A Halloween agreement in Honduras

The agreement signed in Honduras yesterday is conveniently close to Halloween, a weird omen about its effectiveness and who might win the battle in the end. It is not just a matter of disguise as a Venetian Carnival would have been. In Honduras the threat of further violence and terror exists behind the continuous masquerade where all know what is at stake but where few dare to say it aloud. Freddy would have a field day playing the different inner terror of these people.

We have several pieces that try to explain what the agreement is. The Wall Street Journal titles Honduras 1, Hillary 0. Besides the note that it givers us our third capital H for the day it would seem that the WSJ is betting on the Micheletti combo to carry the day. They do have a point: the Us indeed wants this masquerade out and is indirectly acknowledging that for 4 months the Micheletti administration has been paying the bills and pushing forward the election. The Zelaya camp besides its clownesque discredit has been sabotaging elections instead of trying to take an active role in them and building for the future, which must be reminded is less than 3-4 years from now, less than the duration of a presidential term.

I am not so sure. Zelaya, or Roldos, or another will have the financial backing of Chavez, the implicit support of Brazil if Lula manages to decide who succeeds him, the complacency of the US, the intrigues of Insulza, etc, etc.... In other words, Honduras is far from having escaped the Chavez communism curse (Chavez himself in a lapsus brutis used the term communism to qualify his pseudo socialism of the XXI century).

The Washington Post has a more complete article and a more skeptical one as to who is in the winning seat. It would be all fine if they had charged the beginning of the crisis at Zelaya's attempt at unconstitutionally changing the constitution rather than the fact of the military putting him in pajamas in an airplane. But certain patterns of guilt attribution seem hard to break no matter how much evidence is brought forth.

Curiously in its editorial the Washington Post is way more sanguine than its article. For them, it is OK to sub-title "How the Obama administration outmaneuvered Hugo Chavez". True, on paper Zelaya gets to return, maybe, to his old job but in a much weakened position, a true lame duck presidency while free and recognized elections can now be held. If the turnout is above 60% this would guarantee final proof that Honduras never supported Zelaya's plan to create his own version of presidency for life. The flaw here is that it all depends on how much the US is willing to bend its muscle to enforce the deal. We might expect in the US favor that Lula, having understood the image damage he did by accepting on his own Zelaya in Brazil's embassy, might consider now that supporting the US here and telling Chavez to back off would be in fact a nice touch for Lula to end his presidency with more of a statesman image. That would explain why Chavez is using his trade mark "por ahora" about Zelaya, understanding that for the time being he cannot do anything further in Honduras. "For the time being", it must be underlined.

The New York Times looks more at the strong arms tactics need by the US to reach an agreement. If the WSJ journal took this allegedly forceful attitude as a way out for the US, the Times is somewhat more positive. though there is a slight pro Zelaya aroma that comes out of the article. The NYT, it must be noted, did not worry as much about the hand of Chavez in the continuous whole story, almost contenting itself in making the Honduras crisis a classical banana republic tale. Today we must note this sentence "But hundreds of millions of dollars in American humanitarian assistance continued to flow" making one wonder whether the NYT journalists would have liked to see more misery in the streets of Honduras... Makes you wonder if they ever called Caracas correspondent Simon Romero to check about the bounties of XXI century socialo/communism...

I am not too sure what to think of this agreement. First, for the Micheletti side to sign, no matter how much pressure Hillary put on them, it must mean that they have a fair sense that they can prevail in the end. After all hurricane season is nearly over an Honduras was spared this year, giving less opportunity for chaos which would have favored the Zelaya side. Second, they got what they wanted, elections at the end of the month with Zelaya out long enough to cease being a major destructive influence on the democratic process. Third, having removed Zelaya for so long allowed the transition government to purge or neutralize the local administration of the worse pro Chavez agents: Zelaya will have a hard time putting them back in charge, in particular if the president elect gets a good share of the electorate and if the runner up recognizes the victory without ambiguity.

Indeed, Zelaya might be so weakened now, equally from the corset about to be set up on him as well as his ridiculous handling of the situation, that the Micheletti camp might feel it worth to take the risk of bringing him back in office, to politically finish him up once and for all. There is also the possibility that Zelaya knows his days are over and he will accept to play the game so as to bring back into Honduras people like Patricia Rodas and pass the baton to them. By coming back even as a figurehead, even for only three months, Zelaya ensure his presidential pension, his retirement on his Honduras land and maybe not a too awful position in Honduras history books.

But in such an aleatory situation one never knows what surprises are in store. So let's wait to see first whether the Honduras congress will vote the agreement, the first mine field to cross. It will take at least a week or two, but no more because they need international observers for the elections. That is the final goal after all for the Micheletti people: reach a recognized election result.

-The end-

Sara and Bernardo

(The image was taken from this blog. The poster says "Lets end with the imperialism... every Venezuelan" or something like that.The image is a typical example of how the government consistently blames third parties and even abstract entities (such as "imperialism") of the troubles this country suffers, which are only a consequence of bad government praxis and nothing else).

During my third year of university I had to make a paper with a few classmates. A guy – let’s call him “Bernardo”- and a girl – lets call “Sara”- were part of my group. Sara was a short girl with a big butt, non existent breasts, and a big so-called intellectual ego, carefully fabricated to compensate what her self esteem couldn’t. Of our 6 student team, I was the one in charge of editing the text of the final essay.

When Sara read my corrections, on the afternoon before the due date ;her ego couldn’t stand my decision of erasing a couple of paragraphs she wrote. Those paragraphs were beautifully written as she made me realize, but they didn’t had anything to do with the main topic of our essay. A huge discussion followed, inside a small classroom, in the presence of this shy guy: Bernardo and the rest of the team. Sara accused me of being authoritarian (since my country is ruled by an authoritarian man, I guess we use that word a lot as an insult between us), stating that I only wanted to put my ideas in the final paper without listening to others’. Then she screamed and point out at Bernardo in a clear threatening gesture: “And Bernardo agrees with me!” – She said – “Why you don’t tell to Julia what you really think of her?

Bernardo was petrified and didn’t say a word. I looked at him a bit confused, because I had trouble finding any reason why this guy could have something against me. He looked at me back and left the room carrying a scolded dog face. Then, the trouble was solved thanks to the mediation of the rest of the team. Thank God I wasn’t the only one who didn’t approve adding those couple of paragraphs in our final essay.

After that, I spend a couple of hours fighting with Sara, her ego, and working on the paper. I was so stressed up, that when I finally left the room, I had completely forgot that awkward moment with Bernardo earlier. So I was surprised when I found him waiting for me outside the classroom, sitting at the hall. You could read a lot of anguish all over his face. “Julia, I need to talk to you…”- He said.

Bernardo started to spit out words so quickly that it was hard for me to follow him– “… What Sara said earlier, about me thinking that you are authoritarian isn’t true… I never spoke bad of you… well one day I complained that you were late, and maybe I said a few things… I don’t know… I never expected… I’m truly sorry…” – “Bernardo what happens is that we are all stressed up and irritated because of the due date of the paper is all over us… that’s all… don’t worry… no heart feelings” – I answered back, with a smile. The memories of the earlier discussion with Sara came back to my head and they kept me wondering about a possible nasty conversation between Sara and Bernardo behind my back. But I didn’t say anything about it.

Despite that doubt, that day I learned to admire people like Bernardo. I admire people who have the guts to show their faces and openly admit their mistakes. There is no such thing as perfect people – eh… putting my boyfriend aside - , people will always make mistakes. I despise people who never admit their mistakes, who are always making excuses and who prefer to blame others of their acts instead of taking responsibility. It takes courage and humanity to admit that we have done the wrong thing.

