Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Washington Post tackles the "reforma"

The Washington Post has yet to trash the new Chavez constitution such as the New York Times did loud and clear from day one. But it is getting there. Forero writes an article which will be a landmark on how a journalist tries desperately to retain some objectivity. But we know he does not like the whole business when the first quotation is from Mario Isea, one of the big scumbags of the National Assembly: "We're giving the leader the possibility to continue directing us. And we're giving ourselves the opportunity to continue enjoying his leadership." Such language is reserved to "politicians" in Cuba, North Korea, Soviet Union, Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy. And thus it does not really matter what is next in the article, the aware reader knows very well what the whole chavismo farce is all about.

-The end-

Chavez new Constitution: article 70

Editor's note: In this article Virginia tackles the "socialismo" concept of Chavez which is nothing but means to ensure more power for him. The welfare of the people is at best a desirable side effect.

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Article 70 - 1999 Constitution

Means of people’s participation and involvement in the exercise of their sovereignty, in political affairs, among others, are: the election of public officials, the referendum, the consultation of public opinion, mandate revocation, the legislative, constitutional and constituent initiatives, the open town council, and the citizens’ assembly, whose decisions shall be binding. Means of participation in social and economic affairs are: the citizens’ service bureaus, self-management, co-management, all forms of cooperatives, including those of financial nature, credit unions, community enterprises, and other forms of association guided by the values of mutual cooperation and solidarity. The law shall establish conditions for the effective functioning of the means of participation contemplated under the present article.
(underlined sections are removed from the reformed article)

Article 70 Reformed

Means of people’s participation and involvement in the direct exercise of Their sovereignty, and FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF SOCIALISM are: the election of public officials, the referendum, the consultation of public opinion, mandate revocation, the legislative, constitutional and constituent initiatives, the open town council, and the citizens’ assembly, THE DECISIONS OF THE LATTER BEING BINDING, THE COUNCILS OF POPULAR POWER (COMMUNAL COUNCILS, WORKERS COUNCILS, STUDENTS COUNCILS, FARMERS COUNCILS, AMONG OTHERS), THE WORKERS DEMOCRATIC MANAGEMENT OF ANY DIRECT OR INDIRECT SOCIAL PROPERTY ENTERPRISE, THE COMMUNAL self-management, FINANCIAL AND MICRO-FINANCIAL COMMUNAL ORGANIZATIONS, COMMUNAL PROPERTY COOPERATIVES, COMMUNAL credit unions, NETWORKS OF FREE ASSOCIATED PRODUCERS, VOLUNTARY WORK, community enterprises and other forms of association constituted to develop values of mutual cooperation and SOCIALIST solidarity
The law shall establish conditions for the effective functioning of the means of participation contemplated under the present article.
(sections in capital letters are new in the reformed article)

The section in parenthesis was modified by the National Assembly in the following way:

…/…THROUGH THE COMMUNAL COUNCILS, WORKERS COUNCILS, STUDENTS COUNCILS, FARMERS COUNCILS, ARTISAN COUNCILS, FISHERMEN COUNCILS, SPORTS COUNCILS, YOUTH COUNCILS, ELDERLY ADULTS COUNCILS, WOMEN COUNCILS, DISABLED PERSONS COUNCILS, AMONG OTHERS…/…

And the last paragraph will say: A NATIONAL LAW, instead of ‘The law

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In order of appearance, this is the second article in the proposed reform presenting socialism as an exclusive system framing the activity of the government and of the citizens. “Means of people’s participation and involvement in the direct exercise of their sovereignty, and FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF SOCIALISM”.

Taking into account that article 2 - part of the Fundamental Principles which cannot be altered by a constitutional reform- says that political pluralism is held as a superior value of the legal order and actions of the State, the first question the new article 70 poses is: Which article describes the means of participation of the people for purposes different from the construction of socialism?

There is no such article.

Does that mean that participation for other purposes will be considered unconstitutional? Let’s see:

“The government is and shall always be democratic, participatory and pluralist”, says Article 6 and “the organs of the State emanate from and are subject to the sovereignty of the people”, says article 5. The protection of the democratic exercise of the will of the people is guaranteed in article 3. All three also being part of the unalterable Fundamental Principles.
Furthermore, article 21 says that “all persons are equal before the law, and, consequently any discrimination with the intent or effect of nullifying or encroaching upon the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on equal terms, of the rights and liberties of every individual shall not be permitted”.

Moreover, article 22 says that “The enunciation of rights and guarantees contained in this Constitution is not to be understood as negating others inherent to individuals, not expressly mentioned in such enunciation. The absence of a law regulating these rights shall not adversely affect the exercise thereof.”

The content of articles 2, 3, 5, 6, 21 and 22 clearly lead to the conclusion that the words ‘FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF SOCIALISM” are superfluous and useless. And that is not even considering that the alluded socialism, (if it is the same as the so called ‘21st century socialism’) is nothing anybody can agree or disagree with, since it has only been defined in terms of what it will not be. It is something yet to be invented.

But this conclusion is only valid if the interpretation of the constitution is performed by an autonomous and impartial Judicial Power, one where its members are endowed with the honesty, capability, probity and excellence mandated by the constitution. With a Judicial Power under the control of the Executive and where the president of its Supreme Tribunal (twice fired from the Judicial system for illicit actions, in 1989 and 2003) is a member of the presidential committee for the constitutional reform (which makes her a judge and a party in the issue), the intention of the reform of article 70 of reducing the political rights of citizens to a single alternative becomes evident.

Another modification in article 70 is the elimination of co-management as a way of participation in social and economic affairs. Now there is no distinction between political, social or economic means of participation and only self-management is mentioned as a form of workers involvement in enterprise management. Is this an improvement? It depends on what kind of enterprises will the workers be allowed to manage themselves. Would Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) for example be managed from now on by the company workers? Well, no. The article makes it clear that only in the restricted realm or environment of what is ‘communal’ the workers may have any involvement. The term ‘communal’ would be related to either Communes (political entities with forms of self government equivalent to parishes) or Communities, (a new micro political division that is being introduced by article 16 which can only be explained as an obsession to micro manage the lives of the people.- Mousqueton-Article 16). The alleged increase in participation and power transfer to the people, used to advertise the constitutional reform would be manifested only in matters of little transcendence, matters with virtually no significance in the national context.


Then what is the meaning of ‘THE WORKERS DEMOCRATIC MANAGEMENT OF ANY DIRECT OR INDIRECT SOCIAL PROPERTY ENTERPRISE’? Perhaps PDVSA falls into the category of Social property? Well, no. Direct Social Property will be “what the State assigns to Communes or Communities or Cities”. Indirect Social Property is something “exercised by the State in the name of a Community”, according to the reformed article 115. Again any enterprise management where the workers will be in charge will not be anything over which the State doesn’t have full control. Nowhere in this reformed article it is said that the workers will have something to do with Public Property, the one that ‘belongs’ to State Entities. One can foresee that it is in the latter category where PDVSA belongs.

Notably missing among the means of participation listed in the new article 70 is the exercise of popular control over the State entities through ‘contraloria social’.

The effort of the National Assembly to make this article attractive by adding Fishermen, The Young, Women, Disabled people etc, to the list of the Councils of Popular Power (where they were already implicitly included with the words ‘among others’), denotes the disregard and disrespect of the servile group of legislators (that represents less than 20% of the electorate) for the citizens, condescendingly underestimating intelligence. Why? Because the Popular Power, as described in the reformed article 136, is not exercised by electing any communal, woman, elderly or student leader in any election. It is exercised by “being part of communes, communities and cities self-government.”

The National Assembly was careful to emphasize that no form of self-government at any of the micro-levels where participation is graciously allowed could ever create special legislation.
They had to include the word ‘National’ to qualify the type of law that will establish the conditions for the effective functioning of the means of participation.

Another reduction of the people’s rights is the transformation of the formerly binding decisions of the Open Town Councils (Town Meetings), into non-binding in the reformed article 70.

There is no way to know how “SOCIALIST solidarity” deviates from the universally understood concept of solidarity. But if the deviation follows the same pattern as “revolutionary justice” or “revolutionary democracy” from their respective original concepts, we can expect a result with no resemblance whatsoever to what the term pretends to invoke.

