Thursday, July 31, 2008

Banco de Venezuela nationalized

[Updated]
The news got me reaching home tonight. There was yet another never ending cadena at lunch time and Chavez announced that he was nationalizing the Banco de Venezuela, the "venerable" old bank of Venezuela that was bought by the Banco de Santander after it went bankrupt under Caldera. As far as nationalizations make sense, this one ought to be the least sensible one of the lot.

To begin with there are better banks than that one to nationalize, if you really want to get a bank (I am not getting into the argument detail as I am sure that Miguel will come with an enlightening post tonight).

Second, the state does not need a new bank: it already has Banco Industrial (always losing money), Banfoandes (of more than obscure accounting, and used a lot to give money away to Chavez allies) and a plethora of "banks for the people" Banco del Pueblo, Banmujer, Banco del Tesoro, Banco X and Banco Y. Why, oh why, another bank?

Third, the nationalizations of CANTV and ELECAR are already showing sings of obvious failure as the service they provided has decreased, some places dramatically. We are now expecting CEMEX and SIDOR to start failing any time soon. The government has DEFINITELY SHOWN that it cannot handle such complex companies. And it is going to get into an even more complex one?!?!?!?!?! Besides, let's not go into the biggest failure of nationalizations, image wise, TeVes, who in replacing RCTV has only succeeded in getting the lowest ratings around.

The chavista administration is full of incompetent folks but even they know full well that they are up to their necks in things they are unable to manage successfully. They are not THAT stupid.

So why are they jumping on yet another heavy burden? Many possible reasons, you can make your own cocktail out of them.

It is yet another cheap emotional chauvinistic bolivarian feel good moment, and Chavez himself said it today: the name is Banco de Venezuela!!!! Is there any other reason really needed?

The government has more and more trouble finding jobs for all the people it is graduating with useless degrees from chavista educational jokes: a bank can easily absorb hundreds and thousands of "trainees", "low clerks" and what not. These people are not finding jobs in the private sector, which at any rate is not hiring this year.

The loot is great. Banco de Venezuela, as a company of the Santander group in Spain, is allowed to send back home over a 100 million euros a year. The new bolivarian directors of the bank will make sure that these are spread around the new bolivarian board. You know, bolivarian, as in love for the Bolivar (and US Dollar, and Euro, and Pound, and Yen...). Because if you think that the new management is going to generate 100 million Euros of benefits a year and give it to the state budget, then I should talk to you about that bridge I am trying to sell in Brooklyn.

It is a revenge against Spain. Well, sort off, as the Santander Group might be quite relieved to get at least the book value of the Bank. I mean, they will be bought out and the price will be paid at 2.15 for a US dollar! So maybe the chavista idiots might think that Chavez did good but as far as I know people have long stopped begin excited about nationalizations.

They need the widespread coverage of the Banco de Venezuela. True, it has a better coverage than any of the state banks, but after ten years of chavismo how come the state banks have not been able to reach every nook and cranny of the country? Why?

It is election year: what better way to make people forgive about your failures than getting your hands on the bank that represent about 10% of the country accounts? "Un train peut en cacher un autre"

And what will this mean for us?

Nothing really (besides what it will cost us, of course, but that we will find out later in more inflation, more corruption, etc...). The Banco de Venezuela has already an awful reputation as far as service (as the Banco Provincial, the other Spanish bank, does). These banks really operate in ex-colonies and they have that mentality. I, for one, will not defend the Spanish banks in Venezuela (well, they should at least get their real value, but their owners will not be missed, by all of us who have had to put up with their dismal services).

At work in San Felipe, on the rare instances that we must visit the Banco de Venezuela, it is a fight as to whose turn it is to go. The lines are endless, and when "misiones" pay day comes, well, the line goes around the block!!!! The chutzpah of that bank was such that when they bought the Banco Caracas, they closed its San Felipe agency, fusing it with their already overburdened agency, without expanding it!!! Cost cutting, you know, to get back the purchase of Banco Caracas. On another day I was offered, without even asking for it, a "titanium" card from the Banco de Venezuela, with constant phone calls and all (I have no account nor our business with them, nor provide my cel phone number to anyone, so it is a mystery for me why they were after me: in Venezuela it does not work as in the US, usually it is your bank that manages your credit record and offers you stuff if you behave well). I told them that since their service was so lousy I would only accept it if I had a special line/booth for my dealings with them. That was the end of it :)

No, what it really means for us is that the very little foreign investment reaching us will dwindle further. Who is going to invest in a country where the president suddenly decides that he needs your business, for no real reason?

And everyday we will become more and more a nation of bureaucrats, dominated by our fear that Chavez will take our job away. Period.

UPDATE: indeed, as expe
cted, Miguel gives all the horrid financial details. Telling us all that CV are goign to fly tomorrow. He promises Chavez an empty shell once the purchase is completed.

-The end-

What if Obama were a Venezuelan citizen...

...he would be "inhabilitado" by Clodosvaldo Russian.


Since I woke up irreverent, I found this spoof at El Chiguire Bipolar, who is getting better as weeks go by. They just came up with the ID card Obama would have if he were a Venezuelan citizen. For the US readers this is exactly how a Venezuelan ID card looks today, including the jotted cross that makes it official. I kid you not, mine also is signed by no one but a cross and yet it is the document that serves me for ANY official transaction in Venezuela. 10 years of revolution and our public servants are still illiterate, or at least unable to find a way to stamp some sort of signature. No wonder FARC guerrillas and other subversive groups roam free through Venezuela with fake IDs!.

And if you do not understand the joke: if Obama were a threat in a Venezuelan election for chavismo, the state comptroller could simply ban him from running. That is, if it were the US, the GOP could ban Obama from running through the Attorney General office or equivalent just because Obama did not spend finds for Project Vote as intended. That is, if he decided to pay bill B with funds allocated for bill A because of some external imposed urgency, and with the agreement of the board, he could be barred from running for public office EVEN THOUGH not a penny of Project Vote went to his pockets. This is almost the reason Leopoldo Lopez is barred from running today, just in case you do not believe it, even as Chavez shifts budget assignments at will without a single word from Clodosvaldo Russian.

All based, of course, ID cards that have no one official signing them for validity.

-The end-

Venezuela seen from Uruguay

Youtube carries the darnedest things. I was looking for some videos for a post I am writing and I stumbled on this, a comic Uruguayan program that made a spoof about opening a franchise on Venezuelan TV. It comes with all, government take over, censorship, sulfur and mockery of Venezuelan anchors describing Copa America soccer with baseball terms. But the worst part of it is tha the accent the comics picked up to imitate Venezuelan accent is the accent from... Cuba. Enjoy this moment of fluff, not the greatest video ever but still quite telling. And to think this was done in 2007.....



-The end-

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Two Cartoons

Two cartoons. The first one by Weil with street kids watching flying Sukhois needs no editorial comment on the folly of Chavez. How many street kid centers, and indigence refuges could be built and maintained with a pair of worthless Sukhois?


For once I would love to see a PSF post a non erasable comment....

The second cartoon is from Doonesbury, famous journalist Redfern coming back from following Obama through Europe.


And to finish. Apparently many of you have missed this mini survey of surveys. Surprising considering how fast you replied to the first two..... There is still a few answer slots available to close it and post the final results and get done with surveys for a while. Click Here to take survey

-The end-

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Alek Boyd visits Venezuela: the interview

Today I am interviewing Alek Boyd again. Readers might remember that he followed up and close the Rosales campaign in September-December 2006, the first time, as far as one can tell, that a blogger was allowed up close in a Venezuelan presidential campaign. I interviewed him then on his experience on the campaign trail. As it turns out Alek was back for the first time in Venezuela since he left in January 2007. I thought it would be interesting for some readers to learn what he has been up to these last few month (remember, he put his blog into "sleep" mode then) and what image he has of Venezuela.

Alek, so what brought you to Venezuela last week?

Thanks so much for the interest Daniel, and the opportunity to explain my views and current activities. Work reasons bring me here. Since early this year I have been doing research for the Human Rights Foundation.

Does that mean you have been traveling around Latin America? Could you tell us some about that?

