Saturday, September 30, 2006

Memorials: Holocausts here and there (Real ones, that is)

My Saturday started watching French news on TV.

The first item was the visit of Chirac in Armenia and him saying that if Turkey wanted to enter the EU it would have to fess up and recognize the Armenian genocide of 1915, the first one of the century, which killed as much as 1.5 million Armenians. The Turks refuse to do so, claiming that it was "only " a few hundred thousand (!) and that it was due to "internal trouble". Unfortunately the Turks are the only ones in the civilized world saying that. Chirac was clear: every nation must face its past at some point (the French lately are starting to face their colonial past).

I cannot tell you how happy for Chirac I was for once, even more so that France is one of the main supporters of Turkey application to the EU. I suspect that all this relativistic talk coming from quarters like Iran, where caveman Ahmadinejerk who is not afraid to question the Holocaust, is having a salutary effect in European public opinion. We are a civilized continent or we are not. Turkey knows the price it has to pay to become the first Islam democracy to join the first world. It is their choice. The Germans did it, why not the Turks?

Timely with the visit of Chirac we have the 65th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre where 30K, at least, Jews of Kiev were massacred in 1941 when the Germans too over. The official Holocaust had not started yet. This was just a sign of things to come. French TV was also reporting that and still able to dig eye witness (it also found a couple form the Armenian massacre). Although I could not find a link, I saw on TV Ukraine president, the Orange revolution guy, Yushchenko, now admitting the participation of Ukranian civilians at Babi Yar ravine. If anything, that revolution is also helping bringing Ukraine to the fold of real responsible nations. Yushchenko was attending the Babi Yar memorial with Israel president.

I wonder if Chavez knows about these REAL massacres. Or if he loutishly will keep following the despicable lead of the Iranian (and some lefties who should know better). Meanwhile, these TV announcements reflect perhaps that the mood is swinging in Europe, swinging away of dubious characters such as Castro, Chavez or Ahmadinejerk.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Delicate civil rights issues: Rosales and gays

Milagros Socorro today warns Manuel Rosales of future trouble by criticizing him delicately but sternly on some unhappy declarations he had last Sunday on the Televen TV show of Carlos Croes. In short: Rosales declared that homosexual unions were "aberantes" (they are an aberration).

Carlos Croes is a rather wily journalist that has floated along with any regime and who oversaw the quiet alignment of Televen on the regime after the Recall Election of 2004. Well, alignment might be too strong a word as the nightly news are not afraid to criticize the regime, but Televen used to host the two flagship talk shows of the opposition, Marta Colomina and Cesar Miguel Rondon, and both were shown the exit door while state paid for advertising climbed at Televen.

As Milagros Socorro points out Carlos Croes was right in bringing such question which is a burning issue in many civilized countries. But I do think that the question might not have been appropriate for this campaign as here we are battling the survival of democracy. Gay unions? Well, who cares about them when Chavez becomes president for life?

Indeed, having spent numerous blog posts describing the insensitivity of Chavez and chavismo to homosexuality, feminism, anti Semitism and even racism, I cannot allow Rosales to go home free on that one. I could take solace by saying that no matter what I would vote Rosales because 1) Chavez has an established record of homophobe, misogynist, anti semite, etc.. so there is no way that after 8 years he will change no matter what pious statement to that effect he might be inclined to make lately and 2) at least with Rosales I know that he will replaced in no more than 8 years and that a new president could be bold enough to establish gay unions in Venezuela, or at least undo moralistic execesses of a Rosales presidency (1).

But as Milagros points out such line of reasoning (she uses a different one than my two points) are not the issue, the issue is that a candidate that is usually well informed, with a good reply to almost anything, and whose campaign motto is “a president for 28 million of Venezuelans” cannot afford to alienate any constituency. Indeed, it is not a matter of calling gay people aberrant: there should be at least 5% of them in Venezuela and Rosales cannot afford to cross them out. But it goes further, he forgets about some of the relatives and friends that could more sympathetic than he is. Or even, as Milagros points out at the end, Rosales cannot ignore the increasing HIV population in Venezuela, victim in large part of internalized machismo (and homophobia). In fact Milagros has the felicitous phrase:

al muy pesado régimen del machismo del que todos somos cómplices

(The heavy regime of machismo of which we are all accomplices.)

Indeed, we are all too much accomplices of letting machismo rule our lives even if we deeply resent it. For this we are paying with the most machista president of our history who uses alleged social programs to establish the most unipersonal rule we have had in Venezuela since early XX century.

Rosales has to watch out not too look like a moral conservative throwback. He might have the excuse of provincialism (and like Chavez comes from a provincial background where real men rules and sissy men were ridiculed or disposed off or forced to leave fro Caracas). But he does not have the excuse of Chavez who bases his power on primitive machismo for his uncouth hardcore bases. When I read today (quite a karmic coincidence) that one of the mayors of Zulia state has decided to force prayer, Christian prayer that is, in public schools, I can start to be worried. This attitude is not any better than chavismo forcing the apparition in schools of the Che cult, though less disgusting than an unkempt assassin as a role model.

Rosales must base his campaign in part on including ALL minorities even if they are an utter aberration for him. Rosales must show that he is not an uncouth soldier as Chavez is. He must rise above the true political aberration that Chavez is when he brings back Venezuela to the XIX century. Otherwise liberals and libertarians like me might not abandon him but might not try to find him votes, and some might just stay home on election day.

Now I understand that Rosales has a considerable female staff in all the positions he has directed. I hope that this will help him clear up his mind of prejudice as soon as possible. Some guy that is clearly much more feminist than Chavez is probably just lacking the information required, not the ability to learn. Thus I am hopeful for better Rosales understanding in the future. I am not a one issue voter and I am not asking Rosales to focus his campaign on gay rights, differently able issues, women’s rights or racial minority rights. But once you look down on one group you look down on all, which is exactly what has happened with Chavez.

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1) Chavismo has been shown to exhibit the occasional incomprehensible prudishness, such as banning on occasion pirated videos of porn movies. Apparently pirate movies and copyrights infringements are OK as long as they are not on porn.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The first presidential debate in Venezuela

To my great surprise there was a presidential debate tonight. Well, I do not think the candidates planned it but it was held nevertheless.

On one side Chavez was having a lengthy interview in Venevision. Nothing much there, just an Alo Presidente but with suit and tie. I am not even sure Chavez lied when talking about his record: he seemed to be reciting perfectly what his underlings are feeding him and thus he might not actually be aware that he was uttering quite a few lies. Heck, in a precious moment he even admitted that after 8 years they are still doing trial an error methods to solve the problems of the country. All of the problems that is... After 8 years…

But it turned out that Rosales was presenting today his security program to the country. Thus he was invited by Alo Ciudadano. The two candidates coincided in time, if not TV station. So what did Globovision do? Since Chavez will not grant a debate, he is way too superior to do so, then Globovision listened to portions of Chavez same ever story and simply Rosales replied. It was a fascinating exercise and I am sure that when Chavez will learn about that he will be furious. And guess what? Rosales did do well, with a slight speech impediment, sounding very much like the people, very humble when compared to the arrogant presentation that been held at Venevision. I was at first slightly put off but as time advanced I liked better and better Rosales.

Of course I disliked arrogant Chavez of which I would not even believe the time of day, but readers of this blog already knew that, no? Still, Chavez was trying to look humble but the fact of the matter is that after years of world leadership, well, he just cannot come down to earth anymore once he does not totally control the set up. No wonder he hides behind the set up of Alo Presidente where he asks all the questions and sometimes does not even bother to reply to them.

My bet is that there will be no formal presidential debate.

PS:
had I had my lap top as in the time of the World Cup last June this would have almost been live blogging :)

PS2, or rather part 2: Rosales is giving his first lenghty interview to CNN En Español. Patricia Janiot quizzes him hard but Rosales was undaunted. And he speaks to Venezuelans, not to the rest of the Americas. This is good, even if it probably infuriates Janiot (or did she want it this way?). Rosales is doing good, he is trashing all of the Chavez campaign abuse. He is saying that Venezuelans have to chose between holy water and sulfur! I love it!!!

Observation: From these two things I have discovered a rather dry wit in Rosales. I have been so used to the barracks vulgar humor of Chavez that it does take a few minutes to realize that Rosales has a certain subtle wit, that comes out in particualr when the question exasperates him. That is, when the question is rather stupid, he comes out with some dry comment such as chosing between sulfur and Holy Water. I did not know this from Rosales and it is the kind of humor I like. Will I turn from a supporter into a fan? If he keeps that way, there is quite a chance.

Anti Semitism in Venezuela: it is planned

Today I have as a guest poster Alexandra Beech who has her own blog but cannot post these days. Thus I am posting the translation of an article that she made on a piece that was published in El Diario de Caracas, a pro Chavez paper which has the pretense to pass as a normal rag. It does not, only Panorama and Ultimas Noticias of the chavista press are worth a glance on occasion as they also print real news.

