Sunday, May 31, 2009

Two Rayma cartoons to summarize last week

A picture is worth a thousand words.

In this first cartoon El Universal's Rayma explains us the Chavez debating method, and why as a consequence he is licking his wounds.

Governmental [Chavez] dialogue.
Questions group--------------Answers group

This second cartoon is to illustrate what are the "debates" inside of chavismo, with an allusion of Chavez ignorance of the Islam extremism inserted when he defends Iran or other assorted extremist regimes from that corner of the world.

Where are you going so smartly dressed?
To the government forum on freedom of expression.

Note: at the last minute chavismo tried to do a counter forum to CEDICE which was basically a street show.

-The end-

The marathon that roared not: Chavez suspends his 4 days "Alo Presidente"

Truly, something is rotten in the kingdom of Venezuela. Chavez with great fanfare told us (threatened might be a better word) with a four days run of Alo Presidentes, his Sunday talk show. We got two installments on Thursday, we got a long one on Friday night and that was that. Yesterday segment(s) were suspended without any reason given though we were still promised (threatened?) with the Sunday segment(s) as we were told that Evo Morales would be joining.

Today we are told that the show is suspended for technical reasons. Which is a nice code word for Chavez is so pissed at the Friday debacle that he must be trashing the full Miraflores lair and cannot be shown in public by his handlers.

There is really no excuse for such a lame explanation. VTV and other state media have enough cameras and microwave transmitters to make a show from anywhere, even if half the materiel has been damaged by one of the incessant power outages that we suffer in Venezuela. Chavez has been seen more than once giving a cadena/Alo Presidente with a cold, with an ache, with whatever. He even describes at length his problems with bodily functions going as far as to describe in loving details the day he had a bad case the runs while digging a tunnel during a cadena. If he is sick and cannot talk and make good of his promise (threat?), why not say so and postpone the show for, say, Monday? Even bitter hard core opposition like yours truly would find that normal and say nothing of it.

But the truth is that the debacle of last Friday when CEDICE and Vargas Llosa stared down a blustery Chavez had an effect. Unable to come up with a sensible and credible reply, the show dropped its curtain. The chronicle of El Universal says it all (and they also use in another article the word "arrugó"). In summary, once his bluff made Chavez and his handlers realized that they had much more to lose inside Venezuela than Mario Vargas Llosa.

Not without mentioning that international press has not been kind. In addition to amuse itself with Chavez problems they added insult to injury these days. The Washington Post came with yet another terrible editorial, terrible for Chavez that is, and for his accomplices at the OAS, namely Insulza. Though when I think of it, Obama and Clinton must also read it as a terrible editorial as to how they are quickly losing any leverage they might had in Latin America in the Port of Spain afterglow. In addition Simon Romero at the NYT made a rather damming report on the military degradation of Venezuela. There is a lot of things to reply to and we should charitably hope that for once Chavez has decided to sit down and think rather than make a fool of himself on TV for two days.

-The end-

Friday, May 29, 2009

Tales of the bizarre: the Chavez will/will not debate Vargas Llosa ends in "¡Chavez arrugó!"

These past few weeks rich in bizarre events have managed to be outdone by today's offering.

This week CEDICE (1) in Venezuela held a symposium on occasion of its 25th anniversary. So it invited intellectuals, economists and politicians of the Liberal wing of Latin America to participate. NOTE: the is NOT Liberal in the US sense but Liberal as in the rest of the world sense, that is free markets, capitalism, democracy, etc, something that does not apply even to the US GOP fully as the US is in its politics as well as its sports, unique... Let's use the term neo-liberal to simplify things, very different from neo-con, though neo-liberal does not describe the CEDICE attendance in full.

So far so good, except that chavismo quickly showed how upset it was at CEDICE being able to gather so many prominent figures of neo-liberalism, or not (Vargas Llosa, Krause and Castañeda among other luminaries). Quickly we saw an amazingly discombobulated Vanessa Davies alerting the Venezuelan people about all the lies that would be said at the CEDICE symposium. Apparently only the Latin American left is allowed to proselytize everywhere....

I will pass on the details, like the harassment at the airport of such figures as Mario Vargas Llosa, ex runner up Peruvian presidential candidate, on the short list for the next Nobel Literature Prize for Latin America, author of the "Fiesta del Chivo" about the demise of the Trujillo dictatorship and thus a "bête noire" of the Chavez regime.

Chavez in his 4 days marathon Alo Presidente challenged the intellectuals attending the CEDICE event to come to his Alo Presidente and debate ideas. CEDICE thought for a while and accepted the debate but on one condition: it will be held between Mario Vargas Llosa and Chavez himself, in equal conditions of time and responses. After all as Castañeda pointed out a day earlier, to debate underlings of Chavez he does not need to come to Venezuela, he can find them anywhere. And he is right, as the occasional appearance of a PSF brings to this blog: experience showed that debating extensively PSF is a waste of time, so for people way more involved than Castañeda I can understand that debating, say, Monedero or Ramonet is simply not worth his time while in Venezuela. Surely he will bump into them someday at home or elsewhere with more leisure.

The reply of Chavez was rather quick and I saw it almost within minutes from CEDICE announcement, live on TV. He replied from his running Alo Presidente, mocking CEDICE and eventually reaching extreme lameness by saying that he was not in the same league as Mario Vargas Llosa. I agree with Chavez, all that Mario Vargas Llosa is he owes it to his work, his mind, his intellect and his genuine life experience with the necessary evolutions included in the life of someone who has functioning neurons. Chavez is stuck in a time warp and anything that he thinks he can boast of he got it solely on one merit: getting the Venezuelan people to entrust him with the key of the vault so Chavez could spend the last ten years buying sycophantic good will.

Let's not be afraid of words: Chavez run scared and refused the debate with Vargas Llosa, not even as a private meeting at Miraflores that Vargas Llosa would have probably accepted, even posing for a picture that would have benefited more Chavez than Vargas Llosa as smartly observed by "el ciudadano".

But see, after so many years of being surrounded by sycophants that laugh at any of his stupid jokes or inane vulgarity, Chavez is simply afraid to be in a real debate, with equal opportunities for both sides. Just as the PSF here refuse to debate in a format where all participants are limited to three entries to make a single point. They prefer to write elsewhere that this blog is not worth reading, their right of course though I will observe that I do publish my ratings while they do not publish theirs in case they want to compare "leagues" as their beloved leader.

When free insults, when intimidation are not tools that can be used by chavistas, they simply back down and run as Chavez did tonight. Just as it happened a few days ago when the Presidents of the UCV and Simon Bolivar University were greeted with a heckling mob at the ministry of universities where a dialogue was supposed to be held; just as the dissident students where entrapped at the Nazional Assembly summer 2007. In each case, as well as others, the only reply was to walk out or refuse to go. Chavistas can only "discuss" when they control all and thus can drown any uncomfortable truth with crowd screams. The coward method.

PS: closing this post we find the interview that CNN did to Vargas Llosa after the Chavez put down attempt. With video included, but in Spanish, sorry. The dignity of Vargas Llosa compared to the truculence of Chavez is just amazing. Not to mention that Vargas Llosa showed that Chavez lied once again about his passport. By the way Vargas Llosa reminds us that Chavez NEVER debated anyone, that he is ALWAYS as a monologue, even an autistic one (dixit Vargas Llosa).

PS2: "arrugó" is a colloquial term in Venezuela used to describe those who launch a dare and then excuse themselves.

1) CEDICE = Center to Divulge Economical Knowledge (Centro de Divulgación del Conocimiento Económico)

-The end-

The Economist explains it clearly: Venezuela out of cash

A recipe for economic disaster, as hinted by The Economist. No comments needed.