Indeed, I have been traveling quite a lot lately. We were invited, as international observers, to the autonomy referendum in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. This was an incredible experience, having been in Venezuela's presidential campaign in 06 and knowing, as we do, the sort of 'elections' that we have here, where our president feels he can consider whether or not to accept results, I could only feel envy at Bolivia's utterly transparent electoral system. I had the opportunity, as anybody interested in doing so, of witnessing vote counting at all levels. Democracy is a remarkable thing, when it works as it should. Our report should be published soon.

From there I went to Ecuador, for I wanted to visit Guadalupe Llori, Prefect of Orellana, who was thrown in prison last December, merely for criticizing President Rafael Correa. Fortunately, our advocacy work to raise awareness about Guadalupe, by any measure a prisoner of conscience, has been echoed by Amnesty International and the International Society for Human Rights, alas the silence of
feminists and gender movements is deafening. While there I also met with Guayaquil's Mayor Jaime Nebot and other figures to coordinate future projects. President Correa decided recently to attack the Human Rights Foundation's legitimate mission of defending civil and political rights, but sadly he did not address issues raised about trumped charges, illegal detention and violations perpetrated against Guadalupe.

Then I had the chance to go to Cuba. Words fail me to describe the situation in that place, for abject poverty, the regime's repressive security apparatus, lack of information, brutal prosecution, the embargo, etc., are not what make Cuba's reality so asphyxiating. Rather it is the ever present knowledge that one does not even control one's own destiny. Poverty I have seen in lots of places, even in London or New York. However the poor in such places are free to do what they please. In Cuba, only a couple of people get to do that. It is a soul piercing experience, aggravated by the hypocrisy of most nations, and thousands of tourists that flock the island to have the sex and the life, albeit brief, they can't afford in their own countries owing to personal and financial shortcomings. But then, one meets people like Yoani Sanchez, who against all odds are doing extraordinary things to voice their discontent. Her's is but one example of many others, which, need be stressed, are doing even more remarkable things that are unknown outside Cuba. Then one concludes that freedom, and the struggle to live free, is not an advanced society's thing but intrinsic to human nature. I guess that's why no matter how long such experiments last, at the end, invariably, freedom comes.


Any parallelism with Venezuela? What do the folks you met think about Venezuela in these countries?

Parallelisms? Yes and no. Chavez is, of course, trying to copy some of Castro's formulas. However, given Venezuelan's anarchical nature, product of decades of doing pretty much what they want at all levels of society, Chavez's intended project is, evidently, a failure. As a matter of fact, I'd counter the argument "Venezuela se esta cubanizando" with "Cuba se esta venezolanizando". The thousands that have arrived in these shores are, without a doubt, the best advocates for freedom there are in Cuba these days: they come, they get paid a fortune (compared to Cuba's 12 CUC/month national salary), they read, talk, eat meat, drink, travel, interact, buy and do pretty much what they please. They feel free, in most cases for the first time in their lives. Then, they go back, and tell big tales, which every new listener sexes up, as in Chinese Whispers game. It's like a virus, corroding uncontrollably, eating away communism 'values.' Chavez is not only his biggest enemy here, our money, contrary to what he intends, is liberating souls and provides the best taste of freedom there is.

Presidents Morales and Correa are in turn trying to replicate Chavez's formulas. If the first pupil, with all its money, is having such trouble imposing the Cuban script here, you can imagine how the other two are faring. An argument I like to use is "Castro wrote the 100-pages script: Chavez has taken Venezuela to page 47, Morales is lagging behind in page 20 and Correa is not even in page 10." In all three cases instead of going forward the contrary is taking place, revolutions in involution. Modeling our countries' democracies into Castroite systems just won't happen. In this front, Latin American democrats should take pause and learn from Bolivia's experience. What the prefects of the "Media Luna" and Tuto Quiroga's PODEMOS party have done is to show precisely that it can be done. That these attempts to impose authoritarianism, regardless of how well financed, how military powerful, how popular, can't take root and succeed if people unite and defend their freedoms and democracy.


A lot of people are watching what's happening here. Tuto Quiroga, for instance, told me that we had the second most powerful politician in Latin America. When I asked who that was in awe, he replied "General Raul Baduel." People in Cuba know the names of our student leaders and opposition politicians. President Correa will have a terribly difficult time to get his constitution approved, no matter how many TV and radio networks he expropriates or how many indigenous leaders he jails. Where intrinsic features don't work their magic, inflation, corruption and mismanagement of incumbents do the trick. It's just not going to happen. We are a basket case, an experiment that will never succeed.

What do you think about Venezuela today?

I remember well the outrage that one of my last posts from Venezuela in 06 caused. This is odious but time has proved me right. The crisis that Venezuela experiences is of a sort that does not bother the majority of Venezuelans. It is a crisis of the moral type that evidently goes unnoticed in a largely amoral society. Values and priorities are upside down in my opinion, and things have turned for the worse. Venezuelans seem to have grown accustomed to all manner of abuses from the State and its officials. To me, having an independent judiciary, where I can go get redress when somebody violates my rights and those of my family is infinitely more important than buying a new car, or having my wife enlarge her boobs. To me, being in an environment where my kids can: be safe, think independently, criticize, voice their opinions and reject safely cult-type behavior is more important than seeing them grow up in a place devoid of intellectual challenges, where fatuousness is the norm. To me, living without fear is invaluable. To me, a society that prices viveza rather than effort, intelligence and hard work is not worth living in. To me, listening to married men, purportedly committed and compromised with high moral values, relating with pride their latest extramarital sexual fling is just disgusting. But then again, I am certainly not a representative of the majority.

So the majority sees no crisis here. But then one meets with folks such as the second most important politician in Latin America, according to Quiroga. A man who has known and been with Chavez for more than twenty years and brought him back when we were still in shock for what had happened in April 02; and one listens to his outraged account about the perils that allowing Chavez in power represents; and one learns that his grief with Chavez, allegedly owing to discrepancies of preferred timing to attempt a coup d'etat, dates back to December 1991, and marvels at inside stories about how multi million dollar commissions for weapons deals are made and known about, or how Chavez decides which lackey will replace which in which ministry; and then one concludes that this country has the government, and the opposition, it deserves. Our lack of engagement and dysfunctional moral compass have brought us to where we're at.

Which is your latest project?

TellChavez, whereby we want to raise awareness about Venezuela's political prisoners and the atrocious conditions in which they're kept. President Hugo Chavez has had the nerve to say that there are no political prisoners in Venezuela but politicians in jail. What we are aiming at is to expose his hypocrisy in this respect, with specific cases. This will be followed with a joint project with Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones.

Thank you for this on-line interview. We must congratulate you for having been able to reinvent yourself and gone on to bigger things than Chavez.


-The end-

Monday, July 28, 2008

Liberal comic relief

[updated]
OK, since you like surveys and since it is election year, I found this seven question survey about what type of Liberal you are (assuming of course that you consider yourself to have at least some Liberal leanings). The result is below.

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Reality-Based Intellectualist, also known as the liberal elite. You are a proud member of what’s known as the reality-based community, where science, reason, and non-Jesus-based thought reign supreme.



Now, before any of the more conservative readers gets upset, find a similar fun test about what type of conservative you are and I will post my results.

But seriously now. I had a weird experience this weekend.

I talked to a long time friend in the US, a friend I had not talked to since last year. At some point I asked him, knowing that he supports Obama, to give me a good reason to support him. Now, before I continue, it is important to say that we lived in North Carolina together when Jesse Helms was senator, and from the number of fund raising activities and political civil right rallies we attended together he knows where I stand, without a doubt.

Well, not only he sort of got mad at me (even though I was careful to explain that for once I had not followed a US primary as closely as I used to do, you know, I have a Venezuelan blog to run) but he could not give any real good reason. The only thing he could come up was that Obama was intelligent (agree) and that "everybody I know likes him". OK, he hangs out in a very Liberal crowd but still, were there not Clintonites? When I asked him he told me "I was with Hillary, until Obama came along. With Hillary it would have been the same old crowd" (which, well, it is hard to disagree with).

"everybody I know likes him"?