You are entitled to wonder why I wrote a whole post of a trivial anecdote of my college days. But if you translate this anecdote from a small study group to the way a government acts, it will make sense to you. At the end we are all people. Students, same as president and ministers; share this natural tendency to either act like Sara or Bernardo.

Sara was a very smart – I won’t deny it – girl but also very insecure of her position and her abilities. Thus when a situation that hurt her pride came, she choose to call me “authoritarian” and to start a big fight, inviting witnesses such as Bernardo to support her cause… instead of admitting that the couple of paragraphs she wrote were inadequate for the essay. Bernardo, on the other hand, was not among the brightest of our class although he wasn’t dumb either. He was very shy, quiet, hardly had any initiative of his own. Yet he hided a quality perhaps more rare than the ability of writing a couple of nice paragraphs: the guts to do what is right even if that means admiting his mistakes and commiting his position.

I feel that we have too many Saras, when we are in the need of more Bernardos. Here and there, inside the Revolution and against it, I don’t feel we need bright people, or incredible smart ones. We need people with enough humanity to be able to fall, admit it, and get up again.

I’m tired of excuses. I’m tired of speakers blaming third parties. If we don’t have enough water, don’t say it was the “niño phenomena” or “the rich people who spend way too much water”. If electricity fails don’t say that is part of an “opposition sabotage” planned with CIA founds. If anyone protests for their rights don’t say that they are being manipulated or instigated to rebellion. If we don’t have any sugar in our shelves it is not because we are eating too much candy. If we don’t have access to foreign currency it is not because from one day to another we travel too much. If we don’t have water it is not because our baths take longer than three minutes (Our president said that we can’t take longer baths, yes, for real). If the electricity fails over and over in this Oil country it is not because we have too many TV’ in our houses.

Stop blaming the citizens of your own mess. Stop making us pay the consequences of your own mistakes. Please, stop trying to keep at all cost, your couple of beautiful but useless paragraphs and be like Bernardo for a change. Wait for me at the hall and tell me you didn’t mean it but you did it. You didn’t mean to rule Venezuela this way but it happened. Tell me it was a mistake and you are sorry.

What Chavez never did

I have long ago stopped economic posts because, well, Miguel and Quico take care of this much better than what I could do. But that I took upon other tasks such as electoral analysis does not stop me from on occasion point out to the essential.

The New York Times carries today an article on how Michelle Bachelet was able to turn around a presidency that started very shakily into a 70% favorable popularity opinion a few months before she leaves office. Why? How?

Very simple: when copper prices were high during the commodities boom that lasted until the mid of last year, she set aside a large portion of the income for rainy days.

What is notable is that her administration managed to place in sovereign funds 20 billion USD. If to this you add that Chile is an export driven economy fueled by agriculture added value products (wine comes to mind and summer fruits in the US during its winter) you can understand that when the crisis came Chile indeed suffered, but not as much as other countries. Today Chile is hoping to get back next year into the 5% growth range, which is enough to finish to pull it off third world status very soon, and certainly earlier than any South American country. Some people might argue that Chile is already out of this category but it is not as its technological sector is not quit there yet, as well as its per capita GNP. Also Chile is still vulnerable to political adventurers such as the growth in polls of Enriquez-Ominami whose changing positions and media based program makes me nickname him Origami as a more appropriate name for an all show, no substance politician.

In short, Bachelet did all that Chavez did not want to do and as such she is high in polls just as Chavez is finally starting his long overdue slide into polling inferno.

Think about for a second: just out of copper Chile managed to save 20 billion, a commodity that does not compare whatsoever with oil. Had Chavez been a little bit more careful, imagine how much he could have actually placed in sovereign bonds without much trouble. 40? 60? 100? billions and with less effort than what surely had to do so create this piggy bank. Even more telling is that Chile today is a net creditor just as Venezuela is issuing yet another set of questionable bond issues, increasing dangerously its debt burden.

But what is even less forgivable when we look at Chavez balance is that he has damaged so much the Venezuelan productive apparatus, in particular agriculture, that now 95% of our exports are oil, and we import at least half of our food. It bears to recall that in Venezuela agriculture should be easier than in Chile since with adequate irrigation it could provide for year round production of some items. Nobody, in an oil producing country , is expecting that we export more food than what we import, but we could at least demand that we do not eat our oil, literally. You know where the oil money spent on food ends, do you?

The final irony here is that as we, an energy rich country, are facing major power blackouts for the next few years, Chile, an energy poor country, announces that its electricity output went up by 2% over the last 12 months.

-The end-

Like a rolling stone

I was looking for this video about Venezuela's Pebble Toad for some weeks but it was not available yet. Now we have it. Sir David Attenborough narrates here about this little amphibian's strategy to survive predators such as the largest tarantula on Earth, the Goliath Bird-eating spider.



You can also read some in the BBC article and in Wikipedia (it is a threatened species).
The BBC rocks as well!

Nicaragua-Honduras: when blogs go fast

A WSJ editorial FINALLY writes what I wrote almost a week ago, that the judicial coup in Nicaragua was a vindication of what the Micheletti group did in Honduras three months ago. It is not really that I might be smarter than the WSJ, or that blogging is faster, it is simply a matter of logic: all gang up on Honduras and yet Ortega did the same shit, at least on a legal point of view, and nobody at the OAS has said anything.

Each day the OAS keeps sinking in deeper opprobrium. And the US plays along, not always but way, way too often.

-The end-

My little bit to help Honduras

Over there they are interested is seeing what they might have escaped from. Please, visit la Gringa and thank her for having forced me to work extra this week end.

-The end-

Presidential budget in Venezuela

I was meaning to write about it but in France Center left paper Le Monde beat me to it.

In next year budget, the Miraflores Palace budget increases by, hold yourself tight, 638%!

Meanwhile the education budget goes down, but the weapon purchase budget seems to make it out OK.

Economic crisis Chavez style. Close to delirium as they stop any pretense.....

Meanwhile the word, astounded, observes the Mugabization of Venezuela.

UPDATE: some of you complain that I am forcing you to read French. Fear not, El Pais of Madrid also notices the immoral budget increase for Chavez own needs. In Spanish. The author, Maye Primera, takes an exquisite pleasure at contrasting the "3 minute shower" speech of Chavez with the reality of his budget asking 84,000 USD of toiletries. I suppose that amount will include "dry shampoo"?

-The end-

Venezuela aus der Sicht der Schweizer







Ein Leser (K. S.) hat uns diesen Artikel des Tages-Anzeigers geschickt. Die Zeitung positioniert sich etwas links von der Mitte. Einfach lesen! Mein einziger Kommentar dazu: wenn sich die Oppositionführer zumindest anstrengen und einen Plan für die nachhaltige Entwicklung des Landes vorlegen würden, würden wir das friedliche Ende der jetzigen Regierung bald sehen. Das Bildungsstand unseres Volkes ist zwar sehr niedrig, die Leute sind aber nicht blöd: gute Ideen und eine klare Vision würden sie erkennen und anerkennen. Leider unterschätzt man immer wieder die Dummheit und Kurzsichtigkeit der meisten Politiker.

UPDATE: hier und hier Artikel und Video über das Massaker von 11 Zivilisten, sehr wahrscheinlich durch Guerrilleros, die in Venezuela frei herumlaufen.

(Vielen Dank, K)

You want

I asked what topics you wanted to hear more about. Below you see the list and the number of votes each topic got:

Ideas for Venezuela 11
News about Venezuelan politics in general 11
Accountability and human rights in Venezuela (or lack thereof) 11
Venezuela's economy 10
Venezuela's culture 9
Venezuela's social and economic history 8
Venezuela-US 7
Venezuela-Americas 5
Venezuela's nature 4
Venezuela-Europe relations 4
Venezuela-Asia relations 2
Venezuela-Africa relations 1

I am pleased people want to see the ideas for Venezuela. Do we need to comment on that? Nope. I think it is very obvious: we need them very badly. If you feel like, you can go to the list of general ideas here and comment on them or propose more.