This piece is an absolute shame and it is unconceivable that a newspaper would publish such garbage, not even worthy of mediocre blogging. But it goes a long way in illustrating how silently but surely chavismo is seeding the plant of anti Semitism, a weed that opens the door to a series of murderous harvests for the future. Keeping track of such garbage shows that indeed the Chavez speech at the UN is not a mere incident, it is a clear confrontational strategy organized by a group of mad men that desperately want to figure in history books, at the expense of other folks blood if necessary. Let’s remind folks that Chavez started his career cowardly as the “heroe del museo militar” as Manuel Caballero scornfully terms in, as a reference of the 1992 coup where a scared (caga’o) Chavez abandoned his co-coupsters.

Thanks to Alex for being even more vigilant on these things as I am.

The original article in this scan followed by Alexandra translation.


The Zionist Jews
By Tarek Muci Nasir
El Diario Caracas

Zionists, the destructive sect of radical Jews, are again impregnating
the Jewish community with its animosity towards humanity. The genocide
they executed in Palestine and Lebanon is similar to the Holocaust
which the Nazis executed against them, and they will undergo another
Holocaust because of the global hatred they are accumulating. If the
Jews have charged the Nazis for their victims, they will have to pay
Lebanon for their killings. The Jewish race is condemned to disappear,
because if they continue marrying among themselves they will continue
to degenerate; if they open their marriages they will racially dilute
themselves, so they only recourse is to stay united, to provoke wars,
and auto-genocides.

Israelis are lying when they say they are the favored people of God;
on the contrary, because they are always at war and without their own
land, it seems that they are marked for having destroyed Jesus Christ.
We should reform the Bible which falsely refers to them as the chosen
race by God, and we will act to stop them from manipulating the Jewish
community. The United States is trapped by Zionists who control their
economy and many critical positions in their government; and we must
avoid that this critical situation takes place in Venezuela before
they also ruin us, because they can possess any nationality, but first
they act as Jews in whatever land they plant themselves. Israel
couldn't resist that despite possessing Jerusalem as the capital of
the Christian world, Lebanon continued to have more international
tourism, and now, due to international repulsion, Israel will have
even less [tourism].

Let's pay attention of the Israeli-Zionist associations, unions and
federations which are conspiring to Venezuela to take over our
finances, our industries, commerce, construction; which are
infiltrating government positions and politics. Possibly, we'll have
to expel them from the country, as other nations have done, which is
the reason that Jews remain in a continuous state of stateless exodus,
and it is why in 1948 they invaded Palestine, guided by Albion. Will
global justice allow the United States, England, and Israel to destroy
the Middle East to take over its oil? Only the union of its people
will save them.

The only way that humanity will reconcile with the Jews is if these
renounce their Zionist leadership, which aspires to dominate the
world, and if they stop presenting themselves as the Chosen people of
God, and when they do so, we will hug them fraternally as equal human
beings.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Chavez and Islam, through Chomsky

This association is rather sulfurous; to use his UN copyrighted words. But Chavez is everyday threading in even more dangerous grounds when he deepens his association with radical regimes of Islam such as Iran. Because you may observe that Chavez is not deepening his relations with more moderate or even democratic regimes of Islam. No trips to Turkey, or Egypt or Jordan or even Morocco are in the plans. Only Libya, Iraq, Syria and Iran are in the regulars lists, with an accessory stop in some oil producing country because, well, oil business must be attended to so he can afford all of these extravagant and useless trips Chavez undertakes every few days.

But this morning, due to the strange association of barely waking upo, tea and genral low level stress associated with life in Venezuela I pout together three articles that sort of lightened up a warning sign.

It all started reading in the Washington Post that a woman, a noted educator of women in Afghanistan had been cowardly assassinated by the Taliban that are trying to make a come back in Pashtun lands, those that are, not so coincidentally, further away from Kabul. Trying to make sense of the murder of Safia Ama Jan defies all what is Human in us.

"A teacher for more than three decades and an advocate for women's rights, Safia Ama Jan ran an underground school for girls during Taliban rule. On Monday, two men on a motorbike gunned her down as she left for work -- identifying their target despite her full burqa."

Immediately of course I thought about the article of Milagros Socorro that appeared last Sunday in El Nacional. Posted here in Spanish. The tile "Now that we are talking about machismo, let's discuss Iran" is already quite a promise. Indeed, as Ahmidanejerk was visiting Caracas Milagros Socorro reminded us of the dire situation of women in Iran, which if better than in other Islamic countries is far from satisfactory. Heck, they even have bus and auditorium assigned seats, in the back, as in the best days of US southern Segregation.

Has someone explained these things to Chavez? Is he aware? And if he is aware, what does that reflect of him as a human being? Assuming that he is one, something to be questioned more and more. Or perhaps in a grander view, if the lines of islamo-bolivariano-fascism become more prevalent, will women become the “new Jews”? With all my apologies of course to my beloved Simon Bolivar and all the Holocaust victims, but what is black chador if not a variation of the Yellow David Star? So far in Venezuela we have only an electronic yellow star courtesy of Tascon, but in the low classes the good people know that wearing a red shirt when you go to collect your state allocation tends to speed things along.

There is also another possibility. Chavez is smart but Chavez is not deep, he is no intellectual. That is, he catches quickly on thing but he is slower at understanding the bigger pictures, at exploring in depth the consequences of ideas and theories. It is enough to see how he mismanages the Venezuelan economy by “à coups” to understand that he has a very poor understanding of basic economical principles, be they socialist or capitalist for that matter.

Curiously I was reminded this morning through a WSJ article on Chomsky, showing by the way that Chavez probably does not get Chomsky either, or worse, is played by Chomsky as a fiddle. The title of the article is “Who Is Noam Chomsky?” But the subtitle is even more interesting: "Someone who should have stuck to syntax". Acknowledging the contribution to linguistics of Mr. Chomsky, the author of the article has no qualms in characterizing the deleterious political input of Chomsky ‘s writing once he left science. I have not read anything on Chomsky so I certainly would not discuss his ideas, which seem to be of a visceral anti Americanism that denies the good that exist within the US society that has allowed it to overcome slavery, the most devastating civil war ever experienced in the Americas, the worst economic crisis, segregation, and that will surely find a way to reinvent itself to escape the current days problem. But I have been always an admirer of US history for its warts, and big ones at that. I have suspected long ago that critics of the US have no understanding on how the US works, on why it was founded. But back to the WSJ and let’s quote thrice from Mr. Scruton’s article:
"To his supporters Noam Chomsky is a brave and outspoken champion of the oppressed against a corrupt and criminal political class. But to his opponents he is a self-important ranter whose one-sided vision of politics is chosen for its ability to shine a spotlight on himself. And it is surely undeniable that his habit of excusing or passing over the faults of America's enemies, in order to pin all crime on his native country, suggests that he has invested more in his posture of accusation than he has invested in the truth."

"For it is his ability to excite not just contempt for American foreign policy but a lively sense that it is guided by some kind of criminal conspiracy that provides the motive for Prof. Chomsky's unceasing diatribes and the explanation of his influence. The world is full of people who wish to think ill of America. And most of them would like to be Americans. The Middle East seethes with such people, and Prof. Chomsky appeals directly to their envious emotions, as well as to the resentments of leaders like President Chavez who cannot abide the sight of a freedom that they haven't the faintest idea how to produce or the least real desire to emulate."

"But this pleasure in others' success, which is the great virtue of America, is not to be witnessed in those who denounce her. They hate America not for her faults, but for her virtues, which cast a humiliating light on those who cannot adapt to the modern world or take advantage of its achievements."
As I wrote earlier, I assume that Mr. Scruton has the basis to write such words, and I have no reason to doubt them as I have personally observed this phenomenon only too often. But the objective of my post is not to discuss Chomsky, it is to illustrate how ignorant Chavez is on how things really work in the world, be then in Iran or the US. Chavez resentment is so well described by the words of Mr. Scruton that it is frightening. Indeed, Chavez can only hide his lack of virtues by demonizing other people virtues and making them even worse faults than their natural Human faults.

And thus we have a president that enhances negative Islamist virtues and Chomsky negativism in a land which is totally alien to either cultures; as indeed Chomsky is as much a culture of resentement as radical Islamism is. Whereas Venezuela is a culture of "pleasant laissez faire". How long will the charade last?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Chavez's Inferno

The Wall street Journal carries an article about Chavez and the inferno he has created for Venezuela. In the tail of the Washington Post Editorial I thought that it would be interesting to post it completely since many people (like me) do not have access to thr WSJ. As it was the case for the Post: "Sin desperdicio". And a litterati article too, which probably might infuriate even more some PSF around as they might not understand the joke. Oh well.... As for the Post editorial we need not hold our breath for a real reply.

