Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 for Latin America (the failure of Lula?)

This map lifted from the Economist will do fine to introduce a Latin American forecast of 2010 because it explains a lot. If you observe well, all of Hispanic America is in trouble, besides Costa Rica, Uruguay and Cuba (then again, how could trouble start in totalitarian Cuba?). Flanking that zone of probably social unrest there is the US and Brazil. This last country has decided to take advantage of the relative USA weakness to make a gamble and establish it area of influence across the sub continent.

For quite a while I have been writing about Brazil imperialism, US withdrawal, and such things. But when we look at the result of Honduras elections, not the vote count but the reactions around, it seems that suddenly a few cards are falling. The clearer hint comes probably from Uribe deciding to recognize the new Lobo government while a few yards away at the Lisbon summit Lula kept saying that there is no way Brazil will recognize the Honduras vote, just as he was fresh from receiving Ahmadinejad who has killed infinitely more people than Micheletti, and quite deliberately at that. At least on a morality point of view Lula would do better to shut his big mouth.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

HTLM and Haloscan catastrophe!

UPDATE:  I give up!  Trying to follow haloscan/echo instructions I went back to the old template.  Blogger failed to save the template I had.  Then haloscan wanted me to pay BEFORE I could try the solution they supposedly were offering.  Of course, if it did not work and if I asked for a refund, you can imagine the risk on my CADIVI card: credit cards are blocked for less than that (I mean it is not a matter of many bucks, echo only asks for ten bucks, but after the initial setbacks, I sort of lost trust in their tech support and their skills...)

So eventually I was left tonight to set up back the new template I worked these past days.  At least by some  quirk blogger gave me back the widgets I had installed.  Still I had to restore fonts and colors and I did not get back what I had yesterday.  But too late tonight to worry about that.

I made a decision:  I am going to forget about the 50,000 + comments of haloscan/echo.  Many were excellent but it is just going to be too much of an ordeal to recover them.  Besides, few people ever show a disposition to dig for old comments.  For those who do, I have them backed up and with the appropriate indications might be able to retrieve them.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2010 for Venezuela

And we are at this time of the year where you either write the year in review or make up some horoscope. Or both. Safely I prefer to limit myself to a horoscope, as seriously as one can make such predictions considering the nature of the beast.

2010 is going to be a very difficult year for Venezuela. To understand this better we need a quick overview of the actual political and economical situations.

An economy with no signs of recovery
The first thing that one must understand is that unless the government decides to make a dramatic change in the way it is running the economic ship, next year is going to be worse, maybe much worse, than 2009. Unfortunately it is very unlikely that anything will change as the only governmental plan is to wait for a significant increase in oil prices, something that will happen at best late in 2010, too late to have any positive electoral effect before the crucial parliamentary vote of September.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Rafael Caldera

Rafael Caldera, twice president of Venezuela (69/74 and 94/99), passed away just before Christmas.

I am no fan of the man those no eulogy from my side. I will only recognize in him his civilian values and that he managed successfully the first democratic political transition in Venezuela history. Until Caldera transitions were always violently contested and never finished their term, starting with Vargas in 1834 (all historical parameters taken into account!). Caldera together with Betancourt and Villalba understood that democracy in Venezuela would be possible only when political opponents would be looked upon as mere opponents and not as enemies that had to be destroyed. That was the foundation of the "Pacto de Punto Fijo" who brought to Venezuela 40 years of civilian discourse and democratic culture. That is why chavismo is so bent in discrediting these years as chavismo is a throw back to the era of violence and segregation that existed before 1958.

But together with Carlos Andres Perez, Caldera suffered from the reelection bug. He went as far as wrecking the political party he founded, COPEI, when this one did not want to give him the nod for reelection. As such his return to power was ensured by him riding the consequences of the 1992 Chavez murderous coup and accepting to preside over an electoral alliance including small and/or unsavory parties, most of them finding their way to Chavez in 1998. Trapped in his own discourse, and probably feeling threatened by the military, he gained time to finish his second term by allowing Chavez go unpunished from the murders of 1992 and thus allowing for a military regime to take office through the vote in 1998. Today Venezuela is a military regime and in my opinion Caldera is one of the main culprits, if not the main one when we put him with Alfaro Ucero.

At least his family had the good sense to refuse state honors from the regime they helped come to office. Not that much honor would have come anyway if we look at the dismal treatment offered Herrera Campins when he died. But what can you expect from the vile uncouth soldiers controlling Venezuela?

You can find in Spanish a summary of Caldera's life here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The 2009 Christmas post

And Christmas comes anew, though this year besides being grateful from being alive, there is not much Christmas spirit going on for me. But be it in my recovery bed or from what I can see from the country, there is a general depression and no mood for partying much besides the family gathering of 24th at night (the 25th is to recover from the excesses of the 24th eve). But there will be plenty of time to discuss the latest craziness of Chavez the coming week end. Let's focus on the couple of days of peace that we hope he will grant us.

I thought that to cheer up a little bit those that are stuck in a likely brutally cold Christmas (East Coast or Europe) I could share the views from my hammock where I spend all my days since I left the hospital. Recovery is slow and I have little taste for reading or watching TV. Instead I spend hours looking over a corner of Caracas or observing the evolution of the poinsettia tree, or that corner of the garden where white, red, blue and pink mix, in spite of the dry wind and drought. Yes, with another poinsettia, why should we deprive ourselves to get the real trees?

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Daniel’s unwilling hunger strike

Hunger strike has been a fashionable way to protest, from the students in front of the OAS offices in Caracas to the Saharoui activist in Lanzarote. Now I have a fine appreciation of what it is to be almost a week with barely a few liquids for sustenance.

Two weeks ago I came down with dengue, the fashionable tropical disease, a virus transmitted by a specific mosquito. I already had it once, ten years ago and thus as expected the second time was to be much harder. My platelets went down to 3,500 which means that I was at the mercy of something as trivial as gum bleeding. It was that close. And yet the whole ordeal allowed me for a keen understanding of the mess Venezuela’s health system is at. Mind you, I went through it with the private sector, but I saw first hand how the negative policies of the Chavez administration are affecting all sectors, making me really wonder how low the quality of public sector service has fallen.

It all started in San Felipe where a slight fever the night before required next morning a visit to the emergency room of a local clinic. I spent the day there and was asked to take all sorts of test, from HIV to Epstein Bar, but not dengue. No privacy at anytime, my results would have been handled by whomever came across my papers. I was in bad shape enough that I was given I.V. fever medicine. At the end of the day I was sent back home, asked to come back next day to see whether my platelets would go down, the only dengue criteria available.

Next day was hell. I could not sleep that night, acetaminophen had stopped working. I needed a friend from Valencia to come and check out the situation. Upon her arrival she knew that things were bad, took me back to the clinic for them to stabilize me while she organized ambulance service. See, the people of San Felipe were in the best disposition to help me but all of San Felipe private sector is saturated due to the public central hospital collapse; thus they had no room for me…. At any rate it was wiser to go back to Caracas where I had more people to help me.

I think we left San Felipe around 4 PM. I am not sure because by then I was semi delirious as the evidence of dengue forbade any strong fever medicine. I was fit with my I.V. line and tossed in the only vehicle available in the area, an ambulance of a certain age with a very defective suspension. Thus I was able to enjoy for almost 4 hours every pothole that chavismo has allowed to flourish everywhere for the past ten years. It was hell, and made the worse as the paramedics could not even listen to the radio as Chavez was in cadena.

We reached Caracas at night. In spite of all the preparations my relatives had tried to take the Clinica Metropolitana was collapsing at its emergency and I was left for quite a while in a hallway as the paramedics were trying to have at least me switch to another stretcher so they could recover theirs and leave for another urgency somewhere in Maracay. Finally they tossed me into a trauma room where the other bed was occupied by another dengue case from Valle de la Pascua. The poor guy had been confused for an infection case, plied with antibiotics until finally some relatives decided to seek more competent doctors as there was no improvement.

I was to stay in emergency for 48 hours since I was too critical to be put in a room. I was stuck with all sorts of lines for constant monitoring while eventually the doctors ordered platelets transfusion, something easier said than done. See, of the 10 or so potential donors we managed to line up only 3 were approved and I got the platelets from one of my brothers since he happened to be the first at hand and same blood group.

For 48 hours I was given to observe up close as a participant sport the life of an emergency room. Activity all the time, in that basement you do not know whether it is day light. I must say that I was rather impressed. In spite of an edge of chaos feel, things run, attention does not waver, and people seem composed and knowledgeable enough. And doctors also seemed quite good. I caught myself wondering how good these people could indeed become. When you think at the difficult life we have now in Caracas, when you think about the overflow from the defeated public sector where in spite of Chavez words ministries discretely keep contracting private heath insurance, it is a miracle that the show runs so well. But think a little bit further: if these doctors did not have to spend at least 2 hours a day in traffic, if they did not have to deal with the rain of sanctions and intromissions from the state who resent their success while the state is flunking its own duties, in other words if these doctors had the means to do more research, the Metropolitana could be our own little Mayo Clinic. The experience and the talent they have, still. What they need is the time and means.

