Wednesday, May 31, 2006

La Lista in the Internet

For those who cannot purchase the video "La Lista", there are good news. The full version is now on Internet, In Spanish (The real English version any time soon, I was told).

You can go THERE to see it on Google video.

The English review is here.

And of course you can still go to Ciudadania Activa to purchase the DVD.

So there, no more excuse not to be informed about this modern political apartheid, courtesy of the pseudo bolivarian revolution.

Remember
, people that appear in the infamous Tascon list have been denied basic civil rights including being fired of their civil servants jobs because they exerted their constitutional right, or were denied a passport, a subsidized housing credit, etc, etc... Just because they requested a recall election on Chavez. And quite often pressure was put on relatives even if they did not signed up. For example PDVSA jobs are denied to you if your spouse appears in the list, or even if a close relative appears (it all seems to depend on the zeal of the recruiter but I have been told that even if you get inside "background" checks do not stop). No matter what the silly slogan says "PDVSA ahora es de todos" (PDVSA now belongs to all). Basically those like me who stamped their signature in 2003 are now forever second class citizens in Venezuela. The world needs to know how democracy and human rights are trampled in Venezuela.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

My (ex-)Governor has been arrested

I will unusually start this post with a picture. You may click to enlarge.


What you see there is on the right the present governor of Yaracuy, Gimenez, elected (?) in October 2004. His election was forced upon by Chavez campaigning hard for him. And he barely won, with Yaracuy having the lowest abstention in the country, facing what was reputed as the most efficient governor in Venezuela, Eduardo Lapi. Incidentally Lapi's party, incomprehensibly, obtained the majority at the state assembly while losing the main vote, something that even in normal democracies does rarely happen, something even rarer in Venezuela.

It is not idle to also point out that Gimenez was the mayor of La Independencia which he left to run for the Sate House. Yet, his designated heir came in third (in position 3) of the mayoral race there, so lousy was his administration. But Gimenez was picked by Chavez and yet he BARELY made it while other Chavez picks got nice victories elsewhere.

The above picture is the cultural center of San Felipe which under Gimenez has become the main gathering point for pro Chavez rallies, comfortably ensconced in an A.C. area while Lapi used to stay out in the streets to sweat it out with his followers. In other word, this public area has been politically privatized to serve the interests of only one political party. They are crass enough to advertise it pompously as you can see on this picture, the current sign meant to "celebrate" some recent "achievement".

Thus if I post this picture it is to give some context for the following. You can find plenty of such type of posters all across the state, including most public transportation careful repainted in the last year to the glory of the revolutionary leader. Always Gimenez associates his picture tightly with Chavez as he knows full well that without his blessing he is NOTHING.

As could have been predicted, Gimenez administration has been a major failure. Yaracuy crime rates have boomed (myself and most of my c0-workers have been the victims of crime in the past year). Unemployment has continued unrelenting. Investment is down the drain as Yaracuy went from the state with less agrarian invasion to become perhaps the one with the most interventions and agrarian crimes in the whole country! Even drawing the attention of the Spanish government whose nationals living in Yaracuy have been threatened. Streets and roads have become a gigantic Swiss cheese. The major highway which was known through Venezuela for its security (the most road cops and rescue services) is now a place where you do not want to drive past 6 PM. It is so bad that my chavista workers have started to complain to me, have even told me that Gimenez is a thief, a druggy and what not. Not that these possible gossips affect my opinion of him: as the mayor of Independencia he had amply demonstrated to me his incompetence. But it is telling, very telling that it took only one year to transform Gimenez from the vanquisher of Lapi to a sure candidate to a Recall Election next December, a recall called up by the MVR himself.

Because this is where it gets interesting: Gimenez is a PODEMOS governor, a junior partner in chavismo and the local MVR has had its fill of him and his gang. The writing is on the wall. Two weeks ago his sponsored candidate in Nirgua bit the dust in front of a dissident chavista….

So what does Gimenez do to fight his sagging fortunes? He jails the one that represents all that was good in Yaracuy, the governor whose efficiency allowed him to do more with much less money than what Gimenez is doing with now the petrodollar faucet opening in Yaracuy. People are not stupid, they can add up.

In fact it is so bad that one of my co-workers who lives in a middle class neighborhood told me that when she moved in there last year she got a visit from the local neighborhood committee. They asked all sorts of questions, as if it were some informal census. Since then they know if she participates in the local "neighborhood" (read: political) activities. Yet, as she does not do so, they still try to buy her approval by bringing to her home a free Mother’s day a bag of dry food, Mercal like. That is, vote buying is going full swing, even with people that can afford their own food.

This explains the actions against Lapi today. As the LVA scandal shows no remission, as other corruption scandals keep coming, or remain in the back burner (think the Barinas Potemkine sugar mills) it is important to show some active fight against corruption. Thus Gimenez decided to ingratiate himself to El Supremo by doing two birds in one. But it might backfire.

The excuse was some highway project duly approved by the chavista government for Yaritagua. Construction had started. When Gimenez reached office the first thing he did was to close the works. It was supposed to be an underground bypass, technically approved by Caracas. Without seeking the Caracas permits, Gimenez had it changed for a tumulus bypass!!! That is, he had the holes already dug filled up and started cutting Yaritagua in two with a huge wall, bypass on top, in spite of heavy protests from the locals. Of course, the new contractors were pro Gimenez, or at least not the ones selected by the Lapi administration.

Certainly, scavenging through all of these contracts will yield something, except that now it is chavista judges doing it, and even if the Gimenez project has been stopped by Caracas (!!!) his role is NOT INVESTIGATED. But Lapi has been investigated since early last year. There have already been search warrants emitted and his house searched for “documents” I think already three times. Yet Lapi has remained calmly and confidently in Yaracuy to face any prosecution. This did not stop prosecution to justify his incarceration because he "could flee the country". This must have infuriated the Gimenez people. More action was needed. So, this morning, at 4 AM about 2 or 3 dozen DISIP commandoes fell upon Lapi soundly asleep with his family and a single guardian, search warrant in hand of course. Images of Lapi today were all smiles. If there was any compromising paper in Lapi house, it had been dispatched long ago before this morning…

Now, I am not defending Lapi, I never cared much for him as a person as he is as authoritarian as Chavez is, but at least efficient. I do not know whether he stole himself, but I know of some of his collaborators that did make good under his tenure (and of others that just went back to their old lives without any extravaganza). HOWEVER I am sure of one thing, his administration certainly did steal or waste less than the current one as Lapi did more, much more with less money.

Make no mistake, this is a political circus to prop up a failing governor. It will not work in Yaracuy. It is too late for Gimenez, and this can only hurt him even more. But it affects us greatly because we are a small state and Gimenez vengeful hand is perceived as controlling the judicial system (I know of several prosecutors fired for refusing to perform certain "orders"). No one here, and certainly not this blogger, feels safe anymore from the wrath of an local potentate whose "administration" is collapsing in infighting and who can use anyone as a convenient scapegoat.

A walk for free and fair elections

Good news these days. The courageous and solitary effort of Alek Boyd, Patricia Wegenenast and friends seems to catch notice. Their walk from Koblenz to Bruxelles is attracting not only attention on the net but even an article from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. You can read it all at their blog laced with nice pictures of the walk, and the visitors that join them for one or more intervals.

But the additional good boost they are getting is the way the Colombian elections were held. Let's remind the reader that their walk is one of the numerous ways people are denouncing how the Venezuelan electoral board, CNE, is creating electoral conditions that favor the Chavez side, sometimes shamelessly, usually with lots of help from the Judicial power which has abdicated any independence and objectivity.

Well, this week end we got yet more evidence that all the “tinglado” of electronic voting machines, including finger printing devices, is just a gross manipulation of the system. Plus the latest ruling of the Surpeme Court that could mean that the CNE is under no obligation to count the paper ballots printed by the machines. Thus there will not be any need to print the 10 million ballot that Chavez has announced he will get. Quite a nice saving for the country, isn’t it so?

Unfortunately for the CNE, Colombia this week end had more than 10 million real voters, writing MANUALLY on a paper ballot their choice. And guess what? There was no need for “flexible” voting hours: all stations closed at 4 PM with almost no lines left. The results were known in a couple of hours and about 4 hours later the Colombian registry had 99% of the ballots counted. That is right, within 4 hours the losers had graciously conceded, Uribe claimed his victory and all went home for a well deserved rest, including probably the staff of the polling stations.

Nothing has been more detrimental to the credibility of the CNE than the Colombian elections of last Sunday. More than ever it seems that all the pseudo sophistication of the electronic voting is an element, at best, to scare opposition voters from the ballot boxes, at worst, an outright system to make up voting results as needed.