Finally, voluntary work now is characterized as a means of participation. Since it is incomprehensible to consider it as a political, social or economical right, it is feasible that some National law will make it a duty or a condition to exercise some fundamental right.

Article 70 is under TITLE III of the constitution, which refers to Duties, Human Rights and Guarantees. The proposed modifications imply a substantial reduction of the people’s rights, which is contrary to the principle of progressiveness, contemplated in the 1999 constitution.

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Translation into Spanish here.

-The end-

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

That gasoline crisis of Venezuela

Simon Romero of the New York Times regales us today with a very humorous article which perhaps more than any one he has ever written on Venezuela explains the misery of the chavista pseudo-revolution, and its intellectual and moral bankruptcy (1). All is tied to the ridiculous gasoline subsidies that today plague Venezuelan economy. In all fairness it is not Chavez fault since he inherited from a situation created long ago and which had violent forebodings such as the 1989 Caracas riots and ransacking. However what is absolutely damming for Chavez is that if there was a politician who could have done something about that it was him, but did nothing. In fact, today the situation has reached extremes of ridicule for which he is only to blame.

Mr. Romero who is becoming a keen observer of the glorious bolibanana revolution contradictions reveals us some of the following pearls [with my comments]:

Nicolás Taurisano, 34, a businessman who dabbles in real estate and machinery imports. He is the proud owner of a Hummer ..... also owns a BMW, a Mercedes-Benz, a Ferrari and a Porsche. Now, how come that at 34 you can own such expensive imported cars for your own use under a popular socialist revolution?

Mr. Taurisano pays the equivalent of $1.50 to fill his Hummer’s tank. Thanks to a decades-old subsidy that has proven devilishly complex to undo, gasoline in Venezuela costs about 7 cents a gallon compared with an average $2.86 a gallon in the United States. No comments needed except to point out that at 7 cents a gallon the price does not cover production costs. Period.

Economists estimate that it costs the government of President Hugo Chávez more than $9 billion a year..... draining huge amounts of money .... that could be used for his social welfare programs .... Fuel smuggling into neighboring Colombia, where prices are much higher, is also rife. Domestic fuel consumption is up 56 percent in the past five years, to 780,000 barrels a day, said Ramón Espinasa, .... One-third of oil production now goes to meet the subsidy, he said. Petróleos de Venezuela has disputed such estimates but recently stopped providing public figures on domestic fuel sales. A spokesman at the company said officials were not available to comment on the matter. This is all that is needed to know: a scandalous subsidy, a state oil company that has stopped accounting for its actions, its balances, its production levels, its income, etc, etc ... a large web of lies being set up while the perversion reaches every corner of the economy, making any price meaningless since it is not bound to real production costs where the real price of energy says it all. Imagine how competitive woudl be Venezuelan companies if suddenly they were to pay energy at cost. Just at cost, nothing more.......

So this is it. Even if it is only 1/4 of the oil production that goes to the inner market, the subsidies benefit mostly the rich, those who can afford gas guzzlers, those who an afford AC in every room of their houses, those who can afford freezers to store frozen milk when they are lucky enough to find it. Meanwhile the masses that support Chavez must commute in a hellish traffic, without air conditioning in their rickety "busetas". There is no other symbol as telling of what a fake social revolution Chavez is heading, a revolution which has transformed Caracas, Valencia and many other cities into gigantic parking lots, while at the street corners scores of beggars and displaced Native Americans trying to have cars lower their windows to give them some cash.

Meanwhile tonight the National Assembly placed a provision to suspend the current law of state of emergency automatically as soon as the new constitution is voted. They know what is coming our way and they are preparing the repression diligently. They do not care about scandalous gas subsidies or lack of milk, they only care about remaining in office until they grow old and they are getting ready to kill if necessary when adjustments will have to be made.

1) If article not available anymore, you can find it here.

-The end-

Monday, October 29, 2007

More losses than gains: Venezuela's new constitution will mean less rights for its people

Although Hugo Chavez is fond of portraying himself as a revolutionary in the tradition of Lenin, Mao, Fidel and Che, he has followed a distinctly unique approach on his path for absolute power over Venezuela. The key to that approach has been a limitless patience as well as an ability to charm a wide range of Venezuelans and international citizens. He has managed to convince many that his is a peaceful and democratic revolution, whose main concern is the well-being of the poor in Venezuela and the world.

But as the December deadline approaches for the modification of the Venezuelan constitution, Chavez's mundane desires become clearer: to have absolute power for as long as possible. As the constitutional lawyers Alirio Abreu Burelli and Carlos Ayala Corao point out in this article for El Nacional on Sunday, the modifications to the constitution represent an assault on democratic principles. Up until now, Chavez has been able to proceed by masking his dictatorial intentions. However, these constitutional changes being voted on by a puppet National Assembly are a de facto constitutional coup d’état that will centralize power in Chavez's hands and allow him to stay in power indefinitely. Abreu Burelli and Ayala Corao discuss some of the consequences of this impending assault in seven different sections of the constitution.


(Editor's note: To help illustrate the absolute power for Chavez trend within the regime El Nacional publishes this revealing picture of Chavez in the middle of his court. The original Spanish text of El Nacional article, by subscription, has been posted here. This post, by the way, is a translation with introductory comment by Guillermo P., as his participation to the Constitutional Reform project held b the readers of this blog.)

More losses than gains
El Nacional, 28 October 2007

Alirio Abreu Burelli, ex-magistrate for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and Carlos Ayala Corao, ex-president of the Inter-American Commission on Human rights, warn about the risks of modifying the Magna Carta so quickly and how it is an attempt to tailor it to the President’s political project.


AUTONOMY OF POWERS
It Will Be Easier to Remove Magistrates

What is lost?
The Supreme Court judges will be able to be freely removed by a simple majority of the National Assembly. Such a change reduces the independence and autonomy of the highest authorities of the Judicial Power, to the degree that they could give in to pressures in order to keep their positions.

The postulation committees will be made up of entities of the State and not by organizations from society, which diminishes the guarantees of impartiality for the rectors of Judicial Power and Citizen Power. The National Assembly will not have to approve the Plan for National Development.

The autonomy of the Central Bank of Venezuela, the autonomy of monetary policy and the administration of cash; all these will be in the hands of the President of the Republic.

The national government council and the State council were presided by the vice president (now it will be by the President).

What is gained?
More awareness within Venezuelan society about the importance of the independence and autonomy of public powers for a democracy.

More awareness among the international community about the undemocratic nature of the constitutional reform.

DECENTRALIZATION
The Entire Country Will Be Controlled From Miraflores Palace

What is lost?
The “national system of cities” will imply centralization in the Executive Power of the local duties of cities. The nationalization and centralization of the regulations for Caracas and the Federal District.

The centralization of communal councils within the national power; their registry, regulation and financing.

The centralization of the national government council: its members will include only those governors and mayors “convened” by the President.

The President will be able to create military regions and name their authorities.

He will be able to create central entities that are above the states and municipalities, such as federal provinces, federal territories, functional districts; and to name their authorities (they will not be elected).

The elimination of the Metropolitan District of Caracas and its substitution by a Federal District. The democratic origin of its authorities is not clearly visible.

What is gained?
In theory, more constitutional stipends, but not in practice, because now the states and municipalities will have to share not only with the Federal District, but also with the communal councils and the rest of the organs of popular power (and it is not clear if also with the federal provinces, federal territories and functional districts).

STATES OF EMERGENCY
The Government Will Act Without Control During Emergencies

What is lost?
The right to information and due process could be affected, rights that are fundamental for avoiding abuses of authority. It is not enough to guarantee a few rights of due process, since it is an integral right that cannot be divided.

When article 337 of the current Constitution is modified, in order to exclude the right to information as one of the rights that cannot be suspended during states of emergency, the principle of progressiveness is violated, as expressly consecrated in article 19 of the Magna Carta.

The parliamentary control for revoking the decree of a state of emergency.

From the limited notion of “restriction” we now return to the dangerous notion of “suspension.”

The temporal limits of states of emergency as a guarantee.

The judicial control that figures in the current Constitution as an unavoidable requisite is not made clear.

Specific references to the international limits of states of emergencies (Inter-American Convention on Human Rights and International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights).