I also learned in these hours that there is a dengue epidemic and that you would never learn about it from the state media (and even more unaccountably so from the private media, scared of certain news). The Metropolitana itself is getting 5 cases a week at least. If we add the other major private establishments of Caracas it is easy to speculate that the cases of dengue are in the several dozens a week, enough to justify a major fumigation and prevention campaign. As far as I know only the municipality of Baruta manages some light spraying, the other without the means to do so. Meanwhile the state spends its energy in sending a vulgar and blurting Chavez to Copenhagen when the price of that wasted trip would be enough to spray all of Caracas green areas.

Things are worse than what you think. Once I was in a room, with my neurons firing a little bit again, the scientist in me wanted to know more. See, normally when a dengue case diagnosis is reported the INH (or whatever the name of the epidemiology state system is today) is supposed to visit the patient to ask epidemiological question. You know, to try to locate the focus, fumigate and whatnot. In fact they should even take a blood sample if early enough in the disease to establish the dengue strain. The INH not only has stopped visiting clinics and hospitals for that matter but no official epidemiological bulletin has been published in years. The Caracas doctors and clinics have to rely on themselves for any prevision they might want to take! As far as chavismo is concerned there is no dengue epidemic. Maybe they see epidemiological diseases as just a “sensacion” as the state ombudsman likes to qualify any intractable social problem, a media creation to provoke a feeling of insecurity, food shortage or dengue. I can witness myself first hand on how remiss of its essential obligations the Venezuelan state is, not only unable to heal people, but unable even to do the basic documentation so that other people could help. Make no mistake, if in the private sector dengue is such a problem I let you imagine what is going on in public hospitals and barrio adentro. Never mind the real numbers of swine flu.

And yes, I qualify myself as being a victim of Chavez in this regard, as my disease got worse for the difficulty in accessing care, even private care, as my contagion comes from a general degree in decay in infrastructure and water works allowing for the return of plagues such as paludism, malaria, tuberculosis and others, diseases we thought we had under control 20 years ago.

There was an interesting detail which in a way could explain in part that state indifference to the pandemic. Apparently there are 4 strains of dengue. 1, 2 and 4 have now been long established in Venezuela but 3 is a rather recent arrival. If I understand well it was not documented in Venezuela 10 years ago. The curious detail of that strain is that it is reported to have come to the Caribbean through the Cuban soldiers when they were fighting in Angola three decades ago. The Cubans arrived with Chavez when he turned Venezuela into a Cuban colony. You may draw your own conclusions.

The rest of the story is not as exciting. After 48 hours in emergency with people wondering whether I was going to make it, my body started reacting and I was sent into a room where slowly I waited for my platelets to climb back to 100,000. My only distraction was to enjoy the beautiful Caracas December light though my window, after spending the night trying to find a way to sleep around my IV line (I spent 8 days with all sorts of drips as dengue also does havoc with your electrolyte balance, amen of a liver lesion which will keep me away from booze for at least a month). Not even that much TV, and not looking forward visitors as I tire very fast. I did manage to contact Miguel who very graciously made an announcement. I wish to thank every one who wrote, hoping you understand it might still be a while until I can thank you all properly for your concern. But be assured, what is ahead is only a long rest, maybe up to a month. That I can type again may bring me relief from boredom by posting regularly, if infrequently, soon.

Meanwhile you can take as a home lesson that any numbers emitted from the government on any social affliction are, well, [feel in the blank word]. There is no reliable statistics coming from Venezuelan institutions, the creepier the topic, the less reliable the published number. What is left for us is to figure out what are outright lies and simply “enhanced” numbers. And make sure you have good medical contact and coverage with relatives willing to stand in line for you for hours in case you need to lay on a stretcher.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Boyd versus Smartmatic: tracking down tools for fraud

Alek Boyd has become an investigative journalist now, with some interesting initial success. I saw him in a Mexican paper so I wrote him to let us know what he is up to. His replies follow.

The Venezuelan banking crisis made simple (plus Chacon departure)

[UPDATED with Chacon exit]

I should be writing extensive posts about the current Venezuelan so called banking crisis, but I think that 1) Miguel does a much better job than anyone in covering the events (including relevant links to his information such as the priceless Caracas Gringo) and 2) I have been writing so much about corruption that an "I told you so" post is just demeaning; thus I prefer to cover more positive news such as the Honduras vote and the formation of Lopez new political movement.

But still, I should write something, kind of a follow up of a previous post where I was discussing the Venezuelan triumvirate that rules over us and how at some point it had to come down crashing, as all triumvirates did through history. Power is not something easy to share: you got it or you do not. As a decent compromise a very brief summary of all that this mean:

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Voluntad Popular is launched in Valencia

Blogging takes you places, even in Venezuela. I was invited, press card and all, to cover the launching of Venezuela latest political party/movement, the one that Leopoldo Lopez has been working hard at this year, after he left UNT (1). The locale was the sports arena of Valencia, el Foro, and as a visual witness, the arena was filled up and brimming with energy and enthusiasm (click on pictures to enlarge).
From the start this was a smart move. For a country getting more and more tired of all decisions taken in Caracas, launching officially the movement in Valencia was smart, a nice compromise including the distancing of the Caracas crowd but still geographically sound enough to avoid major travel trouble to the supporters (2). But it goes further as Valencia was one of the major opposition defeats of 2008 due to internal division. The defeated opposition candidate, Cocchiola, was in attendance, supporting Leopoldo and thus indicating his final break with Proyecto Venezuela. An indication that the days of Proyecto Venezuela in Carabobo State might be reaching an end? A deserved punishment for a party that refused political alliances and thus lost all but the Governorship, a useless prize when the rest of the state is against you.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Two Venezuelan realities: students with a cause and fattening generals

Early this week while in Caracas I visited the students on hunger strike, in front of the offices of the OAS. I did not want to write anything about that because, to tell you the truth I do not know how to broach the subject. I have too much respect for these kids to write lightly about them. In fact, my visit was made further embarrassing as I went after a diner date with a friend. We decided to visit the place around 10 PM. It was quiet and strangely peaceful. No apparent security, just an ambulance from the city of Baruta. The kids were laying on portable beds, not talking much (they need to preserve their energy). What seemed to be small groups of friends and relatives were hanging around, speaking softly, not wanting to disturb. Needless to say that I felt impressed and embarrassed, not able to find a word to try to even express my admiration for them even though I am not sure about the timing of their action.

What do they want? Nothing much really, that the government allows the Inter American Court to make a visit to Venezuela to gather data about violations of Human Rights. The Chavez administration is adamant in refusing such a visit which simply confirms that they have things to hide. The problem here is that there seems to be no solution in sight. The government mocks the attempt although they finally caved in on another hunger striker, near death, because he demanded justice for his property illegally seized by the state. Eventually OAS secretary Insulza sent a lame letter where he talked to the students as kids without understanding of adults things. As a consequence it seems that the hunger strike will go further and faster. What Insulza should have done is to write a letter directly to Chavez asking him to solve the issue and not allow to lay the blame on the OAS.

It is truly fascinating that after ten years of cheap materialism promoted by Chavez the result is similar as those observed in other countries suffering similar fates: the idealist and courageous youth is the one opposing the regime. For memory I will point out that I have yet to see revolutionary chavista students go on an hunger strike in front of the US embassy to demand the end of the Iraq war or the Cuban embargo. As a matter of fact, the few students that chavismo was able to produce in 2007 to counter the rising dissident movement are now benefiting from comfortable political jobs in the government, without any replacement worth noticing. On the other side every year the opposition student movement shows an incredible power of renewal, in ideas as well as in leadership.

So, you may wonder, why do I write about these brave kids today? Because Chavez provided me the inspiration with a cadena a few minutes ago. The cadena was about a military promotion ceremony, at worthless event since promotions are now decided by Chavez office with the main parameter being the perceived loyalty to the regime. I watched the first minute and taped it fast on my TiVo.

The ceremony stated with a fat general marching towards Chavez. Then, once he took position in front he spoke the following words:
Patria Socialsimo o muerte [Without a mic we can see Chavez uttering the word "veneceremos"] Mi comandante en jefe buensa noches. Presente en formacion 1800 combatientes revolucionarios, socialistas, anti imperialistas para el acto con motivo delos ascensos.....

Fatherland, socialism or death. [We shall win], My commander in chief good evening. Here in military formation 1,800 revolutionary, socialist and anti imperialist fighters, for the ceremony of promotion....
I was going to put the name of the fat military speaking those words, sporting the most ridiculous yellow ribbon with a je ne sais quoi of Easter Egg look. After all, too many of them have acquired the same mind pattern, the result of a decade of military corruption, financial and moral. The TV picture I show here is an indictment of how ridiculous the Venezuelan army has become, the only truly fit officer as far as I can tell being from the navy disappearing behind the Easter Egg. Fitter perhaps but equally willing to present this obscene masquerade of tacky adulation.

Thus you can see the two extremes that ten years of chavismo have produced. On one side you have the revolutionary nouveau riche, be they fat sycophantic military or the now on the run bankers who made 100 of million of dollars through government contracts in half a decade. Usually equally fat.

