Thursday, May 31, 2007

The student revolution will be televised (or was that YouTubized?)

There is one thing that Chavez did not preview in his bid for power, and that is modern technology. Ever since he tried to consolidate his power through diverse forms of repression, his attempts have been dutifully document by some passer by holding things as simple as a cell phone with camera capacity to sophisticated filming equipment. This year is even worse as now the cell phones with video are affordable to students (well, enough of them anyway to document their revolution). Add to this YouTube and now you do get a truly televised revolution, not that infamous movie now totally discredited as chavista propaganda set up (see links on the right if you still do not know about that).

Not only that but they are creative as this above Censored Bolivar image shows us. They show themselves in their marches such as here, a march that Chavez scornfully dismissed as a few rich kids. Well, it is nice to know that there are so many rich kids. Venezuela must be doing really good, so how come they are stomping the asphalt?

Alexandra pointed me to a site where one of these students (we think) has been compiling some of these pictures, coming from El Pais as the ones I already posted to moved frames taken from his friends. I have taken some for this mini photo essay. You can visit him for more if you want, but he is not the only source. YouTube has plenty of videos coming up (and no time to review them so I will let the curious reader sift through it, use Venezuela as a key word, and vied by date added such as here, a good starting point). You can find many little gems, starting with a recent video which shows in Maracay how the chavista storm troopers attacked the student position. In Maracay where supposedly chavismo is sole lord of the kingdom! And of course the chavistas S.A. have stones and sticks at hand, and some red on them. But here you have it, the chavista lies crash fast on the You Tube wall (even though they also try to put their counter propaganda videos, which are quite lame if I may say).

And as usual the classic images of romantic student rebellion against police brutality appear as in this little montage of mine. There are things that even the steam roller of boredom and conformity of the chavista pseudo revolution cannot change as it finds itself falling into the repressive trap. In the image wars, students always win, whichever revolution we talk about. A brave but doomed revolution this one might be, but the positive memories and the future are with these students all over Venezuela, while Chavez for the rest of his life will be now tainted irremediably as the repressor, the goon, the anti freedom guy.

-The end-

Today's brief summary of Venezuela mess

I have lots of issues at work (imagine that in Venezuela!) so I could not follow things that well. Fortunately it was a more controlled day: so far the violence wishes so clearly expressed by chavismo are not happening. Let's start with Yaracuy.

This morning stopping for "un cafecito" in my errands, I learned that there had been trouble at the CUAM. Students protested, some where injured when the police crashed the protest. So I went to check it out, in great surprise that violence had ALREADY reached this little corner of the world.

When I arrived they were all gone, the CUAM was locked up with chains. But in the street, well, in addition to the slowly burning remains of a barricade there were still about a half dozen police trucks and perhaps up to 50 police people armed to the hilt, bullet proof vest and everything. Needless to say that being alone driving around I decided that it might not be a good idea to stop and take a picture. I learned later through El Impulso that two students had been hurt but that the rest moved on to the IUTY where apparently some from inside joined in the protest. To be continued here.

Elsewhere a large march of students made it way to Plaza Morelos. It is becoming more and more difficult for chavismo to sustain that it is only a couple of thousand of "desadaptados" who protest. Other parts of the country showed continuous protests, but at least less violence than the previous days. However that might have meant more worries for the government.

It seems that in the age of cell phone students are organizing themselves fast and that they might have understood that time plays in their favor if they manage to hold to a solid front for a while. They are also encouraged by some of the students from chavista universities joining them. This is difficult to evaluate as too many of these chavista universities get benefits not obtained by other students and thus might be moor reluctant to join in, if they want to of course. We will have to wait, but meanwhile it is quite clear that the student body of the old universities, students who left high school when Chavez was already president, not a small observation, are largely agasitn Chavez. And if not, well, there is no spontaneous pro Chavez march to be observed anywhere.

But there were other activities observed. For example the government started legal procedures against Globovision. What I expressed yesterday is thus starting to take shape.

But more bad news keep coming to Chavez. For example the Venezuelan Soccer team captain stated that he did not agree with the closing of RCTV. Could that means trouble for the political show that chavismo was trying to mount for the America cup opening in barely three weeks? but that was not all: the ambassador in the US, Alvarez, showed one again how little effect he has in affecting politics in the US as the US House might be about to vote in turn a condemnation of the RCTV closing. Imagine that, Alvarez was stupid enough to challenge Pelosi who has much bigger fish to fry. And Lula seems to be edging closer to eventually speak up on RCTV. He was still rather ambiguous today but his Senate seems to have less qualm about been more direct. At least the Brazilian media is starting to put more heat on the government. Heck, even Mexico's PRD is uttering some concern!

Anyway, today was a day of some reflux as all players seem to have taken stock of the situation. But a few things are certain: the price that Chavez is paying is growing everyday and his supporters everyday look in bigger disarray. But more about that in another post. Meanwhile I leave you to enjoy this great Weil cartoon about the reality of the country. From what little bit I have seen of TVes, I have no doubt that this is the goal of Chavez, that the media do not show the murders, the food scarcity, the corruption, etc... only the good words from his golden mouth.

-The end-

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

PodCast at Radio Five of the BBC

For those who have time on their hands.

BBC's Radio Five Live from London called me for a Podcast. Since I am not getting used to the routine of Podcasting which is sweeping through the net, I actually thought I was answering casual questions Chris Vallance asked me while we were waiting for our air time slot....... it is only about half way through it that I realized we were on the air, or that it would be broadcast as is.

The blog with the program of the show items is here, and the actual broadcast is here. You need to go forward around minute 12 (20:12 in their dial). And this being the BBC, it was on a pleasant and civil tone; so if you hoped to hear me insult Chavez for the violence, well, you will be disappointed.

-The end-

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Venezuela once again on the edge

So it is like that: Chavez won in December 2006 with 63% of the vote and today half of the country was out of order, and the other half barely coping. The love fest that should have happened as of December 4, usually called a political honey moon, fizzled in a very few days and since late December the tensions have increased to the point that Chavez today is openly threatening Globovision with closing. And, make this very clear in your minds, he has only himself to blame. I do not know whether he means it as he claims he meant it in 2002 so he could purge the army and PDVSA, but it certainly looks like quite a mess today. One thing is certain if purges are the objective again: his targets are the media and closing freedom of expression, the last obstacle for absolute control of the country until kingdom comes (whichever kingdom comes first).

I was at work today so I am going to try to knit the story the best I can at 6PM. The pictures of this post have been lifted from El Pais of Spain. They have a great slide show and I lifted my three favorites, with that one above, truly symbolic of the aims of Chavez. Click all to enlarge (hat tip Y.L.).

The day started with unrest. Even San Felipe managed to have about 50 students (some with high school uniforms) protesting in front of the very chavista IUTY (well, very chavista in its direction at least, I am not so sure about the student body but the IUTY is a den of chavista conspiracy). But unrest has been going on, complementing was had started yesterday (the summary of the outside Caracas activities here).

Eventually we had new clashes in Chacaito and rallies in Valencia. The one in Valencia affected the whole country as the collapse of the ARC basically brings the country to a stand still. I should know: one of our delivery trucks got stuck for 5 hours and eventually management had to tell the driver to come back without completing the delivery. A work day wasted at work but I do not mind if it is because of courageous students in Valencia.

International condemnations kept arriving. Among them we had the IAPA worrying about a domino effect from Venezuela, in particular in Ecuador where Correa is showing all the signs of becoming another little fascist twit. Criticism ranged from the Panama Journalists union through Spanish Senator Anasagasti, and reached Chile President Bachelet somewhat becoming more assertive where Chavez is concerned (though Lula unaccountably remains silent though some of his allies are perhaps conveniently dispatched to criticize Chavez).

Surely Chavez is starting to become exasperated that he made a mistake and people noticed it. Predictable psychological attitude and response, by the way, even if he has a failed shrink for Vice President.

Let's start with the vice president in question before we move on to Chavez. This one made a show of himself welcoming the students of the UBV, the chavista school for the revolution, implying of course that there are good students, ready to follow Chavez anywhere, all in uniforms, red shirts, fist in the air, and bad students, those who get their text books from some US agency, without uniforms and a messy behavior. Or some other subliminal psychiatric crap as he is used to give us. Has Rodriguez ever been a student?

