Thursday, November 23, 2006

ELECTIONWATCH

By Alex Beech

One of the unfortunate realities of the current political climate in Venezuela is that political violence is not only tolerated, but encouraged. In recent weeks, President Chavez has threatened opposition figures with jail, and the media with closure. The government’s grassroots leader, Lina Ron, has reminded the country that the revolution is “armed.” The president of the country’s oil company, Rafael Ramirez, has threatened state workers with a loss of job if their vote doesn’t favor Chavez. As always, the government’s bark has been so loud that everyone assumes that it lacks a bite. But incidents during the past few days indicate that Chavez’s sharp teeth are starting to show.

As elections near, politically related violence is on the rise. On Wednesday, as opposition candidate Manuel Rosales arrived at the San Carlos airport in Cojedes State, hordes of government supporters wearing pro-Chavez red t-shirts attacked Rosales. Surrounded by his security detail, Rosales exited the airport amid screams, as shouting protestors hurled debris at him. Pro-government protestors chased the opposition convoy on motorcycles.

The effort looked well-organized, signs that the Chavez campaign team may be panicking about the rise in popularity that Rosales has achieved in the past few weeks. Moments later, as Rosales addressed his supporters in the same city, pro-government supporters cut a cable, shutting off his audio. The silence lasted moments, but reminded everyone that in Venezuela especially, everything is fair in love, war, and small town campaigns.

The incident was the latest in a series of obstacles the opposition candidate has faced; in Valencia State, airport authorities prevented Rosales’s plane from landing at the airport, delaying his planned appearance at a rally by two hours.

Journalists Attacked by Presidential Guard

4:45 pm, est - On Wednesday, a Globovision news team was attacked by the Presidential Guard as it covered a protest outside the presidential palace. A female reporter and a news team had responded to a call by protesters demanding housing. As the reporter began to report the story on-camera, the team was approached by three soldiers who attacked the news team. The reporter’s assistant, Edwin Moreno, was beaten. Cameraman Jose Luis Ochoa’s back shows marks and bruises. The news team is being treated at Clinica Mendez Gimon.

-The end-

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