Now, I am not at all writing this to start a debate on Obama versus McCain, not at all (and any comment on that respect will be erased without contemplation). No, what I felt was a very discomforting deja vu experience: we hate something so much that anything that will remove it form office is welcome. I had bad flashbacks to 1998. True, Venezuela in 1998 cannot be compared by any measure with the US. But popular effects do have a way to cross political cultures. I had the misfortune to try to convey that idea and as you may expect the conversation started turning worse so I quickly shifted to other safer topics such as who he was dating these days.

However there was something that came out clear to me: over the past 8 years of Chavez obsession I think I have missed how deeply the US has changed, and in particular its Liberal component (I do not know enough conservatives to see how they have changed themselves, but I think it is safe to assume that a change also has taken place there). I am disappointed in myself that I had to wait for so long to take the measure of it (not to mention that I should keep closer contact with my friends). But I also understood better how my friends in the US think I have changed myself (after all US problems for me are not as crucial as they use to be). Chavez or a never ending war have ways to modify national psyches that we are just starting to realize.

However in my defense, in 1998 I knew that Chavez was going to be a disaster before the first vote was cast. Every day since I have been proved right.

No matter what a fraud Obama might end up to be, within two years the US public will be able to take from him either the House or the Senate, just as it happened with Bill Clinton (which I disliked before he was elected as I was for Tsongas). I suppose that in the US it is now essential that the president, whichever party seats at the White house, has either the Senate or the House against. Had Bush lost the Senate earlier things might be quite different today.

Update:A promise is a promise. I was sent the mirror link and there is the resutl. Hat tip Doug.

How to Win a Fight With a Liberal is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Conservative Identity:

You are a Freedom Crusader, also known as a neoconservative. You believe in taking the fight directly to the enemy, whether it’s terrorists abroad or the liberal terrorist appeasers at home who give them aid and comfort.

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com


What people would do to sell their books!!!!

-The end-

Hugo Chávez's Jewish Problem

There is an article by Travis Pantin published in Commentary (or the WSJ, your choice of links) which gives an excellent summary of all the anti Semitic tone in the chavista rule that this blog has decried over the years. Except for some minor mistakes (there were already Jews emigrating to Venezuela in the early part of the XIX century from Curaçao and settling in Coro where there was even a Jewish cemetery), Mr. Pantin summarizes it all quite well: the situation of the Jewish community today, and the background behind the Chavez and chavista anti semitic tendencies.

But what is more frightening than the narrative itself is that we can see clearly the potential of a an anti semitic movement if the political process of chavismo starts deteriorating fast. Scape goats will be needed fast and as we all know very well, the Jews are the canary of coal mine as I already reminded readers in 2004.

Mr. Pantin is, by the way, not necessarily a partisan observer. In the last section of the article he quotes dryly the comments of some Caracas Jews who do not want to leave because, well, they live quite well in Caracas for a fraction of what it would cost to live equally well elsewhere. And this after ten years of alleged socialist revolution.... Which only makes more chilling the fact that a third of the Jews of Venezuela have left since Chavez came to power.

I leave you to read the article but I am quoting two little excerpts:
The stated reasons are many. Even amid all their trouble, it has been pointed out, Venezuela's Jews retain a workable relationship with the Chávez government. Jewish journalists can still speak out. Nor have Jewish business been targeted for expropriation by Mr. Chávez's redistributionist policies. Jews can still travel freely, and anti-Semitic violence has not touched many of them personally. So they hold out, bearing the yoke of economic and political harassment and hoping for change.

With both the ailing economy and Chavez's social programs dependent almost entirely on oil revenues, a drop in prices could trigger widespread animosity against the “Semitic banks” that members of Chavez's party have repeatedly denounced for every passing ill. A major event like a military strike on Iran by the United States or Israel might similarly serve as justification for seizing the assets of Venezuela’s Jewry. In the meantime, as the numbers dwindle, and many of the richest depart, it is becoming increasingly difficult to care for the Jewish poor, who make up a full 25 percent of the community.

A chilling required reading.

-The end-

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chavez to his last allies: drop dead!

[Updated]

Chavez, coming back from his "reconciliation" with the the King of Spain, must be feeling like royalty (1). In his Alo Presidente today he sent his allies, PPT, PCV and UPV packing. He served them with an ultimatum: either they accept the candidates he wants for November or they can go their way. He promised them that they if they do not accept the crumbs he is offering them, they will disappear from the political map. And least you think it was just an electoral maneuver or a temporary lapse of judgment from his part he added: The bottom line is that there is something they do not recognize; the leaders of these political parties do not recognize me as their leader, there is the problem (...) they are never going to say it, but deep inside they are not with Chavez, they are not (...) talk privately with then and you'll see.

I do not know about you but as a compendium of arrogance and narcissism these words must set a new record, third person included....

Now, in all fairness, there is some strategy behind this move. Besides assuaging his ego, always the first priority for Chaevz, if you think that the opposition is going to beat you up, giving up on your natural allies can paradoxically help you. Let me explain.

These three small parties indeed have a certain following. Nothing big of course, but enough for them to demand more than crumbs. By giving up on them, arithmetically chavismo risks to lose a few more states and town halls than what it is assumed it will lose. Namely Caracas Libertador district, maybe Guarico, maybe another state and a couple dozen of town halls. At most.

On the other hand the PSUV keeps 90% of what it was going to get, anyway. The beauty of it is that Chavez can blame these small groups as traitors and thus pass the loss on them. Best of all, it frees Chavez from any dissenting voice within his camp (or so he hopes as inside the PSUV things are murkier than what Chavez would like us to believe).

There is yet another possible advantage. The December 2007 loss was due to a massive abstention of folks that until then supported Chavez but then stayed home. The future electoral behavior of these folks is of great concern for Chavez. Indubitably some of them will go and vote for the opposition. But if he trashes PPT et al, some of these will prefer to vote for these small parties rather than for the opposition. It is impossible to quantify that accurately, of course, but it is certain that many disgruntled chavistas will only vote for the opposition as a one time sanction vote. With this break up they can cast a more palatable sanction vote supporting, say, Lina Ron. If it happens, then in fact the PSUV could get less votes but a better chance to keep places like Libertador and even Caracas at large.

I personally do not think that this last strategy will work. Or marginally at best. These elections loom once again as out of the norm of a democratic election, as much from the CNE treachery as from the true motivations of the electors. And let's not forget that at the same time Chavez has decided to start spreading money around (2). The risk of this new expenses is that with an already high inflation chavismo risks speeding up the inflation in the next three months while at the same time an increase in liquidity will cause a new rise in the scarcity index. The food items that were missing early this year have been partially supplied through expensive massive imports and neo-liberal liquidity restrictions. It worked though it totally failed to control inflation. But polls being what they are we see clear signs that Chavez will go back to the true and tried method of vote buying, albeit with less money than before and more expensive voters. True, they tried to control spending as much as they could but they are starting again: will inflation and scarcity be high enough again in November to cost Chavez a major defeat?

We'll see how that works for him this time around.

1) He had the gall to say that the "porque no te callas" was overrated.... And with that his supporters will be happy, AND quiet. I love it!

2) Apparently this time the government is not even bothering with "misiones", going directly to cash grants for vote (just as AD used to do in the good old days).

PS: there is a quick final survey up, and plenty of you this time seem to have missed it. It is about how much you like to be surveyed. Click Here to take survey

UPDATE

On weekends I try to do a little bit of news hygiene, that is, I limit myself to newspapers and maybe a little bit of Internet news. If I feel an urge for TV news I tend to watch international news, to make sure Chavez does not appear in my face. Thus I missed the other big story of yesterday, Chavez chastising his very own VTV workers for making too much money, according to him. Miguel apparently does watch TV more than I do. But that is OK, because if I missed this precious anti revolutionary moment of Chavez, it allowed me to focus on the more important one long term, as he kicks out his last "allies".

Whatever. Yesterday gave us two terrific examples on how out of touch with reality Chavez is growing, how he is devoured by his self sufficiency. How long will he last as such?


-The end-

Cocaine and war

Lest we forget, NYT's Simon Romero describes how in spite the FARC setbacks these last few years, Cocaine production remains even in Colombia. The power of Cocaine money is just too strong.

Indeed, that the FARC is in disarray does not mean that it is over with the FARC. It also means that even if the FARC suddenly decided to negotiate with Uribe a peace settlement, it is far form certain that peace would go back to Colombia: drug money would make sure that there is always enough "irregulars", from the left or the right (who cares!?), that protect coca fields, land mines and all.

