You know what to do


More info next

Web page

Rallies to be held in Caracas, Valencia, Maracaibo, all over Colombia of course but also in all South American capitals or main cities, in Miami, Atlanta, DC and Chicago plus Madrid and Barcelona, etc.....

The page is way too clever for its own good. On Firefox:
  • open the link.
  • a screen appears with some stuff: go to the top right and click on the "close" button
  • then the new screen should show you an EXCEL like spread sheet with the locations. Navigate through them with the blue/white arrows on the right side.

Hope this helps!

-The end-

Luisa Ortega, the "Gleichschaltung" agent?

Totalitarian regimes follow similar patterns. They differ considerably among themselves because they have that unique ability to adapt to the conditions of their time so as to be acceptable at first by their subjects and by their neighbors. But all have the same objective, to establish the domination of a small elite, a domination that in theory is irreversible. And that is why eventually they all follow a similar pattern, spread on different time scale, different cultural objectives, different successes in imposing their vision, but all show similar mechanisms, and all are very "legal".

For all its tropical messiness and its delusion that oil money could buy the happy consent of the people for Chavez eternal rule, chavismo is little different at heart than past totalitarian regimes. Since late last year we have become quite aware of the parallelism that can be established with nothing less than Nazi Germany, even if chavismo "inspiration" might come form the CastroCuban horror. I suppose that extremes have a way to meet.

We had a few choice pieces, from the disrespect of the November regional election result creating the first Gauleiter position in the regime, to all sorts of laws and decrees and constitutional violations. Political opponents have been disposed off in increasing numbers, either through exile or speedy jailing without trial. Private property is now a myth. Freedom of expression and of information are being acted upon at a speedy rate. New electoral and education laws have been passed to make sure that indoctrination helps new elections become safe bets for the regime.

But something was missing, a general sense of purpose as all of these measures tended to appear more like nervous responses to the moment rather than a well coordinated strategy. True, we never doubted that there was a final objective, clearly illustrated in the February 15 referendum of this year which officially allowed Chavez to become president for life. What I mean here is that until recently it all seemed to be rather a two step forward and one back, or one on the side even. A little bit as if the government still believed that neo-totalitarianism could be willingly accepted. Now this is all over.

Luisa Ortega Diaz, the general prosecutor of the republic seems to be the one in charge of putting it all together, or at the very least making sure that the government will have from now on a free rein to do all the necessary misdeeds to retain power.

Luisa Ortega started one month ago by offering a law against "media crimes" which simply would have allowed easy prosecution of any journalists, media owner and by extension even a blogger like yours truly. The uproar was so much, the surprise to many chavistas too hard to take that the Nazional Assembly even pretended for a while that no proposal of such a law had been received even though we all saw it on TV. So, right now the law is not being discussed but it is there, ready to be discussed when the time is right.

One would have thought that after such a fiasco Luisa Morales would have at the very least offered her resignation since she was acting under Chavez orders. But no. We learned this week why, because she is in all likelihood the one organizing our own tropical Gleichschaltung, the German term that describes how the Nazi set up quickly their totalitarian state as of 1933. This week she announced that public protest could be well criminalized using the current legal code because it could be easily assimilated to rebellion and thus protesters could be subjected to a decade or more in jail. Her words had an impact outside, reported in English by AP and AFP or worse by El Pais in a piece that cannot hide its consternation. And other such as BBC mundo who givse the subject a major report.

The impact at home I need not to illustrate it, you can guess, as it is aggravated by Luisa Ortega persisting in her mission, as she adds that those who oppose the new education law can also be considered criminals. In fact with today decision to jail at Yare Richard Blanco we can say that Kangaroo courts have been activated; our own version of Volksgerichtshof cannot be far behind as we know that for sure many "judges" inside chavismo will have no problem becoming our very own Roland Freisler to preside these "tribunales del pueblo" or some other appropriate name.

Right now we must be impressed that the rare chavista arrested for public violence have already either been released or rest in safe jails where their lot is relatively comfortable. Opposition folks are jailed in the worst jails of the regime. And the way things are going soon Luisa Ortega will have to organize concentration baseball stadiums to hold all the people that are protesting because they are not paid, because the hospitals do not work, because crime is unbearable, because, because, because...

That such measures reflect the nervousness of a regime feeling its popular demise is not a consolation, tremendous hurt will be done along the way. We must not forget that Luisa Ortega Diaz has tremendous power already to do evil: she has the monopoly of prosecution, she has basically the monopoly of deciding what is the evidence suitable for prosecution, she can influence what courts will oversee what cases, and of course what prosecutors to use for political cases. In addition it is very difficult to bring her to account for her acts, and even less with the Nazional Assembly we have today and the corrupt and sold out High Courts of the country who are supposed to be the ones balancing the power of the prosecutors offices. Her power is so big already and the control over her so inexistent that she does not need to make new laws to establish political courts, just laws to "create" the crimes she needs to prosecute to silence opinion.

The fact of the matter is that people like Luisa Ortega are showing how they have transformed themselves from leftist activists into true fascist, like it happened to so many Germans who joined the Nazi party, such as Freisler, the head of all these political courts in charge of disposing of dissent fast. As such I have decided to create this special medal to be awarded as sparingly as possible to chavista officials that have completed their transit from the left to fascism. It is a suitably red swastika, to reflect the color of chavismo.

The medal of dishonor of chavifascismo.
To its first recipient, Luisa Ortega Diaz,
who even has an aryan bleached blond disposition.

Note: the set of pictures of Luisa Ortega I present show her TWICE at the political program of the state TV, "Dando y Dando". It is simply inconceivable that the head of the prosecuting office attends so often such shows when as far as I can tell she has never attended Globovision, and probably not even Televen, the only network where she could be mildly questioned as all the other ones, including Venevision, are pro Chavez. Not that she should attend them either: if she had conscience of her immense responsibility she would receive only at her office, and all political persuasions.

-The end-

UNASUR at Bariloche: the score card

No big winner, but some clear losers. [UPDATED]

The biggest loser is the ALBA group of groupies. As a political organization they failed in Honduras and now they failed to sway UNASUR. Considering that with the next two years coming elections the balance within UNASUR can turn out to be openly unfavorable we can say that the ALBA is in serious need to rethink itself. The worse part for them: that Chavez was quieter than in previous days while Correa and Evo were unleashed on Colombia. We know who is the boss at ALBA, in case any one had doubts.

The second loser, Lula. His outburst during the meeting as to interventions being too long and that he had more important things to attend is not a sign of strength as some seem to interpret: it is a sign of defeat. If UNASUR has come to be a bitter recrimination meeting place it is only the fault of Lula who has been too indulgent for too long with Chavez. Having allowed Chavez for so long to occupy center stage at the expense of Brazil has now become a problem as Brazil is the only country that can control Chavez, at least in such summits. If UNASUR tanks because of Chavez crazed ambitions it will be for Lula to cry over it. UPDATE: two articles from Spain detail how much of a hard time Lula had in avoiding the Bariloche event to turn into a disaster. Accordingly Chavez was planning to announce the final break up with Colombia and it took Lula strong arm twisting to stop him. It was also borderline for Uribe to leave altogether and send UNASUR packing. El Pais and El Mundo.