What is gained?
More awareness about the risks of restrictions on freedom of expression during states of emergency.

PROPERTY
Goods Deemed Liable to Expropriation Can Be Occupied Immediately

What is lost?
The explicit constitutional acknowledgment of property as a right.

The consecration of the social function of property.

The universality of the goods that can be the object of property. The distinction between “goods for use and consumption” and “goods for production acquired legitimately” is an invitation to arbitrariness so that the law can determine what goods are susceptible to property. Moreover, what does goods “acquired legitimately” mean, and who will determine what they are?

The goods that are the object of appropriation can be occupied administratively without any previous judicial authorization, which leaves them practically powerless at the hands of the State.

The guarantee against the confiscation of land.

Environmental offenses will be able to be punished with the confiscation of land; moreover, the types of offenses are not determined.

The dismantling of intellectual property, its protection is not fully guaranteed.

All of this generates judicial insecurity for all Venezuelans.

What is gained?
More awareness about the risks of arbitrary actions against property in the new Constitution.

WORKERS RIGHTS
Security for Independent Workers Was A Debt

What is lost?
Work as a freedom for human beings.

The right of citizens to dedicate themselves to a legal economic activity of their choice. Now, Venezuelans will work under whatever conditions the Government imposes, within the range of State policies.

The risks for the autonomy of unions when facing the new workers councils.

In practice, the right of workers to associate with one another for the sake of making demands could be evaded by a State-promoted leadership, despite the fact that in many cases the State is the patron.

What is gained?
The reduction of the work cycle to 6 daily hours or 36 weekly hours.

A social security system that supports independent workers, with the provision of creating a fund nourished with contributions from the State and the worker.

Because it is a matter of social justice, it is logical to see an almost general support for the improvement of the working conditions and guarantees for Venezuelan workers.

Both matters could have been resolved legally several years ago, according to the specific mandates of the current Constitution.

PARTICIPATION OF CITIZENS
Now It Will Be Harder To Revoke Bad Elected Officials

What is lost?
Political pluralism, since the mechanisms of participation (elections, referendums, etc.) will be tied to a single ideology: socialism.

The conditions that facilitate popular initiatives (constitutional and constituent reform) and the various referendums.

Governance by elected authorities. The President of the Republic will be able to name central authorities to govern without being elected (federal territories, federal provinces, functional municipalities, military and special regions, and others).

A popular power that does not surge from the votes of the people. The authorities in charge of popular power will not be elected by their communities through free and secret elections.

The gathering of society and the masses under the control of the State: Popular Power ends up being a “power” of the State, and it no longer belongs to citizens who participate from society.

What is gained?
More awareness among people about the loss of participatory and democratic spaces in the new Constitution that is about to be approved.

An excessive stability for elected officials.

NATIONAL ARMED FORCES
The State Will Fight Against the “Internal Enemy”

What is lost?
The character of an institution that is not at the service of any single person.

Its institutional mission within a Constitutional State of Law, beyond any political or party conceptions (Bolivarian Armed Forces).

The conception of the Armed Forces as being within “national security” so as to maintain order and defend itself from “internal” enemies.

The militarization of a large sector of the population, by means of their incorporation to a new component of the Armed Forces: the national militia.

The promotion of a popular war of resistance, instead of a culture of peace.

The disregard for recommendations by international organizations about the need for security forces to be of a civilian nature.

Increased direct interference from the President in promotions at all levels.

Increased direct interference from the head of State in the bodies, components and units of the National Armed Forces.

What is gained?
More awareness about the risks of dismantling the institutional nature of the National Armed Forces with the new Constitution.


(Editor's note: this is the first comprehensive summary of the new changes, which include the articles added quickly by the National Assembly to the Original proposal of Chavez of "only" 33 articles. That is, the changes now are a whopping 69 amendments to the 1999 constitution. We must admire the efforts of Abreu and Ayala to have tried to be as objective as possible in their discussion of such a flagrant legal coup).


-The end-

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Alive and blood thirsty (comments on the Che influence over chavismo)

This Sunday Milagros Soccorro regales us again with one of those fabulous articles who expose so well the moral and intellectual misery of those who work for Chavez. This time she uses the trivia of a monument for Che Guevara placed in the pass of Pico del Aguila. The reason? Well, apparently Che stopped there during his youth travel (probably to take a pee because it is a rather very cold area and the road on a motor bike is long). Since there is little other connection between the Che and Venezuela, the sycophancy of chavismo had to find something to glorify about the Che, to go along the lines of Chavez professed admiration for that well known criminal.

In that article Milagros comments on the destruction of the monument by some natives who were not impressed by the initiative. But more importantly she tells us how the Chavez regime turns its servants into amoral characters, promoting their self abasement in their pursuit to please the leader. As a subsidiary question one can also wonder how come in almost any government the guys in charge of culture are usually rather mediocre when not failed "culture makers" themselves. Under chavismo, they are of the failed variety, with a touch of banditry as you will read. Original article in Spanish here.

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Alive and blood thirsty


By Milagros Socorro for El Nacional

Learning that the monument to Che Guevara had been destroyed on October 18, ten days after his inauguration in Pico del Aguila, the Minister of Culture, Francisco Sesto, responded to the fact ensuring that the government would replace the stele as often as necessary. And if we are to take seriously the manifesto of the Frente Patriotico del Paramo (FPP, or Paramo Patriotic Front) - author, according to its own statement, of the demolition- such is its determination not to allow that space to become permeated with the example of Argentine guerrilla (to which the Front refers as a cold-blooded murderer and a failed official in whichever position the Cuban revolution summoned him) it is likely that the Ministry of Culture will spend the next few months inaugurating new versions of the stele, which will entail expenditures of an amount we do not know but that should not be negligible. Naturally, to the cost of the stele -a kind of tombstone made of crystal- must be added the travel expenses of the Cuban ambassador, who was present at the first inauguration and we can be sure will not miss the following invitations, with meals included, to the beautiful Andean landscape.

In the statement of Sesto there is the implicit prospect of spending the necessary millions for each rebuilding of the monument to Guevara, which, as revealed by his own calculations, will be systematically demolished. Never mind that the community, or a certain group from Merida, are refusing the imposition of a tribute to Che Guevara, to whom they owe no gratitude and of whom they have, as we saw, the worst references. That does not matter. There is money for that.

Whatever it costs. This should not surprise us. Sesto is not exactly a model of frugality in the administration of public resources. Rather he has demonstrated that he disposes of them in more than irresponsible ways. That was demonstrated by the publication of a book of his, entitled “Designs with the head elsewhere”, which consists of the unlikely collection of doodles he scrapped while he was attending work meetings. This incredible lack of sagacity and, as they would say in Caracas, “ubicatez” [N.Ed.: sense of where you stand], was published in an edition of 600 pages, paid by the State. What does it cost him, thus, to start a fist fight with the FPP, which already warned its rejection of Guevara and its preference for the figure of the popular artist Juan Felix Sanchez, "an artist of the páramo and an example of humility, love and wisdom."

At the same press conference, Sesto said that the destruction of the stele was proof that Guevara "is alive." And the official is not out of place. If Ernesto Guevara was able, forty years after his death, of giving us some manifestation of life it would be through violence. Although, of course, the pulverization of the monument cannot be compared with the murders that Guevara perpetrated with his own hands, which were many, most cruel and documented by his own hand, shaking with enthusiasm writing them down in his diary and letters. In a letter dated January 28, 1957, Guevara wrote to his mother to reassure her about the rumor that he had been killed. "Dear Vieja [N.Ed.: familiar for Mom]," he says, "here, from the Cuban jungle, alive and thirsty for blood I write these Marti-like lines " (Che Guevara, a revolutionary life, Jon Lee Anderson, Anagrama, Caracas, 2007). [N.Ed.: martiana, Marti-like, from Marti, Cuban poet and independence hero]

Next to Sesto was the Deputy Minister of Culture for Human Development, Ivan Padilla Bravo, who used the occasion to show his horror in front of terrorism.

