Oliver Stone and his fight against terrorists

I just listened to Oliver Stone talking on BBC. It seems that when people become famous in Hollywood they think they are more insightful about anything. The fact is that Stone is as professional as most rabid right winger he wants to distance himself from. In fact, Stone's objectivity - I don't talk about partiality - is as good as that of the most partisan media in the US. Right now even most members of the German extreme left party Die Linke have a more critical view of Chávez than Stone.

I think the BBC should also have engaged a journalist with a deep understanding of Venezuela, not someone asking very predictable questions.

When the journalist asks him about freedom of expression, Stone just goes into "oh, that is so oligarchic", probably with some eye-rolling. Oh, Oliver, you are so cliché.

Stone says most people (what's "most people"?) watch the private media. This is very telling. This shows the only thing he knows about Venezuela is derived from his guided tours with Chávez, from his time in the luxurious hotels watching Globovisión - the only regime-critical channel nowadays- and looking at the kiosks in Caracas. This "specialist" does not speak Spanish, hasn't got a clue about Venezuela's oil cycles, hasn't delved into enough information regarding countless corruption cases carried out by the Boliburguesía, starting with Chávez's clan. His sources are things like "The Revolution shall not be televised".

Stone does not know, for instance, that

  • less than 30% of the population can watch -admitedly FOX-like- Globovisión (those in Caracas and those with cable-satellite dish)
  • the combined circulation of regime critical newspapers is lower than 200000 per day and Venezuelans read very little
  • Chávez constantly threatens the opposition as no head of state of a democracy country would do (we will annihilate them, we will take out the tanks, sweep them away, they are not human, they are subhuman, etc, etc, just watch the videos I constantly link to here)
  • the personality cult has just gone absolutely bonkers and Chávez does not tolerate any even slight criticism of his persona among those who want to work with him (and he has total control of the national government and thus of the petrodollars)
  • Chávez and his ministers completely refuse to hold open debates with opposition leaders
  • Chávez has introduced laws that were rejected in the 2007 referendum (I am not talking about re-election)
  • Chávez has taken away almost all the power from mayors and governors as soon as the opposition won several key municipalities and states
  • Opposition groups are regularly prevented from walking in very tiny numbers, in the main square of Caracas or in any other square where Chavistas are mayors
  • the police has repeatedly attacked using brutal force opposition groups that peacefully distribute flyers in areas that are considered "del pueblo" (i.e. poor areas or rural areas)
Stone, as a rich pseudo-socialist would be completely at lost if he were to debate with someone like Teodoro Petkoff or...hell, even with your humble blogger.

People like Stone are not interested in Venezuela at all. Venezuela is just a tool in their private fights. For people like Stone you are either with Chávez or you are with the terrorists. Does this sound a bell to you?

Caracas Chronicles on Oliver Stone
Caracas Corhnicles on Weissbrot (who helped with the documentary's script)

Mapping Venezuela, planning development

Here you have a map showing population distribution in Colombia and part of Venezuela. The middle of Venezuela is mostly Llanos - huge grasslands -. The South is mostly jungle. Colombia's East is mostly Llanos as Venezuela plus jungle and the South is mostly jungle.

As you can see, Venezuela's population is very unevenly distributed. This simple map does not show the whole picture. Many of the very highly populated areas are valleys in the middle of mountains.

I think it would be silly to set up new cities in the countryside or expect people already living in the urban centres to turn into farmers. Conditions in the Venezuelan grasslands are not the same as in Virginia or California. Another development approach is needed.

A couple of things I think we can do:

1) start moving some headquarters of scientific/financial institutions to secondary cities like Calabozo or El Tigre: Right now Venezuela is way more centralized than France, Britain, the US, theNetherlands or any other developed nation and more than many other major Latin American countries. Every single national institute that is not a university is in placed in Caracas or just next to it. This needs to change once this regime is gone

2) guarantee that rural schools have excellent teachers and libraries: Venezuela's public schools are a complete mess, but rural schools are much less underdeveloped than those in major cities.

3) start solving the problem of land ownership by creating an absolutely transparent site where people -everybody- must firstly report what land they own: Based on that and following some parametres (from bigger extensions to smaller ones, for instance), start to solve ownership of land so that people can be sure of their investment. Right now land ownership is unclear for over 90% of the territory.

Bravo for Colombians, shame on the government of Israel

As a Venezuelan watching the international news I have to say: bravo for the people of Colombia and shame on the government of Israel.

First with Colombia:

I very much wanted Mokus to win the elections in Colombia, but it seems that won't be the case (El Tiempo in Spanish). Colombians have voted very much in favour of Uribe's man, Santos. I preferred Mokus's approach and credentials. I do not like political dinasties, I do not like the Santos family getting a monopol on news and politics, I think military men should not be heads of state in the XXI century and I am very weary about Santo's role in the "false positives" (innocent people killed by some in the Colombian army - investigations ongoing -). Still, Colombians voted and they did so through an electoral system that, although manual - as in Norway, Germany or the Netherlands - is way more efficient and transparent than the Venezuelan one. Colombians got results fast, there were no threats from any leader, unlike what we have in Venezuela since Chávez is in power.

Going back to the Palestinian-Israel issue:

Al Jazeera (English)
BBC (English)
Spiegel (German)
El País (Spanish)
Haaretz (English)
Aftenbladet (Norwegian)

and if you want to vomit, FOX. Check out for the "anonymous statements" there.

Israel's Deputy Foreign minister said "this is a provocation intended to delegitimise Israel". Actually: what has Israel being doing by taking over more and more land from the Palestinians since 1968 completely against international law? Israel has been occupying land and removing original inhabitants from there based on either "land for war" principles or some weird interpretation of the Book of Joshua, as if Palestinians themselves were not at least as much descendants of the original inhabitants of that land (most of them were already there when Islam arrived).

Update: here a new declaration from Israel declaring Al Qaeda connections on board.

I hope the international community finally does a better job in bringing about justice to this region.

I wonder if we cannot try this: let United Nations bring in all the humanitarian material Gaza needs, with presence from Palestinean and Israeli authorities.

Santos seems to pull it off

[UPDATE-S, and better writing] The first round of Colombia presidential election is over and we do get quite a few surprises.  Let's see by times in no particular order.

The result

Juan Manuel Santos, Uribe designated heir, gets 46.6%; Mockus the surprise challenger surprised us with a meager 21.5%, at "reporte 49" that accounted for 99% of all ballots cast.  a quick survey of the other candidates results show us that Santos needs only the votes of Noemi Sanin (6.1%) of the Conservative party, a natural ally, to reach 50%.  And the significant share of German Vargas of Cambio Radical (10.1%)  should also go to Santos, or at least half of them I would say.  In other words, except for some electoral surprise in the next three weeks, the question is not whether Santos will win the second round but whether he will reach a mandate like 60% of the vote.

Let's not forget that he is helped by two things: he won nation wide, only two departments escaped him for Mockus.  Even if some of the provincial victories were not that large, he won a national vote in total votes and in total areas even more than in votes.  Furthermore the vaunted strength of Mockus in the cities turned out to be a bust.  That the ticket was headed by the ex mayors of Bogota and Medellin did not stop Santos from taking these two cities by 40.3% and 41.7% respectively.  That Mockus was defeated by more than ten points in his alleged strongholds bodes very ill for the second round.

The winners

Of course, Juan Manuel Santos.  But the other winner is Uribe who was able to pass to Santos the bulk of his popularity.  Santos, for many reasons, was not able to cash in full the 70% where Uribe floats but one has the clear sense that had it not been because of the media frenzy over Mockus, he would have been elected on the first round.  Not surprising after all: the right won the legislative elections decisively three months ago, a fact that too many folks mesmerized by the Mockus phenomenon seemed to have forgotten by all but by your faithful blogger :)  Pretending blithely that the Colombian people would reverse their initial choice over two months just because Mockus was the international media darling was, well, silly.

