One more last poll

I have received yet another poll, a famous tracking one and I do not want to give its name because, well, I cannot check 100% the source. I mean, it is a good source but I do not know if that person's source was as good as he is. Don't you love mystery?

Anyway, it is from a famous pollster who has been holding a tracking for a few months now. Early he predicted a possible SI victory, now his prediction is a NO victory by at least 7% and up to 16%. As usual, all depends from participation. What is new here is the guy going on record predicting a 7% minimum. Well, the poll is through phone interviews as tracking polls do and thus the error is 4%. So the NO, according to his own words, could squeeze by a meager 3%, enough to cause trouble and even allow enough cheating by the CNE. At any rate, my 5% gut feeling prediction keeps strengthening :-)

But the most interesting part of the tracking poll is the result for the following question: "Is it right for Chavez to qualify anyone that votes NO as a traitor"? Stunningly 70% of the respondents disagreed! And here we have again the 30% hard core chavismo that this blog has always acknowledged and the 70% rest of the country shocked by such rhetoric!!! This time around Chavez seems to be paying the price. Indeed, it is one thing to do a "rojo, rojito" where the worst is to lose your job and becoming a traitor where the worst, well, is up to the imagination of all....

This error was repeated once again tonight in the pitiful Chavez speech. And in this speech Chavez announced that if they lose they will recognize the result. Even if he put many conditions on losing the fact of the matter is that tonight Chavez, in one of his rare moments of lucidity, decided to prepare his followers to the unthinkable, until a few weeks ago, that he could lose an election.


-The end-

Some rallies are more equal than others


Thus chavismo is trying to do its counter march, and faithful for the extreme objectivity of this blog, I am using the Movistar traffic Cam to monitor its progress exactly as I did yesterday for the students rally.

But let's start by an important note for those who are late into this game, including foreign correspondents. Chavismo has its own timetable to fill up the Bolivar Avenue. They start earlier than anyone because they give the day free in many public administration if they put on the red shirt and go wherever they are told to go. "Or else!" being sometimes added. I have enough relatives and friends in the public administration to confirm that. And thus Chavez will only arrive when the Bolivar Avenue is full enough for their taste. It can be at 11 AM or at 6 PM, meanwhile his followers are left to loiter around for hours, which is exactly what I am goign to point out in the picture below.

Above it is the same angle as yesterday at 2PM when the first student marchers started arriving. Below it is the picture of the chavismo reply one hour earlier. Obviously you already see more people, but do not stop yourself at this detail, we will have to wait for Chavez arrival. Instead look at the amateur green arrows that I have placed.

Top right corner arrow. The white rectangle of the students has become a red rectangle. Yesterday the students wanted to display an image of Bolivar but the Nazional guard forbade them to do so. Apparently Bolivar now belongs only to chavismo.

Left side arrow. Of course, when you are going to have people waiting for hours for the beloved Supremo Ego Chavez, you need to entertain them least they get tired enough to go home. Thus you set up entertainment and other activities. Observe the set up that has suddenly appeared! And in addition you get a group of red shirts in front, away from the grand stand so that when you film from the grand stand the camera will be fooled into believing that the Bolivar is "requete ful".

Right side arrow. Same as above but a smaller one.

Who pays for that? The students did not have any of these distractions and yet they filled up the Bolivar. Who pays to attract people who might not be there to watch Chavez but to attend some impromptu concert?

For good measure I include the view of the East side of the Bolivar at the same time. You will be able to observe by yourself the same phenomenon. Compare to yesterday's blog post to convince yourself. It is even pathetic for chavismo: the Bolivar yesterday was evenly occupied and today there is a big bulk of chavista on one side and nothing on the other.

NOTE: I have made my point and I have little interest in covering this march further. I have already done more to cover it with this post than what VTV did yesterday to cover the opposition march. I did check again at 1:44 and it was almost the same as the ones that I have already put up right. This might suggest that not that much more chavista will be coming, unlike yesterday when people started streaming around 2 PM continuously for a couple of hours. I will check later if time allows and post if worth it.

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Back home from work I am trying to catch up some. Globovision has side by side, on a split scree the Marcabaibo Rally and the Caracas one. The Maracaibo rally looks almost as big as the Caracas one (population half of Caracas, to give you a sense of perspective). And the Maracaibo rally is infinitely nicer to watch. It is colorful, there have many speakers, they speak of the future, flags wave all the time everywhere. The Caracas one has the same tired all repeat of Chavez (Busssss, the CIA, whoever votes NO is a traitor, Uribe gets his orders every morning, the Empire is the enemy that we need to defeat Sunday, etc...), it all a threatening red, no spontaneity in the crowds except for the cues, and the second half of the Bolivar is melting down fast.

Globovision is letting them side by side why VTV yesterday all but denied there was an opposition rally in Caracas. 'nuf said!

-The end-

Why did the FARC not give Chavez the Ingrid Betancourt proof of life?

One big news breaking is that the Colombian Army captured a few urban guerrilla FARC and found in their possession videos and letters from Ingrid Betancourt dated late October! How come the FARC did not give them to Chavez for his visit with Sarkozy? Obviously Chavez knew these evidences existed and was waiting for them. Must we think that the FARC did not want give them to him? Why, oh why? Was the FARC blackmailing more than Colombia?

At least, if Chavez has an ounce of diplomacy left he could use that to mend up things with Uribe accusing the FARC of trying to cause trouble between them by withholding these essential documents. My guess is that Chavez will not.

-The end-

The Consultores 21 poll

OK, so I was sent this Consultores poll on the pretense of confidentiality and now that I see it popping here and there I think that I should also comment on it. In fact, I think that I can bring further understanding. But first the poll.

The methodology of that poll seems fine. Direct interviews. 2.2% statistical error. I cannot tell much more because I only got a Power Point presentation, but at least it seems that the minimum criteria for quality and trust are met. Now about the results.

First, they are valid for the week of November 16-25. So, if the Marisabel ex-Chavez and Baduel effect are probably factored in, the break up with Colombia and today's surprisingly huge rally at the Bolivar are not. How these played we will only know Sunday but personally I do not think that Chavez will benefit much from the break up with Uribe which seems just too convenient, to obvious for the general population. In fact, the very large Colombian vote which tends to favor Chavez might be negatively affected.

They say that only 62% of folks are decided to vote. This is high and low at the same time. High because it is high for a referendum, and low because considering what is at stake it should be higher. However when we see the "sure" and "likely" to vote the number is 76%, quite acceptable.

Where things get more complex is that when the like or dislike for the reforma is measured the Chavez proposal loses by more than 10 points. But when electors certain to vote are considered alone then the difference drops dramatically to 1 point. That is, with a 2.2% error, the result cannot be predicted.

The effect of the participation is examined further and the final conclusion is that there are two possible outcomes depending on how abstention resolves itself this week:
1) The SI wins by a narrow margin
2) The NO wins by a narrow margin to 10 points spread depending on how many people do go and vote.

They stress, they underline, that a SI victory with a wide margin is very unlikely. In other words, we are guaranteed continuous political instability.

However there is also an interesting element in Consultores 21: they poll the rural areas and small towns, something not done by other pollsters in general. And these areas represent up to 25% of the country and tend to be largely chavistas. I learned this the hard way in 2004 when I examined the Yaracuy results. I am reproducing again the table that I made then.

Yaracuy State 39.86%60.14%
San Felipe50.06%49.94%
San Felipe Metropolitan area49.84%50.16%

The metropolitan area of Yaracuy barely voted to retain Chavez but Yaracuy at large voted largely to retain Chavez as president (then the Chavez camp defended the NO) . The victory in the country side was way above the 6o% found for the state at large.