In addition the showing the Maisanta list in Bruxelles, the marchers will have this big boost by presenting the Colombian electoral system, INFINITELY more efficient, even at the level of web page, than the Venezuelan system. And probably INFINITELY more trustworthy than the CNE, in spite of a semi permanent civil war in Colombia.

PS: Remember, if you cannot walk with them you can support them. They get blisters and the rain falls on them all the time, give them at least a warm meal and a comfy bed at the end of the day.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Random thoughts on Colombia

The news tonight is the Uribe reelection in Colombia, by more than what the best polls were giving him (1). At 6:33 PM, Caracas time, El Universal was publishing 96% of voting centers accounted for with a 62% for Uribe. when I checked the Colombian electoral office at 8:30 PM it was reporting 99% of voting centers reporting. Uribe was now leading with 62.23% (7.3 million votes), and Gaviria a distant, but satisfying second with 22.03%. The Liberal party, the Colombian center left, former office holder under Cesar Gaviria and Ernesto Samper was a dismal 11.82%. Abstention was about 55%. Note: Colombia allows "white vote" (sort of none of the above) and this one adds up to 1.95%.

The Venezuelan CNE is really, really a dismal failure

The very first thing worthy to comment from an observer placed in Venezuela is that the Colombian elections were manual, run without a hitch, polling stations closed on time, and within a couple of hours there were more than 90% of the manual votes counted, opposition candidates were conceding, the country was in order. Yes, that is right, no automated voting, no Smartmatic machines, the elector MUST get a pen an paper and cross his choice and goes to a ballot to drop it. And as far as I can tell no obnoxious Jorge Rodriguez, real witness everywhere, a campaign run where the advantage of the incumbent in office was not an issue the way it is in Venezuela (that is, the controls voted to tame the incumbency advantage did seem to have worked out). Not to mention of course that Colombia run the election under a civil war still running in some areas.

Meanwhile in Venezuela we are still waiting for the exact final result of the December election, we do have an abstention of at least 75% and growing and a general mistrust in the electoral system, even from some chavista sectors discretely murmuring in the dark.

I hope that the Venezuelan opposition candidate will wake up tomorrow and point out the incongruence between the electoral systems of Colombia and Chile with manual and uncontested voting and the Venezuelan automatic and now despised vote. (2)

The meaning of the Uribe reelection

In 2002 Uribe was elected on the first round with 53.05% and 5.8 million votes. His success is outstanding by any measure.

Yes, there are problems with Uribe. He is an authoritarian all right and has little to envy Chavez on that respect. He did manage to effect a constitutional change to get at least one reelection. But there is no sense of Colombia democracy being jeopardized more by Uribe than by the FARC whose actions are the ones that eventually allowed Uribe to reach office in 2002.

If Uribe is an authoritarian at least he gets results. The economy has been growing steadily under his rule. The trade earnings against Venezuela have been booming in spite of the Venezuelan difficult situation. Colombia even felt strong enough to sign a FTA with the Untied States which is now certain to be ratified by in Colombia (and we hope in the US Senate). Colombia sails forward to the world markets, taking the route of Chile and not the one of Venezuela.

The country in general has been more pacific as people have found again the way of week end tourism. Even in Venezuela we can find more and more tourism packages to Colombia sold as people are losing their fear of Colombia. Still, this lull does not hide the fact that the guerilla is far form over (abetted by the Venezuelan negligence, at the very least and more than likely possible direct support). But we can guess that 4 more years of at least 5% GDP annual growth (WITHOUT oil) should dent more the FARC strength than additional military operations.

Thus it is not hard to understand that in spite of an universally predicted victory and a dull campaign Uribe did manage to increase his vote and percentage. Uribe carried with more than 62% the main departments of Bogota, Antioquia (his home state), Cundinamarca (Bogota surroundings, with 70.85%!). He carried industrial Valle (60%) and most of the coffee districts (Caldas, Quindio...). Gaviria did manage 33% or more only in Atlantico (the Caribbean), Putumayo in the South and managed to carry some smaller departments such as Nariño (next to Putumayo) and the Goajira. But the important border province with Venezuela of Norte de Santander (Cucuta) goes 67% to Uribe, as do the minor ones of Arauca (66%), Vichada (65.7%) and Guiania (54%). The Bolivarian revolution is not spreading across the borders except for the cheap gasoline smuggled on bikes...

The new left opposition of Gaviria can be happy to reach a record number with 22%. But in spite of Chavez, Uribe strong arms tactics, a new sense of purpose, I do not think it makes it still a serious option for 2010. Its growth came at the expense of the Liberal party, the Colombian equivalent of AD (I remember as a kid when Lopez Michelsen won the election that Venezuelan papers titled “In Colombia the Adecos won). It seems that the Liberal party of Colombia has fallen due to the same reasons that AD fell: lack of ideas, lack of new leaders, complacency with the past. The Gaviria coalition will have as a first task to make sure the Liberals do not revive.

The meaning of Uribe reelection for Venezuela

In Venezuela 81 thousand Colombians were allowed to vote. With 99.5% of Venezuelan centers reporting, 79.04% had given their vote to Uribe. Needless to say that Colombians in Venezuela know better and want to keep Uribe in Nariño House to counter the mad man of Miraflores. Gaviria, which I am sure got all sorts of underhand help in Venezuela did get only 16.47%. Colombians in Bolivia voted 85.27% for Uribe, in Ecuador 81.75%, in United States 90.26%, in Spain 77.77% but in Cuba 42 votes for only 35.90%, probably the embassy personnel, the rest being some political refugees from the drug wars that voted 55.56% for Gaviria. Overall overseas Uribe gets a smashing 81.2%.

But besides this anecdotic aspect, the reelection of Uribe is bad news for Chavez. Now Colombia will sail ahead. The Peso is already a much better currency than the Bolivar. Colombia trades much more than Venezuela. If Uribe manages in the next two years to make some deal with the FARC (a real possibility considering that the Colombian people have said a clear and loud NO to the FARC by voting massively for the anti FARC guy).

But Uribe will be an even thornier problem. His pariah status in many well thinking European circles will diminish. A reasonably clean reelection and clear economic success will tame European business seekers just as the US business settled in Venezuela emigrated to Colombia long ago (from Schering Plough to Avon cosmetics!) preferring serve Venezuela from Colombia than Colombia from Venezuela. It is likely that Uribe will have now more time to build a Latin America leadership, something which he could not even think off until today. And this just as Chavez leadership is meeting its first stumbles. Peru next week might see the victory of Garcia by perhaps a 20% lead. Chavez has promised today again to sever relations with Peru if Garcia wins. Guess who will have close relations with Lima? Blocked between Uribe and Garcia it is possible that Ecuador might resist a chavista influence. Brazil is upset, Uruguay visiting the Empire, and Mexico might remain with the PAN as Obrador alleged links to Chavez have taken a toll, in spite of continuous denials.

Thus in 2007 if Chavez is reelected we are more likely to see an Uribe less accommodating to Chavez. Oh, sure, he will never be militant against Chavez (3); you cannot do that when you share a common border. But now, with a clear mandate and a congress majority Uribe will not put up with Chavez bad behavior if this one turns unwisely against Colombia, something that Uribe could not afford to do in his first term.

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1) I refuse to discuss the disgraceful show and travesty of Chavez in Bolivia. I am embarrassed by it.

2) Even the web page of the Colombian registry works better than the CNE one. The regional elections of 2004 had no result posted until sometime next morning, and then the page was excruciatingly slow and I had to wait until the afternoon until I could get a peek at some results. Tonight you can get any result from Colombia, at least at the departamental level. What is amazing is that the overseas vote is already in detail in the site whereas in Venezuela the overseas vote for the Recall Election of 2004 appeared weeks later!!!!

Truly, the way the CNE manages itself when we compare it to how other countries function in that respect (Bolivia was much faster than the CNE!) can only lead the observer to a CNE manipulating, stalling or much, much worse... After waht I saw from Colombia today, the CNE HAS NO EXCUSE.

3) But he could against Bolivia or Castro!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Primaries anyone?

The latest surprise development in the complicated path towards some form of meaningful election in December is the fast sinking project to hold an opposition primary. This even though the most prestigious opposition organization, Sumate, is sponsoring the whole scheme.

What when wrong?

For the impatient reader, I will give the result first and the explanation next: The Tascon political apartheid list.

Before I try, or rather, venture in giving an explanation, let’s recap quickly what would be the advantages and inconvenient of an opposition primary. I will put that as a table, trying when possible to balance advantages and disadvantages.

