Friday, January 27, 2006

More observations from The Empire

I am still traveling through the Empire. Observations cannot be avoided.

Bush gives a press conference

Yesterday president Bush gave a short press conference. I was not impressed by his demeanor (it was, believe it or not, the first time I watched him in such a setting for longer than what the nightly news give us in Venezuela). However I observed that he did receive some rather tough question and if he dodged most of them he did try at least to reply to them. For the life of me I cannot when was the last time that Chavez had a real press conference with the Venezuelan press. From my hotel room, Iraq and all, Bush seemed to have much more accountability than Chavez. Perhaps those attendees to the Social Forum that decided to idolize Chavez while hating Bush could drop their double standard for once and demand the same type of press treatment for both “leaders”. No se, digo yo….

Maria Anastasia does Evo

Today a WSJ withering article from Maria Anastasia O’Grady on Evo Morales. Considering that she pegged Chavez as a wanna-be dictator one can start worrying sick about Bolivia’s future. Some excerpts.
There was a time when Evo Morales deserved a chance to show his democratic bonafides as Bolivia's new head of state. But 96 hours into the presidency, time's up. Anyone still wondering what Evo has in mind for his country qualifies for permanent disability -- or a job at the Organization of American States -- on grounds of terminal naiveté.
I was among those that were moderately cautious on an Evo presidency. Well, I agree with Anastasia and I am even embarrassed that I was moderately optimistic on Morales.
After six years of Chávez, Venezuelans, once ecstatic about their Bolivarian Revolution, are sinking deeper into poverty. Fidel's largely Afro-Cuban population is destitute after almost 50 years of El Máximo Lider.
No comments needed there.
One reason this has been slow to dawn is that observers have been assigning far too much importance to the question of whether foreign investors will be allowed into Bolivia's rich natural gas industry, or if, instead, Bolivia will go forward with full blown nationalization. The answer is probably the former, but so what? As both Venezuela and Cuba illustrate, such a policy does nothing to ensure development and reveals very little about whether democracy and liberty will survive.
No comments needed either.
Yet the presence of foreign business interests in a dictatorship does little for the locals. Both Castro and Chávez host foreign investors, recognizing them as perfect business partners because they are politically indifferent as long as they get their cut. The key to a dictator's control is ensuring that local interests do not have economic power to challenge the political status quo.
This is something that always befuddled me. All those attendees at the Social Forum, or those that regularly come to this page to complain about my opposition to Chavez have absolutely no problem to see big multinational globalized free marketer oil giants which they profoundly dislike make deals with Chavez (and soon Evo?). What gives? The companies that they oppose at home can come to third world countries as long as the local potentate screams “death to Amerika!”? Who gets you guys?
It would not be surprising to see the angry Bolivian nationalist make a deal with Chile so he could reach the coast and tap into the rich market for liquefied natural gas up north.
Remember, Maria Anastasia wrote it first.
A constituent assembly later this year will rewrite the constitution and if Venezuela is any guide, the concept of limited government will not be included in the document.
Déjà vu all over again.
Finally, there is the matter of the military, an institution near and dear to the heart of an "elected" president who has no intention of leaving office when his term is up. Again, Chávez's Venezuela provides the template. To this day, a number of Venezuelan experts believe that the so-called "coup" of April 11, 2002 was a staged event, designed expressly for the purpose of identifying high-ranking Chávez opponents in uniform so they could be relieved of duty and replaced by less-qualified, loyal soldiers.
On Tuesday, Evo fired 28 Bolivian generals -- essentially the entire high command -- [snip] He then reportedly passed over the next generation of officers to replace the generals with a young group of soldiers. There can be little doubt that these new generals understand well that the president deserves credit for their accelerated career success.
The Chavez script is followed.

Daniel shops at a Publix grocery store

I went to shop for a few items that are now impossible to find in Venezuela, courtesy of currency control exchange and other mismanagement measures of our beloved revolutionary leaders. Such things as a small bottle of real Maple Syrup, Thai cooking species or cheap migraine medicine.

I was impressed. I wish that Exelsior Gamma in Caracas were to be half as furnished as the Publix I visited. And guess what? MORE THAN HALF of the shoppers were African American. So perhaps an obvious question to the Forum attendees: how come Venezuelan stores get impoverished and still few African-Venezuelans can shop there? And I will skip on the obvious comments about the Cuban long lines, Chavez giving oil to poor (by Venezuelan standard?) white trash, while political and aristocratic trash watched, etc…

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