But the interior ministry, Carreño of Direct TV fame for saying that this one spied on us through a secret camera inside the decoder, was not going to remain behind and brandished the banner of international conspiracy. Apparently the media is planning to unseat/kill Chavez, something they could not do in 2002, 2003, 2004 or 2006. But now that they are weaker than ever they are trying again. Oh, hum, yawn... However, quickly, PODEMOS, in enough trouble already, crawled from under its rock to say that they were not implicated in any Chavez assassination plan. Apparently Lara has said that Globovison is openly asking for Chavez assassination. Yeah, right, now, in 2006, when it is alone in Venezuela.... Still, and curiously, PODEMOS Garcia also in his speech called for his National Assembly brethren to wake up and realize that they also need to talk to that half of the country they ignore. Interesting detail, very interesting....

Thus, how can one be surprised when Chavez came out with the big guns earlier on today! His cadena touched a few noteworthy points about his plans and mental condition.

First he dismissed the extensive student marches because he decided that they are not a majority of students. Let's go beyond the possible fact that perhaps the only historical case where students protesting in the streets were a majority was France in May 1968. Instead let's focus on how this comment by itself is revealing of how undemocratic Chavez is. Should we take it at face value that if somehow we could prove to him that 50% plus 1 student were to be proven to be in the streets protesting then he should receive them on the spot? We all know that this would not happen because simply there would be no way he would receive the evidence to begin with. No, what it reveals is more profound, it is the refusal to acknowledge that someone might think differently than him. If someone is courageous enough to place himself or herself in front of a water cannon, then perhaps the reasonable thing would be to send somebody to establish contact with that crowd. No, the first reflex of Chavez is to crush that, just as Putin is crushing everything, from journalists protesting to a Moscow Gay Pride.

But let's move on further into Chavez cadena summary. Chavez moved on to direct threats against all the media that are not getting the message of the closing of RCTV. That is, he told Globovision to "coger minimo", which means to cool down and behave otherwise, well, you know what he will do. It is clear, Globovision has been served noticed, as I said earlier, before the RCTV cameras had time to cool down. Oh! and I was forgetting, there was also the class war call, duly echoed by firebrand Iris Varela suggesting that the West Of Caracas should march to the East. To? Scare them? Ransack them? Check out the third picture of this post and tell me whether these people live in the Eastern or Western part of Caracas.

Thus the table is set. The popular reaction of these few days have been more than what chavismo was expecting. In fact, no one expected such a student movement, not seen in years if not decades! But Chavez is probably welcoming these protests as an excuse to close Globovision, and perhaps even start attacking some newspapers. The regime will go there one day or the other and nobody knows this as well as Chavez. He might have already decided over the week end that since the damage done to his reputation is so big, so much bigger than what he thought it would be, then he might as well forge ahead and bag it all at once. Why not? For a low class soldier and a budding fascist, that is the way to go.

I for one would welcome such a move. Since I consider that we are already under a military regime, might as well have the reality of it rubbed in the nose of the "chavista light" and the complacent world who did not hear our warnings before, or worse, who chose to ignore them while they were lining up at the cashier. Let's Venezuela come out of its fascist closet once and for all. Chavez has done it all now, even shooting students and pissing on them.

-The end-

Another great democrat wins elections

Chavez will be delighted to learn that his Syrian friend has been reelected to another 7 years term with 97.6% of the ballots cast. In fact Chavez should learn a lot from Syria where presidential terms are one year longer than in Venezuela, and where the local CNE seems even more efficient that our local CNE. For example, Interior Minister Bassam Abdel Majeed said on Tuesday: "There has been some repetition of votes but we caught them by reviewing the voting lists," in response to a question about the possibility of vote-tampering.

He also said something that Venezuelan V.P. Jorge Rodriguez would say on such an illustrious moment: "This great consensus shows the political maturity of Syria and the brilliance of our democracy and multi-party system,"

No pictures available as to whether Majeed was trying to contain his laughter.

-The end-

Guess what? Cadena!

You have got to love it, with the country having shown a clear dislike of the RCTV closing, after a day of students protest, what does Chavez do? Throw a cadena to insult everyone. Well, the insults are not necessarily direct: for example he says "some say that they are students. I am not going to question that. Let's say they are students" but if to these already shitty words you add the grimace and the tone, well, you see yet again a shoot the messenger strategy. Chavistas and Chavez are never going to wonder why is it that these students hit the streets yesterday: they are all paid by Bush.

Of course, Chavez much prefers the students from the UBV, who all come to cheer him up in good order, with the same shirts all of them and the same cassette in their brain.

but I love it, as the world keeps is eye on Venezuela the international media will eb able to see live a cadena and all what it means for us as far as abuse of power, news manipulation, and insults to people who have no reply right nor any court where to seek redress from the defaming words of Chavez and his lackeys.

-The end-

Chavez shoots students


There was only one thing missing in Chavez fascist list of accomplishments: shooting peaceful student protests. Yesterday events at Plaza Brion of Chacaito, a central district of Caracas, were another milestone in Chavez descent into petty tyrant status towards open fascism. We even had serious injuries when a group of hooded thugs attacked the pacific rally at University of Carabobo (we must always observe the "courage" of these chavista supporters attacking marches with bandannas or masks on their faces, preferably on fast motorbikes so they can escape, XXI century socialism S.A.).

But this being internet, Katy of CCSC send us this great video from Chilean TV who filmed perfectly the modus operandi of the chavista police attacking mercilessly students. There is one chilling moment where about a dozen police man (S.A.?) are pursuing on their bike a single pedestrian student and shooting him with "perdigones" to injury him without killing.

To watch this fantastic video "on the ground" you need to click here as a permanent link has now appeared. [to go here, and look for the image that I repost on the right. That image was on the bottom left quadrant last time I checked. Under that image there is a video button, push it and watch.] Even if you do not understand Chilean accent, the video is as clear as they come.

And Chavez? No where to be seen. As it is now a routine in his life, when he loses the emotional battle he retreats somewhere (Cuba?) to lick his bruised soul while his lackeys finish the dirty job he does not have the guts to direct. And there are still people that dare to defend him! It is simply amazing what some people will be able to accept as long as Chavez gives free aspirin to some of the poor, not the poor, some of them.

Bonus video: some videos are reaching the screens of You Tube. This one shows the march arriving at Chacaito. Note the appreciable size considering that it is a spontaneous march of students already blocked earlier at Plaza Venezuela. That person has a few videos in fact which are not all great but reflect a little bit the anguish but determination of these students as the sound track is sometime better than the images.

-The end-

Veneconomy on the closing of RCTV

To close yet another exhausting day (and it is not over) I thought abut putting as it the Veneconomy editorial. To understand some of the reasons that push people to protest you could do worse than read this editorial (outside Globovision there are people protesting in their favor, in Valencia there were injured students and tomorrow we expect more campuses to join in, while Chavez is nowhere to be seen, his usual coward self)

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

To the accompaniment of alarms, pot-banging and protests by the vast majority of Venezuelans, the government brought down the curtain on Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) at midnight on Sunday, so perpetrating the worst confiscation of the freedom of expression by any government ever in Venezuela and perhaps in Latin America in the last 35 years.

This arbitrary, unconstitutional decision of taking the use of the frequency from RCTV issued by the country’s President is a break point marking a “before and after” in Venezuela’s history. It is the first “before and after” since that “for now” pronounced on February 4, 1992 by Commander Hugo Chávez following his attempted coup d’état against President Carlos Andrés Pérez.

RCTV’s going off the air marks the interment of 49 years of democracy and the start-up, with all its fury and despotism, of the first dictatorship in Latin America this century. According to many national and international analysts, the word “dictatorship” already falls short when describing a regime that is intervening in every aspect of the daily lives of Venezuelans. As they see it, the correct term would be “totalitarianism,” a totalitarianism that is retrograde, promotes abject poverty and underdevelopment and castrates freedoms.

This final rupture with democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela was sealed with the sentenced handed down by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice on Friday, May 25, which seized RCTV’s facilities and equipment, such as microwaves, repeaters, antennas and towers. This latest decision, invalid and unconstitutional, is the first to be issued by any Venezuelan court that does not even base itself on existing laws or regulations.

This decision by Justice Luisa Estella Morales Lamuño was in response to a claim for the “protection of widespread, collective interests” filed by three individuals claiming to represent Venezuelan society and a member of the users’ committee “Oyentes Interactivos de la Radio” (OIR).