Disadvantages

Advantages

There is a risk of cannibalization between the different candidates. This could hurt the already rather weak chances of an eventual winner.Allows for a variety of programs to be offered, a real discussion. If the winner wins big (more than 40%) he could easily rally the rest around its banner.
There is also all sorts of possible interferences such as chavismo sending its crowds to the candidate less likely to beat Chavez (the inconvenient of any open primary election).If a lot more of people show up for the primaries than for the December 2005 election this could be quite a problem for chavismo, thus making it unlikely that he will send his cohorts. Not to mention the opportunity for the opposition and Sumate to show how to run elections.
The criticism leveled between each candidate can be used by Chavez against the eventual winner.There will be a demonstration of democracy compared to chavismo where only what Chavez says matters. The people will really be able to understand what the unipersonal will of Chavez means, what are the consequences of the internal "debate" of chavismo where the only debate is how to share the spoils.
If the abstention party refuses to participate it might not yield the best candidate to lead the whole opposition, including the abstention group. That is, the winner need to be representative of as much as possible from the opposition to be able to coalesce the dubious around his flag.
It could encourage the people planning to abstain to at least go out and vote for the primary, promoting a more participatory mood.
Expensive and time consuming. the opposition has meager resources compared to chavismo.
Perhaps motivating.
It is a mechanism best suited for intra party discussion, not really for an opposition as varied and divided as the current one. If not well managed it could aggravate the inner tensions of the opposition.It might help the opposition from the left to the extreme right to settle some basic issues aside and focus on a short program to rebuild the country institutions.
Little time or funds for a second round, which could have two side effects: no winner with a “mandate”, possible “dissidence”Forces candidates to have a sharper message and win on the first round.
It is messy.It is democratic.


Now, this was all fine, predictable and could be worked around. Unfortunately it seems that the people of Sumate did not preview the psychological factor of the Tascon list, now become the more complete and sophisticated Maisanta program where the government knows with high accuracy the likelihood that someone would vote against Chavez. In practical terms this means that if the roll call of people voting in the opposition primaries were to fall in the hands ofChavez's party, the MVR, that data would be quickly added to the Maisanta database. Anyone cashing on the government, be it a business contractor or a humble Mision recipient would risk to lose its benefit. Let’s remind the reader that what we are discussing here is STATE/NATION income that belongs to ALL VENEZUELANS, and not to those voting for Chavez. Apparently in the world there are some that think it alright to discriminate on the basis of political ideas. That might be right for some contracts and some government positions but whenever we discuss social benefits the state ought to be blind, just like justice. Since Chavez came to power this has stopped in Venezuela as the Misiones social programs require allegiance to the revolution and Lady Justice herself seems to have gone through Mision Milagro.

It is thus quite understandable that Teodoro Petkoff has raised the issue of the primaries as to whether it is the best way to select the opposition candidate since out of hand we can predict that no public servant nor military personnel will dare to go and vote in such primaries. That would void the “open primary” idea. And this blogger would add that we might as well allow to vote only those who signed for the Recall Election since we are already all in the Maisanta segregation plan. Roberto Smith, to his great credit, and this blogger is certainly not a supporter, has stated that what we should vote for is a government program. Which is exactly what this blogger supported in February, to vote first on a group of people to design a transition program. But who listens to bloggers… At any rate, now in June, it might be too late for a "program" campaign as it is almost to late for even a candidate campaign.

I must confess that I have not made my mind on that topic. The democrat in me really wants to go and vote at anything put in front of him. I had to wait for December 2005 to abstain in an election for the FIRST time in my life, with great sorrow. Now, I am asked to consider the possibility that a primary might paradoxically not be the best or more democratic system to select a candidate against Chavez.

In other words, the evil, because there is no other way to qualify it, that chavismo is with such foul instruments as the Tascon list is succeeding in killing democracy in more levels than just the formal act of voting. This is something for which I will never forgive Chavez and acolytes like Tascon who should rot in jail for the rest of their lives once this all comes to pass.

But I digress. Right now for all its best intentions Sumate has misjudged the situation. I mean, I understand them. They are brave souls who like me are not afraid to stand up and call Chavez the wanna be tyrant he wants to become. But it is difficult to ask the majority, now legitimately afraid of chavismo bias and power, to stand up and be willing to risk it all. They wil, someday, ultimately, as they realize that their other option is a walk across the Colombian jungle to escape. But meanwhile Teodoro and his colleagues must seat with Sumate and be creative.

To be continued.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sweet and Sour

Today two events that I have long predicted came to pass: the corruption of the chavista government came up for all to see, as well as its purest fascist tendencies.

Velazquez Alvaray, one of the most sycophantic characters of the regime, who as an assemblyman promoted the reelection for life of Chavez and who defended the dossier of the new Supreme Court making this one a servile instrument of Chavez, has been caught in his own webs of deceit and thievery. I do not care to go into the convoluted details, suffice to say that the death of Danilo Anderson is circling closer to someone in the government.

The ULA, the Merida old and venerable university, was invaded by the Nazional Guard. Who denied it did through the voice of the main assistant to the governor even though as all the evidence was coming out. Thus the regime of the masses, of the students, of liberty has become like any other old Venezuelan regime, raiding illegally a campus when he cannot get students to vote as it wishes.

It is really awful but I cannot help enjoying the satisfaction of the moment. Three today with Rodriguez slap, just as, by the way the infamous ABN has been keeping up for now two month a text titled “the dignity of Jorge Rodriguez”.

Stuff like that, again, cannot be made up. Weep and enjoy.

Alek and friends keep making the news

El Universal carries today a note announcing the walk that Alek Boyd and a group of friends including Mohammed Mehri and German blogger Patricia Wegenast are doing in Europe. The objective is to sensitize the European Union as to the electoral plight of Venezuela, to ask them to demand a 100% ballot counting in case they decide to observe elections again. They aim to achieve this with means such as showing the video on the Tascon list "La Lista" and demonstrating the use of the Maisanta program to European personalities.

Let's support them, and for those who can make donations, please, please, donate some as these guys need food and shelter along the way, not protected by Chavez deep wallet. You can do so directly with PayPal at the Vcrisis page sending a note to Alek as to its use for the march.

Or you can deposit directly to Patricia Wegenast special account

Bank: NASPA Niedernhausen
For : Patricia Wegenast
Zweck (reason) : CAMINATA
Account number: 0238130611
BLZ: 51050015

And if you deposit from outside Germany (most people's case)you need to use these numbers

IBAN: DE54510500150238130611
Swift: NASSDE55

Little moments that make your political week

Jorge Rodriguez, former CNE head, and now Venezuela's designated electoral observer to Peru has been banned by the local CNE (JNE) from observing the second round vote between Humala and Garcia in two weeks from now.

This is quite good.

Rodriguez, the Venezuelan opposition "Bête Noire" who has made a career of protesting his innocence and impartiality (courtesy of the Venezuelan state protection state and a judicial system that would not lift the tiniest finger against him) could not pull it off in Peru. Well, he was also rather heavy handed there. See, Rodriguez, like Chavez, is the kind of rather misbalanced person that think they are always right and thus see no reason why they should discuss matters. A "socialism of the XXI century" sort of my way or the highway.

But in Peru, where thankfully there is a modicum of rule of law, people were not fooled. When they saw Rodriguez escorting and controlling Humala right and left, as Rodriguez was supposed to only observe, well, they got the idea that we in Venezuela have long known: Rodriguez is a man on a mission. Rodriguez has been named to ensure Chavez perpetration of Chavez in power. Now that is time is over his new mission was to expand Chavez power through LatAm. But it seems, like his boss, that he lacks the elemental diplomatic skills of at least emitting white lies to smoothen bitter pills.

Let’s pause a moment and savor how this arrogant shrink got slapped.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Death kisses?

There are two type of death kisses, the ones you get without specifically looking for them (Judas, for example, though lately some argue that it was all arranged), or the ones that you actually look for even if you have been duly warned. We got two examples today.

Kiss me to death

Jennifer McCoy of the Carter Center arrived in Venezuela today. She is doing an announced follow up on the Venezuelan situation. One of her first errands was to visit the new CNE. OK, I understand she must meet them to make her survey of Venezuela. But on the very first day? With a CNE already so discredited?

To her credit she stated at a brief press conference that she was visiting them to give them some documentation with a sampling of international election laws. I assume it is a subtle hint for the CNE that they are not on the international wavelength as far as fairness in elections. She also told them that international observers of some renown will abide by a certain set of criteria. Could this be another hint to the CNE that it will not be able to decide on how observations can me made? Maybe one can hope that perhaps the Venezuelan observation fiasco of 2004 has stirred observers to put their act together and avoid to be entrapped as easily in the future.

