Monday, January 30, 2012

The agricultural sinkhole of Venezuela: my banker may call me tomorrow before he gets expropriated

Let's face it, Chavez agricultural policy has failed.  So he finds nothing better but to accuse the main three private banks of Venezuela of not financing the agricultural sector and threatens to nationalize the three of them.  The news went around fast, in Spain where BBVA headquarters are, and elsewhere, such as a misleading BBC snippet that makes the casual reader think that Chavez policies are working.

Handshake before the check?
Reality is complicated.  As a businessman making his livelihood in the agricultural sector I have indeed benefited from the credit policy of Venezuela which demands that 24% of bank loans go to finance agricultural activities.  This is great for me and my colleagues because the interest rate is fixed at 13%, 2 to 5 points below the other markers.  With an official inflation at around 30% and a real one maybe getting close to 40, this means that by the time we have paid our loan, in real money we may have made as much as 10% instead of paying interest.  As a matter of fact, even agricultural business that do not need to borrow to grow still borrow, if anything to buy dollars outside of Venezuela, or to enjoy an easy bonus because you could lend that money at a higher rate than you borrowed it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The dust settles over the primary campaign perturbations

Two recent events have thrown two powerful wrenches into the carefully orchestrated Unidad primary where all was supposed to go smoothly toward a united candidate, at the price of, lets's say it, a rather dull campaign.  And today it is nice to see that the wrenches will not have wrecked the opposition united resolve as chavismo keeps hoping; and maybe made it even stronger.

The first wrench was the head to head of Maria Corina Machado and Chavez on January 13.  Besides the folklore around such an event the fact of the matter is that MCM became a credible candidate and one with a real political future.  Suddenly the perspective that she could do better than a 4th place and deny an outright majority to the winner became clear to all and forced the other guys to review their strategies.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday cartoons

For a lighter Saturday, have three cartoons of Tal Cual's Weil, back from a long holiday.  Also for me a good way to make a quick post as I am way too busy in Caracas these days....
On the opposition primary and its candidates.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Vote for Leopoldo, pray for Maria Corina, but bet on Henrique

Wilson at 29
Even though this headline does not apply anymore, I was not going to let it go to waste, having been planning a post with that title for a few days.  The line comes from noted US historian Samuel Eliot Morison who recalled that the first time he voted was for the election of 1912 between Taft, T. Roosevelt as a dissident and Wilson for the Democrats.  Young and inexperienced he asked for advice and one of his friends told him that line that for some strange reason always stayed with me for its nearly exquisite understanding of politics: "Vote for Roosevelt, pray for Taft, but bet on Wilson." (1)

Until Monday night this had been pretty much my feeling as to what the outcome of February 2012 should be, or at least how should I think about it.  Alas, Leopoldo and Henrique tied the knot yesterday and I have not been able to pull out an adequate historical quote.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The debate that ended in a real surprise

At the debate tonight what mattered the most was the leaving line of Leopoldo Lopez as to a forthcoming joint announcement with Capriles next day.  In fact, after watching it live, really, Miguel and I did hang out for a while and all candidates did, except Leopoldo who was nowhere to be found, with few of his supporters around except for his mother that made a point to go and give Capriles a hug (well, we thought it was Leopoldo's mother anyway).  There is no need to treat this as some form of running away, but simply something big is planned tomorrow and the less people had access to LL and his close circle, the less possibility of a leak as to the details.

It would be unbecoming, so to speak, to speculate widely as to the announcement tomorrow but tonight we can certainly piece up a few things.  Readers of this blog should not be too surprised after all: the Maria Corina Machado bout with Chavez 10 days ago has changed the dynamics of the campaign (here and here).  Not that Henrique Capriles Radonski  is threatened decisively but now positions 2, 3 and 4 are up for grabs and wide open for Pablo Perez, LL and MCM, without discounting that after tonight's performance HCR is not going to go up in polls and could well be in trouble by February 12.  Let's face it, if Capriles were so sure of winning, why would he accept a pact with Leopoldo at this late in the game?