The ones that did not count. Uruguay's Tabare by principle cannot accept any foreign base anywhere. But by focusing on Colombia rather than Chavez offering Russians bases he lost any credibility and became mere background noise. Paraguay's Lugo, the father of the nation, has annulled himself with the first paternity suit. And Argentina Kirchner could have actually amoutned to something, for example when she went to get Uribe who did not want to appear in the group photo. But her lousy preparation for the summit, and her lack of substance were just too obvious and she annulled herself whatever good she might have done.

The surprise guest. Peru's Alan Garcia, who came out of his voluntary international discretion to ridicule Chavez in the most unassailable way. Managed the feat of supporting Uribe without appearing at all as a groupie.

The surprise winner. Chile's Bachelet. The only one with Uribe that really made sense, that was prepared. The only one to bring forth real concrete and possible ideas. The only one not to lose her temper or look silly at a given time (shares that characteristic with Surinam's president). She got today a good start for her future international career once she leaves La Moneda next year.

The winner by default. Uribe of course. By default because he was not there to win but to avoid defeat; and by avoiding defeat he was already going to look good. But he did better than avoiding defeat, managing to corner, as much as cornering is possible in such arenas, Chavez and Correa (he did not waste time on Evo). Uribe showed command of his dossier, the talent to leave Chavez without arguments or replies (never speechless as Chavez by now has managed the skill of filling silence with sound no matter what). He did not lose his temper and avoided ridicule though at time his insistence on details was not productive. In short, with Bachelet, he was the ony one who seemed to be not only a statesman, but to be intellectually prepared to be a president.

The loser by default. Chavez. This time his oratory skills did not save him. As I wrote yesterday this was a meeting for nerds with their well thought and prepared dossier. Improvisation this time around was not possible, and the level of preparation Chavez would have required to fight back Uribe he cannot get from the nullity that surrounds him, people like Maduro. He is not a total loser because his defeat at Bariloche today was not total, and at any rate would have little effect at home where we have more pressing concerns. But his defeat is much graver than one might suspect because Uribe showed to the world how one defeats Chavez, by confronting him, by holding ground, by not letting him get away with anything. A strategy I am sure will be followed by others in future summits... Still Chavez managed to avoid total defeat by remaining calmer than usual, by not ranting as much as he did these past few weeks. He had the intelligence for once to control himself some.

-The end-

Line of the day: Alan Garcia at UNASUR

Too early to tell what is the result of UNASUR meeting in Bariloche, but we can safely give the prize of best line of the day to Alan Garcia of Peru. Referring to Chavez in a series of sarcasms he launched this one in particular:
"Tu petróleo se lo lleva EEUU"

The US is already taking your oil
In other words, Alan Garcia mocked Chavez in public for his fear of the US when this one is ALREADY taking most of Venezuelan oil in exchange of the dollars that finance Chavez ambitions. The attendance laughed, Chavez did not.

But the sarcasm goes even further: Garcia used the familiar "Tu", implying that Chavez is afraid of the US because he considers oil as his private property. The implication of coruse here is that people know that we are not discussing of a Venezuelan state policy or concern, but of a personal interest of Chavez.

Superb Alan!

-The end-

UNASUR with its first real crisis, and maybe its last

UNASUR started four years ago as a new organization for South American countries. Its aims where to fuse a NATO like system with a EU like commercial union. Unfortunately UNASUR suffered from the start of major problems: it was a Brazilian creation which by itself made it somewhat suspicious; it included countries which had already powerful alliances with extra-continental countries; and it had local caudillos that can conceive of their participation in any organization only as they see it serving their interest and glory. Tomorrow at Bariloche all of these problems are coming home to roost and it could well be the beginning of the end for UNASUR.

The Bariloche resort summit was the idea of Argentina president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to avoid the collapse of the Quito summit a couple of weeks ago . It seems that she only postponed the crisis and that the cool airs of the Austral winter are not going to work.

Since I do not know much about the other problems (Peru and Chile are suddenly threatening to bring their own pet dispute), I will focus on the original reason of the UNASUR special event.

First, Lula cognizant of the end of his reign wants to leave UNASUR as his legacy. Thus the Brazilians have been working very hard at trying to make it a success and prove UNASUR worthwhile. But they made mistakes along the way, such as trying to force the participation of the US of A. Obama declined pointing out that the US belonged to another hemisphere, and thus implying that it was high time South America learned to solve its problems without Uncle Sam being more than a mere observer. Of course the mistake of Lula and his generally sophisticated staff was that they did not realize that no US president would subject himself to a meeting where they would risk to be the center of the controversy among irate natives. One thing is to disagree with Chirac or Merkel, in polite society, another to have a creep like Ortega harangue you. Obama paid his dues in Trinidad a few months ago, he is never going to allow that to happen to him again; and thus Lula put himself egg on his face.

That Obama invitation failure is weakening the umpire role of Brazil this Friday, just at a time where a Chavez weakening at home is pushing the cheap patriotic card and where Uribe strengthening at home wants to make sure he is either allowed to run for reelection or be assured to place at Casa de Nariño the man he wants to continue his work. In front of these two guys Lula arrives meekly, further weakened by all the money Chavez owes Brazil, while Colombia owes nothing.

The official problem is the so called US bases to be deployed in Colombia. So let's look at that before we look at the real issues.

Plan Colombia has been lasting for a few years now, has been a relative success and has created the most operative army in South America. Colombians know that, know that the FARC is now on the defensive, that drug traffic is weakening some and going elsewhere. Colombians know that they still need US help and if Ecuador is foolish enough to get rid of the Manta US joint, then welcome to Colombia where US advisers might be more efficient than in Ecuador. As far as Colombia is concerned the deal is done and the only thing they are willing to discuss is to establish ways for other South American countries to verify that these bases will not be for use in military offensive ways. Por ahora, as Chavez would say.

The problem is of course that South Americans leftist leaders have an allergy to the US military, and a justified one historically. But the US has changed, the interests of Colombia are understood and already after an initial protest Chile and Brazil are watering down their concerns. Which brings us to the real issue: Chavez ambitions.

This is the core of the matter. After a relative initial success of Chavez in presenting the Colombian bases of the US as a "continental threat" (as if Guantanamo was not one already, as if Manta had not existed, as if any US fleet would not be able to trash Caracas whenever it wanted, bases or not) Uribe late response is slowly turning the tables. Uribe is managing that because he is presenting slowly but surely the evidence of Chavez intrusion in Colombian affairs, via FARC support. First Uribe did this discretely, and one on one, but now he seems decided to do it publicly as Colombia demands that all the discussions at Bariloche are transmitted live to the world! A first one if it is voted!

