New site

For those who can read Spanish there is a new site with comic strips made out of Chavez pictures mostly. It is quite fun on occasion, though ill named "opiniones". The episode on Chavez colitis is particularly hilarious and to the point. If you read Spanish, please support him to encourage to put more stuff up. And he can hit the opposition quite well too.

-The end-

Research on maths levels in Venezuela

I am looking for maths books used by 15-year old Venezuelan pupils. Do you have a copy of one being used now in Venezuela? Could you send me a picture of the kind of questions they have to deal with?

I have some information for the US, Germany, the UK and Belgium.

Reasons to like the US of A

After over a decade an a half living in the US I have learned to appreciate some of the good aspects of its political process. One of my favorite parts, for all the posturing and corniness that some times happen there, is the political conventions. So this week I have been following the Democratic Convention, the one that usually spoke to my Liberal tendencies. Had I been a US citizen I would have probably always voted Democrat except perhaps at Clinton 2, where for some strange reason I found Bob Dole compelling enough (not to mention that I never liked Clinton, conformed by his messing up of the health care reform to his wimpy and undignified back down at the "Don't ask, don't tell" fiasco).

This year I was particularity interested as I have failed to warm up to Obama. I suppose that after ten years back in Venezuela, and 10 years of the cheapest and most vulgar populism, anything that looks too good to be true lights up all my warning lights. I am not sure I would vote for Obama yet, but tonight he went a long way to convince me that he might be more than what I thought him to be. Still, my issues are not quite resolved as I do not like Biden, even though I must admit he makes a sensible ticket. This is good in a way because it will allow me to follow the Republican convention. The only times I followed both conventions were in 1980 and 1988. In 1980 because I was fresh and learning (though I had no TV then) and in 1988 because I lived in Boston then and I watched in horror Dukakis making all the mistakes that cost him his bid. In 1996 I only watched the Republican one, the other years watching the Democratic ones (though of course I never ignored completely the other side).

But my political views are not the point here, I just brought them up to establish how fascinated I was always by this brilliant exercise in democracy, so unique to the States, in spite of the fact that all mystery is usually removed before the convention starts. And that is what makes this exercise so fabulous, the work of reconciliation, the desire to build a real common political platform out of the bitter rivalries of the primary. This convention was no exception and contained some of the best speeches I ever heard in any US convention. Hillary, my favorite, rose to the occasion. For the first time I liked a Bill Clinton speech. Biden was acceptable to compelling and Obama did a great job, seeking blood, in the purest partisan but ever so democratic form. Democratic conventions are always much more fun to watch, there is no way around, there is no way the GOP can ever create such a party atmosphere. As far as I am concerned, from this week, I think that Obama has this thing wrapped up.

But of course there is much more than meet the eye here, because such a great and sometimes gratuitous exercise is only possible in a country with a great tradition of open debate, the McCarthy and Patriot Acts notwithstanding. Conventions are the summary. What I saw this week is difficult to think of it in Europe. Only recently France seems to be approaching this as the Socialists dared launch a true primary last time (the Right is much more reluctant, but it does put up a decent TV show at least). But in general European politics are much more ideological than the US ones, much too parliamentarian and sectarian to dare hold such a venting off arena. People keep forgetting one thing: for all the attempts at an ideological US body politics, from the Daily Kos crowd to the Bible thumping right, the GOP and the Dems still remain a coalition of interests much more than an ideological construct. A few weeks before general elections they must settle their issues and reach a basic compromise, otherwise they are doomed (McGovern anyone? or Bush Senior 2, if you prefer?). Sometimes I am sure that this is the success of US democracy who in spite of being a presidential system has managed to survive terrible catastrophes over more than two centuries.

The best line of this convention was from Bill Clinton, no doubt. I do not know whether he really penned it but it goes down in political history as the right thing to say at the right time, an amazing sense of what must be done.
"People have always been more impressed by the power of our example, than by the example of our power."
I, for one, do subscribe to that fully. If you doubt it look at Europe today, rebuilt under the Marshall Plan with a full belief in democratic values that came with the marines, no matter how many might hate that idea. What about Japan? Even a baseball power now! Or what about FDR managing to avoid extremism in spite of one of the worst recession of modern times? True, the power of the US in its century has been awesome but it would have been of little effect if it was not accompanied by example. And perhaps if Iraq is not the success that some hoped for is simply due because the US forgot to lead by example, from torturing prisoners to behaving like a colonial power. True, it is unfair to simplify the Iraq problem to a simple value question as I just did: it is too much of a complex issue, starting from the failure of Bush Senior to remove Saddam when no one would have cried for him. Was not the first Gulf War the perfect moment to break with common opinion and lead by example even if the UN did not allow for it?

But since this is a Venezuelan blog, that Clinton quote allows me to tie this post to the topic that occupies so much of our time.

Tonight as I was waiting for the convention coverage to start in earnest, I was watching Alo Ciudadano when a cadena came up. The reason was to receive a few Argentina businessmen, true leaches to come around to see what they can grab in Venezuela while the going is still good for them. Don't they know how their colleagues got robbed with SIDOR? Just there I know that this cadena was just yet another excuse for feeble propaganda; and we got it, but in real bad taste. Even though it was totally off topic as the cadena was supposed to be a "conversatorio" between Chavez and these Argentinean businessmen, it was mostly a Chavez monologue as any Argentine who was allowed a microphone knew better than talk for more than a couple of minutes: there is only one mic star here, and it is Hugo.

And what did El Surpremo spoke about? He wasted our time hallucinating about Bolivar and San Martin meeting at Guayaquil, rewriting history further. He launched yet another long tirade against the 2002 "coup", modifying again his own version of events. He insulted those who do not agree with him, using his current favorite word, "pitiyanki" (Yankee lover?) and other assorted choice words. Indeed, I suppose that after what I wrote above I certainly can be accused of pitiyankismo....

But then as I listened to the DNC I returned in mind to that cadena. How small is Chavez compared to all of these great politicians, who make flawless speeches sating their point forcefully without needing to insult their opponent (the Biden speech for example, where he stressed his personal friendship with McCain). And how powerful is their ability to compromise even as they cannot offer a genuine reconciliation. Chavez is simply unable to listen, to compromise, to forgive, to reconcile. It is beyond his understanding, and the few glimpses we might seem to find in him of such virtues are always tainted by secret agendas and incomplete pardons, almost as if he were to forgive some just as to be allowed to be even harsher on most.

It is not that I have any faith in US politicians, I know better. But tonight I was painfully shown the gap in between our democratic cultures. For all its fault the US system is able to produce politicians we are willing to listen to, who are actually saying something, who are able to let us know how stupid we are not to follow them without us feeling stupid as we hear their words. With Venezuelan politicians, chavistas in particular, we always know that we are scum. And with some opposition pols we are also scum, even thought it is not as blatant. In fact, some of the chavista officials reserve some of their worst insults to their own followers, a truly amazing phenomenon, almost as if leadership was acquired there through a nefarious pecking order from hell.

We are so primitive, so vulgar, and we seem to cultivate such characteristics. Perhaps after all we do deserve the fate that has befallen on us.

Meanwhile I am left to observe with sheer envy the US once again coming together at a time of crisis, producing history for us. Tonight for the first time an African American, and a first generation one at that, has been nominated to become the next president of the Country. And if it was not him, it would have been the first woman, equally historical a moment. Tonight we all sensed what is at stake, we all sensed that even if Obama does not make it next November, he has set the agenda of the country and McCain would not be able to escape it. The only real prospect is how fast the page will turn. Obama was not redundant in talking of integration, he talked of gay rights instead. The social revolution that started in the 60ies might not be complete yet, but with him it is advanced enough that is time to start a new one. The US will never cease to amaze us with its regeneration power. Meanwhile under Chavez we have fallen back prey to the worst ghosts of our past. Chavez dares to blame someone else, the US preferably, for his obscurantism and his true reactionary nature. And we have been following for ten years already, with no regeneration perspective in sight. We are so far from greatness.