People are also very interested in learning more about accountability (and lack of it) in Venezuela, about the human rights situation, about its politics, economics and history. My perspective is that of a technologist who is interested in Venezuela. I will provide more information on those topics from what I know and what readers who are better informed in those subjects teach me.

I will try to provide also a little bit more information about Venezuelan-US issues, although I have to own up I know much more about the Venezuela-European perspective. The topics that got the least interest were Venezuelan-Asian and Venezuelan-African relations. This is understandable as the ties Venezuela has with those regions are much less strong than those with the rest of the world. Still, I will be writing from time to time about them as well.

Thanks again for your answers!

They all knew about electrical woes for at least 7 years

I am not going to translate it, no time today but below you can read in Spanish the Tal Cual article that explains how the government knew about the coming electrical crisis since at least 2002, and even before had they been paying attention. There is ONLY one guilty party for the current energy mess and it is Hugo Chavez.


Edelca advirtió la crisis

El presidente Hugo Chávez y sus ministros de economía conocieron todos y cada uno de los informes sobre una inminente crisis eléctrica en el país

Damián Prat, Guayana

L eer y analizar los informes de los ingenieros de Edelca ­que nos muestra el ex gobernador Andrés Velásquez- hechos en 2002 advirtiendo lo que ocurriría "entre 2009 y 2010" de no tomarse las medidas adecuadas junto con hacer un plan de inversiones que ellos detallaron, es comprender la causa de la actual crisis de energía eléctrica.

Mas claro si se consultan dos informes de los ingenieros de Cadafe. Uno de 1997 y otro de 1999 ya con Chávez en el gobierno.

Sin ser la empresa especialista hay un cuarto informe, de un equipo profesional de Bauxilum, también de 2002 y 2003, que ofrece parecidos análisis y conclusiones semejantes.

Todo estaba dicho. Nada quedó sin analizarse. Casa cosa estaba prevista sin tratarse de predicciones de brujo, sino análisis con la experticia profesional y usando los datos y estudios de años.

La Venezuela que comenzaba a ser gobernada por Chávez usaba la colosal inversión en hidroelectricidad, transmisión y distribución de energía hecha en continuidad administrativa por ocho gobiernos anteriores junto con la de empresas privadas como La Electricidad de Caracas.

Y disponía de siete años para continuar la línea de desarrollo en inversiones a fin de no romper el equilibrio entre la oferta de energía de origen hidroeléctrica y la térmica, así como para evitar que los requerimientos de energía no tuvieran respuesta en la disponibilidad de la misma con el margen suficiente hasta para cubrir "años malos" por sequías.

El presidente Hugo Chávez conoció todos y cada uno de esos informes. Todos llegaron a sus manos y a las de los de sus ministros de la economía, los presidentes de CVG, Pdvsa, los de Edelca y mas recientemente al de Corpoelec.

Es mas, ocasionalmente, Chávez se refería a algunos de esos proyectos cuando hacía promesas dominicales, lanzando discursos gradielocuentes o colocaba "piedras fundacionales". Lo que estaba era relatando los proyectos de aquellas listas, pero aderezándolos con su verbo, como si fuesen "ideas nuevas".

La recuperación de Planta Centro, las nuevas de EDC y de Oriente, las dos hidroeléctricas de Los Andes y Centro Occidente, la ampliación completa de Enelven en Zulia, entre otras.

Chávez y los jerarcas de su gobierno siempre supieron -durante los últimos siete años- que ese plan de inversiones en plantas termoeléctricas, unas para recuperarlas y otras para sumarlas a las existentes era indispensable o habría crisis "entre 2009 y 2010".

Y que el sistema de líneas de 800 y 400 kv que llevan la energía desde Guayana a toda Venezuela debía seguir creciendo ­nunca paralizarse como ocurrió en este septenio- para adaptarse al crecimiento.

SIEMPRE LO SUPO TODO
Dinero jamás le faltó pues justamente ese período fue el de la mayor bonanza de ingresos petroleros de nuestra historia. Poder político e institucional tampoco era problema. Todos los poderes e instituciones han estado en sus manos obedientemente.

Y sin embargo, al día de hoy, transcurridos esos siete años, estamos en la más profunda crisis de energía eléctrica de nuestra historia moderna.

Muy poco de aquel plan de inversiones se ejecutó. Casi nada.

Lo más relevante fue que no "inventó" con Edelca en los primeros años y las obras de Caruachi continuaron y su gobierno las concluyó.

Muchos proyectos ni siquiera se iniciaron. Ni en las termoeléctricas destinadas a ser recuperadas ni en las nuevas. De Planta Centro apenas funciona a medias uno de cinco generadores. Tampoco en los sistemas de transmisión. Peor aún, se le metió "plomo en el ala" a la otrora eficiente Edelca al partidizarla y luego al quitarle toda su autonomía, tras centralizar en la burocrática Corpoelec.

Por eso está Guri, por vez primera en su historia, con seis de sus 20 unidades generadoras paralizadas.

Por eso anda Planta Centro más "en el suelo" que nunca, con una sola unidad funcionando a medias y las otras cuatro paradas.

Estatizada EDC, se paralizaron las inversiones en la nueva termoeléctrica de esa empresa que debía sumarse a Tacoa.

Por eso ahora Chávez hace discursos y "cadenas" tratando de "inventar un enemigo" y desviar las culpas hacia "el Sambil y los Malls" (que en realidad gastan apenas el 0.3% del déficit actual) o hacia "el derroche de los venezolanos". Para tratar de ocultar sus propias culpas.

Por eso estamos "de apagón en alumbrón" en medio país y el gobierno imponiendo un plan de reducción de la demanda, que incluye arruinar más a Sidor recortando las horas de uso de sus hornos eléctricos y manteniendo en la ruina a las destartaladas empresas del aluminio dejando sin reparar sus más de 300 celdas de reducción de aluminio dañadas para que no consuman.

"Chávez no puede pretender hacerle creer al país que el problema es el despilfarro en lugar de confesar la verdad: el problema está en la desinversión de su gobierno en la generación de energía", remata Andrés Velásquez.

"El tiene que responder por los serios daños colaterales a la calidad de vida de las personas por el racionamiento residencial y al comercio. Los serios daños a la industria estatal y a la privada. En nuestras cuentas se han regalado unos 47 mil millones de dólares en el exterior. Con menos de un tercio de eso se habrían hecho todas las inversiones eléctricas y mas", señala mostrando los informes.

Y finaliza: "incluso el proyecto Tocoma ­con todo y ser financiado por el BID- tiene retraso de al menos dos años".

-The end-

Chavez busy solving the electricty problem

It seems that chavista pollsters must be reading the numbers right and that is sending Chavez into a flurry of activity so as to appear to do something about it, trying desperately to dispel the reality that in ten years he has done near zilch to plan the energetic future of the country. Along the way his true egotistical self shows plenty opportunities to show off, while he accumulates dangerous lapsus brutis.

It all started into his now customary cabinet meeting live on TV, and sometimes even on cadena. You need to understand first that a live cabinet meeting is not a working reunion: ministers spend several hours listening to Chavez rants, leavened occasionally by the scolding to one of their lot. The scolded idiot nods with his or her head, sure that he will handsomely rewarded for allowing the beloved leader humiliate him in public.

The cabinet reunion as usual was extremely useful for the well being of the country: Chavez explained to us that we needed to take only three minutes showers, that we had no need for hot water, and that he was creating a new ministry for electricity. You can see it for yourself in several Youtube videos, in particular this one below. As a bonus you get the lapsus bruti of an unhinged Chavez admitting that that his socialism of the XXI century is nothing else than disguised communism.