In other words Uribe has decided to call the bluff of Chavez.

Why now?

First, the old argument of the huge trade surplus has ceased to exist. All in Colombia are getting tired to be blackmailed by Caracas, amen of the insults. There has been building around Uribe a sort of Union Sacrée that includes all ex presidents and even sympathies from some sectors of the POLO democratico who is finding itself divided over Chavez role in Colombia. Besides Venezuela is running out of cash so they might as well seek new markets.

Chavez is helping along, announcing that he is studying cutting all links with Colombia, bombastically announcing that he will replace all of his trade with Colombia easily with Argentinian goodies, and other inane statements like that.

And Chavez goes further, offering direct declarations that "chavismo" must penetrate the minds of Colombians. No head of state of any political nature loves to hear another Head of state blissfully talk of sending emissaries to other countries, even if they are not the target.

Uribe arrives well armed at Bariloche. He has an extensive dossier on Chavez support of the FARC (with Chavez refusal to allow independent observers to prove Uribe wrong). He has a tight dossier on his US agreement where some slack can easily be cut to pacify anyone within reason. He has all the evidence of Chavez own weapons purchase as a justification of Colombia arm race. He has the dismal role of Chavez in Honduras. He can point out to all the corruption and intervention of Chavez in electoral campaigns, such as the latest scandal in Uruguay. And the more that Chavez is too stupid to exert the discretion he should exert.

Chavez on the other hand has only a leftist self righteousness, and his ability to scream louder than anyone. But then again there has already been a "porque no te callas?" and we might be about to hear a second one, and way more damaging one. The days were a loud and vulgar voice accompanied by a fat check book was enough to create an international system seem to have passed, the era of well built dossiers seem to be coming back.

So it is up to poor Lula to see how he can salvage the day which for him is probably allowing a Colombian win without Chavez ego suffering too much. As such we can be almost certain that Brazil will start by blocking live feed of the meeting. But I think Lula has been too forgiving of Chavez for too long, it is time for him to pay for his mistakes too.

I suspect that this is what is felt in the air because even stubborn Correa of Ecuador has shown signs of relenting over his Colombia dispute. And Alan Garcia who has had a discrete foreign policy is for once planning to take an active role, offering a cover for Colombia if things were not going to go well for Uribe. Clearly blocks are starting to redraw in South America and coming elections in many countries could dramatically affect the panorama for Chavez.

PS: I have included few links because I have already addressed that issue recently and this post is almost a rewrite of the previous ones (here and here). But there is another reason for the paucity of links: in general the press is absorbed by the US bases in Colombia aspect, failing to detect how fast the ground is changing. As usual anglo press is managed by temporary journalists that are not very sensitive to basic idiosyncrasies of the region, not to mention too many of them with an anti US position that they carefully nurtured since Bush invaded Iraq. We will see tomorrow night who has more egg on their face, whether this blogger or the corresponds of Reuters, AP, AFP, BBC and other (BBC mundo is slightly better, as usual).

-The end-

Honduras versus Venezuela: who is the real democracy?

A few essential details have come to mind that force us to reconsider completely the Honduras coup.

In Honduras the de facto government received the the OAS rights court: the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. It was allowed to work in Tegucigalpa and to talk with whomever it wanted. It collected the data it wanted and soon we will get a report though they already expressed that there had been violations.

In Venezuela in spite of numerous human rights violations, the same tribunal has been forbidden to visit since, I believe, 2005. As such chavismo forbids ANY independent verification in situ.

A commission of the OAS has just finished a visit in Tegucigalpa. It was composed by various foreign ministers. It visited with whomever it wanted. It left a preliminary report and left unarmed and without any disrespect.

In Venezuela the mere visit of electoral observers from the European Union already raises tremendously the tone of the Chavez government. You may forget about an OAS commission.

In Tegucigalpa protests keep happening, even in front of the presidential palace.

In Venezuela no protest is allowed close to downtown and from what I watch on TV repression in Venezuela seems at the very least as strong as in Honduras, and stronger in my humble opinion.

The Surpeme court of Honduras is the one blocking any deal brokered by Oscar Arias. In Venezuela the supreme courts bends over backward to support any of Chavez initiatives.

As far as I know services in Tegucigalpa are still of a quality comparable from what it was before Zelaya was ousted. In Venezuela... well, do not get me started.

I do not know about you, but just based on that one is allowed to wonder which is the most democratic country: subjected coup Honduras or democratically elected Venezuela. For me, right now, after what Chavez has been doing in the last 6 months, there is much better air of democracy in Tegucigalpa than in Caracas.

Not to mention much more dignity in Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama to deal with the crisis than vile abuse from Venezuela, Ecuador and Argentina.

I am afraid that we are going to have to congratulate the Honduras regime to have the balls and gumption of refusing to let Honduras become another creepy chavista state. Chavez is going to manage this feat, to make certain coups a valid option. amazing!

-The end-

Provocation as a state policy

UPDATED. Sometimes after so many posts I have the strange feeling that I have already used a given title. But I am too lazy to check it back. Besides with Chavez it is a never ending recycling of clichés we must respond to.

However this week is particularly rich in provocations which can mean only one thing: Chavez is desperately trying to set the agenda so we do not discuss here or abroad what must be really discussed. A few gems.

Zimbabwe. On the ridiculous side we learn that Venezuela goes out of its way to invite and make sure that Mugabe attends some summit in Venezuela late September. Among other matters discussed with the Venezuelan envoy there was the need (I am not making this up) to strengthen the links between Zimbabwe and Venezuela. It gets better, there is a wish to promote tourism. Yeah right, with the meager USD allocated by the Venezuelan government I am going to be able to afford expensive safaris in Zimbabwe..... I mean, they still do safaris there or is it over? Or was that because Zimbabweans supporting Mugabe cannot go to any resort without being harassed and Chavez wants them to go to Margarita?

Benavides. On the sinister side we have the colonel who directed the repression last Saturday being granted swiftly the "Libertador order" of Venezuela. The first thought that crossed my mind of course was that once Chavez leaves office we will need to create new medals in Venezuela because I for one, would not want to wear the Libertador order. Not that my life is conducing to gain state medals and honors, but if it were so I would need to decline anything coming from Chavez. At least now we know for sure that the fascist harangue Benavides gave last Saturday was not destined to his troops but to Chavez. That Benavides crossed a line that should never be crossed by a military: to support a political side openly, with violence implied. Of course he received his fascist reward from Chavez promptly and we can expect him to become a general anytime soon. The revolution needs its repressive agents, you know... Note: what struck me most in Benavides harangue was his poor speech ability, amen of his grammatical weakness (rompido, as if some lout in the US army officer corps would use 'brokened'). Truly, fascism requires a certain brutishness form its agents.