Consultores 21 does calculate how that 25% rural to semi rural population votes and it is for the SI next Sunday, and it is by an almost 2 to 1 margin. In a way I think this gives a lot of strength to the prediction of Consultores. First, the "rural" voter is the most decided one (only 1.1% replied "I do not know"). Second the 62% for the SI is unlikely to grow much more. And third it is probably the sector that would be more likely to look positively at a break up with Colombia as crops would increase in prices, etc... Thus we might indeed be looking at a plateau effect no matter what has happened in Venezuela these past two weeks.

I have already discussed in several opportunities how the pro Chavez vote drops in industrialized areas and now Chavez is left to make up his deficit only by growing in unfavorable areas. If by now the 6 hours week which was the bait designed for those areas has not been able to dent the SI deficit, then no wonder they switched to "Love me or be a traitor" theme for the SI campaign.

In other words, this poll is the best polling argument to let us know that the NO has a real chance to win, that we should go and vote and no matter what the CNE will not be able to cheat. The deck, somewhat miraculously, has dealt us a good hand. If it does, then it will be unmasked this time.


-The end-

The New York Times Front Page

Well, it looks like Simon Romero had good seats and the New York Times had already this stunning view on its front page (web, no paper here to check).

But we also see that Simon Romero has learned a lot since he is in Venezuela. The title of his article says it all : In Chávez Territory, Signs of Dissent. That is right, the Bolivar Avenue had been denied to the opposition since 2002 and today the government could not stop the opposition to come shout at Chavez in what he thought was his own backyard. The video of Globovision on the march is glorious, the weather collaborated and you can see how packed was the audience. Let's see when will it reach Youtube. Chavismo has its work cut out tomorrow. In fact I am putting myself on record that chavismo is going to flunk its test of the Bolivar tomorrow.

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I will be adding below this post pictures of today's march that readers are willing to send. Please, try to send a link to your favorite picture to avoid making the page too heavy. Here is a first one close from the Teresa Carreño.

Addenda: the manipulation of VTV, with outright lies, is described here (Spanish, hat tip MM). Read also comments for this.

-The end-

Miguel is sending his pictures from Bolivar avenue, at the Students March

(FINAL 6:00 PM)

Technology has reached blogging. Miguel of the Devil's is taking pics at the march explained in the preceding post, sending them to me and I am posting the ones that the cell phone did not damage too much. Tonight I suppose he will publish in his blog more exciting ones, but right now, that is it folks, almost live coverage!

The march most fashionable T-shirt, courtesy of the King of Spain inspiring words! "¿Por que no te callas?"

A view toward the Bolivar

2:20 PM, the Bolivar avenue is starting to fill up. From the same traffic camera from Movilnet, as reported in the previous post. You can monitor yourself here, at least as long as the government does not manage to shut it up. By the way, it seems that the government has denied access to foreign press to the Hilton, now ALBA Caracas, where the press used to gather to cover such events in the past.

Amazing! 12 minutes later!

Miguel sent me an SMS: lines are crowded, he cannot send me pictures but keeps trying.

2:51PM, I cannot access anymore to the Movistar traffic camera. Sabotage? Saturation of the networks?

2:54PM My bad. Must have been saturation. More people, now the East looking side is starting to fill up.

2:57 PM, SMS Miguel, he has reached the Bolivar and says it is full. He must be in that picture.

Miguel still cannot transmit images, his mobile system is in trouble. I am posting one last image from the Movistar traffic camera. The holes from the above picture are now filled up, at 3:22 PM. The avenue is packed and the quality of the image does not allow to show more details than what you can see now. Thus, no more Movistar pics for this post. If Miguel does not manage to send me something that will be all until tonight.

4:30 PM Miguel is alive again. This first one is on the way to the Bolivar.

This one is inside the Bolivar avenue, looking towards the ALBA hotel. that is: FAR from the center stage where usually Chavez holds his perorations. Observe how tightly packed the crowd is.

And to finish this post, the view of the Bolivar at 4:02PM. Observe that the little white rectangle at the top right is the center stage. Last time chavismo barely filled up half of what you see, and certainly not with that density. We will see tomorrow what they are able to do. Meanwhile the students can go to bed tonight with a big smile.

-The end-

A poll in the streets and polls on line

Today the students are undertaking the big challenge: fill up the Bolivar Avenue of Caracas, something that chavismo has managed to stop any opposition from doing since 2002. You may remember that during the presidential campaign of 2006, Rosales was not allowed to do so, even though he had no problem filling up the Libertador. You may even remember that in 2004 chavismo blocked access to the Bolivar avenue and the Recall Election final rally had to be held on Caracas main highway. It does not mater in a way, the Francisco Fajardo is even bigger than the Bolivar and the opposition filled it up. But there is a je ne sais quoi in filling up the Bolivar that cannot be ignored.

Times have changed. The student contesting that started in May this year is something new and the government has yet to find an effective way to counter it. That is why, in spite of trying to stop them from marching to the Bolivar, they had to bow and allow the rally. In fact, it might turn out to be a mistake as chavismo will hold its rally Friday there and the comparison could be fatal if they do not do as well!!!! The students even dared to challenge WITHOUT buses, only with Caracas folks. Chavismo will need to hide their traditional hundreds of buses ferrying paid visitors from the provinces.

Right now folks are gathering here and there before getting on their way to the Bolivar. The only image that I can offer you is the empty Bolivar avenue at noon. People are expected to start streaming in sometime after 2 PM. I am in San Felipe and thus cannot attend, something that makes me grieve. But Miguel will go part of the march and we have agreed that if he has some interesting picture he can send through his cel phone I will post it here for him. Thus, stay tuned.
While we wait to see if that real life street poll of today develops I can let you know about other polls circulating. AS some of you might know, the CNE has forbidden as of Monday that any media publishes or discusses polls. This by itself speaks volumes about the lack of confidence in a SI vote victory next Sunday.

But as a blogger of some reputation I have received three polls this week so far. At least one of them I was asked not to reveal the origin. Suffice to say that the three of them are from equally reputable sources and the three of them speak more or less agree (one is Datanilis, which I have already mentioned, I will mention the others if I get a green light on that).

The general conclusion, without factoring the Colombia spat that we do not know yet how it will affect the numbers is that the NO victory is based on participation. The three pollsters agree thaw the lower the abstention the wider the margin of victory for the NO. In fact, one even says that the margin could go above 10% which should make it very difficult for the CNE to cheat enough to reverse the result.

These results must be so close to reality that not only AD but even the Comando de la Resistencia have decided to go to vote in what must be the most stunning reversals we have yet seen this year.

Conclusion? GO AND VOTE. There is nothing better you can do at this point. And you can always protest Monday if you do not like the result.

-The end-

Juan Forero of the Washington Post comes full swing against the "reforma"

And thus Forero completes his transition from Chavez supporter to Chavez opponent. I wonder if he will ever get again an interview with high ranking chavistas....

I suppose he meant to include himself when he wrote down the title of the article: "Old Allies Abandon Chavez as Constitution Vote Nears".

-The end-

A little advice for foreign correspondents

Tal Cual had a mini editorial today specifically designed for all of these foreign journalists visiting Venezuela on the occasion of the Referendum. I could also include all of these PSF who think they know more about Venezuela from their confy northern hemisphere chair than us who put up daily with this crappy government.

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Foreign journalists who roam in Caracas would do well to accompany their interviews with some field work at locations such as the subway, Metro. They could see live and directly what is an oppressive society, where the abuse of power is a dominant feature of Ego Chavez government. All day long music and slogans of "SI" resound in the closed environment. Is it a private service from some pro Chavez businessman? No, it's a public service, used by all kinds of people, forced to become mad from that infernal noise, which does not stop a second. That's abuse of power, pure and simple. They could look at the grotesque episode of the use of Avenida Bolivar for acts of closure. The NO asked for Thursday (and got it). Immediately the government argued priority and got the site. The NO then asked on Friday (and got it). The government, then, realizing that Friday is the last day of campaign, moved rudely for Friday. The NO had to return then to Thursday. It looks like a comedy of misunderstanding, but it's not. It is arbitrary, abuse as a rule, cowardly and out of bound advantage, the use of state resources for the benefit of Ego Chavez and his sycophantic lackeys. They could also watch the "State" TV channels and wonder, in short, whether in their respective countries such abuses would be possible or tolerable. This way, some of them might frame their now bothersome comments on the Chavez "democratically elected" in a more realistic context.