And on the other side the worth of the country, the new political conscious and idealistic class emerging from the embers of the middle class that Chavez has been diligently trying to destroy for the last decade. A group noble enough that some are willing to offer themselves for their goals and ideals.

-The end-

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Another neo-fascist day in Venezuela

This Wednesday we got yet another cadena from Chavez with a series of scary announcements.

Chavez said that the opposition wants to win the National Assembly elections of next year so that it can make a "constitutional" coup like in Honduras to get him out. Besides demonstrating that his knowledge of democracy is zero (if the opposition wins the majority he should actually consider resigning on his own since he will have clearly lost the trust of the country) he also announces his cards: he will do anything he can to make sure the popular will is not reflected next year. For that he had appointed two new seats to the CNE five member board, two women that are unconditional to chavismo when the constitution and law are perfectly clear that the CNE should be as impartial as it can. Not that it makes much of a difference, the two departing ones were unabashedly pro Chavez, but the two new women are real radical, the kind of radical that wear their allegiances on their sleeves. The two departing ones cheated but at least had the notion they were cheating: these two new ones will not even be aware of their cheating, kind of a natural second nature for them.

Chavez also said that he was ready to intervene and nationalize all the banking system as needed. In today circumstances this is dangerous because 1) the system is shaky after the 4 banks that were taken over last week and 2) in the middle of a recession driven by the government policies what is needed is quiet and calm to attract the rare investor still willing to come to Venezuela (I am assuming here though outside of oil I do not believe anybody will come to invest). In addition, the way he said it is a provocation, a pretense that it is fine for him to do any robbery he wants in the name of the people.

Why does he say that? Well, his numbers keep going down as the attempted war on Colombia did not pay any electoral dividend. So, talk of war has suddenly disappeared as Chavez did not want to be confronted by Uribe in Portugal. Instead he decided to go on the rampage with an atrocious populist and demagogic measure to try to hide the incredible corruption exposed in recent days. That is, a maneuver to try to blame every thing on the banks, even the corruption of his close associates.

But this attack on banks is coupled with an outright criminal declaration: he has decided that Venezuela cannot be reconciled, that the "bourgeois" class cannot get together with the side he represents.
"Son dos sectores enfrentados y aquí no hay reconciliación posible" There are two antagonist sectors and here there is no possible reconciliation.
That is right, you read it well, the president of the republic is appealing to class war, to civil war, announcing that peace in the country is possible only when one side will have exterminated the other one. Pol Pot was not any clearer. I am sorry but I cannot conjure any other historical image. Unless of course Lula da Silva cares to explain to me why is it that I am wrong.

-The end-

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Lula lies

At the Iberoamerican summit at Estoril the Honduras vote brings the worse in some. One of them is Lula, who huffing and puffing left before the end saying there is no way he will recognize the Honduras result, nor will he talk to Lobo. So far we can accept that but what we cannot accept is the following, according to this dispatch from Europa Press:

The coupster (Roberto Micheletti) acted with cynicism, gave a coup in the country and called for elections when he had no right to do so.

I do not know about you but I detect at least 2 lies and possibly a third one (I should check the Portuguese words maybe?).

The elections, dear president Lula da Silva, were already scheduled before the coup, to the point that even the candidates had been selected by the major parties. That someone in your position utters such nonsense is unacceptable and only reveals that your plans have been trumped and that you are just behaving like the young thug at the sand box keeping the other kids out.

And indeed this tantrum of you seem to be confirmed by you addressing the words of Oscar Arias to you when he questioned your easy recognition of Ahmadinejad, accepting without problem the Iran elections while refusing to discuss the Honduras one. The one with the double moral is you, president da Silva, not Arias.

Thus, dear President Lula da Silva, your early exit is unbecoming, and is made worse when you add that had you known Honduras would have been in the agenda you would not have come. Does that mean that if we do not follow your agenda any future summit will not be graced by your spoiled brat presence?

As my very esteemed colleague Juan Cristobal wrote yesterday, Dear president Lula you look much more like a ignoramus brandishing the pitchfork than a respected world leader aspiring to a permanent seat in the UN security council.

-The end-

Monday, November 30, 2009

How low can chavismo fall?

Today CADIVI announced the new rules for 2010. CADIVI for those late in the game is the bureaucracy that decides how much of my hard earned money I am allowed to spend when I travel overseas. For memory, through 2009 I was allowed to use 2,500 USD in my credit card and 500 USD in a single one time cash advance. That I travel 10 times or only once, that was my total travel money to split as I feel fit.

Well, now things will vary according to how long you travel and, supposedly, how far. But the sycophantic bureaucrats at CADIVI could not resist the opportunity to suck it up to their master, Hugo the Great, Liberator of all the Americas, Victor at the glorious fields of Tegucigalpa. So if you travel to Colombia you will get LESS money to travel than to ANY OTHER COUNTRY. Below the new delirious way to assign travel money (by the way, chavista bureaucrats and their associates do not suffer from these restrictions, since they can buy enough USD to bring along, say, 800,000 USD in their carry on if they wish).

I am comparing what you can get to travel to Colombia, our next door neighbor to the left with what you can get for Guyana, our next door neighbor to the right.

Three days or less


Three to eight days


Eight days or more


This one is for the annals of pettiness.

PS: Panama also is screwed but not as bad as Colombia........

-The end-

Honduras and the US win; Chavez and Lula lose

[Updated] The result is in and there is no doubt, even if some loony characters amusingly try to write fictitious results.

Honduras had its highest voter turnout in several elections, preliminary data putting abstention at below 40%, perhaps even 35%. That Lobo won with more than 50% of the vote is only accessory: the real result is that in spite of huge international pressure, calls from boycott from the Zelaya camp, the Honduran people bravely decided to turn a page on that chapter of their history, sending home packing all the guys that wanted to cause them trouble and grief. It is moments like today that renew our faith in democracy.

Interestingly the day started slowly, perhaps voters waiting to see if the Zelaya people were going to cause trouble. But as the day went on it seems that a strange mechanic took place, people went to vote late and forced an extension of one hour at the voting stations. Hence the delay in final participation result and the hurried communique early in the day by pro Zelaya and pro Chavez joints that the abstention was going to be at 65%. That was not what CNN showed, but Zelaya and Chavez seem to have been day dreaming for too long.

The clarity of the results thus allow us to procede in naming winners and losers.


The question mark comes fromt he simple fact that the whole business had been so ill managed that there cannot be real winners here. The only one is the interim government who managed to reach the election without allowing for the return of Zelaya.

We might just settle in saying that the winners are those who manged to gain today a respite, an amount of time that will have to suffice to fix the whole mess. As such we can mark here the US and the traditional parties of Honduras. The former because eventually it figured out what was really going on, it figured out that the rest of the continent was out to get the US through Honduras, and thus the US refused to keep playing along. After having displayed the very best intentions during the early Obama's term when he visited the Trinidad summit, the US went along in the early stages of the Honduras crisis when the US joined the rest of Latin America, expecting unwisely that the OAS woudl come up with a real solution. This did not happen and today is the result of the OAS lack of compass.

The other winners were the traditional political parties of Honduras who trusted the people to see that they would by themselves understand the fraud that Zelaya was. Thus they never fully supported the Micheletti system, concentrating on the November election and letting the folks elected 4 years ago deal with the mess they had created. Make no mistake, one of the main reasons why people went to vote in large mount today is that they understood that the candidates owed nothing to Micheletti and that his administration would exit in full in January. Lobo and Santos managed to detach themselves from most that happened in the last few months and thus gained the trust of the people who voted for them.


This is very clear: Chavez and Lula are the great losers of the day as all their manipulations failed. They can wipe a lot of egg from their face even though stupidly a very upset Lula is saying in Portugal that the election cannot be recognized, even though his assistants surely must have informed him of the unusually high turnout. Lula keeps accumulating foreign policy mistakes, a very preoccupying matter for a country which aspires to permanent seat at the security council. As such if in the short term Chavez is the main loser, on the long term Lula and Brazil might be the main losers. Why, you may ask?

The aftermath of today is very simple: the Americas are going to be cut int two because of Honduras. It may not happen if Brazil and Lula finally understand and react, but it will happen if in fact Brazil decides to split the Americas with the US.

In the next few weeks, by late January at the latest, Lobo will have been recognized by at least the US, Peru, Canada, Panama, and Costa Rica. If the following countries have not joined the recognition by then, this one could not wait long: Colombia, Mexico, Trinidad, Barbados and Chile if Piñera wins the presidential election. And because El Salvador and Guatemala share such a long border with Honduras it is difficult to imagine them holding off recognition of Lobo for much longer than January. Brazil and the ALBA will be on the other side, with Argentina as long as the Kichners hold power which is today less and less likely. Brazil and the ALBA on one side, representing an idiotic and retrograde left and the democratic market based economies on the other side. How do you think this will play into Brazil next elections? Will Wilma Roussef be willing to carry that Lula albatross if he does not come back into reason and stop receiving creeps like Ahmadinejerk or support clowns like Zelaya?