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ALVARO VARGAS LLOSA
September 25, 2006

It would have been more appropriate for Hugo Chávez to brandish Dante's "Divine Comedy" than Chomsky's "Hegemony or Survival" during his sulfuric broadside at the U.N. last week. In the first part of the Italian masterpiece, the author undertakes a journey through the nine concentric circles of the Inferno, each representing a type of evil. Dante's description reads like a script of present-day Venezuela.

Dante's first circle is for those who lack faith. In Chávez's Inferno, the first circle is made up of those who lack food. Cendas, a research center, maintains that 80% of Venezuelans cannot meet the cost of a basic daily diet. According to an official statistic the government inadvertently made public on the Web site of the Instituto Nacional de Estadística, between 1999, the year in which Chávez took office, and 2004, poverty rose to 53% from 43% of the population. The authorities attributed the figures to an outdated methodology and now claim the rate of poverty is 42%. If it were true, that would be embarrassing enough, because it would mean that poverty has remained at nearly the same level for eight years.

Dante's second circle is for those unable to control lust. Chávez's second circle is for those unable to control homicidal instincts. His government has degraded social coexistence so much that there have been more homicides in Venezuela during his seven-and-a-half years in office than there have been deaths in any single armed conflict around the world in recent years. Between 2001 and 2006, the number of homicides in Venezuela has been three times the number of victims in Afghanistan.

Dante's third circle is for gluttons who leave us with no food. Chávez's third is reserved for corrupt authorities who leave Venezuelans with no wealth. The major sources of corruption have been Plan Bolívar 2000, the state-owned oil company, and social programs known as "missions." Under Plan Bolívar 2000, the army took over development programs from the local governments. In the case of PDVSA, the energy giant, no one but Chávez and his cronies have access to detailed financial records. The budget for social programs, personally controlled by Chávez, is not included in any government ministry.

Dante's fourth circle is for misers. In Chávez's Inferno, the fourth circle is made up of bureaucrats who claim to provide social services but use funds to pay people to attend rallies or bust up opposition gatherings. Marino González, from Universidad Simón Bolívar, says that the "Barrio Adentro" program that purports to tend to all the pregnant women in the country only serves 2,000 expectant mothers out of a total of half a million each year. No country ever became prosperous through socialism, but for a government that claims to be able to tend to the needy, not being able to meet even 1% of the commitment is a particularly hellish sin.

Dante's fifth circle is for those who succumb to wrath. Chávez's fifth is for political persecution. Venezuela's human rights record is atrocious. Two violent incidents involving Chavista henchmen with many fatalities have gone unpunished, including the killing in April 2002 of 12 people who were protesting near the government palace. There are political prisoners such as Francisco Usón, former minister of finance in Chávez's government, who received a six-year sentence for saying he thought an incident in which a few soldiers died at Fort Mara in 2004 was no accident. Henrique Capriles, the mayor of Baruta, was jailed in 2004, accused of organizing a violent protest against the Cuban embassy which he had actually helped diffuse.

Dante's sixth circle is for heretics. Chávez's sixth circle is for heretic journalists who try to tell the truth. In December 2004, a "gag law" was imposed making it easy to prosecute journalists. The president continually threatens to withdraw TV and radio licenses -- the reason why there are no opinion programs on network TV. Government-controlled mobs called Bolivarian Circles, formed with the help of the Cuban intelligence apparatus, harass journalists.

Dante's seventh circle is for the violent. Chávez's seventh circle is another name for imperialism. His government has bought (or is buying) 100,000 AK-47s, 53 Mi-35 assault helicopters, fighter jets, transport planes, patrol boats, speedboats and Tucano jets from Russia, Spain and Brazil. Chávez is a long-time supporter of FARC, Colombia's terrorist group. He granted Venezuelan citizenship and protection to Rodrigo Granda, its "foreign minister," until Alvaro Uribe's government hired bounty hunters to bring him back to Colombia in 2005. The Venezuelan leader has given financial and political support to movements from Mexico to Bolivia. (His support for Ollanta Humala in Peru and Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico was a major factor in both men's recent defeats.)

Chávez buys influence through oil. It is a form of blackmail: At OPEC, Chávez fights for increasing prices, making life hard for poor countries that import oil, and then offers those very nations oil subsidies they have no choice but to accept. That is what happened with the 14 Caribbean countries that make up the Caricom group. He also sends 100,000 barrels of oil to Cuba daily; and 200,000 barrels to Bolivia every month in exchange for soy, poultry and political subservience. And he has bought $3 billion worth of Argentine bonds to entice President Kirchner's loyalty. Chávez is denying his nation its wealth from oil, somewhere between $40 billion and $50 billion a year. His annual "aid" budget totals more than $2 billion. He sponsors 30 countries, including some in Africa, in order to buy their vote for a seat at the U.N. Security Council.

Dante's eighth circle is for those who commit fraud. Chávez's eighth is fraudulent anti-Americanism. Chávez exports 1.5 million barrels of oil a day to the U.S. Since oil makes up half the government's revenue and the U.S. is the principal destination of Venezuelan oil, he pays daily homage to U.S. capitalism. Moreover, Venezuela imported $18 billion worth of goods and services from the U.S. in 2005. He may have signed 20 trade deals with Iran's Ahmadinejad, but what he really lusts for is U.S. capitalism. (Another type of fraud involves the electoral system. Chávez has manipulated the voter registration rolls, adding two million phantom voters, including 30,000 who are 100 years old and citizens named "Superman." Four out of five members in the Electoral Council are Chávez lackeys.)

Dante's final circle is for traitors. Chávez's ninth is for traitors, too -- and the place is getting crowded. Army officers betray Chávez every day. Labor leader Carlos Ortega recently fled with three officers from a high-security prison controlled by the army. They evaded security controls thanks to help from army personnel.

At the end of Dante's Inferno is the center of the earth, where Satan is held captive in the frozen lake of Cocytus. In Venezuela's Inferno, Satan is frozen in oil-rich Lake Maracaibo, a metaphor for astronomical wealth squandered by tyrannical populism. The journey through hell is now complete.

Finger printing the Venezuelan voter

There are some debates that I try to avoid as I deem them “trapos rojos” (decoys), thrown by chavismo (and some time opposition) to distract people from the real issues. Perhaps the most famous one is the CNE fraud machinery, something that chavismo loves to see opposition politicians discussing instead of discussing all of the Chavez administration shortcomings where they would have a field day. In this Chavez benefits from the tendency of some politicians to favor comfortable A.C. TV studios to campaign against Chavez in lieu of hitting the dirt roads and humble neighborhoods, just as Rosales is doing these days, to great success. Then again, there is a reason why Rosales has become the unity candidate of the opposition and one reason why the Ledezmas and AD and others are left in Caracas pondering whatever happened to them.

But on occasion I must visit these electoral issues anyway and today it is the finger printing machines.

First, in an acknowledged reference to the increasing power of blogging, the recent debate one the usefulness of fingerprinting machine is making it more to newspapers, even if credit is not fully awarded. Nothing surprising there, newspapers everywhere are afraid of the power of good blogging and Venezuela is becoming fast a region full of excellent bloggers. Not necessarily because we are a particularly bright sort, but because we have to deal with such wily adversaries and compensate for a rather deficient press in matters of in deep and long ranging investigations. In particular when there is a lot of numbers involved, such as PDVSA or electoral issues, journalists are not too happy preferring to devote themselves to more scandalous and front pages news such as the Anderson case, nearing its Nth star witness, and no where near completion.

This El Universal expediente, based in part on the work of Bruni and Miguel, simply questions the suitability of the finger printing machines for the goal they were bought for. That is, it seems that the electronic investment that should be made to have a real time verification of the finger print of an elector has not been made. Thus one legitimately can wonder what is the real use of the finger print machines. Miguel wisely does not speculate much on it, but since it well known that I am unwise I am not afraid to thread that path.

Let’s focus on the problem briefly.

The elector reaches its voting station. His finger print is lifted and sent electronically to Caracas. There it is compared to a data bank which is now above 10 million prints (recent ID delivering operations were combined with finger print collection which allow me to guess that, adding finger prints collected at elections, as much as 10 million finger prints already exist at the CNE, which by the way does not come clear on such numbers).

It is quite obvious that the process requires sometime and can be only carried away with super fast computing system of which there is no clear evidence that it exists in the bowels of the Caracas CNE. From bloggers’s work, the time delay seem unacceptable to allow a free flowing election day, with the added risk that the system could come crashing at any time. When one looks at the expense bestowed on a system that offers no guarantees, one wonders which are the real reasons, when the traditional ink died finger seems to work as well as the finger printing machines at a fraction of the cost!