The big, HUGE, loser

The opinion polls.  I am waiting with bated breath for the explanation on how supposed prestigious polling firms like IPSOS or Gallup predicted a technical tie for the first round, never mention earlier polls predicting that there was a possibility for Mockus to win on the first round.  Whoever paid for those polls should ask for a refund.  I mean, they not only were not close, they were dead wrong, anthology dead wrong!

Update1:Some pollsters bring as an excuse that they were not legally allowed to make polls in the last week.  I do not buy it because I do not know of cases where in one week a dead heat became a 2 to 1 victory!  That is, if one week ago Santos and Mockus were, say, 38 to 36, I can see that becoming 42 to 32, not 46 to 22!!  As far as I know no major blunder was committed by Mockus to account for such a drop!

The political losers

The traditional parties of Colombia.  The Liberal and Conservative votes have disappeared, absorbed by Santos and Mockus.  And it seems that each one was able to take votes from each of the historical Colombian parties.  The Polo, the leftist option, that never managed to decide to embrace fervently social democracy, seems to have suffered from a premature aging and was mauled by Mockus.  The Polo might be about to break up as a more leftist impatient fringe might want to embrace Chavez and what not.  But if the Liberal and Polo get together with Mockus to build a true civilian option they could create an interesting coalition that could have a better chance in 4 or 8 years.

What happened?

The mystery is why Juan Manuel Santos did so well.  I, for one, wrote as early as April 16 that Santos machinery would prevail in the end and that for Mockus to reach a 40% would be a great success.  Right now, it seems that Mockus will reach around 40% of the vote in the second round if votes of minor candidates are distributed as expected (OK, so I cannot resits that early pat on the back).  And yet, it was a stronger victory for Santos than we all expected, whether we were fooled by mickey mouse polls.

And yet there are surprises.  Mockus did not do as well as expect in urban centers but the only province he won is a rather rural one in the South, Putumayo, by better than his National average.  Santos certainly won in all provinces but one, but some of his hard core rural vote was not as big as anticipated (Uribe like Chavez found a way to secure the rural vote, without reason maybe, but they sure locked it up).

All in all, we should not be surprised.  Before the Mockus phenomenon we were expecting Santos with 30, Sanin with 20 and other pro Uribe groups with a 10 (the possibility of a second round between Sanin and Santos was seriously considered by some).  And this is in fact what happened, except the distribution was somewhat screwed up by the irruption of Mockus on the stage.  What probably happened is that the Colombian voters still remember how it was before Uribe, and Mockus failed to reassure them in that they would not go back to that era.  That is why Mockus did not get the vote he hoped to get in Urban centers, people sympathized with him but when they were face to face with the ballot they suddenly remembered that Santos had been very successful at trashing the FARC, they suddenly remembered that 8 years ago going to picnic drive in the country side was a major risk, they suddenly remembered that the actual act of voting was dangerous as you did not know which polling station would be blown off.

The Mockus effect was in fact the polarization of the anti Uribe vote.  As such paradoxically he favored the polarization of the pro Uribe vote that was divided in three factions.  To make sure that Santos made it to the second round many Colombians simply decided to vote for him as early as the first round vote.  That explains in part the collapse of the Sanin campaign: few were willing to take chances.

Update 2: the post mortems are nasty among the Liberals and the Conservatives as their candidates seem to have been abandoned by their party.  Hapless Sanin is a rather pathetic case, she did not get the vote she got for the primary which was an open one!

Update 3: it seems that another problem was an excess of debates.  Indeed the candidates debated tirelessly, at least compared to what happens in the US when we reach the post convention level.  Mockus was not very good in debates even if his thoughtful approach was appreciated by intellectuals.  But in a country most voters want rather a decision maker than someone agonizing over the right answer.  It seems that early debates allowed for a rise in the Mockus numbers while later debates were his undoing.


I have no advice to give to Mockus, not to mention this is about as much as I know about Colombia politics.  But if he does not want to make a fool of himself, if he wants to reach at least 35%, if he wants to get a shot at creating a viable alternative for the election 4 years from now, he needs to be clearer about what he admires about Uribe, he needs to be stronger in his anti FARC position and he needs to make sure he does not blunder anymore in respect to Chavez.  He should demonstrate that he understands that outside Colombia it is a big dangerous world where many countries want Colombia to fail, and I am not only talking of Venezuela or Ecuador, I am talking of Brazil.  Mockus should make it clear that he understands Colombia future is with the US alliance as a counterweight to Brazil.  The real enemy is not Chavez, it is Brazil imperial designs, one of the reasons they support a clown like Chavez who single handedly will secure for Brazil its  northern border if he gets his way.  But I digress.  At least that is how Mockus would get my vote  :)

PS1: Boy!  Am I glad that I wrote earlier that I would wait for the second round to make my choice!  Today I was counting how many of the Venezuelan intelligentsia had already gambled on Mockus just to find themselves with egg on their faces tonight: Petkoff, Socorro, Laureano and so many other including estimable blog colleagues.  Although I predicted and keep predicting a Santos victory to tell you the truth I have not chosen the one I like better.  Update4: a sour note in Tal Cual today complaining about the knee jerk reaction of too many in the Venezuelan opposition shamelessly linking Mockus to Chaevz.  True, but sour grapes nevertheless as Tal Cual all but officially endorsed Mockus.

PS2: I received a report that in Venezuela Colombians voted 68.8% in favor of Santos.  Chavez must be delighted as they will also vote in September in Venezuela......

PS3: I was watching Telesur and ViVe tonight for fun.  The "journalists" were trying to focus on the fraud reports.  Piedad Cordoba was reporting receiving hundred of notes on her Twitter account.  Well, maybe there was some fraud and some vote buying in some areas, but as far as I can tell nothing in the scale of what happens with Chavez here!  And even if indeed there were fraud results, so what?  Did Mockus not have enough supporters to monitor ballot counting in Bogota and Medellin?  If he lost there by more than 10 points, then indeed Santos won nation wide!  If fraud gives him an extra point or two it does not change anything and these journalists would do better to worry about the political implications of that result for Venezuela instead of trying to annul a result that they do not like with silly arguments that are of no concern for Colombians apparently (note: the legislative fraud of three months ago  is being duly investigated, just in case they did not noticed it, an investigation that never started for similar accusations here in Venezuela).

PS4:  And while they are in Colombia, Telesur and Vive journalists should inquire as to why with manual votes Colombia reported so fast while in Venezuela we need to wait for hours in spite of our automated system.  Update 5: they could also wonder about the amount of debates in Colombia compared to the ZERO amount of debate here in Venezuela when Chavez runs.

Colombia results

The electoral commission over there closed voting stations at 4 PM.  At 5:05 PM on my lap top I could read the results as of communique #14, tabulating 79,86% of the votes cast.  All in Colombia was manual voting.  All.

And here in Venezuela the CNE still owes us the final real result of the 2007 referendum, in a system where all is automated for speed.

The other night I was watching Vanessa Davies in VTV interviewing some pro Chavez Colombian as to the elections over there.  I was curious and with time on my hands.  At some point Vanessa stated shamelessly that in Colombia all was manual, just like in Venezuela before, when there was electoral fraud everywhere according to her.  Visibly this poor woman, who once upon a time wrote the rational science page of El Nacional, has sold herself to the cult.

The thing is that in Venezuela probably the results arrive fast at the CNE but they must go through Chavez before published so he has time to prepare, arrange, improve, whatever.

As for the Colombian results you will need to wait for my post tomorrow :)  though I can tell you that the mistakes in opinion polls will set a new record as they go directly into the hall of shame.