On the short term of course Chavez is the main loser. His ALBA is exposed as considerably more ineffectual than expected. Now in Nicaragua the opposition will be straightened with the Honduras example and the child molester of Ortega will have a much harder time to be reelected in a free and fair election. Nicaragua could well be the next domino. Unless it is Ecuador. After all, if Peru and Colombia recognize Lobo and unite in front of Chavez aggression, the dollarized economy of Ecuador will not be able to resist long the need to break ties with an ALBA that has no economic future whatsoever.

There are some smaller losers. The OAS has proven its uselessness. The recognition of Lobo by some will drive inside it a stake that could kill it, the more so if Insulza were to be reelected its general secretary. For an account of Insulza and the OAS mistakes read today O'Grady piece.

So let's close this post with a big congratulation to the Honduran people who have managed to stop the colonial ambitions of Chavez. Bravo!

I have considered only countries in the Americas. But apparently plenty of other countries, potential donors to recover the Honduras economy, are willing to recognize today's vote.


The flack is having its effect. If this morning I saw on Spanish TV a confused Moratinos stating that they would not recognize the election but that they could not ignore it, El Pais from Spain might indicate otherwise. That is, Moratinos boss at the Iberoamerican summit of Estoril is moving already to find a way out the ditch in which Spain placed itself as to Honduras. Amazingly at such a summit they allowed Patricia Rodas to speak as if she were still the only legitimate representative of Honduras even though the results were already known. From El Pais article we can gather that Zapatero is starting to realize that a few mistakes were made by Spain. Then again his guiding light was the ineffable Moratinos, the one that a few moths back said that he saw no problem with the freedom of expression in Venezuela. When is Zapatero going to fire Moratinos?

Meanwhile the mood at Estoril is not helping Zapatero as Uribe who is attending (Chavez is not) has announced that Colombia will recognize the Lobo government. Since Colombia is recognizing Lobo faster than what I predicted myself, then we can speculate with amusement about what is going on in the hallways of Estoril......

In its latest coverage El Pais notes dryly "If the elections held yesterday in Honduras are a fraud, as Zelaya maintains, then the fraud was committed almost normally." Which is an elegant way for El Pais, center left newspaper of record for Spain, to recognize that Zelaya is screwed and that it is time to move on. The same article also points out to the intense anti Chavez feeling that El Pais people found in the voting lines of Tegucigalpa. Meanwhile in Venezuela the government has decided it knows best and persist in its line of calling fraud. We see this without restraint in the bitter text found in the page of the Communication ministry itself. Not that it matter much, Lobo will certainly welcome any action that postpones having to renew relations with any of the ALBA countries.

With the partial count electoral participation is hovering at 61%, which would be nearly 10 points above the last election. This makes it even clearer when you think that Honduras has a huge expatriate population that is registered to vote but could not do it except in a very few US places. If we factor this in, the electoral participation WITHIN Honduras might reach 70%, a stunning set back for Zelaya and his Chavez inspired strategy. No wonder Zapatero is moving to leave behind Lula and Chavez.

-The end-

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Recognizing Honduras elections

The time has come to chose sides, once and for all. If, and I cannot stress enough that IF, today's election in Honduras are reasonably clean with a reasonably clean cut result there is no reason whatsoever not to recognize the new president elect and the government he will preside starting late January.

Why take that position? Many reasons conduce sensible people, including this blog, to decide that no matter what errors were committed from the ouster of Zelaya, it is time to turn the page and that any further hand wringing is only going to hurt the people of Honduras. President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica is perfectly right, and he has all the necessary credentials. Not to mention that already Panama, Peru and the United States have indicated that some conclusion must be reached about Honduras and that a vote is certainly the necessary first step. We can guess that Canada and Colombia will soon support such a stand and very likely after a few more prudent weeks Mexico and a new Chile government will end this phase of the Honduras charade, accompanied probably by Trinidad and Barbados.

The main reasons are:

- The elections were planned BEFORE the ouster of Zelaya, and planned enough already that the two major parties had held their primaries and chosen their candidates. Today, any serious poll, any street evidence from Honduras indicate that the people still want to decided among the two main candidates selected before the said ouster. What "moral" grounds can one oppose here? Demand that these people renounce their legitimate political ambitions? And for whom?

- Zelaya actions have proven that he is quite unfit to be a president as his own agenda trumps any other agenda that includes the welfare of the Honduran people. Instead of behaving like a responsible deposed president and promote a movement to run in the election and prove his righteousness, he has done anything within his grasp to sabotage the electoral process. Even his followers seem to be preparing the post Zelaya world, such as his "foreign minister", Patricia Rodas words in a Caracas recent rendezvous of the loony left Internationale who looks a lot she is trying to become the future "resistance" leader.

- Some actors have proven their unworthiness in this whole affair, using the Honduras crisis to promote their own hemispheric political interests. The biggest one is of course Chavez of whom there is no need to comment further except to note that unbelievably the Spanish government is offended by the political campaigns there using Chavez as a scarecrow. No, the one in mind here is most of all Brazil who keeps destroying fast its credibility, almost near zero now that Lula has received in great pump the Irani murderer. By supporting the Honduras elections, one takes a stand for democracy against those who abuse it in the name of democracy, namely the ALBA, Brazil and their client states who preach democracy from the mouth out.

I ask you the following question: do you prefer to adopt a political system like the Venezuelan one where water, electricity, and soon food will be scarce or a more open and democratic system where at least the government makes genuine efforts to provide these goods instead of spending its time trying to find an external guilty party to hide their very own guilt, as Chavez does everyday to hide his incompetence and corruption, moral and financial corruption for that matter?

No more hypocrisy anymore, there is no time for self righteous doubt. It is not a matter of supporting the Honduras vote and forget about the whole thing. The new government will have quite a daunting task at cleaning up the current mess, including sanction to all those that deserve it, and not only Zelaya or the Zelaya camp. But surely you must agree that a newly elected government has a better chance to resolve these issues than the current worn out actors.

To conclude this, if today's vote is reasonably clean, the real result is not who will win but how many people will have voted. The trend in recent elections there was for abstention to grow, but if today more than 60% of the people vote then the Zelaya cause is toast. And even if OAS observers are not present, or the even more discredited Carter Center is absent, there will be enough observers of serious background to let us know what is going on there. Heck, we will see that at the CNN images tomorrow, with or without observers.

-The end-

Friday, November 27, 2009

Anti Iran rulers protests, medals stolen and veils in Bolivia

Fortunately to save our honor in extremis, the students (who else?) did protest the visit of Ahmadinejerk to Chavez. A group them gathered in front of a Caracas hotel, where we presume was the Iran delegation, to protest. Promptly the Venezuelan repressive apparatus tried to dislodge them.

That is all.

Meanwhile there is an accusation that the the Iranian government lowered itself to confiscate the medal of Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi while in Bolivia an Iranian sponsored hospital requests that women wear the veil. We can at least admit that in Venezuela no chavista has been foolish enough to request Venezuelan women to wear the veil in the Irani joints joint venture.

-The end-

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Besides wishing US readers a Happy Thanksgiving, I wanted to let you know that this year I am in Caracas and will also be celebrating it, though at a restaurant which respects as much as possible US tradition. But you still may fully pity me because it is a working day in Venezuela. And, by the way, we do not celebrate tomorrow's National Shopping Day (though with the current recession few are those that can really celebrate it...)

-The end-

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Iran, Venezuela's opposition shame. Irán, vergüenza de la oposición venezolana

Siempre oímos esta conseja de que le mundo ignora lo que pasa en Venezuela, de que no se dan cuenta de que la democracia se muere, o murió ya. Vemos sendos políticos de oposición viajar por doquier para "explicar" lo que pasa acá, y volver, triunfantes, contándonos de que Fulanito o Sultanita los recibió, los escucho, les dio el pésame. En Aló Ciudadano cuantas veces tenemos que calarnos las llamadas de gente que se queja de que se hace poco para sacar a Chávez, de que hasta cuando vamos a tener que calarnos esto, de que el mundo nos tiene abandonados, que nos roban las elecciones y por que seguir votando, y otro sin fin de necedades en esa tónica. Pero miremos a la visita hoy de Ahmadinejad en Caracas y preguntémonos: donde esta la marcha de la oposición para denunciar esta visita, para reclamar a la bestia iraní las elecciones que se robo en Irán hace pocos meses; a reclamar por los que fueron arrestados, torturados y hasta muertos por defender su voto. ¿En que calle, frente a que embajada protestaron hoy esos que se teñían de verde iraní en aquel entonces? ¿Algún grupúsculo aunque sea? ¿Aunque sea la mitad del que protesto en Rio hace un par de días? ¿Y después de esto ustedes esperan que gente como los valientes iranies los vayan a apoyar cuando el CNE les robe las elecciones otra vez? Por lo menos agradezcamos a la comunidad judía de Venezuela de haber tenido el valor de protestar esta visita. Tal vez sea de ella que tendremos que sacar un líder que piense en el futuro de Venezuela antes de una pobre cuotica de poder a sacar en la lotería del 2010. -------------- Only too often we hear that the world ignores what goes on in Venezuela, that they do not realize that our democracy is agonizing, or dead. We see self satisfied opposition pols travel everywhere to "explain" what goes on here, and come back, triumphant, telling us that So and So received them, listened to them , gave them their regrets. In popular Alo Ciudadano TV show how often did we have to put up with audience callers complaining that little is done to get rid of Chavez, asking until when we need to put up wit this crap, that the world has abandoned us, that our elections are stolen and why bother voting again, and such other idiocies in that vein. But let's look at today Caracas visit of Ahmadinejad and let's ask ourselves the following question: where is the opposition march to denounce that visit, to demand the Iranian beast for those who have been jailed, tortured and even killed for defending their vote. In which street, in front of which embassy did protest today those who dyed themselves in green a few months ago? Not even a tiny group? Not even half the one that was protesting in Rio a couple fo days ago? And after this do you expect that people like the courageous Iranian will go to support you when the CNE once again steals the elections? Let's be at least grateful for the Jewish community of Venezuela who had the nerve to protest that visit. Maybe we should look into it to find the a leader that thinks about the future of Venezuela instead of the tiny parcel of power that he could get at the 2010 lottery. -The end-

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why is Chavez so afraid of the US-Colombia "bases"

Fabulous Weil at Tal Cual describes to us perfectly what is really going on in Chavez sub-conscious.