-The end-

Facts and Fiction on Chavez reasons to close media

This week we are commemorating two years of the closing of RCTV while we are contemplating the very distinct possibility of Chavez closing Globovision at any moment. Yesterday in yet another cadena where Chavez shows increasing imbalance, he DEMANDED that the judicial power closed Globovision. That is, he does not even pretend that there is a separation of powers in Venezuela, he gives the order in public, requesting the resignation of the judicial "personnel" that is not willing to carry his orders. In English here and in Spanish here much more complete, with video included.

But let's not waste time in discussing the reasons for his latest immature and psychotic outburst (oxymoron? redundancy? intended). Let's review instead some of the facts and fiction surrounding this whole business, things lost in the hot air waves issued from the marathon Alo Presidente that is plaguing us with cadenas for the next three days.

Coup mongering in Venezuela

Fiction: the media conspired in 2002 to overthrow Chavez.

Fact: we are now 7 years and 1 month since April 2002 and not a single indictment has been issued against the owner or journalist of any of the private media that chavismo ROUTINELY accuses of being coupsters ("golpistas").

Interpretation? If in 7 years nothing has happened we must suspect one or more of the following: no hard evidence available to indict anyone for April 2002 events (let's not forget that the judicial system is FULLY in the control of Chavez since 2004); complicity between some media and Chavez (that one dedicated to mercenary Venevision and its owner, Gustavo Cisneros); incompetence and/or betrayal of people that should be indicting the media owners (which of course assume that indeed these media owners were acting in a conspiracy which send us to square 1, no evidence presented so far).

The media distort the message

Fiction: the private media are basically washing the brain of the people by emitting anti Chavez propaganda all the time and lying all the time about what is really happening in the country.

Fact: the government has in fact dominated the airborne media since 2004, and overwhelmingly dominated it since RCTV was closed in 2007. Today there is no single free air borne media espousing a critical line available nation wide. Globovision, the case presently at hand ONLY COVERS Caracas and Valencia, that is much less than a third of the Venezuelan homes. At local levels only some TV and radio stations are mildly critical and in some areas of the country, in particular rural areas, there is not a single airborne media that is critical of the government. Any criticism heard in such areas is of the intra party fighting nature, not from the opposition to the government.

Some specifics. There is ONLY one radio network allowed nation wide, RNV, and it is basically a propaganda outlet 24/24. The state controls two nation wide networks, VTV which is 24/24 propaganda and Tves which is part propaganda and part entertainment. ViVe is growing fast along Telesur and they are pro government 24/24. Only Venevision has a nationwide coverage and it is rather pro Chavez, only allowing some counted criticism of the government and only by some "selected" opposition figures. And even that is a rarer and rarer occurrence. Televen is a little bit more "independent" in its nightly news but it does not cover all the country.

In other words, unless you have access to cable TV, in some areas of the country, perhaps as much as half of it, you cannot obtain reliable information from both sides of the story. And on the other half, outside of Caracas and Valencia, objective information is limited.

Interpretation? With the overwhelming control of airborne media supplemented by the forced simultaneous broadcasts on ALL airborne media of Chavez speeches for hours every week (the infamous cadenas!), the message of the government is fully accessible everywhere, in large amounts. The problem is elsewhere.

That remote control problem or why is the "correct" information not reaching the people?

Fiction: that people are not listening to Chavez is a question of brain washing, and international media conspiracy, sabotage. Journalists are paid by the media owners to spread lies and disinformation.

Fact: If there is a media owner that pays its journalists to editorialize rather than present the real news it is the current Venezuelan government. TV shows such as La Hojilla in VTV would have been long banned in any democratic country. Besides, the sheer amount of cadenas and cadena time should have belittled any effort made by the alleged mercenary journalists in misinterpreting Chavez glorious deeds. Is Chavez not supposed to be his best publicist? Is that not the avowed objectives of cadenas and Alo Presidente? Has he not won the 2006 reelection with 60%+ vote in spite of a hard core RCTV and Globovision opposition?

Interpretation? What is happening here is that the government realizes that in spite of its best efforts people are increasingly tuning out the official message even among those who still vote for Chavez. Apparently the government has a poor understanding of a device existing in at least 90% of Venezuelan homes: the remote control of the TV set. No one so far has been able to fix such remotes so that they can only show only, say, Globovision. Chavismo simply cannot comprehend why the huge majority of the Venezuelan people at night will prefer to watch anything else but the propaganda coming out of VTV or ViVe. Watching soap operas by the chavista voter strata has long been considered subversive as Chavez more than once has admitted that his cadenas preempted the "novelas" that were bad for the people to begin with.

So now not only Globovision must be shut down but the Nazional Assembly is diligently preparing a text that will force Cable TV to pass mandatory cadenas and remove from the menu TV stations that displease the government (Cable TV is exempt of cadenas transmission and RCTV with soon Globovision have only cable as a refuge). How long until National Geographic or Animal Planet are judged subversive, anti revolutionaries?

A word to end

I know, I know, this is yet again a repeat on things that I have extensively written on and on in the past. But I thought a nice, simple text in clear format would be useful for people who need to explain what is going on really in Venezuela these days: as the going is getting tough, Chavez does not want the people to know what is really going on inside Venezuela. Repression and economic crisis do not make for a good Chavez image on TV.

Or, the only freedom of choice that chavismo understands is their freedom to tell you what to watch.

-The end-

Where are we headed for?

A fabulous cartoon by El Universal's Rayma.



-The end-

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Brazil's take over of Venezuela is starting, as previously reported here

I have been a little bit busy this week but I cannot resit a quick post to pat myself in the back. Commenting on an interview on Lula by Zakaria I wrote at the end:
...Venezuela is fast becoming a failed state while Brazil is threatening to become a world power. In a way a take over of Venezuela by Brazil would not be such a bad thing, you know.... I wonder how much of that subconscious thinking might have operated in Brazilian ruling class as they contributed to the demise of Venezuela (they will put the blame on Lula but too many went along this complacency toward Venezuela). Meanwhile woe is us in Venezuela because while Chavez squandered our possibly last historical opportunity Colombia and Brazil grew in strength. In a post Chavez Venezuela Bogota and Brasilia will fight over taking Venezuela under their area of influence.

Remember, ten years from now, you read it here first.
Now read what Miguel wrote yesterday about Chavez going hat in hand to ask Brazilian banks to bail him out.
Venezuela will get a loan from Brazil’s development bank Bndes in the amount of US$ 4.3 billion, guaranteed by Venezuela by fields from the Orinoco Oil Belt.

Even more clever for the Brazilians, the money will be used to finance projects (and pay debts!) being built by Brazilian companies in Venezuela and the first beneficiary will be Odebrecht, the Brazilian firm building subways systems around the country and which is owed a lot of money by the Chavez Government.
Right Miguel, you should read my blog with greater attention :) I am kidding of course about Miguel not reading. What I am not kidding about is that Chavez is mortgaging our future to Brazil and to Colombia. Maybe Colombia does not have an Odebrecht to weigh in but it is selling a lot of the ESSENTIAL food for Venezuelans, food we used to produce and do not produce anymore. As such Uribe holds Chavez by the balls, not to mention the content of certain laptops still not all public...... True, as some might argue Colombia could be left without the payment due, but I will still rather be a Colombian to whom money is owed than a Venezuelan looking at empty Mercal shelves.

See, we do not even have to wait for ten years to see it happening: right now, under our own eyes!

PS: Heck, and while I am patting myself on the back, let me also add that Elizabeth Burgos in Zeta said that Brazil and Colombia would split among themselves the left overs of Venezuela. She wrote that about 3 weeks ago. Sorry, no link available.

-The end-

Monday, May 25, 2009

Iran blocks Facebook, shutting down political discussion

And you think that Chavez will not follow that example? Already chavismo is busy at work changing electoral laws to make it even more difficult for the opposition to challenge him. If you think closing Globovision will be enough, think again. IF Iran can close Facebook because too much electoral debate takes place there against Ahmadinejerk, wait for Chavez to close Noticiero Digital and other such political outlets as needed.