-The end-

Venezuela and numbers

I have little time now, but I just wanted to show here my latest graph on criminality in Carabobo, V enezuela. I had placed it in my Spanish blog. The post (in Spanish) is here. The data comes simply from El Notitarde, a local newspaper, which itself reports what the police says.

Here the graph (click to have a better look). It represents the amount of murders in Carabobo state month by month since 2004. Sad thing. In Europe people would take this seriously. In Venezuela it seems the government does not care at all.

Chavez Olympic failure (bis repetita non placent)

Last Monday I posted on the dismal role of Venezuela at the Olympics. Not the athletes, mind you, 109 of them managed to qualify and did, at least most of them, their very best. No, the failure as usual is the Venezuelan state, a system aggravated under chavismo where sports have become a political flag, something that never happened before, or at least nowhere close to the obscene propaganda we were subjected to before Beijing. But some readers did not like my post and thus in an unusual step I am posting a complement to that previous post, not a fun one as the title of this post indicate. It will take the single graph below and a few extra lines.

In this graph you have three lines. First, the blue line is the size of the Venezuelan team since 1948 when a single athlete was dispatched. As you can see, the amount of Venezuelan athletes that manage to qualify has been rather consistent since 1952 (when the latest dictator in search of popularity managed to rise the delegation from 1 to 38 athlete, a feat that Chavez could only hope to do one day; but then dictators were efficient whereas today, well, you know...) We thus go from a low of 16 in Tokyo 1964 to a maximum of 51 in Sidney in 2000. It is interesting to note at this point that this 2000 result is the last one that can be attributed to past administrations, the positive trend that Chavez inherited when he came to power on February 1999. It is also worth noting that in 2004, the first year Chavez policies can take some credit (they certainly will never accept the blame), that number dropped slightly to 48 athletes.

The second line in red, chavi-reality, is the one that chavista propaganda has tried to present us before Beijing. It is deeply flawed for one main reason: it curiously omits 2000 and 2004 from its announced years as you can still see on the Quick Time video at the Propaganda Ministry. If it is true that we jumped above 100 athletes it is also true that for the first time we qualified three teams. If you remove these athletes and their backbenchers, well, we would fall back to our usual 40-50. No word of that on any chavista page anywhere. So yes, let's be, as Venezuelans, happy that we now can have teams qualifying, even if they did almost dead last at Beijing: at least they will have gained experience and in four years they should do better (well, not Softball who will be out).

The rest is just the marker medal, with a maximum of three medals at Los Angeles in 1984. Truly, there is nothing worth writing home after ten years of chavista bureaucracy directing sorts: we are equally good or equally mediocre depending on your half glass of life philosophy.

The orange circle is just to stress the two missing years in the "official" story. But chavismo is already erasing people from pictures, public places and so, in the good commie tradition. I leave you with yet another example of the pre-Beijing propaganda. It comes from the day Chavez gave the flag to the team: look at it for a while, it is a shor 2 minutest, observe that the 109 athletes were not at hand (some knew better?) and how he wastes their time for his glory. Nothing new, really, the same tasteless to vulgar abuse of power we have been used to for the last 10 years with the lack of constructive results attached to such type of messy rule.

-The end-

The money bag trial in Miami

Miguel informs us that the trial over the 800 000 USD bag that was caught in Buenos Aires last year is abotu to start. Corruption in Venezuela is about to be clearly exposed. Since Miguel has been following that up close and since he knows much better than anyone how to explain the different financial contraptions used to rob the country, I will advise you to follow the case at his blog. As for the rest of events, keep reading here, Miguel knows no-nothing (ooops! running fast for cover!)

-The end-

Dear reader

I think I’m currently writing you a good-bye letter. I have made the decision of closing this blog, for good, in two weeks from now. I have several reasons to do this, some of them can be explained, some others can’t but I feel obligated to start explaining somewhere.
It seems like at the moment I have nothing else to tell about the things I should tell on my blog in the way I should speak on this blog, that I haven’t done already; and many of the recent events that should be affecting me personally in the way they did in the past; do not seem to have that effect in me anymore. Please, dear reader, do not be fooled: I’m not talking about some Stockholm syndrome. My political views remain the same: I don’t think I’ll ever be a Revolution supporter for as long as a political government pretends to use such a title, for as long as the government doesn’t change its radical views based on ancient hate to the higher class and the old political elite (it doesn’t matter if that hate is justified or not). And I haven't receive any threat from the government or anyone else. I’m just out of words now.
I’m a little bit tired. I’ve spend almost the half of my short life reading the news and worried and concerned about the changes and crisis my country has lived since 1998. I think I could use a small and irresponsible break, to put some thoughts in order.
People often ask me if my country has a “solution” and what does that solution should be. It’s hard for me to even find a starting point on this matter and I feel that I need a lot of more preparation and life experience to give a proper answer. From where I see it, a country is so much more than a “trouble” that requires a “solution”, it’s a mixture of needs and ways of living that they might need to stop or to find a way to keep surviving. A country is not some “cause” you fight for, like you were in a struggle for the rights of the whales; a country is a home and no home should be asking you to give your life for it, gives the same if its for the revolution or for fighting against.
I won’t fall in that old poetic and openly accepted game. I like my country but it does not defines me. It is true that many times as you had read, I put my life in a serious danger. I’m not sure if I put my life in danger for the right reasons in the right way. I’m even less sure if I’m going to do that again.
I will be finally getting my degree any moment now and from there, not just Venezuela but my personal life will change even more than what it has already changed now. I’m in the process of making huge career and personal decisions. Perhaps after all I won’t be as much into politics as I thought I would be. Do not be fooled again, I do like politics and I do not see it as something “bad”. I’m just not sure if this is truly my thing.
Half of my friends, now that they have stopped being a part of the student movement, started working in politics without losing the connections with the movement. The other half is slowly building another way to live, a way on which the politics and the news are not the main thing. The first half are the ones I always called in an inside joke “the leaders”. But I’m not a leader. I’m trying to be a thinker and in that way I might end up belonging to some border line between my two half of friends, I’ll be like the cheese of a big Venezuelan youth sandwich but that’s nothing new for me. Who knows.
And I’m not alone. There’s a small list of people that for me are important enough to make them part of those kinds of decisions; and that I love them way too much to put them on a risk.
I do not regret of opening this blog and writing my political related experiences in it. Quite the opposite: I earned more knowledge, almost (no yet) a whole new language called English and valuable readers and friends.
So, to who ever might be reading this, and has read this page in the past, specially to Kate, Matt, Jungle- Mom, Feathers, John, Miguel O, Eric, Liz and many others: thanks. Thanks for reading me as always, thanks for trying to understand what my words were trying to tell you. If I come back to the blogosphere, you’ll be the first to know but that will be for making an entire different project.
Many things, sooner or later come to an end. Some blogs are bound to come to an end as well. This blog did what it had to do and I’m glad. All the things I wrote on this blog are carefully saved for future publications if I feel like it. The end of Venezuela as I know it will be permanently erased on September 10th, two weeks from now. Leave me a comment if you have any questions, critics or complaints. Good bye.


What can Venezuela do to counter Chavez autocratic wishes?