"Those who acted," said Padilla Bravo, "did with treachery, in darkness, with all these characteristics that are present in the most sordid crimes ...". And who is Ivan Padilla Bravo? Why a bureaucrat of the culture ministry is so aware of the features present in most sordid crimes? Perhaps because Ivan Padilla Bravo participated in the kidnapping of a man and demanded money (is there a more sordid crime?). He was arrested on July 22, 1976, at the playground Paramaconi, at the San Bernardino end of Avenida Boyaca, where he was preparing himslef, together with an accomplice, to collect part of the ransom for the kidnapping of American industrial William Frank Niehous, who he had been subjected to captivity on February 27, 1976. And they would keep him kidnapped for more than three years

-The end-

Venezuela Increasingly A Conduit For Cocaine

Oh dear! What has been reported now for years, that under the Chavez administration Venezuela has become a favored conduit for Colombian drug, is reported in a large, complete and documented article in the Washington Post, by no one less than Juan Forero, former Chavez supporter. It does not get any better than that.

Who is to blame? Chavez himself for his laxity with the FARC who gets refuge in Venezuela under the blind eyes of the Venezuelan army. Even paramilitaries managed to find refuge once the corruption pump was seeded. Along the FARC came the drug traffic from which the FARC gets its revenue. Then came the ransom industry and all sort of other organized crime, in front of a government that not only has refused to act energetically and consistency but which probably promotes a high level of insecurity to start developing its own policies of terror over the population. Under current horrifying crime figures, if you are an opposition figure and you get attacked in the streets you never know if it were real thugs or a squad sent to you by the government. How can you figure it out? Where can you go in Venezuela for redress when the state ignores so much the reality of crime, when the judicial system will only investigate what is convenient?

It will be at least a generation to repair the damage that Chavez tolerance for crime has inflicted upon Venezuela.

By the way, without trying to be facetious, will the new constitution help in any way solve this drug trafficking problems? Will drug smuggler have a 6 hour a day, 36 hour work week so they can have more "free" (see post below)? To educate themselves or to snort? It is when you read such article about the reality of Venezuelan life that you realize how divorced form Venezuelan reality the Chavez administration is becoming. Look at how much time the government is spending in trying to change the constitution to make a Hugo the first while here, in Yaracuy, the per capita crime of this rural state is now comparable to city crime, where we get kidnapping and ransom at almost the frequency of the Colombian border, in per capita..... Meanwhile hot air keeps coming from Caracas, and drugs from Colombia as I have been told that it is quite easy to find coke in San Felipe (heck, the governor is murmured in the streets to be a major user).

-The end-

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Chavez new constitution: Article 90

Provisional introduction, to be removed later: although the National Assembly has decided to change a total of 69 articles, which is, simply put, a coup d'etat, we are forging ahead with the original 33 articles discussion since they are the articles that really matters, the ones that will most screw up the country. This article 90 is particularly important in this discussion because it is the most populist of the lot, the one that most illustrates how Chavez is trying to buy yet another electoral vote, the most simple minded one, and yet perhaps the most perverse one after the 230 which settles eternal power for Chavez.

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

Old Article:
Working hours shall not exceed eight hours per day or 44 hours per week. Where permitted by law, night work shall not exceed seven hours per day or 35 hours per week. No employer shall have the right to require employees to work overtime. An effort shall be made to reduce working hours progressively in the interest of society and in such sphere as may be determined, and appropriate provisions shall be adopted to make better use of free time for the benefit of the physical, spiritual and cultural development of workers. Workers are entitled to weekly time off and paid vacations on the same terms as for days actually worked.

New Article:
With the intention that workers have enough time for their integral development; day-shift work hours shall not exceed 6 hours per day and 36 hours per week, and night-shift work hours shall not exceed 6 hours per day and 34 hours per week. No employer shall force its employees to work overtime. Moreover, it (the subject in the Spanish version is tacit, so I’m guessing it refers to the employer as well) shall program and organize the mechanism for the better enjoyment of workers’ free time in benefit of their education, and human, physical, spiritual, ethical, cultural and technical development.

Workers shall have the right to a weekly rest and paid vacations in the same conditions as regular work shifts.


Well, where do I start? First and foremost, I see no reason why such an article should be in the Constitution. Whether you agree or not with constraining work hours, the Constitution is not the place for this kind of stuff. This could be written in a regular law, if anything.

Before going to the economic analysis of imposing a shorter work shift, let me point out some details of the proposed article. The new article encourages employers to “program and organize the mechanisms for the better enjoyment of workers’ free time in benefit of their education and integral development.” I guess employers know better what’s in the best interest of their employees, do they? Let’s say you have a couple of more hours to do what you please during the day. What would you do? In principle you would choose whatever it makes you happier (in the broadest sense of the word). I hope you agree with me on this. As far as I know that could include going home with your family or to the library, a museum, school, the gym, the church, yoga class, or even your favorite bar. If you feel that you need more education, you would enroll in classes at the nearest college (or any educational institute that suits you), or simply go to the library and pick up a couple of books in Accounting or Philosophy. If you think that you’re a bit out of shape, you would hit the gym, take yoga class, or go hiking to the mountain more often. And so on. More importantly, perhaps, if you think that you have a poor “integral development” (whatever that means) , probably you would do your best to improve in that direction. I don’t see a reason why you wouldn’t. If a couple of more hours daily are what you needed, then you’re all set. Unless one argues that you are shortsighted and myopic, and therefore don’t know what’s best for yourself. Generally that’s not the case. I think everyone one of us has a pretty good idea of what we want, of what makes us happy and better person, right? So, why would our employer organize something for us to do in our free time for our benefit? Plus, if we believe that each one of us has different goals, preferences and constraints, then a one-size-fit-all employer-organized free-time program would not work for all its employees. Unless you think everybody should be and do the same, and their individual differences do not matter.

I personally believe that this little twist in the proposed article does not aim the (shrinking) private sector but the (growing) public one. I can imagine some governmental institution coming up with the idea of organizing one-hour daily workshops on (presumably) some topic of interest for its employees, say “The New 21st Century Man”. I can also imagine that participation in this type of events will not be exactly voluntary.

I also think that this addition to the article is to some extent irrelevant for all practical purposes. Nowadays, the government already coerces its workers to participate in certain extracurricular activities. Thus, I don’t see how they would not organize a “The New 21st Century Man” workshop if they wanted to even without the proposed reform. Now you could say that if they haven’t done it yet, why they would do it after the constitutional reform. Obviously, the “revolution” is moving forward (or is it backward?), and with it, we’ll see all sort of new things.

How about the economic consequences of the proposed article 90? In general, a tighter constraint on work hours cannot make anybody better off as long as we assume that the length of the work shift is an endogenous variable of the economy. Nowadays the limit is 8 hours. Some people may choose to work less than that. Don’t you think that if everyone were better of by working 6 hours daily they would have done that? But they didn’t. So it must be that they are fine with working 8 hours. Of course, you could argue that our evil entrepreneurs are forcing their employees to inhumanly work that much. But I wouldn’t give much credit to that argument because that would mean that there exists a huge market failure that workers and unions wouldn’t have let pass that easily. I have never heard unions seriously complaining about the shift length. If that market failure existed, it’d be in workers’ best interest to fix it. However, for quite some time they were happy with the 8-hour shift. Oh, it could be now that Chavez not only realized of this failure but also came to the rescue of the people. Right!

Now, let’s analyze the short-run consequences of the new article 90. Bolivarian revolution wisdom would tell you that the people is going to benefit with this because they will be able to enjoy more leisure (which everyone agrees is a good thing), at least those who have a job, and earn the same amount (as far as I know monthly salaries are not going to be initially cut because of the shorter work shift). However, there is no free lunch. Something’s got to give. So, what’s the cost of this? First of all, everything else equal, total output (GDP) is going down (1). In particular, private sector output will take the biggest hit. Public output will not suffer that much because it is largely inefficient. However, the quantity (and perhaps quality as well) of the few public goods and services the States provides will fall and taxpayers will get less for their money.

