Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Titanic Band

That is how I feel; like the Titanic band as the ship sunk. I am travelling with rare internet occasions and mostly igorant of how the world has been sinking since I left Venezuela. Including Chavez sinking in early dementia. So I am enjoying myself since there is nothing really I can do.

But soon I will be back to catch up with reality. Meanwhile there is a picture of one of the places I have been; for you to guess. Best guess gets a virtulal 'Where is Waldo' Medal.



-The end-

Friday, September 26, 2008

Change for Change's Sake isn't Enough


In recent months, I’ve noticed that some of my Venezuelan friends in the US aren’t planning to vote for or support Obama. This really surprises me. After all, he offers an exciting platform of change and hope. He’s dynamic and well-educated. He’s a minority so he should take minority issues to heart. Why aren’t some Venezuelans voting for Obama?

Suddenly, it occurred to me that the similarities between the Chavez and Obama campaigns are striking enough to merit examination. At the core of their message, both candidates promised change, and in both cases, that word sufficed to create a groundswell of support.

In Venezuela, Chavez delivered on the promise of change: he changed every institution, and even prevailing attitudes about government and civil society.

Thinking about the promise of change ten years later, some Venezuelans are weary with the promise of “change” because it opened a Pandora’s Box which may never close.

Change, as it turns out, may not have been exactly what Venezuelans wanted. After all:

1.) Chavez changed the Constitution. In 1999, he formed a constituent assembly and ran a campaign called “Chavez’s Keys” with jingles in which all the names of his supporters rhymed, including his ex-wife’s. People literally memorized the names of his supporters and voted for them. The constituent assembly wrote Venezuela’s new constitution which was considered modern and revolutionary. However, Chavez would later pervert the very document that he promised would bring in a new democratic era for Venezuela. “Ten years ago, Chávez promoted a new constitution that could have significantly improved human rights in Venezuela, But rather than advancing rights protections, his government has since moved in the opposite direction, sacrificing basic guarantees in pursuit of its own political agenda,” ,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. In fact, the new constitution later proved to be too democratic for Chavez who has since tried to amend it to fit his own political and economic goals.


2.) Chavez changed the legislative system. He eliminated a bi-cameral structure and instituted a Cuban-style National Assembly. An overwhelming majority of its members are his supporters who bow to his needs. The legislative branch only bends where the tree trunk bends, and the tree trunk is Chavez. In fact, its roots are also Chavez, and it only represents those who support Chavez.

3.) Chavez changed the judicial system. Human Rights Watch reports that Chavez has disregarded “the notion that an independent judiciary is indispensable for protecting fundamental rights in a democratic society. After the 2002 coup, the most damaging blow to the rule of law in Venezuela was the political takeover of the Supreme Court by Chávez and his supporters in 2004, which effectively neutralized the judiciary as an independent branch of government. Since the 2004 takeover, the court has repeatedly failed to fulfill its role as a check on arbitrary state action and safeguard of fundamental rights.”

4.) Chavez changed the scope of corruption. Chavez ran on a campaign to eradicate corruption, and in fact, there has been great change in this area. Yesterday’s corrupt politicians are still wealthy with homes all over the world. But Chavez’s politicians are even wealthier. Furthermore, Chavez’s largesse has spread Venezuela’s wealth throughout the continent, as we observed during the recent “suitcase-gate”, after men carrying $800K were arrested in Miami while trying to transport cash to Argentina for Kirchner’s election. The men later admitted that they were carrying the cash on behalf of the Chavez government. Moreover, signs of opulent wealth within the administration and military abound, as well as within the finance and business circles closely affiliated with the government. One famous economist who has studied the numbers for years told me: there are billions of dollars, BILLIONS, unaccounted for. Where they are, no one knows.

5.) Chavez changed the economy. Under his command, capital inflows have dried up, as investors have grown weary of the country’s current business climate. The confiscation of private property, endemic violence and kidnappings, and repeated threats to foreigners have made many investors look elsewhere for profit. Even with revenues from astronomical oil prices, economic growth slowed to a four-year low of 4.8 percent during the first quarter.

6.) Chavez changed poverty. While the poor have received benefits such as free medical care and subsidized food products, they also face a crushing annual inflation rate of almost 30% and food prices have increased at an annual rate of 49.9% in metropolitan Caracas. Furthermore, pulling yourself out of poverty carries a high political cost. In its new report, Human Rights Watch said Chavez had "has fired workers who exercise their right to strike, denied workers their right to bargain collectively and discriminated against workers because of their political beliefs. Through its systematic violation of workers’ right to organize, the Chávez government has undercut established unions and favored new, parallel unions that support its political agenda."

7.) Chavez promised to be the champion of human rights. Yet again, in its report, Human Rights Watch said, “Given the gravity of the human rights problems facing Venezuela, the government could greatly benefit from the expertise and input of the country’s human rights advocates and organizations in developing and implementing needed reforms.” Chavez’s reaction to this recommendation was swift. On September 18, he kicked Vivanco and a colleague out of Venezuela, accusing them of working for the empire.

Understandably, the word “change” can be very attractive during moments in history when the course of a nation has deviated from serving the needs and respecting the rights of its people. Especially when the candidate promising change is charming and charismatic. However, crying “change” isn’t enough. I had a friend who used to say that people vote for change during hard times because they believe that “things can't get worse.” But as Venezuelans learned the hard way: things can always get worse. An economy can always tank further. More businesses can close. Freedoms can slowly diminish. My recommendation is that Americans demand that both Obama - and now McCain who adopted the word - define clearly what they mean when they use the word “change” time and again.


Alex Beech



-The end-



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Vargas today

In Vargas state Chavez has named Garcia Carneiro to run for governor, succeeding Rodriguez San Juan who has been, well, words fail me to describe his peculiar type of failure. In a way Vargas is a mystery. Even thought it has been equally battered by nature in 1999 as by Chavez since, it has remained stubbornly faithful to Chavez. But this might be changing as Roberto Smith is giving a run to Garcia Carneiro, a lousy candidate if any, riding on a shred of coat tail left to Chavez. The explanation in part comes from the pictures below, taken last May.

Vargas has become the epitome of all that is wrong with chavismo, and in 5 pictures I hope to bring a clear and short summary.