-The end-

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Washington Post Corners Obama and Clinton on Chavez

I am certainly willing to give President Obama some slack on his handling of the Venezuelan situation, but I am also on record that wishing Chavez away will not do. The honey moon period is over and the handshake with no aftermath at Port of Spain is now allowing Chavez to increase the pressure at home.

That is, after an initial good will at the Americas summit of Port of Spain, the lack of follow up is starting to have an effect and cause very justly the Washington Post to call on the policies of Obama and Clinton toward Chavez and Venezuela. I am posting below the complete editorial because I felt the need to highlight some of the important points, but the original is here. The editorial is so crystal clear that no further comments are needed.

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

Is Silence Consent?

The Obama administration's 'engagement' policy is convenient for Hugo Chavez's latest crackdown. [There is no way around, the WaPo sets the blame straight]

WHILE THE United States and Venezuela's neighbors silently stand by, Hugo Chavez's campaign to destroy his remaining domestic opposition continues. On Thursday night state intelligence police raided the Caracas offices of Guillermo Zuloaga, the president of the country's last independent broadcast network, Globovision. They claimed to be looking for evidence of irregularities in the car dealership that Mr. Zuloaga also runs. In fact this was a thinly disguised escalation of an attack that Mr. Chavez launched this month against Globovision. The channel has been officially accused of "inciting panic," based on its accurate reporting of a mild May 4 earthquake in Caracas; under the regime's draconian media control law it could be shut down. Few doubt that that is Mr. Chavez's intent: Two years ago he revoked the license of the country's most popular television network after a similarly trumped-up campaign.

To recap: In February Mr. Chavez eliminated the limit on his tenure as president after a one-sided referendum campaign that included ugly attacks on Venezuela's Jewish community. Since then he has imprisoned or orchestrated investigations against most of the country's leading opposition figures, including three of the five opposition governors elected last year. The elected mayor of Maracaibo, who was the leading opposition candidate when Mr. Chavez last ran for president, was granted asylum in Peru last month after authorities sought his arrest on dubious tax charges. The National Assembly, controlled by Mr. Chavez, is considering legislation that would eliminate collective bargaining and replace independent trade unions with "worker's councils" controlled by the ruling party. Another new law would eliminate foreign financing for independent non-government groups.

This is hardly the first time that a Latin American caudillo has tried to eliminate peaceful opponents: Mr. Chavez is following a path well worn by the likes of Juan Peron and Alberto Fujimori -- not to mention his mentor, Fidel Castro. But this may be the first time that the United States has watched the systematic destruction of a Latin American democracy in silence. As Mr. Chavez has implemented the "third phase" of his self-styled revolution, the Obama administration has persisted with the policy of quiet engagement that the president promised before taking office.

"We need to find a space in which we can actually have a conversation, and we need to find ways to enhance our levels of confidence," Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon Jr. said two weeks ago, echoing earlier remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. We have no objection to dialogue with Mr. Chavez. But isn't it time to start talking about preserving independent television stations, opposition political leaders, trade unions and human rights groups -- before it is too late?

-The end-

Correa sees, Correa does

The fruit never falls too far from the tree.

Chavez is visiting this week end Ecuador. His arrival speech was worthy of the ones with see in cadenas lately, attacking freedom of expression, blasting the OAS and what not. All accompanied with copious lies and calumnies.

Correa emboldened by his new constitution and reelection is determined not to waste time and avoid "errors" made by Chavez. He announced that he will deal effectively with the Ecuadorean media and review any license, regardless of what the SIP, OAS or Human Rights organizations will say.

In other words the two donkeys are scratching each other getting ready to muzzle freedom of information AND freedom of expression, covering each other's back in front of the international criticism that will come.

Correa has been a good student, and more effective as he has guarded a certain distance with Chavez (he did keep the USD as Ecuador currency for example) to look a little bit more palatable than his master on the international arena. Then again he is better educated than Chavez which does not stop him from being of the same rotten fruit origin.

-The end-

Friday, May 22, 2009

The home of Globovison owner searched

[UPDATED]

Mr. Zuloaga is a rich man with many business interests, besides being the main share holder of Globovision. One of his business seems to be Toyota dealer. As such he uses his own large garage as a temporary storage for cars in transit, cars with problems, cars with X. Apparently tonight he had 26 cars parked.

So the government, under the coward cover of yet another Chavez cadena, decided to search, at night what is basically a parking lot. I am not going into details or speculations as I am 99,99% sure that Mr. Zuloaga, a man targeted by chavismo for years, is very careful to avoid any personal business involvement that could be used against him. That is, long ago he has stopped doing any illegal activity that he might have ever done. To begin with he was already rich enough before Chavez came to power and he simply does not need to take additional chances for an extra buck under a regime willing to crucify him under any pretense. This is a non sequitur as already tonight all the proper documentation for the cars has been shown and he cannot be accused of hoarding 26 varied Toyota. I mean, please, give me a break.... If he were hoarding cars it would be a few hundreds in a far away parking.

No, the interesting stuff here is elsewhere.

This was done during a cadena and the cops arrived at the same time as VTV, the state propaganda TV. What a fortunate coincidence! I am sure they just happened to drive by Zuloaga house!

During the cadena Chavez announced yet a new wave of "nationalizations" which today mean basically robbery (see what happened with the oil industry contractors the last couple of weeks). Yes, that is right, for those of you that are a little bit dense Chavez was robbing folks just as he was trying to make Zuloaga look like a thief.

An extra hilarious detail for you: Marcel Granier went to court today to claim all the transmission equipment that was taken from RCTV two years ago when it was shut down. Then the government said that soon enough the equipment would be evaluated and paid to RCTV. Nothing ever happened of the sort, TVes shamelessly used the equipment free of charge and apparently did not keep it up the maintenance so there are reports of extensive damages that we can be sure will never be compensated by the thieves that run Miraflores. Mr. Granier also reminded public opinion that it had submitted ten documents to the high court and he is yet to receive a reply on any of his claim for justice 2 years after. That means in contemporary Venezuela that his claims are legit but the courts have not found a way yet to trump justice on his case, so they stall, violating the constitution by the way which requires speedy justice.

There are undoubtedly many thieves and crooks in Venezuela today, but the biggest ones are at Miraflores Palace and are protected by the harlot that presides over the High Court of Venezuela.

Update: Apparently the police took the cars away "for technical inspection". Technical inspection is unnecessary: if you have the papers it is easy to verify the serial number of the car. The police does that routinely on any Venezuelan highway on any truck or car they control in one the innumerable alcabalas (road blocks) set everywhere and which main objective is to skim the drivers' wallet. If indeed they detected something wrong, it was not necessary to get a dozen of tow trucks in the middle of the night: simply they would have taken with them the official papers, or put some seals or something. If the seals are broken Zuloaga goes to jail straight.

Now, the question is whehter Zuloaga will see the Toyoclub cars again. Judging from what happened RCTV I can bet anything that the cars he will eventually receive back will be missing something....

To its original note on the event Globovision has now added a video at the end where you can clearly see how the CICPC chief was present with VTV cameras to make a show of the event. I mean, with all the murders and other assorted crime in Caracas, the CICPC had to send its top brass to get a few cars? Gimme a break!!!!

Nationalizations: it must be bigger than what I thought at first because Miguel away on vacation found time to write an extensive post on it. Apparently it is YET another case of the government unable to fulfill is obligations that decides to take over its providers/clients. Gee, I wonder if I can take over my clients that I cannot provide with the services they require from me....

Now, what I saw last night late was the video of Chavez announcing the "nationalizations" and how the attendance danced and slapped each other hysterically as the robbery of private property was taking place in front of them, live. They might laugh today, we will see how they laugh in a few weeks from now. Ask the workers of SIDOR how they are laughing these days after having obtained the take over of Sidor..... In all fairness the room was rather small so it was easy for Chavez to pack it with hard core supporters and whip them into frenzy, even if they might be only political hacks and not actual employees of the stolen business. Still, it was extremely disturbing to see how class war was played and abetted by the regime. I will try to get that video, it is worth watching.