The naked Emperor: when a leftist icon is abandoned by the working class

Richard Prieto, head of a major Polar Union
Last night I kept reading the rather fascinating tale of Domingo Alberto Rangel.  The very aged leftist, subversive of the 50ies and 60ies, one of the founder of the Venezuelan MIR, is now settling accounts by doing among other things a short book in the form of a lengthy interview by Ramon Hernandez.  I am not going into the details of this book which deserves a full post when I am done with it.  Suffice to say that for Rangel Chavez has been a fraud and that in his opinion he represents the fascist wing of the army.

The point is that this morning El Nacional right on cue brings us the fascinating interview with the president of the Ceveceria Polar Union, that is, the main beer maker of Venezuela and as such one of the main Unions within the Polar group, which has the largest Unions of the Venezuelan private sector.  In this interview we can see how far has progressed the waking up of the working class of Venezuela as to the fraud that chavismo has been all along.  Better late than never we could add.

The original interview is here in Spanish as El Nacional is by subscription.  At the end of this post there is the translation.  But before posting it I must also mention the OpEd of Milagros Socorro that goes in the same direction, mentioning yet another leader of Polar group Unions who is issued from chavismo but who know criticizes it: Juan Tacoa.  In that not to be missed piece, Milagros Socorro explains why the 32,000 are going to be a much harder bone to chew than what PDVSA was.  Times have changed and now people know perfectly well what happens when the Venezuelan state nationalizes a business.  Does Prieto not say:
Yo quisiera que el Presidente me diera el nombre de una empresa que él haya expropiado que sea exitosa. Yo no conozco ninguna. Y no sólo yo: nadie.
I would like the President to give me the name of a business that he has expropriated which is successful. I do not know of any.  And it is not me alone: nobody [knows of one]
This is a UNION LEADER saying these words about the Socialism of the XXI century president.  No small potatoes.  A challenge, by the way, that we know will not be countered by the regime which will simply accuse Prieto of being a sold out, never offering the example we all wait for and that he requested.

Long ago now, in 2007, I wrote the prescient post where the unveiling of the Chavez masquerade started, with the students.  Now it is starting with the working class, as they realize that without the oil check book Chavez is not only nothing, but that in fact deep down he never liked the Venezuelan working class.  The emperor is now naked, with only the bandits around here trying to put a Cuban veil around.

Richard Prieto is president of the Brewery Workers Union at Polar. He gets to stay in the ring at a time of great struggle. In one corner, the Government. And in the other, the labor force. Born in Barquisimeto in 1968 and graduated from high school in the Lyceum Lisandro Alvarado. Has been married for 23 years. One of his sons died in an accident. You has two left. He worked 11 years in the bottling Marbel. He joined Polar in 2000. He works as a forklift operator or what the organization is known as operator III. The task consists of loading the trucks that go out and download the arrivals. His monthly package is approximately 5 thousand Bolivares. Besides, he has other benefits: trust fund, four months of bonus, savings and health insurance that covers his entire family. Prieto spoke in guaro [Barquisimeto colloquial accent and way of speech]. He carries his Polar ID card hanging on  his chest as one would carry a gold medal won in the Olympics.

The head of state said last Sunday in Alo Presidente, that workers who have sided with Polar have sided with those who exploit the people. What would you reply?

Mr President, we do not defend either the bourgeoisie or imperialism: we defend our jobs, our collective contract, our job security, the bread of our children.

Empresas Polar generates over 32,000 jobs nationwide and is the first tax payer of the country. This organization is offering the best wages in Venezuela and allows workers to make a career within it. We have a good collective agreement. And that's what moves us to keep up the fight. Not any  bourgeoisie.

Would not it be more convenient for you that the company passed into the hands of a government that proclaims socialism and therefore must defend the interests of the working class? Would not it be preferable that option before closing ranks around the business? -

We do not believe in that participatory socialism peddled by the President of the Republic. All companies that have fallen into government hands are broken.

Workers [of state companies taken over] do not have, even a collective agreement. In Barquisimeto, there is the case Vengas (gas communal). Four years ago the government took it and now workers are clamoring for a collective agreement.

When functioning as Vengas, if people emptied the bombonita [gas container, most cooking in Venezuela is made through gas containers delivered at home or carried in by the individuals], they called, no later than two days later it is replenished. Now it may take 15 or 20 days and it is still not replaced. How can the President expect that we accept that? The first days could be like a party, but after we will be mournng [after an eventual take over].

There are the cases of Cemex, Sidor ... We do not want that fate for Polar. So we defend our jobs.

- Do you defend capitalism? -

No. We do not advocate capitalism: we defend our rights, under the Constitution.

A Constitution which the President speaks of, but that does not comply with. What allows us to feed us and our families, are our jobs. And if we have to go out every day to defend them, we will. It woudl be good if Venezuela had not one Polar but several Polar, not a Mendoza, but several Mendoza. Unemployment in this country would end. The Polar Group has been a blessing for the people of Venezuela. It's true.

Suppose the company passed into the hands of the Government, would this one be able to operate it? -

Honestly, no. And the proof, I repeat, is what has happened with other companies that the Government has taken allegedly to push them forward and what has happened is that they have collapsed. Workers who are making a living there protest every day. If the President wants to start a business to benefit the people, he should do so with the state's resources, without expropriating the others.

Because he expropriates here and he expropriates there, and he bankrupts here and bankrupts there [drives into bankruptcy]. All companies that he has expropriated are in the red. And if they are operating, they do it at half speed. It would be a catastrophe for the country for Polar to pass into the hands of the government.

- Why a disaster? -

The Government drives the companies into bankruptcy because, among other things, it puts in management positions people who are not trained. Polar produces 80% of the country's food [80% of the food produced in Venezuela as we import way more than half what we eat]. Imagine that failing. How would Venezuela manage? Looking for imports? What is needed here is to have production. And if the government wants to create a company to compete, fine. But not that way: expropriating solid and operating companies. No, he should do that with his money.  I would like the President to give me the name of a business that he has expropriated which is successful. I do not know of any.  And it is not me alone: nobody [knows of one]

Would you be willing to risk your lives to defend your jobs? -

If necessary, yes. Not that we want to be martyrs.

I wish we did not have to go there. But if we had to risk our life, we would do so because somehow we would leave a legacy for those who woudl follow us. We are not thinking about anything else for us today.

We are thinking about the future.

We will fight to where we can so that the right to work is not snatched from us .

The Government must respect the Constitution. We must fight for the good: we can not go back. And the only way is to stand firm in our position.

The decision to defend at all costs the right to work is shared by most of the workers? -

I can tell you 500% of workers have that conviction. It is not anymore one hundred percent. In a meeting we did, we took the decision.

And it does not matter whether one is forklift operator, if the other works in the maintenance area and the other is an engineer. Here we all speak the same language: to defend our jobs. We see ourselves in a single row: a row of workers, because we are employed and deserve respect. We are tired of the vulgarity and insults.

We too are people. Many of us, the workers voted for President Chavez. I do not know why he sees us as if we were little bourgeois who betray the country.

The country is divided into two factions we all see (one for and one against President Chávez), is that not seen in Polar? -

Here everyone's ideology has been respected.

If someone is red, green or blue [s/he] is free to be. There were some workers who supported the government, but after February 13, when President Chávez passed by Barquisimeto branch and said, "that take outta here that garbage from the center of the city!" things changed. We feel that we are all garbage. Garbage we all are because we proudly belong to this company.

The President may make an advisory referendum of the 32,000 workers of Polar and I think he would not take five votes in his favor. We are calling on the President of the Republic: rectify. We are not challenging, we just want to bet let work in peace. This soap opera began 107 days ago. And our children when we get home, no longer ask the blessing [bendicion, traditional way for Venezuelan children to greet their elders], as before, but they ask, "Dad, are you going to be expropriated?."