Thus far we have made a big assumption, namely, employment does not change. Bolivarian revolution wisdom would tell you here that employment is actually going to increase because firms are going to hire more people to make up for the difference. Oh boy! I beg to differ. In fact, employment (unemployment) is going to fall (increase). Why? Keep in mind that our evil entrepreneurs are profit driven whether you like it or not, right? Given prices, salaries and employment constant, when firm’s output falls, so does its profits. Remember that its wage bill is constant up to this point. So, what does this firm do? It has several alternatives. One is to adjust the number of workers. Let’s try first with hiring new workers. I can assure you that it ain’t happening. Why? Well, if it were profitable to hire a new worker now, it would have been profitable to do so before. Since the firm didn’t hire any new worker before, then it must be that it wasn’t profitable to do so and it still isn’t now.

The firm then has two other options, keep the same workers or fire some of them. If there were no firing cost and other restrictions to firing, some firms would probably lay off some of its workers because possibly some workers might “bring to the table” less than what they are paid, that is, their productivity is less than their salary. With firing restrictions, firms would lay off less people or even none if these restrictions are cumbersome enough.

Another alternative that firms have is simply to increase prices and, hence, more inflation. This is a way to adjust real wages down which would mitigate the drop in workers’ productivity. When real wages fall, the negative impact on employment explained above is reduced.

For some firms price adjustment is not an option because either they face government price controls or international competition. Some of these firms might see their profits go towards the red side, and have only one alternative. That is, to shut down. That means that unemployment will rise.

Therefore, in the short run, shortening work hours by law will only bring a combination of more unemployment, inflation, and a drop in real wages. Everyone will be worse off. For the unemployed, it will be more difficult to find a job. Some workers will be laid off and the rest, the lucky ones who kept their jobs, will be poorer.

The long-run analysis is a bit more complicated. However, I can point out some bad consequences of this measure. First, since workers are less productive, private investment will fall further, which will have a negative impact of job creation and long-run unemployment. Moreover, Venezuela will be even more dependent of oil and the public sector will more important. You could argue that the drop in private investment will be offset by increasing public investment. That could be, but in any case, public capital is going to be less productive because of the shorter work shift. So, to produce the same amount of public good it will take more public investment, meaning that there will be more taxes and less consumption.

In the long-run, this measure could also have an important negative effect on human capital accumulation. Since workers are going to be less productive (both because of the shorter shift and because of a lower capital stock), their real wage necessarily has to go down. That has a negative impact on the return to schooling, which will dampen the accumulation of human capital and, in consequence, workers’ productivity further.

In summary, putting more limits on work hours is not going to make anyone better off. I cannot think of anybody who would benefit from this. Moreover, the poor are the ones who are going to be hurt the most.

1) Why? Assuming employment does not change, if everybody works fewer hours, they are going to produce less. Unless you come up with some crazy argument in which workers will put more effort on those 6 hours up to the point where their average daily productivity remains the same. If that’s the case, why didn’t they do it long before?

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

Manuel contributed this piece from a well known Spanish campus.

He can be joined at: venezuela. constitution. trap @ gmail. com

-The end-

Friday, October 26, 2007

Doonesbury on Carter

Looks like Trudeau might be a Liberal but not only he is clear on what Chavez is all about, but he has no great opinion on the Carter (Center?) either. Though the joke goes both ways in this strip, it still does not help much the now cartoonish image of former president Carter. All that Chavez touches turns shit in his reverse Midas touch....

Meanwhile we are still waiting for the Carter Center to give its opinion on the Constitutional Fraud Reform in Venezuela (even the OAS did mutter some lame words). No one has great expectations.

-The end-

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chavez red shirts in action

To create a totalitarian state several things are required. Three of them are gratuitous violence, ignorance and an ability to utter and repeat constantly outrageous lies. Lack of humor always accompanies any of these properties. We saw that today in Venezuela.

The basic details are not important as they are becoming routine. I will give only a speedy summary.

There was a forum at the Pedagogico, which is the main teachers school of Venezuela. A forum, for those who do not know the difference, is an event where some people make an informative speech on some theme and then the audience asks questions. It is not a place for debate, though some can take place. If you do not agree with the speakers you can ask your probing questions, or even just take a mic and say that the speakers are B-S-ting the audience.

But if you want to debate you go to a round table, or an actual debate where speakers from both sides are announced long in advance, and a moderator is named, and clear rules are established. As you can gather, it is all a question of format. But in totalitarian mindset format is a foreign word.

So the Pedagogico held a forum against the constitutional reform. There are enough opposition guys there to hold such a forum and no one is stopping the chavista students to hold a forum on their own supporting the constitution. Then, maybe, both sides could agree to hold a debate.

Apparently some chavista students (though it remains to be demonstrated how many of them were actually students) came to stir up the forum, started a bout of violence and left after having insulted all and broken the nose of one of the dissident students who was a guest speaker. That this student is one of the leaders of the movement certainly did not help calm down the hatred of the chavista hordes sent to disrupt the event. In fact the violence of videos is rather horrifying and we can even fear for the life of the student. Something that did not stop the said student to declare leaving the hospital that he was continuing his political combat and denounce increasing repression against the student movement of Venezuela.

That is for the facts. To which one could add that the Pedagogico internal elections were postponed by external pressure (just as the case of the ULA a year ago) because it seemed that chavismo was about to lose them there and of course losing elections in the school that is supposed to form the teachers of the Bolivarian socialist revolutionary school is something that cannot be accepted. And even less a forum one supposes.

So, what was so noteworthy about this awful event?

Ignorance. One of the guests was Pompeyo Marquez. He is one of the most famous ex-Venezuelan guerrilla, always on the left wing of Venezuelan politics, until Chavez came and separated Venezuela into a fascist and anti fascist camp. There might be a few fascists in the groups who oppose Chavez, however the last one that any Venezuelan with a minimum of education would label a fascist is Pompeyo Marquez. Heck, I would label Petkoff a fascist before I would even place Pompeyo in a center right political party. But the chavista student that harassed Pompeyo there called him a fascist, and repeatedly. Thus was illustrated the total ignorance of the folks that chavismo pays to go and disrupt opposition meetings (confirmed by comments from some other chavista "students"). Then again that was the case with the brown or the black shirts.

Ability to repeat outrageous life. That same chavista “student” whose name is yet to be revealed, said that Pompeyo was on the CIA payroll. The journalist that was holding the mic asks the obvious question “why do you say that?”. Do you know what the student replied? “Ask him!”. And that happened several times, it was not a lapsus brutis, it was deliberate (along other niceties he uttered against Pompeyo). Plain smearing. Plain brain washing.

Gratuitous violence. Of that we got plenty today. Even if the video was confusing, it is clear that the guys holding the forum were willing to try to let the chavista say a few words. But that was never their objective: the goals was to disrupt a meeting that chavismo already knows it cannot win if reason presides. So they used any opportunity to raise the ante, revealing along the way that they probably are not students to begin with and that in fact they are on some payroll, some training to do that kind of fascist actions. You just need to compare the attitude, repetitive, methodical, of the chavista hecklers and the more disorganized and genuine response from the students that wanted to attend the forum. Sure enough it all ended up in violence where several people were hurt. Gratuitous violence at that.

That is all I need to say folks. We saw it all clearly today: chavismo is not interested in any debate, it only wants to approve the new constitution ASAP knowing very well that the more people know about it the less likely they are to vote for it. As we say in Venezuela: “a las pruebas me remito”.

(When videos appear on YouTube I will link them here, should not be long)

added later (hat tip to readers from comment section).

The video of Goicochea when he leaves the hospital. Too long for translation. But listen to the tone for the first minute, it will be enough.


www.Tu.tv


In this video you can see the moment when a small bomb exploded and when probably Yon was hit and his nose broken. He is all dizzy suddenly and can hardly stand up. That is when a group decides to evacuate him as some chavistas are trying to get him while he is weak to cowardly finish him off. Fascism, nothing less.


www.Tu.tv


And finally, this long video is what happened at the beginning of the event. 14 minutes, for those who have the stomach to deal with it.

-The end-

Adding insult to injury: the luxurious ways of the SENIAT

As if the new constitution was not bad enough....

I just received these pictures from "S.C."



They are taken from the parking lot of the SENIAT, the Venezuelan tax agency (IRS) which also doubles as an additional repressive branch of the government. Any business of opposition folks that displeases in any way El Supremo or the sycophants that surround him is promptly audited on the flimsiest of excuse (we are going to get a lot more of that with the new constitution since we will not even be allowed to complain).