But apparently this was not enough. TV luminaries interpreted this scene justly as a mockery of the people, so Chavez had to change his discourse and find someone to blame for the power outages. Today in his Alo Presidente it was the Sambil Malls that consume too much electricity. They have been ordered to install their own electricity generation system because Chavez was going to cut their electricity supply.

What?

First of all, why blame the Sambil who actually offers a useful social function as being the only entertainment center for the masses, where rich and poor can go to walk around in a safe and cool AC space and eat some cheap junk food instead of daring the contaminated streets, where they can risk reckless drivers and out of control criminals! Why not close instead some of the government agency that produce nothing but hot air?

Second the biggest Sambil of them all is the one in Caracas. It was inaugurated, if memory does not fail me, in 1998. And certainly until at least 3 years ago there was no electrical outages that could be blamed on the mall.....

But you have to admire the bravado of Chavez, pointing at the Sambil windmills! He could not take down Colombia, he will take down the Sambils! Our hero!!!!!

Meanwhile, he, the socialist president of the masses is attacking the trade unions of the electrical sector who are claiming their due. He pretends that since we are in crisis they should put on hold their grievances. Eh? Is it their fault that Chavez has not invested in the electric sector? Are they to be blamed in the same breath as the Sambil? Oh, Lord! Give me strength!

But of course Chavez has never been a manager and he certainly cannot understand what the private sector knows very well: without motivated workers, you are not going to accomplish much.

If he is not a manager, that does not seem to have reached his mind and he also decided that he will be the national diet director. In addition of taking now the right to decide who can buy electricity and who cannot, Chavez also told us that we are getting fat, that now 14% of the people are obese. I suppose that for once, knowing that soon he will not be able to buy all the food he needs to buy he needs to have more folks eat less. Wise man, ain't he? Also, the less people eat the less use for a refrigerator and so more Watts saved!!!! Brilliant!

But there were other gems today. One was that the Colombian defense minister was accused of being a "retardado", that is, vulgarly, a retard. Except that in Venezuelan Spanish it should be "retrasado" instead of "retardado", a word that does not exist here but is used in Cuba. Decide by yourself whether this is yet another lapsus brutus.

That is our Chavez, in a single day battling all fronts, Sambil overconsumption, obesity, rice production in Apure, drug trafficking, murders on the border, Colombia, restless trade unions, and what not!!!! All of course with equal resounding success! I feel soooo safe!

-The end-

Venezuela's First Nations and land

Main First Nations. The names with circles represent Arawak ethnicities. Those with an underline are for Carib groups.

Promises and the Yukpas

10 years ago the government promised to delimit the protected areas of Venezuela's First Nations. That was a good idea. Until then Indian areas were precariously protected by a vague law about "lands under state of exception". Since then little has happened, though.

As El Nacional says, some 41630 hectares (416.3 km2) were assigned for the Yukpas in Perija, Zulia state (North-Western Venezuela). Just the day after the president announced it, 2 people from the Yukpa community were shot dead. The pro-government Yukpa leader said initially hired killers sent by the ranchers did it, other Yukpa contradicted him (here in Spanish). The Association of Ranchers of that municipality said the murders were caused by an internal conflict. The minister of Justice, Tarek al-Assimi, announced some of the murderers, Yukpa Indians, have been caught now. Al-Assimi rejected that the murders had to do with the land struggle and added that ranchers were trying to hinder the land distribution. There is some messy reporting about the issue in Spanish here, it seems the truth is somewhere in the middle. Whatever happened, the situation is very murky.






Yukpa Indians selling their artcraft






Still waiting

The Yukpas have just got some land in the Perija region, but hardly any other Indian group has received any of theirs, as experts demand. Ye'kuanas, and Sakemas (both in Amazonas and Bolivar) and Karinhas (a.k.a. Kali'na, in Anzoátegui), for instance, presented their demands years earlier and they haven't got a response. Is there something special about their lands? Is it because of the gold and diamonds in the Ye'kuana and Sakema lands? Is it because of the oil fields in Karinha's ground? Is it because of possible politic preferences? I don't know. Anyway, my impression is that:

1- ranchers and other private groups are very reluctant to give back land to the First Nations
2- the government has not investigated properly possible involvements of ranchers against attacks to the First Nations and it has not compensated people as it should
2- the government is even more reluctant to give back state-owned land to the First Nations than the ranchers are and it prefers to give what is currently in the hands of private individuals
3- the government has been incredibly slow in establishing land rights in general (in fact, almost nothing is registered in a centralized, much less in a digital fashion)
4- the government is doing very little to protect the native Americans in the Southern part of Bolivar and Amazonas, where Brazilian and Venezuelan miners have established camps
5- illegal miners are massively polluting rivers in Indian territory with the mercury they use for the gold extraction (for instance, the Paragua river, tributary of the Caroní River, in Southern Bolívar is now an ecological disaster and this is affecting the Pemon community)
6- illegal miners are clearing large amounts of forests in Indian areas (read this, it is from 2006 but the situation remains unchanged)
7- a lack of cooperation between Venezuela and Colombia has lead to guerrillas, paras and drug dealers roaming freely in Indian areas

The government has been reluctant to clarify the rules of the game. It prefers to use confiscation as a political tool. A large extend of Venezuela's surface has no clear property rights: either ownership papers cannot be tracked down to the Independence time as demanded by the state or they do not exist at all. Most of Venezuela's territory has always been in the hands of the state anyway. The government has determined just a tiny fraction of property rights and it uses the insecurity among people as a method of control: "be nice or we take your fuzzy or clear property rights". I have already stated the government should make public (via online databases) all land claims existing now and, progressively, all land rights. The government should then process cases based on a clear set of parameters (area, time and so on).

The Venezuelan government has a very strong military presence in Indian territory. High ranking officials, including the president, are afraid of giving too much land or power to the First Nations. They think this could lead to a fragmentation of Venezuela or to them losing political control in those areas. Individual military men at all levels have always profited from control over Indian areas, turning a blind eye on "cooperative" illegal miners or worse.

In Venezuela much has been announced and little has been accomplished. Brazilian garimpeiros moved to Venezuela because they knew control is much worse than in Brazil.

What we need to do

The Venezuelan people - including the self-annointed opposition leaders - need to demand from the government clear, open procedures regarding land rights. The government needs to explain and abide by the rules and let the national community have a look at the whole process. The government will oppose this as it wants to move towards some sort of communism (never mind they are not even moving towards bad socialism but towards plain banana republic authoritarism). Still: we must insist on a transparent and very public procedure for delimiting land and establishing when it is the state's and when the private groups' turn. This should be in the framework of a comprehensive and very open cadastre process for the whole nation, including the possessions of all the Boliburguesía.

As I have already stated, there is now a legislation for the protection of Venezuela's native languages. Still: little has been done about a real implementation. There is little done about the establishment of public libraries for them, about how their languages will be defended in their territories. Translating some manuals with political content and basic lessons for school won't do.

The general situation of schools in Indian areas is bad and the health care is a disaster.

It is evident that the First Nations must have more power to decide for themselves. They should also have the tools to develop their own local economies. Preserving their identity does not necessarily mean they need to go on working on subsistance economy and dressed as they do now (unless they want).

All in all we need to give them the tools to help themselves. I know this is a big challenge: Venezuelans as a whole, with much better conditions than the First Nations, are still living from the petrodollars they started to depend on over 70 years ago.

I really hope all Venezuelans take the protection of the First Nations to their heart. We own it to them.


