Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The scared CNE

It is quite easy to see when obsequious lackeys are having cold sweats. I was listening to a replay of CNE president Jorge Rodriguez speech earlier today. As the CNE Titanic is sinking after its run with the Fila de Mariches iceberg, Rodriguez plays the band announcing that almost no one had “officially” withdrawn and the CNE "unanimously" decided to extend the dead line for candidacy substitution. That is, the deadline set for when some candidate dies or resigns or is impeached will be extended until sometime this week end. Let’s see how the shrink has lost his head and how much disregard he has for our basic intellect:

  1. So, if your CV does not allow you to go successfully through the many hoops to be allowed to run, you just need to wait for someone to resign at the last minute to jump in, without having to do any electoral campaign
  2. He also forgets that political parties might have a say as to who replaces whom in their lists.
  3. And the best, of course, when Rodriguez announces proudly that only 0.something % have withdrawn, he assumes that the withdrawing parties have nothing better to do but to stampede to remove their candidates name from the list. Well, if 1 and 2 are true, they certainly will wait until the very last minute to submit the “official” resignation form. I leave the reader appreciate on the right side the sublime moment where Rodriguez was showing the 0.1% withdrawing at 2 PM today. Words fail me.

How come Rodriguez has not resigned? I mean, how shameless one can be?

Meanwhile it is amusing to watch the CNE squirm in the worst damage control I have been watching in quite a long time.

Just as I was writing a few hours ago on Zulia!

Globovision is showing images of the rally being held, as I type this, on 72 nd street of Maracaibo. This rally was originally scheduled as a campaign closing event in Zulia state. Well, I can assure the reader that it is one of the biggest rallies we have seen in Venezuela in these past few months! It certainly would compare (favorably?) with anything Chavez tried recently.

The rally is named "Marcha por la Zulianidad", march for the Zulia-ness. Considering the enthusiasm shown by the people as seen on TV, it looks like recent events have enhanced its meaning. Regionalization (waiting for bigger words?) is becoming an important rallying factor in Zulia. And Chavez is to blame.

Meanwhile, the vice in yet another show of stupidity or machiavelism (one is never too sure with the vice, except that he is vicious) accuses the State Department to be behind the withdrawal of the opposition candidates. So I could leave the reader with the image of George W. Bush losing sleep over Venezuelan parliamentary insted of, say, Iraq if it were not that State has already adressed such nonsense, actually appreciating the reasons of the opposition. I think that the Carter Center is not going to get any phone call these days...

The brilliance of Weil

Today's cartoon (following on yesterday theme) is simply brilliant.

That "monster head" or rabid (fascist?) dog if you please, is actually one of Venezuela's voting machines. The legend?

Primero Justicia kids: guys, do not withdraw... I am begging you with all my heart.

And then some still wonder why nobody wants to go and vote, even in the chavista camp where rumors are that orders are given in the ministries and barracks that whomever does not go to vote on Sunday will be fired. Heil!

PS: the editorial of Tal Cual today is a single gigantic question mark. If even Teodoro has no clue...

Zulia, abstention and other electoral ramdom thoughts

The electoral situation does not seem to be improving. Not that I was expecting much anyway: we all know that what is needed is a new CNE board and manual voting. Nothing else will do. Watching the news I was wondering about a few things and I wanted to put down a few for common reflexion with the readers.

The Zulia problem

Manuel Rosales, Zulia's governor, has announced that he was going to win the Zulia seats and that he was running no matter what the other guys said.

I do not see that as bucking the abstention trend, not even as posturing. In fact I think it is reflecting something much worse: a new and dangerous regionalism. I suspect that the Zulia voter, the most refractary to Chavez bull shit, is getting tired of the delirium of Chavez, which is financed in large part with Zulia underground oil wealth. No matter how many visits Chavez does to Zulia, how much cheating he does at polls, how many promises (usually broken anyway but not a problem elsewhere in Venezuela) opposition to Chavez in Zulia is increasing steadily.

Fascism usually operates by dividing and even atomizing its opposition. This never solves the problem of course, and actually can bring worse problems. Regionalization is one, unleashing centrifuge forces that can have umpredictable consequences, even breaking up countries. The neo-fascists we have in Miraflores are aware of that but are unable to deal with it. Yet, their policies keep aggravating the Zuliano resentment. That bill will have to be paid.

The reason why Rosales remains in the race is because he is effectively harnessing that regional component that we thought was long lost since Gomez. Yet another example of how backward in time Chavez is taking Venezuela. And I cannot condemn Rosales as he is probably avoiding worse manifestations of the problem.

What's up with Sobella Mejias?

Ms. Mejias is the "token" opposition representative at the CNE. As such she has been woefully inadequate, so much that she is basically rumored to have tossed her lot with chavismo.

So, how come we have not heard from her since last week fiasco? How come she has not resigned? How come she has not even supported her colleagues? What are her links with AD?

Sobella, it's time you take a stand for once in your life. If you are cashing big with chavismo have at least the decency to acknowledge it. Or announce publicly that you are ready, as the vice president of the CNE , to take over as soon as Rodriguez resigns. You will create the best possible political crisis in Venezuela by forcing the rotten CNE to collapse or throw away the hypocresy.

The Hamletian Primero Justicia

If I can understand the reasons why Rosales is staying in the run (for the time being anyway) it is more difficult to see why Primero Justicia is still hanging there as there is enough evidence of a groundswell opinion for withdrawing coming from inside its supporters!

I do appreciate that they think elections should always be contested, but underestimating the rejection from the masses to voting under the CNE rules is dangerous for its future. Even this blogger for the first time in his life is wondering whether we should just not take a stand in front of international observers. Not that they will do much but at least we would get media exposure. I think that at this time unity is crucial and if Primero Justicia is going to break it, it should do so without any ambiguity. Those are not days for pusilanimity. AD seems to be doing very well these past 48 hours, at least on what I hear on talk shows!

Useless abstention again?

My main problem with abstention is that it should be active or it is TOTALLY USELESS.

Indeed, I think that if we were able to uncover such a fraudulent action from the CNE, we have the right to demand a full audit of the whole system. As I wrote above, even people like me who are fanatical democrats and cannot see an election where they would not vote are having second thoughts.

But staying home is not the simple solution! Abstentionists should be doing more than calling people to church (though the PR bonus from that could be considerable!) In fact, the abstention "leadership" should already be calling for a massive march on Monday 5 to declare publicly that they will not recongize the results of Sunday election if they dare to hold it anyway (something that looks less and less likely as the CNE is not even holding its regular meetings!)

At any rate, if I do not see much more than useless screaming I will go to church on Sunday and then hit the ballot box anyway, even if only some very minor anti Chavez candidate is left on the ballot. Actually I might even vote Tupamaro as this might scare chavismo even more!

More tonight as events keep unfolding.

Political firestorm in Venezuela

Today must have been one of the most complex days in recent Venezuelan history. The political firestorm was unleashed last Wednesday when the CNE was caught cheating, and even worse, suspected of cheating on a much grander scale than what it was caught doing. Thus in short order we got a riot of news over the week end, an ultimatum to the CNE, a cave in of this one, and a massive quitting from the winning party. Huh? How come?

I think it is too early to try to explain this. Besides this fearless blogger was traveling today and barely made it home. The extensive driving meditation did not clear his head much anyway. However there is one thing which is always useful: to list the basic facts, as they are known, and hope that with time somehow it will all make sense (note: no links given as many of these facts have already been extensively discussed in this blog, and the way things are going, today’s link might become tomorrow nincompoopery)

The Venezuelan electoral system is fraudulent.

Whether the finger print scanners are used next Sunday has become irrelevant. Now, the whole country is convinced, be it true or not, that the CNE has been monitoring who voted for what since August 2004. Jorge Rodriguez as the head of the CNE can brandish any little poll with favorable numbers, it is irrelevant. In a country which has been subjected to the Tascon fascist list where anyone on it could be barred from public jobs, education or social services, few will be brave enough to reply accurately to a pollster. Thus the consistent incongruence seen in polls since 2004.

As a reminder I will recall some of the other factors that must be addressed before any election in Venezuela can be considered legitimate: publication and subsequent verification of voter rolls; real immediate audit on a significant sample of polling stations; controlling the executive abuse when it helps its candidates; making the CNE composition even handed as today ALL of regional delegates and perhaps more than 90% of its personnel is affiliated with chavismo; and more. It is simply impossible to run a fair election in Venezuela if those issues are not addressed. In short, it probably will require manual balloting with a new CNE board to “start” restoring some confidence in elections.