-The end-

The election post

Every election since I have started this blog I have dared to publish an electoral prediction. I have been usually proven wrong, but not that much. After all if I made a mistake on the margin through some last minute wishful thinking, I still gave Chavez winning by 5% last December. However one thing that I got pretty good has been the general regional trend, with rather good predictions on where Chavez is stronger or weaker, even as he won everywhere. Remember, I am the blog of the provinces, not of Caracas.

So heck, even if this is the worst possible type of election to hazard a prediction I figure out that I had not much more to lose but much fun to gain. Because it is indeed a lot of fun to play with numbers. So there is the methodology I used.

First I did not pay much attention to polls except for the clear indication that the NO option has been steadily growing. That means, my predictions will be two: Chavez best possible result and a scenario where the NO actually wins but by a narrow, if clear margin.

Second I started from the result of 2006, ignoring changes in registered electors. For starters I have assumed that there will be a 7 % systematic abstention considering that it is not a presidential election. I should have use a higher figure, probably closer to 15-20% but since abstention this time is more likely to punish chavismo I decided to be moderate and only put a 7%.

Third I decided to be modest about local effects. Thus I divided the country in regions, too busy this time to do a state by state study as I have done in the past. Only in some regions I decided to penalize chavismo enough to create a possible scenario where the NO could win.

Fourth, I have assumed that the opposition will be mobilized enough and should get back its 2006 number. Yes, many oppo will abstain but many chavistas will vote NO so it is not such a wild guess. After all too many people are pissed up at the lack of milk and they are willing to cast a punishment vote since Chavez will stay for another 5 years in office.

Fifth, I have put the final result not in final actual result but on what share of the country they do represent. That is, if you want a referendum of the harshness proposed to succeed you need at least 40% of the country behind you. that this 40% represents 405 votes or 90% is irrelevant, you need 40% of the country. At least in my most humble opinion.

Of course, all of this assumes that votes will actually be counted, that the opposition and the students will be able to put electoral witnesses everywhere, that the CNE will not cheat, etc, etc....

The first graph is just a summary of the December 2006 result. Note, I have rounded things up and focused only on Chavez and Rosales. On the right side column, in purple I assumed what would be the votes actually cast next Sunday, and added a first set of regional corrections. For example I have increased even more the abstention rate of the Andes or Caracas or the Llanos but left at a modest 7% the Industrial center (contrast "expected votes" with "my corrections").

In 2006 Chavez was reelected with 46% of the possible voters which gave his election a mandate quality. But it seems that he has gone too far and the mandate seems to have cracked quite a lot.

Thus we go to the first scenario: the one I think is the maximum that Chavez could get in the present circumstances, assuming that polls messed up big time again. Still possible as Venezuela becomes increasingly more difficult to poll. Basically you get the opposition vote as before and thus abstention penalizes more chavismo than opposition. People do not want to vote against Chavez and thus they stay home.

There is thus a general increase but no dramatic, of the opposition vote. Only "oriente" and "industrial" increase more than the others because of the defection of PODEMOS which holds the state houses of Sucre and Aragua. In Zulia the Rosales vote is maintained but there is sharp drop of chavismo due to the strong regional feeling of the area that is not looking favorably to more control from Caracas.

The final result is a meager SI victory with 2 million less votes than in 2006. With 34% of the country only backing his project and 30% strongly mobilized against it, and the likelihood that abstention will tend to decant towards the opposition as the implementation of the new rules is felt by the people, the prediction is for increased difficulty in ruling the country. The outcome will be repression or general chaos, or both.

And thus we get to the scenario of a possible NO victory. It is quite simply an exaggeration of the preceding scenario. you will observe that I did not increase much the NO vote, just in the "Industrial" and "Zulia" regions. Why? Because they are the regions where there is real jobs, where people want money, not 6 hours week, where decentralization has had the most positive effects. In particular for the strong regional feeling of Zulia.

What makes the difference in this scenario with the above one is the chavista defection by an increased abstention, a melt down of sorts. The column titled "missing votes" is my prediction of the chavistas that just cannot bring themselves to vote NO for their love of Chavez. It is not that much, but with an extra 535 abstention and an additional few votes for the NO side, this one wins by 200 000 thousand. small but already difficult enough for the CNE to fudge if the opposition manages to assist to 50% of the voting center at counting and auditing time.

I think this scenario is what is reflected now in current polls, a narrow NO win. I think it is a fair bet to say that any reduction of the abstention of the one I assumed here can benefit 2 to 1 the NO vote. The NO can win, polls and mood are for it, you can sense it even with the chavistas one might know: they are going to vote SI but without any enthusiasm and might even switch to NO next Sunday. The excesses of the campaign are probably now counterproductive and if the students fill up the Bolivar on Thursday and Chavez fails to do so on Friday, all bets are open. In fact the students have dared to challenge, to fill it up WITHOUT buses from outside!!! Any bus filmed on Friday for the SI campaign closing will be bad propaganda for chavismo.

As to what happens if the NO wins? Nobody knows. Will the government gracefully accept that its project has run its course and that now it is time to tone down and start managing the country? Will they do fraud? Can Chavez govern for the next five years? What will happen with the National Assembly whose constitutional project has been rejected by the country? How can it keep pretending it represents the whole country after such a rejection of the 36 articles they included without discussion? Clearly, even though Chavez still will have 5 years ahead it will require great skills and diplomacy to manage them. I am afraid he does not have them and we are headed with more trouble. As I wrote a few days ago, it does not matter what the result is, nobody is the winner.

And the last question which I still ask myself: will they cancel the election before next Sunday if polls do not improve?

PS: a small note. In my NO victory scenario, the NO wins 51 to 49%. The latest Datanalis poll, who predicted 53 to 26 in favor of Chavez last December is now calling for a 50 to 40 in favor of the NO. Quite sobering! So, when the results come, I hope that my very modest spread is taken into account by some over critical readers. My gut feeling prediction? The NO will win by a spread of at least 5% and the government will not be able to refuse its acknowledgment. Then, all bets are open.

PS2: The Hinterlaces poll is not as assertive as to a possible NO victory. It conditions it to electoral participation. I suppose at this point I need to resort to Pascal gamble on the existence of God to convince people to go and vote: even if you do not believe in the CNE, if by luck you were to vote and the NO passes you will have a wonderful reward, a much, much bigger reward than staying home and not voting.

-The end-

The Chavez campaign nervous breakdown

Even though I am deeply worried about the future of the country, something that I have yet to find the right words for it, I still can observe the electoral campaign for the SI slowly unravel in utter banality and repression. That it might pay off for Chavez is of course a possibility no matter what the polls have been saying these past couple of weeks. What I wrote last May is being confirmed each day: the Bolivarian Revolution is dead. Now we just have a regime bereft of ideas who can only find in student repression and a reality show filming approach to the big star its only arguments for perpetuation.

Repression is now a given. Today we were treated to the students of the Simon Bolivar campus in Caracas pushed inside their campus by the Metropolitana police. Since the police cannot enter the campus, they kept throwing canisters of tear gas above the fences and shooting rubber bullets by passing their guns through the chicken wire that circles the campus. I can hardly think of any thing more cowardly risible than what the Caracas police did today, shooting defenseless students from afar while perhaps this very same week end the police failed to stop as many as two dozen murders in Caracas alone. But when did fascism worry about current crime?

Unfortunately today student repression was not an isolated incident. It has been going on steadily for a couple of weeks now, even including torture for some Barquisimeto students. Not to mention the Monte Avila students dragged on the streets of Caracas...