Bolivarian lies

The Venezuelan National Institute of Statistics, INE, is completely dependent on the Venezuela regime, so if you want to consider any piece of information from its site, you have to take into account the statistics are mostly concocted to put Hugo Chávez's government under a favourable light.

Here I plotted the average OPEC oil price per year ($ per barrel) from 1998 to 2009. I also draw on the same chart the percentage of "poor" and "extreme poor" as percentage of Venezuela's population according to the INE. I am not normalizing the figures, but still you can get an idea about what is going on.

It is basic: crumbles to the poor at best.

The percentages come from an article published by the INE to praise the government.

In the same article the INE tries to compare unemployment in Venezuela with unemployment in many other countries. In theory unemployment in Venezuela is lower than in Spain or Greece or even lower than the average in the EU as a whole. In reality you just need to read between the lines to realise: about half of the people the INE claims to be "employed" are street vendors (who anyway do not have unemployment money) and the like. I will get into detail in future posts about this "and the like" group.

If you speak Spanish, you can read some news about what kind of "jobs" Venezuelans have here, here.

Losing 20,000 tons of food: what does that say about Venezuela?

I am still flabbergasted about the news that at the very least 20,000 tons of imported food went to waste in Puerto Cabello because no one cared enough to remove them from the container storage area to deliver them to their righteous owner/handler/beneficiaries/whatever.  At this point it is impossible to structure a narrative about such an incredibly shameful operation though we can already predict in all confidence that no one will go to jail, or even receive a public sanction for such a disaster.  After all, let's not forget that in 2000 Venezuela received a lot of help for the Vargas disaster and a lot of that help found its way in some lot at Puerto Cabello where it went to waste, waiting for its discovery years later. No one was prosecuted or even fired for such an attempt against Human Rights, the Human Rights of the victims of the Vargas disaster to which that generous international help was destined.

However I can list a  few things about this latest disaster that speaks volumes about what kind of country we have become after 11 years of Chavez.

The facts

We will never know for sure, since we never know for sure in this country about things that cast a negative light on the regime's blunders.  From reading about a dozen entries on the web it seems that at the very least A THOUSAND + containers (1300?), loaded with food destined to Mercal and PDVAL, the food distribution system of the state, are involved in the deal.  Each container carried an average of at least 20 tons, which means that at the very least up to 20,000 thousand tons of food items might have been lost.  Maybe not all is lost, maybe some has still a valid expiration date.  But you will agree with me that expiration date on food is designed for food stored in proper warehouses and not for months under the sun and humid sea air of Puerto Cabello.  It does not matter how you cut it out, spin it, whatever, it is a monumental disaster only attributable to the regime bureaucracy since that one seized Puerto Cabello from its independent control as soon as the Carabobo state was taken back by the opposition in November 2008.  The blame is with Chavez and his appointees, NOWHERE ELSE.

The outrage

It does not exit, really.  Only El Nacional had it in big on its front page, El Universal in smaller, and nowhere on top in Globovision.  On the other hand plenty of articles about the primary vote  fallback on each side. The opposition alliance MUD, given such an excellent opportunity to attack Chavez mis-administration, is wasting it since it cannot be bothered to create a group of spokespeople to hammer the government with such things.   I mean, the MUD should have sent a commission to visit Puerto Cabello!!!  even if they knew full well that entry would be denied at least they would have made a media show at the door!

The honor, to give it a name, was saved by Carabobo folks who have been denouncing the routine losses at Puerto Cabello as much as for its waste as for the public health hazard that tons of food going to rot represent.  It is through Carabobo State legislator Neidy Rosal that we learn, in horror, that these thousand plus containers were discovered by luck, because the authority was investigating the robbery of three powder milk trucks in an unrelated event.  That is how they "stumbled" on the mound of rotting food!

The Governor of Carabobo Salas Feo reminds that his administration has been making similar accusations for a while, accusing mafias associated with the regime for these importations that go nowhere.  He notes that in a time of crisis, the food that went to waste could have fed for several days million of people in Venezuela.  That is right, it could have fed at least  all of Carabobo State for a few weeks.

The government reaction

Very limited of course: what can they say besides brief declarations from the SEBIN officials in charge of the investigation?  But from other two items happening today we sense that they are trying to take measures to make sure people do not speak up while creating a side show to distract.

The government certainly is going to try to limit the fallout of this scandal.  How?  For example punishing the whistle blowers just as it is doing in punishing the PDVComunal Gas workers who dared to go to Caracas this week to protest the miserable conditions that are forced to do their work.  Any "informant" in Puerto Cabello caught is certain to get punished.  How else can we explain that the workers did not report of such a storage that was in front of them?  Even if that area was of limited access or interest, surely someone must have walked around regularly in the last 6 months since the containers arrived.  No?

As an importer I know that when one of my containers is delayed for any reason the port authority bills me for the storage.  Nobody was watching for the storage fees of 1000+ containers?  This hiding of containers could have only happened if there was some sort of complicity at the highest level of the port authority and the Nazional Guard that supervises everything.

The irony is that the show this week end to cover up all the troubles of the country is the government making a big fuss of the distribution in diverse markets of Venezuela of 9,000 tons of food stuff!!!  Yes, you read that right, the government heralds the distribution of 9,000 tons of food which do not represent half of what was lost in Puerto Cabello!!!!!  They go overboard, claiming the organization of 1,800 points of distribution and they call it "Socialist meat fair" to fight against speculation and hoarding.  They certainly are not fighting waste and mismanagement.

The minister in charge of the the ministry that was supposed to monitor such things is Richard Canaan.  He was named in February 2010 to replace Eduardo Saman, the red shirted, bearded taliban who loved to close business on any excuse and whose claim to fame was the opening of the first "arepera socialista" of dubious success.  Thus the purchase order for this rotten food was placed during Saman tenure.  Though this should not excuse Canaan who should have made a point of getting to know about all what his predecessor left on his desk, the more so that Canaan function is to deal with perishables.

The fear

Based on precedent we also learn that the legislators of Carabobo who monitor Puerto Cabello are afraid that the government will try to recover some of the stuff found.  Of course this would go for sale at the Mercal and PDVAL outlets because it is clear that health is not an issue here, only political propaganda.  The hoi poloi should be happy with free food and not look into the quality.

Indeed,  we should look into what could be recovered, if anything to feed livestock.  But it should be done in the open, people knowing where everything goes.  From past knowledge I am willing to bet that this will not happen, and that in fact new juicy contracts will be established to reprocess the stuff through friends of the regime.

My scenario

This is such an example of all that is wrong with Venezuela today that even a seasoned observer like me has trouble comprehending the scale of it.  Below I am going to write a list of a few of the things that may have happened in the whole process and I am willing to bet that most of them are true.  I know that because I know the Puerto Cabello beast form the inside, because I have suffered for too long of its inadequacy and corruption and because my personal tales are almost nothing compared to the tales from other folks that reach me regularly.

The purchase

The government buys for Mercal and PDVAL without any control, without bothering for quotes.  It buys wherever it can through "trusted" bolivarian nouveau riche.  Or through Cuban agencies.   It is rare that the private sector can quote and sell large amounts today, unless for some reason it is the private sector that has access to a given source of food (for example some of the US grain imported directly).  The whole process is laden with corruption since with CADIVI and import permits there is is all sorts of paper works that can block you.  Bolibourgeoisie turns that around easily because they 1) "are with the revolution", feeding "el pueblo" and thus get "priority", 2) are willing to pay the necessary bribes and 3) simply charge the whole thing to the overpriced bills that are cashed to the state.  Since there is no public accounting we do not know for sure what was bought where and for how much.

Overprices, back handled payments and forced intermediaries are the norm if you need to sell anything to Venezuela as the latest Argentina scandal of the "coimas" reveals.