As I have often said or written, it is too easy for Western Government to bemoan the nasty colombo-peru-boliviano folks for sending them cocaine. In capitalism there is such a thing as supply and demand and as long as there is a demand for cocaine in the US and Europe (and elsewhere) there will be people willing to supply. As long as Western democracies are not willing to be harsher on the cocaine consumer, in particular at Hollywood and other moneyed places, there will be trade. As long as Western democracies are not willing to punish harshly ALL consumers, it is a lost cause and you might as well let it all go free in the streets, allowing for natural selection to sort out folks.

The ultimate victory against the FARC might be won in the streets of the Bronx and Bel Air.

-The end-

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Chavez in Spain, as seen from El Pais

So Chavez went to his own Damascus (the one for 2008, he seems to have a new Damascus every year). The King of Spain is the one who said "¿Por qué no te callas?" but it is Chavez who makes a special trip to the summer Palace of Juan Carlos in the Baleares Islands. The symbolism is lost on no one except perhaps on some of the most sycophantic of chavistas.

It is fun to read El Pais of Spain, who in normal times would be sympathetic to a leftist government and who instead gives a cold reading of the days event, which is pretty much the equivalent of a total condemnation of Chavez, kind of like not hitting the man on the ground.

We learned among other things that Venezuela will sell a modest 10 000 barrels a day to Spain at 100 USD. The price difference would be offered in "technology assistance", whatever that means. Yesterday London, today Madrid, the price to put your foot in your mouth.

If the reception was cordial, Chavez did not get any Photo-Op besides the king on the steps of the palace, though Marivent Palace is a favorite of the ¡Hola! crowd. Chavez being Chavez, he could not resist to ask the King to split the royalties for the Por que no te callas.... Hands were shaken, a few discrete taps on the shoulders, that was all. Chavez had been told how far the king would go..... A fashion note: the King was in a light beige summer suit whereas Chavez was in a dark formal suit, stressing even more who was the penitent here. Who advises Chavez on protocol, and fashion and "message"?

Chavez trying desperately to put a "bon mot" asked "¿Por qué no nos vamos a la playa?", why don't we go to the beach? Well, considering that he is a llanero and he has never been known to like the beach, or known to behave there going as far as ruining a pair of pants on an Alo Presidente wading on sea water, nobody was fooled, not El Pais, not Venezuelan media. Tonight El Ciudadano poked fun of Chavez all through the show using beach music... Not to mention that Globovision replayed once and again lovingly the list of the diverse verbal aggressions that Chavez did against Zapatero and the king.

All in all it was a diminished Chavez, tail between his legs that we saw. A Chavez so chastised by the Reyes computers (links between ETA and FARC and Venezuela?), so humbled by his many mistakes, so resentful to be left alone by the people who really matter that he has a serious need to restore some foreign image, the more so that November elections look more difficult than originally thought. And the more so if he needs to do some cheating next November. Better have the world forget about him a little: apologizing is a good way to get a respite.

In my opinion, never has Chavez looked so lonely, so ill advised as he looked today. If he had a real good foreign staff (well, he does not have one since he does so many mistakes, but let's pretend) he would have been advised not to go to Marivent. He would have been advised to wait a little bit longer, to reestablish first a good relationship at level of foreign minister. But Chavez is Chavez and he just could not wait to figure again on foreign stages and thus he paid the price to return to the middle of the picture. He has a fat check book, it does help to speed up fake "reconcilaitions".


-The end-

Friday, July 25, 2008

The VN&V readers choice

Now it is time to give the results for the second part of the survey, completed sometime Monday and processed a little bit more slowly as more complex. The first general observation is that readers know very well what they like and dislike, not surprising since the timing of the survey offered a bias toward the regular readers.

Your likes and dislikes

The first question tried to survey the main topics that VN&V covers with more or less frequency. At first I had set the question, unknowingly, in a way that it forced readers to rank their preferences. This would have worked nicely if I had as many topics as type of preference as only one response was allowed per column. Fortunately readers caught on that (I did not take my own survey :) ) . Thus I released the restriction but by then already about 30 people had replied. Still, I do not think it alters much the final result.

I have calculated together the "never miss" and" tend to read" as they give clearer results. And as such the very clear winner is "political analysis": 85% of you marked that option, the next one, "outrage of the day" was significantly below at 66% with "electoral analysis" and "economic posts" at 64 and 65%. Foreign policy was a tad lower at 60% and "out of character topics" the clear loser at 23% (thought still the overall winner at "if I have time" with 38%).

The results of the previous reader's survey is confirmed: people do not come here for news, but for an interpretation of the news. A comforting thought.

What you would like to read about

There was a curious discrepancy there, probably due to the question wording and that a third of you could not reply fully to the first question. Even though "chronicles" and "out of character post" did not rank high in the previous question, they are still the ones that the readers would like to see more of. "more Chronicles" and "more cultural" got each one 44%.

Again, readers know what they want to read about. Very few of you want to read in VN&V about US politics or hot spots problems such as Iraq (5 and 1% respectively). Even though I could have covered the Obama campaign (I did live nearly two decades in the US), readers do not want me to waste our time on that. We all agree that there are surely much better blogs adapted to the mutual political preferences of the diverse readers. What keeps us together is our interest in Venezuela and if the words Bush, McCain or Obama appear a tad too often, the blog will surely become less interesting and risk becoming more of a sterile political fistfight. This is also a confirmation that what some PSF wanted is nto waht the general reader wants today. More Bush and US criticisms is not something we care at in connection to Venezuela: PSF world might be Bush centered, ours is not.

The third topic of interest at 41% would be "more Latin American stuff" (against 3% for more French stuff that I could write about real good and real mean if I wanted too....). I guess I will have to oblige on that, on the few countries I can discuss some. But do not expect a continuous stream of articles: too many countries to cover. I might start writing more about Colombia at least, and the Andean countries as events require.

I was happy to see that only 11% would love to read more personal stuff about me. You can thus forget to know more about me, we all enjoy the anonimity of the Internet. 30% also would like me to review PSF activities more, just as Quico did recently. But I do not beat dead horses so unless particularly funny or telling do not expect me to trash PSF more than what I have been doing so far: our time is better spent elsewhere.

Length

I was surprised that 69% of you picked the option "When a post needs to be long, it needs to be long". I have been very worried about my tendency to write long posts. Over the years I have managed to control myself a little bit more but still. I have always envied those people who can make a point in two to three paragraphs. But you guys apparently prefer complete stuff and are not scared by long posts. That does not mean I will lengthen the posts, I just have not enough time, but on occasion I might add more details if time allows.

There was a very interesting result for me: number of links. 43% of you marked "Lots of links are not crucial to me, I have learned to trust the writers of this blog in general". Now, I am not goign to abuse this but it does help me to know that (besides learning that most of you trust me).

First, on occasion I write on what I hear live on a cadena or what I see live on TV for what a link might not be coming for hours or days if ever. At least now I will be less worried that readers think I am trying to pull a fast one on them. It is nice to see that the wirters of this blog have all earned enough credibility.

But also when PSF still used to visit opposition blogs, links were on occasion a point of contention. First if I/we did not use the link they chose for a given information (with an adequate ambiguity for them, such as for example the INE stats that PSF take as the Gospel) it did not matter what other link we/I chose to illustrate a point: all were biased for them. That I put one link or ten was thus immaterial. From these days I took the habit of occasional link redundacy but now that we know that most of you get their info elsewhere and what you want is analysis, a simple link to report the basic fact migth enough when in a hurry.

Tone, and ¿a pro Chavez writer?

As for the tone of the post, the choice was perfectly clear: 84% of you chose "VN&V is right to be anti Chavez. After ten years of rule there is not much more discussion needed.". We are all unapologetic about our dislike of Chavez and our non PC approach to the whole fiasco. Only 6% of you thought I should present more positive aspects of Chavez.

Yet there was a contradiction in your reply: on question 5, 56% of you picked "If it were possible to have a reasonable pro Chavez guest writer, should that person be invited to post?". I have been thinking about that a lot but never could come up with an adequate format. As some of you might recall I am the first blog that listed plenty of pro Chavez sites (even though I trimmed that least as some ungrateful SOB attacked me while not linking to me).