From May 27, Venezuela’s destiny will be marked in two ways: the first is that the last traces of Venezuelans’ freedom of expression are hanging by a thread, represented mainly by Globovisión, a few regional television stations, a score of newspapers and some radio stations that have managed to remain independent. Unfortunately, they are all under threat from and being pressured by the government and, like RCTV, have no protection under the law, given the control that the President has over the legal system.

And the second is that President Chávez has been left exposed for the first time since assuming power via the electoral route. Until now, his “legitimacy of origin” had suffered no damage, not even as a result of the many violations and illegalities committed in all the elections held since 2002. Today, the international community is now aware of his dictatorial bent. And, even more important still, 80% of Venezuelans disapprove the advancement of his totalitarianism.

VenEconomy wishes to acknowledge the entire family of Radio Caracas Televisión for the dignity they have shown at this tragic time and for not having negotiated or sold their democratic principles.

Editor’s Note: VenEconomy editor Robert Bottome is the brother of Peter Bottome, a director and stockholder at RCTV.

-The end-

Monday, May 28, 2007

Troubles in Caracas

[updated at 5 PM and 6 PM]

I have been told that there is some trouble in some Caracas areas. I am at work and no broadband, no TV (not that this matter much since only Globovision would be passing anything). You are on your own until tonight for details but keep an eye open. Miguel might have some stuff, and I am sure plenty of Spanish language pages for those who can speak the language.--- --- ---

I am back home now and Globovision and broadband. And I am treated right from the start to a split image at Globovision showing one one side the live shot of Globovision at Plaza Brion of Chacaito, and on the right side the crass manipulation of VTV, where the government is trying to pretend that the opposition extremists are disguised as students to trouble public order. Look at the picture below and count the politicians disguised as students. The governmental manipulation is so crass that it is almost embarrassing to watch it.

(Picture from the Associated Press today, by the way, hat tip Publius)

But of course, what would one expect. Now, with RCTV closed then it is the word of Globovision against the word of VTV. not that it mattered much before, the government woudl simply say that both RCTV and Globo were liars. That simple and argument.

But since Lara is not scoring a single point lately, the embarrassing minister of propaganda went ahead today and launched an attack on CNN and Globovision. That is right, the cameras of RCTV have not even cooled down since they were switched off that Lara already starts the judicial proceedings to close Globovison. I knew it was going to be fast, but not that fast. Even Reuters picks it up already.

Obviously the student protests of today, repressed with an unnecessary violence, have touched a raw nerve. I suppose that Chavez prefers the grateful students all in the same red t-short, sitting down in AC room of the Teresa Carreño theater, ovationing him when he gives them 1800 computers, to these students from all the best universities of Venezuela, marching under the sun and heat to protest for freedom of expression in Venezuela and who happen to sit down in the street whenever the repressive apparatus of the state moves against them.

That is all that was missing to Chavez record: student repression.

More problems for Chavez

Besides becoming today officially a student repressing tyrant, Chavez got a condemnation form the EU. See, he laughed at the EU parliament vote a few days ago, but he was wrong. Now it is Germany as the current president of the EU and the warning carries much more weight.

Oh! And Reporters Without Borders also emitted a stern condemnation.

-The end-

Silent airwaves

-The end-

Antes que anochezca: waiting for the night in Venezuela

This book title form Cuban writer Reynaldo Arenas is from one book that has perturbed me since I read it first. The autobiography of sorts of a gay Cuban writer who welcomed naively the arrival of Castro and the sexual liberation of those earlier days, until the regime became the repressive puritanical bastion still expiring today. If it is definitely one of the best books on the Cuban revolutionary reality, it is also one of the best books, for its flaws since it was written in a rush before arenas died, on how a regime, any regime, becomes an oppression.

Tonight I will wait patiently until midnight, to watch the RCTV signal go out. Not because I particularly liked RCTV: I am a cable person, Animal Planet, History channel and the mindless entertainment of Sony or Warner Channels are my cup of tea. No, I will wait because tonight, at midnight we, Venezuelans, as a a people will lose freedom of information, and most of our freedom of expression. It is historical and the historian in me cannot help but live it.

I do not care about what comes next on the #2 Hertzian wavelengths: as soon as darkness falls on RCTV I will turn off the TV and go to bed. TeVes will be a fiasco because the government will never grant it the freedom of becoming a Latin American BBC. It id not do it with VTV, it did not do it with ViVe, it did not do it with ANTV, it did not do it with TeleSur. It certainly will not do it with the new monstrosity coming to pollute our broadcast ranges. If there is anything that chavismo has amply demonstrated is that it does not have the personnel to make great TV. It will never have it because the chavismo system cannot sponsor creativity, which is based on criticism. Great art is always based on criticism, on art criticism, and political criticism. Besides, if truth be told, Chavez does not care whether TeVes is good or not, he only cares about shutting up the dissent of RCTV.

But I am not pessimistic tonight. Chavez will pay a heavy price for this closing. Even the shootings of CONATEL this afternoon can be blamed on him even if the bullets come from the opposition side. Who shot within the opposition? Could it even be a chavista obeying orders and hiding in the crowd? And if it were an opposition radical, why has s/he been radicalized to that extreme? Can the government plead innocence after the extraordinary verbal aggression it has subjected the country for weeks of cadena after cadena to insult whomever does not agree with Chavez? Violence is inevitable and it comes as much from the insulted and dispossessed oppo guy as from the chavista guy whipped irresponsibly into frenzy by Chavez and his lackeys. What can you expect when the vice president says that whomever defends RCTV is a mercenary? Is it not a license for chavista to shoot such people? Is it not a license for those aggressed to shoot before they are shot at? The ones that must go on trial here no matter who gets a bullet are Rodriguez, Chavez, Lara and their helpers.

But more importantly, and a consolation of sorts for me, is the intensity of the international response to the closing of RCTV. Anyone who is anybody in the world has either condemned Chavez or at least remained silent, and definitely refused to support Chavez. Only a few, a surprisingly very few, have come out to support Chavez and they have no credit anyway. You can see it everywhere, from the desperate and ridiculous accusations of Minister Lara today to comment sections at Publius Pundit from pro Chavez Anglos losing their grip on things. Indeed, one from that side should be pissed off: 6 months of intense propaganda and you get editorials such as the one from Le Monde. Millions of dollars in paid services gone to waste, thousands of hours of "grass root" working for naught. The world is unto Chavez, and them, and they know it.

Yes, it is a small consolation but it is an important one. Chavez has lost any respectability he might still have had, and there is nothing he can do to recover it. When, say, Mugabe or Fujimori did this sort of things, they stopped been received where it mattered. Their regime started to unravel as they started losing the respect of their people even if those for a variety of reasons kept voting for them at first. And we know all that Chavez pins for international stages. Many will be denied him now.

A new fight starts tomorrow and I am full of energy for it because now the people who matter in the world, those who think, those who create, those who feel, are on my side. To those readers that are still bearing up with me tonight, who are probably quite depressed, do not be depressed. Our fight is going to become easier intellectually and emotionally though not materially: we will finally start being heard all around, Chavez mask is begin lifted. Oh, he is far from gone, but for the first time his image is seriously dented and there is no telling how such chipping evolves.

So maybe we are at the hour where darkness falls on us, but light can only come after darkness. Reynaldo Arena escaped Cuba. Cuba will escape Castro and Venezuela will escape Chavez. Someday, you can count on it. And we might have reached that road tonight!

-The end-

The countdown to RCTV closing

[regularly updated]

The hours are tense and spirits frayed. The Metropolitan police is becoming aggressive, protesters also.

The government keeps up its increasing inanities. Foreign and national condemnations keep arriving and chavismo can only speak of an international conspiracy. If there is such a conspiracy then it is truly impressive as can be seen from this link who only reports the main ones.

Threats are emitted by the government. The stupidity and nervousness of certain of Chavez lackeys such as Maria Alejandra Diaz is amazing as they openly threaten to close for 72 hours Globovision while the whole world is watching the closing of RCTV.

Tension rises as the country is turning at midnight yet another page in its descent to hell. Those who actively support the closing of RCTV and the end of freedom of information should remember that such crimes can be prosecuted as long as they will be alive.

This blogger will be sued by William Lara, the unqualifiable minister of the popular power for information, a.k.a. propaganda ministry. The man had the temerity to say today that any media that says that RCTV is closed by the government will be sued because we are lying. The interesting thing in that accusation is that even reading the words of Lara is enough to realize that the man is losing his wits, that the knows he lost the propaganda war and thus, in true fascist form, he is getting ready to shoot the messengers by punishing them. I love it, IN FRONT of the eyes of the world!