-The end-

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Hubble and Vietnam

Strange title, no? But my morning press review yielded two articles that I found strangely poignant as to what is happening in my poor country, and both unwillingly highlighting the Venezuelan sink hole.

Daniel Heninnger at the Wall Street Journal waxes rhapsodic over the 4th mission to fix the Hubble space telescope. And sadly the last one since it will not be worth fixing again this monument of science as Heninnger so justly calls what the Hubble has become, in particular for scientists like me.

I lived in Baltimore at the time where the Hubble was launched and when the Muller Building at the Johns Hopkins University was built. In fact, one summer I was biking almost everyday in front of the construction site one my way to lab, through sinuous and wooded San Martin Drive, wondering how nice it would be to be an astronomer and work on that project. I do have fond memories from my years at the Homewood Campus and the excitement over the Hubble is certainly one of the most elating moments. No scientist could remain immune to the magic of peering into the universe, in particular people like me peering into chromosomes, getting closer to the infinitely small if I dare to bring such a silly comparison.

But back on track. Henninger article is interesting because he contrasts one week of cheap bureaucratic infighting around such silly things as whether Pelosi knew, knew not or whether she is stalling in undignified way. While all these pettiness reigns in DC, as usual, a few miles North people were holding their breath at the true wonder of science and technology.

Here in Venezuela political infighting is way more degraded than in Washington and we have no solace in any true scientific or technological achievement as the "Venezuelan" satellite is 100% Chinese made and apparently is not working. In fact when we read that a hundred kids were food poisoned yesterday in what is supposed to give us pride, the bolivarian health cum education system, or that a chavista student says he is failing because his opposition teachers are after him, then we have to refrain our strong urge to cry. A country like that is never going to get even a small part in a project like the Hubble.

The other article is even more worrying as Roger Cohen basically espouses a mercantile splendid isolation as a way to engage the betterment of other countries. OK, he is not as crass as I put it, but in short he implies that the US should not be in a hurry in getting democratic results from other countries, just settle for them to get economic improvement for their populace. As such he looks at the Vietnamese success.

Roger Cohen might not realize it quite well, but he is advancing that periodic return of US society to an insulation of other countries woes, something understandable after the Iraq waste, but something in the end counterproductive as there is always a Pearl Harbor in the horizon, even if today the date has been shifted from December to September.

He includes Cuba and Iran in what is a possible accommodation, one that should even be easier than the one operated with Vietnam who now even sends its military to visit US military. Once we can overcome yet another evidence on how Venezuela is becoming irrelevant, we can also see how this is wrong as Venezuela is still a country where adequate pressure can go much further than in long held autocratic regimes such as Iran or Cuba. But in Cohen's mind Chavez is more of a gnat than anything else, he has no more time for us.

And can we blame him? Not only we put up with Chavez antics, but we keep voting him back in office. For the world it is quite clear: we deserve what we are getting and the world has moved on, knowing full well that eventually like Vietnam we will come back, hat in hand, but without the Vietnamese culture which has allowed the country to recover. Perhaps the most interesting comment in the whole Cohen piece is that positive Vietnamese outlook to the present and future, whereas the outlook that Chavez tries to impose on us is so strongly anchored in a past that did not even exist that we are left with an additional cultural burden that I do not see how we can get rid of it.

Cohen writes:
No, only culture, that inadequate word, can explain Vietnam’s ability to look forward. In Buddhism and Confucianism, which suffuse Vietnamese life, the present and future are prized.
What can we write on Venezuela today, free of any sloganeering, something that would reflect a core value of our people, something that might allow us to get out of the ditch we have fallen in because an oil driven drunken stupor that started half a century ago? What suffuses Venezuelan culture today is quick fixes and a love for the "send it over".

-The end-

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Another day, another successful march, and a few fascist moments

Briefly. The democratic touch first.

The main campus of Venezuela decided to hold today a protest march today to protest the education cuts which probably might not even cover payroll. This in a climate where other cuts that coudl be well undertaken are not done. I think in particular about the military spending of which we have not heard any significant decrease, or the checks to the leeches of our country, namely Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Argentina. Not to mention that significant funds could be freed for education and health if Chavez were willing to sell gas at cost.

Considering that today was a week day and that as usual all sorts of threats took place, the march was a great success. BBC Mundo has a long report without qualifying the attendance but there is a telling picture.

The fascist touch now.

In an unusual move the corresponding minister, Luis Acuña, had agreed to receive the president of the Venezuelan major universities. However the march was directed to stop at X point and send a committee of 8 representatives. They accepted of course and sent such committee led by UCV president, Cecilia Garcia Arocha. UCV is the largest and oldest Venezuelan university. So far so good. But when these poor 8 souls reached the offices of Acuña they were met by a minister surrounded by a high number of chavista students allow to carry all sorts of boards insulting the march outside. Insulting boards quickly joined with insulting language.

Of course, the 8 guys quickly realized that they were wasting their time and walked out, with strong declarations against an education minister who allows himself to be a instrument of division, and ignorance I will add. Garcia Arocha had no qualm calling the meeting "a trap".

But in the deserted UCV campus there was activity. A group of hooded thugs did capture UCV buses, apparently had themselves taken to the UCV main square, started shooting and burning the buses, before they eventually withdrew, guns in open sight. Globovision has even a video amateur by some of the personnel left in campus.

The reactions? The Minister of interior, Tareck El Aissami, blamed it all on the UCV authorities. Yeah, right, he probably had not seen the video yet... Besides, one would like to see El Assaimi equally worried about the crime wave that we all suffer in Venezuela except people like him who get all sorts of bodyguards at tax payer expenses.

While all these were taking place Chavez grabbed 35 more oil industry supplier, in a move that is simple robbery, the type of robbery that an interior minister in Venezuela would be well advised to investigate.

But is it all worth it? I doubt it as today 107 students of a "bolivarian" school were intoxicated by the snack served them that morning.

As good fascists chavistas have become, their only care is to preserve their power. The rest of the country is to be mocked, to be put in jail, to be robbed or to be left alone to stare death from crime or food poisoning. The people do have a choice for their fate, don't they?

-The end-

A little walk on memory lane

Reader R.D. pointed out this little WSJ piece published April 19 of 2002, of all days! Tunku Varadarajan makes a better point than I could do myself about how useless it is to blog in Venezuela, no matter what side you blog for. Make sure you read it all the way to the end.

-The end-

The NYT and El Pais joining the fray on describing Chavez woes and turpitudes

We read Forero at the WaPo and Langellier at Le Monde. Now it is Simon Romero's turn at the New York Times to list all of Chavez foreign policy woes. Note: he really does not write on the internal woes and the repressive recent nature of the regime so we can expect a future entry on that matter any time soon.

And let's not forget the recent editorial of El Pais who criticizes sternly and strongly the latest "cultural" moves of the regime as being those of a dictatorship. El Pais knows very well what Franco did to Spain and they are not amused by such things as Chavez libraries purification and their restocking with certain type of titles only. The title of the editorial? "Caudillo Chavez". A clearer hint at the fascist nature of the chavista regime cannot be written.

With that we have 4 left of center major newspapers based in the capital of their countries, political and/or financial, who have chastised Chavez in no ambiguous terms within barely a week, and each with more or less a different angle. We just need an article by the Guardian to complete the set of the 5 biggies (no other capitals have papers with that international notoriety, though with the same quality or better, but that is another topic). And this just as Chavez is preparing to close Globovision while pursuing his other unpalatable measures and constitutional violations. You can imagine the coverage then...