So, which could be the reasons?

Someone made a buck out of it. Jorge Rodriguez, a former obscure public servant who became the CNE head that forced through the finger printing system, lives now in regular splendor in Altamira, and crashes brand new Audi late at night. The reader may draw its own inferences.

The finger printing machines are really destined for some other usage. Two possibilities here.

By careful selection of the centers from which the finger print data is collected, chavismo can figure how the voting progresses. With the help of the Tascon (1) list the government can determine very easily how strongly the opposition electorate is making its presence felt at the ballot box, and how many chavistas are actually voting. This precious information, already available by mid morning, could spur some reaction from the government, ranging from ferrying in a haste chavistas that tend to stay home to preparing an actual electoral fraud by reprogramming some voting machines such as it is alleged to have happened at the Recall election of 2004, with now rather good evidence.

The other possible political usage of the finger printing machines is to scare away the opposition voter from the ballot, while forcing the chavista voter to participate if s/he wants to retain its misiones benefits. This is very simple to do once the perception of loss of the vote secret has permeated the population. It does not matter actually whether the finger printing machines can actually pierce the secret of the ballot, it is enough to have people think it can. And in the country of the Tascon list this notion is indeed very simple to put in people’s mind.

Thus it is clear to perceive where lies the real interest of the finger printing machines: psychological war against any opposition campaign effort. It is thus good strategy that Rosales has refused to get burdened by a sterile debate on finger printing which only can be won by the government. Instead, if Rosales manages a strong movement that has a chance to unseat Chavez, then the finger printing will become a non issue as people will not care to risk been pegged voting against Chavez since this one will not be around to harass them.

Very simple indeed, and yet another mark on how well Rosales is running his campaign so far, refusing to let Chavez set the agenda.

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1) the Tascon list is the list of the names of all people that have signed the Recall election petition and who have since been branded enemies of the regime. Many of these people have met all sorts of discrimination. With time the Tascon list has created a modern apartheid when to it was added the names of all the people that were receiving misiones benefits and thus rated as pro Chavez. This new Maisanta list is widely used in many government offices to decide who gets what. References on the right side of this page.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Chavez on t-shirts

That was fast.

You can buy your T-shirt here. And do not miss the sales pitch: "Dear Hugo, If we really wanted to invade the Banana Republic of Venezuela to take your oil we would have done it already instead of paying you for it and propping up your sorry little dicatorship." Ah! Capitalism!



Addendum: Miguel posted a great cartoon that has already been picked up by Instapundit. Another "Chomsky effect"?

The Washington Post has an editorial "sin desperdicio"

Oh dear! The Washington Post has an editorial against Chavez and his policies without a single surplus word! Sin desperdicio = without waste.

Impressive how the deranged career of Chavez can be so totally and almost cruelly summarized. Deserves a full copy/paste.

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Hurricane Chávez
What's worse for energy security: a natural disaster or a petro-bully?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

HUGO CHAVEZ got the attention that he craves by comparing President Bush to Satan last week. But the Venezuelan leader's absurd talk may be less threatening than his equally absurd incompetence. Since Mr. Chávez took power seven years ago, Venezuela has mismanaged its oil so disastrously that production may have fallen by almost half, according to the estimates of outsiders, reducing global oil supply by a bit more than 1 percent. Along with natural disasters and Nigerian rebels, Mr. Chávez's ineptitude has contributed to high energy prices.

It takes sustained determination to reduce output by that much, and Mr. Chávez has provided it. He inherited a competent national oil company that produced three times more per worker than its Mexican counterpart. He immediately starved it of investment capital and dispatched ignorant political cronies to oversee it. When this abuse provoked a strike, Mr. Chávez fired the staff en masse, getting rid of two-thirds of the skilled employees and managers.

Mr. Chávez imagines that he can damage the United States by rerouting Venezuelan oil to other markets. He fails to understand that oil is fungible: If Venezuela's crude is sold to the Chinese, the Chinese will buy less of it elsewhere, freeing up supplies for U.S. consumers. But Mr. Chávez also appears oblivious to the technical difficulties in sending oil halfway round the world rather than selling it in his own hemisphere. Oil tankers do not come cheap, and China will have to build special refineries to process the heavy brand of crude that Venezuela produces. Despite Mr. Chávez's bluster about tripling exports to China in three years, Venezuela will depend on Yanqui consumers for the foreseeable future.

To the extent that Mr. Chávez's wild talk stirs up anti-American feeling, he must be regarded as an irritant. If he secures a temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council, as he hopes to do next month, he will doubtless render U.N. diplomacy even more challenging than it is already. Yet it is not the United States but rather Mr. Chávez's own countrymen who should most fear his intentions. Venezuela's courts, media organizations and civil society groups have been bullied into submission, and Mr. Chávez is talking about a constitutional change that would allow him to remain in power indefinitely. "The people should not be stripped of their right if they wish to reelect a compatriot whoever it may be three, four, five, six times," he said recently.

Back in Venezuela: chock full of surprises

After almost three weeks out of the country for a well deserved brain purge from Venezuelan hysteria I am back in my little corner of the world. Before I start working in all earnest for this last stretch of an electoral campaign that promises to be hectic at the very least, I suppose that a summary post is in order. In no particular order of importance.

Europe

Europe is so prosperous and civilized that it is depressing for a Venezuelan who after four years without visiting it realizes how much Venezuela is backsliding in barbaric eras. I heard of Chavez UN speech in some small German hotel and I was amused, not surprised, amused. I am not sure why there was such a fuss about it. After all bloggers like me have been decrying Chavez vulgarity and weirdness. Now that Chavez finally is acting outside of Venezuela I have just one thing to say to people that started visiting this blog as a consequence of the UN speech: WE TOLD YOU SO. Now, pay attention to us more because there is more to come from Chavez and we will warn you well in advance.

Sectarism

One thing that I have complained a lot about Chavez is how much division he is bringing to Venezuela. I had at some European airport a clear reminder on how lucky we are (were?) in Venezuela that we are such a melting pot, so ignorant of Muslim/Christian/Jewish divisions.

As I was waiting for my flight I saw a Middle Eastern Arabic family in full grab looking for their own flight. There were 3 women decked in full black with only their eyes barely showing. 4 kids tagged along, 2 boys and two girls. The girls were also in full drag though in some type of purple, their faces still visible. The boys had a weird western jacket style over a robe covering them below the knee (and a pajama of sorts reaching the ankles. And the father, or at least the only adult male of the group, was dressed, how should I put this, as if from a bad Al Qaeda video, beard, weird head wrap, flowing pajamas, etc… Except that he was not frightening at all, he was just some daddy taking care of his kids. While the women headed off to the rest room he was with two boys and one girl buying them some coke and stuff. Pleasantly it seemed like the girl was treated equally as the boys as her curious eyes were struggling to comprehend the mysteries of Western goods. This “normalcy” was so disarming that my only thought was really how uncomfortable would it be to travel for long flights with such clothes and restrictions.

But as if some cosmic karma was at play, about 10 minutes later I saw a tour of Hasidim Jews gathering for their own flight. All men, with black wide brimmed hats, complex vests and shirts, weird hair cuts and all those strings hanging from under heir shirts. Just as for the Muslim family my thought was about how uncomfortable it would be to have to travel with such vestimentary conditions. I even wondered about what would happen if one of these strings were to get caught in a luggage conveyor belt… The younger boys by the way seemed more interested by the surroundings, more curious, just as this young Muslim girl was peeking out to the world as long as she could be allowed to do so.

And I was wondering why does Chavez want so much to drag us into the conflict of these societies, Venezuela being the country that with Brazil uses the most string bikinis and where drinking and eating pork is a national pastime. What possesses Chavez?

Interesting reading

I was reading a special issue of L'Histoire while dodging rainy days in France. The issue was dedicated to Goebbels whose memories have been recently published. In an article by Husson, it is observed that besides Röhm and Strasser, Hittler did not eliminate his dissident followers during internal party struggles. Just rotating them between government positions depending on their level of incompetence. As an opposite to communist regimes where dissident potential opponents are ruthlessly eliminated (Moscow, Peking or Havana). Mark one more for chavismo as neo-fascismo as Chavez cabinet is a gigantic game of musical chairs.

Venezuela

To tell you the truth, during my trip I only made once a round up of Venezuelan blogs. Thus that was one of the first things I did upon my return. I was not disappointed, as I realized briefly how things had changed in Venezuela in two weeks. Not by the words I read necessarily, but by the tone and what was not said.

Alek with Rosales

In a bold move that deserves full admiration, Alek left the safety of London to come and report live on the trail from the Rosales campaign. I am not sure what arrangements he made but his reporting from Vcrisis is not to be missed. Alek seems to have been made for this type of job!