ADDENDUM

As a general reference, here you have a chart of the languages of the First Nations that still exist today in Venezuela (a chart for the Amazonas state only can be seen here) . Each node in white represents a language family, like "Indo-European" or "Semitic" in the Old World. Some of the language families have other languages spoken but they are not spoken in Venezuela. The family languages with the largest amount of speakers are Arawac and Carib. When Europeans arrived in Venezuela, most of the central region was inhabited by Arawacs and a large part of the East by Carib groups. There are some language isolates, like Warao, spoken in the Orinoco Delta. Those languages have so far proven unrelated to others (like Basque in Europe).

Each one of those languages is a world that could be lost. The ones with a red flag are almost gone now. The ones without a flag are in danger. The ones with the green flag have better chances of survival but nothing is sure. Wayúu is spoken by over 150000 people, Warao by some 40000 and Pemón by more than 5000 to 15000.

Sunday way off topic trivia

As some of you might remember I also hold a French passport. Thus I was drawn to this New York Times piece: Historians Reassess Battle of Agincourt. Apparently the mythic feat so eloquently put in verse by The Bard , and splashed on a great movie by Kevin Branagh, was not so mythic. True, Henry V forces were outnumbered but by not such a wide gap. It seems that diligent post victory propaganda made sure that the feat was grander for the numbers gap than the French incoherence.

Interestingly in my French school days that huge number gap was kept, which I suppose is a consequence of being in the losing side where you have other more pressing business to attend than figuring whether the French outnumbered 1 to 2 or 1 to 5. Besides, even if Azincourt (the French spelling) is looked at badly as a humiliating day, it is always put into the context of the civil war starting then between "Armagnacs et Bourguignons". That civil war dynastic consequences would drag all the way until Louis XIV. Also in the French psyche of the 100 Years War that I was taught, the battles of Crecy won by Edward III and Poitiers won by the Black Prince 50 years earlier are considered more fateful and more humiliating than Azincourt. This because in each one of the them the king was involved while Agincourt is looked more upon as a mad dash of unruly aristocrats as king Charles VI was sinking into folly and thus absent from command. A true disaster for sure, but an additional one to Civil War and the Mad King.

The power of myth is indeed powerful and crosses cultural barriers, influencing even the defeated. Fidel Castro understands this very well, and it is certainly part of the reason why chavismo is so busy rewriting history: after a while people will think that chavista manuals are indeed historical.... Venezuelans will start beleiving crap like "dia de la resistencia indigena" and black Bolivar just as the French bought the propaganda so nicely put up by Shakespeare. Hey, I am French but the Henry V harangue is stirring no matter what!

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day

-The end-

Uruguay votes

I have kept a semi regular correspondence with a reader from Uruguay who kept me informed of what was going on there. So, who better to ask for a guest post on Uruguay?
-----------------------

Letter from Montevideo: What’s at stake this Sunday…


Montevideo – 23/10/09 - It’s Friday night and meteorology announces a red alert. As I write this, it rains hard and the wind blows heavily; I see thunder and lighting in the horizon. Somehow, it’s a perfect setting or symbolism for what we have been living these past months: a red alert, blackness and thunder, lots of thunder; lots of fireworks too, and no substance.

This Sunday Uruguay will vote for President, Vice-President, the General Assembly (30 senators and 99 National Representatives) and members of the 19 Electoral Juntas (one for each department) composed of 5 members each. Two plebiscites will also be voted: one to allow Uruguayan citizens abroad to vote by mail and another to annul the Amnesty Law to the Human Rights violators – the Armed Forces that perpetuated the Dictatorship in Uruguay from 1972 to 1985. Voting in Uruguay is compulsory.

There are five Presidential candidates and two favorites: José “Pepe” Mujica, the 74-year-old Senator from the Broad Front and fielded by the party in power, a Tupamaro guerilla in the 60’s.
The second favorite is Luis Alberto Lacalle of the Nationalistic White Party who was President of Uruguay from 1990-1995. Both candidates emerged from the internal elections carried out in June, when the people elected their favorite within each political party. In both cases, the extremes won. The moderate candidates, Danilo Astori, Minister of Economy of the present government and Jorge Larrañaga lost their chance in that election. Both are the vice-presidential candidates of Mujica and Lacalle respectively.

“Everyone thought then, that the clash between those two strong personalities, with sharp political profiles, experienced, and with a clear vision of the country they wanted was going to be a tough and controversial process”,
writes Tomas Linn in this week’s Búsqueda, a prestigious Uruguayan weekly newspaper. “However, it was not so”, he goes on. “The two candidates committed errors, had setbacks and deliberately blurred those visions. Mujica’s errors were bigger and more important. But Lacalle paid a higher price. And that can be explained: Mujica’s electorate tried to excuse his stumbles, while Lacalle’s could not conceal their distaste. This shows how different both electorates are”.

Those that do not belong to the undivided division that the Broad Front represents, don’t quite understand how the latest opinion polls do not reflect a downslide of Mujica’s numbers. A month ago the country was shocked with two “pieces” by this candidate. An interview with the Argentinean newspaper La Nación in which he declares “to be against government intervention in the economy, argues that ‘justice is vengeance’ and what matters are the human rights of the living, praises Brazil’s Lula da Silva negotiating skills, admits not understanding the political ideology of the Kirchner couple, loathes bureaucracy and apologizes for having condemned Uruguay to live under a military dictatorship” (a summary of sorts here).

The irony is that among the Uruguayan youth, the Tupamaros
have created the myth that they fought against a dictatorship, not a government elected democratically. He says in Argentina that he is against government intervention in the economy, but here he says that he wants the workers to manage the factories, but not to become Capitalists”. He also says that the State should own all land, but denies having said it the next time. And last but not least, he wants a Constitutional Assembly for has never explained why and what for.

The second gaffe was a book called “Pepe Colloquies” published by Alfredo Garcia, Editor of a weekly newspaper called “Voices” (used to be called Voices of the Front, but shortened about a year ago). Garcia describes how for four months, every Monday morn
ing for two hours, they chatted – seated on upside-down yellow buckets, in the candidates farm in the outskirts of Montevideo, about the future of Uruguay and his utopian dreams. “It was so difficult to systematize the turmoil of ideas and thoughts that poured from Mujica”, wrote Garcia, “that I gave up and decided to publish the conversations we had literally”. Among other things, he states that “The Kirchners are lefties, but what a left, mamma mia, what a gang!” and Argentina is a country “of hysteric, mad, paranoiac reactions”. In this book he criticizes God, the devil and President Vázquez himself, which brought an immediate reaction: “He talks pontifically and says a lot of stupidities”.

[Three parties together in the same Montevideo 'rambla costanera',
amiably campaigning for their man. Such a scene,
familiar in Venezuela until the 90ies,
is absolutely unthinkable today! ]

It took more than a month for Vázquez to accept taking a picture with the candidate of his party and says he will vote for him for disciplinary reasons. Mujica’s campaign team has ordered him to literally shut up, and he canceled several interviews with local political shows that he had previously agreed to. The undecided have grown, according to pollsters, and are a record number. Mujica called them “morons” and that if they were afraid of voting for him, they should throw their votes to the sea or issue a blank vote. With all that, polls still say he will be the probable next president of Uruguay. I don’t believe the polls, but that may be wishful thinking.

The country is divided in two halves. Which side will win on Sunday is still a mystery. There are several open options. 1) Mujica wins 50% + 1 of the votes with a Congress majority tomorrow; 2) the Broad Front wins the majority in Congress but there’s a run-off or ballotage with Lacalle and he wins the presidency in November; 3) neither party has a majority in Congress and Lacalle wins in a ballotage.