The campaign for the SI has taken a new turn. As I predicted last August it has gone full swing associating Chavez with the SI. A vote for the NO is a vote AGAINST Chavez, and any chavista who thinks it is OK to vote NO this time will become a traitor "El que diga que apoya a Chávez pero va a votar por el No es un verdadero traidor." "Whoever says that they support Chavez but is going to vote No is a true traitor". Would you like to have your name end up plastering the walls the way I found this one today in San Felipe, sending Baduel to the shooting squad?

The SI campaign has given up any attempt at actually discussing the reform proposal. Even the sweeteners such as the 6 hours work week have been shown to be of meager effect in attracting sympathies. Soon enough, in fact very early when the National Assembly started it process of consulting of the people, a consultation where opponents of the reform were either barred from entry or booed by the chavista crowds, hordes?, it was clear that the constitutional reform was an indefensible project. The CNE offered a debate. The debate was canceled because the SI campaign did not send any one to defend the alleged greatness of the reform.

It is not a matter of saying that chavismo is fascist and fascists do not account for themselves. It is not a matter that chavismo does not have any one good enough to discuss in a public forum: they do have plenty of hacks for that. No, it is very simply because everyone within chavismo
knows quite well that the alleged reform is only an instrument to allow Chavez to stay in power for ever. And that, my friends, there is no way to defend in a democracy. Thus the logical implication of the end of the campaign: stop debate, turn the vote once again into a plebiscite on Chavez. With Chavez all, outside of Chavez nothing. It can hardly get less democratic than that.

This goes a long way to explain the disastrous foreign policy of Chavez this month, going from failure to failure, even worse than during the UN attempt at gaining a security council chair. In a short month Chavez has managed to perturb relations to different levels with Chile, Spain, Colombia, France, Guyana and many OPEC countries. Without a single success to count unless this week end constitutional coup in Bolivia can be counted as a success. How can you manage an efficient foreign policy when your life becomes some type of reality show where you try desperately to gain the favor of other participants before they vote you out of the game?

And thus we have reached the last week of campaigning, in yet the more miserable campaign we have been subjected to since Chavez reached office in 1999. New heights in infamy are sure to be reached. For example today we saw the communication ministry issue direct TV advertisement to promote the SI, and to add insult to injury, using the free air time allotted by the RESORTE law to the government to pass educational messages. Today they thus started using that time directly for plain electoral propaganda, violating the law, in front of a CNE more passive than ever, more partial towards Chavez than decency would allow.

But then again, rarely I have seen such an admission of intellectual failure.

-The end-

Blog action day: My words about the Constitutional Reform

Several Venezuelan and foreigner bloggers agreed today on posting about the upcoming Constitutional Reform as one voice, with different shades, of course. Perhaps my post it's one of the latest, since I can't post at work so I had to wait to come back home at night, my apologies... Now I thought I had a million words to say about the reform; I even spend a few paragraphs on explaining just one article sometime ago. But today I would like to focus on a "non politically correct" issue about this reform.
A few days ago I went to my university - UCAB - to give a class. Before entering my classroom, I saw a lot of people painting their shapes with chalks in the floor as they were the shapes of death people and they were supossed to write inside their shapes things that could end for sure with the reform. None of them wrote anything particularly original: "freedom", "democracy", "property", "free thinking"... even "milk"! (well, the foreigners might be amused by this, but we are used to a very rough milk shortage these days). A friend asked me if she could make my shape in the floor; so I laid down partially worried by the marks the chalk could leave on my black outfit. Then I stood up, and wrote inside my shape "University Autonomy" and my friend sighted.. "Oh... you are right about that one"
The modification of the article 109 in regards to the University Autonomy establish that the vote inside the universities should be equal for professors, students and even workers at campus. That among other serious things. So when A student who works partial time, came to my office asking me about this issue in particular all I could answer was "The university is not democratic. It is based on merits, not on populism"- The guy looked at me as he was trying to assure that I actually said that, no one likes to hear that not all things are democratic.
Everybody wants to talk about democracy, everybody wants to talk about possibilities, and everyone wants to talk about easy things to get, without any effort but rather just for the fact of "being there" (being part of the country, of the university...). But this time, I feel forced to talk about the things that should not be said, instead of buying this "Disneyland" offer. I'm forced to talk about consequences, paths, and efforts. About why beyond the obvious, this blogger wont cheer that shopping mall.
Many seem to ignore that democracy does haves a dark side and it is the tyranny of the majority. A world where everybody rules must be certainly the same world where none of that collective we call "everybody" truly rules at all.
This reform will make the opinions of the students (and specially the first year ones, which are always the majority inside universities, at least here) more important than the opinion of the - obviously more experienced- professors. Therefore it will exclude the ones who really have conquer more knowledge by experience from the possibility of spreading that knowledge. The university will become a paradise for useful idiots who are going to be ready to create rules to eliminate the rough demands of the finals in order to preserve the "student interest"... No one would rule except the ones who makes enough votes to pursue this "interest" and by looking after that interest the university will stop being a university. I'm not saying the students don't know what's best for them, I'm saying that the majority are not usually passionate intellectuals looking for knowledge and more often than not, they come to the classrooms looking for something else.
Many people talk about the non-democratic issues concerning the reform. And they are many, like the fact the president will reach the possibility of be reelected indefinitely (like a monarch) and that he will accurate more power toward many institutions including the "Central Bank", my city, and so on. But I rarely see any arguments against those tiny issues that could be called as the "democratic part of the reform". But those are only dresses, made by taking the democracy principles to the last consequences until turning it into a vague populist promise that in the name of inclusion, would only bring backwardness to my dear country.
Therefore, I will vote against this reform next Sunday not just because the things I could lose, but also because the things I could earn without being able to handle with them (such as the possibility of making my vote in the university worth the same as my professors vote). I'm not voting "NO" because I could lose my properties (by the way, I don't have any properties...) but because I could have a lot of properties without even making the less effort to get them. I'm not voting "NO" because the president could make me less free, I'm voting "NO" because I didn't grow up as a spoiled chick and I'm not planning to start being one now.
I'm voting NO because I'm so f... stubborn that I want to be able to vote at 18 and not at 16 and I want to earn my money and pay for my home and not to get it as a present from Daddy Chavez. I'm so f... masochist that I'm voting NO because I truly think that my work can be done better if I have 8 hours a day for making it, instead of 6... I'm voting NO because the only gift I want is the possibility of learning and improving.
I'm voting NO because this reform might be too good; by promising a life so perfect, that I would lose the need of moving a finger for anything and I'm afraid to become some couch potato (besides, I have always disliked perfection). I'm voting NO because I don't want no one to give me a Disney Land, I'm voting NO to pursue my right to build it on my own.
It might be an odd argument against the reform, but those are my reasons, and this is my blog.

Chavez escalates against Uribe: fishing for votes in a dangerous game


The numbers must be bad for Chavez headquarters, and as rogue politicians do when their poll numbers go south is to look for a foreign adversary to try to shore up support.

This week, having failed to dress down the Spaniards - and get covered in international ridicule -, having failed to turn the OPEC in his international political tool, having made Sarkozy waste his time with him, and hint at it, Chavez aimed at Colombia, a true and tested method to win a few electoral points here and there. The only problem is that Chavez has not measured his words and he got a stinging rebuke tonight from Uribe. In fact, it is not an overstatement to say that tonight relations between Colombia and Venezuela are at their lowest point since Chavez came to office, and most of the blame can be put squarely on Chavez who know openly confuses Venezuelan foreign policy with his very own foreign policy.


A few months ago Uribe decided in a surprising gamble to ask Chavez to intermediate between Colombia and the guerrilla groups, also known as narco-guerilla, to obtain an humanitarian exchange. Namely, for the FARC to free some of its hostages in exchange for Colombia to free some of the jailed FARC. The problem here is that after 5 years Uribe does not seem to be able to erase the FARC from the map although he has diminished the FARC enough that they are pushed to a few jungle reduct where their only negotiating tokens left are the very hostages that the FARC has. Ingrid Betancourt is of course the glamor hostage of the FARC, the one they most need to stay on the international news scree as the French desperately want the freedom of Ingrid.