Hugo, forget about help from the democratic left: they are on to you! Not that you were counting on it anymore, but now they might even be militant against you. Something about all the people all the time, you know....

-The end-

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A signature for Aung San Suu Kyi

Regular readers of this blog know that I do not use it as a trampoline for my pet causes. All but one, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Even though I do not agree with all the causes that AVAAZ supports (and I have had exchanges with them, so at least they do reply to complaints), I will urge you to click here and sign a petition to support Aung San Suu Kyi who is going to go through yet another mock judicial travesty. You support victims in Venezuela, you must also support victims in Burma, a situation that could well be in our future... This also go for you the PSF pretending not to read this blog! Even if you want jail for Rosales have at least the decency to support Burma freedom.

I know, I know, maybe signing yet another petition is useless. But what else can we do? Think that the pressure of these petitions is not really on the savages that preside over Burma, but on their supporters.

-The end-

In a blog near you soon?

Enigmas Press managed by a former Chavez sympathizer signing Gandica offers to CONATEL a way to certify that blogs written in Venezuela are written according to the wishes of "el pueblo revolucionario/bolivariano/whatever suitable adjective".

You know, the way things are, let's not be surprised if someone in the government starts soon talking about blog registration and control. Let's not forget that this the government that did not dare contradict Pedro Carreño when he claimed that Direct TV had a camera in their decoders to monitor all what we did at home.

-The end-

The superficial Venezuelan voter?

Tal Cual's Weil has a killer cartoon today. Related to another cartoon that I posted a few weeks ago.


In this cartoon folks are debating the merits of PC versus Mac, in superficial terms (It is more beautiful! But it is more expensive!). No need to translate it as you all have been subjected to such ridiculous "debates". The thing is that around my daily life I hear a lot of such stupid avoidance of reality, and as such the Weil title "Debates as communism is becoming imminent" hits a chord with me.

At least in Yaracuy you would be hard pressed to find someone with a political opinion, and even less with the will to do something about it. At times I delude myself at being the lone opposition as local rags write on silly subjects such as "bolivarian councilmen to form an association". Truly? What for?. Of course if you scratch a little bit you will find that some of the workers I direct seem to be much, much less chavista than they used to be. But a worrying passivity has submerged the state as Julio Leon, our new governor starts timidly to put up his name on more billboards. The surprise is that with a slashed opposition he does not appear more prominently, I suppose a good point to grant him. Or maybe he is just too focused on a national career and is already plotting his next move.

We are harvesting in Yaracuy the results of the opposition debacle in November. Lapi and his movement are nowhere to be seen and for all practical purposes they seem to be both exiled in Peru. Capdevielle and Primero Justicia who sponsored his mortal candidature have left the state, abandoning us to our fate after having sunk us. UNT has too many problems where it already thrives to seek new grounds here.

Outside of Caracas and Zulia I do detect a general resignation. Still, you would be even harder pressed to find elation at the communist coming except for the paid professionals that "grace" any chavista rally as he takes over this or that. Right now, that is the only positive element, along Ledezma toughness, that I can report. However something is simmering.... you know, like the cliché "calm before the storm".

-The end-

Monday, May 18, 2009

From Paris: Le Monde blasts Chavez

In France they have long stopped buying it. Now they are starting to criticize it seriously, at least in the press. Of course, you can always cont on, say, Total to ignore what is in front of them, but that is another story.

Le Monde correspondent in South America, Jean-Pierre Langellier, wrote a fabulous review of what is going on in Venezuela, how Chavez is running a bankrupt country and how his only solution is to steal from people he owes to and silence criticism, either through a flow of insults or actually silencing them. If you read French do not miss it, if not try the translate tool of Google. The title by itself is so French: "la fuite en avant d'Hugo Chavez". It is one of those great political conceptual sayings like "fin de règne" which have enriched political and historical language so much.

The literal translation would "the escape forward" which would be best rendered as "fleeing forward". That is right, instead of solving existing problems Chavez prefers to create new ones in the hope that old problems are forgotten. But when the country is bankrupt without any prospect of economic prosperity anytime soon to compensate the deficit, creating new problems will not work at all and instead aggravate much faster the situation. To truly Chavez recent moves look much more like fleeing away hoping that reality does not catch up with him. By the way, Miguel tells us about this possible bankruptcy. Let's say that I am not as optimistic as he is since we do not actually know the extent of Chavez financial commitments, either at home or over seas. I see it closer.

-The end-

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Surprise! Caracas gauleiter Faria acts like... a gauleiter!

Jacqueline Faria is today a very busy woman. In addition to the small task of running Caracas she must now tend to the more strategic task of securing the CANTV telecom company which controls all the phone numbers needed to be spied on by the government as well as all the data transmission that flows at election time, to make sure that results are duly filtered for the dear beloved leader scrutiny.

We thus should not be surprised that she is delegating fast her Caracas responsibilities to true and tested chavistas, preferably from the outgoing administration that was duly defeated at the polls. Of course polling results are now worthless in Venezuela: the disastrous and corrupt Barreto administration of Caracas sunk the electoral chances of Isturiz last November but that should not be an obstacle for some of its appointees to return to their job. Ledeznma attempt at putting some order in the corruption and incompetence carnival that Caracas town hall had become was just a mere short disturbance.

Friday it was the turn of the Firemen department to be placed under the control of the Revolution. Faria made no secret of it when she said in her speech to the firemen, many booing her, this classic B.S. of people of her mettle:

"We aim at getting the Firemen rid of capitalistic wishes" (Pretendemos deslastrar a los bomberos de deseos capitalistas)

"You need to abide by the disciplinarian rules, if not we will apply sanctions. We came with an order from Chavez and we are going to make it happen"(Ustedes tienen que atenerse a las normas disciplinarias, si no tendrán que someterse a sanciones. Vinimos con una orden de Chávez y la vamos a cumplir)

"We came to impose the socialism policies to the Firemen. Fatherland, socialism or death" (Vinimos a imponer la política socialista en los bomberos. Patria, socialismo o muerte)

"The tradition that a retired chief was never named [brought out of retirement to preside the corps] is a value of the capitalist world. I am sorry that I cannot consider your prayer, we came, under Chavez orders, to establish socialist policies here and everywhere else. We took an executive decision, not one that is discussed in assemblies and that is our way to do things"(La tradición de que nunca se había nombrado un comandante jubilado es un valor del mundo capitalista. Lamento no atender su súplica, nosotros vinimos, por orden de Chávez, a establecer la política socialista aquí y en todas partes. Tomamos una decisión ejecutiva, no una que se discute en asamblea y esa es nuestra forma de ser)

So there you have it, EXACTLY what a gauleiter would do/say. Interpretation of her words are totally unnecessary. This is not like the work of a communist commissar who at least speaks in the name of the party, this is a gauleiter who speaks in the name of the leader of the nazi/fascist/totalitarian system in place.

But this is not all, and there is insult added to injury. The new director of the Firemen is accused by his now subordinates to be a corrupt and a sexual harasser. Even Jacqueline Faria recognized that he is accused of sexual harassment but simply dismissed it: "I knew about that, but there is still no ruling" (Ya yo sabía de esta denuncia, pero aún no hay sentencia)

In a stunning video published by Globovision one of the Firemen Department captains narrates how the new socialist Firemen chief, Martinez, harassed his wife. He also accused him of all sorts of corruption under the Barreto regime, going as far as accusing the maneuver of Faria as a way to gain time to erase all evidence.

How can a woman like Faria simply appoint someone accused, dossier in courts, of sexual harassment? If she really wants him to serve and really thinks he is innocent, can she just announce a temporary nomination of someone else and have the courts decide on Martinez before appointing him?

The thing is that Faria is not a woman anymore. And I do not mean this in any sexist way: she is not a man either, she simply is losing her humanity. That is what serving regimes like the one of Chavez does to you, they destroy your humanity. A worthy Nazi Gauleiter indeed.