Colombia. On the graver side Chavez deliberately pursues his policy of breaking up with Colombia. He announced that relations will be broken soon (amazing that he must say that instead of breaking them once and for all). Of course Colombia is not staying quiet about it, accused Chavez of meddling, goes to the OAS and says that at the UNASUR meeting not only the military "bases" of the US in Colombia will be discussed. Meanwhile we learn that border trade already fell 30%. The consequences of this craziness is, well, war. The way things are going it is becoming not a question of whether there will be war but when.

Why so many provocations? Very simple: things are fast becoming unmanageable inside Venezuela. Last Saturday unexpectedly large demonstration of the opposition, in the middle of school vacation period, showed Chavez that what polls were telling him was true: his support has been going downhill for the past three months, and in a qualitative way that bodes ill for an easy recovery, even if oil were to find its way back to 100USD by next year. Thus the need for distraction, at any cost, until the Chavez team find a way out of its quandary. Unfortunately it will not work because they are not addressing the root of the problem: the heliocentric nature of the regime around Chavez, with the classical mistake of trying to control more and more as the ability to control decreases. The last time we had a somewhat related situation in Latin America was when Galtieri of Argentina decided to invade the Falklands.

Update: in his Tal Cual editorial today Teodoro Petkoff ALSO uses the Falkland analogy. So it is not yours truly alone that is suffering of stream of consciousness.

-The end-

Rule of Law in Venezuela

I have written a lot about crime in Venezuela. Here I present a map on perception of the real rule of law based on the World Bank data (as my last post).

Again, colours refer to what percentile group countries fall into.
Here Chile is undisputed in South America with regards to rule of law: even if far from perfect, there is such a thing as rule of law there. It is in the 75-90 percentile. Still, its values are below most Western European countries. Uruguay follows in the next group and it stands alone there. Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Argentina are the next. Here you see already very dysfunctional states, but sometimes judges can piss off governors, even heads of state, justice is done from time to time! Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay come in the next group, the 10-25 percentile. And last and least we have Venezuela, at the bottom of South America. As I calculated in one of my previous posts using basic maths and based on the candid figures of the minister of "Justice", a Venezuelan cop is over 150 times more likely to be a criminal than the average Venezuelan citizen. Russian cops thought no one could teach them anything.

The figures below, again, show the percentile rank, the change from the previous year and the standard error of statistical calculation.

ARGENTINA 32.1 -0.61 0.13
BOLIVIA 12.0 -1.12 0.14
BRAZIL 46.4 -0.30 0.13
CHILE 88.0 +1.25 0.13
COLOMBIA 37.8 -0.50 0.13
ECUADOR 9.1 -1.23 0.14
PARAGUAY 15.3 -1.03 0.15
PERU 25.8 -0.74 0.13
URUGUAY 65.6 +0.50 0.15
VENEZUELA 2.9 -1.59 0.13

Do you see the pattern?

I made this wee map based on the data provided by the World Bank here.

Red, pink, orange, yellow and green show different scales of corruption control in South America. There was no data for the little countries in grey (basically Guyana and Surinam, the third dwarf is French Guyana).

Below you have the table with all the values. The coloured column is the corruption control as percentile rank for the year 2008. The next column represents the variation from the previous year and the last one the standard error.

I connect that with this: yesterday, Chavez rewarded the National guard who gave that disgraceful political speech after his men threw tear gas to the opposition. The message from the Fat Man in the Palace is clear: protect me, "El Pueblo", and I will be good to you.

At the same time Jesse Chacón, minister of Science and Technology, declared Venezuela is the country in Latin America that gives the highest percentage of its budget to science and technology. That is a joke blogger Miguel has written about (the latest post on that is here). Venezuelans can have fancy BlackBerries and wear the trendiest clothes on Earth (at least the better off or those trying to show off as if they were better off), but they are falling behind in real points and they are getting more out of touch by the day. The government shows numbers that have either no backup (literacy) or no real consequence (relative percentage of money without independently measurable results)

You can take the map above as showing the countries with the highest potential for development in South America. They are definitely the ones in green.












Edward Kennedy

The Senator of Massachusetts passed away finally after a long battle with brain cancer. I will miss him, a lot, because he represented for me what a true Liberal meant, when Liberal was not a bad word in the US and when Liberal meant realistic progress, and even the art of compromise. I will take any day a Ted Kennedy over, say, a Nancy Pelosi.

True, he had personal flaws and a checkered past with deep shadows. Perhaps even more than most politicians of his age. However unlike most politicians he had a clear sense of policy, of direction, of objectives which surprisingly perhaps gave him the talent to broker deals with the most unexpected conservatives across the aisle. That is, Kennedy was a statesman in the better sense of the word, a man who considered the interests of his country above his interest and who knew how far it was wise to go in pursuing his political agenda. In other words he was a Liberal by conviction and not because it would get him more votes.

Perhaps the best example was his reelection in 1994 when Congress went Republican, making Clinton a 6 years lame duck. I still lived in the US then and I remember clearly how Democrats run away from any Liberal label. Kennedy did not, wore it proudly on his lapel and carried once again decisively Massachusetts, defeating Mitt Romney who was certainly not a bad candidate since he became governor a few years later. Even though his state is one of the most Liberal of the country the fact of the matter is that this year, in spite of an expected GOP surge even there, Ted kept his own, showing to all defeated democrats that standing for their ideas would not have made matters worse. In fact, running away of long held positions probably helped the Newt's Gop more than anything else...

In a way, living in North Carolina then I understood Kennedy better because his counter part was Jesse Helms, another man who held firm to his tenets even if they were in my view despicable. I have met more than one North Carolinian who voted for Governor Hunt and who had no problem voting for Helms. With Helms like with Kennedy you always knew where you stood. A reason that I always disliked Clinton, by the way, never forgiving him for crass errors such as his wishy-washy approach to gays in the military. I had a very GOP/libertarian friend who told me then that Clinton was a true wimp, that he should have done like Truman with the "Negroes" in the army, that he would have supported Clinton if he had done his job as a commandeer in chief. As a result of Clinton opportunism the issue still simmers in the Army and still wrecks lives.

When I was writing last night about Chomsky I should have thought about Kennedy. He never embraced dictators for convenience and even his Castro approach was more one of real politics: the guy is there, if we are not willing to invade Cuba to remove him from office then we might as well deal with him in a more constructive way. Ted Kennedy would have never betrayed his country the way Chomsky does routinely. And yet Kennedy is a truer Liberal than Chomsky will ever be. When Ted's nephew started flirting with Chavez I was afraid that he would convince his uncle to come along. But he never really did. I was not expecting Ted to go against his nephew, after all family is family and Kennedy was getting older and softer. But the fact of the matter is that I have not seen an endorsement of Chavez the way we saw from other US politicians like Delahunt or Serrano, Liberals because that is where the votes are in their districts.

