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José Vicente Rangel

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans rallied together in Caracas on Saturday to march in support for the sovereignty of the country’s state-owned petroleum company, PdVSA, and to protest the hypocrisy in the US’s decision not to extradite Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles.

Beginning in the eastern side of the city in the barrio Petare, the march passed through dozens of signature collection points, allowing the people to voice their opposition to the then day-old US decision not to extradite Posada.

By 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the people had congregated in the center of the city where they listened to several music groups and speakers. A speech given by Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente denouncing a second assault on the petroleum industry and affirming that terrorism must not focus on Posada Carriles but also on his bosses concluded the march.

Referring to the national petroleum strike from December 2002 to February 2003, Rangel affirmed that "we were victims of a terrorist act against the most important industry of Venezuela. It is estimated that $20 billion of losses from the petroleum sabotage to the Venezuelan industry. The US government also participated in that; in the same form that they participated in the coup in April, 2002."

Rangel then warned of "a second assault against the petroleum industry," asserting that "the coup leaders are up to it again...receiving abundant money from the United States, with plans to physically eliminate the President of the Republic." Rangel urged the marchers to be "alert and vigilant" in the face of this "fierce publicity and media campaign." The march carried signs against US imperialism and hypocrisy, urging their northern neighbor to see justice done and extradite the Cuban terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles.

On May 17th, the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice submitted an extradition request for Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative, for masterminding the terrorist act that blew up a Cuban civilian airplane in mid-flight in 1976, killing all 73 people on board. Posada was charged and served time in a Venezuelan penitentiary until the CIA bribed Venezuelan guards to look the other way as Posada walked out of the prison in 1985.

The explosives expert illegally entered the US via the Mexican border in March. He was arrested by US immigration services and is currently awaiting his June 13th hearing.

On Friday, US authorities rejected Venezuela’s "provisional arrest request" contending that it fell short of a proper extradition request because it did not include sufficient evidence.

Venezuelan authorities are currently in the process of going over their 700 page extradition request with a fine tooth comb, in hopes of catching any possible "irregularities" that may arise with translation problems. The final extradition request is expected to be turned in on Tuesday.

According to Rangel, the march against terrorism should not just focus on one person, in this case, Posada, but should take into account, "what there was and what continues to be behind him."

After acknowledging that Posada was on the CIA payroll for twelve years, the Vice President reminded the crowd that "Bush the father was the director of the CIA when (Posada) committed the act against the Cuban airline. And Bush pardoned nothing less and nothing more than the other terrorist, Orlando Bosch."

Rangel went on to demand that "international terrorism is understood as something complete, as the terrorism of the Bush family, father and son" and affirmed that should the US not fully cooperate, the case would be taken to taken to several international organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS), the United Nations and to the International Court of Justice.

Rangel apologized to the tens of thousands of people present for the absence of Chávez. "I understand your reaction...but we have to understand that Chávez is a human being, that he can not permanently be in all places, and that there are moments when he regrettably cannot be with you, even when he would like to be," he stated.

Opposition "March"

On Saturday, the Venezuelan opposition managed to gather a few hundred people in the affluent neighborhood Altamira. Convoked by journalist Patricia Poleo and political leader Oscar Pérez, the march had the objective of defending the rights of the "political prisoners" that the opposition believes exist in Venezuela.

According to the state radio station, Radio Nacional de Venezuela (RNV), about 30% of the people in the march left within an hour, due to the "great disorder and the lack of ruling leadership."

Neither RNV nor state television station VTV was well received by the opposition march. Both were verbally insulted on several occasions and after an opposition marcher threw a punch at an RNV cameraman, both state-owned media outlets were asked to leave In spite of the tension, there were no major disturbances in either march