Caracas traffic has forced the apparition of a new cast of road warriors, the feared "motorizado" as mail and other services are woefully deficient. Even small business must manage manage to hire part time one of these couriers which are the plague of Caracas streets, and sidewalks. And woe is you if your business requires regular downtown visits and frequent banks errands: you will need a full time "motorizado". The SENIAT does not escape that need. However at tax payer expense the SENIAT "motorizados" do get BMW bikes, something that no other normal "motorizado" can dream to afford as they must settle for cheaper Yamaha or even much cheaper (and lousy I understand) Chinese bikes called Jaguar.


Some revolutionary "motorizados" are more equal than other....

-The end-

In the wee hours dies democracy

As it is often the case, democracy dies in the dark hours of the night.

Last night the National Assembly voted the third discussion of the Constitutional Reform proposal of Chavez. Third discussion is a very relative term since half of the articles were discussed briefly only once and by very few people. Thus the new constitution is born in a major constitutional fraud, from the very start. Regardless on its undemocratic content and how it consecrates the power of Chavez on every aspect of the Venezuelan people everyday life, the birth of the new constitution is simply illegal and no popular vote can ever hide that fact. Any Venezuelan has simply the right to refuse that constitution, and violate it when needed. Something that we are sure Chavez will be the first one to do as he violated the 1999 constitution repeatedly. Legal systems that start in such ways always end up in blood.

While the eerie scene of the National Assembly "discussing" the amendments took place, we could see how unconnected from the reality of Venezuela this one is. Can we blame it? It was elected by barely 15% of the Venezuelan people.

Yesterday at a Mercal, A MERCAL, numbers were given to people to have the right to buy 2 pounds of milk. They had to wait in line for up to 6 hours to make their numbers good. Mercal customers elsewhere were not that lucky. If milk and sugar are irremediably missing now, what else will be missing now that the 2007 constitution allows the state to take over any sector it wants?

In a press conference the head of the Nazional Guard, a certain general aptly named Carrión, denied three times, THREE TIMES in a Saint Peteresque way, that the Nazional Guard has established barriers to stop protesters to go to Caracas to march in pacific political protest. It is public knowledge, there are plenty of videos on it, there are accusations from elected officials, and Carrion denies it three times, until pissed off he finally left the room. Considering that the controls on such public servants were not applied in the 1999 constitution imagine what will happen to us with the 2007 constitution where there is no more control over public administration.

The Central Bank, now stripped of any autonomy, presented yesterday the new coins and notes that will start in January 2008 when three zeros will be loped off the bolivar. With an inflation almost sure to reach 20% next year we wonder about the need to change the currency. The new currency self called Strong Bolivar will preside the collapse of the economical system in the near future as the government expenses keep increasing faster than revenue.

While the new constitution forbids anyone to receive any help from outside Venezuela for any political purpose, the new budget includes a few million dollars for promoting political dissidence in Mexico and elsewhere. No discussion on that of course. From now on Chavez controls discretionally more than half the national budget.


-The end-

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Empty victories, filled defeats

Is it possible to get a balance for yesterday.?I think so.

Chavismo

It got a rude awakening. The students that it hoped were neutralized through summer vacation woke up with a roar. If this was the first improvised street activity, I wonder what is in store in the coming weeks. Chavismo is painfully aware that the constitutional reform has failed to charm the country. Chavismo is aware that it cannot get the people out in the streets, and certainly not under the rain as the students did yesterday. The speeches of chavistas deputies and chavista pseudo-students sounded hollow, void of any new ideas, filled with rancor and vengeance even after 8 years in office. The beating was so bad yesterday that today they toned down the new article 337 debate, allowing again for due process in time of national emergency, albeit killing freedom of information in time of emergency (think Burma to understand what this means).

But at the same time you could sense in the words of some chavista speakers a true desire to get it over with the opposition once and for all. The words and tones of people like Cilia Flores and Carlos Escarra were crystal clear today: there will NEVER be any possible decent opposition for them. All opposition will always be treasonous no matter how democratic, no matter how new that one might be. When you accuse students that were less than 15 year old in 1998 of supporting the ancient political system, as if they had created it, you know that some in chavismo have reached the end of the line. For such people, the horizon line has red blood in it and they are looking forward that day.

The opposition

Its awakening was as rude as chavismo. They saw that weeks of arm flailing paid no dividend. They have no control over the opposition ideas and movements. The political parties seem not even to be able to follow. Some figures like Rosales look pathetic, even more so when he committed the astounding mistake to go to ask for help in the US. Does the guy have image advisers? Is he as blind as Chavez is? I wonder if yesterday at the march the students would have booed Rosales less than they would have booed, say, Cilia Flores....

Civil society

It is all in their hands, from the Catholic church, to the academic community, to the students. will they rise further or will this be a gigantic souflé? The answer soon.

Chavez

He seems more out of touch than ever. Since the last person able to say NO to him, J.V. Rangel, was fired last December, Chavez has been surrounded by low life yes-people who are happily looting the country while flattering his ego. It starts to show in Chavez speeches such as the ridiculous announcementCuba and Venezuela could become a single nation. Cubans accepting Chavez as president? That'd be the day.... His anger is more and more apparent and we do not know if it is directed against a still resilient opposition or at his incompetent staff. Yesterday must have been a blow to his ego, as his help cannot hide everything from him. He must be anguished that there is no milk in the shelves. He must be anguished that the ridiculously low energy prices in Venezuela are everyday eating more and more into the money he has available for his projects. He must be anguished that all around him ask him for money everyday, more and more, from the Kircheners pimps, to the Misiones poor that are starting to get tired of getting only scraps when his ministers buy Hummers.

Questions

After yesterday the question in everybody's mind is when will Chavez start repression? When will blood be drawn?

At least if some of the main guilty party of this disaster such as the OAS and the Carter Center are unwilling to mutter a word, hopefully realizing that they have screwed big time and that Venezuelan blood will be on their hands anytime soon, the US had the good sense to at least say that Chavez wants to help maintain communism in Cuba and install it in Venezuela, considering it unacceptable. But the US seems to be prepared to go further by offering Cuba more money than what Chavez can ever hope to offer Cuba. And how will the post Fidel regime reacts to such an offer is another crucial question which will have implications inside Venezuela, and implications that Chavez might not be able to control. Because the US wallet will always be bigger than the Chavez wallet and the success of Chavez with his wallet might be giving ideas to the US on how to use their wallet more efficiently.....

And thus the tile of this post.



-The end-

Those pesky dissident students troubling chavismo

Me gustan los estudiantes
porque levantan el pecho
cuando le dicen harina
sabiéndose que es afrecho,
y no hacen el sordomudo
cuando se presenta el hecho.
Caramba y zamba la cosa
¡el código del derecho!

Violeta Parra

You might want to listen to the song while you read the post.

Yesterday scenes where the government tried to suppress a student march that they totally underestimated is sure to make a few ripples. It might as well all started last night when in total astonishment I watched for a few minutes of the National Assembly debate. Ismael Garcia was refuting the arguments advanced by the government to suppress the autonomy of the Central Bank. Carlos Escarra, the evil mind behind most of the constitutional changes, the lawyer who perhaps has the most crawled in front of Chavez and who has received the least rewards when you consider how much crawling he has done, replied. Well, the first thing he said was that Ismael had now joined the opposition has shown in his betrayal of helping the students to reach the National Assembly (1). So, now Escarra is all out saying that any popular petition that displeases the government is treason.

Escarra might want to read the words of another representative, who has crawled quite a lot too, Calixto Ortega, who said on TV that the students were exerting a right in trying to reach the N.A. That he was forced by events to say that is possible, but he said it. Is he also a traitor? Will Escarra become the grand inquisitor of the Revolution? I am afraid so, as often such inquisitors, as well as the concentration camp wardens, come from those who had a hard time to please the beloved leader and thus decide on their own to go the extra mile in violating all sorts of rights to be forgiven of any fault they might have in the eyes of the beloved Supremo.

Or the ripples might have started when one of the "nice pro Chavez" students had no other arguments but stating that the opposition students were violent folks, crass opposition straight from the hellish days of April 2002. Of course, the sweet thing is used to go from adoring crowd to adoring crowd during the junket trip across Venezuela and has probably started to believe that these students represented only the remaining 1.3% (that much left? think of "carlos" who wished all of us would join the PUS to "debate" from the inside -2) of the Venezuelan folks that still do not support Chavez and the constitutional "reforma".