Irresolution. The reconstruction program has been unable to make the tough decisions as to all that must be reconstructed and all that should be empty for the next flood to pass with minimum damage (we know it now, the Vargas disaster is a cyclical event and within the next 30 years a similar flooding as the one in 1999 can be expected). the picture below is of a building used mostly for the Caracas weekender. The government has been unable to allow its restoration but it has been unable to bring it down. As a result homeless have invaded the building and as needed replaced damaged windows with cardboard's. No electricity (legal) or water service is operating. And I am pretty sure that drainage has long ago collapsed. You can see on the left the ruins of another building, and on the right, in the background, another one who has also met the same fate of homeless take over. Needless to say that this area has become a dangerous no man's land...




Disrespect. This next picture is of people doing their laundry. They probably come from the building above as this one is about 20 yards to the right. Remember, this situation has probably dragged since 2000-2001 when homeless started taking over abandoned buildings.


Grossness. In this picture the first thing you notice are some of the boulders that went rolling down the mountain in 1999. You can certainly understand the damage. But this is 2008, the street is of course blocked now forever as no bridge will be rebuilt. But, could not an effort had been made at disposing of debris a little bit better. I mean, it has been now 8 years. In the background yet another abandoned building and also taken over by homeless.

Lack of vision. So the resort area of Vargas was destroyed. In other countries people would have taken this dreadful "opportunity" to rebuild and reorganize the area. Chavismo did not do so. The feeble attempts that you see here and there at are rebuilding some cheap facilities for mass tourism, the one that does not bring much as much to local taxes as a more middle class resort atmosphere that helps paying for the services for the less favored groups. You can see this lack of vision at the way the embankments of the torrent were redone. True, we cannot expect great usage of the stream bed since it is filled up at regular intervals (out of embankment flooding is a decade long event). But what about the sides? Was it not possible to create a park pathway where people could jog, walk their dog or benefit from the breeze coming up freely from the sea below sitting under the shade of some tree? No, just another no man's land, another wasted opportunity.


Lack of cultural memory. Chavismo has made a virtue of ignorance and rewriting of the past according to what Chavez thinks the past was. The town of Macuto benefited form a certain ensemble of period pieces such as La Guzmania, the beach villa of Guzman Blanco who received many a head of state since its construction. The simple but precious jewel has been washed away and the government has not even tried to rebuild it. Maybe I can deal with that but what I cannot deal with is that the government has lost an opportunity to reorient the whole of Macuto as a sort of artsy colony. The infrastructure is there, many old villas still survive such as the one in the picture even though it is rather ruined down in spite (or because?) of being an administrative facility (there is also a jail close to it! In the middle of what is supposed to be a tourist area!). Imagine this interesting villa transformed in a bed and breakfast on a water front pedestrian boulevard instead of a jail. Would tourist not flock to it and walk around the small streets of Macuto, enjoying the galleries, the souvenir shops and its restaurants? But no, Macuto is a ruin, the emblematic Plaza de Las Palomas a half hacked job where people gather to drink beer on Sundays while on the new land gained through the 1999 disaster there is only an improvised softball field. And let's not even talk of the remaining beaches.



So yes, perhaps my point of view is the one from a small educated elite, but please, tell me from these pictures where has the people benefited from the Chavez tenure in Vargas? Any reconstruction program which has as many squatters as Vargas has after 8 years is a failed program. Anywhere in the world, no excuses.

-The end-

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Venezuelan 2008 election: update 7. Still these many homeless?

I was thinking about writing another update before traveling but time did not allow. but I left this short post to illustrate in part why Chavez is in so much trouble. After 10 years in office almost the Guaire river still has many homeless camping in its crevices. Thus I think that these pictures by themselves are a perfect electoral update. All taken by me when I was stuck in an awful traffic jam in Caracas a few weeks ago.


You can see the cars above stuck in the traffic jam. Below, just on the edge of the river contention, a homeless person has made quite a make shift construct out of cardboard and plastic sheets. I sure hope for them that they are careful at night as any sliding on this concrete slope would lead them to the heavily contaminated Guaire, with a sure death from infection or drowning if it is a rainy day.

This next one is not as glamorous. I do not know if it is abandoned or under construction. Considering that it is under a bridge, there might not be a pressing need for a roof.



But if the government cannot be bothered with the homeless problem, it sure finds time and money to decorate politically a gas trucks also stuck in traffic above.


And then you wonder why for the first time chavistas are in trouble. After ten years, such sights from a "socialist" government are harder and harder to take.

-The end-

Friday, September 19, 2008

Breaking news.-HRW Representative kicked out of Venezuela

The goverment issued a statement notifying the decision of the bolivarian goverment to "suppress the entry" of José Miguel Vivanco to Venezuela and its permanency in the country.


According to Noticias 24, last night Vivanco was detained and taken to the first fly out of Venezuela.

This comes after Human Right Watch presented a report about Venezuela and right after Vivanco's press conference in Caracas.

Here's the news from noticias24 and here's the link to HRW's latest report on Venezuela.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Away!

This blogger is traveling for business but also for a few days, too few, of a deserved vacation. I might not even take my lap top, and Blackberry is just not performing enough to write a blog. And Tweeter, as readers of this blog can guess, is really not my cup of tea.

I have tried to set up a distinguished cast of guest posters. If I am lucky, and more importantly if the readers are lucky, we will get a brief return of Alex Beech, one of the best blog writers that we had the chance to read. But she told me that she might write about other things than Venezuela. Why not? It is always great to read her. And be nice to her if she posts, so we might get to keep her posting until November 23.

AIO who also has dazzled these pages with occasional economic posts might decide to send us a post or two from his place of exile. He might not write about Venezuela, or he might tell us when the big fall down will take place.

Thus guest bloggers might or might not write. I might or might not find a lap top in my travails to post something- suspense kills you, and me, just as things are heating up in Venezuela. My pre-written posts might or might not appear as scheduled. And we might even play again "where is Daniel?" though last time you won so easily that I will have to think of more challenging pictures to post. We´ll see. So do not check too often but keep checking anyway, though you can keep posting comments as I do have guest moderators (but they are tougher than I am, be warned).

Back on regular posting sometime in October.

-The end-

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The heavy hand of Chavez in Bolivia

Today's Washington Post editorial makes no concession to either side of the Bolivian internal conflict. Yet, the root of the conflict is Evo's rigidity supported by a meddling Chavez who considers Bolivia as a protectorate, XXI century socialism style. Rumors are also coming from the UNASUR meeting in Santiago that Chavez has been doing his best to render the nascent institution ineffective.

-The end-

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The week Hugo Chavez died

Before anyone reads what is not in the title of this post, what I am referring to is the death of the image of Hugo Chavez. I am using this title because I am repeating the title of what might be one of the few real good posts I ever wrote, The week the Bolivarian Revolution died, on May 2007. But do not expect any lyricism today, this is not going to be an inspired attempt at writing a memorable article: there is no lyricism in describing human misery, unless your last name is something like Homer or Hugo.