Anyone that dares to comment on the Venezuelan situation ignoring these simple facts is either a fool, or trying to manipulate the audience. I mean it.

The abstention camp is the winning one.

All polls have something in common though: they reflect an increasingly large abstention in Venezuelan elections. In addition to the lack of trust in the CNE, there is also the “tired” factor of a country used to vote only once every 5 years and now forced to vote once to twice a year. But even more, there is a sense everywhere that Chavez has made the country his and that voting simply is a useless waste of time as nothing will change. This is what is provoking the most the chavista abstention, and what hurts chavismo, or even scares it. A populist government needs to prove itself all the time and victories with increased margins are simply meaningless if the polling stations are, well, empty. Perhaps one reason that some in the opposition are so willing to use the abstention card, disingenuously, is simply because chavismo is unable to come to grips with the fact that it is neutering its own followers.

The opposition lack of unity is perhaps its main downfall.

I am not discussing “programmatic unity” here, as the opposition goes from Bandera Roja to right wing military groups. No, any unity besides protecting democracy from Chavez is impossible and unrealistic. Still, the constant attacks on democracy by chavismo should be enough for the opposition to come up with some electoral strategy that all can stick to. After all, it did happen in 2003 when against all odds and all treachery, the recall election was called. But the opposition is unable to hold long to any unity. And this time is no exception. Managing to put together an electoral alliance, it did so late and meekly. Still, it managed to corner the CNE into surrendering the finger printing set up.

But that did not last much. Apparently the decision of political parties to go or not to go on next Sunday vote seems to have been taken independently. That is, none of them seems to have been much worried about the effect on their decision on the hard sought opposition unity. Why? It is too early to say. Some probably sensing that the polls would be particularly bad for them found it to be a perfect excuse. But I doubt it is the case as the electoral alliance allows many parties to mask their weakness. Quitting can only show they lack of support if other remain in the run. As Petkoff lamented today, that general disbanding can come to be a major disaster for the opposition.

The divorce between the opposition and its electorate seems getting worse.

The abstention camp within the opposition has always been a thorn in the side of the political parties. This comes from the dismal attitude of the political parties on August 16, 2004. Since then, not a single party has been able to reestablish a minimum of trust between its leaders and their electors. The October 2004 regional elections where the opposition could have hoped to maintain at least half of its positions was a serious omen as the abstention sunk most opposition candidates, allowing chavismo with already a diminished voting force to carry almost all anyway. That chavismo failed to see its own omen does not excuse the opposition who went on to leave most town halls into the hands of chavismo in august 2005, with even higher abstention.

Now, the striking news in these past two days is a groundswell support for abstention. Even this blogger met a few people who were going to vote a few days ago and now will not, even if political parties decide to go. It is not the time to discuss yet if this is a final suicide for the opposition or the start of a major coup against chavismo, but the fact is that this increased abstention movement, and a vocal one at that, is there to trump everything. Political parties that dare to buckle that tide might find themselves quite bruised on Monday 5…

But one should not be surprised. Unable to come to grips with their dismal role in August 2004, opposition parties have been unable to offer convincing apologies to their voters, even less to renew a discredited leadership and thus became totally unable to motivate the voters back to the good fight. They are just harvesting the consequences of their errors.

Final words for tonight.

It is a mess. It could end up as a severe defeat for Chavez. It could end up as the final gasp for the opposition. One thing is certain, and clear to the world: the Venezuelan electoral system sucks big time. But regular readers of this blog have known that for a long time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Chavismo in disarray? Hysterics, weapons deals and Congressmen on the tarmac

The day has been rife with rumors, declarations and what not. Basically what we are all waiting for is to know whether the opposition will withdraw its candidates for the Sunday contest. Whether the rumored acceptation to remove the finger printing devices will be enough, rumored as it has not been confirmed by the CNE as I am typing this.

Perhaps, in my opinion, the most remarkable development of the day is an INCREASE in the intention of the NOT VOTING option. Venezuelan people are not that silly, if the CNE cover was blown away so completely last Wednesday, well, what else is there? What additional skeletons remain in the CNE dirty closets? Alo Ciudadano, the popular and highest audience talk show on TV had its lines busy with people saying that they would not go and vote no matter what the opposition leadership decided. The “informal” daily poll was on such intentions and the final result was a stunning 95% on not going to vote next Sunday!!! No matter how unscientific that is, there is a message there.

Alo Ciudadano had also Ezequiel Zamora on the air. The ex director of the CNE was quite clear not only about all the problems of the voting system, much worse than what it used to be, but also reminded the opposition leadership that they were paying the price of neglect in the post August trauma when they should have fought for better elections, where they should have picked up on the leads left behind by Sumate, the OAS, and even himself when he resigned. Chickens always come home to roost and the opposition leadership is harvesting years of neglect. Or is it?

It seems that in fact the opposition has been doing a lot of homework to be able to expose all the CNE treachery (is there a better word for a state organization which deliberately set up a system to kill the secret of voting, this moist sacred principle of what a democracy should be?) Perhaps what we are seeing is a fine strategy that came to fruition none too soon. We shall see, but one thing is certain: there is no point for the opposition to do a serious electoral campaign, to offer a serious program to rebuild the country if there is no point in going to the ballot as the result is, now for all to see, pre ordained. Some groups are quyite clear on the next steps already. Copei vice president, former High Court judge, Roman Duque Corredor was on TV to announce that Copei would nto run if the overhaul of the system is not contemplated soon. It is vox populi now that Primero Justicia is the brain behind the operation to uncover the CNE in front of the international observers (certainly in collaboration with Sumate). AD is gathering tomorrow at noon to take a decision. Other organizations have indicated their intention to withdraw their candidates and even if MAS, PV and other are still silent, when you read that Zulia’s Rosales movement is about to quit when ti si assured of the only opposition victory, you know where the tide is flowing.

If you want to see how discomfit chavismo is, you only need to look at some of its infamous hacks trying to do some damage control. Ever so clumsily, ever so infamously.

Ismael Garcia on TV this morning at 6:30 PM was in such a hysterical state that the interviewer was unable to even ask questions. He went to Globovision, a rare visit for a chavista, only to spit out as fast and as hard as possible the chavismo line, without giving the journalists a chance to probe, what all chavistas who go to Globovision always do anyway. If there was nothing new there, the despair to thread the line was rather fascinating to watch.

Another one hitting the air waves hard was Maduro, the hack in charge of the national assembly and who was rumored to be traveling for leisure instead of campaigning. Well, he had nothing else better to state that this all was only a US financed ploy against Venezuelan democracy. It is hard to be more unoriginal this day. Could it be that they really were caught by surprise by last week audit failure? Whatever it is, one wonders if this had anything to do with a US Congress delegation which was not allowed to leave the plane in Caracas airport. They had to fly back to the state. What a curious development, no?

Not to mention that the outburst of Lara yesterday was commented around, in rather ridicule in his attempt to pass as an outraged catholic wanting to force the Roman Catholic church to take a stand against Sumate. His declaration today that "the CNE was too lenient with the opposition" woudl made anyone laugh if they were not so pathetic.

Meanwhile Chavez was signing a weapon deal with Spain that is not flattering on Zapatero foreign policy even if it brings him, or so he thinks as he hopes Venezuela will be a good payer, a few jobs to Spain. But this another story of Chavez buying foreign sympathies with the oil money of Venezuelan people while his CNE henchmen are being exposed. I sure hope that during his visit the defense minister of Spain will read about the CNE “problems” to get an idea about what crooks he is really dealing with, before he either gets associated with these crooks in Public opinion, or, worse, he and his Zapatero boss pass for the fools that they seem more and more to be…

Thus we remain wondering if this is the begining of the "real thing" or yet another trap set for the opposition. For once I am not so sure. It is too convoluted and too risky. Observers are watching everything and counting on them closing their eyes on such irregularities just as to get contracts for their countries can only go so far in the rarefied world of conspiracy theories. However we have grown so used to the opposition self destructive actions that there is no room for optimism.

Amanecerá y veremos.