The Colorado Party, who had 9% of the votes in the past election, a “p
unishment” vote to Jorge Battle of this party who governed from 2000-2005, is the third runner up and is now presenting according to polls a 13-15% vote intent. Pedro Bordaberry, son of the man responsible for the Uruguayan coup d’état, has made a 2.0 modern-looking campaign and is still dreaming of having a surprise win over Lacalle, thus being the rival of Mujica in the ballotage. No way will this happen, but it may be one of the reasons for the #3 above to take place.

The fourth party is the social democratic Independent Party led by lawyer and sociologist Pablo Mieres. The party has only one Representative in Congress, vice presidential candidate Iván Posada. Their aim is to elect Mieres to the Senate and increase their number in the House of Representatives to 4 or 5. In the last polls they have a steady and increasing number of supporters that went from 2 to 4% and may also surprise tomorrow. [On the right Mieres, who I suppose is the choice of our guest blogger]

The fifth candidate is Raul Rodriguez of the newly created Popular Assembly, a scission of the Broad Front, who believes the later have betrayed the leftist ideals. They want to impose Cuba’s and Venezuela’s socialism in Uruguay. They may elect one member of Congress.

As to the Plebiscites, pollsters say that neither will obtain the necessary votes (50%) but this is also a mystery and another long story.

The dish is served. The dice have been thrown. In this election there are many things in play: the rule of law, democratic values and styles of coexistence in a society that has changed, and not for the better. Previously called the “Switzerland of the America”, the destiny of this small South American country is in the hands of a bunch of fanatics and a silent minority that hopes and prays for better days.

I’ll be supervising elections tomorrow, and the one reason I still hope, is that Uruguay has one of the most trustworthy electoral systems in the world. At least we are sure that whatever the results, it was what people really voted.

M.C.McC.

Editor's note: I understand that the author will be quite busy tomorrow during the election, due to her own political involvement. So she might not be able to reply to any question you might have until late in the day. But that should not stop you from asking anything you wish to know about that election that seems to have been financed by Venezuela. Imagine that! Chavez financing a Tupamaro!

-The end-

Venezuela and Europe readers

Venezuela and Europe is really a weird name for a blog. I created it once when I realised how many misconceptions Europeans had about Venezuela and I had to repeat the same message over and over again. I thought that name would be easy to remember. I thought I could help a bit to inform Europeans about what was happening in Venezuela. I know, as a Venezuelan living in Europe, a little bit about what Europeans don't know and also about what Venezuelans in Venezuela assume Europeans do know. Many of the misconceptions stem from someone thinking the other knows much more than she does.

Later on I thought the blog could serve to inform more people, but the Venezuelan-European name stayed. And last, but not least, I thought I could write here about some ideas I have (not necessarily mine, not necessarily very original and probably many not so brilliant) for Venezuela's development. I am also writing about those ideas in Spanish in my Spanish blog, even if most posts are different. I think bringing forward ideas for Venezuela is something fundamental. The Spanish blog, by the way, has a very nerdy name, but the name refers to a concept that is so badly missing in my country: sustainable development for Venezuela.


Well, the poll about the mother tongue produced the results you see in the chart to the left. There are many lurkers and I suspect quite some of them speak other languages than Spanish (at least they have browsers with other language settings and/or live in countries where there are very few Venezuelans).

Most people have a mother tongue other than Spanish, so most are non-Venezuelans (there are very few Venezuelans who don't have Spanish as mother tongue). The most represented language is Spanish. I assume most native Spanish speakers visiting my blog are Venezuelans who speak English, although there are probably some others (there are visitors from every Spanish speaking country but for some between Panama and Mexico). Some of them use the blog as a reference to their non-Venezuelan friends: "look, this is the mess I was talking about". The second largest group are the English speakers. Lots of them are in the US, in Canada and the UK, in that order. The third and fourth groups were the Dutch and German speakers. I got more Dutch respondents, even if fI have a lot of hits from Germany. Either more Venezuelans read the blog from Germany or Germans are shier than the Dutch. There were also readers whose mother tongue was Czech, French, Hungarian, Japanese and Swedish. I find it cool that people of so many regions are interested in Venezuela. I hope the lurkers will come out more strongly next time, but now I have a better view of viewers. If you want, send me an email or a comment to let me know a little bit about what kind of content you want to know about. I also have still a poll going, but polls with predefined lists are not the best to find out about preferences.

Thanks for your answers and thanks for reading.

How Venezuelans enjoy jacuzzi

Most Venezuelans - I don't mean the wealthiest 15% - have a very simple shower with no heater whatsoever. It helps Venezuela (generally speaking) is a warm place. A large part of the poorest - several million - don't even have running water. They have a plastic tank they need to fill in with water from lorries or from a water pipe at walking distance. They use a little bowl to wash themselves or they use very primitive "showers" which they regulate with a string, very much like Robinson Crusoe would. There are big problems with water delivery, so many families in the slums share their water with their neighbours in need.

I have been to houses of very poor, poor, middle class, upper middle class and a couple of very rich people in Venezuela. I have only once seen one bath tube in Venezuela. Even the wealthy use mostly showers (bathing is not seen as real cleaning). It is not like Europe or North America.

Here you see a picture of one of the best houses in one of the many slums you will see in Venezuela (thanks to Ow, who has lived for quite some time there):
















Since the current government took total control of water and electricity companies there have been more and more problems with those services. There are huge problems with electric installations because of the frequent blackouts and sudden surges in energy. This has led to collapse of traffic light signals, to huge losses in all kind of factores and in all households. Your TV has a shorter life time in Venezuela due to that.

Now our president has some solutions:

1) hire an airplane to shoot lasers at clouds to make rain
and
2) keep shower time limited to 3 minutes only and please, don't wait for the hot water or use the jacuzzi. He said "in our communism" (those were his words) the conditions are not given for that.

I am no lefty, but there is neither communism nor socialism in Venezuela. A minister's brother can become billionaire in just 5 to 6 years of murky businesses and the poor don't have running water and are constantly afraid of being shot in the country with the highest murder rate of South America.

The most shocking thing is that Venezuela could be exporting electric energy and it still has plenty of water. Venezuelans are in general a population with little environmental conscience but what we really need now is proper management. Telling average Venezuelans not to use the jacuzzi or too much hot water is not real. Our "socialist president" should get out of his Palace and trendy European hotels and visit the people. There is definitely a huge difference between The People (i.e. the president) and the people who don't even have running water.













The End of Private Property as I know it

I feel so sad right now that I just forgot many English words I need to write this post. The government has taken away the only property my family haves. In theory we are still the owners but under many conditions I’ll explain on the following lines. I know they have always said that they are not against private property. But we are aware of the huge distance between speeches and reality. We also know that a property can only be public or private. Any other name given to a property by the government like “social”, “of social interest”, “of cultural and historical value”… becomes a pretty way to state that such property isn’t private anymore.



I have spent years seeing how the government decides to take away this land or another under any excuses off their legitimate proprietary. Sometimes the government argues that a land is not productive enough to question its private property. But when such land passes to state hands; the land also passes from being a bit productive to unproductive at all. We have also learned that any land, any company that the government takes away doesn’t serves to make "social justice". Those lands are not delivered to the “people” - the legitimate owners according to the government. Instead, they are simply added to the broad government' patrimony and we, “people”, never see their benefits.



We only see interviews of frustrated owners who have worked for such land all their lives and now they have lost it all.
But during all these years I didn’t do anything about it, besides watching the news with a worried look on my face and commenting them with my friends and family. To say the truth: it did not affect me. My family doesn’t have any of those proprieties neither we personally know anyone who haves them. For us, those land owners were just very unlucky rich people in a reality far distant from ours. It sounds politically incorrect and irresponsible to say it but I have made the commitment to tell you all the reality about the ups and downs of living here on this blog; despite how they make me look.