And so it is that with the death of Ted Kennedy we close the 60ies and 70ies political cycle once and for all. On either side of the aisle there is not a politician that can compare to him, but neither does our era promote this style. Kennedy comes from an era where the 15 minute of fame was neither an issue nor a concern. He was from an era where the media did not rule politics, and to his credit he never let the media run his show when times changed and CNN et al. started setting the agenda. In a paradox of the American political system Kennedy was a guy with personal problems who put his integrity into his politics. Perhaps the US would be better run if more politicians were more concerned about integrity in politics than integrity in private. The legislative success of Kennedy, recognized by friends and foes, is a witness of this.

-The end-

Chomsky in Venezuela: may we have a word with you?

Mr. Chomsky

I am going straight to the point: your timing for visiting Chavez sucks. I know that you have expressed your support often enough but visiting now as he is becoming a bona fide dictator is really not your best move. Then again in the past you have had your share of controversies and we should not be surprised that you decided to show your face in Caracas once Hugo Chavez decided to become a radical, to do things you would never put up with in the US. At any rate it would be a nice change from your Pol Pot linking, remember?

But your sense of timing is even worse than what I imply above: there has been live on TV, two Sundays in a row, a set of lies and manipulations by Chavez himself, from the situation of the country to his self proclaimed love for peace. So, in the spirit of trying to help you I will give you a chance to redeem yourself and prove once and for all that you do understand the media really, and not the media you like only. As a bonus you can also prove that you are a democrat and a humanist.

Two weeks ago there was a scandal in the press regarding poor humble women that were seeking help for delivering their babies. Public hospitals in Venezuela are in such shambles that they were sent from one place to the other as no one was in any shape to receive them. "ruleteo" we call it, as in rolling the ball, though the image of Russian roulette comes to mind in this case.

Well, what did Hugo Chavez do? He made it a a-morality play into his Sunday show two weeks ago. There was a woman, duly clad in red, happening to be passing by and seeking help from Chavez directly, saying that her sister was passed along many hospitals. Chavez, grand seigneur, was shocked, shocked!, about such things still happening, justifying along the way the latest purge in his cabinet, while offering his personal surgeon to help the sister in question. His personal surgeon, nothing less.

I trust that just from these words describing the scene you will be smart enough to smell a rat in the Chavez show, you know, media manipulation and obscene control and brain washing and what not. You wrote the books on how single men influence public opinion through controlled media. Did you not? Are you aware that no one in Venezuela's history has been a media mogul the way Chavez is today?

You can find in this link the article on this subject that Milagros Socorro wrote for El Nacional, a newspaper that supported the Chavez election in 1998, a newspaper with a historical leftist reputation since its foundation, and who now sternly opposes Chavez. Food for thought right there.

The article of Ms. Socorro is in Spanish but a linguist like you should have no trouble finding some one to translate it. Heck, if you call Milagros she will probably ask you out for a cup of coffee and enlighten you some. She might not be a world known "intellectual" like you are but I can assure you that she can hold her own with you, even at an advantage because unlike you she is a true humanist, truly and deeply concerned with all human rights, unlike you who seem to pick and chose among them. At any rate she is much more of an intellectual than the military lout you chose to suck up yesterday, she is one fo the finest intellectuals Venezuela has to offer today even though her trade is journalism and writing.

So there you have it, a chance for you to dig where it matters, to prove that you are what you say you are. Either that or you can keep slipping into further disregard as more and more only a loony fringe worships you. And be aware that all that Chavez touches turns into crap, his own reverse Midas touch. It can get much worse for your reputation. You have been warned.


Daniel Duquenal,
humble blogger of humble truths on naked emperors

-The end-

A Venezuelan to the Israeli government

Some Israelis, specially from the extreme right and conservative religious movements, are saying "how can you prevent us from building settlements in East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, it is our land, to prevent us from doing that while allowing everybody else is racism", "you are anti-Semite".

Not really. There are already people living in those places, tilling that land, it is not empty. They are being vacated from those houses and farms and their families had been living there for many generations, even since prehistorical times. The day Israel allows Palestinians, who have lived in the whole of Palestine continuously, to settle down in Nazareth and Beersheba, in Haifa and West Jerusalem, you can do some talking. Actually many of those Palestinians are former Jews who first converted to Christianity and them to Islam, as genetic analysis and history have shown. The vast majority did not come with the Islam expansion but were there. They have been there all along. Both groups have equal rights to live in the whole region in peace. The Israel government should abide by international laws. It is neither on a lower nor on a higher moral standard than anyone else. This is not Joshua II. Arab terrorists should stop attacking Israel and the Israel state should stop preventing Palestinians from settling in Israel or, if they don't want free settlement of Arabs in Tel Aviv or Beersheva, give up its settlements in West Jordan. Palestinians are as much descendants of the inhabitants of all that region (i.e. from Haifa to the West Jordan) as the Jews.

Some reading:
Attacks against Palestinians (2008 but still similar things are happening now)
Prime Minister Brown and settlements (this year)
Powel asking to stop settlements (in 2001 already)
You like reading the book of Joshua? So do I, but read this book.
And last but not least, Israeli settlements on Wikipedia, with different viewpoints.

Ps. The map above shows the settlements in 2006. Right now many more are there and the Palestinians have less and less land. I stand with Israel and Palestine.

Venezuela's Evils

We know about Hugo's countless speeches every week, where ministers and everybody looking for favours are forced to listen to his ranting and applaud for hours.

We have seen how the custom of long speeches among his mini-Mes in Venezuela and abroad is expanding.

In Venezuela those mini-Mes are mostly the new regional caudillos and other would-like-to-be caudillos like the infamous police officer who gave the speech you can watch on the link or the bosses of bureacrats as told in Caracas Chronicles.

You wonder: how can people endure all this?

Basically, it goes all over again to a couple of issues:

1) Venezuela is a petrostate, it has been importing almost everything and exporting almost only oil for decades now and the government has control of that oil

2) A large proportion of Venezuelans do believe in some form of cargo cult: they think the problem is about wealth distribution, not production, honesty, real education as opposed to degrees.

3) The leaders of the opposition in general - at the universities, in public offices, in parties - , as opposed to the average non-chavista, are mostly representatives of the former upper-class: the education law sucks? They express the worries of parents with children in private schools (who make up 20% of all pupils), of students and professors fearing a worsening of university conditions...all valid arguments, but they forget to talk about equally valid interests relevant for 80% of pupils, they forget to talk about quality, accountability, about new ideas

The economy will keep deteriorating. What will happen?
Don't think things will be over soon unless the opposition changes its strategy. Even if there are less and less petrodollars pouring in, the regime has other tools.


1) More expropriation of lands owned by opponents to the regime (not of the many lands owned by the new Boliburguesía)
2) More expropriation of houses and other buildings owned by regime opponents, rich and not so rich (not by the rich Boliburgueses)
3) The re-implementation of the already announced taxes on bank transactions
4) The infiltration of more and more companies with chavista union leaders who will lead workers to believe - for a time - they are taking over production means, when in reality they are just making production collapse (Venezuelan workers having no idea about how unproductive they are in comparison to the rest of the world)
5) More deals signed by the regime to pawn Venezuelan resources and future to Chinese, Brazilians or anyone ready to risk lending more money to Venezuela in expectation that oil prices will again raise to 2008 levels (something very probable, either due to Oil Peak, higher demand or about anything)

The last point is particularly worrying for all Venezuelans on a long term basis. Although the government initially was able to reduce foreign debt due to much higher oil prices, the situation is now reverting in a manner that could put us in worse difficulties than our debts in the eighties. Some of the deals the government has been signing are compromising Venezuela's very incomes. Above all: Venezuela's infrastructure is crumbling down.