Unbelievable developments! (later this evening)

In a most infamous "cadena" Jorge Rodriguez had to swallow hard to announce that his very own baby, the finger printing machines, rumored to have brought him great riches, were suspended from use for next Sunday vote. In a normal country such an annoucement of a personal failure from the guy that forced such an incredible expensive, and useless, state expenditure and policy, should be followed by his resignation. But in the Bolibanana Republic, Rodriguez, a moral crook, will retain his job instead of being submitted to investigation. His explanaitions were pathetic. Instead of just going ahead and announce the suspension on some lame excuse such as public concern or international suggestion, he added a ridicule, if not pityful, justification including mystery polls that allegedly ranked the CNE high in confidence in Venezuela. Only a failed shrink would believe a poll contracted by himself!!!

On the other hand I found very disturbing the OAS communique asking people to go and vote next Sunday. Interference? Appeasement? Outright help for Chavez? Someone should remind them that appeasement NEVER works. This communique IS NOT GOING to help.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The CNE has been caught red handed?

As a follow up from last nigth post (do not miss it!), I am pleased to see that the CNE is sensing trouble ahead. Descending from its arrogant position, it is willing to discuss "better" ways to use the finger printing devices. associated with the voting process.

Let me explain, again, you how this is basically bull shit, and I spell it completely on purpose, even if this is a family oriented blog.

The finger printing device per se is not really a problem in that it could indeed catch people trying to vote twice (though the set up of this system is rather extremely expensive for the avowed objective and the results reported so far).

THE PROBLEM with the finger printing device is that it allows for the CNE to figure out who voted for whom, even if disingenuously the CNE claims that all pen drives / memories will be erased in no more than 72 hours. ANYONE who has used a pen drive or portable memory device knows very well that copying to it from a computer, or an electronic voting machine, will take only a few minutes. WHO IS GOING to make sure that no one comes around in that 72 hours delay to copy the confidential information? The sold out Venezuelan army? The CNE more than sold out personnel? Pleaaaase.....

This is far from being resolved and a stormy meeting at the CNE this afternoon can be anticipated.

Electoral trouble ahead in Venezuela

The Turkey Holy-day has passed and I was rather busy on personal things, and thus I kept a distant eye on the news. Yet, the news got quite exciting. It will be too long to report all in detail, not to mention that I do not dispose of the time to do an exhaustive link search and other consultations. However something is quite clear: there is trouble in the CNE electoral paradise. Until I can get back home and post in some more details I wanted to write some quick summary.

The whole problem, or rather recent problem I should say since the CNE has been saddled for now two years with a confidence problem it is unable to shake off, came up last Wednesday when a pre voting audit for some machines took place. Right off the bat, it is important to note that the machines at Mariches, the “testing” grounds, had been selected by the CNE for the international observers and political parties. This unverifiable sampling was done because, duh!, the voting machines had already been distributed and it was too difficult in a single day to go to at least 3 or 4 states to pick machines at random.

But let’s not obsess about this first irregularity. What was worse is that during the audit it was established that indeed the sequences of people arrival at the voting center could easily be matched with the actual voting sequence in the machines. The implication? The secret of vote is now non existing in Venezuela. In other words, as voting progress the CNE can see exactly how the vote is going, if chavistas are indeed voting fro chavista candidates, if the abstention is high enough, etc, etc… And thus the CNE could get the ability to make any changes in the results, any voter addition it decided since it would KNOW WHO DID NOT VOTE AND THUS MAKE THEM “VOTE” FOR CHAVISTA CANDIDATES AS NEEDED.

There is actually an excellent piece of indirect evidence: many chavitas candidates are not only not bothering to campaign, but some have been reported traveling LESS than 2 weeks before the election to visit their guru in India!!! TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE ELECTION! Who does suspend a campaign in what country unless they are certain to win?

Of course, the CNE tried very hard to hide that Wednesday failure, which we are told impressed very much the international observers. These were also very impressed by a little program circulating in chavista government circles, a little program that gives the user all the official information to screen folks: whether they voted for Chavez, signed against him in 2004, belong to a “Mision”, etc… While chavista campaign managers benefit for this outrageous violation of privacy, the CNE plays dumb and refuses to surrender the electoral rosters that the opposition demands to be able to make an audit and see if people registered to vote are real people, Venezuelans, and registered more than once. The recent exposure of hundred of people with the same last name registered to vote on the same day in Zulia, demonstrates without a doubt that an extensive revision of the electoral rolls in Venezuela is A MUST!

But more “cute” stories have been coming up since last Wednesday. For example the clumsy excuses offered by the CNE representatives who hid behind such lameness as “this is confidential” “you must trust us, we mean well” which sound much more like a used car salesman speech than a state entity which should be of absolute transparency for this outmost task in a democracy, to determine who is the real winner. As for the protestations of Jorge Rodriguez, the CNE head who now gets booed at some public events, let’s just say charitably that they were less than reassuring.

And today EL Universal revived the claims of electoral fraud on August 2004 when new studies, much more detailed, would indicate that not only Chavez did pat his majority fraudulently (this blogger thesis) but that in fact he may have lost by a 5% margin!!!! That is the Chavez August 15 victory by 18% was actually a defeat by 5%!

But eventually fraud is ALWAYS uncovered, sooner or later. I do not want to discuss that latest assertion on the August vote, but I do want to stress that THERE IS NOW ENOUGH, CLEAR, UNAVOIDABLE EVIDENCE OF A COMING FRAUD ON NEXT SUNDAY VOTE. The only question now is what the opposition parties are going to do? Are they going to go to the slaughter house anyway? Not with this blogger now! Are they going to finally take a principled stand and decide on real actions? Certainly with this blogger behind and probably million-S of Venezuelans!

I will not anticipate what will happen, I am not enough in the news to write more than what I already wrote, a text on what is now vox populi in the Venezuelan streets as the CNE leadership is in obvious discomfort, not to mention the chavista leadership. However we can already see where it is heading. SUMATE who has been stating “irregular” voting conditions for now years has called for all Venezuelans to go to church on Sunday and pray for the country. Huh? Well, this is actually a delicate way for SUMATE to call for abstention: instead of voting do pack all Venezuelans church at 11 AM on election day and let the cameras film the empty voting stations. You can imagine the PR problems of such an initiative!!! William Lara, the scummy chavista campaign director was already today asking for Maria Corina Machado head and daring the Catholic church to take a stand against this “gross manipulation on Catholics like myself”. Lara as a practicing Roman Catholic! Bwahahahahah!

I personally think that AD and Primero Justicia should withdraw unless the CNE does:
-remove finger printing machines
-makes a hot audit on the very Sunday
-remove electoral voting books which are even more fraudulent than the finger printing machines
-surrender to ALL political parties the electoral roster so as to audit it independently from governmental interference
-postpone the elections for at least two months to allow the CNE to clean up their act
I have no suggestions to give to the opposition parties, but after this last days “incidents”, they should be very careful as to the steps they will take. AD has a golden opportunity to demonstrate that it is not dealing behind doors with chavismo to get a few paltry seats. Primero Justicia can demonstrate that they have actually spine, a leader and a plan. The others that they are committed to democracy and to the fight against Chavez fascism by supporting any decision of the two larger groups. All together to demonstrate to the international observers who now are more likely to decide in their favor that they are indeed a solid opposition group that will not be cheated upon anymore. The observers can demonstrate that they are real observers and not a succedaneum like the Carter Center. Or they can ALL sink together once and for all, the parties losing the country and the observers losing their reputation, as the Carter Center did one year ago.

Stay tuned, it is getting quite interesting.

And your devoted blogger who has already explained many other aspects of Venezuelan electoral fraud will be back to regular blogging very soon.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Voting on December 4. Are venezuelan living abroad excluded?

Venezuelans living abroad seem to be second class citizens when it is time to vote. Venezuelan consulates around the world have today no idea on how their citizens are going to vote in the forthcoming venezuelan elections that will take place on December 4, 2005. Just nine days away (see here).

Several friends living abroad have called their consulates and the answer is that they have no news from the goverment on how the vote will be organized.

Interestingly, expatriated venezuelans did vote in Consulates and Embassies on August 15, 2004 on the revocatory referendum. They went to vote massively despite long hours of waiting. The results were overwhelming in favor of revoking the mandate of Hugo Chavez, as can be seen here. Also note the fact that the vote abroad was not electronic.