Quico against Rosales

For some unexplainable reason Quico has decided to oppose Rosales. That might be fine but his reasoning seems so out of touch with Venezuelan reality that I would suggest him to re-source himself some by joining the Venezuelan political fray. In fact, everyday he sounds more like a PSF himself. A PSF against Chavez that is, but a PSF nevertheless.

Chavista blogs on primitive grounds

My confirmation that Rosales campaign was growing fast and that chavismo was in trouble getting novel ideas and proposals came from a single look at Oil Wars. When a post consist of a dozen or so pictures of lousy propaganda shots from the pseudo medical miracles of Venezuela, you know that they have reached rock bottom and that they also need fast re-sourcing in Venezuelan reality. I mean, does Dan Burnett thinks that ten pictures of a Barrio Adentro module will convince anyone at this point? The amusing thing is that he admits that all that is shown was done after 2003, admitting thus that Chavez did nothing for 5 years. Funny!

Discussing the campaign

Apparently “Mi Negra” has become an issue that PSF and Quico love to discuss. Demonstrating by the way how out of touch they all are. In this most emotional and primal of campaigns that we might ever experience as a people, WHO CARES ABOUT THE VIABILITY OF MI NEGRA VERSUS THE MISIONES? Neither Chavez nor Rosales can fulfill the electoral promises they are making (and the lord knows how Chavez has dramatically failed to fulfill his promises of 1998 which has not stopped him to remain in office for 8 years!).

In fact all of those discussing the finer details of the Mi Negra initiative are missing the real message of the proposal: under a Rosales administration social programs will be better managed AND WILL REACH ALL; REGARDLESS OF POLITICAL AFFILIATION. The details are irrelevant for the Venezuelan people who have long stopped paying attention to details as long as help comes their way. And the beauty of the proposal is that by offering poor folks to trade chavismo socialism and cooperativism for the universal symbol of capitalism and economic progress, the small rectangular plastic object, Rosales is appealing directly to the inner wishes of Venezuelans: a job, a house and security to enjoy them. Discussing viability of Mi Negra over its actual message shows, I am afraid to say so, the political distance with Venezuelan hot issues!

Miguel keeps steady

At least one blogger sailed forward as expected. Miguel was particularly active and up on things, even catching my brief interview for a London paper. Then again the series of events and constant flow of revolutionary inner contradictions sort of simplified Miguel’s ever astute observations.

Other blogs are becoming more active

Some blogs are catching the electoral fever. Be it K.A., or Feathers commenting on Chavez killing Chomsky, interesting reading in English is increasing. Not to mention in Spanish (see links on right side column of this page, all your needs to follow the Venezuelan electoral process).

And do not miss the accumulating evidence of electoral abuse in pictures provided by Katy or Bruni. Do not miss them and send them your very own contributions!!!! Each one has a specific interest (Katy for public administration abuses and Bruni on the vulgar pro Chavez press advertisement).

Brief conclusion

Europe is great, food wonderful, and it is awakening to the threats and lies of Castro and Chavez.

Rosales is hitting hard. I bet that real polls (and unpublished so far) must put him already close to 40% to see chavismo in such near hysteria (heck, even Rangel seems to support violence against Rosales!). Rarely in Venezuelan political history has an office holder become so unhinged so fast. Certainly a Rosales victory is far from certain but one can feel it in the air, it is palpable: something has changed in Venezuela during this September.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Chavez concept of democracy: not applicable

(with two addenda)

I think it might be better to start by what could be the conclusion of an article bearing such title: Chavez does not believe, and less understands, what democracy is all about. But this is something that wizened readers of this blog have long known. So, why come back to beat on a dead horse? Because it is always fun to describe how often Chavez reveals himself and how often people are willing to make excuses for him (though admittedly this seems to happen with increasing difficulty).

A few things did happen recently that show how much contempt Chavez has for democracy. In no particular order.

First there was that scandalous attack of his henchman, Caracas Mayor at Large Barreto. The way he treated his other Caracas mayors colleagues, duly elected officials with actually more legitimate claims than Barreto has to his own chair, showed clearly of what caliber the rabble that follows Chavez is made of. No need to revisit this issue except to remind folks of the fascism in the rank and file of chavismo. Note, not all chavistas are fascists, but it seems that this number is increasing steadily, at least in view that Barreto is still in office in spite of such unacceptable postures.

Then of course was the now infamous UN speech where Chavez freely insulted another head of state. No matter what Bush has done and how richly he might be deserving of such insults, that was not the time and place to vent such anger and put up such a display in clownish bad taste. Even some of Chavez supporters in the US, true blue liberal democrats, stated that IN THE US it was not for Chavez to insult the US president, that US citizens were the only ones at home allowed to do so, thank you very much. But the true meaning of that UN bad joke was the now uninhibited desire of Chavez to occupy front pages. In this, he richly succeeded; the world has been talking about the break of diplomatic rules which serves for only further weakening of the UN, quite debilitated by itself. In fact, if anything, Chavez has been strengthening the hand of those within the US who want the US out of the UN and the UN pout of New York. But then again as a true fascist, for all its hypocrite statements of reinforcing the UN, Chavez does not want anything more but to kill it once and for all as the UN could well some day turn its gaze over Venezuela. Anyone who thinks that Chavez is genuinely trying to improve UN effectiveness is self delusional.

At any rate, the US government has a golden opportunity to show what democracy is all about when it finally crafts a reply to Chavez insults. I am not holding my breath.

But something quite telling also happened. In state TV, VTV, there is a late night show which dedicates itself to only two things: 1) character assassination of anyone opposing Chavez, Castro and chavismo and 2) outrageous defense of the indefensible. I am talking of course of “La Hojilla” a show that I have not had the stomach to watch ever in its integrity. Let’s just say that a show that uses a bust of El Che and political posters of dubious message as its décor cannot possibly be trusted on anything it says. In fact, if any private channel TV were to broadcast a show of such nature but against chavista ideas I would bet anything that he network would have been speedily fined, if not closed. But I digress.

At any rate, Chavez who seems to have settled for a virtual TV studio campaign (Rosales is bravely going to places where Chavez does not go anymore) did grace La Hojilla with his voice. I did not watch the show, nor excerpts as I was out of the country, but the echoes reached me, in particular an article on that subject from Alfredo Barrera Tyszka that I have posted in Spanish in my document section (1). Suffice to say that Chavez used of an extremely vulgar saying to refer as to what he was about going to do to the opposition candidates. In fact, it was not only vulgar but it is profoundly immature as only hormonal teenagers might use that “game”. It is called “jugar rojo” play red. It is a silly rhyme who basically means that if you accept to play you have to bend over to get fucked. (“rojo/cojo”). That a president of the republic uses such a language as to what he will do when he plays politics with opposition is demeaning, sordid, unsuitable, vile and what not.

Should I even remind readers of the charges of homophobia that I have reported more than once from chavismo, as early as the Maisanta campaign of 2004? How appropriate to put everything together, including the profound misogyny and primal machismo of Chavez and some of his cohorts…

So, dear reader, all is there: such a person cannot be a democrat because simply he has no respect for the ideas of other people, because he is willing to do anything, say anything, to gain advantage, to eliminate his opponent.

The basic rule of democracy, for those who still harbor doubts, is the respect of minority rights to make sure that the minority always gets a chance one day to become a majority. Do I need to elaborate further?

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1) I am not sure that Chavez said these words in La Hojilla. From the context of Barrera text I assumed it but I could not find an exact reference. I will appreaciate any reader bringing the exact reference, though the participation of Chavez in VTV to utter such words is not to be questioned.

Addendum: Miguel sent me an article confirming that the scene took place at La Hojilla. It is the editorial of Tal Cual who wonders duly as to the democratic concept that is inexistant in Chavez where screwing the opposition is all that matters. It also puts squarely the blame for recent political violence to the words of Chavez which can only be an incitement to violence pepetration by his followers (see Rosales multiple campaign agression).

Addendum 2: El Universal this Sunday carries two important articles on this "rojo" thing. One is from Manuel Caballero who muses about the language of thugs and ruffians. In other words, the true Chavez coming out at the UN. And the other is a delightful, and of course untranslatable, sonnet by Oswaldo Paéz-Pumar. Maybe not great poetry but a wonderful criticism of the inherent homophobia and undercalss machismo within chavismo.

Jugar rojo

Afirmó el Presidente
degradando el gentilicio
que practicará el vicio
sodomita en el presente.

Dice su mensaje abyecto,
propio en la revolución,
que es con la oposición
que realizará el proyecto.

Pero son sus camaradas
los de fama bien ganada
en el closet escondidos.