The delivery

As it is only too often the case with these type of business "arrangements", the trader really does not care much about the fate of the merchandise once he receives the purchase order and can cash the bill.  The trader receives preferential dollar value, at 2.6 today, well more favorable than the black market one of 8.  thus the temptation of overpricing the stuff so as to get a substantial margin is simply too strong to resist.

The port Authority of Puerto Cabello and the Nazional Guard which is supposed to control it know very well what is going on (in addition of the other business of drug trafficking, contraband and what not).  They know of all the people that deal with the government and long ago have established the network to skim the traders along the way.  They know the traders are robbing the state, that the state allows it, so why should they not get their cut?

Thus, from the initial emission of the purchase order to the time when the truck leaves Puerto Cabello for a given Mercal facility, a spectacular network of corruption has been built.  And it has gained strength since the local authorities have been banned, along as the private subcontractors, from the facilities in the first half of 2009.  Venezuelan ports have now the reputation of being among the very most corrupt organizations of the state.  It is to be noted that in ALL countries of the world ports are in need of close supervision as they offer too many opportunities of crooked deals, from the dockers giving priority to those who give nice tips, to contraband fees paid to security.  So you imagine what it is in Venezuela where the government is not only corrupt but overly lax in efficient controls, controls being designed to make sure the Guard and port bureaucrats can cash in at the gate, literally.

The beauty of the Venezuelan system is that it is nearly impossible to collect the evidence.  One, it is simply difficult to collect evidence as any attempt form your part to complain becomes quickly a fine or a delay in delivery with fast accruing storage costs.  Second, even if you could collect the evidence, to what tribunal are you going to go?  And third, all is so time consuming and your business needs so badly the merchandise so you can work and meet payroll and customer demands that you simply swallow hard, pay your custom agent (the one that does the dirty work for you) and simply increase your resale prices to compensate.  At the end the ones who pay for the corruption are the same as always: "el pueblo".

The payment: did something go wrong?

Clearly something went wrong along the way.  That the merchandise was abandoned in a lot for over six months can only be because some scam was at play and either something went wrong at the time of finishing it up, or went very well, the "trader" cashing his or her money and bailing out of doge, forgetting about the merchandise sunbathing for ever.

Case 1: something went wrong.  The date is the clue: Saman was fired at the time I suspect the paperwork was processed if the containers arrived in December/January.  That does not mean that Saman is involved but he was a dork and when he left office some of his administrators also left the office or were shuffled somewhere else by the Canaan staff.  Chavista ministers rotate so much that it is known that they have a close posse like staff that they bring along with them to whichever posts they go.  If one of Saman minions was involved in some "coup" his early dismissal screwed everything and he remained quiet about it least someone in the incoming group would notice.  After all Saman was fired in disgrace so it would have been unlikely that anyone in the Canaan group would have been willing to talk and take chances.

Case 1B: of course we cannot forget that the chavista famous incompetence might be the only explanation needed.  Saman was out, nobody cared anymore about the matter.  In this case the responsibility is with the Canaan group not to make sure they were receiving a complete detail of on going operations.

Case 2: all worked out just fine for the interested parties.  Let's do some numbers.  We are talking here of at least 20,000 tons of food at an average price of say, modestly, 2 USD per kilo.  Let's say that the overprice was a mere 0.5 USD per kilo.  We are talking here of a 10 million dollar commission at the very least, more likely, form precedent, of twice or thrice that amount.  Even if the head of the scam had to share a lot of that commission, we can assume that a group of 2-3 guys cashed in from 5 to10 million dollars.  If you have 3 million dollars and put them in a fund paying you interest and out of capital 200,000 a year, you can live comfortably for at least 20 years out of that scam.  Which does not stop you form starting your business outside of Venezuela, you know, to extend these years by a few more.

What happened in this case?  Whoever was in charge of the scam needed just the approval of importation to cash in the CADIVI dollars, pay the provider and cash in his commission.  He paid off whatever Nazional Guard mafia he needed to pay off, sent the notice to PDVAL and Mercal and forgot about the whole business.  Why Mercal did not act on it?  That is the mystery we would like to know, but there is no mystery about why the provider never bothered in making sure the goods were delivered as planned.

The storage

This is really the most interesting mystery when you think of it.  How can 1,000+ containers be stored somewhere and no one notice?  No one asking when the space will be made available?  No one asking for the storage fees?  No one noticing that some of the stuff started to smell?  No one noticing that there were more rats than usual in that area?  No electricity bill charged on the refrigerated containers?  And so many other questions, made the more inexcusable as the traffic at Puerto Cabello has been going down so there is not even the excuse of "we were too busy to notice".

We can attribute this to the utter neglect that we witness today at every level of the Venezuelan bureaucracy now that the "customer" is helpless, unable to go anywhere to complain from the bureaucratic abuse.  But this case is just too big, to flagrant, too inexcusable for mere neglect: there was foul play somewhere.  That is why I think that these imports were illegal in some way, from excessive pricing to even some drug smuggling scheme that failed at the last moment.  That is the only explanation I can come up to explain that not only the delivery was never made but that the Puerto Cabello workers and administration decided to remain quiet about it, pretending that these containers were not there.

What does it says about Venezuela?

By now you must guess what follows.

Venezuela has become a nation ruled by an inept, corrupt and heartless administration.  Kind of redundant when you think of it?  That so much food has been wasted and no one noticing it, no one assuming the blame is simply a mark that chavismo has created the most egotistical, careless, self centered, arrogant administration that we have ever seen here, and probably in our continent.  If such a scandal were to happen in a semi normal country, the president might not have to resign but I am sure that at least a dozen of high ranking officials would have already tended their resignation and probably some of them would already be in preventive jail.  It is not a matter of only corruption, robbing the state.  It is a matter of playing with the needs of the people, their rights, their hunger.  And this for a government that operates in the name of "el pueblo", and that as such thinks it has the right to accuse Alimentos Polar of hoarding 114 tons of food.  I am going to tell you something: I doubt that Polar has ever let rot any food it has imported.

But it is even worse, though at least on that one I hope to be mistaken over time.  This disaster should become a national cause, taken up by any independent media, by any political group including the now "dissident" PPT.  If the country does not demand an explanation for this, does not stop until at least someone is punished, then we will really have become a country as rotten as the food found in Puerto Cabello. We would have become a country so used to the easy oil moeny, so self assured of our entitlement, so little concerned about where the money goes,  that we deserve what Chavez has in store for us.  If the MUD does not make this one of its banner causes for the September election then they do not deserve to win because they have no moral fiber for that, they do not deserve office.

Dizzy with news, and by the stench of rotten food

I am reading that my retreat option, Europe, is going down hill fast since the Greece bankruptcy happened.  I was reading about the strong measures taken already by some countries, including Greece closing down 2/3 of its  town-halls, admittedly small affairs of little use created to provide public jobs sector to remote areas.

In Venezuela I read of no such things, just Chavez gloating that it is the end of capitalism, that the Venezuelan collapse is not affecting its followers, only the opposition that is happy with it.  No measures, nothing, not even firing a responsible party for show.  Instead attacks to Polar, just as we learn horrified that food imported last year for Mercal and PDVAL was never taken out of Puerto Cabello, and went to waste.  It would be 1300 containers, of about 20 to 30 metric tons each.  That is at the very least 26,000 tons of FOOD!  And Polar was accused of hoarding 114 tons of food while the corruption and incompetence of the government allowed to go to waste 228 times that amount.  Is there going to be an investigation?  Will someone go to jail for that?  Will we have at least a minister fired?

Why I do not like Facebook

In Facebook you can join the "Save Riley" group (3.590 folks) and give money for a dog with a sad story.

Or you can join the "No al Desalojo de Polar de Barquisimeto" (4.960 folks) who is not asking you for money.