Is this just Chavista incompetence or is it a deliberate measure to insure that a portion of those that oppose Chavez are denied the right to vote?

So, dear readers, if you are a Venezuelan citizen living abroad, call your Consulate and ask them about the voting arrangements. Then post a note here so that we can read all the chavista excuses for denying you your right to vote.

Note1 added.- According to the information provided by one of the readers, it is possible to vote in the Chicago Consulate. But other readers have gotten no anwers about voting from their Consulates. So this is important. Call your local Consulate and let us know. Here is the link for Consulate info

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A fluff post and a happy Turkey Day wish

Wednesday I will be on the road. For the first time in a few years I am actually going to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving. It is not, unfortunately, a Venezuelan holiday. I say unfortunately since through my years living in "El Norte" it grew on me and I have missed it since I came back to live in Venezuela. A nice, rather low commercial holiday (if it were not for "Mall day" that comes right behind!).

Thus for the next few days there will be lite posting, as I will be digesting turkey and attending other Caracas obligations. Besides that 1000 mark sorts of begs for lite posting, you know. To start in this fluff mode until elections next week draw me back to reality, I was thinking that perhaps a new color scheme would be good for the blog. Looking around I found this totally mindless test which gave the fololwing result:

Your Blog Should Be Green

Your blog is smart and thoughtful - not a lot of fluff.
You enjoy a good discussion, especially if it involves picking apart ideas.
However, you tend to get easily annoyed by any thoughtless comments in your blog.

And with that, have a nice Thanksgiving day travel today, the worst Wednesday to travel in the US. And if you make it sound and safe and happy to a normally dysfucntional family, may you enjoy the best Thursday of the year. For the others? Well, go and get yourself at least a turkey sandwich for lunch and join us.

PS: let's us all hope that Turkey day will not be attacked like Halloween was by El Turkey Supremo.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The 1000th post

According to Blogger, this is the post number 1000. Not the one 1000 that I wrote (there have been at least 5 other contributors). Just the 1000 post.

I think I deserve a night off. Ponderous meditation can wait.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Chavez real targets: the Anderson case as a decoy

All will agree that the past few weeks in Venezuela have been a near total pandemonium. As such, the only visible result so far is a now totally discredited office of the Nation’s Prosecutor as its holder Isaias Rodriguez simply looks like a fool on drugs. In its wake the scandal has taken the chair of the National Assembly equally on drugs and even more of a lout than one could have guessed. Yesterday a Chavez wearing Mexican hats and chanting “rancheras” to justify his aggression on Fox was the ultimate. In fact it deserves a closer examination, just to show the casual reader what a circus we are living in.

Chavismo convoked a march to protest against imperialism as the real agent causing the break up between Fox and Venezuela. Obviously Chavez is desperate to draw some official US/Bush retort, the final blessing in order to become the official heir of Castro. And so far the US has been holding still, not falling into the silly game. The convoked march was far from being a success. As seen from the picture next, even the very official Bolivarian News Agency, ABN, could not come up with a better picture: a tight group of marchers, but no more than a couple of thousand. The surrounding emptiness can be seen clearly. At the arrival, in a chavista area, the crowds swelled more. Then again people did not have to walk that much and probably booze was served. At any rate it was enough to justify Chavez apparition. All the usual recrimination against Bush were there to greet the attendees. But probably sensing that the rallying of most of Mexico behind Fox was an unpredicted and certainly gross Venezuelan diplomatic miscalculation, Chavez donned, ridiculously, a Mexican hat and sang a few “rancheras”. Anything for a laugh! With that performance Chavez joined HIS General Prosecutor and HIS National Assembly to show that they indeed act according to HIS example and the lines that HE gives.

But it would all be fine, and mildly amusing even if it were not that this “bon enfant” fun is hiding much darker designs. And people are not fooled.

More and more the overplaying of the Anderson case is seen as:

1) An electoral threat to try to push the opposition into some miscalculation, or at least to stimulate opposition abstention and distract from any feeble campaign they might be doing, or exposing their hard found temporary unity.

2) If that does not work out, induce the remaining independent media into some improper declaration and thus give an excuse to close them or at least bar them from showing the increasing popular unhappiness that expresses itself more and more. The most popular variety these days is to block the Autopista Regional del Centro, Venezuela’s traffic aorta equivalent. Or drop garbage or other obstacles in the middle of the streets.

3) And if that does not work well, then at least intimidate the opposition and media leadership by jailing, DELIBERATELY, a few without any real charges against them. It does not matter if they are released after a few weeks with an “oops!”: the psychological effect should have been reached.

But it does not seem to work so far. Ridicule keeps hurting more chavismo than it hurts Fox, or Bush or anyone else. And two strong voices were raised this week to counter chavismo ill thought and, let’s not be afraid of words, fascistic argumentation and methods.

The first salvo was the impassioned defense of Globovision made by one of its owners. Clearly, Globovision is THE target of the Maduro infamous declarations. Guillermo Zuluoga does not thread lightly when he states, on paper and on video (1) the following:

Globovison engages itself not to demonstrate the innocence of Nelson Mezerhane which has never been in doubt, but to demonstrate to Venezuela and the World that all of this business is an infamy of no precedent. It was imagined to hide or cover up something that we do not know of, but it has been so lousily set up that the facts that it mentions, through a very unreliable witness, are impossible to demonstrate whereas it is perfectly possible to demonstrate that Nelson Mezerhane could not have been found at the alleged sites in the dates mentioned by the witness.

Mister General Prosecutor and Mister President of the National Assembly, you know, as everyone in Venezuela [knows], that Globovision does only inform of the truth. When real information is annoying, it is worth wondering why.

May all Venezuelans be assured that we will stay here. Informing as [we] always [do]. Because Globovision commitment is with Venezuela, with all of you.

Today it is against us, tomorrow it can be against anyone of you.
Strong stuff indeed! Maduro and Isaias know full well that Globovision ratings, in particular “Alo Ciudadano”, are impressive and draw a large chavista audience which does not see its problems reflected in the state controlled media. That surely hurts! It remains to be seen if in front of such a challenge Isaias and Maduro will persist in their now revealed ill intentions.

But in an amazing coincidence, a few minutes after an equally stronger statement came from Marcel Granier. He is one of the owners of the other network that has not bowed to Chavez, that keeps the only talk show of inquisitive journalism that is second only to Alo Ciudadano and which controls the AM ratings: La Entrevista. And to make matters worse, Marcel Granier was exiting a meeting with the OAS observers and the CNE where the OAS got apparently quite a serving of what is REALLY going on in Venezuela. The video is too long to transcribe but would deserve it (2). Below one of the gems that the OAS can mull around:

“the disequilibrium as to the propaganda from the government, which overcomes the one from the opposition in a proportion of 1 to 20 000, Not 1 to 20. I even saw the members of the CNE sincerely worried, because this does not guarantee the healthy atmosphere that all Venezuelans want”

It is significant that Marcel Granier recognizes that even the highly biased CNE recognizes indirectly that the government is pushing the envelope too far. They certainly will not act against Chavez, this blogger is sure of that, but he cites this item to try to bring a sense of what a mad house this country HAS become when even an outright opponent of Chavez recognizes that some within chavismo are a little bit taken aback by the audacity.

Still, as if this were not enough, today El Universal produces an interview of Mr. Granier by Roberto Giusti (part 2 and 3). No words were minced either. A few sections translated:
RG: Will the moment of the final strangulation [of the media] come?

MG: Yes. This day we will all be sorry. The country because it will have lost independent opinion and the government because it will pay a price on the long term. These criminals pay a long term price. Stalin died in bed.

RG: Then he did not pay.

MG: No, but the Russians did pay. Maybe those who strangle public opinion will not pay but Venezuelans will pay.


RG: Anderson having been transformed in a martyr of the revolution, Hill they reject the investigations that have not been already set up in the indictments? In other words, is there already a decision on that case?

MG: All of this is happening within the frame of a very irregular electoral scenario where the government uses any pretext to promote itself and reduce the adversary. There is a harassment and terror plan to bend the opposition, to make sure it does not dare to accuse, to make sure it does not start to march in protest, nor participate [in elections]. The Anderson case allows [the government] to make significant rallies, to occupy media space and to take them away from the opposition. It is not a matter of only hiding corruption and crime. In Venezuela there has been more than 6 000 summary executions since this administration reached office and the responsible cops are going around free and doing even more. The only thing novel is the electoral use that is given to that case.