Unfortunately what was supposed to happen, happened. Chavez, never a subtle diplomat, slowly but surely made this mediation a self promoting road circus. Among the gems there was the invitation to Miraflores palace in Caracas of Ivan Marquez, one of the least palatable FARC guerrillas, thus giving the FARC a recognition that had eluded them until that day. Note: Chavez had tried first to go to Colombia and meet straight with Marulanda. The Colombian government promptly refused to grant permission and one would have thought that Chavez got the hint. But no.....

Recent events

The last drop was a direct phone call to the big brass of the Colombian army. Piedad Cordoba, the go between of Colombia, a leftist senator with the blessing of Uribe, as a senator of Colombia might still have an excuse to call a top brass in her country but cannot be excused to pass the call to Chavez who started to ask delicate questions. Apparently Uribe had warned in Santiago Chavez that he could not talk directly with certain Colombian security personnel. We do not know what the General replied but the next thing he did was to tell Uribe about this direct interference of Chavez and Uribe, probably looking for a while for any excuse to get rid of Chavez mediation role, took the opportunity. Soon the Uribe government suspended Cordoba and Chavez in their mediator roles. There is a clear 18 point communique.

Chavez did not reply right away, but this morning he could not resit anymore and attacked Uribe, calling him a liar among other choice words. And froze relations with Colombia. For good measure he also said that relations with Spain would be frozen until the King of Spain apologizes. A classic campaign speech of Chavez, stirring the masses on cheap, really cheap, chauvinism.

Unfortunately for Chavez, it seems that since the King of Spain told him to shut up, foreign leaders are beginning to consider saying their own version of "¿Por que no te callas?"

AFP so far is the only one carrying some of the Uribe words this afternoon in English but Globovision has already a more complete account. Or Reuters if you prefer something more neutral. The complete speech has been published by the Colombian government. Some choice excerpts:

Calamar, Bolívar Province, 25 nov (SP).

...the truth, with witnesses...

...when there are no arguments and one resorts to insults, as you do, not only international relations are affected, but in this case, you with your insults and your lack of arguments hurt the dignity of the Venezuelan people that you represent.

Your words, your actions, give the impression that you are not interested in Colombian peace, but Colombia becomes the victim of a terrorist government of the FARC.

The truth, president Chavez, is that if you are promoting an expansionist project in the continent, in Colombia this project has no life.

The truth, president Chavez, the truth with witnesses, is that one cannot light up the Continent [South America] as you do, talking one day against Spain, the next one on the US; mistreating one day Mexico, next day Peru, and following morning Bolivia. You cannot mistreat the Continent, light it up, as you do, talking about imperialism, when you, grounded on your budget, want to build up an empire.

The truth, president Chavez, the truth with witnesses, is that you cannot confuse the people misinterpreting the legacy of Bolivar the Libertador. The Libertador was an integrationist, but not an expansionist..... The Libertador was not trying to free American territory form the domination of Europe, to impose, as you would like to do, your own domination, based on the might of your budget, on the people of Venezuelan and the people of Colombia.

I am very worried that you, in a hurry for your electoral ambitions, now is trying to the old trick of stirring in Venezuela the hatred against Colombia and the government of Colombia, to seek your electoral good fortunes.

The truth, president Chavez, is that at each moment surge new elements. Our consul in the US, who accompanied senator Cordoba to the meeting with one of the FARC prisoners there for drug trafficking, our consul has informed us that ..... the senator talked also of the necessity of a government of transition in Colombia. [Uribe was reelected last year with more than 60% of the vote in an election considerably cleaner than any Venezuelan recent election]

... that mediation was more interested in facilitating a government in Colombia under terrorist influence that to help us overcome the tragedy of the hostages.

We do not allow that you take advantage of our tragedy to come and include Colombia in an expansionist project that little by little is denying the freedoms that with so much difficulty this Continent has managed to gain.

Observe several things in this speech besides the extraordinary strong wording from a head of state to another one: the king Hugo is naked, his obvious expansionist project (ALBA, confederation with Cuba made possible as of December 2) and his authoritarian changes in Venezuela are publicly stated. Clearly, Uribe has decided that if Chavez wins in December 2, Venezuela will become a basket case, a source of trouble and Uribe has deiced to get ready agasitn the new Venezuela coming up.

It is impossible to underestimate the speech of Uribe today. Even if he made a mistake, even if he lost it under the heat of Calamar (he was sweaty on the video), his words reflect a crude reality that all knew and few dared articulate (well, this blogger did frequently anyway). Now it is out in the open and who knows where the pieces are going to fall. We are talking major diplomatic crisis today of unforeseen repercussions, starting with the vote next Sunday (more on that later).

Needless to remind the reader that for every dollar Colombia buys in Venezuelan goods, Venezuela buys almost 5 back. This time if Chavez were to close the border, we might starve at home.

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It fascinating to read the words of chavez. I have written long ago that there was no more a Venezuelan foreign policy, just a Chavez one. That is, if we are generous enough to call that a foreign policy.

"AS long as the King of Spain does not apologize, I am freezing relations with Spain"

"I declare that the relations with Colombia I am putting them in the freezer because I lost all trusty in any one in the Colombian government"

-The end-

Two lovely videos from Paris Match

Paris Match is a very famous French magazine, a strange cross of People, Newsweek and Hola! inspired by the brilliance of the past Life. Some of their reports are downright silly but some still on occasion strike excellent journalism. Today, since I have no time for much I will give you two videos (hat tip Bridge). Unfortunately the videos are in French and are an interview both of one of the best journos Paris Match has to offer, Michel Peyrard.

In the first one you will see a nice portrait gallery of the Chavez clan in Barinas and how they got from rags to great riches in the last 8 years. A sentence says it all "you know that a ranch has been bought by the Chavez family because suddenly the dirt road is paved and electricity lines are installed".

The second one might be somewhat less interesting for readers of this blog but is still worth a screening as a good analysis of the Ingrid Betancourt imbroglio.

-The end-

“I hope so too” Part II: UCV (stories of the 7th and 9th of Nov)