However it is important to note that this week events do mark a turning point in the projected image of Hugo Chavez. As of now, even those who did not care much about him, at home or abroad, will be faced with enough information that they will need to ask themselves questions. That is, of course, if these people know where Venezuela is. Never mind those who support him as they are faced with so much negative evidence: their hour of reckoning has come.

It has indeed been a bad week for Chavez, and a very bad if we look at the consequences of his projected image. After all he has only himself to blame as he uttered scatological words that no sane president of any country should ever utter in public anywhere. When he equated the US with shit he was not equating only the US, he was including anyone anywhere who did not do as he willed. Even if you live in Malawi you must wonder if such obscenity will ever reach the shores of Lake Nyasa. And I cite Malawi because I have had 9 hits form that country since I have been writing this blog.

Truly, Chavez has enough problems to perturb his delicate mental balance, or activate his Tourette syndrome as Gustavo Coronel claims he suffers from. But definitely it seems that the Miami trial of the 800,000 USD Argentina bound bag is acting as the final fuse in Chavez self revelation. Even though no verdict has been reached, the consequences are for all to see.

The latest revelations are complicating seriously Chavez panorama. In Argentina where the press is more efficient than in Venezuela, where there is a more articulated opposition and where a semblance of justice still exists, this week end brought to us a set of articles in La Nacion. We learn that in that fateful August 2007 flight, besides the 800,000 USD that were caught they might have been 4,200,000 USD more that did made it through the custom check. La Nacion also takes the opportunity to associate this Chavez funding of the Cristina Kirchner campaign with other somber funding attributed to some drug money laundering. Even her own vice president is increasing his distance with Cristina Kirchner. No wonder Cristina suddenly canceled her scheduled trip to Venezuela: she knew what was coming. Or maybe she also realized that the days to be photographed close to Chavez might be over.

On the US front we see a quick retaliation. Simon Romero at the NYT gives a complete update that even includes an MP3 podcast worth listening to. Besides the expected expulsion of the Venezuelan ambassador (who returned crazed to Caracas) it put on the security watch list of the Treasury department three high ranking Venezuelans officials: the head of Venezuela’s military intelligence agency, Gen. Hugo Carvajal, Gen. Henry Rangel Silva, the director of Venezuela’s DISIP intelligence agency, and Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, who resigned as interior minister this week. By doing that the US sends a clear message to Chavez that the drug trafficking he tolerates, that the FARC connivance are duly noted, duly documented and that at any time Venezuela can be put on the pariah nation list. By not doing so at this time it allows other Chavez supporters that were dreaming about enjoying their loot that they might not be able to do so if they keep supporting Chavez antics, to give them a mild name.

In short, the clear message of the US is that Chavez is guilty by association. And this has profound implications all across our Western Hemisphere. After all from now on when Lula or Correa of anyone else cozies up to Chavez, all chancelleries in the world will be allowed to wonder about that link. Buy out? Extortion? Blackmail? Complicity? How much did he give to your election-reelection campaign? All the enablers of Latin America are now exposed as what they have been all long: enablers of the most corrupt regime in Venezuela history, a regime that has squandered the money and the future of the Venezuelan people for the sake of a crazed individual dream that hid behind an empty social redemption message. That also allows us to question about the sincerity of the social message of those enablers, by the way.

But in Venezuela things are not going too well either as the Chavez Teflon shows finally signs of deteriorating. And we know that once the first scratch holds, the other scratches come easier. The political opposition is the first to be congratulated: it leaves the follow up of Chavez obscenities and corruption to the media while it focuses on the real problems of the country. Chavez image is deteriorated enough that they do not feel obliged to reply to his provocations anymore. I could see that myself with the meager response of the chavista crowds in San Felipe to the alleged recent coup/assassination claim. A few dozens red shirted protesters in front of the State House of San Felipe, writing on cars "No al golpe" and not been offended, even smiling, when I did not let them write that on my car. I was not afraid, they did not care. A year ago I would have allowed them to write anything they wanted (washable liquid white chalk, by the way, very standard practice in the provinces, kind of our temporary bumper stickers). A year ago they would have insulted me had I refused, and be more numerous too.

As it was the case in May 2007, chavismo and Chavez cannot find the right chord, the creative reply. Then they tried to put up fast a pseudo Bolivarian student movement. It never took off, was shown early to be a sham as many of the promoted "leaders" were state employees. In fact, one of them is already a minister of Chavez, in what must be one of the fastest ascensions in Venezuelan politics. This time after having stone walled for over a year the "maletin" case, the only thing they could come up with was to demand that the prosecutors in Miami come to Caracas to explain themselves. The absurdity of this speaks by itself. The ridicule of their position must be making any serious tribunal following the case roll with laughter. I mean, the Venezuelan prosecutor office has yet to interrogate seriously the folks involved in that fateful flight, amen of questioning their bosses, and instead they are blatantly trying to shot the messenger, Thomas Mulvihill of the Florida prosecution office. We truly have seen it all....

It does not really matter that Chavez is starting some backpedaling by admitting that the coup and assassination attempt were really not that serious: the damage to his image he did this week is just too great, definitive. There is no repair. Now the road ahead of him is solitary, maybe long or maybe short, but solitary. All the people that matter will abandon him before they get dragged further into the Bolivarian muck (even the Bolivian military rejected in no uncertain terms the offer of Venezuelan intervention). Only rapists like Ortega, and vampires like the Castro brothers will keep clinging to him, depending on how many zeros are still on his checkbook. If you doubt it you need to watch the extraordinary satire against Chavez that Jaime Bayly gave last Friday in his show. When people can say such things on TV, even in Miami, set of anti chavismo/castrism, you know how ridiculous Chavez has become to the world (four 10 minute clips, worth watching if you undestnad Spanish, and if you support Obama).

But Chavez is not really sorry, nor is he able to be. Any sweetener he throws this late is a lie. As this week event proceeded, he went on to divide Venezuela into military zones were generals named by him will rank higher than governors elected by the people, ensuring future conflict and violence against the people. A nice way to admit that he is about to lose the November 23 election by a wider margin than he expected, and he will not recognize the resutl, just as the 26 decree laws enacted a few weeks ago were a slap at last December popular will.