The government is selling the new education law as a way to improve the chances of poor pupils to go to university. Until now state universities have been free but students coming from private schools have been overrepresented (about 50% when they are less than 20%). This is due to the fact that Venezuela's pre-university studies are too bad and last less than they should.

What nobody is telling, neither the government nor the opposition, is that the key to university success are schools were analytical thought, pluralism, creativity, planning and discipline are taught.

What nobody is telling, neither the government nor the opposition, is that we are running out of time to avoid a societal collapse in a few years due to ever-growing needs and ever-decreasing production and educational capabilities.

But can he keep Mitsubishi open?

Coming back home I was greeted by the news that the Mitsubishi plant in Barcelona had suspended its operations, and that these would not reopen unless thuggery at the work places ceases.

Of course, they said that a little bit less blunt than I presented it, as reported by the WSJ:
Run by MMC Automotriz, a Mitsubishi unit, the plant may still reopen if there is a guarantee for "the safety of its workers and employees in a climate of peace and discipline," Mitsubishi said.
The BBC also reported it, though it was to be expected that the WSJ coverage was more extended. Still, both agree in the importance of the news: 1400 workers out of a job and there is little that can be done unless anarchy stops. I doubt that it will happen even though Jesse Chacon was fast trying to do some damage control at a time where the dismal business image of Venezuela is not getting any better. We have learned for example that tiny hurricane threatened Dominican Republic is getting about as much private investment in its tiny island than much larger Venezuela floating on a sea of oil. That Mitsubishi thing is for sure not going to help attract further investment.

Part of my business trip last week to Caracas allowed me to hear about labor conflicts all around in the private sector. Just as it seemed to have happened with Mitsubishi, once a negotiation was set and agreed by all parts, things got worst rather than better!

This seems to be the general pattern: chavista activists manage to penetrate established trade unions, or create new guilds supported by the government. Their promise of course is that with chavismo help they will get all sorts of new benefits for the workers. Considering how lavish Chavez is with his Misiones, workers are naturally tempted. Conflict inevitably arises as the state has many ways to intervene in the delicate negotiation. Eventually a deal is reached with significant improvement for the workers. And yet thins go downhill once the ink dries...

The reasons are multiple. For example, if the chavista agitators reach the top of the guild then they start caressing further political ambitions and try to keep their name in view by having their union discussed in the press. Profit is of course of no concern for chavismo who sees it as a cheap synonym for looting. As such, if the owners try to point out the obvious flaws in the "new" management ways they can even be threatened by nationalization, something always good to have yourself noticed among the highly competitive sycophantic battle field of chavismo.

Another reason can be that some of the workers realize that the agenda of the chavista agents is not what they had hoped for: division arises and internal warfare ensues where the business owner is quite often the victim no matter what.

Also the winning Union decides to follow the Chavez model, giving a new meaning to "share the wealth", not realizing that unlike Chavez private business owners do not have an oil well in the backyard to pay for all the business "subventions".

And we certainly cannot rule out that the final aim of chavismo is to eliminate most of the private propriety, leaving standing up only the one that swore fealty to Chavez and the revolution, preferably by letting wealthy chavista bolibourgeois majority owners of the business.

And more but I trust that you get the point. As such prepare yourself to hear about more Mitsubishi style of problems. Toyota was even recently threatened with such a problem and could well be next in line: after all in the sickly mental word of chavismo someone might considering that a Trabant line of cars should be good enough for Venezuela...

But do not leave with the impression that car manufacturers are the only ones with this kind of threats: in the agro industry I am getting tired of hearing about business having harsh labor disputes, driven by the fact that chavista extremists want the government to nationalize all the food producing system, and thus reach the top of the new organizations. You know, the same guys that have convinced Chavez that rice production can be tripled if the state takes care of it. They do not really care if it can be done, they just want to be the ones barking the orders.

-The end-

Yes he can!

And I ain't talking Obama here...

After the slap Chavez received Saturday when the opposition gave a surprisingly large rally considering it is vacation time, after chavismo gave a rather weak rally performance of its own that same Saturday even though all advantage was on their side, after the brutal repressive response from the Nazional Guard whose in charge colonel gave a partisan speech where it was OK for the Venezuelan armed forces to beat up any one not in agreement with Chavez, after yet another overall disastrous Public Relations performance, Chaevz went on the offensive against Colombia to compensate, or at least distract from yet more pathetic failures of the cornered autocrat...

It all started with on horse ride in Apure, at Hato El Frio that he expropriated last year. He wanted to project the image of the conqueror of the Llanos, you know...

Once there he promised that with actions like El Frio expropriation he would treble, increase three times, the rice production of Venezuela. He has Vietnamese advisers for that so we are safe. I sure hope that Vietnamese work ethic will be sublimated into chavistas severely lacking in that ethic, or most other ethics for that matter...

We sure need that amount of rice because we have found out that Caracas is one of the most expensive cities in the world while at the same time one with the lowest income. As we cannot afford anything we will soon have rice. I trust! But no word about the missing beans to go with the rice....

Of course Chavez congratulated the military that repressed heavily the Saturday rally. Of course, after the pro Chavez sycophantic speech, the guy is going to get a medal for sure...

But busy as he was with all those good news for Venezuela that this time around we are sure he will fulfill, Chavez got some time to address the biggest threat ever against Venezuela: Colombia pseudo bases where US soldiers will be able to rape girls unchecked. I kid you not, he said that a week or so ago...

So, how is Chavez going to fight back? An invasion? More Russian tanks of little use in mountains and jungles? No!!! He will start a word campaign inside of Colombia to send a message of peace and to push toward the end of Uribe. Now, this might be bad enough but Chavez himself now considers "mensaje chavista" a real ideology! Here, two excerpts, my emphasis:

"La burguesía colombiana no quiere que mi mensaje llegue. Tienen miedo a que la voz de Chávez sea oída por el pueblo de Colombia." The Colombian Bourgeoisie does not want that my message gets there. They are afraid that the voice of Chavez be heard by the people of Colombia.

"¡Pueblo colombiano, no caigas en la trampa, únete a nosotros para hacer la patria grande de Bolívar, la Gran Colombia!" People of Colombia, do not fall in the trap, get with us to make the large fatherland of Bolivar, the Gran Colombia [I suppose with Chaevz as the beloved leader, no?]
I mean, how bloated can an ego can get? But it gets better, he put in charge of the organization of that "chavista message" Blanca Eckhout, a little nothing bureaucrat that lives in chavista la-la-land. Then gain, it is a requirement to reach the inner sanctum of the prophet...