RG: Is it not being attempted to criminalize the opposition by accusing of murderers a select group of its leaders?

MG: It is a carbon copy of what happened in Cuba. And it is our fate. Already Castro manages our foreign, military and electoral policies. The wishes of the government is to make many elections facing a trapped opposition that does not express itself or take to the streets.


RG: You state that Chavez leads a corrupt and inefficient government, but he still has the support of at least half of the people.

MG: The history of the world is full of such aberrations and alter the people that have suffered them complain. How many people did Stalin and Hitler and Mussolini kill?


RG: There is transition point, when you start losing popular support, but you already have enough power to sustain yourself through repression.

MG: This is what is happening right now and from this the present media show. As the government keeps losing popular fervor it looks for an external enemy to try to unify the people and then starts that repressive process, intimidating, though terror. And when people are afraid, they freeze.


RG: And is there not something similar happening? [looking for external confrontation to reinforce internal power]

MG: Yes, but he [Chavez] is not taking the big step. He has threatened Colombia, but he does not dare. He did so early against Guyana but he backed down and he lost, in his mistake, the territory [note of this blogger: that error of Chavez all but lost any claim that Venezuela had over the Essequibo region]. He threatens the USA, but here it is the US embassy and the Venezuelan one over there. He offends more Fox than Bush because he knows that Mexico is not a military menace in the way he sees things, though commercially this is going to hurt us a lot.
So there you have, RCTV and Globovision have thrown the gauntlet in the arena. Who will pick it up? The opposition leadership and carry it as a powerful electoral banner? Will the prosecutor jail Granier and Zuloaga? Will the National Assembly pass yet a stronger gag law? Any or all of the above in a show anytime soon.

At least one thing is clear now: people are not beating around the bush anymore, we know what is really going on. And some players seem to have decided to call on Chavez bluff.

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1) the video from Zuluoga can be found there, but it is a pay site. Look for "Guillermo Zuluoga..." 17-11-2005

2) ditto for the video of Granier, look for "Presidente de empresas 1BC..." 17-11-2005

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Added in proof, some additional relevant material. Miguel's take. Plus backrooms "sweet deals" while all of this show takes place in front. A financial view over the Mexico-Venezuela spat, with numbers. And a witness declaration at the US Congress on US Venezuela realtions, in Spanish and English.

Also some fascinating research work on the role of Vladimir Villegas, the pseudo ambassador of Venezuela in Mexico who in fact was a funding agency for all sort of trouble makers over there, things that woldl make SUMATE and the NED blush in shame for "pena ajena". As usual, fascists enjoy the application of double standards.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Great moments in the republican separation of powers

So you have one of the 5 Venezuelan powers in trouble. What do you do? Bring in another of the powers to make some outlandish charges and distract attention. You are allowed to be so brazen in that action that you can even bring in the head of the helping power to clear up any possible doubt that there might be a separation of powers in Venezuela.

The details now

Isaias Rodriguez, Prosecutor General of the nation, is in trouble. As extensively reported in this very page , the Anderson case does not even deserve anymore the title of opera buffa (one of the posts on that subject). In fact, words fail me to qualify the show set up by Isaias. The attorney, part of the 4th power which to date we wonder if it has any other function but to protect corrupt public servants, is looking quite strained under the constant calls for his resignation, deserved calls just for his sheer incompetence in setting up such a lousy show. (1)

Obviously the public relations problem created by Isaias is becoming so bad that a new charge is brought for to justify jailing Mezerhane, and, might as well, jailing a few more that have been covering so unflatteringly Isaias mediocrity. The chosen messenger is no one else than the president of the National Assembly, Nicolas Maduro. This man is of such limited abilities that as a Caracas Metro employee he failed in stirring serious trouble in the Metro Union where he was sent to enroll in as a trouble maker. He had to wait for Chavez to pick him up to start a career in legal delinquency. He knows where his loyalties are as he knows full well, and to his credit, that by himself he would have never made it even to night usher of the National Assembly. Now, well, he is the chair and lives well, displaying a rather puffy face. He pays back his employer by uttering any nonsense according to the moment, and passing any tasteless law that seems necessary, even calling the Nazional Guard if required to shut down opposition legislators. It is this fine democrat that added a new piece to the Mezerhane story today, where supposedly he tried to buy the judge last Monday night with three million dollars (cash, I think).

Just right there how come Maduro is the one letting on the Prosecutor office of such actions? How did he learn about that? Is that his role? Is that his role to even announce it publicly instead of sending the tip to the appropriate authority? Is it that Isaias is crumbling under so much ridicule that Maduro decided to shoulder some of the burden?

So, according to the information “revealed” today, this would be the story of Mezerhane trying to kill Anderson.

Mezerhane, successful, wealthy Jewish banker, and media player, and businessman in Venezuela felt compelled to eliminate prosecutor Anderson (for motives that have yet to be disclosed; the motives! The motives someone! Quick!). To do that he went to some meeting in some jungle outside of Venezuela where he all but handed his business card around. Then the prosecutor was blown to pieces. Cunningly Mezerhane decided to have his media outlet, Globovision, promote for a year a campaign to demand the government to investigate the Anderson case. Lo and behold! Isaias after one year suddenly declares that Mezerhane is one of the intellectual authors (among about a dozen or so, all vouched for by the sole accounting of a psychotic Colombian witness). Mezerhane “hides” for a few days while his lawyers inquire within. Quickly chavismo has rumors flying that Mezerhane bailed out of the country. But surprise, the guy surrendered Monday morning. One would expect that this surrender would signify a normal prosecution of the investigation while the guy, convinced of his innocence nicely stays in jail expecting for a favorable result. But no! Apparently he threatened one of the prosecutors that took his deposition. Yes, Mezerhane went to jail so he could insult a prosecutor. And that is not all. According to Maduro on Monday night, Mezerhane attended a reunion where he offered 3 million dollars to the judge in charge to let him go free by sabotaging the dossier.

Unfortunately for Maduro, this already absolutely unbelievable tall tale blew up on his face as he was speaking at a press conference. One reporter asked how come Mezerhane could attend that meeting since he was already in jail. Maduro, obviously at a loss (see the precious Globovision video of it), obviously confused and on drugs (he seems to have a bad cold and charitably I attribute that particular bout of incompetence to some anti cold medicine) took a while until he realized what the words of the journalist meant. Eventually he mumbled some avoidance words that were sterlingly unconvincing.

That was not all. A little bit later the head of Globovision offered to trade places with Mezerhane, and pointed out that he could not have been to some of the activities that Maduro described because, duh!, he was at work with 200 or so witnesses. Major blow in the face to Maduro. Another blow, by the way, is that apparently Mezerhane tried to buy a judge that had already been fired from his case. I mean, reallly, how stupid can Mezerhane be? But since this was all a prepared set up, of course, Isaias went ahead anyway with the plan and was prompt in announcing an investigation on the whole business. I suppose that "fishy" is in the eye of the beholder.

No words on why would Mezerhane surrender just to offer three million dollars a few hours after when he could have left the country with the money and live safely and comfortably for the rest of his days…

My take? Do I really need to convince the reader that this is a set up where chavista lackeys act together, without any regard to the position they occupy in the Republic, to find an excuse to close up Globovision, the real target in this whole sad show?

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1) Isaias forms part of the 4th power of the 1999 constitution, the Citizen Power or Moral Power. Together with the Ombudsmen and the Comptroller he is in charge of making sure that the laws of the land are followed and do not hurt the citizen. But since this infernal trio is in office corruption has never been so unbridled and the citizen so unprotected.

Note: Stig at Albacom has posted the video of Brownfield interview. I hope that soon he will treat us with the Maduro video moment of the journalist unmasking him. Stay tuned!

Note 2: Stig has come through. There is the Maduro video!!! Do not miss it and observe how puffy and distant Maduro is. Observe also how he tries to dodge the journalist doing her work after she nailed him. Those are our public officials, spreading lies and refusing to furnish the proof or to account for themselves. ¡Que sabroso!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Chavez un-diplomatic skills

Well, if Chavez thought that he would rally "his" people under patriotic fervor against Mexico, his hopes were dashed once and for all today. The front page editorial of Tal Cual set the record straight, nobody in the opposition, not even the opposition-light of Tal Cual, will accompany Chavez in such an irresponsible adventure. Just as it refused to endorse the anti US chanting. I have partially translated the Tal Cual editorial below, and then some comments.