But the real problem here is that there is no Venezuelan chavista that write in English regularly enough, with a well established trajectory. The only ones are US PSF that do not live in Venezuela. It would be unfair to publish them in my blog when I am at ground zero and when their self sufficiency is totally undeserved, looking at chavismo from afar without suffering its consequences. There is also a minor problem: I confess that I have lost patience with chavistas and I read them less and less. What to do?

Well, since you read Spanish most of you, we could at start by posting an eventual guest poster in Spanish directly. If s/he is good enough for our taste we can probably find someone to translate them roughly. But you, my dear readers, will have to propose me Internet personalities and tell me why you think I should invite them to publish. I am willing to contact them and strike a deal with them if they agree. The format would be very simple at first: no debate, it is useless. Instead on some important topics we could ask the guest writer to expose chavismo point of view on some particular matter. So, get moving, if you find someone let me know. NOTE!!!! Any pro Chavez writer that uses a sentence like "but they did it like that in the 4th republic" to sustain an argument will never get published here, not even in the comments section.

Blog management

A surprising 66% of you do not want the design of the web page to change and think that after 5 years it has become kind of an "opposition monument". You obviously got used to the weird color scheme and grew to look at it as a comforting island of consistency on the net (I am about to get all misty eyed as I write these silly emotional words). Still 24% would like to lose the background color and keep the rest as is. I might try that option and see what happens.

On other features, apparently 55% of you have broadband and want big pictures directly in the text, no more clicking to enlarge. Only 9 % of you lack broadband. The only compromise here is to put big pictures in truncated posts with a warning in the label: if you see "big pictures" on the label at the end of a truncated post, you know not to open the post in full if you are in a hurry.

The good news for me is that few wanted to add any widget or feature to the blog. Few really care for blogrolls, word of the day and other cute little things. You are visiting for political analysis, not design. Only 42% of you expressed a desire for a a document section on Venezuela and 35% for a list of the more "important" articles of VN&V. I will oblige at some point but clearly there is no urgency.

Last but not least: the comment section

No real surprise here: 76% of you want the comment section to remain as it is, moderated with PSF, trolls, spammers taken down as needed. 16% wanted it to be less moderated, only erasing outright trolls and insults and only 1 of you all wanted the comment section totally open! I could hardly be more vindicated! You do appreciate the extra work that pre-approving comments mean for me, even if several hours can pass before yours are up. A work load by the way that is more than just erasing after the fact. The public has spoken, the moderation and approval policies remain in place.

But what else does this mean? One meaning, of course, is that historically discussion with PSF have proved to be useless, a waste of time. Two, that discussions are interesting only if they are short. And three, that discussions are not really that necessary in VN&V, that comments are really meant more as a way to express approval or disappointment, to chime in, to banter lightly, than to start any long discussion. Most of you realize that "if in three comments you did not make your point, you will not make it". Readers of this blog know where they stand, know very well what is outside and if they want to fight it off they know exactly where to go for that. In fact, some readers consider that a comment section is a waste of time when it is hijacked by the same trolls (remember the Steve Hunt days?).

One more survey?

And since you liked surveys so much, there is a real short one to decide whether you would like more surveys and about what.


-The end-

The Venezuelan 2008 election: update 3

Rumor wars?

Slowly the opposition keeps trudging toward an Utopian unity. What is surprising is that it is reaching it in more places than expected while some others seem doomed to see a division at least until mid October. The only good news here is that chavismo in turn seems seems to go from a more "united" front to an increasing divided force. Too early to predict any effect since for all practical purposes the real campaign, the one that will really sway undecided voters one way or the other, not to mention convincing them to vote, is barely starting in less than a third of the country. Thus we are left to more rumors than ever, including rumored polls that would give an increasing advantage for the opposition.

The biggest rumor of all is that in Caracas, as the demise of Leopoldo Lopez looms more certain as days pass, the opposition will have this most surprising of "plan B", to promote for mayor at large Ismael Garcia of PODEMOS. Words fail me to describe this move: I really do not like the guy even if he eventually helped a lot in the sinking of the constitutional reform yesterday. See, he has kowtowed too much for too long for Chavez, not to mention that I doubt his ability at managing such a complex city as Caracas, quite another task than managing small La Victoria!

This morning on the other hand of all people we saw Julio Borges on TV, perhaps not too sorry to see Leopoldo go, explain to us that the mayor at large candidate for Caracas could not be second string candidate like Ledezma (though he did not mention names but we all know who he had in mind). His point was that in Caracas you run at the same time against the chavismo candidate, Isturiz, but also Chavez and Jorge Rodriguez (Libertador candidate) and Diosdado Cabello (seeking Miranda re-election). For Borges you need a heavy weight and Ismael is the one. We'll see. Though I must admit that chavismo might prefer to leave Leopoldo after all as Ismael will definitively eat inside chavismo base.

What would be Ismael prospects? Well, he certainly would do better in Libertador than Leopoldo would do, but he would also lose some votes in Chacao and Baruta. People like me would just have a hard time to go and vote for him and he will have to run a real good campaign to convince us to cast a vote for him. We will vote for Baruta and Chacao mayors but we will be too tempted to cast a null vote or vote for a minor player for Caracas: after all Caracas office has been gutted by its current mayor who passed to the state the police and hospital corps, leaving very little action for the oncoming Alcalde Mayor.

Elsewhere rumors go as well. The latest one is the battle for Barquisimeto. This city represents half the votes of Lara. Yet as its former mayor, Henri Falcon, is the candidate for the state the implausible possibility has arisen that chavismo candidate for Barquisimeto is so discredited that the opposition could carry the city! And who knows, a good campaign there could even threaten Lara result! Fortunately for Falcon there will be no good candidate for governor against him so we can be pretty sure he is going to win (it is amazing how difficult for the opposition it has been to come up with a solid name for governor for at least 10 years!). Now in Barquisimeto we have the fight between Chavez ex-wife, mercurial Marisabel and Ramos, an ex-trade union big wig. Both are adequately left for the local taste and rumor has that they are even at polls. Thus there is nothing else to do but to register both of them at the CNE and see how the campaign evolves until one of them truly emerges and gets the nod from the other.

Where rumors fly like crazy is in Carabobo. I was visiting there this week for business and I got quite an earful. Apparently Mario Silva candidacy is tanking big time. And Chavez-insulted sitting governor Acosta Carles might have more support among chavismo than people would like to admit. See, Acosta Carles did made shady deals with private construction business and thus he did manage to build more social housing than any other chavista governor in the country. Corruption and efficacy, the ideal chavista wet dream! Thus not only he will cut in the official candidate base, the infamous La Hojilla anchor, but he could trash him!!!! This is very worrisome for chavismo and the latest rumor circulating is that Silva will desist at the last minute and pressed for time Chavez will have the perfect excuse to name Ameliach for Carabobo. Ameliach was noted for his tenure as the president of the National Assembly who least appeared at the presidency chair during a term. In fact his repeated absence form debates suggested that he was ill and near death, which tells you how absent he was. Ameliach, another low grade military, as Carabobo governor could even be worse than Acosta Carles was. But Ameliach at this point can only do better than Silva.

But this is not all. The real, real rumor that I have a hard time to take even semiseriously is about "Paco", the Valencia mayor, barred from running for term limits. He is said to be in bed with Acosta Carles as having his people work in the construction deals of Acosta Carles. The rumor is that "Paco" who hates the Romer even though he officially is considered an opposition man, might throw his hat in the ring to divide the opposition and improve the chances of either him or Acosta to get elected. A four way race in Carabobo?

But it gets even better. The Salas who are little local caudillos of their own preferred to stay put for 4 years rather than keep contesting the result of 2004 where it seems that the reelection of Henrique Salas was indeed stolen by a CNE maneuver. Apparently as it is always the case in Venezuela, that was the price to pay to make sure the Salas deals were not exposed in public. We can thus be certain that if Salas is reelected this time, whatever "deals" Acosta Carles did will remain discretely hidden from view, at least by the Salas.... Why can I suspect that? Henrique Salas Feo has been lately supporting a lot of UNT candidates! Yes, the natural inclination of Proyecto Venezuela, if it were a real political party and not just a vehicle for the Salas, would have been to seek fusion with PJ with whom in appearance they share an ethic of good government, as far as such an ethic exists here. But PV is revealing itself to be just a traditional Venezuelan party, leader centered (as much as the PSUV by the way) and the fit will be with UNT against PJ.

