Sun, Jan 05, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Vacation list spurs political fight in Venezuela

Reuters, CARACAS

Venezuela’s politicians are at each other’s throats after the government published a list of foreign trips enjoyed by opposition leaders during the Christmas and New Year holidays, saying it proved they do not love their country.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused opposition officials of being “right-wing bosses” who complained about a crisis at home, but had no problem jetting off to places like Aruba, Miami and Paris.

“They abandon their responsibilities where they govern, leaving them full of garbage and need. Everyone should draw their own conclusions,” said Maduro, who spent New Year’s eve dancing with his wife at a televised concert in the capital’s historic Plaza Bolivar.

“This is what brought about the revolution, as a reaction by society to the immorality of the old political class. That’s why we’re the majority,” he said late on Thursday, referring to the self-styled socialist movement of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Many in the opposition were outraged by the publication of the list, which named 27 people, almost all of them opposition politicians, their identity card number, where they spent the holidays, and the date on which they left Venezuela.

It said, for example, that two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles went to Aruba, setting off on Dec. 22, while others flew to locations that also included New York, Madrid and Sao Paulo.

“Definitely, they don’t love their own country,” said Robert Serra, a vocal member of the ruling Socialist Party (PSUV).

Tweeting a picture of Caracas’ Avila mountain and the display of his cellphone early on Friday to show he was now back home, Capriles mocked Maduro’s government.

“To those enjoying some well-deserved days with their families, enjoy them!” the opposition leader wrote.

“Our objective for 2014 is that our country finds solutions to its many problems. We won’t be distracted by the persecutorial obsessions of these fascists,” he added.

The government says its list proves that opposition leaders are a wealthy elite who are out of touch with the poor.

The opposition says such attacks are a strategy Maduro inherited from Chavez, of seeking to distract voters from day-to-day concerns such as slowing economic growth and annual inflation which hit 56.2 percent last year.

The opposition says Maduro, who narrowly won an election in April after Chavez died from cancer, has only made things worse with short-term, populist measures that included sending troops to occupy an electronics retailer accused of price gouging.

“There’s no solution in demagoguery and repression,” senior opposition figure Ramon Guillermo Aveledo said, adding that the publication of the list was “hypocritical.”

Angry opposition supporters demanded trips taken by senior “Chavista” politicians and their families also be made public.

Maduro accuses his rivals of being backed by shady “speculators” and US-based financiers who are conspiring to discredit his policies and bring down his government.

Venezuelan Information Minister Delcy Rodriguez, who published the list of foreign trips on Twitter, accused opposition leaders of being work-shy and of traveling abroad at every opportunity.

“Are they going on holiday, or seeking instructions?” she asked, suggesting opposition leaders take political orders from overseas. “It is someone’s right to take a vacation; the problem is the double standards of the opposition.”

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