Last December we did stop Chavez latest bid to ensure power for a generation. And yet we are confronted to the need of stopping him once again. In recent months Chavez and his acolytes, afraid as their fortunes start fading, have decided to break down their last restraints and let us see what they are really about. Measures are diverse, from the banning of politicians favored at polls to a set of two dozen decree laws that will allow among many things Chavez to establish rationing cards for all in Venezuela, rule the army as if this was his own militia, seize the property of whomever he does not like, centralize all from his office even if it paralyzes the country. Already new measures are in the works, such as a communication law that will allow Chavez to close this blog as he sees fit, China style, or the nationalization of transport industry to control deliveries of every food staple in Venezuela, favoring of course the districts that vote for him, effectively making elections totally meaningless.

The only amazing thing here is the lack of reaction in general from the populace, too busy in its own survival to pay much attention to the subtleties of complex laws which real objective is control, and only that. Amazingly some people that should have known better waited until a week ago to confess that they are finally getting worried. Obviously they did not read the right blogs who have been predicting our bleak future long ago. But if those people can be excused by distance or naiveté, the political class in Venezuela cannot. After all, as we see on TV or read on papers, the people who most talk against the decree laws are again NGO and civil sectors such as students. Only some politicians, to their great credit, are finally starting to shift the election away from excessive pothole fixing. Julio Borges for one, is giving a much less "blandengue" image than what he used to, at long last.

Yet, can we condemn politicians wholesale? What can they really do? The fact of the matter is whether we like it or not, whether we like our opposition politicians or not, whether chavismo wants us to riot in the streets or stay home cowed by the crime rate terror, all solutions pass through winning as many states as we can win next November. Let's see why.

Article 350

These days this famous article that constitutionally allows for civil disobedience in case of governmental constitutional violation is into many mouths. And truly, for the first time it is worth discussing it even if some luminaries like Teodoro Petkoff ridicule that option because it comes without a manual. Allow me to give you an application example.

Imagine that on November 23 the opposition wins 10 states, including Zulia, Carabobo, Aragua and Miranda. Namely, more than half of the Venezuelan population will be under opposition governor rule. Their possible success would play a determining rile not only for 2011 elections where one of them will be the most likely candidate, but also as a barrage against further Chavez encroachment. But their success will depend on how able they will be to rule, which means to roll back the recent law decrees of Chavez. That is where the 350 appeal comes into play.

Let's say that within a few weeks at least 8 of these governors go to the High Court to post a legal challenge. Let's say that they also go to the CNE to put up a referendum petition to revoke the bills. Let say now that after 2-3 months nothing happens, that under technicalities their petition is blocked. Then they simply can declare upon a notarized document that since they are called to one day exert higher functions, they are declaring now that any agreement made by the Venezuelan state through the 26 decree laws with any Venezuelan or foreign national, or with any foreign country will not be recognized as violating the present constitution. Immediately the Venezuelan credit overseas collapses as nobody will loan money to Chavez unless they can do so completely outside the 26 decrees law because they could face in the future a legal and constitutional default. In short, Venezuela would become too much of an unreliable business partner.

Of course, the legal battle would be hard and international courts would in the end probably rule against Venezuela anyway since no serious country carries anything equivalent to article 350 (1). But the psychological impact would speed up Chavez deterioration or force him to withdraw the laws or accept the challenge of a referendum to vote down the law. He might or might not win it, but odds are that with 10 governors campaigning actively and providing resources to a vigorous campaign Chavez might not win, the more so that the governors at no point are questioning the right of Chavez to remain in office until 2011. But that Chavez will be pushed closer to some form of resignation procedure is clear for all, in particular for the chavistas that are starting to get tired of him.

High stakes game but almost brilliant, no? But it has a catch! You need still to win 10 governorships.

Constitutional Assembly, assorted referendums and National Assembly recall elections

These are three other ways to counter the effect of the enabling law decrees and the laws about to be enacted, based in part on these awful totalitarian intended decrees (note: that their application is difficult if not impossible is not really relevant, the part of it that can be actually applied is for a totalitarian like control of at least some group of people within the country).

In short.

A Constitutional Assembly requires a large amount of signatures, a previous referendum, an election of the said assembly, a new constitution and its approval. It can take a year or two to take effect and thus it allows for two years of application of controls that might make any new constitution a moot point. Not to mention that there is always the possibility that chavismo might win it and even though they will back down on many points they might get what they want the most, two more elections for Chavez.... It woudl be a cumbersome procedure, of result not guaranteed. It would be best to apply after Chavez as a way to clean up the judicial mess left by him. But right now the problem is Chavez and against him alone it is not really that effective.

The different referendums are also an attractive option but with control of TSJ and CNE, the way the questions are put on the ballot can diminish the impact of any vote, not to mention that the TSJ might declare unconstitutional to vote against certain laws or demand instead a series of referendums spaced in time. It will be a protracted war with the ballot in chavista CNE hands and thus far from certain positive outcome.

Recall Election of the National Assembly if for me the best approach as I am sure that at least a third of the sitting deputies can be kicked out no matter how many obstacles the CNE puts in front. That by itself would be enough to disequilibrate chavismo power and break his current majority. The more so that the new wave of deputies will be highly motivated and dig and dig where chavismo wants it the least. By December 2009 we might get a brand new National Assembly with lots and lots of headaches for Chavez.

The catch for all of these options? You need again to win at least 10 governorships. The more so that you will require people to sign on many petitions that will become newer Tascon Lists. You will get that only if you have ten governors taking the front battle and willing to risk their necks if you risk at least your name on a list.

What to do?

Well, we must start by the beginning, win as many governorships and mayor's office as we can. This requires a unified campaign that is able to modulate according to the districts its message. If in Caracas it is OK to stress constitutional violation and Chavez autocracy, to motivate traditional opposition to drop once and for all its abstentionist attitude, elsewhere it might require much more promises of potholes fixing than anti Chavez rhetoric. Not too difficult if you ask me since in most states the chavista officials that got elected 4 years ago have a reputation of absentee landlords. If opposition candidates project the image that they will be there to protect constituent interests, if anything because Chavez will not give them an helicopter to travel around like he gave to folks like Diosdado Cabello who has not been trapped in traffic jams since he is governor, well, it might just be enough to get these ten states needed.

Will the political class rise to the occasion? Nothing less certain but at least it gives meek hints of moving the right way.

But there is one thing that readers of this blog who vote in Venezuela can do: to go and vote and push anyone around them to vote.

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1) Article 350 of the constitution reads in Spanish:

"Artículo 350. El pueblo de Venezuela, fiel a su tradición republicana, a su lucha por la independencia, la paz y la libertad, desconocerá cualquier régimen, legislación o autoridad quecontraríe los valores, principios y garantías democráticos o menoscabe los derechos humanos." Article 350. The Venezuelan people, faithful to its republican tradition, to its fight for independence, to peace and liberty, will not recognize any regime, legislation or authority that will go against the values, principles and democratic guarantees or diminish human rights.

Which is exactly what Chavez has been doing this year.

-The end-

Chavez Olympic failure

The Olympics are over and awarded one cardboard medal to Chavez. He has started trying to pass the buck around, but from an editorial today in Tal Cual to the justified claims of some returning athletes who dared to speak against the ways sports are dealt with in Venezuela we know he has once again messed up big time. Should we be surprised? Did we not know that the chavista administration is improvisation everywhere, as we saw it clearly in the organization of the soccer event of last year with stadiums that are yet to be completed as I type.