After those short but heartbreaking conversations with the people who were at the UCAB riots, I called my best friend. We were planning to go to an “after Halloween” sort of party but I haven’t even thought about my outfit just yet. “Do you really feel like going to a party now?” – Part tired, part disappointed; he read my thoughts and said “No” right away. I still dressed up and he picked me up 30 minutes later but not for a party, but for going to a quiet place to have a drink and a long talk.
More sooner than later our conversation focused on the fears we have as we see this situation getting more violent and radical as the days pass by. We discussed a little bit about what happened at UCAB in the afternoon but we were even more worried about the events at UCV just a day before that sadly, made huge headlines across the globe. Shootings at the campus is always a good material for a headline after all.
And my friend is even more concerned after we met that same night, randomly, another friend who goes to UCV and who was cheering “the brave students that burned the Social Work building and finally gave a lesson to those people”. I understand his position, in part. UCV students are tired to go every morning to class and find their campus all messed up with Chavez supporters “works of revolutionary art” annoying from the halls and the walls.
The Social Work school in particular is traditionally a pro Chavez school – one of the few ones, if not the only at UCV- and you just never stop hearing about troubles related with the Social Work students despite if they are real or not.
Actually, a few months ago, I was at a demonstration when some tear gas were dropped and not exactly by the police (counting that only the police and the National Guard are allowed to own and use those instruments of repression, so no clue how random civilians get access to tear gas bombs) and when we were protecting ourselves from the gas, I heard students saying that the responsible ones were probably Social Work students since the bombs seemed to have fallen from the Social Work school building… So when I saw the latest events on TV (the ones that guy was cheering) and a cousin (that also goes to UCV) told me that it all happened at the Social Work school building, I wasn’t surprised at all.
-“But before putting all the responsibility on the Social Work students and their friends” – My best friend argued – “We must put on question the radicalism on both sides”-
Combining all versions plus the press you could tell the events this way: the students from the White Hand movement were coming back from a march when they met some Chavez supporters putting some propaganda at the campus walls. From that point it all got confusing and it ended with the horrible scene of shooters in the campus –none related to the White Hand movement that’s for sure – and some radical students from the movement trying to burn the Social Work building with people inside (not all of them were shooters) for defense (or revenge? Maybe?).
“So when you see from one side people shooting at others and the others wanting to burn people alive in response, you know you are in the presence of ….” – “… A war”- I completed his sentence – “Indeed” – He kept with his argument – “And these guys, who were answering to the Chavez supporters attacks, who wanted to burn the building with people inside were not some crazy guys … they were… people like us… like the friend we just met” - After he said that, we just shut up for a few minutes lost on each other thoughts.
I never understood the meaning of peace as strong as I did those few minutes, since the possibility of seeing the best people doing the worse things due to a radical situation, popped in my head as a real scene just dancing around the corner – “Let just hope the student (White Hand) movement can win over the radicals”- He said, breaking the silence.
It doesn’t matter if it happens at UCV or UCAB, if it’s about shooting or stones or tear gas bombs. It doesn’t matter if the students who claim to have a practical mind or the adults that were once radical student activist says otherwise. The consequences of those request of “ending everything” with a violent act are so overwhelming that I had no other choice, but join my best friend desires by him back: “I hope so too…”
About the picture: Taken about a week ago (Nov, 15th) at UCAB. It shows some students waiting at the campus entrance for a Chavez supporters demonstration that it was planned to arrive to my university (I will tell those events in another entry). The thing is that for me, it is quite relevant who are the students who are part of the first line of any demonstration because they are the key element to start or to stop radicalism. I wasn't at the UCV when the riots happen and I want to put original pictures taken by me or my friends in this blog as much as possible.

Why Chavez will lose no matter what in a Sunday from next

I have been holding a few discussions in Caracas these days and this image has come to my mind to explain my point of view. As I have written before, the constitutional changes are so harsh, that it is not enough for Chavez to win, he needs to win big and this is one way to illustrate it.

Let’s imagine that you live in an apartment complex of 100 units. There is a condominium assembly. This one decides that there will be no more parties in any apartment any time. And the pool will be open only on week days from 9 to 11 AM.

There is a vote on that and the result is as follow: 20 YES, 10 NO and 70 no show. Do you think it will be easy for the condominium management to start chasing kids after 11 AM from the pool, or knock at your door to ask your guests to leave because you have a family gathering and it is also considered as a party?

It does not matter if the result was 20 to 19 or 20 to 1, the condominium will have a hard time imposing its new unreasonable rules and soon enough there will be uproar in the whole building.

Now if the result were to be 40 to 10, or 40 to 20 even and 40 no show. Do you think that the condominium management will have an easier time imposing their rules? Probably.

Imagine now that the result is 40 YES, 35 NO and 25 no show? What will happen? Major trouble, great difficulty in posing the rules but still a possibility to do so. However it would become a real possibility that the 35 someday become a majority and reverse those arbitrary changes. At that level you cannot predict how the 25 no show will eventually react.

In other words what I am aiming at is that Chavez needs to get MORE than 40% of VENEZUELANS, not 60% the vote, 40% of VENEZUELANS to vote YES on December 2. Otherwise simply put it will be an uphill battle for him to impose his new constitution and we will go from bad to worse.

I do not know whether this serves to convince people to go to vote or not, but it seems to me that it makes a case that by going to vote NO, no matter how much cheating Chavez is already doing, we have a better chance to make our point that the new constitution is inviable. In fact we even have a chance to stop it! If we stay home we know that even with a 20% of Venezuelans Chavez will try to impose it anyway if he has enough spread, which he is sure to get if we stay home.

Besides, if you stay home you relinquish any right you have to say that your vote was stolen. It is that simple.

-The end-

“I hope so too” Part I, at UCAB (stories of the 7th and 9th of Nov)

On Friday (Nov, 9th), while I was making some codes and organizing a bunch of information my boss gave me, I updated my browser and read the headlines “troubles at UCAB”(my university). The office right next to mine belongs to a former classmate so I quickly informed her about the headline and we immediately put our cell phones and the gmail chat (we’re not allowed to use messenger at the office, of course…) to work. We made a quick mental list of the friends that could be there in order to get some information about them and the situation.
All we could see was some random images of National Guards walking against a bunch of students right at the doors of our beloved campus. Next, the students running away as they could, climbing the bars to get inside the campus again and that familiar white smoke (of the tear gas bombs) in the parking line. I imagine that just as the things looks on TV and pictures on the net, my dad’s office must be pretty much filled with that nasty smoke but luckily, he’s out of town at the moment.

First person who answered my messages was one of my best friends “I came back home before everything started, I’m seeing it on TV and just can’t believe it…”. Second, a guy who I worked with last year “I’m not at the university but I will tell you everything when I get there”- I answer back – “Have you seen what’s happening? Don’t go there now…”- But I know it’s useless to make such request. My once classmate, now co-worker and I would also wanted to go there and we don’t even know what for. I guess seeing our campus so vulnerable definitely touched a very sensitive nerve on us; because even considering this was not the first time our campus is surrounded by police or army forces, this was the first time the tension broke, and the violence started.
Back home, at night, I searched the internet and asked the few students from UCAB that I have online about the events. All I know now it’s some random stories about students running from tear gas after trying to block a street just outside my campus.
I’m convinced that the Venezuelan situation it’s so complicated plus there are so many people filled with desires to distort the facts (not only from the government) that you cannot possible know what really happened unless you were there, and even so…
With that been said, I will write here the opinions of two friends I talked over msn last night. One of them was insanely mad with the National Guard … “how dare they to treat us like that?” and the other, just felt sad and disappointed in general: his concerns goes way much farther than those repression episodes: “it all started because some silly radicals started to burn stuff… I’m so sick of radicalism everywhere”.
I did not knew what to answer to any of them, I tend to share that general pessimism that friend has lately, instead of just blaming the Chavez supporters group or the police or the army; I simply regret the whole situation that makes this kind of episodes possible.
About the picture: taken at the entrance of one of my university' cafeterias, it shows part of the students creativity when it comes to protest. Notice that the Che poster has a white hand on his forehead, and besides that it pretends to be an example of how our university would be like if the reform is approved and Chavez continues to play with the country: a campus filled with blind Che admires and lack of food, and free thinking.


Happy Thanksgiving for all the US readers. If excessive food intake and too much ethilic vapors do not protect you from political thoughts, you can be thankful that this is your one before last turkey day with Bush, that Chavez is far away and that your local grocery store is full of milk, sugar, and toilet paper.

-The end-

Chavez new constitution: Article 98

Patents and the decline of science and technology in Venezuela

In May I posted information published by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that discussed science and engineering in Latin America. In it they reported that Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico have been trending upwards in technology development to become "high-tech exporters". Not surprisingly Venezuela ranked the lowest of the countries scored, mainly because: "[it] suffered because it was considered the riskiest or least attractive site for foreign investment". Instead of stimulating foreign and domestic investment and encourage technology development, the Chavez government has made decisions that adversely affect Venezuelans competitiveness and economy while currently they are taking steps to further discourage innovation. Specifically within the constitutional reform, to be voted on December 2nd, a modification to article 98 is planned. The original article states:

Cultural creation is free. This freedom includes the right to invest in, produce and disseminate the creative, scientific, technical and humanistic work, as well as legal protection of the authors rights in his works. The State recognizes and protects intellectual property rights in scientific, literary and artistic works, inventions, innovations, trade names, patents, trademarks and slogans, in accordance with the conditions and exceptions established by law and the international treaties executed and ratified by the Republic in this field.