Needless to say that Colombians, all of them, even the potential chavistas, were not amused. The Colombian government will start by taking directly to the OAS assembly the naked intervention of Chavez in internal affairs. Good, that will change the OAS from the Honduras fiasco, a real foreign intervention, all proofs in hand, to discuss...

Seriously now folks: what is Chavez up to? Can he really get away with that much for that long? Can he? Or is he trying to sabotage the coming UNASUR summit on Colombia? After all, now Uribe can take along the Chavez intervention and force his colleagues to discuss it, a high embarrassment potential for Lula as he tries to cash his debt from Venezuela. Uribe could not hope for a better present, not only for his reelection plans but to fend off the US military bases initiative. Even the Washington Post Editorial of today sounds outdated: if Obama cannot tackle Chavez he must be thankful for that "feet in mouth" syndrome Hugo suffers...

-The end-

People who do not like Chavez are not allowed to go to the city centre

No, at least not to march, not even to deliver a letter to the government, not to do anything official, anything even kitsch, as putting flowers at the Bolivar Square as Venezuelans used to do. The only way some oppo can even get close to the place and not be attacked is if he dresses up as a tourist and goes alone. If they do try to go there or perhaps even if they don't, but are just too close, they get tear-gas and bullets from the police...the same police I said before are 150 times more likely to be criminals than the average Venezuelan.
Blogger Miguel, who was there, reported it all here.

And if the opposition does not like it, they get the most obnoxious speech you
can imagine from someone who is supposed to be a police agent (here if you speak Spanish).

The LOE march in Caracas. And another represion!

Update 2: A picture from reader Pedro Be... No comments needed. I have loaded it full size, click on the picture wonder about the tear gas really used.

UPDATED: The march I mentioned below was repressed again by the most brutal means, now the routine of the glorious bolivarian revolution based on the love of the people. Bullshit! Pure fascism is what is happening in Venezuela more and more!

Globovision cannot be accessed right now. But you can go to El Universal where you can read the following (in Spanish): a chronic of the day titled "marching towards repression", includes a photo gallery; a declaration of Ledezma who states the obvious: the government resorts to repression because it lost the enthusiasm of its followers as the opposition march clearly outnumbered the rather pitiful chavista rally; a fascist speech from the Nazional Guard officer in charge of the repression; how the whole day was followed overseas, and certainly not in a favorable light for the government.

So there is yet another protest march from the opposition in Caracas, and yet another success as chavismo simultaneous march, the one "approved" to reach the Nazional Assembly does not have the same volume of folks, even with all the buses used to ferry in folks. Chavismo has lost Caracas streets for so long now.......

Miguel is attending and sends the following picture, taken with his Iphone, from the Libertador avenue:

If anyone else wants to send their pictures I'll pick up a couple more to add after this one. By the way, Miguel will have more pictures but tonight, at his blog, after he comes back.

-The end-


That is the quarterly number announced this week that tells you Venezuela is finally accepting a recession it cannot hide anymore.

But I did not need to know that number, I already knew we were in a recession, since late last year, within a few weeks from when the price of oil started dropping. The government was able to pull enough reserves for a while, to hide enough statistics for a while, until the Central Bank could not hide it anymore. It did not matter what Chavez and his accomplices did, us that work in the reality of trying to produce something in Venezuela knew for a while that things were going downhill and we were trying to prepare for it.

These few days I spent in Caracas brought that hard reality stronger than at any time since Chavez is in office, stronger even than in the 2003 recession where people at least had the hope that a recall election would put an end to the recession. It did not but expensive oil did it, lifting us in a false sense of economic euphoria while the productive apparatus kept losing strength, transforming Venezuela into an import and distribution economy. Now, apparently we are entering a stagflation with really no hope in sight, even if oil were to increase again to say, 90 USD a barrel.

It all started when I arrived in Caracas. I was in a rush because my hair person was leaving for her annual vacation and I wanted to see her for a hair cut. Yes, I cut my hair in Caracas. Men tend to have this thing about being loath to change hair person. When my turn came she told me that she was losing yet another client, that the customer ahead of me was in one of his last visits to her because he finally had gotten an Italian passport, was selling everything and was moving to Italy, a country that he barely knew but where he could go because his grand parents emigrated from Italy. She is losing to emigration at least one customer a month.

On Monday one of my customers told me that the trimester CADIVI license he required to import an essential item to produce food in Venezuela was not coming. He needed that 150,000 USD at 2,15 to produce a particular food item because he could not find that supply in Venezuela. If he fails to get the CADIVI permit and has to go to the parallel market for dollars, that will mean at the very least up to 15% increase in his production costs which he would have to pass on his customers.

But that was not really his main worry: when you stop using CADIVI and go to the parallel market the chances for a SENIAT tax audit increase dramatically as you can now be seen as a speculator. See, the SENIAT only considers the 2,15 USD exchange rate and thus if you buy something at 7 USD and sell it accordingly, they consider that your price increase is directly proportional to an increase of your benefits, and tax you like hell. That your balance sheets show that you actually made LESS, is inconsequential, the SENIAT goes by the 2,15 cost system you showed them the year before. For a business into food production, with limited margins, a SENIAT audit that fines you or asks you back taxes on an earning you never made is enough to push you to bankruptcy.

That customer story was not the only one as my own company is debating whether to go to the parallel market once and for all and forget about CADIVI. As I reached the Caracas office I was told that we cannot access CADIVI because like dozens of other business we do not have the "solvencia laboral", a paper that certifies that you fulfilled all your legal requirements to your employees. We do fulfill all of our contractual obligations, of course, but we are not getting it not because we are at fault: "there is something in the system that we cannot fix, please, contact us next week" and this for already 2 moths!!! If by late August we do not get it, with import delays for our essential raw materials, we will stop production sometime in early October. But going to the parallel market for us is not a good solution: we produce with at least half of our raw material imported and that would mean simply a doubling of our costs and thus of our prices. Would our customers be able to follow? Previewing this situation we have not hired anyone this year and in fact through attrition we have already let go 15% of our work force. We are aiming at 30% by December.

I will not bore you with further tales of business woes coming from red shirts stirring trouble in business or organized land grabs by neighbors who want to get their "share" of the looting at any cost since it is clear that Chavez has stopped delivering in the country side. I will not write about the dismal state of roads in Venezuela which singlehandedly has added about an hour of road to my trips between Caracas and Yaracuy, in addition to the traffic increase which has added another hour. My shipping and delivery costs have doubled in one year. Let's talk instead about the degradation of quality of life in Caracas, not too high to begin with.