Still, I think that Dr. McCoy started on shaky grounds her new effort, at least from what was said at Alo Ciudadano tonight. But maybe looking at the scant coverage from the official media (I only found this in ABN) she might be up to something.

Kiss away

The other death kiss was from Chavez to Teodoro. During a lengthy press conference at home (a rather very rare event by Chavez but with an electoral campaign he feels obliged to even receive opposition journalists...) Chavez tried to fish in troubled water. The excuse was the recent debate on whether the opposition primaries are as hot an activity as some think they are. I will reserve discussion of this topic for a later post, but what is important today (sorry, no direct link) is that he said that he sided with Teodoro in his criticism to the primary mechanism and accused Sumate to finance the primaries with money form the Empire who wants the primaries. And, I kid you not, he even tried to make a case that primaries were undemocratic because, well, that was what the Empire wanted.

Certainly Teodoro does not need such "support", in particular as his opposition to primaries is mild and based on the consequences of the Tascon List: no public servant or military personnel, and their close relatives, will dare to vote in an opposition primary least chavismo uses it to suspect their lackluster revolutionary ardor. But what Chavez was really doing was to manipulate the words and intentions of Teodoro who seems to be climbing faster in polls than what chavismo would like. At any rate, Sumate was prompt in smelling the rat.

Can you recover from a death kiss?

Very easy if you have the guts.

For Jennifer: once your visit is done, emit a declaration saying that under the present conditions the Carter Center would have to think about any observation role in Venezuela. And leave it at that, letting people speculate as to why you said that. You might want to add as an addenda that you did not feel the recommendations provided by your organization have been "all" considered "yet".

For Teodoro: "Bug off Chavez! When you get primaries inside the MVR then you will be allowed to speculate on other people primary business. You are certainly not one to give lessons of democracy." Then drop it and set a meeting with Sumate where you go in all smiles, and go out all smiles no matter what you discuss inside. I am sure Sumate will understand and fully cooperate.

The Venezuelan electoral problem

[UPDATED AND EXPANDED]

A couple of weeks ago I started a series of articles aimed at explaining the problems inherent to the Venezuelan electoral system, chiefly linked to the lack of trust in the Venezuelan electoral board, CNE, and the overwhelming and unfair advantage of Chavez using the government treasury as his electoral war chest. Not to mention the legal control of system that allows chavismo to browbeat any open supporter of an opposition candidate as it might wish. I am here reposting the introduction post with all the previous links. At the end I am adding new a general conclusion and an appendix of some important links.
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Introduction

There is indeed a Venezuelan electoral problem that is not going away. Thus it is necessary to revisit it regularly, to underline once again the basic points. Unfortunately now we must add the abstention movement as yet another, and perhaps very deleterious, problem. But first things first. In a series of posts I will describe the real hurdles that make it very difficult for any one to mount a real electoral challenge to Chavez, NO MATTER what political platform one might be able to set up. I will also discuss some not so real problems, but problems that do strike the imaginary and distract the attention from the real problems. These ones unfortunately lead to the latest problem to jeopardize our democratic future, the abstention movement. If this one is not handled well, it will ensure Chavez to stay in office until kingdom comes or until some disaster removes this disaster maker.

The problems in the Venezuelan electoral system

The Real Problems

The governmental advantage (posted here)
  • The state as the financier of the Chavez campaign
  • The control of the media
  • Conclusion 1
The Tascon list and its effect on running a campaign (posted here)
  • The Tascon list now Maisanta list
  • Blocking citizen participationBlocking financing of the opposition parties
  • Conclusion 2
The not so real problem (posted here)
  • The CNE question
  • Legalities are just a political problem
  • How to deal with the CNE
  • Conclusion 3
The abstention problem (posted here)
  • The nature of the “abstentionist” in mid 2006
  • How does “abstention” affect particularly the Venezuelan elections
  • How to deal with the abstention group within the opposition
  • Conclusion 4
Conclusion

Running a fair election today in Venezuela is nearly impossible. The overwhelming reason is that Chavez and his followers have secured the apparatus of the state to favor as much as possible any candidate that chavismo might run. That does not mean that the opposition can win, and it does on occasion, but it means clearly that major elections are an uphill battle for any opposition candidate.

These blockages start from the absolute control of the state that chavismo has obtained. The implication is that there is no control, and thus chavismo can use public funds to finance its campaign without any type of accounting whereas the opposing candidates must seek a meager financing that will never be a match against what the government can do, from plastering public offices with pro Chavez propaganda to create any ad hoc social program that might be nothing more than a vote buying scheme.

This situation creates two perverse effects. First, the absence of reliable controls, the permanent unpunished abuses perpetrated by chavista officials and Chavez himself, promotes even more abuses, if not outright cheating. The refusal of the government to clean its act as to electoral verifications and investigating founded charges of electoral cheating is damming. For example, it can start simply with the claims from losing opposition candidates which are processed late, if processed, whereas that claims against winning opposition candidates are processed faster. And it can end with the more serious fraud allegations that can only be cleared away when the government decides to support counting of ballots instead of relying only on electronic voting (a practice more and more questioned around the world).

In front of such unchecked abuses, a secondary but equally perverse effect is that people begin to refuse to vote in such conditions. If this affects mainly opposition voters it is also affecting pro Chavez voters and eventually, as abstention rates climb to 80% of the electoral roll, could affect the legitimacy of Venezuelan government with the incalculable consequences that this might bring. When the mood is for a militant abstention, it is difficult to run an electoral campaign to decide the future of the country.

The problem is really a political problem, not a merely technical one. It is up to Chavez, who controls everything in Venezuela, to decide to demonstrate that he indeed holds the will of the people, instead of obtaining part of his support from governmental handouts or outright obscene blackmail through instruments such as the Tascon/Maisanta list. Nobody questions the Chavez victories of 1998, 99 and 2000. Ever since no “victory” has been unchallenged. Nobody should be more interested in fair and free elections than Chavez. But we are not seeing that, in fact we are seeing a further tightening of the rope around the opposition neck, in a now rather desperate attempt at getting “10 million” votes.

Still, when all is said and done, even if the final decision for the opposition is to abstain next December, this one must run a campaign and must fight as hard as possible to obtain what is the legitimate right of the Venezuelan people: a real debate and a real electoral system. Serious opposition candidates cannot allow to be blackmailed by either the abstention supporters or by the governmental abuses and vulgarity. There is a time to fight and a time to withdraw. It is by handling this adequately that the opposition candidate will acquire its own legitimacy and show to the world what is really going on in Venezuela. Otherwise it will look as an excuse, a case of sore loser.

Appendix

Four articles showing new light on the possible fraud mechanism of the Recall Election, written by Miguel here, here, here and here (plus a few he wrote in the last year). It is important to keep this in mind as the presidential election is a simple election to run, like the recall election was, and thus easier to tamper with than a complex local elections with scores of candidates. It is important to observe that what is dicussed is the promise (threat?) of chavismo to get 10 million votes for the beloved leader. A campaign based on that slogan would taste like a defeat if Chavez wins with, say, less than 8 million votes. In other words, silly electoral themes could force the governmet in a cheating overdirve of which the mechanisms shown in this collection of posts and papers are only one weapon in obtaining the wished for goal.

There is also the question of the voting machines, now questionned in the US. Alek Boyd is the one interested in this topic. Vcrisis also includes a summary article from Gustavo Coronel worth reading.

And there is of course a wealth of non blogging material from which all of our posts are based, be them researtch articles on Smartmatic in the US to the election observers reports from the Euroepan Union or the OAS, duly linked here through these articles. One does not need to be a wizz detective to figure out that there is a problem in Venezuela and that fair elections are not possibel in the current situation.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Returns the conquering hero

The subtitle for this post could be the Venezuelan saying:

Por la boca muere el pez

The fish dies from his mouth, meaning that from too much eating, eating anything on sight, and by extension from talking too much (keeping the mouth open too often). this is what is happening in Venezuela as I can really this delicious gossip: Chavez announced last Sunday that Oliver Stone was had started directing a movie on the 2002 events just to be untold yesterday by Oliver stone himself saying that there was no such project.

Of course I am not going to go into the details of this gossip, but rather use it to illustrate the pompousness, (and despair?) of Chavez returning from his latest foray as the self styled savior of the world through the Bolivarian revolution (such things cannot be made up, you know....)

The latest foreign trip of Chavez, richly detailed through these humble pages, saw Chavez under the gilded domes of the Vatican in the hopes of telling the Pope how he was achieving poverty eradication just to be handed the word as a wise Benedictus decided to leave everything on writing least his voluble guest would have him say things that never even crossed his mind.