In all fairness the Venezuela medal industry has always been deficient. See, organizing sporting venues and offering a decade long commitment to promising athletes is just beyond the grasp of the multiple populist governments that have ruled us since the 70ies. Sports where considered as something that you throw a lot of money at one year to expect results the next. Unfortunately it does not work like that: behind successful athletes all around the world there is much more than the athletes, there is the family, the facilities, the coaches, the public support, the government help as far as possible. There is a country behind any successful athlete, as Milagros Socorro reminded us in El Nacional ten days ago. In Venezuela athletes have been most of the times left on their own, the most successful ones usually finding ways to train overseas. Morochito Rodriguez winning our lone gold medal ever, in Mexico games, is also the rare example of an athlete home grown, in boxing, where there is some money.

Organizing any type of sustained activity in Venezuela is quite difficult and I experienced it myself. When I moved back form the States I tried to join the local Masters swim team. I was coming from 3 to 4 times a week training where all in all I was doing up to 10 Km a week. Well, for three years I battled all, dirty pools, lack of coaching, unfair schedules, general apathy, endless meetings that lead nowhere. But the most vexing part was that the pool had always priority for all sort of "events" of dubious value except for its social and or political component. Still, I could have dealt with it had I been properly warned. But no: how often did I make it to the pool, all ready to jump, to be told that no, no more training for so many days. And this happens, I'll bet anything, to much larger scale, for Olympic athletes, with worse consequences. Does anyone remember when Acosta Carles was sworn in governor of Carabobo 4 years ago and took away the about to the inaugurated special center for sports training and health to turn it over to the "people needs"? Just like that, as if youth and athletes were not also people with needs?

We would have expected that Chavez, after ten years in office, with the help of so many Cuban trainers that are sent to us as a meager payment of all the oil we give them nearly for free, would have managed, even if just for propaganda purposes, to create some sport program that would deliver half a dozen medals. No? No!

And yet Chavez had high hopes. We had been submitted to incessant propaganda abotu "oro a la revolucion deportiva" (gold to the sports revolution). Sports authorities boldly predicted our largest harvest ever in Beijing. And we had to settle for a Tae Kwon Do girl, getting almost by luck the bronze medal. I say by luck, not to diminish her abilities at all, but to underline that she was not one of the favorites. As far as I know, this Olympics delegation, at least as far as officials were concerned, was tourism at tax payer expenses. We even saw the governor of Guarico accompanying the Guarico delegation, I kid you not, as if Guarico was a delegation distinct from the Venezuelan one. Was the governor of, say, Nebraska at Beijing, at tax payer expenses?

Under Chavez, even if the need of propaganda is taken into account, we have had yet another huge failure, where Olympics is just an excuse for the multi layered bureaucracy to get a junket trip around the globe. Revolution? Where? Corruption and lies? Everywhere!

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

I was curious to see if I could calculate in any way the failure of chavismo. I came up with the following table. In this table I took into account the winnings of the countries in this area of the world, that is South of the Rio Grande, including the Caribbean.

The first column is the number of medals won (gold, silver and bronze together), the second the population of the country (all data next is form the CIA world book, friends and foes alike), the third column the GDP per capita, and jumping two columns, the number of athletes included int eh delegation (that is, those who had enough merits to qualify to an Olympics game). With these numbers I tried to create some "parameters" in order to evaluate how efficient a country is in training athletes and getting medals, according to its relative size in the world.

The fifth column is the easy one, medals per million people. Of course the winner is Jamaica and Mexico the last one, but Venezuela next to last (the order of the countries, from most efficient to least efficient comes from the last column).

The sixth column calculates the number of medals per billion GDP. That is, an attempt to see whether the GDP of a third world country (all are third world) affect the repartition of medals. surprisingly the order is not really altered though the spread is much more restrained. Clearly, the wealth of a third world country is not a definite indicator as to the potential of that country to win medals. Yet, Venezuela is dead last!

Then I calculated the number of medals per athlete that was sent to see if the size of the group had any bearing on the final medal count. Clearly the spread that we observe in the column before last indicates that that the number of medals won has nothing to do with the size of the delegation. Venezuela, by the way, is dead last again, clearly establishing that the 101 athletes did not deserve all their tickets (I look at the general score and they are far from impressive in general).

And then I came up with a general efficacy index. For this I added up columns 6 and 8 (medals per billion and medals per athlete) and multiplied this by the number in column 5 (medals per million people). For example for Jamaica it would be 3.92*(0,51 + 0,44) = 3,725 (note: my Venezuelan excel gives coma for point, sorry). Now, of course, I have no idea of the validity of such a measure, but as a first approximation of efficacy we do get a coefficient that will ponder the value of medals per athlete.

The result is quite clear, Venezuela is dead last, with the Caribbean Basin countries, Anglo or Hispanic, the only countries worth mentioning. At least, for Chavez discharge, our neighbors south of us did barely better as we see that the 15 medals of Brazil really are not that impressive, at least according to thsi index. Does any one care to calculate the Chinese and the US sports efficacy index?

-The end-

The abysmal awfulness of Venezuelan state TV anchors

[Updated] There is a video I had heard of, about how bad the coverage of Michael Phelps 8th medal was on Tves, the network Chavez started in June 2007 to replace private RCTV, forcefully kicked out of the air waves. I did report about how bad the covering was but for some reason I missed that particular part. Either I was still rushing from my desk to watch the race or this video comes from a posterior replay of Tves or in the emotion I did not pay attention to the anchor words, having already blocked him from the previous half an hour listening to his absurdities. The video carries the translation though it is not very good. Still, amuse yourself at how incredibly ignorant is that Tves anchor: in short, he confuses Phelps with Spitz, puts them in the Munich Olympics presided by Hitler who refused in the end to give Phelps his medal.

And if you are surprised, new to Venezuela, you need to know that Chavez controls now 5 of the 9 networks that exist with more than local overage. All of his networks are equally badly staffed as any journalist, anchor or commentator with any pride in his or her job refuses to work there, a place where all news and programs must contain a promotion of Chavez or his lackeys. One of the things I heard during my very brief Olympic watch was an anchor slavishly thanking personally the CANTV head for the job she allowed him to get. A little bit as if NBC anchor would thank Bill Gates instead of Microsoft for sponsoring, implying that Bill Gates got him the job.

But not only they have no knowledge of world history but they are incoherent. Observe that he starts by saying no living athlete got ever 8 medals to say right after that Phelps did such a feat in Munich. I am in awe!

Update: This is so bad that today I have not been able to shake the thought that it might all be a set up. After all, I wrote this late at night so my judging functions might have been somewhat impaired. But so far there is no evidence that the sound track is fake.

Now, why do I bother discussing this, casting doubt on my very own post, without having been proven wrong yet? Because I think it is interesting to see how slowly but surely we, in Venezuela, are becoming everyday more Pavlovian. See, we are all so used to such bad TV reporting from the state networks (not that the private are much better, but at least they are better) that the first reaction to this video is to accept it at face value. Man, it rings so, so true if you ever watched Tves Olympic coverage! A half an hour of watching it was enough for me to accept this video at face value (and I still do accept its veracity until proven wrong).

So, even if it turned out to be a parody it would not matter because the parody would be better than reality, something possible only in Venezuela! Or as the Italians say: se non e vero, e ben trovato.

-The end-

Are we under a legal military regime in Venezuela?

The question is somewhat specious: judging from the number of military occupying high government positions, judging how the armed forces behave, judging how they feel superior than anyone else and judging by how Chavez keeps seducing them with more and more goodies, this blogger has long ago made up his ming that this is a military regime, the ultimate one in that the army reached power without the need of a coup. But apparently with the enabling law decrees, we are now an official military regime.

