Chavez announces new discount ‘socialist’ stores

President Hugo Chavez, pictured on December 21, on Tuesday announced a new chain of government-run, cut-rate retail stores that will sell everything from food to cars to clothing from places such as China, Argentina and Bolivia.

President Hugo Chavez, pictured on December 21, on Tuesday announced a new chain of government-run, cut-rate retail stores that will sell everything from food to cars to clothing from places such as China, Argentina and Bolivia.

AFP – President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday announced a new chain of government-run, cut-rate retail stores that will sell everything from food to cars to clothing from places such as China, Argentina and Bolivia.

“We’re creating Comerso, meaning Socialist Corporation of Markets,” Chavez said at the opening of a “socialist” fast-food location for traditional Venezuelan arepas (cornbread).

“They’ll see what’s good. We’ll show them what a real market is all about, not those speculative, money-grubbing markets, but a market for the people,” said Chavez in his drive to change Venezuela from a market-based economy to a socialist one.

“We’re going to challenge all that junk food that just fattens people up,” he added referring to the arepa stand he opened to the public.

Chavez said the Comerso chain of stores will include “a network of subsidiaries” that will sell new vehicles directly imported from China and Argentina, “without capitalist intermediaries.”

“We’re going to defeat speculation. Private individuals in sales can still sell, but they’ll have to compete with us and with a people who is now fully aware,” Chavez said.

He said the new discount retail chain will also sell clothing and furnishings imported from Bolivia, Venezuela’s closest leftist ally in the region.

The socialist retail outlets will serve the public alongside the Mercal supermarket chain, which sells subsidized food in Venezuela’s working-class neighborhoods.

In his effort to break Venezuela’s dependency on foreign goods, Chavez in May launched the Movilnet cell phone company that makes the “Vergatario,” a locally made mobile that sells for 13.95 dollars but that few stores have in stock.

Chavez and Gaddafi call for ‘balanced world’

With key energy accords on the table at the second South America-Africa (ASA) summit here, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi upped the ante Saturday with calls for the creation of a “NATO of the South” by 2011.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has long sought to improve relations among non-Western nations, opened the meeting in the locked-down scenic resort of Isla Margarita, where Venezuelan military have set up checkpoints and banned all weapons.

The summit, following a first meeting in 2006 in Nigeria, is being attended by 30 heads of state and representatives from a further 30 nations.

“Our union will contribute to a balanced world, “said Chavez, while praising his “brother” Kadhafi, who earlier this week lashed out at Western powers in a damning address to the UN General Assembly.

The Libyan leader, who in his rambling 95-minute speech at the United Nations called on the Security Council to be renamed the “Terror Council,” said he was pushing for the creation of a “NATO of the South” by 2011 to counter the military bloc of the United States and European powers.

Energy infrastructure development and joint oil project cooperation were the central topics of the meeting, however, with a final declaration expected to include a number of specific joint commitments.

“I’m sure that we will have a series of agreements on this issue that will be very important,” said Venezuelan Minister of Energy and Petroleum Rafael Ramirez.

He added that cooperation agreements will seek to build up domestic energy capacity and resources.

“All the energy infrastructure, both in South America and in Africa, was designed and developed to meet the energy requirements of the industrial powers that our countries were satellites of,” he lamented.

A draft statement from the summit also highlighted the need to create new financial architecture to regulate world markets in the light of the devastating economic crisis, and a rejection of the drug trafficking that plagues the two regions.

Chavez was especially effusive about Kadhafi, confessing great “admiration” for the leader who is marking his first visit to Latin America since he came to power 40 years ago.

Venezuelan state media meanwhile reported earlier that Kadhafi and Chavez, both traditional foes of the United States and Western powers, will sign eight cooperation agreements on Monday.