To close this post I want to quote the last paragraph of today's entry of Milagros Socorro in El Nacional (subscription only). She has a meditation of sorts on the Stanislavski method which amounts in brief to use "emotional memory" that recreates in a way a situation form the past to give credibility to the present. That is, Chaevz appeals to the "legend" of the coup through the positive 1992 experience (according to his moral criteria) to revive his sagging fortunes today by refreshing his image. Unfortunately as Milagros points out, you need to care for your language if you want thsi to work.

El jefe de estos tristes extras, por su parte, no necesitó apelar a la memoria emotiva que aconsejaba Stanislavski. A ése le basta sentir el aliento de la justicia internacional en la nuca –que no otro parece ser el resultado del juicio de Miami– para que emerja su verdadera naturaleza primitiva. Y salga de su boca lo único que tiene para dar.

[Chavez] The boss of these sad extras, on his part, does not need to appeal to the emotional memory that Stanislavski advised. He just needs to feel the breath of international justice on his neck -which is nothing less than the Miami trial - for his true primitive nature to emerge. And from his mouth leaves the only thing he has to offer.
Truly a great way to view Chavez words last Thursday night.


-The end-

Friday, September 12, 2008

The morning after: Venezuela and US ambassadorless

Well, after last night exhaustion of following the speedy news, we can recoup some this morning. The news of course is that Chavez called the US shit, repeatedly. You would not know that from Juan Forero at the Post who avoids the use of crude terms. At lest he gets the point of yesterday show:
The decision, announced before thousands of supporters in the city of Puerto Cabello, signals that Chavez is willing to escalate his long confrontation with the United States to solidify support before mayoral and gubernatorial elections in November.

"Go to hell, Yankees,"

Readers of this blog got the real thing wording, video included :)

At the New York Times Romero is a little bit more general, which might indicate he was at some airport somewhere and could not have access to Chavez actual words. Never mind, he adds more to the list of Chavez troubles I wrote last night by bringing in the failing drug wars and the decision by Venezuela to reduce flights to the US because he does not want security inspectors to visit Venezuelan airports. You know, a little bit like closing the Merida cable car before the Swiss Security pronounced it unfit. Or that famous story in France where Maxim a few years ago asking not to be listed at all in the Michelin prestigious guide when they learned this one was to remove a star. The maître d' was quoted as saying that they did not need the Michelin stars as the stars were already sitting in the room. As silly as Chavez arguments but certainly way more classy. No? Romero coup de grace nevertheless is great:
Mr. Chavez has claimed at least 26 times in the last six years that there were plots to kill him, according to counts in the local media.
Showing that the foreign press is way, way over Chavez permanent B.S.

Blogs are in too and we can read the chilling comment from my pal Val at Babalu. He notes, duly, that Chavez expels an US ambassador on September 11. With Chavez we can always wonder whether he is unaware of the meaning of the date, if he did it on purpose, or if his plans go above any sensitivity at home or abroad.

Miguel did go into the details of yet another fake coup. I must admire his patience on that as I confess that whenever I read any chavista accusation of coup mongering my mind goes blank.

Conclusions?

Rightly most people see this as just a show to try to stir any discussion away form the real problems. Already many in the opposition have announced they are not going to waste time on that and just keep with their local elections campaign. They term this a cheap provocation and they refuse to take part of it. It is to be noted that the people that are been sought for the alleged conspiracy are military characters which might indicate that Chavez is using this excuse as yet another purge within the army. The other names thrown out such as El Nacional editor are just for show and the price to pay by Chavez would be too high to make it worth jailing them.

Foreign press is also clear, reporting it as an antic rather than any real decision. Thus touching the press or other civilian organization campaigning against Chavez would not even benefit from a temporary silence as journalists do some digging: Romero and Forero, to name two, know very well what is going on and the devastating editorials would hit their papers in a few hours. And I am not even bothering listing people like Oppenheimer at the Herald whose position has been established years ago as to what Chavez is: narcissistic-Leninist.

No, it is all clear, this is a show for internal consumption as Chavez will not do anything to damage his source of income: he needs money too much to be an austere revolutionary. And there resides the reply of the US: ignore him. Well, you cannot, but you can write the following Communique:

Dear President Chavez

We are surprised by you expelling Patrick last night. Could you tell us what did he do so we can investigate him and punish him for any grief he gave you?

Worry not about Alvarez, he really does not bother us in Washington and you can send him back, we have no reason to expel him. We expelled the one from Bolivia but that was different. But if you want us to expel him for your campaign, please give us an oil discount as you gave the Spanish King and we can officially remove him. Because, of course, we can count on you to keep sending all the oil we need, can we? Worry not, campaign or not here or in Venezuela, we will keep paying you cash.

As for the flights reduction. We are OK with it, if you want to stop them altogether, fine. Less and less US citizens are traveling to your country. You know, too much crime and with a higher dollar they can travel elsewhere now. Those that need to travel to Venezuela will have to go through Bogota where they will be better controlled for drug trafficking back home.

Now, such a letter, worded in diplomatic style, is sure to have Chavez blow a gasket, hitting him harder than any military raid the US might do.

-The end-

Thursday, September 11, 2008

And now a "glorious" cadena. What is Chavez up to?

To crown up the day, Chavez flew speedily from Puerto Cabello were he was 2 hours ago. He just popped out, exhausted at an "spontaneous" rally outside Miraflores (not that well attended as I could see but still, impressive enough for VTV courtesy of the dark). We got a cadena of course. His speech was short, the man is exhausted. He announced that a few people were being arrested for a coup attempt (coup? where? when? on the road from Caracas today I saw only "normalcy" everywhere).

The speech included the usual platitudes, that another coup was foiled, that the revolution was winning, that the opposition would never win, etc, etc... Of course neither during the speech nor through the day earlier we were shown real evidence of anything, not even the names of those arrested (except for some but without good reasons). He added that Venezuela would never had an ambassador exchange as long as the US did not get a real government.