So, what gives?

Monday, January 23, 2012

A 23 de Enero with a new breeze

Today we commemorate January 23 1958 date we threw out or one before last dictator.  Yes, I consider now Chavez a dictator even if he has been elected at some point So the opposition Unidad decided to use the date to offer the governmental program for the next elected president of the opposition.  Assuming we will win....  Still, it was a nice ceremony that I attended courtesy of my contacts with X.  I did a live twittering of the whole thing with some picture (not too good, my zoom stopped working for some mystery reason not solved yet).  Nice, simple ceremony with the 6 candidates on state listening the presentation and not declaring anything.

Debate tonight

Tonight we have what might be the last debate before the campaign ending, or at least the last debate that may still change the arriving order.  I will be covering it live either on twitter or blog.  Starting Caracas time 8 PM.  It is hosted by Globovision and it seems that the format will change some so that the candidates will have the opportunity to diss the other guys a little bit.  should be more enjoyable than the previous ones.  And Globovision is seen in many countries so check your cable if your Spanish allows for trying to watch the show.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Campaign temperature

Without judging the value of that video or investigating whether the claims are correct (I assume that they are not totally misleading because at this stage of the campaign it would be too dangerous to pull such a stunt) I am putting this video ad of Leopoldo Lopez which apparently was censored by X.  It is about Lopez commitment to fight crime.  I have no further detail so far on that censorship allegation.  Regardless, it gives you an idea of the campaign temperature and probably foretells a more interesting debate than usual next Monday night.  You do not need to understand Spanish to get the mood.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The other primaries: PJ gambit in Miranda and Aragua

Let's start for the easiest one to discuss and the only one that has reliable polls for some of the races. Primero Justicia is trying to with Miranda what UNT has done in Zulia: transform the state into its political base and try from there to hopscotch elsewhere, like in next door Aragua.  For this it is willing to burn bridges and antagonize whoever it needs to.

Miranda governor

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The other primaries: ground rules for local election peering

If general attention is focused mostly on the presidential primaries of the opposition, for some of us who live in the hinterlands of Venezuela the picture is not necessarily set in the studios of Globovision or OpEd columns or blogs written from Caracas or outside the country.  Since Panorama faked debate was supposed to be about the regional proposals of the 6 musketeers, it is as a good a time to start looking into the other primaries, for governors and mayors.  The first post will be about PJ efforts in Miranda and Aragua while further posts will visit some important regional primaries but before we start, some ground rules, so to speak (so that other posts may be short and breezy).

Ibsen Martinez calls Maria Corina Friday moment a "black swan"

Ibsen Martinez, noted political commentator, has just published an article in La Patilla where he writes about 90% of what I wrote yesterday about Maria Corina Machado moment at the National Assembly last Friday.  The 10% missing is that he calls it a "black swan", an unexpected event that will have durable consequences.  So I do not need to translate it since you can read my post again and just add "black swan" wherever you may like :)

Debate versus cadena

Tonight we had the leisure to compare an exercise in neo-totalitarianism and an essay on democracy.  Neo-totalitarianism lost hands down.

Chavez dared to call a cadena on the formal appointment of Rangel Silva as new defense minister.  He already is but there is always a ceremony of sorts since military love to polish their shoes, dress up, pin up their shiny chest hardware.  So Chavez decided to make it a grand ceremony and attack all those who attack Rangel Silva, and upgrade (?) Maria Corina Machado from fly to viper.  I made a video of the beginning but the Internet is soooo bad tonight that I am not sure to finish this post before midnight.  So tomorrow from work I will upload it because it is worth it for you to see what a lousy army we now have, morally AND physically.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shifting political grounds

I am not too sure what is exactly going on but one thing is certain: many players are getting ready for a change.  We are not sure what change is coming but something is coming.  And I am not talking about only the possibility of Chavez losing office.