At 7PM, Marcel Granier is on TV with a statement and followed by a press conference.

It is 9 PM and the press conference was great. Granier told all what is wrong with the Chavez administration. He is now threading into direct politics. Chavez is creating him. Astounding.

Even in San Felipe we are hearing sirens and pot banging. But very little, we are always weeks behind Caracas. It is actually surprising that I hear some!

-The end-

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Le Monde against Chavez

Taking my coffee this morning I was treated to the Le Monde editorial of Saturday, with very extraordinary words against Chavez. An editorial nothing less. A Le Monde editorial has more influence in the world at large, with foreign offices, with intellectuals, than any editorial of any US or UK newspaper. For all its problems and failings, Le Monde is still one of the greatest papers, and always one of the special treats for those lucky enough to visit France and hold in their hands the light paper, read its tight font, enjoy the literary style of Le Monde. This is not a paper written for the masses, it is a paper deliberately written for the intelligentsia of the world. I could venture to say that this Editorial of Le Monde, which I translate below, is perhaps more damaging to Chavez in the long run than the EU or the US Senate resolution. Because more than any other paper, even London's Guardian, Le Monde is the reference of the democratic and sensible left. And it has a nifty way to link to its articles :)

Censure à la Chavez
LE MONDE | 26.05.07

© Le

Below my translation, followed by very briefs comments:

President Hugo Chavez ordered the disappearance of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), the principal television operator of Venezuela. Friday May 25, the army received the order of the Supreme Court [TSJ] to take the control of the buildings and installations of RCTV, in order to “ensure a serene transition” with the official chain which will replace it.

The non-renewal of the concession of RCTV, created fifty-three years, deprives a popular public of its favorite programs. Serials, spectacles and humor constitute the essence of its programming. The identification with these programs encouraged part of the abandoned elements of Venezuelan society to express their complaints with the authorities via the microphones and cameras of RCTV. This role an echo chamber for their dissatisfactions undoubtedly annoyed the Chavez government as much than the programs of information and opinion devoted to the opposition.

None the charges carried by the president against RCTV, in connection with his role in the missed coup of 2002 or the oil strike of 2003, was the subject of a debate in front of a court. The Supreme Court was solicited by RCTV whereas Mr. Chavez had already announced his decision, irrevocable. This political decision reduced pluralism and increases the concentration of audio-visual tools within the hands of the government. Whatever the administrative or legal arguments called upon by the president, it is a hard blow carried against the freedom of expression in Venezuela.

The replacement of a private chain which was open to the opposition by a public chain circumstantially created piece meal is presented by the state power like “a democratization of the media”. The government controlled already several chains and had gained by various means the favors of the majority of the others. Following the disappearance of RCTV of the hertzian waves, Monday May 28, there will not remain but one opposition chain, whose [open] signal does not go beyond Caracas and whose audience is negligible.

In December 2006, neither RCTV nor the opposition prevented the re-election of president Chavez with nearly 63% of the voices. The National Assembly, where the totality of the elected officials are acquired to him, became a simple registration room. The Head of the State moreover made a point of benefiting from special capacities allowing him to legislate. Justice does not dare to contradict the executive and does not escape the generalized corruption.

The independence of powers does not exist any more in Venezuela. The opposition fears that, after the media, the president will proceed in a similar way towards the trade unions, the nongovernmental organizations or the political parties. With Mr. Chavez, the Venezuelan democracy is threatened.

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Just to make things clear: this is not Le Monde Diplomatique which is another paper that has nothing to do with Le Monde anymore but which managed to retain the title wording for the obvious publicity advantage. Le Monde Diplomatique is a mercenary paper through its director Ignacio Ramonet who has no problem flying to Caracas to support his master, widely murmured to have paid for the Paris new headquarters of that yellow racket.

Le Monde is a very serious paper who people critical of its editorial line read anyway. I remember even a picture of Chirac reading Le Monde in the railway during one of his campaigns. It is also a paper that endorsed Segolene Royal in the recent elections, so there is no way to corner it as a right wing paper, paid for by Bush or any other inanity that the chavista crowd might want to use to disqualify it. You would be hard pressed to find kind words for Bush in Le Monde.

At any rate, such an editorial assures that the next French government that comes from the June legislative elections will not be a friend of Chavez. And as yet another public relations disaster for Chavez, it ranks way up.

-The end-

The RCTV closing: the teachings on Venezuelan society

Perhaps some might raise an eyebrow for the title. After all there are still a few hours to go before the closing time of RCTV. But as far as I am concerned, not only there is now 99.9999% chances of RCTV being closed, but even if by some last minute miracle an extension were granted, the lessons that we can learn about this experience would be exactly the same.

The Venezuelan government manipulates. No surprise there of course, coming form a government who refuses to discuss publicly the constitutional change it wants. However what is becoming increasing revealed is the intense manipulation and preparation that the government has put into closing RCTV. This was quite a requirement as the closing is illegal. Not to mention that Chavez could not do it before the presidential elections of December 2006 and thus that closing HAD TO be done this year so that by 2012 people would have long forgotten about RCTV.

But the extension of the manipulation is only becoming apparent. For example I was watching Saturday a certain Mr. Bisbal been interviewed in "Que Fuente" and he was showing us an ad that appeared two days after the December 28 Chavez announcement. That advertisement appeared in most Venezuelan papers and in that time of year probably required it to be done BEFORE the Chavez speech so that it could make it by December 31. However, that ad was wrong since it accused RCTV to violate article 58 and 28 of the RESORTE law. Unfortunately article 58 does not exist and article 28 is an organizational matter that does not contemplate any sanction (if I remember well the numbers I heard then) . The ad was not published anymore, but it showed at the same time the preparation and the incompetence of those behind this crass maneuvering.

It is impossible now to pretend that the government of Venezuela is open to scrutiny, is open to discussion, is transparent, is considerate of the rights of minority. Minority rights have been violated more in Venezuela in the past 6 months than during all of the preceding Chavez tenure in office. The Venezuelan government has been acting more in the dark shadows since December 3 than at any previous period.

The judicial system has no independence and is servile to Chavez. We have also known that all along, since 2000 in fact. It has just become worse and worse, and now without any pretense to the contrary. But what has happened in the campaign to RCTV defies any accurate explanation or moral examination. Ethics is a word that must be definitively removed from the Venezuelan language.

But what astounds us is the direct complicity between the judicial system and the government manipulations to bag the RCTV case. In other words the TSJ knew quite well that it could not close RCTV and diligently it has paved the way through indirect means for the government seizure not only of the Hertzian range of RCTV, but also of its properties in transmission equipment and the land where it is placed (and perhaps even the studios?). This included all the judicial arsenal that one could think of: delays in some decisions, expediency in others before RCTV even could know that it was a party of a given decision, distortion of the law at will, avoidance of any solid decision pretending that some day RCTV could aspire to redress but AFTER TVes would have been solidly on the air for months or years, etc, etc...

It is impossible now for the observer to pretend to even discuss possible objectivity of the judicial system in Venezuela. Oh, sure, it is all perfectly legal, and so were the Nazi concentration camps.

The Venezuelan people are afraid, or even worse, indifferent. How else can one explain that with polls at 70 to 80% against the closing of RCTV you do not see spontaneous marches of protest everywhere? It is not a matter of been indifferent, or even of wanting to keep a job in the public administration. No, now the Venezuelan people are becoming afraid. There is less open criticism from the masses, more discretion. And the state through its selective criteria as to who gets what, and with his weapons shown whenever needed to intimidate the hoi polloi, is not afraid to scare people as much as needed. It comes from the president himself who cannot help but insult whomever disagrees with him in his now overwhelming TV presence.

What we have learned through this past few months is that the Venezuelan people has no democratic backbone in it, that it is is disposed to sell its freedom for peanuts, and that more dangerous for our future than the scared people, are the indifferent ones who sigh and look away no matter how much they dislike what Chavez does. And thus Venezuela will get what it deserves, the only way it can learn that happiness cannot depend on what our new Deimos decides to do.