Who provided Chavez with the videos of the Mar del Plata summit? Kirchner, who else? The Argentinean president shot through third party.

What he would not do directly, he does it through the “enfant terrible” that the Venezuelan president is, whose gigantic vanity makes him easy to be manipulated, as Fidel Castro found out. With the video diffusion, the delicate diplomatic weaving that the foreign ministers of Mexico and Venezuela were mounting to overcome the problem was blown away. Chavez is leaving his government more and more on the curbside of the continental debate. At Mar del Plata, no matter what the local flatterers, the government, during the discussion, was isolated. The MercoSur countries did not slam the door on FTAA, but they left ajar the possibility of continuing the discussion, trying to reach an equitable arrangement with the US of A because for these countries the present version of the FTAA treaty is a one way street.

At the end Chavez had to add his vote to the southern block, so as not to be left completely out of the game.

[slip] Mercosur does not want anything else but to compensates the imbalances of the “gringo” proposal and if the US were to accede to reciprocity in the matter, one can be certain that Brazil and Argentina, as well as its smaller associates Paraguay and Uruguay would sign without objections. [slip on what the US should do] Mercosur, for the time being, refused to accompany Chavez, to burn the chips. They will wait for the Hong Kong meeting. That is the responsible thing to do.

Chavez doe spot know how to discuss trying to understand the reasons of the others. He does not seek agreements but tries to impose unilaterally his Hill. If it is rejected, he starts a temper tantrum and like a small kid insults whomever disagrees with him. A serious and thoughtful debate with Fox would have been interesting, but the brutal aggression of the Venezuelan president shut down that way. He is also pointing his batteries to the Andean community “There is nothing for Venezuela in the Andean Community” he said last Sunday. Tomorrow if Mercosur were to reach an agreement with the US Chavez would tell us that we have no business there. The road to isolation. The integrationist discourse of Chavez crashes on his disintegrationist practices.

Venezuelans, even most chavista ones and I am willing to bet anything on that, know very well that this is all a Chavez posturing, that if some of his ideas are certainly worth considering, the way he goes about them is to simply figure in the headlines, instead of building anything durable. This nefarious and totally unproductive policy, un-diplomatic way to run foreign affairs, has been put in perfect evidence: in spite of huge handouts out by Venezuela to the small Caribbean island, in oil and payment facilities, NOT A SINGLE one did follow Chavez in Mar del Plata. Oil diplomacy has its limits, apparently.

Besides he committed a gross mistake: in Venezuela it is very fashionable to hire a group of Mariachis at birthdays to come over at the end of the party to sing “Las mañanitas”. The Venezuelan Mexico sentimental link is probably the strongest by Venezuelans to any other Latin America country, as it comes from the very important trading of colonial times (The New Spain vice royalty was a big buyer of Venezuelan cocoa beans). But this is what happens when you have rulers that not only ignore the country’s history, but despise it and try to rewrite it as much as they can.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Great Moments in Diplomacy: ambassadors with a message

Contrast these two scenes. Only one has a real message.

Scene 1: the ambassadors return home.

The return of the Mexican ambassador was a rather subdued affair. To the press that was waiting him at the Mexico airport he pleaded to let them go first to the chancery to make his report. He limited himself to say that Venezuelan people treated him very well and that many wished him well when he left (implying that many Venezuelans were not supporting Chavez?)

Vladimir Villegas return was of another sort. The ex ambassador to Brazil, ex director of the state TV, ex small time leftist journalist was not shy in front of the camera. In fact his presentation when he arrived made one wonder how could someone of his temple could make it as an ambassador, and to Mexico at that! No wonder that the Mexican foreign ministry has revoked his placet and that the eventual return of a Venezuelan ambassador will require naming a new one. One can only wonder what role did Villegas had in making matters worse: a “patán” like Villegas should not even be honorary consul! (1)

Sure enough Villegas declared only to the state TV, VTV, least a real journalist were to ask a real probing question. The "official" story first, and only! There was a time when Villegas complained about journalistic complacency, if I recall well, but I might be wrong. And the way he protested about “the campaign of the Mexican special interest groups and media” or something like that sounded hollow. Whether he has links with Al Qaeda, as an ambassador of Venezuela he should not go down the ring to battle the Mexican press. He did get the placet, no? Does anyone train diplomatic revolutionary personnel in Venezuela? In Brazil he was not impressive. In Mexico even less. Makes one wonder which are the real reasons for Chavez to keep sending him to such high profile embassies! (2)

Scene 2: The US ambassador declared to the press today. The US has been very careful to stay clear from the Mexico-Venezuela spat. “It is none of our business”, and it is probably true.

But William Brownfield is a smart guy and he was not going to waste an opportunity to put banderilla in the wounded Venezuelan bull. After all, poor Bill has had to put up with so many accusations of the US as the source of all evil on earth, that, well, you know, he had to let it out (3). Well, ambassador Brownfield came with a little piece of paper where he listed some of the many things that the US has been accused of vis-à-vis Venezuela:

[The US has been accused of being behind] of the presidential assassination attempt, coup d’etat, promoting Venezuelan voter abstention, internal divisions within Chavez party, campaign of the opposition, Vargas floods [in February because Bush did not sign Kyoto] bombs in the CNE office of Carabobo, killing a prosecutor [CIA involvement in the Anderson case, at least not alone there], complot to terrorize Venezuelan kids at Halloween, Colombia’s DAS declarations, decreasing PDVSA production, the International Trasnparency campaign [where Venezuela was revealed as one of the most corrupt countries], international negative media campaign, campaign against the Aves island [a tiny island in the Northern Caribbean that some island state would like to take away from Venezuela, something totally unfounded for this blogger who would suggest to trade it for the Guyana portion stolen from Venezuela by the Brits, but I digress]
And then, tongue in cheek, he adds:
How can I sleep with so many conspiracies and intrigues? The truth is that in this world there are some things that have nothing to do with the US, and this is one of them [the Venezuela Mexico spat]
I do not know about you but I think that Brownfield was superb; and I predict that contrary to Fox he will not get an Alo Presidente lashing for that one. I can hardly imagine how to summarize better Venezuela (Chavez in fact) paranoia and diplomatic incompetence to explain the loss of credibility of Venezuela (and Chavez) on the foreign stage. Crying wolf too much Hugo?

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1)Patan: lout, boor.

2)Video on Globovision, but for pay. Title: Villegas ante revocatoria... 15-11-05

3)Video on Globovision, and this one is worth it. If someone could pride the link it would be great. Title: Embajador Brownfield... 15-11-05, probably on for free until Wednesday morning.

NOTE ADDED: Stig, as usual, has come through and the Brownfield video can be seen here!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Venezuela and Mexico suspend diplomatic relations

Act 1: Mar del Plata, the summit of the Americas

Chavez does a counter summit with an ex druggie and a coca provider. Takes the front stage with a paid for audience (at least there is evidence of people ferried to that show). Meanwhile the other countries are trying really hard to work out a deal.

Chavez rejoins the sessions, finally, only to sabotage things further and fight with whomever does like FTAA.

Pro FTAA countries vote 28 + USA against 4 + Venezuela. Chavez self stated purpose of ruining FTAA once and for all is sent back to him with a nasty sound of "smack" in the face.

Vicente Fox of Mexico is one of the leaders of the FTAA effort and thus the Chavez slayer.

Act 2: A cadena in Venezuela

Chavez, obviously smarting from his diplomatic setback in Mar del Plata (not even a single island of the Caribbean to whom he bribed with oil followed him in Mar del Plata) decides to insult Fox during a live enforced all media broadcast, a "cadena". Nobody can miss the moment.

Fox foreign ministry demands explanations.

Act 3: Derbez and Rodriguez try to smooth things out

Apparently some progress is made.

Act 4: Sunday Alo Presidente

Chavez just ignores (?) the efforts of his foreign minister. Chavez shows videos of the working sessions which are supposedly confidential so that the leaders can speak more freely. Chavez insults Fox again.

The Mexican foreign ministry now demands a formal apology.

