Sunday, May 22, 2005

Sunday Venezuela Press Review: from PDVSA to nuclear energy

Sundays are never boring in Venezuela. Major newspapers love to publish their extensive investigations. Chavez does his little telethon to set the political agenda of the week. Everybody runs around trying to figure him out. Past weeks scandals are forgotten (well, not by this blogger). Without further ado, let's look at this Sunday offerings.

PDVSA is far from oblivion

Let's summarize the main point: PDVSA has been managed as a mysterious black box since January 2003. And it also seems that it has been used as Chavez personal piggy bank for many of his pet projects. Eventually, after more than 2 years of such regime, bad news are now oozing continuously. The lackadaisical Oil Minister Ramirez has found himself becoming the fall guy, trying to finally give some answers that had he given them earlier, would have left him much less questioned. But such are the workings of autocrats, they do not feel subjected by the common rules of decency and accountability. Still, with today's articles, it seems that the meager efforts of pathetic Ramirez are close to naught.

El Universal has 4 major articles. (1)

One focuses on the startling jump in PDVSA importations for its work. That is, apparently the importations of PDVSA just to operate have increased so much that they are projected for the end of the year to reach 4 000 + million dollars when normally they are between 1200 and 1700 millions. Surely it would be interesting for the country to know how come PDVSA has suddenly been buying so much... And how those purchases are controlled....

Another major article again restates the case that numbers just do not square and that someone should come forward and explain where the money is, or how much oil do we really produce. It finishes with a flourish showing how Brazil and Colombia are making steady progress with their state oil companies. And with less abundant oil supplies.

The problems in maintenance and investments in PDVSA are also examined carefully. The consequences for the future of the industry is also something for which we would like some accounting. For some reason, another even more crucial, and damming, article in the printed edition, "PDVSA suicida", which came with graphics, is missing from the web. It might appear tomorrow in the section "Expediente".

And to finish with a flourish an OpEd from an ex director of PDVSA. Not only he wonders about the real value of PDVSA today compared to what it was worth in 1998 (between 150 and 170 billions USD), but more interestingly he notes that the vices attributed to the old PDVSA are appearing now magnified in the "new" PDVSA.

El Nacional does not stay far behind. If it has only one article (then economy is more the forte of EL Universal), it brings quite an essential question: how come PDVSA has been allowed to give without any control 7 billion dollars that should have gone through the normal budgetary process? Not only it is illegal to do that for PDVSA, but this one has not bothered accounting for the money spent, has no receipts on how the people it gave the money to spent the cash.

The implications of all of this is quite simple: if there is no serious accounting on how the money was spent and how PDVSA is managed, then we can only consider that there is criminal intent. Someday a few people will go to jail, when justice comes back to Venezuela. In this light the attempt of Ramirez to pass the buck and blame foreign companies, which only are service companies for less than half of the oil production, is simply pathetic. I predict that Ramirez will be one of the most reviled men of the bolivarian riot when the day of reckoning comes.

Chavez threatens to break relations with the US, with the N word

This came during the Alo Presidente of today, and sure enough on the Posada Carriles affair. I can already advance that this is a distracting tactic of Chavez, trying to focus the public attention, and the foreign one might as well, from the problems of PDVSA and the Tascon list sequels. After all, cutting off relations with he US is not in the best interests of Venezuela which is very far from the oil diversification that Chavez seeks. This as he needs lots of money for the coming elections. Even if Bush were to say f*** off to Chavez, oil would flow at least until early 2006.... However to make sure that his remarks would be well noticed, he added that he asked Iran to help Venezuela in solar energy research and nuclear energy options. CNN bit real quick, showing that Chavez has learnt to manipulate US journalist knee jerk reactions. Not all have the temple of Anastasia O'Grady when looking South. (2) & (3)

Eva Golinger book under scrutiny

Now turning to El Nacional we see the first serious analysis of the Golinger book, the "Codigo Chavez". This crass manipulation trying to ride the coat tails of a recent best seller does not seem to be doing too well in the stores. After all Venezuelan middle class knows better than to buy a book already decried before publication and that attacks people perceived as defending the middle class. But also, the government distributes it freely as propaganda; so, why buy a copy when eventually one will find its way to your living room for free if you wish it so?

At any rate, it seems that this first scrutiny reveals that many of the allegations made by la Golinger are not sustained by documents that should appear in the book or in a certain internet site. The book as been published long enough that there is no excuse. So, is it yet another hoax? Will this article prod Eva to update her web page? I would not hold my breath on that one.

Miscellaneous

The first funny item is the announcement that 300 centers for ideological formation are going to be set up. I suppose that they will be placed between the Mercals and the Barrio Adentro clinics. I would love to see the spontaneous attendance numbers, unless they use that for more "social payments". I have just one question, after 6 years and still setting up 'ideologization' centers? How efficient is that revolution...

And, for a change, some good news. The German language high schools of the Andean area have celebrated the Humboldt games. In honor of Alexander von Humboldt who was the one that brought this part of Latin America to the forefront of botany and zoology in the XIX century. It is quite gratifying that in the middle of the mental mediocrity that surrounds us, and rains on us from Miraflores, there are some people that still believe in Kultur, in globalization the right way, in science as going above artificial borders. Congratulations to the kids that for one week gave us something else to look for in the front page of the sports section besides baseball and car racing (and credit be given to El Universal who gave a very extensive coverage).

--------------------------------------------

(1) El Universal keeps an English language blow by blow of the PDVSA event.

(2) I had to modify the title of the post as it seems that Chavez has really hit media bull's eye. I was just watching the French news on cable. They never speak of Venezuela. Well, tonight they did. The nuclear energy intentions of Chavez have been noticed in Europe as well as in CNN. Or is it that the French are going to line up to sell thetechnology to Chavez?

(3) The Houston Chronicle also joins the fray of panic striken US folks. Let me say something: chavismo is too incompetent to develop nuclear weapons, even less to develop nuclear energy. Buying a nuclear weapon is always a possibility, but even that I wonder if chavismo is able to manage without it exploding in their own hands. Yes, that Chavez mentions "nuclear" is to be of concern, but for us Venezuelans first. Can anyone imagine Chavez having a secret nuclear weapon? He could not resist bragging abour it! All would know where to look for it and place a quick missile to neuter it!!!!!!!

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