Palestinian children welcomed in Venezuela

Demonstration in Venezuela in support of the Palestinian struggle for their state
Demonstration in Venezuela in support of the Palestinian struggle for their state

PALESTINIAN child victims of Israeli aggression are arriving in Venzuela to be house in shelters named Hugo Chavez after the former Venezuelan president, aimed at hosting children who have lost their parents after Israeli bombs.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Elias Jaua, said on Friday that the first children would be arriving shortly.

In an interview with local media, he said that ‘a number of Palestinian children orphaned or in need of medical treatment that can be provided by Venezuela will arrive in Venezuela in the coming hours, maybe the weekend’.

The Venezuelan foreign minister, who arrived on August 6 in Egypt to manage the Venezuelan assistance to infants, explained they are in talks with representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to coordinate all matters relating to transportation, as set out in international regulations.

Also Jaua stressed that ‘the Venezuelan government is acting within the legal framework established by the Venezuelan Constitution, Article 152, which states that our country has a moral obligation to international solidarity and help people in their struggle for independence and sovereignty’.

He added that planes of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) are expected to travel to Egypt between Monday and Tuesday, with six tons in aid donated by the Venezuelan people.

The Palestinian people have been the victim of an aggression of the State of Israel against the Gaza Strip, and to date there are at least 1,900 people killed and 9,000 wounded.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz, last Thursday released a list of 56 companies that are facing criminal proceedings being conducted by the Prosecutor’s office regarding their use of foreign currency awarded by the State.

On her weekly radio show, In Tune with the Public Ministry, Attorney Ortega said that regarding the list of companies whose managers should clarify the use of currency awarded by the State, ‘several were reported to the Public Prosecutor’s office and were under investigation’.

In last Thursday’s show, the attorney reported that there are 56 companies involved and released the list in her Twitter account. Furthermore, Cencoex head Alejandro Fleming has said that he is working jointly with the Attorney to make sure that the laws are fully and properly enforced on those who make irregular use of foreign exchange.

‘We have a responsibility and obligation to ensure that law is fully applied to those who made inconsistent use of currency,’ he said. Among the investigated companies are distributors, traders and importers, some of the food sector.

Listed companies are identified by name and Tax Information Registry (RIF). Cencoex is currently evaluating other companies to check the correct usage of foreign currency awarded by the State in a process of verification of documents which will run until October 30.

This investigation process to companies that import goods was ordered by the President Nicolas Maduro, who appointed a special commission to investigate the use of currency issued by the former Commission on Administration of Foreign Exchange (Cadivi) in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

on a separate matter, after carrying out a day-long strike last Monday affecting an estimated 95% of public transportation in Margarita in Venezuela’s Nueva Esparta state, the Nueva Esparta Transport Union resumed work after a meeting between workers and government representatives.

The strike was called in protest over lack of rubber for tyres, batteries, and other spare parts for auto maintenance, insecurity, and the creation of a cheaper, government-initiated MetroBus system that currently functions in several districts throughout the city.

Though the strike managed to shut down most of the city’s public transportation, the MetroBus system continued operations free of charge, prompting state governor Carlos Mato Figueroa, of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), to declare the strike a failure.

‘It (the strike) failed because it had no basis,’ Figueroa claimed; ‘We have sufficient quantities of rubber and battery to meet the needs of this sector.’

He maintained, however, that he planned to integrate MetroBus routes with those of public buses, so that ‘no one is hurt.’

Proposals considered during the meeting between the government and transportation workers included improved mechanisms for distributing auto parts, along with renovating the buses.

José Luis Isase, president of the union, said that the workers had sufficiently voiced their complaints to authorities, and that further meetings were planned between the two sides to agree on additional measures.

The complaints voiced during the strike relate to the broader national issue of shortages in auto parts due to difficulties importing these goods through the state’s currency controls. Within the country, these shortages have caused proposed layoffs by car manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, and an 83 per cent drop in the number of cars produced in the first half of 2014, as compared with the same time period the previous year.

To address these issues, representatives from these auto companies and others recently met with Carabobo governor, Francisco Ameliach Orta, in Valencia, where they addressed problems with shortages and agreed to take measures to revitalise production.

The complaints also come in the context of recent unrest in some sectors of the Venezuelan labour force.

Last month, the Auto Assembly Workers’ Federation (FUTAAC) marched to the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas to draw attention to the refusal of various companies to negotiate new collective contracts.

And last week, workers from the state-owned steel plant Sidor, in Bolívar state, marched through Ciudad Guyana to protest against delays in a negotiation of a new contract.

Since the previous contract expired in 2010, the factory has been paralysed by numerous strikes, leading to a drop in production and direct conflict with the national government. The Jeep assembly plant in the central Venezuelan city of Valencia is empty and the machinery still.

The factory, which once employed more than 1,000 workers, made its last car five months ago. Now assembly lines at the plant, located in the oil-rich country’s industrial heartland, are quiet. Workers were sent home after raw materials ran out.

Venezuela’s economic crisis threatens to paralyse what was once South America”s third-largest automotive industry. ‘They are asking to fire 119 workers,’ said union leader Henry Ospina, who represents employees of Chrysler, which makes Jeeps. We’re fighting, but the company says everyday it’s harder to maintain staff costs.’

Like Chrysler, a subsidiary of Italian company Fiat, plants belonging to Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Iveco, part of CNH Industrial; Mack, a subsidiary of Swedish Volvo; and Mitsubishi are all operating at minimum capacity.

Production in 2014 has fallen 83 per cent year-on-year, with just 7,000 cars built, compared with some 43,000 made during the same period last year. Only 876 vehicles were produced in July, an 87 per cent plunge from the same month in 2013, according to the Venezuelan Automotive Chamber.

The auto industry claims it is owed $1.9 billion in dollar liquidations by the government of President Nicolas Maduro. The state says it will protect workers and speed up access to dollars for auto manufacturers.

Maduro, who succeeded longtime leader Hugo Chavez in 2013, has previously said auto manufacturers were to blame for the crisis. At the end of last year the government accused General Motors of selling replacement parts at inflated prices, and fined the company nearly $85,000.

In February, when Toyota said it intended to close its Venezuelan plant, Maduro accused the world’s No. 1 automaker of waging an ‘economic war’ against him. The crisis has translated into reduced paychecks, hitting the wallets of workers who are also contending with inflation of more than 60 per cent.

‘In all of the automotive industry, 1,500 jobs are at risk,’ said Cristian Pereira, the president of a union federation which includes workers from all areas of the sector.