Modified article 98 - text changes are underlined

Cultural creation is free. This freedom includes the right to cultural diversity pertaining to invention, production and dissemination for creative works, scientific, technological, and humanistic, including the legal protection and rights to the author for their work. The state recognizes the rights of all to participate in the cultural community, enjoy the arts, and participate in scientific technological progress, and enjoy their benefits.

The most concerning aspect of this reform is that it limits protection to cultural diversity, to the exclusion of any protection that may be strictly intellectual or economic. In addition, the term "cultural diversity" is non-specific, how should one define it or interpret it? More than likely the interpretation will be left to the court system which is controlled by Chavez.

A simple interpretation of the new article suggests that most science and technology would not be protected since most do not contribute to cultural diversity. There are countless examples of how this will affect Venezuela, from books to merchants with the sole goal of bringing everything under state. State control has proven to be inefficient and a hindrance on scientific and technological progress, the participation of the private sector and intellectual property protection is essential for it to flourish.

It is clear that the Chavez government is reforming and will interpret the new article in a way that will significantly decrease intellectual property rights and severely limit patent protection. In the words of National Assembly member Carlos Escarra these are economic (i.e. capitalist) rights not cultural rights. Cultural rights constitute art, poetry, and literature whereas "inventions" have economic benefits. Apparently, Escarra fails to realize that art, music, and literature do have economic benefits to the inventor, through the sale of their work.

It is unfortunate that the new reform is designed to decrease patent protection since it is well established that patent protection, along with property rights and decreasing state bureaucracy play key roles in spurring innovation and economic development, ultimately leading to decreased poverty. This is not a new concept, but Chavez seems intent on creating a society based on a barter system and where some of the most important technological advances, such asOrimulsion is being phased out while giving the Chinese the technological knowhow for production while collecting little to no royalties.

The proposed reform to article 98 is simply putting on paper what the Chavez has been doing for years, either directly or indirectly though his actions. To see how Venezuela has declined in technological innovation we can look at the number of U.S. patents awarded to individuals in Venezuela (see graph below).

In the graph we see that Venezuela averaged about 32 patents a year from 1993 to 2002. From 2002 to 2006 the number patents dropped sharply to 15 after hitting a 13 year low of 10 in 2005. The most probably explanation for this sharp drop in patents is Chavez's decision to purge PDVSA of political opponents, particularly those such as the PhD investigators at PDVSA research institute (INTEVEP), where 66% (108 out of 164) were fired. The loss of highly skilled/educated individuals comes at a huge loss to the State, making it less competitive, reducing innovation and investment, resulting in a less diverse economy and loss of potential revenue. The loss of these investigators is particularly damaging to PDVSA since it accounts for the bulk of the economy and requires technological innovation to stay competitive among the other oil companies. Sadly this loss is long term since the time and investment required to create a highly skilled worker with a PhD is high, approximately 5 years of education and $300,000 not counting the experience needed post PhD. Making the Venezuelan situation worse is that most of these skilled workers have left, and/or have been prevented from working in Venezuela, thus they have emigrated and sought jobs with other petroleum companies taking their knowledge and skills with them. So who loses? Venezuela.

Over the years we have seen how Chavez has made decisions that adversely affect innovation in Venezuela, now the Chavez government is poised to modify article 98 which will further discourage investment and innovation that will not only affect the oil industry but the wider economy. The Venezuelan chamber of franchises has already stated that modification to article 98 will negatively affect that business sector, which has seen significant growth recently and now accounts for 2.2% of the GDP.

The modification of article 98 is an obvious decision by the Chavez government that will only lead to decreased technological innovation in Venezuela. However, this is only one decision, although a significant one, among many that Chavez has made during the past 10 years that will adversely affect Venezuela for many years.

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Kensey writes his own blog, Venezuela US topics, and he can be reached there also for further questions.

-The end-

50 years later, this is a day to remember

Before I continue with my long stories about protests and political inconveniences, I better make a break and bookmark this day in this blog. It was 1957 and my country lived under the dictatorship of Pérez Jiménez who was the last dictator we had... well... before this lunatic. On a day like today, a student strike against the regime exploited and was one of the many events that made the country; just a few days later (on January, 24 of 1958) give it a try with the democracy (a "try" that lasted for 45 years, not matter how much the Chavismo wants to condemn these years now with a distorted vision of history). The students planned huge demonstrations across the country in order to remember the 50th anniversary of the Student Day but, unfortunately, I couldn't leave work for attending them.
We had always celebrate the Student Day. In high school it was a day for going to the school to basically hear a boring speech and watch (in the case of more talented girls, play) a volleyball match. But obviously today this anniversary is more relevant than ever, and not just because its the 50th year anniversary.
I grew up hearing the stories of the repression under Pérez Jiménez dictatorship because my family (specially my mom's side but my dad's side as well) were strongly against. My uncle told me the story of the day my great-aunt was detained (the first woman detained for political reasons under that regime). He was a kid then, sitting on the stairs in front of my great-grandmother's house when my great-aunt told him not to worry if she didn't come back. He waited for her but her warnings were real. She was at a protest and the police came to repress the demonstration as usual and everybody ran away, except her. She stayed waving a flag and screaming "¡Viva la libertad!" ("Long live freedom!"), over and over... the policeman, surprised for this behavior, asked her to calm down: "Por favor señorita..." but she continued screaming and went to jail for a while (don't remember the exact time). She wasn't put in a real prison but in a convent instead and release at the end of the regime, on 1958. My great-grandmother brought her once one "Hallaca", our traditional Christmas dish that is covered with plantain leafs. The guards destroyed the beautiful presentation of the dish by checking inside the plantain leafs if there was something not allowed.
Another great-uncle was also detained and tortured. I got the feeling that many details of his story are lost in the mouths of one generation to another: I know that many "horrible things" were done to him, but like I said, I don't know what those "horrible things" were exactly. My great-grandmother received on December of 1957 the terrible news that his son was death. Yet, his body could not be found. My mom was about 8 years old back then and she remember the mass that were made in his name. Turns out that the "death son" came back home when democracy started, he wasn't death after all but you couldn't tell what was worse.
With at least two members in prison, the rest of the family was carefully watched. My grandmother got saved from going to prison because she was pregnant but the government sent a man to stand in the door of her house to watch what my family' life day after day. My mom remembers that man, sitting at the "zaguán" (entrance, of old houses) all day long and my grandmother, who even felt sorry for him, offering some coffee... yes, to her own spy!
When the regime finally fall, the political prisoners were quickly released. My grandparents house back then was located nearby Miraflores (the government Palace) and therefore next to a prison. So my mom saw from her balcony a crowd of man walking; she said they looked like they haven't took a bath in years, and with their sad faces it was certainly a scary image for a kid: my mom did not liked them, no matter how hard my grandmother try to explain her that they were good people, victims of a terrible situation... She gave both my uncle and my mom, white handkerchiefs to show at the former political prisoners while they were walking by. My mom waved the handkerchief because she thought that if she didn't, those men could do something bad to her.
Many people in Venezuela remembers Pérez-Jiménez with some nostalgia. I can even bet that some of them would want to have him back because he was highly efficient on making several public works specially those concerning infrastructure, those everyone can see, those buildings of "Pérez-Jiménez times" that impressed readers of a fallen country; myself included. I can also bet that many will cheer Chávez in the future, his social programs (no matter if they are effective or not), his speeches and his ideology and people will talk about "Chávez times".
But the memories of my family are not related with buildings, even though we like the 50's architecture a lot. And the memories of my family are somehow, my own, even if my birth came a lot of time after... Hope the memories of the next generation of my family are able to look at "Chávez times" as I look at the "Pérez Jiménez times" beyond the public opinion impressed about big works who can easily forgot the freedom they cost.
About the picture: I found an old magazine in my house the other day, called Elite, from 1955, two years before that student strike I remembered know. It was the closest graphic material to the event I could publish..