Then on, after only a meeting with an old reconstructed Italian Commie as Prodi and Berlusconi were too busy on other matters, Chavez flew to Vienna. There he had the great thrill to go from Vatican non entity to official trouble maker (though Evo gave him a good run for his money). Fortunately he held a rally full of raised hands and red flags reminding us of rallies held by a previous Austrian over 60 years ago. A wasted trip again, but with the satisfaction of wasting the trip to a few mores, and public adulation at last.

Off to London. Things were a little bit different there. The local mayor was as sycophantic as it could be wished. The packaged tour included suitable mass rallies of adulatory (and desperate?) selected crowds to which Chavez had no option but to announce that the Bolivarian banana Revolution was the hope and salvation of the XXI century. They swallowed it all. But Labor real big wigs were not impressed and stayed clear. BBC and co. in general were less, much less than ecstatic and forget about Tories or the Alliance.

Off to Algeria where to this moment I have no idea what he did there. I suppose that it was some OPEC matter. No one to manipulate anyone there.

For the last leg it was Libya. Unfortunately the savoir of the world got a big slap of the face as Venezuela got into the official shit list of the US while Muhammar got out and was even, supreme irony form State who sometimes has its timing right, shown as an example on how to behave to Chavez. Any adulatory mass rally that might have held up in Tripoli must have tastes as sour grapes...

Thus, the conquering hero came back home from what was basically a private trip paid luxuriously at tax payer expenses, without ANYTHING to show for except considerable newspapers coverage of the bemused or critical style. And a few memorable images such as lefties saluting Nazi style in Vienna and Chavez bringing his body guards inside the Pope’s office (well, disguised as military aide de camp, as incongruous, crass and tasteless in a papal office as body guards). Not to mention appropriately being compared to Bush by a BBC journalist.

Chavez had his Sunday show where he minimized some of the trip occurrences. But true to his irrepressible self he tried to get some compensatory moments. One was to send salacious, homophobic allusions to one of his ex defense minister that indicated a few hours before that Venezuela was in no shape to defend itself and that the US did not even need to land in Venezuela to neutralize it completely. Something that any savvy blogger could argue without much trouble, by the way. And to finish in a flurry of sparks, that Oliver Stone announcement promptly refuted. Why, oh why, use an US movie maker to glorify himself against the US? Reminds me of the fake story that Oxford was going to give Chavez an honoris causa doctorate during his visit, another fast refuted announcement. Was Oliver a compensation for his failed Oxford dissertation?

One must wonder what is going on. Has Chavez ended up surrounded by the worst sycophants of the lot? Are they now shamelessly manipulating him? Has he become deranged through some form of mythomania? Or, simply, have they realized that Chavez core following is stupid enough to swallow everything whole? I personally prefer not to chose which explanation fulfills the diagnostic as all are equally offensive to my feeble intellect.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Venezuelan electoral contradictions

We have had two local elections yesterday. Their result are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, thought very telling in illustrating the contradictions within Venezuela politics.

The Nirgua ballot

Nirgua is a pleasant municipality of Yaracuy, high in the mountains and thus very different than the rest of the state, axed on the two long tropical valleys of the Aroa and Yaracuy rivers. In fact, if state lines were drawn according to logic and geography, Nirgua would belong to Carabobo state while this one would surrender Puerto Cabello to Yaracuy.

The town by itself is rather non descript, in spite of its historical significance. It was founded before Caracas and supposedly it was from Nirgua that Diego de Losada left to establish Spaniard control over the Caracas valley, founding Caracas in 1567. The new history rewritten speedily by the glorious revolution would have us think otherwise, but I digress.

Nirgua had always a certain “left” flavor to its politics. From its mining start it got the first slave revolt we know of, with a brief “maroon” independent nation. Continuing as an agricultural area with land disputes, sharecroppers, cheap labor for orange groves, etc, it is no surprise that when democracy came to Venezuela, the leftists parties did have a say in local politics. Even in its best years, Convergencia and Lapi carried Yaracuy by large margins but failed to establish themselves permanently in Nirgua. Now that Convergencia boycotts elections the battle has become a left-left battle (1).

Chavez’s MVR party would like very much to establish itself in Nirgua and make it a stronghold. Through suspicious electoral maneuver it managed to gain town hall 4 years ago. But the mayor failed to gain reelection yesterday. The guy who unseated him made it as an “independent” supported by dissident chavismo (Tupamaros among some). He probably benefited from some Convergencia support, even though abstention was near 50%, very high for Yaracuy recent standards.

Thus, for the second time in barely 6 months dissident chavistas (but saying “Viva Chavez” anytime they can) have managed to handle the MVR a set back. Former mayor Capella, running for legislative election last December as a dissident managed to thwart the ambitions of Heredia with full support of the MVR. However from their speeches you would not have known which one of them was the most chavista.

Because this is the interesting point, there was a “left” current existing before Chavez that refuses to submit to an all Chavez all the time schedule though its vehicle, a more and more corrupt and sycophantic MVR who owes it all to Chavez. This current has established its credentials before Chavez (Tupamaros, PPT) or even during Chavez (Lina Ron) and they are not accepting graciously to follow the orders of the MVR party boss who are there because Chavez put them there and not because they made some heroic feat to deserve their rank.

A situation worth following.

The Carrizal vote


This case is much simpler and reflects more on the internal opposition demons, in particular the fake abstention of AD.

Carrizal is a mountainous outlying district of Caracas. It used to be a country side escape for weekends until it was progressively invaded by the slums growing outside of Caracas. It thus has a rather “popular” nature now, but one established long ago and which has favored an AD “tradition” of sorts. Paradoxically chavismo has not been able to prosper there as much as one would have thought.

This time we had an AD mayor running for reelection and he barely made it, but he made it. Nothing really surprising here except for the show of the Primero Justicia candidate that did not vote because he refused to use the finger printing machines. That he would probably lose even though Los Salias next door is a successfully run PJ town might have played some there.

At any rate it is interesting to observe that AD which has been vociferous since last December in the pro- “abstention” campaign has had no problem to go and vote, with all the CNE imposed loops, finger printing machines included, to retain its mayor. Granted, it is paradoxically more difficult to cheat on a local election than on a nation wide election under the current system. But still, you hold to your principled positions or you do not. Thus the ambiguity of AD is clearly demonstrated once again, letting weaker minds suspect that the lady does protest too much. It looks more like AD is refusing to count itself as long as it is not certain to win any intra opposition contest. In other words, as this blogger has written in the past, it looks that AD prefers to have Chavez in office as long as AD as not secured for itself the opposition leadership.

Other comments


The CNE has made some crass errors there. Or should I call them “provocations”? For example the “surprise” extended voting hours of recent elections were not necessary and yet more people voted than last December. How is the CNE planning to explain that?

The finger printing machines were forced in again and no paper ballot counted. Thus the CNE is setting itself for a frontal shock at some point in the near future with the opposition. Does the CNE really hope to browbeat the opposition based on just two local elections?

Finally the abstention for Carrizal was near 60%, too high for a mayor election. Thus equally chavistas and anti chavistas are staying home. Does not bode well.

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

1) Convergencia boycott is the only one worth something as in 2004 Lapi was barely edged out by Gimenez demonstrating even as he lost that he does have real support in this state, even after 5 years of chavismo.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Solving the abstention puzzle.

One of the political analysts in Venezuela that I like to read is Fausto Mazo, whose column appears every Saturday in El Nacional (by subscription). This Saturday Mazo was writing that the opposition was concentrating its forces in continuously criticizing and making assumptions about the CNE rather than campaigning on the many issues that can be damageable to Chavez. He said that the CNE will be the end of the opposition because instead of campaigning and proposing a program (which is exactly what our distinguished blogger Daniel has been stating), the opposition leaders are too busy appearing on TV and rediscovering that Tibisay Lucena was indeed a chavista. ..And, meanwhile, Chavez has no one criticizing and campaigning against his government.

Mazo points out that Chavez has two fears: that the opposition will vote massively and that the opposition will abstain. He says that Chavez is more afraid of the former than the latter. In fact, even though abstention could be seen as a gain for some oppositionists and a show of lack of legitimacy, the abstention will not be an issue outside Venezuela and Chavez will have all the legitimacy that he is used to have in the eyes of the international community. On the other hand, there is nothing more damageable for Chavez than having masses of opposition voters voting on December.

I agree with Mazo’s analysis. Abstention gets us nowhere, quite the opposite. Moreover, I may add, if the government has the temptation to cheat, a massive participation will make it much more difficult.

But yet, while reading the article, the skeptic in me was asking: how can we accept going to an election without counting all the ballots? How can we accept the conditions that are being imposed by the government driven CNE?