In a way by itself the cadena might not mean much, was not that relevant except for the obvious attempt at making it a TV moment like the infamous propaganda movie "The Revolution will not be televised" of the Irish journalists frauds. So we must look meaning elsewhere, as in what is the situation for Chavez. It is grim. In no particular order.
  • Oil prices are going down. At 100, when you subtract the large amounts that are going to Chavez international pet projects, Venezuela might be receiving in true only about 80$. That level is not enough for the current spending levels of Chavez, in a country were raising taxes further will simply kill private enterprise and dramatically slow down production. Even chavismo knows that further tightening will kill the golden goose.
  • Maletagate, of course. The effect on the reputation of chavismo at home an abroad will be devastating medium term. Important business and investment decisions will be put on hold indefinitely or scrapped altogether. And a lot of government will be reluctant to have their picture taken with Chavez least they are considered corrupt too. One thing is rumors, another thing is an actual trial.
  • The polls. They are not good for Chavez. The opposition keeps getting its act together. Tachira and Yaracuy are on the verge of final arrangements, leaving Bolivar state alone as the lone unresolved candidature. But chavismo is finding more and more trouble and rumors are coming up that a few changes will take place in the line up. The problem with that is the nature of changes, they will be imposed on Chavez and that can only damage further his ascendancy. That is, Chavez is losing control over his crowd which is more worrisome for him than the opposition getting 10 states on November 23.
  • The economy. Inflation last months was still a whopping 1.8% which translates to a total of 50.7% on food since August 2007. And guess who is the most hit by food price increases? The chavista voter. The near stopping of private investment this year ensures that jobs in production of goods are not going to increase and that only bureaucratic jobs will be the only way for folks to get a steady income. For how long? And how many of them?
  • The quality of life. Traffic is at an all time high. Police nowhere to be seen. Crime rate is not batting. Shortages are timidly starting to reappear, including gas. I have seen three gas stations closed or partially closed this week!!!! Blackouts, water scarcity, garbage accumulation, wrecked road, collapsing public transport, hospitals with longer and longer lines, etc....
  • International policy. Ortega is less and less received and people refused to have their picture taken with him. Evo won his referendum but little good did it do to him. Cristina Kirchner is looking for ways to distance herself from Chavez. Castro might or might not be brain dead. Putin is using him, so obviously that it is embarrassing.
  • The dollar US. Its climbing makes the huge Euros reserves he transferred less valuable. It might help Chavez import stuff from Europe but makes US imports relatively more expensive. And Chavez relies on a lot of these imports to keep his crowds happy.
  • Bush is soon out. Who is Chavez going to attack? Obama?
So possibly Chavez is simply looking for a confrontation, his own Bay of pigs, to get rid once and for all of the opposition leadership, of his internal dissidence, to become once and for all Hugo I, king of all the Venezuelas. Any excuse would do, and if you need to invent yet another assassination attempt and arrest a few people without reason to get that excuse to crack down, or at least postpone difficult elections, so be it. This is how we should take all recent events, from the coup video, tot he Puerto Cabello anti US aggression, to the glorified hysteria of a mediocre cadena a few minutes ago.

Difficult days ahead, stay tuned.

-The end-

The United States ambassador in Caracas has 72 hours to leave Venezuela

Following the previous post, because now we know why Chavez insulted the United States of America a few minutes ago (Patrick Duddy).

I was watching Alo Ciudadano who on occasion shows live transmission of events taking place elsewhere in Venezuela, usually related to Chavez. The reason why they went to Puerto Cabello signal is that the guy monitoring the screens at Globovision had heard what Chavez said and cut through normal broadcasting to see if he was going to say more: he did, by insulting the Yankee crowd. And what did Chavez say before, that the anchor could not quote due to the speediness of the news: that he had just announced in a feverish attack that he was expelling the US of A ambassador. The guy had 72 hours to leave, and he decided that "in solidarity" with the people of Bolivia. That is right, Evo Morales apparently directs Venezuelan foreign policy. Well, Chavez foreign policy since it has long ceased to be a Venezuela foreign policy.

Chavez expels the US ambassador, but he does not break relations with the US. Why? Well, of course he is not going to break the relationship!!! He needs all the money he gets form oil sales to the evil empire to finance the evil corruption and vote buying over which he presides.

And why Chavez is taking such a useless but spectacular measure: because the trial in Miami is going on and he needs, DESPERATELY, to find ways to have people discuss something else. Kicking the US does usually works in such case, though this case might need more than a few kicks.

PS: the first note in the press was form AP, and I beat them in content and speed. Blogging rocks, on occasion, when your TV is not too far from your computer :) Even CNN is just announcing it!

PS2: at first Alo Ciudadano thought it was from Bolivar state but in fact it is from Puerto Cabello in Carabobo. Does not make a difference, as the Carabobo candidate is in even worse shape than the one in Bolivar state. But I had to correct it here, though I will not correct the previous post.

PS3: as a side issue, Leopoldo Castillo of Alo Ciudadano had to apologize on the air. The reason? The words of Chavez are too vulgar ("soez" was the Spanish term he used) to be broadcast a this time of day. In theory Globovision could be fined HEAVILY because it transmitted the words of Chavez. So Castillo had to preempt. In other words, the only person allowed to insult anyone on TV without any retenue is Chavez. Because you know that CONATEL is not going to complain to Chavez. And then some folks defend the freedom of expression in Venezuela....

-The end-

¡Vayanse pa'l carajo yankis de mierda!

Those are the new immortal words that Chavez has just uttered as he is leading the campaign of his Bolivar State candidate for governor. That is right, Chavez is doing the campaign of all of his candidates because without him, well, they might just be toast.



And those words are: "Go to hell shitty Yankee", but worse, much, much worse. As soon as someone posts the video I will update this post. You should have seen the grimace of Chavez.... Even without the sound you would realize that the man is near apoplexy.

And yes, this is the president of Venezuela speaking like something you dragged out from the sewer. So, you may ask, what drive a president to insult a people in such a way? Well, there is one explanation that comes to mind: last night Chavez received the visit of two Russian bombers at Maracay's base. I suppose he feels like a teenager with a permanent hard on and no idea what to do about it.

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And after this, the owner of this blog apologizes and returns to the more normal civil language he uses to hold, trying to resist the negative influence of the the president of his poor bewildered republic.

-The end-

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Meanwhile, back in Miami....

[UPDATED]
Just to remind you of the "maletagate" trial in Miami that Miguel is covering in loving detail.

While you read all the juicy details on how corruption works and how the new boliburguesia has been happily sacking the country you can wonder how come the only government of the three that pretends not to be officially concerned is the guiltiest one, the Chavez administration. As far as they are concerned it is just yet another media manipulation. Now, that argument could have at shred of verisimilitude if the Venezuelan government on occasion would nail someone from its ranks for corruption. But we know from 10, TEN, years of experience, that the worst that happens to corrupt chavista officials is that they disappear from the public eye, or even get an embassy somewhere to enjoy their loot away from scrutiny. Heck, EVEN in Argentina on occasion someone goes to jail for corruption!