Ante ese inconveniente
le habló su subconsciente
y habrá un solo partido.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Chavez at the UN, Ahminadejerk in Caracas

Well, finally able to connect and I am finding my mail box full of notes and even for the comment section as to Chavez prestation on the UN. Unfortunately I have little to say: I was back in German speaking areas and thus I could not follow the reactions. However I could see that the crossing of Chavez was played over, and also the rather spare attendance at the UN for chavez speech. CNN of course was more talkative, but CNN does not count much on this type of stuff.

The best is from Clinton who said something like that: "he does not hurt us, he only hurts himself and Venezuela".

Nothing else needs to be added.

Of more interest was the visit of the Iranian president in Venezuela. That did raise a few eyebrows in Europe. If to this you add Chavez crossing himself at the UN, then I can speculate that Chavez stock in Europe went down a further notch: these type of hystrionics do not go down well in Europe. Then again the target of Chavez is not Europe, it is LatAm. It has been a long time that more rational Europe has ceased to be a field of opportunity for Chavez, except for a few wackos like Ken in London. We'll see....

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A postcard

Thus for one day I left my hideaway to enjoy the wonders of French civilization. Let's see if one reader can guess where I was :)

No particular agenda in this picture, except perhaps the antipodal image of Venezuela. Such culture and gentility as expressed in this street scene in the downtown of the given city is unthinkable of in Venezuela where buhoneros and dirt would make it impossible to have well preserved monuments and open air cafes. But heck, does Chavez care? He is locked up in Miraflores where an army of servants makes sure he enjoys all the creature's comfort.... While the rest of us must fend off garbage and clogged sidewalks. Not to mention that the glass of that public clock would have been long broken, time standing still in Venezuela.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Does Chavez care about Darfur?

Thus it is raining heavily in my little corner of France, and besides eating delicious food there is nothing else to do but turn on TV and watch talk shows. The one that interested me this afternoon was on how to wake up Europe as to the Darfur tragedy. Apparently some in France are embarrassed that Hollywood, led by such luminaries as George Clooney, is well advanced on waking up international opinion on the Darfur genocide (yes, it looks that this word is about to apply). Somewhere along the line I was wondering whether Chavez knows about Darfur, a good opportunity for him to properly use the word genocide. After all, lately he was in Africa, more than once, visiting sub-Saharan countries. But learning about the arrival of Iranian president Ahmadinejerk in Venezuela and how diligently Chavez is courting Islamic extremism, I suspect that Chaevz could not care less about the Islamic power in Khartum massacring the rebellious distant province. I suppose also that the bimbo left that supports Chavez does not care much about the Darfur. There goes, once again, the ethics on that side.

The talk show being over I decided, since now it was rather late to go for a walk, to check El Universal, for the first time in almost two weeks. After all, it might be a good idea to prepare my re-immersion in the Venezuelan hellhole.

The first news was that Ahmadinejerk is visiting Venezuela. Apparently at the fake non aligned summit of Havanna Chavez has tried to convince the guys to vote for him for a UN security council. I am starting to suspect that the sudden support of some morally bankrupt countries is probably due to the fact that Venezuela in the UN will certainly not be the country sponsoring intervention in Darfur type of situations. And trust me on that one, too many countries have a lot to hide on human rights. But it could even get worse at the UN if Venezuela gets a seat: today Chaevz has simply decided that he will not recognize Calderon as Mexican president, preparing Mexico for a permanent break with Venezuela. Talk about non interference at the UN! Not to mention that Chavez has much worse electoral crimes to account for than Mexico. But then again ethics have long gone from the Venezuela folks in charge at Miraflores.

However one thing has to be said for Chavez UN quest: if he gets reelected Venezuela will look everyday more like on of those one party, for life president as many of the countries about to support Chavez, countries that try very hard to erase the word "democracy" from the everyday lingo. Roberto Guisti regales us with the perfect article on the unitarian follies of Chavez: the tropical march to totalitarianism.

But all this self confidence of Chavez seems a little bit hollow if you ask me. The historian in this blogger has seen too many bombastic leaders, bloating up before their final burst. Or as the saying goes: Dios ciega a los que quiere perder (the good lord blinds those he wants to lose). Indeed, poll wars have started. I have announced for a long time that polls are useless in Venezuela since 2004. The more that can be said of them is that they might show a trend. And the trend shown is on a continuous increase of Rosales and a relative weakening of Chavez. The electoral situation is definitely tightening and that is clearly seen in chavismo tactics (1). You doubt my words? Read on the latest aggression against the Rosales campaign! Besides the fascistic element that now characterizes most of chavista actions these days, anyone with half a brain knows full well that a political party that feels the winds helping it does not need to resort to such disgraceful tactics.

Definitely, if Chavez does not care about democracy and his people, he certainly will not care about Darfur. Shame on him! Then again, readers of this blog have long known that Chavez only cares about himself.

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PS: Well, Miguel did blew it. He caught the interview I had with the Evening Standard from London. Shows you that this blogger cannot even hide in France where he might be tracked by responsible journalists trying to call upon Ken Linvingston and Chavez unholy alliance.

1) Keller, my favorite pollster, has a study on focus group that is more worrisome for Chavez than any opinion poll: the political language is fast moving away of the discourse that Chavez wants to impose on the election.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sweet things on the road: Castro out (or is it outed?) in France

One of the advantage of taking a few days off in some remote area of France (yes, France has remote areas where you even need a boat to get to the closest railway station) is that you get to observe from close the natives. You also get to live like them, always a gustatory feast in France. And you also get to watch TV since after 8 PM, well, there is nothing to do besides getting drunk in the lone open “bar-tabac”.

Thus I did watch a little bit of TV and I was richly rewarded. On Channel 5 a couple of nights ago there was a talk show (an important one I was told) on Cuba and Castro. There were 4 guests. Two were luminaries of the anti Castro movement, and lo’ and behold they came with impeccable liberal/social democrat credentials. Well, at least one of them, Elizabeth Burgos. She is from Venezuela and settled long ago in Paris where in addition to denounce the Cuban dictatorship from a leftist perspective, she has become one of the staunchest and most articulate critics of Chavez, exposing clearly that his only aim is to install a personal dictatorship. Married to Regis Debray, the French guy that went to spend time in Bolivia with Che, she certainly cannot be accused of being a right winger! Not to mention that she is the journalist that made Rigoberta Menchu by writing her biography through interviews (a must read, by the way).

The other luminary was Serge Raffy, author of a much talked book in France, “Castro l’infidèle” which is a devastating biography on Castro, showing clearly the ruin dictator he has always been. I have seen the book in stores and it is a huge book, still selling since 2003, still on the front shelves, and all in spite of its heft.

The other two I did not know of, but one is an exiled Cuban who has made an academic career in France battling the romantic left and the last one a journalist that did not have any kind word for the Ramonet crowd.

But all of these details are not important: the major point, the deliciously significant point, is that the host had not bothered inviting someone to take the counter argument, to try to place a kind word on Castro. This is not the France I knew 30 years ago where it was difficult to have your audience understand what we already knew in LatAm, that Castro was just another dictator. Opinion has evolved so much in France that pro Castro jerks are not invited (or perhaps do not dare to show up?).

By the same token of course, I could observe that the image of Chavez is taking a nose dive in France. I even met common folks that knew little on Venezuela but were able to express clearly doubts on Chavez. You cannot befriend Iran or Cuba without suffering dire consequences. Now that Al Qaeda has put France officially in the hit list, it is interesting to speculate how long will France continue to toy the ambiguity line: obviously after Chavez seizing Total assets in Venezuela or Al Qaeda targeting French civilians, it might be time for the French wishy-washy successive governments to wake up and smell the coffee: appeasement never works. At least the intellectuals are starting to wake up.

I do not know how all of this will help Venezuela get rid of Chavez, but surely it cannot hurt our just cause.

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PS: there also magazines that one can pick up around such as the conservative “Valeurs actuelles” of September 8. There the criticism goes further, as expected. But what is new is the clear worry about a possible Chavez “succession” in Cuba. The other thing which is now obvious to Europeans (we in LatAm had known about it long ago) is the militaristic nature of the Cuban regime. I translate two sentences:

“IT is Venezuela’s petrodollars …which allow the communist nomenklatura to line up its pockets”

“Support of the regime, the army (55 000) is imbedded in the system. Generals are rich and powerful men. This privileged caste will do anything to preserve its takings.”

Obviously, from right to left, the thinking people of France are not buying the Castro-chavismo. We will leave it to Ken Livingston to keep making a fool of itself, although like Ramonet he is certainly cashing in...

Friday, September 15, 2006

On Hugo Chávez’s campaign proposals, foie gras and a planet called Iris.

Dear readers, after the harsh treatment I received in Miguel’s blog and my wife’s bugging complaints about my intensive ghost blogging I decided to retire for a while. But now that I have heard that Tom Hanks Daniel has been lost in the jungle of complicated European airports, I will help him once in a while, at least until he finds his way out of Paris Airport.