Amazingly, I got the answer by reading one of Roberto Smith’s suggestions. I disagree with many of the things that Smith claim but this one I found brilliant. Smith essentially said that he does not care about the bias of the CNE because the Venezuelan people will be the ones to make the CNE count those ballots.

Roberto, I think that you gave us the solution to the abstention puzzle.

Think about it. There is massive participation. There are international observers everywhere and there is people, you and me and our neighbours, outside our voting station screaming that all the ballots must be counted. What would the government do? Shut the people in front of international observers? Refuse to open the boxes in front of the world cameras?

That would be the real revolution of the Venezuelan people that want to regain their right to vote.

Of course that is possible only if there is a massive participation in the elections and if the abstention inercy is beaten.

I think that is the way to go because with abstention, the sure winner is Hugo Chavez.

Jorge Arena

Distinguished Ghost

Friday, May 19, 2006

Open letter to Ken Livingstone, London Mayor

I watched with great interest this morning the video of a recent session from the London Council. In it I observed how you dismissed Alek Boyd and the people coming with him to protest Chavez's visit by meeting with Tory representatives at the London Council. It seems that you barred their entry even though they were not planning to attend your little happening with Chavez elsewhere in the building. You said two things to exculpate yourself, that Alek Boyd supported violence and that it was natural for you to ban his entry to your building during the visit of President Chavez, just as you would ban the entry to anti-Bush protestors if he were to visit London Hall.

Let me start with that last part. Can we picture you receiving Bush? No. That was a facile line that only deluded the weak. Besides, the real question there might be: does Bush wants to be seen with you?

Now that we have disposed easily of your lamest excuse let's look at the other one. Certainly Alek Boyd has said his share of stupid things. Have not we all? More than once myself and many people in this blogging business have complained about his excesses. But let 's assume for the sake of the argument that indeed Alek is some sort of terrorist. The first question of course is how do you allow him to run free in the streets of London. Are you doing your job? Are Londoners safer under your guidance?

But of course, this is not the real point. That the Mayor of London felt compelled to dismiss such a non-entity as Alek Boyd means indeed that some of the stuff Alek did, said or wrote hit home and bothered you quite a lot by revealing what you are really up to.

Unfortunately Mr. Mayor, these arguments still will not hide the fact that Chavez was as undesirable a visitor as some of your other guests who had nothing to do in the offices of a city where modern democracy was born. I refer for example to a certain sheik that thought that all gays should be executed. To establish my point that Chavez is an undemocratic pedant that looks good on stage I will simply refer you to a certain video that would be a great start to an investigation on Chavez and his cronies: La Lista. There you will find how a legal apartheid has been established in Venezuela on the basis of political beliefs of the people. In that video you will find real terrorists that are covered by Chavez such as Assemblywoman Iris Varela declaring that people that did not go out and vote for Chavez are traitors and that actions should be taken against them.

Now, you might think that Alek is a terrorist. Except that he has no power whereas Chavez and Ms. Varela do have the power to execute their threats, their terror threats on the Venezuelan people. And they do. In other words Mr. Mayor, by receiving Chavez you have shown support for real terrorists. That you barred entry to a putative terrorist cannot hide the fact that you received dozens of real ones.

Respectfully, in the hope that some common sense hits you,

Daniel Duquenal

Monday, May 15, 2006

Chavez qualifies Bush of genocidal

Now, this collection of words should greatly improve my ratings as to search engines. But that is only a side benefit: my interest tonight is to explain why this sentence uttered by Chavez a few hours ago reflects how poorly educated Chavez is, at best, or how close to be mentally disturbed he is becoming, at worst.

Of course, the reason for Chavez to qualify George Bush, the current US president, to be a genocidal president is due to the continued bombings of Iraq. This is certainly not the place to discuss the Iraq war. Instead I will discuss what genocide means and how that word has been abused, deliberately, by the chavista crowds.

But first a definition:
The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group.
The link gives only one meaning. No ambiguity.

“Genocide” is a big word, a sacred word that we inherited from the XX century. Using it lightly, inappropriately, is insulting the memory of the 6 million killed in the Nazi concentration camps just because they were Jewish, gypsies, gay, mentally retarded, qualities that they could not help. It insults the millions that died in soviet Gulag just because they were the relatives of someone sent there because s/he displeased Stalin, s/he was a Tartar, a Kulak, a Jew, a pope. It reduces to nothing the millions of the Killing Fields just because they were in between a war and were more preoccupied in finding food than joining Pol Pot or its opponents. It sends into oblivion the Tutsi massacres of Rwanda and Burundi.

You do not play with Genocide, and even less in Europe. Within the administration of George Bush I have no doubt that there is at least one nutcase that wants nothing best than to nuke Iraq and get rid of all of Islam (and probably any equally disliked minority). But if there were any hint of genocidal activity in the actions of the US government the outcry in the European governments would be beyond belief, starting with Bush very own closest allies.

So, why is Chavez throwing such a word in front of Ken Livingstone during their joint press conference? By the way, I truly hope for his sake that London Mayor was truly mortified by the incident.

First the actual words as reported by CNN.
The leftist leader [Chavez] made his remarks on Monday at a joint news conference with London Mayor Ken Livingstone after a reporter for the BBC likened some comments of his to Bush's phrase, first delivered shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, "You are either with us or against us in the fight against terror."

At that, Chavez erupted in anger about being "compared to the biggest genocide person alive, in the history of humanity, the president of the United States -- killer, genocidal, immoral -- who should be taken to prison by an international court. I don't know to what you are referring when you compare me to President Bush."
You cannot make this up.

Let's go into this with some more detail.

The ever so bombastic Chavez, who now routinely belches at least a couple of hours of speeches a day, is slowly but surely inflating himself, looking for yet more effect as he is abusing all the resources that the rich oratory of the Spanish language gave him. He has been propped by his followers for years. For example you can find plenty of occasions where Tarek Saab, when he was the president of the foreign committee in the National Assembly, or when he was supposedly a Human Rights activist, used the word "genocide" to qualify any type of crime. Maybe Tarek learned to use that as an average but published poet.

At some point the word had to come to Chavez attention as a convenient term to qualify any large scale crime, thus minimizing any crime, including those that he might commit himself someday as need arise. But unfortunately Chavez has no education, no understanding on how the world operates since the beginning of times. Chavez is unable to comprehend anything from history except the military campaigns of the Independence and Federal wars of Venezuela. That is what he is, an uncouth soldier that is endowed with a quick memory to absorb facts without understanding them.

You do not like that explanation? You think I disparage my president? Then you will like even less the alternate explanation.

The use of the word is deliberate. The demonizing of Bush has nothing to do with the actual crimes he might have committed. Chavez is in fact preparing the terrain to plant a universal language of hate, a language that will resonate equally well in Teheran with nuclear war heads in hand or in Bolivia as the natives might find justification to commit violent acts against those who might not have a “pure” Aymara stock. He does as Hitler or Stalin or Castro have done before, reducing their adversaries to a condition close to animalism and thus be justified in front of their followers in eliminating any political opponent they might have. Chavez in fact has done that consistently in Venezuela against the opposition accusing them of all possible crimes, qualifying of all sorts of animal or even less flattering epithets. He has even used specific “eliminating” violence against them more than once: on April 11 with “plan Avila” which led to his brief removal; or when he used violence with more success on February 27 2004. He will do it again when necessary. He is just doing it now overseas, starting with Peru ‘s Garcia and Toledo, Bush and whomever will try to thwart his path.

There is nothing new under the sun. Only people with short memory.

Let's hear it for Alek Boyd

Alek Boyd at Vcrisis is a rather controversial figure. For some he is a "golpista" for others a true freedom fighter, and for others like yours truly, a passionate (hot head?), infuriating at times, democrat that should measure his words. But we must all agree that when he sets his mind to something, he is quite effective.

Should I remind folks how he exposed Eva Golinger for the mediocre pseudo lawyer she is, probably speeding her departure to Venezuela from the states? Now residing in Venezuela she has become a new version of Tokyo Rose. *

Should I remind you how almost single handedly he exposed the murky financing of the VIO, the paid propagandist of Chavez in the US? This made it to Venezuela press by the way though Alek did not get the credit he deserved on that matter. But see, Alek does if for Venezuela and he does not care as long as intellectual crooks are exposed.

No wonder that the PSF pro Chavez crowd hate him with passion: Alek is effective in exposing their turpitude.