PS: What about a reader contest in describing the difference between a capitalist fireman and socialist fireman? I cannot tell you how offended I am by the amazingly crass attempt at politicizing the fire department of all civil servants! Un-f*****g beleivable!

-The end-

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Winston Churchill quotes of use in today Venezuela

I was checking on the veracity of a Winston Churchill quote that I wanted to use for a post and I found a collection of them in the net. Just becasue it is Saturday, and I want to rest, I thought that after the hectic two weeks we had we can use a break of rationality. In no particular order, and not quite up to your imagination on why I selected them and why do I think them relevant for this blog.

On this blog style

The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.

On Venezuelan current politics

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

On Chavez and chavismo

Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.

Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon.

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

To the PSF and chavistas stuck on April 2002 and "la cuarta"

If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.

A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

We occasionally stumble over the truth but most of us pick ourselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.

To those who cannot make up their mind on Chavez

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.

The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.

Advice to Chavez

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

Do not let spacious plans for a new world divert your energies from saving what is left of the old.

We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.

For those who think help will come from elsewhere

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.

On this blog and its blogger :)

Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.

Kites rise highest against the wind - not with it.

I have never developed indigestion from eating my words.

If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.

All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.

And for this self sufficient blogger

It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.

-The end-

Friday, May 15, 2009

No more separation of Church and State in Venezuela

Oh dear, another one of those days! I am up to 4 posts with this one!

We just got a new cadena and Chavez is out of the country. How come? Well, the Nazional Assembly who is not entitled to that right unless directed by the government (or under ceremonial circumstances) decided to force a cadena. It was of taped material (a cadena is supposed to be direct as it is supposed to be important urgent information, and not propaganda). Not only it was not a pertinent information but the content was in fact a direct violation of the constitution.

Let's go by parts.

First, for those who do not know what a cadena is. It is the forced simultaneous broadcast on ALL TV and ALL Radio stations of the country. And I mean ALL. As such it is conceived to used sparsely in case of emergency or for major messages to the nation. Under Chavez it has become simply a propaganda tool used for hours on end to silence criticism from the opposition. Not to mention that on occasion during cadenas the government performs illegal deeds as nobody can get information to react until the deed is done (remember the infamous cadena of April 11 2002 when Chavez hid the downtown massacres likely ordered to his sharp shooters).

Second, the "material" aired by the Nazional Assembly was a montage of the declarations of two priests attending, AGAINST the Catholic Church who had sanctioned them.

It is irrelevant to this discussion to examine the merits and demerits of the internal Catholic Church spat. What is relevant here is that under no circumstances the Nazional Assembly of Venezuela can take side with one religious partiality against another one. And even less bring it to a cadena. Not only article 59 of the constitution guarantees that all religions must be treated equally (will Cardinal Urosa be invited to offer a rebuttal? Will the Evangelical groups be invited to discuss the issue too? Is some shaman going to bless the debate?) but the separation of Church and State is so ingrained in Venezuelan constitutional history that the 1999 Constitution does not even bother writing somewhere something like "there is no official religion in Venezuela".

But it got worse, once the two priests stated their case the chair of the Nazional Assembly asked on a vote. A vote on an internal religious matter!!!!!!

As such not only the Nazional Assembly blatantly violated the 1999 Constitution, but it violated a secular tradition which includes Venezuela as one fo the first LatAm countries to establish freedom of religion, divorce, and other such practices.

Third. The most irksome aspect here is that the Nazional Assembly who is constituted by a bunch of people who have not set foot in a Church or Temple in decades, who swear and call the name of the Lord in vain, who do not believe even in their mother words of love (assuming that there is still something lovable in folks like Cilia Flores) takes the hypocrite moral high ground to condemn the Catholic Church hierarchy on an internal matter of said church.

You know, as a French culture product I am reminded of the French Revolution which tried first to make the Catholic Church a State Church. Then, as it did not work out, Robespierre tried to make an ersatz called "Culte à l'Etre Suprême". This of course did not work at all and the French Revolution simply fell into a godless system until Napoleon, who believed only in himself, came to put some order and co-opt the Church so effectively that it was basically an arm of government until the Third Republic finally separated once and for all the Church from the State, at the end of the XIX Century.

Thus I cannot be surprised that chavismo is using two rogue priests to launch a renewed attack on the Church (one of them, well, I wonder how he became a priest to begin with, there is definitively a scarcity of vocations). But let not any other religion rejoice in this pathetic charade; let me remind them that all religions are incompatible with the cult to Chavez, and their turn will come surely, just as Globovision turn is coming these days. One by one, any group or institution bold enough to express dissent with Chavez Manichean view of the world will be severed.

And the one who write this post is someone who has left the Catholic Church when he was 16 year old to eventually settle in a scientific agnosticism when he was in college. Meaning that it has been decades I stopped caring about ANY religion or its fate. Just in case.

-The end-

Caracas Gauleiter named head of CANTV

Sometimes truth is way stranger than fiction. Jacqueline Faria the very controversial Chavez appointee to Caracas to replace unconstitutionally the duly elected mayor Antonio Ledezma HAS ALSO BEEN APPOINTED TODAY head of the CANTV phone company. That is, the woman that should not even have time to sleep considering the complexity of running a city like Caracas will ALSO have to run the state communications company which by itself is not a piece of cake to do, amen of its strategical value for Venezuelan economy. I mean, is Chavez running that short of people?

Let's make a bet: which is going to fail first, Internet or garbage collection in Caracas? Oh, wait! they are ALREADY BOTH failing!!!!!

-The end-

Two examples of state sponsored highway robbery

The English section of El Universal carries two briefs notes that illustrate how the Chavez government is simply robbing the private sector.

The first note is about how the banks are owed hundreds of million or dollars. According to foreign exchange regulation banks are allowed to issue 2,500 USD credit on MC or VISA to Venezuelan nationals traveling overseas. The banks advance the cash and CADIVI/Forex pays back the bank for the justified expenses. Well, first the quota was lowered from 5,000 to 2,500 last December, but right now there are moves to lower it further, if not suppress it all together. That is, you will be allowed to travel outside of Venezuela but you will need to get foreign currency on the black market which is illegal. Let me make that clear: if the government does not allow you to change legally any BsF and yet finds at the airport that you have with you 1,000 euros, you can be penally investigated and condemned for it. Kafka would have had that easy....

But I digress. the point of that note is that the government is seriously considering defaulting of that currency exchange debt leaving the banks to foot a bill that might be as high as 400 million USD. Nothing is officially said of course, but all points out to such a move. Technically it is not a robbery since Forex will not cash in those 400 million but it would still be a net loss for the banks, white crime style.

The second note is about the take over of the Cargill pasta plant in La Guaira. The rice plant was seized about a month or so ago. Now it is the pasta plant, for 90 days. Then the government will decide what to do about it, but meanwhile it will be working the plant, free of charge, to produce whatever it can to sell through Mercal and PDVAL. One can spin that anyway one wants, it will remain plain robbery. If indeed Cargill broke any law there is something called due process that eventually ends up in a sentence and a fine. Now chavismo cannot be bothered by such niceties even though it disposes of a servile judiciary. Well, it is still good to have a servile judiciary because poor Cargill will not be able to appeal anywhere.

The Spanish note carries further interesting information (El Universal does not translate all articles and often only a summary of the main ones). Apparently it is the workers and the communal councils who will decide of the future of the Cargill plants. All power to the Soviets! I love it!

We also learn that apparently Cargill had stopped producing the money losing regulated pasta presentation. Maybe, but it is still a hypocrite move. Was it not Chavez that bemoaned more than once that it was scandalous that Venezuelans ate so much wheat pasta when our natural tropical cereals are corn and rice? If Chavez had any consistency in his speeches and ideology he would have allowed for unregulated wheat pasta prices and subsidized and controlled corn and rice pasta for "el pueblo", whatever this term means today.