The thing is that the reactions of some pro Chavez players added to the general reactions to Maria Corina Machado "por ahora" moment last Friday has been quite revealing in that some form change is certainly coming.  I doubt that people know what they want but that is another story.  I have been thinking a lot about that since Saturday and below, in no particular order, some thoughts.

MCM and PJ: exposing the COPEI-zation of Primero Justicia?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Marian stunts: part 2, Maria C. at the National Assembly

One thing was certain: the talk of the town waiting for the Divina Pastora to walk by was of Maria Corina Machado calling Chavez a thief.  That is, for those who did not forget their political interests while performing their marian devotions.  And as the week end progressed she remained the talk of the town, to the point that Chavez himself felt compelled to pretend to be the aggravated party when it was for all to see that he was a mere machista lout in his blurted reply to her last Friday.

The thing is that the Friday show, which lasted 9 hours or something like that, was merely an electoral campaign stunt for Chavez that did not turn as expected and that became the "por ahora" of Maria Corina Machado.  Chavez wanted to use the pretext of the "state of the union" chavista style to prove once and for all that he had recovered and that he was in charge.  Bruni even suggests to us that the ultimate intention of Chavez was to establish a Guinness record just in case he dies or gets the boot next October.  And indeed 9.5 hours is a record that only a more deranged mind than Chavez or Fidel may want to challenge.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Marian stunts: part 1, at La Divina Pastora

La Divina Pastora, my second ever tweetpic
I do not know what to think of that coincidence.  On Friday a woman called Maria did bring religion to many people by calling Hugo Chavez a thief.  And today I went to Barquisimeto to watch that other miracle, a Madonna image called La Divina Pastora bring to the streets millions, with S, of people to march along her side.  We will start with the procession of La Divina Pastora.

I am not a believer, I am an agnostic and as such you need to read this photo essay, making sure that any belief you hold is not offended.  And yet, the intensity of the moment with the huge crowds that one has to face can raise troubling feelings, if anything of jealously for not being able to be a believer of anything.

But I digress.  I had wanted for years to attend one of these events, the easier for me that I do have relatives in Barquisimeto and I can arrive the day before to dodge the bullet of massive traffic jam on the 14 in the morning.  Already I did write about this event in 2004, which by the way was the first time ever that blogger allowed me to post pictures in the blog.  It is kind of fitting that 8 years after I post above my second ever twitter picture taken from my berry.  Technology advances.  But I digress again.
Lara State stand handing out water and tangerines for free

The thing is truly impressive and if you ever have the chance to attend do not miss it.  It is not that it is particular beatiful (it is not) or spectacular (it is but not in your usual ways), and yet  it is something quite unique that can be seen only perhaps at La Guadalupe in Mexico or maybe some Hindu festivals and pilgrimage shrines.  The atmosphere, you know.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hints of polls

[UPDATE]  This post may have been an early reaction to a cheap poll wars launched by HCR supporters through 2001 and Ultimas Noticias.  Still, never having erased one of my posts I am not going to start now :)

What do you know?  I was writing yesterday that the numbers were making Capriles Radonski an almost sure winner and today 2001 publishes that Consultores 21 and Datanilis see a comfortable victory for HCR.  Of course, as usual, when things are so delicate, we only get the newspaper article, no real details on how the poll were made, etc, etc...  so a grain of salt with the interpretation, will you please.  Though we can now assume safely that unless HCR implodes, he will win next February.  What is left to decide is the margin and who reaches second position since Consultores and Datanalisis are wildly different on this respect!

Today's line on Venezuela comes from Shimon Peres, president of Israel

Shimon Peres has been around a lot.  Shimon Peres has had to deal with a lot of crap in his life.  Many toads he kissed and none became human.  So when he speaks about Chavez for a CNN interview as to Ahmadinejerk trip to the ALBA countries, he knows of what kind of character he is talking about.  And he also shows that he is infinitely informed as to the events in the world (the Jewish world conspiracy at play I suppose, would say antizionists in the Chavez camp).  The quote:

"It seems like a joke on history.  To think that [Ahmadinejerk] is traveling to Simon Bolivar's nation is the biggest contradiction we can think of." and then
"[Chavez] maybe a good show on TV but Venezuela did not improve with him.  Venezuela's economy is not better, people are not happier".