The hate of Iris Varela

One of the most colorful figures of chavismo is assemblywoman Iris Varela. A leftist firebrand who once considered joining the FARC in Colombia. Today she had an "incident" at a Tachira radio station. I do not know what happened (I am on the road and time is limited), but someone sent me the video (you do not need to understand Spanish as the sound is really bad, but there are such things as body language and the one of Varela reeks of violence and fascism).

Whatever the talk show host did to her, it is no excuse for the aggression she displayed knowing full well that as a woman he could not strike back, and as an Assemblywoman he would get into a lot of trouble if he fought back. Clearly the woman abused her position. And at the same time she betrayed the nervousness within chavismo as polls are increasingly getting negative for the SI. But of course, when we observe how Chavez behaves these days, what else can we expect from his lackeys?

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Le Monde writes yet another strong anti Chavez editorial

One thing is rather surprising in the French press: the left and center left are the most vocal critics of Chavez. Liberation, a rational left newspaper, akin to the Guardian of London, was the first newspaper consistently criticizing Chavez. Le Monde, the reference newspaper of France and of a large part of the world started later but has been as much anti Chavez as one could expect. Yet, Le Figaro, the center right paper, to this day is still to write a strong anti Chavez piece. Even today it still managed to make a rather sympathetic coverage of the current electoral campaign without observing none of the vices than lesser journalists would be too embarrassed to report because they would think that no one would believe them at home. Heck, even the Guardian is more critical of Chavez than Le Figaro.

Thus we have the paradox that France's right wing president is going to have lunch with Chavez this Tuesday while the Socialist Party of France criticizes the proposed constitutional changes to be voted on December 2. Stunning! Then again Sarkozy has an agenda: he wants Ingrid Betancourt freed and he could not care less about the other dozens of dozens of hostages retained by the FARC and other assorted groups in Colombia and Venezuela. If Sarkozy needs to screw the Venezuelan people to get Ingrid out of the swamp where she mired herself in, so be it. I heard some naive folks think that Sarkozy is going to con Chavez. Well, though I have never defended Chavez I can say with all certitude that it would be a cold day in hell when Sarkozy outmaneuvers Chavez. Just as Chavez conned Chirac with the oil concern Total contracts a couple years ago. Chirac gave love and kisses to Chavez at a time he needed them, Chavez promised the moon, and within two years Total was out of Venezuela. In other words as I predicted during my coverage of the French electoral campaign early this year, Sarkozy has demonstrated several times to be an unprincipled foreign policy maker. Had Segolene Royal been elected I am quite sure that the lout of Chavez would not be received at the Elyse Palace.

Anyway, there is next the translation of the Le Monde editorial of today and then follows the original French version. Observe, for the record, how Le Monde introduces Chavez: "lieutenant-colonel". I loved it! The anti militaristic attitude of the French
left since the infamous Dreyfus affaire! Of course, it is also for me the basic reason why I oppose Chavez: his military origins colliding to my allergy to anything military. The French left has always been keen on controlling the army by civilians. Remember the words attributed during WW1 to Clemenceau: "War is something too serious to be entrusted to the military". (Note added later: for those who can read French you can catch my latest installment on Agoravox on this subject, my fifth article accepted there, a center left sort of Noticiero Digital)

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Expected in Paris Tuesday, Nov. 20, lieutenant-colonel Hugo Chavez has been invited by Nicolas Sarkozy to take stock of his mediation in the case of the hostages in the hands of the Colombian guerrilla. The efforts of France have not borne fruit in the matter of its interest, considering that the former Green candidate for the presidency of Colombia, Ingrid Betancourt, is dual nationality franco-colombian.

The intervention of the Venezuelan president is welcome because so far no person and no group of countries has managed to negotiate with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) - the hostage-takers. Pumped up by drug money, the movement of the extreme left has reached the zero degree in politics: weak on the military side, it is relying on its hostages to figure on the local and international scene. Mr. Chavez was given the green light by the Colombian government, which is essential to allow for a "humanitarian exchange" between the hostages and jailed guerrillas.

Activism deployed by Mr. Chavez on the international scene, Latin America, in the Middle East, Russia and France, is accompanied in Venezuela of a disturbing trend towards an authoritarian regime. The erratic management of the vast resources of oil, brought by a price of a barrel close to $ 100, begins to undermine the social programs that have earned the Head of State a solid popularity. The lack of investment in the oil industry stops Caracas from reaching the quota set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which recently held its summit in Riyadh. Venezuela has been reduced to sell crude oil and to import virtually everything the country needs.

The concentration of powers to the benefit of the President of the Republic, the lack of dialogue with the opposition, the disqualification of the student movement, described as "fascist", the encouragement of armed gangs and recruiting reservists, in short, militarization of political life, are accompanied by unprecedented corruption. This is facilitated by the opacity of public spending and the creation of parallel budgets, which are used in a discretionary manner by the Presidency. The links maintained by Mr. Chavez with Fidel Castro and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are not likely to dispel the uncertainty around the "socialism of the twenty-first century" advocated by the Venezuelan president.

"Populism is not a good solution to the problems there are in Latin America," said the president of the European Commission, the Portuguese Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, after a recent verbal incident with Mr. Chavez during an Ibero-American summit. Populism is a good solution nowhere.
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Attendu à Paris mardi 20 novembre, le lieutenant-colonel Hugo Chavez a été invité par Nicolas Sarkozy pour faire le point sur sa médiation dans l'affaire des otages de la guérilla colombienne. Les efforts de la France n'ont pas porté leurs fruits dans un dossier qui la concerne, dans la mesure où l'ancienne candidate des Verts à la présidence de la Colombie, Ingrid Betancourt, a la double nationalité franco-colombienne.

L'intervention du président vénézuélien est bienvenue car, jusqu'à présent, aucune personnalité et aucun groupe de pays n'est parvenu à négocier avec les Forces armées révolutionnaires de Colombie (FARC) - les preneurs d'otages. Dopé par l'argent de la drogue, ce mouvement d'extrême gauche a atteint le degré zéro de la politique : affaibli sur le plan militaire, il compte sur ses otages pour exister sur la scène locale et internationale. M. Chavez a reçu le feu vert du gouvernement colombien, indispensable pour pouvoir procéder à un "échange humanitaire" entre les otages et les guérilleros emprisonnés.

L'activisme déployé par M. Chavez sur la scène internationale, de l'Amérique latine au Moyen-Orient, de la Russie à la France, s'accompagne au Venezuela d'une évolution inquiétante vers un régime autoritaire. La gestion erratique des immenses ressources du pétrole, démultipliées par un prix du baril proche des 100 dollars, commence à nuire aux programmes sociaux qui ont valu au chef de l'Etat une solide popularité. L'absence d'investissements dans l'industrie pétrolière explique que Caracas peine à atteindre le quota fixé par l'Organisation des pays exportateurs de pétrole (OPEP), qui vient de tenir son sommet à Riyad. Le Venezuela en est réduit à vendre du brut et à importer pratiquement tout ce dont le pays a besoin.

La concentration des pouvoirs au profit du président de la République, l'absence de dialogue avec l'opposition, la disqualification du mouvement étudiant, traité de "fasciste", l'encouragement de bandes armées et l'embrigadement des réservistes, bref, la militarisation de la vie politique, s'accompagnent d'une corruption sans précédent. Celle-ci est favorisée par l'opacité des dépenses publiques et par la création de budgets parallèles, utilisés de manière discrétionnaire par la présidence de la République. Les liens entretenus par M. Chavez avec Fidel Castro et avec Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ne sont pas de nature à dissiper le flou autour du "socialisme du XXIe siècle" prôné par le président vénézuélien.

"Le populisme n'est pas une bonne solution aux problèmes qu'il y a en Amérique latine", a déclaré le président de la Commission européenne, le portugais José Manuel Durao Barroso, après un récent incident verbal avec M. Chavez lors d'un sommet ibéro-américain. Le populisme n'est une bonne solution nulle part.

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