Freedom of information is lost. The distinction is important, a mangled freedom of expression still exists in Venezuela, but freedom of information is already lost. Yes, I know, there is still newspapers, Internet and Globovision. But who can access them? Globovision reaches by cable only many areas of the country. Internet must be payed for by the people and they will rather spend their money in e-mail, porn and game pages, even more so now that they cannot enjoy games and soap operas anymore with RCTV who at least had the grace to be free. As for newspapers, outside of Caracas their information tends to be more limited to local matters and sometimes to local gossip. Besides how long until some of them are closed or neutered or bought out by chavista capitalists?

This had been announced for years by people such as your favorite blogger and no one paid much attention. My words are no impossible to deny. There is no more liberty of information and thus there will be necessary a decrease in the liberty of expression which is the natural outcome desire of an informed people.

A new leadership for the opposition. The strong and dignified defense of RCTV by Granier and his team is an essential event. When we put it together with the late coming defense of the opposition political leadership inherited from December vote (with the honorable exception of Petkoff who has defended RCTV from the start) and the accomplice silence of some sectors such as the Cisneros of the world (who know is seen as traitor by the opposition, sinking even further the Carter center if it were possible), we can see that all of these people are doomed to irrelevance as voices of the opposition. After the Granier presentation last Friday in Globovision, who do you want to speak for you? Borges? Rosales? Venevision? In the mêlée they all lost some credibility, if they had any left, and the one coming out with the oval ball is Granier.

Big time ahead for Granier. Now the government will brand him and seek to destroy him. He has managed to reveal to the world as no one else could before the vulgarly crass abusive low life cheap military that Chavez is. And Chavez cannot forgive that, nor his followers from having been exposed to be servants of such a low creature. It is Granier's choice, to become the leader of the opposition, risk ending up in jail as a martyr, and in the end prevail, or leave for exile.

The violence ahead. Of course, with a trumped CNE, a servile TSJ and no freedom of information, how can fair elections ever take place in Venezuela? How can political participation not cowed by the government abuse of power can take place? Not that democracy died today, for me it died in February 2004 when Chavez sent the army to shoot protesters. Today is only an additional step. But today marks possibly, unfortunately, the day in which violence becomes now the only option for more than just a tiny minority of the opposition. Violence is now the option for the chavista supporters who cannot express their complaints on a TV camera, a TV camera ONLY offered by RCTV or Globovision. Will these people stay home quiet when they cannot express their angst? I doubt it. The opposition is fast been redesigned, from the forced dissolution of PODEMOS and PPT, to the extreme military right plotting uselessly somewhere. That new opposition will soon find out that through normal channels it cannot express it self and thus it will take alternative paths, with all of their implications. What scares me is that this is exactly what Chavez want, excuses to tighten his grip and "eliminate" those who oppose him. He already killed them with words this week, it is just a matter of time for him to act on his words.

Conclusion. There were even more revelations through this last few months. But I am tired and I do not feel it in me to qualify what has happened in Venezuela. After all, when everything that is done is "so legal", adjectives become unnecessary.

A PodCast on Venezuela

Today we had a strange activity. Using modern technology Fausta (for Pajamas Media) organized a broadcast that included two Venezuelan bloggers and two activists in the US. It was a rather quickly organized podcast considering the current situation in Venezuela but I think that between all of us we did say the most important things. If you are curious and have one hour to spend you can visit it here.

-The end-

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The shame of Venevision and Televen

The other two private networks for entertainment, Venevision and Televen have not been supportive of RCTV. Maybe they are hoping to share in the spoils? Maybe they are grateful that the government will give for them what their program grid was never able to do?

But personally what I find worse than not supporting RCTV, is that they did not even have the courage to come out and support Chavez on that closing. For them nothing is happening, no network is closing. Venezuela is a peaceful and quiet country. Shame on them and their owners. After firing their top journalists, they settled for amiable mediocrity and now for abject complicity.

But that is OK. They might not know it but hey have it coming. Weil is not fooled (note the military boots of the "verdugo").

-The end-

Those exquisite revolutionary moments: chavista cowards

And when you thought that it was enough for a single day, well, you could not be any more wrong. We have just been treated live, on Globovision, to the aggression of a chavista group on motorbikes from the Caracas Town hall. These misguided souls, half of them masked (to protect themselves from whom?) started insulting Globovision staff, and painting graffiti on all the walls, including the walls of the neighbors.

But low and behold, the Globovision staff, including its director, in a show of stunning courage in front of these people obviously deranged and probably armed, went out and confronted the assailants. Globovision offered them its cameras to state whatever they wanted to say. One of them eventually said a few words, with the usual endless repetitive and boring one liners. But he quickly faded away, preferring to join his brethren in shouting insults from their motorbikes, behind the anonymity of a bandanna.

The camera of Globovision caught a motorbike a little bit behind, with a couple (the woman with a bandanna on her face) who was observing and obviously reporting on cel phone. The leaders? The link to Mayor Barreto? Who knows, but it was the usual operating procedures for these kind of organized aggressions, a bunch of wild guys while from the back someone decides through a cel phone what should be done. I have seen it myself happen in San Felipe two years ago when they were to unseat Lapi as governor of Yaracuy: from an expensive car someone, nattily dressed, on a cell phone was directing a group of people looking very "lumpen proletariat" for the occasion.

You know something? Tonight I was reminded of a chimpanzee documentary on animal Planet. Ravell used better words than mine: he asked Chacon and Rodriguez to tie up their weirdos, "amarren sus locos". Because obviously the country is going down the drain and something must be done. Ravell also used the occasion to castigate the other networks who are keeping a guilty ans accomplice silence as RCTV is shut down and Globovison is increasingly under attack.

But when we saw the quick withdrawal of the assailants, you know where the real courage was, with the Globovision staff who came out to face their doom. The chavistas on expensive bikes, and also with expensive cars by the way, were just a bunch of cowards, just as their inspiration who has been reported to have shit his pants a certain February night of 1992.

PS: as i was typing this X post of the day, I was listening to Globovision nightly news anchor interviewing Juan Barreto, the mayor at large of Caracas. I am not too sure what to think. The most charitable thing I can say is that he did not know of this and in fact he might be losing control of his storm troopers. He seemed a little upset. Because he got caught? Because he is losing control? who knows, but at least in spite of some of the usual empty rhetoric he seemed to have a genuine concern in his voice, although what the concern is for is anyone's guess. For myself, I woudl not trust Barreto even with my "batea".

-The end-

Marcel Granier and Hugo Chavez

The day had already been filled up with emotion but the best was for tonight, between 8:25 and 8:40 PM (necessary details in the very recent posts)

Alo Ciudadano extended by 30 minutes the time slot of its show. Thus Marcel Granier was all the way for 1.5 hours on TV, at a peak hour. No cadena for a change though we got the unbelievable decision of the TSJ promoting the illegal robbery of propriety.

At 8:30, after one and a half hour of intense TV pressure Granier gave a dignified, gracious, restrained but adequately emotional speech. I was so impressed. And then all the staff working at that time in Globovision, including its director Ravell, came on camera to take turns to hug Granier, to congratulate him for his dignity and his valiant fight against the might of the totalitarian state. A moment of public class if I have ever seen one. Think for a second about the Cisneros or the Cameros of this world, who went as far as forbid their journalists at Venevision or Televen to support RCTV. Not to mention chavistas such as Earle Herrera or Desiree Santos Amaral who went from a life of fighting for freedom of expression to legislate its demise in Venezuela.

Then at 8:30 it was time for the nightly news of CNN en español, and to my great surprise (I cannot follow the news during my day at work) I saw the tanks of the Nazional Guard rolling in Caracas early today.

What is the government afraid of? What could possibly the Venezuelan opposition do to stop Chavez from closing RCTV? What weapons do we have except for the pacific marches that we have done all along? We cannot even go to court as their access to us is closed for all practical purposes.

But that is Chavez style, show of force, bullying the other side even if it is not necessary.

In front of Granier's grace and poise we can oppose Chavez's histrionics and vulgarity.

Chavez gross cadenas where he insults people who cannot reply are easily matched by his display of military force, confirming, astoundingly today, that Venezuela is for all practical purpose a military dictatorship, where the army is there to serve the power in place, not the people, not the nation, but the military leader. It is there, visually for all to see, with that astounding image of CNN where dozens of motorbikes in close formation, rode by armed Nazional Guards, followed by tanks, were rolling through the congested highways of Caracas.

But that is Chavez, the pure product of military low life, of cheap barracks and cheap ideas. A mere "teniente coronel" who did not benefit from the polishing graces of reaching command positions, assuming he could have benefited from that. He is just the latest avatar of the South American XIX century bully, who measures his manliness as to how many soldiers he can place in front of the other guy.