"The installation of those bases worry me"

You bet!
-The end-

The real Venezuelan income

Tal Cual today carries a rather crude diagram on what is the real income of Venezuelans, depending whether you calculate it at the official exchange rate of 2.15 per 1 USD, or the street rate varying widely from 4 to 6 per 1 USD. We are either the "richest" country of the subcontinent, or the poorest. Take you pick but look outside your Venezuelan window before you do so.
2008 per capita income, in US Dollars.

-The end-

Sunday, November 22, 2009

V Socialist International and other assorted insults to intelligence

The Bolivarian check book might be a little flat these days but it still has enough money to host last week a conference of "leftist parties" in Caracas who unabashedly look upon Chavez as a messiah of sorts. Heck, who else can finance a tropical vacation for these hanger on? Unfortunately a weakening Chavez could not resits the adulatory assembly and in a trance he announced that he was calling for a V-th Socialist International while he did not miss the opportunity to renew his antisemitism credentials by praising Carlos, the noted Jackal terrorist.

Let's start with the V-th Socialist International. For those who need to dust off their history books there has been so far 4 Socialist International, large assemblies where a group of people decide to establish the dogma of socialism as an ideology and a way to make politics. You know, a little bit like the many councils of the Catholic church through the ages. And just as the Catholic church councils the Socialist International had its divisions and parallel assemblies such as the defectors of the 2nd Internationale one who created the "3rd" Socialist International, controlled through Moscow all through its history until the wall fell. (1)

Eventually common sense and democratic values prevailed and the 4th Socialist International was established a few years after WW2, once the division between democracy and totalitarianism was firmly established in the mind of its attendees. This Internationale has been the most successful of the lot, having in its roster an impressive list of members having exerted power in most major Western countries for a significant amount of years. When Democracy came to Venezuela AD became a member. When AD ideology became more confuse the MAS joined and today PODEMOS is an observer. But, and that is the interesting point, neither the MVR nor the PSUV will be admitted to that 4th Internationale which is something that hurts deeply our most beloved Supremo leader. See, if there is anything that democratic socialists have learned through their perturbed history is to mistrust anything with a whiff of militarism.

Thus Chavez decides to create his very own Internationale, with a whole bunch of minority hackers that he will control through his check book, EXACTLY as Stalin controlled the member of the 3rd Internationale. You can be assured of one thing, democracy will be a best a minor concern of the 5th Internationale which is assured from the start to be a ridiculous endeavor, but one which will cause some damage here and there. Interestingly this Internationale is called for next April for a speedy formation, just as the 3rd one benefited from a speedy formation. The 4th Internationale came to be after many congresses, symposiums and all sorts fo meetings, because, see, it was democratic. (2)

But all of this is funny if costly for us Venezuelans we must endure the mad man in charge, calling for a new International he will pay for when he cannot even ensure us a reliable water and electricity supply. In his trance Chavez went much further, he praised Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known as the infamous Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal who is serving life sentence in a French jail. Simon Romero of the New York Times was not amused and offered a recap of the high feats of Carlos. Simon Romero notes all the anti Zionist and antisemitic undertones in such a defense of Carlos, and at such gathering of leftist parties where too many of them look more fascist than genuine socialists.

And that was not all, Chavez praised Mugabe and Ahmadinejerk once again and managed to have kind words for Idi Amine. Gasp....... The BBC journalist must also have gasped reporting it. The AP reports that in Uganda they were not amused. And speaking of the Associated Press, looking across the news we find that dispatch signed by Ian James who definitely must have been feeling high on the sycophancy vapors of the Caracas meeting he was covering last week. He titles it: "Chavez praises alleged terrorist Carlos the Jackal". Alleged... Ian James is an ignorant idiot, redundancy intended, and he owes us an apology (hat tip Caracas Chronicles).

I do not know about you, but that "leftist party" meeting of last week reminded me of the Titanic band... Not that the bolibanana revolution is about to go under anytime soon, but such displays of arrogance and ignorance must mean that the end cannot be that far. And it also would explain why Chavez seems to need to provoke even more than his usual habit, as duly noted by Rory Carroll at the Guardian. In his speech he indicated he was well aware he would be causing waves.

1) there are many conventions to name these International Socialist meetings and their results. some hate the numeration since it sorts of admit that there are more than one socialism, anathema for them! Other only will accept names that include words such as "workers". Here, it is Socialist International, or Internationale, the French way (which is also the name of its famous anthem, second only to the Marseillaise as a revolutionary chant in the past).

2) one wonders what will be the relationship of this new Internationale with organizations such as the "Foro de Sao Paulo". A sign of future tensions with Lula? Or is Lula only to happy to franchise his Foro to Chavez?

3) New york times now carries links just like blogs and the Romero piece links to this 2006 compendium of Chavez attacks against Israel and Jews.

-The end-

Saturday, November 21, 2009

From Danilo Anderson to Fernandez Barrueco

Like almost anyone else who has an idea about the graft corruption of Venezuela, I was a little stunned when I learned that the 4 banks of Fernandez Barrueco were "intervened" and that the guy found himself in a DISIP cell yesterday.

Stunned by the speedy story from rags to riches to jail, but not by the story itself since it is a classic tale of corrupt regimes who start to devour themselves as the money runs out. Then, those who "did well" are resented as not sharing enough with their little friends. Perhaps the most historically famous case was the one of the Templars, long time friends and financiers of the French monarchy and its obscure dealings, to be send to the burning stake when Philippe IV run out of cash and needed the fortune of the Templars to pay his debts. OK, maybe not a good example as the Templars were something else than the mediocre state sponsored robbers flourishing under any autocratic corrupt regime, recently here at home. The fact of the matter is that people like Chavez, Peron or Castro (or Gomez to name an earlier one) never had any problem sacrificing any former ally they had when money or power was at risk.

Considering there are now three blogs doing all sorts of economic reports I have stopped following as closely these financial dealings nfocusing on other stuff such as election thingies. For the details on the Barrueco story you can go for example to Miguel or to the very well informed Caracas Gringo.

My modest contribution here is to remind readers that this month we are also commemorating the fifth anniversary of Danilo Anderson assassination and we are equally far from knowing who ordered such an assassination. In fact, we can even doubt that those condemned for the actual murder were those who made said murder. We have gone as far as establishing the necessity to investigate Isaias Rodriguez for ordering the falsification of documents during the investigation, and of producing false witnesses. Yet, the victims of Isaias and his false witness are still under investigation when not in exile while Isaias Rodriguez is enjoying himself as Venezuela's ambassador in Spain. The General Prosecutor, after hinting at an investigation as simply kept her mouth shut since.

So, what is the connection you may ask? The current main hypothesis on the reasons to murder Danilo Anderson is that he was participating in an extortion ring. As a prosecutor he had access to lots of documents who allowed him to investigate banking activities of people supposedly involved in the 2002 events against Chavez. Such an extortion ring has been denounced but never investigated as it should because, well, it was also probably used to start the creation of new fortunes. Some of the investigated parties were probably forced to get rid at discount prices of part of their assets at a time where Chavez needed reliable providers to avoid again the stress of the 2002-2003 strike.

2003 was a good year to start such immediate fortunes. Oil prices were rising and Chavez was spending without control to prepare himself against the Recall Election. Anyone wanting to help Chavez was welcomed with no questions asked, while Chavez entourage understanding now that eternity was not their sure lot started using front men, cashing all sorts of "favor" money to secure a golden retirement. Classic tale of regime's corruption except that it was all compressed in barely a year in the Venezuelan case. The survival of Chavez in the Recall Election simply must have convinced him to keep the system in an elemental "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" reflex as the guys getting rich around him distracted his attention with international dreams of grandeur.

Danilo Anderson was the first case, and last for a while because its purpose was to scare away anyone who was willing to either prosecute these thieves, or be tempted to have second thoughts about their practices (1). High oil prices did the rest to butter up the system as no matter how much was robbed, enough was trickling down to pacify and convince the masses to stick with Chavez.