But then maybe I have it all wrong and what we should think about is how effective it is to use a checkbook freely to control and vilify a country. Because make no mistake, the Miami trial on chavismo abjection is not causing much of a stir in Venezuela´s masses: people here seem more interested in finding ways to get their share of the loot than pursuing criminals. Maybe Chavez has won the final immoral battle but we just do not know it yet: Chavez is a thief but he is OUR thief.

We do get what we deserve after all.

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Update: Just lovely! In today's session Maionica, one of the "guilty" party stated that Vielma Mora (Ex-"IRS/SENIAT" head) offered a fake fiscal form to justify the 800 000 USD of the carry on bag and that the newly minted (two days ago) Interior Minister Tarek El-Assaimi was joined over the phone during the conversations that were held last year to convince Antonini to hide the whole scam.

Darn! as Miguel informed us, Tarek is not going to reply to the "garbage" coming from the US court. I suppose that he is right: he would have to spend so much time justifying his actions then and we need him so desperately here at home to focus on our crime problem. Way to go Tarek!

But seriously now. Chavez, and Tarek, and Vielma Mora, and X,Y,Z can chose to refuse to acknowledge anything from the Miami trial, until their heads turn blue, the damage will be terrible anyway. For example, as announced here last Saturday days ago, Ledezma finally got the "unity" nod for Caracas Mayor at Large, and Ledezma is the kind of politician who knows how to use such revelations as they happen in Miami to bludgeon the chavista candidates for Caracas. And if there is an area of Venezuela where the Miami trial can have an outcome, it is Caracas.

-The end-

Monday, September 08, 2008

¡Pitiyanki! ¡y a mucha honra!

Since it is anti-intellectual Monday I found the perfect way to ease my bewildered readers in the new week. I have been considering for a while writing a post on the latest insult that Chavez keeps throwing at anyone who does not agree with him: pitiyanki or Yankee lover. But procrastination pays as Romero or the New York Times published last Friday the complete account. Personally I could not agree more with Charito Rojas of Notitarde quoted by Romero: "If being pitiyanqui means loving liberty and progress, science and excellence, then I am a very Venezuelan pitiyanqui".

The amusing thing here is that Chavez is running out of bad words. That is, after having accused us of so many perversions he now must dig into more obscure words, and tries to make them sound like awful insults through his delivery. But it does not work well. The sycophants that surround him have long ago opted at repeating any silly or gross utterance from their leader, as is, without any effort at understanding. And us, well, we have learned long ago not to be vexed and instead take it as a badge of honor. That is how "escualido" eventually left the Chavez vocabulary. That is the curse of people who insult without property, and usually out of place: after a while people stop paying attention, or worse, find it quaint. You know, a little bit like the boy who cried "wolf!" story except that we already have the wolves running the streets of Caracas without Chavez doing a thing about it.

But while Chavez tries to be creative with words he also tries to be creative in much darker ways, such as strengthening his alliance with Russia who has been invited for military exercises in Venezuelan waters. Romero also informs us of that development. This Chavez announcement came a few days after Chavez supported Russia's action in the Caucasus establishing once and for all that some empires are more equal than others. Chavismo of course does not say anything about that, such as they say nothing about Nicaragua's Ortega rape of his step daughter. But we have already amply described here the abjection of chavismo, including its easy qualification of "genocide" for any order measure taken by a non chavista entity whereas real genocides as in Chechnya are totally ignored.

This at least gives us the latest best
new word with real meaning when Pedro Llorens of El Nacional called Chavez pitiruso.

PS: "pitiyanki, y a mucha honra" honorable US lover (unless someone finds a better translation).

PS2: I might be a pitiyanki but my team is the Red Sox.

-The end-

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Venezuelan 2008 election: update 6- Shifting grounds?

The never ending wonder of elections is that they all have a dynamic of their own and the most certain result suddenly is not that certain, and not for the foreseeable reasons. Thus in the US late Spring almost brought us an early swear in of Obama. Today his lead is dangerously close to polls margin of error. In Venezuela also, early this year in spite of the December 2007 Chavez referendum loss, the opposition was given a good result by taking up to 8 governorships next November. Now it seems that odds are quite good for at least ten states and 8 only would start sounding as, well, under-achievement. Over the past two months two things have happened: chavismo administrative skills are seen as worsening; and the opposition manages overall a better unity than chavismo groups as the UNT/PJ show down seems to arrive to a term with a slight PJ advantage. In other words with two months left of campaign the panorama is improving for the opposition. But it is not something we should crow about: that improvement is due more to Chavez mistakes than any novel and brilliant strategy of the opposition. So, what else is new?

Chavismo problems

The highlight was the blackout of last Monday. If you are a NiNi and are forced to take everyday the overburdened Caracas Subway and you got stuck in it for who knows how long, as AC effect, weak already, faded fast, and as your 1.5 hour commute turned into a 3 hours road to hell, you are less likely to vote for Aristobulo Isturiz for Caracas mayor at large. It does not matter how happy you are when Chavez punishes the exploitative private sector in your name by having the state taking over increasing larger chunks of it: suddenly the realization that these takeovers are not going to bring anything good to you starts budding as you escape the subway station to face the crowds battling the scarce ground transportation, without any security service trying to put some order. The temptation to vote against Chavez's candidates in the local elections starts growing because you want, after 10 years of hot avenging air, your man to also deliver a few services. You know, just like giving him a gentle warning as you surely will vote SI in the next referendum anyway. Surely he must be told that revolution is not all that there is in life.

Even the Bolsheviks took great care to have a glittery subway system in Moscow.

If the blackout is the most startling example as it already happened twice this year, not mentioning all the other problems linked to the poor electrical grid, I could write similar chronicles using creeping food shortages, epidemics that government tries to hide, the insecurity that shows no sign of abating, the closing up of Barrio Adentro modules while hospitals show no sign of improvement, or describe how the morgues have become the latest scandals.

When I started writing this series I was thinking that the opposition needed to mobilize its base by joining to a “pothole” fixing platform a more general interest such as the constitutional violations. But now that chavismo is offering us daily proof of its incompetence and its obvious incapacity at solving anything I wonder if in fact the opposition campaign should simply focus and saying that they can do a better job than chavista candidates at picking up garbage. It might just be enough!

