Frontline World

VENEZUELA - A Nation On Edge, June 2003

Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "A Nation On Edge"

Leanings of Latin American Leaders

Dateline Caracas

Players in the Battle for Venezuela's Oil

Interview With the President's Psychiatrist

Economy, Government, Society and Culture

Anti-Chavez and Pro-Chavez groups, Relations With U.S., Oil, Media




Links and Resources

• General Background
Chavez and a Charged Political Climate
• Oil Industry
• U.S.-Venezuela Relations
Media Resources and the Question of Bias

General Background

BBC Country Profile: Venezuela
The BBC Country Profile offers an interactive feature placing Venezuela's current conflict in context. Trace an illustrated timeline of the country's history or listen to the national anthem. This site also provides a succinct analysis of Venezuela's highly politicized media outlets.

President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (in Spanish)
This official Web site of President Hugo Chavez features the president's news bulletin, his daily itinerary and the text of Venezuela's new constitution. You'll also find information about the health pact Venezuela has made with its sister country, Cuba, and news about the Bolivarian Circles, neighborhood groups set up by the Chavez government.

Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC): Venezuela
The LANIC Web site, created by the University of Texas at Austin, provides a wide range of links to information about Venezuela and other Latin American countries. Check out everything from arts and culture to business and the economy, from media and communications to political parties and elections -- not to mention national sports teams.

Maps of Venezuela contains more than 60 digital maps detailing the topography, cultural demographics, population distribution, petroleum reserves and much more.

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Chavez and a Charged Political Climate

BBC News Profile: Hugo Chavez
BBC tracks Chavez from his start as a military paratrooper to his rise to president of the republic. The profile sheds light on Chavez's political views, his relationships with Fidel Castro and U.S. officials, and the rise of opposition to him.

"Do-Gooders -- or Agents of Revolution?"
Business Week looks at the role the controversial Chavez-initiated Bolivarian Circles play in Venezuela's political turmoil. Although the groups are promoted as avenues of community involvement, the opposition considers them dangerous to democracy.

Organization of American States (OAS)
In December 2002, the OAS -- the premier political forum for multilateral dialogue and action among countries in the Western Hemisphere -- weighed in on Venezuela's internal conflict. Members of the organization, which has headquarters in Washington, D.C., voted to support President Hugo Chavez in order to protect representative democracy.

Pro-Chavez Web Sites

The Bolivarian Fund
Operating as an online Bolivarian Circle, this site presents a pro-Chavez perspective. It seeks to build international support for the Bolivarian Revolution. The site includes a description of Venezuela's Chamber of Commerce, whose previous president rose briefly to power during the April 11, 2002, coup against Chavez. (in Spanish)
This Web site posts daily news updates from the Chavista point of view. There is a searchable archive of news and of commentary posted by its registered visitors.

Antiescu· (in Spanish)
This Web site promotes Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution. Escu·lidos, "the squalid people," is Chavez's derogatory term for the middle- and upper-class opposition.

Anti-Chavez Web Sites

Coordinadora Democr·tica (in Spanish)
Democratic Coordinator is the primary opposition group in Venezuela. In recent months, the OAS has conducted negotiations between Democratic Coordinator and Chavez's administration in an effort to resolve political turmoil.

The Devil's Excrement
Perez Alfonso, co-founder of Venezuela OPEC, coined the phrase "the Devil's Excrement" in 1973. He was referring to the ruin that he envisioned oil would ultimately bring to his country. This Web log, or "blog," by Miguel Octavio on, offers up a regular dose of criticism of Chavez and his oil policies. The site includes photos of opposition protests and links to opposition groups and other blogs.

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Oil Industry

Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA)
Venezuela nationalized its oil industry in 1975, creating PDVSA, the state-run oil and gas concern. The organization's domestic crude production capacity is 3.9 million barrels per day. PDVSA, the nation's largest business employer, is among the world's largest oil companies. It's responsible for one-third of Venezuela's gross domestic product.

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration (EIA): Venezuela
The EIA Web site offers a recent, thorough analysis of Venezuela's energy sector. There's information on PDVSA (the state-owned oil and gas company), the state's relationship with OPEC, and news about national oil exploration and production, electricity, natural gas, coal, and industrial resources.

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
Venezuela is a founding member of OPEC, the collection of oil producers that gathered in 1960 for the first time, in Baghdad, to try to safeguard their oil-dependent economies against a fluctuating market. OPEC currently controls 40 percent of the world's oil production. Now based in Vienna, Austria, OPEC has 11 member countries. Venezuela remains the only OPEC member from the Western Hemisphere.