Lamely a Venezuelan minister claims the usual suspects: media conspiracy, obscure interests sectors and what not. Never the rudeness of Chavez is called into question.

Act 5: Traveling ambassadors

Venezuela retires its ambassador from Mexico. Fox things that it is best to retire both ambassadors. The news is carried by CNN. Chargés d'affaires will deal with the day to day, one supposes.

Provisional conclusion: with all the problems at home from electoral apathy to the very, very botched and badly backfiring Anderson investigation there is an urgent need to create a diversion. A presidential temper tantrum that will cost dearly to the country is the chosen excuse to distract folks. This is the way things are run in a country where any Yo, El Supremo fart becomes state policy.

And I am pretty sure that it is not the end of it.

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PS: Check Miguel's picture on how close Fox and Chavez were at Mar del Plata. Lovely irony.

An electoral campaign? Where? Indictments? Everywhere!

The casual observer of the Venezuelan situation would be hard pressed to detect an electoral campaign atmosphere. Except for a few pro Chavez posters here and there, and the occasional truck with blaring loudspeakers in the small towns of Venezuela, said observer would be clueless. In fact, public protests everywhere could at first be confused for campaign rallies by this observer. But they are not. Blocking of highways is now a more common practice for groups of people willing to express some form of opinion. When you drive around the country the odds that you will blocked for hours by such a protest must be now about 1 in 4 trips! But I suppose that in this age where all flows from Miraflores Palace if you want something it probably pays more to block the central highways of Venezuela than to attend the rather scant rallies that chavismo calls for its candidates. Not to mention the nearly inexistent opposition ones.

Should we be surprised? Not at all. The involution of our political process where Chavez is every day more and more at the center of all action, even the smallest of micro management scenes, has made people realize that unless you find a way to attract Chavez attention, well, you are wasting your time. Cynically the political movements of the chavista “coalition” do acknowledge this. For the past week, in my citizen duty, even as I have not decided yet whether I will vote, I have been scanning the Yaracuy press to see at least the face of the candidates to the National Assembly. At work, someone gets the Yaracuy al Día, a pro Chavez paper (though lately it seems that the relations with governor Gimenez are souring). So I borrowed to see the pics of the chavista candidates. Sure enough I saw some advertisement, not much. Always the name of Chavez and Gimenez were displayed, usually with their pictures, and rarely, very rarely the name of the actual candidate. Only one actually did print his picture in the advertisement. And no opposition advertisement that I could find. Truly amazing! Ex governor Lapi used to pay for advertisement in Yaracuy al Día!

This week-end I got both Yaracuy papers. Yaracuy al Día did carry this time a full page of a political campaign rally called by governor Gimenez. As you can perceive from the composition, all duly orchestrated, all the advertisement revolves around Gimenez, our local Chavez. At least all the candidates appear in a group photo, WITHOUT their names though. And not very happy faces? Truly amazing!

The opposition paper, El Yaracuyano did carry one advertisement for an opposition candidate. The way it was presented you could see that she probably paid it from her own pocket. All the parties that support her appear in the add, which certainly would not be the case if a given party were to pay for it! Incidentally you can see how the “morochas” work in practical terms. The rectangles of the UNIDAD (MIN) represent the candidature for the local seat. The individual party rectangles represent the “at large” seat. And yes, she is running in both at once, which gives you a hint of the degree of confidence she has in her potential to be elected.

One smiling politician face, at least!

I find these two advertisement for the very local Yaracuy campaign very telling of the situation in the country. Chavismo more than ever relies on Chavez whose picture appears most of the time alone. In other words, candidates know that they will only get elected if they manage close identification with the beloved leader. Originality kills politically.

The opposition is quite dispirited, already accepting the defeat, unable to find resources to match the grossly obscene chavista spending and use of the state monies for its campaign. The opposition also must rely more on the faces of the locals. One can always hope for the opposition that a better identification to the local issues will help it out and that people will want to vote for a candidate whose face they can place, no? Do not count much on it.

The question that is begging to be asked is how come the campaign for the national assembly is so lackluster? After all, Chavez counts on getting a two third majority to be able to modify the constitution and remain legally in office for ever and ever. Is he so certain he will get it by just having his face on the ballot, alone?

From the recent political events you would not think that chavismo is so certain of a good score. In fact, if the victory is all but assured, be it from the despondency of the opposition or the open favoritism of the CNE toward the chavista candidates, what will be missing on election day are voters. Chavez will win by default and that is bad for him, for his self proclaimed popular leadership (even if people had to be brought to the La Plata stadium in between rounds of rioting). Very bad in fact for his image not to see long lines of people screaming to be let vote for.

I believe that this is one of the main reasons why Chavez has kicked into the political battle mode overdrive instead of the electoral one as he does usually crisscrossing the country. Be it the Chavez-Fox-Bush-Kirchner orgy from hell, or the crazier and crazier indictments on the Danilo Anderson investigation, all is becoming pandemonium! That last mad house has reached a new low today as Cardinal Castillo Lara has been indirectly implicated. Apparently among the very unreliable witness that the general prosecutor office seems unable to free itself of, one would have said that the reunion in Panama included a 70 something year old guy with a silver cross on his chest and who went by the name of Lara. Castillo as a first name? Huh?

Let’s imagine that scene. Cardinal Castillo, the second in command in the Vatican for years, probably someone who was used by John Paul II for delicate, confidential or even secrete missions, went after retirement, as he is 80 year old, to the hot and damp Darien jungles, wearing his silver cross for all to see and giving his name around. At that meeting, in the same damp jungle where Patricia Poleo hairdo would not last 10 minutes, he would have met with a Jewish banker, the said Poleo, Venezuelan generals in uniform, CIA and FBI agents showing their badges around, etc… all to plot the murder of a prosecutor that apparently was more dangerous for them than Chavez and the Devil himself. I’ll bet you they also discussed creating a Bolivarian “endogena” cooperative to buy a bridge in New York. All of this as Colombian psychiatric impersonator with an impressive criminal track record was free to take notes.

That the possible motivations of these people to kill Anderson has not been addressed by Isaias Rodriguez so far, the simple fact of trying to imagine that scene can only lead anyone with half a brain to consider that Isaias has been taken in for a ride by someone at the office. No wonder that very seriously on Friday’s Tal Cual front page Petkoff has asked for the resignation of Isaias, the strongest editorial so far on the case. Isaias response? “not even dead will I resign!” Which besides pointing out at the arrogance and stupidity of the one who knows he has been caught, reflects that his lithium is not doing it for him anymore.

But Isaias boss lithium is not working much either. Today, as I heard the report on TV, his Alo Presidente was a long rant on Fox and Bush and what not. At three weeks from a crucial election Chavez could not find in a 4 hours rant the time to discuss electoral policies and strategies.

And then why do you want me not to be surprised when even my chavista employees are telling me that they will not go out and vote…

You can fool some of the people, etc… you know that speech.

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PS: I was writing this post listening to Broadway tunes. What your subconscient makes you reach for before you get to work! Surely there is a musical somewhere in what I wrote. But I suspect that as long as we do not have an Evita to focus the attention, the people just won't buy such a screenplay.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

It gets better!

Now that the event described in the previous post has taken place, the "Venezuelan Solidarity Movement" has just posted a page with the links of the announcements and even a video clip of the event on November 8. I have not watched the clip yet, it is probably due to the shocking presence of the stolen flags, set up now in glorious proeminence!!!!! I mean, they even had to enlarge the picture they lifted from my blog, and it shows in the resolution!!! But I suppose they could not have written me to ask for the original. Do you think I should charge for copy rights? I mean, how much do you think they raked from the suckers on November 8?

I think that this is becoming embarrassing enough (for them) that someone should write!!!!

Or is it that imitation/unauthorized-copy is the sincerest form of flattery?

I mean, even my opposition flags are BIGGER than the picture of the event!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Funding of Venezuela News and Views UNCOVERED!

In a breathtaking breakthrough, brisk and bright anti Chavez blogger Daniel Duquenal was unmasked as a pro Chavez agent. Apparently he has been writing all these years to confuse the silly opposition readers who thought he was some kind of guru, a dispenser of wisdom on how to tolerate the Chavez regime, even offering suggestions on how to sabotage that benevolent administration, but of course in a very inefficient way that these silly saboteurs did not detect.