In Caracas you can ignore farmer Brito locked up at a government hospital where they are trying to pass him for crazy for sticking to his hunger strike.

Or you can stand in line at a fancy private clinic to sign a banner for Cerati.

When I think of it, we are actually getting what we deserve .......

The Keller poll: trouble ahead for Chavez, and for us...

Unless of course he changes policies but good luck with that...

Keller, my favorite pollster in spite of some electoral mistakes in the past has published his trimestral survey of what he does best: evaluate trends.  Even though I do not dwell much on polls this one deserves a report.

UPDATED: I got a better PDF of the Keller poll.  Now the post is complete.

The bad

The poll covers only 78% of the country population in urban centers of more than 20K folks.  In other words it is useless as a predictor of September results since rural areas are disproportionately represented: 1 urban vote of Maracaibo is roughly equivalent to 0.3 vote of, say, Amazonas or Yaracuy (the reason I vote in Yaracuy as I could be registered in Caracas if I wanted too).

The good

Survey done late April, early may.  So it is the first one to measure the effect of the devaluation and electrical crisis on the population's mood.  A tad early perhaps but on time enough to start sensing it.

The basic result

Venezuelans en masse reject all the attacks Chavez has been doing on private property.  The more Chavez speaks of "socialism" the more turned off are the people.  It seems now that the bad results are finally catching up.  The opposition starts favorably its campaign, but many things can happened until September 26.

The details

How do people see expropriation?

80% of the people think that it cannot be justified to nationalize a well managed and productive private enterprise.  Clear result, no?

What are the results of expropriation?

This is examining what people think of some of the most noteworthy state take over. In order: phone company, Caracas electric power, Santander bank in Venezuela, steel complex of Guyana, Zulia oil industry contractors, cement complexes, cattle farms.  In purple the percentage of those who think that these companies have turned for the worse.  The right column is the difference between those who think it turned for the worse and those who think it improved.  Clear result, no?

Does Venezuela need a change?

And now the "psychological" effect of one year of crisis and going.  Does Venezuela need a change?  70% say YES.  When these 70% are asked what kind of change they have in mind 61% want a change of government, which is roughly 50% of the voters!

 Preliminary voting patterns

Last, how the voting intention I moved from the start of the year to today.  4 months of harsh "cadenas" and seizures and repression have only given chavismo 1 point (in red, "oficialismo" office holders).  The opposition in spite of its lethargy and mistakes still manages to grow by 3 points.  But, and this is a warning, toward "independent candidates".  That must be read as a weak progression if the opposition does not solve some of the problems left by its candidate selection process.


As I have written several times already, looking at that last slide the election is for the opposition to lose.  And it is quite possible still...

As for Chavez, after such a poll, expect the worst reaction.

Keeping an eye on Venezuela's waters

Here you have a very interesting video about how satellite observation can help us to understand what is going on with water resources.

I found the second part of the video particularly interesting for Venezuela.

I wrote already in Spanish about the huge mess with water resources in my region. Other bloggers like Miguel and Daniel have written a lot about the mess with the Guri Dam and other sources of hydroelectric power in Venezuela now. I have little hope the current government will come up with sustainable solutions to these problems but I can imagine we will be able to use satellite studies in the middle term to monitor in a more intelligent way Venezuela's hydrological resources.

In any case, when the time comes and we have that kind of permanent monitoring used by Venezuelan scientists, I think it would be imperative that they keep the public and not just some governmental institution or NGOs informed about how things are evolving: have major changes been detecting in the Orinoco basin? What is happening with the oil fields around the Delta? And what about the Tacarigua Lake? How does the data compare to what we had one, two years earlier?

Podcast with Fausta

An impromptu Podcast with Fausta, for those of you with time on their hands :)

Workers defending the private enterprise, workers criticizing state ones

It is quite obvious from his latest speeches that Chavez is deeply upset that even the Bolivarian Trade Unions within Polar are not supporting his attempted takeover.  Just as the workers that welcomed the state in Guayana or Zulia last year are now all up in arms as they discovered how dead beat, corrupt and incompetent is the new management.  What kind of socialist revolution is that when the workers are taking their distances?  This Weil cartoons says it all about the inner world of Chavez who has decided to believe that sycophancy is a genuine sentiment.
We must feel sorry about these workers defending their companies (Chavez supporters barking like lap dogs).

Jackson Diehl sums it up on Chavez growing debacle

Jackson Diehl wrote quickly today on the WaPo blog a summary post that saves me trouble in that it is a complete enough summary to allow me to write my own one later :)  Mr. Diehl has been a long time critic of Chavez in the WaPo and today he enjoys reminding the leftist folks that harass him all the time that he has been right all along.  Of course, they do not like it, read the comments.  You will wonder at some of the comments whether people actually read the Diehl post.  They sound much more like paid off Venezuelan embassy staffers in charge of bringing down Diehl, text unread. (hat tip PMB)

All is crumbling and what is Chavez doing?

He is in Argentina visiting his partners in crime the Kirchners.  There he accuses the press of Latin America to be right wing and supporting the interests of the Empire, and he accuses Antonini to be a CIA spy.  No evidence whatsoever is offered but we know the jackasses that support him need no evidence whatsoever.  The press is reporting bad news on Venezuela?  They are liars who do the USA bidding!  What happened to the investigation of Antonini and the 800,000 in cash he carried in his suitcase?  He was an agent of the CIA so we need not worry about him! Voilà!

We can even speculate on a future exchange: What about the 5.8% first quarter drop?  Good! It takes us away from capitalism!  ( Am I really speculating on this last one?  Eljuri of the INE state statistics said on TV that the 5.8% drop was a consequence of the naughty world crisis, without bothering mentioning that Venezuela is THE ONLY country still sinking in LatAm as all the others are breaking even or growing again.  He also accused the stockbrokers without pondering the effect of a devaluation and electricity shortages.  People like Eljuri cannot be invented, they just happen!).

About Felix Osorio saying that food cannot be merchandise

Yesterday I reported about the inanity of Ministro de la Alimentacion Felix Osorio saying that food cannot be a merchandise.  Tal Cual's Weil gives the perfect perspective of these words.

Chavez: This cannot be used as a merchandise... [holding an arepa in his hand, the basic food item of Venezuelans]
The poor huddled masses:  Uh-Ah- [chavista cheers!, before they receive the arepa]
Chavez: ...but as blackmail

The Central Bank of Venezuela FINALLY publishes the first quarter results

The economy shrunk by an official 5.8% in the first quarter of 2010FIVE POINT EIGHT PER CENT.

You want to know why?  Read the two preceding posts and you will have a good hint.

But agricultrue is not the main culprit since it went South long ago.  This time is manufacturing (-9.9%) and commerce (-11.8%).  that is right, there is less to shop for but there is less people to shop for too, something that chavistas will probably find positive.  And with the inflation of 5.6 in April, well, I do not need to explain to you what this all means. Oh, heck!  I will explain it to you: Chavez economic ship is sinking faster than expected.

Ah!  I forgot, Giordani IS STILL in charge!!!!

And if you think that maybe they will start getting the hint that they might just need to correct something, forget it!  Today Felix Osorio the Food minister stated that they will go against any retail chain that considers food a merchandise (mercancia).  Yes, that is right, I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!  Nor the title "ministro de la alimentacion".  You can read it here in English or the original in Spanish here.  I suppose soon we will be told to produce food for free becasue you know, it is for El Pueblo!

Who are you going to believe: the Faculty of Agronomy or Loyo, the INTI thug?

