martes, 2 de diciembre de 2003

This is an article published on Caracas-based english newspaper "The Daily Journal". Are we going to see Chavez speaking about this? I think NOT!


Venezuela's recall petition: Paid not to play!

Caracas (22-23 November) - In a country where at least 20 percent of the
population is unemployed and even those who have a job are struggling with
the reduced buying power of a bolivar that has devalued to a third of what
it was a year-and-a-half ago, the government of Hugo Chávez Frías has a new
jobs program, one that involves paving people for their signatures in the
recall referendum, showing up for marches and for not signing the petition
seeking to put an end to Chavez's rule.

The Daily Journal investigative news team uncovered government job sites
springing up in many of the poorer sections of Caracas offering jobs. Long
lines of people have been turning up and applying as the word of mouth about
the sites spreads. Candidates fill out an application asking what they would
like to earn and what, they would like to do. They are then called back and
offered 'jobs" - of not signing the petition calling for a referendum on
Hugo Chávez and paid cold, hard cash for the promise.

Searching through the want ads of Ultimas Noticias, we came across an
advertisement on November 10, calling for "Urgent help wanted. 100 young
people, either sex, to attend clients in stores, supervise and provide
information, Immediate work-."

Many of the help wanted ads that have been appearing use similar language
and some even have the same phone numbers. When you call the number, asking
what is required to apply you are told to go to Parque Cerntral and fill out
an application. When arriving at Parque Central, you are directed toward a
basement where there are tables and lots of people filling out applications.

When I went in, 1 was surprised at how crowded the room was. "Is everybody
here applying for this job?" I asked the attendant who handed me my
application. 'Yes. And everybody is going lo get to work- in this company,"
came the answer with a knowing smile.

I began filling out the application form, which looked like a sheet from the
census. In addition to the standard, name, cédula, address and telephone
number, it asked: "Do you live in an apartment, house or rancho? How many
people live in your house? How many brothers and sisters live in your house?
How many rooms does your house have? How many televisions and refrigerators
are in your house? Have you worked in public or private companies?" The
application bore the MINFRA logo and seal at the bottom.

MINFRA is the Ministry of Infrastructure, headed by Diosdado Cabello, who
has been with Chávez since they both participated in the 1992 coup attempt.
One of Chávez' most trusted lieutenants, Cabello has also served as vice
president, chief of staff, and head of the telecommunications regulatory
agency, Conatel, which raided Globovisión last month, seizing equipment.

My application was numbered in the 1500s, giving some indication as to how
many people have been applying - and receiving these jobs. 'We will call
you," they promised me, after I turned in my completed application. Nine
days later, on Wednesday, November l9th, 1 got my call short1y after 10:00
a.m, saying that they would like to see me, that my application number was
1532 and that 1 should go and have an interview at, 4.15 p.m. at Parque
Central, Edificio Caroata, Floor 18.

When I arrived in the lobby of Caroata Tower at Parque Central, I was asked
for my application number. The guards verified it and then escorted me up to
the l8th floor, a place with long halls that was crowded with lots of
people. I was told to take a number. When my number was called, I went to an
office, where a nicely dressed, executive lady told me "You have been
selected for the job. The only requirement is that you cannot sign the
Reafirmazo on November 28."

At this point, I diplomatically assured my executive recruiter that I do not
approve of this. "Oh no my signature is very valuable," I told her. My
executive recruiter got very serious and said, "Oh, no, no, no, this is not
a game. You cannot sign on November 28. You wrote here you want Bs. 200,000.
It is okay, we will give you in advance, the 200,000. The money is here with
us. But you cannot sign the recall referendum."

"I am not here for political reasons," I say. "I am here because I came to
apply for a job. Bs. 200,000 is not going to buy me a house." At this point
my recruiter is getting somewhat distressed. She calls a "Deputy Tascón".

Congressman Tascón, we are having a little problem here because this young
man does not want lo sign the contract and put his fingerprint on it says my

Congressman Luis Tascón, a leading member of Chávez' Fifth Republic
Movement, is well-known in the barrios because he has a Web site that
publishes all the names and cédulas of the people that signed the first
Firmazo. lt is obviously an attempt at intimidation. However, the gentleman,
that she was addressing was NOT that Luis Tascón.

My stem "Congressman Tascón" wrinkles his face and squints his eyes: "Look,
this is not a game. We know exactly where you live and we know exactly your
phone number. This conversation cannot be taken out of this room, This
cannot be mentioned to anybody." Escorting me out, he says "We just want to
get that marico (faggot) Peña and that marico (faggot) Mendoza out."

I see lots of people are taking the money and agreeing not to sign. While
there, I saw receipts for people paid as little as Bs. 80,000. But I
overheard another conversation. Another woman there, obviously equally
distressed with this behavior, says "I can't believe you people do this.
Paying us to do such a thing. How can you do such a low thing? To pay
people, to buy people."

Meanwhile, Rogelio Salazar, a MAS director in Bolívar state alleged that in
a number of villages, Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) officials had handed out
hard cash and bags of food to citizens that signed in favor of the
government's push to revoke that states opposition legislator, Nelson
Rampersad. Salazar said the government had distributed Bs. 16,000 per person
for signing a petition, and that National Guard (GN) trucks had transported
and distributed bags of food to those that signed.

Next week, apparently, you can go to Parque Central, Edificio San Martín,
Nivel Oficina Uno, Office 129 and 120, and get such a job too.

But the Chávez supporters' plans don't end with trying to buy people's
non-signatures. Apparently, they intend lo pay people to attend a march
during the Chávez petition period, in hopes of dissuading or making it
difficult for the opposition to get to the signature places. In El Silencio,
diagonal to Bolívar Avenue, across from the Hotel Conde, you can find José
Venod, in the office of Inmobiliaria y Raíces or by telephone at 861-6461.
On Friday, 21 November, he informed one member of our investigative team
that "We are going to pay you Bs. 30,000 per person to attend a march on
November 28. This includes the food, drinks, beer, shirts and hats. We are
also renting some vans on the night of the 27th to take groups of people out
of Caracas and then bring them back in big buses the next day."

The idea is to apparently look like there is huge support, for President
Chávez from around the country.

The Daily Journal Investigative News Team will be bringing News scoops
whether from within the government or the opposition, in the future. Our
sole commitment is to fair, unbiased journalism that reports the truth.