Alek did strike again today it seems. If my interview yesterday with a BBC sub radio was a side dish, as I wrote, it seems as expected the main course was today, and it was good portions. Apparently Red Ken, the mayor of London, revealed hismelf as the proto fascist he is by refusing entry to Alek and friends who attended invitation by Bob O'Neal, minority leader of the London council. It is to be noted that one of the frinds of Alek is a Venezuelan who has gained the status of POLITICAL REFUGEE of the Chavez regime in the UK while Ken Lingstone is entertaining Chavez as a human rights defender. The moral ambiguity, or immorality if you please, of some of these Chavez supporters will never cease to surprise me.

To crown the day, Alek informs us that he got several interviews on the BBC, facing nothing less than Tariq Ali who picks up any cause as long as he can trash Bush, regardless of the true interests of the people he uses in his personal vendetta. He also got a TV apperance.

I am impressed.

*Copy right Mora, even before becoming a writer at Publius Pundit or Babalu

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Chavez, world leader: update

The update is substantial enough that it is better as an additional post for the one below.

Press review Sunday morning


The ideas that I have exposed yesterday were taken again in el Universal and El Nacional today. Not that anyone copies the other guys, but simply, the latest developments have such obvious implications that you do not need to be particularly bright to figure out the implications. Blogging just allow you faster publication. since El Universal is the one free on line I will limit myself to its scanning. Two articles of note.

Roberto Giusti. He offers us a long analysis titled "the bitter fruits of disintegration". As its name implies it throws a hard look at how Chavez is wreaking havoc within the Latin America current structure and why. Both Mercosur and the Andean Community are in chaos as Chavez has maneuvered with a certain skill to avoid settling for the standard conditions that such groups require. As a consequence trade talks with the European Union are stalled, in particular for the Mercosur, and there is a general prediction that foreign investment in Latin America will drop. Which is exactly what Chavez wants to make his check book more relevant.

Two paragraphs bear translation:
The question that comes up is how will react the other members of the AC and Mercosur in front of the chavista strategy which will translate in an increase of unemployment, poverty and continental isolation. Will they keep allowing the consolidation of a policy of extreme polarization activated by the Venezuela aggressiveness courtesy to the bottomless barrels of the petrodollars? Are they really aware that the plan is not anymore to fight the US but to destabilize their respective National States?
And
From this situation we can expect two scenarios: that the countries affected by the chavista perturbation develop antibodies and, as it is already happening in Peru and Mexico, its electors reject [chavismo option] with votes to ratify democracy. Or that as a reaction come back military regimes that once again bring us to a past as abhorrent as the one represented by chavismo [allusion to the military nature of the Chavez regime].
Carlos Blanco. Pretty much a similar analysis. translating the end will be enough.
The key fact, that now they [Chavez administration] are trying to hide, is the direct and implacable rejection that Lula has done. He has put a stop to the Venezuelan President, which in fact diminishes him and puts him in place; even more, it takes him out of the modern Latin American Left which he had entered without credentials, helped by the senile trickery of Castro.

Chavez is not a problem only for those who live here. All the international mafia net that has been built up around this project is a player in the depredation of the rights and resources of the Venezuelan people; thus, this mere fact authorizes, and even more demands, that the democrats of the world place themselves along the Venezuelan dissidence. Chavez made international the fight for his political project; now the Venezuelan democrats have no option but to do the same.
The implications of Chavez recent actions are becoming clearer for all.

News from London

But if the Chavez critics are sharpening their knife as the fight has acquired a new dimension, chavistas keep pressing their options. Hands off Venezuela, a rather silly leftist group in the UK that has found favor with chavismo claims to have been the main organizer of the Vienna show. It is worthwhile reading their web article as an example of some of the delusions that run among these people who see Chavez as the great non-white hope against the US.

We can read a few amusing paragraphs. The first one illustrates the lack of guiding lights besides Chavez. The roster of dignitaries listed is pathetic when one knows the real value and “achievements” of these characters:
On the platform there were many prominent figures in the Bolivarian Movement. Nicolas Maduro, the President of the National Assembly, Juan Barreto, the mayor of Caracas, as well as the Minister of Planning, Jorge Giordani and Eva Gollinger, the author of The Chavez Code. Ruben Linares, one of the national co-ordinators of the UNT, was also present, as was the Cuban ambassador and a group of 20 Cubans from the embassy.
The description of the event and emotional reactions are worth noting:
When President Chavez approached the podium he was greeted with deafening applause and a sea of waving red flags and chanting, He spoke for about two hours, and his main theme was the need to fight against imperialism and capitalism that are destroying the planet and placing the human race in danger. He quoted the words of Rosa Luxemburg...
[snip some banalities where Chavez alludes to his stolen future as he benefits from an international role because of that stolen future...]
The President’s speech was received with wild applause and the cheering and chanting went on for a long time, as he took a red flag from one of the audience and waved it in the air. Then, quite spontaneously, the crowd started to sing the Internationale. It was an emotional end to an emotional occasion. It was past midnight and for hours later groups of people were still standing in the precinct, discussing the ideas of socialism and revolution in a way that has not been seen here for many years.
I bet they had not been discussed like that for years.... gives a new meaning to "back to the future" when Chavez resurrects dead ideas and manages to find people to believe they are new. He is good at that, we must admit. And we also get the list of those who footed the bill for that meeting, in a rather quaint paragraph:
There are many people we would like to thank for their help and assistance in organising this meeting. Unfortunately there are too many to name them all. We would like to thank comrade Harold from the Casa Militar, Veronica from the Venezuelan embassy in Vienna and Alejandro Fleming, the Venezuelan ambassador in Belgium and to the European Union. We would also like to thank comrade Fernando Bossi in Caracas for his invaluable assistance in arranging this activity.
Amusing. Do they realize waht they are writing? Do these people actually talk liek that among themselves? Does it not bother them to see folks from the military court of Chavez organizing and bankrolling such activities?

On a more, much more serious note, my colleague Gene wrote a much more interesting an informative post that this emotional rant of Hands Off. At Harry's Place they do have a whole bunch of questions for Chavez as he visits London. And we can read in the comment section a fast "damage control" operation from some of those that used to come here to do damage control.

I also got my third mini interview with the BBC radio 5. This time they did put me to argue, very briefly, with a London Chavez supporter whose name I did not get (I think from what he said he was into the reception people). I suppose that tomorrow the link will be put up. The argument of the guy against me? Chavez won X elections. Pretty much the last one remaining.

I am having a great time with all of this.

Chavez, world leader

I must confess that I am greatly amused, and pleased by the way Chavez latest European foray is turning out. At the same time I can observe with satisfaction that certain of his moves are backfiring, such as the Vatican visit, while other moves are rather bright political maneuvers that are leaving European leaders in a state of deserved consternation. Let's follow step by step the journey.

Chavez in Rome

The objective was to score some easy indulgences with the Pope and while at it, befriend the incoming left of center administration. As I related the Vatican visit did not turn out as expected. The Pope, who has been following the Venezuelan "question" for quite a while was not impressed, and certainly not fooled by Chavez. The Church has been battling the materialism of the pseudo-revolution for quite a while. Benedict XVI waited for Chavez with letter in hand, knowing full well that Chavez lives off evanescent words and even more fleeting promises. Chavez, tied by the letter had been very discreet on the matter. Then again the church has been around for quite a while and has survived worse threats than bolibananarism.

The agenda at the Italian Parliament turned out more favorably. A whole bunch of barely reconstructed communists were only too delighted to welcome Chavez. After all they are coming out from the Berlusconi failed administration under which they feared, with some justification, for the democratic future of Italy. They were wrong in that Berlusconi did lose the election after all, but more because he failed to deliver on his promises rather than from some innovative program from the recycled Prodi.

Chavez in Vienna

From the social activities of Rome, Chavez flew to Vienna where the European Union was holding a meeting with Latin America. The original idea was to impulse trade talks and create some form of free trade between both worlds, before the United States get it all fort itself. It would have been all fine and dandy except that now Chavez has decided that the only model for free trade is the one he is sponsoring with Castro: a quickly written nonsensical agreement where “solidarity” is more important than whether the signing countries do actually have something to offer each other. We are still wondering what will Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela will trade between them. But I digress, and it is irrelevant anyway. The only reason for this ALBA is that it provides an excuse for Chavez to push to the left his former commercial partners. With the Bolivian nationalization (confiscation?) of its gas industry, Lula and Kirchener have suddenly waken up to what Chavez is really about: support for the Piqueteros and Sem Terra to force Kirchner and Lula respectively to veer to the left and align themselves with Chavez, not Venezuela aligning on Brazil. Amazingly Chavez seems to be reaching that goal, fat checkbook helping out as Toledo crudely but exactly asserted.