More on La Carolina.  The agronomy faculty of the UCV, the most reputed one in Venezuela, has sent a letter to La Carolina (ex?)owner Diego Arria a letter where they state that the farm was good enough, technical enough, productive enough that they will be sorry they will not be able to send their students anymore to finish their training courses before graduation.  You can find the full text of the picture on the right in the blog Notas Agropecuarias Venezuela which carries interesting reports such as the destruction of the country side in Yaracuy, or the lack of control in animal sanitation in Venezuela today when for the sake of expediency in looking for what we are not allowed to produce anymore we import anything from anywhere.  The letter is signed by all the main directors of the Agronomy School of the UCV who appreciates fully the havoc Chavez has brought to the country side in the name of politics.

Now, you can chose to believe the people that signed that letter or you can believe the guy at the head of the La Carolina take over by the INTI, a certain Juan Carlos Loyo whose  recent tweeter account is quite revealing and whose Google search shows his distinguished career at stealing producing properties and turn them into agricultural graveyards.

Alimentos Polar replies to the lies of Chavez

The failed government of Chavez which has reached a pathological degree of chronic lies keeps attacking the Polar group. This one replies in an official communique which uses some of the points that I had mentioned earlier, obvious points for anyone in the field in Venezuela. Thus I thought that it would be worth translating it so people do understand better the unfounded attacks against the Polar Group, Alimentos Polar. I have included in brackets or notes some comments for readers to understand better. You can read the original here in Spanish.

With the support of all employees (1)

Alimentos Polar rejects allegations and reaffirms that it will continue producing at maximum capacity and quality as always for all Venezuelans

24-05-2010 - In Alimentos Polar categorically reject the unfounded allegations of hoarding and speculation, because we have never acted that way during our 50 years of history and never will, as our reason for being is to produce quality food to satisfy customers and consumers. [Many of the products manufactured by Polar are perishables so even if they wanted to practice hoarding to manipulate prices it would be difficult.  Besides the production and consumption levels would require gigantic warehouses that cannot be concealed]

These accusations have caused great surprise among the thousands of people belonging to Alimentos Polar, knowing, as the officials responsible for this matter know, that it is impossible to hoard, because each kilo of every product we make is monitored strictly by state agencies, throughout the entire process of production and distribution.

The National Government does a complete product tracking from the moment it leaves our factories until it arrives at each point of sale throughout the country.

Each kilo that Alimentos Polar produces in each of their plants located throughout the country is certified daily, which are running at full capacity. Every day the National Government knows exactly where the products are released, since it issues the authorization for each truck to make the deliveries Alimentos Polar has scheduled for that date. For this it uses the SICA (Integral System for Agrifood Control) and the reports to the SADA (Superintendency of Silos and Farm Stores). This means that in Venezuela not a kilo of food  moves that is not already registered in the system, without the government's agreement. So it is impossible for companies that produce these products to hoard food.

In the particular case of Alimentos Polar, there is a commitment that goes beyond these regulations, because the vocation is to produce as much high quality food and make them available to all Venezuelans. We have never been involved in cases of hoarding or speculation, and never will be. Everything Alimentos Polar has built over five decades has been done with its long-term commitment and reinvestment in the country, where year after year we have been rewarded with consumer preference, who rewarded us with their trust, affection and respect.

We are committed to continue working and investing in Venezuela. For that reason, our investment plan for the area of food production, for this running year, reaches the figure of 405 million bolivar fuerte. [94 million US dollars at 4.3 exchange rate, the double if we take the "official" one of 2.6]

On Thursday 20 May, the national government seized 114 tons of food that were stored in the branch of Alimentos Polar in Barquisimeto, waiting to be distributed in Lara state. This was an arbitrary and unjustified measure. In fact, Alimentos Polar distributes monthly 100,000 tons in the country, therefore, the confiscated the volume equals only 0.1% of the total. This indicator shows the absurdity of the charge of hoarding. [my emphasis]

This type of measure is most damaging to the Venezuelan consumer, because every ton that the government confiscates, affects the normal process of food distribution to households in Venezuela.

Amid this confused situation, it is essential to mention that the National Government has become the largest producer of food in the country. This one controls almost half of the production of precooked corn flour, almost all coffee production and a significant volume of production of sugar, margarine, seafood, wheat flour, rice, juice, yogurt, milk and meat , among others. It would be fair for the benefit of Venezuelan consumers, that regulators implement on these public companies the same checks and inspections that are conducted in private industry.

In addition, Alimentos Polar is the only company which periodically publishes an Activity Report which records its output for each item, inventory days at branches, number of shipments and number of trucks supplied, among other indicators. This report is published on the website Empresas Polar (www.empresas-polar.com) since August 2008.

The company holds open the doors of all branches and plants for the authorities to conduct the necessary inspections. Proof of this is that in the past three years, we have counted more than 600 inspections, much higher than that of any other company in the food sector in the country.

Every time that Alimentos Polar is accused of hoarding or speculating on food or Polar, it is a meaningless accusation. No one can hoard who produces at maximum capacity and distributes food daily to millions of homes in Venezuela and, additionally, who is constantly monitored and controlled by the national government. No one can speculate who has controlled prices for many of their products and presentations, with prices printed on the package label, and which in addition does not sell directly to consumers. [Polar does not have any food store or direct point of sale that I have ever seen or known off.  All of Polar foods are sold through grocery stores.]

When the citizen President of the Republic echoes these accusations, we must assume that he has been misinformed about the reality of our business.

We worked in coordination with the National Superintendency of Silos, Storage and Agriculture  warehouses (SADA), with whom we maintain a close relationship through weekly meetings and constant delivery of written communications. In this sense, we are available to talk. We have always gone wherever we've been invited by the Government, because we are part of the solution.

Venezuelan consumers want quality and variety in the products they buy. Alimentos Polar strives every day to produce food of excellent quality, in the categories where it participates. The company maintains its commitment to all Venezuelans, who have given it convincing demonstration of their confidence and loyalty from the birth of Harina P.A.N. in 1960. [It is difficult to find in the history of commerce a product which has transformed a country the way Harina P.A.N. has transformed Venezuela alimentary habits.  If processed cor flour had not been invented, arepas would be today a delicacy offered on rare occasions instead of the daily sustenance of millions of Venezuelan, only too often the only thing they can afford.  And it is not a monopoly since Polar writes earlier that the government produces now nearly half of the corn flour of Venezuela]

Alimentos Polar is committed to the country, its workers, suppliers, customers and consumers. This commitment is above any other. And thus we will continue our efforts and we will keep working in Venezuela and for Venezuela.

As a company, like any citizen, we have rights and obligations. Alimentos Polar fully complies with all its obligations and, to that extent, demands respect for its rights to economic freedom, property, work, defense and due process as established in the Constitution.

We are proud of our honest working men and women committed to the country, who do their work with responsibility, effort, passion and joy, to continue providing quality products to all Venezuelans, as we have done for 50 years of productive work. (2)

Caracas, May 25, 2010


1) the "support of all of its employees" is no iddle chat.  Last night we saw on TV the leader of a "bolivarian trade union" which was defending Alimentos Polar.  Sure, there are a few employees of Polar who probably look forward a chavista take over, something normal in a 30K +  people organization.  The fact of the matter is that I am willing to bet anything that a referendum of the Polar employees would give at the very least an 90% support to the management in this particular case.  That the government has not tried to use the "employee card" as it was used in previous take overs of other companies speaks volumes on this respect.

2) the commitment of Polar goes much further as it participates in countless causes and cultural activities.

Venezuelas Wirtschaftslage

Venezolaner sind Spaniern zum Teil sehr ähnlich. So wie unsere Cousins merken meine Landsleute, dass sie pleite sind erst dann, wenn sie die Hand in die Tasche stecken und nichts finden. Letzte Woche sagte Präsident Hugo Chávez vor einfachen Arbeitern und Polizisten das folgende: "Während europäische Länder jetzt Leute massal entlassen müssen, stellen wir (das heisst, PDVSA) mehr und mehr Leute ein, während Spanien Löhne verringert, erhöhen wir sie."