By the way, isn't it lovely to hear now famous protest songs of the 60ies used so effectively by dissenting students while the pro Chavez students, lonelier everyday, are defending the Chavez status quo? Since when students are supposed to defend the government, any government for that matter? Ah! It is a good thing that ridicule does not kill.

Meanwhile some of the videos are starting to come out.

The moment when the Metropolitana Barrier was broken is seen here. If you bear up with the poor quality, probably a video from someone taping the live Globovision broadcast) you will observe how the break took place, how the police had to regroup further back in a narrower passage, how they obviously had lost control of the opposition, how the chavista hecklers (hordes?) were behind the police and quickly retreated, and more interesting moments such as the first tear gas. If you have time on your hands you can watch this video taken by someone on the ground. Quality is poor but you might feel the tension of the moment.

Another not very good video but telling is the one taken at the highway toll in Maracay when the Nazional Guard refused to let a few dozen students pass to go to Caracas. What you can see is how stupidly the Guard operates, when stopping a handful of students they do block hundreds and hundreds of cars of people needing to go to work, on errands and what not. when you look at the pictures of the Caracas events, you can see that these Maracay students were not missed at all but the ones who paid for this are the locals, victims of chavista military stupidity (apologies for the redundancy).

But of course, all of thsi is probably just more media manipulation, just as the lack of milk. FOR THE RECORD: today is the second week anniversary of that last time I saw fresh, skim, or powdered milk for sale anywhere. Gosh! That is a heck of media manipulation!!!!

1) For the record. He eventually addressed the issues of Ismael Garcia as for the independence of the Central Bank because Venezuela had to free itself form the Washington Consensus. Showing a the same stroke that he is either stupid and ignorant or that he has chosen to become stupid and ignorant. No matter what out of place reply Escarra gave, after he finished his truly embarrassing peroration ("pena ajena" we call the feeling in Venezuela when you see someone make an ass of himself for no good reason) Cilia Flores closed the debate and the amendment was promptly voted. Showing us clearly that the government has absolutely no intention to do a real debate in anywhere and that any criticism that you do against Chavez these days is just betrayal of the revolution. Period. Lat night was yet another abject lesson on the method.

2) "Carlos" is chavista reader of this blog, silent for a while after every one of his mutterings was properly dismissed by other readers. In his brief passage he has revealed to us how intolerant and sectarian and authoritarian is the mindset of chavismo today.

-The end-

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A brilliant dash to the Venezuelan National Assembly

The news today was the first dissident student march against the ill-called constitutional reform of Chavez. For a first effort it was impressive, and if chavismo thought that they had it made, they must be pondering new strategies tonight. The fact of the day is that the blockade put to the march by chavismo, comprised of Metropolitan Police and the usual red-shirted hordes failed: the students broke through and had to be received by the National Assembly.

Before relating the details of the day it is important to delve on this point: the students threw away their fears, and confronted chavismo in the streets. But also it is important to note that the chavista hordes were less numerous than usual and certainly not numerous enough that even as they were protected by the police, they could not block the passage to the student march. I do not know which is the most important fact, that chavismo is losing its touch or that the opposition is waking up bravely. To be continued.

As for the day now.

First, the march was called rather late, rather disorganized but still got its permit from mayor Bernal. This one fixed a terminus point, but the police decided to push it back by three blocks. That is why the students forced their way through, refusing to abide by that totally useless provocation.

But the forecast for this success was not good, even literally. It was a rainy day in Caracas, and yet the march was huge as many went with their umbrellas and thousands more did not care a bit about being soaked to the bone. That by itself was impressive, to see under heavy rains the determination of these people. Chavistas hordes apparently did not have such a wet determination. The video below is quite good to show the rain (and the chavista red shirts), but not as good at showing the street fight or the extent of the march. As soon as the Globovision go on line I will post them, stay tuned.



Meanwhile you can consult the gallery of El Universal for pictures.

The march was held to ask the National Assembly to postpone the referendum until February 3 2008, because as anyone with enough common sense will admit, you did not discuss the validity of 70 constitutional amendments in 4 weeks. The very least would be to give at least one day of electoral campaign per amended article, no?

Of course as it is now usual the Nazional Guard across Venezuela now blocks any bus that goes toward Caracas for an opposition rally of any type. The only result as usual is propaganda points for the opposition and another black mark on a guard whose reputation is so low that even Chavez is trying to get rid of them, no matter how much they try to support Chavez fascism. Meanwhile the whole states of Carabobo and Aragua slided into a gigantic gridlock just because some stupid fat assed Nazional Guard tried to score brownie points with Chavez.

Still, this did not stop the success of the march while a small group of pro Chavez students gathered without any hindrance on Bolivar Square (we know that many of them are on the state payrolls in the unique work-study programs that chavismo offers its hardcore followers). These pro Chavez students, who have been traveling through Venezuela at tax payer expenses to promote the constitutional pseudo-reforma said that they were against the opposition march. Their arguments are embarrassing to read. It is nice to see that they are developing in good little fascisto-communists. A dissident student leader remarked acidly that chavista students had access everywhere while opposition ones had to break police barriers to bring a petition to parliament.

Of course when the march hit the Metropolitana Police barrier (manned by may police women, an interesting detail) violence started as chavista hordes were throwing bottles above the said police without that police doing much to stop the abuse. But the students fought back and the video on how the barrier was broke is simply spectacular. Though the picture next shows that a few were scared by the flying projectiles coming from the chavista side (I know the feeling, I have been myself personally the object of aggression to my person, from the back, as these hordes usually do not have the courage to attack you from the front, just as Chavez who never lets anyone confront him directly).

At any rate, the day is very important for two things:

1) visibly the opposition to the constitutional change is much bigger and determined than what anyone was thinking, including chavismo.

2) the way promises were broken, the way the army and the police acted, illustrate clearly that we are already under a repressive regime and that the objective of the constitutional changes are simply to make legal all that is already taking place.

Remember, you might have read it here first.

Meanwhile my deepest admiration to these truly brave students!

-The end-

Update on the constitutional project

The project to study the constitutional "reforma" of Chavez, started on September 13, is advancing well, slow but steady. since the update of October 2 we have finally reached half of the articles commented. And those include most of the real important ones. New writers are coming on board so diversity will also increase. I hope that by November first, when the going starts getting tough in Venezuela, the blogs will be fully operational.

Which are these blogs?

In English we have Venezuela's Constitutional Reform. 15 articles out of the 33 proposed by Chavez have been commented so far. I will not include the new ones proposed by the National Assembly which brings it to close to 70. However if someone feels like making a review of these additional proposal, please, drop me a note. I do not think there is much point in discussing them in detail since they were probably already thought of before August 15 and the government was just waiting to see the initial reactions on the 33 original articles proposal to decide which ones it should add. The point I am trying to make is that the 33 announced by Chavez are the real stuff, in particular article 230 commented very well by Bruni.

Since opening these blogs I have been adding some material to them. These include a collection of links of important documents related to the "reforma" plus a list of important comments, or at least comments that I hope will help folks understand what is really going on with this constitutional coup d'état in progress.

In Spanish we have the translations of these articles at "No a la reforma constitucional de Chávez". For those of you who read Spanish, you might want to visit that blog also since some of the documents and comments are different. Liz and myself simply cannot translate everything :) Note that we still manage to have 9 articles translated so we are slower but we have enough to be of use (we should add about 4 more this week). At this point I would like you to visit the page of Ciudadania Activa which has some material in Spanish if you need it for your own campaign.

One thing that I am starting, and this with the first post by Mousqueton on the matter, is general comment based on the articles commented in these blogs. That is, I hope to have readers write up to half a dozen comments to make sense of all of it. Volunteers are required for the task, please let me know if you are interested and what would you like to write about. Your comments can be written originally in Spanish or English, we do have translators if you cannot do so. Their publication would be reserved for November , as a continuation of the specifically commented articles.

