which she says is committed to an “anti-progressive campaign” in Latin America, referring to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visits to Argentina and Brazil where, in the case of the latter, a right-wing parliamentary coup has removed progressive President Dilma Rousseff.

Uruguay concluded its term at the head of the regional body on July 30, and Venezuela issued a statement saying it had formally assumed the role, hoisting the flag of Mercosur at the Foreign Ministry in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

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