The reality is this: we hear so many bad news everyday that is impossible to care about all the problems this country has at the same time. It’s also hard to be aware of all government abuses and to speak out loud about them at the same time. Government' abuses never affect everybody at the same time. That’s how government' strategy works: no one talks about it, but everybody knows it exists. And if the affected by it is your next door neighbor but not you, you won’t be as worried as your neighbor is.



So next time you will be affected by a different trouble but your neighbor won’t and in that way everybody live their lives in Venezuela like everything was normal. They know the government closed many radio stations but they are not journalist or own or work at any radio station so they do not worry. They just feel bad about the friend who did work for one of those and that’s it. They know the government has forced to exile or put in jail many politicians who oppose the Revolution. But since they are not politicians they only feel bad for a couple of minutes about those faces on TV and then move on with their lives. They know the government has put some protesters in jail but since they don’t personally know any of them, they only have a little talk with their families were they express their concern about the issue. After saying “this country is a shit… Chavez is a shit…” (Pardon me the language) they pass to another topic and get ready for going to a party. They read in the newspaper that a landowner has lost his land under an arbitrary order of Mr. Chavez. But since they do not know the landowner, neither he belongs to their family; and since they do not own any lands; they pass that newspaper page and check the tourism section to see if they can afford a Cruise around the Caribbean next holiday.



This is how it works. We can’t afford to be worried about every single government move. We can barely worry about the ones who affect us directly and sometimes not even that. And I don’t think I can’t blame Venezuelans for having this attitude. It’s a necessary adjustment to the difficult circumstances we daily face by living inside this Revolution. It’s probably not the best, it probably won’t make a difference; but it can make us somehow sustain an illusion of happiness. And happiness is needed to remain strong and alive. Otherwise, many Venezuelan citizens could be diagnosis with a severe clinical depression (I’m hoping that’s not the case).




Last Sunday I was dreaming about cruises on the newspaper section about tourism. I read with absolutely delight the story of a honeymooner who spent a week on a cruise on the Mediterranean seas. Then my boyfriend and I went to a birthday party of a friend of ours and we divided our afternoon between some splashes in a pool and some domino games. But as soon as Monday came, everything was different.



My family had plans to sell this old apartment which belonged to my grandma (who passed away ten years ago). My uncles who lived wanted to move so we started all the necessary paperwork to sell the place. My family was enthusiastic about the things we could do with the money, that it wasn’t much since it is a very small apartment located in a low middle class area of Caracas.



But yesterday, we found out that we can’t sell our apartment. The government put out a decree (without any consultation) that declares our building among others, “good of cultural interest” and “cultural heritage of the nation”. This means not only that we can’t modify the building’ original structure but that no proprietary can sell or rent an apartment without government’ permission. To get this permission we need about 22 documents (including original property documents and other strange requests such as “the building’ coordinates”) which are very hard to get, not to say impossible. The permission is totally discretional: this means the government can’t deny it without any further explanation, even if you have your papers on rule. And the best part: even if you do get the permission, you can’t sell the apartment to the market’ price but rather, the government’ will set the price (again, in a discretional way) were you can sell it. Last but not least: the government will have the right to have the first buying option. Like we say in Spanish: "pagan y se dan el vuelto" (no idea how to say this in English, could anyone help?)



We did not receive any explanation of why our building is now part of the “cultural heritage” of the nation. Our building is old, yes, probably from the 60’s… who knows… but its very ugly, very rough, doesn’t have any architectural value as far as I know. In the neighborhood there are many buildings just like ours plus many others which are older, prettier, of much more value than ours. Yet, of the whole neighborhood, only about 12 buildings were selected for the decree. We don’t understand why they want to preserve this building instead the other next street which looks exactly the same. It looks like an arbitrary selection of the buildings, rather than a coordinated effort to preserve our cultural heritage.



Words less, words more, what is happening here is that a property once private, has now fallen into a limbo where, same as the government speaks out, it doesn’t stop being private. In theory that apartment still belong to us. But if it does, why we feel that it now belongs more to them than to us, their legitimate owners?



I look at the people who live in the buildings who have been not affected by the decree. They will discuss over dinner about the bad luck their neighbors have and move on with their lives as it nothing happens. They probably didn’t even read the decree, just found out they were not part of it and that was it.



But next door, for my family, there is a whole different situation. My mom has a headach, product of the incredible tension and frustration she has felt since she found out that her limited heritage is now reduced to zero. Her heritage and my grandparent’s work has been reduced to a place where we can live, but that we can’t sell or rent. The government has stolen from us that right with a decree passed from one day to another, without any explanation.



I don’t have a fancy way to finish this post as I have finished others in the past. I’m just going to say that I’m sad. I’m frustrated. That I wish this illusion of happiness we Venezuelans create everyway could be something more than just an illusion.



PS: My mom and I made a tour around Caracas to take pictures of houses and buildings affected by this decree. I won’t put a picture of our building to protect my privacy. But I would publish the pictures of this couple of buildings instead: they are on the same street, one next to the other. The one on the left was not affected by the decree. The one on the right is now part of the Venezuelan cultural heritage. I think this couple of pictures proves the arbitrary nature of the decree. Can you tell me why one building was included and the other was not?



Also I have a picture of this shopping mall included in the decree and I can’t think of any reason why this building might have any cultural value. Can you? (on the inside is just as ugly as it is on the outside)

Venezuela's West


This picture comes from the ESA.

It shows the Northwestern part of Venezuela.

For those who don't know my country very well:


































A) Venezuela borders with the European Union as the Netherlands Antilles (Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire) are just off the Venezuelan coast. The Dutch took those islands from the Spaniards in the XVII century.

B: The Paraguana Peninsula and very close the historical city of Coro. The brown colour comes from the huge amounts of sands washed out. Between the Peninsula and the mainland we have the Medanos, Sahara-like dunes.

Further to the East the Morrocoy Park.













C: The tip of the Guajira Peninsula, mostly part now of Colombia but also of Venezuela (before the border was right in the middle). The Wayúu Indians live there between both countries.

D: The Lake Maracaibo, where most of the first oil fields were found. Maracaibo, Venezuela's second largest city, is on the North-Eastern shores. The Lake is the largest lake of South America (it is a brakish lake).

E: The Venezuelan Andes.

F: The Venezuelan Llanos (sort of very wild Pampas, crisscrossed by a thousand rivers, including the Orinoco).

Ideas for politics in Venezuela

This will be a new part of the ideas for Venezuela.

We first need to be clear: Venezuela can have the best laws on Earth, can change the constitution for the n-th time and all, but if Venezuelans don't change their attitude towards society in general, towards REAL education and accountability, no political change is worth anything. Still, I think that the following ideas could be useful:

12.1 USE A PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM

Most countries in America have presidential systems. These systems allow too much power to concentracte in one single pair of hands. They do not foster real debate. The president, specially in countries such as Venezuela now, are not made accountable to the congress. Now Venezuela is one of the few countries on Earth where there is no term limit for a president (and a president has many more powers than a prime minister or a queen in constitiutional monarchies). We need to have a parliamentary system. The German one may be one of the best right now: on one hand it promotes debate, accountability and proportional representation. On the other hand it guarantees that there is not too much fragmentation by introducing a 5% threshold of national votes for parties to be represented in parliament.

Here you can see the German chancellor talking in the Bundestag. She constantly has to answer very tough questions of the opposition and her own party there. Imagine the head of state of Venezuela doing that!




Let's join them! (but not the Ethiopean-Indian-Thai-Iraqi way)

Electric peace nobel?