Opposition score settling

The main problem of the opposition remains the motivation of its voters as too many of its supporters are still threatening not to vote if this or that condition is not met, in particular the unity of all opposition behind single candidates. I will not go back on what is now just plain stupidity from people that are simply unable to see that the country is changing fast and the unity is in fact in better shape among us than within chavismo. The fact of the matter is that the opposition leadership could start forgetting about this decreasing vociferous minority as more and more NiNi are looking elsewhere to solve their daily problems. Opposition energies should be spent there, getting the weakening chavista voter that realizes Chavez cannot solve all, nor the people he appoints. In fact the recent lockjaw between Primero Justica and Un Nuevo Tiempo might indicate that this leadership is more confident and can actually afford to state its case more forcefully, being less afraid to lose voters by stern but discrete displays of disagreements.

UNT and PJ are both cursed with the Venezuelan politic disease: the search for the caudillo that will win elections for them (for that matter, chavismo is the poster boy group). In the case of PJ it is not too bad as Borges cannot impose himself charismatically, and because he also has some minor luminaries around him such as Capriles Radonsky who I saw warming up a room as no one else in PJ can do. But UNT was a vehicle to promote Rosales and when it embraced Leopoldo Lopez and the other PJ dissidents in 2006 it could never manage to get its bearings. In fact it is rumored that many inside UNT were not too unhappy when Leopoldo was banned from running as he was starting to crowd out Rosales… Thus, at least to me as an observer, it seemed that UNT had been out to reinforce its position by doing such last minute maneuvers as sending Ojeda at the time limit to register for Caracas mayor. This broke previous arrangements where if the first one at polls could not run the second one in opinion polls would become the “unity” standard bearer. Leopoldo subscribed happily to that as he thought, stupidly if I may say so, that he would be allowed to run. But when he was blocked UNT realized that the second in the race, Ledezma, was someone they could not stomach.

Did they not think of that before signing the unity agreement? Where they not aware that Ledezma was the only other viable option? Are they that irresponsible? But in my opinion it was rather infamous that Leopoldo chose to present himself as a martyr with no care for whom is the mayor of Caracas. Spoiled brat reaction if you ask me!

But the story is in fact more complicated because no one really liked Ledezma at either PJ or UNT. In fact PJ had been offering Ismael Garcia as a substitute but he was vetoed by UNT. So, what did PJ just did this week? It threw its support behind Ledezma, appearing a the same time the real “pro unity” guys and throwing a wrench at UNT. PJ also did a similar maneuver in Tachira, screwing Azocar of the UNT. And both maneuvers seem to be working. If PJ does not get additional unity candidates it at least makes sure that UNT did not profit from the inhabilitaciones crisis.

The surprising result of that UNT-PJ tug of war is that UNT could back down honorably, PJ looked good and the only guys that benefited form it are minor parties who were feeling taken for ride through the whole process. Apparently next week unity should be reached in Caracas and Tachira leaving only Bolivar and Yaracuy as the last messed up fronts (chavismo is messed up in Portuguesa, Guarico, Carabobo, Barinas, Yaracuy, and even Bolivar).

There is still the really embarrassing case of Chacao where the opposition fields three candidates (and it probably could field four and still win anyway). Though Chacao does not matter in the grand scheme of things, it is disproportionately bad publicity. But then again Leopoldo is to blame for that mess and as people start realizing this, they just lose interest for Chacao, as it should be. The funny thing about all of this is that Leopoldo self inflicted wounds might actually be favoring the opposition! Or, in other words, if he does not want to be left on the side he might want to consider to support energetically Ledezma soon.


-The end-

Friday, September 05, 2008

Unenlightened Venezuelans

I was going to write last night a fascinating post about the battles between UNT and PJ overt the control of local politics, but paraphrasing Laureano Marquez in Tal Cual today, the lights went out last night in San Felipe, for almost an hour. By the time light came back it was for me to stand up and turn off what I had missed, and back to bed. Fortunately Luareano's cartoon in today's Tal Cual gave me a fast post for your entertainment.


As a supplement of this, for those who read Spanish I will recommend an editorial of Gustavo Coronel in Petroleum World which will explain to you briefly why the electric distribution in Venezuela is so catastrophic now.

And I will refer you to yet another article of Tal Cual, the back page, where you can read Chavez explanation on why we are left in the dark, more and more often. (Note: lat night I was thankful because voltage went down for a bout 5 minutes before the lights went out, and thus I had plenty of time to get my torch candles and matches ready.) But since my readers are busy people and most do not have a Tal Cual access I will summarize: it is all the fault of the 4th republic as no new thermal plants has been built since 1984. What has Chavez been doing for his ten years tenure is a mystery for all, but it is certainly not because of his diffidence that we are left in the dark. Well, a few more outages by November 23 and we will see who is left in the dark this time.

Or as the cartoon above says, we ALL suffer from power outage, chavistas and anti chavistas alike, with special notice to those who must replace their appliances after one power outage too many. For all of us, hearing chavez saying that we should turn off our lights and avoid waste is just a plain mockery when our refrigerator is on the fritz.....

-The end-

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Palin factor

Sarah Palin was tonight's surprise. Maybe her speech was written by someone else, maybe she used teleprompter, but she delivered it with intent and gusto. She was great even though I will never be caught dead voting for her. Now, how much more objective than that can I get?

Palin sure showed a few democrats that they were a tad early in dismissing her so fast. A few days ago I thought that Obama had it all wrapped up, but well, maybe it is not that wrapped after all. You know, the thing about Palin's speech that knocked even occasional cynics like me was that all American quality of trusting oneself, of not doubting that it is worth trying the challenge. The woman is a small town mayor and a small state governor (population wise, of course), and yet she behaved as expected tonight, not intimated at all, though slightly endearing as it was cool to see her unable to sense her wonder at being suddenly projected to such a stage. She almost mangled the word Venezuela when she discussed freeing he US from the blackmails of you know what gang. This confirmed indeed that the speech was written for her as she probably had no idea where Venezuela was until two weeks ago. But that is the way politics are played, Obama did not know about Venezuela one year ago either but he also dismissed Chavez a few months ago. That is what happens in serious countries where state interests are more important than individuals and thus easily cross party lines. Something unthinkable today in Venezuela

And all of this is what makes US politics so fascinating, allowing us to watch any convention and enjoy the show equally, no matter who we plan to vote for. And for sure this electoral campaign is a heck of a campaign and luckily for us observers who cannot vote, the show is far form over.

With this post my coverage of US elections is over as I probably will not be able to watch the debates due to the busiest time of the year for me, and also the need to cover the local contest where not a single politician, not even Chavez, could give us a speech as crafted as the one Palin gave us tonight. And this was only one speech in a speech rich campaign.