A luminous day for those who have eyes that can really see.

-The end-

Those exquisite revolutionary moments: expedient revolutionary justice or highway robbery?

Oh dear! Those moments succeed each other faster than what I can type.

As I am watching Marcel Granier extraordinary poise on Alo Ciudadano, the talk show host receives a communique just published on the web page of the high court of Venezuela, TSJ. This decision, signed by the head of the judicial power of Venezuela, Luisa Estela Morales, announces that CONATEL has the right to use as needed all the transmission equipments of RCTV. Not an outright expropriation, but basically one since CONATEL can give these equipment to the new TeVes, while eventually some sale negotiation takes place between the government and RCTV. Exactly as if your neighbor were suddenly allowed to use your car in some lawsuit matter before that lawsuit is completely settled in court.

In a way there is nothing that surprising in it: we were expecting some argument to that effect, a forced sale as we saw recently for the Electricidad de Caracas or CANTV or the oil fields of the Orinoco belt.

No, what is astounding is that the TSJ has replied to an unknown judicial petition deposed YESTERDAY in front of the TSJ. YESTERDAY.... meanwhile on the dockets of the TSJ of Venezuela there are dozens and dozens of HUMAN RIGHTS CASES that are not decided, that are not examined, and that since months if not years. But when the government interests are concerned, in 24 hours, Luisa obliges. Luisa, the new harlot of Chavez? Now, is anyone going to come here to try to demonstrate to me, to the readers of this blog that there is a separation of powers in Venezuela? No, this is totalitarianism already in action.

What we have just witnessed almost live on TV is highway robbery by the government with the judge and the police helping.

Added later: the link to the info in Globovision. El Universal also takes it up already.

-The end-

Those exquisite revolutionary moments: shutting up, literally, those who do not agree with you

When I started this series of posts with the suggestive title, I thought that by next week will have rolled through I would have had perhaps three posts. I was wrong, as the government is cornered into a public relations disaster. It is Friday, I have already 4 posts up and there is still three days of direct conflict to go. I am sure that more exquisitely revealing moments will come.

Yesterday I was writing “as it has been usual in such moment of crisis, cadenas start succeeding each other”. Well, today we are into our second cadena (1). This second cadena is particularly disgusting: Chavez is using the “Copa America” for political purposes: the excuse of the cadena is to inaugurate the stadium of Merida. I suppose that the Conmebol might want to look at how come Chavez can say “viva la vino tinto” and “viva la revolucion bolivariana” in the same breath inaugurating a football stadium that should host an international tournament in a few weeks (2). And what could one say about the words of the Merida state governor, Florencio Porras, who supposedly supervised the work? He thanked Chavez saying that nothing would have been possible without him. A sycophantic speech that gives nausea.

But fortunately this cadena was short. It lasted barely 15 minutes. Then again Chavez was probably very tired, he spoke for more than two hours at noon in the first cadena of the day.

That cadena was in front of some military group. I did not have the heart to watch it, I was at home for lunch and I did not want to spoil the rest of the day. But in the few minutes I watched, I could observe how Chavez was twisting Venezuelan history, of course trying to minimize the damage that the EU and US Senate declarations of yesterday meant. Need I say more? Need I go into the inaccuracies? Need I go into the vile stirring up of anti US sentiment?

Why that? Well, as I have already said when the going get tough, Chavez goes cadenas. But the timing is also crucial here. As today, Friday, is that last day of the week as far as talk shows and extensive news report are concerned, it was important that Chavez shut up the noon news services. But tonight of course he could not do yet another 2 hours cadena. The man has his physical limits after all. But right when the audience of Alo Ciudadano starts going up, he stuck in a short cadena hoping to thwart a further rise in ratings as people might think that it is all over for the evening. Chavismo mind works that simply. Last night the cadena blocked the expected apparition of Marcel Granier in Alo Ciduadano. That is OK, he is invited again tonight at 7 PM; announced loudly by Globovision, and we will see if at 7 we have yet another cadena. Maybe Chavez was just saving himself to shut up Granier once more.

So that is the only the pseudo-argument left for Chavez, silence the folks that are opposing him by using his power to enforce simultaneous broadcast. Or insulting his adversaries. He did today, with veiled words but his vice president had no such qualms. Jorge Rodriguez is on record today as saying that all those who oppose RCTV closing, those who support Granier and RCTV right to remain in the air are “cipayos”, that is, mercenaries. That is right, yours truly is now an official enemy of the regime, a mercenary working for the US and other obscure interests. That Rodriguez has no way to prove such words is immaterial, he is a bully and he uses the same power to abuse of his boss to silence any eventual opponent by disqualifying them from the start. The same and only strategy left to chavismo for a long time, a strategy that can be easily observed in the comment section of opposition blogs. These guys are one track mind ideologues.

What to do with the words of Rodriguez? Remind folks that a vice president that speaks like that could not have been possibly a fair umpire when he was directing the Venezuelan board old elections, CNE? Does that give me now the right to insult him by calling him, say, little shit? No point in wasting time on such an inferior human being, someone who has managed to go under the gutter, deep down into the sewer until at some point he will open the concentration camps where people like me will be dumped to rot. He is that type of individual, he is a killer.

So there you have today, in full splendor, chavismo intolerance, obtuseness, abuse, and what not. Two exquisite moments in a single post.

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1) a detailed explanation of what a cadena is can be found here.

2) "la vino tinto" is the national futbol/soccer team of Venezuela, for its burgundy like color. Note: Chavez is not a soccer fan, he is a baseball one. But to close RCTV, he will lower himself to recruit soccer.

-The end-

Friday, May 25, 2007

Those exquisite revolutionary moments: RCTV as the "me, my, mine" moment of the autocrat with the tearing apart of a country

The RCTV closing is now a 99.9% certainty. One always hope that at the end some common sense should prevail, but I, for one, have stopped doubting long ago that Chavez will go ahead and close RCTV next Sunday.

Rather than focus on the legalities, this might be a good moment to think about the real meaning and implications of the near fait accompli, if you forgive me a slight oxymoron.

The closing was never in doubt since the late December announcement by Chavez. Oh, yes, in the months that followed there was some hope that Chavez could not do it. But that was at best wishful thinking since no mechanism seemed to exist to stop such barbarism. And this starting with what should have been the main mechanism of resistance, the political opposition which was vacationing unconsciously all the way through the end of January.

The reality was that Chavez had decreed the closing of RCTV because it was his way to tell us that now he was the master of Venezuela. And that he was angry that we were not accepting it that easily, starting with some of his allies. At the root of all of this I am not afraid to point out to the dysfunctional character of Chavez who complains because he only got 63% last December. That angry “victory” press conference a few days after December 3 should have told everyone what they needed to know: 37% for the opposition was unacceptable and we were going to pay for it. One of the first natural targets had to be RCTV, the network with the highest ratings in Venezuela, and the one that had refused to stop criticizing the government in spite of all the regulations created to neuter television. Chavez simply could not accept that RCTV had been smart enough to find a way to keep pressing on, had found a way not to kneel in front of El Surpemo. Chavez had to show Venezuela was his, that he is the boss.

How can any one doubt it? Did Chavez not say all sorts of “me, my, mine” statements through these past 5 months? Did he not even say that the High Court would never go against a “sovereign” decision of the government (confirming by the way in his own mouth that he was above the courts)? These recent months have been the perfect stage for Chavez to show us that he was above the media, that he was above justice, that he was above international opinion, that he was above decency, ethics and morality. Chavez was going to go all the way through the closing of RCTV because he had to show once and for all that the was the authority in Venezuela, above elections and law.

But the price he will pay is phenomenal. I will pass quickly on the obvious such as the international condemnations raining on him. I can take today’s articles from Spain El Pais which dedicates a stinging editorial with an accompanying note. We can examine the US Senate resolution that might be taken unanimously today, a rather rare event for a cantankerous Senate mired in Iraq problems. Or we could look at the European Parliament resolution (which El Pais complains by the way that only 3 Spaniards participated in the vote). These condemnation started already, from places such as the Chilean Senate creating the first serious warning to Chavez (and weakening further Bachelet). But he went though, weathering a Brazilian minister criticism, a series of international organizations reproaches, and what not, including outright lies from his lackeys and ambassadors..