Bless you Shimon!

To this we can add the editorial on Correa in Ecuador from the Post as he is receiving Ahmadinejerk (TV showed an arranged support reception in front of Carondelet Palace who makes one wonder about the sanity of the Correa entourage...)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Predicting the unpredictable: the primaries result

If in previous elections looking at historic trends could allow me to do some electoral predictions, for these primaries it is basically a useless task.  And yet, who can resist?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

And back to the salt mines: the campaign starts this week, really!

The December lull is gone.  As usual Chavez used the time to make lots of noise (naming Diosdado, naming Rangel Silva, threatening this and that) but the opposition this time did not have to reply as it was busy doing the door to door thing instead of wasting time in public rhetoric.  All good things however come to an end and this week politicians of all stripes are returning to the newspaper and talk shows.  Thus it is time for a general update.

The opposition

The mysterious case of the expelled Miami Consul

Really, the expulsion of Venezuela's consul in Miami is very simple to explain.  The expelled consul was an agent double, that is, in XXI century socialism parlance, a Venezuelan paid by Venezuela but also a Cuban agent.  Except that Venezuela apparently did not know how infiltrated its foreign service was by the Cuban G2, basically realizing that now Venezuela does and pays for the dirty job that Cuba needs to be doing, like sabotaging the US, monitoring the Cuban (and now Venezuelan) exile in Miami, etc...  Hence the delay in the Venezuelan response to something that normally should have been an immediate screaming scene against Washington.  After all, even Maduro must have been aghast at the chutzpah of the G2 in high-jacking the missions in Mexico and Caracas where sweet Livia worked...

Monday, January 09, 2012

The 2011 post (kind of late, no?)

And you thought you would escape a reflection on the year past.  But then again for once all was clear so why elaborate much?

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Chavez at our Lady of Coromoto: an essay on moral turpitude, part 2

In philosophy or ethics we can discuss morality, immorality and amorality.  Immorality implies knowledge of morality and thus the possibility of sin and repentance (even if it rarely happens).  Amorality may imply ignorance of morality whatsoever, or the outright rejection of the concept of sin (and hence repentance).  When I look again at the videos of Friday's visit of Chavez to the shrine of our Lady of Coromoto I am at a loss as to what to use for Chavez, immorality or amorality; or perhaps look into coining a new term to express what I am about to show you (though the simpler term "circus show" could also be quite acceptable).

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Chavez at our Lady of Coromoto: an essay on the grotesque, part 1

Yesterday's Chavez cadena from the Coromoto Basilica in Guanare must have marked a new level in the grotesque, comparable today only with the funeral in North Korea, all proportions guarded, keeping in mind that these are the tropics, after all.  But the levels in the grotesque and cynicism are quite up there, trust me.

Or if you do not trust me you can always watch this video assay which consists on 9 videos split in two parts.

URGENT! Narco general Rangel Silva becomes defense minister

Not that it is a real surprise but Rangel Silva has been appointed a few minutes ago defense minister, of all places during a religious ceremony at the Basilica of La Coromoto, Venezuela's patron Virgin.  although it is in the pattern of naming Diosdado at the National Assembly, that appointment of Rangel Silva is considerably more important.  Let's see why:

First, Rangel Silva is the general that said a few months ago that the Venezuelan Army would not recognize a president elected against Chavez.  That is, just for that simple sentence he should have been fired, or send to retirement or at the very least fined.  Instead today he becomes Defense Minister of Venezuela, the one that will be supervising the October elections which are monitored by the army (a defense minster usually lasts between 1 to two years in office, traditionally).