For the middle class of Venezuela, already subjected to heavy pressure at work, and an intractable traffic that robs the caraqueño of an average of perhaps three hours a day of life, plus the struggle to fight food scarcity which is back as a low chronic way, we can add insecurity at the mall. With increased traffic and crime in the streets, it has been a long time that the streets of smart or not so smart neighborhoods have been emptied of kids playing in the open. Patinetas and caimaneras are a thing of the past: now parents prefer, if they must, drop their kid at the mall with money for ice cream and a movie and hope for the best.

But what about those parents with small kids. Considering that there is no safe park now where to let them run free for a while, they have chosen to go shopping at the mall, kids in tow. Well, this might also be one thing in the past soon. A neighbor of my brother was surrounded at the mall so as to kidnap her kid INSIDE the mall as a "secuestro express" of sorts: the kid was to be held in hostage while she emptied her checking account and what not. By sheer luck she managed to set free her kid as the crowd simply ignored the scene. When she started telling her story she found out that this novel crime procedure had become a regular occurrence at certain malls such as the Sambil where all sorts of criminals can simply come through the subway and can easily disappear in the huge crowds of the Sambil. The Chacao Sambil had already a reputation that you could get robbed, in particular in the public rest rooms, now you can also get kidnapped!

The sad truth is that raising kids in Caracas is now a major challenge because simply there is no place for them to go safely. Be they middle class robbed or kidnapped at the Mall, bethey lower class kids in the ghettos where every week some bite the dust after receiving a "lost bullet". The modality varies but the anguish is the same for all parents.

On a personal note I could verify how my very own quality of life went down a further notch. I am tall, and with wide feet so I need to wear at least size 13 if I cannot find 12 or 12.5 in extra wide. My exercise walking shoes, all of them, died in the past two months. I had to go this week to more than a dozen sport shoes stores until I found one which had a SINGLE pair of size 13. No choice, no nothing, take it or leave it.

Granted, in the past it was always difficult for me to find shoes, but never like this time where in sheer despair I even considered buying "fashion" exercise shoes at more than 1,000 Bs.!! Fortunately in that store they did not have 13. Even in San Felipe I did find two years ago a pair of rather ugly walking shoes but that was OK. From my inquiry, since CADIVI became a problem they stopped importing and making size 13 and above and sizes 12 come in very short supply.There are stores that simply told me they have stopped receiving size 13. Period.

Now, you could tell me that since I have the privilege to travel I can buy my shoes overseas. But what about those that cannot travel? Must they spend a few days of their life every year just to find one single pair of shoes? And if CADIVI does not allow for imports of size 13 shoes, why do they now allot me some extra "cupo" on my credit card to buy shoes? Because with the 2,500 I am allowed just buying a dress pair and a walking/running pair will be a big dent on any vacation or business trip expenses!!!!

And there was more but I am tired, finally getting back home to San Felipe after a 7 hours drive which included a half an hour full stop in the middle of the A.R.C. around La Victoria, stuck in traffic, under the rain so I could not even get out of the car to stretch. In 1998 I counted an average of 3.5 hours between Caracas and San Felipe with an old car. Now with my two year old car it takes me never less than 4.5 hours, the average being around 5 hours, on week ends! That is also less quality of life, a degradation that I do not see as bringing an improvement to someone else. We are all into this down slide, poor and rich, as the state is simply incapable, unable and probably unwilling to try to bring some order into the Venezuelan anarchy. To try to make things work a little bit more efficiently, as a benefit for ALL OF US. Make no mistake, that supplies are getting harder to reach me or my capitalist customers means that supplies are also getting hard to obtain for lower income folks. We are all in this together, chavistas or not.

That is why this past week has been the most depressing trip to Caracas I experienced since Chavez came to office in 1999: form every angle I could see a country sinking.

-The end-

Venezuelans on a crossroad

The first pie chart on the left shows the proportion of pupils in state (free) schools versus the ones in private schools in Venezuela. The proportion has been rather stable for ages: some 83% of Venezuelan children study in state schools. The current government has not changed that. That was the case when my parents grew up* and that is the case now. The children of the better off - the sons and daughters of the Boliburguesia and of the Ancien Regime - as well as the children of many professionals who just earn a bit more than the average and take extra jobs to make ends meet (like many friends I have), study in private schools orn semi-private schools like the ones run by priests and nuns.

As I wrote in the published post, even based on governmental data we can see the school enrollment without the misiones has actually dropped and even with the misiones it has stagnated and even decreased since 2007.

Now, the second pie shows the results to my little poll here. The question was: "did you (Venezuelan) study in state or private schools in Venezuela or in both?" There were 16 contributors. Even if this is a small figure, I am sure the proportion will hold if we were to extend the poll. 6 persons studied in both public and private schools (usually, it would be primary in a public school and secondary in a private school), 7 studied in private institutions only and 3 studied only in public institutions. What does this mean? The better-off Venezuelans are incredibly over-represented among the English speaking Venezuelans with Internet access. An overrepresentation in itself is not surprising, but the proportions are incredible. The real problem now is something else, though: the opposition is focussing the discussion on some of the interests of that group only without considering the interests of the rest, even the interests common to all of us.

We have seen how the government has pushed for an education reform that was not discussed in public and that was approved by the almost completely chavista National Assembly in just a couple of days of monologues.

Many NGOs involved in education, academics, the opposition in general and many others have asked for time to discuss things openly, to no avail. One of the curious things of this legislation is that it even goes into curtailing the freedom of speech. Because of that journalists from the rather chavista newspaper Ultimas Noticias went to distribute flyers in the capital and were violently attacked by chavista thugs. The president and "comandante" declared journalists provoked the attackers (with those flyers, I assume).

The opposition, after asking so many times for a discussion, is considering other ways of civil protest. Still, it is doing one thing wrong: it has lead the discussion center on the interests of people whose children are in private schools or people in universities, instead of focusing on issues that are at least as urgent for everybody. It does not matter a considerate amount of the poor are against chavez (out of my head: 41% in the poorest region of carabobo, the majority in the biggest slum in Venezuela) and a lot of multimillionaires are now part of the boliburguesía: the opposition is not turning the discussion to quality in basic education, to transparency and to accountability.

That is completely bonkers. Even if one can be personally affected by the government trying to interfere with private school, one should realise right now we need to garnish support from all Venezuelans to overturn that legislation and the only way we have a chance to succeed is if we see why it is wrong for all Venezuelans as well. Venezuelan pupils on average are the worst in Latin America and if we do not bring that discussion to the table, we will take once more the wrong road. Officialists are a minority now, but we will go on being a minority as well unless we present proposals for the absolute majority.

Ps. I think the situation in Venezuela is particularly dire as those Venezuelans who have seen other possibilities know mostly the US education system. Although the US has by far most of the best universities on Earth, its education system is below OECD standards. Here we could learn a bit about education in Europe.

*Well, it was the case once my dad was a teenager. The governments of AD built many schools in the forties. My dad started school under a mango tree, with one teacher for all children of the village.

here an article about about the law of education. Again, it is the head of the Venezuelan chamber for the Private Education (Cavep). What is the matter with the 80% of the population? "Well, not our business"?