Veneconomia editorial today reports the results of a seminary where one of the speakers was general Uson, famed political prisoner, now released under the condition that he never discusses his case and abstain of any press declaration. But in this symposium he did talk and explained to us that form now on, no matter who becomes president after Chavez, Chavez will still remain for all practical purposes the army chief. Of course, if the opposition were to elect a president soon Chavez would be stripped of any army role he might want to keep. But if Chavez cannot run for office and must settle for a Putin like arrangement, well, he could indeed retain full control of the army.

True, from the hypothesis to the reality there is quite a distance, but at the very least we an see that these decree laws were much more calculated and carefully worded than what some naive writers thought at first.

To simplify your life, the editorial in full below (link on the right side on the "daily reads" section).

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In any other country where independence of the branches of government exists, there is respect for the constitution, and the rule of law prevails, the highest court of the land would have already annulled any laws such as the 26 enacted in Venezuela via special presidential powers. But, as everyone knows, Venezuela with Chávez at the helm does not enjoy those bounties.

It is common knowledge that Hugo Chávez used the package of laws enacted under his special powers to get around the people’s rejection of his proposed communist constitution on December 2, 2007.

A first reading of the 26 decree laws so enacted reveals that Chávez has, to all intents and purposes, eliminated private property, truncated an endless number of civil freedoms and rights, wiped out decentralization, and created his own private army by giving legal status to the militia as the fifth component of the now “Bolivarian” National Armed Force, to name just a few of the many unconstitutional changes he has introduced.

However, if one does a more detailed analysis, as General Francisco Usón did at a VenEconomy seminar, it also becomes clear that, if these laws are not abolished by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, Chávez will rise up as the country’s lifelong master. And don’t think that this is an exaggeration.

Article 6 of the new Organic Law of the Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB after its initials in Spanish) is a new stratagem that grants the President of the Republic the military rank of “Commander-in-Chief,” with five stars included, and makes him the de facto “maximum hierarchical authority” not only of the FANB but of the entire country as well.

This article confers on him the authority to direct “the general development of operations, define and activate the area of conflict, theaters of operations, and strategic overall defense regions.”

What is more, Article 64 announces that “the character acquired with a rank or hierarchy is permanent” and that said rank or hierarchy “will only be lost by a firm sentence that carries with it the additional punishment of downgrading or expulsion from the FANB handed down by a court marshal.”

In case that is not clear enough, it means that Hugo Chávez will be able to continue as Commander-in-Chief for as long as he lives. And what is even worse, not even the election of a new president will relieve him of his powers, because, as anyone familiar with military lore knows, the first person to assume a rank will always have supremacy over those who come after him. In other words, the new president will be subordinate to Hugo Chávez in military matters.

In addition, Article 23 of this law grants the Commander-in-Chief the power to establish “strategic overall defense regions,” which will have their own Chief and Joint General Staff, both answerable to the Commander-in-Chief, and broad functions in matters of strategy, planning, and management and control of the nation’s defense.
To top it all, the civil authorities are now subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief when it comes to control over means and resources and their use in states of emergency or whenever such control is deemed necessary “in the interests of the defense of the nation.”

In a nutshell: with this decree-law, ushered in under his special powers, Hugo Chávez has made his dream of becoming lifelong president come true.

-The end-

With such an education level, Venezuela is read for...

Here you can take a look at what Venezuelans watched on state television this week (courtesy of Emilia). The channel is Tves, a channel that replaced RCTV station when Chavez decided not to renew RCTV's license. The event described is one of Phelps' competitions.

The journalist says nobody had managed to get as many as 8 medals before...only "Michael Phelps in the Olympics of Munich of 1972 in Hitler's Germany, when Hitler did not want to give him the medals".

He probably thought of Jesse Owens in the Olympics of 1936, a US American who got 4 medals . The TVves journalist "merged him" with Mark Spitz, who got 7 medals in the Olympics of 1972.

I have watched sports commentators from several countries, including Germany and the US saying the most stupid things, but I think this is a little bit over the top. It shows no real knowledge of history of the XX century, no sense of perspective. It also goes in the same wave with Hugo Chávez's statements on Angela Merkel, whom he has related to Nazis. Even if there were Nazis who later went to the CDU after the war Angela Merkel has nothing to do with them, certainly she is less connected to those people than Chávez with people who supported Stalin or the Mufti of Jerusalem.

Hugo Chávez said in one of his Sunday marathon shows mankind was about 20 centuries old. He then asked "Francois", probably one of those European communists "living (off) the new Socialist experience", if it was more. "Yes, more, more". Chávez asked: Like 25 centuries? And the €-socialist assented: "Yes". "Thanks, brother". What else could the European visitor do? Contradict el Comandante? No way, José.

Now, Chávez has said a thousand times to foreign journalists he came from a very poor family and he had to walk without shoes many times. Well, his parents were, like mine, teachers. Even if teachers back then did not earn much, they did earn something. I had shoes and more and my family was living in a more expensive state than Barinas. Chávez's parents were earning the same but in the countryside. Chávez went to a free school, like I did. Chávez had to study, like me, at least Universal History, History of Venezuela, Arts 1 (with History of Arts), Geography 1 (with quite some geology) as well as at least 3 years of biology, where he got quite some about evolution (I did 5 years, but in Venezuela some people do more science and others more humanities). Chávez also started some studies of political science at the Universidad Simón Bolívar, although he stopped one year before he made his bloody coup. It is not like Chávez had no resources, no choice, as if he were "the poor child" who came from nothing. He was rather an average Venezuelan with a very particular attitude to knowledge.

What kind of attitude do Chavistas have to have nowadays? Actually, there were people who supported Chávez at the beginning and were well prepared. One of them was Jorge Olavarría, a historian who, surprising for me, supported Chávez. He was one of Chávez ministers at the very start, in 1998, but he realised in 1999 (too late for me) what kind of error he had done and he gave a famous speech in the Congress. Like him, other gullible idealists have already left the wagon. Now it is all in for the ones who want to profit from oil boom.

Chávez lost the referendum of 2007, but he has said repeatedly he wants to propose again a reform in order to be further reelected. Several bloggers like Quico and Juan and Miguel have being reporting on all the moves by Chavismo to consolidate in power. Most people with a real desire to learn and improve humanly are stepping off the Chavismo track. What kind of people will we have in a couple of years ruling the country? Informing on TV?

Chavez deus ex machina

With the flurry of recent events one is in need of reviewing which Chavez’s real intentions are. Well, readers of this blog have known long ago what this is all about, to install Hugo I. But maybe it is time to evaluate the last couple of months, a check point of sorts, to see where we are going. First, we need a summary of what must be comprehended if you want to make sense of current events.

Principles of chavista grammar

I know, I know, this is going to be repetitive for many of you but I think on occasion it is worth listing again what are the moving forces behind what we see unfolding.

Chavez wants to remain in office for ever. This is clear, and it is the main driving force of all that happens, from the people that think they will benefit from Chavez hold on office from the mistakes of many in the opposition who amazingly seem not to have quite gotten that, not forgetting those who have already accepted that as a fact of life and pretend that all is fine as they dodge bullets daily, you know, like a Panglossian silence.

Chavismo cannot leave office peacefully. After ten years of larceny and corruption and outright looting, too many within chavismo know that without Chavez in power they will not be able to enjoy the loot they have accumulated. At least not inside Venezuela. Since many of them are resentidos sociales they do want to enjoy their new wealth inside Venezuela, not in Miami. Otherwise many of them would have already left, having by now ensured their financial future. No, most chavista want to be rich IN Venezuela to rub it off the faces of the many folks they hate.