Solche Worte geben Hoffnung an Leute, die über keine richtige Bildung verfügen und keine zuverlässige Informationen finden können. Weniger als 27% der Bevölkerung hat Zugang zu Internet oder zu Fernsehsendungen, die regimekritisch seien. Das merkt der Tourist nicht in seinem Hotel mit 200 Kanäle. Das merken die meisten Reichen auch nicht, die auch alles sehen können, oder Caracas-Einwohner, die zumindest den FOX-ähnlichen aber zumindest andersdenkenden Sender Globovisión sehen können. In Calabozo oder Südvalencia, in Maturín oder La Guaira kriegen die Armen nur Propaganda zu sehen.

Auf Bild 1 könnt Ihr das BIP einiger Länder erfahren (Quelle: The Economist 5.2010).

Bild 2 zeigt die industrielle Produktion im letzten Vierteljahr. Nicht vergessen: Chiles Infrastruktur hat infolge des Erdbebens stark gelitten. Venezuela hat in dieser Zeit nur unter Chavismo gelitten.

Und endlich hat man hier die offiziele Inflationsrate.

Wird Venezuela in den nächsten Monaten kollabieren? Wird die Regierung zu Grunde gehen? Ich bin kein Ökonom. Ich kann aber mit Sicherheit sagen: nein, Venezuela wird zumindest bis September nicht runtergehen. Die jetzige Regierung hat zwar immer mehr Schwierigkeiten, das Land zu verwalten, sie hat immer höhere Erdöleinnahmen nötig, um dasselbe zu liefern. Sie wird alles aber unterzeichnen, was Chavista-Bonzen nicht gehört, um cash für die nächsten Monate zur Verfügung zu haben. Sie wird Enteignungen vorantreiben, um Essen schnell verteilen zu können. Sie wird sagen, dass Menschen es anderswo viel schlimmer haben und dass die Opposition und die US-Amerikaner/Europäer/Kapitalisten/Marsmännchen die Schuld an allem haben.

So geht es weiter und die Opposition hat immer noch nicht genügend gelernt und sie kann dem Volk noch keine Pläne vorstellen.

Muerte lenta, sagt man auf Spanisch.

Venezuelas Alpha und Omega

Ps. Hier kann man auf Spanisch lesen, wie Félix Osorio, Minister "der Vollmacht für Lebensmittel", erklärte, alle Firmen, die Lebensmittel als Ware betrachten, würden "im Krieg gegen die Regierung stehen".

Was diese Chavista-Bonzen nicht begreifen: Regierung ist nicht gleich Staat, Venezuela ist laut Verfassung eine pluralistische Gesellschaft und gezwungener Staatssozialismus ist völlig verfassungswidrig.

Félix Osorio war ein Unterleutnant und, wie Chávez, Putschist im Jahre 1992.

Workers against Chavez: neo-liberalism on the rise?

Polar workers do not want to become bureaucrats!
UPDATE: for those of you in Facebook you can join a support group. After all the beers you got from them in warm sunny days, it is the least you can do!

Alo Presidente is indeed the TV show that sets the agenda for the week.  Either because of the reactions to the ludicrous announcements that are now routine there, or because Chavez actually announces what will happen.

Yesterday Chavez attacked Polar, ordered the justice system to investigate Polar for hoarding corn flour (that is right, Chavez orders what is supposedly an independent power, one where you send a written request, not a a vulgar order through a talk show).  He also attacked the workers of Polar for siding with Polar and defend their jobs.  Video here. Article summary in English here.

The result was in part predictable but on the other hand a further nasty surprise for Chavez.

Quickly enough the diverse fascistoid organisms of the state descended on two Polar warehouses, in Barquisimeto and Valencia trying to find out signs of hoarding.  But lo and behold, it was the local Trade Union leader that declared to say that the facility in Valencia was working normally and that there was no hoarding.

Meanwhile in Barquisimeto the large majority of workers,united, protested against the harassment of Polar, accusing the local mayor of being a liar, along the way.

This phenomenon of workers defending their employer shows signs of expanding.  Already we were surprised by the intensity of the rejection of the EXITO workers last January when Chavez grabbed it.  Now such manifestations are becoming routine.  I suppose that the starting point was the massive expropriation of the contractors of Zulia COL region.  Within weeks the very same workers that were waving red flags in joy at becoming employees of PDVSA found out that very few of them did become bureaucrats and that most of them lost benefits and even their jobs altogether.  The Cabimas area is now in an economic recession that shows no sign of betterment in the near future and Globovison carries regularly images of protesters claiming their due.

The chavista state is now seen as a dead beat state.  If in earlier time people did not care much, after all it was public employees and some health workers that were protesting late payments, now it is workers of recently nationalized business.  These people were used to cash in their pay check every week, were used to go to the Labour ministry local branch if they had any complaint.  Now the state is constantly late in the payment of its obligation, and it is useless to go to the Labour Ministry because they will not even receive you.  Workers in the private sector do understand that much better than helpless nurses protesting at the doors of crumbling hospitals.

The message is clear and went through like lightning.  Those who are still in the private sector, be they even chavista, do not want to become red shirted employees of Chavez.  Chavez excesses are bringing the unthinkable a decade go: the creation of a positive capitalism neo-Liberal approach where workers and owners work together to push forward the goals of the business.  Now, that would be a real revolution in Venezuela!!!

Why is the opposition in such a position? 2

Comes from here

Opposition politician Julio Borges keeps talking about private property time after time. He is right to be worried about it. He is right to say private property is also a concern for the poor as they also want to have their house, they also want to set up their business.

What Borges is not getting is the fact that he will be more concerned about private property than the vast majority of Venezuelans, even if private property concerns everybody. Why?

1) most poor, even if they do aspire to own a house and set up a little business, do not get the way Borges is explaining things. Borges simply does not connect.
2) most poor actually don't even hear PJ because PJ does not get out of the Caracas-Miranda region plus a couple of other big urban centres (lack of money, threats and attacks from the regime's police and other thugs, bad logistics, little knowledge of non-central areas from the very urbanite Primero Justicia members)
3) a very good half of the population does NOT see that as a main concern, even if they should. The reason is they do have other very top priorities that the opposition top is failing to address.
What are those things? Just a couple of a dozen:

1) education: most Venezuelans send their children to very bad free state schools, not very posh private schools as the Chavista top honchos or the oppo leaders do. On top of that they have to pay an amount per child per year that is equivalent to or higher than a worker's monthly salary. PJ and others need to give very concrete ideas about what they are going to do regarding PRIMARY and SECONDARY education: free textbooks as in the US, participation in open evaluation tests as PISA, transparency and betterment of teacher's conditions, more competition to attract the best.

2) job creation for those older than 40 years old: believe it or not, in Venezuela few have a chance to get a proper job after they are 40, specially if they are unskilled workers. The opposition needs to offer sustainable solutions in the form of decent jobs to these people.

3) land ownership in suburban or rural areas: Venezuela needs to establish an online cadaster of all rural properties firstly. This will hurt a lot of big owners -both Chavistas and non-Chavistas, but this will also bring clarity on property claims and all the rest. The vast majority of Venezuelans living outside the main 3 cities are living above ground that belongs to the state and/or is claimed by other people (if you speak Spanish, it is worth checking out this article on the governmental expropiations in rural areas).

4) security: The opposition has addressed the issue of security, but it hasn't done it in a proper way; people hear all the time about the increase in crime, they feel it, they know things are much much worse now, but the vast majority of Venezuelans -unlike Borges- have never been outside Venezuela and they don't know how things are outside their country.

Here you see the percentage of people who voted for PJ when electing the governor for rural Cojedes state. The best results were in the municipality where San Carlos, the main city, is located.