Banco de Venezuela is one of the most important banks in Venezuela, with a 12 percent share of the market in loans and obtained profits of US$170 million in the first half of 2008, a 29 percent increase on 2007, when its profits had already increased by 20 percent. It has 285 offices and 3 million customers. Banco de Venezuela was nationalized in 1994 after a massive banking crisis which bankrupted 60 percent of the banking sector, only to be privatized in 1996 and bought by the Spanish multinational banking group Grupo Santander for only US$300 million. In only nine months Grupo Santander recovered its original investment.
The Prisoners of Conscience Committee delegation from the United States returned recently from a fact-finding mission in El Salvador. We were in three cities - San Salvador, Suchitoto and Sansonate - and we talked to former combatants, government officials, union leaders, community leaders, members of street organizations, former political prisoners and more. One of my favorite groups that we met was Radio Zurda, a collective of youth who do a political radio show heard in El Salvador and Honduras, targeted towards a youth audience.
“We’re under domestic insurgency. If we don’t get it, it will get us.” – California Attorney General Jerry Brown, Anti-Gang Conference, Riverside, Calif., December 2007 “We’re mounting a coordinated, aggressive suppression strategy that targets the worst offenders and the most violent gangs. We’re converging local, state, federal and even international efforts … coming at them with everything we have.” – Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Feb. 8, 2007, press conference