The people that rule are thugs. I do not mean this in a pejorative sense, believe it or not. No, I mean this in a psychological sense. Chavez and his entourage are ruling Venezuela exactly as if this one were the gang in charge of some bad neighborhood. They also feel their turf under constant threat from other street gangs. What this means is that they are unable to see people that disagree with them as just that, a disagreement that needs to be discussed in public so that people can decide which is the way they want to do things. They are unable to see anyone that disagrees with them as anything else but a personal threat. In a way, so far, this has been our salvation from totalitarianism: these people are not ideological enough to have such a driving goal, what they want is control and loot. As long as you are not perceived as threatening them, or do not provoke their envy, you are fine. Por ahora.

Chavistas are competently incompetent. Forgive the purposeful oxymoron. The general lack of education or experience in things of the world for most if not all chavista officials are for all to see. After 10 years they are still learning on the job. Unfortunately learning is difficult for them because, well, they do not have the proper education tools, the ones that taught you how to learn and how to evaluate ideas. However they do have the cunning, and they have raised cunning to value status, erasing most other values such as honesty, hard work, openness and transparency. The mystery here is how come a government was able to survive mostly on cunning: no real creativity, no follow up, no nothing, only cunning and day to day improvisation, with the only long term goal being retaining Chavez on top. Look for example at the misiones, the only semi creative thing chavismo ever did. These days Chavez is satisfying himself with renaming them. Chavismo has survived because the political opposition goes from mistake to mistake and because of generous oil prices. Chavistas have proven themselves exceedingly competent on their cunning maneuvers, in order to bend and twist all that stands in their way. For the rest? Forget it!

Chavez’s problem

As far as he is concerned, Chavez has a single problem in life: he lost the 2007 referendum and according to the constitution he must go February 2013. Any constitutional change to remove that expiration date can only be done through further constitutional violation. Of course, that does not bother him a bit, but you know, you still need to make that change believable enough to force people to accept it. Thus all his measures aim at:
Psychological war to make folks believe he will not go, that he is indispensable.

Controlling everything in society in such a way that if he violates the constitution there will be no way for a political challenge to rise and block his takeover. This has a side benefit: if he manages to control society but for any reason he fails to retain power in 2013 he would at least be able to put someone in place to rule by proxy, à la Putin.
Application of the chavista grammar rules

Now that we have reviewed how chavismo is motivated and how it perceives its challenges let’s look at some examples on how he tries to solve intractable problems, the chavista deus ex machina.

Inhabilitaciones. Barring popular leaders form running for office is the latest trend. And yet chavismo is not creative there as it is a method already in wide use among some of Chavez friends. But in this case the peculiar competence of chavismo is clearly in example: they do not even need to jail or put their opponents on trial. A simple administrative decision by what is nothing more than a bureaucrat is enough to stop the run of, say, Leopoldo Lopez for Caracas Mayor. Now, his 20 to 30 points lead is of no use for the opposition as Leopoldo is more worried about benefiting of his victim status rather than solve the candidature problem he left in his wake. We could even say that chavismo made Leopoldo act more like a self serving thug than a responsible long term politician, validating their outlook on life.

Nationalization of the cement industry (and others to come along that line). No sane government has any need to nationalize the cement industry of the country. There are many ways to control prices, and supply, and priorities. For example the government could decree that for its own needs it gets in priority so many tons of concrete a year. Thus the private producers will need on their own to increase their production to satisfy their own customers which can only be served after the state has been served. And they can charge them more if needed as the government can negotiate a “special” price. So, why take over cement industry?

Well, here we have at play the incompetence in chavismo in building housing and major public works. The need to blame another is in part solved by pretending that the government is nationalizing the cement industry because we are led to think Cemex, Lafarge and Holcim where not following this well established capitalist principle of selling the rope to the guy about to hang you.

But we also have the fear of losing power. See, in 4 years Chavez will have to support a successor election, in case he has not found a way to change the constitution and run again himself. As such the nationalization of the cement industry is an admission that the coming local November election will mark a defeat for chavismo, and give 4 years exposure to an eventual successor at some state house. The new crop of local authorities will have four years to prove their worth, for example building the housing that the central government is unable to do (see, by the way, the case of Acosta Carles who is the only chavista governor with a significant public housing track record and who is now able to challenge chavismo in Carabobo!). The solution is thus simple: from now on chavismo will control who will get what cement and at what price. I bet you anything that the new governors will get near nothing, and at high price. You want bridges, houses, hospitals and schools? Vote Chavez! The ultimate blackmail.

This scenario is applied to the nationalization of the steel industry, on the nationalization of the main refrigeration complex in Venezuela, on other food concern nationalization to come who will send their production to PDVAL and MERCAL in priority, and thus to chavista mayors and governors and officials. You are hungry? You want a Mercal near you with full shelves? Vote Chavez! The ultimate populism!

Last minute enabling law decrees. No, the government was not that incompetent to issue on the last day of its 18 months period the 26 decrees it emitted a couple of weeks ago. No, the government was not deliberately violating constitutional principles as a provocation: the constitution has lost its virginity as early as late December 1999 and for thugs repeated rape does not count. No, the real reason for the late publication is that the government needed to tailor them as useful as possible considering polls. It was good to also void any discussion that could have forced a withdrawal of some of the decrees, an event that could have taken place easily if there was a public uproar before the enabling law expired. Now, only painfully long process can change these laws and thus chavismo can apply them for a while at least, long enough to give a few blows.

The enabling law decrees. It is very simple: passing many of the social and economic controls that Chavez wished for in December 2007. He did not get them, people rejected them, so he did the thug way: I am the strong guy here, my way of the highway. That is how Chavez solves the problem he got on December 2: a distinct possibility of weakening about to become much worse November 23. Now, the result of the elections in November 2008 will not mean that much as chavismo will retain the main power tools in all states and cities no matter who is elected there, opposition or chavista as many of them seem to desert Chavez after 4 years.

These laws carry a whole lot of goodies for chavismo, the kind of goodies that populist of the past had wet dreams about. Just to give an example: now Chavez can expropriate whomever he wants. It is not in the constitution but it is in the law. Chavistas come, take your business away with the lamest of excuses BUT you will be paid something, someday. Promised!

Chavez now can decide to lower your prices because “the people” need your goods. He can lower that well below costs if needed if he can prove you were hoarding. Since it is chavistas bureaucrats who decide, not even judges, who is hoarding, well, you are screwed. And if you stop production because you cannot afford it, then you are expropriated.

If by any chance you considered starting a protest or something then you will have the militia getting in your place of work, because see, now Chavez is again a military by law and as such he has the right to go above any general or any officer to force any militia or troop to enter and loot your store, or protect chavista looters. Until then he could only declare wars or guarantee public order. Now he can loot. Be happy that you are not sent to jail because you could end there easily, for more years than if you had killed your spouse.

And I let you imagine what will happen to your business if you are caught financing some opposition politician. May the good Lord take you in his mercy!

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I can keep going on with more examples from the decrees, or how some of these things are used as decoys to distract people from taking about the very real problems of the country such as the murder rate and the murderous inflation rate. But I trust that the reader got the point.

-The end-

Based on a true story*

*Names and details have been changed.
About the pic: The same tank when it didn't belong to the government (picture on top, the slogan means: "Together we build a better future") and now that it does (the new slogan means, "Fatherland, socialism or death" with the red logo of the state oil company PDVSA)
Meet Carlos, he’s an average guy who lives in a middle class area in Caracas. Yesterday, he was at his sister’s wedding in a big and a fancy salon of Caracas. Everything was perfect: the bride looked beautiful and the place was filled with exotic flowers. Shrank, expensive cheese and tequeños were served while the orchestra played more merengue than what Carlos’ feet could take. There was a significant scarce of bright red dresses; the women who dared to wear it were forced to make the polite comment, more than once, that “Chavez can't take the red away from us”; just to prove to their friends that they are not Chavez supporters. Carlos’ wife, Andrea, refused to be one of that list, and showed up with her yellow dress instead. For what is worth, it seems like dark red and red wine has become the new red.

