UPDATE!!! Apparently the WaPo editorial linked below was a mistake, an editorial that was not supposed to be published. It did not make it tot he print edition and by mistake on line. But we have a cache and contacts so I put the editorial, or at least a version of it, at the end of this post.
Although I find the Washington Post editorials to be on the mark on Venezuela, the latest one is somewhat off, as if the WaPo were to be taking itself into the anti Chavez self imposed trap, a skill that chavismo has long practiced with certain success.
On logic and factual merits the editorial is perfectly on target, chastising the weak Obama administration response to Human Rights violations in Venezuela coupled with obscene weapons purchased, the latest installment coming last Friday after Putin's brief visit to Caracas (1).
But times are changing.
Chavez really does not have the money for this latest round of weapon purchase unless he starts cutting further into the social programs that are already failing.
These purchases are really more about commissions and corruption than an actual potential attack on Colombia as these weapons, in particular the tanks, are ill suited for jungle warfare. I can predict that commissions will be paid first, some weapons will find their way to Venezuela and that will be it all as Putin is probably well aware and does not need to antagonize Washington more than necessary (remember Georgia?).
Venezuela is collapsing. Even if oil prices were to reach the range that Chavez would love to see, the damage he has inflicted on Venezuela economy is beyond repair with the system he tries to create. We cannot produce the electricity that we need and we are importing as much as 3/4 of our food. In Tal Cual editorial today Teodoro Petkoff speaks openly of a new lost decade, noting that in 1998 the foreign currency intake of the country was 68% from oil and 32% from the rest whereas today 95% comes from oil and 5% from the rest. Never mind that one tries to correct for oil prices and counter correct with decreased oil production, the fact of the matter is that Washington has the perfect weapon against Chavez: stop paying for oil, stop importing it suddenly. The vulnerability of Venezuela has been exposed to great grief through the latest analysis of Morgan Stanley which simply states we are running out of grocery cash.
There is a need for all of us to escape the anti Chavez trap of alleged facts. One example on how to do it was last night interview of Manuel Villalba by CNN 's Patricia Janiot, in one of her frequent brilliant days.
Villalba is, well, sorry for remaining myself in the trap for a little bit longer, the scumbag representative from Monagas who started the proceedings that led quickly to the jailing of Oswaldo Alvarez Paz. The educational level gap between these two individuals was painful. Villalba cannot articulate coherent sentences, and tries to cover up for that by using the familiar "tu" against the formal "usted" of Janiot, not realizing that his insistence was becoming disrespectful, demeaning and working against him, highlighting further his inner vileness and the lies he was sent to state (though his self brain washing might make him unaware of them).
Patricia Janiot did not need to press him hard, he threw himself on the spike. Janiot tried twice to make him understand that she had read the transcript of the Alvarez Paz interview that landed him in jail, saying that she did not see anything that was not already of public knowledge. And yet Villalba was simply unable twice to tell her which were the accurate words that condemned Alvarez Paz, hiding behind a confused explanation of "vilipendio" (defamation) who would land Patricia Janiot in jail as soon as she would set foot in Venezuela if his words made any sense. The unease of Villalba was painful to watch, his prerecorded mental tape fraying regularly, and Patricia Janiot was trying hard to keep her self control to refrain herself from telling him a piece of her mind as one of the best journalists alive today. It was simply astounding to watch the low level of a man who is, after all, the head of the Nazional Assembly commission on science and technology. And thus it could not be made any clearer that Oswaldo Alvarez Paz is simply a political prisoner.
This is perhaps the way to go about Venezuela, forgetting about what weapons Chavez bought or what silly utterance he made. Here we need to expose the mediocrity and lies of those who surround him, constantly, internationally. It should be easy, there is no one any good left around Chavez, we just need to be patient and look for good moments a la Janiot. If i am right then I should admit that the WaPo editorial that I started with is necessary as US Congress needs constant reminders that there is more than health care and tea baggers to worry about; but the news pages should describe the Villaba-like henchmen that do the dirty work of Chavez, those that one day will try to plead with us that they "were following orders".
PS: with this blog post Villaba can put me in jail for vilipendio against a public officer of the regime who deserves respect just for that appointment, him in this instance. ¡Hechale pa'lante Manuel, ponme preso!
¡atrevete a ver que pasa!
1) The visit of Putin significance has been admirably commented in El Universal by Pedro Burelli.
The "missing" editorial:
Mr. Chavez's weapons
Editorial Washington Post
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
RUSSIAN PRIME Minister boasted after returning from a visit to Venezuela on Monday that he had sold President Hugo Chavez another $5 billion in weapons -- a huge sum for a Latin American army. Hours later State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was asked for a reaction at his public briefing. First answer: "We don't care."
Mr. Crowley went on to say that State didn't see a legitimate need for all that equipment and was concerned that it might "migrate into other parts of the hemisphere." But his initial response was all too indicative of the continued complacency with which the Obama administration regards the political, economic and human rights meltdown underway in a major U.S. oil supplier -- and where it may lead.
The last time we looked in on developments in Venezuela, in January, we pointed out that Mr. Chavez had reacted to the unravelling of his economy and his own shrinking popularity by stepping up repression of the opposition. That continues: In the last couple of weeks the government arrested and brought criminal charges against three more leading critics. One is a former state governor and presidential candidate, who said in an interview -- correctly -- that Venezuela has become a haven for drug traffickers and terrorists. A second is the owner of the last television network that dares to criticize Mr. Chavez; the third is a deputy in the National Assembly who had denounced corruption involving members of the president's family.
Mr. Chavez's move against former Gov. Oswaldo Alvarez Paz came after a Spanish judge issued an indictment accusing the government and armed forces of facilitating contacts between Colombia's leftwing FARC terrorists and those of the Basque group ETA, who were allegedly concocting plots to assassinate the Colombian president and other leading politicians. Mr. Paz's "crime" was to talk about this development. The Spanish dossier is one of several demonstrating material support for terrorism by Mr. Chavez, who has made little secret of his preference for the FARC over Colombia's democratic government.
That brings us to the latest round of arms purchases from Russia, which come on top of $4 billion in weapons Mr. Chavez already ordered from Moscow. The arsenal includes T-72 tanks, MI-17 helicopters, and advanced fighter jets -- weapons suitable for the conventional war with which Mr. Chavez has repeatedly threatened Colombia.
The Obama administration's response has been to ignore or soft-pedal most of this. Political arrests are met with perfunctory statements of concern; the extensive evidence of support for terrorism is studiously ignored, lest the United States be compelled to act on its own laws mandating sanctions in such cases. About the flood of Russian weapons, aimed at intimidating one of the closest U.S. allies in Latin America, the administration publicly says, "we don't care." Colombians -- and average Venezuelans -- can only hope such breathtaking nonchalance is justified.