Just as it happened in the Mar del Plata summit of last year, just as it is happening in his tormented entry into the Mercosur, just as it happened when Chavez kicked out the Andean Community, his destructive tendencies reached Vienna with a great effect. And as it has become his strategy, Chavez arrives, sticks his tongue to his host and colleagues and hits the streets to "reach the real people". Venezuelan embassies have been working diligently. Sycophantic paid for journalists such as Le Monde Diplomatique staff have been “educating” the anti globalization masses and now we see that ill educated trooper become president enchanting the masses with long winding speeches that make no sense at all but somehow resonate well with the frustration of the century and the anguish that the US failures in the Middle East rising everywhere.

Chavez now takes very seriously his anti US speech. It seems that at any possible opportunity during his trip, whenever he is asked about cattle raising in Barinas he manages to excoriate the US for 10 minutes. When the next question is in oil production, we get a long speech on the end of capitalism. No matter what the question is, the answer is always the same: it is all the fault of Bush and capitalism. Rumor is that the Vienna guests and host were getting quite exasperated (not to mention that apparently Venezuela had the biggest delegation and the least constructive participation, as even Evo Morales tried more the dialogue thing than Chavez).

But the best was yet to come. As in Mar del Plata a “counter summit” was held. A perfect platform to criticize further the US while everybody else is working on constructive trade proposals. In addition this lead to some kind of rally to support Cuba and Venezuela. While the BBC Spanish section gave a rather sympathetic coverage to the circus in town, CNN showed us the footage of some Vienna square full of red flags and Che images, people chanting, Chavez uttering his now well rehearsed and passionate speech. Eerie echoes of similar meetings, in the 1920ies, and in Vienna of all places, came instantly to mind to this observer, and I am sure into the mind of many an European one. I was personally flabbergasted at the similarities!

But it seems that if Chavez was successful in grabbing the headlines and become closer to become the leader of a brave new world, the neglect of his duties at the summit and his extensive delegation busier at organizing Austrian subversion rather than monitoring hallway gossip yielded to him some unsatisfactory results. In spite of his departure from the Andean Community, the EU decided to keep negotiating with the 4 remaining countries. Mexico protested itself against the abuses of Chavez and Toledo had a rather surprisingly starring role. Chavez is still not closer from killing FTA between LatinAmerican and where the purchasers are.

Oh, and I was forgetting! While in Vienna Chavez decided to use Austrian technology to build cable cars in Caracas "cerros" (a gross mistake for a future post), offered to give oil to the European poor (who benefit from a welfare state the envy of the Boston "poor") and after PetroSur and PetroCaribe there will be a PetroEuroAmerica... But no declarations of Chavez on how is he going top pay for this as HIS Central Bank announces more, and more extensive losses!

Chavez in London

The visit that has yet to start has already made quite a lot of ink run. Be it from Alek Boyd who made it to the Times to protest London Mayor receiving Chavez, to the Prime Minister itself that emitted a warning at the Vienna summit. Interestingly the BBC titles that "Chavez to ignore Blair" when we all know that if it were up to Blair Chavez would not even land at Heathrow. Then again the BBC is rather mercurial in its news coverage on Venezuela, though more and more pro Chavez, NYT style. El Universal, more circumspect, say that "Blair and Chavez will not meet".

But that London visit is expected to be more positive for Chavez. ABN is already publishing the extensive support of Ken Linvingstone to Chavez. Longer article than any written on the Papal visit... (1)

Thus it remains that slowly but surely Chavez is building an international network that is starting to have an effect on foreign leaders and their interests. For many years, even in Venezuela through the ambassadors residing here, nobody paid attention to Chavez, be it Lula sending him gasoline in January 2003, or the French making business with Chavez through an openly supportive naive ambassador. Now Brazil lost Petrobras to Chavez’s pupil, the Sem Terra look to Chavez and not to Lula, France lost Total in Venezuela and is about to lose Sincor, and the Spaniards are losing big in Bolivia too in spite of a rather servile attitude to Chavez. There were bloggers warning them for the past three years but our predictions were never heard. But Fox and Toledo are showing the way, how to counter Chavez. We'll see if it works, or if it is too late, or if others have the will and the guts.

But it does not matter, for the time being Chavez is a star, the new Stupor Mundi. And perhaps, in the long run, he will be as ineffective as his predecessor was.

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1) At any rate, there will certainly be more to write. It certainly creates an excitement there as not only Alek writes for the Times but yours truly might be on one of the BBC radio stations Sunday evening: it seems that the views on Chavez are not uniform between the BBC.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Chavez at the Vatican

Apparently, in an electoral year, Chavez thought that a brief foray into the city of Saint Peter might do him some good. It did not. And the rather discreet coverage of that foray (ABN has all but nothing on the matter, leaving it for MINCI and RNV) seems to indicate that chavistas are nto too sure how to use it. Not to mention that Globovison gives quite a different perspective, totally ignored in the pro government news propaganda system.

The news in fact is how the news is covered.

On the sate side we can red such things as the MINCI version telling us that the 35 minutes interview where filled with Chavez exposing the catalogue of Chavez Misiones to Benedict XVI. More "engaged" RNV cannot escape its idolatry of Chavez and writes the rather stunning sentence:

"El intercambio de obsequios también formó parte de esta reciprocidad de opiniones. La serigrafía del Libertador, Simón Bolívar, fue el regalo otorgado por el mandatario nacional a su Santidad, quien a su vez le entregó una colección de monedas del Vaticano."

I do put it in Spanish first as the arrogant sycophancy of the Spanish text cannot be conveyed in the translation below (emphasis mine):

"The exchange of presents was also part of its reciprocity of opinions. The serigraph of the Libertador, Simon Bolivar, was the present granted by the national leader to his Holiness, who in turn gave him a Vatican coin collection"

Surely, the editor of RNV has been trained at Prensa Latina and Granma.....

The list of visitors that accompanied Chavez is a who's who of Venezuelan junketeers. It included truculent Barreto, Mousy Delsy Rodriguez (the sister of Jorge of the CNE) and Nicolas Maduro. Barreto is one of the biggest cynics of Venezuela. The now Caracas mayor has a past littered with racial, sexist, homophobic, anti religion epithets and one can only wonder what the heck he was doing in the Vatican. Maduro has been known to travel first class to India, during the last stretch of his 2006 electoral campaign. I pointed then that it showed he must have known that the results was preordained to be taking time off to visit Said Baba on its birthday. Said Baba and Benedict? As for Delsy Rodriguez, whatever is known of her is that she is of the bitchy type, making her brother look nicer and more diplomatic, certainly not the type of woman to be seen at church benches every Sunday (I actually know that from somebody who worked with her during her brief tenure at the Foreign office). I do not know whether Benedict XVI knew of the past of his visitors, but I am pretty sure he would have been nonplussed.

One interesting detail is that the official press uses the opportunity to launch yet a new round to convince people that Venezuela's new Cardianl, Urosa Savino, has been named by the Pope to please Chavez. RNV also uses the opportunity to announce that Chavez in his magnaminity has announced that "he will turn" the page on the past frayed relations between his adminsitration and the Venezuelan Church.

From the other side, it seems that the story comes from a whole different reunion, somewhere esle in space and time. Globovision actually reports the words of the Pope, lacking in every governmental publication that I have checked on Internet. According to Globovision the Pope pressed on the following issues: respect of the rights of the Catholics in Venezuela (could it be that he was aware that no real catholic was among Chavez' courtiers?); freedom to name the bishops that the Church sees fit to name (there is an outdated concordat that Chavez is willing to use on that matter); protest of the new education law and its anti spirituality bent; and of course, the usual pro life stand. I do not know about you, but I have the feeling that Benedict XV was not fooled for a minute by Delsy Rodriguez new found faith...

Globovision also reports that the Vatican coverage and pomposity was rather subdued, diminishing the photo Op moment that Chavez would have loved to carry home with him. It also reports that the talks between Cardinal Castillo Lara, fierce Chavez opponent, and the Pope where way longer than the 35 minutes of Chavez. And that last but not least, Benedict XV gave a written letter to Chavez of all of his opinions so as to make sure that Chavez would not distort them as he pleases once he is out of the Vatican. Nope, the Pope was not fooled and new exactly who he was dealing with. All of these of course absent of the pro Chavez media.... But present in the New York Times!

A note on the pics I chose. The first one with all the fake piety of Chavez comes from RNV. The second one, where Chavez appears as edging the Pope and where you can see one of his military aids in the background (in the Pope office? What the heck!...) comes from Globovision. As usual, pictures are worth thousands of words….


And of course Weil in Tal Cual yesterday has the best possible summary as to what Chavez really wanted to say to the Pope when he went to Rome. Priceless! A good cartoon is worth a thousand blogs :)

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