“Libya is the gateway to Africa for us because it is a country well-known for its socialist policies that plays an important and strategic role for us,” said Venezuelan Ambassador to Tripoli Afif Tajeldine.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, one of the instigators for the first ASA summit, meanwhile said there was “no global challenge in the 21st Century that cannot be tackled by Africa and South America, and there is no challenge that can be addressed without (the two regions).”

Chavez’s other high-profile guests at the Caribbean resort destination also included Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila.

The Venezuelan leader also revealed Saturday that Libya would be the site of the next ASA summit in 2011.

Raising Latin American ghosts

The announcement of seven American bases in Colombia have resurrected old ghosts from the past about US involvement in Latin America.

After a long silence and during a meeting with students Cuba’s Fidel Castro re-discovered his revolutionary spirit in defending his friend Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

He said: “We are not free, where is the sovereignty of Venezuela and the Cuban Republics.

It’s been trampled ..it’s been occupied and we can demonstrate this.”

But the progression of the left in Latin America has redrawn the political map of the region.

Colombia remains today Washington’s only ally in the region and all US military resources are based in Colombia.

Spiralling military costs in Latin America amount to 36 billion euros – that’s a fifty per cent increase in 10 years.

Overall military expenditure in the region has increased by 50 per cent with Colombia and Venezuela, behind Brazil.

Militarisation in Venezuela is an especially important policy of Hugo Chavez as he follows his “Cubanisation” plan.

And earlier this month Chavez went on TV to declare Venezeula was freezing diplomatic relations with Colombia.

Chavez said: “It is necessary to prepare for breaking off relations.This is going to happen.

Those seven Yankee bases – they are has declaration off war against the Bolivarian revolution and so we assumes it is a declaration of war.”

Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe has also found he can make political capital out of confrontational speeches.

He didn’t hold back from accusing Venezuela of selling weapons to Marxist rebels. He said anti rocket launchers found in FARC rebel camps had come from Venezuela.

He believes this kind of talk that can get him re-elected.

Officially the American bases are part of Washington’s fight against drug trafficking and terrorism.

One Colombian senator says there is more going on.

Manual Juan Galan said: “Given the reality off the current political and foreign situation, Colombia needs to have the the resources for a credible defence force in the event of an armed conflict.

Every sovereign state has to have this.”

Colombia’s diplomatic spat with Venezuela took a new turn in Bogata with a series of billboards showing Chavez with his eyes closed.

They call on him to: “open his eyes

Chavez to sever links with Colombia

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez says he is ready to break off diplomatic relations with neighbours Colombia.

Chavez is furious over negotiations between Bogota and Washington that will allow the US to increase its military presence in Colombia.

Chavez vented his spleen on Venezuelan TV:
“You have to prepare for the rupture of relations with Colombia because its going to happen… there is no chance of a way back or an embrace with Uribe, no, no its impossible. Those seven yankee bases are a declaration of war against the Bolivarian revolution and that’s how we see it, as a declaration of war.”

Colombia and the US claim the agreement is necessary to help Colombia’s security forces fight the drug cartels and Marxist rebels.

The US is due to boost its numbers at seven Colombian bases on a 10-year lease deal.

The Presidents of South American nations are due to meet in Argentina on Friday to discuss the issue with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe expected to outline his intentions.

Bolivia and Ecuador, close allies with Chavez, have voiced similar concerns, they are not alone, more moderate countries are also uneasy about an increased US military presence in the region.

Venezuelans protest over schools law

Protests over a controversial new education law have sparked violence on the streets of the Venezuelan capital. Police fired water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse government opponents who knocked over a fence marking the end of the authorized route.

The law orders schools to base curricula on the “Bolivarian Doctrine” – a reference to ideals espoused by 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, such as national self-determination and Latin American unity.

Critics accuse President Hugo Chavez of trying to win hearts and minds through indoctrination. “This law lays the ground for another law that will indoctrinate people, above all children, and they plan to bring politics into schools,” complained protestor.

Meanwhile, a pro-government rally in support of the new law took place without incident just a few kilometres away.