Again it is just a case of plain robbery as the state will use the supplies of Cargill without any compensation. And then some chavistas have the chutzpa of saying that investors are welcome in Venezuela!

PS: as a bonus in my research I came on yet another Marxist site which would be rather funny if it were not for what it stands for. However apparently they are not aware of the close links of Chavez and the Iran regime repressing workers... Is it worth letting them know?

-The end-

Forero on Globovision: it is a cable station

The Washington Post gives its summary of what has been going in Venezuela recently. Nothing that readers of this blog did not know already from the recent half dozen posts, though a nice summary to pass around to those who do not believe in blogs. Hey! If the Post says it...

But there is an interesting detail that shows that people are really starting to scrutinize what is going on inside Venezuela beyond the chavista propaganda B.S. Not only the title of Forero's article reads "Venezuela Targets Cable Station" but in the text you find "Authorities have accused Globovisión, an anti-government cable station, of inciting panic through its coverage of a May 4 earthquake before authorities released an official report" and later "Authorities have not explained how the station's reporting on the quake, which caused little damage, panicked and divided the public."

Two things here: 1) Globovision should be considered as a cable TV because it is only allowed to transmit open air in Caracas and Valencia, something that FINALLY is perceived outside of Venezuela; and 2) indeed, where was the panic in Caracas streets due to Globovision reporting of the quake?

Clearly, this time around chavismo B.S. is not working at all outside of Venezuela (nor inside for that matter). Not that it helps us much here but let's get what we can get.

-The end-

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The current electoral campaign of Chavez: towards a new constitution?

Rocio San Miguel who now writes for Tal Cual puts up clearly a case scenario that is worth considering and that I was tinkering with, though not daring yet to write about it. But as is often the case, procrastination pays and instead of writing about the topic I just need to translate today's article of San Miguel. In short, it is the possible preparation of Chavez to write a brand new constitution and end once and for all any legal possibility for the opposition to access power through democratic means. Somme comments of mine at the end.

The campaign

The softening work on society, that Chavez has been doing in recent months on all fronts, is clear and purposeful, and has been observed by few.

The third stage of the revolution has begun. Chavez has said it explicitly.

In the economic sector [he is]affecting even those who were hitherto untouchables, expropriating land, establishing restrictions on all types of activity carried out, introducing the novelty of the end of private property and approving right and left laws that sustain the twenty-first century socialism.

In the social sphere [he is] activating the Ministry of Communes, to impose a legal concept to eliminate the role of mayors, especially those who are not aligned with the regime and to transfer from the presidency economic resources "direct" for projects that once "Venezuela" thought they could be managed in a decentralized country, without passing through the filter of forced adherence to a political project.

In politics [he] has taken out of the way opponents by disqualifying them, by giving the order to open legal proceedings against them, going as far as depriving them of liberty.

In the military sphere, perhaps society least known area, a fierce offensive is at play and has led in recent months to dozens of requests of retirement, especially from those without formal duties, the so called ‘institutionals’, who openly had been separated from the National Armed Forces active duty for being seen against the process of politicization of the Venezuelan military structure.

In the midst of all, there is no halt in the presidential cadenas, the distribution of "White Line” [kitchen appliances], foreign travels, the threat of opening new trials to private media, updating via “red points” the registration of the chavista PSUV, the restart of the show “La Hojilla”, the giving away, the demagoguery and threats to anyone who dissents from the regime.

Where is Chavez going? The president is in an electoral campaigning for the only exit for which the democratic society is not ready, [the] election of a National Constituent Assembly to be announced just as the referendum on February 15 [was announced].

With a date already set in Miraflores and not so late as to allow the opposition, including the independent sectors, to get prepared.

The parliamentary elections of 2010 would thus be annulled and who knows if the 2012 presidential elections too. Chavez feels he is winning. He is doing his polls and he is also promoting their results.

The center of gravity of his staying in power goes through a maneuver not without risks but surprising to prevent his opponents to organize.

This hypothesis would give as a voting date the month of June [the necessary referendum to call for a constituent assembly]. The election for a National Constituent Assembly [would be] on September 15, 2009 catching the country demobilized during the "convenient" student vacations, an opposition without logistics and a National Army in its highest point of demoralization of the last 10 years. It is worth reflecting on this scenario.

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

Rocio San Miguel has been very active in civil rights issues and other political stuff since she came to notoriety as one of the first victims of the Tascon apartheid list to go public and seek legal redress. Since then she has been threatened but has not stopped from making TV appearances where she likes to discuss military and security matters (she worked at borders control before being fired) and writing for Tal Cual in addition of compiling Tascon List abuses.

Her article was difficult to translate because her style is not amenable to English translation and her text is really for local consumption as even, say, Colombians would have trouble understanding all the facts she takes for public knowledge. Thus the need for me to add many brackets and even words whose were not directly suggested by the original.

This being said, what can we make of her hypothesis? Well, it makes sense, even if she makes it sound easier to do for Chavez than what it really would be. After all the simple application of the lot of laws recently passed, that would remain unchallenged in courts, is enough for him to get what he wants the most now, an effective opposition neutralization that would allow smooth reelection in 2012. By 2018 we would be fully Zimbabwed so he would have no trouble for yet a new reelection.

But Chavez has two problems that he cannot just solve with he current legal situation. First he must run for reelection in 2012 and he is not sure that the crisis would be far behind and oil income high enough to ensure a smooth reelection. Second, to obtain his reelection amendment last February he had to accept that everyone could be reelected. This has always gone against his nature and we can be pretty sure that he needs to have this removed as he needs that lever to control any of his followers that would dare to run for reelection on their own (and likely win since the incumbent advantage has become so obscene today).

By calling for a new constitution with the pretext to enshrine the new "popular laws" he would get the two things that are at the core of his political project which is a legal and pseudo democratic way to remain president for life. The cynicism could be pushed far enough by him to put again term limits even for himself as long as he gets a fresh start in the new constitution of 2010. Even two seven years terms might be enough since at the end of them he would be 69 years old. Heck, he could even give two 4 year terms for everyone else and three 7 years for himself and pass it! Thus he would reach without any trouble the ripe age of 76 when his current crimes would be forgotten and he would be able to hand power down to any chosen heir. After all, who is remembering Fidel and Che's crimes in the current Cuban transition (and I do not have in mind only the Fidel to Raul one, but the one coming soon for Raul)?

It makes sense. And for more reasons than what is written above. If I had not written about such scenarios before it is because I had not weighted them enough; but more importantly because it would have forced me to write a specific post about the incompetence of the opposition unable to come up with a bold scenario of its own. For example right now the opposition should promote a constituent assembly to revoke the seizure of Caracas by gauleiter Faria(s), the new threat against private property and freedom of expression, just to name two causes worth moving one's butt. Instead what we see is a limited effort including only Caracas people when 46% of the country said NO last February with a number which probably increased since then. There is not even talk of recall election on the Nazional Assembly! Something that could work quite well at least in Caracas and Zulia, handing down to Chavez a strong psychological blow!!!!

I do not know if San Miguel scenario will happen, though it is interesting to consider the possibility (and make that a must for the opposition). After all Chavez could resort to yet another simpler referendum to end decentralization once and for all, based on the "comunas" demagoguery. Other referenda ideas can easily come up to achieve specific ends provided a bone is attached to each one of them, such as the reelection bone for all in last February. It is certainly true that the opposition is vulnerable right now but any Constituent Assembly this time around will have enough opposition to offer a concrete vocal platform that would be very difficult to silence. I doubt that today Chavez can repeat his 1999 win of 97% seats for 60% of the vote when he would be very hard pressed to get even 55% without outright cheating, with an opposition much more motivated than in 1999 which would definitely get enough seats to make a ruckus.

But then again the Chavez of today is certainly much more willing to have the CNE do all the necessary cheating to ensure him the majority he needs for quick new constitution approval.