No, the real price Chavez will pay is in Venezuela. The damage that Chavez will bring on Venezuela next Sunday will be without repair, for him as well as for those who oppose him. As of next Sunday night we will have started on the road to violence and civil conflict again. It will not be helped, and I am certain now that this is what Chavez wants, as the only way he has left to reduce that 37% he cannot stand.

Because what is important in the RCTV closing is that for the first time Chavez “takes away”. Until now a lot of folks turned a blind eye on Chavez as long as they received some benefit. In a country where democracy was taken for granted, and where democracy was looked upon as rather ineffective to solve the country’s problems, that Chavez was a little bit authoritarian was OK as long as money seemed to flow down to the masses.

But the RCTV will change that perception. All of these folks, except, according to polls, the rabid 20% chavista core, are opposed to the RCTV closing because they know exactly what it means. For some it is the end in soap opera choice. There will be only the novelas of Venevision, and those for not too long as many chavistas have said for a long time that novelas should not be shown on TV anymore. For many it will be the end of dissenting information. In all the areas where Globovision does not reach there will be no more air borne information where governmental deficiencies are shown, where the local people can go and denounce governmental abuses or poor services. For others it will be the end of choice in trashy entertainment such as the silly TV games. That announces to them in a unique way the arrival of a puritanical aspect of the revolution that they never believed in.

Now, for the first time all Venezuelans will learn that there is a price to pay for everything and that the “gifts” from Chavez were not so. Cassandras from the newspapers to this modest blogger have said it all along, the Piper will come to cash his due. And the RCTV closing is only the first installment we will have to pay for shoddily supplied Mercal stores and free aspirin at Barrio Adentro. The time of choices is coming and a complaisant country will start realizing what the revolution really meant all along. The consequences are for all to figure out easily.

-The end-

Those exquisite revolutionary moments: media blitz at its worst

As the closing of RCTV nears, the Venezuelan government is not feeling so good about it. So, as it has been usual in such moment of crisis, cadenas start succeeding each other.

Cadenas are the forced simultaneous broadcast on ALL TV networks and ALL Radio stations of Venezuela, at the same time, for as long as the government wishes, for the government to say whatever it wants. There is no right to reply for anyone aggressed during such cadenas. That is, if Chavez decides to make a cadena to attack a Venezuelan political opinion, or propose a given policy without national consulting, the other side does not even get 1 minute of air time on the state TV VTV to refute the Chavez attacks. But Chavez could have spent 5 minutes or a full hour attacking the said political group on ALL broadcast waves of Venezuela simultaneously. Nobody is even allowed him to ask him a question, a precision. Nothing, he speaks as he wishes and no one can counter him except next day on newspaper, or maybe a given talk show of much more limited audience.

It is important to remind folks what a cadena is since sometimes, even after years of reporting on this greatest of media abuses, we still find some Chavez supporters coming to places such as this blog and pretend that they do not know about cadenas, or the extent of the abuse they represent. Amazing!

But back to this topic (all links in English for a change).

The thing for Chavez is that tonight he had some problems. First the US Senate foreign committee approved a resolution to be sent to the floor recommending a unanimity vote. That resolution, it is interesting to note for those supporters of Chavez that think Clinton or Obama are natural allies of Chavez, is supported by the said senators. That is, to make things absolutely clear Liberals such as Clinton or African Americans such as Obama are not buying Chavez line, at least when this one threatens freedom of expression. Of course Chavez cannot understand that because, well, in Venezuela I cannot say certain things about the president of the country, nor can I burn the Venezuelan flag in public. But I can do those things in the US. And to add insult to injury, along the expected Republican names we find Ted Kennedy signing but also Christopher Dodd who has been until now a strong Chavez supporter and now is the co-signer promoter of the bill with Richard Lugar. So much for the millions spent in propaganda in the US through the VIO.

But things did not get much better from Europe where the European parliament voted also such a resolution 2 to 1. Europe also is clear. But Europe being so democratic, that barely 10% of Euro deputies attended the session gives Chavez the opportunity to make lots of fun on Europe where only 10% bother attending. Granted, that 10% of the deputies constitute a working body of the European parliament in Strasbourg is rather embarrassing. But it is also an excellent sign of the democratic vocation of Europe where if such a vote where taken without the necessary clearings, one can be sure that an emergency session would be immediately convoked. Chavez can certainly laugh, but his own monochromatic parliament who surrendered its legislative power to him is infinitely mire pathetic than the EU parliament where its deputies have actually work to do reporting back to their countries of origin.

And to complete the scene, Chavez surely heard of Granier going to Globovision tonight to defend RCTV. Since the RCTV campaign is gaining momentum and polls are not favorable to Chavez on such an arbitrary measure, then the best strategy was to launch yet another cadena tonight, another one this week (after the CANTV launch of two days ago and I am sure other to come before RCTV is closed).

Tonight cadena is rather pathetic, in front of an audience full of red clad “students” sycophantically hoarding the Teresa Carreño, our national theater now the private domain of Chavez. The cadena has no reason to be held. There is no other event this week as important as CANTV going to the state or RCTV going off the air. So Chavez uses some minor event about some “independent“ universities measures to call for a cadena and start attacking the US senate, the European parliament, Marcel Granier and rant, and rant on endless useless subjects. For example, why must we have a cadena to hear about Chavez brother, Adam, girl friends when he was young? Is Adam’s past sexual life a national matter? Must ALL the country be forced to listen to such a trivial topic? And then, after making mockery of real democratic values that Chavez is so busily destructing at home, he starts perorating on PDVSA and what not, including Castro. On occasion though, he comes back to the students, but to tell them to go out against the Venezuelan oligarchy which is “fighting like snakes” in a pit.

Will Granier have the right to reply on VTV? Will Christopher Dodd be allowed to explain on VTV why he decided to sponsor a US Senate resolution? Will the Europe deputies be able to explain why in Europe the closing of RCTV is so odious? Will a historian be allowed to correct the fantastic ideas of Chavez on Latin American independence? No, no cadena except for Chavez.

That is what await us once RCTV is closed. More cadenas, more Chavez on the air, less and less different views until there is no dissent on the air. What awaits us is the ultimate privatization of the media in a country, all at the service of the interests of a single man, Hugo Chavez, the sole owner of Venezuela.

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PS: the cadena is not over and I am done with this post, with dinner, with listening to bits an pieces, expecting that in a few minutes Chavez might announce the end of university autonomy, another long cherished dream of his in addition of closing private media. We'll see. But what I saw tonight is that Chavez does not even know where Strasbourg is. On live TV, reprimanding his staff fro not giving him the right information! But who cares, as of today maybe in all Venezuelan geography books Strasbourg will be erased from French maps or, who knows, perhaps placed ambiguously on the Rhine border. Weirder things have been seen in this glorious bolivarian involution.

-The end-

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Those exquisite revolutionary moments: populism at its vilest

The other night Chavez was giving us a 20% rebate on our phone bills. That is right, after wasting millions and millions of dollars in the totally unnecessary purchase of a fairly well functioning telecom business, he knows tells us that thanks to this purchase he will drop our phone bills by 20%.

Let’s do the math.

Chavez bought CANTV for 1,600 million USD (I am rounding numbers).

There are now 28 million in Venezuela.

That is, in our name Chavez spent 57 USD per capita.

My phone bill is roughly 75 USD a month (35USD at the street market of the Bolivar).

20% are either 15 or 7 USD depending which Bolivar value you think is the real value (and assuming that I will get 20% across all the services I subscribe, which remains to be seen).

So it will take 4 months or 8 months for me to “recover” the money Chavez took away from me.

You think that it might be a good deal. But, what do I get from that transaction? What if inflation is 20% by the time I recover “my forced investment” in CANTV? How Chavez will maintain the service of a company which obviously now will not make enough money to maintain its functions considering inflation and transition costs as all the non revolutionary employees will be slowly but surely forced out to be replaced with political appointees, secure in their jobs and totally oblivious to the notion of public service?

Now let’s do THE REAL MATH. Let’s calculate these numbers based on the total numbers of subscribers.

If we include ALL services of CANTV we have roughly 12 million subscribers. So, in other words, the 4 to 8 months to “recover” my investment will be, at the very least, doubled and will definitely be eaten whole by the inflation during that period. 28 million people is more than double of 12 million subscribers, no?