But make no mistake, those who ordered the assassination of Danilo Anderson were placed high in power, the only reason why the case as never solved. I am not going to speculate who gave the order to kill Anderson and forced Isaias to lie. Maybe there was more than one interest. I am not going to speculate either as to whether those who killed Anderson are behind Fernandez Barrueco sudden downfall. It is really not the point.

My point is that the mechanisms of corruption and power work all the same and are at the origin of Anderson like folks assassination as well as the making and unmaking of cover guys like Fernandez Barrueco.

It simply yet another evidence that what came to power in Venezuela on February 2, 1999 was not a socialist revolution but a mafia gang that used populist, socialist words and demagoguery as an excuse to loot the country. Venezuela is just a country controlled by a new type of Mafia, perhaps at this point already controlled by narco traffic interests. Which makes you wonder about people like Lula or Zapatero who cannot not know what is going on in Venezuela. Uribe and the US do, not that it is of much solace.

ADDED in proof: as I was typing this post Caracas Gringo was also typing a new entry. Do not miss it! Names and all!!!!

1) there are plenty of entries in this blog with Anderson Case as a label if you need to refresh your memory.


Sort of off topic, but as I was catching up my reading at Caracas Gringo I found his recent entries with yet more information over the 2002 events. In a way he did not taught me anything since I always suspected that there were coup-within-coup-within-plots maneuvers, but he actually bring in names that I had not heard of yet. Whoever Gringo is, he is too well connected for his own good and should be careful. by the way, ZETA this week uses extensively one of his articles to discuss the electricity problem at Guri.

-The end-

Friday, November 20, 2009

Two revolutionary moments: the new socialist man

On from me and one courtesy of Teodoro

I went to get my San Felipe Central Madeirense, the grocery store located in middle class San Felipe, where you need a car or a cab to go since there is not even a convenient bus top close by. In spite of San Felipe growth the CM is still the only major grocery store and as such, at rush hour, it has become a nightmare pushing me to do my San Felipe groceries in Caracas whenever I can, or drop by mid morning taking time off from work.

What was my surprise to find out that all tooth paste boxes were empty. Thinking, naively, that it was a bad marketing promotion I asked what was the deal. I was told that I should take my empty box to the cashier and when I pay they will radio someone to bring me my tooth paste. It is not Ipods or mini webcams that are stolen anymore, there is such a thievery of toothpaste that even a CM has to take protective measures, even if located in an area where people supposedly make enough money to buy toothpaste. They come, they break the sealed box as in the image, and hide somewhere on themselves the toothpaste. Another educational triumph of the Robolution!!!!

The other one is the Simon Boccanegra of Tal Cual, written by Teodoro Petkoff

The other self of the revolutionaries

Last Sunday, voting day for the PSUV, something happened that inasmuch as we are told seems hard to believe. But it happened. The 11 AM flight of RUTACA from Cumana to Caracas was taken by assault by 30 red shirts, leaving on the ground 30 passengers, with their tickets in hand, passengers who furious and helpless were not able to stop such abuse by those who "explained" their action because of their obligation to come to Caracas to vote. The assault took place in full daylight, with absolute perfidy. Among the attackers was the minister for universities, Luis Acuña, who is known by this chronicler and who was always considered as a decent character. Although the minister did not lead the assault and seemed to try to pass incognito, he was recognized by the passengers who, justifiably upset, complained about his actions. Professor Acuña mumbled some excuses but went ahead anyway. What is the matter with these people that even someone like Acuña, of whom we would not have expected such an arrogant conduct, seems to have been contaminated by his brethren? If there was still need for a proof that this is no revolution and that all the socialist discourse is just a trap for fools , it is hard to come with a better example than the one in Cumana. Because it is the daily abuse, the one that does not make you wet but leaves you soaking. The one who pushes forward the other self of these "revolutionaries". It is the same miasma over again, that ilk of those who with barely a hint of authority transform themselves in true monsters, the very same people who steal from the blind and then break the collection plate on the unfortunate's head.

-The end-

Good news from the Venezuelan opposition

Today we got some good news from the opposition electoral negotiation table. A few resolutions have been made and they are pointing in the right direction, quite like I was writing a few days ago. Not that I own any particular wizardry but surely my keen sense of the obvious should also be shared by some of the guys in that negotiating room.

Since it will be a while before anything in English on that appears, here are the highlights as I see them (with my scoring 1 to 10, passing > 5 grade):

- An electoral program will be nailed down and presented to the country in late March. It is late for my taste, and I do not know whether it will be a legislative program or a sum of unnecessary promises. For now, 5.

- Candidates will be chosen through consensus and primaries. No polls will be used which is fine with me, saves money. Consensus will be tried first and in the districts where it fails, then primaries will be held. 9; I would give a ten if they had guaranteed at least 50 primaries.

- In January nomination of the candidates that gather a consensus around them. 10

- By February decision of which primaries must be held. 9

- Primaries held from February to April 30. 8. April 30 is late but if already a sizable number of candidates are chosen by March 31 it is not too bad. What I am afraid of is that inner squabbling might drag the primaries through May.

- Among the unity candidates there will be a few personalities not associated with political parties. 9. Not 10 because there is the risk of choosing people just for effect that will be lousy campaigners.

- In January a plan on how to defend the vote, to make any vote count will be presented. 10, because not only we need such a plan to man every voting station, but we will need at least 6 months to recruit and train the volunteers, in particular in chavista strongholds where they exist but where they will be threatened. Remember that a seat can be lost by a hundred votes and that can be achieved easily by cheating in a single voting center left without supervision!

Overall a nice passing grade, a pleasant surprise. And an understanding that all must need to be tied up by Easter Week, just as I was writing, even if they offer April 30.

Pre War grumblings? Brazil's dirty game?

Today we got a border incident with Colombia. This is worrisome because it seems that Colombia is starting to call in Chavez' s bluff (and Brazil's UNASUR own bluff). I still do not think that Colombia wants war, but it seems that they are getting tired of Chavez antics and of the hypocrisy of Brazil. If there is going to be war, "so be it"?

All along the attitude of Brazil has been dismal and Colombia yesterday had to call it on. We should not be surprised by Brazil's imperialistic attitude: anything that helps Colombia become a stronger country is a No-No for Brazil. Chavez and Argentina they do not fear: these two countries are self imploding and Brazil pretty much has the former by the balls. Peru is too far physically to be of any threat and is far from being a stable country yet. Chile is simply off the Brazilian radar and the small countries around are doomed one day or the other to become economic satellites. Only Colombia could become a danger for Brazil political ambitions, big enough, populated enough, with neighbors that would easily rally around Colombia if Brazil were to become too greedy.

We must accept something: Brazil's foreign policy seems to have lost its former steady professional demeanor. With the way it favors Chavez over Colombia and its naked intervention in Honduras it seems the US might have more to fear from the hypocrite ally that Brazil pretends to be than from the open antagonist that Chavez is.

PS: [added next day] If you want to learn more about Lula's hypocrisy you could do worse than reading Olavo de Carvalho interview by Alek Boyd

-The end-

Thursday, November 19, 2009

We are in recession

All that huffing and puffing, all that barking at the wrong tree, all that braggadocio that we were immune, that as a socialist economy we did not care anymore about Wallstreet... and we got into recession anyway, after the other guys, but just as some of the other guys seem to start pulling out of it or at least stopping the free-fall. The Wall Street Journal has a short and sweet and complete summary. Even if you know nothing about economy, loath papers like the WSJ as dry and boring, you will understand clearly how much trouble has Chavez landed us in.

What was criminal about the whole thing is that since late last year Chavez and his team (?, can we really call the Giordani/Merentes an economic team?) have done nothing, have taken no preventive measures to try to avoid a recession that they knew would hit us someday. I truly hope that they hoped for a miracle because if indeed they did not think a recession would hit us, then they are way more stupid that I thought they were.

The only thing they did was to use up the meager savings we had, and when those run out they simply started emitting more debt bonds. Spending was cut not because it was a well thought policy to ensure sustainability of some social programs. Spending was cut because simply given obligations run out of money. Whoever run out of money first was told "tough luck", and that was that. New debt, once corruption s served, will be used only for those programs that make Chavez look best in electoral times. That is the economic program of the government.

But, again, this irresponsible and criminal attitude is just unforgivable because the slide in Venezuela economy started BEFORE Wall Street crashed in the second half of 2008. I am not going to bore you with a long economic article, other known blogs take care of that much better than I will do. I will just show you this little graph that I got courtesy of PB, who got it from Goldman Sachs. It says it all.

Clearly, if you examine this annualized GDP quarterly variation you can see that the slowing down of Venezuelan economy started in the first half of 2007, almost a year before the real estate bubble blew. The 7.2% increase of the thrid quarter of 2008 is the high time oil price coupled with increased electoral spending for the November 2008 regional elections. More worrisome, the decrease rate seems to be accelarting and promising us a third 2009 quarter with a decrease of maybe 5% if oil prices do not go up further. The year end average could be as much as -4%, second only tot he 2003 recession, this time with Chavez having no strike to blame.