Next Monday he steps into his office of a multinational company and hears a rumor in the hallways that it will be soon confirmed by his boss: the company is no longer private, the government owns it now. The –now – old owners don’t even have a gimp of nostalgia since the government offered them more money for buying the company than what they could ever dream of. An besides, they were already tired of dealing with the risky business of having a private company managing high profit inside a so- called socialist revolution. They are relieved about the idea of starting somewhere else.

For the ones “down here”, the employees – Carlos included - there’s a whole different story. Probably their salaries and the rest of the job benefits won’t change and they might become even higher now. But new bosses are filling the desks and with new bosses, comes news ideas. In this case those ideas are bright red, the same red Andrea refused to wear at her sister in law wedding.

Carlos soon notice that the first thing that change in the company is the Human Resources department. Those people have a new assignment: to deliver the “planillas bolivarianas” (“Bolivarian forms”) to all the employees. Carlos supposes that there are different kinds of Bolivarian forms: some might include an “invitation” to a congress of a rally for supporting the Revolution, some others might offer an upcoming course on socialist values that the company employees must have.

At the same time, the publicity and graphic design department have some new assignments. The logo of the company must be changed, perhaps only slightly changed: everything that was blue or green in the old logo must switch to red with perhaps some shades of orange and a small Venezuelan flag at the bottom. New slogans are ought to be make: the old slogan that claimed that the company had offices all over the world must turn into something more patriotic that claims that this company “now” belongs to all Venezuelans. If the words “socialist” and “people” are part of the slogan, even better.

Carlos takes a deep breathe and starts surfing the net. He knows that even if the new owners offers him a higher salary, his soul won’t stand to see a Bolivarian form on his desk. While he explores the job options that are shown page after page, Carlos takes a look back at the past.

When Carlos marry Andrea, about five years ago, they talked about the possibility of leaving the country just like many of their friends were already doing; but they both had good jobs even if their salaries weren’t enough to buy an apartment or even dream of it. Back then, Andrea’s parents helped them to buy the apartment and soon they realized that they would rather live here with the political situation but with their families and still many friends around than in some other place, with no political troubles but alone. Soon they had a couple of kids and almost forgot those initial “leaving” thoughts.

But now, Carlos knows that his wife will be relieved and thankful if the possibility of leaving shows up at their doors again. You see, Andrea works at a small publicity firm that mainly does TV commercials. It is not exactly a risky job inside a Revolution but it becomes such when they realize that one of the main clients is Globovision, the only radical opposition channel that remains with an open TV signal and that is always threatened by the government. Their clients have dramatically reduced in the past few months and she always wonders for how long her lovely firm is going to resist.

Plus, Andrea is hearing those rumors all the time about socialist education and more control of the government on the kids. She has tried to stay calm, knowing that must of the rumors are nothing more than paranoia. But many of the things she once considered as just a rumor are now true and seeing the future of their children threatened in such a way is a risk that she doesn’t feel like taking.

That night, Carlos has a lot of stories for Andrea and questions about passports, dollars and visa. He knows he’s after all, a lucky guy. In a just a few days he has got a couple of interesting job offers. Seems like the companies abroad are willing to take advantage of his outstanding work experience and his advance studies at some of the best universities of the world. Not his current company – he regrets – they seem to give higher priority to other things, such as wearing a red t-shirt. He now gets why Andrea refused to wear the red dress that looks so good on her and went to the wedding with that yellow dress that isn’t exactly her favorite.

A few months later, Andrea’s parents host a barbeque at their house to say good bye. It’s a huge family and friends meeting. Andrea’s mother plays with her one and three year old grandchildren wondering if, when she gets the opportunity of see them again, they are going to recognize her at all. She’s sad, but deep inside knows this is the best that it can happen to them.

Neither Carlos or Andrea where theoretically forced to leave, they didn’t lose their jobs or were politically threatened on any way. But Venezuela isn’t the place to be theoretically speaking now. For the ones who follow the appearances, nothing is happening but for the rest, many Carlos and Andreas are leaving the country they never wanted to leave and losing a part of themselves in the process. What Venezuela doesn’t seem to realize, is that the country is also losing a part of itself in the process.

Phelps gets his 8th gold

So I had to interrupt briefly my Olympics boycott to watch Phelps get his 8th gold, in what is perhaps my favorite event, the 400 medley (I did race it a couple of times in my years as a Masters swimmer in the US, I think I have somewhere a ribbon for a fifth place finish in some local event, I did the breaststroke).

I was initially upset because I had to watch it on Tves, the Chavez failed upstart and the only open signal allowed the dollars of CADIVI to pay for the retransmission. I was hoping that Meridiano would transmit it but they were on some stupid car racing show, so I had to hope that Tves would play the race. They did. I mean, even they could not pass on that. But when the medal ceremony arrived they switched quickly to some other dumb activity. Fortunately by then Meridiano (our local ESPN like network, mostly on cable) had connected so I could watch the ceremony. Tves would not be caught dead playing the US anthem and show US boys get emotional. Unbelievable, the possible greatest moment of these Olympics and Tves could just not go all the way with it!!!

But you know what was even more offensive? The extraordinarily poor quality of the Tves anchors! The amount of mistakes they made during the few minutes I watched was just astounding. I mean, sometimes I even wondered whether they were watching the same signal I was, or even if they knew how to swim. Their knowledge in geography and world sports was dismal. You should have heard them at the 1500 m award ceremony when the Tunisian athlete won the gold. And for bad luck the Tunisian uniform was like the Canadian third place: red all over. As far as Tves is concerned Canada won gold and bronze, until eventually one noted that the three flags were different. Forget about commenting the transcendence that a Tunisian won a medal on an event that usually belongs to the US and Australia..... If Tves has the exclusive, well, it makes my resuming of the boycott much easier.

[UPDATE] The perfect corny tribute to Phelps on Yahoo. Corny but it works. And it is a little bit voyeuristic too, but so are all sports requiring skimpy tight suits of diverse lengths.

And I forgot to add how thrilled I was by the race last night and how much in awe of Phelps I am. But so are we all, are we not?

-The end-

More More

Apparently I am not the only one that is having Thomas More on his mind. I am not sure whether El Nacional columnist Karl Krispin is also watching the Tudor series on TV but today he publishes an article titled "Thomas More and the enabling law" (In Spanish here since El Nacional is by subscription). One thing is certain is that I did not inspire him since by the time I posted my version his was already set to print. It does not matter, what is interesting is that we are many in search of politicians with a little bit of "backboned" principles, a.k.a ethics.

-The end-

Let's not forget: the company they keep

On occasion still some PSF dare to thread these waters. Thus I know they keep reading this blog in the vain hope of finding one day a chink in the armor. So far, so bad.

So, for you all PSF that on occasion glance through these pages, this interview of Armando Valladares by Maria Anastasia O'Grady. You can say all what you want, that she is a paid agent of Bush, that Valladares sold out, that Raul is a nice guy, but the facts are the facts, no matter when in time they happened. As long as you do not at least acknowledge some of these facts, any of your pro Chavez arguments, usually nothing more than a cryptic anti US posturing, will have a woeful lack of credibility. Or, if you prefer, since according to you O'Grady and her subject today are guilty by association, so is Chavez, you must agree.

