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2003-01-23

The Supreme Court of Venezuela Suspends a Referendum On President Hugo Chavez & the Government Halts Foreign Currency Trading: We Go to Caracas

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The Supreme Court of Venezuela yesterday indefinitely postponed a nationwide referendum scheduled for next month on whether embattled President Hugo Chavez should resign.

The ruling has stunned opposition leaders. The referendum would have been non-binding, but they had hoped a resounding defeat would increase political pressure on Chavez to step down.

Also yesterday, the government closed the markets for five days, hoping to stem the exodus of capital and prevent its crippled currency from falling further. US-owned multinational corporations including Microsoft and Ford have begun to close local offices and pull people out of the country.

Protests both for and against Chavez continue. On Monday, one person died and more than 20 were injured in protests. More protests are scheduled for today, an especially symbolic day for Venezuelans. On January 23, 1958, a popular uprising backed by the military forced the dictator General Perez Jimenez to flee the country. Since then the day has been celebrated almost like Independence Day is celebrated here in the U.S.

The country’s crisis was precipitated by a management lock out that crippled the petroleum industry and shuttered supermarkets and malls in December and early January. Most businesses are open now, though, and the effort to topple Chavez appears to have failed.

Guests:

  • Deepa Fernandes, host of Free Speech Radio News who has been in Caracas for the last three weeks.
  • Jennifer McCoy, director of the Americas Program at the Carter Center and Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University in Atlanta. She has just returned from Venezuela where she was part of former President Carter’s delegation to Venezuela which met with President Chavez and Opposition Leaders in an effort to negotiate a resolution to the conflict

There are no ads for laundry detergent or breakfast cereal on the Venezuelan private TV channels. Just one attack ad after another after another, all blaming Chavez for the country’s ills.

Tape:

  • Anti-Chavez ad airing in Venezuela

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