And what is Chavez doing these days? Shopping for weapons and kissing ass to the King of Spain at his summer retreat.....

Note: padding myself in the back. The latest Datanalisis rumored polls confirm in part what I was already writing in early June. Even if chavismo wins more states and town halls than the opposition, a majority of Venezuelans might be under opposition rule at local level after November 23.

-The end-

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Weil on Russia weapon sales

And as usual Weil brings us the simple perspective on the real problems of Chavez. He seeks imaginary enemies when the real one for him is rampaging behind his back. Read preceding two posts if you do not get it.
-The end-

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

And yet another outrage: Russia is offered military bases in Venezuela

The outrage today is that an exuberant Chavez offered Russia to place a military base in Venezuela. That is right, Venezuela who has never hosted any military base from any country since its independence, who has never been invaded by any country directly, who has been subjected at most to blockade and some mercenary expeditions, is now about to invite the Russian to set up whatever military facility they want to settle somewhere here. And let's not mention the free running FARC and the thousands of Cuban invaders under the pretext of humanitarian help. No other president in Venezuela history has given for nothing chunks of Venezuelan sovereignty as Chavez has done under his ten years tenure. History of course will judge him harshly for that.

But I am not going to go into a rant about Chavez now confirmed as a "vende patria". No, not at all. To begin with the Russian know much better and they are using for their sake the Venezuelan joker that cannot pass an occasion to make a head line, no matter how stupid he looks in that head line. If there is anyone who ever applied the principle of "there is no such thing as bad publicity" it is Chavez. By sheer idiocy or outmost Machiavellian inclination, it does not matter, he applies the dictum.

See, the Russian are kind of mad a the US lately. Some radar anti missile system in the Check Republic or something. So, there comes that clown form Latin America, a new breed of "arrastra cueros", willing to spend all of its nation currency reserves on second rate weapons (that is right, there is a rumor that Chavez might be spending up to 30 billion USD in weapons just as the country's infrastructure is crumbling and food items are missing). And low and behold, that clown invites them to set a base in Venezuela!!

Russia is now a second rank country. True, it could climb up again as a first rank country but technologically, socially and economically we are talking at least a decade or two before it could even compete with Japan or Germany. Russia also has the Chinese threat, has problems in Ukraine and Central Asia. All that in its own borders, never minding small pain in the neck countries such as Georgia and Chechnya. And Russia would come and set a military base in Venezuela? To threaten to control the oil flow out of Puerto La Cruz or the Orinoco?

The Russian know very well a casus belli when they see one and if they are going to go to war with the US they have much, much better reasons than Venezuela which has nothing to offer to them except cold cash. Chavez might be dumb enough to miss that point but the Russians do not miss it: no one in the world is going to lift a finger against Venezuela as long as Venezuela sells its oil to the US. And if Venezuela does not want anymore to ship its oil to the US and can find new buyers, it is OK because that means the US will be able to find new providers. As long as there is a transition period the US will have no problem dropping its dependence on a clown. In the commodity and fungible goods market the important thing is that the goods flow. Who cares where they come from? But threaten to turn off one of the spigots and you will see what happens.

Chavez does know that at some level, no matter how confused and infantile his mind might be. The proof is that the Iraq horror notwithstanding, Chavez posturing stops at stopping oil supply to the US. Only a few misguided leftist souls in the world take Chavez words seriously when he threatens the US of A. No Senator int he US so far has lost much sleep over Chavez once they took the real measure of the man.

This is where we are at: Chavez accepts to do the dirty work for the Russians while HE IS THE ONE paying them. And even more humiliating, , he combines that truly outrageous weapon buying spree (and all the fat commissions for the abject military serving him and having our boys killed in Bolivia for nothing) with a begging stop in Spain at the summer residence of the King to try to put behind the "porque no te callas!".

That is another reason why Chavez will never leave office peacefully: he knows very well that as soon as he becomes a civilian again he will go to jail for all that he cost the country. People are starting to wake up, as you could see on TV this week as protests for harsh living conditions grow: no one in "el pueblo" is amused by his European trip...

-The end-

Where is the outrage?

Today we got evidence that Chavez is just your average imperialist.

A Venezuelan helicopter falls in Bolivia and 4 Venezuelan military died

OK, so shit happens.

It can be a bomb in Iraq or a soldier passing with a heat induced heart attack at a military parade anywhere in the world, including Venezuela. But what happened in Bolivia Monday cannot be justified. A Venezuelan helicopter crashed killing its 5 occupants, 4 of them military personnel from Venezuela. Apparently that helicopter was on permanent service to Evo Morales, to jump all around the country for his political activities.

There is so much wrong with all of that.....

How come a Venezuelan helicopter is at the permanent disposal of Evo Morales? How come there was only one Bolivian in it? Who allowed for that? What was the justification? Could we not have made a "loan" for Morales to buy his own flying machine with his own people? Is Morales so short of personnel he can trust? How many more questions like that do I have to ask before a PSF finally mutters something?

Does the Venezuelan military realize how poor an image they have already with all the graft and corruption they allow, to add now that 4 of our boys died for a cause we do not know, do not share, do not relate with? Truly, when we get out of this nightmare we will have to consider the future role of the Venezuelan army and think about a Costa Rican solution. Personally my militant anti militarism has long made me dislike deeply the Venezuelan army but now I hope that this feeling is going to percolate more in the population as they are dragged into the reality of what the Venezuelan Army has become.

Because let's face it: the Venezuelan army is allowing the president to use its material, its boys, to help a political campaign in a foreign country. These boys were killed NOT on a humanitarian mission, NOT defending the country, NOT rescuing people from a natural disaster, they were killed to satisfy Chavez international megalomania.

The Venezuelan army is accountable for that, NOT really Chavez. He is just using the pusillanimity of military officers that are getting rich and fat. The real murderers are at the defense ministry, not at Miraflores. I beg to disagree with a retired generals that today tried to put the blame only on Chavez. NO, the blame is on the current army chiefs of staff, they are the one allowing their boys being manipulated. They could have said NO to Chavez, asked him to send the helicopter after a fake sale if necessary. But no, they wanted to be seen in the glory of political activism, with excuses for junket trips to drink and whore around in Bolivia, when they cannot even carry troops to the Colombian border.

140 cars for the Venezuelan embassy in La Paz

To add insult to injury we also got another piece of news. The Venezuelan government received an authorization by the Bolivian government to import duty free 140 cars for the use of the Venezuelan embassy in La Paz. 140 f*****g cars!

How can the Bolivian government deprive itself from the revenue of this imported cars? Is Bolivia that rich suddenly? And what the f***k the Venezuelan embassy needs 140 cars for? Does ANY embassy in Caracas has 140 cars at its disposition? Even in Washington DC? And guess what? After a while Venezuela will give these cars to Bolivians NGO!!!!!! What criteria will be chosen to select the benefited NGO? And will Venezuelan petty tyrants in La Paz get new cars every year?

But you know what? Last time a country did such type of things it was the US in Latin America, although they did it with more tact and discretion than the loud Venezuelans who we are told are increasingly hated for their arrogance in Bolivia. The US did learn its lesson eventually, Chavez never will.

At least there was a good piece of news today: justice eventually comes. War criminal Radovan Karadzic has finally been arrested.

-The end-

Monday, July 21, 2008

The VN&V survey results

As expected within barely a day and a half, on a low Saturday, the 100 slots of the first survey were filled and I can have fun this Sunday evening looking at the results. However curiously the second survey is still not filled up! I suppose that some folks did not realize that there was a second part. So please, finish up your work, or if you did not get into the first survey, you still can sneak in the second survey which is about what you like in this blog and what you would like to see. Link is here.

Before I get into the results, the nature of the replies confirmed my original guess: the readers that replied are definitely the regular ones, those that find time during the week end to check out this blog, the target I needed when I have only 100 answers available because I am too cheap to spend my CADIVI dollars.