What is terrible in the forecast is that all through this year chavismo has in fact been further harassing the only people that can help the economy stop its slide and maybe rebound. More than ever private property has been under attacks and private business blackmailed when not outright robbed. So, not only the previous growth was an artificial one based on an import and distribution economy, but the retreating productive sector got further hit in the last 4 quarters leaving it unable to help in a recovery, even if it were so inclined.

Tough days are ahead of us. And yet the government still puts all of its hopes in oil prices going back to100USD, which dramatically would now be barely enough to pay our debt interest, amen of the investment we need to do just to keep the lights on and water running in our faucets. Stagflation, recession, inflation are here to stay in a virulent for of Dutch Disease: the Chavez Disease!

-The end-

Chavez the funny man and his funny PSUV show

So what do you do when the internal elections of your party do not quite give you the results that you were expected? You train your delegates to sing the PSUV brand new anthem. Karaoke style at that.

The last Sunday results of PSUV internal elections were not too bad for Chavez. On the positive side, no "current" got enough votes to be of any threat for Chavez. If to this you add the 200+ delegates that he will appoint himself, his worries never were about the result. The problem was in the participation. And even there he had a silver lining in the defeat. Defeat because apparently less than a million folks voted out of the supposedly 7 million registered members (1). But silver lining because these almost 1 million (?) might represent a true hard core which, with gun power, is all what Chavez needs to control the country 'til kingdom comes.

I was a little bit amused when some folks tried to present the internal elections of the PSUV as an example to follow for the opposition, or a "coup" for Chavez. At least in the case of this well known blog there is the excuse of not living day to day inside Venezuela. The fact of the matter is that as I expected the narcissism of Chavez was going to void part of the potential success he could have got. It did not take long: we are Wednesday, the results are not officially known except for those who got elected and we will not know the final numbers because only Chavez will know them. That is XXI century socialist democracy for you.

So overall we can say that the PSUV missed its opportunity at scoring big against the opposition, which is not surprising considering that there is really only one elector inside, El beloved Supremo, and there is no way to spin this convincingly, even by contrasting it to the opposition. To counter this bad image Chavez wasted no time in calling for a gathering of the elected delegates where among other things a sing along of the PSUV anthem was organized, live on state TV. I'd rather not comment on the musical quality of that anthem but something tells me that it will not have the reach of the AD one which still turns heads the rare occasions we get to hear it...

But that meeting was quite funny. Of course the only one who spoke was Chavez (besides a few flattery remarks to introduce the beloved leader by Silly Flowers, the head of the Nazional Assembly). And he certainly he did not disappointed us, either by what was left unsaid like the imminent arrest of Globovision president, Zuloaga, or by what he said, and he said quite a few gems!

He said, in no particular order that:
The PSUV Congress scheduled for a couple of weeks until mid December will now last as long as needed, until the middle of next year if necessary. Chavez noted that they would have the Christmas recess (so do not dare to bitch about it?)

That the decrease by 4.5% GDP for the third quarter, which puts Venezuela in open recession, is really due to an old system of capitalist GDP evaluation and that Venezuela should change to a socialist way to calculate it. He went as far as claiming that France does the same. Which is of course B.S. since France calculates its numbers according to European Union guide lines so as to be able to belong the the Euro Zone... (2)

He insulted Uribe and his foreing minsiter grievously by calliugn them both "desgraciados", while adding that he was more Colombian than they were. Apparently he also sang the Colombian anthem but I have not been able to confirm it.

And more "payasadas".
So, as usual, when bad news harass Chavez (Colombia, GDP heading South with his poll numbers, low turnout even among his followers, etc, etc, ) Chavez does what he does best, he puts up a TV show, a real variety TV show with, drama, harsh words, with song and dance included (the newly elected delegates had to stand up to sing and sort of swayed in rhythm).

1) El Universal, this nasty opposition rag, writes that barely 500,000 bothered to vote!

2) other things Chavez conveniently forgets to mention when he blames the way GDP is calculated (funny how he did not mind that way when the numbers were positive!) are that Venezuela is considered one of the least innovative economies (I disagree, with the return of barter as state policy we are soooo retro-innovative!) , that non-oil export are at they lowest level since 1997, and is one of the most corrupt country in the world....

-The end-

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Resumen de las perspectivas electorales 2010 en Venezuela

(In English here)

En una serie de artículos previos, en inglés aquí, se examinaron varios aspectos de las elecciones a venir en 2010. Esta es, en castellano, una actualización y resumen de los textos anteriores, incluyendo los acontecimientos recientes. Simplemente, voy a abordar algunos de los puntos señalados anteriormente.

La fecha. Tenemos una posible fecha, aunque esto todavía no se publicase oficialmente. El CNE ha propuesto una votación para la segunda mitad de septiembre del 2010. El gobierno no puede esperar más que hasta septiembre. Sabe que no puede disponer de tantos ingresos para comprar votos como en las elecciones anteriores y por lo tanto ha decidido compensar en parte poniendo el voto al final del periodo de vacaciones escolares, cuando, supuestamente, la clase media opuesta a Chávez votaría menos. No es que esto vaya a cambiar significativamente los resultados, pero un incremento de la abstención de la clase media podría dar al chavismo un par extra de diputados (¿Caracas? ¿Valencia?). Este es el tipo de cálculo que el chavismo se ha visto obligado a hacer ya que su situación se deteriora más y más. También el tiempo de vacaciones implica menos consumo de electricidad, menos consumo de agua, menos tráfico, menos recordatorios de cómo el chavismo falla en la gestión del país. No fue ninguna sorpresa como casi de repente los servicios de electricidad y agua se desplomaron en octubre pasado generando una crisis nacional: la negligencia del periodo vacacional después de años de abandono seguido de un retorno a la actividad empresarial revelaron el asunto mas que cualquier fenomenal Niño. Por eso, en lugar de llamar a votación como debería de ser programado, a finales de noviembre o principios de diciembre, vamos a votar a mediados de septiembre.

No hay otra elección. El CNE parece dispuesto a violar la ley electoral, una vez más y aplazar hasta el 2011 las elecciones para los consejos municipales, ¡¡¡un asombroso retraso de dos años!!! Los votos de otros comicios no se deciden aún, pero todo parece indicar que también ocurran después de las elecciones de septiembre. La interpretación es muy fácil: el chavismo ha decidido que la prioridad única que tiene es mantener una mayoría en la Asamblea Nacional. No hacerlo supondría el control financiero para la oposición, la posibilidad de investigación sobre las oscuras prácticas contables del régimen y un revés para algunas medidas del régimen como estrangular a los medios. Esto simplemente no se puede permitir. Si las elecciones para la Asamblea se han perdido, realmente no importa si el chavismo gana los consejos municipales o la alcaldía de Maracaibo: Chávez estaría obligado a dar su golpe final o estaría en peligro que una facción de descontentos en el PSUV lo sacase del poder. La decisión parece haber sido tomada para que nada pueda distraer la atención de la campaña de la Asamblea Nacional, la clave para que Chávez pueda terminar de instalar un sistema que hará imposible que la oposición lo desafíe en él 2012.

Problemas del chavismo. Durante el último par de meses, el chavismo ha ido de mal en peor y por primera vez desde 2002 los números de Chávez empiezan a aparecer en algunas encuestas por debajo del 50%. Lo mas grave es que los índices de insatisfacción de estas encuestas indican que la caída de Chávez podría continuar a niveles sumamente peligrosos. La razón es muy simple: el chavismo y Chávez han hecho a sí mismos lo que nadie hasta ahora ha sido capaz de hacerles: abrir un flanco débil. Este fue cortesía de años de descuido, de un diseño deliberado de mediocridad, de la incompetencia del chavismo para seguir los planes razonables establecidos para el país antes de que llegara al poder Chávez, planes que simplemente tenían en cuenta el crecimiento de la población natural para construir la infraestructura necesaria para prestar los servicios de agua y electricidad (y, por cierto, de otros servicios que son bombas de tiempo a punto de explotar). Es muy difícil para cualquier gobierno recuperar los diez años perdidos en unos pocos meses, y mucho mas difícil cuando el gobierno está dirigido por un puñado de serviles funcionarios corruptos e incompetentes. El chavismo, ya a la defensiva desde mediados del año, ha tenido de repente que cambiar su estrategia electoral. El primer intento fue la "guerra" con Colombia, tratando de explotar el nacionalismo barato, el último refugio de los canallas. Hasta el momento no parece funcionar muy bien a menos que veamos esto como una excusa para purgar el chavismo antes del final del año y hacerlo mas radical para la campaña del año siguiente. Podríamos ver el sorpresivo derrocamiento de la parte más corrupta del triunvirato que nos dirige: Diosdado Cabello, que parece tener más poder, sigue adquiriendo mas y seria mas obvia su caída con el fin de hacerle cargar con todos los fracasos de Chávez. Esta podría ser la gran jugada de Chávez en diciembre. Esa "guerra" también puede incluir objetivos como la destitución del gobernador de oposición del Táchira.