Friday, January 06, 2012

A little bit of the amusing fallout from the swearing in of Diosdado Cabello

As expected, such a controversial nomination could not go un-commented.  But first let me point out an article in El Universal from Luis Salamanca which alludes to many of the stuff I wrote this morning.  In short, that designation is all about who would replace Chavez if worse comes to worse and Diosdado for all of his faults, and they are big, is an alliance of the military and the nouveau riche of the regime (same difference it would seem now that I think of it).  We all know that such an alliance is the best guarantee of "stability".  In quote for lack of a better word.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

More tales from the crypt: Diosdado Cabello returns

Today the surprise is the official return of Diosdado Cabello to the forefront as the plum political job of presiding the National Assembly becomes his.  True, in December he was promoted back to the direction of the PSUV but from there to reign at the Assembly?

Diosdado Cabello has never been too far from these pages, from the description of his newly acquired wealth and power to his "triumvirate" position with Chavez and Chacon.  If it seems that Jesse Chacon is definitely out as his brother still lingers in jail while himself has been downgraded to official pollster of the regime, it also seems that Chavez has not been able to get rid of Diosdado Cabello.  From here deciding whether the fight continues is not possible. However we can surmise that the disease of Chavez and the ability of Diosdado to retain a power quota (he managed to have quite a few of his unconditional win the "PSUV primaries" for the legislative elections of 2010, including his wife) have conspired to this renewed burst of realpolitik.

Flip-flop-flipping around happily...

I am still not ready to come back, enjoying too much a blog distancing (and life distancing, for that matter), but I cannot resist to report on this latest hat-trick-that-wasn't  from the regime.

See, on February 12 the Unidad will hold its primaries to decide its candidates for the election rounds starting October 7.  But that day also sort of coincides with the Battle of La Victoria which is one that chavismo likes to celebrate even if it is not a real national holiday.  But the battle marks the bravura and self sacrifice of a few young Venezuelans during the Independence wars and for a military regime like the one of Chavez it is irresistible to pass on any linking real youth (meaning revolutionary youth) with any military activities.  So the ineffable youth minister, Mari Pili Hernandez, announced that the real Venezuelan Youth will be discussing the Bolivar plan for the next eon and submit their thoughts to Chavez on Youth Day.  How much more Castro Cuban can you be?  Really.....  And this would have been accompanied by a large rally in Caracas on, you guessed it, February 12 while the opposition tries to vote (traffic jams, scare tactics, SA like salutes, etc, etc...).  Never mind that historically the celebrations are in Maracay/La Victoria and not Caracas.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Patente de corso para Chavez

Patente a Surcouf, siglo XVIII
El año empieza bien para Hugo: ahora sabe que puede nacionalizar y robarse lo que el da la gana.  En Venezuela con venezolanos ya no paga un carajo y con empresas extranjeras el costo va a ser bien bajo.  Como a el la plata no le duele, que le importa si le tiene que pagar unos 900 milloncejos de dolares a Exxon/Mobil cuando en algún momento el propio alcahuete-ladrón mayor en PDVSA decía que no iba a pagar mas de 2500 millones.  Si siguen así ni 1500 millones pagarán una vez que se juzgue lo de la Conoco, y eso si es que pagan porque una cosa es perder un juicio o arbitraje y otra es cumplirlo.  De este punto de vista a Hugo no le importa nada de nada, ni la corte Interamericana ni cualquier arbitraje comercial.

¿Sera que nos alegraremos que Venezuela vaya a pagar menos por las fechorías de Hugo?  ¡Para nada!  Eso es mas plata que ellos se van a poder robar, o repartir para comprar votos (después de cobrar la comisión adecuada por comprar y repartir linea blanca).

Happy 2012!

Massive Internet problems at the homestead.  I has been quite a struggle to open the page long enough for this note.  Think about my friends and colleagues who at this time must think I am the rudest  person.  Believe it or not, but I cannot even open Gmail in normal frame, and HTLM version was dicey enough that I could get out one single mail today....

Apparently the gods wanted me to be able to write only to my readers today!  Thus best wishes for 2012 and may we start in earnest the end of chavismo.