If VN&V readers elected a parliament

The first surprise in the results came from the political composition of the readership. Thus I must start by discussing this aspect because I think it does also explain some of the other replies.

The graph below shows what would be the political profile of a VN&V congress. Clearly no stable majority is possible to rule the blog.

The big surprise here is the large, very large proportion of people who describe themselves as Libertarians. I confess that I am rather surprised. But also I am happy to see that the readers diversity is large, at least politically wise, in plain contradiction to PSF arguments that assumed that we were all a whole bunch of right wing nuts for not supporting Chavez.

Libertarians cannot really be classified right or left as they are very Liberal on many social issues and outrank Conservatives on many economic issues, thus I put them all the way to the right because well, I had to put them somewhere. Whatever it is, I think that this distribution perhaps reflects some of the contradictions of this blog writer, who describes himself as a mix of Libertarian and Liberal US sense. I suppose that you all find something to relate with when I discuss Venezuelan murky politics.

Just for the sake of it, I separated the US respondents from the other (they were the largest group). There the political diversity still exists but clearly the US readers are much more Conservative than the rest of the world (curiously some of you described yourself in European Political terms: a mistake or wishful thinking?). Also, we have much work to do still with US Liberals who tend to follow their misguided movie stars a little bit too much.

VN&V an elitist blog?

Well, we could be afraid of such. When we look at the background of regular readers, a whopping 60% of you claim to have a post college education. You know, PhD, Law school, MD, MBA and the like. Though from the comment box in that question I also got this: "2 years university, plumbing and construction now" which shows that you do not need a college degree to "get" the blog :). And this reader in addition claims to know about the blog for at least three years and reads it daily. Some of you PhD did not mark that ....

Regular readers are regular

67% of you visit once a day. 17% of you have followed VN&V since the beginning and 36% for at least three years. 8 % for only a few moths. There are two lectures here: VN&V has a hard time to make new readers, but once they are hooked, they stay. This is really something very gratifying for me and I wish to thank you very much for such loyalty.

But if readers are so regulars, does that make them "groupies"?

Well, not really. True, 29% consider me as a guru of sorts, but 58% satisfied themselves with a "like it". What was more reassuring is that only 10% had VN&V as one of their major source of information (already too high a number). In fact readers know exactly why they come for: 43% to "understand" (which means they already got the info) and 34% to confirm their opinions (they consider VN&V as the site that best match their opinion which I assume they formed them before they discovered the blog, or at least I hope). Note: 7% were forward enough to state that they read VN&V because they feel they have to.

Who are you?

One thing that was dispiriting is that I got only 22% female readers. Better than Quico, true, but too low for my taste. I also got an older readership than Quico which is not surprising as I do not seek debate and challenge for the sake of it, preferring to expose my ideas and wait for approval or disaproval. I suppose that since I am older than Quico I have passed my days of arguing needlessly, simply not having time or energy for that (I suppose I spent my arguing energy doing my PhD). I also assume that my readers are knowledgeable enough to seek tic for tac debate elsewhere when they feel the urge for it. With a 40% older than 50, and 11% less than 30, it is quite clear.

As I guessed very few of you bothered with the ehtnic question. I thought a lot before putting it but I knew that for many in the US it is an interesting thing (watch the current campaign for those who doubt it).

I did put a "control" question. Gays and Lesbians are assumed to be in the US between 3% to 10% of the population depending on how exclusively homosexual people describe themselves. Since I had on occasion discussed gay issues in Venezuela or anti Semitic attitudes of chavismo I decided to sneak in the Gay/Lesbian question. 5% of you marked it. Thus the readers who replied are representative at least on that respect. All of you gays seem to be in the US, by the way.

On the religious thing only half of you replied. As an agnostic myself and someone with little patience with hard core believers, in particular chavismo, I was curious to see how many of yourself described yourself as "believers": 24%. Note, I was delicate enough not to ask for a religion name, faith is faith. On the other hand Agnostics, my whimsical question among all, claim to be 29%. It could either be that many of you confused Agnosticism with Atheism or simply because so many of you are post college graduates and in the hard sciences (30%) that it skews the Agnosticism number. Indeed, campuses are known as an agnostic haven.

Do we communicate?

The surprise here, as in Quico too, is that only 16% of you cannot read Spanish. So, why are we all discussing in English? Is it to keep the chavista riffraff out? Are we just snobs? Or do we prefer English because we can remain more polite and civil in a language which rawness we never quite got to master? I think that I prefer the last one...

However this has already an immediate application: I will not be afraid now to introduce directly text in Spanish without translation, at least when pressed for time. I might also start translating some of the posts into Spanish instead of opening a new blog, something that I was meaning to do but could never face. After the "NO to the Reforma blog", I do not want to be managing more than a blog.

As for other languages, 13% of you claim French, and 6% German. Thus I can keep using in moderation a little bit of French here and there. Also three of you claim Papiamento, as readers from the Netherlands Antilles. Your number might be low, but considering how few you are in these rocks, you might actually be one of the proportionally largest groups here! And a wit spoke Cuti :)

Citizen/Resident

Limited to ten questions I tried to combine the citizenship with the residency question. As expected the largest contingent is form the US, 39%, to which we probably must add a significant amount of the Venezuelan bi-national ensconced in Miami, a surprisingly high 24%. If Africa got 0, the big disappointment for me was Latin America with only 4%. From the Rio Grande to Patagonia, Venezuela is not high on our kindred agenda. Venezuela only, EU and UK+ countries were roughly the same percentages. Though I think here residency and citizenship do not coincide judging from my stat counters which give me consistently a 25% readers INSIDE Venezuela. All in all probably the most "failed" question as no solid info could be gathered except perhaps for the high amounts of bi-nationals.

Do you like Chavez?


Readers of this blog are crystal clear about what Chavez represent: 65% of you replied yes to "I think he is an autocrat, and he could become worse". Only 1 person thought highly of Chavez. Maybe chavistas have truly stopped reading? Or maybe they are not so sure about he man anymore? by the way, on the political question no one claimed to be pro Castro pro Pinochet, bless your hearts!

Libertarians

Coming back on this group. 76% of you are post college degree and 43% Agnostic. Please, write to the Libertarian Party of America to put a sponsored link on my blog :)

Miscellaneous

Some of the comments in the open boxes.

Point of view of someone in the provinces. Main reason, actually...

I'm just a house wife deeply perturbed by Venezuelan politics!

Getting main points of Colombia on same price


I enjoy your all rounded insights. You have a good handle on what is happening in Venezuela and you relate it so well in your blog. [OK, OK, I can pat myself once, no?]

Your blog gives an excellent perspective of the current situation in Venezuela. I also enjoy your writing style, it has the right combination of being informative and witty.

Indian languages, Yanomamö and Sanema


To finish

Comments on second survey when it is done.

Sorry if this post looks a little bit at times like Quico's. But we do work on the same material, and thus the coincidences are actually interesting, as well as the differences.

-The end-

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Chavez defeat of the day


Maybe I am going to have to start a new feature to keep track of the increasing numbers of Chavez defeats on the foreign policy front. The news today is Lula visit to Colombia and its deep meaning about the position of Chavez in Latin America these days.

The picture above is of Lula, Uribe and Peru's Garcia with Shakira on the mic singing Colombia's national anthem. They were in Leticia, on the Colombian Amazon, signing agreements including their engagement to secure the Amazon basin. They also were there presiding some of Colombia Independence days events. A visibly emotive Lula even said a few verses. Lula spent two days in Colombia whereas he was in Venezuela for a very few hours, just to sign some business deal, probably cashing some of the money Chavez owed him.

You may draw your own conclusions, but there is one that is pretty clear: Uribe is now a Latin American leader, to the grief of a few I am sure.

-The end-

Out of the ghetto?