Totally irrelevant and hyper-hypothetical note: I write this down separately because as I was observing Palin's speech I caught myself thinking that even though I disagree with her on many essential issues if she were to call me to ask for some consulting on some issues I would have no trouble sitting down with her. And yet if Chavez were to call me, a way more improbable event if possible, I would refuse. I suppose that until a couple of years ago I would have still accpeted a presidential invitation, but at some point during the 2007 referendum campaign I realized that Chavez is beyond reach for anyone and goign to Miraflores would be a perfect waste of time for anyone (unless of course you want to plug yourself in some sweet deal). Maybe it is the ability to have that feeling that you can still sit down with a political opponent, that it will not be a total waste of time, what makes real democracies tick.

-The end-

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"only" 22% of the drug traffic goes through Venezuela?

In what has to be another great moment in sycophantic mediocrity, VEA, the official newspaper of the Chavez regime, had published this front page.

Yes, that is right, VEA says that 78% of the drugs shipped DO NOT go through Venezuela. Does that mean that 22% of the world shipments indeed do go through Venezuela? Or are we talking about local shipments? Of what drugs? Is this good enough a result to write home about?

Truly, in their desperate quest to ingratiate themselves with the government the low life sycophants of Chavez some times do real dodoos... (hat tip Tal Cual, "por mi madre")

By the way observe now the general paraphernalia that accompanies any public official event as the vice president and top brass must sit behind a red cloth covered table, red shirts and all. Only the army and those coming from it seem to escape that now dreary red. I suggest that they start drinking rosé wine instead of water, it would be a better color match and at the same time it will probably help along uttering the inanities now routine at such events.

-The end-

Monday, September 01, 2008

No light in the attic: unenlightened chavismo and a lightless Venezuela

The news today is yet again another massive blackout in Venezuela. It is not clear how much of the country was cut off as amazingly government seems to be clueless. But I can say that San Felipe was more than 3 hours without electricity, some areas of Caracas are still not back up on the grid and Valencia was wiped out, hospitals only starting to get back some service around 5 PM. Maybe Gustav was bearing down on Louisiana but hurricane Hugo keeps in its never ending quest to destroy Venezuela.

Though I felt for those trapped in Caracas overburdened subway today, this massive blackout was a good opportunity to think about a few things and get back into posting mood. There was this very nice article by Roger Santodomingo this morning in Tal Cual, which I could read before the computers went out (here, for those without a subscription). The topic was the censorship that Maripili Hernandez imposes at Canal I. Some background is needed.

Maripili Hernandez is one of those chavistas that are presentable. She can say several full sentences in a row without being improper, something that Chavez himself is unable to do. She does have some knowledge of the world and some professional dedication, though in her case it does not seem to be very productive. She was on board with Chavez from the start but somehow never quite made it up to the inner circle. Or was dropped form it. Whatever. She was briefly foreign minister for North America, about the only chavista that could be sent there. On many an occasion I had the opportunity to expose her in this blog, in particular in such a stellar moment as her patriotic histrionics. Gustavo Coronel has also told her down.

But apparently she did something improper as she is the only chavista of some weight that was also inhabilitada by Clodosvaldo, that is, barred from seeking political office without a trial. But that is not big deal for her: she obviously is not into electoral politics and besides now she has her own TV network, Canal I.

Canal I was inaugurated over a year ago by one of those chavista groups that made millions in half a decade of chavista rule (William Ruperti is the face). It is meant to be the counter weight of Globovision but, well, it is having trouble as it is just too obviously pro Chavez, not to mention far from the professional standards of Globovision or even Venevision (heck, not even a working web page!). I did try to watch it a few times, hoping that perhaps I would get a more palatable point of view of chavismo ideas. But quickly I realized that I was better off reading directly Aporrea or watching Alo Presidente on Sundays.

At any rate, Ruperti did hire Maripili to direct the new network. That was a gamble form the start as Maripili presided over the downgrading of VTV early in Chavez term. I think, in her discharge, that she did not agree with the 24/24 propaganda nature of VTV and found a way out. But her tenure was considered a failure and her jobs hereafter were in the great chavista tradition of mediocrity and incompetence. Then again, if Ruperti did not want to get into trouble with Canal I, hiring Maripli was a good move I suppose.

So Roger Santodomingo narrates in his article today how Maripili fired one of her journalists, Mairim Unamo, because she wanted to do a piece on the Antonini trial starting in Miami this week, as Miguel is following closely. That is right, Maripili Hernandez, once a defender of free speech is now your ordinary censor once her political side is threatened by an exploding scandal which revelations would undo any normal government. It will not undo this one because well, there is justice in the US but not in Venezuela.

This poses once again several questions. One, is what are chavistas thinking? How long can they pretend that what is happening in Miami is just a media conspiracy? That the 800 000 USD bag did not exist, or was just Antonini pocket money for his Argentina vacation? There is a point where you can legitimately start wondering about the mental capacity of these people such as Maripili who in a previous life had still some self respect. Now, the more the ship sinks the more willing they are to sink with it it, or so it seems.

But the answer to this first question can come from the second question: what is their concept of democracy? We have already seen that often: for chavista hard core defenders the only democratic credential chavismo, and Chavez, need is to win elections. The more often they win them, the more they are allowed to trample minority rights. That when they were a minority their rights were not that trampled, witness of it that eventually they came to power, does not seem to cross their feeble minds.

But what can you expect from true understudies like Maripli when her real boss this week attacked the opposition once again in a totally undemocratic way? Apparently Chavez was sore because the opposition is collecting signatures to protest the 26 laws from the enabling law and to send that to the OAS (I signed, by the way, did you?). Why is the opposition sending that to the OAS? Because there is no justice in Venezuela and because the High Court already approved some of these laws BEFORE they were known by the public in general, or a legitimate debate took place in the country.

So a very miffed Chavez replied to the folks gathering the petition that they were ridiculous and that what he should do is to ask for a new enabling law and stick to them 26 more decree laws. That is right, he just spoke like the neighborhood thug he is ("clavarle", with a sexual connotation), imposing his will and only interested in finding ways to screw his opponents and control his turf. HIS, is the operative word here. Not an ounce of democratic talent here. So, why should we expect democratic talent from Maripili?

But they are not making good progress. For all the efforts to ignore the Maletin, for all the self-censorship we saw for too long in the Venezuelan media (with the notable exception of Globovision and some bloggers who never forgot the issue), we are seeing again articles on the coming up trial making it to the front pages. Maripili might have fired Mairim but it might not be enough to save some of her superiors. Then again, we could ask a third question: is she able to understand what is going on in the country? I doubt it, the light in those attics was shuffled long before the country went blank today.

-The end-

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