But you know what? I do not care because as soon as possible I will have switched all my services to either Movistar or Digitel. I do not care if I pay twice as much as in CANTV, because in a few moths I know I will get twice as much service. Also, chavismo will not be able to eavesdrop as easily in my communications if it ever wants to do so. Or does anyone think for a second that Jacqueline Faria or Soccorro Hernandez will bar the DISIP or other Chavez agencies from putting all the snoop devices that they want to install without any court order? I mean, until when for Faria to deny phone services because your name appears in the Tascon list? After all, she used said list in her previous positions.

No, no, no… Chavez, listen good. If you thought for a second that in your cadena where you “granted” us a phone bill deduction as if CANTV was for you to play with as you wished, that you were going to buy me, you are wrong. Even the lower classes will not be much affected by your pseudo generous gift. Long ago they have moved away from your primitive, retrograde and even reactionary ideas on how telecommunications should work in the XXI century, socialist or not. They do not want a CANTV company to subsidize a land line that they have no use for when for less than 10 USD a months they can have a cell phone that they can carry wherever they want to, a cell phone that could save their life in the barrio someday when they are trapped in some corner by some gang. They know that in the barrio any land line installation will not work because the cables would be regularly stolen, because service will have a hard time to reach them for repairs, where service trucks will have to go under police or army escort if they do not want to get their tools and wallets ripped off as they work.

And you think that by discounting 2 or 3 USD per month on their phone bill you will buy the lower classes? Hear me: what they want is meat on the shelves, is a real job to be able to pay for it and security in the streets and barrios so they can go to buy the food they like. And they want to digest their evening meal in front of their favorite novella, not the one of Venevision because there is no other novela to watch. That is what they want, not a ridiculous discount of a few bucks.

So, your condescending populism of two nights ago, one of the vilest avatar that you have given us so far, is not going to make us forget that we need to go to several stores to find all what we need, is not going to make us forget that our lives are in danger whenever we go shopping or to the bank, is not going to make us forget that 20% official inflation is eating our incomes, is not going to make us forget about the closing of RCTV.

Please, Hugo, stop insulting our intelligence by giving us alms. Such populism is indecent, humiliating, and even more so when accompanied with your grimacing of self satisfaction and the sycophantic chants of your silly paid for supporters. Never as this week have you shown us how much you despise the Venezuelan people. Do you despise them so much because you think they were stupid enough to believe your rhetoric?

-The end-

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Maria Anastasia O'Grady on Venezuela food shortages

As I have said often enough, Ms. O'grady is the foreign journalists that "gets" Venezuela and chavismo the best. On occasion she might miss some critical piece of data, or exaggerate some, but I will forgive her almost anything because she GETS IT, she gets what is really going on in Venezuela. Her recent article (subscriber only, but readers send me such stuff, thanks Al.Ma.) posted below in full, will explain better than anyone has done why is it that at my Central Maderiense I cannot find some of the regular food items that I took for granted a year ago.

But before you read the whole piece, I want to highlight this particular sentence, something that warms my heart to read from a foreign correspondent, something that Miguel or me have been saying for a long time but which was ignored as perhaps too unbelievable (maybe O'Grady reads certain blogs?).
Venezuelan policy makers can't be this dumb. The intention is not to feed the country but to destroy the private sector and any political power it might still have. In this environment survival independent of good relations with Mr. Chavez is nearly impossible.

¡Mas claro no canta un gallo!

(Spanish translation here, hat tip Klaus; full original below after you click)

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A Circus But No Bread
May 21, 2007;

"The characteristic feature of the market price is that it tends to equalize supply and demand."

--Ludwig von Mises, "Human Action," 1949

The Venezuelan government will seize control of Radio Caracas Television on Sunday, finally making good on a threat to silence one of the country's most important independent news sources. It is no coincidence that this is happening at a time when Venezuelans are suffering a shortage of key foodstuffs.

Free-speech protections in Venezuela have been steadily eroding for the past eight years, and most other television stations already practice self-censorship. With the expropriation of RCTV, there is only one other independent voice -- Globovision -- left standing. This assault on free speech has even provoked criticism by the Organization of American States, which has been silent about President Hugo Chávez's many other offenses against democracy.

Having built his claim to legitimacy on the spurious assertion that he presides over a democracy, you can bet that Mr. Chavez would not have gone after RCTV unless he deemed control of TV news vital to his survival. It may indeed be. The reason is because the economy has been so mismanaged that a crisis now appears unavoidable. How it will end, in rationing and hunger or hyperinflationary madness, is hard to say. But when the whole thing comes a cropper, the last thing the president will want is TV images of popular protests that could be contagious.

From the earliest days of his presidency, Mr. Chavez made it clear that he intended to vastly expand the state's economic power. In 2000 he started politicizing the state-owned oil company PdVSA and hollowing out its professional engineering and marketing staffs. Shortly thereafter he took to expropriating farms, factories and apartments. When Venezuelan money began to flee, he slapped on capital controls. More recently, he has forced international oil companies to hand over Venezuelan operations and surrender majority control. He has nationalized the largest telephone company and the most important electricity utility. He is now threatening to take over the banks.

As government takings always do, these assaults on property rights have badly damaged output and investment. Yet the harm has been greatly compounded by three other pernicious policies: price controls, profligate government spending and inflation of the national currency, the bolivar.

Here's how Chavez economics "works." As petro-dollars pour into state coffers, the government takes them to the central bank to get new bolivars printed, which are then pumped into the economy through government spending. Mr. Chavez has also been regularly increasing wages. The result is a consumption boom. Under free prices, too many bolivars chasing too few goods would produce inflation that would show up at the supermarket checkout counter. But price controls make that impossible. Instead, serious shortages are emerging.

Free prices are to an economy what microchips are to a computer. They carry information. As Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises explained in his legendary treatise 60 years ago, it is free prices that ensure that supply will meet demand. When Mr. Chávez imposed price controls, he destroyed the price mechanism.

And so it is that the Venezuelan egg is now a delicacy, the chicken an endangered species, toilet paper a luxury and meat an extravagance. White cheese, milk, tuna, sardines, sugar, corn oil, sunflower oil, carbonated drinks, beans, flour and rice are also in short supply.

The reason is simple: Producers have no incentive to bring goods to market if they are forced to sell them at unprofitable prices. Ranchers hold back their animals from slaughter, fisherman don't cast their nets, food processors don't invest in equipment and farmers don't plant. Those who do produce find it makes more sense to take their goods across the border to Colombia or to seek out unregulated (black) markets.

Importers also have little incentive to work these days even though the country needs food from abroad. Some things like wheat are not grown in Venezuela. Other products like milk, sugar and potatoes are imported to supplement local supplies. But the Chávez government has made it difficult to buy a dollar at the official exchange rate of 2,150 bolivars and if an importer has to buy dollars at the market rate of 4,000 bolivars it is impossible to make a profit under price controls. Even imports not subject to price controls can be difficult to find since import permits and licenses, as well as dollars, are hard to come by.

This is putting a crimp in more than just the food supply. According to local press reports, some 40% of the country's air fleet has been affected by delays in getting spare parts and the automotive industry's supply chain is hampered by a lack of access to dollars. Earlier this year hospitals began complaining that the servicing of medical equipment has been delayed because spare parts are not available. Hospitals are also reporting shortages of medicines for diabetics, antibiotics and hypertension drugs. Price controls on construction materials have damaged the reliability of supply.

To stock the state-owned grocery stores called Mercal, the Chavez government goes shopping abroad with dollar reserves. Of course, Mercal shelves are often bare as well. Moreover, some enterprising government employees seemed to have learned something about market economics: The Venezuelan media is reporting that Mercal supplies are turning up for sale just across the Colombian border, where market prices prevail.

Venezuelan policy makers can't be this dumb. The intention is not to feed the country but to destroy the private sector and any political power it might still have. In this environment survival independent of good relations with Mr. Chavez is nearly impossible. In the revolutionary handbook, capitalist producers and importers who buy things from the imperialists will be replaced by socialists living on cooperatives that will feed the country. The only trouble is that that effort is not going well, as Jose de Cordoba reported on the Journal's front page on Thursday. Lack of knowledge, equipment, incentives and organization have left the co-ops "mostly a bust so far."

To end the shortages all Mr. Chavez would have to do is lift the price controls. But with inflation already running above 20%, he no doubt fears the price jump that would follow. Much safer to seize RCTV and accelerate the consolidation of the military dictatorship. When the crisis comes, the chavistas will be ready.

-The end-