The best political article this weekend can be found in the fluff Sunday magazine of El Nacional. Rafael Osorio Cabrices meditates on how slowly but surely sectors of the Venezuelan society have allowed themselves to be trapped in new urban ghettos. He has in mind, in this very Caracas centered country, folks that live in some areas of Caracas Eastern Part and who spend their own lives in that area, except when they go on vacation one supposes. (1)

It is indeed a fact of life that all conspires for you to remain inside your own "safety" area, safety in this case meaning the area that you know best, rather than the area where you are actually can be safe. Be it from crime, or because of dirt and garbage everywhere, or because the side walks are often taken over by buhoneros, or simply because you do not want to get addressed by the political attitudes of some areas, most people seem to simply isolate themselves within a few neighborhoods where they know how to maneuver, how to hide, how to escape. If this phenomenon has been seen for the Eastern Part of Caracas where many consider Plaza Venezuela as a real border, it is also seen for folks in lower classes who limit themselves to outings at the few malls accessible by subway directly from Petare or El Silencio. These malls seem to have become the only modern Agora of Venezuela, the only arena where two worlds meet, even though their income differences are not necessarily so different, or even their political views are not that distant. We are talking here of a new cultural development of unpredictable consequences, and I suspect welcome by the chavista administration who has been busy trying any possible way to congeal its electorate.

I suppose that in a way I have escaped some of that self ghettoizing. After all in San Felipe there is no ghetto, all through Chavez years I have had to face the reality of the country day in and day out. Thus when I visit Caracas I have no major problem stepping past Plaza Venezuela for a Saturday lunch at a La Candelaria tasca. Still I must confess that if my mental border is not Plaza Venezuela, it is probably Plaza Bolivar as Catia has not seen me in 20 years except when I drive by on my way to the airport.

I will translate part of that Osio article:
But we almost do not see the city. And the city remains there. There is no wild forest past the EPA of Chacaito nor a sea of monsters beyond the B.O. Center. What there is is people. We are not necessarily going to be robbed when we cross the border that fear nailed between our eyes. We are missing the renovation of the historical district, that we must celebrate, and the recovery of Sabana Grande. Just as we are missing the Arab food joints of Catia, the guayaberas of Guaicaipuro market, the potters of Cementerio and El Pinar park.

We feel superior than those who live in the provinces when in fact we move aorund an area smaller than La Victoria.

I am not sure about the Arab food joints of Catia, after all I know of at least two great Lebanese joints in Chacao, but the point is well taken, in particular the second paragraph. I often get real angry when I start discussing politics visiting Caracas, as people think their, certainly justified, anger against Chavez and his government is shared as is by we, the provincials. We might dislike Chavez et al. a lot, but we do not do it with the same intensity as the Eastern Caracas ghetto, nor for the same reasons. The malls and movie theaters that have flourished in Eastern Caracas these past ten years, as chavista nouveau riche are trying to move in, have not reached San Felipe. After ten years we are still limited to a single Central Madereinse for our quality grocery shopping, while crime is now as bad as in Caracas.

My concern here is more direct than that: are Caracas politicians really aware of what is going on in the provinces? I mean, our local politicians certainly have a good sense of what is going on these days but the main political leaders still evolve in Caracas circles, and this surely gives them somewhat that ghetto mentality that some times we seem to see in them. Surprisingly it might be starting to affect some chavista politicians and Chavez himself, in his very own ghetto of Miraflores as he cannot attend any public event unless organized by and for chavistas. In a "participative democracy" rarely so few people have really participated, as we are observing today those that are where it really matters.


1) El Nacional is on and off by subscription only. Although the article was accessible today, just in case I have placed the original in Spanish here.

-The end-

Saturday, July 19, 2008

More CNE cheating in Venezuela

ESDATA is an organization that has been studying diligently electoral statistics in Venezuela. As a blogger, one on occasion gets in his mail box some data before other folks, soemtimes even in modifiable format. I just got how the polling stations were manned last year.

The latest thing is the control by PSUV militants of the polling stations. That is, the more a polling station is controlled by PSUV militants, the more likely pro Chavez cheating can take place. NOTE: I am not implying that cheating will take place just because a polling station is PSUV controlled, just that the odds increase.

This would not be so bad if there were as many polling stations controlled by PSUV militants than there are PSUV militants in Venezuela, or if the opposition were allowed to control its share of polling stations. But the graph below shows us that the CNE is purposefully trying to put as many hard core chavistas as possible in charge of elections. It is important to remember two things before I get into the details of this graph:1) in Venezuela supposedly polling station members are randomly selected and 2) since 2004, those who signed for the recall election on Chavez are systematically barred from monitoring polling stations while it is now established publicly that supporting Chavez increases your chances to monitor election stations! (1)


Click to enlarge

In blue you can see how many electors are registered in the PSUV. This already is an anomaly: apparently the CNE published by mistake the names and ID of the folks who signed up in the PSUV last year. ESDATA lifted that date before it could be erased, a reverse Tascon list of sorts! As you can see by yourself, the total goes from 20 to 40% of the electors of a state. Interesting to see the official acknowledgment that the PSUV is not the mass party that chavismo wanted it to be

However the problem comes when you look at the electors selected to manage the voting stations: IN ALL STATES that number is larger than the ones you would expect (in yellow). And when you look at the the president of voting stations, the person that has authority, in red, the percentages now go from 30 to 70%!!!!!!!!!

I am sure that you can reach the same conclusion that I reached as to the partiality and bias of the CNE. Will the OAS, Carter Center and European Union observers have anything to say about that?

But as usual I am not satisfied the way data is given to me and I sorted it from the original graphic, that is, I ranked it from the state with the least PSUV members to the states with the most. We can thus see two things clearly, things that confirm what this blog has been saying all along.

1) The most populated and developed the state the less likely it is to have militant chavistas. In the left half you have Miranda, Caracas, Carabobo, Aragua, Lara and Zulia, the 6 most populous area of Venezuela, with the largest cities. And all with less than 30% PSUV militants. On the far right you have the most rural areas such as Apure or Cojedes, which favor Chavez much more.

2) I have also scored the different states according to their recent electoral history (red dots more pro Chavez, blue dots least pro Chavez). Thus curiously you can find alleged pro Chavez states Aragua, Bolivar and Lara on the left half of the chart, the one with the lower percentage of PSUV registered voters. Clearly, in those states the opposition has its best chance to dig for votes even if these states have been voting Chavez for a while. We could call these states the NiNi states. On the other hand Tachira looks more chavista than what we would have thought. Cryptic chavismo or deep polarization? After all Tachira voted the most against Chavez last year.

Conclusion? Well, the only way to protect your vote is to be present at closing time and watch how votes are counted and the voting process audited. If people lift their butts, organize themselves in monitoring squads, it really does not matter if the president of a station is PSUV or not, votes will be counted as they should be counted. The opposition would do well to explain such a graph to voters to convince them to work on election day besides going to vote.

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1) It is also true that you are paid for spending a week end at the polling station. Chavismo also uses that to make additional payments to its followers.

-The end-

Readers' survey

Quico had a good idea, to survey his blog readers. Then again he found a real self making survey site, so it is worth trying to do a survey.

However I am not interested in as many details as Quico asked. As I am not a journalist nor do have the intention to ever transform my site in some form of pay per view magazine or something of the sort, the survey that I will propose will be simpler than the one Quico offered. No questions about other sites or trends or whatever, only who are you, what do you like about this blog and what would you like to see. This is after all only a blog that had the good fortune to find a steady readership.

Even though SurveyMonkey asks only for 20 bucks, with only 400 dollars allowed by CADIVI on my Internet purchases, you will forgive me if I prefer to use that money for magazine subscription or professional needs... Thus this represents some restraints as how useful that survey will be. And no, I am not hinting at any one giving me the money, with 100 replies we will get a good idea already. After all some political pollsters in Venezuela do not seem to use much more than a 100 people........

1) I will publish some statistics at the end, but they will be limited as I can only get 100 responses per survey. Reply early.

2) It is also the reason why I post the survey on Saturday, the slowest day of the week and in my experience the day where readers are the most likely to be the regular ones.

3) Unfortunately I had to split the survey in two as a maximum of only ten questions are allowed per survey. But that might be good as readers can reply to only one survey or both of them, according to their interest.

The first survey is about who you are and why do you read VN&V. Click Here to take this survey

The second survey is about what you like in VN&V and what else would you like to see in it. Click Here to take that survey

Make sure you click the DONE button at the end of each survey if you want your vote to be counted.

Enjoy and take this opportunity to have your say.

Note: I have set controls at one survey reply per computer. In case you have more than one reader per household, well, too bad, you will need to find another computer. Sorry!

-The end-

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