This recent cartoon of Weil escaped me. But it is perfect to illustrate why we are having so many power outages: there seems to be always money to give around to client states, but never the cash and the will to fix pressing problems at home. Chavez plane should get the peace prize because it keeps flying to La Paz, The Peace, all the time. Except that La Paz is of course Bolivia where petro dollars finance the political activities of Evo Morales, the bought president of Bolivia. Great pun!

By the way, Teodoro has another killer editorial on electric outage today! Maybe if I have time later...


-The end-

Maques del Toro is degraded to Conde

The risks of blogging.

The new history manual distributed around Venezuelan schools are apparently, according to an article in El Nacional today (subscription only), plagued with errors. However one of the list made me wonder: The Marques del Toro, close friend of Bolivar who in those years was less bolivarian than what Chavez would have us believe, is not reported as Conde, count, which I believe in Spanish heraldry is a demotion (I think in England Earl beats Marquess, but what do I know).

Whatever, I am sure that a very famous opposition blog has been the cause of such title change, since its editor is a distant relative of said aristocrat.

-The end-

The Chavez equation

The Petkoff editorial of Tal Cual today was simply irresistible and I had to translate it. It was also accompanied with an image that illustrates more than anything else the administrative failure of the worst government in Venezuelan history. The only question for us, for amusement, you know, is to hear the excuses of the PSF, more and more silent these days as they shift to Honduras their attention, a more palatable cause in their book I suppose.

THE THREE PLAGUES
Teodoro Petkoff

Over the country three major crises are converging simultaneously. The public security crisis, the crisis of the electrical system and the crisis of public health system. They are not the plagues of Egypt, they are the plagues of Chavez.


Not that Venezuela was a wonderland
before Chacumbele [Chavez] , but what we had in those three areas then could withstand the worst eleven years of public administration this country has ever experienced. The oil boom, of course, disguised incompetence. But now the service structure that the government manages can no longer stand. Of course, these three crises are not unique.

Public education also is severely damaged and on the horizon rears the ugly head of the water crisis. Not to mention the economy. But, is the crisis of insecurity, health and electricity which at present fall with greater weight on the back of everyone in the country, particularly on the poor.

The poor cannot close up their streets, as do the inhabitants of the residential areas of middle class or the rich, nor can they afford private security; and police patrols do not circulate along the routes in the townships. The poor then are absolutely defenseless and unprotected and the public security crisis hits them with a particular harshness. For the poor there is no police and most of the crimes that overwhelm them go unpunished . 99% of homicides occur in the townships and a similar percentage of them are not even investigated. There are no courts of justice for the poor but what they have is prisons, the worst and most violent in the continent.

The poor can not go to private clinics and for them there is no HMC. Hospitals and clinics are overwhelmed and the relief that Barrio Adentro meant was short-lived. The Social Security system already has eleven years of delay. The Great Charlatan, without the slightest sense of the ridiculous, is "inviting" the gringo president "se venga pa’l socialismo" [slang: come over socialism]but Obama, in just nine months, is about to get Congress to approve his universal Social Security, while for the "revolutionary" and "socialist" Chacumbele almost eleven years have not been enough to settle this debt with the people.

In terms of electricity we have started to plunge into the "mar de la felicidad" ["sea of happiness" in which supposedly according to Chavez Cuba and Venezuela float]. Who would believe that this country, energy rich by definition, would know long hours of electricity rationing. Who could believe that Venezuela was going to live "alumbrón" in alumbrón "- as the Cubans say, to mark the end of the blackouts - [apagón=outage and the pun is that alumbrón would be the occasional non outage]. Of course, the poor are most affected by power failure, but this calamity indeed does not make for class distinctions.

Rich and poor alike suffer the consequences of these destructive plagues that has fallen over the country. [untranslatable expression closes the text: ¿Será verdad que todavía la sarna con gusto no pica?]



-The end-

A good day for Honduras? Nicaragua makes its own coup!

The provisional government of Honduras received a big boost yesterday, courtesy of nothing else than Nicaragua. Daniel Ortega, the thug, accused of rape and all sorts of other dubious moral acts, has managed to have a portion of the High Court to gather in a very questionable legality to suppress a constitutional article banning immediate reelection. That is, he goes one further than Zelaya, he uses an opaque ruling, not bothering with parliamentarian debate, or referendum, no nothing.

While we wait how this "legal" constitutional coup plays (I mean, a sudden convocation at 1 PM to decide in a rush the reelection of a president? gimme a break!) we can turn toward Honduras who feels cornered today but who must feel quite an ego boost, quite a validation after the cavalier way into which Ortega, its local nemesis, managed his right to reelection.

At this point Honduras would be well justified in breaking relationships with Brazil, turn off the embassy electricity (in solidarity with the Venezuelan people?), send the OAS packing and release a note stating that when the OAS worries at least half as much about Nicaragua than Honduras then they will be more than willing to reopen talks. I, for one, would support such a stand. After all, there is barely a month left for the vote and even if creeps like dictator loving foreign minister Moratinos of Spain announces that Spain will not recognize the result I can assure Micheletti that drop wise countries will come around after November 29.

The farce is reaching new heights of ridicule. The OAS is now totally discredited. After having bombastically condemned the Micheletti legal regime it had to accept to come to Tegucigalpa to negotiate to try to stop the blood shed that irresponsibly the OAS promoted with its knee jerk reaction to Chavez interests in the name of a moral that Chavez is the first one of the lot to ignore. I mean, the disregard of Chavez for the OAS is such that he had no qualms in promoting a judicial coup in Managua just as the OAS is negotiating another coup not even an hour away by plane. You will observe that the way the coup was conducted in Nicaragua is an imitation of the few judicial coups already experienced in Venezuela under Chavez.

Note: the coup was held courtesy of the lousy Latino American custom of having "substitutes" that can act whenever the main holder of the office is absent. In civilized country there is no such a figure, only too prone to abuses. When a US Supreme Court is sick or dies, his seat is vacant until a new Justice is named. When a Congress member becomes secretary or dies, the seat is vacant, period. And the Vice President, the only substitute contemplated in the constitution, has no power except presiding the Senate. Even in France where representatives are elected with a substitute, this last one has no duties until the seat if officially vacated for good because the holder has become a minister, resigned or croaked. Once the substitute enters the Palais Bourbon, he becomes the holder for good.

But in our culture where political rewards are the norm, they invented the substitute practice that allows constant interchangeability. That way more people could get if not a fully paid job (they get in general compensation when they replace the main holder even for only a day) they get at least a "honor". This is what happened in Nicaragua where the Liberal holders of the Court seats were convoked too late, or were away, and the substitutes, Sandinistas (?!?!?!?!), stepped in a jiffy to vote a major constitutional interpretation.

That pernicious custom, as well as reelections, are to be banned from our political system if we want to have some day serious governments. And that goes for you too, Alvaro Uribe, NO REELECTION and if we must have it, two consecutive SHORT terms, period.

-The end-

Ministers as random number generators





The Conjurer, by Hieronymus Bosch













I suppose ministers of economics and planning are not supposed to be working as devices for random number generation, but they seem to be doing just that in Venezuela. I know economists (and others) all around the world keep producing predictions that turn out to be wrong more often than they would like to admit, but in Venezuela things are a little bit over the top.

Here you have a chart showing the inflation expectations as stated by the ministers of the current government and as they turned out to be. 2009 hasn't finished yet but we have a better estimate about what the inflation will be at the end of the year.



OK, OK, I see the pattern: they are announcing an inflation rate that is lower than the real one and the Minister line keeps deviating further from the Reality line, so they are not even good fake random numbers, we can have a hunch about what is next.

In general I think journalists should keep big boards with charts next to them so that they can show them to the rambing minister of the moment: and ask "but Señor ministro, do you think you are going to get it more right this time?"


The chart was based, among other sources, on this and this and this and this, this and this.