Deal with it.

-The end-

Do we need more Thomas More?

Since I am not watching the Olympics I got to watch the second season of the very fantasist series the Tudors. Tonight they beheaded Thomas More.

I have had some qualms about the reconstruction of Tudor England: much too clean; a king Henry the VIII well too thin (but sexy) and a Spanish queen whose Spanish is just terrible. Did they have to make her speak Spanish to the fake Spanish ambassador? But still, it is quite dramatic, quite entertaining, quite visual, and best, it is an excuse to revisit an exciting historical period, which I was musing resembles curiously many aspects of our contemporary problems, from justification of light totalitarianism, to free will in an age of political correctness.

And today we beheaded Thomas More. As the movie glosses lightly over the large moral questions that Thomas Moore faced and that led him to the scaffold, one could not help but wonder why was he made a saint. After all, he had no problem sending Lutherans to the pyre, he was not alien to censorship and his most famous work, Utopia, is considered as a commie book by some. No wonder his historical berth made him the patron saint of all politicians, who are certainly in need of role models.

Is thus Thomas More relevant today when he himself was far from blameless? I think he is because of all his qualities constancy and duty to the greater good ranked higher, and led him to the scaffold, a scaffold he could have easily avoided had he wanted to. True, under Henry VIII, a sexually obsessed totalitarian who had no problem destroying the shrine of yet another saint Thomas that run into trouble with a King, maybe More knew he was doomed and he might have decided to get it over with and become a martyr. The Zeitgeist then was about martyrdom and deep public shows of faith. Today Thomas More might accept an easier exit.

As I was watching Thomas More on TV I thought briefly of Leopoldo Lopez. I mean, there is nothing in the imagery of the movie nor in the discourse of the people and even less in the looks of the actors that could possibly remind me of Leopoldo. Why I thought about him is that even though he might be one of the most principled politicians of Venezuela today, he falls way short of the standards of a Thomas More. Never mind the rest of our local pols....

In Venezuela we do have today our own Henry VIII version. He might not be marrying around but he is equally single minded in pursuing his own self interest and pleasures. In an age of mass media we have invented new pleasures and who is to know what good king Henry would have done. After all, with in vitro techniques and antibiotics the succession problem would have been solved with less chopped heads.

Our King Hugo in a way effects the same mood on Venezuela as Henry did on England. You think I am kidding? Venezuela, a country that was deeply attached to the US and its way of life is breaking away in as painful a process, and lasting as long, as the break up of England with Rome. King Hugo suffers as much from his rejection by the US presidents than King Henry suffered from Rome's refusal to oblige him. And the people under them suffer equally form having to take sides. It took two centuries for England to finally settle its religious problems. In this respect it did not do them any good to have Thomas More and watch him beheaded. Henry VIII moved along and the Tudors lasted for over half a century more. Poor Thomas had to wait 4 centuries to become a saint. Justice arrives, but it has no timetable.

Do we have at least the hope of a Thomas More in Venezuela? I am afraid that the days are not favorable to Thomas Mores anywhere, at the Beijing Olympics, in Georgia, flying over Khartoum, negotiating in Harare or visiting Arab country summits. Upright attitudes are actually frown upon today: on TV such people look arrogant, insensitive to "different" cultures and people whose "peculiarities" are too often allowed to rank above basic ethical principles (only the Taliban seem to have missed such defense in the West, not because of what they killed but because of the burkha, a tad too much even for the most P.C. airheads of the world).

In Venezuela in front of our most psychotic president in recent history we have had the bad luck to be totally devoid of a principled great leader, if not political at least moral or cultural. I mean, we do have a whole bunch of luminaries that we should not be ashamed of, such as Padre Ugalde or journalists like Milagros Soccorro who daily stick their necks for us. Even among politicians there are some principled ones such as Teodoro Petkoff. They are all good but I am not sure what it would take for them to walk steadily to the scaffold when the time comes. Not that King Hugo can do a literal scaffold, at least not yet: he contents himself with executions from Alo Presidente.

Should we blame them? Certainly not. After all we saw what we did to the failed leaders of 2002 and 2004. Who talks or cares today about Juan Fernandez, one of the most palatable of the lot? Who is risking his or her career to defend Venezuelan political prisoners? Most are too worried about getting elected mayor of Tucusiapon. True, we should also get elected there, I am all in for that, we need every nook and cranny to build strength against Chavez, but there is something missing somewhere and that is someone who is willing to compromise it all for a political cause that we all know is right, even if many will not agree with it. On this respect the Venezuela people do resemble a lot the English of the XVI century. They all knew in London that it was wrong to behead Thomas More but they all watched and moved on.

Perhaps the most pathetic example today of what I am saying is Leopoldo Lopez. He refused to prepare a Plan B for when he would be barred form running for Caracas mayor. Once he was barred then he decided that he would not support anyone (a me or else moment?). Now he comes up with a second run, an opposition primary to replace him, which we assume that he will manage, and which will also ensure an exit for his protegé in Chacao town hall. I cannot tell you how underwhelmed by Leopoldo Lopez I am now. I cannot think of a faster switch from wanna-be martyr to cheap survivor! One week!

Curiously in the same week we got a new candidate for the Thomas More award. Oh, he is certainly not close to win it but at least he is the one politician that is taking steps towards a productive martyrdom: Ismael Garcia. Yes, that is right. He might have accompanied King Hugo to depths that are unjustifiable, but so did Thomas with Henry for a while. And just like Thomas, when all fell to the King's feet something made him pull back. Ismael showed that in the deepest of him there was still something worth fighting for. Now, alone and still shunned by most folks he does his work, not recoiling in front of anything, going as far as marching in the streets next to Leopoldo Lopez just before this one blew his chance. And guess what? Ismael did not sign up to become Caracas mayor even though many thought he should do it. Maybe that "omission" is part of the strategy, but it was also a dignified gamble.

-The end-

Georgia in our minds and yet more hypocrisy of Chavez

There is this, where the real motives of Russia and planned "opportunity" against Georgia are becoming more apparent.

And there is this, with all the double standards of pseudo lefties like Chavez. Simon Boccanegra concludes rightly, that such people have no authority. Moral or otherwise.

-The end-

We have reached unity: More voters than candidates!

Venezuela's local elections will take place on 27 November and we have finally come to the point when we know the definite list of candidates.

We were already surprised by the amount of people who wanted to become mayors and governors. We were annoyed by the lack of unity within the opposition and pleased by the same thing happening within Chavismo.

There were 11513 initial postulations for 355 mayors (who are the ones on top of municipalities) and 930 for 23+1 governors (actually we have 23 states plus 1 Capital District). So each municipality had on average 32.43 possible candidates and each state had an average of 38.75 candidates.

Let's visualize this (we round it up or down, the figures used are based on randomly selected open source pictures, any similarity to real life or people is purely coincidental):


Each state has on average this amount of candidates for the post of governor:

The military Hugo Chávez had declared a couple of months ago he expected the amount of electors to be over 3 million more than in 2007 but it seems this became too much even for the so government-friendly National Electoral Council of Venezuela: there are "only" 16699576 voters. There is a big variance.

After the initial cleaning up, only a fraction of the postulates were accepted. Carabobo has now 9 accepted candidates (from 20 initial applications).

This time Venezuelans abroad (about 50000 registered voters, many more could have registered) won't count as they do not vote for regional elections. Their votes and the vote of 10% of all the voters were not even counted for December's referendum, even if the National Electoral Council had to provide the total counting two weeks after the voting day.

How is natural selection going to turn out here? Stay tuned.