Finally, to conclude this post there is the logo made by Feathers which graces the side of this blog. Below you can find the HTLM if you wish it to put somewhere in your web page or if you know someone who would like to do so. The HTLM allows you to click on the image and be directed straight tot he blog of your choice (NOTE: you must remove the four * inside the links, I had to put them if not blogger would post the image directly).

In English, to Venezuela's constitutional reform

<*br/><*a href=" http://constitutional-reform-venezuela.blogspot.com/"> <*img border="0" width="200" src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2143/1493964048_5b9dfd4401_o.gif " height="200"/><*/a><*br/>

And in Spanish, to No a la Reforma Constitutional

<*br/><*a href=" http://reforma-constitucional-venezuela.blogspot.com/"> <*img border="0" width="200" src=" http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2143/1493964048_5b9dfd4401_o.gif " height="200"/><*/a><*br/>

Note that depending of your page coding you might want to adapt the script further.

And with this the new sites are officially launched. May they serve as one of the best source of information around.

-The end-

Monday, October 22, 2007

Chavez new constitution: article 100

Article 100 (original)
The folk cultures comprising the national identity of Venezuela enjoy special attention, with recognition of and respect for intercultural relations under the principle of equality of cultures. Incentives and inducements shall be provided for by law for persons, institutions and communities which promote, support, develop or finance cultural plans, programs and activities within the country and Venezuelan culture abroad. The State guarantees cultural workers inclusion in the Social security system to provide them with a dignified life, recognizing the idiosyncrasies of cultural work, in accordance with law.

Modified Article 100
*Note modifications are underlined
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is a product of the mixing of various cultures; consequently the State recognizes and values the diversity of its Indigenous, European, and African roots that has created our great South American nation. The popular cultures, of Indigenous and African decent constituting the Venezuelan identity, enjoy special attention by recognizing and respecting its intercultural nature under the principle of cultural equality. Incentives and inducements shall be provided for by law for persons, institutions and communities which promote, support, develop or finance cultural plans, programs and activities within the country and Venezuelan culture abroad. The State guarantees cultural workers inclusion in the Social security system to provide them with a dignified life, recognizing the idiosyncrasies of cultural work, in accordance with law.

Comments on the modification

After reading the modified article it appears the changes are rather benign and minor. The major change has been defining the cultural heritage of Venezuela and what the “popular cultures” are. After a more careful read of the modification, one realizes that chavismo is defining what it is to be Venezuelan in a very narrow sense by inserting this statement: “The popular cultures, of Indigenous and African decent constituting the Venezuelan identity…”, this ultimately constitutes cultural and racial discrimination.

The most obvious problems with this modification is that Venezuelans are a mix of European, African, and Indigenous blood and culture. So how should Venezuelans define themselves, African? European? Indigenous? How should they/we divide and quantify the contribution of each culture when ours is a mixture of each one? To exemplify the stupidity of the modification one only has to highlight one of Venezuela’s most famous cultural traditions the Diablos de Yare. Traditions such as this were created through the mixing of Indigenous, African, and European cultures. To diminish European influence in creating Venezuelan culture and identity is cultural discrimination in its crudest form.

Chavismo’s discrimination towards European heritage is not something new. One of the most public acts was the destruction of a statue of Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day (“Dia de la Raza” in Venezuela) and the renaming of the day to “Indigenous day of resistance”. This act alone is symbolic of the dislike Chavismo has for European historical cultural heritage in Venezuela. This seems hypocritical since Venezuelan identity has been formed by these historical events, however horrifying some of them were. But rather than embrace, understand, and provide a context in which Venezuelan identity has been created, Chavismo has resorted to favoring one particular culture and interpretation of history to teach future generations what being a Venezuelan is, and is not.

The modified article is currently written in a way that suggests State support for cultural activities pertaining to the influence of European tradition in Venezuela will not be awarded. However, activities that promote the “popular cultures” (i.e. African and Indian) will be State supported. Again Chavez is discriminating against European culture by potentially not funding activities that uphold European influences in developing Venezuelan identity. Additionally, the new modification could be interpreted as allowing for State funding for autochthonous religious/cultural activities resulting in State sponsored religion. If the government were inclined to do so they could attempt to displace Catholicism/Christianity (European religion) with something more ”popular”

In a broader sense the modification is discriminatory to other cultures since it does not mention Asian and Middle Eastern influence, which has recently been influencing Venezuelan culture and history. The exclusion of these two geographic regions and its peoples from the modified article poses an interesting question. Why is Chavez limiting “popular cultures” to just Indigenous (Native Americans) and African roots? Native Americans were here before Africans and Europeans so why not define “popular culture” as just Indigenous activities? Essentially Chavez is defining what it is to be Venezuelan in a very narrow sense, by excluding recent cultural influences (ex. Asia, Middle East) and ignoring the historical European influences.

In short the modification to article 100 constitutes nothing short of cultural discrimination with the possible ulterior intention of rewriting history.

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Kensey writes his own blog, Venezuela US topics, and he can be reached there also for further questions.

-The end-

Chavismo anal moment of the week: the lack of milk is media manipulation

This blogger has been one week in Caracas. He did not find milk anywhere he looked for. In fact, he was refused twice a "cafe con leche grande tibio" because the joint he was at could not find milk. This following several weeks in San Felipe where he could find milk at best once a week.

So, what is the government explanation? Both Chavez and his minister for Mercal, Rafael Oropeza, yet another military who has no idea on how to milk a cow, say that it is a paid for gigantic media conspiracy, to create panic in the population and make people buy more milk than what they need (you can hoard fresh milk?). What is wrong in this picture? Here are the arguments advanced by the government and the OBVIOUS reply that any journalist should confront the nincompoop uttering them:

  • The world climate dropped milk production (so we are now importing that much milk that we depend so much on world conditions? And if it is dry in the Netherlands does that mean that it is dry in New Zealand? How come we can import all the evaporated milk we can since it is the only type available in stores? Does that milk come from cow eating evaporated grass?)
  • It is a media campaign (What? With RCTV closed? With Globovision free only in Caracas and Valencia? Even Ultimas Noticias is in that campaign?)
  • The campaign is financed by "powerful interests and we have evidence of that" (Where is the evidence? Is it the same one as the multiple assassination attempts against Chavez? Who are they? How come, if you know who they are, that you have not already arrested these people playing with the hunger and misery of the people?)
  • It is all due because the consumption of milk by the poorer sectors have increased dramatically, a fact acknowledge by the world full of admiration (Are this "E-sector" people able to afford milk from the buhoneros at 3 to 5 times the regulated price? Is milk now only reserved to the poor sectors? Are the rich banned from "cafe con leche"?)
The intense stupidity, and bad faith, and hypocrisy, and outright lies, of these declarations is not only infuriating but mind numbing. The real reasons for the lack of milk are as follows:
  • The considerable land redistribution has affected the production of meat an milk all across Venezuela. Production of meat is down 30% from 1998. So, as people have more money to buy, there IS LESS product available thanks to the disastrous agricultural policies of chavismo.
  • The efforts to produce more milk and meat have failed because the state is such a poor instructor, such a poor manager, so poor in fact that the peasants end up eating the cattle given to them, when they can keep it alive long enough.
  • The private sector refuses to invest in dairy and meat production because the price of milk is regulated, they do not want to sell below the price it costs them to produce and because, simply, they do not know when chavismo is going to take away their investment without adequate compensation. Besides they can sell all their milk to cheese makers who are willing to pay the fair price and thus we have still enough cheese to eat even if the milk production has gone down. Will the government ban the production of cheese to provide milk to children? Will we get ration cards?
But milk is everywhere to be found, if you are willing to pay the price. That is, if you go to the side walks of Caracas, you can not only find the brands that you do not find in stores, at a 2 to 4 times mark up in price, but you can even find informal merchants, buhoneros, spliting cans of powder milk in small zip lock bags to sell lesser amounts for those who just want their "cafe con leche" and are unwilling to pay full price for a full can.

That is all you need to know to figure out by yourself the total failure of Chavez economic policies. If the government had an ounce of common sense it would let the price of milk float free and limit the purchase of subsidized milk to the lower sectors of the population. In fact I would not mind paying a tax on my "cafe con leche" at cafes to subsidize the poor. Just let me get my coffee!!!!!!!!


-The end-

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