Founded in 1987 by oil scholar Mazhar Al-Shereidah, PetroAnalysis is a Caracas-based e-magazine that covers global petroleum politics.

PetroleumWorld: Latin American Energy, Oil and Gas -- Venezuela provides news headlines as well as information and analysis about the oil industry and economics in Latin America. International news is efficiently summed up in the site's Weekly Review. You'll also find a business directory for oil operations in Venezuela, an international calendar of events, useful links to institutions and journals worldwide, and a preview of an upcoming chronology of oil in Venezuela.

The International Monetary Fund's 2003 World Economic Report
Venezuela ran up an external debt of $34.4 billion in 2001, which is equal to about a quarter of its gross domestic product. In 2002, Venezuela's gross domestic product declined 8.9 percent. The IMF expects the economy to sink another 17 percent in 2003 before rebounding by 13.4 percent in 2004.

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U.S.-Venezuela Relations

"Washington Channeled Funds to Groups That Opposed Chavez"
The New York Times reported in April 2002 that the U.S. government had helped finance opposition to Hugo Chavez, with donations increasing fourfold in the weeks leading up to the short-lived coup d'état against him. Washington funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars through the National Endowment for Democracy, a nonprofit organization created by Congress, into, among other groups, the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, the Venezuelan union that helped galvanize opposition to President Chavez. This article was also featured in The Sydney Morning Herald.

U.S. Department of State's International Information Program: Venezuela
Here users can find "News From the Washington File," an account of the U.S. State Department's position on current events in Venezuela. Included is Secretary of State Colin Powell's call for a referendum on holding a midterm presidential election (before Chavez's term ends).

Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C.
In addition to a guide about consular services, the Venezuelan Embassy's Web site has general information on the current government, tourism, business, media, and arts and culture of Venezuela.

U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela
This is the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela's Web site. It provides up-to-date information on U.S. policy toward Venezuela as well as useful travel information. It also offers links to detailed reports on human rights issues, drug trafficking, international development aid, education scholarships, U.S media links and more.

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Media Resources and the Question of Bias

Gustavo Cisneros Group
This site is part of the media empire of Gustavo Cisneros, owner of the Cisneros Group, which is also a large shareholder in America Online Latin America, Venevision, Caracol Television (the local DirecTV affiliate) and the U.S.-based Spanish-language network, Univision. Cisneros is Venezuela's wealthiest man and a close friend of U.S. president George W. Bush. Chavez supporters accuse Cisneros of fanning opposition to Chavez.

El Universal
This site offers daily news from Caracas, Venezuela. El Universal and El Nacional are Venezuela's two major dailies. El Universal owner Andrés Mata was one of several media owners who met with interim president Pedro Carmona during the brief coup d'état in April 2002. is an independent online publication with news and commentary about issues in Venezuela. The editorial statement reads as follows: "Our declared editorial bias is pro-democracy and pro-Venezuela ... which some may wrongly interpret as anti-American."

"Venezuela's Media War"
The BBC News examines Venezuela's media outlets and makes an argument for greater balance and impartiality in reporting. Venezuela's National Assembly voted last February to establish stricter media regulation in response to coverage of the turmoil by the opposition-owned independent media.

"Venezuela: Media Freedom Threatened"
In early 2003, President Chavez threatened to shut down the two television stations, Globovisión and Radio Caracas Television because of "subversive" content. Human Rights Watch announced that restrictions are "inconsistent with international norms for freedom of expression."

The Narco News Bulletin
Founded by activist/commentator Al Giordano, the Narco News Bulletin was started as an independent venue for "authentic journalism" on the Latin American drug trade. Giordano has harshly criticized reporting by The New York Times and other mainstream outlets for their coverage of Hugo Chavez in general and for their stories about the 2002 coup attempt against Chavez in particular.

Globovisión (in Spanish)
Globovisión is one of Venezuela's most popular television stations. Its Web site presents news updates and commentary around the clock. The Chavez government recently threatened Globovisión, among other media outlets, with sanctions, alleging the station broadcasts "subversive" content.

Venezuela Analítica
Venezuela Analítica is an online monthly magazine offering astute commentary and analysis about the political, economic, commercial, social and cultural affairs of Venezuela. Although primarily in Spanish, the Web site does includes articles in English.

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