-The end-

"Death to Globovision!" A view on the junk inside a chavista cranium

Literally! This is what some of the sick minds within chavismo wish for the owners of Globovision owners (and the owners of other media, by the way).

The momentum against Globovision within chavismo is growing, the more so that Globovision reports with increased frequency the misdeeds of the chavista public officers that lost reelection last November. The loot seems to have been even greater than expected.

Not to mention the increased dissatisfaction of public employees that are owed weeks and months of salaries and bonuses, thus protesting constantly. When it is not health care staff at public hospitals protesting because the state does not protect them against the anger of their patients' relatives who try to kill them when they could not save their parent. This is how degraded the country mood has become, doctors are robbed and killed on the job. All seen on private media of course as on state multiple media services you would believe that we are in a prosperous socialist Switzerland or something. Even the chavista hoi polloi seeks Globovison cameras to declare now, instead of throwing stones at its journalists.

But where the degradation is more advanced is in the mind of chavistas who subjected to constant ideological pressure from Chavez and his Cuban associates and Venezuelan converts are losing any sense of proportion, any contact with reality, any notion on how things actually work in semi civilized societies. The new threats against Globovision today are noteworthy not because of the threats themselves, but about what they tell about the chavista who utters them.

The vice minister of communication, Mauricio Rodriguez, declared, in all seriousness on state TV VTV , that the owners of a media conspiring on a coup deserved death. And he used Chomsky as his back up on an hypothetical situation in the US. (Note: 'used' Chomsky, not 'cited' him, alleging that the guy had said it in some interview). In addition he went ahead to state that Ravell was not able to direct Globovision the way he did, that he was receiving orders from elsewhere. Apparently the official line is that if the good people were left to their own devices they would all love Chavez.

You can find the note on Globovision web page here, and if you hurry they might still have the video available for free here (look for the one that says: nacional @ globovision viceministro del minci habla sobre pena de muerte).

Now, let's assume for the sake of the argument that what Mauricio says is true. First, if Globovison has been plotting against Chavez since at least 2002, how come it is not on trial anyway? If the guilt is so obvious, how come Ravell (and his bosses?) are not already rotting in jail? What does that say about the prosecutor office of Venezuela? And the arguments against Globovision?

Second, the obvious, there is no legal death penalty in Venezuela. So, why mention it instead of saying plainly they should be sent to jail for the rest of their lives? The maximum sentence being 30 years, for Ravell and his bosses ages that would be tantamount to life in jail. Or is this a lapsus brutis of these people who when talking among themselves caress ways of really, but really getting rid of the opposition?

Third, to the ridiculousness, and intellectual dishonesty, of bringing casually Chomsky to collation we could add that media would be hard pressed to direct a coup in countries like the US or Europe even if they were so inclined. True, they love to try to manipulate public opinion, but from there to imagine such a scenario is simply silly. And this is also true inside Venezuela where Globovison today only covers in open broadcast Valencia and Caracas areas. That is, way less than half of the country. If chavismo truly thinks that with that Globovision can direct a coup, then they are really in trouble and/or suffer from severe lack of self confidence.

And last but not least: last time I checked there was absolutely NO WAY to force people to watch Globovision in Caracas and Valencia, and no way to force people to get cable to TV elsewhere to force them to watch Globovision. Why is the government not
asking the right question: why are people going to great length to watch Globovision instead of watching VTV or even TeleSur?

I was wondering about Mauricio as I watched the clip repeated endlessly by Globovision. I was struck by his pose and his rather unwashed style considering he is a vice-minister (I am not asking him to wear a tie, not even to be clean shaven, but to appear as if he at least got a shower this morning). I did look for other pictures of him and he does look neglectful of his image, very revolutionary in a way, but of the cheap type, the ones without any style. So I am putting a second picture of him because I am pretty sure that he is going to gain promotion after today, as Chavez tries to place potential killers in key places for the oncoming repression. You need to know who this guy is, a deeply indoctrinated, probably to the point of brain washing. Observe also that in this picture he is unable to look straight at the camera, just as in the video taken in friendly VTV. But I am not going to start on the psy implications of this observation.

As Gloria Cuenca noted during her interview tonight on Globovision, many chavista officials seem to have lost their Venezuelan ways of speech and sound more like Cuban officials. You know, I do sort of agree with that....

Just to conclude this post, do not think that Mauricio is a lose canon: he is part of a concerted offensive. Today you had for example Adam Chavez himself saying that shutting down privately owned media is not a violation of freedom of expression. Which can only mean that Globovision is not the only target of chavismo, just the first one to go down in this new repressive wave (probably RCTV radio, CNB and Union Radio are targets).

The Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami chimed in saying that one media had become a matter of public health. Again, who is forcing people to watch Globovision? And I would like to add that Tarek would do well to watch Globovision to get the news he needs to fight crime since apparently he has no clue as to what is going on in Venezuela streets. Not to mention that it could also improve his very deficient vocabulary and poor grammar. Again, not that I demand that he speaks as an academic, but sometimes it would be nice to get what he is talking about.

But get ready for more hard talk and chavismo obscenities (real or stylistic, it does not matter). The Interamerican Court has just served more papers to the Venezuelan state demanding to know why it did not reply to previous inquiries and rulings, and why it was prosecuting a lot of people in addition to Globovision. Apparently chavismo has decided not to account to anything, just as the neighborhood thugs or mafiosi, who never feel compelled to explain themselves.

This is going to become really interesting.

-The end-

Sunday, May 10, 2009

So you know what is next in Chavez (and your) agenda

You might have thought that after the verbal orgy of last week that ended with the naked robbery of oil industry suppliers and a dismal cadena Friday night, Alo Presidente would be tamer than usual.

Think again.

Today we got, in no particular order:

- A renewed threat to leave the OAS because El Supremo did not like the latest IACHR Human Rights report on Venezuela. As usual the IACHR is discredited because allegedly it did not come to the rescue of Chavez on April 12 2002 (assuming that they had wanted to help Chavez fully, did they have the time to even gather the commission and emit a resolution on the single day of April 12? It is a tribunal-like system, remember Hugo!!! I know that Tribunals jump to order when you call them in Venezuela but that does not happen elsewhere necessarily). Real Reason for the outburst: I am just starting to violate human rights, so I do not need you to watch over me and trouble my style.

- A renewed threat, and more serious this time around, to close not only Globovision but any media, written or not, that continues its present criticism of chavismo (and Chavez, of course). Real Reason for the outburst: Things are going to get really ugly in Venezuela as people realize that I am out of cash to spread around; if you think for a minute that I am going to let you tell the people like it is you are in for a rude awakening.

- A renewed threat, and a deadly serious one, to go after private property, all private property. In his own words "No hay tierras privadas, ¡así lo digo! En Venezuela no hay tierras privadas, ¡todas son de la Nación! Aquí nadie es dueño, ¡todos son o-cu-pan-tes! Y el que la ocupe tiene el deber de trabajarla, si no pierde ese derecho. Aquí no hay tierras para vacacionar…" There are no private lands, and I say it is so! In Venezuela there is no private land, all belong to the Nation! Here nobody is th owner, all are o-ccu-pants! And whomever occupies has the duty to work it out or loses the right [to occupy]. There are no land to go on holiday here. Real Reason for the outburst: Listen folks, I have no more money to spread around, so I am going to take away from those who oppose me to give it to those who support me; and to keep what I give you, you need to support me at all times, and of course oppress those who do not support me. I know, it is going to divide the country through a mortal slash but see if I care.

Here, the references according to your favorite sources, most from left leaning media who I hope have their nape hairs duly straightened: El Nacional, El Nacional 2, El Pais, El Pais 2, BBC Mundo, and not much in English so far besides this snippet from Reuters India, though maybe the Latin American Herald might soon have something while we wait for the major papers write up.

-The end-

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