Saturday, October 22, 2005

More bad numbers for Venezuela

Statistically wise it has been a terrible week for Venezuela.

The week started with the predicted aberration that as far as corruption is perceived Venezuela ranks 130 out of 158. Today, to give a bright shinny example of how common the corruption thing has gone, Tal Cual used its socialite commentator, Roland Carreño, to let us know that the transfer of bonds of the Venezuelan reserve from US banks to Europe has generated a commission of 250 million dollars. That is right, 250 million of greenbacks, apparently into the hands of a young and ambitious broker (1) for an operation that the Venezuelan government could have carried for much cheaper over a period of a mere semester. It seems that Chavez was upset to learn about it. That Tal cual uses its socialite writer to gives this gossip shows us how far has corruption gone in the main stream that Tal Cual downgrades it to casual comment, a smart way to stress it if you ask me. A suggestion to Chavez and his Vice who was so outraged by the TI ranking: get that young broker and make an example out of it, that way next year Venezuela will jump from at least 130 to 100. That will work better than inventing fake charges that fool nobody.

Then the news moved on to the International Labor Organization where Venezuela is only second to Civil War racked Colombia by its jobless rate, not to mention that Venezuela is plagued by more than 50% of its population in the informal market, a population that pays no taxes, has access to no social services and quite often lives of whatever it manages to peddle at street corners. Thus the persistent poverty in Venezuela was revealed once again, no matter how many social programs Chavez is throwing at the poor, no matter what lies he utters in his overseas trips. But the only thing he does not throw at them is real jobs, and, as we have seen in the infamous French reception this week, who cares in the world as long as Chavez peddles his oil (I write HIS oil on purpose as he seems to be giving it away as if it were his). In France Chavez was received by the right wing Prime Minister, De Villepin who went as far as praising Chavez concern for third world countries as if Chavez were leading a first world country (who does De Villepin memos?) Then Chavez was whisked to the town hall of one of the unreconstructed lefties in France, George Sarre, where he gave a fake press conference where we could see on the front seats the crème de la crème of the saurian left of France, starting with Ramonet, probably looking for another installment for the new seat of Le Monde Diplomatique. French, equal to themselves from the left or the right, do not care about what Chavez does to Venezuelans as long as he does it with French know-how.

Now to top it all Reporters without Borders publishes its press freedom report and Venezuela once again hits the skid marks. 90 this year. I have picked a single paragraph from the Venezuela section:
Chávez continued to tighten laws concerning the media and a measure on the social responsibility of the media came into force on 7 December, providing for punishment of those who "advocate undermining public order." Parliament amended the criminal code on 9 December to increase prison terms for press offences despite general calls by international bodies for these to be decriminalized. The government thus has wide powers to force self-censorship and punish those who fail to comply.
In 2004...

- 5 journalists were arrested
- 57 physically attacked
- 6 threatened
- 6 summoned
- and 13 media premises attacked or ransacked
I am pretty sure that anytime soon we will see Rangel or someone like him coming out and state that Reporters without Borders is infiltrated by the CIA and what not. However a quick look at the RWB statistics since 2002 show that Venezuela position has varied, showing thus that at least there is some criteria in deciding who is fair with its media (not to mention that the list is in general pretty coherent with the perception one has of the different countries). Thus in 2002 Venezuela was 77; in 2003 it had dropped to 96, not surprising in the year of willful repression after the strike. The 90 ranking is reached in 2004 and kept in 2005. And what about the US of A dismal rank for 2005: 44 to Bolivia 45, racked by political trouble but who managed in spite of the fall of a president to maintain as much press freedom as the US… Yep, Rangel better get ready to trash RWB real good, with outrages even bigger than what he used for the other negative number givers.

Let's face it, Chavez might have the smart talk in general but as I think Lincoln said: you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. The truth in Venezuela is percolating outside, slowly but surely. The August 2004 "victory" seems every day more and more a distant memory, not enough anymore to sustain a web of lies about the real Venezuela situation.

Now the only thing left is the "shoot the messenger" strategy.

(1) Carreño did not go as far as printing the name of the broker but gave enough evidence as to its connection within the government to make it easy to identify if so wished for. After all, if totally unethical to play with the money of the republic for personal gain it might not be outside of the law. These chavistas are clever. Chavez gives the order to transfer funds, but does not "benefit" personally in a direct way. The kid, well, you know, he is doing his job and it is not his fault that there is a comission inherently attached to it. Chavez gets "mad". The kid "comes to sense" and returns part of the money (he does keep a few millons anyway as the fall guy). And the returning money goes? Charity? SENIAT? That I am sure we will never know...

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