Dolores de la oposición. Parece que estamos teniendo buenas noticias de los dirigentes de la oposición. Al parecer, todavía se oyen algunos gritos y susurros, pero parece que la dirigencia política ha entendido que la unidad es la única manera de operar. No importa qué tan bajo los números del chavismo caigan, nadie en su sano juicio debería creer que caerán por debajo de 40 % antes de septiembre de 2010. Como hemos visto con sólo el 45% de los votos, el chavismo puede ganar una mayoría de la Asamblea Nacional en contra de una oposición más o menos unificada, y destruiría a una oposición dividida con tan sólo el 40% de los votos. El problema, por supuesto, es cómo llegar a la unidad , el grial sagrado. Pequeños pasos parecen ser tomados. Ya que la fecha electoral ha sido finalmente sugerida, las candidaturas únicas de la oposición y los programas electorales tienen una fecha tope de entrega: Semana Santa del 2010. Es decir, la oposición tiene 5 meses para actuar en conjunto, no hay tiempo que perder con un Chávez ya en modo brutal de campaña. Esta es probablemente parte de la explicación de por qué Leopoldo López finalmente se siente a discutir con los otros jugadores. No sabemos exactamente por qué tardó tanto tiempo, pero parece que los puntos que presentó fueron por lo menos parcialmente válidos, se sacudió un poco el "establishment" y la oposición se dio cuenta de que estaba mejor con López adentro que afuera. Por otra parte, López iniciando su nuevo movimiento propio se habrá dado cuenta de que no podía arriesgar cargar con la culpa de la división. Con AD, PJ, UNT, PODEMOS, COPEI y ahora López, todos los grandes jugadores están negociando. Los jugadores de menor importancia deben darse cuenta de que un asiento alejado de la mesa es mejor que no tener ningún asiento y que el estado anímico del país no favorece "saboteadores". Sin embargo, no vamos a abrir las botellas de champán, sólo se podrá respirar más libremente el próximo año si la tendencia actual persiste durante las vacaciones de Navidad.

La plataforma de campaña. Discutir la unidad de la oposición nos lleva a discutir el programa y el proceso de nominación. Si la plataforma de la campaña chavista es perfectamente previsible (Chávez 365/365 hasta el 2021) la de la oposición lo es menos. La primera trampa es evitar la presentación de un programa que parece más una agenda presidencial en lugar de una agenda legislativa. Las ambiciones internas creciendo a la par de la disminución de los números de Chávez podrían jugar una mala pasada a la oposición. Sin embargo, una agenda legislativa simple puede ser muy poderosa si está bien presentada: una agenda legislativa no requiere de tanto dinero como una agenda ejecutiva y por lo tanto puede presentarse como una promesa que realmente se pueda cumplir. Además, la naturaleza errática del chavismo en estos días probablemente podría llevarlo a cometer errores políticamente costosos. Por ejemplo, el latigazo a Colombia puede ser utilizado como una plataforma de paz para la oposición. Algunos ejemplos de los posibles puntos son los siguientes, en ningún orden en particular:

A) el respeto de los derechos humanos: una ley de amnistía, el regreso a la libertad de información a través de una reforma de CONATEL, un compromiso para obligar al régimen a una mejor gestión de cárceles y construir más de ellas, etc ...

B) la descentralización: señalar que la centralización de Chávez ha traído los desastres actuales. Oferta de obligar que una parte de los ingresos se distribuyan directamente a los gobernadores de los estados para arreglar los problemas propios de agua y distribución de electricidad (ventaja: se pone al toque a funcionarios chavista locales cómodos con la toma de decisiones en Caracas, lo que puede disminuir su eficacia en la campaña)

C) Control de Finanzas: ofrecer audiencias públicas sobre dónde fue gastado el dinero; promesa de investigación sobre temas específicos tales como la electricidad, el agua y las compras de armas

D) No más regalos: nuevas ofertas de créditos no se votarán a favor del ALBA (o cualquier otro país) a menos que se garantice la reciprocidad. Todo el dinero de Venezuela se queda en Venezuela

E) Control administrativo: un grupo variado de medidas. Por ejemplo, ofrecer que parte de las Misiones sean controladas por los gobernadores señalando que la mayoría son chavistas y, como tal, deberán trabajar más duro en sus estados

F) Seguridad: la promesa de voto de más fondos para que los alcaldes y los gobernadores preparen a una mejor policía, guardando la ley nacional como marco general para la calidad y supervisión de la policía, pero no el control de la policía. Esos fondos serían tomados de las compras de armas planificadas y ahora canceladas

G) Proclamar la neutralidad general de Venezuela una vez más y anunciar que la próxima Asamblea Nacional condenará oficialmente las FARC como terroristas, por lo tanto anulando, en parte, cualquier supuesta mala intención de los EE.UU. y Colombia hacia Venezuela. Explicar que condenar a las FARC y el narcotráfico es la mejor manera de llegar a la paz

H) Revocar las leyes que atenten contra la propiedad privada. En realidad debería ser el tema económico único y de verdadero debate. Se prometería que los ocupantes de ranchos establecidos hace años puedan obtener derechos de propiedad real, así como de los campesinos instalados en las tierras confiscadas si las trabajan. Prohibir apropiación ilegal de tierras haciendo ver que el gobierno se robó todo la tierra que era productiva y estamos importando más alimentos que nunca

I) EVITAR por el momento cuestiones complejas como la nueva ley de educación, la necesidad de reformar el sistema judicial, la remodelación del Banco Central, etc ... Es necesario que el programa sea sencillo, de acuerdo con los actuales problemas urgentes de la población

El proceso de nominación. Para concluir este mensaje, este tema en tres subcategorías.

El voto de lista. Serian 52 los diputados a elegir a través de un voto de lista, un voto general a nivel estatal (aproximadamente el 33% de los escaños). Estos deben ser escogidos por un gran acuerdo entre todos los partidos políticos. Los "puestos salientes", cerca de 20-25, los que la oposición esta casi segura de ganar, se deben dar a los políticos establecidos o figuras públicas que requerirán poca campaña en sus plazas Y que estarían dispuestas e incluso deseosas de hacer campaña para todos los candidatos presentándose en los distritos más difíciles. Es decir, estamos hablando de la creación de un equipo de campaña de súper candidatos, 20 figuras nacionales o regionales, un equipo que ilustre la diversidad y la unidad de la oposición, al menos, para preservar la democracia.

Votos por distritos. El problema no se resuelve todavía. El CNE dará a conocer lo más tarde posible el fraude electoral que está preparando al rediseñar distritos para favorecer candidatos gobierneros. Por lo tanto la oposición debe decidir lo antes posible un proceso de selección que garantice una nominación rápida una vez que el CNE hable. Esto sería una mezcla de las primarias, de acuerdos políticos y de encuestas, dependiendo de la zona. Se me ha señalado que la oposición tiene un defecto conceptual importante: esta acepta votar bajo las reglas de la CNE para la asamblea, pero no aceptaría que el CNE organice sus primarias. También me dijeron que las primarias dirigidas por el CNE serían más baratas que las dirigidas por SUMATE o cualquier otra organización. ¿Por qué no utilizar el CNE? Una cosa es cierta, con CNE o no, fraude electoral o no, en enero, la oposición debe tener por lo menos el método de cómo elegir a un candidato. Sea cual sea el método escogido, debe haber una cantidad significativa de primarias para motivar a los electores. Probablemente volveré a escribir sobre esto en breve.

La tarjeta Unica. Esta es en mi opinión, un enrevesado que se parece más a un ardid publicitario para unos que no representan mucho, algo de poca importancia al fin y al cabo. Las elecciones de Venezuela acostumbran llevar un montón de boletas diferentes, a veces una variedad vertiginosa, incluso para un solo candidato. La teoría, impulsada en su mayoría por los políticos de Caracas, es que una tarjeta única podría hacer maravillas presentando una imagen de unidad. Por lo general mientras menos probable sea que un político vaya a recibir votos, más defiende la tarjeta única. El argumento contrario, por supuesto, es que no sólo un candidato puede recibir el apoyo de muchas partes, pero hay una necesidad de los partidos políticos en contarse, algo que puede ocurrir solamente en una elección. Bah! La solución es realmente sencilla: si los representantes de distrito van a ser nombrados a través de elecciones primarias entonces las elecciones distritales pueden realizarse a través de tarjeta de votación única (las morochas). Además, puesto que cada estado tiene el voto lista, estos se pueden votar a través de múltiples tarjetas y el conteo partidista se lleva a cabo a nivel estatal. Este "dogma" de la tarjeta única sigue evolucionando y tiene que ser enfrentado pronto ya que me temo que algunos podrían usarlo para sabotear los esfuerzos de la oposición.

Conclusión. A pesar de todas las dificultades existentes en este momento la elección pertenece a la oposición que será la que las pierda por su torpeza. Sé que 9 meses es mucho tiempo, pero mi opinión es que la oposición va a ganar o perder la elección para Semana Santa del 2010. Cualquier falsa recuperación económica que el chavismo podría ser capaz de obtener a través del incremento de la deuda venezolana a niveles imposible de pagar tendrá efecto a partir de marzo o abril. Si para entonces la oposición no ha sido capaz de articular un plan y un equipo, habrá mas que suficiente gente que simplemente se tragará la línea de Chávez una vez más, alejándose de una alternativa llena de disputas internas, sin claridad. Usted lo leyó aquí primero, ¡recuérdelo!

-The end-