Daniel, if you read this, I hope that I will get a nice tin of foie gras in return, just go straight to the first floor, right beside the silk scarves store where they also sell the huge brie cheeses, you cannot miss it.

A tin of foie gras … 50 Euros, a devoted ghost blogger with a tomatoes section….priceless…

Yes, yes, they do accept Venezuelan Master Cards.

Back to the post…

The presidential campaign is now in full swing. Rosales has been visiting the barrios, being bashed in Quico’s blog, defended in the Suffolk vampire blog and, more importantly, being attacked twice by what looked like a bunch of Chavez’s followers.

Chávez, on the other hand, after visiting Beloroussia, Angola, Cuba, Siria, Iran, Cuba, The North Pole, Tibet and Cuba came back to La Havana…sorry, to Caracas, with some interesting ideas for his presidential campaign. I have been compiling his proposals to offer them to the readers. Here they are:

1.- He called for a Revocatory referendum to remove Manuel Rosales from the Zulia government office. This is quite an interesting and creative initiative, it is exactly the type of proposal everyone was waiting for, in particular the Zulia voters that were the only ones in Venezuela to elect over and over a non-Chavista governor.

2.- He called for a Revocatory referendum in 2010 with a question on revoking his mandate, and another question on allowing eternal reelection. Daniel had an interesting insight on the issue (see here) whereas Bruni got a link on what Chávez really said and explains the tricky details of the proposed “double jeopardy” (see here).

3.- He asked his followers to unify into a single party that will be the party of the people of Venezuela. He received the approval of his mentor Fidel who said that Chávez created an “indestructible” model. His devoted fan Mari Pili Hernández already has a name for the party: “Partido Socialista de Venezuela”.

5.- He suggested that on September 11, the WTC was bombed and that there was some kind of conspiracy behind the terrorist acts that should be looked into…I guess that the planes we were watching on TV that day were really an Oliver Stone film.

6.- He led a ferocious battle for a spot on the UN security council that thanks to the new game “Where in the world is Hugo Chávez?”, Venezuela has almost won.

7.- I cannot find anything else…yes, I know I am a lazy ghost but frankly, I have tried hard and I am running out of Chavez’s promises…

Unless…

Mr. President, did you realize that Pluto is no longer a planet? That the oligarchy of the previous solar system is gone forever? Have you heard that there is a small planet called “Iris”? Yes, Iris… Hugo? No, there are no Hugo planets…not yet…

…so now we got the next proposal for the Venezuelan Presidential Campaign!

Reporting from Cyberspace,

Jorge Arena

Your friendly ghost.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

From some airport (Paris as it turns out)

Thus I left Vienna for my next mystery destination. Traveling through Europe is an increasing ordeal (or am I getting too old for this?) It seems that the high price of Europe has left Asian tourists undeterred (LatAm tourists are dwindling, at least percentage wise it seems). If to this you add the increasing numbers of Chinese, you can imagine that having to switch planes through the Paris airports has long ceased to be a fun activity. In fact, even the food looked better in Vienna or Frankfurt though the Rhubarb tart I had was out of this world.

And speaking of China. To entertain these long hours of boredom in so many airports I finally started reading a book I bought a couple of months ago: “Cuentos Chinos” (1) by Andres Oppenheimer, the noted Miami LatAm journalist. Although the schedule has allowed me to make it barely through the first quarter in a week, it is definitely a must read for those of you who can get your hands on it. It does have a cleansing approach to current world trends and clichés, merciless against Chavez among other things. Andres O. never bought Chavez Chinese Tales, and today he has even less reasons to buy the bolibanana revolution.

His chapter on China is something to behold, in particular in the light of Chavez recent much ballyhooed trip to China. I would not qualify Andres of visionary but the words he wrote a few months ago are all but completely verified a far as Venezuela is concerned. In short, there is nothing honest in the “rapprochement” between Venezuela and China (or China and LatAm for that matter). The same neo-colonial system is maintained except that instead of selling raw goods to the US they are now selling it to China without any more LatAm industrialization than with the US. In fact, the little bit that would come from the China deals is stuff that would allow China to export through LatAm to the US in case the US restricts Chinese direct imports some day.

But it gets worse: the “alliance” offered by China to LatAm is way more than a Trojan horse. In facts it reeks of unholyness. Indeed, what China wants is less Human rights criticism of its policies at the UN and of course Latin America is already obliging. China wants to promote the one party state model in a capitalist system whereas LatAm, or at least some of it, do not mind caudillos with or without capitalism. Indeed Chavez should be in hog heaven with China. And all is happening: China is building Venezuelan railroads, digging oil wells, in short becoming the next exploiter of Venezuelan natural resources. Chavez could not be more happier if he could get around to control all media and political activity the way Beijing does, and I am sure that Beijing will oblige as much as it can. The only catch here is how will Chavez convince Venezuelans to work 12 hours day and live at the factory for the paychecks of a Chinese workers…

But there is only so much reading one can do in an airport. Thus I went for a long walk and bookstore hunting. One can never fail to be impressed by the richness of European newsstands. There are magazines for EVERYTHING, and usually several offerings on the subject. In a small one I counted 3 magazines dedicated to classical music, 5 to history, 3 to biking (and some to moto motocross and all terrain stuff), etc, etc… There were even three gay magazines prominently displayed, one a very glossy production on gay traveling for the boys in France (note, I did not see a Lesbian magazine but I am pretty sure I missed it). I mean, even US magazine stands pale in comparison. Vienna stands were equally stuffed but since it was in German I could not assess.

Then off to my waiting area where as usual I found for free on a table the latest Le Monde and Le Figaro issues. Le Figaro had as a title the opening of the non aligned conference in Havana, noting that none of the Castro’s boys were at the inauguration. I fail to be impressed by that piece of news since my first reaction was: “How come Le Figaro cares about a pseudo non aligned gathering? Isn’t it everyone pro or against the US?” But let’s not dwell in this pleasant archaism: while having a San Pellegrino water I read further to find out that the expected stars of the non aligned nations summit where expected to be Iran, Syria and Venezuela, in that order in Le Figaro. I will pass on the possible wish for alphabetical ordering in Cartesian French journalists but I will insist of the lack of political acumen for Le Figaro journalist not to question the non aligned definition when it is difficult to find three more aligned presidents as this threesome from hell. But I suppose it was a slow news week end in Paris.

And thus I stop this note as finally after hours of wait they are opening the gate for my next destination. Note: wireless is rare and awfully expensive in Paris airport. Who knows when I will be able to post this note.

1) Tall tales? In Latin America “cuentos chinos” (Chinese tales) means that the tale is not even worth of gossip status, that it is just a work of true fiction.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A post card

I am enjoying a little a short free week end in some corner of Europe. Maybe I should drop a hint to see if someone can guess.

This Sunday morning, the heathen blogger who subscribes these lines decided to go to church. Then again it was a richly decorated baroque church, including huge columns in surprising green or pink granite. There was also going to be music: a Haydn Mass played to accompany an actual mass. I love Haydn. Even if the mass is sung in Latin and the priest in German, I did manage to get into the gist of things, remembering enough of my “Notre Père” and even handing in my pocket change during collection. When all was done, as people left the church, some of the natives in traditional garb, a fabulous organ concert started that lasted for another 20 minutes. Enough to stir the soul as I took a few pictures of this wonderful church. Even the confessionals were so fabulous that one would want to sin just to enjoy kneeling on them for a reason.

When I left such an exquisitely civilized moment, I was thinking that it was not that I was away from Venezuela, for all that I knew, things are so strikingly different around here that I am probably in another planet.

Heck, to leave you I will post a picture where all political allusion should be banished. These Rosales are in a famous park, which contains the letter ö in its name. We must keep tending to our roses if we want them to bloom as these.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Ramblings from afar

I am blissfully unaware of what is going in Venezuela. Besides the Y/Z confusion of my keyboards (never mind the ö,ä ß,ü) coupled to the lack of wireless in the area are certainly not an ecouragement to check out the news.

In fact I learned of the attack on Rosales march through one Colombian colleague who showed me an article from El Tiempo.

Do I need to check out the news for that? Naaaah... The only surprise here is that they are ALREADY attacking Rosales. Hard core chavismo is a fundamentalist cult and their latest fascisitic moves could only end up in chasing away Rosales from areas which "belong" to chavismo. Self ghettoization, the ultimate state of chavismo...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

news from Europe

This blogger is spending a few days in some corner of the German speaking world, on work by the way, vacation after, elsewhere. His first time in Euorpe since 2002. Well, Europe kept progressing but more startingly, I am realizing how provincial we Venezuelans are becoming (or already became?). Some quick notes.