The evidence? The photo to the right. This web page called for an Evening of Solidarity with Bolivarian Venezuela in New York City. In attendance a who’s who of lefties left out by the times and some Bolivarian circles related folks: Circulo Bolivariano Alberto Lovera, Ramsey Clark, Noam Chomsky, Peter Coyote, Marcia Campos, Danny Glover, James Petras, Congressman Jose Serrano, among other luminaries. Well, this distinguished company advertised using the Venezuelan flag, inserted on the quote by Peter Coyote, which looks incredibly like the Venezuelan flags that could be found on the top right of this blog for the last three years. There is no other explanation: Daniel Duquenal must have given copyrights of this picture to the event that was also a fund raising of sorts. It must have been his contribution after all the monies that he surely got through the VIO. And thus he is unmasked.

Kidding aside now.

This picture was taken by yours truly in the first big opposition march of 2003, the one that made it to Los Proceres where it was ambushed by chavistas, supported by the Nazional Guard. This picture was taken on top of the elevated bypass of Las Mercedes as Daniel likes to take pictures and would not have missed a chance to benefit from that plunging view of a sea of flags.

Yes, that is right, the picture used by that pro-Chavez call to fundraising is actually a picture taken form a march that gathered at least 100 000 people bitching at Chavez. Now, that IS egg on your face for the organizers of the event, people that were unable to find pro Chavez flags among so many multi million marches that chavismo has claimed. How come, guys?

And yes, I do have the original picture which is larger and was trimmed to fit in the glorious position it has occupied, welcoming readers wanting to know more about how chavismo is degrading the moral soul of the country, including intellectual and artistic property rights. So I can prove what I am saying and bring further embarassment if necessary.

Not that it matters much, I have lifted material myself to illustrate my blog, but I was always careful not to pick up material from the other side as if it were from my side… No, it is just hilarious to see how incompetent these guys are, be they in Miraflores or in New York City! And also how closely my blog is followed by chavistas. Welcome guys! Hope you learn something!

Something else, not quite related but perhaps appropriate for this occasion. I have been discrete about it, but last October 8 Harry’s place, one of my favorite leftist blogs, published a simple but meaningful internet interview of Teodoro Petkoff. Yours truly helped to set up the contacts and translate the replies. I did not announce it because, well, I was traveling at the time and it was really Gene’s idea. And, besides, I am not a name dropper and I do not take credit for other people work, EVEN if I actually have a significant input. But I suppose that this is why I am not a chavista. Thus, it had to wait for more than one month, it had to wait for prodding by such antics from a silly Bolivarian circle to finally bring me to claim my part in that work of Gene. Hope you understand Gene! Great job and I hope we will work on an additional and more complete interview when Teodoro finally runs for office.

Ah! Blogging can really be fun on occasion!

Hat tip, Mora y Leon, of all people, for unmasking me!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Our daily “cadena” , plus bonus Venezuela versus Mexico

For those who are coming late to this blog, I have the sudden urge to describe what a “cadena” is. The reason is very simple, it is 8 PM and Chavez has decided to force upon us a “cadena”. That is, ALL TV bands, ALL radio stations, all airborne media MUST transmit simultaneously the speech of Chavez for as long as he wishes, on any matter he wishes to, without anyone being able to interrupt him and confront him on anything he might fancy to utter.

So, without further ado, a simultaneous blogging of a cadena.

It is 8: 15 PM, suddenly Grado 33 is interrupted and from afar I hear a chorus chanting the national anthem. Cadena! I think immediately in that exquisite conditioned reflex we have developed in the last 7 years as cadenas are a on average a several times a week fixture. That I did not hear the official announcement means that Globovision was late in joining the cadena. Hopefully it will not be fined.

8:20 The chorus is over. A voice announces that the program will be announced. Apparently it is a cadena of some formal event. The spokesperson of the housing ministry announces that this is a non partisan event, it is an event where the bankers and the government are sitting together to announce new measures to help people acquire housing, a joint effort to benefit ALL Venezuelans. Groovy! National reconciliation must be starting at last!

8:25 The announcer also adds that the usual formality for such an event will be discarded and it will be a dialogue. And the first person who is invited to speak is Chavez. End of the dialogue…

8:26 Chavez starts talking. He does not start with housing. He starts with the Mar del Plata fiasco. He starts by saying that he brought videos with him from over there, videos no shown by the main stream media, videos that will reveal what rally happened there. I suppose that the building destructions at Mar del Plata have some relevance to the new housing program about to be announced? Then Chavez starts qualifying Mar del Plata as a real hard fought battle. (Applauses, that will be, by the way, punctuating any cheap patriotic moment or Chavez glorifying incident).

8:30 But the criticism received by Chavez on his actions on Mar del Plata must have stung. No mention of Maradonna or even of the rally at the stadium! Just a very generic “we did this and that”. And to support that Chavez is pissed off, really pissed off, he started attacking Mexico Fox. His words against Fox, I kid you not, are worth of a breakup within the countries. Fox is simply accused of been a coward at the service of the US. Well, maybe it is true, but it certainly not up to Chavez to say that!!!!! I was simply stunned. Not to mention that he would resort to such a vile maneuvers to distract from his own failures, from refusing to admit that 29 countries were on the opposite side of Chavez and only 5 on his. But then again arithmetic have never been Chavez forte.

8:37 Panegeric against free trade, on how Venezuela is not ready for it. I agree. But why is he proposing free trade with Mercosur which will be as bad for Venezuela as free trade with the US?

8:40 Then the cadena moves on to national policies. Unemployment is down, interest rates are down, reserves are up, etc… And the attacks against private properties? Not true! Look, they are all negotiating with us and some have even told us that they indeed have too much land and that they should give it away. But my favorite! International reserves are up thanks to the good economic policies of Chavez. Without mentioning at any point that there is a stringent currency control exchange. But I should have known better, it is all a simple excuse to discuss how much excess international reserve Venezuela has and thus how justified is Chavez to dip in them for social programs and projects (let call them all social programs since we are on election period).

8:55 After miscellaneous self aggrandizement, then the projects started. My favorite so far: the problem of the Marcaibo lake are all due to entering of salt water. All the sad “lemna” invasion (an algal thing overgrowing everything on the lake for the past two years), oil spills that pushed the government to forbid private planes above the lake, etc… is all now excused and forgotten: it was the sea. I was in such shock that I even failed to hear the solution he offered (well, the phone rung also).

9:00 Now that I ma back to listen to it, he is talking about railroads all over Venezuela. And he shifts to all sorts of promises.

Now it is obvious where this is going on and the reader will understand why I have a hard time going through even half an hour of a Chavez cadena. Today I did good, I was not watching it (I cannot stand the grimaces he makes when he talks, and even less when he insults people that cannot defend themselves from his unfounded accusations; such cowardice sickens me). But even if I listen to it from my computer, answering my phone, picking up my nose, there is so much I can take.

9:04 It has been already 45 minutes of “dialogue” and only now we are finally reaching the housing problem. He starts by congratulating the private sector present to the ceremony. Do they have a choice? Don’t they need those contracts?

9:18 I was on the phone. He is now telling us all the new credit measures he is taking (or was that re-taking) to promote housing construction. All of these measures have failed so far, I am allowing myself to be pessimistic. But the atmosphere is warming up, now that the has emptied his disgust at his Mar del Plata failure, he is more genial and he is making silly jokes on people forced to live with relatives after their marriage. Whenever he announces the numbers of the credit rate depending of your income, people applaud as it it were a great novelty. All of this is warmed up form about 6 months ago.

But the fact is that this cadena has already shown its objective. It is a naked electoral propaganda imposed on all of us, in a way that the opposition cannot counter, that the CNE will not punish. It is an completely unfair tactic, an unspeakable advantage, for the chavismo electoral campaigning just as a few days ago a few youth of Primero Justicia were arrested for posting tracts.

You know what, I had enough of this shit, I am turning off and going to bed. The smart reader will know what to think about it.

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PS: observe that at 9:34, the information/propaganda ministry was already publishing the criticism to Fox!!!! With photo included of Chavez during the cadena, which of course this real time blogger even put up with the caption! You can even appreciate the accusating finger! All planned, all manipulated news, all the time.

PS2: I have received a BBC link where you can go and vote as to your opinion on Chavez. Comes with a Petkoff participation. Plus a meaningless but ever so delightful beauty contest among South American presidents.