Sunday, February 13, 2005

Round up of news: floods in Venezuela and Colombia, with a silly appearance by Castro

Why include Castro in a round up of news on the Venezuelan, and now Colombian, disasters? Wits would say because Fidel Castro is a disaster himself. But the reason is that Chavez used a Castro speech to promote himself while visiting a disaster idea, once again.

But all in due time through the news recap for the day.

Disaster in the Venezuelan Andes.

If Vargas 2 was rather low in victims, this is not the case today in the Andes as tales of terror start coming from the area. Vargas was blissfully low in body count because in part people are scared by the rain and run for cover very fast, and because the normal holiday security support was in place and could shift into the evacuation mode fast.

But the Venezuelan Andes are not so lucky, and the rains that were supposed to shift to the Oriental part of the country actually seem to have backtracked and made havoc in the high peaks and valleys. Merida state reports 300 dead or missing (only 8 confirmed dead so far). The swollen rivers coming from the Andes are feeding a Tocuyo dam which is reported near collapse (which happened in Miranda state in 1999 when El Guapo dam broke). 11 000 are to receive anytime soon an evacuation order.

And in Colombia

The Bucaramanga area is the area closer to Venezuela, and thus although in the dry season is also suffering of the rains hitting the Venezuelan Andes. But it seems to be happening right now and news are not fast coming. Still, 11 death are already reported, due to the same weather. It seems that the weather does not care about which side Granda was caught.

Spin control number 1

The army acknowledges that the worse hit areas of Vargas have been Camuri and Naiguata (no word on Carayaca or Chichiriviche) Interestingly they showed videos that "supposedly" demonstrates that in some areas the Corpovargas Works had an effect. Which is a nice way, I suppose, to admit that in most places they were useless. Of course, this is the state trying to put some spin as a tsunami of criticism (even from some people loosely associated with the regime) is rising. I am taking bets right now as to whether some independent commission will be allowed to evaluate the achievements (?) of Corpovargas.

Spin control number 2, with a little help from Castro

Araira is a small village in the road between Caracas and the Eastern part of Miranda state, on the way to the beaches. It is a word from my child hood as regularly we drove by on our way to Higuerote and there was the only semi clean rest area, just half way to Higuerote, El Mirador. As a kid, seeing the sign "Araira" meant that within a couple of miles I would be getting out of the car for a few minutes.

Well, Araira has been washed out as the river broke through main street and muddied the whole place. What is noteworthy in the story is that apparently (as heard on TV) a very old resident remembered having seen as a kid the river go through the village. We are a country without memory, already in 1999 some elderly remembered that Vargas had experienced the same type of weather and disaster in the past, once in the early 50ies and once in the 20ies, if I recall well the newspapers of early 2000. Yet, nobody seems to have wanted to inquire about these available pieces of information whether they were building expensive real estate in Los Corales or building shanties wherever they could in the risky areas of Vargas.

So, perhaps considering that Araira was having damage interesting enough, or because it represents an interesting footnote in our history as an old Cacao center, Chavez went to look for the photo op in Araira. There he took the opportunity to say that all was fine, that all the government systems worked, etc.. He also blasted his ex-minister, Genatios, who created the initial plan for Vargas and who has criticized Corpovargas actions as improvised while his plan was the result of a deep study (1). Al this, no surprise, under the loving cameras and questions of the state TV, far from private reporters who could ask embarrassing cross questions.

While in Araira Chavez also thanked Castro for warning him that George W. Bush wanted to kill him. Huh? It seems that during a 6 hours speech where Castro announced that Cuba was doing fine (?), thank you very much (to Venezuelan oil, you old leech), he also declared that he knew that the US wanted to kill Chavez.

Let's obviate the fact that indeed Washington would like very much to get rid of Chavez. Now, the first thing that should come to the analytical mind is that if Washington would really want Chavez dead it would have happened long ago. Let's also remember that the days where a US president could decree the death of a third world head of state are gone, or at least the risks are now too big in front of a US public opinion which is more inclined to accept an Iraq style invasion than the murder of some foreign crapulent potentate. So, what is the real point there? Two at the very least.

1-Create yet another smoke screen. That is, try to have people talk about nasty Bush and not about the incompetent Chavez administration and corruption as Vargas is now the poster scandal. This fits perfectly well with the theory of Chavez "disappearing act" during important crisis, a disappearance calculated to prepare the spin campaign.

2-And of course prepare the grounds for Chavez to seek a similar situation of murder paranoia and blockade (or what not) which has been the biggest help for Castro to remain in charge since 1959. Blame it all on the US, it pays off, and it surely exempts you from ANY self criticism. Not to mention that it allows you to throw to jail anyone that disagrees with you accusing that unfortunate soul of treason to the fatherland.

Strong spirits of course laugh at such an infantile manipulation of the ignorant masses. After all, the informed observer could point out that more US presidents have been victims of real attacks than Castro; that Uribe in Colombia has had real bombs thrown at him while the Chavez assassination attempts have been shown to be risible montages for which we are waiting still for the first serious trial (arrest?) on that matter.

But this time, Chavez should remember that "you can run but you cannot hide". Evidence of a corrupt and particularly inefficient regime are piling up, and high. The Vargas II disaster is to be added to the Danilo Anderson corruption/extortion murder, the end of independent justice, the sheltering of terrorists, just in the last three months.

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(1) Genatios is a scientist formed in France and who was part of the initial crop of ministers, in the days where Chavez was able to attract semi competent folks. At some point he resigned and left the administration. We seem to know why now: he was not a politician and he probably sensed the political corruption that was coming and probably did not want to have any part of it.

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