Frankfurt airport was a nice place to spend while waiting for a connection that took a few hours. The impressive shopping area looks fancier than any mall in Venezuela, at least as far as the variety if goods offered. "un emporio!"

The cosmopolitanism of the crowds in the airport makes Chavez looks even more provincial. His little gatherings of the "youth of the world" and other assorted self flattering self serving offices are nothing compared to what I observed in the hall ways. From incredible tattoes, to fabulous sari clad women, Sikhs turbans everywhere and African chiefs in full garb. I did not see a kimono but I am sure that if my plane had been further delayed one would have crossed my path. None of these people wastes time visiting Venezuela.

The conference I am attending is describing the agribusiness progress in the rest of the world. Every body seems on the road to prosperity and increasing GDP. All speakers ignore LatAm or make pessimnistic comments about it (except for Brazil, Chile ignored as not a commodities producer). We are just not going to be players, no matter what Chavez says. Though at least one speaker pointed out the potential for trouble of Venezuela. I was not proud.

But the most striking moment for me was at the airport. In the bus that was waiting for the participants arriving for the conference, climbed someone coming from India, all worn out from his trip, having visibly sojourned in muggy tropical airports. Well, he just flipped his cell phone and started making calls after calls. I did think about subscribing to a cell phone for this trip, but the cost in Venezuela, or the currencz limitations make this an option for only very high palced executives. At this conference almost any non German folk flips a cel phone here and there. And by the way, my fellow Indian recovered quite well from his trip and was much better dressed than me the next day...

Sorry for typos, but no spell checker and German key board...

More irregualr posting as I can.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Is fascism the new left?

This is not an idle question. We are observing more and more that supposedly progressive leftist parties in Latin America are acting as your average fascist movement, imposing their ideas regardless on how large the share of the popular vote they control. Three cases in point: Venezuela, Bolivia and Mexico.

Venezuela

The latest actions of Caracas Mayor at large, Juan Barreto, were particularly eloquent. This one in fact went as far as espousing Stalinism in Caracas to control the opposition mayor, even announcing that one of them will be jailed by December.

But we could also look at some supporters who are embracing an increasingly violent language. Last night one of the callers of Alo Ciudadano, the popular TV talk show on Globovision, was a woman saying that all in Cuba was fine and dandy and that people had no right to criticize the Cuban regime, that they were just liars. The host let her talk as long as she wanted and soon enough the unfortunate woman was saying that people against the revolution should be executed through fusillade. Interestingly the self declared profession of that woman was social worker, trained in Cuba. Some training she got.

But readers of this blog know very well that these are just a reflection of “l’air du temps”. In Venezuela the 1999 constitution has been violated so often that now all power rests in the hand of a single man, not of a single party, a single man, which is one of the hallmarks of fascism. At least communist regimes had the pretense to have all power in the hand of one single party. In fact, this blogger dates exactly the entry of Venezuela into a fascistic leaning system since February 27 2004. It has been downhill ever since, all on the name of the “socialism of the XXI century”.

Bolivia

We find the same type of situation. The new constitutional assembly was supposed to vote by a 2/3 majority, which makes sense when you draft a constitution that must serve all Bolivians. Unfortunately Evo Morales failed to gain a 2/3 majority. No problem, after a scuffle where one of the assembly leaders was seriously hurt, the Morales majority decided to do away with the 2/3 requirement. The “opposition” walked out, and certainly aware of the Venezuelan precedent, called upon the OAS to intercede. And justifiably so.

Mexico

There the situation is much graver. Now, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has decided not to recognize the election result. Even more, he has threatened with naming a parallel government and has decided to call for a constitutional assembly in Mexico. The catch here is that even without a putative electoral fraud, AMLO did not get 50% + 1 vote. That is right, he did not even get 40% of the votes. His fraud claim are so tenuous, though perhaps with some merit, that they cannot account for that 10% missing that would morally allow him to set the political mess he is setting. In fact, the PAN largely outscored the PRD of AMLO in congress! That is right, far from an absolute majority of the Mexican voters, AMLO still forges ahead and tries to impose his ambition on all Mexicans. The whole protest every day smacks more and more of a neo-fascism. AMLO will probably sink in infamy, but not without having inflicted grievous damage to Mexican institutions (which need to be reformed, of course, but that is another story, and not one to proceed as AMLO wants to).

Conclusion?

It would be too facile to equate these actions with fascism. Maybe some of these people do not realize it, maybe they confuse Stalinism and Fascism as Barreto did. But the fact of the matter is that at the very least we can say that Chavez, Morales and AMLO are showing themselves not to be democrats. In a democracy the majority rules as it pleases as long as the minority rights are preserved and the conditions for that minority to become someday a majority are enabled. Anything short of this basic principle starts at authoritarian and ends at Stalinism or Fascism, which are, in the end, pretty similar in results. Amazingly the Left that should be the most democratic expression in LatAm seems in its ambition of power and accessory hate of the US to be only too willing to forgo democracy, and violently of needed. Let’s just hope that other democratic and progressive governments in LatAm will not follow these examples of intolerance and naked ambition.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

What is behind that reelection ad infinitum for Chavez?

Acute observers of the Venezuelan situation, a group where this blogger occupies the humblest ranks, have known long ago, or at least since the 1999 constitution was drafted, that Chavez had all intentions to remain in office as long as he could get away with it. For too long his speeches were peppered with allusions to leaving dates such as 2021 or 2030. Chavez supporters were quick in saying that Chavez meant his movement to stay in power until then, or some other lame excuse. But the fact of the matter is that as a president who has gone out of his way to ensure absolute control on as much as the state apparatus as he could reach, Chavez did not do all of that to surrender it to the winner of an election that would not be himself.

Just plain logic. Chavez is not a democrat and uses democracy only as long as it works for him, as a transition period of sorts.

So, I was wondering about the strange need that pushed him to announce Friday that he would call himself for a Recall Election in 2010, when his second term reaches the half way mark. Why would he do such a thing? To refurbish his image as a democrat as he arrives from Syria? To soften his now established authoritarian image? No, that would be too easy.

The part of him calling for a recall election is easy to get: after the Tascon list no one will ever dare to call for a Recall Election in Venezuela. This constitutional novelty has been pretty much killed in 2004. As far as I can see it will be used only by chavistas to kick out of office opposition figures or chavistas that need to get disposed of (such as Barreto?).

Thus we are left to try to figure out why Chavez made this single announcement. In fact, we must ponder this as it is, so far, the core offering of his reelection campaign. That is right, the rest of the speech were platitudes and pseudo-philosophical musings. The only concrete thing was that recall election promise.

I was thus wondering through the day why did Chavez offered such a wild idea. That he would call at the same time for a referendum to lift the two terms limit is not the issue: he could call that referendum tomorrow if he wanted to. That he would link such a referendum and a recall election is a gimmick of little significance. Thus, why?

I am pretty sure that there are many possible explanations, including Chavez being on drugs after yet another long and exhausting trip. But I came out with one that has a certain logic. The first thing is to review some recent changes in the political situation, and remember some facts.

Chavez does not have a good record to run on. The bloom of social programs has worn off. Some people did get benefits, many perhaps, but the tale now is that if you want to have access to them you better wear a red shirt. A new elite has appeared and people do not like it much. Social programs arguable success notwithstanding, inflation and lack of real jobs have remained a social curse, even increasing, with no reply coming from the government. The implication of a rising crime situation has become true: Venezuela has now top crime rates in the world, with a week end dead roll that competes with the one in Iraq, for example. And the major construction programs announced seem to be rather incomplete, and definitively too late to affect voter sentiment, long used to last minute inaugurations.

Thus running on record along is not enough for Chavez as his government approval rating is in the doldrums whereas his remain unaccountably good!

To this we can add the major political shift of August: the opposition unified against all odds. And not only that, but the unification was convincing, and Rosales had a good campaign start. Chavismo who was counting on a weak and divided opposition is obviously not ready for the sudden challenge ahead. Not that it is in great danger: chavismo holds too many cards still. But the fact of the matter is that chavismo has to suddenly devise a battle plan, a program, an organization, a voter outreach. We are all surprised at how little chavismo is ready when we were expecting a steam roller! This one might exist but it obviously having some ignition problems.

And that is how I got one possible explanation for Chavez “promise”. The translation of his promise is: “listen guys, I think that I did not do as much as you hoped me to do. I can understand that you are pissed at me. But that is OK, fear not, just give me three more years and you will see how great everything turns out to be. If you still do not like it, no problem, THEN we will have the real election to replace me. But this time forget about the other guy, just give me three years. Trust me, I am such a good democrat”.

Besides this proposal being yet another chavista con job, it is a surprising show of weakness from a candidate who 2 months ago seemed totally invincible. In politics fortunes can change dramatically. I still think it is an uphill battle for Rosales, but now he is facing a hill and not mountain range.

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